The clock is slowly ticking its way towards midnight with a new year waiting in the wings. We're gathered at Till's house, all of us, even the kittens who aren't babies any more but the cat version of teenagers. Amelia surprised Ollie on Christmas Day by showing up on his doorstep, a huge blizzard right on her heels. Siobhan managed to swap holidays with one of her friends so she could spend New Year's with Till; we didn't think she'd be able until the last moment. Nele came with Khira Li, so the house is full to the rafters.
I've been sitting next to the fireplace for awhile, curled up on the hearth rug with Marley and Fiona snuggled against my stomach, while Till's dogs occupy a huge pillow nearby, eyes at half mast while they watch the ebb and flow of people around them. Richard is telling some hilariously funny story at the moment, with Till and Flake adding commentary here and there, and had I not been there when the event he's describing happened, I'd be paying attention. But I'm more interested in watching Lilly as she laughs at Richard, her lovely face flushed with humor and eyes sparkling. She looks over at me for a moment and winks, saying to me privately, ::You're not being slandered...yet::
::Give him time:: I reply. ::You should have been there, though. The wardrobe crew was days in getting the stains out of Till's pants::
Lilly's eyes widen for a moment, then she shakes her head. ::Never a dull moment with you boys around, is there?::
::Told you I wasn't a fan of dull:: I say. ::It's almost midnight, better tell Motor Mouth Kruspe to finish his story or no one will ever know what happened::
“Hey, it's nearly midnight!” Amelia shouts, jumping up from her seat near me, bright eyes twinkling. She kneels next to me, grabs my hand, yelling, “Up, up, up, Christoph! It's almost the new year and you're sleeping!” I take a moment to put the cats up on a chair, out of harm's way because they're sleeping and could care less about silly humans celebrating another year's change. I join Richard and Lilly around the table where we gather up glasses of champagne (save for Lilly, who accepts a glass of white grapejuce, not only due to her being pregnant but because she hates the stuff)and we watch the clock tick away the final moments of the year. A second before the clock chimes midnight, I meet everyone's eyes; a spill of emotions between all of us flashes from heart to heart, touching even Nele's, whose soul has the potential to be like the rest of us, but unawakened.
Arielle's quick, sharp eyes catch the flicker of the clock on Till's living room wall changing to midnight and yells, “Happy New Year!” She knocks back half of her champagne, grabs Paul by the front of his shirt and kisses him, hard. When he staggers away, laughing uproariously, she tugs Ollie by the hand until he leans down and lets her plant a kiss on his cheek. We pass kisses and hugs around for moments, and when I'm finally holding Richard and Lilly in my arms, it's well past midnight, the new year well on its way.
“Did you make a wish at midnight, sweetheart?” I ask Lilly, who smiles a Mona Lisa smile and kisses me. Richard leans his head against my chest and sighs, “I did but I've totally forgotten what it is. Well, hopefully it was a good one. What about you, Chris?”
I hug them both to me and murmur, “I don't have to wish for anything. I have it here.”
Late that night, the three of us are snuggled up in bed in one of Till's guest rooms; Richard and Lilly have long fallen asleep and I'm almost there. My hand is lying protectively over Lilly's still-flat stomach, and I can feel our daughter drifting safely inside her protective bubble of fluid and flesh. She's growing rapidly; had Siobhan not asked to be Lilly's doctor once she'd announced she was pregnant, we wouldn't know how quickly Isabel is growing. She's growing quicker than a half-breed child, and might make her debut much earlier than the estimate of her birth in July. But for now, all's going as it should, and that calms me.
We've been hearing more and more stories of mysterious people being seen near non-human places, like outside the town Amelia's family lives in, and just recently Khira Li told me that she'd been followed a couple of times by nondescript, psychically “null” men that when spotted, smile genially at her and vanish. I haven't seen any of the men who chased me out of my house, possibly due to the wards set up around my home. They sprang up just as Richard was picking me up that scary afternoon; I don't know exactly who put them there but I'd bet Siobhan and one of her many relatives had something to do with it. In fact, all of our homes have those same wards around them.
Arielle, Flake and Kieran, one of Siobhan's uncles, have put together the beginnings of a network that will serve as a way to link all of us non-humans together. So far it's running on a private server that's behind a firewall I'd challenge any hacker to try and break. I haven't looked at it yet but from what I'm told, those few outside our little family think it's an excellent start.
I don't know what kind of world my daughter will come into. I don't know if she'll be born into a world at war, a world that would rather kill off those they don't understand, or a world that'll accept her, and those like her. All I know is that I'll fight tooth and nail for her, for Richard, for Lilly, and for the rest of my kin, Changeling or otherwise.