"Mmm, Serena, it smells so good." Bonnie breathed in the warm scent of gingerbread and cinnamon as she gazed through the oven window. The tree-shaped cookies had risen and begun to brown, indicating they were nearly finished.

"Yeah, I bet they're gonna taste delicious," Ash added. He sat on the couch, close to Clemont—though not too close. Clemont was tinkering with another invention of his, something he claimed would produce "perfect peppermint candy canes" if the correct amount of ingredients were added. Ash looked forward to the output, but he was wary of any possible accidents that might occur on the journey there.

Serena smiled, abashed by the compliments. The group was spending time together in the Pokémon Center's communal kitchen, though it was empty with the exception of themselves, since many were home for the holidays. She was working on a second batch of cookies, this time sugar.

"Bonnie, would you like to lick the whisk again?" Serena offered as she finished mixing the dough.

Bonnie spun away from the oven, her face lighting up.

"Of course I would!" she said. Dedenne poked his head through Bonnie's purse and pulled on her shirt.

"Ne ne," he asked.

"What a mooch," Bonnie said, rolling her eyes. Yet, she still pulled a bit of dough off the wire and gave it to him, and he devoured it in an instant. Pikachu and Fennekin, who were together on the counter, moved toward Bonnie, asking for the same favor.

"Oh all right," Bonnie gave in with an exasperated smile. "You can have some, too."

She divided up two more chunks of dough, offering it to the two delighted Pokémon. Bonnie then sat on the ground, leaning up against the counter, so she could enjoy the remaining batter in peace. Serena began to roll out the dough before pressing ornament-shaped cookie cutters into it. Tired of sitting around, Ash stood up and meandered to where Serena was working.

"Hey, so do you need any help?" he asked her.

"If by 'help,' you mean eating cookie dough, I think Bonnie's got you beat," Clemont spoke up. Ash glowered at him.

"All the same, I've mostly got it covered," Serena interjected kindly. "But if you would like, you could help frost and decorate the trees once I pull them out of the oven in a few minutes."

"Sure," Ash happily agreed.

"Ooh, can I help with that, too?" Bonnie asked excitedly, leaping up and hurrying to Serena's side.

"Of course," Serena responded, playfully flicking her noise, which had some batter on it.

Ash grinned, stretching his arms behind him.

"You know, it's crazy. It still feels too early for Christmas," he said. "I used to be excited and in the Christmas Spirit all December long as a kid. Now, it's a week beforehand, and I'm only just getting into it. Tell-tale signs of me getting older, I guess."

Ash's comment was met with silence and a few stares. Even Clemont paused working on his invention to look up. Ash knitted his eyebrows together, confused.

"What?" he asked.

"Boy, have you lost track of time," Bonnie teased.

"Yeah," Serena added, stifling a laugh. "It's December 23rd."

He stared. Then, something clicked in his head. Or rather, malfunctioned.

The realization that Christmas was in only two days away caused Ash's brain to short-circuit, and in a haze of excitement and impulse, he flopped against the counter, his whole body bowing into a semicircular shape as he clung to the edge. Pikachu and Fennekin dodged his arm as it began erratically searching for a writing utensil and paper. Alarmed by his behavior, Serena let out a cry, while Clemont jumped to his feet and Bonnie wondered whether she should call for an ambulance.

"Ash, are you all right?" Clemont panicked. He fumbled with his invention and nearly dropped it.

"Yeah!" Ash suddenly straightened, standing like a normal human once again. One hand clutched a purple crayon while the other had an old PokéMart receipt crinkled in it. He then looked down and scowled at the tools he held. They wouldn't do.

"I gotta go back to the store," he declared, placing the crayon and receipt back on the counter. He swept his coat off the back of a chair, then outstretched his arm toward Pikachu, letting him climb onto his shoulder.

"To do what?" Serena asked. "Ash, what's gotten into you?"

"I just need to pick up some things," Ash answered as he sat down and pulled his shoes back onto his feet. "Don't worry. Really!"

He was out the door within seconds, before anyone could press him further. Several jaws hung agape, staring at where he had gone. Bonnie was the first to close hers and look back at the others.

"Well, we've gotta go get him!" she encouraged.

"I can't just leave the cookies in the ov-" Serena was cut off by the ring of the oven timer, and her mouth changed to form an "o" shape. She promptly turned on her heel, grabbing an oven mitt. She pulled out the hot tray of cookies and set it on the counter to cool. She then hurried to grab her coat, and Clemont and Bonnie were quick to follow.

"Where did he say he was going again?" Serena asked as she buttoned herself up.

"The store," Bonnie answered.

"Uh-huh," Clemont agreed, working to shove a boot onto his foot. Serena and Bonnie were already ready to go, though, and Bonnie grabbed her brother's arm, half-dragging him as he still tried to put on his footwear.

"Come on, big brother!" she cried. "Now is not the time to be slow!"

They found him sitting on the curb of the local PokéMart, bent over some task that had captured his focus in a way none of them had seen outside of battle. Pikachu laid beside Ash's thigh, curled up against him for warmth. Serena breathed a sigh of relief, her misty breath ascending into the air.

"Ash!" she called out, and he looked up as she and Bonnie jogged toward him. Clemont was dragging his feet behind them, exhausted and out of breath from running.

"Hey! What's up guys?" he responded with a grin. He made no motion to stand.

"What's up? You had us kind of freaked out, with the way you acted before suddenly running off," Serena answered, chastising him.

"Yeah, we were wondering if you had suddenly gone crazy." Bonnie went cross-eyed and stuck her tongue out for emphasis.

Ash rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

"Sorry guys. I didn't mean to worry you," he began. Bonnie began to make her way around to the other side of Ash, curious as to what he was doing. "I was just so surprised that Christmas was soon, and I had to-"

"-You spelled 'battle' wrong," Bonnie interrupted him suddenly, pointing. Ash held a black pen in his hand, and he was in the middle of writing a message on the inside of a card. He had a stack of blank ones sitting beside him, near Pikachu.

"Wha- no, I didn't," Ash protested.

"'Battle' has two ts, not one," Bonnie continued.

"She's actually right, Ash," Clemont said as he finally caught up. Ash appeared mildly distressed that a 7-year-old could spell better than him, and he looked back down at the card.

"Aw man..." He trailed off. "That's no good. I guess I'll just have to start again. If you know how to spell 'battle,' then Max will for sure."

"Who's Max?" Serena asked, tilting her head.

"Old friend," Ash answered shortly. "I got several I need to write to. I have a limited amount of cards, though, so I gotta make sure my spelling's good. Most of 'em are really smart, but they're also pretty snarky, so they'll make fun of me if I get that kind of stuff wrong. Iris would 'prolly just send a note back telling me I'm a little kid and that I need to learn how to use a dictionary. See, I don't get that, though, 'cause if you don't know how to spell it, how can you look it up in the dictionary?"

Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie exchanged confused glances.

"Well, uh..." Clemont began, scratching at his face. "Maybe a good idea would be to write some rough drafts of your messages in a spiral notebook, and I'll edit for spelling and grammar and that type of thing. Then you can copy done your corrected message into the cards. I'm not as good at conventions as I am science, but still..."

Ash beamed at him.

"Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Sure," Clemont said, nodding. "But only if we go back to the Pokémon Center. It's cold out here, and it's supposed to snow more tonight."

"Right! And we still have Serena's cookies to eat!" Bonnie added.

Ash looked determined.

"All right, it's a deal," he said, finally rising to his feet. He took a moment to brush the ice off his backside, while Serena reached down to gather the blank cards he had purchased. She took a look at the front of the collection, noting that it depicted a Pikachu wearing a Santa hat while playing in the snow. She quirked an eyebrow before she began laughing. It had Ash written all over it; if they knew Ash like she or Clemont or Bonnie did, his "old friends" would know it was him before they even opened their card up.




It was a White Christmas in Pallet Town.

The small settlement usually had at least a little icy white frost on the grayed, winter fields every year, but it had been quite a while since they had seen inches-deep snow. If Gary's memory served him well, the last time that happened was when he was still a child, long before he had left on his Pokémon journey.

It was easier to appreciate the aesthetics of the snowy landscape from afar than to be out in it, however. Gary realized this as ambled down the steps from the lab, wearing his pajamas and a long coat. He had left the warmth of indoors to retrieve the morning newspaper, not for himself, but for his grandfather. The elder Oak was getting, well, elderly, and the last thing Gary wanted was for his only living kin to slip on the ice and break his hip.

Besides, it was Christmas. Professor Oak would be delighted to find a cup of coffee prepared by Tracey and a newspaper brought in by Gary already there on the table, next to a lit fireplace.

Gary reached the bottom the steps and unlocked the iron gate. He stepped out to snatch up the paper and was ready to turn around and head back inside; yet, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the red flag of their mailbox was open. He furrowed his eyebrows, confused, but went to open up the box. There were three letters inside—one addressed to him, another to Tracey, and the last to Professor Oak.

The Interregional Postal Service was closed on Christmas. Someone had paid extra to have these delivered by Wingull.

As Gary began heading back up the stairs toward the lab, he tore open the seal of his letter and pulled out its content: a Christmas card. Gary supposed he wasn't surprised, but that changed when he opened it up and began to read.

He paused altogether midway up the steps as he became engrossed in the message, even if it was brief. When he finished, he closed it and slid it back into its torn envelope before looking up at the foggy sky.

"Merry Christmas to you, too, Ashy-boy," he muttered with a smirk.

"Dawn! I hope you're almost ready!" Johanna called from downstairs. "Palmer is expecting us in ten minutes."

"Yeah, I'm almost done!" It was a lie. She was miles away. She had woken up with particularly bad bedhead that morning, and she didn't want either Barry or Kenny to make fun of her when they met for a friendly Christmas breakfast at the Pearl residence. She was dressed in her chosen outfit, but she sat in front of her room's mirror, trying to straighten out the mess that was her hair.

Her attention was drawn away from her own reflection when she heard tapping on the window. She discovered it was a Wingull pecking on the glass, asking her to let him in. She rose from her seat and opened the window up, ushering the Pokémon inside.

"Hello there," she greeted, friendly but confused. She only realized it had a leather mail bag slung around its body when it poked its beak inside and pulled out a letter.

"That for me?" she asked.

The Wingull nodded, making muffled noises.

"Thank you," Dawn said as she accepted the envelope. The Wingull didn't linger long. It immediately hopped back onto the window sill and took off before Dawn had a chance to offer it a goodbye.

She didn't dwell on the Pokémon's leave, however. She refocused her attention on the envelope, and her eyes widened the moment she opened it and saw what was inside. She sank back onto her seat as she began reading, and it wasn't long before she simply couldn't stop herself from smiling.

"Dawn, it's time to go!"

"Coming!" In two minutes.

She opened up a drawer in her desk and gingerly placed the card inside for safekeeping.

Axew nudged Iris's arm, which was hanging off the side of her bed, imploring that she should wake up.

"Not now, Axew," Iris mumbled in response, turning her head face-down into her pillow. "We can play later."

He didn't give up. He gave her arm a more firm headbutt, and she raised her hand onto the bed. She looked up at him, annoyed, but her irritation faded when she realized he was carrying something in his mouth.

"Where'd you get that?" she asked, yawning. She plucked the letter out from between his tusks.

"Ax Axew!"

"A Wingull?" It didn't surprise her. She often exchanged letters with people by Wingull, most often the Elder back home in the Village of Dragons. This time, however, she guessed it was a note from her childhood friend, Shannon, who also practiced letter writing. Shannon was more likely to send holiday wishes.

She couldn't have been more wrong. The moment she saw the Pikachu dressed in a Santa hat, she knew the letter came not from the village in which she was raised. They didn't send cards.

She sat up, bringing Axew onto the bed beside her. As she began to read, she felt her toes begin to curl, and she brought her legs closer to her chest. Axew looked at his trainer curiously. Rarely did he see her wear such a coy, gentle smile. As soon as she finished, she placed the card on the table before grabbing Axew, hugging him tightly.

"Oh Axew," she said, grinning from ear to ear, "we have such good friends."

"Oh Maxwell!" Caroline called in a sing-song voice as she glided into the living room. "You've got a letter!"

Max looked up at his mother, confused. He had been laying on his belly alongside his father's Slakoth, watching with amusement as the slow-minded Pokémon became entranced with the glittering ornaments and other decorations on the Christmas tree. He adjusted his glasses before standing up and receiving the envelope from his mother.

"Who's it from? A girl? A secret admirer?" Caroline teased with a faint, dreamy blush painted on her cheeks. Her husband, who entered the room to see what the commotion was about, glowered at her.

"He's not even a teenager yet," Norman pointed out.

Max was no longer paying attention to his parents. He had torn the card out of its envelope and stuck his face into it, taking the time to absorb each word his eyes passed across.

"So just who is it from, anyway?" Norman continued casually after a moment. "Steven Stone? Professor Birch? May?"

"No," Max answered, his face spreading into a grin. "It's better than any of those people."

Norman and Caroline exchanged furtive glances, disconcerted Max apparently held someone in higher esteem than his own sister. Max lowered the card, a determined glint in his eye.

"He still remembers his promise," he said.

"Well, looks like the grumpy bear finally came out of hibernation," Reggie said aloud in jest as Paul came down the stairs from his bedroom, running his fingers through his messy hair. Reggie was in the kitchen—apron and all—preparing Christmas breakfast.

"Please don't ever call me that again," Paul grumbled as he slid into a seat at the round dining table. Reggie didn't respond to his brother's request as he swept out of the kitchen, carrying a plate of food.

"Eggs and bacon?" he offered. Paul nodded and quietly thanked him before picking up his fork and cutting into the white of one of his eggs. Reggie smiled as he pulled off his apron and prepared to sit down with his own plate.

"Oh, by the way, what do you think of my Christmas sweater?" Reggie asked, pulling on the edges of the wool to showcase its design. It had two fabric Ursaring sewn on, and they appeared to be decorating a Christmas tree that had plastic beads hotglued on as ornaments. Paul hardly looked up.

"Reggie, no offense, but I really don't care," he said.

"Just entertain me."

Paul let out an exasperated sigh before setting his fork down and leaning back in his chair.

"You want my honest opinion?" he asked.

"Yes," Reggie affirmed with a nod.

"That is literally the ugliest sweater I have ever seen."

"Well, that's kind of the point," Reggie said. When Paul's expression remained blank, Reggie added, "You know, ugly Christmas sweaters?"

Paul continued to stare at Reggie for a while. He flicked his gaze down to the sweater again and then back up to Reggie's eyes.

"OK," Paul said before returning to his meal. Reggie let out an amused chuckle, but straightened when he remembered something.

"Oh! I almost forgot: You received a letter by Wingull today," he said. He retrieved his apron to pull it out of one of the pockets.

"A letter for me?"

"I know. I was just as surprised as you." Reggie held the envelope out to him.

"Mm. Harsh," Paul said dryly as he accepted it. He flipped it over to look at the seal.

"You called my sweater ugly."

"You said that was- never mind." Paul pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head, deciding he didn't care enough to fight Reggie on this. He proceeded to carefully remove the seal and pull out the Christmas card inside. He scowled when he saw the art on the front, yet he opened it anyway.

Reggie became intrigued when he noticed the subtle change in younger sibling's expression: a softening in his gaze; a twitch in his upper lip, an almost-smile. Reggie sat across from him, carefully watching his face.

"Who's it from?" he finally asked, snapping Paul out of his introspective state.

"No one important," Paul answered, closing the card.

"Well, I'll be sure to eat an extra doughnut for ya tonight," Chili consoled through the video screen, folding his arms and nodding.

"All right," Cilan chuckled.

"Don't condone his behavior, Cilan," Cress chastised, and Chili glared at him. "You know how he gets when he's had one too many treats. You're only OK with it now because you're not here to deal with the fallout."

"I suppose I've always had a taste for chaos," Cilan jested. "Anyway, I'll let you two go on with what you had planned today. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, bro." Chili's expression brightened again for the parting.

"Yes, Merry Christmas," Cress added. "We're sorry you couldn't be with us this year."

Cilan lowered his eyelids before he said, "Me too. We'll speak again soon, I'm sure."

Cilan sighed the moment the video feed went dead, and he pushed his arm against the desk to stand. He left the video phone booth feeling as though his feet had heavy weights chained to them. It was not his first Christmas without his brothers. He had once celebrated the holiday with Ash and Iris while they were traveling together. Yet, it was the first time he spent the holiday alone, and there was an unbecoming sense of emptiness that accompanied it.

"Are you, by chance, Cilan?"

Cilan looked up, surprised that Nurse Joy had approached him.

"I am," Cilan answered, straightening. "Is something wrong?"

"Not at all," she said, offering him a warm smile. "I just received a letter for you."

"Oh..." He accepted the envelope with confusion painted on his face. He didn't know of many people who sent letters anymore, except Iris, and he had received a lengthy one from her the other day. Remembering his manners, his glanced back up at Nurse Joy and said, "Thank you. I appreciate you finding me."

"You're most very welcome. Merry Christmas," she said before returning to her work.

"Merry Christmas," Cilan mumbled, turning the envelope over in his hands.

He decided to head back up the stairs to his rented room to read whatever had been sent to him in privacy. He unlocked the door, set the keys on the nightstand, and sat down at the desk. He reached into one of the drawers to pull out a complimentary letter opener and used it to easily slide the letter's fold open.

Cilan's lips quirked into a strange smile when he saw the card's cover, and he admired it for a long moment. He already suspected the identity of the sender, but it wasn't until he opened it up that his impression was confirmed. As he read deeper into the brief message, he pressed a fist to his mouth, while the hand that held the card began to tremble. He felt touched. A drop of water began to blur the ink of the messy signature.

Drew turned the present he had neatly wrapped the previous evening over in his fingers as he sauntered down the Pokemon Center's stairs. He had high expectations for that day, and he planned to fulfill them to the best of his abilities. May had ultimately been unable to return home for the holidays, so she was there with him, and he had taken it upon himself to make sure she was happy, despite her being away from her family.

He found that the day wasn't off to a great start, however, when he entered the lobby. May was (strangely) already awake, and she was sitting by herself with tears rolling down her face.

"Oh no," Drew moaned, both concerned and uneager. "May, what's the matter? What's happened?"

May's head snapped up, and she hastily wiped her eyes.

"Nothing, nothing," she quickly insisted. "I'm fine."

"Then why are you crying?"

"I'm not. I have a... branch in my eye,"

"A branch in your eye?" he asked dryly.

"Yes. A branch in my eye." She wasn't backing down. Drew hoped she at least realized how utterly ridiculous her excuse was.

"Then let me rephrase this: Why are you upset?" he asked.

"I'm not," she refuted. "I'm just in an emotional mood, I guess."

"Are you missing your family?"

"No. I mean, yes. But no."

Drew was about to point out how her unclear answers weren't helping him, but that was when he noticed the card in her hands. He placed his present on the table, giving his rival a sly, questioning look.

"May... what's that?" he asked.

"Oh, this?" May held up the card. "It's, uh, nothing. It's just-"

He leaned over the table and snatched it out of her hand, and she let out a gasp. She cried for him to return it, but he merely turned his back toward her and put his elbow out, so she could not overpower him. It wasn't that he was bigger—he was average for his size—it was that she was a whole lot smaller, having grown only a few inches since they met as children.

"Dear May," he began reading it aloud, but he immediately fell silent afterward as he scanned the rest of the message. May stopped fussing to retrieve her card, and Drew returned it to her shortly thereafter.

"That's really nice," he said sincerely. "You should save that for a long time."

"I will," May said, nodding as she fell back from him. Drew now understood the situation: The earnest, caring message laced into the words of the card had caused May to cry, and she had been embarrassed to let him see it. He had teased her yesterday for being the type to cry at the drop of a pin. Way to go, Drew, he thought to himself.

"Anyway," Drew changed the subject, "while I doubt it will top that, I do have something for you."

He picked up the present he had laid on the table and offered it to her. She seemed delighted, and she let out a short, shy laugh.

"I'm sure it's equally wonderful," she said.

Much of Christmas morning had passed by uneventfully in Nuvema Town, aside from a light snowfall that began shortly after Trip woke up. Yet, he was back in the warmth of his bed with a new book—a gift from his parents—pulled up close to him.

His Serperior stretched up the length of the bed on Trip's right side, then curled up along the headboard and back down the left side to lay his head on his trainer's lower chest. Trip's own head rested on Serperior's midsection. When Serperior grew bored with his trainer's passivity, he forcibly moved his head under Trip's hand. Trip, understanding the message, began gently petting his Pokémon, though his eyes never left his book.

The quiet spell was shattered when the family's Herdier began barking loudly, and Trip could his hear large paws thundering up the stairway. Before Trip or Serperior had much of a chance to react, Herdier tore into Trip's room and happily jumped onto the young trainer. A letter hung from his mouth.

Trip let out a sharp grunt of pain, and Serperior hissed, rattling its tail in warning. He didn't take well to other Pokémon hurting his trainer.

"It's OK, Serperior," Trip assured his starter after a moment, knowing Herdier hadn't meant harm. He sat up and pushed Herdier off him. The pet promptly dropped the letter, now covered in drool, into Trip's lap.

"Thanks... Herdier..." Trip's eye twitched as he picked up the letter and shook off the slobber. Herdier appeared pleased he had received the Young Master's gratitude, and he turned and happily trotted back down the stairs.

Trip gently pulled out the card before discarding the ruined envelope. Serperior uncoiled and moved to rest his head on his trainer's shoulder. His thin, red eyes scanned the words, though he couldn't understand them. When Trip finished reading, he closed the card and turned it over in his hand, looking at it as though he didn't believe it was real.

However, Trip eventually resigned to a smile, and he placed the card on his nightstand. He resettled himself with Serperior and retrieved his book, picking up where he had left off.

December 25th was a chaotic day in Brock's family. Really, every day was chaotic, but the pandemonium increased twofold on Christmas.

"So, did you get everything you wanted this year?" Brock asked as he gathered up another armful of shredded wrapping paper and stuffed it into a large garbage bag. Seven of his eight younger siblings had gone out into the snow to play with the new sleds they had received; Lola and Flint had followed to supervise. Brock had decidedly stayed behind to pick up the mess, and Forrest had opted to help out and keep him company.

"Oh yeah," Forrest answered, as he balled some of the wrapping paper. He shot it toward the garbage bag, and Brock was sure to hold it wide open. When it went in, both let out a cheer. Forrest then added, "Well, everything except a girlfriend."

Brock laughed.

"You and me both," he said before returning to his work. A brief period of silence followed, and Forrest, too, turned away to continue picking up the trash.

"... Hey, Brock? This is addressed to you," Forrest began tentatively after a moment. Brock glanced over his shoulder.

"What is?" he asked.

"This." Forrest held up an envelope between his index and middle finger. "It's a letter. I found it on ground, under some wrapping paper. It must've gotten mixed up with the presents and stuff this morning."

Brock furrowed his eyebrows before accepting the letter, opening it up. As he read, he set the garbage bag down and moved to sit on the sofa. Forrest tilted his head, giving his older brother a once-over. He then decided to resume clean-up, giving Brock some semblance of privacy. He kept an eye on him, however, and he didn't speak again until Brock finished reading.

When Brock dropped his hand, Forrest asked, "What about you? Did you get everything you wanted this year?"

Brock smiled. He tossed the ripped envelope into the garbage, but slid the card into his back pocket.

"Everything and more."

Misty dangled her feet over the edge of the tall diving board, Ash's card clutched between her fingers. She had reread it a couple times by then, and each time, its value was never lost on her. The Ash she knew was boyish, immature even, but he could be surprisingly sentimental, too. The touching message he had sent to her was written proof.

Finally, Misty swung one of her feet back onto the board and rose up. She moved toward the base of the board and turned to climb down the latter. She couldn't remember the last time she had come down this way, if ever; when she climbed the diving board, she usually left it by, well, diving. That was not an option this time around.

Down on the pool deck, a Dewgong broke the surface of the water and beached itself, barking at Misty for some attention. She laughed before bending down and petting him. The Dewgong grinned and stretched before lazily flopping back into the water. Misty laughed as she was sprayed, though she held the card further back behind her. A lot of her precious, printed possessions had somehow gotten waterlogged during her tenure as the Cerulean City Gym Leader, and she wasn't going to let the card be one of them.

Her sisters were in the kitchen, working on putting together something to eat that Christmas morning. There were a couple of girlish yelps as a pan began to smoke. Misty rolled her eyes, though she wore an exasperated smile, as she walked past. She soon made it to her bedroom, and when there, she found an extra push pin and pressed the card onto her personal bulletin board. It was next to a photo of her, Ash, and Brock, taken the first year they had been on a journey together.

"Hey, Misty," Violet whined, appearing her younger sibling's doorway. "Could you help out? Daisy burned the eggs. Again."

Misty didn't snap. She didn't complain it was because Daisy needed to melt butter in the pan before adding the eggs. She merely turned and answered, "All right, all right. I'll show you guys how to do it," before following her down the stairs.

"Here, let me help you with those," Clemont offered as he picked up one of several dirty dishes Serena was cleaning.

Christmas in Kalos was beginning to come to a close. They had recently finished enjoying a nice, well-prepared Christmas dinner—compliments of Serena, though she wasn't without her companion's assistance—and with full stomachs, the excitement was winding down. Ash had gone to call his mother in Kanto, and Bonnie was lazily playing with Dedenne, Froakie, Pikachu, and other Pokémon.

Serena raised a playful eyebrow.

"What, no dish-washing invention?" she teased.

"Ahh, no. I work with electricity. Electricity and water don't do well together," Clemont said before letting out an awkward laugh. "Besides, one already exists. It's called a dishwasher."

"Right..." She trailed off. "So how's the candy cane machine going?"

"Oh, good! It's done, actually," Clemont answered. "In fact, if you leave the rest to me, you can go upstairs into Ash's and my room and get it. We'll make some nice candy canes to finish off Christmas."

Serena hesitated before agreeing.

"All right," she said with a nervous chuckle as she stepped away and dried her hands on a clean dish towel. "But only if we do it outside, OK?"

Clemont glowered at her.

"It's not gonna explode," he protested. "I made sure of that."

"Just to be safe, that's all," Serena assuaged him before disappearing through the doorway.

She passed the center's video phone booth's on her way, and she overheard Ash speaking with his mother. Serena paused to listen. She couldn't make out any of the words said, but she knew from the tone of Ash's voice that he was glowing with happiness. She smiled before brushing a loose piece of her wavy hair behind her ear before continuing onward.

Ash's and Clemont's room was unlocked, and she let herself in. She meandered around for a little bit, looking for Clemont's invention. During her search, the edge of her skirt accidentally caught on the edge of the desk, where a stack of papers laid.

"Ah!" she exclaimed in surprise when the papers fell off the edge and scattered. She bent down and hastily began to gather them up. She paused, however, when she noticed the red marks on the pages. She realized they were drafts of the messages Ash had written two days ago, torn out from a spiral notebook. Clemont had gone though and penned in corrections on each. Serena herself had never read them, because she and Bonnie had been finishing up making the Christmas cookies.

In the dim light, she squinted her eyes as she began to read the top of the pile:

Dear Misty,

Would you ever train an Ice-type, because ice is technically just solid water? There seems to be a lot of ice up here in Kalos, and I think I'd like it to be summer again, so we can go swimming. I still remember when you got so mad and worried after I dove into some ice water when we were still traveling together. Boy, did I learn my lesson. I learned a lot of lessons from you that I still need today. If I didn't learn them, I'd drive my other traveling companions crazy, like the way I drove you crazy. I'm glad you stuck it out with me then. I'll make it up to you someday.

I have a new Froakie that I need to show to you. You'd think he's so cool. Maybe next time I go fishing, I'll use the special Misty Lure to catch a Kalosian Pokémon and send it to you. You'd probably like that better than some dumb card.

I hope everything's going well at the Cerulean Gym. I bet by now you're the best gym leader in all of Kanto. I know you're going to be a great Water Pokémon Master someday. You already are. If you promise to keep doing your best, I promise to do mine.

Merry Christmas.

-Ash K.

Serena rose up as she finished, before she began to flip through the rest of the pages—"Dear Gary," "Dear Ritchie," "Dear Iris," "Dear Stephan," "Dear May," "Dear Barry" ... All in all, she counted eighteen letters, each personally addressed, each with an individualized, heartfelt message: a memory; a reaffirmation of a promise; a word or two of encouragement to continue working toward their dream, and he remembered each one in detail. Although Serena didn't have the time to carefully read each draft, she found them equally touching.

"Hey, you OK in here?" Serena nearly jumped. She scrambled to lay the stack of papers back down on the desk before spinning around to see Ash standing behind her. He continued, "Clemont said he sent you to get his inventions several minutes ago."

"Yeah, sorry," she quickly replied. "I was just... um..."

"Having trouble finding it?" Ash suggested for her, grinning. "Here, it's on top of his bed."

He grabbed onto the wooden rail of the bunk bed and hoisted himself up. He snatched the invention before jumping down and turning to face Serena once again.

"You know, I'm kind of excited," Ash said, looking at the contraption.

"I'm kind of nervous," Serena admitted.

"Well, I'm that, too."

They laughed together, and Ash soon held out a hand and gestured for Serena to follow him. They left the room to head back down the stairs, Ash kicking the door shut behind him. The now-empty bedroom hung in a long silence before the stack of drafts, unstable in the condition Serena left them, fell and strewed across the wooden floor once again.