It's Christmas, and I want to give you all a gift. I also wanted to take a break from my storyline and write something festive.
So here you have it, a Resistance Chronicles Christmas Special!!!
First of all, I want to kind of clarify the way this works with the story. It is canon, but it isn't a part of the current storyline. So technically, this happens in the future. But it won't spoil anything for you I don't think.
Also a bit of background, since Christmas in it's truest form doesn't actually exist in Thera.
Every year, just when the sky is darkest earliest in the day and the world feels cold and hopeless, Recruits take the chance to celebrate. They know that Adiano reached out to them in their darkest hour, offering them a gift of freedom and hope. So in the middle of winter Recruits gather together, often whole sections of the city meeting in one location, to give each other gifts and uplift each other when they need the encouragement the most.
Alyssa hung a ribbon over her door, the vibrant purple shimmering in the moonlight. She jumped back and put her hands on her hips, smiling satisfactorily. This was the final touch-- now all of Spera Domus was decked in purple and blue, ready for the Midwinter Celebration to begin. She could hardly wait. This was her favorite part of the year… everyone exchanged gifts during the darkest and coldest part of the season, in honor of the fact that Adiano had given them freedom during their greatest time of need.
Somehow, despite the cold nipping at her nose and the snow scattering through her hair, it was warm. And even with the wind and the storm clouds, it was peaceful.
Partially obscured by the ribbon, Keiko waved at her from behind the door, blurred by the glass. She hurried back inside, tearing off her gloves as she pushed the door open with her hip. Snowflakes melted into the knit fabric as she stuffed them into her coat pocket.
“You ready to have some fun?” She asked, signing as she spoke.
A smile spread across his face that reached the corners of his eyes. ‘It looks like you are.’
She cocked her head and laughed. “Oh, I was born ready.”
Zayla tugged at her sweater, thankful that the purple Alyssa demanded she wear was dark. She ran her fingers through her hair, fighting the urge to curl up in a ball. She could do this.
But the idea of a party made her nervous. She’d never been to a Midwinter Celebration before-- what if she said something wrong? What if she got called on for some humiliating game? What if her friends didn’t like their gifts? There was no way she’d make it through a whole night without something terrible happening.
The anxiety ate at her chest, but she fought it. She would be with friends. Friends who cared about her. Friends who understood how hard it was for her to be in a crowded room.
Then again, maybe they didn’t understand. Cameron always tried to help, but he didn’t get it. Keiko was sympathetic-- he wasn’t much of a socialite himself-- but he was used to being dragged around to social events. And Alyssa? Well, she’s the one that did the dragging.
She looked out her window at the snow falling. A breeze whisked through the street. blowing a white flurry across the glass.
What if the snow got so high the had to stay overnight? She couldn’t bear the thought of being trapped in a room full of strangers.
She scratched the back of her wrist. How was she going to do this?
Cameron rubbed his thumb along the corner of the page, smoothing out a smudge in the paper. He carefully placed the drawing in a frame, and grinned.
She’ll love it.
He wrapped it in silvery paper and tied it with a navy ribbon, carefully evening out the ends.
His mom called from outside his door, her voice accompanied by a soft knock. “You ready to go, Sweetie?”
“I’ll be ready in a minute,” he said, jumping up to throw on his coat, stuffing his pockets with Alyssa and Keiko’s gifts. “You can come in if you want.”
She opened the door and stepped in, a bright smile on her face, a few strands of glittery ribbons woven into her hair. “Did you get it all finished?”
Cameron looked back at his desk where the drawing laid, hidden by the paper.
“Yep. Just added the final touch!” He picked it up gently, cradling the gift in his arms.
She stepped forward and brushed the hair back from his eyes. “Seventeen ---.” She sighed. “It went by fast.”
Cameron shook his head, but he appreciated the sentimentality. He wrapped his free arm around her and hugged tightly, being careful not to bump his drawing. “Love ya, mom,” he whispered.
‘So are you entering in the karaoke contest this year?’ Keiko signed, his fingers moving quickly and carefully as they walked through Domus, making sure everything was in order before the guests started arriving.
Alyssa chuckled before responding. “I’ve been the champion for three years now, do you really think I’d miss it?” She put her hands on her hips.
‘Oh, not for a second.’ He smiled, whether or not he enjoyed parties didn’t really matter-- he loved seeing Alyssa in her element.
Which just happened to be center stage during the largest Recruit celebration of the year. Most of the members from this section of the city would be crowding into Domus tonight..
‘What did you get for Cameron and Zayla?’
Alyssa gave him a coy smile. “You’ll see.” She straightened her dress, which, true to her style, was plaid with a black satin jacket. Even with the elegance of her clothes- she still wore her combat boots underneath. That was Alyssa for you: Fashionable and feminine, but still tough as nails.
She cocked her head. “What did you get Quinn?”
Keiko’s face lit up. ‘You know how he always uses a notepad?’
‘I designed an electronic one that will fit in his pocket. It uses a stylus, so now he won’t have to worry about sharpening his pencil.’
“What about battery life?”
Keiko chuckled. ‘It has a compartment for traditional forms of communication in the back, just in case.’
Alyssa nodded. “Probably a good thing.”
Spera Domus looked perfect. Absolutely, completely, perfect. Alyssa spun around, practically dancing across the room as she ran to the door to pull Zayla inside. “There you are! I was starting to wonder if you’d show up!”
Zayla smiled softly, but the expression didn’t reach her eyes. “I was wondering that, too.” She dug around in her pockets and pulled out a small bag. “I brought you a gift.”
Alyssa couldn’t hold back a giddy smile as she took it and pulled out the tissue paper. Inside were three plaid ribbons, the perfect durability and length for--
“I can put these on my horse! Oh, they’re perfect! Where’d you find them?”
Zayla smiled a little more now. “I know someone in the industry. You’re the first person to get that pattern.”
Alyssa jumped forward and wrapped her arms tightly around Zayla’s shoulders. “Thanks!”
When she pulled away, she cocked her head, glancing over Zayla, taking in her appearance. “I told you purple would look nice on you. And see?” She spun around, her dress poofing out. “We have both colors now!”
Zayla chuckled faintly, and Alyssa took her arm and led her around the room, making sure she knew how the party was set up.
Even with Alyssa’s help in understanding where everything was, Zaya felt confused, lost, and hopeless. She wouldn’t last the night. She couldn’t. Not with so many people. Not in such a crowded room.
Just thinking about it made her breath go short. She was trapped, forced to be here for hours. She was terrified.
And then there was Cameron.
He came running over, breathless as he tried to dodge his way through the crowd. He leaned back against the wall and let out a sigh.
Whereas Zayla talked to no one, Cameron talked to everyone. It looked exhausting.
He leaned over to get on her eye level. “How you holding up? I didn’t mean to be gone so long.”
She bit her lip and thought a moment before responding. “Fine. And really, you don’t have to hang out with me the whole time. I’m not much fun.” She looked down at her shoes and toyed with her sleeves.
He laughed as if that was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard. “You’re kidding, right?” He leaned forward and raised his eyebrows.
Zayla glanced up at him, but immediately looked back down at the ground and shrugged.
“Well,” he said, his voice a bit softer this time, “That’s just ridiculous. I like hanging out with you.”
Zayla blushed at this. She still couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be around her, but it felt nice to be wanted, for once.
Cameron tapped Zayla on the shoulder to let her know he’d be right back before running off to get her gift. She needed something to help her enjoy the party, and he hoped that this would do it.
He pulled her gift off of the table, taking note that there were only a few others with her name on them. One from Keiko, and Alyssa. Oh, and Varity too…
Most people took their own gifts at the end of the day, but he wanted to give her his himself.
He wanted to watch her eyes light up. He wanted to see her smile.
He wove in and out of the crowd as he made his way back to the wall. She looked over at him, tossing her head back just enough to get her bangs out of her eyes. He sucked in a breath as he got closer. He couldn’t figure why, but it was like he was shot with adrenaline every time he saw her.
“Here,” he said, breathless. “I made it for you.”
The corners of her mouth pulled into a smile as she reached out and took the gift.
“You really shouldn’t have,” she mumbled.
He couldn’t fight back a wide grin as she carefully pulled the ribbon off. Her eyes lit up when she opened the package and saw the drawing--
“It’s Kiara! It looks just like her-- How did you--” She looked up, her jaw unhinged. “Thank you.”
Alyssa Jumped up on the stage, her arms swinging at her hips, her hair falling in twists around her face. This was it-- her moment to shine.
And shine she would.
She tucked a curl behind her ear and grabbed a microphone, tapping it to make sure it was on. With a thumbs up towards the back of the room, the music started playing. The notes surrounded her, filling her up until they overflowed back out of her again. It was the most natural thing in the world for her-- to belt out the music, let the song flow through her like pure energy. It was as close to magic as she could get in Thera. When the song came to and end, it left a hollow space in her soul that could only be filled by starting again.
Of course, it was a talent show, and everyone only got one song. She stepped back and bowed as the crowd clapped. The applause was exhilarating. She couldn’t help but grin widely right up until the winner was announced.
It wasn’t her name.
She raised her chin, clenched her jaw, and exited with grace. But she didn’t come back into the crowd, she didn’t run over to raid the dessert table like she had the last few years. And she certainly was not happy.
The snow was blowing harder this time as Kei followed her out of the building. He pulled his scarf up over his nose to fend off the cold and spun around to make sure the door shut behind him before running to catch up with the blue hat that was storming off into the snow.
She must have heard him running after her, and she turned around, her arms crossed. She cocked an eyebrow at him.
‘So the unbeatable girl has been beaten?’ He signed, suddenly wishing he had gloves to shield his fingers from the night air.
She blew out a puff of air, creating a cloud against the darkness. With a roll of her eyes, she unfolded her arms and signed. “Whatever. It’s no big deal. She probably deserved it.”
Keiko choked on a laugh. ‘Which is exactly why you ran off into the night, as if that was a good idea.’
She shrugged. “I just wanted to-- nevermind.”
He grinned. ‘You did great.’
She bit her lip and rolled her eyes. “Not like you would know.” A cringe flashed across her face before she even got the words out. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean--”
Keiko took a step closer, wishing he could reach out and put a hand on her shoulder and still talk effectively. ‘Hey, It’s okay.You don’t have to win every time, you know.’
She crossed her arms again, willing herself to keep her mouth shut.
‘I thought you might like this,’ he said, then reached back into his pocket, pulling out a small box.
He held it out and nodded for her to take it, and she reached out and took it in her hands. She hesitated for a moment before opening it and letting out a gasp.
Inside was a locket, a silver square engraved with tiny brass filigrees. She popped it open, and in the frame was a line from her favorite song, one that had defined the way she and Keiko felt about Domus.
“We built a home where others found a house.”
He took in a tense breath as she held the necklace out to catch the moonlight. She looked at him and smiled softly. It was their story. It was their life.
And no little failure was going to change the way they supported each other.
The four of them huddled around the fireplace. Zayla couldn’t believe she’d survived the night, but she was glad she had. Even after the misery that was waiting for the night to come, she managed to enjoy herself. But this was better than a party any day. She’d much rather listen to Cameron and Alyssa fend off the silence of the evening with their chatter, pulling her into the conversation every few minutes, making sure she felt like she was a part of the group.
And she did. She finally felt comfortable around someone besides her little brother.
Alyssa had all but forgot about her loss earlier as her hands moved almost as fast as her jaw, barely able to keep up with translating for Keiko. She glanced over every few seconds to make sure he was following the conversation, and each time he nodded at her.
He rested his chin on his hands and smiled as he watched the conversation, chiming in every now and then. Despite his efforts to move on, his mind kept going back to what Alyssa had said earlier. He told himself she hadn’t meant it, that it didn’t mean anything. But it was true. She needed someone to appreciate her that could do it fully-- but at least he could honestly say it didn’t matter to him if she won or lost. She always got first place in his book, medal or not.
Cameron laughed again-- Alyssa had clearly had more sugar tonight than she cared to admit. He couldn’t help but chuckle at the way her expressions went from calm to exaggerated excitement and then back again in an instant. He stood by Zayla, his hands buried in his pockets, elbowing her every now and then to get her to laugh too.
The snow was building up outside, the fire was blazing, and the four Recruits were at home. They didn’t need perfect lives- they had each other. They had their freedom, and that was enough.
Thank you all so much for reading! The next story inline with the plot is scheduled for the first Saturday of January, from Keiko's perspective. I look forward to posting it!
Have a blessed Christmas!