Hey there everyone, happy Christmas! I decided that I would take the time to write a little short just for the holidays! It is an alternate-universe short story for my novel “The Final Lesson,” and technically it would fall somewhere right in between both books. But as book two starts six months after book one, and is set during September rather than December, this makes it an AU.
Well, either way, it’s fun, cute, feelsy, aaaaand it’s a gift to you all! I hope you enjoy!
Solus was happily humming to the current tune on Leilana’s pocket radio, Vernon Dalhart’s Santa Claus, That’s Me as he decorated the windows of Gale’s home with popcorn streamers. Rem was sitting back watching him, clearly bored, but not willing to complain about it. Ever since the Vesarus family had taken Solus into the family and showed him the meaning of Christmastime, Solus was generally delighted during the holiday seasons. Rem knew that he was just trying to lighten the mood, but it still left him a bit distasteful.
Being without a home or those that he cared for didn’t seem to bring Solus down in any sense, but the mood was already wearing on Rem a bit more than he’d wanted. He laid his head down on the wooden table. Leilana and Sien were supposed to be back soon with food so that Solus could prepare a proper Christmas dinner. He only hoped that Sien was wise enough to bring alcohol too.
When the door opened, Rem was the first to dash off to meet the girls, who had been joined by Luna after their reconnaissance about the town. Luna quickly explained that Gale was going to shop around a bit more before coming home.
“We decided to go with dark meat since it’s a special occasion!” Sien beamed, holding up one of the bags. “I hope that Solus is good at preparing beef!” Leilana looked up at Rem, and though she appeared as stalwart and calm as she always had, there was a tint of pink on her cheeks, likely from the blistering weather outside, and her eyes were a bit glossy.
The holidays must have been hard for her too. Rem could easily tell that she was withholding tears, likely the entire time she was outside. He decided right away to take the bags from her and carry them into the kitchen where Solus was still decorating.
“Oh, welcome back,” Solus greeted when the other residents of the home entered the vicinity. “Did you all find something you wanted me to prepare?”
Luna sat down at the table and began bouncing in her seat. “I got to pick desert, and we’re going to be having apple pie! Fresh baked! I expect it to taste like heaven!”
Solus smiled. “That sounds like it’ll be a treat. I’ll do my best to live up to your standards.”
“I decided that I wanted steak,” Sien responded. “It’s been some time since we’ve had a big feast, and since this is a rare time for it and we have the funds, I figured we could go all out. I’ll even help you with the preparations!”
“Much appreciated,” Solus said simply, taking the bags from her, setting them on the counter and poking through the groceries. “Ah, you even managed to get a higher grade of mead. And what about you, Leilana, what would you like?”
Leilana’s gaze flickered to the floor before she looked up at Solus again. “Um… I… I’m not incredibly hungry, so I didn’t choose much of anything for you to make. I’m sorry.”
Solus continued to smile. “You don’t need to apologize. It’s not like you would be excluded from the festivities for not choosing.”
“Yeah, exactly that!” Sien laughed, clapping her hands together. “We’re all like family anyways. This is going to be great! I haven’t had an actual family dinner in years!”
Leilana was about to respond when a sudden flurry of sneezes escaped her. She blinked a few times when all eyes darted to her, and she felt a bit embarrassed, folding her hands in front of her, sniffling lightly.
“Bless you,” Luna said in place of everyone else, a bit annoyed that there was so much silence looming about the room. “Geez, can’t you guys even manage that without getting all uppity?”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve sneezed like that today,” Sien pointed out. “I didn’t want to say anything of it while we were out shopping, but you aren’t catching cold, are you?”
Leilana gave a small shrug. “I think it’s just the weather.” Sien wasn’t convinced, stepping close to Leilana, tilting her chin, looking at the girl’s watery eyes more clearly. Leilana’s nose was twitching, and she immediately broke from Sien to sneeze.
“Nice try,” Sien said simply. “Lack of appetite, sneezing-” At this point, Leilana had given a small cough. “And cough, which is one small indication of a tickled throat.” As he was closest, Rem decided to prove the notion accurate, laying his forehead against hers. Leilana found herself blushing, not used to Rem being so forward, even if the situation did call for it.
“Yep, fever,” he implied.
“Five points to the Senior Kaiser,” Sien proclaimed, waving her index fingers about as though they were pistols.
Luna only rolled her eyes. “Well, something has been going around town lately, and it was bound to reach us eventually.”
“How about a nap?” Rem suggested to Leilana, rubbing her back. “It might make you feel better to get some actual rest. You’ve been spending a lot of time reading your grimoire late into the night and waking up just as early. It might have made you more susceptible.”
“Okay,” Leilana said softly as Rem took her by the hand and led her back towards her room. The tiny abode was littered with used incense and scraps of paper, which made Rem sigh. She had her own room, her own personal space, and she still wasn’t able to keep it clean. Solus’s actions of cleaning his room while he got to lounge around were all too engrained into his mind. He hated sitting back, and now he was free to make even the smallest decisions.
“Go and lie down, make sure you’re comfortable,” Rem told her, gesturing for the bed. Leilana was about to object, but one rather stern look from Rem offered no opportunities to, and she began taking off her coat. “Just drop your coat on the floor, I’ll pick it up and put it somewhere.” Leilana carefully laid the coat on the floor, coughing a bit as she got into bed, pulling the covers over herself. Rem began picking up the papers and old incense, taking care to look over the sheets to make sure that he didn’t scrap anything that looked too important to her to throw out.
“Rem, you’re a prince,” Leilana began. “You don’t have to clean my room…”
“I know,” he said simply, tossing a few crumpled-up paper balls into a nearby trash can and setting the rest of the papers on the nightstand. “But I’m going to anyways. Because you’ve been working hard for my sake and deserve at least some of my repayment. Besides, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, you’re sick, and you’re going to be stuck in bed all day. You’re not going to get any better if your room is cluttered to hell.”
Leilana smiled softly. It was rare that Rem executed his softer side, but it was always comforting when he did decide to share it.
Rem merely brushed her off. “No need. Just try to sleep.” Leilana snuggled under her blankets and within minutes, she fell asleep to the sounds of paper shuffling about the room.
Leilana woke with a start when the door creaked open and in stepped Sien, peering in at her. Leilana quickly realized how fatal a mistake this was, as she promptly began coughing into her sheets.
“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Sien assured her, sitting next to the girl on the bed after setting down a pail of water and washcloth on the floor, gently stroking her hair. “I stopped in a bit ago to check on you, and it seemed like your fever was up, so I figured that it was about time to act.”
“How long was I asleep…?” Leilana asked as Sien laid the cloth over the girl’s forehead.
“A couple of hours,” Sien replied. “Solus and Rem are really worried, but Luna and I told them that it’s nothing to worry about. But boys will be boys, you know? Always have to get their heads caught up in every little thing that’s wrong.”
“Boys will be boys, and those two will never change,” Leilana agreed with a tired giggle. “I’m sorry that you’re doing work at Christmastime…”
“Hey, don’t be that way,” Sien joked, flicking the tip of the girl’s nose. “This is what I do, and plan to do for a living. That, running a tavern, maybe even get to cozy up with some really nice guy someday… the dream will be there, but for right now, I want to take care of my best friend. Because she deserves to be able to smile today too. At least, before the medicine.”
Leilana visibly paled. “Medicine?”
Sien rested her hands on her hips. “You didn’t think you were going to go without having medicine to help with your sickness, did you?”
“Please no,” Leilana whimpered. “Your medicines are horrible…”
“But potent,” Sien pointed out, holding up a small vial. “Rem got better the very next day after taking one of my potions. And you will too, guaranteed, or your Nyte coins back.”
“It’s just a cold!” Leilana protested.
“And colds can be cured in a whiffy with one of my handy jiffys!”
“Never say that again,” Leilana groaned, covering her head with the blankets. “It’s so corny. And I thought that Solus had that trait…”
“Please, I could spin him in circles with my jokes!” Sien acted quickly, uncapping the mixture before thrusting the blanket off of Leilana, pouring it down her throat, clamping her lips shut. Leilana was flailing her arms and trying to cry out for help, to no avail, for she ended up forcibly swallowing. She frowned as she fell backwards onto the bed.
“Because it’s necessary, as you say.”
Sien waited out the effects for about three minutes before Leilana ended up complaining about stomach cramps, which Sien had considered rather normal… until Leilana vomited on the floor, which made the older girl cringe, proclaim that next time she’ll work out the kinks in the medicine to reduce nausea effects, and leave the room to find Solus to clean the foul mess that was presently making her a little too squeamish.
Solus didn’t have to knock, for he found that the door was slightly ajar, and the girl that he cherished most was laying on her side, moaning and holding her stomach, the blanket halfway off her body. Rather than clean up the mess that Sien had forced upon him, he first went to her side, laying a hand on her head. Her eyes were still shut, but she wasn’t the least bit asleep.
“Sien’s concoctions are a disaster,” she told him softly, nuzzling against his hand.
“I still believe that she is a fine apothecary,” Solus stated. “It may just have been a mixture that your body rejected due to the potential toxins within the contents.”
“I think next time, I’ll try to stick to water and light food…” she began. “Ennis used to make all kinds of weird meals whenever I was sick… but he never went with anything light… feeding a fever, he called it… or something…”
“You must be missing him,” Solus concluded, though his words went unheard, for she had fallen back into slumber.
Ennis Erovina would forever be the most important man in her life, and Solus could respect that notion. She never got to be as close with him as she wanted, but she did adore her brother, and her memories of him. Solus kissed her head before he cleaned up, remembering that their meal for the evening was still in the slow cooker. He could spare some time watching over her, making sure that she would be safe for at least the night.
Solus always found the holidays to be a time of peace back in Linmus, where everyone was full of happiness and excitement. But then, he looked at people like Leilana, who didn’t get to spend time with those that she cared for, because they weren’t there anymore. He imagined that the seasons where everyone else embellished their joys came with baggage and even sorrow.
“I’ll never leave you alone,” he softly assured her. “I promise you…”
This year was going to be different. Meeting her was already a change in his insane routine guarding the regime and shielding his allies. Someday, he would give her the best Christmas of her life. But for now, he’d let her rest easy, knowing that tomorrow was a special day, but another that he would be able to spend with her.
I hope that you enjoyed that little short! ❤ There will be plenty more to come in the new years, even from this little series! I loved writing it!