DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: Text in bold is being emphasised.
Two sets of footsteps echoed along the hallway, the sound dulled by the carpet. The only indication of who the steps belonged to came from the voices when the steps reached the far end of the hall.
"Goodnight, Odion. Pleasant dreams. I am sure we will both need our strength for tomorrow."
"Indeed, Isis. Tomorrow should prove most... tiring. Sleep well."
A soft laugh from Isis was followed by the sounds of two doors closing. Then there was silence throughout the apartment... for all of five minutes before another door eased open and two blonde teenagers slipped out of Malik's room.
"Is it time yet?" Marik's voice was overly loud in the silence and Malik quickly put his hand over his yami's mouth.
"Shhh. We have to be quiet! If Isis hears us, she'll make us go back to bed!" Malik frowned at his darker half as he whispered the warning. Marik's eyes widened and he nodded immediately.
As soon as Malik removed his hand, Marik closed his mouth tightly and mimed zipping it shut. Then he mimed putting a padlock on it and locking it with a key. Finally, he mimed giving the key to Malik, who mimed putting it in his mouth and swallowing it. The two boys grinned at one another and started down the hallway towards the living room.
"So, is it time yet?"
When they reached the living room, Malik looked around for a moment, thinking. He pointed to the couch. "Behind there. We'll be out of sight but we'll still be able to hear if anyone comes in." He started towards the couch but paused when his yami just stood still, frowning slightly.
"My light... I don't understand. If you wish us to hide, then why did you need me to be like this?" Marik gestured to himself. Instead of his usual spirit form, he was currently as solid and real as Malik. It was a curious side effect of the spell the light had used while trying to rescue his yami from the Shadow Realm, several months earlier. Marik was now able to shift between his usual spirit form and a solid, physical form.
"Because, if that boy at school was right and Santa isn't real, I'll need your help to hold Odion down while I punish him for lying to me." Malik frowned. Marik brightened.
"Ooh! How will you punish him? The Rod? Handcuff him to a rubber chicken? Hit him with a fish?"
"Nah. I don't have a fish, I can't find my handcuffs and Isis said if I ever used the Rod on her, Odion or any of our friends again, she'd send a singing telegram to me at school, every day for a week."
Marik blinked. "What's bad about that? They're funny."
Malik fixed his yami with a serious look. "Singing clown telegrams."
Marik gasped. "Sister Isis is evil!" He shuddered violently as his light nodded in agreement.
"Yeah. So I'm gonna dump water all over him." Malik sighed as Marik pouted at him.
"That is so unoriginal!"
"I know... but I got in trouble the last time I used custard."
As they sat down behind the couch, Marik tilted his head and studied Malik curiously. "My light, why is this so important to you? Why do you want to see this San... Sanfy... Sandy..."
"Santa Claus." Malik stretched his legs out in front of him and sighed. "It's not important... Not really. It's just that..." He sighed again. "When I first heard about him, I didn't believe it could be true. I mean, how could a fat guy in a red suit, riding on a sleigh pulled by flying animals that can't really fly, go around the world in one night and deliver toys to all those children? I didn't think it was possible. But then Odion explained it all to me and... I believed him. I didn't think Odion would ever lie to me."
Marik nodded and patted his light's shoulder. "But then that boy at school said that Santy Claws isn't real at all, right? He said that only little kids believe in Santy and that the presents under the tree are really put there by their parents." He frowned slightly. "But that can't be right, 'cause..." He hesitated, glancing cautiously at his light. The death of Malik's father was still a rather touchy subject between them.
"You get presents, but you have sister Isis and brother Odion and me, not silly parents who tell their children such silly stories!" Marik beamed at his light. He slipped his arm around the smaller boy's shoulders and hugged him tightly. "That silly boy was lying to you. Think Bakura would seal his soul if we ask real nice?" His eyes gleamed at the thought.
Malik smiled slightly. "Thanks, Marik. But I think he's right. Santa Claus can't exist. It's impossible. When he said 'parents', he meant whoever takes care of the kids. Like Isis and Odion take care of us."
Marik thought that over for a moment before hugging his light again, his smile now a serious look that had rarely been seen on his face since his time in the Shadow Realm. "Don't worry, my light. We'll wait here and see who puts the presents under the tree. If it's Santy, we'll ask him if he brought us the cards we asked for. If it's brother Odion, I'll hold him down while you get the water. Okay?"
Malik giggled softly and hugged his yami back, suddenly much more his usual cheerful self. It was impossible to remain sad for long around Marik. "Okay!"
The sound of the hall clock striking the midnight hour awoke Malik from the light doze he'd drifted off into. As he stretched, he was startled by Marik's hand securely covering his mouth. Glancing into his yami's wide eyes, Malik remembered why they were on the floor behind the couch. He also became aware of a sound that definitely hadn't been there earlier. The rustle of paper.
Someone was putting presents out under the tree.
With a nod to his yami, Malik slowly eased up onto his knees. Beside him, Marik did the same. Then both boys cautiously lifted their heads and peeked over the back of the couch.
A figure was leaning down, lifting brightly wrapped gifts from a large sack and placing them carefully underneath the Christmas tree.
While Malik was still staring in shock, Marik suddenly leaped up and vaulted over the couch. He landed with a thud that alerted the figure to his presence, but it was already too late. Instead of the Rod, Marik now held the dagger normally hidden within it. "Who are you? You're not brother Odion!"
The figure slowly turned around.
His polished boots were black, trimmed with white fur. His pants were bright red and matched the coat that stretched over a belly that looked as though it had consumed a lot of milk and cookies over the years. The coat's hem was also trimmed with white fur, as were the long sleeves and around the collar. The coat closed in the front and was edged with more fur, this time with black buttons gleaming in amongst the long strands. His gloves were supple black leather, well worn and with no sign of fur on them at all. As the final touch, a familiar hat of red flopped over his hair, the bottom edge trimmed with white fur that matched the fluffy pompom on the top point.
He was a small man, coming barely up to chest-height on Marik. His hair fell in silvery-white waves to just below his shoulders while his matching beard cascaded over his chest. Bright colour tinged his cheeks, as if he had just finished laughing, and there was no sign of fear in the small dark eyes that twinkled merrily as they studied Marik. He smiled and seemed to radiate kindness.
"No, my boy. I am not your brother. I am..."
Malik's whisper made Marik blink and look over his shoulder in surprise. The man in red smiled.
"Santy?" Marik turned to peer more closely at the man. "You're Santy Claws?" He considered him for a long moment. "I thought you'd be taller."
A rumble of laughter caused the man in red's belly to quiver like a bowl full of... marshmallow. His voice was almost as deep, but it was also very gentle and warm. "And I thought the two of you would be asleep, Malik and Marik." His eyes twinkled as brightly as stars as Malik's cheeks darkened slightly.
"Um... We were just... Well you see..."
"A silly boy told Malik that you didn't exist, and that brother Odion was the one who put all the presents under the tree. So Malik and me stayed up to see if you were real or not. And you are!" Marik smiled happily. "Did you get our lists?" His eyes gleamed. "Did you bring us what we asked for?"
"Marik!" Malik's blush deepened but the man in red merely laughed.
"Yes, Marik. I am very real. And yes, I got your list, and Malik's also. As for the gifts..."
Marik had been wriggling happily, but his face fell at the hesitation in the rumbling voice. "Oh... That's right... You only bring stuff to good kids, so I guess you don't have any presents for me, huh? I've been pretty bad this year, what with trying to take over the world and all that."
He frowned slightly and glanced over at Malik, then moved forward, speaking softly, so his light couldn't hear him. "But my light really didn't mean to do anything bad and he helped Yami and Yugi to stop me so..." Marik bit his lip, then blurted out, "Please don't put him on your list of bad kids! He's good, really! He is a light, after all!"
"Marik..." By now Malik's face bore a marked resemblance to a tomato, but he was also smiling very slightly and there was a light in his eyes as he looked as his darker half that had not been there before.
The man in red laughed again and smiled. "It is all right, Marik. I know everything that has happened this year... to both of you. It was a little shaky there for a time, however I am pleased to say that you have both ended up on my 'nice' list this year. Not my 'naughty' list. Although... that may change if the two of you remain awake much longer." His eyes twinkled with mischievous amusement. "After all, I am only supposed to visit while children are asleep."
Both boys' eyes widened at that. "We're going! Goodnight Santy! Come on, my light! Bedtime!" Marik all but ran around the couch and caught Malik's hand. He started pulling his other half out of the room.
Malik stared at the man in red for another moment and then smiled. It was a shy smile of pure sweetness. A smile that only a light could possibly have pulled off. "Goodnight... Santa." Malik allowed himself to be pulled out of the room.
The sun was just peeking over the horizon the next morning when a blonde-haired bundle of energy burst open the door to Odion's room and leaped onto the bed. He threw himself onto his brother and hugged the startled man tightly. "Oof. M... Malik? What... time is it? Why...?"
Malik released his hold and sat up, giggling. "It's Christmas time! Hurry up! Hurry up! There are presents to be opened and Marik wants pancakes with chocolate syrup!"
Odion groaned. "Can't Isis cook for once?"
There was a moment of silence and then Malik poked him. "You're still half-asleep. I can tell because you just said 'Isis' and 'cook' in the same sentence."
Odion groaned again. Then his eyes snapped open as Malik's words registered. He sighed and sat up, running a hand sleepily over his shaven scalp. "You are right. I was. However, I am now awake. Give me a few minutes to get dressed and then I will make the pancakes."
Malik beamed. "Thanks, Odion!" He jumped off the bed and ran out of the room, calling back over his shoulder. "I'll try to keep Isis out of the kitchen until you get there!"
Odion froze in mid-stretch. "Isis... Kitchen..." He glanced down at his green flannel pajamas and sighed. "Getting dressed can wait. Preventing the kitchen from burning down comes first."
He had just swung his legs over the side of the bed, when Malik ran in again. The boy hugged Odion fiercely and then turned to leave. Odion blinked and barely managed to catch the back of Malik's purple pajama top before it moved out of range. "That is the second time you have done that this morning, Malik. Is there a reason for my being so... huggable... all of a sudden?"
Malik grinned at his adopted brother. "The first was to say 'Merry Christmas', of course!"
Odion smiled slightly. "Ah. Of course. Merry Christmas to you too, Malik. What of the second hug?"
Malik's smile put the sun, moon and stars to shame. "Oh, that was because I believe in Santa Claus!" Pulling free of Odion's loose hold, Malik was out of the room before the older man could stop blinking.
Isis eased her bedroom door closed, content with the results of her shameless eavesdropping on her brothers' conversation. "It worked." Smiling happily, she crossed to her bedside table and affectionately patted her deck of Duel Monster cards. "My brother's mind and heart are once more at ease. Thank you, my friend, for this favour." Still smiling, Isis headed off to her wardrobe, humming a cheerful Christmas Carol to herself.
In the Shadow Realm, the door to the Stern Mystic's bedchamber opened and the Magician of Black Chaos poked his head inside. "You summoned me, Elder?"
The figure standing in the shadows at the far end of the room sighed. "Yes. I need your assistance with my... attire. One of my buttons has become caught in my beard."
The Stern Mystic stepped out of the shadows, revealing his rather un-Mystic appearance. He narrowed his eyes and glared at Chaos. "Oh honestly. Do stop laughing like that, Chaos! It is not at all amusing! I was merely doing a favour for one of my favourite Duelists. That is all."
"You... You're dressed as..." Chaos doubled over, laughing harder than he laughed in many years.
"Chaos! Will you please stop laughing and get me out of this infernal Santa suit!"