One might think, after three odd centuries of enduring Christmas cheer, constantly changing traditions, and enough eggnog drunk during those years to drown the entire Styrian countryside, Carmilla might have developed some appreciation for the holiday season.
This could not be any farther from the truth.
Carmilla despised the whole Christmas season with a disdainful scorn that Laura was so apted to describe as “adorably grinch-like.” This was understandable, of course, as being in the eternal service of a power-hungry immortal Vampire Matriarch did tend to put a damper on one’s sense of Christmas cheer.
But then there was Laura, sweet, headstrong, stubborn, elf-sized human Laura; seemingly hell-bent to make this year different from all the rest. Which, in Laura’s mind, meant trudging through the snow on their way to whatever boorish Yuletide party the Summer Society came up with this year.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Carmilla had attended, although she certainly never expected to be back after being unceremoniously thrown out and subsequently banned during the Flaming Candy Cane Incident of ‘87. The ginger giant however, worked her magic over the Summers and after three very heated arguments, four promises of early gifts, and what was supposed to be quite the duel for her honor, Carmilla was successfully allowed back on the grounds without having every arrow from here to Switzerland pointed at her head.
Carmilla was mercifully interrupted from her own thoughts by her Queen of the Dorks girlfriend (it was official, there was a campus-wide vote and everything), being her usual self running around in the snow gleefully, trying to catch snowflakes in her mouth.
“A child. I’m in love with an adult child.” Carmilla thought, although her smile told a different story entirely. “Laura, sweetie, you’re gonna hurt yourself.”
Laura giggled maniacally, with a quick “race you!” she dashed off in the general direction of the Summer Soc’ house, leaving a snowy trail of broken branches and angry wood Nymphs in her wake.
Who was Carmilla to deny Laura anything?
Especially a challenge?
Catching up to Laura was no issue, carrying a wiggling, squirming, still-giggling Laura bridal-style at high speeds was the real challenge. Worming her way through the trees and evening snows, Carmilla dropped her Creampuff gently onto the hill overlooking the celebration. Caroling could be heard, even from where they were standing, not to mention heavy drinking one would expect from a college party.
“Now Carm, remember what we talked about,” Laura started, looking up at Carmilla with those puppy eyes. “No dismemberment, decapitation, casual threats of violence, or fighting with Danny for that matter. After all, you’d be a stupid, sexy pincushion of arrows right now if it wasn’t for her. And I just… really want you two to get along, after all, you’re my two favorite people.”
Carmilla sighed, Laura made a good point, even if a party wasn’t really complete without a little dismemberment, or a scrap with the Warrior Princess herself. But she’d try to avoid making a bloodbath out of the situation. Even if it meant her and Lawrence went the whole night without exchanging insults.
Taking Carmilla’s silence as agreement, the couple made their way inside the packed lodge. An odd combination of live music and Nat King Cole’s voice filled their ears, foods ranging from as traditional as roasted boar to as modern as delivery pizza, (which was surprising, considering most surrounding pizza joints weren’t willing to deliver on-campus, because apparently Silas wasn’t ‘ suitable for human habitation’ or ‘livable in any way shape or form’ ). Perry and Lafontaine had arrived several hours earlier, (together, of course, Carmilla rarely saw them apart nowadays), Perry mostly to make sure no one would walk off drunk into the snow and be eaten by gods-know-what , Lafontaine to… whatever it is Lafontaine did. No one was really sure what they were even doing at the party, (the roll of Perry’s date naturally excluded). But for now, they seem content to regale a small ground of party-goers with the tale of how Lafontaine and Perry (unintentionally, in Perry’s case), were collectively banned from every Costco in Belgium in under a week. Something Carmilla would have found impossible had she not been on that particular road trip.
It didn’t take much effort to find Lawrence, considering that she was a.) easily one of the tallest there, and b.) the only one not backing up a step or two from Carmilla’s occasional death glares into the crowd.
“Danny!” Laura called out excitedly, making a mad dash towards the Ginger Giant with Carmilla still in tow. Danny turned to face them, arms hastily embracing Laura. Carmilla would have almost feel jealous if she hadn’t known better. Danny, despite their numerous clashes, meant the best for Laura, even if Carmilla wanted to just throw her against a fucking wall.
“Glad you two could make it! Laura, we got some of that good swiss hot chocolate, just for you by the snacks table.” Laura’s eyes lit up as she brought Danny in for another hug.
“Really? Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” Laura sprinted off in the direction of the hot chocolate, leaving Carmilla and Danny to awkwardly stand near each other in silence, neither daring break the silence lest they break the agreement Carmilla was sure Laura held Danny to as well.
“Thank… you…” Carmilla mumbled reluctantly, suddenly finding the floor infinitely more interesting than Danny’s stupid, pretty face. “for getting me into the feast.”
“Anytime… Fangface.” Danny gave her an amused smile as her hands fidgeted of their own accord.
Shit… be cool, Karnstein, say something nice… Carmilla racked her brain for something, anything to come out that wasn’t either passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive.
“Umm… you… um... don’t suck... as much as I first thought, Lawrence.” Carmilla could feel her and Lawrence’s faces burning up at the very idea of complimenting each other, much more actually doing it, as Carmilla was trying to do.
Danny barely had the time to mumble a ‘thanks’ before they were mercifully interrupted from this equally terrible and delicious hell by some fool shouting that it was time for the gift exchange. Following the sea of people as they shifted around the pile of gifts haphazardly stacked under one of the Christmas trees.
Laura had offered to give credit to Carmilla as well for her gift, in case Carmilla couldn’t think of a gift or simply didn’t want to, but she’d refused. Maybe because there was some part of her that still remembered her (frankly rather terrible) childhood among the nobility of Styria that dictated one should never show up to a party empty handed, or maybe she just felt like getting her own damn gift.
The mass of people made it difficult to get her gifts to their intended targets. Carmilla did manage to see a few of the other gifts people had gotten each other. Perry had gotten one of those new super-scrubber cleaners from Laf, to assist in her effort to maintain a certain degree of cleanliness, even in places that naturally resisted such efforts (like college campuses, for example). Lafontaine, on the other hand, gleefully unrapped something that looked like it belonged more in a cold-war missile silo than in the hands of a mini-mad scientist. (From Perry, naturally. Only she could retain any knowledge of what that might have been from Lafontaine’s science chats that left those who weren’t in the know very lost).
Carmilla, however, wasn’t content with the idea of Laura and Danny simply unwrapping their gift, no, three-hundred years of life had taught Carmilla Karnstein that if given the opportunity, flair was everything . Gently finding Laura’s hand that wasn’t busy with the swiss hot chocolate, and then, reluctantly, Danny’s, which had to be pried away from another gift-giver, (seriously, how many people wanted to give gifts to Danny this year?)
Carmilla led them both up the stairs to what might have been an observatory in years past, with glass roofs so one could see the stars on a clear night, and a mound of pillows next to a little bowl of snacks set up by one or two of the Summers that didn’t hate her guts. It wasn’t an easy feat by any means, but it was worth it. Her gifts, one still subtly wrapped in wrapping paper, the other she didn’t even bother with. An old fashioned telescope, something she had found at a antique store in the middle of nowhere, still in mostly good condition, for dear Laura. The present still unknown was for Danny, if she’d take it.
“I remember you said you missed looking at the stars like you did back home,” Carmilla started as Laura bear hugged her from behind, “I fixed it the best I could, unfortunately at no point was ‘telescope repairman’ was on my resume so it wasn’t much.”
“It’s perfect…” Laura whispered into Carmilla’s neck, before running off to check the optics on her new toy.
Carmilla grinned as she handed over Danny’s gift. “Go ahead, Lawrence... open it.” Ripping open the paper revealed the words ‘The Complete Surviving Works of Sappho,’ to a flustered and still a bit amazed Danny.
“Come on Danny, read us something!” Laura pleaded, and of course, much like Carmilla, Danny didn’t have the heart to say no to Laura. Propping herself up with the cushions next to where Carmilla made her nest, while Laura still fiddled with her telescope, Danny read:
“Rapidly they came. And you, O Blessed Goddess,
a smile on your immortal face,
asked what had happened this time,
why did I call again...”
As she lay there, her head experimentally in Danny’s lap (still testing where she fit in all this), Carmilla realised something, something she thought she’d never find again.
This is what safe felt like.
She was home.