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"This has been the best Christmas EVER!" Shen enthused.
"Another Christmas tradition," Sally grinned. "He says that _every_ year."
"It's so cute." said Peter.
"Watch it with the cute stuff buddy," Shen huffed. "I am thirteen years old and I am WAAAAY past cute!"
"AWWWWWWWwwwwwwww..." said Peter, Matty, and Dulcee in chorus. "That's so _cute_."
Francoise giggled. "You don't object when _I_ say you're cute."
Shen blushed. "The context is completely different!"
Wufei smiled at his son's discomfort. "Don't bother Shen, I've spent YEARS trying to shut Duo up, with no success. His sons are hardly likely to be any different. At least his _daughter_ has some manners."
"Don't be fooled, she's more vulgar than the rest of us put together," Matty assured Wufei. In unison, Jillian and Lian smacked the back of his head.
"You big liar!" Cried Jillian with a grin.
"Don't upset my father!" Lian hissed.
Matty mumbled something that could have been an apology. Then again, it probably wasn't.
At that moment, the door slid open and Noriko Yuy and Tane Mahuta rejoined the party.
"It's so coooollllddd..." Tane muttered. "I thought at least we'd have a warmer Christmas this year. Who knew it got so cold in China?" He brushed some snow off his shoulders, then off Noriko's.
Matthew laughed. "Just think what you've got to look forward to next year when we have Christmas at the Yuy's!"
"What?!" Tane went pale.
"Well, we have cycled through all of the families now," Duo agreed. "So I guess we go back to the beginning and start again!"
"OH NOOOOO we don't!!!!" Tane roared. "NEXT year we're going to do something DIFFERENT!"
One year later:
"This is _wrong_," Matty grumbled. "It's just wrong, that's what it is."
"Let me guess, it's wrong?" Lian asked. "Honestly, you have been complaining ever since we got here!"
"What's not to complain about?" Matthew threw his arms wide open. "It's the day before Christmas and there's no snow, no icicles, no chestnuts roasting before an open fire, no ice skating, no marshmallows in hot chocolate..."
"On the other hand there _is_ sun, surf, sand and the barbecue is just getting fired up," Tane loomed up behind Matthew in that tall way he did. "Give us a break eh?" He shook his head. "Come on... Winter? Wonderland? Those two words do NOT go together when you're freezing your arse off! I've shivered my way through five Christmases with you lot, now it's YOUR turn to come down here and have a _proper_ New Zealand Christmas!"
"But it's not _right_," Matthew protested. "None of the carols work properly anymore!"
"There's always Snoopy's Christmas Carol," Liao pointed out with a grin.
"NO!!!! NEVER AGAIN!!!!"
"The news had come out in the first world war, the bloody Red Baron was flying once more..."
"Liao! I swear to the God of Death that if you even get NEAR the second verse..." Matty trailed off. "What are they doing?"
Tane looked around casually to see several of his cousins running around, passing a ball back and forth. "They're getting ready for the traditional Christmas rugby game."
"Traditional?" Matty was suspicious now. "_I've_ never heard of it."
"It's a great tradition in my family," Tane informed him with a straight face. "We all look forward to it."
Noriko Yuy wandered up to the arguing group. "Is he STILL complaining?" She demanded.
Lian smiled at her husband. "He's just a bit grumpy that he hasn't been able to throw snowballs at everyone."
"Aha!" Liao crowed. "At last the truth comes out!"
Matthew hmphed and turned to Noriko. "You must find this a little weird at least." He pleaded. "It's not traditional."
"What do you expect them to do?" Noriko asked. "Import snow? Besides, they have plenty of good traditions. And I LIKE barbecued seafood by the beach, and windsurfing. And the traditional game of rugby." Her eyes gleamed.
Tane groaned. "Oh god, somebody get the stretchers ready."
Noriko sniffed. "I don't know what you mean."
Matthew laughed. "This I've gotta see. What do you say we take her on Tane?"
Tane shook his head and held up his hands. "I know when I'm outclassed and I don't want to die."
"Aw c'mon," Matty scoffed. "Don't tell me you're scared of _Noriko_."
Suddenly he froze as the cold muzzle of a gun pressed against the back of his neck.
"Omae o korosu," Noriko murmured into his ear. Then she withdrew the gun. "I accept your challenge."
"How bad can it be?" Matthew asked. "I mean, even through the padding it..."
"No padding Matty, we're playing _proper_ rugby here. None of this silly helmets business. Just you, the ball... and 110 kgs of extremely annoyed Yuy." Tane patted him on the shoulder. "It was nice knowing you Matty," he said regretfully. "We'll all miss you."
"Where are you going Jarreth?"
"Out to sunbathe," Jarreth grinned at Peter. "Thought it might be fun to have a nice tan on Christmas Day. Kind of novel."
Peter nodded. "I'm going jet-skiing with some of Tane's cousins. Have you got some sunscreen?"
"Yup!" Jarreth waved a bottle at his lover. "Don't fuss so much, I can take care of myself you know."
"Okay, see you later, bright eyes. Don't get burnt!"
Dulcee and Lian were chatting quietly to each other on the porch of Tane's "beach cottage".
"Auntie Lian," a small voice piped up by their feet.
"Yes Aiku?" Lian turned to regard her five-years-old niece by marriage.
"Are you _sure_ it's Christmas?" Aiku's little face looked quite worried.
"Positive," Dulcee said. "It's just because we're in a different part of the world, pumpkin."
Aiku and her "uncle" Luke looked at each other and then back at the grown-ups. "But... if we're in a different part of the world, how will Father Christmas know where we are?"
"Ummm..." Lian looked confused and both their faces got longer. Dulcee hurriedly jumped in to mend the breach.
"Don't worry Aiku, Luke, Father Christmas will know where we are. He knew where we were last year in China, and before that in the colonies... I'm sure he'll find us here, no problem."
"Really." Dulcee said firmly.
"Kay," Aiku nodded in acceptance of this and toddled off, leading her uncle firmly by the hand.
"It's so funny to watch them like that," Lian giggled. "He may be her uncle but he's still younger than she is. Speaking of younger, have you seen Shen lately?"
"He and Fran went off to look at some rock pools a little while ago," said Dulcee. "I'm sure they'll be fine. Some of Tane's cousins were with them."
"He seems to have an awful lot of cousins," said Lian.
"I think it's more a tribal designation than a straight out... what the heck is that _SMELL_???" Dulcee wheeled around.
A rather bedraggled looking Shen was standing directly behind her. Francoise and some rather sheepish looking teenagers stood about two metres away from him.
"Oh my god," Lian put her hand over her nose. "What happened to you?" She inquired.
"Ummm... I fell on a seal."
"Sea lion," one of Tane's cousins interjected.
"Was not, was a seal," argued another one.
"How would _you_ know, have YOU ever seen a sea lion before?"
"Never mind!" Lian yelled. "Are any of you hurt?"
"Oh no," one of the boys assured her. "_We_ didn't go near it."
"Because you were too chicken after Shen fell on him _after_ you dared him to go near it," Fran said.
"Was not!" The boy in question defended himself and his cousin snickered.
"Was too! Chicken! Bwuck bwuck bwucaaawk!!!"
The cousins resumed arguing and Fran rolled her eyes. Lian turned back to Shen. "So you fell on an as-yet-unidentified seafaring mammal. You're not injured, so I don't care WHAT it was - you stink! Go have a shower!"
Shen nodded and wandered sulkily into the house, kicking the odd object as he went. As he went past a ladder, he dealt it a particularly hard kick. There was a screech from above and Shen stepped aside just in time to avoid being crushed by a falling Maxwell.
Matty stood up. "Owww.. Shen! Watch what you're doing!"
"How the HELL was _I_ supposed to know you were up there?" Shen demanded.
"SHEN! LANGUAGE!" Sally's voice echoed through the house.
"How does she do that?" Matty wondered. He rubbed his sore posterior and glared at Shen. "I ought to..." He stopped. "PHEW!!! What the FUCK did you roll in?"
"MATTHEW! DON'T SPEAK LIKE THAT IN FRONT OF SHEN!!!" Wufei's voice echoed through the house. Matthew grimaced.
"I fell on a seal. Or a sea lion. I don't know," said Shen. "It smells."
"So I see. Ummm... be a good kid and move along okay?"
Shen looked up. "What were you doing?"
Matthew grinned. "Oh you know, the good old-fashioned mistletoe."
Shen squinted at it. "It looks kind of dead."
Matthew's face fell. "It's a sprig that was left in the Christmas decorations from last year." He said. "How was I supposed to know that mistletoe doesn't grow in this country?"
"You should always do research before you commit to a course of action." Shen said piously.
Matthew glared at him. "And I suppose falling on a seal was a well-researched course of action!"
Duo stared suspicious at the food in front of him. "This is wrong." He moaned. "It's... barbeque food..."
"And this is summer." Hilde kissed his cheek. "Now quit complaining and take out the steaks and sausages while Sally and I get the dessert ready."
Duo sighed and picked up a huge tub of meat and carted it out to the barbeque which was being manned by Sam and Jill. Sam's eyebrows shot up when he saw the amount of food there was to cook.
"Are you sure we're not expecting an army?" He asked.
Jill giggled. "We already have an army, hon." She pointed. "See?"
On the beach a large crowd of Tane's relatives were gathering along with all the Maxwell boys, Aiku, Liao, Trowa, Quatre, Mariemaya, Heero and Noriko.
"What are they doing?" Duo asked.
"Preparing for the traditional Christmas Eve rugby match." Tane explained, coming up behind Duo. He held up a brown oval ball. "Want to join us?"
"Ah..." Duo considered this and at the same time noticed that there was no padding on ANYone and how large some of Tane's relatives were.
Howard chuckled from his seat nearby. "I wouldn't it I was you, Duo. Leave it to the young ones."
Duo nodded slowly. "You may have a point there..." He frowned. "Is Matty playing?"
Tane chuckled and started to walk over. "He challenged Nori. I hope you don't mind getting him back in pieces, Uncle Duo."
Lian, who was standing next to her husband, laughed at this. "As long as all the _important_ pieces work..." she snickered and Matty looked hurt.
"Okay, let's get moving!" Tane's uncle Caesar had taken charge. "I will be ref for today's match, so now you know who to bribe."
"The teams will be split more or less evenly in terms of ability and familiarity with the game. Please do not kill the new people. We want them to come back."
"Huh?" Matty asked.
Liao's eyebrows shot up. "Ummm.."
"The rules are as follows - no head-high tackles, rucking is allowed, no off-sides, time-wasting, hanging on to the ball and most definitely..." Caesar looked at Noriko. "No weapons."
Noriko looked faintly disappointed. All of Tane's family looked relieved.
Dulcee, standing on the sidelines, looked confused. "What do you think Nori did last time?" She wondered out loud.
"Ah, that was partially Jonah's fault." One of Tane's Aunties, Carol, spoke up. "He thought it would be funny to give the new girl a hard time so he tackled her pretty hard. She stuck a gun in his ear and told him to get off before she gave him a special red card. After that, he played much nicer."
"Why am I not surprised," Lian sighed. Shen and Fran had turned up just in time to hear this and giggled.
"You're not playing Shen?" Fran asked.
"Are you kidding?" Shen squawked. "I'm a scholar, not a masochist."
"Oh well," Fran sighed and hung on to his arm. "You can explain the rules to me then."
Shen blinked and blushed faintly. "Uh... Okay."
"Right, let's go! Matty's team has the kick-off!" Caesar yelled.
Matthew stepped up to the ball, his head still spinning with hastily explained positions and rules. Fortunately, some of Tane's family had volunteered to be on his side, and he was sure they knew what they were doing. Most of the newcomers were a bit less sure, although you wouldn't know it from Trowa's expression out on the wing. Matty took a deep breath and kicked the ball out. Then he and his forwards charged.
Tane got under the ball as it descended, caught it and passed it out to his cousin Gary. Gary made a run for the middle and was tackled by Matthew. The ball bounced clear and was snatched up by Trowa.
Tane's team charged to tackle Trowa, who didn't even seem to notice. His expression became more and more abstracted as he sprinted down the field towards the goal-posts, calmly evading the attempts to bring him down. He side-stepped one tackle, ducked another, dodged between another two and then leapt high above another, performing a triple somersault before landing lightly on the ground behind the goal-posts and planting the ball.
A silence spread across the field.
"Ummm... is he allowed to do that?" Gary asked.
Caesar shrugged. "No rule says he can't." He blew his whistle to indicate the first try (score) to Matthew's team.
"Ha ha!" Matthew crowed as he went past Noriko. "We're doing well so far!"
Noriko just smiled at him. Tane glanced at her.
"Do I have to frisk you for weapons?" He demanded.
"No. But you can if you want to." Was the calm reply. Chuckling, Tane kicked the ball back to Matthew's team.
The game was afoot.
"Pass it out! Pass it out!"
"Mark your man!"
"YOU try marking him. Hey! No backflips! REF!!!"
"I'll allow it."
Liao gulped as the ball landed in his hands and he looked around for someone to offload it onto. Noone on his team was nearby. Ack. He sprinted for his life, and saw several forwards from the other team mass on him.
Instincts from a lifetime of martial arts took over.
The whistle blew.
"Okay Liao, fending off tackles is one thing, but you shouldn't flip people into the air like that. I'm giving you a warning this time."
"Sorry, natural reflex."
"We know. We've seen Noriko do the same thing."
"I've got the ball, I've got the ball!"
"He's tackled, _I've_ got the ball.
*gurgle* "Lian, help me."
"You shouldn't have mocked tradition airen."
"Ninmu kanryou!" Noriko yelled in triumph as she sprinted over the try line and planted the ball firmly on the ground.
The game finally finished as the ref blew his whistle, and the result was clear. Tane's team had squeaked a win through with 36 points to 35. Matthew definitely looked like a loser, his hair was a mess and his left eye was turning a wonderful shade of blue. Noriko however was sulking slightly, she'd been sent off with a yellow card for the elbow poke into Matthew's eye.
"Dinner's ready!" Hilde's voice floated down to them all, and in a rushing stampede the hordes descended.
By the time the rugby players had arrived, Peter Maxwell had already set himself up with a lot of food, piled over two plates.
"My best big brother!" Matthew approached. "Thank you!" He reached for the extra plate.
Peter smacked his brother's hand away. "I'm your _only_ big brother, Matty!" He moved the plate away from the human vacuum. "That plate is for Jarreth, so kindly keep your thieving hands away from it."
"Peter... I'm hurt!" Matty's eyes gleamed with mischief as he hammed it up. "How could ya think such a thing of me? Your own brother!"
"Get lost Matty I..." Peter stopped abruptly. "I... oh no. Jarreth - what happened?"
The fair-haired young man trudged slowly and miserably into the room and everyone stopped to look at him. From head to toe, he was a uniform bright red.
Peter rushed towards him, arms outstretched. Jarreth put up his hands to stop him. "DON'T!" He commanded. "Don't touch me, don't come near me, in fact don't even _breathe_ near me."
"What... what happened?" Peter demanded.
"I fell asleep," Jarreth admitted shamefacedly.
"I thought you were wearing sunscreen!"
"I was, SPF5."
"Five????" Tane's eyebrows shot up. "No wonder you look like a lobster. In the middle of summer, the burn time around here is something like fifteen minutes. Even with SPF15 it's only about an hour tops. It's a wonder you don't have sunstroke!"
"Ow..." said Jarreth in agreement.
Peter winced. "Urgh... This is going to make Christmas really miserable for you. And me."
Jarreth shot him a filthy look. "I'm in pain and you're concerned about _that_?" He demanded.
"Wait here," said Tane. "I've got something that will help."
He disappeared for a few minutes and then returned. "Here," he said, handing Jarreth a spray. "Spray this over your sunburn."
"Solarcaine," Jarreth read the label. "Will it help?"
"Oh yeah," Tane grinned and reached out to clap Jarreth on the back.
Tane's hand froze a centimetre from Jarreth's back as the other man flinched back. "Oh yeah, sorry."
Jarreth whimpered slightly in acceptance of the apology and gingerly began spraying himself with the solarcaine. "Aahhhh...," he sighed as the painkiller kicked in. "Blessed relief."
"To complete your medication, why not eat someth..." Peter's voice trailed off as he turned back to regard the two now empty plates. "MATTY! You're a dead man!!!"
"It wasn't me!" His brother protested. "Honest!"
Nearby, Jillian smirked.
Lian adjusted her sunglasses and sighed. "Ahhhh... now this is the kind of Christmas I could go for _every_ year!"
Matty sighed. "Well, I'm dreaming of a White Christmas for next year." He said a little wistfully. "This is fun, but it's just not the same."
"You're such a traditionalist." Lian accused him and his eyes widened.
"Me? That's the pot calling the kettle black, babe!"
"I am not traditional!" Lian huffed. "If I was I wouldn't be working and we'd have four children by now."
Matty's eyes brightened. "Speaking of children..." he began and Lian held up an imperious hand.
"Don't start this again, Matthew Maxwell! Every second day you bring up this subject and I am sick of it!"
"We've been married for five years, Lian. I think it's about time..."
Lian quickly distracted her husband by removing her t-shit and sarong to reveal a teeny-tiny white bikini. Matty shut up almost immediately as Lian stretched, showing off her lithe figure.
Watching from the doorway, Fran sighed enviously and took quick mental notes. "I hope Shen looks at me like that one day..."
"What?" Shen strolled up to her, carrying his new book in one hand and a plate in the other. Fran blushed.
"Umm... nothing." She said and looked curiously at what was on the plate. "What's that?"
"Pavlova." He explained. "It's like a big meringue with cream and fruit on it, want some?"
"Don't eat too many sweets before lunch!" Sally called from the kitchen and Shen sighed.
"How does she _do_ that?"
"Howard," Wufei walked up behind the elderly technician. "Please satisfy my curiousity. Yesterday, Tane's family spent a long time digging a hole, burning stones, which they then put into the hole, along with planks of wood, blankets and large metal baskets of wood, and buried it. Now they're digging it up. What is it?"
Howard grinned. "It's a hangi, a method of cooking food that the Maori use. Trust me, we feast this afternoon!"
"But Sally and the others have been cooking for some time now," Wufei protested. "What about all these jellies and things that Tane's relatives have been bringing around?"
"Have you noticed how many of Tane's relatives have been trickling in?" Howard asked. "His mother was the eldest daughter of nine from a very important family. Most of his immediate family number along the same lines. Then there's his extended family. And they're _all_ coming."
Howard grinned. "Better watch out for your unattached children. Now that the tribe have gotten used to me, they'll have no more objections about adding another non-Maori to the mix."
"SHEN!!!!" Wufei sprinted off.
"Did you _have_ to do that?" Tane rumbled from behind Howard's back. "That wasn't very nice."
"I can't help it," Howard chuckled. "He's so funny that way."
Lian knocked on Dulcee's door. "Hey Dulcee, can I come in?"
The door was flung open and a mischevious face framed by blonde hair peered out at her. "Depends. For what nefarious purpose do you brave my lair of doom?"
"Matty's started the 'isn't it about time we have children' thing again."
"Advance and be safe my sister!"
The door opened further and Lian stepped inside. "Oh stop clutching that blanket to your chest like a damsel in distress, Liao. You haven't got anything that I haven't seen."
Liao growled at his sister. "You barge in here, interrupting my personal time and now you insult me. Fine, I'll just go put on an apron and help out in the kitchen."
"Hmmmmm..." Dulcee's eyes lit up.
"And some other clothes too," Liao hastily added.
"You're no fun." She sighed. "So Matty's pushing the kid issue huh?"
Lian groaned. "If only he'd let up but nooo... And no offense to Tane and co, but seeing this horde has just made things worse."
"I think tribe is more accurate than horde." Liao shrugged on a shirt.
"Hey, how come Matthew's always pestering Lian for kids and you never even bring up the subject?" Dulcee asked.
"Because Matthew's always pestering Lian for kids... and then she comes along and complains about it to you... and you listen sympathetically and agree that it's unfair and mean and rude. I'm not _completely_ stupid you know. I can spot a hint." Liao ran a hand through his hair. "Besides, if I start talking then mother starts talking, and it would be wrong of me to sic my mother on you and leave you to explain why you're not giving her grandchildren by the dozen."
"Oh, so you're getting that talk too," Lian commented. "I thought I was the only one."
"To be honest, I think she's giving it to Shen," Liao commented. "That woman _really_ wants to become a grandmother." The door shut behind him.
"So you're both getting pressure from Sally?" Dulcee shook her head. "How do you two deal with that?"
"Easy," Lian shrugged. "We agree with everything she says and then go out and do what we want to do."
"Doesn't she see through that trick?"
"She INVENTED that trick!"
Shen wandered into the living room just as four of Tane's female cousins came barreling in the front door to examine the decorations.
"What's _that_ thing?" Huria asked, pointing at a decoration above Shen's head.
Shen looked up. Oh yeah, Matty's weird idea. "It's mistletoe."
The cousins giggled. "Mistletoe? Like that plant that you kiss people under?"
Shen shrugged. "Yeah. Hey... why are you all... NOOOOO!!!"
Fran wandered in the front door. "Shen, let's go down to the... SHEN!!!" Her eyes blazed as she took in the kissing fest in front of her.
"Not my fault!" Shen gasped, he managed to extract himself and pointed upwards. Fran followed his wavering finger.
"Who the FUCK had the idea to hang this stupid SHIT up here anyway?" She shouted in rage.
Everyone stopped and stared at her in shock.
Down by the far end of the beach, Trowa stopped his investigation of the rock pools and glared at Matthew.
"What? What? I didn't do anything!"
"You have learned well, my student," Sally murmured.
After a huge lunch of hangi food and the majority of the guests had gone home after wishing everyone "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", those remaining were far too full to do anything active other than digest.
"Mmmm..." Matty snuggled up against Lian. "Now if it was snowing outside, we could be all bundled up together and have chestnuts roasting on an open fire."
"Will you give it up on the snow motif? PLEASE, enough already!" They all chorused.
"Okay okay, I admit it. It's kind of nice to have Christmas in Summer..." Matty said.
"Thank GOD!!!" Tane sighed.
"... even though it is completely and utterly UNNATURAL!"
Those who could still move threw things at him.
"However, I wouldn't mind bringing our kids here one day to experience this," Matthew concluded idly.
"Okay! Okay! I give up! I give up! I surrender!" Lian yelled. "I have fought mobile suits, obsessed ninjas, assassins and psycho lunatics who want to marry me, but NONE OF THEM ANNOYED ME AS MUCH AS YOU! Fine! In seven months time, you will be a father. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!"
Matthew gaped at her. "What?"
Everybody else gaped at her. "What?"
"I said I AM PREGNANT!" Lian shouted. "And I don't want to hear ONE MORE THING about children, okay? Unless I bring it up."
Dulcee paused. "Umm... did you say seven months?"
"Yes." Lian confirmed. "I was going to tell Matthew privately tonight as a final Christmas present, but he drove me to this."
"What a coincidence!" Dulcee beamed. "_I'm_ two months pregnant TOO!"
"WHAT??!!" Liao shrieked.
"Oops, I think I ruined the surprise."
Liao and Matty blinked several times at their respective wives. Sally smiled broadly.
"I'm gonna be an auntie! I'm gonna be an auntie!" Fran clapped her hands. "You're both going to be grandfathers! Aren't you happy?"
"I'm VERY happy," said Quatre.
In total silence, Trowa sat down. Hard.
"So is he," Quatre added. "Just somewhat shocked."
Shen stretched in the deck chair. "So, got any complaints about Christmas in Summer NOW Matty?" he smirked.
"I'm dreaming of an orange Christmas,
Not like a one I've had before.
Where the sun burns cheerful and bright,
And everything works out alright..." Sang Matthew and Liao together in harmony. Sort of.
"Alright, who let them into the champagne?"
"_I_ don't like orange Christmas'," Jarreth grumbled. "OW!!! Okay okay, I like them. Now give back the solarcaine!"
Really The End.