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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

Muffleby&Keek


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„This ainīt right. I mean, honest, Muff, this jest ainīt right!“

Drawing his chocolate colored eyes away from the crowded playground, Muffleby (or Muffleby Archibald Jones, as his (faked) passport read) cast his raving partner a disapproving glance.

Seeing that Keek („Keekegard Timothy Smith“) wasnīt looking at him, he repeated, „Ainīt?“, making the slang sound like an obscene noise.

Torn out of his own thoughts, Keek blinked, turning his head. „Huh? What?“

„Just wondering,“ Muffleby explained indignantly. „Have you watched the telly again last night?“

Keek frowned, fine wrinkles layering the fine pale skin covering his forehead. “'Telly'?!“ he repeated and sighed. „Muff, I keep telling ya, people donīt say 'telly' or 'tube' here, they-“

„I donīt care what people call television over here,“ Muffleby interrupted him. „People say 'ainīt' round here too. People shouldnīt talk at all, if you want my opinion. Especially not with you around, slangsponge.“

Grimacing in faked hurt, Keek slid away a tad, until he reached the very end of the high branch Muffleby and he were sitting on, surveying the playground of the school they had agreed on observing that day. Both balanced their huge notebooks on their folded legs.

„Great mood youīre in today,“ Keek observed ironically. „Care to share whatīs bugging you? Otherwise, Iīd highly recommend we split trees for the rest of the day.“

„Iīm sorry,“ Muffleby sighed ruefully.„I know Iīve been a pest today...“ He trailed off at the eager, affirmative nodding taking place next to him and only after shooting Keek a scowl continued, „Itīs just...“ This time, his voice faded by his own means, and he drew one corner of his thin-lipped mouth downwards, a gesture that always brought out the rarely seen boyish side of his appearance.

Understanding, Keek watched him for a moment, before sympathetically asking, „Miss the snow too, huh?“

„Oh, 'too'?“ Muffleby asked, strangely relieved. „You mean you do as well?“

All sympathy vanishing from his face, Keek frowned once more. „Thatīs what Iīve been moaning about all morning. Donīt you listen to me at all?!“

„Not on the job,“ Muffleby repeated matter-of-factly.

„We are on the job right now,“ Keek pointed out.

„Yeah, but this is a real conversation,“ came the somewhat puzzled answer.

„What, and before it was just 'Keek rambling'?“

„Yes.“

„Thanks, Muffin,“ Keek grumbled, adding an unintelligable 'gna, gna, gna' to himself.

„Oh,“ Muffleby hurried to say assuringly, „but itīs not that I donīt like your ramblings. I do. Theyīre...
backroundish. You know, like the snow used to be.“ And here his face fell again.

But his partner was not yet ready to let the matter drop for the sake of cheering him up. „You used to listen to the snow, you know.“

„So?“

„Sooo,“ Keek mocked, stretching the word, „you rather listen to frozen water than to your best friend.“

„If frozen water was trying to immitate some New World tv crap-“

„Okay, okay,“ Keek cut him off, raising his hands defensively. „I got the point. But still,“ he added after a moment of silence, „the snow wasnīt all that great, was it? I mean, just think about all that clutching and clinging to the legs and all that. You couldnīt take a single step outside without having your pants soaked through. Not to mention your hair.“

Unconsciously, he lifted a hand to drive it through his – very dry – hair that was of the same hazelnut color like Mufflebyīs, but not as short. In fact, it was long enough to constantly have loose strays fall into his eyes.

„I know,“ sighed Muffleby in response, not watching eyes settling on the emptying playground underneath their swaying feet.

The break had ended, the masses of children were ushered inside by exhausted looking teachers or raced each other to the entrances.

„I know I used to complain about the wetness all the time. We all do, donīt we? Bloody annoying it is, really, but...“

„Missable,“ Keek suggested, when the sentence hang unfinished in the warm December air.

Another deep sigh. „Very.“

Keek nodded, and as the hours passed, they sat in the bright Californian sun, each one lost in thoughts of warm winter coats, large, icy flakes of snow, frozen lakes, old houses and plum pudding...

*****


So Muffleby and Keek, as every reader should by now have figured out, were Christmas Elves, Christmas Particles Elves, to be precise, for their main task for centuries had been to spread the tiny particles that make the air we breathe taste and smell and feel christmassy. Apart from that they were - of course, as every Christmas Creature is – responsible for the collecting of notes regarding the humans in their area. In earlier, momentarily better looking (and much missed) days, that area had been Chelsea/Kensington in Olī London Town, where they had also spread their Christmas Particles and had made the snow glitter together with their good friends, the London Snow Elves – particularly a fair-haired, fine-featured chap called Northrope, who had liked to 'snow up' his ale at the pub, a habit heīd had actually adopted from Muffleby, who usually sprinkled Christmas Particles into his tea by lightly rubbing his fingers above the cup.

But due to some harmless little prank – or the most irresponsible action ever having been committed by a Christmas Creature, depending on whether you asked Keek or the Nickelbuh, who was the highest superior of all things Christmas – the two Londoners had been transferred to Southern California that very year with clear – and painfully obvious – restrictions regarding any creating of snow.

(Said prank, by the way, as some readers may or may not have guessed already, had been the first blizzard ever to be reported in late July in the city of London; lasting three days. Reports went that people had been seen parading High Street Kensington in layers of clothing, loudly singing Christmas carols in many a joyful way. It also appeared to be that most of the Hyde Park Trees had been decorated by anonymus groups of people.)

They were, of course, still part of the Christmas Particles Department, yet the change of place didnīt go easily for them, as not only had they had to learn to accept that what with no snow to fall upon and glitter in, their Particles were indeed invisible in the sunny air (Theyīd heard rumors, of course, that the snow itself, overwhelmed with joy at the Christmas feelings covering it, would start the characteristic glittering, but, being Christmas Creatures (and therefor prejudiced against snow) theyīd refused to believe it.), but they had also had to adjust to the completely different clima.

Now, Christmas Creatures had a steady, unchangable, rather cool body temperature that didnīt register cold or warmth, but having spent almost all their existance in wintery England, the two elves had become very fond of winter clothing, coats, scarfs, hats, gloves. Sitting on observation wearing only jeans and large t-shirts (to hide the wings) came unfamiliar to them, and at one point, at least Keek hadnīt been able to suppress his craving for his usual working clothes any longer; up until now Muffleby hadnīt had the heart to tell him how utterly ridiculous he looked with his long, red-and-white-striped scarf wrapped around his neck over his loose t-shirt, one end hanging up front, the other over his back. But then, Muffleby had figured, itīd only be three more days until Christmas Eve, anyway. Why not let his friend draw as much comfort out of familiar gestures as possible?

Besides – and though heīd never admit it in front of Keek – it gave him an almost homey feeling too, seeing his friend wearing a scarf. It felt right.

He only noticed heīd absently reached out to finger the back end of the really incredibly long scarf, when Keek turned sharply to look at him, thereby almost strangling himself.

Startled, he coughed, snatching the loose end out of Mufflebyīs hands. „Get your own one.“

„I donīt want one,“ Muffleby shot back, busily flapping the front of his t-shirt, as if wiping his hands. „Itīs blazing hot, anyway. Youīre just making a fool out of yourself.“

„No, Iīm not,“ Keek defended himself, to his friendīs inner amusement fully sliding back into his somewhat stiff British accent, that always broke through, when he became agitated or angry. „And itīs not 'blazing hot', itīs...“

Sharply, he turned his head, hazel hair flapping against the side of his face, and pointed at a passer-by just outside the school yard. „See, heīs wearing a jacket. It is cold.“

„Thatīs a shirt,“ Muffleby observed.

„Whoīre you, Karl Lagerfeld? When I say itīs a jacket, itīs a jacket. People are cold running around in shirts. So there.“ As if for emphasis, he re-adjusted his scarf with a curt nod. „And before you give me that clima-speech again, Science Channel Elf, you,“ he quickly continued, indeed successing in preventing himself from becoming yet again a listener (or victim, depending, again, on whom you asked) to one of Mufflebyīs newer interests, „Iīm hungry. How ībout getting something to eat before the last break?“

As Keek had known it would, that suggestion instantly cut off any planned replies. Uncommonly reasonable for a Christmas Creature, Muffleby was still an elf. And elves – as my well-educated readers might know – are always, but always, hungry.

„Tacos or Chinese?“ he asked for an answer, clapping his notebook closed with a determined gesture, sending a cloud of sparkling Christmas Particles up into the air, where they vaporized, but not before having enveloped a passing bird, that blinked, as if surprised, then turned by, its unintelligable singing noises turning into a clearly beautiful version of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'.

Watching after it with a slight grimace tugging at one corner of his mouth, Muffleby sighed at himself, then turned to Keek again, who chuckled amusedly.

„That wasnīt planned.“

„Sure, Muffin,“ Keek winked in exaggerated understanding, one-handedly closing his own book carefully, while he innocently added, „Wanna go christmasize the K-9 dogs down at the precinct too? Thatīd be fun.“

Muffleby rolled his eyes. „I said it was an accident, okay? Leave it.“

Defensively, Keek lifted his hands.

As if on cue, the bird flew by again, having settled for 'Let It Snow' now. A fellowship of ten others flew closely behind, seemingly eager to learn the tune.

Watching his friend watch after the animals helplessly, Keek grinned. „Think that was a sign?“

„Think I want pizza,“ Muffleby replied dryly, glancing back at Keek, who shrugged affirmatively, then snapped his notebook away to its hidden place in the Christmas Archive.

„Your treat, your call,“ he stated and after the briefest checking glance jumped down to the ground, where he landed silently on feet as soft as a catīs paws.

„Hey, no fair!“ Muffleby called after him, hastily snapping away his book as well, before he too let himself fall to the ground. „I paid for the ten oīclock cookies already.“

„And I recall myself carrying lunch up there,“ Keek reminded him.

„Yeah, but it was me, who bought the chips at three.“

Already about to shot back a reply, Keek hesitated, thinking. „Oh. Right. Well, `kay, my treat then. How about bagles? We didnīt have bagles in hours.“

„I thought weīd go for pizza,“ Muffleby pointed out, but started to head off into the direction of their favorite bagle place already.

„That was because it was still your treat,“ Keek answered, frowning at the other elfīs lack of common sense. „But now itīs-“

„Okay, okay,“ Muffleby cut him off, unnerved. „Iīll eat everything at this point.“ As if for emphasis, his stomach gave a melodic grumble.

„Yeah,“ Keek sighed agreeingly, rubbing his own shirt-and-scarf-covered belly. „Itīs been a busy day, hasnīt it? Itīs almost four, and we didnīt even have cocolate, yet.“

*****


About ten minutes later, with a candy bar already down and three more bagles to go, Keek looked a lot happier, but the content smile, that had been spreading on his face, froze, when he turned from studying the menu once more to see Muffleby unenthusiastically snap a small amount of Christmas Particles into his hot chocolate. He couldnīt be sure, but he thought the Particles werenīt all that sparkly like they should be, and his friendīs gaze seemed to linger in nothingness, as he carelessly swirled the spoon in his cup.

A nagging sting hit Keek at seeing Muffleby so uncharacteristically down, the Childīs Laughter (which is what Christmas Elves have for a heart.) inside him seemed to have stopped just for a split second.

Gently, he reached out to nudge Mufflebyīs hand holding onto the hot cup and earned a slightly startled glance. He smiled. „Know what Iīve just been thinking?“

Seeing the genuine concern in Keekīs eyes, Muffleby swallowed the wise-crack thatīd sprung to his mind and shook his head. „What?“

„That bird might have been right.“

„What bird?“ Muffleby asked, puzzled, ever so briefly glancing away, as a little girl walked past them towards the exit. He quickly sent a fingerful of Christmas Particles flying after her.

She stopped on her way, just for the shortest moment, and when she walked on, her step seemed lighter, fluffier. The elves listened to the inner laughter only they could hear for a moment, then the door fell closed behind her.

„Your bird,“ Keek answered, as if their conversation had never been interrupted.

Muffleby rolled his eyes. „Aw, Keek, Iīm not-“

„No,“ Keek cut him off enthusiastically, bending in closer to prevent Muffleby from bowing his head again, „think about it. A bird is a part of nature, right? So nature told us to 'let it snow'. And nature knows better than the Nickelbuh, doesnīt she?“

Muffleby sighed, though very, very deeply hidden inside the chocolate eyes, Keek could see the beginning of a faint flame to flicker.

„Even if that logic wasnīt completely warped, because I accidentally made that bird sing Christmas carols, and even if I – obviously contrary to you, Hero Elf – wasnīt scared witless by the thought of where else we could be transfered to... How dīyou figure weīre supposed to let it snow? Huh? Any brilliant ideas?“

Since actually that was the part of his plan that still needed some shaping, Keek grimaced grumblyly, snapping ever so lightly against his own steaming cup with his fingertips. A tiny sparkling cloud mingled with the white steam.

Frowning, Muffleby reached out to grab Keekīs hand and place it onto the table, just when a brilliant idea hit his friend, and he snapped his fingers loudly with a happy grin.

This time, the sparkly cloud rose high above their heads, spread widely and seemed to vanish, though, of course, it only clung to the invisible air filling the small café.
Within seconds, the elves could sense giddy inner laughters everywhere, and the teenage girl behind the counter switched the music from Alanis Morrissette to 'Bing Crosby sings Christmas Carols'.

Muffleby and Keek looked at each other, shrugged and turned back to their hot drinks.

„We could call Northrope,“ Keek stated his brilliant idea, his smile fading, when only a groan came from his friend.

„First of all,“ Muffleby started, scowling at Keekīs instant mimicking his lecturing face, „itīs three days before Christmas Eve. He probably has his hands full with the snow, anyway. Second, you know the Nickelbuh has an eye on him – as well as on us, I might add at this point – and third, heīs the reason weīve been sent here in the first place. Even if you get him here, whatīs he got to lose, for Treeīs sake?! Heīs a Snow Elf, they canīt transfer him to Northwest Africa. But us they can.“

Watching Keekīs shoulders slump, as his brilliant idea poofed into a big fat nothing, he took his spoon again to swirl whipped cream into his hot chocolate. „You know, maybe you should start watching the Science Channel too, for then youīd know that weīre not in the warmest country on this Earth. Yet.“

Frustrated, Keek placed his elbow on the table, resting his chin in his palm. Through the material of his t-shirt, the very edges of his wings could be seen slumping like his shoulders. „Why do they even have places where it doesnīt snow? It doesnīt make any sense, does it?“

„Maybe they like it,“ Muffleby suggested helplessly, shrugging a 'what?!'-kinda gesture at the 'yeah sure!'-glance he received for that. „Just because they donīt have feet-numbing coldness flooding their grounds, doesnīt mean they donīt have anything Christmas. Just look at the decorations outside,“ he added, waving at the small window facing a small side street. „They even have fake snow on their windows, donīt they? So maybe they donīt miss it. Itīs just us.“

„How would you know the cold numbs your feet?“ Keek grumbled into his palm, playing with his spoon on the table by having it filled with sparkly particles he then sent flying through the café at an old woman, who sat alone at another window. Discreetly smiling at the grin he could feel starting within her, he let his gaze wander to Muffleby again, a frown suddenly spreading on his face.
„Fake snow?“

„ ... donīt like snow, you ever thought of that?“ Muffleby was just finishing a sentence Keek hadnīt heard the beginning of. „They canīt hear it, after all, so to them it really is just frozen water, not annoyingly loud and nosy frozen water like-“

„Muff!“ Keek cut him off, receiving a puzzled glance.

„What?“

„What was that you said about fake snow? That they have in their windows?“

„Oh.“ Muffleby blinked, then nodded. „Yeah. It comes out of cans. Spraycans. You can spray it onto your window or tree or whatever. Saw an ad for it the other night.“

Keek blinked. „Doesnīt it melt inside a can?“

„Itīs not real snow, Keekdiot. Itīs fake. It just looks like snow.“

„And it doesnīt melt in the sun?“

„No, I keep telling you, itīs fake. Itīs no water. Itīs... donīt know, chemicals or something. Itīs not alive, itīs not like Christmas snow. It even glitters without Christmas particles in it. They showed it in that ad.“

„Howīs that?“ Keek asked, amazed.

Muffleby rolled his eyes. „Because humans think snow glitters no matter what, of course. Theyīve never seen raw snow.“ Glancing up from having taken a sip from his hot chocolate, he frowned slightly at the sparkle in his friendīs eyes. „Keek?“

„And you can buy this stuff?“ Keek asked, ignoring the unvoiced question.

Muffleby nodded. „Yeah, think so. Why, what-“

„Come,“ Keek cut him off, grabbing his arm to drag him with him, leaving a bill on the table. At the door, he turned to face the room. „Happy Christmas, folks!“ he announced and clapped his hands once, sending a wave of sparkles into the air.

„Happy Christmas!“ the whole place called back cheerily.
Outside, Muffleby found it difficult to follow his friendīs fast steps towards the next store. „Whereīre we going? Keek? Keek! Weīre due for the next break, dīyou forget that? The Nickelbuh will have our-“

„The Nickelbuh,“ Keek interrupted him mystically, waggling his brows (though still keeping his voice carefully low), „will find it hard to believe his eyes on his next check.“

A somewhat fearful expression settled on Mufflebyīs features, as he slowed his steps. „Why am I afraid to ask whatīs going on in your head?“

„Because youīre afraid of being stunned by my genius,“ Keek replied nonchalantly and, determined, grabbed Mufflebyīs arm again to drag him along.

„Oh?“ Muffleby panted mockingly. „Funny, thatīs not what I thought.“

„Yeah, yeah, yeah, just keep on going, while you nag, okay? I have a plan.“

Surrendering, Muffleby shrugged his arm free and hurried along, the most unsure gaze finding his determined friend.

"A plan. God help us."


*****


Dusk was sending its beautiful pink light over the baby blue sky, white fluffy clouds traveling through it like ships on a sea. The noises of the city drifted over the streets like the wooshing of waves near an ocean, and finally a cool breeze had formed, letting the leaves on the trees dance in cool air.

Muffleby sat on the front steps to the little, yellow, red-roofed house he and Keek shared just outside the city, stretching his tensed and aching neck backwards along with his big, shiny white wings, that he allowed to stick out of a torn long-sleeved shirt he used to wear inside. It was always nice to stretch out his wings after a long day of work (What with having to really work for one month, maximum, Christmas Creatures tended to become rather lazy over the year, a fact the Nickelbuh just didnīt seem to grow tired of pointing out at any given occasion.) but this day had been an exceptionally effortful one, he thought grimly, dragging one heavy lid up to cast his noisy friend an one-eyed scowl.

Still in working clothes, his scarf flapping about him wildly like an extentional body part, Keek circled the huge pile of spraycans they had carried into their front garden over the last hours, counting them. Or, better, trying to count them, as he was so excited and dragged into happy ramblings, that broke free every now and then, that he never got to the real number, but had to start over and over and over again.

„Twohundredandfifty... This is gonna be just so great, Muff, youīll see! Weīll show `em how Christmas really should be!“

Obviously not expected to answer, anyway, Muffleby just nodded tiredly, rolling his eyes, when Keek once more reached into the enormous pile to pick up one of the cans.

„Keek, put it d...“

But it was too late, the over-excited elf had already managed to – again – cover himself in fake snow, giggling happily with his soft bariton voice nearly high-pitched. There was no blue left on the front of his jeans, and the edges of his scarf were tinged with sparkly white. Spots of it covered his t-shirt, and now he had it in his hair too.

„You know,“ Muffleby said over the giddy laughing, that had already attracted a few tiny Chocolate Elves, who sat on the roof, watching curiously, „I donīt think thatīs healthy, Keek. I mean, for you itīs okay, but I donīt think we should have humans inhale that stuff.“

„Oh, but weīll make it healthy,“ Keek pointed out, glancing up at the Chocolate Elves. „Wonīt we, folks?“

Only now did Muffleby notice them, as he heard tiny cheers and clapping. Briefly, he turned his head to blink upwards, then let his forehead fall into his hands resignfully. „Aw, no, Keek, please, donīt say youīll let them-“

For an answer, Keek only waved the small elves closer, and they spread their delicate wings, flying down to surround him, the quiet giggling sounds their wings made reminding Muffleby of the playground earlier. Heīd never seen so many Chocolate Elves at one place, they usually traveled alone, always busy, always on the search for the lost souls they could hear crying out for them from the far.

They themselves had once been lost ones, forgotten children, until some Christmas Creature had discovered them and turned them into Chocolate Elves. Now, they were returning the gift every Christmas time. They searched for the lost ones and lightly sat down on their shoulders, letting the happiness they were made of soak into them, free them.

Chocolate Elves were the essence of all things Christmas, beautiful, wonderful, happy – and they could be incredibly silly, if they wanted to.

„Kiddos,“ Keek announced, surveyeing his still widening audience, „what dīyou say we let it snow in this poor city this year?“

The cheering was almost loud enough for humans to hear.

Keek beamed.

Muffleby rolled his eyes. Yet, he couldnīt deny the giddy hops he felt inside him, the expectation of happiness.
Might have been just the Chocolate Elvesī presence, but Muffleby knew better, really.

„Well, I admit we have the sparkling and happyning covered, but...“ he said, finally earning Keekīs attention again, whoīd watched with amusement one Chocolate Elf attacking another with one of the spraycans, succeeding in completely covering her in whiteness.

„Hm?“ Keek mumbled, looking at his friend, while casually holding onto the giddy Chocolate Elfīs wings, grabbing the can from her.

Ignoring the scene, Muffleby lifted his wings, spreading them a tad, as he leant more against the steps behind him.

„Who dīyou expect to do all the spraying?“

Immediate silence followed, as numerous pairs of eyes settled on him.

Mufflebyīs wings slumped. „Aw nooo...“


*****


The pink had returned, having switched owners, as it was close to dawn now, when Muffleby dragged his tired self up the lamp pole Keek sat on with dangling legs, proudly surveyeing their work.

„If I was human,“ the exhausted elf muttered, spreading his wings widely, so he could let himself fall back on them in the air, his eyes closed, „Iīd want a new partner for Christmas.“

„If you were human, youīd look pretty stupid with those wings,“ Keek replied casually, not even looking at his friend, as his gaze was too captured by the sparkling, glittering white beauty underneath their feet and everywhere. „We really did it,“ he stated in an amazed whisper.

Muffleby blinked his eyes open. „'We'?!“

Keek ignored him. „Can you hear it? Can you hear it?“ Excitedly, he ruttled his shoulder.

„Keek,“ Muffleby chided, tiredly jerking his arm away. „The only thing I hear is you.“

But Keek didnīt listen. „Itīs singing.“

That, at least, got Mufflebyīs full attention, and he lifted his head slightly to listen. Indeed, their snow was singing. Not as loudly and beautifully as real snow, of course, but it was a soft, unique noise, like finding something in someoneīs voice that seemed to be a long-traveled reminder of home.

„Itīs singing,“ Muffleby whispered, a smile starting on his face. „Itīs really singing!“

„I know!“ Keek replied happily, bending over to look at the white ground so far he almost fell off the pole. „Itīs singing!“

He lifted his head again, grinning widely at Muffleby, who returned the gaze, then started singing along, loud and wrong and bursting with christmassy happiness. It didnīt take long until the Chocolate Elves came flying back to them from all over the city, dancing around their pole, enjoying their team work.

„Thank you!“ Keek called out to them. „How dīyou do that?“

Next to him, Muffleby suddenly frowned. „Uhm... I-I donīt think it was them, Keek,“ he said in a tiny voice, tugging feverently at Keekīs sleeve.

„What? What dīyou... uh uh.“

Having sat upright again, he now too could see the small, bulky form of the Nickelbuh hovering in front of them, arms folded, features as drawn with anger as always.

The quickest, most nervous glance was exchanged between the two elves, who sat completely still, as though their presence couldnīt possibly be detected as long as they didnīt move.

„What are we going to do now?“ Keek asked out of one corner of his mouth, his gaze fixed on the Nickelbuh. It was the most bizarr scene.

Muffleby blinked, looking heartbreakingly boyishly lost. „Blame the little bits,“ he suggested.

Instantly, the tiny crowd vanished, fiercly flapping wings giggling away into every direction of the night.

They were alone.

„I have a better suggestion,“ the Nickelbuh said, his thready voice, as always, changing into a booming growl, when he was angry. „How about blaming the large bits?“

„It was his idea,“ Muffleby burst out, pointing at Keek behind his back with the tip of his left wing.

„Muffin!“

„What? It was!“

Sharply turning his head to the Nickelbuh again from where itīd snapped to his friend, Keek pointed at him too. „He did all the spraying.“

„He made me do it!“

„He bugged me all month long about how much he missed the snow! It was an act of... selflessness.“

„Selfless...?! He did the particles sprinkling!“

„He too!“

„Did not!“

„Did too!“

„Did not!“

„Did-“

„Will you two branchwings cut it out?!“ the Nickelbuhīs voice silenced them immediately. Under his piercing stare, they both let their heads hung, wings slumped. After a moment of silence, the Nickelbuh let go of a deep sigh.

„For Treeīs sake, Iīve met snow that was easier to handle than you two!“

„Sorry,“ the elves mumbled in unison.

„I seem to recall we had a discussion not even half a year ago concerning the creation of snow. Am I wrong there?“ He waited. „Keek?“

„No, Nickelbuh.“

„Muffleby?“

„No, Nickelbuh.“

The Nickelbuh nodded contently. „And what did we agree on concering the creation of snow? Please help me out here, Keek.“

„Itīs not our task.“

„Very right. For your task is to spread Christmas
Particles, isnīt it?“

„Yeah, but we did that too,“ Keek tried, but instantly lowered his head again (a bit lower than before even) at the glare he received for that.

For a long, long moment the Nickelbuh just studied his two elves, at last throwing his short arms into the air exasperatedly. „What am I going to do with you two?! I canīt leave you at any place with a temperature rising above zero at any time of the year, can I? Why are you so bloody focused on snow, anyway?!“

„We... we like its singing,“ Keek muttered at last, peeking up through strays of hazel hair having fallen into his face. „Did you make our snow si-“

„Thatīs another thing!“ the Nickelbuh cut him off gruffly, ignoring the added question, much to the elvesī amusement. Discreetly, they exchanged another glance, knowing full well their superior hadnīt been able to resist the tempation.

„You canīt have animals sing Christmas carols! Youīre spreading your particles like they are dust! I just flew by a café that hasnīt closed all day and night, because theyīre having the longest and biggest Christmas party ever in there. They havenīt opened the windows, yet, and the air is sparkling inside!“

Surprised, Muffleby blinked, looked at Keek, a grin tugging at his lips.

„And no!“ the Nickelbuh hurried to add, lifting a warning finger. „You canīt go there later! Youīll be busy cleaning up this mess!“

Dumbfounded, Keek looked at him. „Weīve to clean it up?“

The Nickelbuh rolled his eyes. „Yes, Keekdiot!“ he said, causing Muffleby to quickly stifle a giggle. „Itīs fake snow, it wonīt melt.“

„Oh,“ Keek said, glanced down, then up again. „You could turn it into real snow, you know?“

Instantly, Muffleby bit his lip, tensing up to the point of his wings rising a tad, as he seemed to try and duck his head inside his drawn up shoulders.

The Nickelbuh glared at Keek, a deep intake of air clearly audible.

If his friend had just turned suicidal or plainly stupid, Muffleby couldnīt tell, yet Keek didnīt look the least scared, and he ignored the fingers discreetly tugging at his sleeve. „I mean that. Why canīt we have it snow here too? Just for once? Just this year?“

„It doesnīt snow in Southern California!“ the Nickelbuh said.

„Why not?“ Keek asked as innocently as a human child, still ignoring the fiercening sleeve-tugging that by now shook his whole arm.

„Because there are no Snow Elves living here,“ the Nickelbuh answered, exasperated.

The tugging stopped. „Thatīs the reason?!“ Muffleby asked, dumbfounded, before Keek had the chance to do it.

For the first time ever, the Nickelbuh avoided his elvesī disbelieving gazes. „Yes, thatīs the reason, and reason enough it is. Without any Snow Elves, there can be no snow.“

Muffleby and Keek looked at each other, down, at each other again. „We made snow,“ Keek pointed out at last.

„No,“ the Nickelbuh growled, his sudden shyness instantly forgotten again, „you made a mess.“

„Yeah, but you made it sing,“ Muffleby hurried to his partnerīs help. „So itīs a singing mess and that...“

„... pretty much sounds like snow to me,“ Keek finished the sentence. They nodded in unison.

The Nickelbuh opened his mouth to snap back a reply, but stopped himself, looked down, looked at them again. „Itīs not cold.“

„Well, duh!,“ Keek said, rolling his eyes, causing both the Nickelbuh and Muffleby to rise their brows in surprise, „of course itīs not cold. Weīre in California, arenīt we?“

„So itīs no real snow,“ the Nickelbuh said, miraciously deciding against snapping his elf to where Plum Pudding grows for having dared to roll his eyes at him.

„Itīs Californian snow,“ Keek said with a cunning smile.
Mufflebyīs eyes popped into twice their size. „Youīre a genius,“ he said matter-of-factly and turned to the Nickelbuh, pointing at his friend with his thumb. „Heīs a genius.“

For some reason, the Nickelbuh looked like he was about to cry. Or have a fit. Whatever would hit him first. „There is no Californian snow. It doesnīt snow in California. Itīs the order of things.“

Keek shrugged. Muffleby too.

„Look around you.“

„But thatīs no real snow! It comes out of cans!“

Keek sighed, shaking his head at Muffleby, who discreetly dared to for once roll his eyes too, both starting to become unnerved by the Highest Christmas Creatureīs slow-mindedness. „The basis comes out of cans,“ Keek explained extra slowly, as if for a mentally not as gifted person.

„But,“ Muffleby took over from there, „now itīs christmasized.“

„And it sings,“ Keek said.

„So itīs not the original stuff anymore,“ Muffleby said.

„But snow,“ Keek said. „Particle Elvesī Snow.“

„Particle and Chocolate Elvesī Snow,“ Muffleby corrected.

„Particle and Chocolate Elvesī and Nickelbuhīs Snow,“ Keek said, lifting his index finger at his friemd.

„Right,“ Muffleby nodded and thought for a brief moment.

„PACEANS,“ they finally said in unison, looking at each other questioningly. Pulling faces, they shook their heads.

„Naaah.“

„Keeksnowīd have a nice ring to it, yīknow.“

„And Mufflebysnow wouldnīt?“

„What, you kidding? Muffinow, thatīd be okay, but... Oh hey!“ Keek snapped his fingers. „Iīve got it! Muffkeenow!“

„Hey thatīs great!“ his friend grinned. „Muffkeenow. I like that.“

„Me too. Muffkeenow. Hey down there!“ Keek called out at the snow on the ground underneath. „What dīyou think?“

The snow... excuse me, muffkeenow, switched to 'Joy to the World'.

Keek straightened up again, beaming at Muffleby. „Thinks it likes it.“

But before Muffleby had even had the chance to open his mouth and reply, a distinctive growl cut him off, sending both their gazes over to the Nickelbuh again, whoīd watched the discussion with barely contained fury, his arms folded in front of his impressive belly, one feet tapping the air he stood on. „Are you fruitelves done?“

„Uhm...“ Keek muttered as if itīd been a real question, cast Muffleby a checking glance and nodded at his superior.

„Yup.“

The Nickelbuh closed his eyes for a moment – inwardly counting to ten – and with a somewhat helpless sigh opened them again, only to be met by the two most heartbreaking Sick Chocolate Elf Looks heīd ever seen on a Christmas Creatureīs face.

„Aw no,“ he said, shaking his head decisively. „You cannot keep it.“

„Please,“ Keek asked, pursing his lips even more.

„No.“

„But listen,“ Muffleby said pleadingly, „itīs singing.“

„Itīs not a real Christmas Creature,“ the Nickelbuh said helplessly. „Itīs made of smelly spray!“

Sulkingly, Keek dragged the corners of his mouth downwards. „The Chocolate Elves are made of smelly kids, arenīt they?“

„But...“

Seeing that the Nickelbuh trailed off, Muffleby tilted his head aside, studying him. „Keek does have a point there,“ he said. „Christmas Creatures can create Christmas Creatures.“

„But...“

„And at least itīs not as nosy as the little bits,“ Keek added.

„Right,“ Muffleby agreed. „And not as needy as snow.“

„As real snow you mean,“ the Nickelbuh said.

Muffleby and Keek rolled their eyes. „This is Muffkee-“

„If,“ the Nickelbuh cut them off boomingly (and, despite their sudden chockyness, still effectively), „we are going to keep this... this... stuff, it wonīt get a stupid name like that, you hear? Weīll call it warm snow.“ A pause. „If weīll keep it.“

Two elf-heads that had been drooping into a frustrated bow snapped up again, eyes wide and bright like boiling hot chocolate, mouths flying open, yet none of them dared voice it, yet. Instead they looked at each other, grins widening, then at the Nickelbuh again, who grumpily rolled his eyes at the show of joy taking place in front of him.

„Y-you mean weīre going to keep it?“ Muffleby was the one to finally ask, his voice tumbling over itself. „For good?“

„Like every year?“ Keek said over his friendīs voice.

The Nickelbuh cast them a very, very long look, then glanced down at the glittering, singing snow... excuse me, warm snow.

When he looked at the elves again, his expression already gave the answer, yet his voice was as gruff as always.

„Weīd need a new kind of elves for that,“ he said. „Warm Snow Elves.“

„Oh, hey, thatīs cool,“ Keek said, not aware of Mufflebyīs wings slumping next to him.

„Uh... wait a second, that doesnīt mean weīve to-“ Muffleby started, but wasnīt heard by his friend, who decisively announced, „Weīd be honored, Nickelbuh!“

And before his shocked friend even had the chance to protest, the Nickelbuh – always one for fast decisions, if theyīd been secretly already made – gave a curt nod, said his usual „so it may be“ with as less enthusiasm as he always did and vanished.

Keek grinned at the empty spot where his superior had hovered before. „Yahoo!!!“ he yelled, his wings jumping up into a full spread and flapping in excitement. „Muff, weīre-“

„Honored,“ came a grumbling voice from next to him, and, surprised, he turned his head to look at his not at all happy looking friend. „I heard you.“

„So whatīs with you all of a sudden?“

Somewhat indignant, Muffleby rose his brows. „You may be honored, lazy butt, but me, Iīm exhausted.“ As he saw understanding sink into Keekīs eyes, that suddenly switched to a 'caught-red-handed-but-trying-to-look-innocent'-expression, he folded his arms in front of him. „And donīt try to tell me youīll do the spraying next year. Or the next.“

„Well,“ Keek stammered, trying his best to look superior and reasonable, „somebodyīs got to be in charge of the little bits.“

„Oh, thatīs just so typ...“ Muffleby started, but froze suddenly, his gaze wandering back to where the Nickelbuh had hovered. To his partnerīs surprise – and, even more so, to his relief – a thin smile spread on his lips. He looked at Keek again, frowning slightly as if heīd just thought of an unsettled matter. „Okay, letīs make a deal then, a lasting one for the order of things.“

As if the frown was contagious, Keek got it too. „What dīyou have in mind?“

„I take care of the spraying. Every year. The whole area.“

Keek tilted his head to one side expectantly.

„And you,“ Muffleby continued, „take care of the rest.“

The frown deepened, the chocolate gaze underneath the furrowed brows jumping from one point in Mufflebyīs face to another as if trying to make out where the trap lay.

„So,“ Keek finally said, stretching the word, „basically itīll stay like today.“

„You take care of the rest,“ Muffleby repeated. “That is everything else.“

Puzzled, Keek thought about that, still frowning. „That is like today.“

Muffleby just shrugged.

„Well...“ Keek said, still confused, but with a tinge of triumph growing quickly on his face. „Okay. If thatīs what you want.“

„Feather for it,“ Muffleby said, reaching behind himself to tear out one of his shiny white wing-feathers.

„Alright.“ Keek was grinning by now, surprised at his easy victory, but not too much to not enjoy it. „Feather for it.“ And he too tore out a grayish feather, handing it to Muffleby, as he accepted the white one.

Muffleby smiled. „Agreed. Nice making deals with ya, Keeks.“

„Always,“ Keek nodded, returning the smile. „You liked the spraying after all or is it the little bits?“

Casually shaking his head, Muffleby looked down at the warm snow, savoring its singing. „No, I just remembered that the Nickelbuh didnīt turn it into real... I mean cold snow after all.“

The smile on Keekīs face faded, confusion taking over again. „Yeah, I know. So?“

„So,“ Muffleby said, casting his friend a sympathetic look „it wonīt melt after Christmas.“ And with a last gentle pat on Keekīs knee, he stifled a chuckle, spread his wings and flew home, leaving the other elf where he sat, staring down at the masses of sparkly whiteness underneath his feet.

THE END

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