“Ah, victory!” Amelia cooed as she flashed the sign with her gloved fingers while her eyes traced the falling snow flurries. And then she just couldn’t resist! She stuck her tongue out and let a snowflake land on it, and when she brought it back into her mouth she smiled and beamed.
“Yeah, yeah, victory.” Lina mimicked as she wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. Beside her Gourry started to move an arm up to wrap around her, but then stopped as though catching himself and put it down. It was obvious to Amelia that he wanted to envelope her in a warm embrace but was too scared of a fireball to do so. “Now let’s get down to that nice, warm town that we just saved from bandits and get inside a nice, warm inn! And hopefully they’ll be so grateful to us for saving them that they’ll let us stay somewhere nice for free!”
“I second that.” Filia said as she drew baby Valgaav closer to her and pulled the blanket further up his face. “I don’t like him being out in the cold like this.”
The group started moving towards the town as Sylphiel put a hand on Filia’s arm and glanced at Valgaav, “He seems to be recovering nicely.”
“His fever hasn’t returned.” Filia said as she placed a hand on his forehead. “I can’t thank you all enough for helping me find the kaye flower.”
“Don’t mention it.” Lina said as she waved her hand in a dismissive manner, even though she was trembling heavily from the cold and her teeth were chattering so badly she could barely get the words out. “We were happy to help.”
When Filia had contacted them to ask for help with finding some magical and rare herbs for Valgaav when he’d gotten sick with a disease that could be fatal for black dragons, Lina and Gourry hadn’t thought twice about accepting. But if Lina had realized just how cold the remote part of the mountains they would wind up in were, she would have definitely raised her rates a bit! Fortunately they’d found the kaye flower, which contained an antidote, just in the nick of time, and Valgaav had recovered nicely since Amelia and Sylphiel had prepared and administered it. They had been trying to find a place to stay for Valgaav to rest at when they had been attacked by bandits, but the bandits were way out of their league, and for the group their presence was a good thing, for if bandits were hanging around then it also meant that there was a town nearby where they could rest and get out of the cold in.
They talked amicably as they approached the village, but as they drew near it became apparent that there was a large crowd gathered at the entrance. “Wow, Lina, what did you do to piss this town off?” Gourry asked.
“What makes you think it was me!?” Lina shot back.
“Like you can calculate odds!”
Lina and Gourry bickered as they drew closer and Filia pointed out, “Actually, it seems like they are cheering.”
“Welcome Heroes.” Sylphiel read as a small group held up a banner.
“See! I didn’t piss them off at all! I saved them from bandits you dummy!” Lina said as she elbowed Gourry as the crowd parted to let them through as they expressed their adulation.
Lina grinned as she squared her shoulders and stuck her chest out as someone shoved a bouquet of roses in her arms. “Well,” Zelgadis said dryly, “It’s nice to have such a warm welcome in town for once, as opposed to being chased out of it.”
“Coming through, let me pass!” A commanding voice said, and a blonde woman wearing a lovely red dress trimmed with white fur came up to the group and held out her hand in a welcoming manner. “I am Rosemary, Duchess of Veraellen. Welcome, and thank you so much for saving our town from bandits!”
“You’re welcome.” Lina said as she shook Rosemary’s hand, and the other woman put her other hand over hers in a warm greeting.
“We can’t even begin to repay you.” Rosemary started, “But please, accept our offer of a cabin to stay in. It will be large enough for all of your group, and it is already decorated for Ceiphiedmas. I do hope you will stay with us rather than attempt to go home in this weather.”
That’s right! Amelia thought as she remembered that Ceiphiedmas was only a few days away! They had all been so concerned with saving Valgaav that she had lost track of the time. For a moment Amelia felt sad that she wouldn’t spend Ceiphiedmas in Seyruun, but then again, at least this year she would be with her friends.
“We’d love to!” Lina said.
“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself?” Zelgadis asked, “Agreeing for all of us? I know Amelia…”
“Oh, this is fine.” Amelia said.
“Well, if Amelia’s fine with it, I’m fine with it.” Zelgadis said.
“And if Lina’s fine with it, I’m fine with it.” Gourry said with a smile as he reached down to tussle Lina’s hair. Amelia sighed as she watched them. It would be such a magical time of the year for them to get together. She could picture it now. A cozy cabin to spend Ceiphiedmas in surrounded by beautiful snow! Yet somehow, those two seemed completely immune to the wonders of a romantic setting.
“I’d feel much better staying here with Val until he gets a little stronger.” Filia said as she let one of the villagers ogle the baby, “Besides, this looks much more wintery than where we usually live. It’s the perfect place to spend Ceiphiedmas! Look at all the lights. Val will love having his first Ceiphiedmas since being reborn here!”
“I’ll stay as well.” Sylphiel said, “It’s not as though I have much family left anymore, and I’d much rather help you take care of Val.”
“That’s settled then!” Lina decreed, “We’re staying here for Ceiphiedmas! Now get me to a warm cabin before I freeze my ass off!”
“Oh, this cabin is so charming and lovely!” Amelia said as the group met in the living room after everyone had settled in.
“Yeah, it is nice.” Lina said as she sat on the couch closest to the fire and leaned over to warm her hands by it.
“It is.” Sylphiel agreed as her eyes fell on the Ceiphiedmas tree which, while lovely decorated, did not have even one tiny present underneath, “Still, I should probably go back out and get my shopping done.”
“Shopping?” Lina repeated as gems formed in her eyes, “As in presents?”
“Sylphiel’s right.” Filia said, “Only I'm so low on funds. Between how hard and long it took us to find the kaye flower…”
“We could do a Secret Santa!” Amelia suggested.
“A what?” Gourry asked as he sat on the couch beside Lina.
Amelia grabbed a vase from the table, “Everyone puts their name in this vase and then once all of our names are in it we each draw one. Whoever you draw you have to give a gift for! That way everyone gets a gift but we don’t go broke.”
“Only, everyone should also get Val a gift, since it is his first Ceiphiedmas since being reborn.” Sylphiel said.
“Oh, that’s sweet but you don’t have to…” Filia started.
“Nonsense, that sounds like a great idea!” Gourry said as a twinkle formed in his eye. “Besides, it’s fun to shop for babies!”
“And you would know how?” Lina asked.
“But…” Filia protested.
“Oh, really, he’s a kid! He’s the only one who needs a ton of presents! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” Lina said.
“Oh, right.” Filia said.
Amelia watched as Gourry gazed at Lina and smiled, wearing the same expression he did when he would say, always out of Lina’s earshot, that Lina really was a nice person. And suddenly Amelia knew she needed to get them together this Ceiphiedmas! “Right, that’s settled then!” Amelia said as she held the vase out. “Everyone put your name in here!”
Zel got out some parchment and everyone took turns writing their name and tearing it off and putting it in the vase. Amelia watched carefully as each person put their name in, always making sure to keep an eye on Gourry’s slip. Finally the line ended and everyone had returned to their seats. “Is that everyone?” Amelia asked.
“Right, who wants to draw first? And remember, your giftee is a secret until Ceiphiedmas morning!” Amelia said.
The group got in line once more and one by one drew a name. When Lina came up Amelia made sure to direct her to drawing Gourry’s slip. Once everyone had drawn one Amelia grabbed the last one. It read: Sylphiel.
“Alright, then!” Amelia said as everyone gazed at their slip thoughtfully, “I think we all have some shopping to do!”
Amelia soon found that there was another difficulty with Ceiphiedmas shopping. Veraellen was so remote and supplies came so infrequently that all of the stores had already been picked over and there wasn’t much left to buy! As Amelia stared mournfully at the selection and tried to decide if Sylphiel would be less let down by the ugly fishman statue or the magnet of a pig in fishnet stockings. The sound of singing wafted from the hallway, drawing Amelia from her deliberations as something stirred within her. Wow! Amelia knew court singers who would kill to have vocal pipes like that!
She didn’t have long to wait to find out who possessed such a deep, smooth baritone, as he soon walked in from the living area of the building, leading Amelia to conclude that he was the owner of the store. “Hello, miss. Let me know if I can help you find anything.” He said as an idea formed in Amelia’s head.
“I could have saved a fortune if I’d just bought him bags and tissue paper!” Lina moaned as Valgaav ignored the pile of toys he had gotten in favor of tearing up the wrapping paper.
“He’ll play with the toys once the tissue paper is all gone.” Gourry said as a smile tugged at his lips as he watched him.
“But once the cabin is trashed.” Zelgadis muttered as he sipped his coffee.
“Well, how about we do our Secret Santa now?” Amelia said.
Lina’s eyes grew wide as she sat up straighter, “Alright! Who’s my Santa!? I’m ready for my present!”
“Now keep in mind, all of the shops were rather looted. This was the best I could do.” Zelgadis said as he handed her a package.
“Hey, it’s the thought that counts!” Lina said as she tore into it and opened a headband threaded with greenery studded with red berries. Lina immediately place it on her head as she said, “Nice and festive! Thanks a bunch!”
Someone knocked on the door, and Amelia lit up, “That’s Sylphiel’s present!”
“Huh?” Sylphiel said.
“Did you place an order for delivery?” Lina asked, baffled.
Amelia opened the door and smiled when she saw the grocer standing there, looking festive in a red Santa hat, “Thank you for coming! Come in!”
He followed her into the cabin and Amelia walked up to Sylphiel and said, “Sylphiel, meet Bing. Bing, meet Sylphiel. He has a beautiful voice, and he’s going to put on a special private concert just for you!”
Sylphiel’s mouth dropped a little, “Wow, that’s…”
“Going to be hard to top!” Filia said miserably, “Why couldn’t I have thought of something like that!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry. I just lucked out when I heard him singing. Right time, right place.” Amelia said as Bing grabbed Sylphiel’s hand and started to serenade her.
Amelia smiled as Bing’s voice filled the room as he sang a festive favorite. “Wow, he is pretty good.” Zelgadis said, “I wish I’d brought my guitar.”
“Does anyone else hear birds calling?” Gourry asked.
“They’re probably outside.” Lina said.
“No, they’re in here. They’re coming from the tree actually.”
“Oh,” Filia said as a blush came to her face and she picked up a large box, “Well, this is a tough act to follow but here goes. And it’s real hard to shop for a royal princess, but I did my best! I hope you like them!”
She set the box in front of Amelia who smiled, “Oh I’m sure whatever it is will be lovely!”
When she opened it she found two turtledoves in a decorative cage singing their hearts out with Bing. “Oh how cute!” Amelia cried as her eyes grew big, “I love them!”
For awhile it was all peace, warmth and tranquility. Snow fell outside the window as the yule log burned and kept them all warm. Valgaav babbled as he played with his wrapping paper and ribbons as Bing sang, accompanied by the birds. The group cuddled up to each other, feeling the glow and harmony that comes with celebrating a beloved holiday while trapped by a snowstorm. And it was shattered the instant that one of the turtledoves batted his head against the door of the cage and it shot open, allowing them to fly from its confines.
“Oh no!” Filia cried as she pulled at her hair, “But how? I locked it! I swear I locked it!”
One of the turtledoves flew over the pile of toys that Valgaav was finally starting to check out and pooped on it. Valgaav’s lower lip jutted out and trembled ominously and then he let out a cry of rage, tearing through the peace and harmony that had prevailed. Nevertheless, Bing kept singing, but now his heavenly voice warred with the chaos brewing within the cabin.
“Oh! Stupid birds!” Filia said as she leapt up and tried to catch them but they were too fast for her. "How dare you make him mad! He's impossible to calm down when he's mad! And he gets so mean!"
As if to illustrate her point, Sylphiel moved to pick him up, but Valgaav picked up a toy elf and threw it at her, landing right between her eyes. By now the group was familiar with how insufferable he was when angry and mostly resigned to the idea that the best thing was to let him cry it out. Sheepishly Syphiel went back to being serenaded by Bing as Valgaav continued to howl while Filia chased the birds fruitlessly.
“You know, this is rather entertaining actually.” Lina said as she wrapped her arms around herself.
“You aren’t going to help!?” Filia screeched as she tried to catch the birds.
“Why, when you’re doing such a great job?” Lina replied.
“It may be mean but this is much more fun to watch.” Gourry agreed.
“Which reminds me!” Lina said loudly, “I’m your Santa! And, Gourry dear! I found just the perfect gift for you!”
“Really?” Gourry said as he took the box she offered and opened it. But then his face fell and a look of horror crossed it as he pulled out a big pink bow. “Huh?”
“For your hair!” Lina said as she grabbed it and started to move towards him.
“No!” Gourry yelled as he got up and ran, and Lina lost no time in chasing after him.
“Oh get back here! This suits you so well and makes you look so pretty!”
“I don’t care how well it suits me! I’m not wearing it!” Gourry yelled as the turtledoves flew around him, followed by Filia, and he swerved to avoid crashing into her, which gave Lina the time she needed to catch up to him and tackle him.
“Got you!” she said as he tumbled to the ground and she landed on top of him, the bow held triumphantly in her hands as she raised it high. “Now hold still!”
“Wait a minute, you two.” Zelgadis said stoically, “You’re under the mistletoe.”
“Huh!?” Lina and Gourry both said.
Amelia turned to look, and then she gasped excitedly, “There’s mistletoe in your headband, Miss Lina!”
“There is?” Lina repeated dumbly as she felt her headband.
“Now that I look at it, it is definitely mistletoe.” Gourry agreed.
“You’re not eager for that kiss now, are you, Mr. Gourry?” Amelia asked coyly.
Valgaav continued to cry as the other turtledove swooped over him and pooped on his head, yet somehow it was not enough to break the romantic tension building through the room. Filia running around manically screaming, "get back here you stupid birds!" also could not stop it. This moment seemed destined, and nothing was going to ruin it!
And then, to finally tip the scales, Bing started to croon, “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus…underneath the mistletoe last night…”
Gourry’s eyes set and Lina went red. And then he went for it! He boldly lifted his upper body up so he could reach Lina and give her a tender kiss on the lips. Her eyes widened as steam rose from her body, and for a moment it was hard to tell if she was going to start swinging or melt. But when he pulled back the smile she favored him said it all. She had melted. She put her hand on his chest and inched towards him as she said, “That was fun, actually. And you know…we’re still under the mistletoe.”
This time she met Gourry halfway as they wrapped their arms around each other for a deeper kiss. Amelia looked beside her at Zelgadis and smiled, “Look at what you started!”
“Well, I know how badly you have always wanted to see them together.” Zelgadis said as he wrapped an arm around her.
“Don’t tell me you planned all that out!” Amelia said.
“Would you believe me if I took the credit?”
Amelia smiled and then kissed him on the cheek. He turned to face her as time seemed to build heavy with another moment and…
“Gotcha!” Filia said as she caught one of the turtledoves in her hands and marched to the cage. “And this time you will stay in your home!”
A breeze washed through the cabin as Xellos materialized before her and said, “I’m surprised it took you this long to just catch one!”
“YOU!” Filia yelled as she let go of the turtledove as her tail sprang out as she pointed at him accusingly, “This was all your doing! I know it! You opened the cage!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! And you’ve just released the turtledove you worked so hard to catch!”
Filia let out a scream of frustration as she lifted her leg and grabbed her mace and swung it at Xellos, only for it to rush through the air as he disappeared. “Happy Ceiphiedmas Filia!”
“I’ll get you!” Filia yelled as she continued to swing at the air as she turned red faced with rage and her tail swung wildly.
“Would you keep it down!?” Lina yelled. “I’m kissing my swordsman!”
“Get a room!” Filia yelled.
But Gourry put a hand on the small of Lina’s back as they moved so they were laying side by side on the floor and wrapped in each other’s arms as he said, “Somehow this silly bow was the perfect gift for me because we ended up like this.”
“Well, I do know you rather well.” Lina replied as she reached a hand out to caress his cheek.
“And we always have so much fun together.” Gourry said. “You sure must love me a lot.”
“Yeah, I do I guess, I, um, I wait! What did I say?” Lina said as she blushed as she started to pull away.
Gourry pulled her to him and pressed his forehead against hers as he said, “I love you too!”
“We’re still under the mistletoe!” Lina said as she pushed Gourry to the ground and started to kiss him once more.
“Oh…wow.” Amelia said as the kiss grew a more passionate, “It’s time for them to move on to their own room.”
“Should you tell them, or should I?” Zelgadis asked.
“Stupid birds!” Filia yelled as her tail whacked the tree and sent it flying through the air towards Lina and Gourry.
Fortunately not even her newly awakened ardor could dampen her battle hardened reflexes, and Lina called, “Diem Wind!” The tree flew to the ceiling, crashed, and started to rain down shards of ornaments and pine needles. “Watch what you’re doing!” Lina yelled as she jumped to her feet and pointed at Filia, but then her words caught in her throat as the effect of the pulverized ornaments falling from the ceiling became apparent.
Snow. Through some inexplicable reaction, it resembled snow, and as it fell to the floor a strange sentimental glow grew within the group as they watched the mystical illusion of having it snow inside the cabin. The effect was enough that even little Valgaav stopped crying to watch, thoroughly entranced.
“I’m….dreaming….of a white Ceiphiedmas…” Bing started to sing, and peace settled within the cabin.
“I’m sort of afraid to ask, but…who wants to be Santa now?” Amelia asked.
The group groaned, and started to speculate about whether they dare to face what chaos could be unleashed as Bing continued to sing, “May your days be merry and bright! And may all your Ceiphiedmases be white!”