Birthday Wishes

Chapter Two

A/N- First off, let me apologize for how very, very long it's been since I updated this story. It was very naughty of me to keep you all waiting like that. I'm sorry; I'll be speedier in the future! Also, anyone who reviewed has my eternal gratitude. You guys rock hard-core and I promise I'm trying to get better at replying to my reviews. Augh, though! I want a bloody YW movie to come out! If Eragon can do it, YW sure as heck can. It's clearly superior. Well, R and R, s'il te plait!

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Kit's breath was coming in short, hard bursts and he cursed his sister mentally.

'Why did she have to set off running like some kind of shoujo anime twit? Isn't walking good enough for her?'

Ahead of him, Carmela stopped abrubtly and put a hand on her hip in triumph. Kit, oblivious to anything but his own thoughts kept running and ploughed into her (sharp) elbow.

"Oww." he moaned.

Carmela glared at her brother and rubbed the arm he'd crashed into.

"You should be more aware of your surroundings, Kit. I bet you didn't even realize where we were going." Carmela smirked in her best superior voice.

She was right, though Kit would have never admitted it. He looked at their destination and gulped.

"Th-This is Nita's house! What do you think you're doing? I'm not ready to talk to her!"

Carmela let out a long-suffering sigh.

"You talk to her every day. In fact, you practically go to her house every day. What's the problem?"

"You know what I mean! You can't just spring something like this on me!"

Carmela grinned. "Sure I can! In fact, I think I just did."

Kit's eyes widened in panic and he mentally started to prepare his beam-me-up spell.

"Chill out. I was just messing with you." Carmela chuckled, rolling her eyes, "This was just an exercise to make you realize how pathetic you are. And, you know, just plain exercise."

"...Oh." Kit said, feeling like an idiot.

'Mela was right: he shouldn't be afraid of his best friend. Of course, the best friend part was the problem. If Nita shot him down, things would consistently be more awkward between them than the time he walked into her room while she was still dressing for school (which ranked in the top ten of his all-time favorite moments ever, even if he did get a bruise from her punch). Joking aside, he wasn't even sure if he wanted to risk their partnership just because he loved her a little more than he should.

No... his shoulder angel reminded him, That path doesn't lead anywhere good. Do you even remember how miserable you were while she was in Ireland... hanging out with Ronan? Worst. Summer. Ever.

Meanwhile, his imaginary shoulder devil rolled its eyes.

I hope you know the Lone Power is laughing his ass off at you right now.

Kit sighed and shrugged. I'd laugh at me too.

Carmela cleared her throat loudly and Kit snapped out of his schitzophrenic daydream.

"Enough self-pity, Kit-kat. Look, you can go home now. I have some business to attend to here."

Kit gulped and stepped in front of his sister.

"What do you need to do here?" he said, panicky.

"Don't worry. I won't even talk to Nita. I'm just... gaining an ally." Carmela smirked, pushing past her pale, petrified brother, "I've got a couple errands to run, too. I'll be home later. Byes!"

She gave him one parting "interfere-and-die" look and Kit turned and ran.

-----

Fifteen minutes later, Kit stumbled through the door to his house panting heavily. Aware that in the background Ponch was panting just as heavily as he was, Kit absentmindedly picked up Ponch's water bowl and filled it at the sink and set it down without really noticing what he was doing. The canine equivalent of a mischievious expression flitted across Ponch's face as he lapped at the water.

I think you should give me a biscuit for helping you survive Carmela. he slobbered, water dripping from his jowls onto the tiled floor. Kit knew that Mama would kill him if she came home to see the small lake, but at the moment, he was more afraid of his sister than his mother.

Kit went to the cupboard, still on autopilot, and even had the box in his hand before he came to his senses.

He glared down at Ponch.

"You're getting better at persuasion, you little sneak..."

Ponch's eyes remained fixed on the box, but his mouth curved upward in a doggish grin.

Maybe if you weren't so preoccupied by someone, you could have resisted my charm. Nowgimmeabiscuit! Ponch said jumping frantically to try to reach the box, which Kit held tantalizingly above his head.

"Fine, fine. Just stop trying to knock me over, alright?" he groaned, rubbing the spot on his chest where his hundred pound dog had tried to use him as a ladder.

Sorry... Ponch said, a hint of a whimper in his voice.

This time, it was Kit's turn to look mischevious. He took a biscuit out and quickly returned the box to safety in the cupboard, making sure the door was securely shut. Ponch was starting to get the hang of doorknobs.

"It's all right, Ponch. I'll still give you a snack."

Ponch pranced happily and waited.

"Now sit, boy." Kit grinned evilly.

The over-grown puppy's smile faded immediately.

Kiit! That's degrading to my species!

"I guess you don't get anything, then."

After a brief struggle between hunger and pride, hunger won and Ponch plopped onto his hindquarters.

Happy now? Ponce sighed, looking pained and slightly shame-faced.

"Err..." Kit mused while throwing the treat, hijacked by his wandering thoughts again. Ponch grinned again between crunches.

I was talking about you oppressing me, not about you and Nita.

"Ponch! I don't-- I wasn't-- I'm not--" Kit stuttered.

--Allowed to lie?

Kit looked at him reproachfully. "That's entrapment. It's just... do you think Carmela can really help?"

Probably. But then again, in a case like yours, anyone could. I wonder what her price will be, though...

"She said she'd help for free." Kit said, trying to convince himself she wasn't lying. He failed.

Ponch doggy-laughed.

"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence. See if I ever give you another biscuit."

Sorry!

"Riiight..."

And with that, Kit set off to find something to do that would take his mind off of Nita. He grabbed his dad's morning paper, a soda, and a snack, and headed back up to his room.

----

Barely an hour and a half later, the slamming of the front door accompanied by the rustle of shopping bags heralded Carmela's arrival. Kit resisted the urge to duck under the table and hide.

"Kit-kat! I'm hooome! Where are you hiding? You can run, but you can't hide, you know. "

Kit groaned. Sure, he'd been steeling himself for her arrival, but there wasn't any amount of preparation that could really prepare you for Carmela's actual presence. She sashayed into the kitchen in her special way that drew everyone's attention to her. She had even named her signature move Sexy-No-Jutsu. After all, once an anime fan, always one, and like a ninja move, it could severely incapacitate her opponents. Assuming they were male, at least. In this case, it wasn't that impressive, as the only people whose attention she captivated were Kit and Ponch, who were respectively doing so in nervousness or in hope of another biscuit. She sighed to herself in exasperation. Her talents were being wasted on this crowd. Still, she'd agreed to help Kit woo Nita, and she was going to keep that promise, if only for the sake of her ears. Having a lovesick adolescent brother in the house meant that a nonstop stream of emo music was always emanating from his room. It was almost enough to drown out her J-pop, which was truly a crime. Something had to be done. Which brought her mind back to the small mountain of shopping bags at her side...

Kit glanced at the evidence of a mall spree and gulped, praying that this one was a strictly Earth-based.Carmela grinned in a predatory way, then turned to the fridge, rummaging past the yogurt drinks to where she kept her stash of energy drinks. Choosing a garish pink can, she took one manicured nail, flipped the tab, and took a swig. She was going to need it.

"Aren't you the least bit interested in what's in the bags? Go on, take a look."

Kit hesitantly obeyed, first prodding each bag to make sure it wasn't going explode on him. When he finally pulled out the purchases, he was a little shocked at the normality; all she'd bought were clothes.

"Huh? I thought you were gonna help me with my gift problem, not use me as a human manequin. Besides, all this must have cost you a fortune. There's no way I can pay you back."

Carmela stared into space thoughtfully.

"I wouldn't be so sure about that... but that's not important right now. This one's a freebie. I know a few guys at the mall who cut me a good bargain. Besides, if you're going to try to win a girl, you can't dress like that." she said, eyeing his outfit, "I mean, really, windbreakers are so 90's."

"But I like it..." Kit whined in the keening tone of someone who knows their opinion will be completely disregarded.

"Go on, try them on. I want to see how they fit."

Kit groaned and made a gesture like he was hanging himself with an invisible noose.

"Oh please. Don't be baby, el nino." She paused to grin broadly at her pun, then continued, "Girls can spend a day trying things on without finding anything. Be thankful you don't have to be that particular... or shop for yourself, for that matter."

"Fine! I'm grateful, alright?" He muttered sulkily, gathering the bags to take back to his room.

He stopped mid-way through his task and really looked at the bags for the first time.

"Woah, 'Mela. I don't care how good of a discount your friends gave you; there's no way you can afford these clothes on our allowance. I mean, look: Aeroposer, The Pag, Aberzombie and Fetch?" A glint of suspicion flitted through his brown eyes, "Come to think of it, how did you get the money for your portable particle accelerator? Those things cost a mint. Wait a minute... you're not a cocoa dealer, are you? That sort of thing can get you into trouble. And it'll be the kind that not even Neets and I can get you out of."

Carmela favored her younger brother with a scathing glare and tapped her fingernails on the kitchen table in a staccato rhythm that seemed to be counting out how many seconds Kit had left to live. In the farthest corner of the kitchen from the ticking timebomb, Ponch occupied himself with a squeeky toy, knowing that no matter how loyal he was, nothing could get him to put himself between Kit and an annoyed Carmela.

"If you must know, you little mother hen, I got a legitimate part-time job with a... publisher. I've done a few freelance articles for them and thought I'd use a some of the money to do something nice for you, mi hermano."

When Carmela was angry and lapsed into Spanish, it didn't bode well for anyone in the general vicinity.

"Some of the money, huh? Uhhh... they must pay you decently... and I guess it explains why you've been on the computer so much lately. Whatever, I won't pry."

"Good. Your life has value to you." she cooed sweetly, "NOW STOP STALLING AND GO TRY ON! You know, before I lose my patience."

"Yes'm..." Kit sighed meekly, gathering up the bags.

Staggering under the weight of the packages, he amde his way reluctantly down the hall to his room like a prisoner on death row. In fact, he could practically hear the universe jeering at him with taunts of "Dead man walking...".

"I want to see the outfit I got you at The Pag first! Khaki complements your skin."

Kit cocked an eyebrow and ventured an apprehensive glance into the bags.

"What are you talking about? It's from The Pag-- of course it's khaki." he muttered under his breath.

"Hey! I heard that! You do not get to be a fashion critic while you're wearing that."

Carmela gave the windbreaker another look that was a mix of contempt and disdain, as if just being in the same house as it was enough to send her into an epileptic seisure, giving new meaning to the term 'fashion victim'. Kit, undaunted by his sister's snub of his clothes, continued to mutter to himself.

"Yeah, I'm sure if I dress like a chain-store-fashion-zombie, Neets will immediately fall in love with me. What girl can resist when her date wears screen tees and whisker washed jeans that look like they could've come from her closet? Why don't I just scout ahead and figure out what she's gonna wear and find it in my size?" His eyes went distant as his mind derailed in a firey crash that incinerated all of his coherent, civilized thoughts on contact and left him with daydreams of Nita in a date outfit.

"I hope it's that black skirt..."

Carmela shuddered as her brain processed her brother's last two sentences and her subconscious treacherously linked them together to form a horrifyingly vivid picture of her brother in a tiny black skirt.

"Thanks for the haunting mental image, Kitkat. I may never be able to close my eyes without seeing that ever again. Besides, don't you think you're getting a liitle ahead of yourself? I hate to point it out, but you haven't even asked Nita out yet..."

Kit's ego deflated like the Rodriguez's air mattress always did at the holidays when his obese Great-Aunt Maria came to visit.

"Too harsh, 'Mela."

"That's what sisters are for." she smirked, giving him her most unnerving Chesire Cat grin, "Anway, just think of this as a confidence-building exercise. Now go get dressed, lover boy."

Kit started trudging up the stairs to his room again, then turned around, desperation sweat covering his face in a thin film.

"Really, 'Mela. How am I going to pull this off? I don't think I can even ask her without going all nervous and socially-maladjusted." He pointed at his face, panicked, "I mean look at my nerd sweat-- and that's just from thinking about it. What'll I do when I'm actually in front of her? Pass out?"

"Nah, you'll probably just make a fool of yourself."

"'MELA!"

Carmela grinned and shrugged in the face of her brother's nerous rage.

"What? That's what practically all guys end up doing. May as well bite the bullet and get it over with, eh?"

"Thanks for the encouragement. See if I ever try to fix you up with Ronan now..."

Carmela's eyes narrowed a bit and her eyes seemed to burn a little. For a moment of two, Kit shook inwardly and wondered what the hell he'd been thinking to bring up his sister's mega-crush.

Idiot. Enjoy your last few moments of life before she uses her particle accelerator on you "by accident".

Finally, Carmela broke the awkwardness with a chuckle.

"Touche! No need to get vicious! Don't worry. I have just the way to make sure you can face her without much mortal embarassment. But that brings me to one of my terms: you've gotta help me get a date with that hot gothic lucky charms leprechaun."

Kit groaned-- it was as he'd dreaded: she'd said "one of the terms". He was gonna regret going to her for help for a long time. Carmela noticed his reticence and rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in disgust.

"You are clueless, huh? It's a favor for both you and me. Think of it this way: it gets rid of one of the competition pretty darned effectively."

A meek "Oh." was all Kit could manage. He wasn't used to the skill of the female mind at plotting.

"Fine. It's a deal." he held out his hand for a contractual handshake. Carmela pushed it away.

"Weeell, you get partial credit. It's part of a deal, you mean."

Kit gulped.

"Crap..."

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A/N: Ah, semi-cliffy, how I love thee. What did Carmela do at Nita's house? What else is Kit going to have to subject himself to? Will I update in less than a year? Find out in the next chapter! And until then, help an author out with motivation and leave a review.

Periwinkle Button: I seee you! Every time you review, an orphan gets its wings. Or something.