July 21, 2016 by Lyn
Regine hadn’t been enthusiastic about the Christmas party; she’d been dead-set against it, at least to begin with. “Ridiculous,” she’d scoffed; Luke wondered if she’d noticed the wince of disappointment in her Kept’s normally well-mannered expression. “The Ellehemaei are non-Christian by our very nature. Why would we celebrate the birth of a demigod of a different faith?”
Mike had run over that with hobnailed boots. “You spent all this time building a place that felt like home, ‘Gene, not for us, but for them. What do they care what the Ellehemaei pray to? Most of them believe they’re human and half the rest wish they were.”
It hadn’t been the argument that won, so much as that it was Mike doing the arguing. Deep in her tiny little stone heart, Luke knew, Regine still considered Mike to be the expert on all things Ellehemaei; after all, the Daeva had been doing it for longer than both of them combined.
Maureen and Mike had done most of the planning, well-aided by the other women and well-impeded by the men underfoot. Luke stayed out of their way, did his best to keep everyone else out of their way, and bent his mind and his Working to presents.
Mike was easy – well, that went without saying, but easy to buy gifts for, since he’d been buying his friend the same gift for centuries now – boots. Regine had no interest in the ritual, but he brought her some information she hadn’t yet gotten her hands on, wrapped with a bow. Maureen, he made a pair of leather slippers, comfortable and elegant.
Gifts were important, not because of any monetary exchange, but because in long and transient lifetimes, they gave you something to hold onto, a way to remember people who were important, a way to be remembered. For Doug, who was finally grown into a man and a warrior, even if he had done so with decades out of Luke’s sight, Luke had tracked down living rowan and hawthorn and coaxed their branches from them, and whispered them into a knife. For Keaira… well, that had been harder, but he’d Worked gold for her, and moss agate.
He’d made a point, too, of buying something for Regine’s Kept, although he’d had to consult with Liv for that one. “A drawing set,” she’d suggested; when he’d looked surprised at that – it wasn’t the sort of thing he’d expected from the kid – she’d been a little vehement in her defense of the idea, and of the kid. “He draws on napkins when he thinks no-one is looking. He’s not bad at it, either. Maureen has saved some of his sketches.” So a drawing kit it was – and Luke’s silent resolution that if Regine tried to take it away from Ambrus, she’d have to deal with him.
Uncharacteristically nervous, Luke stacked the wrapped gifts under the fragrant tree and slipped out into the snow and the quiet before the present-opening began. It was one thing to pick out – or create – the gifts, another to have to watch people opening them, and these gifts in particular, he couldn’t bear to watch be opened. He was sitting on the fire escape, watching the winter stars, when he heard footsteps coming up being him.
“Mike told me what it means,” she told his back. There was a catch in her voice that he couldn’t interpret, and he found himself afraid to turn around.
“You should never trust Mike on these things,” he hedged.
“I confirmed it with Laurel.”
“…oh.” He was saved from coming up with something safe to say about Laurel; Keaira stepped up next to him, levering herself up against him so that his arm rested on her shoulders, her wings brushing softly against his sleeve.
“Merry Christmas, Luca,” she murmured. The necklace he’d crafted for her hung around her neck, the pendant settled comfortably between her breasts, against her heart. It was where it belonged. He was where he belonged.
“Merry Christmas, Ké.”