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Happy Holidays

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     “Just hear those sleigh bells jinglin’, ring-ting tinglin’ too. C’mon it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you-”


     Blitzen groans into his pillow at the sound of Christmas carols drifting up from downstairs. From the sound of it, it’s the kids singing along to a recording. It’s adorably annoying. Grunting, he rolls over to see Hearthstone still asleep, dead to the world. Of course he is: Hearthstone could sleep through Ragnarok. Smiling, he leans over to press a kiss to Hearth’s cheek before rolling out of bed.


    Sliding his feet into his slippers, he heads downstairs. Once he reaches the bottom of the stairs, he stops to drink in the chaos. Zeke, Cam, and a few others are stringing popcorn and cranberries strategically into a garland. Gabby and Pablo are stringing white lights onto the tree Blitzen had taken them to pick out yesterday. Ramey’s sitting cross-legged on the couch, working a length of green and red plaid ribbon into a festive bow.


    “Did anyone cook breakfast?” He asks, garnering a chorus of ‘Good morning, Papa Blitz’ from the kids.


    Cam glances up from the garland long enough to nod. “Made French toast with Zeke, fed everyone, got started on Christmas decorations,” they answer as they thread another piece of popcorn. “That was about an hour ago.”


    “We fed everyone that came in and cleaned up,” Ramey adds, not bothering to look up from her meticulous bow-making.


    Pride swells up in Blitzen’s chest, making him tear up a bit. Nope, not the time to get emotional. Blinking, he glances around, doing a quick count before frowning. “Where’s-”


    He doesn’t get the chance to answer before the front door swings open, bringing in a gust of cold air. He can’t even see who all it is for the hoods and caps and scarves shielding their faces. Plastic and paper bags rustle at the figures discard their protective clothes. As faces come into view, Blitzen can put names to them: Trevante in wooly purple sweater; Jayelle in a beige trenchcoat dress with Christmas tree leggings; Marcy in a red sweater emblazoned with the words ‘sleighin’ it,’ complete with a picture of a sleigh; and Izzick in a blue and white sweatshirt.


    “Hey guys,” Blitzen greets them, signing as he speaks for Marcy’s benefit. She’s not very good at reading lips. “What’cha been up to?”


    Izzick brightens at that, rummages through his bag to show pull out something that he shows to Blitzen. It appears to be a top with four sides with characters. “I got some stuff for Chanukah,” he informs Blitzen excitedly, gesturing with his top. “I can teach you guys how to play dreidel and make latkes!”


    Blitzen blinks at that. “I didn’t know you’re Jewish,” he comments carefully. He doesn’t mean it in an accusatory way, but he never knows how a comment is going to click in with someone’s past.


    “It’s not something I advertise,” Izzick comments with a shrug. “A lot of homeless shelters aren’t willing to help you if they find out you’re not Christian. I used to get turned away until I finally got smart enough to change the spelling of my name from I-S-A-A-C to I-Z-Z-I-C-K, make it seem more Americanized.” For a split-second, his eyes flicker with sadness before it disappears. “I didn’t think I’d get to celebrate again until I got my own place, but-”


    He cuts off as Blitzen crosses the foyer to wrap him in a tight hug. “Of course you get to celebrate here,” Blitzen tells him once he’s released him.


    “I figured once I met Sam,” Isaac answers with a smile. “Meeting her, seeing how wholly accepted she was here is what convinced me this really was a safe place for anyone.” He nods at Blitz before heading off to find somewhere to start decorating. One of the girls helping Zeke and Cam stands to follow Isaac.


    Grinning, Blitzen turns back to the others. “What about you guys?”


    Jayelle smiles, nudging Trevante with her shoulder, making him chuckle. “We went ahead and picked up some stuff for Kwanzaa, but it’s not until after Christmas, so we were going to wait a few days to actually decorate.” Giggling, she kneels beside Marcy, tapping her shoulder to get her attention. Don’t you have something to give him ? She signs.


   Marcy’s eyes twinkle mischievously. If Hearth wasn’t an elf, Blitzen would swear Marcy was related to him. It probably doesn’t help that she’s picking up on Hearth’s mannerisms the more time they spend together, a lesson they learned when Hearth jokingly signed asshole at Blitzen one day and Marcy had gleefully copied the new sign. The look of complete shock and horror on Hearthstone’s face was priceless as he frantically started signing to Marcy, No, you don’t use that, that’s for grown-ups. Now, however, Marcy reaches into her own plastic bag to produce a headband with reindeer antlers decorated with jingle bells on them.


    Laughter explodes all over the room, but the loudest comes from Blitzen himself, though it’s more of a laugh of disbelief than amusement. Thank you, he signs, trying not to grimace in front of the child. They’ll be perfect for Christmas.


     Marcy shakes her head, thrusting the ridiculous headwear towards him. She doesn’t sign, but her meaning is clear: Wear them now.


    Sighing in defeat, Blitzen takes the antlers and dons them. The giggles subside as Jayelle starts singing, “ You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…”


    Joyfully, the other kids in the room, excluding Marcy, join in, “ ...Comet and Cupid and Donner and…” Dramatically, they all point to Blitzen while yelling his name cheerfully.


    It can’t get any more equal parts embarrassing and endearing. That is until Blitzen feels a tap on his shoulder. Heat rises to his face as he turns to see Hearthstone, spiky hair sticking up in all directions, standing in front of him. Nice statement. True fashion, Hearth signs, smiling faintly.


   Before Blitzen can respond, Marcy’s in front of Hearth, tugging impatiently at his oversized shirt. His smile becomes a little more noticeable as he kneels in front of Marcy, raising an eyebrow inquisitively. In a flash, Marcy’s pulls something else out of her bag and sets it atop Hearthstone’s head.


    It almost looks like a Santa hat, what with the trim and pom-pom on the end, except they’re not white: they’re red. Instead of the hat being solid red, however, it’s striped green and red. An elf hat. Blitzen roars with laughter, sinking to his knees as the giggles overcome him. Hearthstone goes completely stiff before standing up, looking straight into the mirror hanging in the entryway.

    He gazes into the mirror for a for moments before turning to look at Blitzen, who’s laughter had finally subsided. Hearthstone sighs, shaking his head before signing, Guess this is what I get for skipping elf practice.