Nikki and I sipped at our hot chocolate both looking at each other’s letter from Nick. I wondered at the scope of Nick’s power. All of the legends were quite clear that he had lists and knew every girl and boy, but for him to make specific reference to missing Nikki had some odd implications.
Does he have perfect recall? His note says he misses her, which implies actually knowing her. And he confirms that she can’t sit on his lap. And he never had a means to contact her, so his power would be dangerous to her. And in mine, he specifically mentioned the Season. Does he have power beyond the Season, or is it limited to only that time? I wonder—
“What of your gift, Matthew?”
I blinked, refocusing on her. “Huh?”
“You must be pondering some riddle to be so forgetful.”
“Oh, right! Sorry about that. It’s nothing. Just a detective’s overactive brain.”
“I think I would like you to share those thoughts with me, sometime, but for now I want my gift.”
I grinned. “Sure. It’s not as flashy as Nick’s.”
I passed her the envelope.
She opened it delicately, though not as delicately as Nick’s, and then unfolded the printouts.
She read the first, looked at me, and then moved on to the other two sheets. She held the two sheets side-by-side.
“What have you done, Matthew?”
“Well, I got you a year membership to this genealogy website.”
“Yes, I got that part, but these charts?”
“You brothers’ family trees. I know you were interested in what happened to them, and you found out, but I thought you might like to know that you do have relatives still out there. Oh, and I, uh, falsified information about your branch.” I pointed to one part of the tree. “I managed to find another woman with the same name, and made her into you. If people go looking for your name through genealogy, they’ll come up against a blind alley.”
She ran her fingers over the names. Not all of the branches were filled out, but I had found some that lived today for each brother.
“I don’t know what to say, Matthew. This is . . . I don’t have the words.”
“I had some free time between cases,” I shrugged. “It’s good to keep the skills sharp.”
She set my letter aside, and took my hand in both of hers. She was cool to the touch, a feeling which initially repulsed me because it meant she wasn’t human. I hadn’t completely gotten over it, but now I treated it more as a quirk of who she was.
She caressed my hand tenderly, almost as if she was afraid I would pull it away from her. She opened her mouth, closed it, and then repeated the motion, all while staring down at my hand.
Her name snapped her eyes up to mine for an instant, and then she was looking back at my hand, but she mustered herself and met my eyes again, a small, sheepish smile on her lips. “In all my hundreds of years, I’ve never received a gift like this. I have been given riches, titles, power, songs of flattery, and even worship, but never something like this. I will cherish this, Matthew.”
“Uh,” I stammered. “It was no big deal. Like I said, a little time between cases was all. I mean, I didn’t even spring for the fancy charts they could print out and ship.”
“All of those other gifts were from people who ultimately wanted something from me. I think this is the first time when I received a gift that was truly for me.”
My lips twitched into a wide grin. “Well, if you want me to—”
She slapped a hand over my mouth. “You will not spoil this moment with your sarcasm.” She pulled her hand away. “Merry Christmas, Matthew.”
“Merry Christmas, Nikki,”