"You know, I've always liked Christmas eve better than Christmas." Demeter giggled, pinning up some evergreen on the wall.

  "And for what reason would that be, sister?" Xelloss paused while hanging an ornament on the tree.

  "It's just so much more exciting." She shrugged.

  "Demeter - sama, I never knew you were so childish." Firia quipped, a dab of flour on her nose.

  "Pardon me?" Demeter swiftly wrapped some evergreen around Firia's neck and started to tighten it "Would you care to repeat that, Firia?"

  Val-Garv and Xelloss laughed as Firia struggled to get loose. Just then the doorbell rang. Val went to get it.

  "Let us in, it's freezing!" Lina pushed Val aside and barged in, followed by Gourry, Zelgadis, and Amelia.

  "Stop griping and help Firia and me." Demeter ordered.

  The house they were gathered in was a log house belonging to Demeter. A fire was burning in the fireplace, sending out a cheerful blaze. In the middle of the room stood a tall evergreen decked out with balls and other trimmings. On the wall hung strands of holly and evergreen, and from the kitchen where the girls were came a delicious smell. Outside the wind howled as it shook the window panes, but inside was cozy and warm.

  "I wonder what's taking Martina - san and Shiphiel - san?" Amelia glanced out the window.

  "I'm sure they'll be here soon." Lina popped a cookie in her mouth. "Mmm, that's good."

  Gourry threw another log on the fire. "Think Zangulus will come too?"

  "Who?" Val asked.

  "Zangulus, he used to work for Ellis - it's a long story." Zel told him "He's married to Maritina."

  "They are such a lovely couple." Xelloss commented.

  "By the way, Xelloss, I'm surprised you aren't in pain right now. I mean, you are an Evil, right? Isn't all this plus energy bothering you?" Zel wondered.

  "I do have human blood in me, you know." Xelloss twitched an eyebrow "And Mazoku don't always feed off negative energy."

  The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door. On the doorstep stood Shifiel, Martina, and Zangulus.

  "Long time no see!" Zangulus pounded Gourry on the back. Martina beamed at everyone as she held a bundle.

  "Good God, is that. . . ?" Zel peered, then gasped. " . . .TWO?!

  "Aren't they sweet!" Shifiel crooned over Martina's shoulder. "She looks exactly like Martina - sama! And he looks like Zangulus - sama"

  "Please do your crooning inside, the babies will freeze." Val closed the door.

  Zangulus set down a box. "The wine." He explained.

  "Wouldn't be Christmas Eve without it!" Xelloss laughed. "Demeter! More guests!"

  The girls all rushed out and for a moment all was confusion as they tried to greet everyone at once.

  "Shifiel, you got the badge of the Chief Priestess!" Demeter and Gourry exclaimed. Shifiel blushed. "Thanks to the Sacred Magic Demeter - sama taught me, yes."

  "They're so cute!" Amelia exclaimed as she saw the babies. The girl blinked her large blue eyes, while the boy waved his pink hands in the air "I've never seen such sweet babies. The girl looks exactly like Martina-san! And the boy look so like Zangulus-san!"

  "Um, they wouldn't look sweet if they looked like their parents." Lina teased.

  "You're just jealous." Martina stuck out her tongue.

  "So Zangulus is a family man now?" Zel clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Congrats! Or should I say, tough luck?"

 "You might become one yourself in the future." Zangulus retorted.

  "What?!" Zel turned red as he tackled him. Shifiel cast a glance at Amelia.

  "But . . . what is your reason for turning red, Amelia - sama?" she innocently inquired.

  Amelia gave a start of surprise and turned a deeper red. The older girls laughed.

  "Come on, you guys, enough chatter." Demeter ordered. "Xelloss, Val, could you go get some more firewood? Zel and Gourry and Zangulus can light all the candles on the tree - don't set it on fire!"

  "Why do we get the harder job?" Val complained.

  "Because you guys are immortal and these are guys are human. Satisfied?" Lina said sarcastically as she followed Demeter into the kitchen.

  Xelloss laughed. "Come on, Val, we're not going to get out of this." He opened the door and pulled Val along.

  "Where's the firewood?" Val wrapped his arms around himself as the wind whipped his hair around his face.

  "Here!" Xelloss motioned to the side of the log house. He bent down and started to pick up the logs. Val joined him. For awhile all was quiet except the howling of the wind.

  "I don't suppose you remember the time you nearly cut me in half." Xelloss broke the silence.

  "I don't suppose YOU remember the time you practically drove your staff through my back." Val retorted.

  Xelloss shook his head, smiling. "And here we are now, picking up firewood together."

  "Well, no thanks to you." Val said jokingly.

  The two former enemies picked up the last remaining logs. Inside, the guys were doing there best to light the candles without burning the tree.

  "This is harder than blasting any MazokuI ever met." Zel grunted.

  "Reminds me of our first battle together." Gourry smiled, setting a red candle carefully in a holder.

  "When was that?" Zangulus asked.

  "Our battle with Rezo." Zel replied. "Or Shabranigdo - whatever."

  "Zel fought against us before then." Gourry told Zangulus. "He kidnapped Lina and once tried to kill us both."

  "I didn't try to KILL you." Zel flared.

  "And there was also that time in Martina's castle . . ." Gourry ducked a candle.

  "Well, better then me." Zangulus remarked.

  "Come on you guys." Gourry thumped their backs. "I was JOKING. The past is the past, what matter is that everything's right now."

  "Ah, today must be Memorial Day." Xelloss made his characteristic appearance that Gourry and Zelgadis knew so well.

  "Memorial Day is for remembering the dead, you idiot." Val sighed.

  "Dead people, dead past, what's the difference?" Xelloss shrugged, putting the logs in the woodbox.

  As the boys finished lighting the candles, the girls were putting the finishing touches on the meal.

  "Look at this wine!" Firia marveled, taking out a bottle. "Made with Olympian grapes! This has to be a fortune!"

  "The least we could do." Martina rocked her bundle. "I never was a help in the kitchen."

  "Well, we're almost done anyway." Lina shrugged, taking out a sheet of cookies from the oven. "By the way, what are the babies' names?"

  Martina slightly blushed. "We named them after you and Gourry, Lina."

  "Really?" Amelia's eyes widened. "Wow, you have a namesake, Lina-san!"

  "Martina . . . why?" Lina seemed stunned.

  "You don't like it?" Martina said anxiously. "We wanted to ask you first, but we had no idea where you would be, since you're always traipsing all over the Dimension. It's our small way of thanks. You don't mind, do you? We didn't even bless the babies yet - we wanted Shifiel and Demeter to do it."

  Lina knelt beside Martina and gently took the girl. "My . . . namesake . . ."

 "We just owe so much to you, even if you did blow up our kingdom once, and Zangulus would give me no peace anyhow." Martina's eyes were unusually soft. Everybody felt the change in her - she was no longer a whining, immature girl. "He said that you and Gourry had just taught us so much, and we should repay you in a small way."

  " . . . It's the best gift I could ever receive." Lina looked at Martina. "Thank you."

  Demeter clapped her hands together. "All right, you two, enough sentiment. We have a table to set." She winked at Martina. "We'll bless the babies after dinner."

  Soon the table was heaped with so much food that Zel declared he could hear the table creak. The table was set with Demeter's best set of plates and silverware, and beside each seat was a glass of wine.

  "Yes, even for Amelia-sama." Shifiel smiled as she poured the glasses. "It's only every now and then."

  The guests all took their seats, and Shifiel, Firia, Val-Garv, Martina and Zangulus were introduced to one another. Then Demeter, Firia, Shifiel and Amelia stood up to bless the food. Everyone joined hands as Demeter began.

 "Mother of all Living Beings
 We gather today to celebrate
 The re-birth of the Sun
 And to remember
 Our past year"

  Demeter stopped and Firia started to speak.

 "We have sometimes laughed with joy
 We have sometimes wept with sadness
 We have had moments of great hope
 We have had moments of great despair."

  Everybody was quiet as they remembered the past battles. Shifiel's voice was slightly trembling as she recited.

 "We have had times of celebration when we lived in perfect happiness
 We have had times of mourning where we remembered nothing in the universe is constant
 Many people have entered our lives to change it for good or for worse
 Some have left our lives and live on in our memory alone."

  Shifiel ended the last sentence with a sob as she remembered her father. Gourry squeezed her hand. Firia blinked back tears as she remembered her clan, and  Val-Garv tightened his grasp, his own memories of Garv touching him. Demeter and Xelloss both silently mourned for their old playmate Phibrizo. Zangulus and Martina remembered Martina's father, who had passed away a few months ago. Lina, Gourry, Zel, and Amelia quietly prayed to all the souls they had sent to the Underworld. Amelia finished the blessing.

  "Lady of all Beings
 Help us remember our past not to regret our wrongs already done
 But to guide our future path in your wisdom and mercifulness
 Bless this food to give us courage and strength for the next year."

  The four voices joined in at the last line.

  "May we always live in the light of our Lady."

  There was a minute's silence as everybody was wrapped up in their own thoughts. Then Lina shook herself. "Come on, the food's getting cold!"

  "Can't we have some serious atmosphere for once?" Zel snapped.

  "Serious atmosphere isn't filling my belly." Lina returned. Everybody laughed as they fell to the repast.