Christmas Eve in Dark Land, and for once it was snowing. Ludwig calculated that the odds of this happening were one in one million. He also knew the snow would last ‘til tomorrow, it was falling so thick and fast. His predictions had taken most of the evening to work out, leaving Karma stupidly bored. When she had told him so, he had simply replied, “Nonsense, my dear, what could be less boring than higher mathematics?!” She had then rolled her eyes and gone to her dark, dingy, frankly rather-in-need-of-an-impromptu-spring-cleaning room. Susan was there, sobbing. She and Wart were staying for the holidays. Karma sighed and listened to her tale of woe. According to her, Larry had cornered her under the mistletoe in the lounge, but chickened out at the last minute and locked himself in his room. Karma deduced that Larry had been the one cornered. Susan had a way of fudging the truth to work in her favor. It worked on Bowser and Wart, but not on her cousins, or Karma.
Karma suggested to Susan that she try again, but this time have Roy pin Larry down. Susan sprang to her feet, stopped crying, and raced off towards Roy’s room. Several minutes later, Karma heard Roy’s screams from his room, and figured Susan was “persuading” Roy to help. Another few minutes, and Larry was the one screaming before yelling “EEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!! IT BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURNS!!! WHY DO YOU HATE ME, DAD?!”
Mistletoe, she thought, a rather mysterious plant. Why people kiss under it, I'd never know. Ludwig had been spending more and more time in his lab recently, working on Christmas presents. He had made one for everyone except her. He had even made one for Susan. Blood is thicker than water, I guess, Karma thought. She decided to get some sleep. Maybe in the morning, Ludwig would relax, it being Christmas, and all...
As it turned out, she was wrong. Ludwig was still working furiously in the morning; he said he’d left Bowser’s present to last and knew he’d go to the dungeon if he didn’t finish it. Karma rolled her eyes. However, she did get a fairly decent haul this year in terms of presents. Joshua, Josh Koopa, and Amie Koopa had sent her a watch, sort of a thank you present for her help in diagnosing the latter two’s Metbond.
(Iggy: Couldn’t resist the self-insertion, could you?)
Teela had sent her a strange-smelling, yet very pleasant perfume, apparently made from the nectar of Heart and Hurt Plants on Lavalava Island. A present containing a sweater was also under the tree, “from Jumper”. The tag was in Clawdia’s handwriting. Of all the Koopa family, except Ludwig, Clawdia had probably been kindest to her. Mysteriously, a small box for Karma had been left under the tree, almost unnoticeable, and it did not say who it was from. It contained one sprig of… Well, you’re an intelligent reader, I’m sure you can guess. If you really can’t… Well, there’s not much hope for you.
(Iggy: We get it…)
(Joshua: Quiet, slave.)
It was not until lunchtime that Ludwig made his appearance; and he went straight back up to his room to finish Bowser’s present. What’s he givin’ him, a nuclear reactor? thought Karma. However, not even his absence could quell the high spirits of the day. Bowser and Wart wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders and belted out carols at high volumes. Roy, Iggy and Larry did the same. Morton didn’t make one single speech, much to everyone’s pleasure. There was music and dancing, and even Larry clinked glasses with Susan before getting forced under the mistletoe again. He didn’t seem to mind, although maybe he just wasn’t going to let anything ruin Christmas. Playful didn’t attempt to give anything the “death stare of death” all day, and Bagels… well, no one noticed much change in her. The guards had the day off and even the prisoners in the dungeons had their own party.
Evening came, as did dinner. Ludwig finally came downstairs, wiping himself off with a now-filthy towel (Clawdia’s lips thinned momentarily), with the family’s presents behind him on a wagon. Karma counted 11, one less than the number of people and pets in the room. After the traditional eat-until-you-feel-like-you’re-going-to-explode Christmas dinner, he handed them out, to his siblings, parents, Wart and Susan, Playful and Bagels and, “last, but by no means least…” Jumper. He had fashioned the most peculiar devices Karma had ever seen. He called them “the Personal Groomers Version 3.0”. Karma was sure she wasn’t the only one wondering what happened with versions 1.0 and 2.0. Put simply, the device could comb one’s hair, apply makeup, wash faces, clean out ears, brush teeth and floss, and, in the case of the pets, brush fur or polish shells.
Karma wondered why Ludwig hadn’t made her something. Ludwig apparently detected this. “Karma, my dear, I hope you don’t think I’ve forgotten you!” He took her hand and led her outside the dining room. The extended Koopa family started to rise from their chairs. “Um, I don’t think so, Family. No, I’d like some privacy.”
“You’ve had privacy the whole day!” yelled Bowser.
“Five minutes is all I ask, Father,” Ludwig answered, coolly. Bowser grumbled and pointed reluctantly to the door. The Mets exited.
“I take it you’re wondering why I didn’t give you a PG3.0.”
“Karma, you don’t even care about that stuff.” That was a fair point. Karma didn’t care for her personal appearance; just a once-over with her washcloth and a quick shower suited her.
“Then what DID you get me, genius?” At this, Ludwig smirked, reached into his shell, and pulled out a small box.
“Open it. It’s a little more… personal than a PG3.0.”
“Stop calling it that, it’s irritating.” Karma opened the box. It contained two things: an engraved ring and a locket. The words “Love is acceptance” were what was inscribed on the ring. The locket contained a photograph, as lockets do. This one was of Ludwig and Karma together on the balcony outside Ludwig’s room. He was behind her, his arms around her waist. (Wendy had taken the picture, because Ludwig threatened to tie her to a chair and force her to listen to a copy of Morton’s speeches on tape. In stores now for just $9.99!)
“I remember this…” Karma said.
“Yes, this is after that dinner we had together last summer.”
“And I almost broke Roy’s arm when he tried to break the table in two,” Karma grinned.
“I’d forgotten that…” Ludwig also grinned. Karma put the ring on her finger and locket around her neck, before reaching into her shell and holding the mistletoe she’d received above their heads.
“Where’d you get that?”
“I think Susan gave it to me. I gave her a little help last night with Larry.”
“I won’t ask for details.”
“You’re stalling, Poofb-” Before she could finish her usual insult, Ludwig embraced her and gently kissed her.
“Merry Christmas, my love,” Ludwig said, blushing.
“Merry Christmas.” She embraced him again.
Ludwig grinned and placed a PG3.0 in her hand. “I made you one anyway. Put it this way,” he lowered his voice so it was barely a whisper, “I’m not the only one who needs to comb my hair!” And he ran away, dodging the heavy candelabra she picked up and threw at him.
Merry Christmas to you all, from Joshua!
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