Beryl looked out over the frozen lake, the party for the end of the year about to begin. She was looking forward to the celebration with friends despite recent events. Lisa had looked at her with fear akin to when she was newly ‘human’. Bookworm had been cold and unwelcoming. Tepic and the others…well there was no use dwelling on all that negativity now. She had no doubt that she would feel welcome tonight.
Word spread of her innocence quickly, and her shift in demeanor had managed to sway a few who had condemned her. The familiar had privately apologized to Lisa, explaining she had not attacked Kasa but had held her muzzle to prevent a scream only. The fear melted away from her friend and Beryl surprised her with a hug.
Lisa liked the hug, Tepic however kept trying to get away screaming about how he couldn’t breath. She wondered if the lad ever grew up how he’d look in a corset. Oh no, even as a joke the lad did not like when she mentioned that at all! That only made it funnier, of course.
Beryl went to the dance floor and was welcomed quickly, ‘Beloved-again’ said one of the children who had recently thought her lost to the darkness. Despite everything she had done to them, the familiar felt nothing from them but warmth.
And still, she did not regret anything that she had done if it had led to this. Count Bologna still had a scheme to play out no doubt, and some of the conspirators remained at large. However, that meant little since her part in this farce was over. The urchins could deal with their own fallout, whether it finished crumbling or repaired itself. It was time for this kitty to finally relax and indulge a little.
Felina looked over herself in the bedroom mirror at the green dye that covered her fur. She had asked Santa for dye, and the Boiler Elf had suggested green. Christmas morning the clockwork found some in her stocking over the fireplace. She had feared her existence would be seen as pale imitation despite her best efforts, but Santa had proven as wonderful as ever.
Green was good for her. An affirmation of what she was, and a rejection of what she was not. She would not be mistaken for Beryl again, so long as the dye lasted a few days. The clockwork had enough dye for several applications.
She was happy with the result and yet guilt stabbed at her again. She knew the guilt had been planted there by Otis now, but that did not make the feeling vanish like the wind. Cyan, her, and others may have to sit with that watch again to be set to rights.
Getting fully dressed, she made her way to the party. She was starting to get the hang of dancing in her new bones, but it was mostly discovering what she could not do anymore. Phillip Johnson may have wanted slaves out of his duplicates, but she was determined to be more than he had ever bargained.
Ming stayed in that night, with no thought of going to the party which would have the loud fireworks and bustling dancers. Too many scents, movements, and people for her taste at the moment. Instead, she looked over her pups with pride in her eyes.
When this year started she had been trapped in a human form. But during the encounter with the duplicates her wild side had emerged and refused to retreat completely. The wolf in her was freed from its shackles of anxiety and lies. So many lies told by others, and to herself. The tragedy that forced her to run from home, the duplicates over the summer, the mad attack in the Fells, she had put behind her as she looked at the new life before her. A mother, a mate, a woman who had something to live for again.
Otis sat in his cell willingly, tossing a ball at the opposite wall in boredom, but often missing it and diving for it over again. He had come to his senses sometime after arriving in the facility. Out there Winter, the fox, had some presence in his mind. Here she was out of his head and that was for the better.
His watch had caused no end of trouble, he could admit that. Scrounged together from parts in the junkyard from villains of the past, he had always used it to help people undo detrimental effects caused by such devices. A way to unbrainwash people who were suffering from that terrible process.
He knew that he was not to blame for the actions he committed while under, but he could regret not keeping it a secret. His escape attempt had backfired rather terribly as he had put first Beatrixe under, and then the fox. The one thing was…he did not remember the fox lift the watch to his head or what came afterwards.
He could wait. His wife still visited most days to keep his spirits up. He had not been surprised how readily she had believed him about the dynamite as a fashion statement, and needed to return the matching jacket she got him for Christmas.
He only hoped Kasa and the others would forgive him someday as quickly as she did.
Kasa seethed as the name Otis was muttered by one of the staff. She was sick of hearing that traitors name. He was barred from the hospital even if he got out of the asylum by some miracle.
The Blackberry Memorials reconstruction had stalled, with the main builder now carefully tucked back into the asylum. Fortunately, her blue prints remained. With the start of a new year there would be a new facility.
It was the best change that had come this year, filled with others that were unwelcome. There was no time for fun or games at the party this year. Too much work to get done. She hoped the urchins and others enjoyed themselves though.
Tepic looked over the white moreau that had been half starved hiding in the walls near his camp and offered her another vole. The poor thing ate it and seemed to be quite lost in her own mind. Arctic foxes were a bit peculiar from the tales he had heard, always doing weird nutty stuff, but he had never seen one before.
He had worked out this was the fox that the Militia, Book, and the others were trying to find. She would be captured and then thrown into the asylum with that nutter Canergak in charge.
The lad wouldn’t, couldn’t, turn over a cousin fox to the asylum. Not even for Captain. Winter was just going to have to be his secret and he’d help her out. From his talk with her he reckoned she needed that more than a cell anyhow.
You have until twelfth night to pay.
Her words echoed in Snow’s mind as he enjoyed his freedom. He had been asleep so long, and missed so much of the excitement. Things had gotten pretty dark without him around. But Tepic wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. And the lad had only asked for Snow for ‘christmas’. He had to find a more permanent solution before the Founders Day Ball…if a ball was held at all.
But a child at heart didn’t worry about a ticking deadline like that. He was still enjoying his freedom that he had for now. He would not overly complain if she took him back. A deal was a deal after all. Still, he was positive an arrangement could be made. She wasn’t as terrible as people seemed to believe.
Cyan breathed in the cold Babbage air as he returned from Mondrago, the brief stint away having done wonders for his health. He had learned many things this year. Was a little wiser in learning the ramifications certain deals and orders could have upon certain people. He was ready to step out from this year and leave it all behind him.
He got to the dance and greeted both Felina and Beryl happily. He ate some of the buffet, spent time with friends, and danced while ignoring the pain as it slowly came upon him, especially in his shoulder.
It was New Years. He could push himself a little.
Candance felt they only wanted to use her when she first returned and encountered the Alice gang. If Felina had not been in danger she would have abandoned them.
But when Candance had been hurt by Alice days after, the hospital had taken care of her, and her visitors had been many. Lisa though, had still avoided her. Still did not trust the jerboa simply because she had an ally in her.
“You warned them about Alice,” Candance rasped bitterly from her damaged throat to her mirror. She could only see her own reflection, but heard a response sometimes. Usually when out of Babbage. She sat up in the bed in case that would help, “You helped Lilith and Kasa wake up, and Cyan too as you found out he was poisoned. How can they not see that you are trying to help in your own way?”
‘Do you think I concern myself with what other people think, child?’ Came the amused response. It sounded kind to the child, but others had grown to despise it and her from past dealings. ‘Enjoy yourself tonight. I know you love your Turkish Delight in particular. Sing your songs even if you cannot dance like you desire. Have a wonderful New Year as you had a merry Christmas. I shall enjoy the extra Light brought by the indulgence of this time of year.‘
Candance nodded in agreement as she looked at the nearby table. Her favorite guilty pleasure rested in a bag neatly tied nearby. She opened it up and popped a few, just letting herself enjoy the holiday spirit.
Regardless of whatever else might linger, and how many threads may be unresolved, this year was over. It was time for a brand new day.
Spalding sat in his cell calmly despite having been separated from his friends. He was afforded only iced tea now to his sorrow, and his friends were afforded little time to join him. His situation was otherwise quite pleasant.
It was a new year, and no cat would ever cross his path again. Until he saw her that day visiting the Professor. The cat! Here! What was she doing here!? What do you mean she used to work here?!
He demanded to see Time’s manager as he screamed defiance at the New Year! It couldn’t have him!
Mr. Spalding wouldn’t calm down until he had a calander that read quite seriously:
New Babbage Year
Beryl looked about herself, having lost herself in the music and fun some time ago as the fireworks brought in the new year. This was going to be a good one she was certain. A good one because she had finally managed it. Whatever the troubles that had come their way, at no point had she thrown herself into danger intentionally. She had side stepped it and even gotten Felina to make the mistake she would have before. Her adventuring days were over.
She couldn’t have been happier.