25th December – Party
By the very fact of their existence as a religious order, the Christmas celebrated at Headquarters should have been sombre, quiet, dignified... in short, a primarily ecclesiastical matter. A day given over to prayer and penance, a day-long mass in the castle's corridors. This statement could have been true, would have been completely true were it not for the presence of one man. That man, was Komui Lee.
At first glance, one would be utterly confused as to how this man was responsible for the riot of festive feeling in Headquarters at this time of year. A quiet man by first impressions, a sharp mind, a brilliant leader... and then he slung a holly wreath around his neck and jumped and pranced and skittered around the hallways like a spider on ice. Anticipation, happiness and a small sense of fear ran high in the castle in the run up to the festive season. Covert meetings were had around corners, and furtive trips made into town for gift buying. Plans were laid in dimly lit tower-rooms, dark and hunched figures scheming and plotting, waiting for this day and this day only. Maniacal laughter rang in the cellars and caverns and one lone bauble blew across the prematurely emptied training ground. Of course, somewhere, high above it all, sat Komui, the spider in the centre of his web, completely in control of pretty much everything, kept in the know by his loyal lieutenant Reever. Lollygaggers and scrooges were warned to keep out of the way when they descended from their planning room, no anti-festive grouches would be allowed! Even Kanda made excuses to be on duty or in his room to avoid their iron control of the castle.
The week before Christmas, the silent anticipation was broken by Komui himself, arms overflowing with slips of paper as he danced and ran through the hallways, banging on every door he could find. Those who answered were greeted with a shower of scraps, a booming “Merry Christmas” and the odd and uncomfortable sensation of impending disaster. Hands shook as they uncrumpled the message delivered, eyes rolled back in skulls rather than read the words... the summoning:
You are invited to a Special Christmas Party, in the Great Hall on December 25th
7:00pm till late
Don't bother to RSVP, anyone who doesn't turn up gets to be target practice for Komurin IV
ORDERS FROM KOMUI (XXX)
And so it transpired on this happiest of nights, that the inhabitants of the castle crept from their dorms, from their rooms and from their offices down to the Great Hall, uncertain of what they were about to see. The hammering and sawing they'd heard all week had been slightly off-putting, as had the screams, but these could be rationalised by Komui's presence. Sort of, anyway. They loitered by the door, growing the collective courage to open it.
Bored of the waiting and angry at Lenalee for manhandling him along, Kanda strode out of the crowd and up to the doors, throwing them back with both hands, revealing... darkness... He glared around, angry and bewildered, the crowd pushing up behind him to stare into the darkness in wonder.
Even Lenalee seemed surprised, cupping her hands around her mouth to call her brother: “Komui! What's going on?” Her voice bounced back to her from the corners of the room, no reply but her own voice.
Something flickered in the dark. Allen spotted it first, raising a hand to point it out, but finding himself unable to do anything more than whisper as the flicker grew and drew attention for itself.
“Lenalee... everyone... look...”
It started slowly, like a fern uncurling in the dawn, like frost forming on a window, lights flickering to life one by one in the centre of the room. They picked up speed as they climbed upwards, rushing upwards like glowflies until the final one burst into incandescence. The tree stood silhouetted in it's own glorious lights, a marvellous giant that stretched to the roof, glowing softly with a thousand twinkling lights.
Jerry and his assistants appeared at the side of the room, each carrying a tray laden with candles and food to lay in front of the gaping guests. Tears sparkled in Lenalee's eyes and she grabbed Allen's hands in joy.
“Oh look, look what brother's done for us!”
Murmurs and conversation broke out everywhere, praising the supervisor, wishing season's greetings upon friends and colleagues. Lavi ran from group to group, sticking silly paper hats on everyone, caught up in their laughter and their jokes.
He caught his friends by the shoulders and swung them into a hug. “I can't believe it, he really outdid himself! Have you seen the size of that tree?” Lavi babbled on, pointing out tiny details he hadn't noticed. “A holly garland over the fireplace... have you seen the size of the fire? Once that's lit it'll go for hours. And the champagne! I didn't know we could afford champagne!”
Lenalee giggled helplessly, tugged here and there by her excitable friend. She dragged Allen with her as Lavi set about lighting the huge fire and regaling them with stories that Bookman had told him of Christmases long gone. They were so caught up in their merriment that they didn't notice the hush falling until it was only their voices breaking the utter silence. They turned to see what the fuss was about, Allen forced to crane over his friends' heads as they looked.
The music started very quietly, lead by an unknown scientist on the guitar.
“Happy birthday, to you.”
Allen's eyes snapped to the doorway, where Komui stood, small smile on his face, his exuberance retained for once.
“Happy birthday, to you.”
His lips moved as he sang, the words slowly being taken up by everyone in the room until the quiet hum turned into a song that rang from the rafters.
“Happy birthday, dear Allen...”
Allen stood in the centre of the room, overcome, overwhelmed by the emotion, the camaraderie of the people around him. Miranda was crying, her smile crinkling the water from her eyes as she waved to him. Lenalee was crying too, more subtle, but her eyes were bright as she sang with all her might. People he had only talked to once, if ever, were shaking hands with him, patting him on the back and wishing him well. He wasn't sure what to do, where to turn, what to say, except a heartfelt thank you to each and every one.
“Happy birthday to you.”