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All the Stars at Night

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Lilo’s Extravagant Alien Countdown Meter™ (patent pending): Threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
“Three more sleeps til Christmas!” Lilo barrels into the room and heads straight for the big, ugly metal machine in the corner, Lilo’s Extravagant Alien Countdown Meter™ (patent pending). She tilts her head, squinching up her eyes and baring her teeth while she thinks, and then spins around.

“Jumba!” she bellows. How in the world does a voice that big come out of someone that small? Nani rubs her ear absentmindedly, and goes back to balancing the checkbook. Even with government support to avoid an intergalactic incident, and alien support because, well, harboring an evil scientist alien and his experiment doesn’t come for free, even if Jumba is less evil than he’d like and Stitch so much more than he was created to be, this time of year, it takes a lot of balancing to get the bills paid and keep food on the table and still give Lilo a good Christmas.

“What is it, little Ea-arth girl?” Jumba is wearing a Santa hat, and rubbing his hands together, his standard I’m an evil genius and I’m okay smirk firmly in place. “Have you decided to accept my offer to take over the planet?”

“What?” But Lilo speaks over her, louder and faster.

“No! Look, my Extravagant Alien Countdown Meter is stuck.”

Jumba nods, quite serious, and turns to examine it. Nani looks, too, and even though she didn’t notice before, Lilo’s right. It is not flashing or playing music or shooting off sparks or any of the other things it has done throughout this long, long countdown to Christmas. Instead it is repeating the letter “e” over and over and over and over again on its digital readout.

Nani shakes her head. “Lilo.” Then again, louder, when her sister keeps watching Jumba work to fix it, far too sharp and taking in everything he does. “Lilo.”

“What, Nani?”

“What is this about taking over the planet?”

Lilo grins. “He promised he would show me new ways to punish my friends if I helped.”

Nani’s left eye twitches a little and she presses one finger against it. “Sweetie,” she says, and scoops her sister up. Paying bills will just have to wait. “Let’s have another talk about not punishing your friends.”

“Okaaaaaaay, if we must.”

Where does she get it? Nani struggles to hide her smile when she says, “Oh, we must.”

Lilo’s Extravagant Alien Countdown Meter™ (patent pending): Two

“Two more sleeps til Christmas!” Lilo beams up at Cobra, hot chocolate smeared along her upper lip. She looks more than a little scary like that, teeth bared in her best my dog can talk grin.

Cobra doesn’t seem bothered by any of it, which is both sweet, Nani thinks, and to be expected, considering, well, mosquitos are an endangered species and intergalactic destruction and Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley blew up the house. He’s seen it all, and fixed it every time.

Nani leans her hip against the counter and crosses her arms over her chest while she watches them. If someone had told her back in the beginning that she would be here, like this, happy to see him with Lilo, she would never have believed. She might even have thrown a punch.

(She’s very careful to impress upon Lilo the importance of not kicking and biting to get your own way, but that’s mostly because it seems like the parental thing to do. She’s always been quick to anger, white-hot fury rising fast in her throat and spilling out through clenched fists and a sharp tongue.)

"How do we celebrate today?" Cobra asks.

“Christmas carols!”

“And where will we sing?”

“Silly, we have to go house to house. Maybe people will give us cookies!”

Because more sugar is just what she needs. There is no way this little plan ends well.

Except somehow, it does. It starts with just their little family, Lilo and Stitch, of course, and Jumba and Pleakley in their colorful, floral we’re just normal humans, yes we are don’t mind the multiple eyes and strange legs best, and Nani and Cobra, but then David joins them, too, and his older brother is in town with his three kids. They eye Lilo suspiciously right up until Stitch rolls up into a ball and circles them, and then all four kids shriek and chase him – and each other – around and around.

Turns out, their neighbors love carolers, even carolers with more enthusiasm than talent, especially Lilo and her guitar, and Stitch and his guitar and shiny white jumpsuit.

No matter what song they start out singing, Lilo leads them into “Blue Christmas” by the end, and yet they still get cookies and little cakes and pineapple muffins and lots and lots of praise.

Lilo’s Extravagant Alien Countdown Meter™ (patent pending): One

“One more sleep til Christmas!” Lilo bounces along the sectional, from one end to the other, back and forth. Every time she gets to the curve in the middle, Nani braces herself, but Lilo’s balance is good – all those hours surfing and, now, standing up on her favorite gift from last year, her own miniature spaceship, not that she’s supposed to fly it without permission and she’s certainly not supposed to stand up – and she just keeps hopping.

The oven timer dings and she jumps over the back of the couch. Nani grabs for her and just catches her, swinging her around in a high arc to help keep her balance.

“Lilo!”

But there’s no stopping her sister. “The cookies are done, the cookies are done! Come on, we have to get them ready for Santa and Ngarlsotropel.”

Nani can’t let that one go. “Ngarlostropel?”

“He brings presents on Zeltrosta Four.”

“Not presents,” Pleakley says. He’s wearing a beautiful Christmas-themed apron and sturdy oven mitts. “Preee-sentes.”

“What’s the difference?” Nani squints at him.

Jumba gives a great booming laugh. “Presents do not typically devour your head here on Ea-arth.”

“No.” Nani feels a little light-headed, but mostly she is used to moments like this. “No, they don’t.”

“Cookies!” Lilo demands, perfectly focused.

Pleakley takes them out of the oven, and even though they burn her fingers, Nani loves how they taste, delicious and melty and warm.

*

She sends Jumba and Pleakley upstairs with Lilo once the cookies are all done. They’re under strict orders to go straight to bed, which means they’ll be trying to sneak downstairs for the next hour or so. That’s okay.

Nani makes sure to lock the bedroom door behind her. Cobra’s been inside for awhile wrapping their gifts to the others, and there is a balanced stack of neatly wrapped presents by the closet, all shiny purples and greens and blues. She came in to help him finish, but he’s already tossing the last of the ribbon scraps, so instead she hands him a beer and sinks down onto their soft bed.

“I think she runs on sugar and nitrous oxide,” Nani sighs, rubbing her forehead lightly.

“Turn around.” Nani scoots around until her back is to him, and he starts at her shoulders, working his firm fingers and big hands down her back. Bit by bit, the tension runs out of her, hurried along by the great gulps of her beer she swallows quickly. When the bottle is empty, he takes it and sets it aside almost without pausing the massage.

It feels good because it is relaxing her, but it feels good too because she loves when he puts his hands on her. She leans back into him, forcing his hands up over her shoulders, and he takes the hint, sliding down to her breasts. Her nipples are already hard, and warm shocks shoot through her when he twists them between his thumbs and forefingers.

She can feel him, hard against her back, and she knows exactly how they’ll pass the time until it’s a safe bet that Lilo’s asleep. She tilts her face up to him and urges him down for a kiss.

*

There’s a close call near midnight, but eventually Lilo really does sleep, head pillowed on Stitch, and they finally get to sneak the presents under the tree. When they’re done, they sit on the couch together, watching the colorful lights reflect off the shiny gifts, and toast each other with their beers.

“Merry Christmas,” Nani tells him, and rests her head on his shoulder. His voice rumbles when he responds, and she’s smiling as she closes her eyes.