Christmas Eve, Year 5 of the Addergoole School
The halls were quiet; it was, Yngvi mused, almost like the school was normal. Almost. He’d talked Ayla into an hour of hanging out, just the two of them, although it had been hard to pry her away from Io. The two were a beautiful couple; maybe some day…
He swallowed the sigh. Today should not be about angst, and there was enough to be happy about. “I’ve never had a sister before,” he told Ayla awkwardly, as they made their way into the tinsel-hung grotto.
“You have,” she teased. “From the sounds of it, lots and lots of sisters. And brothers.”
“And nieces and nephews,” he shook his head. “Our dear father seems to be both ancient and prolific.”
“Well, you’ll never be without family, then. Neither of us will. That’s kind of nice.”
“It is,” he agreed quietly. “That’s part of what I wanted to talk about.”
“Yeah?” She looked at him crookedly.
VI took a deep breath. “Okay, I have a feeling I’ll be making this promise a lot over the next four years, but here goes. I promise you, Ayla, that no matter happens, no matter who shows up in my life or yours, if you need me, all you have to do is tell me that, and I’ll help you out, whatever I can do.”
The air rippled and settled around them with the promise, and his sister blinked back tears. “Oh, Vi!” She hugged him tightly against her. “Vi… I promise the same. I’ll always be there for you!”
Christmas Eve, Year 25 of the Addergoole School (2019, 8 years after the apocalypse began)
“How do you think they’re doing?” Signy murmured, clutching her mug of cocoa.
“They’ll be fine,” Yngvi reassured her – reassured all of them, really, sitting around the café pretending their children weren’t all in prison for the holidays.
“I thought they’d come home for Christmas,” Ayla murmured. She’d been the one to make the call, this year, although usually it was Ein or Signy. It was always one of them, his Addergoole sisters, every Christmas Eve since 2003 (and they had quite a few to choose from).
“Even when they’re not Kept, they usually don’t,” Rory murmured; Callie’s kids were older than any of theirs, and so he’d gone through this before. “It gets weird, you remember, trying to shift between the real world and Addergoole.”
“But they’re my babies,” Ayla murmured. “Ni came home last year.”
“Only because your threatened to disown her if you didn’t get to meet your grandbaby,” Vi reminded her. “And it’s not that safe to travel anymore, Ay, you know that.”
“Yeah,” Signy murmured. “They’ll be fine.” She took a deep breath. “Think of it this way, guys. We always had each other. There was never a year when we didn’t have a brother or sister – or both – there to watch our backs. And our kids? Exponentially more family than we had.”
That got a smile from Aelgifu. “Indeed,” Yngvi smiled. “Our kids will always be there for each other, too.”
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