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Ghosts of Christmas Past

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Freddie's POV

1.

It was my first real Christmas as far as I could remember, and I wanted everything to go perfectly. The boys didn't know yet but I already had stockings with their names ready to be hung and stuffed with gingerbread and Christmas cookies I planned to buy fresh from the bakery. That No Magical Creatures of Any Kind sign on the bakery window didn't deter me in the slightest. With the magic suppressants and my charisma, I could waltz right in and nobody would suspect a thing. Of course while I was in the market place I'd pick up additional gifts and some goodies for Delilah's stocking.

Even in the tower, I always made sure Delilah got presents on Christmas as every little girl should. Although I had to get creative at times. It usually resorted to paper mache mice or more often than not asking Paul for various squeezy toys that were supposedly for me. My captor would never give into the request had he known it was for Delilah. I simply claimed the comfort item helped me sleep soundly and avoid night terrors about my horrid years in the lab.

Deaky's gloved hand grasped mine taking my mind off how I spent past Christmases, isolated and lonely. That was then. This year was going to be different. I had my family. For the first time in my life, I'd be getting a real tree. Some years Paul would get me one of those fake trees if I begged enough. For some reason he got a kick out of me pleading properly. "You want a Christmas tree? Get on your knees and beg me for it, Mercury. Look up into my eyes and tell me how much you love me and how grateful you are that I'm even considering it. You're so lucky to have me. So show me your appreciation. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?"

I shuddered. "It sure is cold out here." Deaky remarked mistaking my shivering with the weather. I let him believe that was the case. Why would I ever dampen his spirits? This time of year brought about bad memories, but I refused to be a Grinch. For the sake of the other three, I put on a happy face as we merrily frolicked through the snowy Christmas tree farm. Wasn't this what I always wanted? Why couldn't I be happy? Clearly I was alone with these suppressed melancholy blues as the others were having the time of their lives. I tried my best to keep them oblivious, so I observed their banter and didn't say much as I held Deaky's hand and guided him through the snow.

"No, Roger, a Christmas tree is not the same thing as a Christmas coral." Brian argued.

"You decorate a plant with lights to celebrate the birth of Christ. Doesn't really matter if it's a coral or a tree. The sentiment's the same and the lights are really pretty." Roger reasoned. "We have to migrate to warmer waters this time of year and that's always fun, but snow is so...snowy! I can't wait to tell Clare about it." He caught a snowflake on his tongue. "Look it melts!" Roger stuck out his tongue obnoxiously.

"You know Santa doesn't give gifts to naughty boys who stick out their tongues." John said sassily but then he laughed. "I'm kidding, Roggie. Never change. We love you!"

"Ahh. Why does Christmas turn us into such saps?" Roger cooed. He grabbed hold of Brian's scarf and tugged it downward forcing the guitarist's face to lower with it. "Floor is icy. If I stand on my tiptoes to kiss you, I'll slip." Roger explained before smashing their lips together.

"Just ask me to bend down next time. You almost pulled apart the threads on my favorite scarf." Brian cried.

"Oh! I like this tree!" Deaky let go of my hand and trudged toward a tree that caught his eye. We all gathered around it.

I didn't even bother taking a good look at the tree. I was partial. "If that's the one you want, then we'll take it. Anything for you, Deaky, my darling."

"Seems like a healthy tree that will fit in our flat and will look good all dolled up with ornaments and lights. Nice find, Deaks." Brian complimented.

Roger frowned. "It's too small. Can we get a bigger tree! I want the biggest tree here!"

"When we're famous and not all cramped in a flat made for two, we can get a bigger tree, but for now we need something that won't be overbearing." Brian said.

"And my Deaky found the best tree in the farm!" I proclaimed. "I love this tree!" I gave John a kiss for finding the tree and just being adorable all bundled up in his winter coat. Then I wrapped my arms around the bark of the tree to show it some love. Doing so and breathing in the fresh scent of pine brought me back to a moment in my childhood.

'"I love this tree!" I gave the bark a hug, my skinny arms barely able to wrap all the way around it. The other kids were picking out trees with their families. My parents were absent, but I was under the watchful eye of my neighbors. Their son was around my age, and I asked him if I could go to the Christmas tree farm with them.

My family was one of the few muses on our street without a tree. In our neighborhood overall there was only one other Zoroastrian family. Additionally there were three Muslim families, and a Jewish family. None of them had children my age for me to befriend. So nearly all of my peers were Christians. For once I wanted to feel included. Santa may not come down our chimney, but I still wanted the experience of searching for a Christmas tree so I could at least pretend to feel jolly like all the other kids who celebrated Christmas.

"You know, Farrokh," The neighbor's father mispronounced my name like most people. "If you like that little tree so much, we could buy it for you. I'm sure Bomi and Jer won't mind at all. It doesn't have to be a religious thing. It's an exciting time with your baby sister on the way. You could use some holiday cheer in your home."

Mama was willing to let me come here so long as I stayed with the neighbors and was back in time for supper. Papa, on the other hand, didn't want me tainted by outside influences. He had no problem tolerating other religions at all as he was a very peaceful man at heart. In fact the magic civilization was built with peace and coexistence at its core goal and ideology. However, Papa viewed this trip as a form of indoctrination. A Christmas tree just didn't belong in a Zoroastrian home. Papa would throw a fit if I came home with a tree to put by our living room window for everyone to see. He would say I wasn't behaving like a proper Parsi boy. I disappointed Papa a lot, and it always broke my heart that I kept messing up.

"No thank you." I said sadly. I watched the neighbors purchase their tree and waved goodbye to what would have been my Christmas tree. It was for the best, right? I didn't want to upset Papa. He was already angry that I came here.

"Freddie, if you'd stop humping that poor tree, we could buy it already and get out of the cold!" Roger shouted.

"Humping?" I was still hugging the tree. "No, darling. I'm just giving the tree a welcoming embrace. After all it's a part of our family now."

"Well whatever the hell you're doing to it, you're making Deaky jealous." Roger said.

John shivered. "Don't be daft, Roger. How can I be jealous of a tree?"

"John Richard Deacon you are in a sassy mood today!" I chirped. "The cold must be getting to you. Here, let me warm you up, darling." I released the tree and instead threw my arms around my husband. Yes, this would be a Christmas to remember and in all the best ways.

2.

"We can hang as many decorations and lights as we want, but last year, I left them all unplugged to save money on the electricity bill. It's not exactly cheap." Brian explained.

"Well that's okay. We can still have a star on the top even if it doesn't light up." John agreed. "Besides Christmas tree fires are more common than you think."

"No, no, no, darlings. We can't have a proper Christmas without lights." I clicked my tongue disapprovingly. This wouldn't do. Thankfully, though this muse had some tricks up his sleeve.

We strung the lights up on the tree and decorated it with colorful ornaments. Last was the star of course. "Can I put it up?" Roger asked. "Can you even reach the top of the tree?" Brian laughed. "Fuck you!" He shouted. As the two broke into a wrestle that resulted in Roger trying to get himself up on Brian's shoulders, I took the star out of the box.

"You should do it, Deaky." I offered.

"No, Freddie. You should do it." He said politely.

"But I'm not even Christian. You're a Deacon. I insist."

John rolled his eyes and took the star from me. He stretched upward and rested the star at the top of the tree. Taking a few moments to center it, he was finally satisfied. "Perfect."

"Beautiful." I marveled looking more at Deaky than the tree itself.

"Damn it! I was supposed to put up the star!" Roger pouted.

"You can do it next year, darling." I promised.

"Who cares who put up the star? It looks great!" Brian applauded.

In my opinion, it looked incomplete without the glow from the lights, but I had an idea. "Let's light it up!" I declared. I stood poised, preparing myself for a tiring amount of magic. "AY-OH!" I belted. Harnessing enough magic in my voice to light up the tree using no electricity was exhausting. I caught only a glimpse of the shimmering masterpiece before I collapsed. Oh well. At least the others could enjoy it...

'I woke up in pain like always. A clock on the wall outside the cage told me it was almost midnight. Bob's shift started at 5 AM sharp. I sighed and tried to fall back asleep. I needed my energy if I had to endure that torture so soon.

"Alright. Shift's over. Gotta run to the mall and try to get my daughter that doll she wants for Christmas. They said they had a new shipment coming in tonight. Should we lock the muse in for the night?"

I was too weak to escape even if the cage was left unlocked. Besides, we were in a secured base. I'd never get out of here.

'Play dead.' Delilah hissed. "Doesn't take much acting." I huffed, shutting my eyes again.

"Lazy thing is always sleeping when we're not working with him. Trust me, newbie, he won't escape. He likes it here. We leave the cage door open at nights. I bet you he's too stupid to even realize that he can get out."

"Alright. Um sweet dreams, muse. I hope we can get along better tomorrow night and you don't have to bite me. Bob will see you in the morning."

'I bit you because you tried to stick a syringe in my neck, you motherfucker!' I thought, but stayed perfectly still.

I wasn't locked in. They assumed I was asleep, and I heard their footsteps fade into the distance. Then I blinked open my eyes groaning in pain as I tried to sit up. No, there was no way I had the strength to push open the cage door. "So, Delilah, what kind of failed escape plan do you have in mind for tonight?"

'I can get out of the cage and claw at the door until it opens.' She offered.

"Doors don't work that way, darling. Especially not steel fireproof doors. Besides, there's guards stationed outside the door. They won't let anyone--"

The door opened and Mary walked in casually making her way right past the guards. They didn't say a word or even try to stop her. It was amazing what you could get away with if you had a pretty face and a fake ID badge. Sneaking in to see me was one thing, but sneaking me out with her was something else entirely.

"Hi Freddie. I brought you Christmas cookies." Mary presented the box wrapped neatly like a present.

Delilah sniffed the box curiously. She was usually skeptical of the treats Mary would bring me, but I didn't blame her. Most days it seemed like the world was out to get us. This time it seemedl like Delilah was uninterested in the contents within the box. 'Oooh! I call ribbon! I call ribbon!' I untied the red bow and tossed  the ribbon over to Delilah, letting her play with it. "Darling, thank Mary before you start playing with your new toy!"

The cat ignored me and rolled around in the ribbons. I raised her better than that. How embarrassing! "I'm sorry Mary. She never shows her manners whenever we have company."

"You're apologizing on behalf of a cat, Freddie, please." Mary laughed. "How are you? Are you still hanging in there?"

'Barely alive.' I thought. "Let's not talk about me. What about you? I like your coat. Does it keep you warm enough out there? Must be pretty cold."

Mary brushed the snow off her coat. Well by now it was melted slush. For me though that was the closest thing I'd get to the outside world. "Same winter coat I always wear. Maybe I'll get a new one for Christmas. Oh. Did I show you the best part of the cookie box? It lights up like a tree!"  She pressed a button on the side of the box and suddenly it began to twinkle with blue, red and green colored lights.

"Wow!" I gasped. The lights didn't go out even as I opened the box and took out a cookie shaped like a snowman. What a gift!

"Merry Christmas, Freddie. I hope it lifts your spirits."  Mary said.

I took a bite of the delightful snowman cookie. "This is perfect, darling. Just perfect! I love it! I'd get you something, but I...Well I don't really have anything to offer."

Mary was about to say something, but the door suddenly opened again. A guard burst in. "Hey, you there, girl! Get out of there! What do you think you're doing?"

"Um I was just um..." Mary stammered.

Delilah quivered behind my legs. The ribbon was long forgotten and she was whimpering. I stood tall. I couldn't let them break me.

"Are those Christmas cookies? Are you bloody insane? You know the book If You Give a Muse a Cookie is based on a true story. There's a reason you're read those kind of stories as school children. Muses can't be trusted. They're not like you and me. That's why we're keeping this one here, so he can use his magic for good and not evil." The guard shrieked.

"If You Give a Muse a Cookie? That sounds like a dull read. It must be stocked in bulk at hunter libraries across the civilization." I retorted. "I'm sure you're into more sophisticated stories, Mary. Weren't you telling me how much you adore Jane Austen the other day?"

"Shut the fuck up, you stupid muse! I doubt you even know how to read!" The guard smacked me so hard I fell backwards. I spit out the bite of snowman cookie remaining in my mouth.

"Can't even eat right 'cause of your fucked up teeth." The guard mocked. "You see, girl, we keep our muses on special diets."

"You starve him." Mary corrected. "This is wrong and we all know it."

"Take your cookies and get the hell out of here now or else I'll have you arrested." He threatened. 

"Darling, just go. I'll be fine. I don't want you going to prison over this." I told her.

"Freddie, no! Someone needs to do something to get you out of here. How long can this go on?" Mary cried.

"You know what." The guard interjected. "I think the female prison is overcrowded. But there's plenty of space in the hunter prison. Unfortunately hunter felons have a bit of a reputation, but I'm sure having a girl around won't be a problem at all."

"You're bluffing!" Mary exclaimed.

"If you really think this muse is worth it, I'll send you to the hunter prison right now." The guard made a grab for her.

Oh God! He wasn't joking. If Mary didn't leave, she'd be locked up with the worst kinds of hunters. I couldn't let that happen. Who knows what all those awful men would do to her? "Mary, you need to leave now. Don't worry about me. Just go!" I urged.

"Fine." She wiggled her way out of the guard's grip and took the cookie box. "I hope you're happy." Mary told the guard on her way out.

"No clue how she got in here." The guard grumbled. "I bet used your muse magic to lure her in here. Honestly, she'd be safer locked up with those hunters. If I hadn't intervened, you probably would have raped her."

"Me?" I shouted. "No! I would never ever do something appalling like that. That's disgusting! Mary is my best friend. Why would I ever--"

BAM! I took another blow to the head, this one worst than the last. "Merry Christmas!" The guard laughed as my world went black.

"W-What happened?" I slurred. I woke up on the couch. The first thing I saw were the dazzling lights on our little tree. What a lovely sight!

"You lit the Christmas tree beautifully, but it took to much out of you." Deaky said. "Freddie, you know I don't like it when you overuse your magic and make yourself sick. I hope you at least had a nice dream while you were out."

"Sugarplums and fairies." I lied. "Nothing but a sweet holiday dream."

"I always love this time of year." Deaky cooed happily planting a kiss on my lips. "Christmas always makes me feel so joyful even in the past when I was at my lowest and there was nothing to be hopeful about."

"Tell me about it." I sighed.

"Are you feeling better, Freddie?" Brian handed me a mug of hot cocoa. "You really scared us, mate." Roger said. "Here, put some marshmallows in your cocoa. That'll make it taste even better."

"Thank you, darlings." I burnt my tongue on the cocoa, but pretended that it didn't bother me. I was just so glad to be spending the holiday with my three favorite people in the world.

3.

I needed to have fun. Why couldn't I let loose? I was Mr. fucking Fahrenheit. People were supposed to give me a call if they wanted to have a good time! During the most wonderful time of the year, I should be at my highest. So why did I feel like a total Scrooge? Was it because I didn't celebrate Christmas? No, that couldn't be it. There were plenty of non-Christians who still embraced the holiday spirit. It wasn't a matter of religion.

There was something that I knew would get me feeling more in tune with the others and would distract me from past Christmases I spent miserably. I picked up a clump of snow and formed it into a ball. "SNOWBALL FIGHT!" I shouted, throwing my creation right at Brian. "Ha!"

"Right in the poof!" Roger laughed as Brian shook the snow out of his hair. "Nice one, Freddie!" I grinned and threw another snowball right back at Roger and he immediately stopped laughing.

"Oh it's on, bitch!" Roger declared making a snowball of his own. The next thing I knew, it was a full on war and all four of us were pummeling snowballs at each other. Yes! Finally, I was in a winter wonderland, truly embracing that holiday goodness. This was exactly what I needed.

"Ooof!" Someone's snowball hit me in the face harder than I anticipated. I staggered backwards, slipping on the ice. Fuck!

"Delilah, look, look! It's snowing! It's snowing!" I ran over to the balcony which had frosted overnight. Outside, the floor was coated in ice. I didn't realize this because I was so eager to see the snowfall, and I slipped, falling flat on my bum. "Fuck!"

'Snow is too cold.' Delilah complained warming herself by the fireplace.

I tried to get back up again, but continued to slip and fall repeatedly. I needed skates. Maybe I could sing myself a nice pair. "AY--" My traditional magic call was interrupted by a holler from down below. "Farrokh, let out your voice!"

'Fuck indeed.' Delilah mewled and scrambled beneath the bed to hide from Paul. I for one was more positive. Maybe the weather put the demon in a good mood. "AY-OH!" I used my voice to lift Paul up into the tower instead of creating skates.

Paul frowned as he handed me his coat. "Why is the balcony all icy? Didn't you salt it last night? I thought I told you to do that."

"No, I forgot." I admitted.

"Damn it Farrokh you dumb muse!" He scolded. "I give you one job and you forget! Typical."

I caught my balance and looked out over the balcony. The outskirts were covered in a white blanket. More snow was falling. I caught some of the snowflakes in my hands and laughed as they melted away into little water droplets. Would it really be such a crime to climb down from this tower and go play in the snow? Just for a few minutes.

"I have to do everything myself around here it seems." Paul scoffed as he spilled salt over the balcony floor.

Asking would be suicide, but what kind of life was I living here anyway? "Paul, darling, I was wondering if you could let me--"

"--How 'bout a song? If you refuse to do your chores you can at least sing for me while I slave away at your beck and call." 

"Then could I maybe..."I gulped, "Play in the snow?"

"Stick to singing, you're not meant for comedy." He dismissed my request as a joke. "Now don't make me ask again, sing me the special song!"

"I won't go far from the tower. You can watch me from the window the entire time. 5 minutes. That's all I'm asking, Paul. Please. You know I don't ask for much."

"5 minutes is all it takes for you to get killed down there. Have you learned nothing from your time in the lab? I'm powerless to protect you if a hunter comes round or if another demon catches your scent and snacks on your flesh. Stay up here, Farrokh. It's a muse haven. Now do what you're made for and fucking SING!"

"Whoa!" Deaky came running. "Sorry about that, Freddie. Didn't mean to throw it so hard. Are you alright?"

"Fine." I wiped the snow off my cheek. "I surrender. Game's over. You all win. I'm going back inside."

4.

I woke up to the smell of pancakes from the kitchen. I must have overslept as my bed was empty and there was no sign of the others.

"I just don't get it." I heard Deaky speaking in a soft whisper. "He's usually so full of energy and life. You'd think he'd be more so around Christmas time, but....there's  just been something off about him these past few days. I can't be the only one who's noticed it."

"Well he's been quieter. That's noticeable." Roger remarked.

"Like you're  one to notice that." Brian countered. "But yeah, Fred does seem a little down in the dumps for some reason. I can't figure out why though. For once everything seems to be going great. We've landed a record deal! That's an occasion worth celebrating in addition to Christmas."

"I'm worried about him." Deaky said. "No should be sad on Christmas."

This was the last thing I wanted. I was trying so hard not to ruin their Christmases. They weren't supposed to notice that I was feeling blue. And I shouldn't be feeling bad at all. I had my family here and everything a muse could ever ask for. I forced a smile. "Good morning, darlings. You're all up early." Silence.

I sat down at the table ignoring the awkwardness. "Those pancakes smell amazing! Who made them? Deaky, darling, I bet it was you!"

"It was." John took the credit. "I um tried to shape them like Christmas trees...but they kinda don't look--"

"Ohmygod they look phallic!" I snickered when he put a pile on my plate. I held up an irregular pancake that resembled a floppy dick. "Someone needs Viagra!" I chortled. Roger nearly doubled over in laughter. Brian just shook his head and murmured something about how I shouldn't be playing with my food. Deaky merely flushed. I poured the syrup on the pancake suggestively and winked at Deaky. He made a cute squeak sound as his blush grew even more.

"Well you seem like your old self. So that's good." Brian commented. "We were really concerned about you, Freddie."

"Have I seemed off?" I tried to downplay it. "Must be the cold. It's flu season. I sure hope I'm not getting sick."

"You don't get sick, Freddie. You sing it off." Roger pointed out.

"What's going on?" Deaky pressed. "You can tell us anything. We just want you to feel better. It's almost Christmas. You should be happy."

'I should be, but I'm not.' Fuck! This was stupid! Nothing was wrong. Everything was better than it ever had been. Why wasn't I happy? What was wrong with me?

"Sometimes it's not that easy." Brian said. "You could just get a feeling of depression out of the blue for no reason whatsoever. At least that's what I've experienced at times. Emotions are a tricky thing and they can be difficult to explain, but it helps to talk."

"Is this a fucking intervention?" I cried. "I'm not like you, Brimi. I'm not depressed. I just...Don't let me ruin your morning. Carry on, darlings."

"We can't. Something is clearly bothering you." Deaky said.

"I said carry on. Carry on as if nothing really matters!" I said sharply.

'Ignoring your problems won't make them go away.' Brian thought. He wouldn't be speaking to me telepathically unless it was something important. Shit! My bullshit really was taking a toll on them.'Mind your own business.' I replied mentally.

"Oh! I know what will make you feel better!" Roger got up and left his phallic pancakes uneaten. He returned holding a small green plant wrapped in a red bow. "Mistletoe!" Roger dangled it over his head. "Don't all kiss me at once!" I stared up at the mistletoe, naturally thinking back to my first kiss...

My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw Mary walk through the door again. "Darling, you're crazy! If you're caught again, they'll send you to a hunter prison. You won't last a day in there. They'll rape you and kill y--"

"--It's Christmas, Freddie. I'm skipping midnight mass to make sure you have a proper one. So don't argue with me. I'm here for you whether you like it or not. Now I brought you more goodies."

'More ribbons?' Delilah purred.

Unable to understand Delilah's meows, Mary just laughed and pet her. "Merry Christmas to you, too, Delilah. I'm afraid I don't have anything for you this time. Just for Freddie."

Delilah hissed. 'You suck, Mary!'

"Be nice, darling." I picked up Delilah before she could claw my friend. I didn't Delilah scratching at that pretty coat.

"So I brought you a stocking." She extended me a red sock marked  Freddie.  It was stuffed with candy canes and chocolate kisses.

"And more Christmas cookies. This time mostly gingerbread." This box was less flashy than the other one, but it had a cute picture of a Gingerbread Man on it. "Sorry about the one from the other day. When I left, the other guards outside made me toss it."

"How did you manage to get back in here, darling?" I wondered.

"Doesn't matter." Mary shrugged. She retrieved the last item from her goodie bag. "I took this fresh from our tree." It was a green plant which she hung over our heads atop one of the cage bars. "Well?"

"Well what?" I scratched my head in confusion. The plant was a nice addition to lighten the sterile environment ever so slightly, but I didn't know what she wanted int return.

"You're supposed to kiss beneath the mistletoe." Mary giggled.

"Oh." I wasn't going to lie, Mary was attractive, and I fancied her, but she wasn't the one for me. For one thing it didn't say Mary Austin on my arm. Then there was a whole other issue... Fuck it!

I kissed her. I waited to feel smitten, but nothing happened. So I kissed her again, and again. Mary was so beautiful, but I felt nothing.

"Well that was..." Mary exhaled. "I wasn't expecting so many kisses! Wow Freddie! We should do that more often." She was flushed and out of breath. I wasn't. Shit! Poor Mary. This was going to hurt, but she had to know the truth. One day she would find someone who kissed her and felt those sparks, but there were no fireworks for me.

"Freddie, what's the matter?" Mary frowned.

"I-um...I'm...Mary, I--"

"I love you too." She translated and gave me another kiss. Fuck! How could she be so oblivious. Probably because I kissed her so hard pouring passion behind it in an attempt to feel something.

"I love you darling." I choked.

"Aww." She cooed.

"...But not like that." There. It was out. I loved her. She was my only friend and I couldn't be more grateful. Mary looked at me like I was human unlike anyone else, she saw me as equal. I wish I could give her what she wanted.

"Freddie, what are you saying?"

Here come the tears. "I'm sorry, Mary, but I'm gay."

"Then why the hell would you kiss me?"

"I don't know...I thought that maybe I could...I'm sorry." All I could do was apologize at this point. I couldn't be what Mary wanted. Although she was also to blame for the kiss. "You were the one who brought the fucking kissing toe!"

"It's a mistletoe, Freddie! Why didn't you tell me? I thought we had something special. Now I just look like a fool! Oh God! How could I misread the signs so badly? I really messed up, didn't I?"

"Can we just forget about this?" I cried. "I-It's no one's fault...I just...I can't...I wish I could love you like that, like the way you love me, but..."

"No, no, I know it's not a choice. One day you'll find your soulmate and he'll be such a wonderful guy worthy of all of your kisses. You'll see, Freddie. It'll happen some day." Mary was crying. I gave her a hug unsure of what else to do.

"Did I make you uncomfortable?" She whispered.

"No." I assured her. "Not at all. You never could, darling. Dry those tears. It's Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Freddie. I should go. My parents will worry." And just like that, Mary stepped out of my embrace and left me all alone on a cold Christmas Eve.

"I'm not in the mood for mistletoes. I think I'll go back to bed. I'm tired. Didn't sleep well." Maybe I could sleep away these bad memories. For now though, it felt disingenuous to offer my sweet kisses when my mind was preoccupied with the hauntings of dreaded Christmas pasts.

5.

It was a miracle I made it this far into the season without hearing a single Christmas carol. I didn't want to jinx myself, but I made it all the way to Christmas Eve without hearing a single rendition of Jingle Bells. In the tower Paul was merciful and didn't play any Christmas music and I was only to exposed to songs of my choosing. Delilah requested Christmas songs, but I refused to sing them for her. Denying her was rare, but I had my reasons.

The snow was welcomed, but not blizzards. We were stuck inside for the night because of the weather. Deaky was passed out on the couch shivering despite all the blankets. Roger was picking up each present beneath the tree, trying to determine what it was without opening it.

I warmed my hands by rubbing them together as I attempted to play piano. I practiced my intro to Seven Seas of Rhye. "Fear me you lords and..."

Brian planted himself by the Christmas tree, an acoustic guitar swung around his shoulder. Roger put down the present he was shaking and repositioned himself against Brian's legs.

"You sound great as always, Fred. How about we sing some Christmas carols tonight?" Brian suggested.

"We're touring in the new year, and we won't be playing Christmas songs. Our fans want to hear Queen songs. So that's what I'll practice." I stated coldly.

"It's just for tonight, Freddie. It's Christmas Eve. C'mon. It'll be fun. Rog, go wake Deaky."

"No, don't wake my sleeping beauty!" I protested.

Of course Roger didn't listen. He screamed with his high pitch like an alarm clock. John yawned and opened his eyes. "It's Christmas Day!" He exclaimed. "Time to open presents."

"Great now he thinks it's Christmas morning and we have to break his heart by telling him he has to wait about 8 more hours." I sighed. I intercepted Deaky on his way to the Christmas tree, pulling him up onto my lap instead.

"Oh. It's not morning? That's okay. It's still Christmas. Roger, do you still have that mistletoe?" Deaky beamed up at me. "I didn't get my chance to kiss my soulmate beneath it. That would be the best Christmas gift."

"You're my ideal present, too love." I told him. And with my present in my lap I forced myself to stay in the present. I had the love of my life right here in my arms and I was basically a free man. Why would I ever let my mind wander to darker times of cages and towers and misery? Yet those tormenting memories kept returning. Kissing Deaky was my favorite thing to do, but when you added in the mistletoe something horrible seemed to happen. The blissful experience was tainted by the creeping thoughts reminding me of how I broke Mary's heart beneath a mistletoe like this one. I spent my Christmases alone and weak nearly dying at the hands of the lab rats. No! It was a festive time. I was happy!

"Freddie, you're crying!" John pulled away. "I'm sorry. Was I too forceful? Oh God did I hurt you?"

"No don't be daft. It's just a kiss." I sniffled. "T-These are tears of joy." That was a lie. I tried to turn around my thinking. I was grateful for my husband in my arms and my brothers over by the Christmas tree. I had never felt this loved before in my life. My new family gave me a sense of belonging that I desperately needed in this cold world. There was no reason for tears, and yet they continued to rain. "I love you." I whispered.

"They aren't tears of joy, are they, Fred?" Deaky responded.

I shook my head unable to lie to him but still unwilling to convey the truth. I just continued to cry. "Oh, baby, it's alright. I love you too and there's no need to cry. Alright? Shh. I'm here for you, sweetie, because you're always here for me."

"If someone hurt you I will hunt them down and murder them in their sleep." Roger vowed. "Was it fucking Prenter? Is that who's making you cry like this? Because I swear I will slay that son of a bitch."

"Freddie will talk when he's ready, Roger. We can't force him." Brian said. 'When you're ready to open up, I'm all ears. I'll drop everything and listen even if it takes all day long. But I'll let you come to me on your own.' He told me mentally.

"Bri, why don't you play us some Christmas carols and we'll all sing along?" Deaky proposed. "Doesn't that sound like fun? I feel like I've gone all season without hearing any Christmas songs." 

"I'm not in the mood." I sighed. 

"Bloody hell, Freddie! Stop being such a fucking Grinch! It's Christmas. Either tell us what's wrong or cheer up already!" Roger shouted. 

I ignored him and went back to the piano, this time working a bit on my incomplete Cowboy Song, the melody that I had been chasing for years now but always seemed to escape. 

"Which Christmas song is that one? Is it a land one?" Roger inquired. 

"It's not a Christmas song. I told you I'm not in the fucking mood!" I cried. 

"But it's Christmas!" Deaky exclaimed. "Please Freddie. Just one carol." I loved his puppy dog eyes. I was a sucker for them just as much as Delilah's kitty cat eyes. I couldn't say no, but...

Roger snickered. "You're a mean one, Mr. Mercury..."

I rolled my eyes. "Roger, your range is too high for that song. If you're going to mock me at least do it properly."

"Enough! Let's just do some carols, alright?" Brian started to strum his guitar. "Sleigh bells , are you listening..." The others joined in. 

"...In the lane, snow is glistening

A beautiful sight,

We're happy tonight.

Walking in a winter wonderland..."

"'I can't believe it! Not only do we have to work on Christmas, but our radio's busted. That means no Christmas songs." The scientist huffed. 

Oh yes some people have all the problems in the world. It must be awful being paid to torture a muse on Christmas. As they were distracted, meddling with the broken radio, I tried to pull some of the IVs out of my skin. I bit back on a scream. If I got caught it would mean more trouble, but I had to stop them from pumping poison into my veins somehow. This was going to kill me eventually. 

'They're coming back!' Delilah hissed.  I dropped the needle, hiding it beneath my foot and pretended like I had been lying lifeless just like before. 

"You know back in the dark ages before muses were used for science and medicine, we used them for entertainment. They were nonstop performers all through the night."

I was born to be an entertainer, but I was afraid of what the scientist's idea of "entertainment" entailed.

His woman coworker entered the cage and forced me up to my feet with a violent yank. "Alright, muse. Now's your chance to show us what you're made for. Sing us a Christmas song."

"Sorry don't know any." I murmured. 'How do you not know any Christmas songs?' Delilah mewled in shock. Well for starters, most of my memories had been wiped and I recalled nothing but this cage. Also, somehow I knew that my nameless faceless family was Zoroastrian and didn't celebrate Christmas or sing the carols. Of all the things to recall about them...

"Dumb fucking muse." The male scientist entered the cage as well. He slapped me. "Sing now or I'll make you wish you were dead!" 

Son of a bitch. Um... "Frosty the Snowman was a very good snowman?" It was to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but that was the best I could do. 

"You're pathetic!" The woman scoffed, knocking me down on spitting on my face. "A big disgrace." 

"Let's teach him some carols. See if he's smart enough to even learn them." Her partner grinned sadistically. 

From there, they sang the merry tunes while beating me to a pulp. I was forced to sing them back to heal myself, but if I messed up the words, it would earn another blow to the head. That became their new Christmas tradition and I had it to look forward to each and every year. 

"Come on, Freddie, sing with us!" Deaky invited. "Why do I even have to ask? You usually sing--"

"--On command like a fucking show dog?" I snapped. 

Brian stopped playing. All three of them looked at me with concern. Fuck! I really messed up. Maybe this Christmas wouldn't be as perfect as I thought. It was too late for me to enjoy it because of my shitty memories, but now I ruined it for the others. 

"T-They beat me." I sighed. Might as well come to terms with why I was a Grinch. "There was a tag team of scientists, a man and a woman. They forced me to sing Christmas carols each years as they bludgeoned me nearly to death." 

"Give me their names and addresses. I will go to their houses and personally murder them for you." Roger snarled. "No one can get away with something that fucked up."

"They can if they do it to a muse. It's legal in the eyes of the law. There's nothing we can do about it. I'm out of there now. I've moved on." I forced another sad smile. "I'm free and I have you three. That's all I need." 

"Freddie, I'm so sorry." Deaky choked. "You must hate me for forcing you to...do all these traditions that remind you of...of...hell. How dare they taint something as holy and pure as Christmas and twist into something so awful I wouldn't wish it on anyone, not even my worst enemy. And it had to happen to you of all people! You're the love of my life, the one person who always makes me smile no matter what, my voice. You don't deserve any of that! How could they! I'm with you, Rog. I wanna kill those motherfuckers!" 

"Oh darling, it's not your fault. How could I ever hate you when you're the best thing that's ever happened to me? Please don't let me ruin Christmas for you."

"No! Freddie, you could never ruin Christmas. Don't even say that." Brian cried. "Can't you see how much we love you, and Christmas is all about spending time with your loved ones. You're a part of Christmas for us, so you could never ruin it." 

"Thank you, darling." I nodded in appreciation. "I'll go to bed while you sing your carols." 

"No!" Roger shouted. "You're not going anywhere, Freddie. We'll stay up with you even if it means no caroling." 

"We can eat Christmas cookies and snuggle instead." Deaky said. Brian and Roger nodded eagerly. Were they really willing to change their tradition for my sake? 

"If you're okay with that?" I asked tentatively. 

"Absolutely." Brian said. "I love cookies." Roger insisted. "It was my idea." Deaky added. 

I cuddled with my boys by the fireplace as we ate the cookies that were supposed to be for Santa. Eventually I fell asleep resting my chin atop Deaky's shoulder. Roger was nuzzled by my feet and Brian was behind me. We were all in one warm pile to combat the cold. I shut my eyes thinking to myself that maybe this was the perfect Christmas after all. 

+1 

Christmas Day! I presented my stockings and presents to the boys and Delilah eager to see how they'd react to the gifts. "A state of the art telescope? No way! This is amazing! Freddie, how did you afford this?" Brian exclaimed. 

"Don't worry about that, dear." I dismissed, tossing the brand new ball of yarn I had gotten for Delilah. 

"A panini maker?" Deaky frowned, surprised by my gift. "You can use it make cheese toasties." I clarified. Understanding overtook his face, and he squealed with joy and ran to hug and kiss me. "Best gift ever! Thank you, Freddie! Thank you!"

Last was Roger. I was most doubtful about his gift. I would have gotten him a car but I couldn't afford that. At least not yet. Thankfully, he seemed pleased with the new pair of converse I got him. "Oh wow! These are great! Great find, Freddie. I love them! Converse are so much more stylish than clogs. Speaking of which, now you all have to open my gifts."

"So you got me another pair of clogs didn't you?" Brian didn't even have to open the box to know, but gave Roger an appreciate kiss nonetheless. "Exactly what I wanted. I can never have too many pairs." 

"Um keep in mind you said that." Deaky said shyly. I had a feeling I knew what he got Brian...

I opened Roger's present for me. It was a waterproof makeup set. Kohl was my perfect color. The other shades seemed to match my complexion as well. "Oh darling, this is wonderful! Thank you!" I applauded. 

"Your turn, Deaks!" Roger gave John his present. It was a book. Oh how dull. I would be pissed if I got a book for Christmas, but I'd still be polite about it. 

"Ohmygod! It's a signed first edition copy of Lord of the Rings. Roger, this is priceless. How did you find this?" Deaky squealed. 

"I have my ways." Roger replied with a sneaky smile. 

"Should we open mine next?" Brian offered. "I'm not sure I can top the Lord of the Rings book, but I tried."

"Nothing can top my panini maker!" I declared. 

"I love cheese on toast, but this book is...Oh forget it. I love you, Freddie. Your gift will always be my favorite. Merry Christmas!" Deaky said. 

"He likes mine better." Roger laughed. "Now let's see what you got me, Brimi." He unveiled a certificate claiming a star. This one was named Maylor. "You bought us a star?" 

"It's dumb and unofficial, but I thought it was sweet." Brian said hesitantly. 

"It is dumb, but I love it! Maylor is my new favorite star! Merry Christmas, Bri!" 

I opened my gift from Brian next. He got me two new bottles of nail polish in black and white respectively. I was running low. "This is so thoughtful! Thank you, darling." 

"You got me a fucking telescope so I feel like we're uneven." Brian remarked. 

"You saved me from a demon in the outskirts. We're even." I assured him. To think I was actually receiving presents beneath a tree. I never believed it possible before when I was in a lab or a tower without any loved ones. Finally, I acknowledged my past, but only allowed it make me present shine even brighter. 

By the time I was ready to open Deaky's present, I was already getting teary eyes and these were the good kind of tears. "I think this may just be the best day of my life, my lovies." I sniffled. "You sure know how to make a muse feel special. Look at me, melting like a snowman."

"It's fine, Freddie. We don't blame you for getting emotional." Deaky said. "Especially after how you spent Christmases in the past. I hope you like my gift." 

"I'm sure I will, darling. Anything from you is a blessing." I gave him a kiss before opening my present. 

It was a silky bath robe with a pattern of cats. "So soft, and so adorable...Just like you, darling. Couldn't be more fitting." I could sing myself new clothes whenever I felt like it, but having something permanent was very special. 

"Well don't say it's fitting until you try it on." Deaky laughed. 

Of course it was a perfect fit because everything Deaky did was perfect! "I'm going to wear this all the time. I'll break my no outfit repeating rule for you, dear. I love it!" 

"I'm glad you like it." John smiled. "This has been the best Christmas ever!" 

"I couldn't agree more!" I exclaimed. 

"You know Rog and I were talking last night." Brian said. 

"I'm sure you did more things than just talk." I teased. Roger laughed and Brian flushed. 

"Anyway," Brian continued, "we thought it might be a good idea to write a new Christmas song. An original one that has no memories attached to it. That way we can sing it every year and start a new tradition that's positive for all of us." 

"Of course! That's a brilliant idea!" I proclaimed grinning from ear to ear. "Oh darlings, I just want to say thank you. You made Christmas feel special. And I think this time next year I won't be crying. I'll be shouting 'Thank God it's Christmas!" 

Roger cocked his head consideration. "I think that's a good title for our song. Thank God It's Christmas. What do you think of that?"

"I like it!" Brian agreed. "It will be our new Jingle Bells!" I declared. "What do you think, Deaky?"

"All I can say is thank God it's Christmas!" He shouted.