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Cream Puff 4

Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Cream Puff 4 (half baked)
Toppings: chopped nuts, whipped cream (middle two segments), caramel (last segment)
Extras: malt (cream puff PFaH: Bala: let me entertain you)
Wordcount: 1237
Rating: all ages
Story: Manifestations (Real World AU)
Summary: Bala doesn't really do Christmas, but she tries for her family.
Notes: It's still Christmas, right? We're still good for a Christmas special, right? I don't know, this is fluff, but it was fluff that wanted to be written and so it was. For reference, the second segment is the boys as young kids (let's say about five and eight), the third is after they run away and stay with Bala (fifteen and eighteen), and the last is the Christmas after the main plot. Also if anyone's concerned, the alcohol consumption in the third segment is legal, including for Jen (they're having it at home).



Bala did not, as a rule, celebrate holidays. They were part of the world outside, and that was a world she'd never been a part of since day one. Nevertheless, her family had always tried. She smiled at the memory of her mother and her aunt putting up the tree each year - and then smiled again when she remembered that Kija had never been her aunt, not really (aunts and mothers did not, as a rule, kiss so much).

But that was something filed away from childhood, and she'd grown, learnt to pull the strings in her own world, and she put her memories away in a box in her head. From time to time she took them out like old photographs, and looked through them in the privacy of her own mind before putting them away where they were safe.

-

I'm not your damn babysitter, she thought, when they turned up on her doorstep again one drizzly night, but she didn't say it out loud, not in front of the boys. She let them in, because she didn't have a choice, and pulled a curtain aside to watch the car vanish into the rain.

Nor did she tell them their parents would be back soon. She knew better than to fill their heads with lies. Maybe they knew it too, and carried on as normal. Dhaymin was always looking for a way to help out, while Jen spent his time lost in her library. She'd have been pleased to have such considerate guests, if she didn't know why. They must have known. She could hear them talking, sometimes, late at night when they were supposed to be in bed and she sat downstairs with her nightly cup of tea. She didn't want to intrude, but she knew what they must be saying.

You couldn't fool children. They'd see through anything.

It was on a windy, miserable, rainy night, the sort where gales rattled windows and sent rivers streaming down their surfaces, when she had the idea. She'd been forced outside to pick up supplies. The boys sometimes begged to go with her, but she was forced to refuse, lest people start to wonder who they were. The storm was a blessing in some regards, because for once, they were happy to stay put. She did her rounds of the supermarket, ignoring the tinny Christmas music and picking up a few favourites - tea for her, chicken nuggets for Jen, bacon for Dhaymin. She was just about to head for the checkout when she stopped by the seasonal aisle.

It couldn't hurt, could it?

Not long after, but too long for her standards, she was home, setting down dripping shopping bags and closing the door to shut out the rain. Dhaymin's arrival was perfectly timed. "Hi Bala!" he said. "Can I get those?"

"Oh no," she said, hanging up her coat. "I'm all fine."

"Hey, what's in this one?" Dhaymin said, peering at one bag which was a lot bigger than the rest. "Can I open it if I help you with the other ones?"

"Tell you what," Bala said, taking off her shoes, "I'll take everything else in, and you can open it, and that can be your way of helping me, okay?"

He seemed happy with that, and got to ripping at the plastic as she carried the rest of the bags through to the kitchen. She was opening the freezer when she heard the footsteps and the muffled shout to the library below.

"Jen! Come up here! She's got a tree!"

-

Bala noticed Jen look up from his laptop when she entered with the battered box tucked under her arms. "Hey Bala," he said. "Didn't know you were putting the tree out."

"Aren't you meant to be doing your homework?" Bala said, putting the box down beside an end-table.

"Aw Bala, it's Christmas." Jen closed the laptop and stood up. "Can I help?"

"Would have thought you'd be saying you're too old for this," Bala said, as she opened the box and pulled out a crumpled green shape, placing it on the table. "Isn't that what people your age always say?"

"Someone put you up to this." Jen said. "It was Dhaymin, wasn't it?"

"Might have been. Alright, you. Get to the attic and bring the decorations if you're so interested."

She watched him go, and turned back to her task of straightening out the branches. Dhaymin had asked her about the tree, that was true, but she had her own reasons beside him. It had been many years since a Dhalsiv had crossed her doorstep, and many years since she'd had cause to take it out of the attic. Many years when she'd declined to remember the sight of two boys, flinging tinsel in an explosion of colours all about the place with wild abandon.

Yes, Dhaymin had asked. But he'd only confirmed what she'd wanted.

Jen arrived with a bag just as she had finished smoothing out the last of the branches. "I thought blue and silver," he said. "They looked nice together."

"You used to throw on everything in the bag," she said, remembering a tree so covered she could barely tell there was a tree there, not just a heaped cone of decorations. "Let's see it, then." She let him take charge, helping him wrap streams of tinsel around the branches, until she heard a key in the door behind her.

It was Dhaymin, heavy under the weight of shopping bags. "Aw, you put it up without me?"

"You can put the top on," Bala said. "I never could decide what to put up there." Her attention turned to the bags. "And what's in those?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing doesn't clink, Dhaymin."

"Aww, Bala," he said, but he obliged, pulling out a tall, dark bottle. "Thought you were supposed to have wine. I mean, I don't know anything about wine, but I think you're supposed to have it."

"Oh, alright," Bala said. "But just one glass, each of you!"

-

The tree had been through years of use. Its branches were sparse, having shed most of their plastic needles long ago. It hadn't been through quite as much as Bala or her family had this past year, but it certainly looked the part.

Not that it mattered, when the decorations were all out. This year, everyone got to pick a strand of tinsel from the bags she'd accumulated over the years. There was a deep red for Rosa, and a brilliant blue for Vesin. Jen helped Dhaymin pick out a deep shade of green, and finished off with his own gold.

"What do you think should go on top?" Vesin said, when it was all done.

"Never did work that out," Bala admitted. Deciding what sort of creature to put there was no easy task when you'd met several candidates yourself.

"We could put a shadowman," said Rosa.

"Yeah, I think we've all had enough of those for one lifetime," said Jen.

"We could," Dhaymin said, "all go get a bit drunk and come up with the best idea then."

"You lot," Bala said. "Why do I even let you in my house? Go on, then. And any damage, you're responsible. All of you."

She let them vanish through the arch into the kitchen, where they made for the cupboards, and turned back to the tree to smooth out its worn old branches.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
niee87
Jan. 4th, 2014 11:44 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, this is strangely adorable and I loved it all! Yay for Christmas specials!! Bala is the awesomest :D
rustydragonfly
Jan. 5th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
Bals is awesome even when doing something she doesn't know much about, that's how awesome she is.
nathskywalker
Jan. 13th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
That's such a heartwarming Christmas special, especially the last section with all of the characters together. Bala is such a great mom substitute to the boys in this :D
rustydragonfly
Jan. 13th, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
Aww, she really is, too. I can't wait to get to her in canon, but there's always this for now.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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