Holiday Collection

This is a series of shorts that two of my writing group friends helped me put together for the holidays. I do have their permission to add their stories to this collection. If you like their writing style you can read more on their DeviantArt pages. Their names are RainInTheWillows and AedantheGrey.

Happy Hellwan Surprise
Little paws pitter-pattered down the stairs eagerly, the magic of this snow covered morning lending them speed. The small padding sounds were followed by a skittering as little paws lost traction on the kitchen floor. A tiny furry lump slid around the corner of the living room doorway and tumbled into a bookshelf with a yelp. Books tumbled into a heap all over their agitator, but not even that could kill the excitement in the air.

A little black tail and black ears poked out of the pile, followed quickly by the rest of the furry black cannonball as she shot from the jumble of books for the brightly lit Christmas tree in the corner of the room. She stumbled to a stop with excitement as her eyes lit upon the vast numbers of shiny wrapped boxes beneath the boughs of the tree. Sure enough, just like daddy had said, Santa had come anyways, even if he wasn’t home.

The hellpup’s tail was wagging fit to burst as her eyes roved over the small mountain of treasure. It was little Malinovka’s first real Christmas, and everything papa had told her was coming true. She was just about to shout for her mom when her eyes braked hard. Sitting next to the coffee table and couch was a massive box, also shinily wrapped. It was larger than she was tall, the holy grail of Christmas presents.

Malinovka bounded over to the box to investigate. It looked just like the rest, only super-sized, and had double red ribbons running around it. She was absolutely flabbergasted, what could it possibly be? Her nose picked up a scent all over the package that drove her mind nuts. It was so familiar yet she couldn’t figure out why, where had she smelt it before? There was only one thing for it, time to wake up mama.

Rather large paws now stumbled down the stairs and easily navigated the treacherous kitchen floor on their way to the living room. Malinovka looked up excitedly as her mom shrugged off a yawn and tried to look like she hadn’t been awake all night preparing her daughter’s trove of Christmas loot. But even her mom came to a quick stop at the sight of the large box set next to the coffee table. That hadn’t been in her haul of presents.

Malinovka was jumping up and down excitedly, but quickly quieted down as she saw her mother’s brow ignite with alertness. She jumped behind her mama’s well-toned legs as she leaned over to inspect the package. Mama hound was perplexed. It was a rather shoddy wrapping job, crooked seams where there wasn’t enough paper to cover the box, ribbons that didn’t line up, and a gaudy red bow in the center.

She too picked up the scent her daughter had discovered. Instantly she was filled with surprise and shock, she knew that scent! It’s owner was only her most prized possession, after all. But there was no way… it wasn’t possible… was it?
She gripped both sides of the box and went to lift it. Too late she realized it didn’t actually have a bottom, and she almost tumbled backwards when she overpowered the lift. As she tossed away the box, a little gasp and squeak escaped her daughter’s lips.

“DADDY!”

As her eyes came back to the scene, she was greeted by a pile of squirming, wagging fur, skin, and camouflage cloth. Her daughter had instantly tackled the human hiding in the box, and was proceeding with attack plan number one: Kiss the human to death. Laughs and giggles escaped the pile as the man finally righted himself and snared his daughter in a bear hug.

“Merry Christmas, sweetie!”

Little Malinovka was too busy sobbing into her daddy’s coat with joy. At her age her eyes had not yet become flammable, but piping hot tears still tumbled freely as she squeezed her father tighter with tiny paws. Her papa looked up at his wife with a grin.

A cloud of steam surrounded Mama-hound’s head as her tears vaporized on her brow. She was utterly infuriated that Thomas had gotten one over on her, but her tail was giving away her real feelings with its incessant wagging. Somehow, he had made it home from deployment for Christmas. He hadn’t told her, he had just showed up to surprise them both.

And then that big, gummy grin of his that she adored him for sealed his fate. Malinovka was only momentarily aware of being tackled from behind as Mama-hound joined the pile of joy, grabbing her husband and daughter in her iron grip. Little barks of joy escaped the little hellpup as she got to be in the middle of the big, snuggly hug. She didn’t hear her mom chastising her dad.

“Jackass.” Thomas could only keep grinning as Karelia continued to berate him. He had done it this way exactly because he knew it would drive her nuts. Finally, he reached out a hand and caught the top of her head between her ears with a pet. Of course he remembered her best weak spots, and laughed as his wife stopped midsentence to enjoy her husband’s headpats. A minute later, Thomas, now safe and sound with his family, found himself at the bottom of the big furry pile of Christmas joy.

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Memories of Home by RainInTheWillows
Merida held Gerard close. He was weeping again. It had been so long since he had seen his regiment, this damned fog obscured everything everywhere he looked. He needed to meet up with them if he was ever to get home to his family for Christmas.

Gosh, but wouldn’t his momma beam with happiness and cry tears of joy when he brought home a girl of his own to love? His father would clap a broad hand across his back and chuckle, asking where he could find one of his own? Did she have a sister? Did they just happen to grow ’em that pretty there or was there something in the water?

He would give a wink to his wife to let her know he still felt she was the most beautiful woman in the room, and Gere’s momma would swat him with a dish towel and blush as his father would go over and smooth her ruffled feathers and give her temple a soft kiss and murmur sweet nothings into her permed hair. He could even smell his momma’s famous award winning gingerbread cake baking in the oven as she danced slow across the kitchen with his father, humming a tune that they knew so long ago as they did.

Gerard could see it all play out in his mind’s eye, and described it to Merida in all the full detail, so much to the point they both could smell the gingerbread baking. She mourned his loss of that time with them, for she could see how much it pained him to think of that and miss them so.

Gerard sighed and pulled Merida close, humming the tune his mother was so fond of, one of Glenn Miller’s biggest big band hits-‘In the Mood’, and began dancing her about as if they too were in the kitchen of his memories. He told her of how their pup, probably grown into a massive teddy bear mountain of a sheepherder, Max, would be underfoot, hoping for crumbs to fall inadvertently from the counters as they swayed. He was always giving his momma those sad beggar’s eyes and she would sweep a hand across the counters and accidentally knock some tasty tidbits down to his waiting maw.

His father would chuckle and chastise her for feeding the bad beggar behavior, but when they’d sit down to the succulent roast goose, his father would drop bits of the deliciously greasy crisp skin off of his plate and down onto the floor, unobtrusively of course. It was an open secret, and everyone just turned a blind eye to it, for it was Christmas after all, and Max was a part of it too.

The yams would always crackle and pop as they bubbled moltenly in their dish, with the marshmallows browned beautifully across the top, leaving a gooey bit of fluff stringing down from the spoon as it was served. The green bean almondine was always a hit too, and her pies were a favorite in the neighborhood as well! Women would always ask after her secrets to her stuffing for it always came out so moist and delicious.

Gerard recalled all of this with such a feeling of pride. How he wished they could get back there in time for the big family dinner. . . it would be his first time bringing someone home to meet the family, and it’d be a huge deal for him and for his family, and they’d all have a greater reason to celebrate Christmas this year.

Merida had found his displaced soul wandering about the forest, age wearing him thin from all the time he had wandered about, confused and lost, seperated from the reality he used to know. How she wished she could turn back the clock for him, to back before the gaping hole from a cannon blast formed in his chest, to allow him back into the loving embrace of his family one last time. . . But, even she couldn’t manipulate death, or time, so all she could do was hold him close, hum Glenn Miller, and sway in time to the cherished Christmas memories for her love’s sake. . .

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Christmas for a Wounded Warrior
Nathan sighed dozily as he did his best to snuggle back into the pillow of his hospital bed. A small Christmas tree with glowing lights cast the room in a rainbow of soft colors. He pulled up his new Dallas Cowboys blanket to his neck and prepared to fall asleep. His folks had already come and gone, sharing their gifts for him before they left. The trek south to where his extended family vacationed went right through Washington DC as it turned out. So, a detour to Walter Reed Hospital, his new home since the end of the war, wasn’t out of the question.

Unfortunately, they had to be getting on the road to make it to his grandparents place in the Keys for Christmas day, leaving him very much alone in his hospital room. But still, it wasn’t all bad. Mom had crochetted the blanket herself, and Dad had left him a six-pack of Miller High Life… Well, it was a three-pack now.

His mind wandered for a bit, and he found himself wishing Zephyr was here. He smiled as he thought of his “wife”, who he had met during the war. The happy, giggling bundle of dirty jokes and shameless pranks had been one of many monsters who had ambushed his unit back in the day. But she had been less cruel than her counterparts, and over the course of their time together, hate had given way to love.

Of course a war had still been on at the time, and such things like interspecies marriage were still frowned upon. So they had eventually parted ways, but not without a sollemn promise to find each other when war was over. And then, with barely a month left in the conflict, a secessionist IED had blown his leg off, curtailing any chance of finding his lover.

He felt down to the nub of his leg just under the hip. He had yet to be fitted for a prosthetic, some sort of beurocratic bungling and whatnot, nothing changed in Washington. It would be a very long time before he saw the outside world again, and already he worried his pretty wife would lose hope. But there was nothing for it now, unless he planned to hop down Penn Avenue in an open-backed hospital gown.

One more beer later, and Nathan began to doze off to the sounds of classic holiday music coming from the stereo in his room. While it was nice to rest, he dreaded the loneliness of the following day. Time seem to drag on slowly, like a dull blade, in this place. As his eyes closed he barely noticed a faint popping sound come from over by the door, but he simply wrote it off as just another weird noise in this place. Sleep finally claimed him with the last lines of Silent Night.

Nathan woke up to a pleasant wealth of warmth, far more than he had experienced before in the hospital. More surprising, he realized he was being snuggled rather tightly by a new occupant in his bed. A purple and black striped paw had nestled itself just under his chin, and his cheek was being nuzzled by a snoring face. He looked over with a start, shock seizing him.

Wrapped tightly around his left side was his gorgeous Cheshire wife. His movement caused her to tighten her hold on him, mumbling in her own sleep. Somehow, she was here. Nathan could feel a small tear beginning to work its way out of his eye. After he had been resigned to spending Christmas alone, this was the best surprise ever.

He leaned over and smooched her on her forehead as he slipped his fingers into the digits of her paw. They happily squeezed together and Zephyr sleepily opened her eyes. She giggled and flashed her husband with that wide, pearly-white grin characteristic of all her kind.

“Found ya!”

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Home on the Road by AedantheGrey
Eirik took his seat in the back of the transport truck, his scarred and worn AK-12 firmly held in his cold and shivering hands. He always hated winter. It was almost always a deciding factor in combat and he’d seen too many dumb young soldiers get taken down by frostbite before they could even meet their foes. He was well content with his gloves, scarf, and coat over patriotism and minimum wage any day of the year.

The German sighed as he dug around his pockets for his cigarettes and lighter, only to have a pack held before his face as the truck began to move. He looked up to see a familiar and smiling face hiding under a slouch hat. Eirik took the item and awaited ignition from the smaller frame beneath the hat and overcoat.

He slowly drew back on the cigarette as he leaned into the side bars of the shelter, savoring the taste and smell. The other passenger smiled in return, her sharpened canines gleaming in the grey light entering through holes in the cloth covering of the truck bed. Eirik simply looked at her and felt the cold vanish from him with each dreg of smoke. The seasoned mercenary had never once thought of himself as the romantic or marrying type, nor the possibility of finding love in the conflict zone ever crossed his mind. So he merely sat in dumbstruck awe of the dark haired beauty before his eyes.

“It’s the holiday season, Eirik.” The woman eventually spoke, having waited for her partner to reach a level of calm through his admittedly bad habit.

“For fu-, Nedelya, can’t we talk at base instead of the back of the truck?” Eirik sighed and rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses.

“No. You refuse to talk about such things when we are comfortable at the base.” Nedelya sharply replied, crossing her legs and arms in irritation.

“Why does it matter what season it is? You hate your mother and I don’t have a family to return to. I prefer we simply keep busy.” The militant removed his shades and massaged his temples.

“Yeah, we’ve noticed how busy you two like to keep, Eirik.” Another mercenary in the truck laughed, well familiar with how his comrade’s lady would focus on one point and still have perfect situational awareness.

“Shut your mouth, Otto.” Eirik turned to face his ally as he pulled his fleece cap off his messy hair and brushed a few ashes out of his beard.

“We should visit, love. It is the custom of the holidays to put aside anger for the sake of family.” The woman continued her plea, remaining unnaturally still as the transport bounced and lurched on the low quality roadway back to their makeshift headquarters.

“Last time I saw your mother she tried to eat me and I almost sawed her head off with my knife. Those are not exactly things I want on my mind at dinner time.” Eirik shook his head and brushed snow off of his gear.

“How have we not heard this story, yet?” Otto leaned towards his comrade to rest on his PSG like a cane. “This is some need-to-know shit here, brother.”

“Otto, shut your mouth or I will throw you out of the truck.” The cross veteran remarked with a heavy sigh.

“Eirik, please.” Nedelya leaned forward and took her mate’s hands in her own. “Just do this one thing for me. It has been too long since I last saw my family. And we made her change, remember?”

“Which wasn’t pretty in the least. If I’m not comfortable with it, how do you think she feels?” He returned, well aware he was losing this battle.

“Hey, I shot my uncle and he ended up alive because he missed a battle. He would have died if he wasn’t in the hospital.” Miller’s Russian accent came through the radio to the back of the truck.

“Why did you even shoot him in the first place?” Otto asked nervously.

“He was drunk and high and trying to go off to fight, so I shot him in the leg to make him stay home. He hated me until he learned that his entire platoon was gone. Then he thanked me.” Miller recounted as he navigated the transport through a winding series of turns.

“What did your woman tell you Eirik?” Otto punched his friend’s shoulder. “It is the Christmas season, family forgives at least for the holiday!”

“Why do you even-” The merc stopped himself as he saw a brilliant smile on his wife’s face. “Okay, we can visit for the holiday. But not too long. Her estate is a narcissist’s playground.”

“How do you think mother will respond to the news?” Nedelya blushed and smiled giddily with her hand on her abdomen, only half reveling in her victory as another thought immediately sprung to mind.”

“I’m still not sure how I respond to that.” Eirik’s eyes went wide, recalling his most prideful and fearsome news. A flicker of hope that he suppressed during work to keep his mind clear.

“You will be a great father, Eirik, just as you are a great husband.” The immortal held his hands again, tighter and warmer than the last time.

“Hey, Miller! Did you know our boy is going to be a father?”

“You’re pulling my leg, Otto, I know that’s not true!”

“No, they’re talking about telling her parents right now! We’ll have to get them a cake back in town!”

“If it’s anything other than red velvet I will personally feed you to her mother.”

“Is that even a bad thing?” Otto chuckled, gaining a laugh from the few other mercs in the truck.

“She bites you and makes you into a slave. Or a husband. Or dead.” Eirik coldly replied in a twisted humor.

“Terrifying. And arousing.” The jester cackled before yelling back to the driver. “Miller! Make sure we get them red velvet or we will get eaten!”

“No problem, there is a bakery about a kilo from the airport.” Miller gave a short laugh. “We can stop there on the way out of this shithole country.”

“I hate all of you idiots.” Eirik rolled his eyes and motioned for a new cigarette, the talk of his in-laws raising his stress levels far beyond comfort.

“We’re the only family you have, Velstad! You should be accustom to our bullshit by now!” Miller laughed back to his comrade.

“They’re right. We should bring them with us, Eirik!” Nedelya bounced ever so slightly, her smile ever growing.

“Don’t encourage them, Nedelya.” He growled, continuing to regret every moment of the conversation.

“Do you hear that, Miller, we get to meet the family for Christmas dinner!” Otto practically shouted to the cabin.

“So long as we aren’t on the menu, it sounds good to me!” The Russian laughed back merrily.

“Better than last year?” Eirik sighed in a weary declaration of defeat.

“Better.” The dhampir smiled invitingly. “I promise.”

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Festival of Lights by RainInTheWillows
The frost glistened beautifully in the forest glade as Ken stood next to his loving bride. The candles warmed the trees with a soft glow as he explained to her about the miracle of the oil lasting so long when in truth, there was only enough for one night’s use. “Eight nights the oil burned, guiding my people through some of the darkest times we would know. Eight candles we burn throughout our time of honoring the miracle, one for each night that the oil burned. In this we honor the grace of God, for the gift he bestowed us in our time of need.” He held his Titania, Mirth, close and nuzzled her hair. With an air of sadness, he went on.

“If my folks were still with us, we would take turns reading from the Torah, the passages that most reflected our feelings for the holiday, those best exemplifying the trials and tribulations our people endured, and most importantly, a recounting of how the oil burned. My father would sing the traditional hymns and light the menorah each night, and we would sit the menorah in the window to help guide lost souls back to the light, and those who were gone back home to us. My mother would busy herself with latkes and blintzes and any other dish we could want, and small gifts would be exchanged to show our appreciation and love for one another, for making it another year together as a family. The house would smell of spice and potpourri that my mother would leave everywhere, and all the children would play games and spin the dreidels and ask the elders to tell them stories of our people and sit in awe.” 

Tears glistened in his eyes as he remembered how his mother would bustle about, cheeks pink and rosy with happiness, even in the end, when the cancer was gnawing so hard on her. Or how his father’s face would light up when one of the nieces or nephews would go up to him and ask for change on a chocolate coin. It was always a lark to him, and a standing joke. He would keep silver wrapped coins to trade them for their gold ones, three-to-one ratio due to the size he would say, and their parents would fuss at him for the extra sugar intake they would recieve then, and he would just shrug and grin. “It was the holidays after all, what was the harm?”, would be his response.

Mirth wrapped her arms around her husband as tightly as her burgeoning stomach would allow, pregnancy was a killer for close hugs in her eyes. She laid her head against his shoulder and in a clear, tinkling voice, she began singing a traditional Chanukkah song. It brought tears to his eyes. His bass tones joined her crystalline ones and they sang. His heart soared as he could feel his family, past, present and future surround him and join in, as their voices made the lights burn brighter, and the forest glowed and rang with song, light and joy.

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The Air Marshal’s Family
The general hubbub of the Christmas party was beginning to wear on the Air Marshal. For a person of her rank, Lorraine De Larochelle hated social functions like these. She had only just returned with her division from deployment in Europe a few days prior, and the parties and functions she was expected to attend were still going. At this point in her long career she simply wanted to go home and relax in her study. A nice bottle of cognac, a warm blanket, and a good book before an early bedtime sounded so nice and tantalizing she couldn’t hold it in anymore.

Her executive officer stopped her on the way out the door and she promptly informed him that she was leaving. Besides, Vice Marshal Cunningham would jump at the opportunity to be at the center of attention at the Defense Minister’s banquet. Lorraine packed away her dress uniform and donned her fatigues. A quick stretch of her aging Griffon wings and she was northward bound towards the mountains, and home.

She landed in the yard of her chateau without fanfare, although she was quickly greeted by the guards on the perimeter. They had gotten used to such entries by their Air Marshal, and took pride in always catching her red handed. Lorraine stifled a chuckle as she dismissed the guards and made for the front terrace of the chateau.

She spied an old friend walking towards the line of staff cars in the driveway as she approached.

“Commissar Cross.” Lorrained called out and the man stopped and turned around. With his big, bushy salt-and-pepper beard and beetled brows, Cross was the quintessential tyrant of a Chief Commissar. Still, at the sight of his commanding officer home for the holidays, Cross stowed his tobacco pipe and allowed one of his rare smiles to make an appearance.

“Evening, mam. Glad to see you made it home in time.”

“And I suppose I should be glad to see you skipping out before I returned. Something I need to know, Commissar?” Lorraine teased her old friend mercilessly. To this day, Cross was still uncomfortable around mamono and rarely visited her at the chateau when she had her staff about.

“Oh nothing terribly important, mam. I was just dropping my gift for you and Roger off as you like.”

“And which regiments does my Chief Commissar intend to terrorize this fine evening?” That drew a honest laugh from the grizzled veteran. Cross was well known for his surprise inspections and disciplinary action when a unit was found unworthy.

“Sorry to disappoint, mam. But I’ve no festivities planned for the evening. Just a quiet night with Cerise is all. I figure the lads and lasses could use a few nights without me giving them nightmares.”

“Getting soft on me, old man? Thats not very becoming of an Imperial Canadian Officer.”

Cross smiled and saluted. “Absolutely not, mam. Old maybe, but not soft.”

“I’m one to talk, I know. Sooner or later they’ll drum us out of service, eh Leander?” Lorraine saluted back and Cross began to leave.

“Sooner or Later, mam. Merry Christmas.” Cross said over his shoulder as he hopped into his staff car. Lorraine waved him off and entered her home.

She was hardly surprised at how deserted it was. Much of her staff was off on leave, spending the holidays with their own families. Still, she wasn’t above fetching her own cognac. She headed towards the dining room and the drinks cabinet within.

As she entered, the lights suddenly flicked on, and Lorraine was treated to the biggest surprise she had ever received. Gathered around the table was her family. Her grandkids were sitting closest to her, smiling up and yelling “Surprise!” at her. Her son Jean was tilted back in his chair laughing at her response, with his elfen wife Iris pinching him with amusement.

Henri, her second son, was leaning against the drinks cabinet, resplendent in his naval uniform. Understandably his wife couldn’t make it, but a bottle of exotic rum sitting on the drinks cabinet showed her contribution to the surprise. Henri had met and married his nereid wife on deployment in the mediterranean, and although she could never be present at the family gatherings inland, she always sent a token of her love.

Her daughter Ellen and her husband sat closest to the head of the table. Lorraine was surprised that her husband had made it. He too had set off on deployment round the same time Lorraine had. Ellen had a bright pink flush to her otherwise regal face, and Lorraine knew that the two lovebirds had only recently enjoyed their own personal reunion.

Lastly, standing in his usual place behind her chair at the head of the table, was her Roger. Her longsuffering husband with his cherub-like face split in a wide grin. She immediately knew who was responsible for this little mischief. She tried her best to hide the smile threatening to steal across her face as she made her way to Roger.

“You dastardly, conniving, sly little bird.” She huffed at him. Roger’s grin broke into a laugh as he pulled out her chair.
“Hasn’t bothered you for thirty-three years, hun. Didn’t think it would this time either.”

Lorraine stopped and instead of sitting down, grabbed her husband by the collar.

“You insufferable dolt.” She kissed him fiercely, sparking another round of applause from her family. This was a party she had never expected, and despite her dislike of parties, she couldn’t have been happier.

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A Bladed Heart’s Mending by RainInTheWillows
His scars itched and ached as the frigid air blasted him from off the harsh tundra plains of home. Ahhhh, Siberia. . . how he had missed his home country during his tours of duty. While others complained and feared his homeland, he was grateful to it. If it hadn’t turned out such a hard and determined soul in him, he’d never have found love in his beloved ferocious beauty, Vita.

Few would ever understand the inner workings of their relationship, but in his mind, she had nursed him into healing. If he ever tried explaining it to anyone, they’d think him mad! She cut him! How did that do a damn bit of good towards healing him?!?! But if they stopped and studied him now, even for a few stolen moments, they’d understand…

Before Vita, he was angry, bitter, alone and full of impotent rage and hatred. He hated the fact that he had been drafted to face off with menaces like these monsters. But it was either that, or face further time in the Gulag for defending his little sister from that brute. He was glad to hear his fists had ended that monster’s life!

His sister had only been nine when that wolf in sheep’s clothing first hurt her. Mikhail happened to hear her faint cries coming from the shed as he passed by towards the potato fields. It was his day to turn the soil to help them grow larger. He heard her whimper and plead with her attacker to let her go, to stop please! That it hurt so badly! But the only response she got was a grunt and more pain.

Mikhail heard Sylvie cry out again and saw red. He barged into the shed and pulled the brute off of her, and began pounding his face with his work hardened hands. He didn’t stop until Sylvie wrapped her frail bruised arms about his neck and begger for him to stop, that he had done enough. Mikhail wasn’t too proud to state that he wept that day, holding his little sister’s frail frame to his chest, feeling her tiny heart flutter like a caged bird beating itself to death against its prison’s bars.

The day his sentence was handed down, Gulag or Army, Sylvie begged him to take the Army. Her attacker had had friends on the inside of the Gulag, both inmates as well as guards and they were just waiting for Mikhail to step inside unprotected so they could exact vengence for their fallen friend. Sylvie’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, her pride keeping them from falling, and Mikhail’s heart broke. It would mean he would have to leave her behind, but their brother, Gregor was back in the village from his own tour in the Army-voluntary tour for him- and he would keep a close eye on Sylvie. Mikhail took comfort in that fact. It was the only reason he could leave her behind. He promised he would come home for Christmas, provided she kept a light lit in the window for him, to help guide him home.

So when he went to the front and faced off with Vita, and she proved to be both strong and intense, Mikhail had to accept he had met his match. He saw pain burning bright in her soul, and knew he had to protect her, same as he did Sylvie. Brutally facing off with anyone who stood in his way of happiness, he suffered a great deal of scarring before accepting the fact was, she wanted him just as much, just as badly. She helped him to work through the rage and pain, by letting it bleed out onto the ground. With every loving slice, she infused him with something else to replace the pain and anger. She gave him love and hope. Once he learned her background, he knew she had to meet his sister, to show her it was possible to overcome adversity and attrocities inflicted by others, and find love unexpectedly.

So, hand in hand, Mikhail and Vita went towards his family’s small home, towards the welcoming lights inside, to greet their family and to introduce the newest members. For as they made their way towards his home village, Vita had disclosed she was with child. A truly great thing to celebrate in this cold clime. This was a Christmas that he could only have ever dreamed of, never expecting it to become a reality. . . May the cool winds also blow you towards a warm, loving, and waiting embrace this season.

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While not usually done, We would like to dedicate this piece to all the soldiers who are spending the holidays away from home. You are loved and missed, and we look forward to your safe return.

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