Ambrose sat all huddled up in an empty horse stall. The barn was abandoned so it wasn’t likely anyone was going to put a horse in Ambrose’s hiding place any time soon.
He shivered and rubbed his arms.
There were too many close calls tonight. Too many dances with death.
Ambrose leaned his head back against the rough wood wall. He closed his eyes and took in the myriad scents.
He shivered again.
I wish I were somewhere warm.
He pressed his forehead against his knees.
It’s Christmas Day.
I wish I were home.
He remembered the light fading from his father’s eyes.
The taste of his blood.
All of the servants slashed and fallen. Their blood on his face.
On his clothes.
Staining his claws.
He shuddered. “I have no one.”
I am alone.
Completely alone on Christmas Day.
Raven set up the Christmas tree even though there was no one to share it with. It was all force of habit.
No one would come over to see it.
No one would come over to visit.
How could they?
They were all gone. Died so long ago. One by one, they passed away and passed out of his life, leaving him alone.
Leaving him with just his memories.
Memories of her.
May Rose Farlington.
The sound of her voice.
Her passionate personality.
Every single memory of her. Every single wish for what could have been.
Raven bowed his head as he put one more ornament on the Christmas tree.
And the house was quiet.
He was all alone.
And it was Christmas Day.
Robin walked the streets alone.
He thought of the family he’d left behind.
A widowed mother.
A man who could have played the role of his father, but he had rejected it wholeheartedly.
He didn’t want us none. Mama and I weren’t good enough to make him wanna stay.
I oughta go back to her so she ain’t all alone.
Robin raised his hands and extended his claws.
But I ain’t wantin’ her to see me like this. I ain’t wantin’ her to know I’ve been changed into a vampire. If she thinks I’m gone and dead, that’s all okay. It’s better to think of me dead than to know I’m a freakin’ monster.
She’ll look at me and just see a monster.
He retracted his claws and lowered his hands.
Mama, I wish I could go on back home.
But I can’t.
So, I’m just gonna wander the streets all alone on Christmas Day.
Isellta sat on his bed and grabbed his pillow.
He hugged his pillow.
I miss you both so much. Do you miss me too?
“I wish I could go home.” His voice wavered as he said, “I just wanna go home. This place is awful. I’ve seen things I’ve never wanted to see. Olessa hurting people on purpose and I don’t understand the reasons why. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
He pressed his forehead against his pillow.
I just want to go home on this cold Christmas Day.
Ambrose entered Raven’s house. It was warm inside and the combined scents of black licorice and lime, tangerines, semi-sweet chocolate and vanilla beans, lemon cream pie, and apple cinnamon tangoed in the air.
He followed the scents to the living room. He stopped in the doorway and smiled.
Barbara chitchatted with Missy on the couch.
Raven directed Robin and Isellta in the right way to decorate a Christmas tree. Robin told Raven in no uncertain terms just how he felt about such directions. Isellta looked adoringly at Robin and touched his arm. Robin smiled lovingly at him.
Ambrose took a couple of steps into the room. Barbara noticed and ran to him. “You’re here!”
He embraced her and she felt perfect in his arms. “I’m here.” He kissed her head. “I’m home, love.”
“I’m just sayin’ it’s a freakin’ Christmas tree.” Robin said. “There ain’t no right or wrong way to freakin’ decorate it. You can just toss the stuff on and call it a day.”
Raven winced. “That is wrong in so many ways.”
“What? It ain’t like a color by num’er book.”
“Indeed, sir. It is not. All the same, there is a certain aesthetic—”
Raven frowned at that.
Isellta gently touched Robin’s arm. “I’m not taking sides against you, but I do understand what Raven means. If you throw the ornaments on the tree in no particular order, it will look like a nonsensical mess. It won’t look pretty at all.”
The fey looked and sounded so earnest Robin’s annoyance melted away. “I love you so much.” Robin kissed Isellta and the fey’s wings flapped ecstatically.
Mrs. Hastings entered the room with a cup of hot apple cider in her hands. She took a sip. “mm!” She set the cup down on the nearest table and helped with the tree decorations.
“‘sellta,” Robin said softly. “You’re my home.”
“And you are mine.” Isellta replied.
Ambrose, Barbara, and Missy joined everyone else at the tree and helped decorate.
Raven glanced around at his small group of friends and smiled. “We are a strange mishmash of personalities and ages, but together we are a family.”
Missy hung a garland around Raven’s neck and kissed him. “My pretty shirtless Raven.”
And I am no longer alone.