"I didn't think you were much for the holidays," Crowbar admitted to Scratch as he climbed out of the attic window and pulled himself up onto the roof of the mansion. He got the weirdest feeling of nostalgia, even though he had only done this maybe half a dozen times as a teenager. Crowbar got onto his feet and brushed dust off his front, "Being omniscient and all, I just figured you wouldn't really notice or care."
"There is no particular significance to this season other than the significance ascribed to it by mortals. The rotation of a single planet on it's preordained path is neither special nor unique, and the chosen date of celebration of a successful rotation is meaningless since it is chosen based on season rather than the formation date of the planet in question," Scratch admitted, looking as pristine as ever. But it was easy to stay that clean when you just teleported everywhere, "But I do have a certain fondness for the intangible. Even I am not above the appreciation of the long-standing traditions of lesser beings. The trolls used to celebrate a similar occasion during the winter season."
"I know. We were under the Conquers' boots for a long time. Some of their traditions rubbed off on us," Crowbar had a great view of the desert from up here, and of the City, just off in the distance. At this time of night, it was lit up thousands of lights. It was really nice, if you pretended you didn't know who ran it. The rest of the desert was as oddly coloured as ever, greens and pinks everywhere you looked. Crowbar rubbed his hands together in anticipation, "Alright Doc, do you stuff."
The blank-faced man looked at Crowbar. Crowbar had gotten pretty good at reading Doc's moods, even when he wasn't wearing a face to judge them by. If he'd had a mouth, the cueball would have been smiling. He raised one pale hand in the air, fingers poised and ready to snap, "Shall I deliver a one-liner?"
"Don't see why not," Crowbar looked up at the gathering clouds, "Might as well make it official."
"Let it snow," He intoned, and snapped his fingers. And snow it did.
Snowman woke up with the cold creeping in her window.
She shivered and pulled her blankets tighter around her. But once her mind started to wake up, there was no going back to sleep. Snowman opened an eye, glancing around her room. Her window was partly open, as it always was after warm days, only instead of the usual desert heat pouring in, something cold was instead.
Snowman got out of bed, dragging her blankets behind her as she peered out the window. To her shock, the colourful sands were covered in something white. It took her a moment to place it. Though she had never seen it with her own two eyes, a distant part of her mind identified it as 'snow', much in the same way that it would have known what the ocean was, even though she had never seen any of those either.
She shut her window and got dressed, heading downstairs to breakfast. It was Itchy and Doze's turn to make it, which always meant the table would be covered in an assortment of breakfast stuff. Snowman grabbed her usual seat beside Crowbar, taking an offered cup of coffee, "Did you see outside?"
"I was there went it happened," Crowbar was spreading jam over a slice of toast and he set it on Snowman's plate, making one for himself, "You can thank Scratch for giving us a real Midwinter."
"I can't believe you actually give a shit about Midwinter," Itchy set another stack of toast on the table, "What are you, five?"
"I always liked Midwinter," Sawbuck helped himself to a few slices, "But I haven't celebrated it in years."
"Me and the Mrs' used to do a thing with her family," Quarters reached for the coffee pot, pouring himself a cup, "Best day of my life was when I realized I'd never have to see my in-laws ever again."
"Someone actually married you? You're fucking with me right?" Itchy set down a plate full of bacon, reaching over into Snowman's plate and picking up her toast, taking a bite out of it, "Hey, you're a woman, you believe anybody would marry this guy?"
"Lay off Itchy," Crowbar finished putting jam what had been his piece of toast and set it on Snowman's plate. Itchy grabbed that too and crammed it in his mouth, deliberately spraying crumbs on Crowbar. Crowbar simply grabbed the crowbar sitting by his side and stood up, Itchy quickly darting to the other end of the table. He sat back down, setting the crowbar on the table so it was easily within reach, "Hey Snowy, what's Midwinter like where you're from?"
"Midwinter? I don't know what that is," Snowman had been lost from the moment they'd started talking.
"It's whatever you celebrate when it's cold outside," He finished yet another piece of toast, placing this last one on her plate and keeping an eye on Itchy, "All Sweeps Eve or whatever other names people have for it."
"We don't have seasons. Or celebrations," Snowman finally picked up her toast and took a bite, before Itchy could get any bright ideas. It was pretty good. But halfway through chewing, she realized that the table had gone quiet. She swallowed and looked around.
"It's the birthday thing again," Trace said darkly. Birthdays had been a rather sticky topic. Snowman still didn't see the purpose in marking the date of birth, but since she hadn't been born, there was very little point in marking it. They had all reacted with horror when they discovered that Snowman had never had a birthday, and she had narrowly avoided having them arbitrarily assign her one.
"Alright, we're fixing this. Pick something you like about the holidays and show it to Snowman," Crowbar looked around the table, giving out the order. Snowman tried to protest, but Crowbar just spoke overtop of her, "We've got the next few days to get her up to speed."
"I don't really need to know about Midwinter," Snowman paused to sip her coffee, doing her best to make it clear that she had no real interest in learning, "And it seems like a holiday that no one wants to celebrate."
"Hey, watch what you say! If you've never had a Midwinter, you can't talk shit about it!" Itchy said, confusing the hell out of Snowman at his sudden defence of something he'd just torn down, "Once you've celebrated it, then you can say it sucks! Crowbar, I'm taking her out sledding."
"It would be nice to make some cookies," Sawbuck smiled, his lower teeth sticking out even more, "I haven't had any since I moved out of my parent's house."
"We can get a tree," Quarters said, and like that, the rest broke into conversation, quickly claiming activities or items. Snowman looked around, confused by the sudden sharp turn of events, and then glanced at Crowbar.
"Just go with it," He told her, finally taking a slice of toast for himself, "It'll be fun."
"Why can I never trust you when you say something will be 'fun'?" She asked. Before Snowman could get an answer, Itchy lunged across the table and yanked the toast out of Crowbar's hand, and Crowbar took off after him, knocking over his chair.
She looked at the others, Trace leaned across the table, "So what do you think about decorating?"
Snowman just looked blankly at him.
Snowman regarded the sled much in the same way that she regarded most of Itchy's plans: with trepidation and a lack of amusement, "This is an astonishingly awful idea."
"You don't get to tell me it's bad until you try it!" Itchy was not daunted by her lack of excitement. He had the sled set up on the top of a desert dune. The snow had fallen thick and fast through the night, covering the surrounding area with a thick enough layer to go sledding on. Itchy had known in a heartbeat what he wanted to do with Snowman as part of Operation: Teach Snowman The Meaning Of Midwinter.
The sled was not actually a sled. It had started life as a door, and until the moment when Itchy had removed it from its hinges approximately an hour ago, it had been a very good door. Now it was entering the second, much-shorter stage of its life as a sled. Itchy was sitting at the front, and he kept patting the space behind him, as if a few extra pats were what was needed to get Snowman to sit down behind him.
"There are plenty of things I don't have to do in order to comment on them," She wrapped her coat tighter around her, fighting off the urge to shiver. Snowman had never actually seen snow before, despite her name, and she was finding it to be mostly cold and difficult to trudge through. Her coat was simply not cutting it, "Sliding down a hill on a door is a perfect example of that."
"It's not even that steep! And there aren't rocks to smash into or anything!" Itchy's argument was solid enough, but wasn't doing much to dent Snowman's scepticism.
"The more you explain, the less enthusiastic I feel about this," Where she wanted to be was indoors, away from the thick layer of snow and Itchy and his awful door, "You go down, I'll watch."
"That's not the deal! Don't be a fucking baby," The door started sliding and he dug his heels into the ground to keep it from going down prematurely, "It's not like you can't just teleport away the moment you're in any danger!"
"And yet I still don't want to put myself in danger," Snowman really wished she had something to put on her hands to keep them warm. They were freezing, and she didn't have any pockets to put them in.
Itchy stopped fucking around and went straight for the threats, "I'm not going to leave you alone until you slide down the hill with me."
He meant it. He always meant it. Snowman eyed the hill, sighed, and reluctantly sat on the door behind Itchy, "Fine, but only the once."
"You better hold on tight! Wrap your arms around me!" Itchy told her. Snowman gave him a cutting look, "Okay, or not. Hold onto the doorknob then! Ready?"
"No," She said, grasping the piece of metal in her right hand. Itchy rocked forward and the door tilted, and headed down the hill.
Two minutes later, Itchy's head popped out of the snow. The door was lying about ten feet away, half-buried in the snow. His hat was missing. He got up, shaking the snow off and whooping happily at the successful trip, "Hey Snowman! Did you see that?"
Snowman lay dazed in the snowbank. She was so cold. So amazingly cold. She couldn't even remember exactly what had happened. One moment, they'd been travelling down, and then she had been sideways and upside down, and finally in this snowbank, which was doing it's best to eat her alive. Snowman pulled herself out of the snow, struggling with the powdery stuff. It was harder to move in than she'd anticipated and took a great deal of effort to just get upright. She fixed Itchy with a death glare. There was snow clinging to all of her, and a large chunk of it was stuck down the back of her jacket where she couldn't get at it.
Itchy wasn't deterred by her glare, "I think we should do it again! Once we find my hat, that is. Keep an eye out for it!" He headed for the door, yanking it out of the snowbank and checking to make sure it was okay. Itchy was still looking at the door when Snowman found his hat, and returned it to him at high-speeds, smacking him right in the back of the head. He tumbled over into the snowbank, popping his head out a moment later, "That's a no, right? That's probably a no."
She trudged back to the house, giving up any last traces of looking fashionable and just stuffing her under her armpits to keep them warm.
Snowman was wrapped in blankets and sitting at the kitchen table, trying to warm up after her dip in the snow. Her opinion on Midwinter had gone from neutral to sour rather quickly, and had made it clear that she wasn't interested in any other holiday traditions.
They were going to have to call in the big guns.
On the stove, the kettle bubbled happily, the water heating up. Though Doze moved at a snail's pace, it was actually advantageous in this occasion. His slowness gave the kettle time to heat the water into a boil, and it gave him plenty of time to get a couple of mugs and to measure out just enough powder in each.
"You'll like this," Doze told her, taking the kettle off the stove and carrying it over to the kitchen table, and the waiting cups, "I always had hot chocolate after sledding when I was a boy."
"Itchy said I'd like sledding," She pulled the blanket closer around her. If her opinion of Midwinter was low, her thoughts on sledding and snow where somewhere just above her thoughts on Spades Slick, "If this is awful, I'm going to my room and I'm staying there until this is all over."
Doze nodded, and poured the hot water into the cups, "Sledding is fun. But you have to be ready for it," He set the kettle down, and added a few handfuls of tiny marshmallows to each cup. Doze picked the one with more marshmallows and slid it over to her, "Don't drink it right away. It's still hot. You should only take little sips."
Snowman reluctantly wrapped her hands around the cup. The marshmallows bobbed up and down as she picked the cup up to inspect it. It smelled good at least, and unlike sledding, there was very little chance that she'd end up stuck inside of it. Snowman carefully brought it to her lips and sipped.
It was hot, very hot, but it was good too. After the dunk in the snow, something this warm was exactly what she needed. She took another sip. It was sweet too, sweet and hot, and certainly better than Itchy's attempt at introducing her to Midwinter. Snowman nodded to Doze, "This is… better."
"Hot chocolate is always better," The slow fellow settled in his chair beside Snowman, taking a sip of his own drink. She could hear the ticking of the clock slowly speed up as he pulled them out of the normal timestream and into their own quiet bubble. The general roar of the mansion died away to a dull hum, moving too quickly to identify any one individual noise.
She silently bumped Midwinter back up to neutral, picking out a marshmallow and popping it into her mouth.
After the success of the hot chocolate, they had rearranged the order. That was how Snowman found herself in the kitchen with Sawbuck, cutting out Midwinter cookies with little metal cutters.
She tried to identify the shapes, but most of them didn't make much sense. The snowflake was fairly straight forward, and so were the sleds. But other things had much less meaning to her.
"Candles? Stars?" Snowman asked as they peeled the shapes out of the dough and placed them onto cookie sheets, "And what's this? Or this?" She pointed to two shapes that made absolutely no sense to her, looking to Sawbuck for clarification.
"That's a snowman," He pointed to the strange bumpy shape, "Not you, but, a real snowman. Or, a snowman made out of snow. That's the head, and that's the body, and the rest of the body. It usually has stick arms. And this guy right here is a bell, like a hand-bell. You shake it and it rings."
"But what do any of these have to do with Midwinter?" Snowman continued not to see what the point of this way, "I can understand the snowman, since you have snow, but the rest?"
"They've got different meanings," Sawbuck finished filling one tray and started on the next, "I don't actually know all of them though. I just like making cookies."
"I don't see the point of the shapes if you don't even know what the shapes mean," Snowman held up some of the other cutters. Winged creatures and oddly shaped men, and socks and plants all seemed like arbitrary symbols. Why not simply make circles out of the cookies and leave it at that.
"The shapes make it festive," Sawbuck just smiled at her, like he knew something she didn't, "Don't worry about what they look like. Just worry about what they taste like."
The timer dinged on cue, and he headed for the oven, carefully pulling on mitts before touching the hot pan. He pulled the sheet out and began taking the cookies off one-by-one. The scent of fresh baking filled the kitchen, and even Snowman couldn't help but think of how wonderful it smelled.
She picked up one of the fresh cookies, not minding how they were just a little too hot to comfortably touch, and eyed it up. It was one of the winged creatures that Sawbuck had only half-explained. Something about it seemed… strangely familiar.
Itchy came skidding in, stopping right before the pan and grabbing a cookie, "Nice mitts, gaywad- fuck it's hot!" He quickly tossed the cookie from hand to hand.
"If you'd wait a few minutes, they'd be fine. It's your own fault for being so imp-," Sawbuck said, or tried to say, because he bumped his arm against the pan and promptly disappeared from the kitchen. Snowman glanced around to see if he'd come walking back in. Wherever time had dumped him this time was far enough away that he didn't return.
Itchy dropped the cookie on the counter and stuffed his fingers in his mouth, mumbling around them. Snowman couldn't understand a word he was saying, but she had a feeling that it was for the best.
She looked down at the cookie and bit its head off.
There were scraps of coloured construction paper all over the floor, and snaking chains that curled in on themselves. Die and Snowman both sat on the floor of Die's room, Snowman cutting strips and Die gluing them together. It was a pretty simple work, and Snowman was enjoying herself.
They were alternating between red and white, and Snowman was cutting up a sheet of white paper when she quizzed Die, "So what does the chain mean? Or is it another thing where you do it simply because you've always done it?"
"It's both, really. A long time ago, it used to be about celebrating breaking the chains of oppression," Die dipped the end of a strip in glue and slipped the paper through the last link, neatly pressing the two ends together and lengthening the chain by one, "But that was hundreds of years ago. These days it's mostly just tradition."
Snowman was having a hard time grasping the idea of tradition. Doing things simply because other people did them that way seemed silly. Clinging to the past seemed like a silly thing to do, particularly when it hardly added anything to the present. But Crowbar had asked her to keep an open mind, and so she was attempting to do that. As long as it didn't involve her being forced into snowbanks again, she would be at least willing to try these things.
The food still made far more sense to her than just decorating. There was a tangible benefit to food. This just made everything look oddly colourful.
She handed him another stack of white and began on the red, cutting the paper into perfect lengths. Unlike Die, she didn't need to measure her cuts. It was instinctive, her mind easily identifying exactly how many strips she could cut out just by looking at it, and then easily cutting those strips out without blinking an eye.
"My mother used to write little messages inside of the chain," Die said, smiling a little as he glued another link on, "And each day, I'd wake up and take a link off and read it."
"What did they say?" Snowman found herself suddenly quite curious to know what a mother would have to say to her child.
"Sometimes they said things we could do that day, like make hot-cross buns, or decorate my bedroom. And other times, she would tell me something, like how proud she was of me. And how much she loved me," Die's hand stopped moving for a moment, and when he spoke again, he had to stop and clear his throat. It didn't stop his voice from sounding sad, "It was really nice. She made them for me every Midwinter, until I was ten."
Snowman didn't need to ask what had happened when Die was ten. It was all over his face.
He must have caught her looking at him because he shook it off, trying to smile like it meant nothing, "It's. I don't even celebrate Midwinter anymore. It's stupid. There's no point in obsessing over the past. You can't change what's happened, only what's coming."
She looked at the strips in her hand, and then stood up, "Stay right here."
"Okay," Die sounded confused as she left. Snowman slipped off for ten minutes, and when she came back, the handful of strips had little messages on them in her careful elegant handwriting. She didn't let Die put these ones into a chain, putting them together on her own. He watched, and when she handed him the finished product, he looked like he was going to cry, "Snowman-"
"Don't open them before the right days," She told him, returning to the paper that still needed to be cut up. Snowman focused on cutting them up, letting Die get a hold of himself, and feeling strangely good about what she'd just done.
The new coat was a great deal heavier than her usual trench, a bit longer, and somewhat less stylish, though a great deal warmer. Stitch had her stand still while wearing it as he put the finishing touches on the winter coat. A few other half-finished coats were hanging on an assortment of dummies nearby, along with some new hats.
Snowman didn't mind the warmer coat, but she was reluctant to part with her usual hat for the new on in Stitch's head. It had no brim to it, and looked like it would cling to her head, the two tails on either side dangling downwards. She made a face at it, but Stitch paid her no mind, holding it up, "Bring your head down where I can reach you."
She sighed, knowing fighting with him wouldn't work out in her favour, and ducked her head down until it was within arm reach. He slid the hat snugly over her head, tugging and fussing with it for a moment before straightening up. Snowman reached up to touch it, running her fingers over the knit wool, "This seems… ridiculous."
"If it keeps your head warm, then I don't give a damn how it looks," Stitch said, mumbling around the pins held in the corner of his mouth. His commitment to the practical over the fashionable was occasionally annoying. The tailor grabbed onto the full length mirror and dragged it over, turning it so Snowman got a look at herself.
She looked odd without her wide brimmed hat, the tight black toque keeping her head warmer, but making her look slightly odd. It did cover the top and back of her head fairly well, and the two tails coming off the sides worked well to keep the sides of her head warm. The little 8 insignia stitched to the middle of the forehead made the hat slightly more tolerable. The coat was much better, the plain design giving it a sort of simplified elegance. And, of course, the whole outfit was rather warm. It would certainly make venturing outdoors easier.
"One last thing," Stitch grabbed something off his table, motioning for her to bend down again. She did, and he swung the fabric around her neck, bundling her up tightly in it. The green scarf was double-knotted at the front and then left to hang around her neck. She reached up to touch it. This would certain solve the snow-down-the-back problem, "There you go. You won't be freezing your ass off anymore."
"Thank you," Snowman took a good look at herself. The outfit wasn't bad… and it would only be until the end of Midwinter, when she could go back to her regular trenchcoat and hat. And the scarf was rather dashing…
Snowman wandered over to where the other jackets and hats were sitting, giving them a good once-over. Some of the hats were of a different design, lined with fur instead of wool, or with flaps that could fold up and pin on top of the head. Others were like hers, only they were missing the tails on the side.
She was in the middle of trying to figure out how exactly Stitch had made the flapped-hats when Crowbar poked his head in, "Looking good Snowy. Quarters is waiting down in the foyer for you, so you better get a move on."
"I'll be there shortly," She put the hat back and headed to the door, "Once again, thank you," Stitch shrugged, going back to work on another coat. It was as close to accepting thanks as he ever got.
She headed out of the boutique. Crowbar walked beside her down the hall, "So, starting to get the hang of this stuff?"
"I think so. Midwinter is all about indulgence," Snowman ventured a guess, but Crowbar just shook his head, "Well, it feels like it is. And when are you going to show me your Midwinter tradition? You're the reason I started this."
"We'll get around to it sooner or later," He said, dodging the question entirely, "Pick out a good one."
"A good what?" Snowman asked, but Crowbar just grinned and left, leaving Snowman in Quarter's company. She sighed quietly and looked at Quarters, who simply offered her an arm. She took it, waiting to see how this would turn out.
There wasn't much in the way of trees on Alternia. To be honest, there wasn't much in the way of anything, besides sand and rocks and ruins.
However, Quarters had done a little scouting and had managed to turn up a small grove of them about an hour away, at the base of some cliffs. The trees were a little taller than Snowman, though shorter than Quarters, and they were strange looking things.
"They're not swamp pines, but they'll do," Quarters brushed snow off the branches of a few of the trees, checking their needles.
"What do swamp pines normally look like?" Snowman asked, taking a close look at the trees. Instead of leaves, they had needles, which seemed like a rather efficient way of doing things. It certainly maximized the plant's ability to process sunlight with thousands of needles instead of hundreds of leaves.
"Like this, but sparser, and a lot taller," Quarters got down on his knees, holding the tree steady with his right hand and holding the axe in his left, beginning to chop it down. She watched as his blows began to wander, getting rather too close to his hand.
"Here," She put out her hand, making a give-me motion, "Let me do that."
"You've never cut a tree down before," He said, looking at her rather reluctantly.
"You're going to cut your fingers off and then Stitch will yell at the both of us. I know my way around weapons," She motioned again, and Quarters handed it over. Snowman hefted it, getting used to the weight and how it swung in her hands. It was simple enough. She knelt down in the snow, eyeing up the gouges in the tree trunk. She picked one in the middle and began swinging.
"I don't know Snowman, if you hurt yourself, it's worse than me doing it," Quarters anxiously hovered over her, as if she was about to slice off her fingers. Snowman's strikes were precise, easily putting a large wedge into the side of the tree trunk, "You've got a good start, I can finish the rest-"
She moved around to the other side of the tree, starting on it from that side. All it took were three strikes, and the tree toppled itself, smacking down against the snowy sand with a whump. Snowman stood back up, dusting the snow off her coat, "There we are."
Quarters looked at the tree and then at Snowman, "I guess you do know your way around an axe. Sorry about that."
"That's fine," Snowman didn't feel bothered by his assumption, but she did appreciate his apology, "Now what do we do with it?"
"Now we haul it back home and decorate it," Quarters picked up the heavier end of the tree and carried it back over to the truck. Snowman followed, setting the axe on her shoulder and tromping after him through the snow.
She was starting to get the hang of this midwinter thing. Snowman still didn't understand what the big deal was, but she was enjoying herself.
This was Trace's choice of things to do with her, but most of the Felt had quickly gotten involved in decorating the tree. He had still managed most of it – picking what part of the house the tree worked best in, getting the tree into a stand and screwing it into place, and finally starting to decorate it.
From what Snowman understood from the rapidly overlapping chatter, ornaments were something that were passed down through the years and reused. But since this was their first Midwinter on Alternia, there weren't existing ornaments to put on the tree. Instead, they'd settled on making some.
Stitch was settled on the couch, using a needle and thread and a bowl of popcorn to make some garlands for the tree. Some of Die's paper chains had found their way onto the tree, along with some cookie-looking ornaments that Sawbuck had baked, though as Eggs and Biscuits had both found out the hard way, they only looked like cookies. Some other creations from Die had found their way onto the tree, including pictures cut out of catalogues and glued onto cardboard backing, and snowflakes made by folding paper into squares and cutting them.
Snowman had found herself in charge of making more snowflakes for the tree. It was a simple job, but there was something rather fun about it. The symmetry of the snowflakes was comforting on some strange genetic level, but she kept that little piece of information to herself. Instead, she simply kept cutting out additional snowflakes for the tree, and listened as the inevitable bickering began.
"That's stupid, don't put those there," Itchy had shown up about halfway through decorating, presumably just to cause trouble. He was fiddling around with a few of the glass bulbs that Trace had adapted into ornaments, all but juggling them as the quickly swapped them from hand to hand, "You should put the glass up near the top so nobody breaks them."
"The only person who's going to break them is you," Trace growled, trying to grab the bulbs from Itchy's hand, but getting nothing but air. It was amusing to watch, at least until a fight broke out, "They'll look better if they're on the whole tree, not just on the top."
"Are you crazy? Why'd you want to do that?" Itchy kept the bulbs out of Trace's hands, zipping around the tree a few times and blowing everything up with his speed. Die grabbed onto the tree to try keep it steady, and ended up stuck half inside of it. Eggs and Biscuits quickly helped straighten it up and yanked Die out. Stitch ignored what was happening, continuing to string popcorn onto thread from his place on the couch, and Snowman tried to do the same, but she kept sneaking glances at the fight.
Trace finally got tired of Itchy zipping around and stuck out a leg. Itchy hit the floor, and the bulbs did the same, shattering on impact. There was silence for a moment. And then, just as Itchy and Trace opened their mouths to yell at one another, there was the tell-tale ringing of Egg's timer.
Snowman saved herself the time of wading through the dozens of selves and just teleported out, appearing upstairs. She watched from the stop of the stairs at Stitch fought his way out of the crowd, the others presumably trying to do the same before the buzzing and ringing reached critical levels.
Crowbar can running down the hall, crowbar in hand, sparing Snowman only a single glance before continuing down the stairs and into the fray. She just sat back and watched as he beat them into submission, idly wondering if Eggs and Biscuits had timed their daily decent into madness to interrupt the fight about to happen, or if they'd just gotten bored and things had lined up coincidentally.
She set the scissors down and unfolded the snowflake she'd been working on, hanging it from the balcony.
Once again, she found herself standing out in the snow. Unlike the first time, neither Eggs or Biscuits seemed determined to shove her into a snowbank. Instead, Eggs was attempting to teach her how to make her namesake.
Biscuits rolled up a large ball of snow for the body while Eggs worked on the body, and Snowman rather half-heartedly worked on the head. She couldn't see how three circles set on top of each other equalled a snowman. It did sort of look like an eight, if you added an extra loop. But in her experience, people didn't usually look like this.
Eggs lifted up his ball and set it on top of Biscuits' base, "Come on Snowman! This guy needs a head."
"Yeah, can't think without one," Biscuits tapped the snowman's shoulders, or what would have been shoulders if it was actually a person.
Snowman attempted to make the head a bit more round, and less misshapen, and then picked up the ball of soft wet snow. She set it on the snowman's body and watched at Eggs and Biscuits shoved snow against all the ‘joints' to keep everything in place. It made the snowman look very doughy.
"Now the arms!" Eggs grabbed the broom handles he'd broken in the house and stuck them into either side of the snowman. Little black rocks went into the snowman's head, forming eyes and a face.
"Yeah, that's pretty good," Biscuits agreed, and added the finishing touch, Die's top hat, "Yeah, looking good."
"Pretty good, eh?" Eggs beamed at her, "That's a real snowman alright. Like you!"
Snowman eyed up the snowman. It was everything she wasn't: white, dumpy, and presumably male. She let Eggs' comparison pass without comment. However, there was one thing bugging her, "Why does he have Die's hat?"
"It's not a snowman if it doesn't have a top hat!" Biscuits said. Snowman waited for an explanation. He paused, "It's the top hat that brings ‘em to life."
"No stupid, that wasn't just a top hat. That was a magic top hat," Eggs smacked Biscuits in the head, "Gotta get your stories straight."
"It was just a regular top hat," Biscuits muttered, "The magic was in their hearts."
"No, it was in the hat," Eggs said, and Snowman could see exactly where this was going and quickly got in the middle before the egg timers and ovens came out.
"Okay, so that's a snowman. What's next?" Snowman glanced back and forth between Eggs and Biscuits. The pleased look dawning on both of their faces was not comforting.
"Okay, now we make forts! You need somebody else on your team!" Eggs gave Snowman a gentle shove towards the house, "Go get somebody!"
"I'm starting on the walls!" Biscuits started shoving more snow together. Snowman hesitated, and Eggs gave her another push. She phased out before he could decide that the third time was the charm, and ended up in the upstairs hall, shaking the snow off her boots.
Snowman glanced down the hall, trying to decide who could help her build a good fort. The Felt didn't have much in the way of architects. She was going to need someone who didn't mind the snow. Or wouldn't abandon her partway through building. Snowman debated, before settling on someone.
She found Crowbar in Scratch's study, the two men playing blitz chess. A quick glance at the board revealed that Crowbar was getting his ass kicked. That was nothing new. Snowman had played Scratch dozens of time, and so far the best she had managed was to play him to a draw. Crowbar was nowhere near the chess player that Snowman was, but he did enjoy speed chess, simply because the speed of the moves gave him an edge he otherwise did not have.
"Done playing in the snow?" He asked, taking one of Scratch's pawns.
"We're building forts, and they said I need someone to help me," She looked between Scratch and Crowbar, "I'd accept either of you."
Scratch took Crowbar's queen, setting the black piece among his pile of defeated figures, "Perhaps when we are finished this game."
"So, in thirty seconds time?" Crowbar took Scratch's knight, not even noticing that by moving his bishop, he had left his king wide open. Scratch and Snowman both spotted his error.
"Less, actually," Scratch sent his own queen out, pinning Crowbar's king down, "Checkmate."
"Aw damnit," Crowbar knocked the king over and stood up, "So, a fort?"
By the time they made their way outside, Eggs and Biscuits had a healthy head-start on their fort. But two extra pairs of hands helped Snowman close the distance, and the three of them managed to get up a basic sort of wall. It would have been easy to cheat and have Scratch just rearrange reality so the fort was already made and waiting for them, but there was something enjoyable about building something like this with your own hands. Scratch was the only one not wearing some sort of winter clothing, and the only one who didn't feel the cold. Snowman's breath kept coming out as little white clouds, and Crowbar had to stop to rub his hands together more often than not, but they eventually finished their fort, curving the wall all around them with an opening in the back to slip through.
They were nearly done when the first snowball came over the top of the fort, smacking Crowbar dead-center in the back, "You jackals!" He yelled over the lip of the wall, Eggs and Biscuits laughing up a storm on the other side. A few snowballs came their way, most smacking harmlessly into the wall. One especially large one landed directly on Snowman's head, splattering across her hat and coat. Another smacked Scratch right in the face, the snowball almost comically sliding down the front of his ‘face'.
There was a moment of silence within the fort. The sound of Eggs' timer ringing broke the silence. Snowman reached up to brush snow off her hat while Scratch simply vaporized the snow on his face. Eggs and Biscuits kept laughing, oblivious to what was happening behind the fort walls. Crowbar shot Snowman a concerned look, but Snowman felt almost excited. Being hit by a snowball wasn't exactly fun, but she was on familiar ground here, unlike the rest of the Midwinter traditions. The weapons and forts were crude versions of her usual tools of war, but they were tools non the less, and she was the finest instrument of War, no matter where she was.
"Start making snowballs," She gave the order to Crowbar, peeking over the wall of their fort, "As many as you can, right now. Scratch, help me fortify this."
"Just don't kill anybody," Crowbar said, crouching down and starting to make snowballs. Snowman chose not to hear Crowbar, already constructing a battle plan.
Thirty minutes later, Eggs' and Biscuits' fort lay in ruins, the rubble scattered over the ground. A dozen or so time-shifted copies lay in the snow, some in far worse shape than others. There were a few casualties, but none of the dead were the original Eggs and Biscuits, who absconded back into the house once the ice-ball barrage happened.
Snowman tromped through their battlefield, stepping over bodies. Crowbar followed her, using his crowbar to dislodge the corpses from the current timeline and send them back to whatever doomed future-loop they were from. Snowman paused in the middle of the field, taking a moment to survey the bodies. The snow looked very festive now, red blood and green bodies scattered around. She glanced back at Crowbar, hands stuck deep in her pockets, "I understand Midwinter now."
"No, you really don't," He whacked away a version of Eggs with half his head missing, and gave her a pat on the back, "But don't worry about it. You'll get it eventually."
Snowman eyed him up, "There is no meaning to Midwinter is there? You're just winding me up."
"There is a meaning. And that meaning is not dead bodies," Crowbar looked around, "... but it is pretty festive."
"Thank you," Snowman turned to Scratch, "Blitz chess?"
"Of course. After you," He gestured, and Snowman headed forward, ready to see what was next on the list.
This was the first time she had ever seen the fireplace actually working. It could get cold in the desert at night, but a few extra blankets on the bed were all she ever needed, even on the worst nights. By morning, the sun would be up and the world would be baking again.
However, now that she was sitting in front of it with hot chocolate and a blanket around her, she couldn't understand why they didn't burn it more often. It smelled lovely, and there was something very calming about the crackle of burning firewood.
Matchsticks was poking at the fire with a poker, stirring up the hot coals and sending sparks floating up the chimney. He'd had this planned for a while, and had managed to gather up whatever dry wood he could find, not as hard of a task as it sounded, even though they were living in a desert wasteland. There was wood everywhere, you just had to know where to look for it.
Snowman was rather glad that Matchsticks had picked something so low key. This was more her style than snow forts or decorations, or cooking or anything else. Not that there was anything wrong with those things, but… she liked the quiet. She always had.
Die came wandering through, "Have you seen my hat?" He looked at Snowman and Matchsticks. They both shook their heads no, even though if you looked out the window, you could see his hat still perched on the head on the snowman. Die's shoulder's slumped and he went to the next room.
Matchsticks stoked the fire, adding a few pieces of the shattered door to get things going again. Snowman sipped at her hot chocolate and watched the flames eat at the green paint, revealing dry brown wood beneath, "So why did you pick this?"
"I like fires," Matchsticks grinned at her, throwing another piece on, "And I figured you'd be cold after I heard what Eggs and Biscuits had planned."
She nodded and scooted closer to the fire. Sitting on the floor in front of a fire wasn't the most dignified of ways to rest, but it certainly was warm and comfortable.
Trace wandered over, nodding to Matchsticks, and tossed an envelope into the fire. Snowman watched it turn, then glanced up at him for an explanation. He seemed almost embarrassed when he spoke, "It's a letter for my brother."
Snowman glanced at the burning letter. Part of her suspected that this must be another ritual, but part of her held off from asking. It seemed to be similar to Die's paper chains. Maybe it was the same principal of remembering. Snowman moved over to make room and gestured to the open spot beside her, "Would you like to sit with us?"
Trace smiled, settling himself down on the floor with a heavy thump, "Yeah, sure. We didn't have a fireplace where I grew up, so this shit- uh, stuff is kinda novel."
It was sweet how he always tried to censor himself around her, but Snowman didn't quite understand the impulse. The rest of the Felt certainty didn't bother. Snowman didn't bother asking and sipped her hot chocolate instead, just soaking in the warmth of the fire.
The peace and quiet around the fireplace hadn't lasted long. After Trace joined them, the rest of Felt had ended up coming in one by one. A few nasty glares from Matchsticks had kept the physical violence to a minimum, even if they'd gotten loud as usual.
Cans was the last one to wander in, pausing and looking around at the mass of Felt, "What's happening?"
"I'm telling them about the time I opened up every present in the house before anybody woke up. My brothers were so fucking pissed," Itchy had the definition of a shit-eating grin on his face, "It was the best Midwinter ever."
Cans lumbered over and settled in behind Snowman, the one free spot in the room. She glance back at Cans, and the large fellow smiled at her, "Midwinter stories? I've got a few."
Snowman yawned a bit. She had been feeling drowsy for a while, but she wasn't in any rush to go to bed. There was something enjoyable about just listening to other people's stories. Midwinter was an incredibly varied holiday. Itchy's story had been amusing, while Die's story had been rather sad, talking about his last Midwinter with his mother, and a few of the others had told their own tales about good gifts or strange sights.
"Giving up already?" Crowbar asked, and Snowman shook her head. He hadn't told any stories yet. Part of her was curious to hear his. Midwinter seemed to be so important to him, important enough to make everyone share it with her. It had just made her curious to know why, "Hey Cans, tell us something about your family."
"My family? Yeah, I've got one of them," Cans thought, and while he was thinking, Clover headed over and crawled into his lap, settling happily in place, "Yeah, I got one. It's from when I was a little guy."
"You have never been a little guy in your life," Itchy sprawled out further, half-leaning on Doze, "You were born that way."
"I wasn't. I was a little guy until I hit puberty," Cans held his hand in the air, measuring out a height that couldn't have been much taller than a standing Clover, "Just this big. My mom called me her tadpole."
If anyone else had admitted to this, there would have been jeering and insults. But Cans was huge, and his punches hurt like a bitch, and so everybody kept their mouths shut. Snowman yawned again, and leaned against Crowbar, just so she would stay upright. Crowbar didn't seem to mind, speaking to Cans, "Must have been a hell of a shock when you finally sprouted. So what's the story?"
"That year, all I wanted for Midwinter was some books. I had a whole list of them. But my dad didn't want me to read. He figured it was making me weak," Cans' voice was soothing to listen to, a deep rolling rumble that was almost familiar, "He said I'd only get books over his dead body."
"Please let this end with a murder, please let this end with a murder-" Itchy crossed his fingers, looking for a laugh. He got an elbow to the ribs from Fin, "Ow!"
"I figured I wasn't going to get anything I actually liked, just things my dad wanted me to like. I just sort of gave up on the whole holiday. I wouldn't help them bake, I wouldn't play in the snow, I didn't want to sit by the tree and tell stories. I didn't see why I should when I wasn't going to get anything but misery," Cans continued, and Snowman fought to stay awake, "My mom noticed that I was avoid everything, and she pulled me aside and asked me what was happening. And I told her that I didn't want to celebrate Midwinter if it meant that I wouldn't get anything I wanted."
Snowman listened for as long as she could, but the sound of his voice was too soothing, and Crowbar's shoulder was more comfortable than it had any right to be. Her eyes slowly fell shut and she drifted off before she could find out the end.
She woke up quite briefly when Crowbar shook her awake, pulling her up onto her feet, "Hey, come on, everyone else is in bed."
Snowman blearily looked around the room, finding a dying fire and no one else. She put most of her weight against Crowbar as they headed upstairs to her room, yawing a little when the reached the top of the stairs, "How did it end? Cans' story?"
"His mom got him the books secretly," Crowbar explained, getting Snowman's room open and guiding her to her bed. She just flopped down on it, not bothering with graceful when she was this tired, "And his dad got hit by a tram. Night Snowy."
"Night," Snowman mumbled, closing her eyes and settling in. She was so warm and comfortable, and more tired than she'd been in ages.
It was only as the door clicked shut that her mind put the words together. She opened her eyes again, looking towards the door, "What?"
He was already gone. Snowman tried to decide if Crowbar was messing with her or not, and decided not to decide at all. She just hunkered down and fell asleep instead, choosing to pretend that she hadn't heard the last bit.
The kitchen was overflowing with food and pots and pans, and an assortment of hands as they got that night's dinner ready. It seemed that everyone had a delicacy they wanted to make, and the mixture of smells coming from the kitchen was a fascinating mix of intriguing and nauseating.
She had ended up partnered with Fin to make a cake. Unlike some other traditions, Fin did have an answer for her about this one.
"It's a coin cake," He explained while Snowman stirred the batter, scrubbing coins clean in the sink, "You put coins in it. Then when you cut it up, some people get coins. The coins are supposed to tell you about the future."
The coins were unlike anything she'd seen as currency in the city. They were clearly from wherever the Felt had come from before they had come here. She picked up one with four flat side and something that looked like an eye in the middle, "What does this one mean?"
"Foresight," Fin held up each coin as he explained them, and then dumped them in the batter, "Intuition. Miscommunication. Deceit. And no-luck."
"No luck?" The last one that dropped in was flat and round, with no sign on it, and it slowly sunk into the batter and disappeared. She could still feel them under the surface, her whisk brushing into them, "Three bad coins and two good ones."
"Two good coins, two bad coins, one neutral coin. No luck doesn't mean bad luck," Fin leaned against the counter, scratching at his nose, "It just means you make your own luck."
"I hate coin cakes. I always got the slice that had both bad coins in it," Clover said from where he was sitting up on Can's shoulders, his face instantly brightening, "Except I can't anymore!"
"You can get a slice with multiple coins?" Snowman glanced down into the batter. It was a smooth creamy colour, and beating it had just made it absolutely smooth.
"Sometimes you get all the coins in the same slice. It's not like any of them cross each other out," Fin grabbed an empty pan, holding it out for Snowman to pour into, "Make sure to move it around when you pour so they don't all get stuck together on purpose."
She tipped the bowl into the pan, doing as Fin had asked. Twice she caught a glimpse of coins sliding out of the bowl and into the batter, but the other three went by without being seen, and she wasn't entirely sure which coins had slid out. She scraped out the rest of the batter with a spatula and then offered it to Clover to lick.
He grabbed hold of it, grinning at Snowman, "We're doing my choice next!"
Snowman raised one brow-ridge, "Should I even ask?"
Clover giggled. That was a no.
Dinner was a gong show. No less than four fights broke out, and Crowbar ended up smacking nearly everyone with his crowbar. Sawbuck disappeared for half an hour, but managed to show up just in time for desert, which was at least better than nothing at all.
Snowman was stuffed, her plate still partly full of food and deserts and more food than she even wanted to look at. They would probably be eating the same leftovers for a good three days, a remarkable phenomenon when it came to the Felt. She had a half-finished slice of coin-cake on her platter. Clover had gotten both Foresight and Intuition in his slice. Miscommunication had shown up in Trace's slide, while Deceit popped up in the slice Scratch had been given (though Crowbar had eaten the cake for Scratch, so they were debating on who really had gotten Deceit). And Die had gotten no-luck, which he had taken as a good sign.
When Clover's choice came around the table, Snowman wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. They were brightly coloured cylinders with a central part, and two ends. She looked to Crowbar for an explanation, and found him offering the end of his cracker, "Grab on tight and pull."
Snowman reluctantly took the end and yanked, and was promptly startled by the sudden snapping noise as something sparked. The table laughed, and Snowman simply reached over and punched Crowbar in the arm, "Don't do that."
"Aw Snowy, how could I resist?' Crowbar just smiled, and motioned to her other side, "Go on, pull yours with Stitch."
She reluctantly offered one end to Stitch and they pulled. Snowman was prepared for the snapping this time, and around the table, the others pulled their crackers open. With hers in bits, she glanced inside the middle tube, finding a piece of folded green paper, another small white piece of paper, and a whistle. Snowman frowned, glancing around.
Crowbar was unfolding his own piece of paper, and he pulled his hat off, pulled the paper on his head. It was a crown, and he opened his scrap of paper, reading off what was on inside, "What gets wet when drying?"
"You really want to know the answer?" Itchy was nearly vibrating with joy, "'cause I can tell you exactly what-"
"A dishtowel!" Clover shouted, looking around, "What's another one?"
"Come on! I'd expect the wet blankets to ruin that set-up, not you!" Itchy sagged back in his chair.
"What goes into the water red and comes out black?" Sawbuck asked, glancing around the table.
"A poker," Matchsicks answered, and Clover made a furious noise, "What? I already knew that one."
Snowman barely heard the conversation. She was starting at the green paper in her hands, carefully unfolding it. She could see the crown-shape there. It wasn't anything like her crown, and yet, it was still a crown with points.
"The more you take, the more you leave behind. What is it?" Cans asked.
"Footsteps!" Clover bounced in his chair, "Hey Snowman, tell yours!"
She glanced up. Everywhere she looked, they were wearing crowns. They were brightly coloured paper, cheap and disposable, but they were crowns. She glanced at the green one in her hands.
"Hey, I think I need some air. Snowman?" Crowbar said, and got hold of her arm, getting her up off the table. There was the distressed hum of everyone asking what was wrong, but Snowman didn't get a chance to even really hear it. Crowbar had an arm around her waist and he got her out of the dining room and down the hall.
He ducked them both into the washroom, locking the door behind them. Snowman looked up at Crowbar, and saw the crown on his head, and pressed a hand against her mouth, trying to stop herself from saying anything. Her vision blurred a little.
Crowbar looked behind her, into the mirror, and his eyes widened in horror. He quickly snatched the crown off his head, "Snowman-"
"It's okay," She said, and shook her head when he put his hands on her shoulder, "It's okay. It just caught me off guard. I haven't. I haven't seen a crown since-"
"I'm sorry. Fuck, I'm sorry," He sighed, "I should have thought, but Clover- I'm sorry."
"I know it wasn't on purpose," She glanced at the paper still in her hands, pulling it out into a crown-shape.
"Here-" Crowbar took it, and before she could say anything, he reached up and tucked it on her head, "Just... look at yourself."
Snowman carefully turned around, not certain if she wanted to see her own reflection. But it wasn't as bad as she thought it would be. It was a crown, but it wasn't her crown. It was green and stuck out oddly at the top, and the woman wearing it in the mirror was not a Queen, just a woman in a silly hat.
"If they bother you, I'll get rid of the rest," Crowbar set a hand in the middle of her back, doing his best to comfort her, "We can replace them with a different sort of hat. How do you feel about beanies?"
"That's awful," She finally said, turning away from her reflection, "The crowns will be fine. I just needed a moment to get used to them."
"You sure?" He asked, and she nodded. They weren't really crowns, "Alright. Now let's make sure they haven't all killed each other."
Crowbar took his hand off her back and unlocked the door, stepping out, and directly into the crowd of other Felt members. There was a moment of silence, followed by Itchy saying, "Really? You didn't even try-"
"Shut it Itchy," Crowbar cut him off, glancing around, "Who wants to make a new tradition and 'decorate' the Midnight Crew's hideout?"
It was the first, and only, unanimous decision she ever heard from the Felt.
They were in high spirits when they arrived home a few hours later. The Crew had been out, and they'd taken their time covering the hideout in the ugliest tackiest decorations they could find on such short notice. Their shining moment of glory was a toss-up between wrapping all of the furniture in wrapping paper, or writing FUCK YOU in lights by using the manhole cover as an O. Snowman had never seen anything so brightly coloured or gaudy in her entire life, and she couldn't help but smile at the thought of the Midnight Crew flipping out when they saw the decorations.
Rather than go straight home, they'd spent a few hours walking through the city's streets. It had been mostly undecorated too, but a little help from Scratch had fixed the worst of that. Lights and tinsel and garlands had brightened everything up, and as they headed back towards the mansion, the city seemed to shine even brighter.
Snowman and Crowbar brought up the end of the Felt, walking side by side into the dark night, heading for the far-off light that was the mansion. She had put her paper crown on overtop her hat, and the light night wind kept ruffling it, making the thin paper crackle slightly.
"So, did you figure out the meaning of Midwinter?" Crowbar asked, his breath streaming out of his mouth in little white clouds.
Snowman considered what she'd been through over the past few days. It all seemed like a collection of nonsense, rituals that even they barely understood the true meaning of, or rituals that no longer held any direct connection like they once had. And yet, hadn't something started to stick out? Hadn't she noticed the slow-growing pattern? There was something tangible there in the things they did, something that she understood when she saw herself in the mirror and the green crown on her head.
"I think I understand," Snowman said, reflecting on what she'd seen, "It isn't about the rituals or what they mean. It's about doing the rituals because they remind you of past times and the people you spent them with. It's nostalgia."
"You hit the nail on the head," Crowbar glanced over his shoulders at the rest, his crowbar resting on his shoulder, "But it's also about moving forward too. You don't just keep up old traditions, you make new ones too. Midwinter is whatever you want it to be."
"And what do you want it to be?" She asked, and he nodded to the group ahead of them, as if that was explanation enough.
She followed his gaze. Itchy and Fin were yelling at each other, while Clover rode up on Can's shoulder, both of them singing some sort of winter song that Sawbuck and Die had joined in on. Stitch was adjusting Doze's scarf, and Quarters was ducking snowballs that Eggs and Biscuits were scooping up and throwing. Trace and Matchsticks were lighting cigarettes and Scratch simply strolled along after them, in no particular rush to move along. It was the happiest she'd seen any of them in a few weeks.
"A family?" Snowman said the words out loud and knew instantly that she was right, "You want to spend it with family."
"That's what I do every year. My mom and my sisters must be sitting around the tree at home right now, just telling stories and enjoying each other's company. And every year, I spent it with them. Every year, except this year," Crowbar said, voice pitched low so the others wouldn't hear, "None of us are ever going to see our families again. We all knew that when we signed up, but… it's hard spending Midwinter alone."
Snowman suddenly put all the pieces together, "I was an excuse to celebrate it."
"You think any of them would have gone along with the celebrations without an excuse?" Crowbar gestured to the others, smiling even as Snowman glared at him, "Come on, it's been fun. And look at them. They needed this. We all did."
She looked forward again at the group. Crowbar was right. They had needed this. Maybe most of all though, Crowbar had needed this. Everyone had been happier since this started, but his change had been the most dramatic of them all, going from being unusually dour to cheerful in a way that she wasn't used to seeing on him.
"Next time, I expect to be warned in advance when I'm being used as an excuse to motivate others," She told him, even as the mansion came in sight. It was beautiful with all the lights on, filling the dark desert night with a warm glow.
"Well, there is another one coming up in a few months. You just have to promise to play dumb when they drag you out to gather up moss and lichens for bouquets," He grinned, and she couldn't tell if he was yanking her chain.
They arrived back in the house, stomping snow off of their boots and spreading out through the mansion. Snowman hung her winter coat up, one of the few who did much to Stitch's supreme disgust, and headed into the foyer with Crowbar. As the others scattered, she looked at Crowbar, "You never picked a holiday tradition to show me."
"Well… there is one I've been saving," He paused underneath the doorway and Snowman stopped as well, waiting to hear his answer. Crowbar pointed up, "Look up."
She did. There was a little plant dangling from the doorway, green with red berries. Snowman looked back at him, "What's that?"
"Mistletoe," Crowbar leaned in, capturing her mouth with his. She settled into it after a half-second of surprise, letting herself stop thinking for just this once. His mouth was soft and warm, even if his nose and cheeks were cold when they brushed up against her face. His arms found her waist, pulling her in close against him, and Snowman set her arms on his shoulders as they kissed. When they finally broke apart to breathe, he pressed his forehead against hers and just smiled.
"And what does kissing have to do with a plant?" She asked, running her fingers across the back of his head.
"Do you really care?" Crowbar said, and she smiled a little. Snowman leaned down to kiss him-
"Slip him some tongue!" Itchy broke in, and Crowbar and Snowman glanced over to find that the Felt had more or less filtered back in, looking at them from the doorways, "Do it!"
"Do it! Do it!" Clover chanted, and Crowbar and Snowman stepped apart before the chant spread.
"Is his turn over?" Sawbuck asked, looking hopefully at Snowman. A few other interested faces immediately turned to look at her.
Snowman leaned up, grabbing onto the mistletoe and taking it off the door, ignoring the disappointed awws, "I think I can find a better place to hang this."
"You know, I used to date this girl, and she would hang it right above her-" The location of the hanging was left uncertain when Cans put a hand over Itchy's head and just dragged him out of the foyer.
"How about we get a nice roaring fire going?" Crowbar suggested, offering his arm, and Snowman took it. Her free hand slipped the mistletoe in her pocket. She'd have a chance to use it later, but right now, she just wanted to celebrate her first Midwinter with the first family she'd ever had.
As they adjourned to the living room arm in arm, Clover waited until they came near and fell in step with Snowman, "So... when you're done with the mistletoe, could I have it? Because-"
"If you promise not to say that you're getting 'lucky', then yes, you can have it when I'm finished," Snowman said. Clover giggled, but it must have been a yes because he refrained from finishing his sentence. Instead, he ran ahead and caught up with Cans, grabbing onto one leg.
And Crowbar and Snowman glanced at one another, exchanging quick smiles before joining the rest of the Felt in front of the fireplace.