Christmas morning dawned cold and clear - there had been snow the day or two before, and this lent a picturesque white to the scenery about the Alexander farm. Over in the guest house, shouts of joy erupted from Castela as she came downstairs to a present-laden tree. Atsali followed soon after, yawning but just as happy to take part. Buck and Katherine, in pajamas and robes with steaming cups of coffee in their hands and arms around each other looked on, enjoying Pickle's excitement and Atsali's sleepy pleasure.
In the main house, the adults woke. Al and Daisy were in no hurry to rise, having found a warm spot but the needs of the body drove them from their nest. Cinnamon and Rowdy would rise as suited them, and the staff rose as suited them on Christmas. Dinner was to be the main meal of the day, so no one needed to rise early.
Al headed for the kitchen to brew coffee - his synapses were barely capable of that without caffeine. Daisy returned to bed, snuggling back into the warmth. Brewing duties over and full thermal pots of comfort in the kitchen for those who wished to partake, Al headed back for the bedroom, with a tray of coffee and pastries.
Settled with scones and coffee, they relaxed, soaking in the relaxation. Al realized that the later promised in the firefight was now.
"Love, we need to talk."
Daisy froze, scone halfway to mouth. Uh-oh. What the hell was the old fool going to bring up now?
As an answer, Al got out of bed, went around to the other side where Daisy was, and got down on one knee. "Daisy Alexander, will you marry me?"
"Rosalynd. Daisy is my family - paddock name. My proper name is Rosalynd."
"Rosalynd Alexander, you are the most captivating, infuriating, mysterious and wonderful woman I have ever met. Will you take this poor man as a husband?"
"Well, I don't know. I've had so many offers this week...let me get back to you on it...OF COURSE I WILL, you silly man. I said so before, and I will say yes, no matter how many times you ask me. I hadn't forgotten...and we will tell our grandchildren of that proposal till they're sick of hearing of it."
Becoming suddenly serious, Al said, "I am glad to hear it. Promises made in the heat of the moment can sometimes be regretted. I had to be sure."
Daisy carefully put her cup down, moved her plate - and slapped Al across the back of the head.
"OW! What the Hades was THAT for?!?"
"THAT was for doubting me, you silly man. I am DONE with this."
She reached over to the bedside and picked up the phone. Dialing a number, she spoke briefly.
"Bob? Daisy over at the Alexander place. I'm coming over. Yes, I know I planned this for next week...shut up and get a move on." She hung up.
"Get your act together. We're out of here."
Al was confused. "But it's Christmas - where are we going? "
"You'll see when we get there. Shut up, get dressed, and move it out."
Bemused, Al complied. He loved her when she was like this.
"...and I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride - not like you haven't already."
Standing in the warm glow of a fire in the judge's living room, Al and Daisy kissed enthusiastically. The judge's wife and two daughters, pressed into service as witnesses, hugged the happy couple and bussed Daisy.
"Sign this." A form - predated three days - and a pen were shoved under Al's nose, Pulling out his old Cross pen, he complied and handed the form back. This was all just a LITTLE too smooth for Al's belief in chance - and he had no doubt this was a setup.
With a "Well?" on his face, he stared at Daisy, while the judge and his family laughed at the scene.
"Well...you'd proposed, but you hadn't DONE anything about it. I thought you were going to do something stupid like want to go to Vegas or something, so I...set this up. I was going to get Bob to do the service next week, but you drove me nuts this morning with your waffling and uncertainty. Soooo...I pulled the trigger on it."
"Brilliant. Just bloody brilliant. Scheming woman. Utter harridan. I don't know why I love you so much. Let's go home...wife."
"Home we go...husband."
There was utter pandemonium at lunch that day. When everyone had gathered at the table but Daisy and Al, Edward walked out of the kitchen and solemnly intoned "Please stand". When the family, mystified, did so, he announced "Mr. Allan Richer and Mrs. Rosalynd Alexander-Richer" as Daisy and Al walked out of the kitchen behind him.
The room went nuts.
Noise level approaching that of an airport runway, the family converged on the happy couple. Backs were slapped ,people kissed, crushing hugs delivered and accepted, and children happily swung around the room in a further round of hugging.
Pickle reached up and tugged on Al's hand.
"Does-does this mean I c'n-c'n call you Grampa now? Mama said-said that I coon't call you that till you and Gramma Daisy got your thumbs out...what's that mean?"
Laughing unashamedly at the horrified look on Katherine and Buck's faces Al said "Yes, Pickle, you can call me Grandpa." With that, he knelt and collected a fierce hug from his new granddaughter.
Lunch was especially festive that day.
Even before the battle agreement had been made that this Christmas dinner was to be all of the Club Alexander crowd, save the honeymoon couple who were off on their travels. Assembled again for the last time, they were all there - the golems, the MIB crowd, Jin, Alan, Kevin, Stan and Tina, Jet and Monica, and of course Neil and Greg with Phix and Miss Annie. Even Safyr and Emerauld came in, despite their dislike of artificial lights. Glytch popped in via the Library and happily joined the proceedings. John Smith even made an appearance, finally starting to relax and connect with humanity in his own way. The Alexander children and their children were all there as well - perhaps not completely themselves but getting there.
Once again Edward came out, told everyone to stand and announced the wedded couple - and if the cacophony of the lunch announcement was an airport runway, the evening was the explosion of Glytch's DEMP by comparison. The couple were mobbed - Greg, Neil and the other men folk surrounding Al and shaking hands, backslapping and making ribald comments about wedding nights. The ladies all converged on Daisy, who proudly showed off her wedding band (which she had purchased - a fact Al was never to live down). The bride was kissed by many - by some more than once - and Al nearly had the stuffing hugged out of him by the ladies.
With the announcement out of the way, the dinner and merriment shifted into high gear. Eggnog flowed, wines were sipped, comestibles of all sorts enjoyed and a relaxing time had before dinner.
"Okay, folks, gather round." Daisy called, pulling folks together before dinner started. "ROSALITA! EDWARD! COME ON OUT!"
With everyone gathered, Al reached into a closet and started to pull out packages and handing them to Daisy. She was checking sizes and handing them to people who would fit them, and soon everyone had a gaily wrapped package in their hands - and all began to open them at one.
The screams of disgust and merriment filled the air. Each of the packages contained exactly one item - a sweater, woven of thick cotton.
An uglier sweater would have been banned as a weapon of mass disgust by the Geneva Convention - and this one was treading close to the edge.
Bilious green in colour, each sweater contained exactly one decoration - a knitted-in picture of Santa. However, in this case Santa was...a centaur. A very buff centaur. Wearing a red and white Santa hat, he was bare-chested, exposing toned abs, and a white equine body. ( the sweater can be seen *here*
It was horrific. It was the funniest thing Al had ever seen - and when he ran across it in a catalogue he had to order one for everyone in the house. Even the elves were endowed with sweaters - they understood wrapping for presents and eagerly opened them - but were a bit confused by all the shouting and merriment around the gifts.
"Vel'bol zhah xusst xuil l'belbol? Roxuc whol warmth, lu'naut morfel d'elg'cahlen," queried Safyr.What is wrong with the gift? Practical for warmth, and not made of poisons.
"Usstan tlun naut zhaunus. Dos shlu'ta joros Glytch gajak. Usstan xal tlu gajen," replied Emerauld, her back turned.I am not sure. You can ask Glytch later. I may be late.
Truth is, Emerauld was fully aware of the significance of the "ugly sweater" gift, but she wanted to see her sister wear it so badly, she figured a bit of redirection was acceptable. She just needed to make sure Glytch was unavailable until much, much later.
"Dinner tonight is officially declared an ugly sweater party...you need not ask what you're wearing." On that note, everyone pulled on their sweaters - and a sight further outside the bounds of good taste had never been seen before and would be remembered fondly as long as they all lived. With that, the cheers were even louder, and the family, like many other families that day - was at home for Christmas.
During dinner, one figure disappeared for a short time. Emerauld shadowstepped into the currently unoccupied kitchen - Daisy having insisted that Edward and his staff sit for dinner with the rest. She stole up to the bell - now hanging serenely in its bracket on the wall. "Llentol", she said, and the bell sounded beautifully, quietly.
Eme reached up and stroked it with a finger. It was one of her favorite jobs - the recasting and repair of the bell and its conversion into a guardian for the family Alexander.
As long as there was an Alexander in residence where the bell hung it would guard them. Should any danger threaten it would sound loud and long, warning of trouble in time to take precautions. In this way even long after today she would be there at least in small part, keeping her friends safe even unto generations yet unborn or even thought of.
She stroked the bell again, hearing a tiny peal from it as her finger caressed the shining, smooth metal. With that, she prayed.
“Senger lu'Jallil, qualla kyorl 'zil er'griff dos shlu'ta l'lodias vel'uss dro wun nindol qu'ellar, lu'nind dalharen, lu'nind dalharen p'luin mina. Nind ph'jal dosst dalharen 'zil al, lu'ssrig'luin dos 'zil Usstan xun.” "Lord and Lady, please guard as only you can the people who live in this house, and their children, and their children after them. They are all your children as well, and need you as I do."
With that, she left quietly the way she came, and the runes on the bell glowed softly, as if in reply.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."