Fingers dragged over the glass with a squeaking noise, forming shapes and symbols in the condensation; overlapping triangles with a five point star above them. Frisk stepped back as Asriel held his paws around his muzzle to direct his breath towards the window, and saw one paw pad trace a line through the moisture. When he stepped back, there was a bell drawn on the window.
There was the sense of movement on one side and Frisk turned to see Chara standing by them, staring at the shapes… no, through them and the window, to the tree outside. A small but sturdy evergreen that had transplanted itself to the front lawn under Asriel and Asgore’s supervision, covered not in tinsel and colored glass but orbs of magical light. The entire magical spectrum was included, each color glowing brighter and darker in order; red to orange to yellow to green to cyan to blue to magenta and then red again. The snow on the branches refracted the light, turning the lawn into a kaleidoscope of shifting colors.
Looking at the window instead of through it, Frisk could see a similar shape in the reflection of the living room; an artificial Christmas tree obtained from Joe’s House of Stuff, and restored to working order after a few improvised replacement parts and some fresh paint, similarly decorated with orbs of magical light, and with a series of boxes underneath. Some boxes were plain cardboard, some were ostentatious in their wrapping and ribbons, and some were distinct in their decoration so there was no doubt who they were from even without reading the tags.
“It’s almost time,” Chara commented.
“I’ll get the rest of the stuff.” Asriel ducked underneath Frisk’s arm and made his way to the kitchen. There was the clattering of plates and clinking of glasses, and the prince reappeared with a glass of milk in one paw and a saucer piled high with cinnamon-butterscotch cookies in the other paw… and one cookie in his mouth as well.
“Your ulterior motive is showing, Azzy.”
“Murphun orphguf brughph,” Asriel mumbled through the cookie before setting down the snacks on a table next to the tree.
“Sorry, I don’t speak whatever that was.”
“Nevermind,” Asriel grumbled as he pulled half of the cookie out of his mouth. “Is there anything else we need to do?”
“No, just wait for mom and dad to come back from the party I think.” Frisk sat down on the sofa, staring at the magical fire weaving back and forth in the fireplace. “Or we could go to bed now, but I don’t think any of us could actually sleep yet.”
“Yeah.” Asriel managed to climb over the back of the sofa and sit down next to Frisk. “We’d just end up staring at the ceiling. A lot.”
Chara sat down next to Asriel, and the trio stared at the magical flames for a while.
“In, uh. In Bastion Circle. We never had stuff like this. Because, you know. Crazy cult. I never really grasped why the other kids at school were so excited for December. So even in now. I’m not a hundred percent sure if we’re doing it right.”
“There’s no one way to do it.” Frisk shrugged. “Everything from the trees to the decorations to the lights to the snacks to the stockings are optional. People can mix and match however they want.”
“...that’s not what I meant. No matter how we celebrate it, I don’t know if I’m going to feel like celebrating.”
“That’s optional too.”
Asriel scratched one ear. “We get time off from school at least. We can always celebrate that.
“True.” Chara shrugged. “I guess it’s… you know. Just leftover junk. But I still look at all these people having so much fun, and there’s a voice in my head that says ‘That’s not for you’ and I can only tune it out for so long.”
The living room was silent again, until Frisk turned and held up their hand. There was a blue glow, and one by one, light switches flipped off until the only lights in the living room were the magical fire in the fireplace and the decorative orbs of light on the tree. The human child turned back to face the fireplace again.
“...one day, I want to burn a real Yule Log. But we’ll need to have a real fireplace and chimney for that.”
The children continued to stare at the flames… one by one, they began to lean over to get in a more relaxed or comfortable position… only to sit upright at the sound of the front door latch rattling. Heads turned in unison to see a pair of large boss monsters make their way through the doorway, brushing off excess snow.
“Hey mom. Hey dad.”
“Hello Frisk. Hello Asriel, Chara. You are up rather late for Gyftmas Eve, are you not?”
“Well, we couldn’t sleeaaaggh.” Asriel’s explaination was interrupted by a yawn that pulled his mouth open wide and curled his tongue. “We couldn’t sleep.”
“Somehow I doubt that’s going to be a problem for long,” Asgore rumbled. “Come on, the sooner you go to bed, the sooner you wake up.”
“I don’t think that’s how time works,” Chara objected, but the three children stood up anyway and made their way up the stairs.
Frisk felt… something. On their face. They moved around, but the feeling persisted, until they were all the way awake and looking around through eyes narrowed to slits against the lights… and seeing a smiling, fuzzy face with ears dangling down.
“Azzy what the hell.”
“Not as fun when somebody messes with your snootle, is it? Come on, it’s Gyftmas morning.”
Frisk managed to slide their way out of the bed, sliding a little on the bedroom floor, before standing upright. Or mostly upright. Following Asriel out of the bedroom, Frisk ducked into the bathroom while the boss monster went down the hall to knock on Chara’s bedroom door.
There was no response.
“Chara, it’s Gyftmas.”
There was the sound of rustling sheets, then what might have been footsteps, and the bedroom door opened.
“Asriel what are you doing?”
“It’s Gyftmas morning!”
“...yeah, I understood that part.”
“We need to open presents, empty out stockings, stuff like that!”
“...oh. Right. Okay, let’s get this done so I can go back to bed.”
Asriel immediately made a beeline for the stairs. By the time that Chara had followed at a more leisurely pace, and then Frisk a short while later, Asriel was already sitting cross legged next to the tree, practically vibrating with excitement.
“Here, I want you guys to open my gifts first!” The boss monster produced a pair of haphazard but creatively wrapped boxes, which the other two children accepted. “Sorry about the wrapping, the, uh. The tape kept sticking to my fur and I got frustrated.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for mom to get up? And maybe dad to get here too?”
“You just want an excuse to go back to bed!”
“Yes, Asriel. You have determined my ulterior motive-”
“Merry Gyftmas, children!” The three youths looked over at the staircase, where a fully grown boss monster descended, tying the sash of a robe as they did. “I see you were ready to start the festivities without me.”
Chara pointed at Asriel. “I was ready to sleep in for another hour. He’s the mastermind between operation early morning.”
Toriel giggled and sat down in her chair by the fireplace.
“Well, it is Gyftmas Day. And it is… good, to see that some things never change. Go ahead, get started. Gorey will be by later for lunch, and there is little sense in waiting to open your gifts until then.
With very little effort, the gifts were freed of their wrapping paper, and-
“A real toolbox! With actual drawers and little boxes for screws and fasteners and wire!” Frisk held the red, sheet metal container above their head in celebration.
“Is this… this is Alpaca wool. You really went the extra mile on this,” Chara said, looking at Asriel. The prince blushed a little under his fur.
“Well, you did say once that it kind of took the fun out of knitting if most people were going to complain about what you made being itchy all the time.”
“...that was several years and two deaths and reanimations ago.”
Asriel shrugged, almost embarrassed. “It stuck in my memory.”
“My turn!” Frisk crouched down by the tree, pulled two boxes out, one rather small and the other quite long. The small box was held out to Chara, and the large box to Asriel.
“Gee, you shouldn’t have,” Chara deadpanned.
“Open it first, you haven’t even seen it!”
The simple paper and twine on Frisk’s gifts were easy to navigate, and Chara opened a small cardboard box to reveal… something metallic? Chara reached inside, grasped a thin, silvery chain, and pulled out…
“...you got me a new locket?”
“I built you a new locket. Open it up!”
Slowly, carefully, Chara opened the heart shape to reveal a picture of the three children on one side, and a bewildering array of tiny mechanical parts on the other.
“It plays music! Just wind up the key and-”
Before Frisk could even finish, Chara was carefully turning the key, then letting go again. The living room was filled with the sound of tinkling, as a shaped cam struck metal bars in a specific order.
Chara closed the locket, abruptly cutting off the music.
“Well. Now I kind of feel. Like a jerk.”
“Do you need any help putting it on?”
“...no. I think I got this.” Chara reached back behind their neck with the chain, eyes blinking more than normal as they stared at Asriel. “Come on, open your gift Asriel. Inquiring minds want to know.”
Asriel was in such a hurry that he sliced through the twine and the wrapping paper with his claws, popped off the lid of the cardboard below… and stared at the contents. One paw slowly, carefully reached inside, pulling out a long metal tube with various plastic sockets attached to the end. On the center of the tube there was a hinged mount with a ratcheting gear system, and another paw reached into the box to pull out what was clearly a collapsed tripod.
“You got me...” Asriel swallowed, but his voice was still thick with emotion, “a telescope?”
“Got it from Joe’s House of Stuff. It was in bad shape but I totally refurbished it. Found a new tripod mount, new mirrors, ground down the lenses myself,” Frisk rattled off their accomplishments with a grin and what was probably not an undeserved or unwarranted sense of pride. “Tonight you need to take it for a test run. If the weather clears up, I mean.”
“Oh boy, here come the waterworks,” Chara grumbled, making their way to the tree as Asriel sniffed and tried very hard not to prove his sibling right. “My turn now.”
Asriel was presented with a thin, flexible package wrapped in paper, while Frisk’s package was thicker and stiffer, despite being roughly the same dimensions. The paper was removed quickly (Chara seemed to have dispensed with any adhesive at all so it was simply folded over several times) and in the next second Frisk had tackled them.
“Hey, hey, personal space!” Chara managed to wriggle out of Frisk’s grip, and the human child immediately opened and started skimming A History Of Photography in 50 Cameras. “We were more or less roommates for over a year, so yeah. Some things stuck with me.”
Chara turned to where Asriel was staring at sheets of glow-in-the-dark star stickers in a plastic sleeve.
“And Asriel, I remembered how you kept complaining that so much of the space themed stuff that reached the Underground was already worn out. So. I figured. These are. You know. Brand new-”
Before Chara could finish, they were tackled again, this time by a sniffling boss monster.
“You… you remembered that...”
“And I’m in hell. I’m in hug hell.”
“Language, Chara.” Toriel gently chided form her seat, with a twinkle in her eye that completely undermined her stern expression.
“I cannot help but notice that you are doing nothing to save me from...” Chara trailed off and turned to the front of the house. “What is that?”
A second later, Asriel let go and turned to face in the same direction, and before long, Frisk could hear something as well. A sort of… organized acoustic chaos. The three children made their way to the window, followed shortly by Toriel, just in time to see a wooden boat on legs run down the street with two passengers.
One passenger had a familiar black cloak, topped with a seasonal set of festive reindeer horns atop their hood.
The other passenger was wearing what could only be described as a one-man-band assembly, a Frankenstein’s Monster of accordion, sousaphone, snare drums, trombone, and trumpet. But most bizarre of all, the instrumental fusion seemed to include yellow rubber chickens by the dozen, all making squawking noises at different pitches and times.
A few seconds after the boat had vanished from sight, a small crowd of humans and monsters appeared, running down the street and apparently following the tracks left by the boat. Many of the people in the group were yelling or otherwise appeared to be angry.
“Wow. Hal works fast.”
To the left and the right, Asriel could see Frisk and Chara turn to stare at him, and could practically feel Toriel’s gaze from behind him.
“Uhm. I mean. What a crazy random happenstance. That nobody could have seen coming. At all.”