It was a bright, crisp morning. The sun was bright, the air cold, and fluffy clouds even promised a bit of rare Parisian Christmas snow. With only a few days left until Christmas, a sense of anticipation filled the air even as people trudged off to work and children walked to school.
That’s how Lucia Berger felt about it, at least. It was the last day of school before break and she was excited! Christmas was her favorite holiday and she had been wearing Christmas sweaters or Christmas themed outfits everyday since November. Lucia took the lead in her class and organized class caroling, volunteering at a toy drive, and today she planned on bringing in cookies that she’d bought from the famous Dupain-Cheng bakery!
And this was just the start! As she got ready for the day, Lucia’s thoughts were filled with ideas about sleeping in during break, going ice skating, drinking cocoa! She was almost finished making presents for her family, and she couldn’t wait to travel out of the city to her aunt’s house for Christmas Eve! They almost always had snow covering the ground in the small country town and the church where her uncle was a pastor had the most beautiful, peaceful candlelit service!
Lucia adjusted her candy cane striped sweater and checked that all the jingle bells on her kneehigh elf socks were all still securely attached. She was warm and cozy with her evergreen leggings and knit skater skirt along with her sweater. Finally, she carefully put on her favorite pair of jingle bell earrings. Satisfied that she hadn’t forgotten anything, Lucia packed her backpack and headed to the kitchen.
“Haul out the holly! Put up the tree before my spirit falls again! Fill up the stocking! I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now!” Lucia sang as she skipped into the kitchen.
“Morning, Luci!” Marguerite, Lucia’s mother, greated.
“Morning, Mama!” Lucia bubbled.
Lucia pulled out her box of Dupain-Cheng cookies from the refrigerator as Marguerite finished setting out breakfast. Marguerite was playing Christmas music on the radio and they both jumped to turn the channel when “The Christmas Shoes” started playing.
“Not today!” they both said.
Kirk Franklin’s “Now Behold the Lamb” played instead and they went back to business.
Quin groaned as she peeled herself out of bed. She could hear her mother and sister playing Christmas music in the kitchen and knew it was going to be a long day.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Christmas…it was just a little too much sometimes.
Quin had two tests today--including one she forgot to write down in her planner and so didn’t remember until late last night. Between studying for those tests and finishing a paper that was also due today she didn’t get nearly enough sleep. A brief check on her phone told her the usual route she took to university was jammed with traffic. Perfect. And on top of that, there was an eighty-five percent chance of snow. Wonderful. She’d get to freeze on her moped on the way to school and show up a soggy mess.
She couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over. Maybe then she’d have time to thaw out and have some peace.
By the time Quin reached the kitchen table and began eating breakfast she was already on edge. She made small talk with her mom and sister but was keeping an eye on her phone, waiting to see if any of her friends with cars could give her a ride.
Lucia got up to put away her dishes and squealed when Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” began playing. She turned the volume up and began doing a jig around the kitchen.
The bells on her socks and earrings jingled and grated on Quin’s nerves. She tried to ignore it and focused on texting back a friend from her literature class that said he might be able to pick her up. When Lucia started singing along, Quin snapped.
“Would you cut it out!” Quin shouted. She jumped out of her seat and turned the music down to almost a whisper. “Do you have to play Christmas music all the time!”
“But...it is Christmas?” Lucia said. “Brenda Lee!”
Quin rolled her eyes.
“Quin…” Marguerite said warningly.
“Christmas is on the twenty-fifth!” Quin continued, still frustrated. “You are so tiring! For crying out loud you’re thirteen! When are you going to grow up!”
“Quin!” Marguerite said sternly.
A crunch distracted all three of them. Quin looked down and realized she’d knocked over a bakery box when she’d jumped from the table...and then accidentally stepped on it.
Lucia sighed as Quin picked up the box only for it to fall apart and dump all the broken cookies on the floor. Regret filled Quin as she looked back up at her sister who looked disappointed and embarrassed.
“Luci…I’m sorry.” Quin said. “I didn’t see them.”
“It’s fine.” Lucia said as she picked up her backpack. “I know it was an accident.”
“Luci--” Quin started.
“I need to head to school or I’ll be late.” Lucia interrupted. “I’ll see you guys later.”
Marguerite and Quin watched as she waved with a fake smile before leaving the apartment.
“I know I was harsh, but I didn’t see the cookies!” Quin sighed.
“Honey,” Marguerite said. “I know your not as enthusiastic about this time of year as your sister, but you know how important it is to her. If something’s bothering you then you need to tell us. We can’t read your mind.”
“And you do not have the right to belittle something your sister likes.” Marguerite added sternly.
“Mom, she’s thirteen!” Quin said defensively.
“So?” Marguerite asked. “I’m in my forties and I love Christmas. And even so, why would it matter? As long as it’s not something that hurts her or others what’s the problem?”
Quin sighed. She was still frazzled and now she felt guilty. “I’ll apologize to her later.”
Lucia hurried along the sidewalk and tried to ignore the sting in her eyes. She knew Quin wasn’t as big a Christmas lover as she was, and that was fine...mostly. It did hurt when Quin accused her of being immature or something for her taste, though. Lucia was happy with her personal quirks. She didn’t need justification for her eccentricities.
Still...it would be nice to have someone that shared her passion. Her Mom liked Christmas too, but Lucia was by far the most adamant Christmas fan she knew of. Her friends were of various mindframes regarding their elf-i-tude. It just got lonely sometimes when she didn’t have anyone that really shared that with her.
Lucia gasped when she felt a chill run through her.
“We need a little Christmas now…” Lucia smirked.
Marinette giggled with Alya as the class excitedly shared the cookies she’d brought in. It was the last day before break and Ms. Bustier had allowed them some free time during class to do some holiday activities.
“Oh, Marinette!” Lila simpered and Marinette had to avoid grimacing. “It was so nice of you to bring the class cookies! I just wish my allergies didn’t force me to be left out…”
“You’re allergic, Lila?” Kim asked. “That’s too bad…”
Marinette stealed herself as Lila almost purred to Kim as she played up her woe-is-me act.
“Can I have yours then?” Kim asked cheerfully.
Lila’s facade slipped for a moment and she looked almost startled. “Don’t you think Marinette--”
“You wouldn’t mind, right, Lila?” Adrien asked with a smile. “After all, you can’t eat it if your allergic. No need for it to go to waste!”
Adrien smiled innocently at her but inwardly he was practically daring her. Go ahead, he thought, try to turn this on Marinette. See what happens.
Lila’s mouth hung open like a fish as Kim plucked up the cookie with a, “Thanks!” and then ate it in one blissful bite.
The class went on like nothing had happened but Adrien and Marinette watched as Lila silently stued. Marinette blushed when Adrien sent her a wink but immediately tried to bury the butterflies in her stomach.
Just a friend. Just a friend. Just a friend !
Marinette tried to repeat the mantra until she had it stuck in her head. She’d have thought it would have made a difference by now! She knew she needed to give up and move on. She’d stepped aside to allow Kagami and Adrien to be happy together. If she’d had any doubt about her choice it had been crushed--along with her heart--when she saw them kissing. Or...almost kissing.
Marinette tried to move on and give Luka a chance. He was a good friend but she just didn’t have the same feelings for him that he did for her. That and the fact that the pressure from becoming the new Guardian created a distance between them...it just wasn’t fair to either of them. While she was adjusting, Luka noticed something was amiss that she wasn’t telling him about. Marinette knew he probably thought it was still Adrien--and it was partially true. Still, she wondered if things would have turned out differently if they’d started where she was now ! Settled (kinda...at least a little) in her new role of Guardian and not as chronically racked with guilt about Master Fu. It made her heartsick to think of Luka’s face when they agreed to be just friends, but it was the way it had to be. They became content with it.
Why did she have to be so hung up on a guy that clearly had no intention of seeing her as anything beyond a friend? Marinette felt a surge of melancholy and put extra effort into pushing it away and enjoying the moment. She knew her feelings were valid but she also felt a little foolish for allowing a boy to affect her mood when there were so many problems in the world.
“Oh, Marinette! These are just too cute to eat!” Rose squealed as she pulled Marinette in to take a selfie while displaying a laughing reindeer cookie.
“Thanks, Rose!” Marinette giggled. “We’ve been working overtime on all the Christmas orders at the bakry, but I made these myself!”
“They’re delicious, Marinette!” Adrien complimented.
“Totally, dude!” Nino said as he dunked his cookie in the hot chocolate Mylene donated.
“Right!” Alya said nudging Marinette. “Girl’s got the Dupain-Cheng touch! Anything they touch turns to edible gold! My mom’s been begging for your gingerbread recipe ever since last year. And she means business! She’s got a stack of recipes she’s willing to barter with.”
Marinette looked slightly starry eyed. “I’ll ask Mama and Papa! Papa loves your Mom’s cherry clafoutis, he warned me that he might trade my firstborn for the recipe!”
The class laughed and exchanged treats and small secret Santa gifts.
“Woah! Check it out!” Alix exclaimed and pointed out the window.
All the students and Ms. Bustier crowded around the window and looked out on a veritable winter wonderland.
Was it snowing? Certainly. A light snowfall had been predicted. What hadn’t been predicted was the swirls of magic dancing in the air along with floating ornaments, candy, and other decorations. As they watched, an old fashioned sleigh drove past the window and through the glass they could just barely hear the sound of “Sleigh Ride” by Andy Williams. The music seemed to fill the air around them and was not coming from any speakers but from thin air. It was obviously akuma action but the people seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Marinette gasped and Adrien tensed as the rest of the class erupted into excited chatter.
“Nino, did Chris get akumatized again?” Alya asked.
It certainly looked very similar to the Christmas wonderland Chris’s akuma had dreamt up.
Nino shook his head. “Couldn’t be! His school started break a few days ago and he and Mom went to Mariselle early to spend more time with our grandparents.”
Just then Mr. Damocles got on the loudspeaker. “Attention students and faculty, due to a city wide akuma attack all schools have been officially closed. All afterschool sports or activities have been canceled and it is recommended for everyone to make their way to either an akuma shelter or home. Francois Dupont will reconvene in the New Year. Thank you and Happy Holidays.”
Student’s cheers could be heard throughout the school. Marinette tried to make a quiet get away but quickly found himself smushed between Alya and--she gulped--Adrien who in turn sandwiched by Nino.
“This is awesome!” Nino fist bumped.
“I’m calling it!” Alya shouted. “Class snow party in the park!”
“Shouldn’t we get out of the way? You know, somewhere safe?” Adrien asked.
Before anyone could say anything music filled the air. It wasn’t too loud or too soft, but the music was completely captivating and felt like it wrapped them all in a warm blanket. They didn’t know, but across the city the lyrics and notes were translated beyond all barriers. Languages were instantly translated, sign language and subtitles appeared for the deaf, and the blind found descriptions whispered in their ears.
“Put up the brightest string of lights I've ever seen!
Slice up the fruitcake;
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough!
For I've grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel!
Sitting on my shoulder!
Need a little Christmas now!”
A beautiful voice sang out with full acompainment. Marinette briefly wondered if this was anything at all similar to when Luka said he heard heart songs.
“Joyeux Noel, Paris!” the voice said with cheer. “We all need a little Christmas, don’t you think? So haul out the holly, fill up the stocking, and put candles in the window! We need a snappy little ‘happy ever after’! Come join Elfitude in all the fun!”
The music ebbed away and the class looked around in a mix of awe and excitement.
“Magic Snow Day!” Kim exclaimed.
The class exploded in an excited scramble. Even Mylene and Rose, the timidest of the group, were eager to put on their winter gear. Alya threw Marinette her coat and practically put it on for her in her haste.
Marinette hated herself for what she was about to say. “Alya? Don’t you--you know--want to go hunt down the akuma and get footage for the Ladyblog?”
“Are you kidding?” Alya laughed. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I’ll just post some videos of us having fun with the magic! I’m not missing this for anything short of Ladybug swooping down and asking me to be Rena Rouge again!”
Marinette cringed. Alya was devastated when Miracle Queen revealed the supporting heroes’ identities to Hawkmoth. Most of the heroes had come out and talked to their friends and family about their experiences afterward, since they could no longer be called upon. Chloe wasn’t the same afterward, though she’d somehow avoided the public discovering that she’d been a willing accomplice to Hawkmoth.
“Come on, man!” Nino jumped up and down, tugging on Adrien’s arm and looking very much like Chris at the moment. “This is one of the few, like, fun akumas! You got to come with us! Your old man’s so stuck in his office he won’t even know school let out! You can have fun for once!”
“I don’t know, Nino…” Adrien grimaced. “It’s still an akuma, don’t you...feel a little weird...having fun while someone’s hurting and stuff?”
“There’s nothing we can do until Ladybug and Cat Noir free them.” Alix shrugged. “Might as well enjoy it while it lasts!”
There was no room to argue. Their friends linked their arms and joined the joyful exodus of students leaving the school.
Marinette looked around frantically for a believable exit. All she saw as joyful friends playing in the snow and trying to catch the flying Christmas candy. Even her parents, when she saw them through the bakery window, just waved and were seemingly fine about her going off and having magical fun with her friends. Joyful.
Even Markov was getting into the fun. Zooming about and in absolute wonder of everything around him, Markov flew right up to one of the passing lights and the colorful aurora washed over him and briefly surrounded him in a glow.
“Markov?” Max asked somewhat nervously.
Suddenly laughing, Markov shouted, “Happy birthday!”
Markov was bathed in sparkles and when the light passed he had become white with a tiny black hat on his head.
Children playing on the park playground stopped and stared when they saw him. With a cheer, they surrounded Markov and began asking him questions. Max saw Markov was unharmed and enjoying himself, so he stayed back and watched--phone out and recording--while the children started dancing with Markov and singing “Frosty the Snowman” but replacing the words with “Markov the Robot.”
Adrien couldn’t help but smile and laugh. He felt guilty, but honestly couldn’t sneak himself away from Nino’s attention even if he wanted to. At least it wasn’t like with the Bubbler, so far he hadn’t seen anyone affected maliciously by the akuma. If anything, the sudden wonderland seemed to be improving everyone’s disposition. He did notice Marinette biting her lip and looking around anxiously, though.
Marinette jumped slightly when Adrien took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Don’t worry.” Adrien said with a smile. “Ladybug will be here soon enough. If the akuma does becomes dangerous, we’ll evacuate right away. You’re safe.”
Marinette smiled but it had an oddness to it. Like she was wistfully sad?
“It’s not me I’m worried about.” Marinette said softly.
Adrien squeezed her hand again. “I’m not surprised. You’re always thinking of others, Marinette. Let us think about you for a change. Enjoy yourself, and if something comes up we’ll deal with it as it happens.”
Marinette felt her cheeks warm and ducked her head so he wouldn’t see her eyes fill with tears. It wouldn’t be so bad to indulge for a few minutes? Would it? She and Tikki could stay alert for opportunities to run.
“Thank you, Adrien.” Marinette whispered. “That sounds nice.”
Suddenly, a snowball harshly hit Marinette on the side of her face and she fell to the ground, almost pulling Adrien with her when he tried to catch her.
“Oops! Heads up, Marinette!” Lila said with forced friendliness.
“Snowball fight!” Kim shouted and immediately gave Alix a snow nuggy.
Adrien glared at Lila, though no one noticed as they started a snow battle.
“Come on, Marinette!” Adrien said as he helped her up. “Let’s show her who’s boss!”
Marinette smirked with a gleam in her eyes that made Adrien stop and question everything he knew about the world.
“Adrien, you just said the magic words!” Marinette beamed. “For Narnia!”
Marinette threw snowballs in swift succession--most finding their target with Lila Rossi. Adrien laughed and gathered a few tightly packed snowballs for himself.
“For Narnia! And for Aslan!” Adrien shouted.
He and Marinette let loose a battle cry as they drove forward, demolishing their classmates in a barrage of snow.
Note: Was I lumping Lila Rossi together with the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia? Maybe. I think it was subconscious until I started editing. I have yet to feel any regrets. They are both lying manipulators, afterall.
Learn from Edmund, don’t make deals with the devil for Turkish Delight. It's never worth it.
I used the name Lucia as a nod to my Scandinavian heritage in honor of St. Lucia day traditions. Berger is a name I found in a generic search for French last names. Google says it means shepherd.
Elf with attitude come from the “Elves. With. Attitude.” line from the Santa Clause and inspired Elfitude.
The overreaction to “The Christmas Shoes” happens to be exactly what my mom and I do when that song comes on the radio. It’s a beautiful song and I love NewSong but it is way too sad and makes us cry. Nope!
I’m not very familiar with French Christmas songs--sorry!--but I am a certified Christmas elf and have in fact worn Christmas themed outfits every day from November first through New Years before...or...almost every year.
Who am I kidding? Every. Year.
I wore a Christmas scarf while I wrote this and have Rankin Bass movies playing in the background. My elf hat was next to me, I was just too warm to wear it.
Johnny Mathis "We Need a Little Christmas"
NewSong "The Christmas Shoes"
Kirk Franklin "Now Behold the Lamb"
Brenda Lee "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree"
Andy Williams "Sleigh Ride"
Jimmy Durante "Frosty the Snowman"