Secret Santa

Christmas Eve: Decorating

© 2007 by Plantress

This page was last modified: 2007/12/24


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For the last week, a quiet procession of boxes had been going up to the main temple, mostly carried by the guards, with Milo or Kanon lending a hand occasionally. Shion had sighed as the piles of boxes in the main temple grew bigger. He wondered why Christmas required so many decorations. Wouldn't it have been enough just to put up the tree and hang a few lights on it?

The twenty third was the day when the tree that Athena had picked out arrived. Aldebaran was waiting at the bottom of the steps to bring it up. Milo and Kanon had come along to see the tree and were roped into helping guide the thing up the stairs. The Taurus Saint could carry the weight by himself, but he didn't want it dragging on the steps and scrapping off branches and needles. Most of the other Saints who saw them just shook their heads at the tree. Deathmask glared at it, and Shura had gotten annoyed with it.

"You're getting pine needles all over my temple!" the Capricorn Saint complained. "Look at it! Do you know how long this is going to take to sweep up?" Aldebaran had just laughed as they headed up the rest of the way.

In the main temple, Shion, with Mu helping him, was trying to put together the tree stand that Athena had found somewhere. Shion thought they had put it together right, but they would have to see if it actually supported the tree before they could be sure. Both Aries watched as the other three Gold Saints carried the tree in.

"I suppose we had better set it up," Mu said staring at the large evergreen.

"Bring it over here," Shion sighed.

"Wait," Milo said abruptly. "We have to cut a piece off the bottom first."

"What, why?" Kanon asked him.

"When I was buying all that stuff for my temple, I heard the guy who owned the shop talking to a woman about it. He said that it helped the trees stay fresh longer if you cut off a piece off the trunk," Milo explained.

"I guess it would make sense," Shion said as he looked at the tree. "Not that we need it to stay green for very long, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt."

"So how do we cut it?" Aldebaran set the tree down with a soft thump. "We don't have a saw or an axe."

"But I know where we can get a sword!" Milo said cheerfully, then turned and ran down the steps. Mu shook his head.

"You don't think he actually went to..."

"I think he did," Shion sighed. A short while later Milo returned with Shura in tow.

"What do you need my help with?" The Capricorn was complaining. "I still need to finish sweeping up those pine needles."

"Hello Shura," Shion said. Shura looked around at the Saints clustered around the tree in the main temple.

"What is going on here?" he asked bewildered.

"Here." Milo grabbed the older Saint's arm and dragged him around to the end of the Christmas tree. "We need you to cut about this much," the Scorpio Saint held two fingers about an inch apart, "off the end of the trunk."

"You dragged me up here to be a glorified axe!?" Shura half-shouted.

"Could you please do it, Shura?" Mu said politely. "It will save one of us having to run down and get an axe. Any cut you make will be cleaner anyway."

"It's demeaning," the Capricorn Saint grumbled. "Excalibur isn't meant to be used for petty things like this." But Shura went around to the end of the tree anyway. "How much am I supposed to take off again?"

"Here." Milo went over and made a small mark with his now scarlet, and extremely sharp, fingernail. "I think about there will do it."

"Fine, stand back." Shura sighed, then quickly cut the end off the trunk. "There. Now why did I do that, again?"

"Something about keeping the tree from drying out," Shion answered. "Now, where should we put the tree?"

"The center of the room?" Aldebaran boomed.

"No, it will get in the way there." Mu said looking around. "And it might get knocked down...how about that corner over there?"

"You mean over by the throne?" Shion sighed. "I guess I can deal with it for a couple of days." The Pope picked up the stand and headed over towards the corner. "Bring the tree over here then."

"Hey Shura, get over here and help!" Milo shouted at the departing Capricorn Saint. Shura was about to refuse, but when he saw the other Saints struggling to actually get the entire tree upright, he went over to help.

"Is it in the stand yet?" Kanon asked as the five of them crowded around attempting to maneuver the tall pine tree.

"I can't see..." Milo started to say but suddenly yelled and stumbled backwards, holding one hand over his eyes. "That tree just attacked me!" he said accusingly and pointed at the evergreen.

"Yes, I'm sure the tree was trying to blind you," Kanon snarled as they managed to slam the trunk into the floor once again. "Can someone get down there and see if we're anywhere near that damned tree stand?"

"Hold on." Shion, who was the only one not occupied, dropped down and slid under the tree. "You need to go a little more to the right...no not so far! You nearly hit me! There...now bring it down!" The four Gold Saints dropped the tree down and felt it thunk into the tree stand with some relief. "Keep it upright while I secure it," Shion ordered from under the tree. There was a moment of silence and something shook the tree. "Let it go," the Pope ordered at last. The four let go hesitantly, then breathed sighs of relief when it stayed upright.

"It's crooked," Milo said from behind them.

"What!?" All the other Saints looked up at the tree.

"It's leaning to the left," the Scorpio Saint insisted. They heard Shion grumble from under the tree.

"Fine. Aldebaran, could you hold it straight?" The Taurus Saint complied and there was a brief shuffle as the tree straightened. "Is it straight now?"

"Yeah...but now there's a big hole in the branches facing us."

"What?" Shion said then sighed. There was a scrapping sound as the tree was turned. "Is that better?"

"Try turning it more to the right. Nope...too far, turn in it a little to the left...now turn it right again, just a little more..."

"Mu, could you please tell me when it looks alright?"

"Yes, Master." The Aries Saint walked over next to Milo and looked at the tree. He ignored the Scorpio's grumbles about them not trusting him. "A little to the left, Master...there. It looks perfect."

"Finally." Shion started to back up, then yelped in pain and stopped.

"Master...are you alright?" Mu wanted to know.

"I think my hair's tangled in the branches," Shion said sheepishly. Kanon and Milo started laughing as Mu headed over to help. After a brief struggle, the Pope backed out and sat up. He was covered in pine needles and still had several smaller branches caught in his hair. The two snickering Saints laughed harder at the sight.

"I think we should stop for today," Shion said, trying to retain his dignity as he started to untangle his hair. "Let's start again tomorrow...ouch!...morning."

"Good idea," Shura said as he gazed around at the disheveled Pope and the temple now covered with pine needles.

"See if you can get anyone else to help," Mu added. "I think we're going to need it."

* * *

The next morning an energetic Milo more or less bounced up the steps toward the main temple...only to nearly be run over by an annoyed looking Aphrodite. The Pisces Saint stopped to glare at him.

"I am sure this is all your fault! Lady Athena wouldn't have thought of this on her own!" Aphrodite snapped before he continued down. Milo stared after him totally confused, then shrugged and continued up. Inside the temple he found Kanon bent over double laughing and almost all the Gold Saints, except for Deathmask, Shaka and Camus, dragging out decorations while looking very amused at something.

"Can someone tell me what the joke is and why Aphrodite thinks I have something to do with it?" the confused Scorpio said. Normally he knew everything that went on in Sanctuary, but for once he had no idea what was going on.

"It's Lady Athena...she said..." Kanon choked out between laughs. Then the Gemini managed to catch his breath and explain about Deathmask and the elf costume threat. Milo soon joined his friend in laughter.

"An elf...elf Deathmask...dear goddess," Milo wheezed. "That's brilliant! When did you come up with that?"

"Me?" Kanon looked surprised. "I thought that it was your idea!"

"No! I just got here! Although I wish I had thought it up!"

"If it wasn't you and it wasn't me..." Kanon said, "then whose idea was it?"

"Does it really matter?" Mu said innocently as he passed by. The Gemini and Scorpio Saints looked at each other, then back at Mu. Both shook their heads. It couldn't have been him. "Here's another box of lights." Shion nodded as his student added the box to one of the piles around the Pope.

"Is that it?" Dohko asked as he gazed at the boxes.

"I think so." Shion sighed. "Now then...Dohko, could you and Mu help me trim the tree? Yes, Kiki, I'll let you help, too. Everyone else start hanging the garlands and wreaths."

"Hey, I wanted to help with the tree!" Milo complained.

"It will be easier to reach the higher branches with telekinesis," Mu said, "and you've never been good at the delicate manipulations."

Shion nodded in agreement. Milo sighed then grinned and held up the portable CD player he was carrying.

"You forgot about one thing." The Scorpio Saint pressed the 'play' button, then grinned when the other Saints groaned as 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' started playing. "Christmas Carols," he said in a sing-song voice, then set the CD player in a corner out of the way as he headed toward the pile of boxed decorations. Over by the tree, Mu set Kiki to wrestling the tree lights free of their plastic boards they came in as he and Shion tried to figure out what to put on first.

Shura was one of those trying to fix garlands to the stone pillars around the temples. It was harder than it looked and the Capricorn Saint was beginning to get annoyed. At last he managed to get the garland to stay and he sighed, then shifted as he reached for the wreath he had hung on one of the lower rungs. The ladder slipped and started to rock, startling Shura, who cursed. A fall wouldn't really hurt him, but it would still be painful and rather embarrassing. Fortunately someone steadied the ladder before his pride could be injured. The Capricorn Saint sighed in relief then looked down and was surprised to meet they eyes of Gemini Saga.

"Ummm...thanks," the Capricorn Saint said uncertainly. There was much left unsaid between him and the Gemini Saint. There was still so much that Shura wanted to ask Saga, but he wasn't sure exactly how to phrase it. They had been drawn together during the ordeal with Hades but there hadn't been time to talk then.

"You're welcome," was Saga's quiet reply. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah." Shura turned back to his task. After he had hung the wreath, he paused. "Saga," he said quietly. "Could you pass me up another garland?"

"Of course," was the equally quiet reply.

Things continued smoothly for a while, something that surprised Shion when he realized that both Milo and Kanon were there. Thankfully they seemed to be to absorbed in seeing who could hang wreaths faster. A returning Aphrodite nearly walked right into their ladders when he entered the temple.

"He did it, he bought something," Aphrodite sighed by way of explanation. "But I think you should stay away from Cancer temple if at all possible. Deathmask is not happy right now."

"Well done," Dohko chuckled.

"Why am I always the one who has to deliver messages to him anyway?" the Pisces Saint complained.

"You're the one he's least likely to kill!" Milo shouted down from his ladder. Aphrodite just glared. Then he noticed the Christmas tree.

"What are you doing?" he said sharply to the group that was gathered around the evergreen.

"Decorating it," Shion said slightly confused by Aphrodite's question.

"I can see that," the Piseces Saint said. "But you're decorating it wrong!"

"We are?" Dohko looked up at the tree, then back at the ornament he was holding, "How can you decorate a tree wrong?"

"You have waaaaay to much tinsel on the tree for starters. The ornaments are too close together and you have the lights all wrong. You have so much gold on the tree that you've made it look garish!" Aphrodite sighed. "Here, let me help. Pope Shion could you get that string of lights off? Mu, shift a few of those ornaments over to this side of the tree, and Kiki start removing the tinsel. Dohko, could you bring that box over here, please?" The other Saints snickered as they watched the Pisces Saint take charge. Milo though hadn't noticed. He had disappeared shortly after Aphrodite came in, sliding down his ladder and racing out of the temple. Kanon was just beginning to wonder what the Scorpio Saint was up to, when Milo's voice came from outside.

"...just a few icicles. That's all I'm asking," the Scorpio Saint was saying.

"And I said no," an irritated Camus answered. Moments later the two appeared. Milo was pushing the protesting Aquarius Saint into the main temple.

"Come on, Camus, where's your Christmas spirit?" Milo said grinning.

"I have none," the Aquarius Saint replied, and turned to face Milo. "There, I came. Now will you leave me alone?"

"Not unless you help us!" Milo grinned. "Either you create icicles, or I start playing Christmas carols in your temple."

"You do that and you will find out what it's like to be trapped in a freezing coffin!"

"Could you just do it Camus?" Shion said. "I'm sure Lady Athena would be pleased if you did." Camus still looked annoyed. "And if you do then Milo will leave you alone." The Aquarius Saint thought this over for a second, realized the Pope was most likely right, then sighed. If he placed a few icicles around the doorway, maybe they would be satisfied.

"Are you sure they won't melt before Christmas?" Kanon said dubiously. Camus shot him a of-course-they-won't-you-idiot glare at went to work. Soon a row of sparkling crystalline icicles lined the top of the door.

After several more hours of labor, they were finished. All the Saints that had taken part stood back and admired their handiwork.

"It actually looks good!" Aioria said in surprise. His brother nodded, looking around.

"Master Mu?" Kiki's small voice said. The Saints turned to look at the boy. "Why haven't we put the star on the top of the tree yet?"

"Because I believe that should be Lady Athena's duty," the Aries Saint replied. There was a mutter of agreement from most of the other Saints. Shion chuckled.

"She is resting in her rooms. I'll go see if she's awake," the Pope said and headed out. There was a nervous silence in the room, then Shion returned with their goddess.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, pausing in the door way. "This looks beautiful," she said as she was gazing around. "You did a wonderful job!" She smiled down at them.

"It's not quite finished," Dohko said as he took the star from Kiki. "Now it's your turn, Lady Athena." The Libra Saint placed the star in her hands.

"Me?" she said startled. Shion nodded and gestured toward the tree. Athena smiled then made her way over to the towering evergreen. She paused and stared up at. "How am I supposed to...?"

"If I may?" Aldebaran said as he came to stand behind her. Athena studied his face then nodded once. The Taurus Saint reached down, then picked her up and set his goddess on one of his shoulders. There was a step ladder that he had used to decorate the tree still next to it. Aldebaran climbed two of the steps and that brought Athena level with the top of the tree. The other Saints watched anxiously, but although the step ladder creaked alarmingly, it held the huge Saint's weight. Gently Athena leaned over and placed the golden star one the top of the tree. The Gold Saints all clapped softly as Aldebaran got off the ladder and set his goddess back down.

Shion felt himself relax slightly. At last, everything was ready for tomorrow.

* * *

Next chapter: Christmas Day

The End of Chapter 15 -- Continued in Chapter 16


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