Christmas Eve at Raven's house was a sight to behold. Twinkling lights, meticulously placed tinsel, an assortment of wreathes and garlands... And that smell! It had been driving Rose mad most of the day; slow roasted turkey with vegitables and homemade stuffing, fresh mashed potatoes, an assortment of crackers and cheeses, six freshly baked pies, and a colorful spread of cookies.
"Okay, everyone," Raven called from the main living room, "We'll all put our presents under this tree- we'll open them after dinner!"
One by one, they came out of their rooms, gifts in tow- even Maeve, who'd been there a mere two weeks, had an armful of brightly wrapped packages. Once all the parcels were placed with care under the tree, the small group situated themselves at the long mahogany table, waiting for Raven to bring out the bird that had been tormenting them most of the afternoon. Both the landlady and the werewolf wore Santa hats- at Keegan's request, and Maeve had attached some small jingle bells to her bangles. Rose herself was looking pretty festive as well- Raven had tied the younger girl's flaming hair back with a green ribbon.
"Here it is!" Raven called happily, setting the turkey down on the center of the table.
"Wow, that smells amazing, Ray!"
The vampiress merely smiled as she carved off generous portions and handed them out. Once everyone had piled their plates high and was seated once again, she raised her glass: "This, I daresay, is probably one of the most lively Christmas Eves this house- and it's owner- have seen in several centuries. It is an honor and a privilage to spend the evening in such good company. Yes, Keegan, even you. Merry Christmas!"
Rose grinned over her food, watching the antics of the others. She remembered next to nothing about her life before Raven and Keegan found her, but tonight, it didn't bother her much. She doubted she'd ever been in the presence of people who cared so genuinely for each other. Even Keegan, who was, at times, a bit dense, was still a kind hearted person. For the weeks and months she'd been at the manse, she'd been obsessing about her former home, never realizing that she had the perfect home right here. It was something she wouldn't allow herself to take for granted ever again.
Her past, her lost memories, none of it mattered now. Because in this moment, surrounded by the warmth and laughter of her friends, everything just made sense.
"I couldn't eat another bite," Maeve commented, leaning back in her chair with a happy sigh. The others made sleepy sounds of agreement, resting in contented silence...
"Hey! This means it's time for presents!" Keegan clapped his hands like a child, jumping up and running into the living area. Raven chuckled and followed, beckoning to the other two to join them.
The impatient werewolf was already sorting the gifts when the others arrived, "Oh, man. I can't wait to see your faces when you see what I got you! These are mine... Here's one for Maeve... This one's Rays, and Rosillas, these are yours."
All the gifts were sorted, and the four of them sat on the floor in a circle.
"Okay, who wants to go first?" Raven asked.
"I think you should, Raven," Maeve spoke up, "Since it's your house and all."
Keegan and Rose nodded in agreement, "We'll go in a clockwise circle, ending with me," Rose added.
Raven smiled, "Alright then. This one's from Keegan... Hmm, smells alright..." Carefully she unwrapped the box revealing a rather finely made Calligraphy set. She grinned at him, "Aww, Keegan! I'm impressed. How did you know I was into calligraphy?"
"You always smell like ink and parchment," the werewolf replied, grinning back, "Okay. My turn, then. This is from... Maeve, why'd you write so tiny!?" he chuckled, then peeled the paper off a small red book, "Ooh, the Kama Sutra! What interesting pictures!" All four of them laughed, knowing exactly what those pictures were depicting.
"Alright, Maeve, go on!"
The elf blushed slightly, "Okay. This is from Keegan," She unwrapped a small leather journal and pen, then looked questioningly at him.
"So you can write down stuff about your travels," the werewolf explained to general shock.
Maeve smiled at him, "Thank you!"
"Rosilass, your turn!"
"Hmm, let's see," Rose chose her gift carefully, "From, Maeve- sheesh, your handwriting really is tiny!" She unwrapped a slender box and opened it to find a pair of black fingerless gloves that would reach to almost her elbows. She grinned at the elf, "Thanks, Maeve, these will totally go with all my outfits!"
"My turn again?" Raven pulled another gift from her pile, "From Maeve, of the ridiculously small handwriting clan," she unwrapped the oddly shapped gift, which turned out to be a hand carved inkwell and quill rest.
"Wow, this is gorgeous! Don't tell me you carved this yourself!"
"I did. I like to carve in my spare time."
"Well, you're certainly very talented. Thank you."
Keegan rubbed his hands together, "Alright, let's see what my favorite vampiress got me!" He opened a small box and pulled out a small piece of paper, "A voucher for a hoodie from FLH! I've been meaning to get over there again! Thanks, Ray!"
"From Raven as well," Maeve unwrapped a box containing several bronze and copper cuffs, "Raven! These are very old!"
"Sixteenth century. Chinese craft, if I remember correctly."
Maeve looked like she was going to pass out, "These are probably worth a fortune! How did you ever-?"
Raven shrugged, "They didn't cost very much when I bought them. And I never used them, anyway. They seemed to fit in to your style though."
"They're beautiful! I'll treasure them always!"
"Alright," Rose said, pulling up another gift, "Let's see how the mutt did with me!" She opened her box and gasped, "Keegan, I would hug you if you didn't smell so weird," She grinned at him, pulling a red ipod out of the box, accompanied by black headphones.
Keegan grinned right back at her, "Now you won't have to be kept awake by Raven's Uncle Richard! ... And what do you mean if I didn't smell so weird?!"
Raven chuckled, and pulled back the wrappings of Rose's gift, "A box of some of my favorite teas! Rose, you're so thoughtful!"
Keegan smiled at the firefox, "My last one's from Rose, too..." He pulled out a coffe mug with "WORLD'S #1 MUTT" printed on it.
"Very funny, Rose. I'll use it every day."
"Does that mean you'll stop stealing all my good mugs?" Raven asked teasingly.
"I don't steal them. They're just in my room.
"The one part of my house I've vowed to never step foot in again."
Maeve coughed them all back into seriousness, cradling a small box in her hand, "From Rose... Are these real bamboo?" She asked, holding up a delicate pair of bamboo hoop earrings.
"Yep! I know you're super into organic things, and bamboo is supposed to be really good for your health."
"And," Keegan added, "If you ever get attacked by a panda bear, you can feed it those earrings so it won't eat you!"
"Wow, Keegan," Rose shook her head, "This is from Raven," She lifted an iron skeleton key out of her box, then looked at Raven an eyebrow raised, "What's this key to?"
"Come along," Raven stood, beckoning them all to rise and follow her, "I'll show you."
"Okay..." Rose answered slowly. She was beginning to get giddy- there was a good reason she'd saved Raven's gift for last.
Raven lead them down into the basement, to a heavy iron door, "Okay, Rose, merry Christmas."
Rose inserted her key into the lock, and pushed the door open. She went light in the head.
"You really outdid yourself, Ray..."
"I was so pleased with the grades you've been getting in Chemistry, Rose. You really seem to have a knack for it, so I thought you might like your own lab to conduct your own experiments in."
"It's awesome, Raven," Rose breathed, throwing her arms around the vampiress, "Thank you so much!"
Raven, taken slightly by surprise, patted the younger girl on the back, "Alright everyone, back upstairs. I think it's time for bed."