An Unauthorized Present…

Halo Ray’s Christmas log…

I’m wearing a passive-aggressive hat which says ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and has a little white fluffy ball at the tip which keeps bobbing into my eyeline. I’m also three quarters of the way through a bottle of wine which has made the crew dinner somewhat bearable. We’re all gathered in the dining hall for a raucous and rowdy celebration of a solstice on a planet most of us have never seen.

Christmas aboard the Persephone is more painful than a dozen cane strokes. I don’t like Christmas. You don’t get to choose your feelings for Christmas. You get to be jolly and holly and a big fat fucking cypher for reckless consumerism and the cloying sort of familial love that exists precisely nowhere in reality. That’s what I’ve been telling myself between drinks.

Some people like to really get into Christmas. Jubilee Flundersquidge has been bouncing around all morning beaming and informing everyone who will listen that she’s excited for all the little blessings of Christmas.

“It’s so joyous,” she trills, entirely unaware of how vomitous it all is. It would be one thing if she genuinely felt joy, but she’s just feeling a bloody big dose of Hapsters and following the tinsel clad cues which are stuck all around the ship.

“What did you get for Christmas, Ray?”

I glare at the asker. I didn’t get anything for Christmas. Only good girls get presents, and it’s been a long time since I was on that list. I got some additional rations, but everyone in the coalition gets those. A 1% holiday bonus, hurray. Fortunately, the answer to the question was never important in the first place.

“I got a new skirt,” Humberville Wagsworth grins. “It’s tartan. Because I’m Scottish.”

“What’s a Scottish?”

“It’s a…” she screws up her face. “It’s an old word for the people who come from a particular part of Earth. The original colony. I can trace my ancestry back five hundred generations.”

She’s very proud of that. It’s not as big of an achievement as it sounds. One drop of blood and twenty seconds on the ship’s computer and anyone could do that.

“I got a trinket,” Maudville Debonier says. “It’s a little silver boot. It goes on my bracelet.”

Her bracelet is full of such little icons. In addition to a boot she also has a dove, a book, a thimble, a television set, a car, a small dog, a cat, a snail, a door, a window, and a dwarf. Each of them are supposed to have some sort of meaning, she says. Because meaning is something you really want to put into a little silver bauble lest you forget it.

“Halo didn’t get anything,” Leslie says. “Halo was banned from Christmas this year.”

It’s true. I was. But I wasn’t sad to be banned, in fact I got banned on purpose. Well, accidentally on purpose. Turns out the captain has strong feelings about the distribution of distilled beverages. She’s also not keen on officers running distilleries in the cavities under their beds. She’s not keen on a lot of things, put it that way.

“Fiona was banned as well,” Leslie says all smug. “Fiona got caught stealing rations from the kitchen.”

Fiona is sitting at the end of the table looking miserable. She wanted Christmas. She wanted a present. I feel bad for her. There’s no point explaining to someone who likes Christmas that it’s a waste of time. That invalidates their feelings, or what they think are their feelings. I’ve been informed this is a bad thing.

I get up from my chair, sidle around the table to Fiona. When I reach her, I dig into my pocket and pull out a little object. It’s a small bottle of my best Ginger Schnapps. She doesn’t know that because it’s wrapped in bright paper. An unauthorized Christmas present. The best kind.

“Merry Christmas,” I say, shoving it into her lap before anyone sees what’s going on.

She looks down, then up at me with a little smile. Funny what a present can do. Funny how that silly paper transforms an everyday object into something worthy of excitement. Her smile continues to grow as I sidle back to my seat and slide gently down the wall in the grip of a slow fuzz until the chair catches me, more or less. It feels a lot softer and more comfortable than it did when I left it.

“What was that, Ray?” The words are growled melodiously in my ear. How Sarge manages to move like that I have no idea. I think she might be teleporting, because she’s beneath me and I’m sitting in her lap. I’m certain she wasn’t there a moment ago, but there she is, her arm wrapping around my waist. Further inspection reveals that I’ve failed to sidle back to my seat and instead I’ve sidled almost all the way to the front of the room and ended up sort of half-on, half-off her lap. I can be forgiven that because up is down and back is forward in space and I can hardly be expected to keep track of all the directions at once, can I?

“That was what,” I say with a smile, leaning back to nuzzle that little spot where her neck meets her ear.

“You just gave an unauthorized present.”

“Yeah?” I make it a question. Never own the misdemeanor. If in doubt, deny. I don’t need little charms to remember those rules.

“That was naughty,” Sarge purrs.

“Probably,” I agree unrepentantly. I’m feeling warm and comfortable and entirely unconcerned by the possibility of punishment.

Her teeth graze the back of my neck and her other hand slides down to palm my bottom. “Very naughty.”

She doesn’t sound nearly as annoyed as the captain did when she was banning me from Christmas. The captain sounded very annoyed. She gets shrill when she’s irritable. Sarge is never shrill. Sarge is warm and strong and her hands are always caring even when she’s slapping my behind which she’s doing now, right here in the dining hall. Her palm warms my cheeks slowly and casually through my thick regulation pants, giving me the gift that keeps on giving, the gift of her love and her care, her discipline and her desire.

It’s entirely unauthorized of course. I’ll have to report her to the captain.