Tis The Season
Twas a couple days before Christmas and Ryuu was no closer to knowing what his chosen family would be doing to celebrate. Holiday traditions were different in Japan, right down to the food served.
He looked around his domain and smiled. Meryn was unlike anyone or anything he had ever experienced in all the long centuries serving his original family. She had given him free rein of the house, power over its occupants, made him one of the family and all that she asked in return was to be fed and for her clothes to be kept clean.
Her tastes bordered on dull and she would wear the same tee-shirts days at a time if he didn’t threaten to strip her himself. Sighing he wiped down the counter and hung up the towel.
He heard Penny laughing in the dining room and smiled. A house full of children was a blessing. Soon his denka would be having her first, then Rheia. Nothing would make him happier than to see the house he served grow, securing itself for centuries to come. He knew it wouldn’t be long before both Darian and Keelan found their mates, ensuring that their family would grow yet again.
Behind him the timer to the stove beeped and he turned grabbing an oven mitt to take out the croissants. He had already prepared an assortment of cold meats, cheeses and fruit and artfully arranged them on platters. Carefully placing the golden treasures in the basket he covered them with a towel and added them to his cart.
He wheeled the cart to the door and backed up pulling the cart with him through the swinging doorway.
“It’s creepy, get rid of it.” Meryn said, shuddering.
Across the table Colton was making a small male doll dressed in red felt dance on the table.
“I saw it at the human store. Evidently he gets into mischief at night in the days leading up to Christmas and then is picked up by Santa Claus on Christmas morning. It’s called Elf on a Shelf,” Colton explained.
Penny eyed the small doll a dubious expression on her face. She looked over to Meryn who sipped her coffee still bleary eyed then back to Colton.
“It will be fun, I promise.” Colton ruffled her hair.
Ryuu pushed the cart over to his charge. “Denka, croissant?”
“Yes, yes.” Meryn yawned and rubbed her eyes.
Ryuu smiled and placed two croissants on her plate. It made complete sense to him that she would say ‘yes’ twice for two croissants, however, around the table she was receiving strange looks.
He walked around and served, making sure everyone had a plate filled with food and that their glasses were topped off.
After everyone had their breakfast in front of them he cleared his throat. “If I may be so bold to ask, but how do paranormals celebrate the holidays in America?”
Everyone looked around at each other. Aiden was the first to speak up. “Shifters normally stay at home and enjoy a large feast exchanging gifts. We’ve always celebrated winter solstice, but as Christmas became more popular commercially, Lycaonia began to decorate the streets and shops. It really puts people in the spirit.”
Jaxon and Noah nodded. “Our families celebrated the same way.”
Meryn snorted. “We never celebrated at my house. No tree, no presents and no food. I did get to watch all the holiday shows and movies though.”
Beth looked at his charge a distraught look on her face. “You poor thing! No tree or presents? Noctem Falls in the same as Lycaonia, around fifty or sixty years ago people began to incorporate the best of the popular Christmas traditions into how we celebrated. Every year we hold our Midwinter Ball and then people will host parties and serve amazing food. Vampires normally give birth around this time of year so we always have a naming ceremony around New Years and the babies are welcomed into our world. More importantly the shopping is to die for!”
Gavriel kissed her hand. “I’ve always enjoyed relaxing with friends. There always seems to be a feeling of goodwill floating in the air at Midwinter.”
Colton shook his head. “Food. It’s all about the food! Do you know how many amazing dishes are only made this time of year? I look forward to Marius’s cookies every year.”
Darian chuckled. “You would think with your stomach. In Éire Danu we celebrate Yule and the Wild Hunt. Candles are lit on Longnight to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. The queen usually hosts a large banquet and everyone enjoys the delicacies of the royal kitchen.”
Keelan nodded. “We celebrate Longnight in Storm Keep as well. My brother and I would help strengthen protection spells around the city and then he and I would have dinner together.”
Rheia smiled. “We do the normal Christmas traditions, don’t we Penny?”
The little girl nodded.
“Like what?” Colton asked.
“We get a tree and decorate it right after Thanksgiving. Then we make cookies on Christmas Eve to leave out for Santa and she gets to open one present, which is always her Christmas pajamas. On Christmas morning we make cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate and then dive into presents.”
“Hmmm cinnamon rolls.” Meryn and Colton said together, dreamy looks on their faces.
Aiden turned to Meryn. “Are there any favorite movies you would like to see?”
She nodded. “It wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get to watch Die Hard.”
Meryn frowned. “What! It’s a holiday movie.”
Darian turned to Keelan. “I thought that was the action movie with Bruce Willis.”
Keelan blinked. “It is.”
“It’s a Christmas movie!” Meryn insisted.
Aiden kissed her neck. “Then we’ll watch it.” He turned to look up at Ryuu. “Would you be able to reach out to Marius to get some recipes? Every year he cooks duck and it’s amazing.”
Ryuu nodded. “I’ll pay him a visit later today.”
“Don’t forget about the butterscotch cake,” Colton added.
Darian sat back. “I particularly like the movie about the green fuzzy kleptomaniac with the insanely strong terrier.”
Ryuu watched as Meryn blinked, then blinked again. He watched as her eyes lit up and she began to giggle. “You mean the Grinch Who Stole Christmas!”
Beth and Rheia began to laugh with Meryn.
Darian shrugged. “I like how it rhymes.”
Ryuu smiled. He should have known. His new family’s way of celebrating revolved around good food and having fun. He was concerned about his charge’s past, from what she said, maybe the holidays didn’t remind her of good times. He would do his very best to change that.
“Meryn, is Felix with you? Is there anything special the sprites do?” Aiden asked.
Meryn shook her head. “He’s upstairs in our bed. He’s been feeling the cold lately so I told him to stay put and cranked up the electric blanket.”
“I’ll build up the fire in the family room so he can come downstairs.” Ryuu offered.
Meryn looked up at him relieved. “Thank you Ryuu! You’re the bestest!”
Ryuu felt her love for him through their bond and was humbled. It never ceased to astonish him how much the smaller things meant to her.
He simply placed his hand over his heart and bowed.
He had just returned from the McKenzie’s and was eager to get started on some of the recipes that Marius had generously passed on to him.
He had just finished setting up everything he needed to start on the butterscotch cake when Colton walked into the kitchen frowning.
“Hey Ryuu, have you seen that little Elf on a Shelf?”
Ryuu shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”
“I set him up on the fireplace mantel and now I can’t find him.”
“Colton. I found him!” Rheia said rushing into the kitchen holding up the small doll.
“Where was he?”
“Under the sofa next to the fireplace.”
“How’d he get under there?” Colton took the doll from her.
Rheia shrugged. “Maybe he fell and rolled under.”
Colton didn’t look convinced. “Maybe. Oh well, I’ll find a new place for him. I’m thinking about propping him up in the tree.”
“That’s a good idea.” Rheia agreed.
“Thanks Ryuu.” Colton said and they walked out.
Ryuu smiled and shook his head. He carefully started measuring out his ingredients and got started.
As Ryuu was setting the table for dinner he heard male voices arguing in the family room. He finished the final place setting and removed his apron draping it over one of the chairs.
He walked into the family room to see everyone standing around in a circle looking down.
“What is it?” he asked.
Colton looked up. “Our Elf on a Shelf, Rodney, in on the floor.”
Ryuu blinked and waited.
Colton rolled his eyes and pointed to the tree that was eight feet away. “He started there and ended up here.” He pointed down at the floor.
Ryuu looked down at the small doll that was smiling up at him. His denka was right. It was creepy.
“Maybe it fell and rolled,” he suggested.
“Eight feet?” Colton asked incredulously.
“I’m hungry.” Meryn said looking up at him. “Can we just stuff him on the bookcase and eat?”
Colton picked up the doll and walked over to the bookcase. He carefully wedged the doll between two books. Looking satisfied he walked back over to the group. “He’s not falling now.”
Together everyone adjourned to the dining room for dinner. After dinner the adults lingered eating their cake and sipping coffee. Ryuu had just poured Beth a cup of tea when Penny came in looking worried. She would normally be in bed by this time, but Rheia and Colton started letting her stay up a bit later in hopes that she would sleep in on Christmas morning.
She walked over and climbed into Colton’s lap and buried her face in his chest.
Colton instantly snuggled her close. “What’s wrong pumpkin?”
“It moved,” she said in a tiny piping voice, hiding her face.
Colton’s eyes widened and he looked around the table. Carefully he lifted her up and settled her on Rheia’s lap.
“Papa is going to go look.” Colton walked out and seconds later they heard him cussing. “Sonofabitch!” He stormed back into the dining room doll in hand. “What is going on with this thing? I found it on the floor again.”
“Let’s put it back on the mantle and watch to see what happens,” Meryn suggested.
Gavriel shrugged. “Why not? Sounds interesting.”
Everyone got up and walked into the foyer. Colton put the doll on the mantel while Meryn set up a small camera pointing it at the doll. Then everyone crowded into Aiden’s office to watch the live feed of the doll.
Ryuu placed their forgotten cake and cups of tea and coffee on his tray and wheeled it into the office. Everyone got comfortable and resumed eating.
“I wish Jaxon or Noah was here, they need more experience with the surveillance camera software,” Meryn said, a mouth full of cake.
“Where are they anyway?” Keelan asked.
“The trainees are having an X-Box tournament, we won’t see them until tomorrow.”
“They’re lucky I don’t enter I… holy shit!” Meryn said pointing to the monitor.
Everyone crowded around. Ryuu watched in amazement as the doll lifted from the mantel and then fell backwards.
“That fucking this is possessed! God dammit Colton I told you it was creepy!” Meryn shouted.
The men turned and ran out the door heading to the family room, Ryuu followed with the women. Ryuu watched as the doll was repeatedly lifted and then dropped.
“Felix!” Meryn cried out rushing forward. The doll stopped moving before it was thrown into the fire, seconds later the small sprite shimmered into view tears on his cheeks.
“Meryn!!!” Felix wailed and flew directly into Meryn’s open arms.
“Oh honey! What’s the matter?” She cradled the tiny sprite carefully.
“It’s evil! It keeps moving around the room!” Felix hiccuped and pointed to the blob of melting plastic.
“Oh dear,” Beth whispered.
“Colton you scared poor Felix to death!” Rheia swatted her mate.
Colton stood there mouth open.
“Way to go mutt.” Aiden shook his head.
“But I looked it up, this is very popular with children,” Colton protested.
“Maybe with human children,” Darian murmured.
“It had to be scary as hell to poor Felix, he’s only a little bigger than that creepy doll.” Keelan shook his head in sympathy.
Ryuu grimaced as he watched the melted plastic drip down the logs and into the fireplace grates. Everything would have to be removed and scrubbed down. He looked up and watched Meryn comfort Felix. She was trying so hard to keep a straight face.
He cleared his throat. “So I take it that Elf on a Shelf will not be one of our holiday traditions?”
Beside him Colton started to crack up which set off the entire group. Smiling to himself Ryuu took a moment to appreciate his new family. With his denka things would never be normal, but then again, they would never be boring.