"Any luck, NT?" Mrs. Claus asked as she moved in just behind Ocean Elf. She watched the young fairy holding the wooden elf on her knee, a look of intense concentration on her face.
"It's coming. I think I'm almost there. Ugh. For this elf's sake, I almost hope he actually turns out to be evil."
"If he is, he won't last long." Ocean blustered.
Jessica Claus put a hand on her shoulder, but continued looking intently at the wooden elf on NT's lap.
A cracking sound was heard. Then another, much louder. Then more and more, as the wood splintered and broke up.
Finally, a live elf was quivering in NT's arms, and he was quite a bit larger than the wooden one had been. The pieces and splinters of wood dissolved into nothingness.
"Hello there, what's your name?" NT asked him.
"No name," he replied, looking around fearfully, "I was called Elf... Just - Elf." He took in the scene with great trepidation.
There was the gentle stranger holding him. She was everything his host hadn't been - all warmth and kindness. He didn't know how he ended up in this girl's arms, and he also knew he did nothing to deserve being there. Then he took in the rest of his surroundings and the people there.
A few feet away was a stormy looking elf. Her expression was as fierce as Granny's. But she didn't have a cruel look about her. A shiver ran up his spine.
Looking up and past her, he saw someone who really made his blood run cold. Mrs. Claus, in person. If she was here, that must've meant he didn't end up in just any old place, but at Santa's. And he was sure from the looks of the stormy elf that if Santa and Mrs. Claus weren't aware of all the things he was supposedly guilty of back at Granny's, they would be shortly. Then he would be done for, and deserved it too.
In a fit of despair, he dove off NT's knee and fell to the floor with a thud. "I'm sorry!" He cried. "I'm so sorry!"
Both NT and Ocean Elf went for him, but Mrs. Claus held Ocean back. NT picked him up again.
"It wasn't your fault." she tried to console him.
"Why didn't I do anything to stop it?" he wailed.
NT held him in a firm but comforting embrace. "I know about the old lady's dark magic. It was what turned you wooden. It was what she used to make you unable to move."
"Mrs. Claus, apparently satisfied that Ocean was not going to try beating the remorseful one up, moved close enough to NT to look the stranger in the face. "She's right about that, you know. But you and the surviving child will never have to see Grandma again. She has been arrested."
"But Neil is dead. I heard the commotion and couldn't lift a finger to stop it. Then when his older brother - why can't I remember his name? He came in with Neil's face stretched over his."
Even though the others present had been made aware of some gruesome details of the killing, and the desperation that caused it, they still winced at the description.
"Granny didn't want you remembering. She probably didn't even speak his name enough for him to know what it was."Ocean Elf ranted sharply. "Nobody was human to her...She just thought everybody existed for her to do anything she wanted with." She finished with an angry hiss through her teeth and was wringing her hands.
NT nodded at this.
"That crone really thought it was Neil. I knew it wasn't. But I wasn't going to let on and give her another excuse to beat that poor boy. I'm sorry I couldn't have done anything sooner." The elf gave himself up to sobbing helplessly in NT's arms.
"I'm sorry I can't erase that and give you and those kids a different life." NT responded, then she looked helplessly at Mrs. Claus.
It was Ocean Elf who looked back at NT with a nod and a shudder, as she tried to fight back her own tears.
"I know," said Mrs. Claus compassionately, "it's so very hard on you now, sir, and you and the little boy probably won't ever make a full recovery, but you survived. Now you can have a chance at life without that evil woman's magic running it. And it starts with giving you a proper name. You can't just go by 'Elf' especially not around here with so many of them."
"Besides, that's what my friends call me." Ocean chimed in. "The ones who don't live around here, anyway."
Because you are." said NT.
"No, if she," he waved an arm in Ocean's direction, "if she wants to kill me, just go ahead and let her."
Ocean Elf moved in without hesitation.
"No," Mrs. Claus said in a firmer tone than most had probably ever heard from her before, "it is not ending like that." Still unsure of the Ocean Elf's intent, She put an arm out to block her approach. "Sir, I won't allow her to do anything to you."
Ocean Elf turned to look pleadingly at Mrs. Claus. "I'm not going to harm him, Mrs. Claus," she said calmly. "But please, I'd like to talk to him."
Mrs. Claus looked uncertainly at Ocean. "Really?"
Mrs. Claus stood for a moment, assessing Ocean intently. Then, she said to NT, "Let Ocean hold him for a while now."
NT nodded, and Mrs. Claus moved aside so the downcast, nameless elf could be transferred from one pair of arms to another.
Ocean Elf moved with the little tormented one to an empty chair, took a seat, and began rocking the anguished one gently. All trace of anger were replaced by sadness, her eyes brimming with tears.
It was this scene Santa, Ameh and Diane came walking in on, and Santa's mouth fell open for a moment. "What?" he said in a quiet but surprised tone. "Is that?..?"
Mrs. Claus came up to him. "I can't believe it either, Santa," she said quietly into his ear.
Santa looked at her and whispered, "I can."
"Wow," Ameh muttered a little too loudly, "Who's that person holding him, and what has she done with Ocean Elf?"
NT grinned in bemusement at the surprised onlookers for a second, then said, "Santa, he doesn't have a name as far as he can remember. And he feels horrible about the things that were done in that rotten excuse of a home he was in. Do you and Mrs. Claus - I mean, Jessica," for NT and Mrs. Claus were on first name basis, "have any ideas for names, and who should name him?"
Santa didn't answer right away,.
The unfortunate little elf's blubbering was almost silenced by Ocean's suddenly firm tone of voice. "Okay, now, I know you feel horrible over what happened back there. but you must put all thoughts of - " Apparently the little elf seemed not to be paying enough attention or something, because Ocean repositioned him and forced him to look at her. "Now listen...And look at me..."
NT grinned at Ameh, saying, "I wonder how she would've dealt with Cherie?"
Ameh burst out laughing.
"Look at me..." Ocean repeated."
There was a pause, and then when the little elf apparently was showing signs of having pulled himself together enough to listen, Ocean continued.
"You don't want that granny ogre to win any more victories, am I right?"
"Right." he said. His voice faltered, but the expression in his eyes and the vigorous nod showed he meant it.
"If you kill yourself, or let me do it for you, which I will not," she said, "you'd be giving that wicked old bat another victory. You know how she was, always cruel and selfish, the only thing that pleased her was making people feel pain and cringe in fear."
"Yes, that's true. How did you know?" he asked.
"I know how evil minds like that operate." Ocean replied.
"As do I." said Ameh, who suddenly drew near.
"They're all the same." the impassioned Ocean Elf continued. "The more they hurt people, the more they like it!"
"I had an ogre once, too." Ameh the fairy added, "I was very close to being the one who died, and you're like my sister Melanie. Maybe you two should meet."
"If that doesn't result in a bunch of 'But I was worse than you were's, sure." Ocean Elf replied, then continued addressing the sad little elf. "The best thing you can do for yourself and those children is to go on living."
"But I - " he started to despair.
"No buts." Ocean said.
"It's too late for Neil." he said.
"Too late for him here on earth," Ocean Elf said gently, "but Neil is not suffering any more. If you'd like to do something for his brother, to make up for what that granny did, maybe we can work something out with Santa's help."
"Certainly." said Santa, beaming. "I will send a note to him along with the gifts his grandma kept sending back over the years. I will write on your behalf that you never meant to say or do anything bad to him, that it was all Grandma."
"Oh, thank you!" The little elf said, collapsing into sobs again.
NT winced in sympathy.
Ocean Elf comforted him, caressing and dabbing away his tears, which just kept rolling.
Mrs Claus looked at NT. "I think either you or Ocean should do the honours, since you undid the dark magic, and Ocean brought the case to our attention in the first place. Santa, what do you think?"
"I think that's an excellent idea, if they can both agree on a name to give him, they should."
"He has just been named." Ocean Elf announced.
"I have?" The little elf looked surprised.
"Yes. You have a name, and a new purpose in life, and every reason to live it." said Ocean.
"What's that?" Ameh asked.
"Do let us in on it." Santa prompted.
"If you want to reverse the mess the wicked old bat made of you and give a lot of people something she never did - happiness, that's what you need to focus on." said Ocean. "Have you ever made anything, a toy, a treat, anything?"
The little elf shook his head.
"Santa, how would you feel about adding another elf to your staff?"
"You mean it?" The little elf looked astonished and hopeful.
"I would be delighted!" Santa replied with a broad smile.
The little elf gasped in amazement.
"You two can naturally figure out what kind of job to start with and go from there. Maybe some of those toys and treats you help make will actually reach Neil's brother."
"I can't think of anything better than that." Mrs. Claus said, eyes suddenly brimming up.
"I can see to that personally." Santa added, beaming.
The fairies all expressed their agreement with this idea as well.
"Now, what about his name?" Santa asked.
Ocean repositioned the small elf, holding him so that he was standing and looking out at everyone. "In honour of the little boy who died at Granny Ogre's, your name is Neil."
"What? I don't deserve - "
"Uh-uh, don't start that again. Do you have another name you'd rather be called?"
"No. No, I never gave it any thought."
"Do you like the name Neil okay?"
"Yes!" he responded. "It's just that - "
"Then don't argue, Neil, that's your name, for now. Nothing says you can't change or add something to it later." said Ocean.
The newly named Neil stared, unable to believe or come to terms with it all.
"So, Neil," Santa spoke up. "Are you strong enough to stand on your own?"
Neil only stared.
"You may put him down now, Ocean, I have something to say to him too." Santa instructed.
Ocean Elf nodded, and gently eased Neil off her knee, letting go of him only when she was sure he could at least sit up under his own power.
Santa knelt beside neil with a bright smile. "Merry Christmas!" He gave the amazed elf a pat on the back. "And welcome, Neil, to your new home."
Everyone cheered and applauded.
Eventually, the small gathering settled down to chat a while before breaking up to go their separate ways.
Santa jokingly told NT and Ameh to behave, and then said he was going to introduce Neil into the community.
I'll join you later," said Mrs. Claus, "I need to speak to our stormy Ocean Elf about something."
"Have you got a secret mission for her that I don't know about?" Santa teased.
"No. I misjudged her and I'd like to make an apology. I see now why you said you could believe what came over her in there." Before Santa could say anything in response, Mrs. Claus hastened after Ocean elf down a hall.
Santa smiled after her, then turned to Neil. "All right, Neil, let's get you introduced and settled into your new home."
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