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Gift of love ( a tribal christmas story in 3 parts)

Back in the days of the old BB it was a kind of tradition in the bramber fan club that I wrote christmas themed stories. One year I did a story that had 24 parts (real world with tribal characters), another year each day someone else got a story from me in december. One year I had four stories each going about oine week in advent…I can’t even sum up it all, it was much I wrote those years.

I found an old story back some weeks, a german one. It was a bramber one named “All i want for christmas” and placed in s6. I have translated it now (finished up with better language) and placed in more other couples too. That way it is now as long that i can part it in three parts. One posted today, one posted on Christmas eve and the third will be posted on Christmas day. I hope you enjoy it and get a little festive mood in that crazy times we are living in. Christmas is a time of wonder and I wish as much as possible to you!

S 6 Christmas one shot

Gift of love (inspired by ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ by Mariah Carey)

- PART 1 “Meeting again”-

High trees stood majestically along the path. The cold weather already had brought ice over the branches, the grass along looking like frozen pictures of the once alive nature. Like being preserved.

The only life along were some tiny birds that nestled closely within some trees. The breeze here was so way different then the breezes the group of young people knew from their own home. Not warm and salty, but cold and dry.

“Ruby…what are those for trees?” the youngest girl among them stared at a tree that looked like a triangle shaped hat to her. “They are called firs Lottie…” “We don’t have those at home or?” “Yes we have…in the north…where it is more alpine …but not where our town was located…” “It are Christmas trees!” a young boy with red hair said knowingly. “Yes firs were used for that…” “Christmas?” Lottie stared at them utterly confused. “Yes…Christmas…don’t…don’t you know that Lottie?” “Of course I do! Only…erm…” she turned a bit away from Ruby “It is not like they did much for us in foster care with it…We didn’t have a tree or whatever…or stockings…I only know that from movies…” “How terrible!” The young guy with them whispered, remembering the nice Christmases in his home. Lottie shrugged. “Not a big thing really…”

The leader girl stared along their group. They all collected now around Ruby and the two younger members of their tribe, searching all the warmth of being closer. This temperatures here were mostly unknown to them. Some of them knew real cold from holidays in the north, going for skiing with their parents in the past. But not a cold like now, without the proper clothing even. She nestled her baby son closer to her chest, hoping her coat she had closed around him too, giving him enough of warmth. Her eyes met those of Trudy. She had her own daughter close in her arms, but her child was too big already to bring her under the coat the other mother was wearing. There was concern in Trudy’s eyes. A concern the leader shared. They had fled months back from their home, their country, with literally nothing then the clothes they were in. They had been on board of a tiny trader boat for a long while and all looked raged enough. They were cold in the strange country their boat had brought them too.

Her eyes fell on Zac, the one who had brought them here. It was thanks to him and the girl on his hand their tribe had a chance on a new start somewhere. “Mommy?” “I know Brady…you’re hungry…but…” “Here…I haven’t eaten all my ration…” Trudy looked thankfully at the blond male who gave her daughter the part of his ration. “Thank you, Jay!” Brady chirped dutifully with a cute smile before she ate the rusk. Jay leant over to her “Amber…we really need to find a place soon…” “You don’t say?” She huffed with an eye roll. He kept the tribe at bay, was able to keep them focused on walking on since they had went on land here, but he hadn’t a real solution at hand too. Just like the others he turned to her, seemingly thinking she had a plan for everything. “No need to snap my head!” He told her with a stern gaze.

“Oh sorry…yeah…I just wave my magic wand or what Jay? I am as strange as you all here! And I have a not almost one year old in my arms. I haven’t anything to feed him any more…so sorry that my mind is more occupied with that!” She stepped forward “I would think we just have to walk…you heard those people in that village…there was once a Techno place here somewhere…there are rebels located…maybe those can tell us something…” she looked over her shoulder. “You all wanted to leave…I voted for staying there in the village, if I might remind you. So don’t come complaining to me now!”

They all followed her, a red haired girl finally catching up to her. “They are all full of hope we might find others after…” Amber looked short back with her. Back where another red haired girl and a young man were walking. They had found them a month after they had set off with the boat. It had been a fight to free people in that camp. Searching the isle they had realised that there existed several such camps. Lex becoming then all determined again to search the rest. But Amber wasn’t too be fooled. He only wanted to find his wife. “I know…but you all shouldn’t hope too much…” “But…Amber what if the others are somewhere too? Ved, Cloe, Ryan? Maybe…” “Don’t say it! Don’t say HIS name!” “But…” “No BUT! It was YOU who edged me to go on! YOU! Salene…I hoped so long…I can’t go back hoping any more. When we reach that place…and we find no one…and you all want to search on…I’ll stay there. It is our son I have to think of…it is what he would want me to do…” Salene grabbed her arm. “I am sorry Amber…my advice wasn’t too good, or? But I really believed Jay and you…”

Salene looked back where Jay was walking beside Trudy, now him holding Brady. Officially he was with Amber, but the last months on the boat had driven the two apart. They had discussed loudly about the way the tribe should go, Jay all for searching on the missing ones, Amber calling him a foolish dreamer and hypocrite for he now wanted Ved back, when he had told her there was no hope the day they had found her lost loves picture marked with the cold word ‘deleted’. Jay had went edgy with Ambers son, often complaining about the little ones need of her.

“It is weird…why can he handle Brady so good? And be that bad way with little Bray?” Salene whispered. “It is because Trudy doesn’t remember her daughters father with love, like I remember Bray…” Amber whispered. “You…you sure?” “I…I dream still about him Sal. I talk in my sleep…and Jay heard…” “Oh no…but…but that is not your fault! You can’t control that!” “In Jay’s eyes I am not TRYING good enough…” Salene huffed. “I’d never thought I would eat my own words that way…but then let him! Seriously…first swearing his heart to Ebony – weird enough- then messing around with Trudy, then still running off to get it started with you…I thought it was just the weird ways feelings sometimes go…but now…ts! Hopefully Trudy knows what she is doing there…” “I should have never gotten in between them…I should have known my heart…” “So…you going to break up with him?” Amber looked back when Jay and Trudy laughed about something. “In my eyes we already have…”

She looked in front again, her eyes stinging a bit. It still hurt. He was literally cheating in a way for everyone to see. “Give him to me…” Salene held her arms out for her sleeping son. “I don’t…” “Come…you have him on your arms for days now…we have hardly made rest and even then you kept him…let’s share. Girls got to stick together!” very moved Amber gave her son to Salene, who wrapped the baby tightly up into her own coat now. Amber shook her tensed shoulders a bit. “Hi cutie…aren’t you a little heartbreaker hmm?” “Like his dad…” Amber sniffed, hurriedly stroking a tear away.

Salene’s looked at the blue sky above them while Amber walked off again. “Bray…can’t you…sent her some hope? Some…comfort? I don’t know how to help her…I thought it was right to go on, but now…I see that this was the wrong advice…” Salene and Amber had grown close on the journey. They shared the situation to have lost the big love of their lives. But Salene at last had a real closure. Even when it pained her she would maybe never again be able to visit Pride’s grave, at last she knew the place where he rested in peace. While Amber would probably never know what really had happened to her son’s father. Before Trudy had been the one Amber trusted more then anyone, but the thing with Jay had destroyed some of the inner trust in the friends. And though Salene enjoyed to be Amber’s closest, she hoped they would come over and re-establish their friendship. But seeing Trudy now even grabbing a hand of Jay made her doubt that.

She stayed back a little and stared daggers at them. “Aren’t you both ashamed?!” “Ashamed?” Trudy stared back wondering, but then her eyes followed Salene’s look. “Oh that…it is…I mean…not how you think…I am just…comforting Jay about her silly behaviour!” “Silly?! You out of all people Trudy…are sure in no right to call someone silly. And I would think you would draw a clear line…” The red haired girl stared at Jay. “After all he already broke your heart one time…” “Don’t speak that way with him!” “I speak the way I want! And I would ask you both to be at last a bit of more respectful. If you two want to be together…fine. But don’t go pretending you’re only friends, don’t go insulting Amber with that.” “She did the same!” “And? Yes her handling of the situation wasn’t perfect…but because of that you think you can do it just as foolish? Very arisen Trudy…very arisen!” Salene turned with a huff and followed Amber.

“You know…she is right with that!” May told them, walking past them with Zac on her hand. From once only a loose contact of her the guy and her were now a real couple. Zac was independent and street smart like May. He easily had decided to come with them, through he made clear every other day that he wasn’t a Mall Rat. Trudy let go of Jay’s hand, but stayed on his side.

“Will those girls ever learn about not letting a man mess them up?” Alice shook her head. Her sister Ellie , hand in hand with the tribes Genius Jack, shrugged. “Speaking fairly Amber stole Jay in a way from Trudy…” “Ellie…she didn’t steal him!” Jack rolled his eyes. “You can’t STEAL a human. Jay was willed to be with Amber. Trudy was stupid to start something with Jay to that time and then even more for not telling Amber at once. Once Amber had made up her mind it then showed that Jay still felt drawn to her.” “Still…Amber shouldn’t have started something with him…” “All three of them acted wrong…” Jack told her. Before the lovers could fight Alice coughed a little. “In my eyes Jay and Trudy suit better…he is what she needs and she seems to be what he longs for. Amber is too strong minded for the guy. I remember Bray stood his ground up to her way better! And…” Alice sighed. “Amber’s heart is still with Bray…I see it when I look in her eyes. On the journey she was constantly comparing Jay with him. I know that feeling…” “You’re not still mourning for Ned?!” Jack asked kind of scandalized. “No…but I mourn the feeling…so I understand Amber a bit at last…” “Bray sometimes had the same sad stare in his eyes…even when he was already with Danni…” Ellie mused. “You noticed that?” “I am a girl too Alice!” “Yeah a snappy girl who never took too much of trouble to spare someone’s feelings…” KC grinned from the side after coming up to them. “PFFF!” The other three laughed and Ellie giggled along. They were a weird unit in a way. Jack and her as couple, Alice of course part of their little family within the tribe. But now KC was a part of that too, because him and Alice had spent much time together. She had adopted him in a way. Jack had at first been a bit troubled by it, for KC was turning now more and more handsome. He had been afraid he could try for Ellie. But KC seemed to be more interested in Gel.

But whenever he was annoyed with the fashion girl he searched the three of them to talk rather to them. Gel was right now babbling Ruby’s head away. Lottie and Sammy always looking back with such annoyed faces that the older ones behind them had to grin. “I admire Ruby for not shooting her into the head…” the blonde stated dryly. “ELLIE!” “What Jack? God she is a killer with all that fashion and make up stuff…” “She can be very fun!” KC told her a bit of sternly. “Tscha…all guys see in that girl is her doll face!” “Sister-heart…you qualify as doll face girl too you know? With your long blond hair…your eyes…” “NO! Take that back Alice! I have a brain!” Right when a discussion might have grown with the four of them, Lex shouted annoyed. “You’ve got to be kidding me?!” They turned their heads in the front where the ex-sheriff was walking behind Amber and Salene now. But he didn’t look at any of them but high in the sky. And sure enough they felt it then. Cold, soft little touches from above.

“Snow…?!” Ellie held her hand out, catching a snowflake. In front Brady awed into the sky. “Mommy? Is that?” “It is called snow sweetheart…it is…frozen rain…” “Guys…I know you’re now all about dreaming away…joyfully whatever…but we need a place to stay!” Lex crossed his arms, his leather jacket wasn’t enough any more. He felt cold since days, but the temperature seemed to have dropped some more degrees now.

“Be silent!” Amber called back right from some meters in front. She strained her ears like she had learnt with the ECOS, closing her eyes a moment she then looked excited at her tribe. “I hear voices…children…” She put on spurt and they all hurriedly followed her. It would be terrible to loose her now while she was somehow leaving the old street but ran across the soon white meadows. “AMBER! AMBER! WAIIIIIT!” Lex ran up beside her “Are you insane?” “Why…? LOOK!” Lex turned in the direction at her finger and gaped. Then he hugged Amber joyfully and whirled her one time around. “GIRL! I never say anything again against being some ECO warrior…you found it!” They were in front of an old military compound. Just like the people from the village had told them. Some of the old prisoners had chosen to stay there, mostly those who weren’t at home in this part of the world.

Some children were having a snowball war, absolutely at ease with gloves and hats, big scarfs and thick military coats. “Civilization!” The ex leader of the TECHNO tribe sighed wistfully behind them what made Lex and Amber exchange an expatriated look. There was no one as more a whiner then Ram in their eyes. Not even Gel had complained more then him during their journey.

“Hey you lot…” A woman came out, dressed not as warm. “Come in…dinner is ready…” “Ah…no…we just started…” “The snow will be there tomorrow still…but I can’t guarantee there will be spaghetti bolognese left…” “SPAGETTI? BOLOGNESE?” the five children jumped. “Why didn’t you say at once San?” they ran up and her amused chuckle followed them.

Amber had grabbed Lex arm, somehow worried what he might do. Maybe faint. He stared at the girl who’s side they only saw. “Tai-San?!” It was only a whisper, but her head turned to them. Her long black hair with the blue gleam to it whipping around. “LEX? AMBER?!” She covered her mouth shocked by how loud the had almost screamed, but then she already ran up to them, hugging both at once. Both hugged her back. “Tai-San!” Lex sobbed shaken by having her back in his arms. Carefully Amber went out of the hug, giving them more room to touch completely. She stared at them, a hand covering her mouth, crying silent tears of joy. The others rushed up along, each old Mall Rat exclaiming the happiness to see the Asian girl with a loud shout. Lex let her go- only reluctantly- to hug the others too.

“I told them we would meet…I dreamt about it!” she beamed excited at the others. “Oh…but come in…you look frozen!” Tai-San lead them into the building “It is an old top secret basis. We have everything here…electricity…running water…heating system…kitchen well stocked…medical back up…” She explained in a rush, pulling on Lex hand who was staring around wondering. “Hey you all…come down! We have guests!” “Guests?” A voice they knew too asked, coming along “CLOE!” The black skinned girl did a squeal of delight before rushing down the stairs hugging Amber. Amber laughed joyfully “Cloe…oh my god!” She held the girl from her her eyes travelling down to the little bump. “Hmmm…yeah…much happened…” “Oh yes…oh come here again! How did you find a man to become pregnant while being…?” “VED!” Jay’'s shout let Amber turn and she saw how he run up the stairs pulling his younger brother tightly in his arms. “Jay! How do you…where do you…?” “You’re alive!” Jay leant his forehead onto Ved’s, both brothers closed their eyes a moment. “Yes I am…” “And you become father – it’s yours or?-…and…god…I have a million questions!” “One thing after the other…we have time…” “What is going on here? ” Another well known guy came along. “RYAN?!” “LEX!!!” The black haired Mall Rat guy huffed breathless when his old best friend caught him in a tight bear hug. But he gave the hug back full hearted.

“Slowly this feels a bit if cheesy here…” the girl with the braids rolled her eyes sarcastically. “Oh shut up Ebony!” Trudy snapped at her. The other girl rolled her eyes again, leaning to the guy beside who closed his arms around her from behind. “Be nice darling…” He kissed her neck softly what made her grin. “You prefer me nice instead of naughty?” “I prefer if you are naughty only with me…” he whispered with a smirk, grazing his lips along her ear.

Trudy and Ruby shared a sick gagging face. The openly showed sweetheart behaviour of the couple had driven them all a bit sick the last months. They hardly left hands off each other what often had caused discussions for space wasn’t much on the boat and almost everyone had walked in on them one time.

“Hey…what is up here? Guests? Bring them in! The twins and me made enough for…for…” his ocean eyes stared wide eyed at the assemblance downstairs. His voice had gotten a nudge deeper, his chest broader, his hair even longer. A soft stubble covering his cheeks, giving him a manly look. His top hair held back by a man bun, while the rest of his brown wavy mane reached his shoulders. Around his left eye and temple an expressive black tribal. “What…?” “They are here…they found us!” Cloe called high to him. He seemed not to take it in. But then his eyes met hers. A short moment he shook his head as if he wanted to make sure he wasn’t only dreaming again. But then he breathed her name and like a long time back in the mall he almost jumped down the stairs on his way, while she kind of stumbled up to him. Their embrace of each other was tight, taking away each others breath they held each other.

“Bray…” she mumbled muffled, crying on his chest. “Amber…shh…it…it’s…don’t cry…” “You’re crying too!” she mumbled still muffled. Taking hold of her face to make her look up in his face he smiled teary. “Yes I do…” softly his thumbs stroke the tears away, leaning over he kissed both her closed eyelids. Amber snuggled back close and Bray held her even tighter, nuzzling his face onto her neck, breathing in her scent deeply. The leader girl turned her head to a soft touch of her arm, finding Salene smiling tearful. “Salene…” “Hello Bray…” she gave him a big smile and reached then little Bray to his mother. Respectful she stepped back, aware what a big moment that would be.

Bray swallowed looking at the not almost one year old baby in Ambers arms. The baby looked at him with big, curious eyes that were so much his. “Bray…meet our son.” Ambers voice trembled slightly, fast she looked at the baby. She couldn’t now cry again and snuggle up in his arms. Their son was way more important then her desire to be only close. “Bray…meet your dad…” The man leant closer, hesitating a bit before touching the little cheek softly “He…he …you called him after me?” “It was all I could think of…to give him some guard from you…” she whispered. Bray stared at the baby boy. “He…can…can I?” “Of course…” A moment she held him together with him, till Bray felt stable enough to take the baby completely in his arms.

Bray walked some space away, just looking at the baby in his arms. In this moment, wounds inside of him seemed to heal. He looked so full of tenderness at the baby, but also like a lion on prey all of sudden. They all knew he would fight every fight for that boy. The bond was woven completely now. “Hi little man…” He leant closer “Aren’t you perfect?” His eyes sparkled light and with gentle love. He had fallen for his boy right at once. He kissed the little forehead softly. “…I am sorry I missed so much…but I thought of you all the time…” Softly he kissed the little nose. “…you made me strong and let my will be unbending…” They all watched how new tears sprung to the young fathers eyes. “Now we are together…I hope I don’t mess this up…” He whispered hugging the boy then closely. Little Bray first snuggled up. but cried then. Bray laughed a little. “So far for messing up, hmm? Hey…shh…” “He is hungry I guess…” Amber whispered, coming close to rub their sons back. “I didn’t have much for him the last time…I had to improvise with sogging up rations for him…” “Oh what…? Aw…we can easily solve that…we have some babies here in the camp. Not within our little unit…but in the others. We are living here in several units, or tribes. All the people who stayed here in the base aren’t native here. But Cloe is expecting, that is why we already have some things at hand…we just give him something…come…” Like it was normal, he took Ambers hand in his and pulled her up the stairs into a canteen that had still the military look to it.

Two identical twin girls in the age of around five run up to Bray, each clinging to one of his legs. “Bray…we set the table!” Bray smiled warmly at the two girls with the cute blond curly tails. “Well done sweeties…” “Who are they?” Both girls looked high at the strangers, both holding tighter onto his legs. “This are friends…the Mall Rats…we told you of them, didn’t we? And this…” He bent a bit down showing them the little boy in his arms. “This is my son…” ”OHHHHHH! How cute…hi little boy…” both looked intently at the baby who only sniffled now, clearly wondering in a way for seeing the same face twice. “Amber…guys…this are Faith and Hope…they are all alone in this world and I…” “Bray kind of adopted them!” Cloe told fondly. “He said no little child should be left alone!” Amber smiled about Brays pleading look. Was he really thinking she would be mad about him caring for innocent children? “Girls…this here is Amber…” Cloe explained then. “You know…Brays…” “HIS PRINCESS!” Amber laughed a little when both girls grabbed her hands and led her to the long table, sitting each down beside her. “I am not a princess…” “But you are! You are the one Bray would do anything for! Cloe told us! AWWWW!” The others sat down chuckling a little about the excitement from the girls. Brady looked curious at the a bit older girls. “You both babble heads there…” Bray called with a twinkling in his eyes. “This is Brady…my niece…” “OHHH!” Again everyone laughed then when the girls greeted Brady quiet excited too and went then just around greeting everyone politely but ever so full of life.

They all were kind of even more overwhelmed when the younger five ones from before entered too. “Washed our hands…oh we have guests?!” They seemed to be in Lottie’s and Sammy’s age. Two maybe a bit older. “That are Flash, Fluke and Filly…they were part of the TECHNO education…the other two are Jamie and Kaitlin…they were Techno prisoners like we were…” “TECHNO education?!” Ram spluttered on his water. “What for an EDUCATION?” Like it was his manner he looked at his ex general. “Jay? Explain?!” “I don’t…” Ved rolled his eyes. “Yeah guys…the thing is…there was a real back society in our tribe…you might have faced Mega, but he was just another solo star…we here…we faced the real bad one I might say without showing off. Her name was Rouge and she was the camp admiral here…but she collected special people from the prisoners…and youths she trained up strictly…she manipulated minds…in the medical section we have hell of deleted persons…empty shells…not remembering anything!” He coughed, after catching a look of Cloe. “But…that is not the right moment now…we are save. Don’t worry.”

Bray meanwhile found himself a bottle and some milk. He warmed it in a microwave and carefully tested before sitting down with his son on the counter, just and simply feeding him. “Slowly little man…there is enough…” is eyes blazed with joy about being able to give his son something he needed so badly. “It is all well now…no one will be hungry here…slowly…” “Amber look…you can try to knock off some mashed potatoes here…” Ved’s brother waved over to the kitchen, trying to get her attention. “That will make him better then only some milk…!” Bray looked up a bit of angry. “I am not stupid mind…I was with my niece in that age…but he is frozen…he needs now something that warms him and his stomach up a bit before he can eat something else. Amber doesn’t need to cook especially…noodles are just fine in that age!” “Erm…I think I know a little more about…” “More about babies? I know who you are…you’re Ved’s older brother. Jay…the general who led the invasion but obviously had no clue about what was really going on or? If you would have known…you would have gotten your brother home again, or am I wrong?” Bray left the counter when his son had drunken up. He gave the Ex Techno a disapproving stare while rubbing his sons back then softly to wind him a bit. “So mind …you might gather Technos are not exactly my best friends…” he sat down beside Amber.

He caught her troubled look and took a breath. It was not the time now to work things up. They had all come here and that told him that those who he didn’t know must still be decent in a way. “I…am sorry. You’re all tired and frozen…and we all have a million things to ask. I say we have dinner now and then it will be a good sleep in a warm cosy bed for all of you. We are save here…we have all time in the world to speak…” “But Bray…we still do decorations tomorrow?!” one of the twins asked. “Decorations??” Lex had already filled his plate. “Oh…the Technos here had time planes…and the locals say it too…it must be around Christmas. And we wanted to celebrate it…mostly for the children here…Ved can’t train flying in that weather any way…of course we start to make things for our Christmas Faith…”

“Train flying?” Jay looked asking at the younger brother. “Yeah…there is one of the planes here…enough fuel…I am using the simulator and from time to time fly it…but I am not sure enough already…but one day we wanted to use it to…to get back to all of you…” “Oh okay…yes of course…good plan…we came by boat…” “BOAT? That must have taken…” “Four months!” “EWWWW! No wonder you all look really a little like rats!” “VED!” Cloe hit his back head hard. “ Ouch! What?!..just stating!” “How impolite!” Faith put her little nose up, “We are sorry you all…Ved is no prince charming!” Hope told them with a serious head shake.

“Bray’s got way better manners!” Faith said, smiling at Bray. “Don’t try to charm me again…it’s not pudding every evening…” “But why not?” Faith pouted cutely, flashing her lashes. Amber giggled. It was obvious that the twins had quiet some might about Bray, both smiling charmingly, a bit pouting, eye lash bating. But Bray shook his head. “No way! Too much sweets aren’t good!” “But we have to celebrate! Your tribe is here!” Hope told him with affront. “Oh you know Bray…I really think you should offer some sweet treat…for good manners…” Lex grinned brightly, the girls at once grinning triumphant for one of the older ones helping them. Cloe at once felt remembered for the times she had plead for things to Bray and grinned too. “Oh don’t be so strict, you spoilsport!” Bray sighed. “Okay…okay…but then don’t come telling me again I am spoiling them!”

He rolled his eyes, but his lips twitched with a smile.

Then he concentrated on his son, carefully offering him some more cooled noddles. The baby ate with a good appetite and even took a bit of the sauce when offered. All the time Bray smiled radiantly, his eyes sparkling with so much affection like none of them had ever seen in his face.

Amber ate her part too and probably more then she usually did, but she wouldn’t have been able to tell what she ate if asked. Her eyes were only on him. Him and their son. A perfect picture. How often had she imagined, but how much more beautiful it even was! Tears gathered in her eyes when little Bray yawned wide after having enough to eat and just snuggled closely in his fathers arms. The baby boy had let others carry him, but he seldom really searched such closeness with anyone else beside his mother. “Strong little hero…” Bray whispered full of love, kissing the little head again.

“Bray?” Cloe asked, moving a hand affectionately through his hair. “Hmm?” “I am going to show rooms to them okay? And you should really let your baby rest for real…you need sleep yourself…that meeting today was long…” “Yes…yes you’re right Cloe…” Everyone wondered a bit when Cloe bent her head and kissed his forehead. “It is fine…we have our family back. You don’t need to be alert and stress yourself any more…relax…” Salene and Trudy shared a look, while they followed Cloe. The young girl and their former leader had grown tight.

Cloe smiled with a shrug when Trudy questioned about it. “Oh you know…in this camp here…Bray was like the flaming torch. Motivating people to not give up. I was here before Ved. And was so happy I had Bray and Ryan. They were both there for me, protecting me. When Ved found me, they were even protecting me against him first…” Cloe grinned remembering. “Bray had a man on man talk with him…hihi…never saw Ved so small…” Her face growing earnest again she then talked on. “I was there for him then too…when he missed her so much…when he was worried…you probably can’t imagine…we are free since around five months…but Ved has to learn flying from scratch…then we found out I am pregnant and Bray cancelled all plans to hurry up with coming home…saving me. I told him he should go if he has a chance…but you know him. He took responsibility here…and so…he still yearned to go home and find his family…”

(After having spent the whole morning with cooking and preparations I now have my traditional christmas movie waiting for me (3 Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel) but before you get the second part of my little tribal christmas story. Have a good christmas eve!)

-PART 2 “Settling in at Christmas time”-

She showed rooms to Salene, to Lottie and Sammy who wanted to stay together – they were just overwhelmed about the turn they had taken now-, one to Trudy and Brady. One to Ebony and Slade. A moment she wondered, for when she was taken Ebony had been with Jay, but she didn’t mention. Jay got another room from her. “So here…Ruby…and besides…Ram…May and…erm?” “Zac…we’re staying together!” “Of course…here…” Cloe smiled at May. It was to see that the girl had found some real solace now. That Zac had the right amount of cheekiness to hold that street smart girl interested in him.

Then the black skinned young woman looked at Lex. “And you…?” Before he could answer, Tai-San had woven her hand into his. “Lex and me have lots to talk about…” she pulled him with her and Cloe chuckled with an eye roll “Talk? Yeah whatever! So here…is a room for Jack and Ellie…besides we put Alice…on the other side…KC…and besides is another one for…Gel was the name?” The beauty nodded. She had been quiet since their arrival, somehow like she couldn’t express her awe any more. “Good…there are two big shower places…one for males, one for females…down the floor. There are towels…feel free to use them. And now…rest your bodies and souls…nothing is going to happen here. Bray’s room is a stage above here. The twins are down a stage just like the other younger ones. Mine and Ved’s, Tai-San’s are on the other side in case you need something. Good night…we talk tomorrow…” she hugged each of her old tribe and gave smiles to those she didn’t know before she went to her and Ved’s room.

“Where is Amber?” Salene asked looking around. She hadn’t noticed the leader missing. “Do you really need to ask that?” Jay hissed at her, slamming his own door close.

“Now…well…if he is like that all time now, he doesn’t need to wonder that Amber takes distance to him!” Salene sniffed, going then in her room too. Trudy’s eyes fastened on Jay’s closed one. He had told her he felt like Amber and him didn’t work out. He had told her he regretted how he had acted with her. But she had been careful to let not anything really grow out of it. Had his words been the truth or did he still want Amber? And what did Amber want? And what did she herself want?


Amber had stayed back, Bray was still holding their baby, staring completely in love at it. The twins had vanished with the other five youths, giving him affectionate kisses on the cheek. She didn’t want to miss a second of him adoring their baby. But she was tired herself and finally yawned exhausted. Confused Bray looked at her. “Damn sorry…you need rest! And you…you probably want him with you…sorry…” “I…” “I really want him with me too…I mean…erm…how about…well…I have a real big room…it was the admirals one…you can sleep in my bed and I sleep on my sofa…I mean…if…I don’t…” “Okay!” she stopped his stuttering, kind of breathless. Blushing she looked down into her lap, where her hands twiddled around. She looked a bit up, when he laid one hand into her neck. “We can talk about things tomorrow…I am aware…you have thought I am dead. I know that is what the other Technos also thought what ‘deleted’ means. I know there was a sign of it on my picture. We found out when we took over here…so if there is…someone you should…well…be rather with…?!” “No…there isn’t anyone! Not any more…” That was enough for him to take some pressure away. Adjusting his son safer in his arm, he took her hand with with his free side. “Come…”

They had to walk along the floor where the Mall Rat had taken rooms and nodded to those who flitted along the floor, after using or going to use the showers. “Oh…” Jay came up back from the showers, hair wet, dressed in some simple pyjama trousers. “Oh I see…already off to play happy family…that was fast then!” “Shut up Jay…who was playing happy family the last weeks? Why don’t you go and be with her!?” Bray looked kind of confused when both glared angrily at each other. “I am your partner! But look…meeting Bray again and off I am forgotten…did you really ever care or was I just comfort?” Doors opened and people peered out. “Don’t dare and paint me like a whore jumping from man to man! Remember yourself? Ebony? Telling me then you love me? Only to then jump to bed with Trudy? Only to still land with me?..you kind of cheated on me for everyone to see the last weeks…you took distance for you couldn’t live with my memories. You ignored my son for he is Bray’s. Even if we wouldn’t be here now…you and me…that should have never happened. So go…you’re free…”

Jay’s eyes went cold. “I see…you think just paint me bad and Bray might oversee the fact who I was…that he will be forgiving that you…took the enemy…” “I am NOT painting you bad…I just say how it is. Be honest for once…you only didn’t end it with me for you felt sorry. Poor Amber, lost her son’s father through me…I can’t now break her heart? That is what you thought. But it shows you never knew me for real. I appreciate honesty. I am rather hurt a moment then insulted all the time. I waited you saying something. I waited if you had the balls telling me face to face…but well…you hadn’t that even when you should have told Trudy that you are with me!” “AMBER!” Trudy’s voice rung with emotions. “We aren’t…we didn’t…” “Betrayal doesn’t first start with kissing or sex Trudy…and I am not even really mad at you! I only hope that you both this time know what you do! Brady is older then my son Jay. She notices way more. You can’t play daddy for the girl and then suddenly drop Trudy when another skirt comes your way!”

Without another word Amber rushed past, just forward, not looking back. Trudy looked embarrassed at Bray. “Bray…are…are you…?” “Not my business…” he said coolly, but stepped then close to Jay. “Stay the hell away from my family. And dare hurting my niece…or her mother…and you will wish never to have been born…” He spoke almost off handily. Not even threatening, but his eyes spoke a way different language. Jay swallowed, just able to hold the stare a moment. Then Bray followed Amber, holding his son safely.

“JAY! Did you have to do that?” Trudy pushed him against the chest. Then she stared around, where from open doors eyes looked at her. “And you all…go back in, close your doors. That is none of your business!” It was almost a screech and doors hurriedly were closed. She took a stabling breath, not to screech on.

“Did you have to attack her in that way? Couldn’t you let her first talk to Bray? Do you think it is easy?” “You told me to talk to her!” “TALK JAY! SPEAK about your relation…yes…but not attacking her like wielding a sledgehammer. She hasn’t done anything…she just stayed back with Bray…they are parents! Bray was taken from her, through you TECHNOS. No need to now attack her because she stays with them. And…and shouldn’t you even have been happy? Because if she would go back to Bray…you and me could be…together more clear and without a bad feeling. But now you’ve gone and attacked her and I feel very bad about it. She noticed there is something…Sal attacked us too…do you think I want people to believe I just sink so low and steal another woman’s man?” “We didn’t do anything…” “Not? You’ve heard Amber…betrayal doesn’t start with kissing someone else. It is thinking about someone else…I shouldn’t have let come it to this…I shouldn’t have let you use me as your shoulder to cry on again. Because that now showed me you still want her!” Jay took her hand. “Hey…hey…don’t cry…” Softly he stroke away a tear from her cheek. “It is my fault…” He hugged her with a sigh.

“I…never was the guy just speaking out so bluntly…I did as general…but I lack ability in real life with others. But I really thought Amber and me…is more the working thing. When she told me she wants me…but now…now I realised…it was maybe my male ego. She wanted me, she could ignore my doing in Bray’s disappearance and it made me think …” “That you are quiet the man?” She mumbled on his chest. “Hmmm…when she started to have more dreams about Bray again…I felt hurt and mislead. But…you can’t fool the heart. I just didn’t want to accept…and then you were there again…being all nice even when I had been an asshole on you. That made me see…what for a good person you are. That you can come over such hurt we did to you…and still have a good word for us…” He made her look in his eyes. “I never had a time to get to know a girl BEFORE I started something with her. Ebony was just sexual attraction in the first place and then I fell for that she fooled me with her sweetness, making me think I was the one to show her good sides.” He rolled his eyes about himself. It made her giggle a bit under her tears. “Everyone is an idiot sometimes?!” “Yeah…and Amber…we fought alongside a good while. I was impressed by her. I AM impressed by her. She is stubborn, has a dream to follow. She puts herself always back for the sake of others…and…well…I maybe misunderstood that again. I interpreted that must now be real love. For don’t we have the same dreams in a way?”

With another sigh he stroke a finger along her face. “I didn’t know what love really is…it is not only sexual attraction…it isn’t only sharing the same dream and beliefs…It is all of that and still so much more…it is the way a smile of someone makes you feel…the way someone takes your hand and comforts you…the way you feel hearing someone’s laughter…” “Jay?” “Oh please don’t interrupt me now! I suck in romantic declarations anyway!” he smirked leaning his forehead on hers. “I just speak it out now okay? Slap me if you want…scream at me what a terrible person I am…I can understand if you won’t believe me…but Trudy…” he took a soft breath, closing his eyes a moment, before looking back in hers. “It’s you. It’s you who made things easy…it’s you with whom I don’t have to think how to be, but just CAN be. I feel terrible for what I have done to you. I deserve hell fire for it probably. To hurt someone so caring and pure…” His eyes somehow burnt into hers. “I…I love you Trudy. You and no one else. And I am so sorry I didn’t understand that at once…forgive me. You don’t have to love me…but…forgive me?!”

Trudy held her breath without being aware. Was this real now? Not some of those stupid dreams she had had since Jay had went away to be with her best friend? She had felt so terrible for searching his closeness. Terrible for not telling Jay to go and be with Amber, but had allowed that her feelings for him had grown even. People would say she had an issue with men who didn’t love her. But Bray and her for example never had been together in any way. She had lost herself to that time. Acting like she owned Bray. But Jay and her had had something, shortly only, but it had been. Back then she also had felt terrible when Amber returned, telling her she would give Jay a chance. She hadn’t found it in her to tell her best friend that there had something happened between Jay and her.

On the boat she had even enjoyed it a bit evilly. It wasn’t easy to get over the fact that Amber had again gotten the man she had wanted. But deep inside Trudy knew it wasn’t Ambers fault. And now Jay had told her that it was his own confusion, that he had not understand his own heart. Could that be? Could you mistake feelings so strongly? And she answered herself. Yes you could. Hadn’t she herself seen so way more in Brays care about her? Hadn’t she told herself that must have been love? No matter how clearly Bray had said ‘no’, she had heard ‘yes we are something Trudy’. Sometimes you wished something so dearly, that you wouldn’t accept if it isn’t happening.

“Trudy? Trudy…please…breath!” She shook her head confused when Jay shook her softly on her shoulders. She had completely zoomed out. Breathing now she felt dizzy. “God don’t do that…it is okay if you send me away…you don’t have to think long to spare my feelings. I don’t deserve you being troubled for not returning my feelings…” “JAY! JUST SHUT UP!” She hissed, grabbing his face tightly. “I am …I am…I never got such a …love declaration okay? It is all so confusing…I hated you…I hated both of you…and then…I tried to be okay. I tried to accept…and then all of sudden…those feelings rekindled, though I knew you were taken. I couldn’t fight it…and now I feel terrible for having somehow not stopped it…” “You are not terrible…it is me who did wrong…non of you girls…” “It takes two to tango like the saying goes!” She whispered, pulling his face a bit down to hers. “You promise this time it is genuine? I can’t go on with this is in the end I am the idiot again. People will look at us, they will talk about us. I nearly let you and Amber be killed, when I realised that there is something between the both of you…such a thing can’t ever happen again! My heart isn’t indestructible!”

“I know…I do everything…tell me what…I do it!” His eyes were open and light brown. She knew that was when real emotions rushed through him. When his heart took over that cool level head. “Kiss me then!” she whispered again. Jay smiled a sunny smile while he laid his lips on hers, kissing her very gently. “Do you call that a kiss?” Trudy complained after the kiss ended. “I am taking it slow…?!” “SLOW? No…not with me!” she grabbed after the waistband of his trouser, pulling him with her to her room. Jay sighed in delight when her lips travelled over his chest, after the door was closed behind them. “Trudy…but…but what about…about Brady?” “She is save there…” she pointed over to the corner where a divider separated a single bed fro Brady from the bigger part of the room where Trudy had another bed. “Cloe must have taken a thought this is the best room for Brady and me…you know that she always is like ‘I am big mommy…’ Jay loved the mix of sarcasm and affection with that Trudy spoke about her daughter. Even when she was angry with the girl, there was always love in her voice.

“Hmmm…okay…” His hands drove under her shirt. “But you know…I am not the one for just sex…” he smirked with a bright grin. “So I first need to hear it from you…” “Oh? Oh okay…I like you Jay…” “LIKE?!” He exclaimed, stroking high the shirt. When he had taken it off she smiled a bit wicked. “Oh maybe a bit more then ‘like’…” “That’s unfair…” he breathed on her ear, making her jittery with playing his fingers along her bra. “I need to hear what you feel…” “And why do you then already undress me?” “For I can’t resist you my love…but please…” His mouth travelled along her shoulders, along her neck, over her face, down the other side of her neck, down her other shoulder. “Hmmm…I can’t concentrate on words if you do this…” “Okay, say it later then!” he mumbled, his hot lips nibbling now along her ear. He couldn’t think straight any more and that was so out of line for him. He always kept a level head. Always. With Ebony he had always managed to take care they weren’t discovered, with Amber he had put thinking straight first too. But when he had first time slept with Trudy his brain had just switch off. They had been nearly discovered some times back those days. For he hadn’t been able to keep a straight thought.

“How blind have I been?” He whispered while they sunk down into the bed, kissing along her stomach. Trudy didn’t hear him, she only heard her blood cursing through her ears, her heart thundering in her. That had to be real. It just had to.

Bray’s room

After she had settled their son into a cosy thick blanket on the sleeping sofa Bray’s room offered, Bray finally grabbed her hand and pulled her beside him. “Talk to me Amber…” “I…what is there to say?” She looked away from him. “I was with Jay…an EX TECHNO…I did the worst I could do…” Shacking his head he gently lead her face to his. “No…remember? I went on with Danni too, when I thought you were dead…it’s not a crime to go on. Especially when you are lost and alone with a child in care! It must have been so hard…and scary!” “But Danni wasn’t responsible for my death or disappearance…” “No that was Ebony…but…hey…” He held her face tightly, when she wanted to flee from his eyes again. “I…I just was maybe a bit of hard and unfriendly to him…but…well…I know he can’t be such an idiot…because if you cared about him…he will be worth!” “He was in secret with Ebony after she married Ram and then he wanted me…and then he slept with Trudy…and then…with me…and… and…” “Woa…hey…come here…” he embraced her tightly, holding her when she sobbed on his chest. “And now…step after step? So I understand?”

Still sobbing from time to time she recounted to him everything from the moment on their baby had been born. All the time he held her, didn’t ask, didn’t interrupt. He just listened, holding her. “I see…that is indeed a complicated story. All three of you did a little wrong when it came to the situation…Trudy should have stayed away from a man who was hurting from you…you should have then stayed away from him later on…and he should have gotten his head clear before he hops around through beds…but the heart is sometimes stupid. Sometimes we so badly wish someone to our side…look at me…how fast did I kind of ‘forget’ Danni? I saw you again and my heart knew at once it was still yours. And now you just told me…how you both have grown apart on the journey…” “Hmmm…he couldn’t handle I remembered you with love…he couldn’t be too close with our son…people always saying how much his eyes look like yours. And I…I missed that. To have a partner who actually raises my child with me…who is there…seeing into me…seeing when I only play the strong…like you always did…” “When…when was the last time you kissed…him?” “Uff…three months ago?!” She looked shocked herself. Three months? Three months with no kiss?

“So…strictly spoken we could say you both are apart for three months already?” “In…in a way…Bray…why aren’t you mad?” “Because…well…because I can’t be mad…” “I was with the TECHNO general! Let aside it didn’t work out and there wasn’t any physical contact now for months…” “Because…well…I know how…If I would be mad…you would have a right to be mad too…and I hope you won’t be…” “You are talking in riddles…?!” “I…” he looked now away from her, taking a breath. “I was with someone too…” “What? But…but you knew…I was…or did you think I am dead?” He shook his head. “No…I fought to come back to you and our child and the tribe…” “But…but how could you then…? Only…only because you were lonely?” “No…her name was Selena…and she was a TECHNO…” “Was?” “Hmm…she made us all believe she is decent…gave more food…wasn’t so hard…she promised me to bring news to us…and one evening…she came to see me and told me…she told me…” She took his hand in hers, squeezing it supportive. “She told me you where dead…and our baby…that you died giving birth…I lost it completely for days…I just went empty…I couldn’t even cry. I gave up. One night she let me be lead to her room…there was dinner and wine…and…and…” “You drunk?” “Not much even…believe me I learned that lesson when you were kidnapped!” She nodded, he had told her when she had been free again.

“But it was enough to make me careless…maybe I was just too weak then…I…well…” “You slept with her?” “Yes…but…but only one time! When I woke up I hated myself so much…I accused her how she could have been so …so respect-less. Using my state like that…she went different like I knew her. She grabbed my chin telling me I could either decide to be hers and live better or…” “Bitch!” “Indeed…I told her I would rather rot in hell then be with her…well you can imagine what that got me…I was closed in for days…tortured…but I relished it. It was feeling, but a feeling different then grief. When I wasn’t giving in, she laughed in my face…telling me what a stupid idiot I have been to believe her being nice…she let me know she lied about you and our baby…that you were alive…” He sunk together. “I lost all my self respect for some days…but…Cloe and Tai-San talked sense back in me…” “And right they were! That girl…such a evil one! Bray…you really don’t believe I would be mad about that? A one night stand born out of too much wine and tears? What I did was way more…” “I only wanted to state…we both had…hmm…lets call it an escapade while we were mourning for each other? When you started with Jay…you just told me Salene almost nudged you…that you didn’t want to at first…?!” “Yes…” He wrapped her closely up to his chest.

“You also told me you dreamt still about me…deep inside you wanted to be with me. You wanted our family, like I wanted it. That is all that matters now.” “So…you say there is a chance?” She looked into his eyes, hopeful. “Of course there is silly! Lets spend time together…get to know everything about the time we were apart. Talking is the way here. Listening to each other. We have to understand where each of us comes from…”

“It’s really save here?” “Yes it is Amber…once I had found my spirit back…I redoubled the fight. Ved finally succeed to get over many of the young Techno students…we threw them down. Rouge and Selena fought with all they got…it was no clean fight I am honest…but in the end…” “Bray…don’t skip that! What happened to them?” A moment he looked away again, but her hand held his so tight and reassuring that he dared looking back in her eyes. “When the fight went on calling more and more people to be hurt on both’s sides…Ved just managed to fight Selena down on a battle in mind control…she did her last breath…but Rouge was so beside herself then…it turned out they were sisters…I…I had to do something before she would go and blow up the whole place…she threatened us with it…and so…so… I offered her a duel. We fought one on one…” “You fought with a woman?” “Don’t mistake that…she was like Ebony, only that she was almost as tall as me…she gave me something to always remember her too…”

Carefully he lifted his shirt a bit and she saw a scar running along his whole rip on the left side. “Oh my…what…?” “Dagger…stuck all in…I didn’t notice in the fight…I had to win. I didn’t think any more…I only went with instincts. When she attacked me again I managed to lead her close to the electrical fence…and then when she ran at me…I moved aside, pushing her strong and…” he stopped letting go of his shirt, closing his eyes. He shook his head. “It was instinct…I…didn’t plan that…she was dead …and…I…I just broke down. I woke up a week later. I nearly bled out like Ved phrased so charmingly…” “How.-…how did you survive then?” “Here is a whole medical system…lucky for me is that Tai-San has some knowledge…she had to work there before…and Ved helped her…without them…I wouldn’t sit here with you…” “Bray…” tenderly she stroke through his hair “…you did what you had to do. It doesn’t sound like that woman would have ever changed. I know I once said everyone should have the chance on a second try…but I now know that some people are just too far in the darkness. You can’t get them out any more. She nearly killed you, so you also could phrase you only defended yourself and all in your care…you’re not a cold blooded killer…” She kissed his cheek. “If you would be, you wouldn’t feel sorry for it…”

With a sigh he dropped his head on her shoulder, nuzzling his face in her neck. “I’ve missed you!” It was a simple sentence. And still it meant the world. It made her blood rush faster, her heart beat harder. It was obvious to both, given the way they had hugged when seeing each other again that they had missed each other. That there were still feelings. But saying it had another power. It made her hope true. There was hope for them. “I’ve missed you every second…even when I had gone on…there was always that part in my heart that only wanted you back…” she whispered, stroking gently over his head. His arms closed tighter around her. “I know that feeling…” he spoke about the time he had thought she was dead after their journey to EAGLE MOUNTAIN. “I know you do…” With a little regret Bray moved a bit away. “I should let you sleep now…is that blanket warm enough? I can give you another…” he was about to stand up, but she held his hand. “Don’t…” he looked back at her. “Don’t sleep on that sofa…get our son here and we sleep together here…okay?”

“Okay…” his heart did some funny somersaults. Careful he lifted their baby boy, who muttered complaining in his sleep, but snuggled up close. Bray felt like his heart was spilling over with hot love, while he walked back to the bed and sat down. “He is the most perfect …you did great!” leaning over after laying down beside her, he kissed her forehead. “I am so proud of you! That birth didn’t came like planned and you had to go through alone a while…” “Yes but without Trudy…” “I will thank her for that. And you…you should talk to her…clear that about Jay off. Don’t let it destroy your friendship!” “You’re right…”

Their baby laid between them now and both laid a hand on the little ones back, holding each other tight then. Their fingers laced tightly. “You promise it is no dream? When I wake up you will still be here?” she asked silently. “Yes…and you promise you will be still here? You promise I am not dreaming either?” “I promise…” Even with that promise they couldn’t sleep at once. They just stared in each others eyes, their baby sleeping peacefully between them, their hands holding each other.

next day

“Hmmm…what?” Shocked the man with the shoulder-long black hair drove high from his deep sleep. The bell outside chirping almost teasingly. With a yawn the Asian girl beside him sat up too. “It is only the morning alarm…waking us…” “What? Why?” “We all work still to built up a working system here…we are like ten groups living each in a certain area. Some work on the fields, some in the mill…” “Woa…babe…I need a coffee before understanding for real! I feel dizzy…” She moved closer. “Lex…?” Carefully she stroke through his hair, noticing how hot his head felt. Concerned she felt his forehead. “Lex…I think you got a cold…maybe even a flu…” “Don’t be silly…the last weeks- months to be true- just were hard…I need a bit of time to adjust…that’s all…” he got up, but swayed then on his legs. “LEX!” She hopped out of bed, hurrying over to his side. “SIT!” “Maybe…maybe…I am really a bit…ill…” he rubbed his eyes and sighed when she pushed him back into bed. “You rest…I get my medical stuff…and some tea…”

Lex laid back, feeling now really a bit dizzy. A slight headache crept up. He closed his eyes with a sigh. At last he had her to care for him.

“Here…” he opened his eyes confused when her voice whispered gently to him. “Sorry…but you really should drink a bit…” He nodded and drunk thirstily on the clean fresh water. “Here…this tea helps to win about the fever…do you feel any pain?” “Only headache…and…and…tschi…” he sneezed short. “Hmmm…a cold I guess. The leather jacket was too thin for here…” “Yeah you tell…tell…tschi…me about it…but what shoul-should …tschi…I have done?!” With a smile she drove a wet towel over his face. “Don’t worry…you’ll be fine…”

Bray’s room

A bright sun beam tickled her awake. With a sleepy yawn the leader of the Mall Rats woke up, basking in the warm embrace of that strong arms around her. The broad chest under her head was so safe and comfortable that she didn’t want to wake up for real. But she felt her sons hand touching her lightly and it made her open her eyes. The baby smiled at once. “Hi my little sweetheart…” She stroke over the boy’s hair. “Did you sleep well?” Then she got aware that she was closer then when they fell asleep. She had laid on her side, like him, their baby safely between them, only their hands touching. But now she rested on his chest, his arms tightly around her and their baby. In their sleep they must have moved together in that close way. It made her smile. They were still the same in a way. They had always slept tightly snuggled up, had always searched each other in their sleep. “Its wonderful in daddy’s arms or?” She whispered to her baby. She leant over kissing the little nose what made the baby wrinkle it cutely. Amber giggled, what made Bray stir a bit. “Hmmm…” turning his head a bit, eyes still closed, he pressed a kiss on her forehead. “You really should sleep a little longer my heart…in your state it is important…rest now while you still can…” Confused she moved her head a bit. “In my state?” “End of pregnancy?” he mumbled with an amused tone in his voice, his hand searching a way to her stomach. Feeling it being flat his eyes flung open with confusion.

His eyes met hers and then those of his little son. “Oh…I…I…” “You feel like all that happened to us can only be a bad dream?” He nodded a bit of shameful. “It felt so natural with you in my arms…a moment it was like no time has passed since we woke up the last time together…” His eyes travelled to their son. “I am sorry my little man…of course you are no dream…I am happy you are here…” “Bray…don’t feel ashamed…it only shows that you – like me – feel that we still belong with each other!” She kissed his cheek softly, what made him smile.

“Okay…and now…lets do that right : Good morning…” His nose struggled softly over hers “How are you?” “Good morning and I am pretty fine!” She giggled for the kind of official tone. He grinned, sitting then up, holding their son high “And my little guy here? Everything alright?” Their boy wriggled his feet with a smile in the air. Both laughed about the babies amusement, but then she sniffed a bit. “Oho…come here sweetheart…you need changing…” Bray held him. “Let me do it!” “Sure?” “Hey?! I learnt years back with Brady…and this is my son!” He dropped a kiss on her hairline. “High time I do something too…you did much alone …”

“Bray…this is no deal about who does what…you don’t have to pay back or whatever!” “I know…but I want to do the same things like you do…I wanted to be a all weather father, and not only the sunshine and lollipops sort of!” “Okay…” she smiled “…in my bag are his nappy towels…I take care to wash them mostly at once…but I will need to find some new ones…through the journey and him growing…” “WE will have to find new ones you mean…” he corrected her. She watched him with a happy feeling. They weren’t in one place for long now and already he had adapted the role of full fledged dad without any hesitance. Like she had always imagined it, he lived and filled the role of a father with all his being. He didn’t even flinch a dot opening the nappy, removing it and cleaning their baby. “That will be tossed away…” he nodded to his son. “We find some new ones little man…” Their baby watched him with big eyes, nibbling on a finger. “He is quiet nice…not wriggling…” Bray carefully wrapped him up in another nappy, grabbing then the little feet to kiss both. “Yes…he never complaints about it…our little guy likes being clean…” “Then you’re different then your cousin…she made such a tantrum often…!” Bray lifted his son, who made a joyful sound for being kind of thrown in the air. Bray laughed about the sound, what she could understand completely. She knew their baby very well, but for him it was all new. And the laughter of your own child had a special melody. You could somehow never hear enough of it. To her there was somehow a new way in their sons voice. Like he was feeling that Bray wasn’t just a nice man.

“He feels you’re someone special…usually he is more silent with men. He prefers a woman’s touch…like Salene calls it…” “Haha…really?” Bray took the boy the way that the little ones forehead rested against his. “Do you realise I am not just the average man? How often I dreamt to look that way in your eyes…to speak to you…but no dream comes close to it…” Amber walked over to them and sat down beside Bray. “You know daddy is someone special or? Like you know I am…” “Mo!” their son laughed and she grinned “He is lazy…he can say mommy…but he mostly makes ‘mo’…” “Aha…and what else can he say?” “No, yes, Ba is Brady…Li is Ellie…he is in love with her somehow. He gets all sweet and overly cute when she takes care of him…” “Haha…and what else can he already do?” “He crawls quiet fast…usually I guess he would be able to walk already, but we have been on board so long now, that this is a bit delayed. But he pulls himself high to stand already and walks when you hold him. He grabs things correctly and he is able to hold a spoon. Oh and he can dress off his socks, what he loves doing to drive me nuts…” “Haha…you have humour!” Bray nuzzled the little boys nose with his. “I’ve missed so many never coming back first times…but I won’t ever miss any moment more!”

The baby boy looked back, nuzzling his nose into the fathers. “Oh and he loves being cuddled…” Amber whispered into Brays ear, who felt a soft prickled running over his neck. Her near was almost overwhelming for him. His son moved a hand over his face and giggled when Bray kissed his hand. “Our little wonder…” His emotions overtaking him, the young father hugged his boy closely”I am so happy you’re okay…I was so scared all the time…that your early birth harmed you…” Of course the baby boy didn’t understand what Bray was saying, but he rested his head trustfully on Bray’s shoulder, his little hand grabbing after the fathers braids. “Daddy loves you as much as mommy does…” Amber whispered, gently running a hand over the boys back. “DA!” pulling on the braids a bit the boy laughed the new sound “DA!” “Do you…does he mean…me?!” Amber smiled. “I think he does…” Her eyes sparkled with tears, seeing Bray hard trying to keep control over his emotions. “Dadadadadaaaaaaa!” Bray swallowed, while Amber looked in her sons eyes. “Where is mommy?!” Their boy pointed on her “MO!” “And…” she glanced at Bray “…where is daddy?” A moment their boy looked between them, somehow musing a little. “Where is daddy?” “DA!” he laughed again, pulling playfully on his fathers hair again. “God you clever little person!” Bray hugged him even tighter, making the boy giggle for the little kisses he planted over the little face.


Slowly she made her way to the canteen. It was a little confusing to be in a real building again and such a big one even. But finally the blond woman found her way and breathed a bit relieved. She had walked the wrong direction several times and ended up somewhere she hadn’t intended to be. “Good morning Ruby…” a tousled looking Ram greeted her, in front a steaming cup. “Good morning…no one up already? What is that you’re drinking there?” “Coffee…” he yawned a little. “Help yourself…be my guest!” he pointed on a warm holding jug on the table. With a smile she took a cup from the counter and sat down beside him. “Typical you…here not twenty four ours and it is already your place…” “Huh?” “ ‘Be my guest’? That usually means a place is yours…?” “Oh…oh I see…” he grinned a bit “Well…a leopard doesn’t change its spots…” “Yeah…” she sounded frustrated to him while she filled her cup. “What’s with you? Didn’t sleep good?”

Surprised she looked at the ex Techno leader. “Ram…don’t shock me…you’re becoming emphatic?” “The Mall Rats soften me up…” he shrugged “So…what’s wrong?” With another frustrated sigh she laid her hands around her cup. “I just walked in on THEM…” Ram touched her shoulder lightly. “Ruby…does it still get as much to you? Slade is my friend, I will be forever thankful that he didn’t give up on me…but…that he choose her over you…” “The heart doesn’t make logical decisions Ram…” she sipped and sighed surprised “Woa…that is coffee!” “I like it strong and black…I should have told you before…” He looked almost sheepish and she giggled. “It was more meant like ‘woa that is excellent…’ I love coffee that way! I already drunk it as twelve year old…” “What? That is early! Your parents let you?!” “They didn’t know…” She winked at Ram, who smirked. “So there is a naughty girl in you?! Maybe you can convince Slade of you with showing it?” “Ram it is not convincing someone to like or love you, that has to be or not. And it is not even that I still want him…I don’t want any guy who was IN her…bah! I just wish they would do their business without us others having to walk in. It is respect-less to fool around just everywhere. Ellie and Jack are a couple too, but they held back on board and you would never find them having sex almost where everyone can find them!” “Alice would behead them!”

Ruby chuckled “That is true…and you? Are you happy to be in that place here? With showers and technology?” “Hmm…yeah…but…well…” “Ram?” “I…don’t laugh okay? I…couldn’t really sleep…I am not used an own room any more…without…erm…the sounds of others. I always need quiet a while to get used to new situations, but I am really used now to always have someone around and now suddenly…you’re all gone.” “We…we aren’t gone. We are in the same building then you!” “But it is still different…” he sighed. “I just will have to adapt again…” “You changed a lot Ram. You challenged yourself. You can now live without gloves and washing your hands all the time. You

even interact with the younger ones…” “Thank you…it is nice when someone appreciates my try…” “I am not the only one Ram…” She got up. “And now…off your sexy butt…we prepare breakfast!” Ruby went over into the kitchen part with Ram following. “Sexy butt?” “Well…I could also say ‘lazy’ but I would think ‘sexy’ sounds nicer?!” The ex Techno grinned. “Definitively…”

Trudy’s room

The little girl sneaked closer to her mother’s bed and crawled high. Amazed she looked then at her mother who was closely snuggled up to a man. She had seen that once, but after that the man had been with her aunt Amber. She had no understanding about love and relations, but her little face light up with a smile, seeing the happy smile on her sleeping mothers face.

She liked the man a lot and so easy as it only is for children, she crawled over the adults, nestling herself between. It was warmer in the big bed.

Feeling the little body on them, the man’s eyes fluttered open. “Hmm?” “Morning JAAAAY!” she giggled what made him laugh with surprise. “Woa…good morning little princess… do you want to shock me?” “What…where…?” Her mother woke up now too. “BRADY?!” Panicked she cropped she blanket around her. “Morning mommy…” The little girl kissed her mother, who caught Jay’s eyes. He gave her a flashing grin letting her see that he had dressed on his pyjama trouser in the night. He had been conscious to her daughter maybe waking up anytime and it let her heart skip some beats. It showed her that he cared about Brady.

“Jay…if this here should really work…we need to speak to Amber…I can’t built up a happy relation if she is hurt…I know her situation from the other side…and it is not a good feeling…” “Her and me…that wasn’t something any more. It’s months since we were close in any way.” “I know…but we have to do this right this time.”

They looked up when there was a knock on the door. “Who is there?” “It’s me…” they looked shocked at each other to hear Amber’s voice and tried to hold back Brady, who of course jumped happily up, opening the door. “Good morning Amber!” “Good morning Brady…I am here to tell you

that the other children here are doing snowmen…you are awaited in the cafe by Lottie and Sammy…you will have breakfast and then you can go out…Bray is already there…” “Jippieh! Mommy…can I?” Trudy swallowed when her eyes met Ambers. Jay hadn’t moved away from her, but laced his hand into hers. “But you need clothes…” “Cloe brought out thick things for all of them…we don’t need to worry. I think it will do them good to run and jump finally again. There are also other small kids from the other groups out there…” The woman with the Zulus stared earnestly at the couple. “And it gives us a good way to clear that between us…Bray and me expect you in his rooms… It’s between us and no one else. Please come.” Trudy nodded and told her delighted daughter she was allowed to go.

With kisses to all of them the girl tore off unaware to the tension.

“Amber…” Jay stopped when she held up her hand. “We talk in some minutes…”

The coupled looked at each other when she rushed away. “Fuck…that shouldn’t have been that way…” Jay cursed. “Not AGAIN!” he ruffled his hair. Amber had already found them that way before, before his heart had confused him. “Jay…I…I don’t think she is mad…only…maybe a bit hurt…but…it felt like she had already been expecting to find you here…” “Hmmm…well…I am going to dress correctly and get you then here okay?” “Yes…”

(too long again :wink: )

Bray’s room

“Well that was fast…” Amber sighed, plopping down next to Bray on the sofa. “Hmm?” “Jay and Trudy…I found them together…in her bed…Brady with them, completing the picture of the happy family…” “And…how does this make you feel?” “Sad…” “I see…” he whispered, looking a little down. “Bray…” gently she touched his face to make him look in her eyes. “Not sad like you think…not sad for Jay obviously coming over and sleeping with her again…no…sad because it doesn’t really get to me. It was just…like…whatever…I am not hurt. I am more mad for I…I had us to be confused…I should have never let have come it so far. Trudy could have been happy a long while already…” Bray wrapped her up to him, when she sobbed a bit. “I feel so terrible for what I did to her. Back then my hormones or whatever damped that feeling …but now…I feel so guilty…” “Hey…shh…”

The door opened and Jay and Trudy stood in the door-frame, both looking shocked at once for finding Amber crying her heart seemingly out to Bray.

“Oh no…no…Amber!” Trudy rushed over, squeezing herself onto the sofa too. She put her arm around her friends shoulders, holding her close. “I am sorry…really…I didn’t want that…I mean…I wanted Jay…I WANT Jay…I…just love him. But I never wanted to hurt you that way…” Amber turned to her “I am not crying for being hurt…I am crying for I’ve hurt you…Jay and me.” she looked at her ex. “I am sorry…I should have never let what others told me, lead my way. It was probably also some jealousy or envy for Trudy was suddenly happy with the man who had declared love to me before…I should have stayed clear…” Jay came over, going down in his knees, grabbing her hands. “No Amber…I am as guilty as you…even more. I had no real idea what love is. Just some perfect picture in my head. I thought you and me must suit so perfect. And…maybe it also was like making up for taking Bray from you. There was always that pull to help you…I know now…I should have taken some time to think…to really find out what I wanted. I only was fluttered when you said you want to give it a try. I felt like I had to be with you then, for it was what I HAD wanted.”

“Sometimes we think we want something so much that we get blind for what we really want and need…” Bray spoke silently while he took Amber back in his arms. “All three of you have some part in the hurt you’ve given each other. The question is…can you forgive each other? You can’t change the past…” Amber shrugged in his arms. “I guess I could…” taking her face in his hands he whispered softly “It is never forgetting, because everything we have gone through makes us the personality we are right now. But forgiving is important…only if we forgive we can walk on free…” “When did you become so wise?” She sniffed. “Ripe age…” he joked with leaning closer, to kiss her tears softly away. Jay watched amazed how much feeling and care that gesture held, how it made her softly shudder.

He knew she had never let go so much with him, like she did now with Bray. What a perfect unit those two seemed to be, no matter how much of time they had spent apart! He sat up straighter when Brays eyes met his. “Jay…I…it wasn’t right to attack you kind of last night. I can’t really judge, for I haven’t been there. You’ve done much for my tribe. Amber told me. Only…not only Amber means much to me. Trudy and Brady are close to my heart. And playing with them means playing with me.”

The other guy looked earnestly at Bray. “You were absolutely right to have a go at me last night. I am very sorry for how I reacted. It was without any respect to the complicated situation of Amber and you. You were taken from her and she had to believe you were gone forever. She went on, trying to live. I messed more up then her…I let her all alone on the long journey, I bonded back with Trudy and still thought I had the right to attack her about spending time with you. When I saw you both holding hands…it just was…kind of hurting my pride. To be kind of forgotten so fast…” He gently stroke along Ambers arm “I am really sorry Amber… from me there are no hard feelings. I always knew it is Bray who all your heart belongs. You both deserve this chance to be the family you both dreamt of…” Amber turned her head to him, still close snuggled up to Bray. “Thank you for saying…I really believed we both were right together. But maybe we will be better as friends?!” “You want us to be friends?” “I want us FOUR to be friends. Bray means much to Trudy. Trudy is his niece mother. Trudy means much to me and our son. We both mean something to each other…”

Jay looked at Bray “Would you try? To be friends?” “I was angry long enough. Neither you nor Ram were the ones who tortured me. I took those who were my tortures into responsibility. I am willed to try…” The guys shook hands and Trudy then hugged Bray and Amber. “You both now take time for your family…it is first priority.”

Both watched the couple leave. With a sigh she snuggled back on his chest. “Thanks for being there Bray…” “We will make it Amber…you feel that too or? That sweet draw between us?” “Yes I do…” Their foreheads leant onto each other they looked deeply and intently into each others eyes.

(Merry Christmas…I hope you have a wonderful Christmas even in the time we are in now. Here come snow the last part of this little story…that is quiet long after all…)

Part 3 “Christmas”

The week running up to the very first Christmas for all of them since the virus was filled with lots of laughter, long talks about all they had went through and of course preparations for the feast.

Lex had recovered fast and been very motivated to get the perfect tree and taste like every cookie the girls managed to produce. Salene had full hearted joined Tai-San in the medical work, being a nurse and midwife was something she seemed to be born for. Alice had often joined Ryan when he had been on the way to bring together food and other things for the feast. The children had done all kind of decorations and Cloe had enthusiastically brought in a lot of mistletoes which the couples used joyfully for an excuse to kiss every now and then.

Trudy and Jay had been accepted to be together within a day almost, their faces just shining so much of genuine happiness. And even more because Amber had only eyes for Bray who didn’t move away from her and their baby boy ever.

The parents had decided to give their son now a second name, for it just would be too confusing to have father and son using the same first name. They had spoken to the tribe, that before their son was born they had been thinking about naming their son after Amber’s best friend who had died so tragically in the rebellion and had never seen the two of them coming back together. Amber knew he would have been so happy for them and if he would be alive it would be him she would have made his guardian. So their boy was now named Dal in second name and would be called by that name.

Bray and Amber were taking things slow with each other, talking a lot, spending all time together. It was important for them to grow into a real family, their son and the twins first priority in it. Bray had told her that he wouldn’t leave the twins behind and she had not only accepted but had full heartened taken on the little girls herself. It was a hard job not to fall in love with that lively little girls anywhere. They adored Brays son and were full fledged caring little sisters already. Dal already was in love with them, always reaching out his little arms to them. Brady was a welcomed part of the children unit too. The children’s laughter filled the place with life.

morning of Christmas eve

It was wonderfully warm in the bed, a flowery scent filled his nose, a soft heart beat close to his. With a sigh the dark haired guy closed his arms tighter around the body in his arms. His hand played with the long blond hair.

“Hmmm…this feels so real…I am a genius!” he mumbled burring his face into her hair. His eyes flung open. Nothing he ever had programmed had felt just THAT real. With slight surprise his eyes travelled down, looking at the face that was snuggled on his chest, the body snuggled closely up to him. “Ruby…it really…happened?” Confused he stroke again about her hair. Her eyes fluttered open. “Hi…” “Hi…I…sorry…I didn’t want to disturb your sleep…” “What is up? You seem confused!” “I…I am…I thought I was only…imagining…dreaming…or maybe…in my old paradise…but actually…we…we really…” he gulped when she stroke along his shoulders. With a smirk she looked in his eyes. “I should be affronted…” “NO! No you shouldn’t…you should be fluttered…it was so great that my mind thought it couldn’t be reality…” “Well…if you argue like that…” her lips travelled along his neck high to his lips. “You’re a deep water Ram…who would have thought that a guy who once had even problems with touching someone without a glove would start such a firework in bed…” A smirk grew on his lips. “I have a lot to catch up…but my fantasy and imagination always were strong…” “I hope I can keep up with your imagination…?!” Her lips found his. Ram moaned excited when her tongue slipped between his lips, playing with his.

“Of course you can…you are an event…” he told her breathless when she straddled down on his hips, catching him that way between her hips.

Ruby felt like the world was whirling again. Last night had been so extremely awesome that true be spoken she had thought it had maybe been the punch they had had. But it only had relaxed them and they had spoken long here in his room. It had ended with the most spectacular night she ever had. It had been like a long constant climax.

outside the room

“Wait Ebony…please…let me take Ram with us…” “Why?” “Its Christmas darling and he literally has no one close…” “Erm…Slade…haven’t you noticed that he spends most time with Ruby?” “Yeah but Ruby has a big heart…” Crossing her arms the ex Loco queen rolled her eyes when he went closer to Ram’s door. “Yeah…big heart…whatever…” she muttered. But when Slade didn’t knock she got closer annoyed “So please knock…I am hungry!” “Eerm.-…well…” “Whats up?” When she was close, she heard it too. Certain sounds that told her that the bed inside was put through paces. “Well…erm…even mister Techno genius has two healthy hands and now where he isn’t afraid to touch himself without gloves any more…” she giggled about her man’s embarrassed face. “Hey…nothing wrong with it…it is natural, not a crime!” But then they heard a soft moan of desire. “Oh Ruby…you’re a goddess…” “Is…is he imagining Ruby? Eww…well…that is a little pervert…but still…” “Oh God…” they heard a female gasp and both stared at each other.

Ebony grabbed his hand “Well…how was this? Big heart?” Slade looked back to the door, his neck heating up. His girl rolled her eyes, grabbing his hand. “Really…don’t be so conservative…let them have fun! Come…” she pulled him with her to the canteen.

The canteen looked like a Christmas fairy tale that afternoon. The guys had needed two hours of working together to bring the tree up here. But now the magnificent tree stood in the middle of the canteen decorated with the most colourful tree ornaments possible. There were cookies and candy canes, but also paper decorations, lines of popcorn, stars from painted noodles, ribbons from glittery cloth. Gel had brought all different styles and decorations to give a picture of splendid unison. In Christmas night the older ones would put some presents under it to give the children the feeling that Santa had been there.

“Mommy? Why wasn’t Santa there before? Didn’t he know our mall ?” “He was there Brady…he was out there in the world…waiting for the time…we humans would appreciate Christmas again.” A bit helpless she looked at the others around. “It is like with the fairies Brady…” Gel piped up in a soft voice. Eyes went on her but she only looked at the little girl. “You remember when I told you kids of Peter Pan? And Tinkerbell? When she almost vanished because people didn’t believe in fairies and magic?” Eagerly Brady nodded. The twins and her loved all that stories Gel could tell about princesses, fairies, magic and all of it. “They had to applaud her…and she got well again…” Faith nodded just the same way as Brady did. “Indeed…so when people don’t believe in Santa, when they don’t celebrate, don’t put out a glass of milk and cookies…he can’t come in your house. You understand? Your faith in him and your care about the feast is what awakes his magic!” “Ohhh…” the three girls made big eyes.

Gel blushed when Trudy squeezed her tightly with one arm. “That was amazing Gel! Thank you!”

In another corner of the canteen Ruby was peeling potatoes for her salad. Tonight would be a party for Christmas eve and she had offered to make some salads while Trudy and Salene would prepare several other dishes later. For the festive dinner on the next day Ryan and Lex had been able to hunt some wild turkeys – wild because they had lived free since the virus. It would become a real Christmas.

“RAM!” she hit after his hand when he stole one of the peeled potatoes. “What?” He grinned brightly. People stole a glance at them. They had given them kind of a shock today with walking in hand in hand. Daring he leant closer. “Want it back?” With a grin she shook her head “Better be good…think it is Christmas…” “I already got my present…” he breathed back, pulling her then to him to kiss her to the first time in eyesight of everyone else.


The snow made gentle sounds while they walked along the lanes on that Christmas afternoon. The little twin girls were jumping joyfully along admiring the frozen leafs that glittered in the sun. Bray held their baby boy safely, wrapped up now in a thick baby jacket and an additional blanket. The little boy looked around curiously like he had done on every walk they had made the last week. “You like it here hmm?” Bray whispered amused to his son, when the boy turned his head another time, almost knocking his fathers chin with it. Amber giggled silently, leaning over to kiss the babies hand on Bray’s shoulder. “So much to see here, hmm? It must seem like a fairy tale for the children…the glittering white snow…the ice on the plants…” Taking her close with one arm he nodded. “Yes…but it seems magical to me too…I always envied people to have Christmas in winter…all those movies…it seemed always so perfect.” “Hmmm…but our Christmas will be perfect for being together…no matter the weather!” “Indeed…” He looked concerned at her when she shuddered a little. “It’s too cold for you…you really need more then a scarf, hat and gloves…your coat is not thick enough now…” “It is okay…I will find a suiting jacket in the next time…or…hmmm…don’t you like me to cuddle up to you?” “Of course I do…” he mumbled on her ear, his lips softly touching it. “I only don’t want you to become ill…you’ve seen how fast Lex had gotten a cold for walking around in that leather jacket before you came here…” “I will search more after Christmas okay? It was so much to do and speak the last days that I just had no time to really scan the things you have here…” “I know…” The twins came running up to them. “Bray? Look…” faith pointed high into the sky that filled with thick clouds. “Oha…more snow it seems…so lets hurry home…it is enough fresh air before the party for all of us I think…”

the party

The big canteen in the main building of the military base that usually was now the home of the Mall Rats was filled to brimming point. Everyone of the other tribal groups and some people from the village where the Mall Rats had landed with their boat were there. The talking made the air buzz and the laughter of the children sounded just as merrily like it had in the young adults own childhood.

“Bray…can I sit a moment?” Lex didn’t wait for the reply but sat down with a huff. “I forgot how much Tai-San likes dancing…my feet!” Bray grinned looking over where Tai-San was now teaching KC some dance, watched sulkily from Gel. “You’re not really complaining or?” “No…of course not. It still feels like some kind of dream…to be here…with all of you…” “I know what you mean…being reunited with the one your heart beats for you…” His eyes travelled to where Amber was to some other tribe leader. It was clear that she found the important people at once, he thought to himself with a slight smirk. “Hey…Bray?” “Hmm?” “Why don’t you finally grab her and kiss her?” “I…Lex! Not everyone is as blunlty like you…it needs time…” “Not to me and Tai-San…and I was with a Techno girl…so …” “It is NOT because of Jay and what was between them that we take it slow. We have our son and there are the twins too. We have to take their feelings into account too…” “But you want her?!” With a sigh Bray rolled his eyes. When Lex first had bitten into a topic he wouldn’t stop nudging. “What do you think? Of course I…I not only WANT her. I LOVE her…no matter what…I respect her…I can’t just walk over like some prehistoric guy and kiss her senseless!” “Well…you could do it more elegant by just meeting her under a mistletoe?” Lex winked at him and got up again to go over and free KC from Tai-San.

The younger man listened to Lex whispering something in his ear and turned at once to Gel who pouted at him. He gave her a smile and pulled her to a dance then. “KC becomes a charmer…” Amber whispered in his ear, sitting down on his lap with flinging her arms around his neck. “Hi you…enough leader talk?” “I couldn’t get away…” she rolled her eyes. “I had to tell them everything about our city…about our journey…bleh…and that when all I want is to sit here in your arms!” Nuzzling her face close to his neck she enjoyed his arms holding her tightly. “Just stay here then…” he whispered a little hoarsely kissing her temple softly. “Are the kids sleeping?” She asked then “Yes…all safe and well…it was a good idea to place them in one room for tonight…though…I might miss our baby not being with us…” “When we miss him too much we just get him with us…” She gave his cheek a gentle kiss.

“Oh…hihi…well,well…” She giggled all of sudden and with a confused head-shake he came to sense. He had just turned his head after her kiss on his cheek, debating if he could dare to kiss her lips. But then he grinned too. There were KC and Gel kissing under one of the mistletoes. “A Christmas love…” She whispered “Hmmm…” He turned back to her, their noses touching lightly. Gently he touched her cheek. “Amber…” he breathed her name unable to really voice what was going on inside of him, but knowing he needed to have her closer. He leant in but just before their lips could meet one of the other tribe leaders came over and sat down to them with his girl. Inside Bray was deeply annoyed. It wasn’t like there hadn’t been kind of perfect moments the last week even, but always someone butted in. He didn’t know that Amber was just as annoyed.

After a while he left with the guy telling her it was something important they had to speak about.

Christmas night

She woke up feeling cold. “Bray?” she searched his body, his warmth but his side was even colder. “BRAY?” she moved high, switching on the little lantern beside the bed. Her eyes searched the room. Had she been dreaming? Wasn’t it true after all? She rubbed her arms, breathing relieved then for she was wearing that pullover of him that he had given her for the nights. There were many clothes stocked in the old base, but till then she had simply not found real time to search anything besides a normal outfit for her and the red dress she had worn to the party last night. Dressing on her boots she made her way out of the room, worrying if the kids maybe had called and she hadn’t heard it. But all children were sleeping peacefully. Where was he then? On her way she was threatened by some sounds out of the canteen, where she found him on the tree. “BRAY?”

“Amber…what…what are you…” He tried to hide something from her and intrigued she walked closer. “What is up? Don’t do that…don’t leave the bed just like that…it scares me still to wake up and you are gone!” “Sorry…only…erm…forgot to put something under…just go back to bed…I am coming soon…” “Forgot something?” Everyone had put presents under the tree before going to sleep finally. She came even closer wondering about his secretive manner. If he had found something more to their son or the girls it was no big deal to her. And he sure didn’t need to make a fuss about a present to someone else. “You make me curious! Show me!” With a sigh he took the present in front. “That is quiet a big package…” It was a little bulging even. Seeing the little note with her name she looked up in his eyes. “Didn’t we say we don’t do presents to each other?” It had been only a week and most of the older ones had decided that it was more important for the kids to get something. “Yes we did…but…well…” He reached it to her. “Open it…” “I…” “Please…now you’ve seen it…I want to know what you think…” taking it she sat down on one the chairs by a nearby table and carefully unwrapped the brown package paper.

Inside was a soft and thick woollen cape with a hood. It was strengthened up with leather and seemed to be prepared to also be able to withstand water. It was light grey with a silver gleam in it, the leather parts were a bright turquoise. “Oh…Oh Bray…where did you…?” “That was what made me speak to the guy at the party…his tribe is from the village and they make such things. I ordered one for you some days back, but it wasn’t quiet clear it would be ready right in time…he gave it to me and I wanted to put it under the tree for you just now” “Oh…it is…it is…” he helped her pulling it on and smiled. “That should be warming you quiet good…though…” he leaned to her ear “I will miss you cuddling up all the time…” “I wont stop doing that…” she whispered back, stroking her hands through his hair. “Now I have got nothing for you!” “No big deal…you needed something warm and you already gave me the biggest gift…your love and our son…I don’t need anything else…” His eyes sparkled in the soft lights of the tree, pulling her in.

“I might have still something…close your eyes!” A little confused he closed them “Okay?” Like all the years back in a night over a hot chocolate she stroke his cheek, touching his lips. Opening his eyes he looked intently into hers, searching, asking, hoping. When she smiled he smiled back and moved in to place his lips gently on hers. It was a very careful, tender kiss. His lips like the wings of a butterfly, like the touch of a soft breeze. A moment they looked at each other, both wanting to see the others thoughts in the others eyes. Bray moved a finger along her cheek, along those lips that he knew so well. He had been nervous about kissing her, scared they still might maybe not feel like before. But they did. He knew that now. With a smile he tipped her nose sweetly with his before he kissed her another time. This time with fire and longing. His arms closed tightly around her, bringing her body closer.

In return Amber closed her arms around his neck, feeling then how he loosened his arms again only to drive them under the cape that she was still wearing to get a better hold of her body. His teeth nibbled along her underlip, teasingly, till she slowly opened them. Endless gentle his tongue slipped between, carefully rediscovering before challenging hers to a playful dance. She sighed against his kiss. Pleasure running through her. No one could make her feel like this. She guessed she could kiss a million guys and Bray would still be the best kisser for her. She was left breathless when the kiss ended. But it didn’t even really end for Bray kissed her sweetly with soft little touches of his lips mumbling her name, mumbling how much he loved her.

Bray felt like there was nothing else then her any more. Only her. She filled his head, his soul, his heart. His body felt like being on fire, his lips having no other purpose then kissing her. He placed them back on hers, strongly this time, carefulness gone. Her soft surprised moan let his heart flutter, what was pushed up into a staccato when she buried her hands into his hair. Not really registering even he lifted her up and placed her higher to him onto one of the tables.

She was loosing her mind. His lips felt so wonderful, so hot. He changed in that perfect game of being all gentle and soft, to being demanding and fierce. Her world swirled. But when her eyes fluttered a little between open and close her eyes caught sight of the tree. That brought her back to senses. She pulled his hair softy when he kissed along her neck. “Bray…BRAY! STOP!” Confused he looked up in her eyes.

Her heart spilled over with hot love for this man, who listened to every word of her, who would never do anything she didn’t want. Even now when he was so on fire, he listened to her. “So-sorry…too…too fast?” She held him close when he wanted to step a step back to give her more space. “Not too fast…only…not here! Wrong place!” She kissed him short and sweetly, before she slide down the table, holding his hands “Come…”

Feeling a bit like having been hit on the head he followed her. His brain felt like working too slow. He couldn’t stand it and just stopped her, pressing her softly onto the wall to kiss her again. Every second without her lips seemed unbearable. Amber gave in, feeling quiet as much like him.

It took them quiet a while to Brays room that way, stopping every few paces to kiss again. “Finally…” she sighed almost leaning against the door when it was closed, pulling him closer on his belt. Her fingers travelled along opening the buttons of his dress shirt while he kissed her again demanding. Her touches sent thrills all over his skin. Bray let her push him all over to the bed after stroking down the shirt from his shoulders, but before she made him fall down he swiftly took of her nightdress with a deep look of love into her eyes.

Tightly wrapped into each other, sinking into their kisses they left for their own long missed heaven.

Tai-San’s room

The Asian beauty was ready to reprimand her husband when he finally came back with new water. He had been gone quiet a while. But he grinned so brightly, that she couldn’t stop herself to grin too. “What…?” He sat down to her on the bed dropping a kiss on her ear, whispering “Sorry for the delay…but when wanted to go into the cafe I spotted Bray with Amber on the tree and felt like I should let have them space…” “Oh! LEX! Did you…what did you do?” “Nothing…only watched…” he grinned even more nibbling along her ear. “Why don’t I believe that?” “I am hurt you mistrust me babe…really…I kept my mouth and just watched…” “WATCHED? What…wait WHAT did you watch?” Grinning even more he gently sucked her earlobe a moment. “Oh he had a present…and for ‘thank you’ she kissed him…and…well…lets say the fire was burning quiet high. I saw him lifting her up onto one of the tables, kissing her like a man in starvation…not that I don’t understand him there…”

With a smirk she flung her arms around his neck “Do you understand it for real? You after all had someone in your life…” “Well Amber had too!” he made a funny face at her what made her giggle. She always knew that Lex was no man to be alone. It just wasn’t in his personality to mourn for ages. But still when in one place the stars lead them together. That was their truth. “Yeah anyway…I was slowly feeling a bit uncomfortable and thought about coughing to let them know they aren’t alone…but then…she stopped him and pulled him with her…I got out water and when I was out again I saw them kind of stumbling into a new hot kiss like every metre…I wonder if they already made it to their room…” “Great…they are absolutely star crossed! It will settle things greatly if they are a unit again!” “I don’t know about the stars and such…but I am actually happy for them. Amber suffered a lot for Bray being taken and he has gone through much here. It is great that they now will be the family they dreamt to be…”

She looked tenderly at him. “You’ve gone through much too…” “I am okay…finally we will be together and maybe…” he looked almost a little shy. It was so seldom that Lex went that way and it made him even more desirable to her. “Maybe?” “Maybe we will be a family too one day?” “You…you mean…you would like us to…have a child?” “Tai-San…” he ruffled his hair. “I know we put that always into the far future…you always said you would either be ready one day or not and I accepted. I would never force you…I can’t even. But…imagine…there would be some little human…part me…part you…It was what kept Amber up in a way. When she looked at Dal, I know she saw Bray in him and she saw that he wasn’t gone completely from her life…I already have been about to become father and though I know what I had with Zan wasn’t a real love…I would have loved that child. Always. No matter what would have happened later on with Zan and me. I know no one sees that in me…but…I would really…like to be…a father one day…” “Lex…when…when the Technos took me…” She whispered, looking down on their hands that were no now tightly laced into each other. “I…actually…then…I was…I was…” she closed her eyes “I was pregnant…” “You…what…I…what…?” “I was pregnant but due to the shock and all of that…being violently carried away…I haven’t really registered it…I was thinking it might be possible before I was taken and wanted to find a test…but then I was taken and short after I bled real bad…and…and I knew then…I just lost the baby I hadn’t been really been aware of before…” With a sigh he embraced her, stroking her long black hair, while she gave in to the pain that she had pushed deep down into her soul for so long.

“I am sorry…” “Hey! That is nowhere your fault…shh…it is okay. You are okay, I am okay. It maybe just wasn’t supposed to be then. It doesn’t mean we never…or?” She shook her head “It was a normal miscarriage…nothing bad happened to my body…” He gently kissed her. “Well…then that means…?” “It means…” she pulled him closer by flinging her arms back around his neck. “…I think I am ready for this adventure with you!” Her lips closed his and with a sigh he pulled her down into their bed with him.

Bray’s room

It was silent between them, only their still a bit uneven breathing filling the room with some sounds. Her fingers danced through the soft little hairs on his chest, stroking along the lines of his trained muscles. His hand of the arm that was around her, gently stroke down her arm.

“So many nights I dreamt of us laying that way together again.” he whispered. “Happy after loving each other…” “Happy?” “Aren’t you?” he asked with an amused flicker in his eyes. “Oh you know…it was okayyyy…” “OKAY?!” With a playful growl he turned her on her back moving on top of her. “BRAY! Hihi…merci…” she giggled under tickling bites on her neck. “Never…” “Hihi…okay…okay…it was awesome…” “You only say that because I tickle you!” “Then stop so I can tell you earnestly?” He stopped and she stroke her fingers through his mane of brown hair. “It was wonderful…” Bray kissed her softly. “I love you!” “I love you!” she answered without saying ‘too’, making it stronger in that way. Showing it was fact and not just a reply to him saying it.

“Do you remember that we had some talk like that already? Back that night in the rebellion?” “Hmmm…the night our son was created…” his eyes twinkled at her “…there was blue light everywhere from the thunderstorm outside…I woke up and saw you in that green nightdress…sitting on my cot…” He kissed her again. “And then we kissed and loved each other like there was no tomorrow…” “Yes…and then we laid cuddled up and you said how often you had dreamt about it, knowing it couldn’t come true…because you thought I was dead…” “And now you thought it was me who was dead…” “Yes…and still…I dreamt often to lay that way with you…” “Even when you were happy with him?” Blushing she nodded. “I should have known then that I wasn’t ready for something new…” “I dreamt of us too when I was with Danni…I guess…you can care and love several persons in your life…but there is only ONE real big love…and not everyone finds it…and if…not everyone is as lucky as us finding back together now for the third time…” “This time we have to make it Bray…I can’t loose you another time! Our son can’t loose you!” “We won’t let go of each other ever again!” he leant down to her, searching her lips with his, kissing her with all his love.

next day

Loud joyful squeals let the older ones woke up with a jolt. “Wake up! SANTA WAS HERE!” Faith’s voice rung through the building.

Drop by drop everyone appeared in sleeping clothes, many rubbing their eyes with a yawn. They night had been short after the party, couples had loved each other mostly or at last talked a long while. KC looked like he hadn’t slept at all, hair windswept but a bright grin on his face, Gel on his hand.

Jack wrapped his arms around his girl seeing the new couple. “I won the bet darling! You owe me!” “And what do I owe you?” “A kiss?!” “Only a kiss? Only one?” she smiled pulling him closer. He made a thinking face. “Hmmm…now you say it…a MILLION kisses!” “Ohhh…then I better start right now!” she giggled, placing her lips then on his.

Bray and Amber walked in, their baby son in Brays arm, Amber holding his hand. The little boy sniffled a bit. “Aww…all fine baby boy…no one wanted to leave you behind…” Amber kissed him softly on his little head. “Faith…Hope…you all just left him all alone…” Bray reprimanded silently. “That is not nice…he was scared!” Trudy looked at her daughter strictly. “Brady?!” “I am sorry mommy…sorry uncle Bray…sorry Dal…” the little girl kissed her cousin sweetly “Merry Christmas!” The little boy seemed to be comforted and nodded. Awing then on the colourful packages and the tree now looking even more glorious.

The twins came close to the couple. “Sorry Bray…sorry Amber…sorry Dal. We just were so excited!” Amber went down in her knees. “We know that. Only…Dal is your brother. Your little brother. It will take some while till he can run as free as you can…he is not even a year old now. He needs his sisters…” “Bro-brother?” Hope gasped- “Sisters?!” Faith jumped a bit. Bray went down on his knees too. “You know…I decided full hearted to take care about the both of you…and now…” he smiled genuinely at both and then at Amber “…Amber and me are back together, a unit again. We want to be a family with our son and you both crazy little girls…if you want to…?!” “Like…like…” Faith gasped and hope finished for her “Like a real family? Can…can we call you mom and dad then?” Amber looked short at Bray who smiled lovingly. “If you want that…” she told them seeing their eyes light up.

The twins had been only two years old when their parents died and their older sister barely eight had taken care of them. Their sisters died in the camps and having a family – a real one- was therefore their biggest dream. “Oh…Santa heard our wish!” Both girls squealed again falling then into Ambers arms.

She laughed when they almost hit her down “Careful you little devils…” Bray grinned, pulling them up again. Dal on his arms giggled. Bray hugged his son closely “They are more then us now…we both have to team up!” The little boy looked real earnest at him then. Nodding like he would agree. “But then…” Hope looked almost strict “…then you have to do that right!” “Hmmm? What do you mean?” Amber stroke through the soft blond locks of the little girl. Her sister rolled her eyes now too. “You must KISS! Mommies and daddies KISS!” The twins crossed their arms, tapping both a foot down. People around chuckeld amused, because it looked overly cute. The small girls in their red nightdresses, the cute blond lokks, big blue eyes and the strict faces.

“Oh well…” Amber sighed to Bray “…if its a ‘must’…?!” “I fear it is a rule…” He sighed back to her, winking short. “Okayyyy…” with a grin she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down to her. Their kiss was gentle and sweet in the beginning. “I could get sooooooo used to that rule!” Bray whispered with a smirk to her, before he kissed her really passionately. The twins giggled happily, jumping up and down, clearly thinking they had made that happen.

“AWW!” Gel sighed a little “How romantic!!” “They are only kissing Gel!” KC sent her a grin, but she only pointed “NOT ONLY! LOOK!” KC then saw that the both really were kissing under one of the mistletoes. A Christmas kiss without knowing. “Right…THAT is ROMANTIC!” He turned her face gently to his with a finger, pushing her a bit so that they were under one of the mistletoes too. He leant in and kissed her, enjoying the sweet softness of her lips.

The little new family was then more a sole unit, the parents watching the children opening up their presents. It were more simple things, like some more warm hats, scarfs, socks, pens to paint. But there were also a teddy bear for Dal and a doll each for Faith and Hope. It took a while till they surfaced out of their private happiness but finally they took place in the big happiness around.

“Thank you Bray! That you did that for her…” He huffed when Trudy squeezed him really tight, her arms closed around his neck. “What…what have I done to deserve instead death?” he huffed again, taking gulps of air after Jay gently had loosened her arms from him. “The doll…” Jay mumbled, pointing at Brady who was cuddling a doll like Faith and Hope. “Oh…oh…but…Trudy…” Now Bray hugged the sobbing mother. “She is my niece…part of my family…she means a lot to me. I would never ignore her. Never! No matter how complicated it is between us adults.” Trudy sniffled, drying her eyes. “Sorry…just…just…” she shrugged looking almost helpless. “We will manage…” Amber wrapped her arm carefully around her friends shoulders. “We should concentrate on the good outcome and on our future…the past is past. We can’t change anything about it!” Trudy dried her eyes. “Yes…yes you’re right…” The two old friends hugged, smiling then when Bray and Jay shook their hands in a little stiff and official way. The guys would need some time to figure each other out, but Amber was positive that they had enough in common to get along with each other.

“Daddy!” Dal suddenly exclaimed pointing with a laugh . Bray looked surprised around to him. The boy sat in the midst of wrapping paper, having built it up in a fragile tent somehow, highly amused by the rustling sound. “What did you say?” Bray rushed over taking him up in his arms “DADDY!” Dal laughed happily when his father whirled him around. “THAT” Bray kissed his son “Is the BEST present ever!” He held his boy tightly, non caring that everyone could see the tears on his face. It were tears of pure and deep happiness and there was no reason to hide them.

This first Christmas was filled with happy laughter for all of them. Old and new Mall Rat knew it was their start in their new life. It was maybe a new place, but their common dream was still the same. It was still what united the many individual characters of their tribe. They all mixed up with each other, sharing memories of Christmases in their childhood. Some of them telling old Christmas fairy-tales that had been told traditionally on Christmas in their family.

Darryl who had been more of a silent one the last week, having almost lost his voice due the long journey for their had just not been any reason to be joking any more, surprised them with playing guitar for them to pair up with Ruby and Gel who had actually nice singing voices.

But maybe the biggest moment was when Ebony found it in her to sing too. She joined Gel and Ruby’s singing of “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS” and instead of taking it over she melted harmonically into the singing. Ruby stared at her afterwards. “Your voice…” “ITS AWESOME!” Darryl jumped up. “Please sing more Ebony…” “I…no…I only…well…that song …it is nice to sing it with more voices…I did with…with my sisters before…well…” She seemed to be extremely troubled all of sudden that she had opened up so far all at once. No one knew she could sin. Not even Bray or Trudy. “Don’t be afraid now!” Ruby smiled challenging. “I AM NOT AFRAID!” “Well…then…” Gel and Ruby left her beside Darryl who looked expecting at her. A deep sigh left her when she caught Slade’s motivating smile. She had promised him she would try to interact more with the tribe. Singing with the other two had sounded like a good idea. Now of course she doubted.

“Well…erm…okay…” she whispered something to Darryl who nodded ambitious. “I know this song is not a real Christmas song…but our mother sung it always on Christmas…” Darryl played a soft melody that most of the older ones knew.

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

Her eyes opened -after having been closed while singing the first lines- meeting Slade’s dark eyes. Gulping down movement he stared back.

It’s the heart, afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

It’s the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying

That never learns to live

She let her eyes wander around, locking on persons who she thought fit to lines. Tears appeared in her eyes, when she noticed how much emotions she was awaking with her voice.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose

All of them jumped kind of up, breaking into a loud applause for her. Slade took her in his arms, holding her tightly “You have a wonderful voice…and a way to really transport the message…” “I wasn’t aware how much I missed singing…” she mumbled muffled on his chest. “You know…singing is a way better way to win peoples hearts for real then being the ice queen…” She poked him for that cheek but laughed then when he gave a very terrible version of 'Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. “STOP IT! Your ruining those innocent children’s ears!” she pushed him a little away and soon she was singing like every Christmas carol that she ever knew to them.

After a long day they had a last cup of hot chocolate in the evening all impressed by this first festive days. “This really has to become a tradition!” Lex told them, leaning back in his chair, Tai-San wrapped up to him. “Absolutely! Traditions are a powerful bond between people. No matter how different opinions sometimes might be, shared traditions bring families together.” “We once had such a tradition…” Cloe said wistfully. Tai-San smiled, knowing what she was speaking off. She got up, pulling Lex with her on one hand, reaching her other over to Alice who took it with a smile. They all got up and step by step found themselves in their old trusted circle. The twins were holding Dal safely each on one hand, the little boy looking proudly almost for standing too in the circle.

“It was a long way till this day. We walked different paths, unsure if we would ever met again.- But our fate is to be together. “ Tai-San spoke in a gentle voice. “Even when apart we remembered each other and fought for our common dream. We might not be the same persons any more, we might not live any more in our town, our mall. But we are still the Mall Rats. We still have the same dream. We still keep it alive.” her eyes travelled over the old Mall Rats. “We have lost a lot, we have lost friends that we dearly miss…” her eyes wandered to the new Mall Rats. “But we also have new friends that joined our dream, making it stronger, bringing in new colours…” her eyes now took in the children. Also the new children like the twins and the five younger ones her and the other ex prisoners had taken in. “There are new vunerable young souls in our hands, souls that can dream so pure and whose innocence remembers us that no one is dark from the start. We have to be their stable light that they can grow strong. But they make us strong too. Each of them a person remembering us on the things that really count in life. Now we are here when past and future melt together, when old Mall Rats and new Mall Rats will live together under a new roof, in a new place. Lets forgive old mistakes and give each other the chance on a good life…” Everyone nodded.

Eyes then wandered to Bray, the tribe expecting somehow some words from him too. A moment that took him by surprise. There hadn’t been any vote or something like it. He had been the one leading their little group here and he had been the leading man in the rebellion. Since the base built out with different groups, different tribes it was him who was considered to lead the council of the different small tribes. It was his natural place, his natural ability. He had always fought that a little in the past, but now had found his confidence and purpose in leadership.

But he hadn’t counted on his tribe seemingly seeing the leader of the Mall Rats still in him. Unsure he looked at Amber who only smiled lovingly. It was his place. Since he had been voted to be the leader after the accident on EAGLE MOUNTAIN. In her eyes he was born to be a leader. Especially for he didn’t aim on it. He smiled back a moment locking eyes with her, before he turned to their tribe. “I think I haven’t told you all till now how happy I am we are back together. That you all found us, that destiny leaded you here. To me it is a sign that our group was always meant to be together. We’ve come a very long way here, a way that often was full of obstacles and pain. But we’ve made it. We are here. And for the first time ever, we really have the chance to make our life a good one. We can form the society here like we always dreamt it to be. A place where people work together on a functioning system. I can’t promise it will always be fairy-tale like and that never any one suffers. But I can promise we will make it if we hold together. If we still have faith. Life often is hard and throws terrible things at you, but…” he looked around one time. “If you face such a time…just look beside you…” they looked at the people holding their hands. “There is always someone holding your hand, supporting you…you’ll never be alone in our tribe. We aren’t only a group of individuals. We are a family. We might not always be of the same opinion, but each opinion counts the same. No one is ignored, no one is forgotten, no one will be left behind. This is something I promise. Each in this circle is under my protection, I will always stand in front of each of you. I’ll fight if necessary, I’ll speak on your behalf when needed. I will listen to everyone and I try to help whenever my help is needed. To me you are my brothers and sisters. Believe me…it wasn’t only Amber I missed…”

“But you’re not going to kiss me now, or?” Lex grinned at him “Not even if you would be dying…” Bray grinned back.

“I want to only say ‘thank you’ for the way you’ve been there for Amber and Dal. They had a home, a family. It was all that kept me stable over those long months. The hope she might have gone home.” Bray felt that she pressed his hand in hers tighter. “I thank you for your brave and persistence to fight…for keeping our dream alive, for holding together. I am…” he took a breath and smiled then “Well…I am proud of you. Proud to be a Mall Rat!” they all looked back at him, old ones, new ones, all feeling taken in by his eyes.

Bray’s room

“This is perfect…” she whispered to him, kissing his cheek softly. “Yes…” tenderly he stroke a hand over his baby son’s back. The little boy slept deeply on his chest, sucking a little on his thumb. The twins were nestled up to them, sleeping peaceful and deep too. “If you would have told me that three years back…” He chuckled. “That I we would lay in a bed…an own baby close…two others adopted…” “Hihi…yeah…pretty crazy…” “Crazy perfect!” he mumbled, turning his head a little to be able to kiss her long and sweet. “Merry Christmas my heart…” “Merry Christmas Bray…” she whispered, kissing him again before snuggling closely up. Both closed their eyes, the regular and untroubled breathing of their children leading them into their own dreams.

one year later

The tribe sat around this years Christmas tree, wrapping paper strewn around. This year the presents had been way more because everyone had had a chance to find something to give away to others. Dal was watching a book with his adopted sisters, nodding busy to each word they said. Lex was standing on the tree always ringing some of the little bells on it, making the baby on his arms giggle amused. A month after last years Christmas Tai-San had went sick and after some days of worries for her and Lex it had been clear that she was pregnant. They both had been thrilled that obviously they were expecting another Christmas gift. It was somehow clear for them that the baby must have been come to life in that magical night when they had spoken about becoming parents.

Their little son Noel was now three months old. Tai-San joined her man, leaning her head to Lex’ shoulder.

“Next year we can stand there too…with our new little one…” Jay whispered to Trudy, his hand protectively on her belly. It had all went fast with them after Christmas. Only three months later they had married and another two months later Trudy had declared to be expecting her second child. Brady was thrilled to be a big sister and was training daily how to change nappies on her doll.

Bray was absently always looking back to the tree were still some wrapped gifts waited to be unpacked. Amber was one of those who still had presents there. She was slow in unpacking, giving each gift a long time to appreciate and admire it. Right now she was trying on some socks Salene made for her. “Those are wonderful warm Sal!” “I thought that is something for you both because you told me Bray complaints sometimes for your ice feet…” they giggled and looked both to Bray who didn’t react to the cheek. “Bray?” Confused he eyed her. “What? Oh…yeah…erm—haha…?!” “Really…what is with you?” “I…erm…there is still some things for you to unpack…” “And? You haven’t open ANYTHING till now! Why do you stress me? Is there anything waiting to be done?”

“No…no…just…erm…would you…well…open my present? Like…erm…now?” “That’s it? You want to have my attention to whatever you found?” she went to the tree and got hold of the little golden box. “Okay…what’s it some neckla…?” She lost her words mid sentence, staring at the inside of the box. Their tribes eyes laid confused on her. “Bray…?” her eyes searched his “…rings?” He took one of her hands in his. “One for you…one for me…”

“OH MY GOD!” Gel sighed, pressing her hands over her heart, like she would faint any second.

Inside the box gleamed two rings. The special thing was that they bore the same symbol like the old ring Amber had once given Bray as love token. This ring was back in their old home country, resting hidden in a hole in a tree where Amber had said goodbye to her love. “I ordered them in the village…you know…Tristan is making jewellery there…” She nodded amazed. “But…what…I mean…does…does this…mean what I think…?” Tenderly he laid a hand on her cheek. “We both never spoke about marriage at all. Not even after the rebellion. To both of us it was always clear that we belonged together. And still I think a marriage is nothing NEEDED. But…” His nose touched her. “It is something to be WANTED. You’ve made me more then happy the last year…you and the children. It is more then I ever could have dreamt of. I want the world to know how much you mean to me. That you’re my other half, my partner, my best friend…my…wife…”

Now several of the other females around sighed too, Trudy wiped a tear from her eyes. Jay smiled brightly. It suited to his friend that he had kept that silent. Jay and Bray had become close after some stiffness in the beginning. They had overcome the irritation, both content in the happy relation with the woman they loved. There had been no reason to not become friends. Jay was of high efficient in organising things and Bray was thankful for his help. “You didn’t know?” His wife asked in a whisper. “No…typical him!”

“Usually…i would have never considered to…ask such an important question with so many eyes on us. But…Christmas has a special meaning to our family since last year…Christmas day was the day we were a real unit again after our long separation…” He stroke his thumb over her lips. “Amber…when I think of you – and I somehow always do- I know there will never be someone else I can love the way I love you. It was destiny we met. When I first saw you, you took my breath away and you do so everyday now. I want you on my side forever and always. I want to show you each day, each second what you mean to me. Do you let me? Will you let me proof each day to you how much you mean to me? Will you marry me…?” He looked deeply in her eyes and she swallowed another time. There was only him somehow, everything else blurred around her.

“Please?” he whispered cutely, tipping her nose affectionately with his after she was silent for some long minutes. Their friends now watched nervous, feeling with their leader. Would she say no? Hope and Faith were both gaping open mouthed. Dal looked confused “Mommy?”

She shook her head a little, Bray felt like his heart stopped a moment to work. Never he had thought it possible that she really would deny. Gulping down the want to vanish into the floor right at once, he set on a brave face. “That is…okay…I mean…maybe…erm…I should have…done it more in private…don’t worry…I am—erm—not mad…” “Oh what…? Wait…no…I mean…Bray…I mean YES…” she stuttered shacking her head, he held it finally “Yes?..please…please stop shacking your head then…you confuse me?!” “I-…I just can’t believe it…” she exclaimed with a sob “I thought you would never…come to such an idea…but…but of course the answer is YES!” she kissed him “Yes…” another kiss followed the first. “Yes…yes…yes…” she whispered again and again between soft sweet kisses on his lips. Finally he took hold of her neck with one hand and kissed her long and consuming. He felt her heart fluttering in her chest and hugged her tightly after ending the kiss. “Hey…hey…you won’t faint on me now okay? It is all okay…I just asked you to marry me…nothing big…” he whispered jokingly on her ear. “Idiot!” she sobbed muffling her voice by hiding on his chest.

A collective relieved breath went around them. “Dear…I was getting a heart attack here…thinking she was really saying ‘no’!” Gel shook her beautiful head. KC wrapped his arms around her. “Yeah…I was really pitying him…”

“Sorry…” Amber whispered, looking up in his eyes. She sensed that he had been quiet close to a panic attack himself. “I let you look a bit stupid…” He shook his head. “No…I was musing before if it is right to ask you with people around. I wanted originally ask you last night…but you were so tired after the party…and I couldn’t wait any more now…my nerves were leaving me…” He told her in a gentle whisper. “How could you think I would say ‘no’?” she ruffled his hair a little, going on her toes to press her lips on his. Then she smiled with a mysterious smile in his eyes. “But…I have a condition!” “A condition? Okay…what is it?” “We marry in two months or first in a year or more?!” Confused he raised brow. “That is a very weird request! Why such a gap? Two months would be very soon for all the planning that is to do…”

“Please…only two months to make a wedding dress?! Don’t do that again to my poor nerves!” Gel exclaimed. She knew what she was talking off. She had worked day and night when Jay had proposed to Trudy only a month after last Christmas and their wedding had been so soon then too because they didn’t want to wait any longer. “But you can do it!” Amber smiled at the girl and then back to Bray. “It is…well…because I…want to really suit in a wonderful dress…but I fear if our marriage would be later then in two months…there is no chance for that any more…” she laid his hand over her body and he stared at her, his eyes big with wonder. “I wanted to tell you too last night…but…like you said…I was so tired…and this…is a reason for it…” “You…you mean…we…you…?” He stuttered, like his heart was stuttering. Her smile was answer enough and his feelings found a way out by taking her up in his arms, whirling her around in happiness. She giggled holding tightly onto his neck. “Did you hear that?” he asked his tribe full of confused joy.

They nodded with bright smiles on their faces. “Congratulations dad…” Jay smiled. Brays happiness was infecting his own about being a dad soon even more. “Thank you dad…” Bray whirled Amber another time around, what made her giggle again. “Hihi…are you now paying back that you reacted so bad when I told you of Dal?” “Exactly!” He grinned , letting her down to kiss her long and passionately.

“Do you understand that sweeties?” Salene whispered to the twins, who both nodded and shrugged then unsure. “Do…do we get a baby?” “Correct…” Salene laughed when the girls did their typical squeal of joy again, jumping off to run at their parents. The parents laughed when the girl hugged them up around their legs. Dal meanwhile walked almost silent up to them, taking hold of Brays trouser then. With a smile the father bent down and got his first born up in his arms. “You’re going to be a big brother Dal…” The boy nodded, nestling up shyly to him. He was always a little shy when so much attention was on them. He had very much of Bray in that way, who usually hated to be middle-point too.

The red haired girl sighed a little, eyeing the happy family. Sometimes she thought on the child she could have by now. Sometimes she couldn’t stop imagining how live would have turned with it being born. Her eyes fell on Ryan, her ex husband was now happy with Alice. May who once had told her she fancied her, was with Zac. But it wasn’t that her own chance on happiness were gone. Her eyes fell on the silent long haired guy who stood a bit in the back. He was one of the patients from the medical base. He had recovered completely but slowly from serious misuse. He had been forced into cyber space till he hadn’t been able to live in the real world any more. When she and her tribe had landed here a year back, Tai-San had already lost hope that she could ever bring him back into reality for real.

He had been empty eyed. Only eating and drinking if he was told to do. Often he had started screaming and crying without no reason at all. But she had been willed to help, remembering how Pride had suffered. She had talked to him, helped him to wash, fed him if needed. And one day a few months back, he suddenly had whispered a ‘thank you’. From then on he had gotten stronger, his eyes filled with emotions again. Because they hadn’t known his name, they had called him Joe. He had told them he was from native American descent. Something they had always assumed due to his long black hair, olive skin and high cheek bones. His name was very complicated but meant something like ‘hope in the wind’. So he was still Joe to them.

He smiled when she walked up to him, taking her hands in his. “It is wonderful to see that strong love growing even…” he whispered. She loved his voice. Deep, always silent but strong. His eyes were almost black with only some honey coloured sprinkles in them. “Yes…” “But still it makes you sad?” “Only…well…I would like to have that someday too…” Joe stroke a strand of her red hair behind her ear. “And who tells you you can’t?” His eyes sparkled when he leant in to kiss her tenderly. Salene wrapped her arms around his neck. Yes who said she wouldn’t have that one day soon too?

Bray’s and Amber’s room

He came back carrying a tray. “All fine…Dal felt asleep right at once…the twins needed their fairy-tale…but…WOW!” She smiled sensually from the bed. She had set on little candles and dressed on a new long red nightdress that glittered a little and had parts of lace where her skin shone through promisingly. Carefully he placed the tray on their bed side table, crawling up to her. “Even more presents for me?” He grinned boyish and stole a kiss from her lips. “Well…you’ve been a very good boy last year…” she grinned back, stealing now a kiss from his lips. His hand wandered to her flat stomach. His heart raced at once, thinking that there was a new little heart beating already. Now earnest he looked in her eyes. “This time it will be different. We are together from the start and I will be there when you give birth…you just relax and let me carry you on hands…” “Just kiss me…” She whispered her nose tipping his playfully. “I…don’t you want to eat something…? I brought some…” he stopped when she kissed him. “I don’t need to eat every two hours…I am not hungry…” “Hmmm…then I maybe make you hungry…” he breathed, placing his lips back on hers for a passionate soft kiss. With a sigh she pulled him down into the cushions with him, ready for one of those spectacular nights with her future husband.


A MALLRAT CIRCLE! You can never go wrong with a Mallrat circle, especially at Christmas.

And a surprise Darryl appearance!

This was a really sweet story and I’m glad that everybody got their happy ending. Thanks for taking the time to translate it for us.

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