Vodka Truffles

From the Story Arc: Year-Turning

Previous Story in the Arc: Golden Slumbers by Belladonna Aura (Monday, December 14, 2009)

(posted Thursday, December 17, 2009)

The entire apartment smelled like a chocolate factory. In a good way. Astra was in the kitchen, surrounded by cardboard boxes containing dozens of festively wrapped packages. Vickie, it seemed, was helping, although all that could be seen of The Littlest Commie was a bit of her hair on the other side of one of the piles.

The front door slammed open and shut, which could only mean that one person was home. "So, why does my home smell like some sorta confectionary?" John could hardly step in a single spot without squishing some sort of package, and this vexed him. "Anyone home to answer for this? Daughter, sons, wife?"

Vickie let out a laugh. "Hang in a second, Johnny." There was a glimpse of fingers waving from behind the piles, and all the boxes in his path headed for the ceiling.

"Vickie V, I didn't know I gave you or my daughter leave to make my house into a bakery. Whatcha all up to?" John stepped gingerly around another teetering stack of ribbon-bound boxes.

Astra bounced exuberantly towards her father. "It's my Chrismahannukwanzule presents for everybody, Dad!"

"Darlin' daughter, again. In English, preferably."

"Okay." She kissed his cheek and shoved a huge box at him. "Here's yours. Mom calls it 'Year Turning' instead of Christmas or Hannukka or Kwanza or Yule."

"Your Ma has always had her own way, truth be told. this gonna explode? I usually don't like the sorts of presents that do." John shook the box gingerly, holding it at arm's length.

"Only in calories, Johnny." Vickie joined Astra, eyes twinkling. "Your offspring had the brilliant idea of using that anti-depressive spring water that the Byelebog creates to make Festive Prezzies from. But she was worried that it might, you know, be a little too nonspecific. So she asked me and Thea to do some fingerwaggling over the results."

"When the three of ya get your heads together, either somethin' wonderfully taste-ful or horribly terrifyin' will be likely to occur. So...what's this?"

"Por vous, mon ami, dark chocolate-vodka truffles. And we've had a test run, they don't do anything outside the parameters." Vickie winked. "Although I admit to being tempted to add to yours."

"Parameters wouldn't include me turnin' pink or anything, right?"

"Parameters being that they will remind you of the moment when you were at your happiest. If you so desire you'll get anything from 'Hey yeah, that was great, life can be good' to full immersion in the memory."

"Honest-like? Because if I turn into a frog, I'm hoppin' after you first, witch."

Vickie laughed. For such a tiny thing she had a big, full-throated laugh. "Honest and for true. Astra's idea was to provide real stress relief for folks, not only during the season, but for however long they can make the goodies last. Which, personally, I think is brilliant."

John looked askance at both of them. "Well, alright. If'n this is some sorta trickery, though, you're grounded from whatever your latest boy-toy is," he jabbed his finger at Astra, "and you're...well, you're somethin' unpleasant, Vic. Like, really."

"Dad!" Astra laughed. "Why would I do that to you?"

"For giggles. What else?"

She stuck out her tongue at him. "I leave that up to Twin."

John nodded thoughtfully, and left the two cooks to their mischevious work.

From time to time there was a whoosh of displaced air as Vickie apported a set of packages to their chosen destination. Other than that, the only sound that came from the kitchen to disturb him was the occasional giggle. He had the feeling they were giggling at him.

It wasn't until later that night that John dared to try one of the truffles. Sera was out on patrol in the War Zone. Not for the sake of Vanguard, but for reasons of her own--and probably to keep an eye on Bella.

John worried a lot about Bella nowadays; she kept up with her duties well enough, more than enough; she covered his paperwork with the help of Waitron and Felix more often than not. But there was more to it than that; she still had the ache to her, as he liked to call it. John had even known it twice; when he had lost Jessica in the Program, and when he had thought he'd lost Sera and the family to the Fallen world. He couldn't help but to think of how Bella might feel. Only Sera and Astra knew, truly, since both of them were so strongly empathic, particularly with Bella. Connected in a way that almost rivaled their Family Line.

Trying to push the worries out of his mind, he sat down upon his and Sera's bed, the box of dark-chocolate truffles beside him. Carefully, he removed the lid, and then placed one of the chocolates upon his tongue. Chewing, he braced himself for any manner of feelings, emotions, memories. Whatever the magics that Vic and Astra had cooked up to coerce things from his subconscious.

And nothing came.

The chocolate washed down his throat when he swallowed, and John Murdock felt nothing but panic.

The pounding on the door was distinct. No one beat on Vickie's door like that but John Murdock--and it was a damned good thing for him that she wasn't "busy" or she might have been tempted to apport him right back into his own place. On his ass. Something that had happened on more than one occassion.

"What?" she snapped, pulling the door open.

John looked troubled, and that was to put it lightly. "Vic, y'remember those chocolates you an' Astra cooked up? Any chance y'all could've flubbed 'em in any way?"

"Newp. Tested each batch. Your lot is the same as Bella's and mine and Byelebog himself. And Thea's." She ruffled her hair with one hand, puzzled. "Why? And why the panic?"

John mimicked the expression; it was something he was used to doing, after all. "Well, the thing is...I ate one of 'em. It was damned tasty, to be sure; two of my favorite things, chocolate and alcohol. But...nothin' happened for me. At all." He held up his hands, almost plaintively. "I mean, it was supposed to bring back all of my happiest an' whatnot, right? Best memories. Well...nothin' happened for me. Not a thing. No flashbacks, no good-feelings. I just felt the same. What's wrong with me?"

She blinked, then did what she always did when confronted with a puzzle; disengaged and let her subconscious work on it. The answer came a lot faster than she thought it would, and she felt the grin spreading over her face.

"Nothing wrong with you, Johnny. Remember, Thea and I are world-class mages. That means we are very, very specific when we work magic."

"Yeah, yeah. I know y'all are damned good at your jobs. Wouldn't keep ya on just for your looks."

"Well the exact wording of the Work was this: To remind the taster of the happiest moment of his life, and to allow it, should he choose, to be a reflection, a full memory, or an immersion. So there is your answer."

"English, for those that still speak it, if'n ya please."

She shook her head. "For such a brilliant guy, you can be so dense sometimes."

"My wife says that constantly."

"You don't have to be reminded of the happiest moment of your life, Johnny. You're in it."

John's jaw dropped and clacked shut a couple of times. "W---well, hell. You''re right. Damnit, Vickie V, you're right to the t."

"So should I have given you those aphrodisiac truffles instead?" she waggled her eyebrows at him, just like Red.

"You've got a dirty mind, mage. Go back to calling forth demons or elder spirits or something." John turned on his heel, walking out the door. "I've got some chocolates to scarf."