Niska is sat cross legged on the floor by the tree.
When she and Astrid arrived at the Hawkins’ Christmas party, it had been the blonde's intention to simply put the gifts she’d felt obligated to buy under the sparkling green monstrosity.
But she’d been pulled to the ground and held captive by Sophie.
Because Toby is explaining his method of saving advent calendar chocolates up, so he can binge them all in one night.
And Sophie had given Niska a look that said ‘if I have to sit through this, then someone else can suffer right along with me’.
Renie had joined them at some point, and now seems equally bored.
Toby’s chocolate habit creates rather a dilemma, he explains: eating them all at once made his stomach hurt last year.
“Then don’t be stupid, don’t eat them all at once,” Niska says bluntly, because the solution should be obvious.
Astrid swoops down on her way back from the kitchen, grabbing a handful from the mountain of chocolates and popping one in her mouth.
“Hey!” Toby protests.
“I’m saving you from a stomach ache, you should be grateful.” Astrid grins, flopping back into the sofa.
Next to her, Leo has his arm around Mattie and they’re laughing.
Because Laura is trying to play some karaoke game on the Xbox, and it’s gone horribly wrong.
Max is debating with Flash about which song they should choose for their turn.
Fred, Stanley and Sam have just come back in from the garden, where they were trying to have a snowball fight with the light dusting that had fallen earlier that evening.
Mia and her new American boyfriend are handing out hot chocolates. They sneak a kiss when they think no one is looking.
What’s his name again? Dan? Ken? Niska didn't quite catch it when they were introduced.
Sophie abandons her and climbs up next to Astrid instead.
“How do you say ‘chocolate’ in German?” The girl asks.
“Schokolade. It tastes better too. British chocolate is awful,” Astrid teases, and tickles the girl's sides.
Sophie is obviously trying to remain cold and impassive.
But Niska catches the ghost of a smile that flits across the girl’s face.
Astrid has that effect on people.
They fall into an easy banter, with Sophie quizzing Astrid about basic German vocabulary.
And Niska gets lost in watching them, the rest of the party fading into the background.
She’s been so busy running and hiding and fighting, she never stopped to consider what she wanted to do when it was all over.
To be honest, she didn’t much expect she’d still be around at the end of 2018.
It’s been a wild year.
The brief Synth-Human War, the resulting peace agreement, countries everywhere starting to give basic rights to Synthetics.
And Niska being individually granted a royal prerogative of mercy for her crimes, after kind of saving the world.
She had to give up her all-knowing super powers to accomplish the latter.
She doesn’t miss them.
It was scary. V sort of took over her mind and tried to use her to manipulate the future.
As a survivor of multiple assaults, a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body is something Niska strongly supports. Yet, there she was trying to force Mattie to have Leo’s baby, like some kind of pro-life zealot.
Needless to say, when the blonde returned to her old self, she apologised profusely.
Fortunately Mattie wasn't interested in holding a grudge. Because they needed to work together to help resurrect Mia and Flash.
Niska hadn’t actually known everything anyway, the information was controlled and distorted by V.
Even if it hadn't been, that kind of advance statistical analysis doesn’t work perfectly when you’re trying to predict the fortunes of people acting with their own agency and free will. V was wrong. Certain things don't have to happen.
But all of that is a long story for another time.
Right now, Niska is more focused on her epilogue.
Sophie is nodding off, head leaning against Astrid’s shoulder, and Mia is offering to take the girl.
Niska wants to snap at her sister to go away, because Astrid is so soft and gentle with Sophie, and it fills the blonde with a warm sort of longing.
Which is insane and hopefully she’s just malfunctioning.
The alternative is terrifying.
She doesn't- can’t want children.
Because she’s fairly certain Astrid doesn’t want them.
Astrid never talks about it. Except for once, when they first met.
Niska replays that conversation in her mind now and can’t glean anything from it, the brunette was completely neutral about the subject.
Of course, at the time, Astrid thought she was just helping a human come to terms with a gay awakening, not answering an ethical question for a sentient robot.
In any event.
Niska might want, but she doesn’t need children.
In a way, she's already mother to thousands. As the driving force behind the uploading of the consciousness code. The carnage of Day Zero notwithstanding.
Still, there’s some ridiculous part of her that wants a tiny human with Astrid’s deep brown eyes and matching mane of hair.
Niska can imagine it easily, because Astrid’s aunt has a big box full of baby photos and home videos from the 90s.
A chubby-cheeked Astrid at five months, face covered in pureed carrots.
A six year old Astrid with scraped knees and missing front teeth.
A fourteen year old Astrid with pink streaks in her hair.
Niska had carefully scanned the entire box and backed up the files in five separate parts of her memory, just to be safe.
She’s alone now.
Toby and Renie have long since disappeared, likely snogging in the coat room.
Mia is carrying Sophie away to bed.
And Niska starts to bury her whole train of thought somewhere deep, because it’s a silly fairytale dream that humans indulge in.
Astrid joins her by the tree, hunting through the rest of the advent calendar chocolates, “Sophie is such a cute kid, I can’t wait till we have one.”
Niska’s eyes widen, “What?”
“Now that Synth-Human marriage is legal, I figured we’d start trying. I’m not getting any younger.”
“You want to get married?” Niska thinks surely everyone can hear her processors audibly whirr with this new information and the emotions it’s stirring up.
“We’re basically already married, might as well get a tax break out of it. And I want a dog too. But I’d tolerate a cat, if you insist.”
“How come you never mentioned any of this before?” Niska demands. Because that would have saved her an entire evening of angst.
“It wasn’t an option till just recently.”
“Yes, Synthetic marriage equality just happened. But children?”
“I thought you knew everything, Oh Mighty Lesbian Jesus, can’t you just read my mind?” Astrid quips, pinching at Niska's side playfully.
"I wish," The blonde rolls her eyes, fighting a smile. “I told you, I don’t have any memories of whatever I knew then.”
Astrid shrugs, "Well, you’ve always had a soft spot for kids, it was just a matter of time before we went down that path.”
Niska scoffs, “I don’t have a soft spot for anything!”
“You have a soft spot for a lot of things: your family, kids, dusty old books, loud music, quiet early mornings, fuzzy kittens, borrowing my hoodies, cuddling-”
She’s cut off by Niska’s hand over her mouth.
The blonde looks around at the rest of the room, luckily none of the others appear to have been listening. She has a reputation to maintain after all.
“Just- alright, if I say we can get a dog, will you please stop with that list?”
Astrid nods. And even with half her face covered up, Niska can tell she’s smirking victoriously.
The blonde pulls her hand away, “...What kind of dog do you want then? Maybe an Alsatian or something? Personally, I’m rather fond of German breeds.”
“Ha. Ha. So funny,” Astrid deadpans. “Just for that, you’re charging on the sofa tonight.”
She leans over and kisses Niska’s cheek. And then she hops up to join the rest of their patchwork family, who are all watching Stanley and Flash play some racing video game.
“You’re joking, right?” Niska scrambles after her.