Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » July 23rd, 2008, 5:11 am

Well, I got chapter nine, hope someone is enjoying this, I think it's pretty funny so far. Poor Allan. And Sakura can correct all her bad German for her.... or not, we really aren't that good at German over here.

Family and Mistletoe

AN: Hello, hello!! Welcome to chapter 9! I hope you like this's long, slightly boring, but I hope the VxH goodness at the end will make up for it!! Okay, so I've got a lot of German heritage, and my family still speaks it some, so I put some in here for Annie's family. I apologize for spelling and grammar mistakes, I'm going off memory here!

Here's the translations (I hope I got them all!!):
Froeleke Weinescten: Merry Christmas

Du boese kinder: You naughty kids!

Tante: Aunt Ja: Yes Dankeshoen: Thank you very much

Groszmama: grandma (used for the great-grandma in this story)

Sei ist ihn verliebt: She's in love with him

Sinde du hungrig?: Are you hungry?

The four travelers climbed gratefully out of Annie's small car and stretched their cramped muscles. Van and Allen weren't used to sitting like that for long lengths of time, and it had been slightly over four hours of driving. The two men surveyed the house as Annie and Hitomi started to unload the trunk.

Aunt Vera's house was large, tall, and somewhat imposing at first sight. It stood alone in the country, surrounded by a creek and a grove of trees. A long, steep, sloping hill dropped down into the creek valley below the house, and everything they could see for miles was covered with a deep layer of snow. Several other vehicles, most much larger than Annie's small car, were parked haphazardly in front of the large house.

Annie loaded their arms full of the presents, cookies, and bags and ushered them into a room where two more vehicles were parked. They went through another door, and found themselves in a short entrance hallway. The sounds of people talking and laughing, dishes clanking, children running and playing, and cheerful Christmas music reverberated through the house as the four of them dumped their burdens and stripped off their winter coats.

Two little girls came into view, both dressed up in ridiculously large and tattered fancy dresses and gobs of fake jewelry. Catching sight of Annie, they started shrieking at the ear-piercingly high pitch that only small girls can reach.

“Annie's here, Annie's here!!”

Instantly, there was a sound like a herd of charging land dragons. Van and Allen instinctively took a step back. In moments, Annie was buried underneath what appeared to be a mountain of writhing, laughing children. Every few seconds, one of them would detach themselves from the pile to hug Hitomi tightly. She hugged them all back, smiling, ruffling their hair, supremely unconcerned that Annie had completely disappeared under the attacking kids.

“Ouch! Oh! Gotta breath, guys!” Annie's voice cried laughingly from somewhere beneath the pile. “Hey! Tickling's no fair! Help me, Tomi!”

An elderly woman came into view, followed by a number of other adults ranging in age from early twenties to elderly. The first woman clapped her hands sharply.

“That's enough!” she commanded, and the kids slowly detached themselves from Annie's prostrate form. Grinning, Annie jumped to her feet and dusted herself off. The woman shooed the kids away good-naturedly.

“Ach, du boese kinder!” she said, swatting a few lightly on the bottoms as they went past her.

“Dankeshoen, Tante Vera,” Annie said, giving the older woman a tight hug.

Aunt Vera hugged her back before holding her at arm's length and patting her cheek. “Froeleke Weinescten, Annie. And Hitomi, we are so happy to see you! Ach, you are so skinny! Well, you'll eat some good German food and fatten up, ja?”

“Merry Christmas, Aunt Vera,” Hitomi said cheerfully as she hugged the elderly woman as well. Mass chaos was setting in now as the other adults greeted and hugged the newcomers.

“Everybody, this is Van Fanel and Allen Shezar,” Annie said, pulling the two men into the middle of the fray. Allen firmly resisted the strong urge to bow formally, and Van forced a weak, nervous smile. The nervousness melted away quicker than ice cream on a hot summer's day under the warmth of the family's welcome. Van found himself being patted on the back, the men shook his hand vigorously, and he got an occasional pinch on the cheek from the elderly ladies. Allen appeared to be getting the same treatment as the two men were absorbed into the large, loud, friendly family.

Besides the adults and the young children, there was also a small crowd of teenagers who hung back around the periphery, trying to look nonchalant and uninterested. Allen saw Annie pull out of the group and signal them to gather around her. He surreptitiously edged as close as he could to eavesdrop on her conversation. He wouldn't put it past her to be cooking up some prank to play, and if that was the case, he was going to be prepared. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her pull a small plant out of her pocket.

“Okay, here's the deal, guys,” she said to the gathered kids. “This year's mistletoe target is Hitomi and Van, got it?” The kids nodded eagerly, a mischievous glint lighting their eyes. Annie handed the plant over to the oldest boy.

“But you gotta play it smart and tricksie. She'll be watching for it, so keep moving it around. And have someone on mistletoe watch all the time so we don't miss it, okay? Dirty tricks to get them under it gain extra points. Oh, and if you catch them, make sure you make them really kiss. None of this peck on the cheek stuff. I'm talking full-out kissing, yeah?”

The kids all nodded, grinning wickedly. Annie smirked back.

“Alright, you know the drill. Make me proud, guys!” she finished, smacking a few of them on the back. The kids scattered, and Annie sauntered up to Allen.

“I didn't think eavesdropping was considered acceptable for a gentleman. Especially not one as proper as you, Allen,” she said mockingly.

“Ah, but it's acceptable for a gentleman to employ some...questionable practices in order to protect someone's honor,” Allen answered lightly. “And I was correct in assuming you were plotting something. Perhaps I should warn Hitomi of this mistletoe plan of yours.”

“If you do, I will shave you bald,” Annie said in a deadly serious voice. Allen passed a nervous hand over his prized hair.

“What is mistletoe, anyway?”

“It's just an old Christmas tradition. You hang it from a doorway or something, and if two people stand under it, they have to kiss,” Annie said with a grin. “So, now that you know some mistletoe is going to be floating around, you should keep an eye out for it. I think some of my cousins would love to catch you under it!”

“Oh, really? I'm flattered,” Allen said laughingly, with a slightly self-satisfied smile on his face. Annie grimaced.

“Yeah, yeah. Think you can deflate that ego of yours enough to fit through the door and come meet my great-grandma?”

She dragged him behind her as she made her way through the crowd, collecting Van and Hitomi along the way. They entered a room with an enormous Christmas tree so covered in ornaments and lights the branches sagged. In a comfortable chair sat an incredibly small, old, and wrinkled lady holding a very young baby.

“Froeleke Weinescten!” she said in a surprisingly strong voice. Her twinkling eyes surveyed Van and Allen from behind her thick glasses, her broad smile an identical one to Annie's.

“Merry Christmas, Groszmama!” Hitomi and Annie chimed together as they hugged the small woman.

“Aw, look at little Willem! Can I hold him?” Annie gushed as she took the infant and snuggled him, totally forgetting about Van and Allen. Even Hitomi was momentarily distracted by the little bundle. Van shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably under the old woman's twinkling stare.

“So, you are Van Fanel and Allen Shezar,” she stated after letting them squirm for a few long minutes.

“Yes, ma'am,” Van answered, relieved. Allen once again beat down the urge to bow formally. He stood there awkwardly as his brain raced to think of a suitable way to greet someone who was obviously important if he couldn't bow. Damn! Why did things have to be so complicated here?

Hitomi and Annie finally looked up from the baby and noticed the exchange. Hitomi jumped back to stand at Van's side, and he gave her a grateful smile.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, Groszmama, that's Van and Allen,” Annie said nonchalantly, now making ridiculous faces at the staring newborn. Allen repressed a sigh. If their situations were ever reversed, and Annie came to Gaea, he would give her a few stern lessons in proper manners. Not that he really expected it would make any difference. The Groszmama didn't seem to mind her lack of etiquette.

“Ja, ja. It is good of you to spend Christmas with us, boys,” she said kindly.

“Not at all. Thank you for having us,” Allen replied politely, again repressing his bowing instincts. Apparently, he still sounded too formal, because Annie looked up from the bundle to pull a face at him. He narrowed his eyes at her.

“This is Van and Allen's first Christmas,” Hitomi said, blissfully unaware of the silent exchange between her two friends.

Groszmama nodded happily. “Then this is even better, ja? A big family Christmas for you to enjoy.”

“I haven't been part of a family celebration for a long time,” Van answered with a small smile. Hitomi took his hand and grinned happily at him.

“Ach! There you are!” Aunt Vera said as she charged into the room. “Sinde du hungrig? You missed lunch, but we saved some for you. Come eat, you all looked starved!”

Aunt Vera took Allen by the arm and shooed Van and Hitomi, still holding hands, out the door ahead of her. Groszmama watched them go with sharp, observing eyes.

“Sei ist ihn verliebt,” she said quietly. Annie smiled as she handed the small bundle back to her great-grandma.

“Yeah, she is,” she replied just as softly. “And the best part is, he loves her right back.”

Groszmama smiled and patted Annie on the arm, the same mischeivious twinkle in her eye as Annie got when teasing Allen. “You did bring the mistletoe, ja?”

“Oooh yeah. They'll be kissing by suppertime.”

In the kitchen, Van and Allen were experiencing full force of the Goettenberg hospitality for the first time. Friendly hands pushed them into chairs around the kitchen table and people swarmed around, loading an impossible amount of food onto their plates, all talking at once.

“Here, have some spetzel!--Oh, you'll love this salad!-- You must have some of Tante Olga's meatballs!”

Allen opened his mouth to protest as the mound grew to alarming proportions, and Hitomi leaned over to hiss urgently in his ear.

“Don't refuse anything! It'd be really rude!”

Allen shot her a surprised look and snapped his mouth shut. He and Van both eyed the pile of food on their plates with pained resignation.

“Don't be shy! Eat, eat!” Aunt Vera commanded, and the three picked up their forks and dug in. Annie bounced into the room to plop into a chair and start in on her own over-flowing plate. She, Allen noted with faint annoyance, didn't look at all perturbed by the daunting amount to be consumed. But then, she did seem to have a bottomless pit of a stomach. Maybe he could sneak some of his food onto her plate?...

Someone placed large, foaming glasses of clear, tan liquid next to their plates, and Van took a tentative sip from his glass. His face puckered in slight surprise at the somewhat bitter, strong taste and the fizz on his tongue. He could taste a faint tang of alcohol in the back of his throat. Allen sipped from his glass and nearly gagged. This stuff was a far cry from the sweet vino he preferred. Annie lifted her glass and saluted them.

“Beer. The German drink of choice. Just be glad they didn't start you out on the thick, dark stuff,” she grinned and took a large swig, apparently enjoying the strange flavor. Van took another sip and decided he might grow to like the taste of this drink. Allen merely looked at his glass and shuddered.

“I'm not a big fan of it myself,” Hitomi whispered to him sympathetically.

One of the elderly ladies paused to assess their plates. “Something wrong, Allen? You don't like the beer?” she asked kindly. Annie stopped eating to look at him half-mockingly and half-accusingly. Allen swallowed hard and quickly picked up his glass.

“Uh, no. No, it's very good. Thank you,” he said quickly. He took a hasty swing of his beer to reassure the woman and sneezed as the fizz went into his nose.

“Gesundheit!” chorused about ten people.

“Uh...” Allen looked uncertainly around the room, wondering what had just happened.

“That means “bless you”,” Annie said, a pronounced twinkle lighting her eyes. Hitomi giggled behind the rim of her glass.

“Oh. Thank you very much,” Allen said, still confused. “Why did they bless me?” he whispered to Annie and Hitomi as the noise level in the kitchen cranked back up to deafening.

“Because you sneezed,” Annie said with a shrug, returning to her plate of food. Hitomi nodded, and Van and Allen exchanged yet another look of confusion.

A group of the older kids and young adults surged into the room then, calling for the four at the table to come outside for some “snow football”. They were hauled unceremoniously from their seats, Van and Annie taking a last big swig of their beers as they were pulled to the door. Several people were digging through a closet as others yanked on layers of outdoor clothing.

“Here, put these snow pants on,” Annie commanded as she thrust an armload of the strange clothes at Allen. He looked them over dubiously as Hitomi grabbed another pair and handed them to Van.

“What are we doing?” Van asked Hitomi as he struggled to pull the thick pants over his baggy jeans. A few of Annie's girl relatives, who looked to be only a few years younger than himself, watched him, giggling and whispering to each other. Van felt his ears turn slightly red. He wasn't used to having girls look at him the way they normally looked at Allen.

Hitomi nearly toppled into Van as she hopped on one foot, trying to get her other foot through the pant leg. He caught her and held her steady while she pushed her foot through the opening.

“Thanks,” she said, panting a little and brushing the hair out of her face. Van heard the giggling intensify and dropped his hands from her arms.

“So, uh-- why are we getting dressed like this?” he asked again, flustered.

“Oh! We're going out to play snow football. You'll like it! We play tackle football because the snow's deep enough and we're all wearing enough layers, so nobody gets hurt too badly. Usually.”

Van and Allen exchanged worried looks. The crowd was a mix of men, women, and children. And several of the men looked frighteningly hefty.

“But you split up the men and the women and children, right?” Allen asked.

“Uh, no. We all play on two teams,” Annie snorted. Just for that, she handed him the most ridiculous, bright orange tasseled hat in the closet. Frowning, he crammed it down over his thick blond hair.

“I hardly think that's safe.”

“Well, like Tomi said, usually nobody gets seriously hurt,” Annie retorted. Allen raised an eyebrow at the word 'usually', and Annie shrugged. “Two years ago, Karl broke his arm. Well, technically, I broke it, but whatever.”

Allen's mouth dropped open, but before he or Van could reply, they were swept outside by the crowd. Annie and Hitomi whispered hurried rules and instructions on how to play as the group divided into teams. Van and Annie were placed on one side, and Allen and Hitomi joined the other team.

“Maybe Van and I should just watch for a while to learn the rules,” Allen said as the four split up.

“Sei nicht so langweilig!” Annie shouted at him as she pulled Van over to their team huddle. Allen blinked at her retreating form, confused, but pretty sure he should be insulted.

“She said 'don't be so boring', Allen,” Hitomi said with a big smirk. Allen scowled as he joined his team. He was going to beat her at this crazy Mystic Moon sport. And then he was going to rub it in like lemon on a paper cut!

The teams lined up, and the ball was snapped into play. Van wasn't exactly clear on the rules, but he'd gotten the gist that his team was supposed to tackle the person holding the oddly shaped ball. Right now, all he could really make out was people running and tackling each other all over the yard. Suddenly, one of the larger, older men came charging through the line, holding the ball. Van kicked into gear and automatically lunged towards him, knocking him flat. His eyes widened when he realized what he'd done; he jumped up and nervously extended a hand to the man he'd just tackled.

“Hey, great tackle, Van,” he said, taking Van's hand to pull himself up. Van's teammates slapped him on the back, cheering. Hitomi grinned and gave him a thumbs up, and he swelled with pride.

“You sure you've never played this before?” Annie asked him as the teams lined up again. Van just grinned and shook his head, and the ball went into play again.

This time, Allen was thrown the ball. For a split second, he stood there uncertainly, not even sure which way to run, and that spit second was enough. Annie, bent low and charging like a bull, slammed into his midsection. He found himself almost buried in the snow, gasping desperately for the breath she had so ruthlessly knocked out of him. Annie's face wavered into view through the stars swirling around his eyes.

“Hey, Allen, you're supposed to try NOT to be tackled, not just stand there like a tomato-brain,” she said laughingly. Allen groaned as she pulled him back to his feet. He wasn't liking this game so far.

The ball passed from team to team as the game raged on and on. Van enjoyed himself immensely, due in large part to the fact that he and Hitomi seemed to be playing opposite each other. Which gave him lots of perfectly innocent chances to grab and tackle her.

“Eep!” she shrieked, trying to dodge past him with the ball. His trained reflexes were too quick for her, even hampered as he was with the snow and bulky clothing. His arms snaked around her midsection as he yanked her down with him into the snow, laughing. She laughed, too, as he helped pull her up yet again and brushed the snow off the back of her coat.

The sun was going down, and both teams agreed to call it quits before the Aunts came out and yelled at them. Van stifled disappointment as he followed Hitomi back inside. Allen looked thoroughly relieved to be finished. Annie had made it her mission to tackle him ruthlessly whenever she could find the opportunity.

“It was a really good game,” she said now as they peeled off their sopping layers. “Only a bloody lip and a sprained finger!”

“And a few bruised ribs. Our Annie is pretty rough,” one of the men laughed, giving Allen a friendly slap on the back. Allen tried to hide a wince.

“Alright, everyone! Come and eat! The kids are dying to get to the presents!!” Someone hollered from the kitchen area, and everyone obediently trooped towards the table.

“More food?” Van asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. It's what we do. Eat, eat, drink beer, eat,” Annie said happily.

“It's amazing how much food they can eat,” Hitomi said fervently. “I'd never have believed it before I saw it.”

The family had all gathered in the kitchen and dining room, overflowing the two large tables onto several other smaller ones set up for the kids. Van watched the family laughing and joking good-naturedly together, realizing for the first time what he'd missed growing up without his family. The feeling was so warm and comfortable and...and loving. He could hardly remember ever being wrapped in a feeling like that. Perhaps, long ago, before his father had died...His thoughts must've shown on his face, because Hitomi crept close to his side and took his hand with a gentle squeeze. He looked down at her with a tender smile.

“Hey, Tomi, could you and Van stand here for a minute? I want to get a picture of the two of you,” one of the teenage girls asked. Shrugging, Hitomi and Van went to stand where she gestured, missing the jubuliantly triumphant look on Annie's face and the dawning horror on Allen's.

“Right here?” Hitomi asked as she and Van stood side by side under the doorframe.

“Oh yeah, that's perfect,” the young girl said with a shark smile not unlike Annie's. “By the way, Tomi, what's that above you?”

“Huh?...Oh my God!” Hitomi cried, her face instantly flaming a bright, scarlet red. Van looked up to see a small piece of a plant taped to the doorway above them.

“What's wrong, Hitomi?” he asked with a frown, confused and concerned by her reaction to the seemingly inoxious plant. Hitomi didn't even seem capable of answering him, she was blushing so furiously.

“It's mistletoe,” she finally choked out. The whole family's attention was riveted on them now, and Van started to blush as well, even though he had no idea what significance the mistletoe had.

“You've got to kiss her, Van. It's tradition!” Annie called out cheerfully above the laughter and catcalls of the rest of the family. Van nearly fell over in pure shock. Kiss her? In front of the whole family? Dear gods. Hitomi's face had now turned a brilliant magenta, and Van knew his color matched hers. Allen bit his lip and tasted the coppery taste of his own blood. Damn that little weed!

“And no little peck, either, guys,” the girl who had tricked them commanded. “It only counts if it's a real kiss!”

“Well, who determines that?” Hitomi gasped, unable to even look Van in the face. Lord, this was the most embarrassing moment of her life. She was going to KILL Annie. In the slowest, most horrific way possible.

“WE DO,” shouted the family. “So do it right, or we'll keep making you kiss until you get it right,” Annie finished, her shark grin spread from ear to ear. Hitomi revised her plan to include reviving her and killing her slowly twice. She licked her lips nervously and noticed Van doing the same.

“Okay, let's just get this over with,” she muttered, and he gave a barely perceptible nod. After another moment's hesitation, he leaned down and she leaned up.

They bumped noses awkwardly as they both tilted their heads the same direction. Resisting the urge to laugh, Hitomi quickly adjusted and their lips met for the first time. His lips were warm and firm under her own, and Hitomi felt herself melting into him as the cheers from her American family faded into a buzz. His hands came up to the small of her back to hold her to him, warm and strong.

Time stopped for Van as Hitomi's soft lips pressed against his own, and it didn't matter any longer that people were watching them. Her mouth opened gently under his own, and his tongue softly traced hers. She tasted like mint and heaven.

“Okay, okay, good enough! We won't make you do it again!” laughed Annie over the loud cheers and catcalls, and Hitomi and Van broke away, magenta blushes still in place. The family dropped into their chairs, and Hitomi found herself between Groszmama and Van. Across the table, Allen gave her his usual friendly smile, although his face looked pale. Hitomi worried that Annie might have really hurt him playing football. She'd have to remember to ask him sometime when Annie wasn't around. Right now, Annie sat next to the blond knight, beaming broader than a rainbow at both Hitomi and Van. Hitomi shot her a malevolent glare of death. Okay, so it had been awesome, and she'd finally gotten to kiss Van, but that wasn't exactly how she'd planned it. So, maybe she wouldn't kill Annie, but she was definitely going to get her back. Somehow.

Van felt almost numb with happiness. He could still taste her, feel her. There would be a next time, he would make sure of that. And it would be a lot more private, too. He caught Annie's eye from across the table, and she winked happily at him. He grinned back with a sneaky suspicion that Annie had something to do with the mistletoe. He was definitely going to have to remember to thank her.
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » July 24th, 2008, 3:35 am

Things keep getting weirder, poor Allen. Chapter 10.

Presents and Princesses

AN: And this chappie is a bit heavier on the Allen-side, major apologies about that to any Allen haters (although you might like the end ). Just another example that stories take on a life of their own and authors don't always control what happens!

Allen decided that Annie had inherited her sadistic love of teasing from her Groszmama as he watched the old lady deliberately drag out supper to the last possible minute. The kids were crazy with impatience to open their presents, and even the adults were looking longingly towards the tree by the time she finally set down her coffee cup. Allen saw the diabolical twinkle, so like Annie's, in the Groszmama's eyes as the family stampeded towards the presents. Somehow, he found himself giving the old woman his arm as a walking support as she made her slow way to her chair by the tree.

“It is good to make them wait, you see,” she explained as if she could read Allen's thoughts. “It makes them so much more excited, ja?”

Allen nodded, surveying the chaotic scene he needed to navigate in order to reach the old lady's chair. Paper was flying through the air, people were tossing boxes at each other, and there was constant movement as people jumped over, crawled under, or dodged around things to thank someone for a gift. It was slow going to get to the Groszmama's chair through the mess.

“Allen, come over here and open your presents!” Annie called above the hubbub when she spied him and Groszmama across the room. Allen stared at her in surprise. Presents? He wasn't expecting any presents. But sure enough, there was a small pile next to Annie's much larger one. Van was already opening his as Allen helped Groszmama into her chair. She patted his arm with her old, wrinkled hand.

“Ach, you are a good boy,” she said with a smile. “It is so good you and Van are here for this. It is our first Christmas without my Ida- Annie's groszmama. It is a hard time for her.”

Allen scrutinized Annie from across the room. Her face looked the same as always: full of laughter and mischief as she said something that made Hitomi and Van simultaneously turn a brilliant pink. If she was hurting, she was hiding it well.

“It's an honor to be here,” he stated, still watching Annie, Hitomi, and Van. “Though I believe Annie would be fine whether or not Van and I were here.”

“Ja. Our Annie is strong, but she is hurting. I can tell,” Groszmama said slowly. She patted Allen's arm again. “You hurt, too, I think. Maybe this visit will help you.”

Allen swallowed convulsively, watching Hitomi lean her shoulder into Van's to show him one of her gifts. This trip was causing the hurt, not helping it.

“Hey, stop gawking and get your butt over here!” Annie demanded, hands on her hips. Mentally shaking himself and forcing a friendly, pleasant mask onto his face, Allen picked his way through the chaos over to her. She was bouncing up and down like she had from the expresso, and Allen resisted the urge to clamp his hands down on top of her head to hold her still.

“Here, open this one. It's from me!” she exclaimed, thrusting a brightly wrapped package into his hands. Curious, but definitely cautious about what Annie might have thought was an appropriate gift for him, he slowly peeled back the wrapper to reveal an innocent looking box. Perhaps it wasn't a joke? He pulled open the lid.

“GAAA!” he shouted as a long tube shot out of the box and hit him squarely on the nose. He closed his watering eyes and scolwed fiercely as Annie doubled over laughing. Even Van and Hitomi joined in after a moment of stunned silence.

“I'm glad you found that so amusing. Are you finished yet?” Allen asked, irritation coloring the edge of his voice.

“Allen, lighten up!” Annie demanded, managing to look annoyed and yet keep giggling. “It's called a gag gift. It's supposed to be funny!”

“Funny for who?” Allen demanded. Annie rolled her eyes and shoved another present at him before diving back into her own pile. Allen almost found her childlike excitement cute. Almost. If his nose hadn't still been smarting.

“Here, Van, this one's from me,” Hitomi said, handing Van a small, wrapped present. She looked as awkward as he felt as he accepted it from her. “It's nothing special,” she continued, watching as he removed the paper. God, she hoped he liked it. She'd been so stumped about what to get him. Honestly, what do you get a king from another world?

Van peeled off the last bit of wrapping and stared. Inside a simple, silver frame was the picture of the two of them, the one Hitomi had taken in her room on the day he had arrived. The two of them, together... Hitomi stirred uncomfortably at his side.

“If you don't like it--” she began. Van shook his head quickly to cut her off, still looking at the picture.

“No. No, I like it. Really,” he said quietly. He looked into her crystal green eyes. “Thank you, Hitomi.”

Relief and something else, something he couldn't quite define, flooded her face. She grinned and dipped her head, a pink blush spread across her cheeks. She opened her mouth to reply, but let out a tiny squeak instead as Annie glomped her.

“TOMI! Thanks! You're the best!” the brown-haired girl cried. She looked at the frame in Van's hands as Hitomi started to turn purple from the head-lock “hug”.

“Oh, is that what you gave Van? That's a cute picture.”

“” Hitomi wheezed.

Annie grinned, not relinquishing her hold as she leaned over to Van. “Did you open my present yet, Van?”

He eyed her, wondering if he should pry her off Hitomi or stay out of it. “Not yet,” he answered warily. “Should I point it away from me when I do?”

“Ah, I should've known that joke wouldn't work more than once,” she pouted, letting go of Hitomi. She leaned over and whispered: “Point it at Allen!”

“I heard that,” Allen said, looking as if he was barely resisting the temptation to rub his temples with exasperation. Annie gave Van an exaggerated wink.

“Do it when he's not looking,” she said in a loud whisper, then turned around to face Allen with an unconvincingly innocent face. Van laughed, Hitomi giggled, and Allen did something decidely un-Allen-like. He scooped up a balled-up wad of wrapping paper and chucked it at Annie. It hit her square on the forehead and dropped to the ground before she had a chance to react. Now she just stood there gaping at him as Hitomi and Van sat open-mouthed. Allen was too shocked to even apologize. He'd thrown something at a girl. Okay, so he hadn't thrown it hard enough to actually hurt her, but still-- what was this place doing to him? A slow smile pulled at the corners of Annie's mouth until she was grinning from ear to ear.

“Allen! You just threw something at a girl!” she exclaimed. “And I thought you were a Jello Knight!”

“Caeli Knight,” Allen ground out, any thoughts of apologizing rapidly dissolving.

“Who's ready for cookies and Egg Nog?” Aunt Vera called out as she and several others came into the room carrying heavily laden trays.

“Egg Nog!” the family cheered as the mugs started being passed through the crowd. Hitomi followed Annie through the chaos to one of the trays as Van carefully tucked his framed photo in a safe spot under his chair. He could see that Allen, as if to prove that his chivalrous manners were still intact, had already taken one of the heavy trays from an elderly aunt. Van moved to do the same when a small woman holding the fussing newborn Willem stopped him.

“Oh, Van, could you just hold him for a few minutes? Thanks,” she said as she handed Van the squalling infant. Before he could protest, the woman had already moved off through the crowd, and he stifled the urge to panic. He'd never held a baby before, especially not one as small as this. Catiously, afraid he might break him, Van shifted the fussing Willem into a more comfortable position. Willem waved angry fists in the air, his tiny face red and contorted with infant fury. Nervously, Van jiggled him a little.

“Hey...uhm...don't cry,” he said uncertainly. What did mothers do to calm babies down? They sang, he knew that much. But he wasn't about to start singing any half-forgotten lullabies in a crowded room. He jiggled him again, but that didn't seem to do anything. Wait! Didn't they pat them on the back or something? Van very carefully hoisted the squalling newborn onto his shoulder and tentatively patted his small back. A few moments later, he was rewarded by a loud burp, and Willem nuzzled down into his shoulder. Van gave a relieved sigh, then felt something warm and wet soaking through his shirt. He pulled the baby away slightly to see a white, gooey mess dripping down his shoulder.

“Thanks, kid,” he muttered, switching the newborn to his other shoulder. Willem just snuggled in tighter and went to sleep.

Across the room, Hitomi stared dreamily at something she never really believed she'd see: Van cuddling a baby. She sighed softly, a smile tugging at her mouth, her eggnog forgotten in her hands. It was so unbelievably adorable.

“There's nothing sweeter than seeing the guy you love holding a baby, is there?” a voice said at her shoulder. Hitomi wheeled around to see Willem's mother smiling at her. “Just wait until it's your baby. It's even cuter.”

“I'm not- I mean, we're-” Hitomi spluttered, turning five shades of red for the seventy-fifth time that day. Then she looked at Van again and lost her train of thought. “...He is really cute holding a baby, isn't he?”

“Oh, damn. Willem spit up on him!” the other woman cried, making Hitomi jump. Hitomi watched, amused, as she grabbed a napkin and headed over to start scrubbing at Van's shirt. An arm draped around her shoulders, and she tore her eyes away to look into Annie's smiling face.

“He's super cute like that,” she said. “And it's a good thing he got puked on. Practice for his own kids, you know?”

For a split second, Hitomi envisioned several mini-Vans running around and nearly melted at the sheer adorableness of it. Then she gave herself a stern metal shake and refocused on the present.

“I don't think he's having kids of his own any time soon, Annie.”

Annie tilted her head, contemplating. “Well, I bet he's been catching some pressure to get busy with that. Produce an heir for the throne and all.”

Hitomi froze, staring at Van as he attempted to soothe the once again fussy infant. Dear lord, why hadn't she ever thought about that? Why hadn't he ever mentioned it to her? His council had probably been badgering him about that very thing for a year or two now. Did that mean-- was this trip some sort of last fling with her? Was it just to say goodbye for real? Oh, God, he was probably already engaged to some princess or other that his council picked out for him! Oohhh, she hated that council!

Van turned to look at her and Hitomi forgot all about worrying about some fantasy princess. Van would have told her if something like that was happening. And his father got married when he was much older than Van was now, right? Hitomi smiled at him. Council be damned. Van wouldn't let them push him around.

“Omigod! Camera! Camera camera, where is it?” Annie suddenly squealed loudly. She thrust her glass of eggnog into Hitomi's hands and bolted out of the room. Confused, Hitomi looked around to see what had caused the commotion as Van came up beside her, still holding baby Willem. He was laughing under his breath as he pointed across the room.

Allen sat crosslegged on the floor with a pink plastic tea set spread out in front of him. Two small girls were putting ribbons and bows from the presents in his long, blond hair as another served him tea. He seemed to be playing along with their little game, even wrapping a bright purple feathery boa around his neck at their request. Hitomi giggled and snorted, doubling over from the effort of not laughing too loudly. She could see that Van's shoulders were shaking from silent laughter as he watched the gallant knight, one of Gaea's renowned swordsmen, playing dress-up with a few small girls.

Annie appeared beside Hitomi and started snapping pictures as best she could through the tears streaming down her face.

“Oh, I'm so glad he came with you, Van,” she gasped out, still laughing as she wiped the tears off her face. Van just shook his head, apparently unable to speak even when Annie snapped a picture of his laughing face. She handed her camera to Hitomi and took a few deep breaths.

“Here, hold this. I've got to go over there for a minute or two.”

Hitomi doubled over again with laughter as Annie made her way across the room to squat down at eye-level with Allen. He glared menacingly at her, daring her to laugh as he pretended to take a sip from his plastic teacup.

“Hey, Annie, wanna join our tea party? You could be a princess, too!” chirped one of the girls playing with Allen's hair.

“No, thanks, Gracie. I just came to see how Allen was enjoying his tea,” Annie replied, making an obvious effort not to giggle.

Gracie frowned as she pulled a silver ribbon around Allen's forehead like a crown. “He's Princess Alice now. Aren't you, Alice?”

“Princess Alice?!” Annie squeaked. She looked close to exploding from pent-up laughter.

“Don't say a word,” Allen hissed dangerously, leaning across the tea set at her.

“You know, I've got some makeup you could use in the side pocket of my bag,” Annie informed the girls cheerfully, a giant shark grin spread across her face. Allen's eyes got wider and he started stand, protesting, as Gracie took off running to find Annie's bag.

“Where're you going, Allen? Aren't you going to play with us anymore? Please?” the little girls begged him, pulling at his sleeves. Sighing, looking decidedly unhappy but apparently unable to refuse their pleading, Allen plopped resignedly back down. He gave Annie a defiant glare of death.

“Alright, girls. But just a tiny little bit of makeup, okay?” he said, earning cheers from his mini-fans. “And you-- stop giving them ideas!”

“I was just trying to be helpful, Princess Alice,” Annie replied sweetly. She stood up and patted him on the head. “It's so fun watching you get all prettied up. Right, girls?”

The little girls chorused a loud yes, covering up Allen's angry snarl, as Annie headed back over to Hitomi and Van. Allen gritted his teeth, forcing a fake-happy smile as Gracie bounded up to him with the twice-accursed makeup bag. He would get Annie back. Somehow, someway, he would make her pay.

“What the heck did you say to make Allen blush like that?” Hitomi demanded as Annie reached them, laughing so hard she was wheezing. It took her several minutes to regain her composure enough to reply.

“I didn't say anything to Princess Alice.”

“Princess Alice?!” Van and Hitomi snorted together, unable to stop the laughter from bubbling past their lips. Allen shot their group several very dirty looks as Gracie liberally applied purple eye shadow. Annie waved cheerfully at him and took a few more pictures. Luckily for Allen, the parents were all starting to glance at the clocks and round their kids up for bed.

“Hey, who's makeup is this? Gracie, you know better!” one of the moms scolded as she rescued Allen from a lipstick wielding Gracie.

“It's mine, Kel,” Annie called across the room. “I told them they could use it, so it's okay!”

Kel sighed and swatted Gracie lightly on the backside as she pointed her towards the stairs. “To bed with you. Sorry about this, Allen.”

“It's not a problem, really,” Allen assured her as he started to untangle his ribbon and bow bedecked hair.

“You wonderful boy,” one of the great-aunts said, pinching his cheeks and handing him a wet napkin to wipe his face with. Allen gratefully scrubbed his face, grimacing at the purple and red smears.

“What's so great about playing with the kids? I do it all the time!” Annie protested as she came up to Allen's side.

“Ach, you are always getting them in trouble, not playing!” the great aunt said as she trundled off. Annie frowned at her retreating back.

“I believe it,” Allen said with a wise nod. Annie smacked him in the arm.

“Oh, shut up, Alice.”

AN: Hey guys...let's not forget that mistletoe is still floating who's going to be the next victim? Find out next chapter!! Ja ne
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » July 25th, 2008, 3:52 am

OOooo. The title of this chapter sounds good........... Ten chapters and we're finally getting to the dirty stuff....... err mushy stuff. I Know Dinky has been away this week, getting her wings wet in the lake...... She might kill me when she gets back.
Oh, by the way, you should check out our member Yuki's web page, it's in her profile, she has some good stories too.

Backrubs and Kisses

AN: Hello, hello! Okay, to make up for the last Allen-centric chapter, this one's all about VxH, with some mushy-ness thrown in for good measure! Okay, once again, tiny bit of German translation: Frohliche Weihnachten: Merry Christmas Ihr boese kinder: You naughty kids Mach schnell: hurry up/ quickly. Once again, special thanks goes to Arienhod for the help with my poor German! Thanks!!

Sorry this chapter's so short. I'm hoping the next will be longer and have more interesting stuff happen. Don't give up on me yet! Okay, on with the mush!

Van drifted languidly between dreams and waking as whispered giggles tugged at his consciousness. Something little poked at his face and arms and tugged at his hair.

“Mmrph,” he groaned, trying to roll away from the unwanted pokes so he could slide back into dreamland. The giggles intensified, and something heavy settled on his abdomen. He cracked one eye slowly open.

“WAAAAAAKE UUUUUUUP!!” chorused a pack of kids, wailing like banshees. The two little ones sitting on Van's stomach added a few bounces for good measure, knocking the wind out of him. Hitomi sat bolt upright with a gasp on the couch above him, wide eyed and startled. Several kids latched onto her and pulled her off the couch. She landed awkwardly on top of Van and his two tormentors with an undignified squeak. Instantly, the kids jumped on the pile to pin her down and tickle her unmercifully. It was a confusing mass of hands and legs and blankets as Hitomi wriggled and laughingly tried to untangle herself. Van was pinned down at the bottom of the pile, unable to do anything but get his breath squished out of him and enjoy the moment.

“Enough, enough! Ihr boese kinder!” shouted Aunt Vera from the doorway, managing to sound fierce even though she was smiling. “Into the kitchen with you! Mach schnell!”

Obediently, the kids untangled themselves and sped out of the room. Hitomi rolled off of Van to lay next to his side, gasping for breath, while Van inhaled deeply to expand his squashed ribs. He glanced around to see Annie and Allen's empty sleeping bags. Apparently, you had to get up early in this family to avoid being attacked.

“Frohliche Weihnachten. Now, go and see your stockings, then come for breakfast,” Aunt Vera commanded them as she sailed out of the room after the children.

“Stockings?” Van asked, turning his head to look questioningly at Hitomi. She rolled onto her side, propping her head on her hand to gaze down at him. He was so beautiful; she longed to brush the hair out of his eyes.

“Yeah, our Christmas Stockings. Didn't you notice them yesterday hanging on the wall?”

Van swallowed, mesmerized by the way she looked at him. Had he noticed socks hanging on a wall? He couldn't remember. He gave a noncommittal shrug, noticing the way the early morning sunlight turned her eyes a goldish green like new spring leaves.

“Oh. Well, traditionally, you hang up your stocking on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning, it's filled with candy and little presents,” she said softly. Her words barely registered in Van's consciousness. His mind was absorbed with thoughts of her lips, her skin, the way it had felt to kiss her. He shifted slightly, his hands itching to reach up and pull her down to him.

Hitomi's tongued darted out to moisten her suddenly dry lips. Lord, she wanted to kiss him so badly. With a jerk, she realized she'd been unconsciously leaning closer to him, and she sat abruptly upright. Her cheeks burned as she ran nervous fingers through her hair. Good grief, he was going to think she was some crazy, hormone-driven groupie.

Van blinked at her suddenly stiff back as she sat up and faced away from him. What had happened? What had he done wrong? Sighing, Van pushed himself into a sitting position next to her, annoyed with himself. He should have reacted faster, made his move, as Annie would say. He was never going to get anywhere with Hitomi if he didn't stop acting like a nervous, insecure teenager.

The muscles in his neck and shoulders protested as he experimentally twisted his head. Hitomi turned around just in time to catch him wincing slightly as he attempted to stretch the knots out of his neck.

“Are you okay?” she asked, watching him with concern.

“Yeah. Just a little stiff from sleeping on the floor,” Van replied, attempting to massage his sore muscles. He dropped his hands in surprise as Hitomi turned him and began rubbing his shoulders.

“I told you to take the couch,” she said cheerfully, her hands skillfully working out all the tight knots. Van could feel himself relaxing, enjoying the feel of her fingers on his muscles. Hitomi worked in silence for several minutes, grateful that Van was wearing a shirt. She was having a tough time keeping the drool in check and her hands on task as it was. If she'd been touching bare skin...

“Does that feel better?” she asked, still massaging his shoulder muscles. God, they felt so nice!

Van nodded, wishing he'd taken off his shirt for sleeping. “Where'd you learn to do that?”

“I used to give Annie's grandma shoulder rubs all the time. She said no one did it better, except maybe Annie,” Hitomi said softly, a gentle, sad, smile on her face as she remembered the old woman.

“You miss her as much as Annie, don't you?”

Hitomi massaged a particularly tight knot and contemplated Van's quiet question. “I miss her a lot. She was like family, like my own grandma. But I don't think anyone misses her like Annie does. She was the only mother Annie ever knew, you know? It broke her heart to lose her.”

“Then it is a good thing that she has you,” Van said quietly. Hitomi's hands became gentler as she gave a low laugh.

“I haven't done much. Goettenbergs don't cry. Especially not around other people,” she replied. All the knots were gone from Van's muscles, but she couldn't bring herself to stop touching him. Not yet.

“Hey, guys, what the hell's taking you so long?” Annie demanded as she leaned around the doorway.

“We're coming, we're coming,” Hitomi sighed, her hands still on Van's shoulders.

“Okay, then!” Annie said, withdrawing her head behind the doorway. A moment later, she reappeared with a humongous smirk.

“You know, ninety-five percent of all backrubs end up in sex,” she chirped. Hitomi flamed red and whipped her hands away from Van's shoulders. Judging by the brilliant scarlet of his ears, Van was blushing as furiously as she was. Annie winked at them both and disappeared around the door again. The silence in the room was deafening. Van shifted uncomfortably, and Hitomi fidgeted, clearing her throat.

“So, stockings?” she asked, unable to look at him.

“Stockings,” he agreed. The both clambered quickly to their feet, Hitomi leading the way out of the room. Good lord, she was going to hurt that girl!

They were greeted by a chorus of Merry Christmas's as they joined the family by the Christmas tree. Hitomi pulled their stockings off the wall, handed Van his, and dug in to hers with childish glee. Annie and Allen made their way over to them through the throng of people. Van gave a low chuckle as he imagined what the knight's face would have looked like if he'd heard Annie's comment about backrubs.

“So, you guys like my wake up call?” Annie asked cheerfully as she thumped Hitomi on the arm. Hitomi rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, it was great. You got up early on purpose just to do that, didn't you?”

Annie nodded gleefully. “You bet! Only I didn't get up early enough to catch Princess Alice. I found him schmoozing the Aunts in the kitchen at the crack of dawn.”

“I asked you to stop calling me that,” Allen gritted out. “And I wasn't schmoozing.”

Van glanced between Annie and Allen, his brow furrowed. “Schmoozing? What's that?”

Annie made a face. “You know, sucking up, flattery, being sugar-sweet to make people like you. What Allen keeps doing to my family.”

“I'm not doing anything,” Allen said, exasperated. Annie grabbed his stocking out of his hand with a dark glare.

“Whatever. Just go get some breakfast while I put these away,” she snorted, walking off. Van, seeing Hitomi was preparing to be nice to Allen yet again, followed the brown-haired girl back to the room they'd slept in. Annie harrumphed a little to herself as she stowed their goodies away, but was all smiles when she caught up with Van in the doorway.

“So, having a nice morning so far?” she asked, her voice heavy with innuendo. Van willed his face to stay blush-free. He was a grown man, not a self-conscious teenager.

“Not too bad,” he replied cautiously. “And you?”

“Hm. Besides Princess Alice making my family love him, I'd have to say pretty good. Oh, and Van...” she suddenly snaked an arm around his neck, effectively putting him into a tight headlock. Van blinked, shocked, as she planted a kiss on his cheek. She released him with a grin and he stared at her, surprised and confused.

“Mistletoe,” Annie smirked, pointing a finger above them.

“Oh,” Van said, looking up at the innocent piece of plant.

“And your morning's about to go from 'not too bad' to 'awesome' in about thirty seconds,” Annie continued, looking down the hallway. Hitomi was coming towards them, her stocking in her hand. Van swallowed, about to say something, but Annie had already moved out of the doorway into the hallway.

“Hey, guys. Breakfast is starting, so we're all supposed to get to the kitchen,” Hitomi said as she reached them. She paused in the doorway to smile at Van, oblivious to the plant above her.

“Oooh, look, Hitomi. More mistletoe!” Annie crooned. She grinned at Hitomi's dumbfounded face and disappeared down the hall, leaving the two standing awkwardly under the mistletoe. Alone. Hitomi licked her lips nervously.

“Ah. Well. No one's here to see, so...” she paused. “I mean, no one will know if we don't, you know...”

Van gathered his courage and moved forward, closing the distance between them to look down at her. “It is tradition,” he said huskily.

“Yeah. Tradition,” Hitomi echoed breathlessly as Van's hands slid around the small of her back. Her own hands came up to rest on his chest and he tightened his grip to press her gently against him. Her green eyes fluttered closed as he bent his head to find her lips.

She was melting. It was the only way she could describe how she was feeling. Her bones dissolved into liquid, leaving her no choice but to wrap her arms around Van's shoulders for support. Rational thought flew away in every direction as her insides turned into some form of quivering jelly. Did he have any clue what he was doing to her? And where the hell did he learn to kiss like that?

Van didn't even bother trying to think. Too much blood had been diverted from his brain to other important areas of his anatomy for logical thought. By the gods, why hadn't he done this days ago?

A reverberating shout of “Hey! Lovebirds!” echoing from the kitchen jerked them unpleasantly back to reality. Hitomi giggled, burying her face in Van's shoulder. She could feel him chuckling softly under her hands, his own arms still wound tightly around her. She pulled away enough to look at his face.

“So, breakfast?” she asked with an ear to ear grin.

“Breakfast,” he agreed.
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Zeratul2k » July 25th, 2008, 4:51 am

All I will say from what I've read so far is: "i sympathize with that Allen guy" ...
So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph... because good is DUMB!

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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » July 28th, 2008, 2:45 am

Ya, poor Allan..... but if you saw the anime, you might understand why Dinky is giving him a bad time. Oh, Dinky's back, and wonders if anyone is reading any of this. I thought this was a short story..... it's a novel. on with 12. And I don't agree with Dinky, this one is pretty good.

Phone Calls and Sledding

AN: I apologize in advance for this chapter. It is DEFINITELY not my best, and I just can't get it to come out right. And once again, a chapter more heavy on Allen than Van and Hitomi. Darn it. Don't know where that's coming from, but please bear with me. Don't give up after this chapter. I think the next ones will turn out better. For some reason, this stuck in bad land. Criticism and flames are expected and welcome.

Breakfast finished, Hitomi floated down the hallway to change out of her pajamas. Annie followed after her, watching her dreamy face with a happy grin. She shut the door quietly and turned to look questioningly at Hitomi.

“So, how was it?” she asked after a moment. Hitomi stopped digging through her bag to rock back on her heels. Pink crept up into her cheeks as she glanced over at Annie.

“How was what?” she asked innocently.

Annie rolled her eyes dramatically. “Ugh! Don't be stupid. Is Van a good kisser or what?”

“Uh, he's, uh...” Hitomi stuttered, her face scarlet now. “YES, alright?! He's an awesome kisser.”

“Yay! I knew it! Thank God for mistletoe! I told you Christmas would be a good time to bring him to Earth! So, how soon before you're making out like horny teenagers?”

Hitomi smacked her on the arm. “It was just one kiss! We're not about to hop into bed together!”

“Pity, that,” Annie stated, pulling on her jeans. Hitomi pulled a face, not about to divulge just how badly the hormone-driven part of her wanted to jump into said bed.

“What I want to know is where he learned to kiss like that,” Hitomi said quietly as she picked out a sweater to wear. “I mean, Lord, Annie, it was perfect.”

“Maybe he practiced on the maids,” Annie joked. Hitomi looked horror-stricken, and Annie snorted. “Oh, come on, Hitomi. I hardly think he's the Don Juan type. Jeez, the man could barely work up the nerve to kiss you, let alone seduce anyone else.”

“But he was really good,” Hitomi said, chewing her bottom lip nervously. “What if he thinks I was really bad at it?”

“Oh, for God's sake, Hitomi! That's not even possible,” Annie retorted. “Look, take it from someone who's kissed a lot more guys than you: Van hasn't been practicing, unless it's been with his pillow, and there's no way he could think you're a sucky kisser. Okay, so I'll admit a little skill helps to make great lip-action, but the biggest determining factor is how you feel about the guy. And seeing how much you love him, and how hopelessly crazy he is for you, you guys probably had the most bone-melting first kiss ever.”

“It wasn't my first kiss,” Hitomi mumbled. “Wait, you think he's really crazy for me?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, that awful little peck Allen gave you does NOT count. 'A peach is a peach' and all that. And yes. He's obviously totally in love with you.”

Annie swung open the door and marched out of the room, yanking her long hair into her customary messy ponytail as she went. Hitomi watched her go with a growing smile and a warm feeling spreading through her bones. Annie thought Van loved her! The distant sound of a phone ringing and ten people shouting “I got it!” jerked her back to reality, and she wandered out of the room and down the hallway.

“Hitomi, Hitomi, it's for you!” shrieked two little kids as they barreled up to her and grabbed her hands. Aunt Vera charged into the hall and smiled cheerfully at her.

“Schnell, schnell! It is your parents!”

Smiling, Hitomi ran to the nearest phone. She could hear Annie trying out her marginal Japanese on her family. Only, she was saying something about a boy in a bathroom wearing a skirt, which, unless she was joking about Allen, was probably not what she intended. Hitomi could hear her family's laughter ringing out through the phone.

“Wow. I think I totally mangled that,” Annie said in English, laughing herself.

“Totally. You need more practice,” Hitomi agreed. Annie grinned at her and waved her over to take the phone.

“Okay, well, Groszmama says to say Merry Christmas from us all, and we hope you come out to see us again soon. And I'll play you on Mario Kart this week, ne, Mamoru-kun? Ja ne!” Annie chirped as she handed the phone to Hitomi. “I'll go find Van, okay?” she mouthed before she sped off.

“So, how are things at the Goettenbergs this year?” her mother asked casually after Hitomi greeted her family. “We're so sorry we couldn't come out to spend it with you.”

“Oh, that's okay, Mom. Everything here's about the same as normal, except we're all missing Grandma Ida,” Hitomi returned, switching easily to her native Japanese. She plugged her ear firmly with her finger to block out the usual early morning chaos.

“If we could have made it there, we would have,” her father said gently. Hitomi made a sound of understanding agreement.

“Especially to meet Van,” her mother added, and Hitomi choked slightly. “By the way, how are things going with him there?”

“Oh, um, alright,” Hitomi replied lamely, her brain instantly flashing back to the mistletoe moments. “I mean, really good. I think he's having a good time.”

“Oh?” her mother questioned. Hitomi didn't add anything, and she went on. “And how is Allen liking things?”

“Well...I don't know if he's having as much fun as Van. Annie's, um, being Annie.”

Her brother laughed. “Yeah, she said she was having a lot of fun this year. Man, I wish we could be there to see it!”

“Tell us about what's been happening!” her mother demanded, and Hitomi dutifully gave a detailed account. Soon, she had her family in hysterics over Van and Allen's reactions to mundane Earth things like automatic doors and Annie's driving. Hitomi actually thought her brother was going to pass out from laughter when she told them about Allen playing tea party with the little girls.

“Send me pictures. Please, send me pictures!” Mamaru begged, gasping for air. Hitomi giggled, promising to send an email as soon as they got back home.

“Can we talk to Van, Hitomi-chan?” her mother asked, and Hitomi's giggling abruptly stopped.

“Uh, yeah, sure, Mom. Actually, Annie ran off to find him. But he's never used a phone before,” Hitomi answered.

“He's never eaten ice-cream before, either,” her father reminded her.

Hitomi grimaced and choked on her reply as she saw Annie leading a confused looking Van towards her. What would her family say to him? And what would he say back??

“Relax, they're not going to bite you,” Annie was muttering quietly to Van. “All you do is hold the phone like that and say hello. And just SAY it, don't shout it, okay? They can hear you.”

“Uh, here's Van,” Hitomi said in a rush, handing the reciever over to Van. He looked at it dubiously before looking up at Hitomi. She nodded in as reassuring a manner as she could manage, considering her own anxiety, and he pressed the strange device to his ear.

“...hello?” he asked in a small voice. Hitomi chewed her nails nervously as she studied Van's face for any clue to what her family was saying.

Van listened in amazement to the voices ringing clearly through the phone pressed to his ear. He could hardly wrap his brain around the fact that he was talking to people who were somewhere thousands of miles away. Good Gods, he was talking to her parents. Hitomi's mother sounded so much like Hitomi, and her brother and even her father sounded friendly and excited to talk to him. Van couldn't help but to breathe a deep sigh of relief, even though he wondered what Hitomi looked so nervous about.

“I'm so glad we've finally got to speak to you,” Hitomi's mother was saying. “We were all so disappointed that we couldn't get out to the States to meet you while you're here. Are you and Hitomi having a good time?”

Van flushed a little guiltily at the thought of what he and Hitomi had been doing not so very long ago. “Ye-yeah. The Mystic Moon is a very interesting place.”

He answered a few more friendly questions from Hitomi's parents, and a few excited questions about guymelefs from her brother, thankful they seemed to like him. Finally, he handed the phone back to Hitomi, who seemed to have chewed her nails down to the roots, and listened while she said a protracted good-bye. As soon as she hung up, Annie thumped him hard on the arm.

“What did you guys look so nervous about? Did you think they were going to interrogate you? Must've been one hell of a good time under the mistletoe this morning!” Annie laughed to see them both flame red. “Good God, you two are way to easy to embarrass!”

“Shouldn't you be torturing Allen or something?” Van muttered.

“I'm pacing myself. Can't have too much of a good thing at one time, you know,” Annie replied seriously, staring dreamily off into space. Van eyed her, vaguely disturbed and amused at the level of enjoyment she got from teasing the knight. She suddenly seemed to jerk herself back to the present. “Anyway, Van- have you ever been sledding before?”

“I-no. I can't say that I have.”

“Well, then. Get suited up. We're going to teach you how to sled. Goettenberg style.”

Hitomi gave him a smile that was frighteningly close to Annie's shark grin. “The key is to wear padding. Lots of padding.”

Annie laughed and pushed them both towards the doorway. “Alrighty then! A bunch of the family's already sledding, so I'll go find the Blond Freak and meet you out there!”

Hitomi grabbed Van's hand and pulled him after her to get their outdoor clothes on while Annie skipped through the house in search of Allen. He wasn't in the kitchen schmoozing the aunts, and he wasn't with the little girls playing dress-up. Annie was beginning to get annoyed when she poked her head around a doorway and stopped abruptly. There, sitting next to Groszmama on the couch, was Allen, surrounded by photo albums.

“Ja, see? She was so tiny, she could fit in one hand. Our little Annie was born so early, the doctors said she could not live. But she did, I think, just to prove them wrong,” Groszmama told him.

“That doesn't surprise me,” Allen replied dryly. He jumped, nearly dropping the photo album on his lap at Annie's screech from the doorway.

“Groszmama! Are you showing him my baby pictures?!”

Groszmama seemed completely unfazed by the outburst. She gave Annie a complacent smile. “He enjoyed them. Ja, Allen?”

“Oh yes. I especially loved your school pictures. Your hair was so...interesting,” Allen said with a giant smirk. Annie scowled darkly at him as she hastily snatched the albums away from him and Groszmama.

“Everybody's awkward at that age. And I'll have you know, that hair was very in at the time!”

“Of course,” Allen said, his smirk growing even larger. Annie narrowed her eyes dangerously.

“Well, so sorry to break up the fun, but we're going sledding now,” she snapped, shoving the albums unceremoniously as high up on a shelf as she could reach. Allen decided not to point out how low that actually was and how easily he could still get at them. He stood up and took the Groszmama's fragile, old hand.

“Thank you so much for showing me all of that,” he said with a kind smile. Groszmama's eyes twinkled at him and she patted his cheek.

“Ach, you good boy. You go and have fun now,” she replied, squeezing his hand with her weak strength before releasing it. “And Annie, you be nice to him.”

Annie blinked. “I'm always nice, Groszmama! Schnell, Allen! Let's go!”

Allen submitted to being ruthlessly dragged along in Annie's wake as she plowed through the house. He could tell that she was bothered by the fact that he'd seen all those pictures of her, and he savored the moment.

“Did you really wear your hair like that on purpose?” he couldn't resist asking. Annie stopped short and turned to give him a ferocious glare.

“I wouldn't be the one to talk, Mr. Poofy-sleeves. And what about your hair?”

Allen frowned, running a hand through his long, blond ponytail. “What about it?” he demanded.

“That three-inch lift in the front. How do you even get it to do that?” Annie asked, tugging at a chunk of his bangs. Allen swatted her hand away as a younger boy walked up to them.

“Hey, Annie, Allen, can you guys come down to the basement for a minute? We want to show you something,” he said, looking at them imploringly.

“Sure, Mike. What's up?” Annie asked, the argument about hairstyles apparently forgotten in the space of a millisecond. Allen shook his head in exasperation.

“We just want to show you something,” Mike replied, heading off to the basement. Shrugging, Annie followed him down the stairs with Allen close at her heels. Abruptly, she stopped, and the knight nearly plowed into her from behind. He had less than a second to hear Annie's sharp intake of breath before several bright yellow objects careened towards her exposed front.

Reacting instantly, Allen grabbed her and twisted, somehow managing to pull her behind him as he turned so the missiles hit him in the back instead of hitting her. A brief second later, he realized that the yellow things were soft and barely stung on impact, while Annie was now laying on her back on the steps with a painful grimace on her face. She opened her eyes to look up at his face as he braced himself on his arms above her. The group of boys with nerf guns behind them cracked up into hysterical laughter.

“What...the hell...did you do...that for?” she wheezed out, apparently having gotten the wind knocked out of her when she hit the steps.

“I-it was just a reaction. To keep you from getting hurt,” Allen floundered, pushing himself back onto his feet and offering her a hand. Annie ignored the hand and pushed herself up, wincing.

“Huh. Yeah. Worked out great there, Allen. Ouch, good lord, I'm going to be bruised for a week!”

“I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you,” Allen said earnestly, a sheepishly apologetic look on his face. Annie sat on the steps, rubbing her bruises.

“Yeah, well, I keep telling you chivalry is dead. And for good reason. Next time, just let me get shot, okay?”

A moment later, she was back on her feet and laughing heartily with the boys over their prank, while Allen stood there silently berating himself. A few boys got hearty smacks up-side the head for calling Allen's manuever “awesome” before they all trooped upstairs and layered up for sledding. At the whispered advice of one of the boys, Allen pulled on several extra layers for padding. There was an undeniably malevolent glint in Annie's eyes whenever she glanced at him that gave him a cold sweat.


Sledding with the Goettenbergs, as Van had discovered, involved a lot more tackling and ramming than normal. You never simply slid down the hill and came back up. Oh no. Everyone lined up in a row at the top of the hill and raced to the bottom in an anything-goes battle to see who could actually make it to the bottom still on their sled. On his first run down the hill, Hitomi somehow managed to dive off her sled directly into him, sending them both tumbling down the hill several feet in a tangle of arms, legs, and snow.

“What was the point of that? You made yourself lose, too,” Van said when they'd come to a stop. He didn't mind, really, seeing as Hitomi was sprawled out on top of him. She giggled and pushed herself up. There were several crashes and shrieks from the bottom of the hill.

“Well, so did you. Besides, you don't really want to make it to the bottom. The only way you stop is by hitting a tree or falling into the creek.”

Hitomi took his hand as they trudged back up to the top of the hill, to be met by a beaming Annie and a slightly worried looking Allen.

“Hey, guys! What took you so long?” Hitomi asked as Annie threw down her sled and prepared to join the battle.

“Groszmama was just showing me some of Annie's baby pictures,” Allen said casually. Hitomi stared at his smirk for a moment and started laughing. Annie looked up at Allen with a defiant look of her own.

“Yeah, and then Allen body-slammed me into the steps. You should see the bruises!”

Allen's smirk died as Annie pushed off and sped down the hill. Van and Hitomi turned confused faces towards him and Allen put his hands up defensively.

“It was just a reaction. They shot at us and I just reacted,” he said imploringly. “Honestly, I didn't mean to do it.”

Hitomi patted him on the arm reassuringly and she and Van set off down the hill again. Allen sat down heavily in his sled and watched broodingly as Van tackled Hitomi, crashing them into another tangled group of sledders. They laughed, the two of them staying twisted together tightly for several minutes longer than necessary. Allen felt his chest contract painfully as Hitomi brushed some snow out of Van's hair and grabbed his hand.

Allen swallowed hard and pulled his eyes away. He could see Annie emerging laughingly from the trees and start climbing the hill. He focused on her. It was so strange to think that she had ever been that tiny, fragile baby with tubes and wires all over her, the baby no one thought would survive. Allen frowned, realizing that he'd never seen a mother in any of her pictures, or a father. And not once had Groszmama ever mentioned one, either.

“C'mon, Allen. You should join in the game,” Hitomi said from beside him. Allen jumped in surprise and turned to look at her, standing there next to Van.

“I think I'll just watch for a while from here,” he replied smoothly, thinking privately that there was hardly a reason to join in, since Van was the one she'd be trying to tackle, not him.

Hitomi shrugged, blissfully unaware of his thoughts. “Whatever you want. Ready to go again, Van?”

They set off down the hill again, and Allen sighed, rubbing his gloved hands over his face. He could hear Annie as she reached the top, laughing and joking with her family. He shook his head, his eyes still closed. He really hadn't meant to hurt her on the steps. Why did things have to be so complicated here? Perhaps he should go back inside.

Allen gasped as Annie slammed into him from behind, sending his sled careening down the hill. He could feel her gripping on to the back of his jacket as she knelt behind him, whooping with excitement as they headed straight for the trees. Allen leaned back hard into her as the sled missed several trunks to shoot over the banks of the creek. For one breathless second, the sled was suspended in mid-air before it crashed down into the ice below.

For a moment, Allen couldn't move. Every part of him hurt. Annie lay tangled on top of him; he could feel her shaking with laughter even through all their layers.

“Whoo, Allen. That was an awesome crash!” she said, making no move to get off him. Allen tried to shift himself away from the icy water seeping through his clothes.

“Are you insane?” he asked, irritated. He felt Annie prop herself up on her elbows on his back, still making no move to get up.

“What do you mean, Cranky McCrankerson?”

Allen pushed himself up, dumping her unceremoniously onto the cracked ice beside him. “Normal people don't do things like this. At least not on purpose.”

Annie climbed to her feet, wiping off snow and ice. “Ugh. You are such a whiner. I was actually going to say sorry about yelling at you for tossing me into the steps. But forget it. I won't try to cheer you up again.”

“You cheer people up by nearly killing them?” Allen demanded as they climbed out of the creek bed. Annie ignored him and started to climb the hill, dragging their sled behind her. They were halfway up before Gracie struggled up to them, begging Allen to carry her. Dutifully, Allen scooped her into a piggy-back ride and trudged up the hill with the little girl. Annie watched him with a gleam in her eyes as Gracie made Allen promise to play tea party again with her later.

“You can't say no to little girls, can you?” she asked him with a wicked smile after they'd reached the top and Gracie had run off. Allen pursed his lips and looked away. After a moment, he started walking towards the house.

“Hey, wait! Where do you think you're going?” Annie demanded, hands on her hips.

“Inside to change. I'm soaking wet, thanks to your efforts to cheer me up,” Allen retorted over his shoulder.

“Oh, fine. Go dry off, you big baby!” Annie called after him. “You don't know how to have fun, anyway!”

Inside, Allen toweled off, Annie's words rankling at him almost as much as watching Van and Hitomi together did. He knew how to have fun. And if he was really, truly honest with himself, he'd admit that crashing the sled like that was a little bit fun. Just a really little bit. Allen sighed. He supposed, in her twisted way, Annie was honestly trying to cheer him up, to take his mind off Hitomi and Van. And it felt good to know someone cared whether or not he was smiling, no matter how misguided the cheer-up attempts were.

Allen wandered upstairs to mingle with the few older family members who watched the sledding from the windows. Accepting a beer with a smile and an inward shudder, he joined in the gentle small talk, his thoughts lingering on the sobering idea that perhaps Hitomi chose Van over him simply because he was too serious.

Time passed him by as he sat brooding silently under his pleasant manners, his beer untouched in his hands. What he wouldn't give from some good, sweet vino! What he wouldn't give to be back on Gaea where he belonged!
The rooms began to fill with people again as the sledders trickled in one by one. Allen moved slowly around, attempting to find a quiet place to stand, and suddenly Annie was by his side.

“Allen, you've got to stop it. Seriously,” she said earnestly. Allen gave her a guilty look. Was she reading his thoughts? Telling him to stop moping over Hitomi?

“Stop what?” he asked, deciding to play dumb. Annie looked like she wanted to stomp her feet.

“This. The schmoozing. Stop making my family like you!”

Allen stared at the brown-haired girl in confusion. This was not what he was expecting at all. “Why shouldn't your family like me?”

Annie grimaced, pulling hard on a loose strand of her brown hair. “Because. They've all practically got us married already.”

Allen choked, snorted, and out-right laughed. Annie, apparently, didn't find it at all amusing.

“It is not funny, Allen! I'm serious. You've got to understand, I'm a complete failure to them. I'm 22, not married, not engaged, and no boyfriend to speak of. So now I bring you home, and you're being all charming and they like you, and now I'll have to deal with it. Every family gathering, someone's going to say 'oh, what happened to that really nice guy? You know, the good-looking blond one?' and I'm going to have to come up with some excuse... Stop laughing, Allen!”

“Good-looking blond one?” Allen questioned with a laughing smirk.

“Oh, shut up. Look, just stop schmoozing, okay?”

Allen tapped his finger to his chin, thoroughly enjoying the moment. “Well, I don't know. Maybe I could try to stop, if you stop annoying me. No more pranks, no more teasing.”

Annie gasped. “What? That's like- that's just cruel! That's like telling a fish to breath air!”

“You know, your Groszmama said she had some more of your pictures to show me,” Allen replied calmly, beginning to walk away. Annie lunged after him and grabbed his arm.

“You little shit! You're enjoying this! What if I just promised to try to tone down the pranks a little bit?”

Allen stopped, considering. “Hm. No. I think it' got to be an all-or-nothing promise.”

Annie opened her mouth to retort, but she was cut off by one of her teenage relatives.

“Ooh, Annie,” he said in a sing-song voice. “Look up!”

Annie glared at the boy before looking up. Abruptly, she let out a squeak and jumped away from Allen like he was a giant cockroach. Confused, Allen looked up.


Damn that plant. Glancing around, Allen could see that he and Annie were surrounded by a tight ring of teenagers, every one of them grinning evilly from ear to ear. Two of the older boys grabbed Annie's arms and deposited her in front of Allen once again. Her face was a combination of defiance, embarrassment, and amusement as she looked around the room. Most of her family had already caught wind of their predicament and were piling into the room to watch the fun.

“You've got to kiss him, Annie. Tradtion!” shouted one of the teens, and the whole family joined in the cat-calls. Annie turned a slight shade redder.

“Okay, okay. No big dea!” she shouted back over the noise. Allen blinked in surprise as she grabbed the front of his shirt, yanked him down, and planted a hard kiss on his lips. Before he had time to react, she'd let go and pulled away.

“Boo!” shouted her whole family in unison. The ring of teenagers did not loosen up to let them out, and Annie put her hands on her hips.

“What? I kissed him. It's done!” Annie asserted. She caught sight of Hitomi and Van across the room. “Hitomi, help me!”

Hitomi tapped her chin thoughtfully, a laughing gleam in her eyes. “Hm. I don't know. It didn't seem like a real kiss to me. 'A peach is a peach'...”

The family immediately took up the chant. “A plum is a plum! What good is a kiss without the use of a tongue?”

Now Annie flamed completely red, and Allen started laughing under his breath. She looked very close to stomping her feet and screaming.

“So open your mouth and close your eyes, and give your tongue some exercise!” the family shouted with vicious glee. Allen's blue eyes danced with mirth as he watched Annie argue futilely with her laughing relatives. So, she wanted him to lighten up and joke around more? Well, now seemed like a good time to start.

Annie squeaked in surprise as Allen grabbed her, swinging her into a deep dip that made her clutch his sleeves to keep from falling. Her mouth dropped open as she stared up at the wicked, amused gleam in his eyes.

“Allen Shezar, don't you dare...!” she gasped, her words lost in the loud cheers. And Allen leaned down and did exactly what her family had suggested. The explosion of shrieks and applause was enough to rattle the windows.

Across the room, Hitomi gasped and laughed. “I can't believe he actually did that!” she exclaimed in shock.

“I can!” Van retorted with a huge grin, clapping louder than anyone in the room. Hitomi smacked him in the arm before joining in the cheering.

Allen was taking his time, savoring the feeling of victory. And kissing Annie was not that bad, either, if he would bother to be honest with himself. It would be even better if she would kiss him back.

Annie shifted her weight, and Allen recoiled sharply as her small foot connected painfully with his shin. Wincing, he set her back on her feet as her relatives slapped him on the back jubilantly. Annie grinned and laughed along, even though her eyes were glittering dangerously. The crowd began to disperse, and Allen surreptitiously rubbed the goose-egg on his shin. Annie noticed and sniffed disdainfully.

“You're lucky that's all you got for that stunt,” she stated firmly.

Allen gave her a wicked smile. “I'm surprised you didn't bite my tongue. I think you must have been enjoying it.”

“Huh,” Annie snorted. “I only didn't bite you because you would have bled. And then the Aunts would have noticed, and I would have gotten in trouble. And believe me, you've never had a telling-off until you've had one from my aunts.”

“You're the one that told me to try to have fun,” Allen reminded her with a laugh. Annie rolled her eyes, and unsuccessfully tried not to smile.

“True. And I guess it was pretty funny. Or it would have been, if you'd done it to somebody else.”

“Really? I think you're family thought it was fairly amusing,” Allen pointed out. Annie groaned and pulled a face.

“Yeah, really amusing. Now they're going to try to hook us up more than ever, you stupid pudding brain!”

Allen shook his head, still smiling. “I think you're over-reacting, Annie.”

“Hey, lovebirds, time for lunch. Unless you're going to have another go at the mistletoe,” came a shout from the dining room. Annie gave Allen a significant glare, and he rocked back on his heels with a smirk, looking up at the mistletoe above them. Annie gave him another kick on his already sore shin.

“Don't even dream it, Mr. Grabby,” she snapped. Allen chuckled wickedly as he followed her to the dining room. He had a feeling her family would be working hard to get them under the mistletoe again. Who was he to disappoint them?
Dogs have owners, Cats have staff

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » August 4th, 2008, 8:01 pm

Ah, chapter thirteen, will it be unlucky, will disaster strike??? If I know Dinky, nothing of the sort will happen.

Games and Secrets

Here's a long, long rambling chapter...that I probably should've cut into two, but oh well. Not sure how you all will like this one- a few more serious bits. I worked hard to get more VxH fluffiness in, though, I really did. Let me know how well I succeeded. Or how badly I failed misreably.

How Hitomi made it through supper, she would never know. Annie, seated across the table from her, flashed her patented Ultimate Annie Death Glare in her direction whenever someone made a joke about the incident under the mistletoe. Allen, for once, seemed impervious to the bone-chilling glares aimed at him and looked as if he was whole-heartedly enjoying the meal. Hitomi picked at her food, too distracted over attempting to look innocent to eat anything.

“Ugh. I'm glad that's over,” she muttered to Van as the family scattered throughout the house again. Van gave her a confused look.

“What's over? Don't you like wienerschnitzel?”

Hitomi bit her lip, looking guilty. “ I like it fine. It's just...just--”

“Hey, Tomi, great idea with the mistletoe!” one of the older teens said in a conspiratorial whisper as he passed them by. Van's eyes widened with dawning realization.

“You set that up!” he said with an incredulous smile. Hitomi flushed and tried to hide a grin with a scowl.

“Yeah, well, Annie deserved it for all the pranks she pulled,” she said defiantly. “Only I feel kind of bad for Allen, since he was the only guy here to catch her with.”

“I don't think he minded it, Hitomi,” Van answered seriously, still smiling down at her, just happy to be with her and completely carefree. Something he couldn't remember feeling since he was a very small child playing in the gardens with his brother.

His brother.

A bit of the happiness drained out of him as he looked around the room at Annie's loud, boisterous family. He had nothing like this in Fanelia to offer Hitomi. Nothing but simpering courtiers, stuffy dignitaries, and a mountain of rules and protocols to bury her under. To ask her to leave all was unthinkable. But so was living without her.

“Van, what's wrong?” Hitomi asked quietly, her green eyes probing his face. Van looked away.

“Why did you decide to leave your family to live here?” he asked after several silent moments. Hitomi blinked in surprise and chewed her lip, thinking.

“Well, I don't know, really,” she replied honestly. “Maybe to prove to myself that I could do it. That I could go somewhere completely foreign and make a good life for myself without my family.”


Hitomi shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. “I don't know. It just seemed important to me at the time.”

Van watched her intently, willing her answers to give him some semblance of hope for the future he so desparately wanted. “And did you? Prove it to yourself, I mean.”

Hitomi gave a small laugh and gestured around her. “Well, I don't really know. I met Annie my first day in the States. I never had a chance to be on my own, since the Goettenbergs adopted me almost from day one. I miss my family, but they make it easier because they're my family, too. I'd miss them the same as my own parents if I went back to Japan.”

Van's stomach sunk into his toes. This just made everything worse. He'd be asking her to leave both her families if he asked her to come back with him to Fanelia. Gods, he couldn't do that to her.

“Why are you asking me about this?” Hitomi asked, confused curiosity in her voice. Now it was Van's turn to shrug as his cheeks reddened slightly.

“Uh, no reason. I was just...wondering.”

The awkward moment was shattered by a loud bang. Annie, apparently, had knocked a chair over when she jumped to her feet.

“That's IT! I challenge you to a DDR dance-off!” she shouted at a group of her younger relations as the room went silent. “And if I win, you can't say one word, not one more word about mistletoe!”

“Deal. And if we win, we get to put you under the mistletoe with a certain somebody again,” crowed the girl who had caught Hitomi and Van. With matching shark grins, she and Annie shook hands.

“Hold on a minute,” Allen said weakly from across the room.

“Don't worry, Allen. You can play, too,” the teens said as they grabbed him and marched out of the room. Half of the family followed them, laughing, joking, and taking bets.

“Crap-olla. What did I get myself into?” Annie complained with a grimace as Hitomi and Van caught up with her in the doorway. Hitomi patted her consolingly on the head, and then steered her after the crowd.

“What's a DDR dance off?” Van asked in a low whisper to Hitomi. She looked over at him with a grin.

“Dance Dance Revolution. It's a video game where you have to use the dance pads to hit the arrows on the beat-” she paused at the growing confusion on Van's face. “Uh, you'll see. It's fun, really.”

Inwardly, Hitomi cheered like a madwoman, her imagination already painting highly amusing pictures of Van and Allen attempting to “dance”. Ah, the things she'd never dreamed she'd see...

Van and Allen stood back and watched as the game was set up and the teens explained the rules. Annie and her shark-girl counterpart would be the first up. The loser would rotate out for the next player. If Annie managed to beat all of them, they'd give up the jokes. If she lost a round, well, she'd be spending a little more quality time under the mistletoe.

The two Gaean men watched, surprised, as the music started and the two girls started hopping madly away on the mats.

“What are they doing?” Allen asked in an undertone to Hitomi. The girls looked ridiculous flailing around to the music, being cheered on by the crowd. No way was he going to do that. Hitomi just laughed, absorbed in watching the game.

“They're hitting the arrows on the mat in time with the ones on the screen, see? It's to the beat of the music. Man, Katy started with a hard one!”

Within a few seconds, Katy had lost, and Annie took on the next challenger. And the next. She didn't seem to be having any difficulties beating down her opponents.

“I think she might win,” Allen said with a small frown. Hitomi and Van turned to stare at him.

“Allen, do you actually want her to lose?” Hitomi asked after several stunned seconds. “Because you know what that would mean for you, right?”

“I do. But if it annoys her, yes. It's worth it,” he replied seriously. Van and Hitomi's eyes met, filled with identical, incredulous laughter. Van, honestly, wasn't as surprised as Hitomi. After all, Annie wasn't exactly bad-looking. And Allen's reputation was pretty clear that he didn't usually pass up a pretty girl. Even if she wasn't his type.

“Break!” Annie declared after beating a little more than half her challengers. “I think Allen and Van should have a go. They've never played, you know.”

Both men backed up with wide eyes, heading for the doorway. They didn't get more than two steps before they were dragged back to stand on the strange mats. Van gave Hitomi a betrayed look as she helped push him into place.

“It's not so bad, really!” she laughed. “Just give it a try!”

Annie nodded with a grin. “Yeah, Don't be so self-conscious. Everyone looks stupid doing it, so stop worrying. Here, let me pick a good song.”

“I really don't want-” Allen began, attempting yet again to escape. Annie scowled fiercely at him as she shoved him back onto the mat.

“Oh, just shut up and do it. If you can be Mr. Don Juan under the mistletoe, you can pull the stick out of your ass and shake your booty.”

It was obvious how badly Allen wanted to retort, but the music started up, and the competitive spirit in both men flared up. Both pairs of eyes were glued to the screen as they awkwardly attempted to stomp on the arrows in time with the music. Van was so focused he barely heard the laughter and advice from the crowd.

“Hop! Hop! It helps to hop to the beat!” he heard Hitomi say through her laughter. Obediently, he tried jumping up and down and nearly fell over. Hitomi shrieked with laughter and he couldn't help but start laughing himself. This crazy game was harder than it looked.

“Left, left, up! God, Allen. You suck!” Annie cried over the laughter of the crowd.

“I'd do better if you stopped helping me,” Allen ground out, focusing on the screen. “What? I hit that!”

“Again! Again!” the family demanded as the screen went red and the game shouted out how terrible they were. Annie's dance-off seemed forgotten, and the two men silently cursed the short Goettenberg attention spans.

“You're gonna do this until you both pass one,” Annie said firmly as she quickly picked out another song. The Goettenbergs laughed, ate cookies, snapped pictures, and shouted out encouragement as Van and Allen failed one song after another. Their heavy sweaters came off after the first few songs, followed by their undershirts shortly after that. Van wasn't sure if his face was red from the heat or from embarrassment at the cat-calls from the younger Goettenbergs. Hitomi kept her drool firmly in check and took a lot of pictures when Van was concentrating on the screen. Lord, he was unbelievably gorgeous.

“You passed! You passed! With a D, but you passed!” Hitomi shouted when Van finally managed to finish a song. She threw her arms around him in a tight, laughing hug, and he swung her around jubilantly. He even smelled good sweaty.

Without thinking, forgetting about the family swarming around them, Hitomi planted a quick kiss on Van's smiling mouth. Her cheeks turned pink as he stared at her for a few seconds, surprised, still holding her in a tight hug. A shy smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, the smile he only gave to her. Hitomi's heart melted at the sight of it, and she nearly kissed him again just because of how adorable he looked.

“Alright, you hooligans. Turn it off before you wake the babies,” Aunt Vera commanded, breaking the spell between them. Blushing a little, they broke apart, and Van scooped up his abandoned shirts.

“But Aunt Vera, we didn't finish the dance-off,” one of the teens complained. Annie socked him on the arm.

“Too bad. You all forgot about it, so I win by default.”

“That was a dirty trick, getting Van and Allen to play so we'd forget!"

The family bickered good-naturedly as they trickled slowly out of the room to get ready for bed. Van and Allen headed off to shower while Hitomi and Annie went to go set up their sleeping bags for the night.

“Having some luck, huh, Tomi?” Annie asked with a sideways glance at Hitomi's beaming face.

She flopped down on the couch and grinned over at Annie. “I think so. Did you see-”

“I saw. No mistletoe needed! Good for you, babe!”

“You don't think he's going to think I'm too, too...” Hitomi frowned, searching for the right words.

“Too slutty?” Annie supplied helpfully. She shook her head, laughing. “I highly doubt it. One teensy-weensy chaste little kiss does not make you a hussy.”

Hitomi frowned again, playing with the zipper of her sleeping bag. “Do you think I'm too...too uptight?”

“How'd your thinking go from slutty to uptight? But yeah, maybe a bit. I mean, you've only got a few days left before he goes back home. You'd better get a move on if you wanna get your groove on, know what I'm saying?”

Hitomi chucked her pillow at her with a giggle. “I don't even know how to get my groove on. I haven't exactly done this before!”

“Just jump him,” Annie replied with a shrug. “I think he'd take over from there. Poor guy.”

“Why is he a 'poor guy'?” Hitomi demanded, sitting up and grabbing her pillow back.

“You know. All those years of pent-up male urges. I think he might explode when he sees you in a bikini!”

Hitomi eyed her with alarm. “When's he going to see me in a bikini?”

Annie gave her a smile and a wink, then waved at Van as he walked into the room. “Hey, Van! We were just talking about you!”

He looked surprised. “You were?”

“No, we weren't!” Hitomi replied a bit too quickly. “Answer my question, Annie!”

Annie shrugged. “At the hotel when we go swimming, of course! After we go snowboarding.”

“Snowboarding?” Van and Hitomi asked together.

“Yeah. Snowboarding up north for Jason and my birthdays!” Annie chirped, grinning. “Oops, did I forget to tell you? We're going the day after we get back home. There's a big group of us going, and we're going to stay overnight in a hotel and everything! Par-tay!”

“How long have you been planning this?” Hitomi demanded weakly, her own half-formed plans of a surprise birthday party dwindling away. Leave it to Annie to throw herself a party.

“Ages. Since before we broke up,” Annie replied cheerfully. Van blinked at her.

“Broke up?” he asked, confused.

Annie shrugged. “Yeah, we dated for a while last year. And since our birthdays are only a week apart, we thought we should have a big thing together this year. Jason wanted to go snowboarding, and I wanted to go swimming. So we're doing both! And trust me, Van. You're gonna love this trip.”

“...Why?” he asked warily. Hitomi suddenly looked alarmed.

“Two words, buddy. Bikinis and hot tubs! Okay, wait. That's technically three words.” Annie said thoughtfully. Hitomi pinched her lips together as a pink blush crept up her cheeks. Annie suddenly got up and bounced towards the doorway. “Well, g'night, you two. Don't do anything I wouldn't do!”

Van turned a confused face towards Hitomi. “Um, what's a ... bikini?”

Abruptly, Hitomi flamed a brilliant red and buried her face in her pillow. Van leaned over her, confused and slightly alarmed, as she mumbled something incoherently.

“What? Are you okay?”

Hitomi sat up, nearly knocking her head into Van's with the fast movement. “I said, nevermind.”

“Oh,” Van rocked back on his heels awkwardly, wondering what about a bikini upset her so much. He cast around for a safer topic. “So, isn't Annie going to be sleeping in here tonight?” he asked after several long moments.

“Oh. Yeah,” Hitomi replied, drawing her knees up to her chest and clasping her hands around her legs. “She just went out to watch for a shooting star to make her Christmas Wish. She and Grandma Ida always did that on the last night here. Sometimes they'd be out there for hours, just looking at the sky.”

“A Christmas Wish?” Van asked as he sat down next to Hitomi on the couch.

“Something you really want to happen. I went with them once. The stars are really beautiful here. You can't see the stars in the city. Grandma Ida knew all the constellations. She would have loved to see the Fanelian sky, with the Earth hanging up there next to the moon.”

“Merle likes to watch the stars,” Van said absently, his eyes on Hitomi's perfect face. She turned to look at him with her hypnotizing emerald eyes.

“Do you like to watch the stars, too?” she asked quietly.

“I just see the Mystic Moon,” he replied honestly, without thinking. The tips of his ears turned red, but the surprised smile in Hitomi's eyes kept him from turning away. Her hands slipped away from her knees as she uncurled herself, leaning towards him as he moved towards her. They met in the middle, their lips melding gently as their arms wound slowly around each other.

What was it Annie had said? Don't do anything she wouldn't do? Van thought vaguely as the kiss deepened. Well, that should give him plenty of options...


Allen jumped back in alarm as he opened the bathroom door to find Annie staring at him with crossed arms.

“What do you want?” he asked warily.

Annie snorted. “It's not a want. It's a sacrifice. You're going to have to come with me to watch the stars.”

“Why do I have to do that?” Allen asked, shuddering at the thought of freezing outside after he'd just taken a hot shower.

“Unless you want to interrupt Van and Hitomi's little alone time, you don't have too many choices. Time's a-wastin'. Let's go.” Annie replied, already walking off down the hall. With a resigned sigh, Allen followed after her. He definitely did not want to walk in on whatever Hitomi and Van might be doing. But why did they have to go outside?

Silently, the two bundled up and made their way out into the dark night. Allen, carrying two lawn chairs, followed Annie's shadowed form as she led the way across the lawn. She had him set up the chairs at the top of the hill, where they had an amazing panoramic view of the incredible night sky.

Allen wrapped himself up in the blankets she handed him and was surprised when she unwrapped a large thermos and a big bag of cookies from inside her own blankets.

“Coffee,” she explained as she settled herself into her chair. “We could be out here a while.”

“What exactly are we doing?” Allen asked, less irritable now that he was getting warm once more, wrapped up in his cocoon of blankets. Annie leaned back in her chair, her eyes trained on the sky.

“We're waiting for a shooting star so we can make our Christmas Wishes,” she said. Allen gave her a confused look and she sighed, not taking her eyes off the stars. “Ever since I can remember, Grandma and I came out here on Christmas night to make a wish on a shooting star. Tradition, you know, in memory of Grandma's first Christmas Wish.”

“What was her first Wish?” Allen asked, interested in spite of himself.

“That I would live,” Annie replied, so quietly that even in the deep silence Allen had to strain to hear her. She stirred in her blankets. “It wasn't really on Christmas, since I was born a few days after. But the first night, when the doctors said I wouldn't live to see the sun, Grandma saw a shooting star through the hospital window. And she wished like everything on that star that somehow I'd make it. She made a Christmas Wish every year after that.”

Allen stared up at the sky, his earlier questions rising to the surface. Keeping his eyes on the stars, he asked as casually as he could, “Annie, what happened to your parents?”

“What do you mean, what happened?”

“Where are they?” he cleared his throat, trying to be as gentle and tactful as possible. “Did they...have they passed on?”

“You mean died?” Annie asked baldly. “I have no idea.”

Surprised, Allen looked away from the stars to Annie's calm profile. “How can you not know?”

Still, Annie didn't look away from the sky. “You want to hear about my parents? It's not a very pretty story,” she said calmly, as if they were discussing the weather. Allen nodded mutely.

“My grandpa got sent off to war shortly after he and Grandma got married. And when he came back, he wasn't right anymore. War does that to some people, I guess. But Grandma still loved him, and she wasn't going to leave him just because he was sick. My mom was their only kid, and she had to grow up with a dad who...well, he killed himself when mom was twelve, and she never got over that. She ran away right after she turned sixteen. A crack addict. Grandma couldn't find her anywhere. There was absolutely nothing for years, until she got a phone call from my mom. She was pregnant and in another state, and she was in labor. She begged my grandma to come, and of course Grandma got on the first plane she could. She made it there only a few hours after I was born. Mom stayed long enough to turn parental rights over to Grandma, and then she disappeared again. Broke my grandma's heart.”

“Did your mother ever contact you?” Allen asked in a hushed voice.

“Once,” Annie said brightly. “She came home at my birthday when I was five. She said she was trying to get clean, you know? Grandma really wanted to believe her.” Annie laughed a sad little laugh. “Know why I'm so scared of gingerbread men? She woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me about the gingerbread men running around the house trying to attack her. I never could get that out of my head.”

“Ah,” Allen said, reevaluating his first encounter with the crazy brunette. “She didn't stay clean, did she?”

“No,” Annie said quietly. “She left again. We haven't heard anything since.”

Deep silence settled over them again as they stared up at the night sky. Allen watched his breath spiraling up in little clouds of smoke and felt a small prick of guilt wiggle into his conscience. Guilt for having judged her, guilt for asking her to drag up her past. He shifted uncomfortably.

“I'm sorry,” he said, breaking the fragile silence. “I shouldn't have asked-”

Annie cut him off. “Why? It's no secret, and I'm not ashamed of it or anything. My mom is sick. It doesn't make her a bad person. And you know what? I'm grateful to her, because she cared enough to call my grandma and give me a family. I don't hate her or anything. It just makes me sad. So stop being sorry, and stop feeling guilty about whatever it is you think you should feel guilty about. You carry around way too much of your own guilt as it is.”

“How do you know I feel guilty?” Allen asked, perplexed. Annie waved a hand at him, still never taking her eyes off the skies.

“Ach, it's written all over you. You really should let some of that go, you know?” she replied airily. “By the way, how's your sister doing?”

Allen gave her a quick, sharp look. “She' much do you know about her?”

“I think Hitomi told me everything she knew. Keep your eyes on the sky, will you? We'll be out here all night otherwise.”

“Sorry,” Allen said, quickly turning his face skyward again. “Celena is- she's doing fine.”

“Uh huh. Honestly, how is she? It might feel better to tell me about it,” Annie pointed out as she burrowed deeper into her blankets and got comfortable. Allen sat silent, debating with himself. He never spoke to anyone of Celena's problems, but then, Annie had just told him about her past, frankly and openly. And she was a stranger, someone he'd never see again in less than a week. What could it hurt?

Allen hesitated, then sighed deeply. “She's...having a hard time adjusting. I thought at first it would pass and she would be normal, but... Her mind is still that of a small child, like she stopped maturing when the sorcerers- when they changed her into Dilandau. Only she's never happy. It's been over five years, and I've never seen her smile. Not once. And the nightmares...” There was a deep, raw pain in his voice, and Annie reached a hand out from her cocoon and patted his blankets reassuringly, silently encouraging him to let it out. He drew in a deep, aching breath.

“I don't know what to do to help her. Some days, she's fine, almost normal. Other days, she has these incredible fits of rage, so violent that no one can be near her but me. It's like- like Dilandau is still inside her, fighting to get out. And there's nothing I can do to protect her. And I need to protect her.”

Allen fell silent, unsure what more to say. Annie's gloved hand gave his shoulder a squeeze, almost imperceptible through the layers of blankets and outside gear. The deep stillness of the winter night once again crept over them as they watched the winking stars.

“You know,” Annie said finally, in a low, hushed voice. “I was going to make a wish for Hitomi and Van this year, but I think I'll make a wish for Celena instead.”

Allen swallowed hard past a sudden lump in his throat and nodded his thanks. He was grateful, even if it was only a crazy, traditional Christmas Wish. She was willing to use it for him, and for Celena. Hitomi always said the stars had power. Maybe they'd grant Annie's wish.

“Well, I guess we take the awards for Most Depressing Conversation tonight,” Annie suddenly announced in a bright, cheerful voice. “D'you want some coffee, Captain Giggles?”

“Captain what?” Allen spluttered, jerked out of his melancholy thoughts. Annie calmly handed him a steaming mug of dark liquid.

“I hope we see a shooting star before Hitomi and Van go to sleep so we can tease the hell out of them when we get back inside. I hope they can figure out what to do after kissing,” Annie mused. She laughed heartily when Allen choked on his coffee, the sound ringing out through the clear, cold air.


Van lay on his back, listening to Hitomi's regular breathing. He couldn't tell if he was elated or frustrated. All the years he'd waited, he finally kissed her. And more than kissed. But despite the demands of his desires, he lacked the courage to let his hands wander anywhere...indecent. Or perhaps it was the nagging worry that Annie or Allen could walk in on them anytime. Hitomi had worried about that, too. He could see it on her face when she suggested they try to get some sleep. What he couldn't tell was whether she was happy or frustrated that he kept his hands on her back, or her arms, somewhere relatively safe. Not that he was really complaining. Gods, it felt good just to touch her. But he wanted more, and he didn't want to push her. For the first time since he was fifteen, he really wished he knew more about women.

Above him on the couch, Hitomi lay still and tried to breath evenly. She cursed their lack of privacy silently as she lay there wishing she was still in Van's arms. They felt so good, so right- now if only he'd work up the nerve to move his hands around to the front. Or something. Abruptly, Hitomi rolled over, burying her hot face into her pillow. She didn't even really know what she wanted from him. She just knew she didn't want to stop when she suggested they go to sleep. And the look on Van's face told her he didn't want to, either.

Hitomi hugged herself and smiled slightly in the darkness. They were just taking things a little slow, that was all. They just needed a few more days together. She burrowed deeper into her sleeping bag as she thought sleepily about spending time in a hot tub with Van.

“Huh...Van in a swimsuit. Yummy...” Hitomi smiled to herself as she drifted off into sleep
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Sakura » August 11th, 2008, 6:15 pm

Merry Christmas: Frohe Weihnachten

You naughty kids! Ihr bösen Kinder

Aunt: Tante

Yes: Ja

Thank you very much: Vielen Dank

grandma (used for the great-grandma in this story): Urgroßmutter

She's in love with him: Sie ist in ihn verliebt

Are you hungry?: Seid ihr hungrig?

You're welcome :meh:
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » August 11th, 2008, 9:37 pm

You Germans just don't speak the language right. :meh: :)

Seems our German has been a bit corrupted over time.
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by Dinky » August 11th, 2008, 10:05 pm those translations from my grandparents...and a German textbook! Oh well, several generation gap Germans over here speak it funny, I guess!!! Thanks for the corrections! :love:
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Re: Mystic Moon Vacation (An Escaflowne Story!)

Post by oldwrench » August 12th, 2008, 1:53 am

Ok, here's chapter 14...... not what you were waiting for?? She'll get there.

Packing and Moving

AN: I'm so sorry, but Van doesn't get to wear a swimsuit in this chapter. Sorry, sorry! But he will in the next chapter, I promise! That being said, I hope ya'll still read this one!! I don't know where this chappie came from, and it's short and nothing really happens, but the story took over once again and forced it to come out this way. Oh well!!

The drive back to Annie's house was relatively quiet, due mainly to the fact that both Allen and Annie were tired and crabby. Hitomi's head was beginning to ache from their constant bickering by the time they'd reached home, unpacked the car, and eaten supper. When Van went downstairs to shower, Hitomi grabbed her chance to pack her bag for the snowboarding trip.

“Don't forget your bikini!” Annie said in a sing-song voice as she poked her head around Hitomi's door.

“Agh! Don't sneak up on me like that!” Hitomi gasped, whirling around to face her and clutching her chest. Annie grinned at her.

“So, did we have fun last night?” she asked mischieviously.

Hitomi sighed and tossed some clothes into her bag. “Sort of. I mean, not that I'm complaining, it was really great. But we really didn't do anything. He's just so...I don't know.”

“Proper?” Annie supplied. “Hesitant?”

“Yes! How do you get a guy to, you know, make the next move?” Hitomi asked, frustration and embarrassment creeping into her voice. Annie perched on the bed with a thoughtful look.

“Hm. Well, there's lots of ways, I guess. But there's nothing I can really tell you to do, because it always depends on the situation. And besides, these Gaean guys seem pretty uptight about physical stuff. I'm guessing there's a whole lot of rules and protocols or something.”

“Oh,” Hitomi said, sitting down next to Annie. “Yeah, I suppose you're right about that. It's been so long since I was actually there, I didn't even think about it. Asturia seemed pretty uptight about it. I wonder how strict Fanelian customs are?”

They both sat in silence for a moment, considering. Annie wrinkled up her face in disgust.

“Ugh. Remind me never to go to Gaea.”

Hitomi laughed. “Yeah, I think the dating policies might be too strict for you!”

Annie shrugged and slid off the bed. “So I like boys. Or rather, I like having fun with boys. Nothing wrong with that. You should try it sometime, Tomi.”

“I am trying. It's just not going that well,” Hitomi grumbled.

“So bring your bikini tomorrow. All the rules and protocols on Gaea won't stand a chance once Van sees you in that.” Annie replied as she walked out of the room. “Trust me, Tomi.”

With a sigh, Hitomi began digging through her drawers, searching out her skimpiest bikini, the one she usually reserved for tanning, not swimming. Reluctantly, she put it on and examined herself in the mirror.

The top wasn't exactly modest. And the bottoms were pretty skimpy, too. Hitomi sighed as she poked at her stomach. Christmas meals at the Goettenbergs did not do her any favors. And- eek!- was that cellulite on the back of her thighs?

Hitomi changed quickly back into her winter clothes. No way was she going to let Van see her in that! Wadding the bikini into a tight ball, she snuck into the bathroom and hid it under the sink. She wasn't taking chances with Annie checking her bags to make sure she'd brought it along. Nope, she'd be packing her nice, non-revealing sport one-piece. Maybe she wouldn't even go swimming at all. Damn those Christmas cookies, damn them!

After a quick shower, Hitomi made her way downstairs again. Annie's music blared through her closed door and reverberated through the house, and Hitomi sighed. At least she and Allen weren't still fighting. In the kitchen, she found Van leaning against the counter, a glass of water in his hand.

“What's that noise?” he asked, jabbing a finger up to the ceiling.

“Rammstien, I think,” Hitomi answered as she got herself a diet cola from the fridge. She glared at the container full of cookies sent home by Aunt Vera. No more sweets for her!

“Does she always listen to that kind of music?” Van asked as he helped himself to a few cookies. Hitomi watched him with envy. Sure, he could afford to eat a few, with that perfect body. No fair!

“Naw, just when she's crabby like this,” Hitomi said, taking one tiny little cookie. One couldn't hurt! “Actually, she listens to all kinds of music. Except Polka, thank god.”

“Oh,” Van said with what he hoped was a knowing nod. He had no idea what polka was, but Hitomi made it sound like something to be avoided at all costs. Annie's music pounded through the ceiling as they stood there, awkwardly munching cookies. Hitomi could hear the downstairs shower running, and hoped that Allen would take his time. He was as touchy as Annie right now. Besides, it meant that she and Van had some alone time. She could practically hear Annie's voice yelling, “Jump him, Tomi!”. Yeah, sure. Right here in the kitchen. That'd go over well. This wasn't supposed to be so difficult!

“So, wanna watch a movie or something?” Hitomi finally asked. Van shrugged his agreement and they trooped downstairs.

“Feel like anything in particular?” she asked over her shoulder as she looked through the DVDs and Van settled himself on the futon.

“I dunno. Whatever you think's good,” Van replied, thinking privately that he really didn't care what was playing on the screen, as long as Hitomi came and sat next to him. It was chilly, so he pulled a blanket out of the basket and draped it over himself, propping his legs up on the coffee table as Hitomi turned the projector on.

Hitomi settled herself a few feet away from Van as the movie started up, silently berating herself for being so nervous and insecure. Last night they had been all over each other! Well, sort of. But she'd already sat down, and it'd look odd if she scooted over now. She rubbed her hands over her arms and shivered, wishing for a blanket.

Van lifted a corner of his quilt, silently inviting her to move closer and share it with him. With a grateful smile, Hitomi slid over and tucked herself into the blanket, her shoulder brushing Van's. He shifted, lifting his arm as if to put it around her, when Allen walked into the room.

“Oh. Hey, Allen,” Hitomi said with disappointment as Van's arm dropped back down to his side. Damn it! Allen's eyes flicked over them, then over to the screen.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked casually, sinking down into the easy chair as he continued to towel off his long hair.

“Of course not,” Hitomi said brightly, lying through her teeth. Insensitive clod! She could feel Van heave a deep sigh next to her and wondered if he felt as frustrated as her. The movie droned on, and the three watched in silence. Hitomi felt her eyelids droop sleepily.

“He didn't fall? Inconcievable!”

“You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Her eyelids drooped again, and Hitomi rested her head against Van's shoulder. Allen wouldn't notice. He was probably asleep anyway. She felt Van stiffen momentarily, then his arm shifted to wrap around her as he pulled her into a more comfortable position laying against his chest. Hitomi smiled sleepily and snuggled in. The sound of Van's heartbeat was slow and soothing, and she drifted off into sleep.

Allen noticed their deep, even breathing a stole a look at the couple on the futon. Hitomi was curled up, her head resting on Van's chest, smiling in her sleep. Van's head tipped at a funny angle, his mouth slightly open as he slept, too. It was a sweet picture, and Allen would have smiled at it if it wasn't for the painful stab of longing in his own heart.

With a sigh, he stood up and stole as silently as he could up the stairs. The house was quiet except for the movie playing downstairs. Allen pressed his hands against the kitchen countertop and took several deep breaths. He could do this. He could. It wasn't that he still loved Hitomi, was it? It just hurt to be so...alone.

Slowly, Allen became aware of soft music, music that wasn't in the movie, drifting through the house. Piano music. He crept quietly past the dining room and looked into the living room.

Annie was seated at the piano, her small form illuminated by the dim light from the Christmas tree. Her back was to him, and Allen slipped in, unnoticed, to sit on the couch and listen. Her fingers drifted over the keys playing a sad, beautiful tune.

The water is wide, I can't swim o'er

And neither have I wings to fly

Build me a boat that can carry two

And both shall row, my love and I

Her voice was melodic, sweet and honey-rich. Allen sat, surprised and mesmerized by the unexpected beauty of it and the way her hands moved skillfully over the instrument. She sang quietly, her voice barely audible over the music.

I leaned my back against an oak

Thinking it was the strongest tree

But first it bent, and then it broke

And that's the way love treated me

Allen leaned back into the cushions, his eyes closed. The sadness in her voice resonated with the pain in his own heart. The pain of loss and loneliness, and of love.

For love is handsome, and love is fine

And love's a jewel, when first it's new

But love grows old, and it waxes cold

And it fades away, like morning dew

Marlene. He had been so sure that he loved Marlene. But how quickly their love had faded, leaving nothing behind but regrets and a painful secret. In the end, Marlene had come to love the Duke, and he had been left alone again.

The music grew quieter as she came to the end of the song, and her voice was achingly sweet and sad.

The water is wide, I can't swim o'er

And neither have I wings to fly

Build me a boat that can carry two

And both shall row, my love and I

...and both shall row, my love and I...

The music came to a stop, and Allen opened his eyes. Annie sat silently, her head bowed, for several long moments. Then she heaved a deep sigh and turned around.

“Eep! God, Allen!” she gasped in a whispered shriek. “When the hell did you get up here? I thought you were watching the movie!”

“I got bored,” Allen said with a shrug. “You never told me you could sing like that.”

Annie gave him a dirty look as she slammed the cover down over the keys. “It's dangerous to sneak up on me like that, you know. The last guy who scared me peed blood for a week.”

For a brief second, Allen contemplated how exactly she had made someone pee blood, then decided he'd rather never find out.

“What're Tomi and Van doing?” she continued.

“Sleeping. At least they were when I came upstairs. Why were you singing that song?”

Annie shrugged nonchalantly. “Because it's pretty and I like it. Why?”

“You sounded so sad,” Allen replied, casually watching her reaction. “I don't think someone who's not hurting could sound that sad.”

Annie snorted and stood up. “It's just a song, Al. It doesn't mean anything. Anyway, it's late, and we've gotta get up early tomorrow, so we'd better get the kids off to bed.”

She disappeared through the dining room, and Allen could hear her going down the basement stairs. The movie stopped, and voices drifted up from the basement.

“Wakey, wakey, lovers. It's time for bed. Unless you're sleeping down here, Tomi.”

“Huh?” Hitomi said groggily, coming reluctantly back to reality. She slowly pushed herself off of Van's chest, rubbing at her eyes. Van groaned slightly and tried to work the kinks out of his stiff neck.

“Well,” Annie said impatiently, her hands on her hips. “Are you sleeping down here or what?”

“Uh, no. No, G'night, Van,” Hitomi said, blushing furiously as she untangled herself from the blanket and climbed off the futon.

“Yeah. 'Night,” Van returned sleepily as he watched the two girls head up the stairs. How long had he and Hitomi been alone down there? And he slept through it, damn it! Allen came down the stairs then, and the two men set up their sleeping spots silently.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he'd make sure they had another chance to be alone. And tomorrow they were going on that snowboarding trip. Snowboarding and hot tubs and bikinis. It sounded ominous.

With a worried frown, Van rolled himself into his blankets. There was nothing he could do about it until tomorrow, so he might as well forget about it and get some sleep. Allen seemed to be having a hard time getting comfortable, tossing and turning in his blankets. Suddenly, his voice drifted across the basement.

“Hey, Van. How do you think you could make someone pee blood?”

AN: Song is "The Water is Wide" by Niamh Parsons. See you next chapter!
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