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Christmas Warmth: Part Three


by neo_star_queen

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They went inside two hours later, completely wet and freezing. They drank hot cocoa and wrapped themselves in blankets. They all looked at the twinkling Christmas tree.

     "It looks rather plain," said Maz suddenly. "I want it to be… amazing! Fantastic!"

     "We could put a star at the top of the tree," suggested Emily. "We'd have to buy one, though."

     "I have one!" said Maz. He drew the star out of his pocket and ran to the tree. Even though it was short, he still couldn't reach the top. Emily flicked the switch and fixed it to the top. There, it shone radiantly.

     "Wow!" said Maz. "Amazing! Fantastic! Superdiferous!"

     "That's not a word," argued Vule.

     Glix gazed up at the sparkly, beautiful tree and felt terribly unworthy. Emily must have noticed the look on her face, because she came over and asked, "What's wrong?"

     "Nothing," said Glix quickly. "It's just… I don't know… I don't think such pretty things were made to be seen by plain pets like me."

     Emily laughed. "Are you afraid of luxury? Don't worry, Glix. These things were made to be admired by everyone, poor and rich, young and old. Especially at Christmas. That's when everyone comes together, unbounded by our differences."

     "Okay," said Glix, looking slightly reassured. She smiled at the tree. Emily drank her cocoa and wondered if she maybe WAS good at this sort of thing.

     At night, Maz burrowed under his new blanket. "Hey," he started, "are we-?"

     "Don't ask again," groaned Glix.

     "That's not it!" hissed Maz. "I was just thinking we should get a gift for Emily, that's all!"

     "A gift?"

     "Yeah! You know, she said you give people gifts at Christmas?" Maz reminded them. "Well? She's spent a lot of time, not to mention neopoints, on us. The least we could do is show our appreciation before we go back to the ship."

     "Yeah, I guess," said Glix, suddenly feeling more awake. "Well we better do it soon. Tomorrow we'll go find one."

     ***

     It was one day before Christmas, and the stores were as packed as ever, as the Grundos quickly discovered. At least they'd managed to lose Emily, Glix thought as she and Vule forced their way through a large crowd in front of the toy store. Farfin and Maz had taken the Zafara down to the Catacombs to look at some art. "Get something good!" Maz had whispered as they passed. Glix knew that. It had to be good.

     But what to get? Vule suggested a book, but Emily had so many bookcases stacked with them, the Grundos didn't know which book she didn't have. Glix thought about clothing, but they weren't sure what size to get, and if Emily would like what they got. They thought about getting her something practical like a Dubloon Coin, but that didn't seem personal enough. After an hour of fruitless searching, Vule spotted the other three coming back. She signaled to Glix, and the two Grundos rushed over.

     "Back so soon?" said Glix, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

     "Did you have fun?" Emily asked Glix and Vule. They nodded distractedly. Maz shot Glix a look out of the corner of his eye, and Glix shrugged frantically. Maz groaned.

     "Stomach-ache?" guessed Emily sympathetically. "It's because you ate so much jam."

     While Emily cooked a rather late lunch, all four Grundos held a hushed conversation in Farfin's closet.

     "I can't believe you spent all that time and didn't get her anything," grumbled Farfin. He'd been more talkative the past two days, but still his usual moody self. "How long does it take for girls to shop?"

     "I agree!" said Maz loudly, and Vule shushed him.

     "Well, what would you have gotten her?" whispered Glix.

     Farfin fell silent. Maz frowned and blurted, "Well, we would've… something! I don't know, a coffee mug or something!" Glix scoffed.

     "Emily deserves something really special," sighed Vule. "I feel like it should be something really personal, something that took a lot of time and effort to make."

     "Let's just make something for her then," hissed Farfin.

     "We can make something out of all the stuff in her closet!" said Maz, and again, he had to be frantically hushed.

     "We can't take her stuff and give it to her as a gift," argued Glix.

     "She's coming!" squeaked Vule.

     Emily opened the closet door and found them all cramped between the many boxes. "Having fun?" she asked, confused.

     "Farfin just wanted to show us something," said Glix. They all ambled out.

     They hardly talked to Emily for the rest of the afternoon. She found them huddled in Farfin's closet an hour after lunch, where they screamed and shooed her away. She stayed in the living room and tried to read, while listening to scuffling and hushed whispers from inside the closet. Many times one or two of the Grundos came out, sneaking around the small house furtively, sometimes hinting that she should go somewhere else. Finally, Maz told her outright to leave the house and go do some Christmas shopping. Vule squealed at him and Glix whacked him upside the head, but Emily left anyways, feeling very confused and, although she wouldn't admit it to herself, slightly hurt.

     "I'll just go get a cup of coffee," she decided as she tucked her scarf around her neck and left the house.

     When she stepped out of the snow into the coffee shop, Fillena waved at her from behind the counter. "Hi Emily," the Aisha said in a sort of doubtful voice.

     Emily smiled back. "Hi Fillena. Still working a day before Christmas? You'll get tomorrow off, won't you?"

     "Uhh- yeah, I will," said Fillena. She looked surprised and quite pleased. A week ago Emily would have been surprised at herself too, but those little Grundos had had such a positive effect on her.

     Emily ordered a coffee, conversed with Fillena for a few more minutes, and left the shop. The Aisha was still much chattier than Emily was, but she didn't mind. She preferred listening, anyways.

     Emily dropped in at the Petpet shop to help with their Christmas event, and stayed there until dinnertime. She rushed back to the house, hoping that the Grundos weren't too hungry.

     She unlocked the door and entered the house, and was glad to see all the Grundos sitting in the living room eating grapes. Maz leaped up eagerly and grabbed Emily by her paw, which was pretty much the highest part of her that he could reach. "Look!" he said animatedly, "look under the tree!"

     She squatted down. Something was down there, rather poorly wrapped in dull green construction paper, and topped with a large red ribbon. Maz beamed. "We got you a gift!" he exclaimed.

     "Maz!" shouted the others. "You weren't supposed to tell her that!"

     "I didn't tell her what was inside!" countered Maz. "What if she didn't find it by herself!?"

      Emily laughed. "You strange little Neopets," she chuckled. "It looks wonderful. I can't wait to open it tomorrow morning!"

     Indeed, they were all very excited as they lay down that night. Farfin dragged his cot into the living room, because he wanted to see Santa. They eagerly discussed everything that they would do on Christmas day, and then when they were all very tired, Maz talked by himself for half an hour straight before Glix hit him with her pillow.

     As they all lay in bed, wanting to go to sleep but much too excited to do so, Maz whispered, "Glix? Vule? Farfin? After Christmas… what are you planning to do? I mean… are we… are we going back to Sloth?"

     There was silence. All the Grundos had completely forgotten about their real homes on the ship. So very far away from Neopia Central, which they had all fallen in love with. And Emily…

     It was Vule who spoke first. "I don't want to leave," she whispered.

     "Neither do I," said Glix.

     "Same," Farfin muttered.

     "I'm following you guys," whispered Maz. "I'll go wherever you decide to go."

     When no one replied, they all drifted off to sleep.

     ***

     "It's CHRISTMAS!" shouted Maz. He hit everyone with his pillow twice, and then ran circles around the living room, just like what he'd done the first time he entered Emily's house. "Everyone wake up RIGHT NOW!"

     Vule rubbed her eyes groggily. "Are we under attack again?"

     "No! It's Christmas! Come on, we got PRESENTS FROM SANTA!"

     Sure enough, that woke them all up. They each found a strange red sock beside their beds. "I got a loxibur!" cried Maz in uncontrollable delight. "I mean a plushie! Oh man, I got TWO!"

     "Would you look at this?" said Farfin, actually grinning. "I got a Scarab Ring! This Santa guy is smart, how did he know I want to start fighting in the Battledome?"

     Vule smiled merrily as she emptied her stocking. "A gingerbread cookie and a pasty cookbook!" she said.

     Glix poured the contents of her stocking onto her sleeping bag. Out fell a shiny, thin gold chain with a miniature star on the end. "Oh!" she exclaimed. She picked it up in her hand, and found that it was cool and very light. She rubbed her stubby thumb over it uncertainly. "Am I… supposed to wear this?"

     Vule looked up from her cookbook. "It's so pretty!" she gasped. "Put it on, Glix!"

     As the boys tested the Scarab Ring on Maz's new plushies, Glix fastened the necklace carefully around her neck. It was a bit short, but it still fit. She stood up, feeling rather embarrassed.

     "You look great!" said Vule sweetly.

     "Yeah, you look great!" chimed Farfin and Maz, sparing a second to look up from their experiment.

     "I see you all found your gifts!" laughed Emily. She came into the living room and sat on the floor beside them.

     "One more, one more!" Maz said. He ran to the tree and picked up the single gift that lay there. "Here, Emily! This is for you, from all of us!"

     "We hope you like it!" said Vule quickly, as Emily unwrapped the box.

     Inside was a thick book of sheets of construction paper bound together with string and ribbon. As Emily opened the book, she was greeted with a barrage of pictures that the Grundos seemed to have drawn themselves. There were pictures of Emily, the Grundos by themselves, the whole group together or in pairs, Neopia Central, Christmas gifts, variations of Santa, and everything else. There was even a photo of them all volunteering in the hospital. On the last few pages were paragraphs that the Grundos had written about how much they loved Neopia Central, and what a wonderful person Emily was. She was speechless.

     "Do you like it?" asked Glix anxiously.

     The Zafara spread out her arms. "Come here," she gushed, "come give me a hug, all of you."

     All the Grundos allowed themselves to be pulled into her embrace for a group hug, even Farfin. There they all sat on the carpeted living room, snow falling outside and no gifts left under the tree and all of them feeling warm and loved.

     Emily drew away and looked each one of them carefully in the eyes. "And now I have a gift for you," she said. "I want to offer all of you a permanent home here. In this house, here in Neopia Central. All five of us, we'll be a family. What do you say?"

     Silence. Here it was. The moment had come, and they each had to make a very important decision.

     "I'm afraid I'll be going back," said Maz softly.

     Emily looked extremely taken aback. "You… you're going back to the spaceship?"

     "I'm sorry," pleaded Maz. "But I was just thinking last night, and I realized… as much as I love Neopia, my home is on the ship! I live for those gadgets, the new technology… I just… wouldn't be able to feel at home here for long."

     Emily nodded. "I understand," she said, just as softly.

     Vule twisted her fingers. She wanted to stay… but Maz… Maz was going back to the ship. She didn't want to be apart from her friends. But… there were things that she just had to do by herself, decisions that she had to make for herself…

     "If it's alright with you, Emily," piped up Vule, "I'd like to stay. I never really felt completely comfortable on the ship. And even if everyone else goes back, I still want to stay here with you."

     Emily beamed at her. "Of course you can stay, Vule. And you have whole bookcases to catch up on here!"

     Farfin crossed his arms. "I'd like to stay as well," he said, "but not here. Well, not in this house. It's no offence to you or Vule, Emily, but… I want to seek my own fortune. This is a chance for me to start fresh. New."

     Emily didn't seem surprised. "I can help you get started," she told him kindly. "And you can visit whenever you want."

     At last it was Glix's turn. She felt the gold necklace. She smiled sadly. "I think I'll go back with Maz," she said. "There are still a few things I want to accomplish on that ship. But I'll come back to Neopia Central! I don't know when… it may even be a few years. But I'll bring more friends back with me."

     "I might come with you," chuckled Maz.

     Emily stood up. "Well, here we are! One more day to spend all together!" She looked down. "Oh, don't cry! We'll have fun!" She thrust open the door, into the snow-filled yard. "We'll always remember each other. You've done so much for me, little Grundos… I don't even know how to thank…"

     "Please, Emily!" they shouted. "You've done way more for us!" They ran into the snow, arguing and throwing snowballs. Only one more day, but that was alright because it wasn't just any day. It was Christmas day.

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Christmas Warmth: Part One
» Christmas Warmth: Part Two



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