“Remind me again how many kids will be at this thing?” Jamie asked for the umpteenth time.
Casey rolled his eyes at his brother who was sitting on Casey’s bed watching Casey trying to knot his Christmas tie, it was printed with lots of small elves pulling silly faces and doing acrobatics.
Finally, Jamie gave a laugh and came to help him. Jamie knotted it expertly and Casey gave him a hug.
“All the pack children will be there. Keith is bringing the sister pack kids, it’s going to be packed.”
Casey laughed at his own pun and squawked when Jamie pushed him off the bed. “Hey, don’t wrinkle my suit.” He brushed his hands down his clothes brushing out any real or imagined flaw.
Jamie rolled his eyes. “Why’d you go with a boring green suit anyway? It’s Christmas, why not at least wear something with a pattern on it. And the tie doesn’t count, the kids got you that and that’s why you’re wearing it.”
Casey grinned at his brother. “But my suit is very Christmassy.” So saying, he held out his arms and muttered few words. His suit went from plain green to a shimmering image of pine needles, then slowly lights in all different colour’s started appearing. After a few minutes, his suit resembled a Christmas tree in full decoration. There were gold, silver, and red baubles, with glittering lights flickering on and off.
Jamie chuckled and nodded. “That’s more like it. Now, remember not to drink too much. Shifters may have a high tolerance, but you don’t. remember what happened when we went to that new club in town. We were what…about eighteen?”
Casey winced. Yes, he remembered that night—well most of it. “It wasn’t my fault that idiot didn’t listen when I told him to move so I could get to the loo. I told him I felt sick but he thought that was code for please feel me up some more.” Casey didn’t add that the main reason he’d felt sick was the fact the drunk wouldn’t stop touching him, he hadn’t actually had that much to drink. “He’s lucky only his shoes got puked on. If I hadn’t shoved him away I would have hit his chest as well.”
Jamie had rolled up with laughter and Casey shook his head at his brother’s antics. “The look on this face was priceless. I wished there’d been better lighting, so we could’ve taken a photo.”
Casey grinned it had been funny—after the fact. Since that day he had stuck to a two-drink rule and a no-touching rule.
“I better get going. Jackson has a last-minute meeting and so is going to be late. I said I’d make sure to accompany Vash as this is his first full pack event.”
Jamie and Casey both wandered out and headed their separate ways.
Casey and Vash wandered into the town hall and both stopped in shock. The pack had gone all out and the usually plain hall had been turned into a winter wonderland. There were swaths of fabric hanging from the walls. A large tree was fully decorated and sparkling more than Casey’s suit. Next to it was a small stage with a throne covered in green velvet. Long tables were set up and covered in different coloured tables cloths and each had serval candle wreaths with lit candles on them.
The pack had certainly gone all out to make it wonderful for the kids and grown-ups alike. They saw Keith at the head table and wandered that way. As they got closer they could hear the chattering of the children surrounding him.
“When’s Santa coming?”
“Do you think h got my letter?”
Have I been good enough?”
The last question brought tears to Casey’s eyes. The kids had been in a pack school that only taught rigid adherence to the then Alpha’s ever-changing rules. With cruel punishments for every imagined wring doing.
They arrived at the table and Vash dropped a hand to two of the children’s shoulders. “Santa will be here soon, Casey and Jamie used magic to make doubly sure all your letters got to him, and yes you have all been more than good enough.”
Beaming smiles met Vash’s statement and Casey grinned with his mate.
The music that had been playing softly in the background stopped and Jamie’s voice rang out in the hall.
“Boys and Girls, of all ages. Santa I about to arrive and asks that you all make your way outside to meet him.”
The music started up again, but it couldn’t be heard over the stampede of feet heading for the door as kids and adults alike rushed for the entrance.
The sound of cheering made Casey and Vash turn toward the entrance and Casey held his arm out to Vash. “Shall we go and meet Santa?”
Vash took his arm and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “I already have the best Christmas present I could ever ask for. I have you and Jackson.”
Casey grinned and returned the kiss.
They exited the building just in time to see a highly decorated sleigh arrive being pulled by twelve large reindeer.
Casey could sense illusion magic at work and knew the magic was Jamie’s. He pushed his magic out and nearly doubled over in laughter.
He used their mate-bond to share what he was seeing with Vash and felt him stifling his laughter. Luckily the crowd was so enthralled by the sight they didn’t take any notice of them.
Casey watched as the reindeer trotted down the driveway pulling the sleigh behind them.
Actually, they weren’t reindeer at all. They were twelve staff members from the healing centre dressed in all brown. Illusion magic worked better if you were enhancing what was already there rather than creating an entire illusion from scratch. It took far less magical energy and could be kept up for longer.
The sleigh was gold painted cardboard with stick-on jewels. The cardboard had been stuck to the sides of what looked like Jamie and Casey’s old toy sleight that had to have been magically enlarged.
Then his eyes fell on who was in the sleigh.
Jamie he had expected since it was his magic on everything. His twin was dressed as a happy elf and his glamour was to make him smaller and more elf-like.
The real surprise was who was with Jamie in the sleigh. Jackson was sitting with a big sack at his feet just visible over the low sides of the sleigh. He was dressed in a full Santa outfit, with a fake wig and beard. All of it was enhanced until he was unrecognisable.
Vash was vibrating next to Casey. Casey could feel him trying to muffle his laughter.
“I can feel your both nearby, even if I can’t see you.” Jackson’s voice echoed in their minds. “Vash, I need you near the stage. I know you know most of the kids by name, so I need you to feed me information.”
“On it,” Vash replied and pulled Casey along back inside.
They were waiting by the stage when Santa arrived with his elf skipping alongside him. That is until Jamie tripped over his own feet and fell face-first toward the ground. He managed to twist at the last moment and showed how much the gymnastic lessons that took as kids had paid off when he rolled ad popped back to his feet.
The kids cheered and he bowed before bounding up to the stage while Casey rolled his eyes.
Everyone settled and the adults corralled the kids into some semblance of a line. A little girl with a long French braid running down her back crept up shyly and when she got a nod from the elf she sat on Santa’s lap.
“This is Layla. She’s just turned six and she loves playing with cars and pretending to be a mechanic like her dad.” Vash rattled off the information and Santa smiled at Layla.
“So Little Layla, I hear you’ve just turned six…You’re a big girl. You’ll be able to work on the big cars like your daddy…”
Layla’s eyes had gone wide when Santa had said her name and got wider as he continued.
“So what is your Christmas wish?”
There was a moment of silence as she beckoned Santa closer so she could whisper in his ear.
Of course, being only six her whisper could be heard by every adult shifter in the room and Casey listened through Vash.
“I wish me and my daddy could stay here forever. I wish my daddy could meet his mate. He’s been sad since mama left. She went to a better place and dad said we couldn’t go with her—which isn’t fair. Oh and I wish daddy and I always have food to eat.”
Casey squeezed Vash’s hand as he fought back the tears of sadness.
“Well,” Santa said. “Two of those things are easy wishes. Everyone is welcome here forever or until they decide to move, even then they will always have a place to return to if they wish to.
“There is also plenty of food to go around so no one will ever go hungry here. As to the last part, I’m afraid that is up to fate, not me. However, I promise as soon as I get home I will send her a letter asking for her to give your father her personal attention as soon as she can.”
Santa let out an oomf as Laya threw her arms around his neck and planted a smacking kiss on his cheek.
Santa’s face went red much to the amusement of the adults. He reached into his sack and pulled out a rightly wrapped present.
After Layla said thank you for the gift a teary-eyed adult ushered away so the next could be brought up.
Sophia asked for a dolly and asked for her mother to be added to Santa’s letter to fate.
Kevin asked for a healing kit so he could practice to be just like one of the Alpha mates.
Hetty asked for a dress for her daddy as he liked dressing up with her but he didn’t have anything to wear when they had a tea party with her toys. This caused some amusement but Santa promised he’d see to it for her.
Joe asked for a ballerina dress so he could join his sister in her ballet classes.
Leon asked for a car for his dad so he wouldn’t have to leave so early for work and would be home quicker and they could spend more time together.
By the end, there was not a dry eye in the place. The kids were so selfless and only asked for little things for themselves, but bigger things for their loved ones.
Soon it was time to sit down for dinner. Every child had a gift and some were scattered around the floor playing together. Others were still clinging to adults they trusted and still more were racing around chattering to anyone who would listen about how they met Santa and he was the bestest, greatest, man in the whole world.
Vash was just about to announce dinner when he felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down and found a four-year-old named Kelly looking up at him with her thumb in her mouth.
Vash crouched down to her level and she pulled her thumb out with a pop.
“See, Santa, Alpha.”
“Yes,” Vash agreed. “You saw Santa.”
She nodded then shook her head. “See Santa, Alpha.”
The sound of Casey chuckling made Vash turn.
Casey grinned and turned to Kelly. “You think your Alpha should see Santa?”
Kelly nodded then pointed with her free hand at Casey.
“Me too?” She nodded again and ran to join some other kids playing with race cars.
Casey held out a hand to Vash. “Come on, Alpha, We need to go see Santa.”
They approached hand in hand each took a knee.
“My Santa what big…knees you have…” Casey wriggled as he spoke with a hand to his heart for dramatic effect. A few adults chuckled while a few indignant children stated Santa’s knees were perfectly comfortable.
“Behave, Casey. There are children present.” Jackson’s voice in their heads was stern but Vash could hear his amusement too.
“But, Santa, I want to be on the naughty list. Everyone knows that people on the naughty list have more fun.”
He wriggled some more.
“Behave mate, or all you’ll get later is a spanking that I should have given you years ago.”
“Both of you behave. We still have to get through dinner.”
Jackson and Casey answered together “Yes, Alpha.”
Vash snorted, “Hush, now tell Santa what you want for Christmas.”
Casey sighed, “Yes, dear.” He cleared his throat and smiled at Santa “All I want for Christmas is a happy life with my mates by my side.”
Sant gave him a squeeze. “I can guarantee that you and your mates will have a long and happy life together.”
There was a chorus of aww’s from the room as Vash and Casey accepted their wrapped gifts and jumped down.
Vash got everyone’s attention. “Santa has to go now so please say thank you and goodbye.
The children called out their thanks and goodbyes as Santa made his way to the door with his elf skipping ahead of him, both of them dispensing hugs and high fives as they went.
The adults got the children to the table and dinner finally was served.
Dinner was a cheerful affair and Jackson finally joined them in time for the main course. He waved off questions about his last-minute meeting and listened to the kids babbling about how he missed Santa and what a great guy he was.
A tug to his sleeve drew his attention to Kai a seven-year-old wolf shifter.
“I got this with my present from Santa.” He held a sheet of Christmas writing paper covered in what Casey inform him was Jamie’s handwriting. “But, I can’t read it.” He spoke the last bit to the table not looking at anyone.
Jackson took the paper and lifted Kai’s face with a finger under his chin. “Never be ashamed of asking for help. It’s the best way to learn. Now, let’s see what Santa wanted to tell you.”
I know all you wished for was a forever home but I also know you need more than that. You need friends and people you can trust.
So, I have organised a gathering for you and the other children who came here with you and the children who already live here.
There will be a gathering every month to give you all time to get to know each other.
Also, I know you are very sad and think you don’t know as much as you should. I have arranged for you to meet Kimmy. They are a little older than you but they didn’t learn to read until recently. They have agreed to help you with anything you want.
When Jackson looked up there wasn’t a dry eye at their table.
“Santa is giving me and the other friends.”
Kai’s voice shook as he spoke.
Jackson swallowed the lump in his throat. “No, he not giving you friends. He’s giving you the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.”
“Tell your brother he is a good man and if he needs any help with the events he should contact my PA, Andrew has the number.” Casey sent an affirmative through the bond.
Jackson let out an omf as Kai threw himself into his arms.
The party ran late and Casey and Vash were last to leave.
Jackson had got called away—again. Luckily most of the clearing up had been finished or Casey would have suspected him of trying to get out of cleaning duty.
The two mates stumbled through the dark hose each trying to hold the other up as exhaustion pulled them down.
Hey pushed open the bedroom door and froze.
The sight that met them had to be an illusion.
Santa was reclining on the bed. But this was not the Santa hat had had children sitting on his knee just hours ago.
Gone was the red suit and in its place was a pair of sinfully tight red boxers—and nothing else. On ht front was printed the slogan ‘Jingle my bells’.
Casey felt his exhaustion leave him as arousal took its place, the feeling was echoed through the bond.
It was going to be a long night…
But it was going to be a great Christmas.