Purrsia looks up as Mallory, Tanya, Wildwing and the others pass her. "Where are you guys going? Has there been an attack?" Her keen eyes note that Duke is not among them.
"No. We're going Christmas shopping," answers Tanya, pausing. "Want to come?"
"Okay, we'll see you later then."
Purrsia nods and looks back down at her book. A few minutes later she looks up. What's a Christmas? She gets up and stretches languidly. Her Caternian healing ability has allowed her wound to be completely healed within a week. Duke didn't go with them so he's probably still here...maybe he'll tell me. She steps into the easy lope she uses when in the Pond. She has to go through most of the Pond before knocking on Duke's bedroom door.
"Come in." is the muffled reply.
She opens the door, walks in and sits down on his bed. She crosses her legs Indian style and looks at him. "What do you want?" He asks.
"What's a Christmas?"
"Wha-? A Christmas?" he repeats, before starting to smile. Her innocent curious question is almost the exact opposite of her usual questions.
"What's a Christmas?" She asks emphatically.
"Christmas isn't a thing. it's a holiday." He says , resuming the sharpening of his saber. He stops when he sees her ears lay flat against her head. "Some humans celebrate the birth of the Son of their God."
"Those humans have only one god."
"Others celebrate Christmas as a time to be with your friends and family and exchange presents."
"Hmmm. Thank you Duke." She gets up and starts out of his room.
The look on her face makes Duke ask, "What's wrong?"
She looks back at him. "Hm? Oh, I just suddenly feel very...left out. I mean I don't have an real close friends--"Except Soulie, but she is going to be spending this Christmas with Gavin. "--and no family."
"Wildwing will kill me for spilling it, but we were going to ask you if you wanted to spend the night Christmas Eve then spend Christmas Day with us."
The corners of her mouth turn up into a soft smile. "Thanks." She steps into her lope and lopes out of his room back to the rec room and returns to her reading.
Later Wildwing and the others invite her "officially" to spend Christmas with them.
"I'd like that." is her reply. "Oh wait....I have to go away for a while...I don't know if I'll be back in time."
"Well, if you are, promise you will spend time with us?" asks Kintarae.
Purrsia nods. "If I'm back in time. I have to get going. I leave tomorrow and I need to make sure everything is ready for take off." She stands and teleports herself to her ship.
Soulia finishes packing.
"Now you are sure that you are doing the right thing leaving, dear?"
"I'm not going to be gone all that long, Mother." she replies.
"Why do you have to go at all?"
"Because I miss my husband. And she's almost here so I can't back out now." Soulia's soft gentle voice, befitting a princess, is insistent.
The Princess, Soulia's mother, examines carefully the heir to the throne of Ensofarina <a small, but powerful, island country on PuckWorld. Also one of the few remaining countries ruled as in medieval times by a king and queen, or in this case a Prince and Princess.>. Soulia is a 5'10", 120 lbs woman of 21 years of age. Her light green hair and emerald eyes, along with her pure white feathers, add to the impression of a kind, gentle, innocent girl. But her mother knows that the body partially revealed by the tight bodice of the pale, pale, green gown is that of a deadly warrior and that the sweet countenance her daughter displays hides a terrible secret. Her extravagant looks merely adds to her classical beauty. Soulia wears only a small golden circlet to display her rank of Crown Princess.
"You will be careful won't you?"
"Of course, mother. I always am." she says , shutting her suitcase. "I'll only be gone for a little while. At the most, three Earth weeks. And I have my weapons if I need them. Besides I doubt I will have to do any fighting. You know how protective Gavin and Purrsia are."
"Why did you ever make friends with that mercenary?"
"Mother. We've been over this time and again and I refuse to go over it again!"
"Oh very well. Do you have the gifts she ordered?"
"And some extra gowns in case of a formal dinner party or something?"
"I took one extra gown, mother. My other clothes will suit me just fine. The trick is to blend in, not stick out like a sore thumb."
Soulia stops in the middle of the hallway, puts her suitcase down, and hugs her mother. "You worry too much. I'll be fine."
"I know, but you are my only daughter," says her mother. "I do wish you were going to be here for the ball..."
"That wouldn't be a good idea any how, Mother...you know Gerome of Whitestaff will be there and how much he hates me since I turned him down in favor of 'a commoner'."
"Well, you were rather rude about it."
"I refuse to discuss him any longer, mother. Just remind him of the tax father levied on him for the last insult."
"I will. Fly straight and proud, Soulia."
"You too, mother."
"If you two are quite finished we need to get going." Soulia turns around to see Purrsia leaning against the wall.
"Hey, Soulie. Ready to fly?"
Soulia nods and hugs her mother as Purrsia turns and goes back the way she came. Soulia picks up her suitcase and runs to catch up.
Once the ship is airborne and well away from Puckworld Soulia changes into the gold tunic and green leggings she will wear for the rest of her trip. "At last! I like court but the clothes can be so confining." She exclaims, walking out of Purrsia's room.
"I don't see why you like court...must be a princess thing," says Purrsia tapping something out on the console. "Sit down..I'm about ready to submerge into subspace."
Soulia sits down in the co pilot seat. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"I made a promise. I have to be back on earth before a holiday is concluded."
Purrsia tells Soulia what Duke told her.
"Ahhh...that's why you needed the gifts?"
"I see." Soulia grins. "Sounds like fun."
Christmas eve finds Wildwing outside staring up at the stars. Duke walks outside. "I thought I might find you out here."
Wildwing looks at him, then returns his gaze to the stars.
"She's not gonna make it Wildwing."
"She promised she'd be here."
"Why don't you just admit to her that you like her...a lot?"
"Are you kidding, Duke? She'd rip out my throat," is the forlorn reply.
"Well, I can't say that you made a smart choice in choosing her...but it's your choice." Duke shrugs and falls silent. After a few minutes, "She ain't gonna make it, Wildwing. Maybe tomorrow, but not tonight. C'mon. It's getting late."
"I hope she doesn't have to break her promise." Wildwing goes inside into the Rec Room and sits down staring at the tree. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is playing on the radio.
Kintarae shakes her head then follows Nosedive to their room.
Purrsia stares out the window at the stars as her sleek ship, the Catern, speeds through the sky. Soulia, never having seen her friend like this before asks, "What's wrong Purrsie? You look so sad."
"I broke a promise to him..."
"I promised that I would be home for Christmas."
Home? Him? thinks Soulia. "I'm sure that he'll understand that you tried."
"You don't understand, Soulie. I've never broken a promise before. Why did it have to be this promise that I broke? "
"Purrsie, you tried. You have this ship going as fast as it can without overheating it."
"You know if I didn't know you better I'd say that you found a family in them, and a love in this mysterious 'him'..."
"Don't be silly Soulia." Is the half-hearted reply.
Soulia smiles. "Whatever you say, old-friend-who-walks-alone." She walks out of Purrsia's room as her friend shoots a venomous glare at her.
Across the solar system Wildwing, finally admitting defeat, goes into his room. As he prepares for bed he listens to one last Christmas song. He is not looking forward to morning.
Christmas morning dawns clear and bright. Nosedive and Kintarae rouse everyone shortly after sun up.
Wildwing sits down quietly on the couch to watch the others open their presents. Soon the only presents left are the ones that had been bought for Purrsia.
Wildwing smiles. The others weren't kidding when they said that she was a member of the team. Grin leaves the room.
"Hey! Did you guys save some presents for me?"
Everyone looks to see Purrsia standing in the doorway, grinning. "Sorry I'm late...but I had some trouble getting off planet on my return trip."
"Welcome home Purrsie," calls Kintarae.
"I want you guys to meet someone." Purrsia steps aside and Soulia steps in. "This is Princess Soulia, Heir to the throne of Ensofarina. Soulie, this is Wildwing, Leader of the Mighty Ducks. Nosedive, Wildwing's brother. Kintarae, Dive's wife and sister to Duke L'Orange. He's the one-"
"I know who he is." She grins at Duke. "I met him when he tried to steal the Crown Jewels."
"I remember how you beat the crap out of me I got caught," says Duke, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Anyway....That's Mallory and that's Tanya." finishes Purrsia.
"It's a pleasure to meet you all." She glances around. "But where-" Her question is answered when Grin returns carrying a mug.
He freezes and the mug slips out of his fingers to shatter on the ground. Purrsia discreetly joins Wildwing on the couch, watching with a knowing grin on her face.
"Soulie..." Grin's voice is barely audible. He starts towards her. She smiles happily, stumbles a moment, then throws herself into Grin's arms. His arms wrap around her tightly.
"Dearest husband...How I've missed you..." She says, clinging to him as if clinging to life itself. She tilts her face up and he places an infinitely loving kiss on her mouth.
"HUSBAND?!" exclaims everyone else.
"I shall explain," says Purrsia. "Grin's name is Gavin. Specifically, Prince Gavin. Grin is his nickname. Soulia met him at the same martial arts tournament that she and I met. She and I became friends but those two fell in love. She turned some Duke or Lord or something down when Grin asked her to marry him. He was made a Prince when they were married and will rule Ensofarina alongside her when her parents are tired of ruling."
"Why didn't he tell us that?" demands Duke.
"Because you would not have let the Crown Prince help you fight." answers Grin walking over and sitting back down, cross legged, on the floor. Soulia walks over and sits down next to him. Mallory notes that though Soulia is a princess, her body and movements are that of a trained warrior.
"Enough about Grin....Are any of those presents for me?" demands Purrsia, producing a chuckle from Soulia. She rips through the wrapping of each present. Chortling at the catnip from Duke, purring at the manicure set from Kintarae and Nosedive, the book on Earth swords from Mallory, and the com link that combines her and one of the Ducks' coms. Her only remark on Grin's gift, a book on mediation and calming, is "Thanks...it'll make a great scratching pad." She grins. "Is that all of them?"
"Apparently," says Soulia.
"Good...my turn. Soulie, lend me your husband for a minute?"
Grin stands up and follows Purrsia out. They return carrying two blackwood boxes, one for Tanya and one for Mallory, a smaller blackwood case for Duke, a small crystal figurine for Grin and a book of baby names for Nosedive, who looks at Kintarae suspiciously. Kintarae looks at Purrsia curiously.
Soulia, having guessed what is going on, laughs her tinkling laugh.. "Tell them, Purrsia."
"Kin, you are pregnant."
"Wha?! How can you tell?!"
"My powers told me....and I could detect a difference in your scent that could only be motherhood." Purrsia grins. "Merry Christmas, Kin."
Tanya and Mallory open their boxes to see flaxen colored silk. "Uh Purrsia?" says Tanya dubiously.
"That's farlen fabric. Go strip then wrap it around yourselves...It will conform itself to whatever kind of outfit in whatever color you want and will die only when you do. Be careful cause it will also reveal emotions." She says . "Don't let anyone else touch it until you have put it on. Only then will the spin live." They leave then return seconds later, Mallory in a dark red outfit and Tanya in light blue.
"Thanks," says Tanya. She is echoed by Mallory who is plainly loving the fabric.
Duke exclaims in pleasure when he opens his box and sees a set of high priced specially made lock picks.
"I had to go through several contacts to get those made for you Duke," says Purrsia.
"How did you find an alcorn?" asks Grin.
"I knew a private collector on Puckworld who had me steal that from him then died three months later. I bought it off of his sister who didn't know what it was."
"What's an alcorn?" asks Soulia.
"A statue that acts as a tie between a spirit in the astral plane and the real world." answers Grin.
The rest of the spent in enjoying their gifts and the company of friends.
Soulia watches the face of her dearest friend. She has changed since meeting them...before she seemed so cold...now she seems very happy... Soulia marvels. She's found the family she lost on Catern...and look at the way she seems to manage to be near to Wildwing...I do believe she has a crush on him...Lightning strike me if he doesn't have a crush on her too...
"So how long are you planning on staying Princess?" asks Kintarae.
"Just call me Soulia or Soulie. I had hoped to be able to spend some time with Gavin before I returned to Puckworld, if I may be permitted to reside here. If not ,then I can stay with Purrsia at her ship. Either way I am going to be on this planet for about three or four weeks, so there is no need for me to be treated as a princess."
Purrsia rolls her eyes at Soulia's blunt diplomacy as Wildwing says, "You are welcome for as long as you like."
Soulia alone notes when Purrsia vanishes. She also notes that Wildwing is not long in following.
Purrsia's ear flicks back when Wildwing joins her outside. "Is there something you wanted Wildwing?"
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I recognized your step."
"Oh. Why are you out here?"
"I had a feeling you would follow me." She teleports a small package onto her lap. "I wanted to give you your Christmas present early." She hands it to him. He raises a brow when he sees that it is a laptop/ holo projector. She smiles and presses a button. Holos of Puckworld, miniaturized, appear on the screen.
“To select one, just touch it." she says .
"Thank you, Purr."
Unexpectedly, this pet name touches her heart and she smiles softly. "You are welcome."
"I also wanted to give you your gift in private." He says handing her a package wrapped in silver. She carefully opens it and finds a black velvet case. Wildwing reaches out and opens it, revealing a collar of black satin. Hanging from the collar is a single moonstone, intricately carved into the shape of a delicate rose. "I saw it in the jeweller’s window and I had to get it for you." He picks it up and fastens it around her throat. The rose settles gently into the hollow of her throat as though made for her.
"Thanks." She smiles wryly. "If I didn't know better Wildwing, I'd say that you have a crush on me."
"Maybe I do."
"If you do then I need to know...for certain."
"I do have a crush on you, Purr."
"I was afraid of this. I have to squelch this crush right here and now."
"Once Dragaunus is destroyed, I'm gone. You'll never see or hear of me again."
"Why? Why can't you stay here with me?"
"I'm a mercenary Wildwing. Most often I'm a bad guy. You are a good guy. It would work about as well as oil and water."
She takes the collar off and drops it back into the box. "I'm sorry. Any relationship I have is a one night stand, Wildwing. That's not what you are looking for. If I could stay, I would give you what you want, but I'm not and I can't." She places the box in his limp hands and walks into the Pond. She collects her things, makes her excuses and leaves by a different route.
Soulia, seeing Wildwing's face just before he composes it and noting the box in his hand, says quietly to her husband, "She must have rejected him." Wildwing walks through the room, ignoring everyone else.
"Why would she do that?" Grin's voice is just as quiet.
"She's a wanderer and a mercenary. Poor Purrsia. She cared for him too."
"I hope she comes to her senses soon."
"As do I, my love. As do I."
Wildwing flips idly through the holos and comes to the third to the last. Instead of a landscape, it's a holo of different views of Purrsia's face: Profile, full front, and three quarter view. The next is a holo of Purrsia standing in battle stance; activated saber in one hand and blaster in another with her tail lashing behind her. The last is a holo of Purrsia looking out the window of her ship at a starry sky. He stares at it quietly.
Purrsia lays on her bed, fighting back the tears which lurk behind her eyes. I have broken numerous hearts...why is it that breaking his heart has hurt me?