The Magic of Christmas
As the snow began to fall in Death
City, Crona Stein, formerly Crona Gorgon, found themself staring at the
cardboard box that lay before them. Upon opening the package that was left on
the porch, they found a letter inside from Maka Albarn that read:
I know that this is your first Christmas in Death City, so I wanted you to enjoy one of my favorite Christmas traditions for yourself! Here’s an Advent Calendar, with twenty five different gifts! There’s usually only twenty four, but I wanted to make sure you got your Christmas present on time! Make sure to only open one a day, and don’t let Ragnarok cheat, ok?
Crona’s mind was perplexed by the strange gift, but before they could say anything, Ragnarok felt the need to give his opinion.
“That’s it? A stupid calendar? No video games or guns? Lame,” he said, shaking the calendar filled with boxes, hoping to guess what was in it.
“Actually…I think it’s nice, Ragnarok. It looks like she put a lot of thought into this, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to afford this type of gift.”
“I’m just hoping that it’s 25 different kinds of booze. It’s gonna be a long winter break, and I’ll need all the help I can get to drown out that one-eyed nightmare’s version of Silent Night.”
Crona’s eyes suddenly narrowed, their expression turning from one of curiosity into a look of hatred.
“Don’t ever talk about Mrs. Marie like that again! She’s been nothing but nice to us, and she hasn’t done anything to deserve you talking about her like that!”
“Whatever. At least let me open the first one,” Ragnorak replied, indignant, but not willing to push Crona further. Upon opening the box with the number one on it, they found a fountain pen, with a small note attached:
I know you like to write poetry, so I thought you should have something better than the cheap disposable ones at school!
I hope this helps with your writing,
“That’s really nice of her, Ragnorak, don’t you think?” Crona inquired, hoping that their partner saw the appeal of the calendar.
“Eh, I prefer Reese’s.”
“Not everything can be candy, you know.”
“Why not? Stein only gets cigarettes for Christmas.”
“Not this year.”
“Oh really? You planning on getting old Screwhead something?”
“I hope so.”
Ragnorak looked confused, but decided to leave that discussion for another day.
“Hey Crona. Let’s go get some dinner, and then we can watch a Christmas movie with Stein. I haven’t seen any of them, and I’m going to make up for lost time.”
After enjoying some spaghetti and watching Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, they drifted off to sleep, excited to see what else was in the strange gift that Maka had given them.
The next few days were spent watching movies and opening the calendar in relative peace. The gifts ranged from a deck of cards (“To play with Ragnarok when he’s bored,” the note read) to gift certificates for some of the books that Maka had suggested for them, but never got around to buying for them. They went to pick up the books every day and really enjoyed Charlotte’s Web, right up until the end of the book.
Ragnarok shouted,” But she saved him! Isn’t that enough?”
Wiping the tears from their eyes, Crona looked back at the demon-weapon on their shoulder. “But…I don’t know if I could deal with the people I love dying…..” they said.
“Oh, enough with the mushy crap, let’s go watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, I’ve heard Oogie Boogie is the sh….”
“You watch your mouth, Ragnarok,” Marie said, cutting them off.
Ragnarok put on a pouting expression and mockingly said, “Yes, Mom,” before heading to the living room to join Stein for the movie.
Crona woke up the next day, still in their robes from the night before. Heading over to the kitchen counter, they saw that Marie had made them breakfast and left a note telling them that she had work at the Academy, and that she would be home soon.
Content with this explanation, they went over to Maka’s gift and began to open the box numbered 24. Their eyes lit up as they read:
For today’s gift, I thought it would be fun to have a Christmas party. Inside the box is both a Christmas cookie and your invitation to the party. Try to be here around 7:00 and ready to have a good time!
See you there,
They couldn’t believe their eyes, and as Ragnorak began to stuff his face with the cookie, their thoughts moved around in their head at a breakneck pace.
She invited me to a party that she’s been planning for over a month? How do you even plan a party that long in advance? I have to get ready! This is going to be fun!
Ragnarok broke the silence, speaking with cookie pieces still in their mouth.
“You’re getting ready at 9AM? Why? You’ve got all day”
Crona thought quickly. “Not all of us wait until the last minute to do something, Ragnarok. I really want this to go well,” they said.
“Of course you do. You just want her to treat you like that dopey Ed kid in those books you read. I had to hide in this meatsuit for two weeks while you read that sappy crap.”
Crona thought better of talking to Ragnarok further, and smiled.
There was a party tonight!
“So, Soul. What do you think? Do the lights look good, or do I need something more festive?” Maka asked her partner, hoping to get a second opinion.
“It’s just a party, you should really just relax,” Soul replied. “But in all seriousness, it looks good. You did a great job.”
Maka smiled.“ Now that’s what I wanted to hear! This is going to be so much fun.”
“Hey, just leave the music to me. Last thing we need is for someone to put on ‘Christmas Shoes’ and end the night with Black Star sobbing in the corner.”
“Fair enough. For all his tough talk, he sure can be a softy when it comes to family.”
They were interrupted by a loud banging on the door, and as Soul went to answer, the door swung open and Black Star came in singing about the joys of the holidays:
“Not gonna get you a diamond ring/That sort of gift don’t mean anything/Not gonna get you a fancy car/Girl, ya gotta know you’re my shinin’ star.”
Horrified at the words spewing from his mouth, and knowing what lyrics came next, Tsubaki opened her tin of Christmas cookies and shoved one in his mouth. As he continued to talk with bits of cookie still in his mouth, he managed to mutter out:
“What? Guys can like JT too. That song really screams Christmas.”
“That a fact, Black Star?” Stein said, as Crona and Marie filed in behind him.
“Sure! What would you know about the holidays anyway?”
“Enough to know that singing about your Freudian obsessions isn’t very Christmas-like.”
As the argument began to increase in intensity, they were interrupted by a bright purple puff of smoke and the lithe form of Blair appeared to put her hands between them.
“Hey, there’s no time for that. We’ve got so much fun to have!” Blair said with a sanguine smile.
“Perhaps you’re right, Blair. We’ll table this autopsy of musical inquiry for later. Anybody have a light?” Stein said, reaching into his pocket to produce a cigarette.
“Yeah, outside” Maka said, not wishing to have her apartment smell like one of her father’s ashtrays after he struck out in the pubs around the city.
“Fair enough,” he said to Maka before turning to Marie. “Honey, take Crona inside. I need to go out for a smoke.”
He leaned in closer to Marie.“And pick up Crona’s gift from the shop. Can you do that for me? I’ll give you your present early,” he said with a grin, trying to bribe Marie into going along with his scheme.
Marie’s ears rang with the promise of early gifts, and a smile crept onto her face.
“No problem! Let’s go Crona, time’s a wastin!” Marie squealed as she dragged them into the house like a one-woman Christmas party.
Crona sighed, and recalling a movie that they had seen recently, responded with “Good grief.”
The night was filled with fun and games, and while Soul was usually nervous about playing music for others, he thought that it would add to the “cool” atmosphere of the party; so after a night filled with caffeinated beverages and sugar cookies, he sat down at his keyboard and began to play Christmas classics.
After everybody joined in for a rousing number of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas,’ they all began to make the trek back to their houses so they could enjoy Christmas with their families.
“Could you believe it, Ragnarok? That was so much fun! Black*Star was the only one to finish all that eggnog. He may not be a god, but he certainly drank like the ones in those books Maka gave me.”
“That’s because there wasn’t any booze in it. While Spirit and Marie were getting plastered, I was stuck sitting in boring old you’s body.”
Crona said with an enormous smile on their face “I can’t wait for tomorrow! It’s going to be my first Christmas with Mom and Dad, and I get to open Maka’s last gift? I don’t know if I can deal with all that excitement.”
“Go to bed, you big baby. I mean, seriously. You, the former Demon Sword, spent part of the holiday break reading Charlotte’s Web? At 16?
“It’s supposed to be a classic, Ragnarok. She wanted me to read the best-known books so I can be well-read. Maybe you’ll like some of the others she gave us.”
Ragnarok twisted his face into a frown, suggesting an alternative.
“Let me know when there’s robots involved. Or lasers. I love lasers. Where are the lasers?”
Turning over in their bed, Crona shrugged and said “Goodnight, Ragnarok. Merry Christmas.”
The next morning, Crona was awakened by the smell of freshly made hot chocolate; Marie had kept her habit of getting up very early for Christmas from when she was a kid, and wanted to make sure that Crona got the same experience.
As Crona made their way down the halls, they were wrapped tightly in a hug from Mrs. Stein, who exclaimed “Merry Christmas Crona! And to you as well, Ragnarok! Ready to open presents? Stein’s almost ready with the camera.”
“That’s because you said breakfast wasn’t happening until I had this blasted thing set up so you could capture this moment in stunning visual quality,” Stein said, as he positioned the camera so that every moment of the morning would be preserved.
“And I meant it, Franken. But when we’re done with presents, get ready for the best French Toast you’ve ever had!”
“I’ll have the fire department on speed-dial, just in case.”
At this, Ragnarok chortled. “Good one Stein!”
Sitting down in front of the metal tree that Stein had crafted, Crona began to open their presents. They couldn’t believe the things that they had received: from the telescope that Stein gave them to the new set of robes that Marie had hand-made, everything seemed too wonderful for Crona to take in.
They began to well up with tears, voice cracking as they spoke:
“Thank you. Thank you so much. I…don’t….deserve….any of this….not after what I did.”
Now it was Marie’s turn to be curt:
“Stop. We love you, and that’s more than reason enough to make sure you have a good Christmas.”
Crona’s head jolted up, and fixed their gaze on Stein and Marie. Marie wrapped her arms around Crona, holding them closely. Marie glanced over at Stein, sitting comfortably in his chair as he smoked a cigarette, and he nodded back as if to say, go on.
“Now, with that said, we have one more surprise for you.” She paused, biting her lip to hold down her grin. “Guess what? You’re going to have a brother.”
At this, their eyes widened.
“Really? I’m going to have a brother? I-I don’t know if I can deal with being a sibling.”
Stein laughed and said “I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it either. But I’m sure we’ll think of something…..right, Marie?”
“Absolutely. Now, Crona. I’m going to go get breakfast ready, so go get washed up, and we’ll be ready shortly. And, oh!, Don’t you have one more gift left to open?”
Of course! Crona thought. Maka’s gift! How could I forget?
Running back to their room, they quickly found the last package of the calendar and began to open it with wild abandon. However, as they opened the box, their expression turned from one of joy into one of utter confusion.
What is this? A plant? Was Maka trying to play a prank?
They inspected the plant further, noting the pointy, green, leaves and the red berries that were on it. They had rudimentary knowledge of plants used in medicine, as most witches’ brews used plants, but they had never seen anything like it.
Finding no explanation for their gift or a note from Maka, they took the plant into the kitchen in search of an answer. Dad’s a scientist, he’ll know what this is.
Setting his coffee down on the cloth tabletop, Stein began to relax in his chair.
“Do you know what this is?”
Stein pushed his glasses up onto his face, and nodded. “Those damn Albarns. I remember when Spirit did this to Kami, and now she’s doing it to you. I wonder if her father even knows,” Stein said with a laugh.
“Knows what?” Crona inquired.
“Knows that she’s trying moves right out his playbook. I didn’t expect this, but I really shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s mistletoe.”
“Mistletoe?” Crona said, anxious about what the strange plant was for.
Stein grinned, and leaned in to talk to them, trying to avoid having Marie within earshot of their conversation.
“Here’s what I’m going to recommend you do. Stay here and enjoy breakfast first. When you’re done, put on something other than those ridiculous pajamas Marie bought you and head straight to Maka’s apartment with the mistletoe. She’ll know you’re coming, so don’t worry about startling her.”
“And then what?” Crona asked curiously.
“Now who am I to spoil the magic of Christmas?” he said with a smile.
Grasping them by the shoulders, Stein chuckled and said, “Merry Christmas, Crona. Merry Christmas.”
“Now who’s ready for breakfast?”
Many thanks to @dollypopup, who helped with the numerous revisions this fic needed, and for her encouragement. It wouldn’t be the same without her help.
Merry Christmas everybody!