Growing up, Meriel’s first and dearest friend had been the family Fluff, and yet even though they’d been inseparable for many years, she’d always known that Nosy would never truly belong to her. It had bonded with her parents the day they’d first found it, had been theirs long before she was born, and since they were immortal, it would never be part of her inheritance.
Leaving home and family for college had been a wrench, and in many ways she’d missed the Fluff even more than she’d missed her parents and siblings, but there’d always been the holidays to look forward to, the joyful reunions, and stories to share. College had been fun, she’d enjoyed every minute, even when she’d despaired of ever keeping up with her coursework, or passing her exams, but the best part had always been coming home
Inevitably, she’d eventually met someone special, married, and moved away from the family home to a house of her own, but before she’d left, she’d been given the best wedding present possible, a Flufflet of her own. It was like having her own little bit of Nosy, a cutting off the original, since it was one of the Fluff’s offspring, grown especially for her, and Nosy had passed on all its memories of her, so her Flufflet knew her almost as well as Nosy did.
It made Nosy’s own departure into space with her parents a decade or so later, to serve as earth’s ambassadors to the stars, easier to bear, although she knew they’d be coming back to visit as often as they could.
Time passed, Meriel had children of her own, and as it had been when she was a child, her firstborn daughter and Snuffles, the family Fluff, quickly became inseparable. Her two sons each received a Flufflet of their own when they were born, but Snuffles was as much Catrin’s as it was Meriel’s, her first and closest friend.
The years slipped slowly by, and left their marks on Meriel, her hair gaining threads of silver among the brown, her fair Welsh skin becoming creased from smiles and laughter as she watched her children grow, leave the nest, and have children of their own. Unlike her parents, she wasn’t immortal, and nor would her children be. Eight or nine decades was probably as long as she could hope for, and that only if she was lucky. Fluffs, on the other hand, could live for hundreds, even thousands of years, providing they were loved and cherished. A Fluff alone, with no other Fluffs or people with whom to bond, would gradually fade away, but that would never happen with any of the Fluffs in her family.
Besides, Snuffles was already bonded with Catrin. When the time came, she would inherit the family Fluff; it was the most important heirloom the family had, even more precious than the antique clock that had belonged to Meriel’s husband’s great grandparents.
The Fluff was more of a family member than a possession of course, but that only increased its value. The Doctor had told Meriel’s parents long ago that there were Fluffs on a distant alien world, far in the future, and they were passed down through families for centuries, the most treasured possession, considered priceless. It was easy to understand why.
Meriel’s whole family gathered together during the final days of her life, except for her husband, who had passed several years earlier. Her three children were there, along with their spouses, seven grandchildren, and assorted Fluffs. Her parents were there too, with Nosy, who curled up on the bed beside her. Snuffles lay at her other side, and she petted both her friends, comforted by their warmth and their presence.
“You’ll take good care of Snuffles when I’m gone, won’t you, Catrin?”
“Of course I will, mum. It’s family.” Catrin had Flufflets at home, Snuffles’ offspring, one for each of her two children, but there would always be room for the Fluff she’d grown up with. It would be like having part of her mother still with her. Snuffles had so many stories to share.
“Just checking. We’ve had a lot of good times together, haven’t we, Snuffy?”
“Hummm,” the Fluff agreed, sounding wistful, resting its head on her lap.
Nosy licked its offspring, sensing the sadness they shared. Most humans lived for such a short time; it was hard to say goodbye.
“Fluffs are our legacy.” Meriel smiled. “The greatest thing our family has given the world.” Even now, few people outside the family had their own Fluff, but in the last few decades the furry aliens had been growing in number. “Someday there will be Fluffs everywhere, in nurseries, hospitals, and care homes, making people feel better, safe and loved, just like they always have for us.” She sighed. “It’s getting late and I’m tired; I think I’ll take a nap now, if no one minds.”
“Sure, mum.” Kissing Meriel’s forehead, one by one her family filed out of the room, all except the two Fluffs and her parents.
“Don’t cry when I’m gone,” she told her dads. “Just remember all the good times.”
“No promises, Princess,” her dad told her. “We’re going to miss you.”
“I know you will. I just don’t want you to be sad. I’ve had a wonderful life; I wouldn’t change any of it.”
“I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye so soon,” her Tad said, taking her hand gently in his own. Like her dad, he looked exactly the same as he had when she’d been little; only his eyes showed his age, there was so much wisdom there.
“I’m ninety-three, Tad; I’ve had a good long run, longer than most people get.”
“A thousand and ninety-three would still be too soon. Get some sleep now, sweetheart.”
“You’ll stay with me?”
“We’re not going anywhere, I promise.” He stroked her white hair and she sighed, again, content, remembering him doing the same when she was little and had the flu.
“I love you, both of you.”
“We know, we love you too, so much.”
Meriel closed her eyes and drifted off.
‘By tomorrow,’ she thought drowsily, ‘Snuffles will be Catrin’s Fluff, and the world will keep turning without me, and that’s okay. My legacy is my family, and all the great things they, and their descendants, and their Fluffs will do. I’ve left my mark, and I’ll be remembered for a very long time, perhaps forever. It’s enough.’