"Are you all right? You said you keep believing in Santa Claus?"
Rook was almost shouting when responding to Blitz, who said he always believed in Santa Claus and had his presents under a tree until hitting his early adult age and left home to receive military training.
"Yep, well, even though I've already known the presents are from my parents, it's not the point." Blitz chuckled, "I mean, why not believe they're all the blessing from Father Christmas?"
"I never believe that giggly old man in a red robe who rides a sled pulled by a group of reindeers and drops off presents through every chimney that exists in this world. It's my point." Rook refuted in a dramatic speed like a tongue twister.
"Come on, we all know that, but it doesn't mean we can't dream." Blitz shook his head in disapproval.
"You wouldn't say something like that if you've grown up like me." Kapkan, who sat aside, interrupted. "Fine, let me tell the truth. I never had any gift every Christmas, and I even had to do some part-time jobs to buy gifts for my younger brothers. So do you think that I was too poor to catch Santa's attention? Ridiculous."
"Neither do I. If Santa exists, there wouldn't be so many children still who suffer on the Earth, as Ryad and Chul Kyung did." Bandit walked by in the meantime and joined the conversation.
"Dom, stop saying such thing!" Blitz retorted, "I mean you're right, but we should spread the hope. Like volunteering at a children's home last year. It made us feel like making this world better, even just for a little."
"Oh, Kaid was Santa Claus that time. Never thought he could be so adorable in that red robe." Rook recalled the event. "It was meaningful, indeed."
And the discussion quickly became positive as the topic changed to how surprisingly cute Kaid was in Santa Claus dressing, and who would probably become the Santa Claus this year.
After the breakfast, Blitz invited Rook to the shooting range for training. Since Blitz and Montagne had made friends, all the GIGN members got closer to him. Even a troublesome guy like Lion, Blitz could still quickly befriend him, and nine out of ten in the team would agree the outgoing German was the easiest one to get along. When they arrived at the range, there was nobody but them -- which was preferable to them since they could continue the discussion without being disturbed. They both picked a submachine gun. "You don't do the shield training today?" asked Rook.
"I still have to practice the combat skill without the shield," Blitz answered light-heartedly while adjusting the MP7 briefly.
"Nice, maybe one day you can join us on defenders' side." Rook joked, "Imagine having a Deployable Shield with a flash on it!"
"I'll consider it. Who knows, maybe Harry would also think it's a good idea."
They shot for quite a while and ignored how much time had passed. Rook occasionally looked at his watch, and found out it was nearly 10. "Merde, do we have to go to the briefing?"
"Damn, I forgot it too." Blitz stopped and replied, "Let's pack up and go out."
When they were on their way to the meeting room, Blitz suddenly said he wanted to go to the toilet. Rook sighed and got along with him to the closest men's room.
Kaid stood in front of the mirror to check his look and groomed his long and dense beard after applying some oil on it. He was used to grooming his beard to make sure it looked smooth and shiny, but he hadn't been so excited to do so like this time. He sent a message to Thatcher to meet him in the dining room tonight, which they expected it would be empty since many people had to prepare for the departure next day. He wanted to give Thatcher a surprise.
He looked at the door behind -- nobody came in. He could try that outfit again to make sure if it still looked good, just make it quick. He took the soft and fluffy red coat and hat out of his bag, and put them on.
"Alright, boys and girls, are you doing nice this year?" He blinked his eyes a few times, and mimicked the jolly voice. He thought that he looked not bad, despite the skin tone might have to be corrected. He remembered Nomad helped him with a basic makeup like bright-coloured foundation and rosy-red blush when he played Santa Claus for the first time last year, so perhaps he should ask her to do that again. Although it would be a somehow embarrassing request.
The crack sound caught Kaid's mind, and he found Rook and Blitz getting in by the opened door. Great, he was caught red-handed, and they might doubt what happened to the Moroccan chief today.
"What-- Santa Claus has infiltrated our base? No way!" Yelled Blitz in astonishment, who hadn't recognised the sneaky Santa Claus was one of his teammates.
“Kaid?” Rook recognised the Moroccan, “What are you doing here?”
“Eh……” out of the words, Kaid made a quick excuse, “I don’t wear it for a purpose. Just because my uniform is in the laundry.” Then he rushed out the room, left Blitz and Rook in confusion.
“Spetsnaz bar day? A fooking silly idea, I’d say.”
This night, Thatcher stayed at the dining room. He initially came there to have his good-night tea and see what kind of “surprise” Kaid planned to offer him. He expected he would be alone here, or maybe just Jackal reading his book there because he couldn’t sleep (which was fine to him, since he was a quiet man). However, he couldn’t have a quiet moment now seeing Kapkan and Glaz standing in front of him in bartender's outfit and preparing a drink. And Bandit sitting beside him and enjoying whatever inside his highball glass was a lot more annoying. He didn’t like some “because today is special” thing, even though some relaxing music and good cocktails might be nice for them to unwind before going for a mission. He just thought it looked too silly. Maybe he should consider sending a message to Kaid to meet somewhere else.
“You look like you’re drinking poison, Maggie,” Kapkan spoke to him amusedly while preparing a drink. “Had a hard day?”
“Don’t speculate about my thoughts. And stop calling me Maggie.” Thatcher grunted.
“Really? James told me it’s your favourite nickname.” Kapkan answered.
“That bastard.” Thatcher explained unwillingly, “it has nothing to do with my liking. Just because Maggie is special. For my countrymen only, got it?”
“Whatever you say so.” Kapkan handed another highball glass filled with orange delicious-looking liquid and a slice of lemon on it as decoration.
“Your Sex on the Beach. Look at your face, is like already desiring some sex, hmm?" Kapkan smirked while looking at Bandit’s face, "By the way, it's Timur's favourite, too."
Timur stared at his partner harshly for a second, then changed back to his iconic witty smile, “Well, yes, Maxim made it for me once before in Russia. It was absolutely fantastic.”
“You mean this drink,” Bandit shook his glass and winked, “or real sex on the beach?”
“You guess.” Glaz’ gave a mysterious expression.
“Fine,” With a sigh, Thatcher decided to have something stronger to clear his mind, “Give me a Moscow Mule.”
“A wise choice,” Kapkan took another highball glass and began preparing the request.
In the meantime, Blitz, Rook, Montagne and Sledge got in looking for drinking out too. Thatcher didn’t care for others, but the Scotsman surprised him being here. “Why do you come here?”
“I went back on the way from the gym and met them.” Sledge answered.
“Can’t you get to work out at a normal time?” Thatcher shook his head helplessly. Since he had worked with Sledge for many years, he knew the Scotsman was a good lad but just this strange habit he couldn’t still understand.
They sat down and made the order, while Sledge requested Scottish whiskey in a second, others were still considering what to drink.
“I can only get an alcohol-free drink since it’s no alcohol day to me.” Montagne said, “Do you have strawberry lassi?”
“As you request. I’ll manage it.” Glaz took out a box of strawberry and a jar of yoghurt, put some of them into a Vitamix and added two spoons of sugar and a little of cinnamon powder.
“No alcohol day? You already sound like Doc.” Blitz looked at Bandit’s drink, “Dom, what’re you drinking? I’d like the same.”
“Another horny guy looking for sex, yes,” Kapkan smirked and took another clean glass.
“Harvey Wallbanger, and…” Rook made his request as well while seemed like to add something in it, but it was quickly interrupted by Montagne.
“Julien, no snack for you today. You must mind your carbohydrate ingest.” Montagne reminded in a serious tone.
“No ‘but’.” Montagne frowned, “I don’t want Gus to ask me why you’re getting fat again.”
Suddenly, everyone was howling with laughter by Montagne’s words but left Rook in embarrassment. Therefore, they didn’t know there was somebody else behind and watching them.
Blitz sensed it first and looked behind, “Whoa! Santa Claus is sneaking on us again! And he’s with two Rudolph!”
Others were confused at what he yelled, but still, look at what happened, and found what Blitz said was true -- one big and tall old man with the white beard and rosy cheeks, in red coat and cape. Even if he was not a real Santa Claus, the look was convincing enough. And that two Rudolph look somewhat ridiculous, they were in the same fluffy reindeer costume with big horns like tree branches but one looked significantly taller than another.
“Wow, it’s amazing.” Even a calm guy like Glaz also made his exclamation.
“Jaral, finally you appear.” Thatcher sighed, “so is it what you want to show to me? Playing that giggly Christmas old man?”
“What, so is he really Kaid?” Sledge looked at the “Santa Claus” closely, and finally knew it was truly the Moroccan chief by that iconic brown eyes behind the black-rim glasses. His skin colour looked a bit whiter than usual, it seemed like he was seriously into the playing.
“Not only that,” Kaid gazed at the “Rudolphes” by his side, “I told Buck and Jackal what happened last Christmas, and they’ve expected the extra job again. I reckon if we can do it again like last year.”
“Oh. I see. They were in Malaysia for another operation last year,” Thatcher answered, “don’t get it wrong. First, it was Harry’s arrangement, I didn’t do anything to make it. Second, it’s not a child play. We were invited by that Children’s home last year, and I thought it could be useful to improve our social prestige. Since it was not a regular thing, I don’t think we can do the same thing again this year.”
The “Rudolphes” took off their headgears and revealed their faces -- they were truly Buck and Jackal, and they both looked sad hearing Thatcher’s word.
“I don’t want to make it rude. However,” Thatcher questioned, “why even you are into this, Ryad?”
“I want to help homeless children.” Jackal’s answer was simple and direct, “since I was one of them, too. I never had any Christmas present, because I never had a place called home, but I don’t want those kids to feel the same as I did.”
Buck nodded his head quickly to express his desire for the "extra work" which was immediately refused by Thatcher, "You all should go to sleep, especially Ryad. Don't you have to go on the mission tomorrow?"
“You know I’ve never slept at this time.” Ryad refuted.
“Okay. If you really desire some social work so much, you can do other volunteering outside on your days off as Olivier does,” Thatcher almost lost his patience, “why are you so persistent of this?”
“If I don’t do that with you together, I don’t think it makes any sense.”
“Mike, I think he has started treating you like family.” Kaid explained, “I told him what you helped me last year, and he has been admiring you since then. He wants to do that again with you.”
“We’re an army, not some fookin’ charity organisation.” Thatcher shook his hand, “if you’re looking for family-like warmth here, you’re in the wrong place.”
“It’s not what you told me!” suddenly, Kaid became furious and scooped up Thatcher’s collar, “Damn. Sorry. I lost control.” He then let off in the next second and apologised with regret.
“Listen, I said I like the Fortress because your people there all call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, they live, train and work together and build the trust. People all want to fight beside comrade-in-arms you trust, right? But if you become too emotionally dependent on others, it’s another thing. It’s not good for our job.“
“Well, I agree with Baker this time,” Montagne added, “We must always focus on our mission than this thing.”
“If we can’t have the extra job, at least make a small party instead. I can be beneficial to our morale.” Kaid suggested.
“Party? I’m in. Don’t worry, I’ll look after Dom, keep him from making anything naughty.” Blitz interrupted with a beaming smile while holding Bandit’s left arm.
“Fuck off.” Bandit shook off Blitz’s hands gently.
“Really? You even said you don’t like ‘too Christian’ things like this.” Thatcher gazed at Kaid and rose his tone.
“This is different now.” Kaid insisted, “I even gifted you a Nimcha last year."
“I know.” Thatcher sighed again, “it’s only for somebody special like me, right?”
"I know you can never say no to a good blade."
"Lovey-dovey time, eh?" Rook chuckled wryly, "reminds me that sometimes Touré and Kateb are also like that."
"You and Doc what?" Blitz was bewildered by Rook's words and gazed at Montagne.
"Well, if they get along for a few more years, maybe they'd be more like us." Montagne slipped his lassi through a straw, replied rather relaxedly.
"And this time, it's your call for a present," Kaid continued.
"Don't you think I also deserve a piece of coal this year?" Thatcher made a half-joking question.
"No! Why?" Kaid guffawed, "In fact, I'm thinking to give you a house so that you don't have to live on that crude ship."
"It's not a crude ship! And you know it has a name." Thatcher retorted, "I can buy myself a house in Torbay or any resort town like that. But I don't like that. How can I leave Iron Maggie alone?"
"It's a thing that has grown as a part of him, I know," Kapkan murmured.
"Hey, can you listen to an old friend like me carefully for a moment?" Sledge finished his whiskey, put the glass on the bar counter with a big sound and began to talk again, "I'm not sure how harsh you've experienced, maybe much more than I ever have. However, would anything become better if you keep hurting yourself? Would you like the divorce to keep colouring your views on other people?"
"Stop, Seamus! It's not your business, and..." Thatcher jumped off and roared to Sledge, fists tightened as if they were going to throw out the next second. Then he just collapsed back to the chair, "just go away. Leave me alone."
"Pardon me, but I won't follow the order this time." Sledge shook his head, "you need somebody to talk to, we all know that. Either me or Jalal, your choice." he gave Kaid a hint through his eyes.
"Come here, Mike," Kaid then hugged Thatcher up and let him sit on his knee. "I'm too used to protect the others and forgot how to rely on others. I've believed the Fortress is everything in my life, perhaps like how you value Iron Maggie. However--" Kaid cuddled Thatcher closer, "I think I've found out one thing more important here, I know it's somebody I can get my back on, and I want him to be happy. It would be the best gift to me this Christmas. Am I clear enough?" Kaid chuckled almost playfully when saying the last sentence.
"Eh--I feel like I'm experiencing a bad romantic drama." Thatcher protested, "if you really want to do this, at least not in Santa costume, okay?"
Following Thatcher's surprisingly humorous word made others laugh so hard that they didn't even notice he kissed "Santa Kaid" so aggressively that made a crispy sound -- which was also covered in a song that happened to fit the atmosphere coincidentally.
"I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night
She didn't see me creep
Down the stairs to have a peep..."