NT had managed to slip out of the house during the early bustle, and set out on her own.
She eventually made her way back to the battle scene, where it had all gone down.
Meaning to look for the place where Miranda had shouted her last words, NT became distracted by something else, something she had been expecting with some dread.
The dead were there, many of them.
Struck by this terrible scene, NT drew timidly closer, then hung her head to gaze at them with pity.
"All those lives, used up, wasted, thrown away - All because of Miranda! Was it worth it? Was she worth dying for? Who's going to miss you?" she whispered, scanning the battle field. "Who's going to remember you? Miranda never cared about any of you, but you chose to leave behind so many who must have. Miranda isn't sorry for all the lives she threw away. But I am."
NT continued slowly along toward the place where Miranda had gone up in a blaze. She continued gazing tearfully at the casualties and speaking utterances of regret to them as she went.
Just before she reached where Miranda's demise had been, she stopped, and looked over the battle field, and sang, first what she could of Robbie Robertson's "Words Of Fire, Deeds Of Blood" and then "Rock Of Ages"
Then she stood solemnly for a long moment before turning and proceeding to the place Miranda had been destroyed.
In a frightful display, her demeanour changed suddenly and completely. Her expression turned from sadness to ice cold rage. "Was it worth it, Miranda!?" she shouted coldly at the pile of ashes that used to be Miranda. "Are you satisfied now that you snuffed out so many lives just because some of us wouldn't give you what you wanted!?"
She found some discarded weapons and other debris from the battle, and began hurling them on Miranda's pile of ashes. "You greedy, spoiled, selfish wench!" she screamed. More debris was picked up and thrown violently. NT hurled more and more debris at what was left of Miranda. Faster and faster, the objects went flying, and sometimes NT screamed out all the hate toward Miranda she had kept in and managed to bury up until now. "You wanted ME dead, Miranda, I've always known that. It was one of the reasons I didn't die! Maybe I shouldn't've been born but NEITHER SHOULD YOU! But then you went from bullying me to becoming an all out vampire and terrorist. You have joined the likes of Saddam Hussein, Nero, Hitler, Bin Laden, and your own father. Because of that, I spit on your grave! If you'd just died in some accident or illness, I wouldn't have shed a tear for you. But neither would I've done THIS!" she hissed coldly.
What followed was a bit more disturbing.
NT suddenly jumped in among the ashes and debris, kicking and stamping it all wildly about. She picked up a long-bladed weapon of some sort that was lying about and made repeated slashing motions on where Miranda had once been, groaning with the effort,, screaming, using the weapon and her feet to throw what had been Miranda everywhere.
Her last words when the rage was finally spent, "Good riddance!"
Feeling the poison finally purged from her system, NT dropped the weapon, turned her back on Miranda's scattered ashes and looked up. "God, please forgive me and let me move on without hate." Tears began to flow as she started wandering away.
But a moment later, she stopped short at a faint sound.
"Help." someone called, from somewhere, she couldn't quite tell.
She startled. "Wha!? Is'someone there?"
"Help me!" the voice came again. "Over here!"
"My God." NT shuddered. The voice came from somewhere among the casualties!
"I'm here!" it called out again.
"Keep calling!" NT said, "I'll get you some help when I find you!"
"I'm here!" the voice called again.
It was a small voice, but the calling became a bit more urgent, so that it was apparent to NT this must've been one of the elves who was missed in the recovery efforts last night, perhaps mistaken for dead.
"I'm coming!" she answered him back, and moved as cautiously as she could through the battle scene, doing her best not to step on anyone. It wasn't easy making her way through all the discarded weapons and bodies, but she finally got to where the cries came from.
An elf rolled his head and blinked to let her know where he was.
NT had to move some weaponry and get a set of legs from another soldier pushed aside to reach this elf.
"Get me out of here." he breathed.
She shuddered at the sight of him.
He was covered in minor cuts and burns, and one foot had shrapnel imbedded in it.
"But what if something's wrong internally'" Nt began.
"Nothing's broken, I don't think. Except maybe my ankle, now please, get me some help!"
Nt gingerly prepared to lift and move him out of there.
With no indications from him of any pain brought on by the motion of having arms placed beneath him, NT carefully picked him up and carried him like a baby, out of the battle field.
Luckily for NT and the elf, Matrix was on his way to the battlefield to begin the unpleasant process of accounting for the casualties. He had heard NT's shouting, and had sped up his approach. Upon seeing the wounded elf, he ran up to NT.
He wasted no time, scanning the elf as soon as he reached them. "Where did you find him?" He asked.
"He was in with the casualties." NT replied.
Matrix frowned. "How...? How did I miss him? I should have picked up any survivors..." He shook his head.
"Not in your sorry condition, you even had Capri worried." she replied.
Matrix grinned wryly. "At any rate, we better get him inside. Being stuck out in the cold overnight is hardly good for anyone, let alone someone wounded."
Matrix removed the shrapnel and healed the elf's foot before motioning for NT to follow him back to the base. They made good time, and soon were within sight of the base.
Matrix started and looked around. Bez waved at him from the roof of a nearby building.
Matrix laughed. "What are you doing up there?"
"Fixin' stuff, duh." Bez said. "Criter, Dingy, and Thande are helping."
NT chuckled. "That's Bez."
As if to prove the point, Dingy peeked over the edge of the roof. "Hiya, guys!" He chirped. Upon seeing the wounded elf, he leaned forward sharply. "Hey, that looks like-whoa!" He lost his balance, and would have toppled from the roof had Thande not caught him with his tail. "Thanks!" He said with a smile as Thande lowered him to the ground.
Dingy trotted up to Matrix and NT. "Lemme see him, please!" He asked.
NT knelt to show Dingy the elf.
They stared at each other for a moment, Dingy gaping. "Teddy!"
Teddy squinted at Dingy. "Do I...know you?"
"Well, sort of, but that's not the important part. We all thought- well, we all thought you were dead!"
NT's eyes went wide.
"Dingy- just who is he?" Matrix asked.
"Teddy is Norma's husband." Dingy said.
"What?" Matrix exclaimed. "But I thought-?"
"Wha!?" NT chimed in, shocked.
"We all thought that!" Dingy said. "But we'll have to sort that out later. For now, we need to get him back to base and let him rest up."
Dingy trotted out ahead of NT and Matrix, who followed behind shortly after. Had anyone been watching him closely, he would have noticed a distinctly unnerving expression in Teddy's eyes. But it passed quickly enough, and everyone was too preoccupied to pay much attention anyway.
"Oh, shoot." NT suddenly blushed. "How much of my - last disrespects did you see, Teddy?"
""Enough to know that when it comes to Miranda and you, 'mortal enemies' is putting it gently." Then, Teddy seemed to get an idea. "What did she do to make you hate her this way?"
"A ton of stuff, and not just to me." NT replied stoically.
"Well, what was the worst thing she did to you?" Teddy was trying to get NT worked up so she'd open up and talk about her problems with Miranda. He was genuinely curious about it, and, welcomed the opportunity to shift attention on someone other than himself.
"Just stuff. You know what she was like," NT countered.
"I saw how she treated men she could charm." Teddy coughed disdainfully. "But she obviously couldn't do that to you, neither has she killed you."
"Probably because I am not a man." came the frank reply.
"So," Teddy grinned, "What exactly did she do to make you hate her this much?"
"I told you, lots." replied NT. "But you'll slow up your healing by expending energy on this idle chitchat."
"You don't like talking about yourself much, do you?" said Teddy.
"And you are incredibly nosy for someone who couldn't even get out of that battle field on your own. What are you, some kind of imbedded reporter or something?"
So much for that strategy, it was starting to backfire on Teddy.
"No," he assured her. "Just a near casualty. I guess you're right, I'll save my energy."
NT said nothing in response and only kept moving along with him in her arms, until they finally got back to base.
They put him to bed and Matrix did what he could to treat his wounds.
It was only a few hours later, and Teddy awoke after a refreshing sleep. He could hear faint sounds of hustle and bustle about the building. It all sounded sweetly familiar. The difference was that he was not a part of it now. It gave him a strange feeling.
"Welcome back from the dead, Teddy," a voice said from across the room.
He turned to look and started slightly at the sight.
The door had opened silently, and in peered Elsa.
Oh, no, Norma's best friend. what to say to her?
"Elsa - " he started.
She came stiffly into the room. "Your saviours wanted to make sure you were all right. I volunteered to do that for them - they're hands have gotten ridiculously full of work for Christmas now that the battle is over." She fixed him with an intent stare. "So? What's your story?"
"Elsa, please, you must understand - " he began, taking a ragged breath.
There was an awkward silence.
Finally elsa spoke up again. "Understand what?" she began pointedly. "That everyone thought you were dead, but the truth is you just ran off without a word and left your pregnant wife - "
"I did it for her!" he exclaimed desperately, cutting her off.
"You did it for her - ?" Elsa repeated incredulously? "How was that for her?"
"Elsa," he sighed, giving her a wounded look. "I was afraid Miranda would kill Norma - I narrowly got away from her once before, and when I realized what she was - and you know how she hung around our workshops at night - "
Elsa nodded and waited for Teddy to continue.
"I knew then that Miranda would remember and seek me out again, and make a special effort to go after Norma too. I had to drop out of sight, I couldn't risk staying and putting her in danger. Miranda knew some of us personally by then, she knew Norma and I were expecting. Considering that, just disappearing was the only way."
"But you could've at least let Norma in on it, Teddy. She - we all thought you had been killed and consumed by that monster! That was bad enough just for everybody else let alone what it did to her!"
Teddy swallowed, and blinked. Another tense pause, and he took a shaky breath, and looked sadly at Elsa. "I - I was going to tell her that night. I just never got the chance. Everything was so crazy, we just didn't have a moment alone together, and Miranda hung around our shops so long - I couldn't risk her seeing us together. elsa, the time she almost got me, she swore she wouldn't stop until she killed my entire family." His voice shook, and he heaved out his explanation in anguished gasps.
"I still don't understand this, Teddy, you could've told Norma that night when everything was all shut down, and made your escape the next morning."
"Elsa," he started. "I just couldn't do that. I wanted our last minutes together to be full of love and sweetness. I couldn't bear to tell her and make her spend the rest of that night in tears knowing I was leaving indefinitely the next morning. I just couldn't break it to her. I - just - couldn't."
Elsa looked away to conceal a frown. Whatever she thought about this, she kept to herself. She eventually looked back at him again. "So unfortunate." she finally said. "I'll go let Santa, Bez, Matrix and Dingy know you're awake and - "
"No, please, don't bother. I'm fine. I don't need anything."
"Not even a drink of something?"
"No, not yet. Oh, and tell that girl - the one who took me off the battle field that I'll be just fine…If you know her. If you don't, probably some of the others will. I sure wish I knew what kind of experiences she had with Miranda."
Elsa gave him a strange look, and slowly walked away, leaving him on his own.
She turned back to glance down the hall at his room once more before turning the corner. She stood a moment, frowned and shook her head, then continued on her way back to join the others.
Matrix looked over at her as she entered the room. "Everything good?" He asked.
"Depends on what you mean by good."
Matrix frowned, but before he could question further, a somewhat frostbitten-looking Thande entered the house.
Bez laughed. "What happened to you?"
Thande regarded her evenly for a moment before answering. "I was ambushed." He replied simply, shaking off a few lumps of residual snow.
Dingy giggled. "Did you come back for some hot coco? You look like you could use some!" He hopped off the couch and headed to the kitchen.
"Well, I gotta jet." Bez said. "There are still a ton of buildings to be repaired, and I don't imagine Criter would enjoy fixin' 'em all."
"All right." Matrix said. "I'll come too. I still have some stuff to take care of at the battlefield." He smiled slyly. "I'm pretty sure Thande'll want to stay back for a bit until he warms up."
Thande's crest rose fractionally.
"Oooh, you got Thande mad." Bez kidded.
"Coco time!" Dingy announced, returning from the kitchen with a tray laden with cups of hot chocolate. He had found a sizable mason jar for Thande.
"Sorry, little guy, but I'll have to swig and swing, and I'm takin' Matrix with me." Bez said. "Think you can hold down the fort with Thande and Elsa?"
Dingy nodded and smiled. "Hey, sure! You guys drink up your coco and get back to work!"
Bez chuckled. "Okay, okay! No need to kick us out."
Bez chugged her coco. Matrix rolled his eyes at her and swilled his own drink.
The pair headed out, and Dingy held out the massive jar to Thande. "Coco?"
Meanwhile, Teddy was cooking up a plan. He had listened carefully after Elsa had departed, making sure she was out of earshot and occupied before allowing himself to relax.
"I gotta get out of this place." He mumbled. "This just won't work." He sat on the edge of his bed to think. At length, an idea came to him. A distinctly eerie smile crawled over his face.
The day passed quickly, with everyone busily engaged in one project or another. They laughed and talked about the day as they ate dinner.
"So, Sugar Plum Fairy," Santa said, grinning, "How was this for a break in the old routine?"
Diane chuckled. "Well, to be honest, even after all that with the battles and feeling like roadkill for a while, it was all worth it."
"How about you, Nutcracker?"
"I'm glad we got out of it alive and doing as well as we are." he replied.
"And you, Carma?" Santa asked.
"Well - uh - " she said hesitantly. "I'd - if it isn't too much to ask…"
"What is it?" Jessica prompted.
"I've always wanted to be up here at your place over Christmas, and - "
"Ho, ho, ho! I wouldn't have it any other way! You are all more than welcome to stay and rest up, and help me celebrate Christmas. Besides," he said, smiling warmly, "I can give you your gifts in person, rather than via the chimney route."
"Great, thanks!" Carma beamed.
Everyone rejoiced at Santa's invitation, and they knew that the end of the mission and battle certainly didn't mean the end of their time here.
"NT," Santa said, startling the girl, who seemed to be off in her own world.
She looked up from her dinner at him questioningly.
"I hear it was you who first found Teddy out there. What were you doing going back there?"
"Teddy?" Indy asked.
"This elf who lay in the battle field all last night." said NT.
"So what were you doing out there?" Capri asked.
"Mourning the casualties - and - "NT paused for a moment, looking down.
"And what?" Jessica prompted gently.
"He saw me and called out for help."
"Heard you too, probably." Matrix added.
NT blushed. "No one was meant to. I thought I was alone."
"Miranda was wrong to make you afraid to show any emotion, a lot of people died because of her and that is worth remembering." Jessica said quietly. "I'm sure Teddy didn't think any less of you."
"He was way too interested in my experiences with Miranda." NT said, wincing. "He kept asking me about it when I took him off the battle field and joined Matrix and Dingy on the way back."
"How would he even know you had any experiences with Miranda at all?" Indy asked.
"Because he witnessed me screaming at what was left of her before he called out."
"Whoa." said Carma.
"I wonder why he didn't call for help when we were all trying to get off the battle field. Or maybe he was passed out then."
"That is possible, Nutcracker," Santa said. "Otherwise, it doesn't make sense."
Something about him just isn't right." said Jessica..
They finished their dinner, and Indy, Gretel, Nutcracker and Capri helped Jessica clear up.
After that, everyone assembled in the front room, and Bez and crew, plus Elsa and Diane went to check on Teddy.
NT stated firmly that she was staying put, Teddy had put her on edge and she did not wish to speak to him again.
So, some of the company went to check things out.
But when they entered Teddy's room, there was no sign of him. All that was there was a simple note.
"I'm sorry to leave like this, after all the pain and hardship, but I just can't stay. The memories of this place are too painful for me. I have to do some soul-searching. Maybe someday I'll be back. But until then, no one worry about me. No one come looking for me.
Bez read the note, unable to keep a faint hint of disdain out of her voice.
"Well that's just peachy." Matrix said with a frown.
Elsa scowled. "Soul-searching my foot." she snarled. "'No one come looking for me'? He never once asked about the baby. Good news for the adoptive mom, but - he just doesn't care. He must've been pretending this whole time. Norma deserved better."
"So, he faked his own death just to get out of being a father?" Diane asked.
"I'm starting to think so. That, and maybe he's got something else in the works, I dunno." said Elsa. "I never did trust that guy if you want the truth."
They headed back to the front room and informed the others of this latest development.
Everyone indicated they were all rather unsettled by this, and there were a lot more questions and speculations.
Finally it was agreed that should anyone happen to come across Teddy again, they were to report to Santa.
There was more visiting until it grew late, and the gathering broke up gradually as everyone turned in for the night.
Magic Sleigh Ride
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