Hey guys! I think I just managed to squeak this in under the deadline I promised a friend of mine. Anyways, sorry for the delay, but what with the length of these chapters it takes a while to actually get them out - especially with exam week coming up. Hope you enjoy, and I'll be happy to answer whatever questions you have. Oh, and I hope you realize that I'm giving y'all a humor break on account of the somewhat heavy previous chapters and the somewhat heavier chapters to come. *totally not hinting*

Chapter 22

I stretched, long and languidly, yawning. It was Saturday morning, and I was preparing to get ready for the afternoon fun. Lir and Elíl and I had planned the entire thing, setting a few hours on Friday afternoon apart for setting up the basement while Saturday morning would be for food and snacks preparation.

With a weary groan, I heaved myself up and over the side of the bed, steadying myself as the world teetered around me. Arms suddenly wrapped around my waist. "Melda? Are you well?" Glorfindel asked softly.

"I'm fine, just got up too fast," I replied, smiling back at him. He gave me a keen look, then nodded and got up himself.

The door suddenly burst open just as I managed to slide on my shirt, and I started and looked to see that it was Mairon who came charging in and glomped me. "Onónë!" he wailed, and I managed to somehow right myself and pick him up, bewildered.

"Mairon?" I asked, and he buried himself into my side with a sniffle. "Little brother?" my voice was a little more urgent.

"I had a bad dream," he whimpered, and I held him, unsure of what that might mean. Maiar don't dream. They walk the path of dreams at times, but they don't actually dream like we humans do.

"What did you dream?" I murmured, cradling his head to my chest.

"I dreamed that you were hurt," he whispered tremulously. I could feel more than see Glorfindel stiffen, but I shook my head.

"Mairon darling, I'm already hurt," I said wryly. "Are you sure it wasn't just concern for me?"

He sniffled and nodded. "I know. It scared me, onónë."

I kissed his head gently. "I know, Mairon. I know. I'm sorry," I whispered with a heavy heart. "You've seen too much hurt already," I sighed. "Shh, little brother," I said softly. "I am here. I am alright." I kissed his cheek. "You will go down with me?"

He nodded, tear-stained face still half-hidden in my shirt and clutching a handful of my hair. "Come on then, little man of mine," I said, and shifting him slightly on my hip, headed out the door and down the stairs. "We'll make this a happy day for everyone, hmm?" I asked, and he nodded, slowly perking back up. He was young. Once broken, but young, and more prone to rebound.

I met Elíl at the bottom of the steps, and she gave me a curious look. *Nightmares* I sent, and she made an 'o' with her mouth as she nodded.

"Well, let's begin, shall we?" she asked brightly, and Mairon lifted his head and waved over my shoulder. I turned to see Pityo and Telvo come tumbling down the stairs, arguing in their usual twin-fashion.

"Nuh uh, Tyelko only guessed half the time and he still didn't get it right!" one of them exclaimed.

"Yeah well Ammë always gets it right - or rather, four out of five times," the other frowned thoughtfully.

Mairon giggled as Elíl and I rolled our eyes. The twins were always arguing about whether the ability to tell them apart was hereditary or not. The point was moot anyway, since they were always trying to confuse everyone, both their family and strangers. Nerdanel was the only one who could tell them apart, and that only most of the time but not always.

"Pityo! Telvo! Stop your arguing of whatever it is you're going on about this time and put your hair up properly!" Nerdanel appeared at the head of the stairs, motioning at the twins in motherly agitation. Elíl grinned at me before calling back up the stairs.

"Toss the hair ties down, Naneth, and let me do it," she called, and with a grateful smile, Nerdanel tossed the ties as Elíl grabbed the twins and bustled them off, while Mairon squirmed down and followed after to complete the Terrible Trio.

Lir touched my arm as I turned, and with a delighted smile, I took her arm as we meandered towards the kitchen. "Sleep well?" I asked, and she gave me the tired grin that was becoming habitual to her.

"As well as I can," she replied with a faint sigh. "Can't even feel them yet, or see a bump, and they're already eager to make themselves known," she snorted, and I snickered.

"Well think about their genes," I teased, and she smacked me as I went into a shriek of laughter. "You know, we ought to group up some of the elves and give them names, so we can refer to them more easily," I said thoughtfully, after my mirth subsided somewhat.

"You mean like the Terrible Trio?" she asked, and I nodded.

"Like we could call Ecthelion and Glorfindel the GD," I said, and she giggled.

"Gondolin Duo? How original," she teased, and I rolled my eyes.

"You make up one then," I sniffed, and she pursed her lips.

"How about... the FAWD?"

"FAWD?" I repeated, bewildered.

"The Fire And Water Duo," she elaborated, and I gave her a considering look.

"Should've let you name the cafe," I said with a wry grin, and she rolled her eyes.

"Hush, Celine," she patted my arm as we began stirring about in the kitchen. "How about the children?" she asked at length. "Maeglin, Pityo, Telvo, Beleg, and Mairon," she added.

"Good point," I replied, bringing out the cake to frost from yesterday's baking. "How about something simple, like..." I scrunched my nose.

"Just please don't say something like 'the Kids,' because that's just annoying," Beleg said, coming into the kitchen still in his pajamas. Elíl and I laughed.

"Hush, yonya, I'm not that cruel," I reached up to pull on a lock of his hair as he grinned at me sleepily.

"Of course not, Nana. Say, is there any milk?" he poked his head into the refrigerator as Elíl tapped his back.

"Here on the counter, Beleg," she said wryly. "I'm preparing a light breakfast-"

"Light!?" Beleg yelped, hitting his head on the shelves of the refrigerator as he attempted to retreat. He emerged with a grimace and looking more awake. "But I'm starving!"

"Poor baby," I deadpanned. "You'll have to wait till lunch. Save your appetite, cause we've a lot prepared for that," I said, and reached around him for a spoon. "Although come to think of it, my baby is taller than me," I looked up at him with mischief on my face, tapping his nose with the cold spoon.

"Nana, please," he sighed back, though amusement was written plainly in his moss green eyes.

"Well sorry to embarrass you, yonya by opposite adoption," I said slyly, beating eggs with the spoon as Elíl listened and worked with a grin and Beleg threw up his hands and retreated with an elaborate bow of defeat.

"How about something like 'the Pentalents'?" I suddenly said, just as Maeglin walked in, rubbing one eye and yawning.

"For what, muinthel?" he asked in a thick voice, making Lir silently 'awww' as I smiled and gave him a hug.

"For you and the other four youngsters," I replied with amusement, and he looked up at me with his mouth slightly propped open.

"Oh... Huh?" he finally managed, and I grinned.

"We want to give you five a name, dear hanno, so we can refer to you collectively and not take the time to name every single one among the family," I explained.

"So what does it mean? I mean I get that Penta stands for five, but 'lents'?" Lir queried, putting the large plate of toast aside to fill another.

"Take the jam out of the fridge please, hanno, and Lir will pour you some milk," I said distractedly before answering her question. "You could think of it two ways," I replied, "either as a short version of 'talents' since all of them really are proficient at something; or you could see it as being just something like 'lings' or 'ets' as in holics or earthlings and winglets, if you know what I mean," I explained, and she lit up.

"That'd work," she agreed. "What do you think?" she addressed the still-sleepy Maeglin, taking the butter and jam and handing him the glass of milk.

"I think it's fine," he yawned, and padded off again.

"I suppose that settles it," I said in the palms-up gesture, and Lir nodded, a smile hovering around her lips.

"I suppose it does," she replied ironically. "And oh, we have gotto make a name for Tyelko, Nelyo, and Moryo," she said, shaking her head.

"You do?" Tyelko's voice drawled as he came in to sit at the table, undoubtedly smelling breakfast.

"I would be tempted to use the 'Bad Touch Trio', but that doesn't quite match with Moryo," I drawled, and Lir laughed herself silly as Tyelko gaped. "And then I would say the 'Tall, Dark, and Handsome Trio,' but then oh! I realize that that's just one of them," I went on, causing Tyelko to sputter indignantly as Lir almost bent over double laughing.

"And then," I continued to pretend that Tyelko wasn't there, just as Moryo sauntered in, hands in his pockets as his loose hair trailed over one eye. "I have to think about the possibility of 'Ginger, Blonde, and Jet,' only to scrap that cause Ginger sounds horrid and Blonde indicates that all three are dumb and not just one, and Jet doesn't do justice," I added morosely, causing Lir to lean against the counters and attempt to wipe away her tears.

"Impressive, sister. I may have to remember that one," Moryo drawled, settling himself at one end of the table.

"Shut up, Moryo!" Tyelko wailed. "Just because you're her favorite doesn't mean you have to rub it in our faces!"

Moryo's face began to turn red as he glared at Tyelko wrathfully. I pointed at his face with a forkful of ham. "I still think that's called 'blotching,'" I said, and Lir was knocked breathless again as Moryo stood and stalked towards me.

"Oh shoot, I'm in trouble," I squeaked, tossing Lir the fork as I tried to edge away. However, I was trapped against the table in no time as Moryo leaned over me, eyes narrowed. "Trouble? Just trouble?" he suddenly smirked at me. "Oh, I think you'd better come up with a proper name soon, dear schwester," he said, and I paused, before grinning up at him.

"Is that so, bolshoy brat?" I retorted, then poked his nose before crossing my arms. "Well then... Three out of the question, who knows how many more to go," I mused. "How about... The Insane Trio, the Awesome Trio, the Idiot Trio, the Lovable Trio, the-"

"Come up with a proper one," Moryo's voice was irritated. Lir giggled.

"Well what then, The Tall Mixed and Handsome Trio?" I snorted, and Lir went into another fit of amusement as Tyelko and Moryo groaned at the same time. "Alright alright I'm trying! It's never easy under pressure you know!" I complained. "Ummm... The Heartthrob Trio?" I offered, and Lir actually sat down to try to catch her breath.

"I approve!" Tyelko shouted, while Moryo groaned.

"I do not approve. Try again," he demanded. I made a moue at him.

"Oh wait!" I perked up. "I've got it! It's the Fair and Dare Trio!" I said in satisfaction, then flounced away from Moryo's grasp with a sniff. "And that's the best you'll get."

"Fair enough," he sighed, and sat back down.

"Exactly," I grinned, and he closed his eyes and pinched his nose as Tyelko snickered and Lir choked. "Breathe dear sister, breathe," I said in amusement as she wiped her eyes.

"You are wonderful," she sighed.

"I know, darling," I winked, and she rolled her eyes at me.

"Oh shut it," she snorted, but winked back.

"Oh oh, and what about the Sweet and Sour Trio?" Tyelko put in with a wide grin. "Consisting, of course, of Moryo, Amroth, and Elladan," he added, and Elíl and I nearly expired with laughter as Moryo let out a shout of indignation.

"Oh, don't forget the Smithy Trio!" I suddenly piped up. "My dad, Maeglin, and Mairon," I grinned.

"What about me? What's all this?" Dad sounded mystified as he and most of the rest of the family came in. Lir set the dishes of food on the table that I had set, while I counted heads.

"Nothing dad, just a little joke - ah, and that's... not all," I frowned, glancing over the room with my hands on my hips. "Beleg, yonya!" I yelled. "Get over here for breakfast!"

"A light breakfast," Beleg grumbled, coming into the dining room, while the corners of his lips twitched.

"Sorry, dearest," I said sweetly, giving him a shark-like grin.

"And Terrible Trio, no stealing treats before lunch," Lir pointed at the three, who gave the 'who me?' looks that fooled no one.

"Ivy, would you mind sitting next to the Fair and Dare Trio?" I asked absently, sliding a large platter of ham on the table from my hip.

"The what?" poor Ivrinel looked baffled and half-amused as she stood uncertainly.

I smirked at her as Lir began laughing. "Guess, honey," I replied, and she raised an eyebrow.

"Assuming that you are referring to the looks of the elves, that doesn't give me much to work with, but let's see what I can do. Let's see, scratch out the younger ones. Perhaps a reference to hair? But no, that doesn't quite match, since it could describe several here... Of the elves who we have joined, who here has been the most daring towards life? Or perhaps let's start with Fair..." she pursed her lips as everyone listened raptly. "Oh right!" she snapped her fingers, then frowned at me.

"You just had to put me with them," she pouted, and Lir started laughing again, causing Maglor to smile as he helped her sit down. "Anyways," Ivrinel sighed, "Celegorm the Fair, obviously, and then one of the more daring ones has been Morifinwë... So that only leaves the obvious conclusion that the third - since it's a trio - must be one of the Fëanorions, which means that refined Maglor is out of the question for such a gaudy trio. That leaves Nelyafinwë," she concluded, and then promptly sat between said copper top and Tyelko.

"Thank you for the compliment," Tyelko grinned, and was immediately face-planted into the table by his collar, courtesy of Ivrinel's inhuman reflexes.

"Thank you for the peace," Moryo told her, and she smiled sweetly.

"You're welcome," she replied, and smothered laughter went around the table. A plan began to form in my mind as I went over her deductions. You thought that was just a joke? Oh no. I think Master might be rubbing off me with his deviousness -

*Care to come here and try?*

I visibly started from where I was leaning over the counter, and immediately my head crashed against the cabinets. I retreated with a yelp and grimace, drawing not a few stares. "I'm fine!" I said hastily, laughing ruefully. "Just got a start there for a moment..."

*Ehm, well, why don't you and Ammë join us, Milor? Of course, Uncle Irving and Aunt Esther are welcome as well...*

A roar of laughter greeted my comment. *Irving?* a familiar voice bellowed. *Irmo, do you hear what your niece has dubbed you?*

"Friar Tuck, that's not nice!" I slammed a cup on the table, glaring into the air. Everyone at the table stared at me. Elíl and Lir looked like they wanted to die right then and there from suppressed laughter. There was a dead silence on the ósanwë frequency.

Then: *I think it suits you, Tulkas. Hearty, laughing, laughable, robust, a mean punch, fond of his pies and drink and hunts and dogs - need I say any more?*

That did it. The ósanwë frequency erupted, as did Lir and Elíl. They bent over double laughing, while the rest of the family clamored for an explanation. "I'm a genius," I replied complacently to their demanding questions. "And by the way, we'll be having four other guests - excuse me, five," I said with a nod, sitting down.

"Who, dear?" Nerdanel asked, a bit anxiously.

I grinned at the rest of the table. "Oh don't worry, they'll being some refreshments as well. Nate, Violet, Irving, Esther, and Nina will be our - erm - esteemed guests," I said, barely managing a straight face. There was a confused silence before sudden recognition dawned among the Valinorian elves and a clamor of laughter and babble arose. Elíl was leaning back in her chair and crying with laughter, while Lir clung to Maglor and laughed hysterically.

"Oh, eat up," I told them good-naturedly. "I honestly don't see what's so funny about it," I huffed.

"So dubbing lord Tulkas 'Friar Tuck' isn't funny?" Elíl gasped, and I buried my face in my hands as the table erupted with amusement again.

"Shut it," I mumbled, and it was with difficulty that they calmed and began eating. By then, of course, the food was a bit cooler than they were used to, but they didn't say a word when I raised eyebrows at them.

...

"Okay okay, gotta ask here, what exactly are we doing?"

"Is that the first thing you ask when you walk in someone's door?" Lir sounded amused as she pinched his cheek. He grimaced but laughed.

"Oh, sorry mother," he replied with a cheeky grin, and she smacked his shoulder.

"She always smacks, Ben, take it as a compliment," I called, walking towards them down the hall.

"I do not!" Lir protested as I laughed and gave Ben a half-hug.

"Move aside, Ben, you're such a large bulk you cover up poor Zach!" I laughed, sliding around the youth and smothering the blushing Zach in a large hug.

"A-ah, thanks for inviting-ing me," he managed, pushing up his askew glasses as I let him go.

"No prob Zach, now come on in! Elíl is-"

"Right here and eager to see you, Zach!" Elíl called, and smothered him again. I ushered them in, but before I closed the door, I stood on the porch and looked out into the light snow. A young man was passing by the road, apparently just taking a leisurely stroll, earbuds in his ears. He looked up just as I turned to walk back in, and our eyes met. After a moment of staring at a familiar blue-grey, I smiled and winked, then walked back into the house, shutting the door carefully.

"See something?" Glorfindel asked, slipping his arm around my waist and escorting me to the basement. I smiled at him.

"Our child," I replied softly, and he gave me a look before nodding.

"Ah," he replied knowledgeably, before pausing to let me sweep Mairon up and head downstairs.

Ben and Zach were standing in the doorway, mouths open as they stared at the pool and game stations and all the chairs, tables, towels, and snacks set out. "This. Is heaven," Ben breathed, and the family laughed heartily.

"Oh no, heaven is so very much better," Lir answered with a grin, and they snapped out of it to grin sheepishly and shuffle in. I set Mairon down, and he immediately ran for the red-headed twins. Just then, there was a ring at the door.

"Oh, you guys start the fun, I'll get that," I called, and after an affirmative recognition from the rest, headed back up. I walked to the door and after a slight breath, closing my eyes, opened it with a smile.

As expected, there were five smiles to greet me as well. "Hello family," I said with a grin, and let them in. "I half expected you to just appear in the basement," I said in amusement, and Irmo scoffed.

"And scare the poor children half to my brother's demesne? Not a chance, child," he replied with a wink, and I laughed as I closed the door.

"Of course, uncle Irving," I replied with a saucy curtsey. "Make yourself entirely at home," I said with an exaggerated flourish before flouncing away, gentle laughter following after me.

"Do I get no greeting, yeldë?" a gentle voice asked at my elbow, and I stopped, looking straight ahead. His presence at my side was almost unbearable in its intensity. My breath shook as I closed my eyes.

"I am always honest with you, m'lord, so you will forgive me if I say that I feel awkward," I replied quietly, and felt that he folded his hands into his sleeves. The rest had gone downstairs already.

"And why would that be?" his voice was so mild that it was impossible to believe that he felt disturbed in any way.

"You know why," I replied, not accusingly, merely stating a fact.

"Your essence is troubled, dear one. It fluctuates wildly," was the calm rejoinder.

"You truly think that our relationship will be unchanged?" I asked, voice cracking.

"No. But I would like to think it has progressed, not regressed," was his answer, just as quiet as mine. I finally turned around to look at him.

"I don't understand," I whispered, searching the deep purple, slate eyes. "I feel ashamed of myself... I must have embarrassed you," I said miserably, and the eyes softened into liquid twilight.

"No, dear one," he replied, his voice low and rumbling. "You have pleased me and honored me more than you know. Any embarrassment is on your part only," and for the first time, he reached out to touch my cheek.

I hesitated one last time. "Atto... wilt thou accept my confession, though it was not my purview to disclose my heart to those within the Ring?"

His hands came out fully to draw me closer. "My child, only if thou wilt accept mine aching yearning to greedily hoard such love as thine, filled with cracks though I may be," was the answer, and I finally relaxed, clutching handfuls of his shirt in my hand.

"I need your help more than ever, Atto," and when he gently stroked my hair, I knew that we had understood each other and had come to wordless acceptance. Then with a sigh, I pulled back. "Well, I will count on you to give me guidance when I need it, Atto - but, let's put that aside for now and go down and have fun!" I said with a smile, then did something I was sure that he'd never expect; both in attempt to surprise him, and also in attempt to show him my thanks.

In a quick movement, I reached up on tiptoes and grasped his shoulders, pulling him down to kiss the pallid cheek before pulling back and giving him a cheeky grin, skipping downstairs. It was with a laugh that I arrived downstairs to find that Elíl hadn't let go of Irmo yet, and that Lir was chatting with Nienna. Estë and Vairë were happily chatting with the other women, while the children were in the pool with the Fëanorions, Peredhils, Zach, Ben, and Glorfindel. Ecthelion and the older ellyn were talking with Irmo, and as I came down they turned to greet me.

"Where's Nate, dear?" Vairë asked as I went to hug her. I gave her the Cheshire cat grin.

"Probably getting the blush off of his pale face before coming down," I replied with a giggle, and she raised an eyebrow. "Oh Ammë, you know that Atto has never handled cheek kisses very well, much less in publiiiic~" I cast the teasing word in Atto's direction, who had just arrived, before quickly going to change before he could so much as say a word. Riotous laughter broke out as I heard Atto sigh.

"Onónë! Hurry up!" Mairon whined, and I laughed as I eased myself into the pool.

"Alright, little bro- oomph!" my statement was cut off as Mairon tackled me underwater. I came up with a gasp. "Oh you little-! You'd better swim, Annatar!" I cried, and he swam away with a shriek as I plunged after. A moment later, Maeglin came up behind me and grabbed me around the waist.

"Run, Annatar!" he cried through his laughter, while I spluttered and protested.

"Ai, no fair hanno! Brian, come and help your poor Naneth over here!" I called, but Beleg was far too busy laughing himself silly at me to listen. "Stop laughing!" I said pettishly, but it only drew forth a new burst of laughter. "Fine then," I muttered, then with a quick twist, dunked Maeglin underwater and dove for the cackling Mairon, managing to snag him as he shrieked.

"Got you!" I cried, then swam over to the side to sit on the edge of the pool and haul him into my lap. "Now what are the odds, sweetie?" I asked in a sickly-sweet voice, while he giggled and tried in vain to escape. "Hmm, doesn't this seem like deja-vu?" I asked him in amusement.

"It does!" Elíl called from the other side of the pool. "In fact, I'm hoping no one will drop from the sky this time," she said, and grinned and winked.

"What's that look fo-" I was cut off as someone pushed me into the water. I came up with a splutter to see a laughing Maeglin. "You- hanno!" I shrieked, splashing him mercilessly as he ran away. "Brian Cad DelaFiore, stop your laughing or else I will drag you to your doom," I called, shaking a finger at him. He sat up with a straight face and innocent look.

"I thought that was my job," Námo called, amusement lacing his tone.

"... I told you to be careful, Atto," I replied with all solemnity, or as much as possible while climbing out of the pool dripping wet. "Children are supposed to follow in their parents' footsteps; it's not my fault you chose undertaking," I replied with a straight face, causing roars of laughter to break out afresh. Námo threw a towel expertly on my head, shaking his own.

"Impertinent child! Have you dealt with this much, David, Joy?" he beseeched my parents, who gave him the 'I've-seen-it-all-now' looks.

"Welcome to our wonderfully terrible, horrifyingly fantastic world," my Dad replied with a flourish and a suppressed grin.

"Oh come now dearest parents," I broke in with a grin, "where else are you going to find such sass and class in one stupendous package?" I asked petulantly, while Elíl and Lir nearly passed out from laughter.

"What am I then?" Elíl broke in amidst the indulgent groans.

"Oh I don't know, snit and wit," I shrugged, and she sulked while her parents gave me looks like I was a genius. "And don't forget that dearest Lir is... you know what, I just can't be harsh on Lir. She's too sweet," and with that, I pranced away to Ivrinel who was looking at the sweet tables.

"Thank you dear sister!" Lir called, and I waved her comment away airily.

"Ivy, have you tried any?" I asked.

"Well.." she gave me a slightly sheepish grin. "I tried the fairy cakes by - erm, Miss Nina, and they were heavenly.."

"Oh well then, I must try them too," I declared, and with a wink of thanks, grabbed three and went to the pool.

"Ben, Zach, try these! My aunt made them," I said cheerily, and tossed them the cakes.

"What are they?" Ben asked curiously. Zach studied his through fogged glasses.

"Fairy cakes!" I replied, and crammed one into my mouth.

"... Isn't that a b-bit much for one b-bite-?" Zach seemed extra nervous and timid around me now, though I was expecting that. His feä was surprisingly steady considering that he had just been informed the day before that he was dealing with non-humans. Ben was much steadier then he had been, but he didn't have the same calmness that Zach did. It was impressive and told much about his character.

I chewed and swallowed. "Nope!" I replied cheerily with a wink, licking honey off my fingers.

"Oh, so they get one and I don't?" Glorfindel swam up, mischief in his eyes as he frowned at me.

"Go get your own, mister," I teased back, standing to wrap myself in a towel and get a plate of treats. I plopped myself down next to Námo and Vairë, munching on my plate of goodies. Atto reached for a honey cake made by Ammë, and I snatched my plate away.

"Atto!" I cried with a scandalized voice. "Don't you know it's a terrible wrong to steal!?"

Elíl snorted. Námo sighed, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. "Very well child, what shall I give you in return?" he asked, resigned.

I pretended to think, pursing my lips, when Dad let out a gasp. "You've done it now, Nate!" he exclaimed. "You'll be enslaved forever!"

"Oh hush Daddy dear, I'm not that cruel," I grinned. "In fact Atto, I'll give you my request later," and I proffered him the plate. He raised an eyebrow but took it nonetheless, raising the cake in a toast.

"And I shall show my trust by accepting the bargain in advance," he replied, and began to eat the cake as Dad let out an exaggerated whistle.

"You must have great faith in your child, brother mine," Irmo noted with a straight face, sipping at a cup of tea.

Námo raised his eyebrow at his brother. "Should I not?" he replied calmly, though amusement overlaid his tone subtly.

"Say Atto," I remarked, pretending as though I hadn't heard a word, "I was wondering-"

"Now Atar preserve us all," Námo muttered, and smothered laughter went around.

"It's rude to interrupt Atto, really, where have your Valar-ly manners gone?" I scolded before going on. "As I was saying, I was wondering if you've ever tried to write fluffy poetry. I honestly don't think it would work too well. Your handwriting is just so sepulchral it's like reading about 'sugar and sweets and everything nice' on a tombstone. Doom and gloom straight from the doom-master's pen," I finished, and was privileged to witness the lord of Mandos choke on his cake as the rest howled with amusement.

"You'd better write that reaction down for future reference, uncle Irmo," I said calmly, polishing off my cake. "I do verily believe that that is the first time I've seen him any other color than white or Crimson. That is a lovely burnt orange, I dare say."

Irmo chuckled indulgently at me and winked, while Vairë leaned back and laughed herself to tears. "Oh my dear, you are too much not to love," she choked, while I smirked in self-satisfaction.

"I'd love to get up and stroll away right now in a wonderfully heroic exit, but I think I've eaten too many cakes," I replied merrily, brandishing said sweet in my hand before taking a hearty bite. Lir was gasping for breath, and Elíl was on the floor.

"I don't know why I haven't made you into a mannequin for my halls," Námo groaned, and I snickered.

"Dearest master, I'd haunt your halls to the end of the ages while poking fun at my own poor mannequin self, and use it as a court jester when the Valar gather in the Ring of Doom, and you know it!" I replied cheerily, and everyone lost their breath.

*Somehow I do believe she'd be the end of our reputation if you did, Námo.*

"Hence why he is the all-wise pronouncer of Doom, Uncle Manny. Though, he is also the shortest of the Valar. Don't think I don't know that Atar wanted to be able to say that Atto is His 'little predictor' of fate and fortune," I went on, so relaxed and causal in my insolence that it was impossible to take me too seriously.

My remark was drowned by laughter over ósanwë. "Note to self, Uncle Irving - cracking jokes make Valar laugh themselves to silence," and we toasted our medical observations with proper aplomb.

*I'm not sure whether to be offended or not.* Oromë remarked, laughter thick in his tone.

"I am," Námo attempted to regain his tattered dignity.

I turned on him with wide eyes. "You know I love you, Atto," I said in my best baby voice, and saw his eyes soften as he looked at me, knowing the more serious meaning behind the comical phrase.

"I'm tempted to doubt at times," he mock-growled, though I saw his slate eyes turn to violet liquid.

*Adorable* Tulkas snarked.

"Oh, did I hit a nerve you haven't forgiven me for, dear Friar Tuck?" I asked sweetly, and more roaring commenced.

*Yes.* was the answering sulk.

"Dear me, I'm sorry aunt Nessie, I've given you work to do haven't I?" I asked, twiddling my thumbs like a chastened child while others looked on in eager amusement.

*Welcome work, dearie.* was the only sly answer.

"..."

"Cat got your tongue, Padawan?" Námo asked innocently. I looked at him.

"0_0. I'm not Scottish but I just realized I called her Nessie."

Elíl and Lir lost it completely while the others looked bewildered. I refused to elaborate. How do I explain that!?