The warm light from the morning sun woke Linear into a sight she wished was a dream. A stuffed bear’s arm sat inches from her face, too far from the bear itself in her arms. She clutched the frail stuffed animal’s body to comfort her, unwilling to face the truth. Finally, she released her grip and looked down at the teddy bear.
“It’s gone…” she muttered, waving the other plump arm with soft claws up and down, glad that at least one arm was okay. On the opposite side, only a plush of white stuffing remained.
I can’t let Mag see this, she thought, hopping out of bed and rummaging through her drawers for some thread and a needle. I just need to fix it up before he notices… Determined, she sat down, rolled up the sleeves on her oversized green pajamas, and started stuffed bear surgery.
Half an hour of furious needlework later, Linear wiped her brow and raised the blue bear to inspect her handiwork. The arm stuck awkwardly outwards compared to the other and only waved front and back. She looked closely at the stitching, finding hers to be much too flat and wide against the bear’s body instead of going in a circle like the other arm. She quietly lowered the bear to her lap and hugged it tightly, pulling her knees up and her head down.
I can’t face Mag like this, it’s his precious bear that he lent me. If I can’t fix it, I’d need to replace it or—that’s it! Linear suddenly perked up and quickly looked at the calendar. It’s almost Christmas! I can buy him a replacement that looks just like this one! Then I can keep this one hidden, and he’ll never have to know! She needed to think of a gift for Mag soon anyway, so this would be perfect. With a plan in mind, she quickly changed into her favorite white sweater and got ready to head out.
“Linear, you in there? Breakfast has been ready for a while now,” she heard suddenly through the door. In a panic, she lunged for her desk and shoved the bear under the bed covers just before Mag opened the door.
“Everything okay? You’re unusually late today,” Mag asked with worry clear on his face. He was already dressed for the day, with his khaki adventuring suit on and his goggles strapped to his forehead.
“I… uh… it’s nothing,” she stammered, her heart racing at the unexpected encounter. “I’ve… got to get going… I’ll eat later…” she stammered, before slipping past him and running down the stairs. Before Mag could catch up, she grabbed a purple scarf and ran into the cold air of the late morning.
I’m sorry Mag… I’ll apologize later, okay?
* * *
“Master Mag, please sit down,” Gre asked as Mag nervously paced back and forth in the living room.
“But it’s been several hours and Linear hasn’t returned!” he shouted back before pacing some more and nervously fidgeting with his goggles. “It’s almost nighttime and she seemed so upset this morning…”
“Did you do something to make her upset?” Gre asked simply.
“Not that I can think—” Mag suddenly stopped and looked at Gre with the most dire of expressions.
“That pudding in the fridge was hers, wasn’t it…?”
“Yes, I do believe she bought two of those and was saving one for a later time,” Gre replied with a sigh.
“I didn’t realize how much she was looking forward to that pudding… Gre, what do I do!?” Mag replied, running up to Gre while looking like he was about to cry.
“Master Mag, you are the future head of this household, and you’ll have to be able to handle more complicated matters than this.” After seeing that Mag wasn’t going to relent, he continued. “Go buy her a replacement, then apologize when she returns.”
Mag’s eyes lit up and he nodded furiously. “Okay, I’ll get her so many that she’ll never be upset again!” Before Gre could retort, Mag snatched up his white jacket and ran out the door, leaving Gre in the silence of the entryway.
“When are those two going to grow up?” he said to himself with an exasperated smile.
* * *
Linear sighed, quietly nibbling on a pastry outside her favorite bakery on that cold, late afternoon in December. She checked store after store but couldn’t find anything quite like Mag’s eccentric bear. She glanced down at an adorable purple bear cradled in her elbow and gave it a playful squeeze. It’s soft warm eyes and fuzzy fur entranced her in the store. She didn’t mean to buy it, but it was the only one, and she couldn’t bear seeing it alone on the shelf. It felt as if it was abandoned by all its friends on Christmas. After licking the crumbs off her fingers and throwing the pastry’s wrapper away, she gripped the bear and ran down the street.
There’s one more shop in town I might be able to reach before it gets dark and they close. Please, have the bear! She wished she had Mag’s warm jacket with her, but this was her solo adventure today!
* * *
“Linear?” Yurka muttered to himself as the familiar sight of Evolutia ran down the street past the coffee shop he sat in. She seemed in distress, clutching a teddy bear and sprinting down the street as her body shook with ragged breaths.
Is she in trouble!? he thought, downing the rest of his coffee and rushing out of the store after her.
If she’s clutching a bear, then she had to of run from home! Which means… Mag, you bastard, what did you do!? He had to get her to safety before night fell. He couldn’t stand the idea of her alone in a dark, cold alley with nothing but a stuffed animal for comfort. He quickly threw off his jacket and let his sky-blue light wings extend out past his shoulderless white button-up shirt. With a blast of wind, he took off into the air and closed the distance in no time.
“Linear!” he shouted, catching her attention just as he scooped her up and flew into the night.
* * *
Linear sat awkwardly on an unfamiliar couch in what appeared to be Yurka’s apartment. Before she realized what was going on, he had swept her up off the ground into the sunsetting evening. Clutching onto him in a panic was the most she could do until she found herself in front of an apartment door. She glanced around at the relatively sparse and clean room, wondering if he had just moved in recently. A deep blue ocarina sitting on the coffee table caught her eye. She absentmindedly reached towards it, but the sound of footsteps startled her hand back to her lap.
“Here, I made you some tea to warm up,” Yurka said in an oddly comforting way. “It’s herbal, so you shouldn’t have any problems sleeping later.” The scent of pears and winter spices danced in her nose. She brought the cup to her lips and let the rich taste of warm fruit and cloves flood through her. The tea brought a smile to her face. She noticed Yurka quickly looking away before bringing his gaze back again.
“Is everything alright with you, Linear?” he asked after a bit of silence. Just then, Linear remembered that she was running to that last shop, the last hope of finding that bear for Mag. But now, it was certainly too late. She looked down sadly at the purple bear in her arms and squeezed it tightly.
“I knew it, Mag did something, didn’t he?” Yurka answered for her, dropping his cup a little too hard on the table and splashing a little tea out.
“I can’t… face Mag right now…” Linear replied quietly, burying her face in her stuffed animal. Not only did she ruin his bear, but she stormed out and disappeared all day. He had to be furious with her.
“You can stay here as long as you need to,” Yurka reassured her as he cleaned up the spilt tea with a napkin.
“Why… are you in town?” she asked to get her mind off things. Several months had passed since Mag and his friends stopped the Ulticannon and defeated Yurka, but he vanished after that fight. She was glad he was alive but couldn’t bring herself to directly ask how he was still alive. His clothes looked oddly clean and professional with black slacks and a white button-up shirt, though it was missing the shoulders.
“Well, I caused a lot of chaos at The Society, but it seems they still want my help reaching new knowledge only you and I have access to. In return for this apartment and a salary, I agreed to help them out for the time being. It’s not the most grand existence, that’s for sure, but it’s another chance.” Yurka looked a bit solemnly into his tea before taking a long sip.
“I wish I could take back what I did to you, Linear. The fact that I’m miraculously still alive must be my chance for atonement. I was working up the courage to come by and apologize, but then I saw you through a café window and ran after you in a hurry. Now we’re here, and I’m a bit unprepared, but I’m s-sorry for everything.” He blushed after stammering, quickly drinking more tea to try and cover it.
“If it wasn’t for you showing me the good in humanity, I’m sure I’d have died full of hate and despair. I’m still trying to understand the world through your eyes, but it’ll take some time.” Yurka reached for the ocarina and felt its weight in his hands. He brought it to his lips and blew, but the sound was harsh and shrill.
“I still don’t understand this thing, but you said it helped you long ago, so I thought I’d try it,” he said with a chuckle.
Linear smiled and reached out for the ocarina. Yurka handed it to her and watched how her fingers fit across the eight holes on the front. Without a word, Linear began playing a solemn and beautiful melody that helped put their hearts at ease.
“So that’s how you’re supposed to hold it,” Yurka awkwardly stated to fill the silence in the air as her song was finished. Before she could reply, Yurka’s head snapped to the door.
“It seems Mag is here to see you,” he scowled, his voice dark and full of the past rage he was trying to overcome. Soon Yurka was out the door, and Linear was on his tail.
* * *
“You’ve got guts showing up here,” Yurka called out to Mag in the newly darkened streets of twilight. Mag stood several meters away, catching his breath underneath a streetlight. Under one of his arms was an oddly large cardboard box.
“Yurka! After all that happened, you’re still trying to kidnap Linear!?”
“Kidnap? She ran to me because of you! I trusted you Mag, you know. I trusted you to take care of Linear and show her the happiness of this world. To show her that there was good in mankind. But then I see her running down the street in tears clutching a teddy bear in despair. You cannot begin to understand my disappointment.”
In tears!? Linear thought in confusion. No, Yurka, this is a mistake! Linear tried to call out, but her voice shook and only came out as mumbling sounds.
“I can’t take back what I’ve done, and I know sorry isn’t enough to make up for it,” Mag started. Linear looked dumbstruck at Mag in utter confusion.
“But I’ll apologize as much as it takes and make it up to you, I promise Linear. I’m sorry, please forgive me!”
“HA! You think you can grovel at her feet and make bygones be bygones. You’ve shown your true colors, you—”
A high-pitched squeal cut through the air and brought the arguing boys’ hands to their ears. When they glanced up, they saw Linear, glaring with the ocarina in her hand.
“Inside… now…” she yelled in a voice barely enough to be a speaking voice. With a nervous glance between the two of them, the boys silently obeyed and walked into the apartment.
* * *
“You just ate her pudding?” Yurka shouted, staring at Mag’s innocent expression in utter shock.
“You ate… my pudding…?” Linear echoed with a tilt of her head.
“That’s why you were upset, right?” Mag asked, tilting his own head in return. “I wasn’t thinking and ate the pudding in the fridge last night, but then when you ran out of the house, I figured that must have been why. So…” Mag opened the cardboard box, revealing a haphazard pile of a dozen or more pudding cups.
“I wanted to make it up to you, but I might have gone a little overboard,” Mag said with a laugh, scratching the back of his head.
“I got that… for you…” Linear said quietly, then laughed.
“For me!? B-but then what happened this morning!?”
Yurka sat quietly in all this, having completely lost the situation after hearing the innocent idiocy of the pair.
“I… your bear…” Linear started, reaching for and hugging the purple bear from earlier. She tried to keep talking but couldn’t bring herself to say what happened.
“Ahh, did the arm fall off again?” Mag guessed. Linear’s eyes shot straight up in surprise.
“Bingo, huh? It’s fallen off before, so it’s already pretty weak. We can have Gre fix it up again.”
Relief flooded over Linear, but also a tinge of embarrassment at how silly this all turned out.
“I thought I’d… look for a new one…” she said, then held out the purple bear for Mag.
“Merry Christmas, Mag,” she continued with a glowing smile. “It may not be a replacement… but it’s still a new family member…”
“Thank you, Linear,” Mag smiled, but waved the bear back. “But you’ve got to save that until Christmas morning, okay? Give the bear a lot of love, then wrap it up the night before, okay?”
“Okay!” Linear nodded.
“Mag,” Yurka started, finding an opportunity to butt in. “I jumped to conclusions and caused a lot of confusion. Forgive me, please.”
“L-let’s just forget about today, okay?” Mag awkwardly replied. “I’m glad you came to Linear’s aid in a pinch though,” he replied with a huge grin.
“O-of course! And mark my words, I’ll be there to stop you if you ever hurt her!”
“That’ll never happen. I beat you once though, I could beat you again!”
“What was that!? You think you have the power to withstand my true—”
A low, growl-like noise emitted from the ocarina.
“Sorry Linear,” they both replied in near unison.
“Be nice… okay?”
* * *
A week or so later, Yurka started his day in his quiet apartment. December 25th was marked as the day on his calendar, but Christmas didn’t mean anything particular for him. He was about to make some breakfast when he saw an envelope sticking under the door. He carefully slid it into the house and pulled out the letter inside.
“Merry Christmas, Yurka! I’m glad we could see you again. I was sad at the idea you were gone forever, but imagine my surprise as you popped out of nowhere and carried me in the sky! Thank you for saving me, even if it all ended up being a misunderstanding. Mag can be a little passionate at times, but I truly believe we can all be friends if we try. We’re having a Christmas dinner tonight as well and would love it if you could come! And please don’t be a stranger either! We could always use more friends on adventures!”
“She’s much more lively when in writing,” Yurka noticed with a laugh. Near the bottom of the page was a small P.S. telling him to look outside.
Yurka cracked open the door and noticed a festive bag of coffee beans on the ground. He pulled it in and quickly shut the door to keep the cold early morning air out. On it was another note:
“I got this blend for Gre, but this felt like it would be a good match for you too. Let me know what you think! Merry Christmas!”
“I’ll have to find something for her too,” Yurka said to himself as he walked to the kitchen and opened the bag of coffee beans. The rich, bold roasted smell of the fresh beans brought a smile to his face as he filled up the kettle.
Maybe Christmas is special after all.