Christmas time.

Bells would chime.

Let's decorate a tree,

bake some cookies,

pack presents

and be all happy and smiling.

Yeah, right. As if.

Balthazar, sitting in his newly acquired armchair in his newly rented apartment, snorted at the mere thought. Yes, Veronica finally was free. So was he, for Dave spent a lot more time with Becky these days. And yes, the old sorcerer actually enjoyed the kind of peace that came with the absence of his apprentice who had, not long ago, beaten Morgana La Fay, the most evil witch of all time, barehanded at that, literally. Without his ring, he'd deflected her attacks, reverted the flow and hit her hard enough to pulverise her, again, literally.

Then he'd saved Balthazar himself. As the man in question thought about it, a quiet smile crossed his features. It took a lot of determination and affection for the revival magic to work. So when the boy called up his small version of the Merlin's Circle and removed the Death curse Morgana had thrown at him, effectively stopping his heart, it would work just because of their bonding. Master and apprentice, friends, if you asked the old man.

Then again.. He'd never told Dave just how uncalled for his help had been, even if the victory was totally his. See, Morgana never loved her minions, didn't even know most of them, as some died far off England or long before she'd even been born. Even if she had the chance to finish her spell, it would've crushed down on her anyway, bent satellite dishes or not. But Dave had come. He would've come if he'd known about the chances Morgana was taking, too.

Soft steps came closer and stopped just a second before gentle hands covered his eyes.

"Guess who?"

"Mrs Clause?"

"Not quite, dear"

As his sight was restored, Veronica's arms had slung around his sitting form and her darkhaired head rested on his right shoulder. Emeralden eyes looked at the same fireplace, crackling with golden, warm flames as his. They spent a while just remaining like this, until the ring of the door bell made the both of them jump.

"Must be the pizza service", Balthazar suggested and Veronica sighed, stepped back and watched her beloved man stand up stiffly, joints cracking all over. He'd never quite recovered from that last battle, even if he tried to hide it, she was sure sometimes he was still feeling it.

As he went to open the – once again ringing – door, she took place on the couch, continuing to watch the fire. When she heard a squeak – which took her by surprise, for it sounded almost like a girl – she looked over her shoulder, towards the hallway, sceptism putting her forehead in folds. She heard a low mumbling, someone laughed, then the door closed and three pair feet came walking back in. Balthazar led the group, behind him Becky and behind Becky... Dave.

"David! How nice to see you", Veronica exclaimed, jumping up enthusiastically and turning to Becky. "And Rebecka, it's so good to see you too, how are you?"
"Fine, I guess..", Becky said, slightly puzzled by the sorceress's energy.

Balthazar gave it a slightly deranged smirk as he went back to his armchair, inviting the guest with a gesture to sit somewhere too. They sat on the couch, watching Veronica disappear into the kitchen.

"So", Balthazar said. "How's 'being the prime Merlinean' treating you, Dave?"

"Don't even ask, man. There's not a day when I'm not attacked by trolls or rabid dragons or such. You wouldn't believe me if I told you.. oh wait, nevermind, you do, right?"
"Hundreds of years of experience, Dave. You'll get used to it. Once they know you're not their prey, they'll start leaving you alone. That is, if you live long enough to see it."
"Ha ha, you've been to entertainer college lately?"
"Correspondence course. Any evil sorcerers coming your way?"

"Beside you?"

Almost instantly, Dave flinched, even before the glare hit him. The apprentice – well, actually he was a fullfledged sorcerer if you asked him – raised his hands in defense, grinning nervously. His master snorted and shook his head. No plasma bolts for today, much less in his apartment which had been decorated by Veronica – and the sorceress would have both their heads on a silver platter if they went and had one of their duels in here!

Said woman then finally returned, carrying said silver platter with some self-made snacks of bread-y deliciousness, for she was exceptionally talented in cooking. According to Balthazar, she always had the knick for it, kind of like Dave's affliction with Tesla coils. Every sorcerer had their very own magic, in addition to their actual power. One might call it talent instead, or skill, but the old sorcerer stuck to his opinion. And, yes, her snacks were to die for!

Some time later, as the kids were still munching on the snacks, Veronica turned to Balthazar, whispering something in his ear. He looked at her, forehead in thousand folds, trying to decide wether she was serious or not. It was a very old story she asked him to tell, and he wasn't sure if it would be such a good idea to tell about this particular theme.

Dave, who'd noticed the change in his master's expression, looked up at him questioning and only got a fleeting smile in return before the old sorcerer stood and disappeared into the kitchen himself, leaving the three of them confused. It was Becky who spoke next.

"What's with him?"

Veronica gave it a sad shaking of her head.

"Nothing. It's my fault. Don't let this disturb you, I'll go talk with him."

With that, she went as well, leaving the youths to themselves.

"Balthazar? Are you alright, dear?"
"Don't worry about me."
"But I always do, dear. What is wrong? Is it my request? I shall forget about it if you don't want to."
"It has been thousand years now, to the day."
"What has, dear?"
"Her death."
"Oh.. I think I see what you're getting at, dear. You don't want your apprentice to do research on the matter, do you?"
"Timetravelling, especially forwards, is nothing he could handle yet. Yet he will ask me how to do it once he knows what Merlin did back then."
"He did it so we could defeat Morgana, dear."
"See how it worked out?"
"He couldn't know. Now come, I'm sure the prime Merlinean will understand."
"You don't know Dave. He can be awfully stubborn."
"An apple.."
"Do not say an other word, beloved"

He smiled at her and dragged her into a passionate kiss, then followed his woman back to the others.

It turned out Becky had to visit her family over the holidays, so when Balthazar and Veronica came back, they saw Dave leave after Becky, a beg for forgiveness on his slim features, before the door fell shut. The older sorcerers looked at each other, then Veronica gave a slight chuckle and her husband sighed deeply.

"That would've been impossible in Merlin's days.. The apprentice just walking off with a girl when the master has something to say.. It's not the first time either."
"He's young, and hotblooded too, dear.. David will be back. Did you see his face? I saw the burn of curiosity in his eyes. I'm sure he wants to know."
"Dave always wants, and that's his problem."
"That's what a master is for, dear."
"Yeah, I know. But lately, I haven't got the vibe of being his master anymore. Dave has grown into a fullfledged sorcerer himself, he doesn't actually need me anymore, especially with being the prime Merlinean and such.."
"Do you miss Merlin?"
".. deeply."
"Master and apprentice – it's a life long bond, dear. You should know best."
"You're probably right, beloved. Shall we sit until he comes back?"