8 Months Later

December 25, 2036

Maui, Hawaii

Christmas morning in Maui, Hawaii, was the one thing Cassie loved. Unlike a traditional cold snowy white Christmas, Christmas on Hawaii was a unique, warm, and lush holiday. Cassie and Derek were released from the University of Hawaii in Maui to go home and celebrate Christmas with their families.

Niko was even invited back home to celebrate Christmas with his family. Although Cassie wanted Derek to spend time with her, she knew that he had a family to celebrate Christmas with. She woke up in her bed in warm soft pajamas and walked downstairs. Her mother and father, Nathan and Elena Drake fell asleep on the couch. Cassie wiped the sand out of her eyes and looked at the plate of Christmas cookies, milk (both for Santa), and carrots (for the reindeers).

Cassie moved towards the plate and picked up a half eaten M&M cookie. She smiles at seeing the bite marks and gazed into the half-full glass of milk. Eight and a half out of nine carrots have been eaten.

She looked under their natural and decorated Christmas tree to see a ton of presents under there. She smiles warmly as she sees one present addressed to her. Then she spotted a blue wrapped present that she made for Derek. Her eyes targeted the watch on her right wrist, noting that it was still five-thirty o'clock in the morning.

"I put Derek's present under the tree because I thought that he was celebrating Christmas with us." She was genuinely proud of the gift she got him but was sad that Derek was not there to receive it. "I can still deliver it; he should still be asleep." She quietly jogged over to the tree, not wanting to wake her parents. She crouches down, reaches under and grasps Derek's present.

His present had the shape of a box of chocolates shaped like a heart, which represented what Cassie was increasingly feeling whenever he was around her. She just had to get this gift to her friend before he woke up. She wanted it to be a surprise. The present that she got Derek was a heart-shaped box of chocolates indeed, each with a different strawberry flavor.

"His house is only two miles away, I can make it in time before Mom and Dad wake up." Cassie clutched the present gently against her chest, jumped to her feet and went to the counter to grab her keys. She walked as slowly as possible to the front door, being careful not to wake up their age-old dog, Vicky, whose cage was placed near the door.

Even when she heard the creaking of the door opening slowly, she felt like it was the loudest sound in the house. She heard the leather cracking on the couch from where her parents were sleeping and quickly dashed out, carefully closing and locking the door behind her.

Aw shoot, my shoes. "Guess I'll have to run there barefooted."

She wasted no time and started running towards Derek's house while the sky was still pink from the sun rising.

The weather was somewhat cold, but Cassie wasn't complaining. She was never going to take warm heat for granted, ever. Her adventure in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, made her appreciate how warm her home was. Speaking of which, eight months ago, after Cassie finished her Lost Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra adventure, she traveled back to Egypt to have a funeral for Kamille, which Omaria even attended. They just buried possessions belonging to Kamille in a coffin. Niko went to the hospital to receive treatment for his broken arm, which healed seven weeks later. And as for Overlord, they were still out there, their supreme Leader still alive, but Cassie has never heard any news update on them. Her guard was still up, however.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, she hummed to herself. Even at the age of twenty-two, Cassie was still a believer in Santa Claus and had a movie to prove it. Actually, she wished for this one movie-Transformers-told no one about it, never wrote it on a list, whispered to herself every day when she was five in the corner, Can you get this movie for me on Christmas, Santa? On Christmas day, she did indeed get the first movie and was now a true, and permeant believer in Santa Claus.

She ran about a quarter of a mile and was not yet out of breath. When she reached the halfway point, she was slowly starting to show signs of fatigue. She ignored the tiredness because she had to put Derek's present under her tree. She never handed Derek his present herself, preferring to hide her present under his the tree and that was her tradition.

After reaching his house, she climbed up the steps on the front porch, her feet feeling numb due to running barefooted for about ten minutes, and took out her key to open Derek's front door. It is indeed nice to have a key to your friend's house.

She pushed the door open carefully and peaked through, all the lights in the house turned off and the multiple sounds of people snoring gave her reassurance that she was the only conscious person in the house.

She leaves the door open and slowly proceeds to the tree in the living, knowing that is where the Lowell traditionally put their naturally white colored Christmas tree. She froze dead in her tracks when she was Derek asleep near the Christmas tree.

Oh, that's Derek's Christmas tradition; how did I forget?

Derek's Christmas tradition was falling asleep near the tree area so he would be the first to open presents when he woke. He had been doing this since he was twelve and apparently, still does even after ten years.

This made Cassie's goal a little more complex. She tiptoes over to the white tree, stepping over the snoring Derek and very slowly and silently puts the heart-shaped present underneath the tree in front of Derek's face. She pulled her hand back and looked down at Derek with a smile. She whispered to herself very quietly that only she could hear, "Merry Christmas."

After her mission was complete, Cassie snuck out the house, locking the door, and ran all the way back to her parents' house, taking her another ten minutes. By the time she got there, it was about five-fifty-five and the sunrise was greater than before. Once she got inside, she put her cold feet in her mother's soft fluffy slippers and walked back upstairs to go to bed. Before she went to sleep, she looked to her closet, feeling nostalgic all of a sudden. She moves towards the closet door to open it and pull out a chest labeled, 'My Adventures'.

She sits on her bed as she opens her chest and looks inside. Her blue journal labeled 'Cold iron' was the one journal that she used to help her find the Cold iron in Bosnia almost eighteen months ago. Several trinkets she collected along the way were inside as well, but she left them alone. And as for her Cleopatra adventure, she labeled the red journal she used as 'Antony/Cleopatra' and smiled upon retrieving it. "Man oh man oh man," she said to herself. "What a couple of stories I have to tell to my cousins as soon as Uncle Sam and Aunt Magna arrive."

About an hour later, her mother and father did wake up and open presents that they got for each other. After that, Nate invited his Uncle Sam and sister-in-law, Magna, whom he has been married for nine years, to come over to their house with their three children, who were around the ages of five, six, and seven.

Cassie sat down with her three cousins and told them stories about Easter Island, Iceland, Bermuda, Bosnia, and their most recent adventure, Saudi Arabia. Out of all the audience, she tells her stories too, she likes telling her stories to her three cousins.

"So after we find the Tomb of Cleopatra and Antony, we discovered that mummies really were indeed alive. These mummies don't eat people though, they suck the life out of you." She began on explaining how they determined which kind of afterlife a person would go to if they died back then. "So if your heart was heavy, then you would be going to a bad afterlife. If your heart is lighter than a feather or as light, then you would be going to a good afterlife. One of the mummies actually pulled my heart out and weighed it. My heart was light as a feather, so that means I was spared."

The first cousin aged seven rose his hand. "Can we come with you on your next adventure?"

"Only if it does not include being shot at, stalked, or other stuff, then you can. Is there anything else? Plus, you got to ask your parents for permission."

The first cousin once again raised his hand. "Why do you always ask your friend Derek to come with you on adventures? Do you like him?"

Cassie started blushing but hid it from them. "I do not like him."

"Then why do you spend a lot of time with him?"

Can't believe I'm being called out by a seven-year-old. "Okay, I will admit. To some degree, I do like Derek. I think he is cute, and I like being around him, I admit defeat." Her cousin then asked if she loved Derek. "Do I love Derek? I…." she was stumped, unable to say anything.

She gripped her left hand an her index finger traced the superficial X that she gave herself for Derek. She hid the scar from her cousins, but she gently traced the scar, which will now be a permanent reminder of what she did for Derek just to make him feel beautiful and she still did not regret it. "I don't know if I can answer that correctly."

The End of Chapter 7


Credits

Cassie Drake

Derek Lowell

Niko Lowell

Omaria Al-Bashir

Ahmed

Faris "Farid Zaman" Zaid: #584901

Hamed Najam: #584902

Lachina Onassis: #584903

Harkov Mayakovsky: #584904

Khaled: #584905

Rahmaan: #584906

Achmed: #584907

Stalker: #584910

Observer: #584911

Salaam: #584912

Tirdad: #584913

Kamille Al-Bashir: #584914

Mad Hatter Soldier: #584915

Malik: #584916

Marid: #584917

Kareem: #584918

Baseplate

Security Officers

Cab driver

Bellhop

Nathan Drake

Elena Drake

Samuel Drake

Magna Drake

Cousin 1 (Andy)

Cousin 2 (Nancy)

Cousin 3 (Laurie)

Merry Christmas to you all. Thank you all for reading my story, it means a lot. Feel free to share reviews or criticisms, and don't forget to share this story with your friends and family. Thank you all and once again, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.