"So, what was Christmas like on the Space Station?" I asked Buzz as I turned in my article.
"Dear Fyora, do you have to do such sappy articles this time of year, Kimmy?" Buzz grunted in disgust.
"People are sentimental this time of year, you old humbug. It sells," I replied.
"Now who is the humbug?" Buzz countered.
"I'm sentimental in my realism," I replied with a shrug. "So, Christmas, Space Station, Santa Sloth handing out presents to his good little minions?"
"Even you're not stupid enough to believe that little picture," Buzz said, looking at me with an expression that clearly told me he wasn't sure, but was really hoping.
"What, he doesn't give out transmogrification potions to all his good little boys and girls, and then force them to drink it at blaster point? Mutant or Sludge, Merry Christmas from Father Sloth?"
The Grey Lupe's head dropped wearily into his paws. "Kimmy, you give me such a headache. Please, keep the inner workings of your mind to yourself from now on."
"I'll try, sir," I replied.
I stood there, waiting for him to answer me. He glanced up at me, looking annoyed that I wasn't leaving. Christmas made me a little more daring than I usually was. Of course, since Buzz and I had come back from the mission on the Space Station, things had been a little more relaxed between us. I was a little less afraid of him, for one thing. Oh, sure, I knew if I pushed him he'd probably toss me out his window and still expect me to peel my broken self off the pavement and get back to work right away, but I knew I could get away with just a little more than in the past.
I didn't know if we were friends. Buzz wasn't exactly the friend type, but I certainly considered him my friend.
Buzz gave up hoping I'd go away and answered, "No, Kimmy, there is no Christmas on the Space Station."
"But, I've been up there. They dress it up for Christmas and everything," I said.
"Yes, the commercial areas, for the tourists. There are no holidays for the people who work for Sloth. We celebrated successful attacks against the Resistance and Neopia and nothing else."
"Oh," I said lamely. "Well, that's a shame."
I don't know what my face looked like because Buzz got annoyed. He got up and grabbed me by the shoulder, leading me out of his office.
"Go home, play with your kids, and for Fyora's sake, I will make you sorry if you try any sappy 'Buzz needs a Christmas' thing on me, Kimmy," Buzz shouted as he shoved me out of his office and slammed the door behind me.
Sheila was looking at me, incredulously. She shook her head and smiled as she said, "Oh, Kristy, you are the stupidest girl I have ever met."
"I didn't, really!" I protested. "I'm not that dumb."
Sheila just shrugged and smiled at me.
I walked through the front door of my house and was immediately pounced on by Yanli and Molly. I barely managed to keep my balance and catch the two girls.
"Welcome home, Mama Kristy!" Molly cried as she kissed my cheek.
"Kristy, Kristy! We got all the stuff ready in the kitchen!" Yanli told me. "Inna wants you to hurry up, she wants to glitter."
I put the Zafara and Xweetok down, hung my purse and coat on the coat rack, and allowed myself to be led to the kitchen. When I got there, I found Inna sitting in her playpen, playing with Teddy while she waited. The Baby Acara leapt to her feet and held her arms out, anxiously calling for me. I picked up her up and asked her how her day had been.
"Want gwitter, Mama," Inna told me.
Every year, we made paper snowflakes to hang all over the house. Inna's favorite part was after her older sisters spread them out and covered them with glue. Then Inna would help shake glitter over them. She was very meticulous about it, working hard to evenly cover them with the silver glitter.
We sat down and started cutting. I smiled as I watched my little girls work. Nostalgia took a strong grip on me. It had not been so long ago when another group of little girls and a little boy used to sit and cut out the snowflakes. When we finished, we left them to dry and went to wrap presents. Molly and Yanli had bought presents for their siblings, but needed my help wrapping them. We sat in my room and sang Christmas carols while we worked. Inna dozed off and I laid her on my bed to take a nap. When the girls finished, they gathered their presents and left to go arrange them under the tree.
I got up and went over to my desk drawer. Yanli and Molly had entrusted me with their presents for each other to wrap when they weren't around. I had them stashed away in my desk drawer. As I went to open it, I stopped.
Sitting on my desk was a card and a fountain pen. They were for Buzz. I had been planning to hand them to him tomorrow before the Christmas holiday began. Now, however, I was afraid that he'd be offended if I gave them to him, thinking I'd gotten them in some silly comic-esque holiday gesture because of what he'd said about the Space Station.
I frowned, considering what to do. I put the pen in the envelope with the card. There was just one thing to do, be brave and hand it to him tomorrow. I was sure he'd understand.
Oh, yes, being brave was working out real well. Christmas Eve was proving to be the busiest day of the year. Despite the long holiday, we had to be ready to have the issue go out same as normal on Friday, despite the fact that no one would be in the office. Short of some major disaster, the actual news would only go up to today, Christmas Eve.
I was also writing the editorial this week. Usually Sheila handled that, but she was extra busy, so it fell to me. I was sitting there, working at one of the extra desks, while Sheila hurried to and fro; organizing things, doing last minute corrections, and other such things. The papers had to be sent off to the printer that afternoon and then sent to the storehouse to await delivery on Friday.
Buzz was around too, inspecting the work we were doing to make sure we weren't getting sloppy in our haste. He passed my desk a few times, either on his way to elsewhere, or to stop and examine my answers to make sure I wasn't make the Weekly World look like a bunch of idiots.
Every time I saw him coming I'd tell myself I'd just hand it to him as he passed by. Every time he'd just passed by I'd tell myself I'd really do it next time. Finally, it was four in the afternoon and we were done for the day. Summoning all my courage, I poked my head into his office.
"What do you want, Kimmy?" Buzz asked without looking up.
"Uh, just time to knock off. Are you sure you guys don't need help with anything else?" I asked.
"No, we're good. Nothing more you can help with. Go home," Buzz told me.
"Just do it, just do it!" I mentally shouted at myself.
I decided to put it in his mailbox.
I walked down the streets to Buzz's house. I had been there once, while training to be Eva Starender, a cover for a mission Buzz and I had worked together. It was a nice house in the suburbs, Buzz actually waved to his neighbors as they walked their petpets. I hadn't understood that part of him then, it hadn't made sense with what I knew of Buzz at that time. I understood now.
I was opening the mailbox to put the card in when I heard boots crunching on the snow. That didn't really bother me; there were plenty of people about. What stopped me was a harsh voice barking my name.
"Kimmy, what are you doing?" Buzz demanded.
Blushing furiously I turned to face him. I couldn't believe it; he always worked until well after midnight. Despite being Christmas Eve, I hadn't expected him to actually go home early. Nor had I noticed him behind me on the walk there, he couldn't have been far behind. I could have kicked myself.
I held out the card, a 'Merry Christmas' attempting to escape from my stuttering lips. Buzz took it and ripped the envelope open. He read the card inside, examined the pen, and then smirked. He reached out and ruffled my hair, though none too gently.
"You're a good kid, Kristy," he said, shaking his head with amusement.
I wrung my hands together, trying not to look as pleased as I felt. I looked up at him. He probably wasn't lonely; I didn't have any illusions about that. The only person he cared about was long at rest. I knew he didn't want friends either. But, I wanted something this Christmas. I wanted him to know he had a friend if he ever needed one, even if he didn't want one.
"Buzz, why don't you come over? We always do hot chocolate and Borovan and cookies tonight, and the kids invite their friends over, so it's already kind of a party. I'd love to have you. You don't have to stay long if it is too noisy."
Buzz shook his head. Part of me wished I was daring enough to take his arm and try to make him come. Of course, I was pretty sure if I tried that, I would be spending Christmas in the hospital, and he would bump up my deadlines.
"No, Kristy, that's not really my scene. But, I truly appreciate that you offered," Buzz said firmly, but kindly.
"Okay, then. See you, Monday."
He nodded and turned to go in as I started my walk home.
I smiled as I held Inna close and watched the scene from the doorway. My family and guests were gathered in the library, sitting around the fireplaces. The room was a pleasant hum of voices from the various conversations. I cuddled my baby closer; wishing moments like these came more often and lasted longer.
The doorbell rang. Yanli jumped up, shouting she'd get it, and tore out of the room. She reappeared a minute later with one of Elise's friends. The girl was holding a package. She held it out to me.
"I found this on your doorstep, it is addressed to you," she explained.
Inna gladly went to Yanli, who carried her over to stick her in the middle of the guests and become the center of attention, despite the fact that that was her baby sister's least favorite place in the world. I carried the box to the kitchen to get a pair of scissors to open it with.
I set it down on the table and cut the tape open. I realized I hadn't looked at the label to see who it was from as I pulled the flaps up. Inside was a pretty box. I opened it and a melody started playing as a Blue Aisha twirled round inside the box. There was a folded paper in the bottom. I took it out and unfolded it.
'You owed me nothing and helped me anyway. You'll never know how much I appreciate that. Merry Christmas.
I smiled as I tucked the note back into the box and watched the little Eva dance.
"Oh, Buzz, I think I do. I hope you know someone loves you tonight, Buzz, both here and beyond. Merry Christmas."