Sly leaned over his vixen wife who was snoring lightly. Her face was hidden, resting in the middle of the fluffy pillow she laid her head upon, and locks of cobalt blue swirled all around, cascading over her back and shoulders like a luscious river.
Her husband lowered his head close to her left ear. "Good morning beautiful," he crooned softly, causing the two-toned appendage to twitch. "Time to wake up. It's Christmas day."
A groan sounded from her lips and she rolled over, facing away from him. She mumbled something incoherent, still not fully aware that it was morning already.
He let out a low chuckle and heard his son stirring across the room in his crib, where he'd placed him after waking up only a few hours ago. He walked over to the crib and looked down at Rascal, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. His gaze gradually rose up to meet his father's and he blinked. "Wah," Rascal sighed.
A large grin spread across the raccoon father's muzzle. He scooped him up and held him up in the air. "Hey my buddy," said Sly. "You sleep good?"
Rascal cooed in response, his legs kicking cheerfully in the air.
Sly smiled and placed a kiss on his head. "Good. I need your help with something, someone hasn't gotten out of bed yet. I bet you can guess who that might be." He returned to Carmelita's side of their bed. He sat down on the edge of the mattress and looked down at the foxcoon kit in his arms who was sucking on one of his little fingers. He looked up at his father with an innocent bright-eyed stare.
"Tell Mommy to get up," he told him in a playful tone. Sly placed him on the edge of the bed next to her, keeping his hands on each side of his small body so he wouldn't fall backward. Rascal stared down at his sleeping mother in curiosity. He tilted his head and began to babble. He placed a hand on her arm and started gently patting it.
Carmelita yawned and her eyelids fluttered open. The very first thing she saw was her son's face, his golden brown eyes staring back at her, one little russet hand on her shoulder. At waking up to such a sweet sight, a grin broke out on her face. "Hey my baby," she cooed.
This prompted the foxcoon to giggle in delight at finally seeing his mom awake and smiling.
"Say 'Merry Christmas Mommy'," Sly said to his son.
Carmelita continued to grin brightly. She stretched her limbs and got to a sitting position. She picked him up and gave him a warm nuzzling. "Feliz Navidad mi corazón. Are you excited for presents?"
"Da," the kit uttered after a moment.
Sly's caramel eyes lit up. "Did you hear that? He's trying to say Dada!" he said proudly.
Carmelita smirked at her husband and then looked down at Rascal again. "No sweetheart, it's Mama. Ma-ma," she sounded out each syllable for him carefully.
Sly gave her a mock glare. "Don't try to confuse him Carm. He was on the right track, he knows who his favorite parent is," he said jokingly, his tone light.
Carmelita snorted and gave a roll of her eyes. "Yes of course dear, the one who carried him for nine months couldn't possibly be his favorite."
Sly gave a small snicker and brushed noses with his blue-haired love. She inched off the bed, clutching the baby foxcoon and smiled down at him. "Let's get you fed and cleaned up so we can put your little Christmas outfit on you!" she said excitedly.
After feeding him and giving him a bath, Carmelita dressed her son up in bright red velvet footie pajamas. The end of each sleeve had fluffy white trimming on it, and the collar was trimmed in white fluff as well. The pièce de résistance was the Santa hat that she placed on his head. It partially covered one of his eyes and he made an utterance of puzzlement at having to wear the head attire.
"There! Now you're all ready for holiday festivities!" Carmelita exclaimed as she went downstairs and joined everyone where they gathered in the living room. Penelope and Bentley were cuddled together on the loveseat drinking coffee, and Murray and Tabby were sitting on the couch opposite the love seat, looking at monster trucks as they flipped through a magazine, pointing to certain models and designs that sparked their interest. Sly was sitting on the floor, fiddling with a digital camera. Bentley had told him he'd gladly show him how to work the intricate piece of technology, but Sly had insisted he could figure it out for himself.
"I found one of Santa's helpers," Carmelita announced as she stepped into the living room.
They looked up and all began to laugh at the adorable attire Rascal was wearing.
"Aww!" Penelope said. She jumped up and walked over to Carmelita. "How cute is he?"
Carmelita held him out to the mouse. "Go see Aunt Penelope," she told him. Penelope immediately took him and held him securely. "You are just too adorable!" she squealed and went back to join her fiancée where he sat. "Ah," said Rascal.
Carmelita looked to Sly who was growing frustrated at failing to figure out how to activate the new camera.
"Can't get it to work?" she asked in amusement as she strolled up to him.
He frowned and set the camera on the carpet. "I'll get it eventually," he said, and then extended his arms out to her. She displayed an amused smirk and accepted his invitation, sitting down in his lap.
"You can't resist my charm," he breathed in her ear, snaking his arms around her waist.
She snickered. "Yes it was your charm that got me into this whole mess in the first place," she reminded him.
His only response was hugging her tighter to his strong frame, his ringed tail intertwining with her larger auburn one lovingly.
Penelope was doting over Rascal on the other side of the room. She hugged his tiny body to her chest and gave him an Eskimo kiss. "Oh Bentley isn't he just the sweetest thing in the whole world?"
Bentley took a sip from his mug and then smiled down at the foxcoon who had so much curiosity alit in his eyes that it even made the introverted turtle chuckle a bit. "Mhm," Bentley agreed. "Cutest little hybrid I ever did see."
Penelope picked up a silver jingle bell off the coffee table and shook it in front of Rascal's face. He gasped in awe and started pawing up at it. "Seeing this precious little guy just makes me want kids so bad."
Bentley swallowed his coffee too quickly, and sucked it down his trachea. He began to sputter and cough a few times. "Wh…don't you think it's…a-a little e-early to be thinking about…about that?" he choked out between coughs.
She smiled down at Rascal who giggled at hearing the jingle of the bell and merely shrugged her shoulders.
Bentley was still coughing weakly, and Penelope patted his shell to help clear his airway. "Well," he continued, "Let's just think about getting married first honey. Besides, I'm sure we'll be plenty busy babysitting this one and looking after him when his parents are out on heists."
Carmelita looked up to her husband and flashed a bright grin. "Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, master thief duo."
"Sounds like a neat action flick," Sly noted, scratching at the rough fur on his chin.
Murray handed the magazine to Tabby and hopped off the couch. "Alright, let's open presents already guys!" said the impatient hippo. "Come on!"
Sly smiled and shook his head. No matter how old his hippo friend got, he would always be a kid at heart, and loved presents more than anyone he knew. It was good to spend the first Christmas in years with his buddies.
Murray dug around amongst the abundance of presents all wrapped up in vibrant wrapping paper and great big bows under the large Christmas tree. He pulled one out that was for him and handed one he'd gotten for Tabby to her, and then passed others around to everyone else. He handed one to Bentley who fell with the weight of the heavy box in his arms.
"It's kinda' heavy," Murray warned him a little too late.
The turtle grunted and set the heavy present on the couch next to him. "I noticed, thanks," he said flatly.
Murray smiled sheepishly and then returned to Tabby's side as she was gently shaking the small box with a curious smile, wondering what was inside.
The reptile opened the expertly wrapped present, the label saying it was from Sly. He tossed the paper aside to reveal a manual on how to hack into secure databases such as ones used by the government. He reread the title several times and then looked up at the raccoon warily. "How did you get ahold of one of these? This holds top-secret coding information."
With a shrug of his shoulders, the thief casually replied, "I didn't steal it, if that's what you're thinking."
His friends laughed and the reptile thanked his friend for his thoughtful gift. Among the other presents Bentley received, he was very appreciative of, but they all knew that no one was going to be able to top Penelope accepting his proposal. Throughout the morning the lavender mouse would take small glances of admiration at the small diamond shimmering on her ring finger and it caused a smile to tug at the lips of her fiancée.
The girls gushed over the clothing they'd gifted each other, commenting on how each one loved their scarves, coats and boots they'd been given.
Murray received tickets to the monster truck rally he'd been dying to see that was taking place in January from his girlfriend. He smothered her in a hug, which brought forth a few giggles from the warthog. "That's not all," she told him, to which he released her and gave her a confused look.
"There's more?" he asked excitedly.
She grinned and pulled out a small box she'd been keeping hidden all morning and showed him.
As soon as she handed it to him, he lifted the lid, and stared at the object with a furrowed brow. He tilted his head, and couldn't help but feel perplexed as he looked down at what appeared to be a piece of a plant with white berries. "Uh…what is it?" he asked her.
With a coy but knowing smile, she picked up the stems of the smooth leaves that were tied together with a red ribbon. "It's mistletoe," she answered, lifting it over his head and pecking him on the lips. The red color filled the hippo's cheeks immediately after, and Tabby knew she'd succeeded at finding the right heartfelt gift.
And of course, the one to get the most presents this year was Rascal, and he was still too young to even understand the concept of Christmas and opening gifts, so his parents helped him out.
Carmelita held Rascal in her lap and Sly presented the gifts to him one by one, while Penelope snapped pictures to commemorate his very first Christmas. Sly held out the first present to him and the kit placed a hand on it curiously. "Go on little guy," Sly urged with a smile. "Open it!"
Rascal pawed at the paper a few times, but his masked face twisted up in confusion; he still needed some assistance. With a warm chuckle, Sly helped him tear the paper the rest of the way. Inside the box was a rattle, which Sly handed to him. Rascal's golden brown eyes focused on the new toy, he gripped it in both hands and he shook it happily. His parents had gotten him all kinds of toys, from stuffed raccoons to blocks to picture books with sounds. But of all his presents, he seemed to love his rattle the most. He was a bit frightened of the stuffed raccoon however, which happened to be about his size. When Carmelita placed it in front of him, he shied away, hiding his face into her tail that lay over her lap.
She looked up to Sly, her ears flattening somewhat at feeling guilty for scaring him. "Guess he's not ready for plush toys yet."
Sly reached down and rubbed Rascal's head, and couldn't help but smile at the way he hid behind his mother's tail. Even frightened, he was still adorable.
Rascal's last gift wasn't really something meant for entertainment; it was more so for his parents. It was an ornament with the words "Kit's First Christmas" painted on it. Beneath it was a picture of Rascal when he was only a few hours old. Sly and Carmelita found the perfect spot for it on the towering Christmas tree, despite the dozens and dozens of ornaments adorning its branches already taking up most of the room on it.
After hanging his ornament, Sly offered a small red and gold box to his wife. "While we're giving sentimental gifts," he told her. "For you, my sweet. Hope you like it."
She smiled and carefully untied the silk ribbon. She pulled the lid off and gasped at the piece of jewelry nestled inside. She pulled the gold chain out to see a gleaming heart attached to the end of it. "This is beautiful honey," she said in a breathless voice.
"Open it," he told her with boyish excitement in his tone.
She unclasped the side and opened the locket. Her heart melted within her chest at seeing the picture of their family on the right side. On the left side was an inscription etched into the gold: To my wife and son who I cherish as the greatest treasures of my entire life, I love you both very much- Sly
She bit her lip to keep from crying and gazed back up at him. "Oh Sly I love it," she whispered and took his face, giving him a sweet kiss to express her gratitude. She nuzzled against him tenderly. "And we love you too. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he murmured, returning the tender touch. "Glad you like it."
"How could I not?" she asked, carefully clasping it closed again.
A bright grin spread across his face. "Here I'll help you put it on," he offered.
She nodded in excitement and held her hair back so he could place the chain around her neck.
"Alright Sly, time for yours," Bentley spoke up.
Sly crossed his arms and frowned. "Bent, I told you guys not to buy me anything. I don't need any presents, honest." He held Rascal close to his face, feeling his son's soft fur against his own. He looked to the vixen sitting next to him and winked at her. "I got everything I could ever want or need right here."
A warm smile formed on her lips and she rested her head on his shoulder. "Well, we still had to get you something."
"Yea," Murray jumped in. "What's Christmas if you don't get one present at least?"
Sly's lips quirked into a lighthearted smirk and he shrugged.
Penelope left the room to go retrieve his present. She returned holding a good-sized box wrapped in bright red and green paper. "We didn't want it to get messed up so we kept it in a safe place for you," she explained as she handed it to him.
Sly took it, curiosity sparking within him. "Well thanks," he said with a smile.
Everyone watched as he set the kit down on his lap and began to open the gift from his friends. When he'd finally torn away all the paper and tossed the tissue paper aside, he looked down at what was inside. His eyes widened and he stared down at what lay in the box for several long moments of silence. His slowly looked up to his friend's smiling faces. "H…how did you find this?" he asked in a whisper.
Bentley adjusted his glasses on his nose. "Well, we had to pull a few strings and do some backtracking. We received information from the current residents of your home when you were a child, and they aided us in tracing the belongings and where they'd been taken after you went to the orphanage. It was kind of like detective work." Bentley gave a small laugh and took another sip from his mug.
In Sly's hands was a frame that held a picture of him and his parents. It was the same photo that hung on the front wall in the living room of his old house. It looked to be in the same condition as it had been before that fateful night when the Fiendish Five paid them a visit.
Sly swallowed the large lump in his throat and ran a hand over it. His mom and dad, looking so healthy and full of life. A smile of sadness formed on his muzzle as his gaze fell on himself as a child, the wide grin on his face a sure sign of the joy he felt as a young cub.
They all looked so happy together.
The others sat in respectful silence and let Sly admire his gift. He thought all pictures of his parents were gone forever, lost in the wreckage the night his beloved home was ransacked. Seeing himself with his mom and dad during happier times was so bittersweet for the thief.
The foxcoon kit began to utter baby talk as he tugged on the sleeve of his father's T-shirt, and Sly looked down at his curious stare. He smiled and ruffled the kit's fluffy head fur, lifting the picture up to show it to him. Rascal stared at the image of the two adult raccoons, his light mahogany eyes displaying confusion at seeing the image of the strangers.
"These are your grandparents, buddy." He pointed to the female with wavy ebony locks that fell past her shoulders, and misty sapphire eyes. "This is your grandma…best cook in the world and could tell the greatest bedtime stories ever." He moved his finger to point at the taller male raccoon. "…and this incredible guy right here is your grandpa." Sly grinned as he continued. "And this is one of the rare occasions he didn't have a pipe in his mouth."
Rascal looked down at the couple, his short bushy tail swishing. He placed a hand on the picture. "Oowa," said the kit.
Sly chuckled, finding his interest in the picture increasingly adorable. He sighed, looking at the blue hat that his father wore. It was the same hat that currently lay on his own dresser upstairs. And Rascal seemed to notice that as he stared at the male in the photo.
The other couples held each other close as they watched the sweet family moment unfold.
Sly felt a single tear trickle onto his nose and fall to his lap. He pressed his lips together and exhaled shakily. "I'm sorry you'll never get to meet them kiddo," he whispered to his son. "But they're looking down at you with love right now, I know they are."
"Dabba," Rascal responded, and Sly laughed as he picked him back up and cuddled him.
He felt Carmelita's hand on his shoulder and he looked over at her sympathetic expression. He smiled back at her, taking her hand and kissing it. "Were you in on this?" he asked her.
"Of course mi amor," she answered. "I knew how much this would mean to you, I was happy to help them find this." She held the locket in her free palm. "And I love my present."
He gave another breathy laugh and brought his lips to hers. "I'm glad you love it," he whispered. He picked the picture of his parents up and carefully set it on the coffee table. "Thanks you guys. This really means a lot to me. I love it." He jumped up and hugged each one of them. When he reached Bentley he picked him up out of his chair and gave him a bone-crushing hug. "Thanks buddy," Sly said.
"Yo-u're wel-come," Bentley choked out against his chest. "Now…let me go."
Tabby gasped and looked out the window, pushing the curtains back. "Guys, it's snowing! Oh it looks so beautiful."
The others all crowded around the window with her. The gang members had all seen snow many times before, being that they lived in Paris, but it was always a beautiful sight to see as it fell from the sky.
Tabby hugged her boyfriend's large middle. "Let's go change so we can take a walk outside in the snow!' she suggested excitedly. "I never got to see snow when I was in school in America."
He nodded. "Sure, totally! But, can we eat breakfast first?"
The others laughed. Murray always did put his hunger before fun.
After breakfast and dressing for the cold outside, the entire group took a walk out by the Seine River, several blocks from their house. Carmelita could hardly wait to dress Rascal up in his snow boots and puffy down jacket. She pushed him along in a stroller as she Sly and the other four walked along the sidewalks in Le Havre that weren't as crowded with inhabitants. They soon found themselves in a vast open park that was scattered with trees that were decorated with icicles on the many bare branches.
The ground was covered in a smooth blanket of snow while flakes still floated down from above.
Sly picked Rascal up out of his stroller and knelt down in the snow with him. "See this, bud?" He scooped up a small pile of it and held it close to him so he could see. "This is snow."
Rascal leaned in slowly, still wary of the foreign substance in his dad's palm. His tiny nose began to wiggle as he sniffed at it. But he got too close and his nose came in contact with the icy substance. At feeling how cold it was, the foxcoon made a sound of displeasure and shivered.
Sly chuckled. "Too cold?"
"Hmh!" Rascal grunted and buried his face in Sly's chest, seeking warmth there.
Sly grinned and stood back up. He suddenly felt the back of his head get pelted with cold ice. He whipped around to see who was responsible for the open fire, but there was no one in sight. He narrowed his eyes and handed his son over to Carmelita. He bent down and tapped the kit's nose. "You stay here with Mommy, Rascal. Daddy's gonna go defend our turf, and I don't want you getting hurt." He pivoted on his heels and darted away, scooping up snow and patting it into small spheres as he ran.
Carmelita smirked, rolled her eyes and gave a shake of her head, the commonplace combination of the amused woman. She sighed to the cooing foxcoon. "Your dad and his friends sure are silly, aren't they?"
Carmelita and the girls watched as Sly and his brothers participated in a rousing snowball fight. Sly dashed around behind trees and small snow-covered hills as Murray and Bentley ran and wheeled respectively through the park and and pelted each other with snowballs.
Sly scampered up one of the larger tree's trunks and perched on a lofty branch, lying in wait, more like crouching in wait, to ambush from above. He watched from the precarious limb as Bentley and Murray looked around for him on the ground, baffled as to where he'd disappeared to.
The raccoon tried to step silently, but despite Sly's thin build, the branch still creaked under his weight, causing Bentley and Murray to look up in the direction of the creaking. The small warning still didn't give them much of an escape window, unfortunately for the two, and the thief catapulted himself off the branch, flipping in the air and hurling numerous snowballs in quick concurrence like a living machine gun before they could had time to react. At that point, they ceased to use the duck-and-cover guerilla fighter technique and instead just began to attack each other full force without even bothering to hide. Before long they were all collapsing into the snow, and Bentley collapsed on the seat of his chair, all three laughing until they were out of breath.
The girls decided to build a snowman while the boys declared war on each other, but throughout the afternoon, the cold winter wind picked up and began to blow in harsh gusts. Not being able to adjust to the freezing temperature, even in his puffy jacket and wool hat, Rascal began shivering from in his stroller. Soft whimpering accompanied the shivering brought on from the biting cold, and it didn't go unnoticed by his caring mother. Carmelita looked down at the shaking kit with a concerned frown. "We should probably get back home now, I don't think Rascal's a big fan of the cold."
The girls nodded in agreement.
"Poor little guy," Tabby remarked as she watched the kit tremble and listened to his weak whimpers.
Carmelita called the boys over and notified Sly that the whipping wind was getting to be too much for their son, and they gladly called a truce and ended their snowball fight. On the way back home, they admired all the glorious strands of Christmas lights that festooned the gaps between buildings that flanked the streets downtown. They listened to the melody of the bells that hung on the street corners, ringing in the strong winds that persisted to gust through the area.
Despite the chilly weather that seemed to grow colder by the minute, Le Havre on Christmas day was still a lovely sight with the glorious lights the gang's neighbors had put up in their yards and upon their houses. They each pointed to the decorations they liked best as they swiftly approached their inviting house.
Once back inside, they all gave a sigh as the indoor heat surrounded them. Everyone removed their heavy coats and boots and lounged in the living room once more. Sly took Rascal out of his stroller. "There, that's better now, right?" he asked him in a voice that parents normally use to speak to babies.
The foxcoon was still shivering, though much less now. He yawned and snuggled up in his father's arms.
"Someone's sleepy," he said to the kit, who looked up at his father drowsily. "I'm sure a warm bottle will put you straight to sleep."
As the girls of the house rushed around in the kitchen, talking and laughing as they prepared Christmas dinner, Sly curled up with Rascal in his favorite recliner and fed him a bottle. The infant kit started dozing off as soon as the warm milk reached his lips. Sly watched as his son's eyes slowly closed and he placed a hand on his back as he rested on his shoulder. Sly laughed quietly, noticing that his hand could cover his son's entire back side. He gently stroked his tiny back, sending the kit into a deeper sleep, knowing he was safe and loved as the last thing he felt was his father's comforting touch before he drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
After both father and son took a small nap in the living room, they woke up to the delightful smells of an expertly prepared Christmas feast: smoked ham, greens, mashed potatoes, and red velvet cake and pumpkin pie for dessert.
Carmelita walked into the living room to see her two boys finally waking up. She smiled and placed her hands on her hips. "Ah, woke up just in time for dinner, did we?" she joked.
A half-asleep Rascal grunted and rubbed his face into the fur of Sly's neck. His eyes cracked open and he looked up at Carmelita, who leaned down to kiss his cheek.
Sly poked his lip out in a pout. "I don't get one?" he asked.
She chuckled and gave him a kiss as well. When she drew back, she tapped his nose. "Ok, you got your kiss, and you basically cheated since we're not under mistletoe. Now c'mon Ringtail, time to eat."
He got to his feet while still cradling the sleepy foxcoon. "Yes ma'am," he quipped with a cheeky grin.
Once everyone had finished eating and the table had been cleared, the group gathered outside on the upstairs patio. Bentley had taken notice of the breathtaking light display outside and wanted everyone else to see it as well. But it wasn't one lit with LED bulbs that were connected to strands of electrical wires. This particular light display was one called the Aurora Borealis, and was far more beautiful than any light one could simply harness in a bulb.
Each couple huddled close in the chilly evening air and all six (or seven, counting Rascal) were taken aback at the mesmerizing colors that flowed through the sky, like dancing ribbons of light.
"This is fascinating," Bentley exclaimed. "I was unaware that the Aurora Borealis could occur in a region as far away from the north magnetic pole as France is. This is so intriguing to me."
"Muy magnífico," Carmelita agreed, captivated as the bright red and blue streams of light zipped along the sky, mixing with the purple and green waves travelling across the atmosphere.
The dainty mouse stared up at the lights with parted lips. "It's amazing," she sighed.
Bentley nodded and grasped her hand gently. "Such a marvelous occurrence of highly charged electrons from within the solar wind interacting with the elements in earth's atmosphere. Sure is beautiful."
The tawny warthog shivered as a breeze gusted through and Murray looked down at his girlfriend. He quickly removed his scarf from around his neck and offered it to her. "Here," he said.
She looked back up at the hippo, her icy blue eyes sparkling, and she beamed. "Thanks Murray."
He hugged her from behind. "Anytime, 'The Tabby'," he stated, to which she snickered.
"Laaa!" Rascal cheered as he looked up at the bright lights, and Sly held him securely. He jumped slightly as he felt his loving vixen wife wrap her arms around his waist. "So Mr. Cooper, did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year?" she asked.
He chuckled as she leaned her head against his shoulder, and he leaned his head against hers. "More than I deserve. Carmelita, this is without a doubt the best Christmas I've ever had. Getting to spend the first Christmas with not just my brothers and lifelong friends, as well as the girls they care about, but with you—" He kissed Rascal's soft head of fur, "and our son, is truly my wish come true. It's all I wanted for Christmas, and it's the greatest gift of all."