Characters: Harry, Fay, Bob, Mouse, Mal
Spoilers: There's a few references to my other OCS, but nothing too vital if you aren't familliar with them
Word count: Approx. 2000
Summary: A Christmas disaster is rescued by a Christmas miracle, courtesy of awesome friends and family and a not-so-fictional Santa Claus.
Author's notes: Written for the 'copper' prompt on my occhallenge table. Set in the mini!dresden's 'verse. Mal's slightly older in this one because I wanted to give him a bit more of a personality.
“Oh dear,” Bob said.
I thought this was the understatement of the year. 'Oh dear' did not quite cover the extent of badness that lay before me.
“No kidding,” I said.
I tentatively poked at the smote wreckage of what was once a box of Christmas tree ornaments. I had come down into the cellar at my shop to retrieve it for the decorating extravaganza that was supposed to take place that night, only to find it very much burnt to a crisp.
“Must have been those feuxfollets earlier in the year,” I said. “I never thought to check down here for damage. Looks like it hit here the hardest. Everything else is pretty much untouched.”
“I imagine the ambient heat alone would have been enough to affect the objects down here,” Bob said. “You probably don't remember, but this area—” he gestured to the other side of the cellar, “—has a fireproof charm on it from when you were looking after those salamanders. It looks to have protected it.”
I was thankful for that, at least. Everything down there had sentimental value and I would have been devastated if it had all gone up in flames. I was still left with a charred box of ornaments however. What was paper was now ash, what was glass was now shattered and warped and what was metal was now odd lumps. There was nothing left. All of Mira's childhood ornaments and Fay and Mal's first Christmas ornaments and the little snowflakes Fay had made at school—everything was gone.
“I'm sorry, Harry,” Bob said.
“They're just things,” I said, unconvincingly. “They can be replaced.”
“No, they can't!” Fay howled, when I tried to break the news gently. “No, they can't! They won't be the same! I want them back!”
She burst into tears and I didn't blame her. Six-year olds don't tend to be reasonable when it comes to things like this. I rocked her back and forth in my lap while she sobbed. Mal looked confused and upset, but I don't think he fully understood what was happening. He climbed up into my lap too, though, and Mouse wagged his tail anxiously and put his head on my lap between Mal and Fay, making a sad doggy noise. We had a group snuggle while Fay let out her grief.
“It isn't going to be a proper Christmas,” she sniffed, once she had calmed down a little. “Not—not without the violin.”
“Ah,” I said.
I had forgotten about the violin. It was Mira's favourite ornament and consequently Fay's favourite ornament. It was a violin, beautifully wrought out of copper and with a bow that could move back and forth along the strings. Fay loved playing with it. I imagined it reminded her of Mira and I suspected that was the real problem here. It wasn't the ornaments in general, it was that ornament.
“I promise Christmas will be great anyway,” I said. “We'll do everything we always do and there will be presents and Anna will come for her sleepover to baby-sit you when Murphy and I go to the Christmas party and we'll do everything properly.”
“It won't be the same,” Fay insisted.
And I kind of agreed.
What nobody tells you, what the news never reports and you don't remember when it matters, is that people are awesome. When things go wrong, there is always someone there to help. Sometimes several someones.
The word of our disaster went around quickly and suddenly Christmas ornaments were arriving daily. Mason donated some of the steampunk angel and snowflake ones he makes out of old clock parts and Mrs. Kruger next door gave us a pickle ornament which she claimed was a German tradition, but Bob declared that to be 'apocryphal'. I think that's classy for 'full of crap'. Either way, it was sort of cool and different.
Mira's brothers and sister sent some of their childhood ornaments and Katie, my mother-in-law, sent a few of her cow collection. After the kids left home and took their ornaments with them, she just did a small tree full of cow ornaments that people had given her over the years. Katie likes cows. I don't know why.
Dr. Forrester's wife whipped up some cross-stitches in little frames, each of our initials with little Christmas related things around them. Ramirez brought us a wizard hat ornament. Murphy gave us a ton of her 'extra' ornaments and Anna arrived to baby-sit with a box full of craft supplies. By the time Murphy and I got home from the Christmas party at the station, the tree looked like a proper tree, with hand-strung bead garlands and a giant origamish star that they had woven out of wrapping paper.
“I think it will be okay,” Fay told me sleepily, when I tucked her into bed. “I think it's pretty. But I still miss my violin.”
I gave her a kiss on her forehead. “I know, Sweetie,” I said.
And it killed me that with all the magic I had and all the presents I could buy, I couldn't give her the one thing she really wanted.
I was awoken at 5:30AM on Christmas morning by someone punching me in the shoulder. I sprang to action, ready to fight and protect, only to find Fay sitting next to me on the bed, her face lit up with excitement.
“I've been awake forever and I waited as long as I could but I just can't wait any longer,” she told me, desperately.
“Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!” Mal added, peering over the top of the bed at me.
“Ruff!” Mouse agreed, his chin on the bed next to Mal.
“Ookay, just gimme a sec,” I said, blinking away the sleep from my eyes. I allowed myself to be pulled out of bed and dragged down the hallway. “Watch out for Mal, cutestuff. He's slow on the stairs. Run ahead and start your stocking, okay? Mouse, go make sure she doesn't cheat.”
Fay obliged and Mouse followed, while I hung back to see Mal safely down the stairs. He held my hand and went one careful step at a time. He'd begun to start to sort of narrate his life in the third person of late, so he helpfully informed me that 'Mal go stairs' as we went.
Fay was already elbow deep in her stocking, happily chattering to Bob about all the things Santa had brought her as they emerged. Mouse sniffed them all as she put them in a pile next to her.
The cookies and milk we left out for Santa were gone, as were the carrots for the reindeer. This was the first year Mal was able to understand Christmas a little, so I made sure to point out that his gifts to Santa and the reindeer had been appreciated.
Here's the thing about Santa—he's real. I mean, really real. Not just in a 'yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' way, but totally, totally real. Now, you may have never been visited by him. He can't manage the demand like he used to. When he first started out, kids wanted things like ice skates and rocking horses and toy trains for Christmas. Things that could be constructed and carved by enthusiastic elves (who are fully unionized, before you get huffy). Nowadays, though, the population has boomed and there's no way for him to get to everyone in one night, and even if he could, kids ask for Play Cube 29s or whatever and iPads and dolls that talk and do dance routines. Magic folk can't deal with technology like that.
But he hasn't given up. He goes around and drops things off at places he likes or for kids who really need it. He and I have a little bit of a history together, so he usually makes a stop at my place, if I've been good. He seriously doesn't come if you haven't been good. Not even to leave coal. In this day and age, who has the time?
So I certainly didn't eat the cookies and drink the milk and Bob couldn't, so I figured St. Nick had probably been by in the night.
I put Mal in my lap and helped him open his stocking. Fay was very patient, waiting for us to finish before she asked to open presents.
“Wow!” Mal said, several times.
He had no interest in opening presents, he was digging his stocking too much. Eventually Fay managed to convince him that presents would be just as fun as the stocking, if not more.
I requested coffee before we started and then sat back with it while paper flew in the air. Bob seemed pleased with the gifts the kids and I got for him, which Fay opened on his behalf. Books, mostly, because there's not a lot you can get for a ghost. Mouse lay happily nearby and thumped his tail on the floor. He likes when we're all in the same room. Easier to keep track of us all.
There were four presents left under the tree, which none of us remembered putting there. Nor was it wrapped in paper I recognized. There was one each for me, Mal, Fay and Mouse.
“Must be from Santa,” I said. Bob and Santa have a Thing. I don't understand it, but it seems like a very old Thing. It wasn't surprising there was nothing for him.
Fay blinked at me. “They're all from Santa,” she pointed out.
“Right,” I said, quickly. “But these must be special ones.”
She seemed satisfied with this explanation. I headed her off before she could dig into them, though. No matter how benevolent St. Nick might be, he's still a creature of magic and they can be tricky if you aren't careful. I gave them a careful look over and felt around for any magic. They looked kosher. I opened mine first, to be on the safe side.
It was a hockey stick ornament, a perfect small sized-replica of my staff. There wasn't anything unusual about it, so I let Mal go next. His present was bigger and contained a toy train and a little toy soldier ornament. The former was much more well-received than the latter and all other presents were promptly ignored in favour of pushing his train around on the floor. Mouse had a chewie bone thing and an ornament carved to look just like him.
Fay opened hers last. She looked inside, shrieked and dropped the present on the floor. For a moment, I thought I'd failed to do a proper check and something horrible was in there, but what fell out was a bunch of hair bows and—
“A violin!” she shrieked, picking it up.
It was perfect. Every inch of that thing was an exact replica. It was the right colour of copper, it had the working bow. It was even slightly dinged and grimy, like it was as old as the original one.
“Hell's bells,” I muttered.
“Stars and stones,” Bob said, at the same time.
“Wow!” Mal added.
Mouse just grinned his doggie grin, like he knew the whole time.
The rest of Christmas day was pretty much lost for Fay, who spent most of it playing with the violin and admiring the violin and talking about the violin. For the moment at least, no other present could compare. St. Nick had ruined my planned lesson in how you can be disappointed about something but that doesn't mean everything is ruined forever. That's a good grown-up, parenty lesson, right? He'd also upstaged the hell out of me, but I didn't mind too much because it made her so happy.
Besides, I'm used to it. He pretty much does it every Christmas.