I know it's a little early for Christmas, but hey, I've been in the Christmas spirit since Halloween. And I've been wanting to do a Christmas story for a long time, so I figured, hey, instead of one big story (harder), why not do a one-shot series? So, here I am, with this lovely new series of unrelated one-shots. I don't know how many there will be and I don't know how often I'll update (won't be too long, though; don't worry ;)).
Alrighty, so here's the first installment. It's called "The Perfect Gift" and it's a parody of the short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry, one of my favorite Christmas stories. If you've read the story, then you know what's coming. If not, then I hope you'll enjoy this anyway!
And also, just so's ya know, I do not own Danny Phantom or the short story "The Gift of the Magi". Thank you; that is all.
So, without further ado, here's the first one-shot of my new series!
The Perfect Gift
"You do know it's already Christmas Eve, right?"
Sam took a short slurp of her milkshake, lowering her head a bit. "I know. I just haven't found the right gift yet. It has to be something really special…" Her voice trailed off as her mind began to wander in thought for about the hundredth time that day.
Tucker smirked at her from across the table. "Special, huh? And why would it need to be special…?" He arched his eyebrows in a slightly accusing, yet amused expression. Sam shot him a warning glare.
"He's my best friend, Tucker. Why shouldn't I put a little thought into his Christmas gift?"
"Well, what about me?" he countered, still grinning at her. "I'm your best friend, too, and you bought my present weeks ago."
Sam paused a moment. That was true… "You're just easier to shop for," she replied convincingly. "But Danny…" Sam let her mind roam freely yet again, ignoring whatever other suggestion Tucker was now presenting. You see, it was, as he'd said, Christmas Eve, and Sam had yet to find a Christmas gift for Danny. She had spent hours and hours of days on end, searching the local shops, but had not yet found that perfect gift. And needless to say, now she was getting worried.
"Well, whatever you get him, I'm sure he'll love it anyway."
Sam looked up at him again, this time actually considering his comment. She knew he was right, Danny would like whatever she gave him, but that didn't change the fact that she wanted, no, needed to make him as happy as she possibly could. The past year had been rough on Danny; he never showed it, but she knew it was so. So this Christmas, this time of year when love and care come easiest to all, she vowed she would do whatever she could to make him truly happy, if only for one day. That would be enough.
She smiled to herself, before looking at Tucker once again. "Well, I better go keep looking if I wanna find something before the party tonight."
Tucker stood from his seat on the booth, placing some money on the table. "Alright. Believe it or not, I've got some last-minute shopping to do too, so I guess I'll see you tonight."
"Yeah," she replied, not at all surprised that Tucker had not finished his Christmas shopping yet either. "Tonight." She stood up, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear as she did so, and went to throw away her trash.
"Hey, nice earrings," Tucker said suddenly, having first noticed them after she'd moved her hair. "Are those new?"
Sam smiled, remembering when she'd put them on this morning in spite her parents saying she shouldn't. "No, I got them a few years ago, from my grandma." The earrings in question were likely Sam's most prized possession, and also a treasure in her parents' eyes. They were small, and hung about a quarter of an inch below her ear. The base was made of pure silver, which shone like new against the late morning sun; encrusted into the base of each earring was an amethyst-colored diamond, expertly cut in the shape of a rose. They were beautiful earrings, but because of how expensive they were her parents were often demurring of her wearing them around, likely for fear of them being lost or stolen. But today, Sam didn't care. She somehow felt that as long as she had them with her, she had hope of finding the perfect gift for Danny.
"Oh," Tucker replied to her answer, "I've never seen you wear them before." He then smiled, heading at a sideways walk toward the door. "Well, I should go. See you later."
Sam nodded. "Bye." After he left, she finished disposing of her trash (and Tucker's; he had of course forgotten about it), then also exited the building. She had decided to simply walk around town yet again and try the different shops, hopefully finding something she had previously overlooked. But as the day slowly progressed, her hope wore thinner and thinner. Wherever she went, she would find many things that she knew Danny would like, but still every shop was decidedly void of that one perfect gift.
When she turned onto a small side road at the end of the main street, which the sign noted as Walden Lane, she saw but one lone antiques shop resting alongside the road. It seemed old, not often visited (perhaps why she'd missed it earlier), but a friendly place all the same. Just glancing at the old-fashioned lettering atop the front window that read "Marsden's Antiques: Memories to Last a Lifetime" filled her with a sense of comfort, and a knowing feeling inside that here, in this very shop, she would find what she had been searching for.
With hopes high once more, she headed through the door. A tiny bell sounded at her entrance, causing the man at the counter to glance up. He was an older gentleman, with fine gray hair topped by a brown, old-fashioned bowler hat. He wore a white dress shirt under a dark chestnut-colored, knit vest, and tattered slacks of the same color. His face was wrinkled and old, but was graced comfortingly by a warm smile, as he gazed at the girl in the doorway.
"Come in, come in," he said in a kind voice. "Away from the cold." Sam couldn't help but smile as she walked fully into the store, gently closing the door behind her. The warmth of the store was indeed a welcome against the cold, snowy winter that resided outside. "So," the man continued, "is there anything I can help you with?" There were no other customers in the shop, so she currently had his undivided attention.
Sam thought a moment, hoping maybe he could help her. "Well, I'm looking for a gift for someone…"
He smiled. "Well then you've come to the right place. I'm sure you can find something fitting here. What sort of gift is it that you need?"
"Well, I want it to be special," she began, strangely feeling as though she could easily talk to this man, though had only just met. "I've been searching and searching everywhere for that perfect gift, but it seems that no matter where I go nothing seems right. I keep telling myself that when I find the perfect gift, I'll know it. But here I am, still without a clue. This is the only place in town I haven't looked yet."
He paused to consider a moment. "Who is it that you are shopping for?"
"A friend of mine," she answered. "My best friend, actually. He's kind of had a rough year, and I wanna get him something really special, something he'll absolutely love. It's just that…I don't really know what to get."
"Hmm…" he mused thoughtfully, a knowing twinkle in his eye. "Well why don't you have a look around? Something might catch your eye." He gave her a friendly nod, before turning his back to work on a wood carving on the shelf behind him. She smiled to herself as she headed for the first case of items, carefully examining each artifact, pondering their uses and analyzing their worth. She saw many awe-inspiring wares, ranging from expertly-carved, painted wooden figurines to beautiful, hand-made jewelry, each commodity a unique work of art. Still, though, she could not yet find that special gift. Until, she reached one certain display table, housing one certain section which contained one certain vendible.
On a table near the back of the store, her eyes rested on a small mahogany box, skillfully-carved and painted, with ruby and sapphire jewels encrusted around the outer edges. The wood was slick and perfectly sanded, causing the amber glow from the candle-lamps to reflect brilliantly off the surface. It was beautiful on the outside, but the reason for her consideration was on the inside. Upon lifting the lid, Sam saw the inner chamber was divided evenly into twelve slots, each lined with a different color of soft felt, and in the bottom of each a hand-cut crystal, one for each 'birthstone' gem of the year. You may now be asking yourself why Sam might see this case as the prefect gift for Danny, and I shall tell you. You see, like most people, Danny has kept a small collection of sorts over the years of his life. It is something not many know of him, only but a few, such as his family and closest friends, but it is nonetheless very special to him. And do you know what that might be? No, you could likely not arrive at the answer if given any number of guesses, so again I will tell you. In Danny's room, hidden carefully inside his bottom dresser drawer, is a small felt bag. And inside that bag rest twelve colored stones, each, like the inside of the box, a different birthstone color, and each carved perfectly in the shape on one of the twelve symbols of the Zodiac. Each stone was no more than two inches long in size, and would fit perfectly into the twelve slots of the case now resting in front of Sam's eyes. As she stared at the inside of the box, she couldn't help but wonder if whoever had made this had done so with those Zodiac stones in mind, it just seemed that prefect. But no matter how it was made, Sam knew this was the gift she wanted.
"Find what you were looking for?" the man asked, apparently having noticed her standing at that spot for quite some time. She turned around to see him glancing questioningly at her, that same mysterious gleam in his eye.
She carefully picked up the case and held it in his view. "How much for this?"
He then stepped out from behind the counter and made his way slowly over to where she stood. He pulled a pair of reading glasses from his vest pocket and put them on, squinting through them at the case Sam held in her hands. After careful examination, he turned to her again. "$399.99," he stated finally.
"Four hundred dollars?" Sam repeated in a shocked tone. "I can't afford that…" In reality, she knew she could just ask her parents for the money, or delve into their family fortune, but she had long since vowed that for this gift, she would not do so. For it to truly be special, she had to earn the money herself, not get it from her parents. After all, that would just be like them buying Danny a Christmas gift, instead of her. So instead, she put down the box, thinking frantically for a solution to her problem, some way she could find the money fast. She turned to the man again.
"I'll be back," she told him confidently, hoping against hope that she'd find a way to do just that. "Don't sell that case." He simply smiled at her and nodded his head, his eyes still twinkling merrily. She smiled back, before turning and rushing out of the shop, back into the bracing cold of the early-evening air.
As she headed back toward town at a fast-walking pace, she could think of only one way to get the money: ask her boss at Lacey's for an advance on her Christmas bonus. Lacey's was a department store in the larger part of town, where Sam worked part-time. It was headed by one Albert Beederman, a man in his mid-thirties who was pretty hard to ideally characterize, given the fact that his general mood changed daily. Some days he was openly generous, kind to all his employees, other days he was decidedly cantankerous, snapping at anyone who crossed his path. Sam found herself hoping whole-heartedly that this was one of his good days…
Upon entering the store, she headed straight to the third floor, on which the main staff room was located. When she reached the door, she was about to push it open when it suddenly opened itself from the inside, revealing a very frazzled Mr. Beederman.
"Oh, hi, Sam," he greeted her half-heartedly in a rushed yet tired tone. "What are you doing here? I thought you had today off…" He didn't stop walking to speak to her. Instead he continued to walk briskly toward the men's section on that same floor.
"Yeah, I do," Sam replied, hurrying to keep up with him. "Actually, Mr. Beederman, I wanted to ask you something…"
He reached his destination at a particular rack of clothing and began hastily pulling shirts off their hangers and draping them over his arm. "Yes? And what's that?"
"Well…" she began, hoping even more that he would not get too angry at this, "I wanted to ask you…for an advance on my Christmas bonus." She braced herself for the explosion…
"No," he said simply, not ceasing his grab for the shirts to even look at her. And while grateful that he didn't shout, this was not the answer Sam was hoping for.
"Come on, please?" she pleaded. "I really need the money today!"
"No," he said again, his tone still unchanging. He finished yanking shirts and swinging them over his arm and pushed past her, walking swiftly now back toward the staff room. She hurriedly followed him.
"But Mr. Beederman--"
"No, Sam," he said with a sense of finality, stopping in front of the staff room door. "You already received your Christmas bonus. I'm sorry, but if you need money you're just gonna have to wait until your next payday like everyone else. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got work to do." With that, he turned and retreated back into the staff room closing the door behind him. Seeing that she was not going to get anything out of this attempt, she turned and headed back to the main entrance.
When she left through the front doors, the cold, she thought, seemed to have intensified during her stay inside Lacey's, and she could see the sun well on its way to setting beneath the sky. It was getting late, and she had still yet to buy a gift for Danny. The only thing she could think to do was head back to the antiques shop and try to find a different gift, one that would satisfy her purpose.
After only a few seconds of hurried walking, Sam suddenly ran head-on into someone, causing both to fall hard onto the snowy sidewalk and the person's armful of packages to scatter about the snow.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Sam apologized, moving to help the person, who she now saw was a young woman, to pick up her belongings.
"No, no," the woman insisted, "I wasn't watching where I was going. I was just hurrying to get these gifts home to my family."
"Well, at least you've finished your shopping," Sam replied in a humored tone. "I've still got one thing to find."
The woman smiled as Sam handed her the last package. "Well, I hope you find it."
Sam couldn't help but smile back. "Thanks," she said, rising to her feet. It was then the woman noticed her earrings, her eyes lighting up at the sight.
"Oh my, those earrings are beautiful! Where did you get them?"
Sam found herself smiling somewhat sheepishly. "They were a gift, from my grandmother."
The woman beamed appreciatively. "Well, they're absolutely amazing! Are those real diamonds?" Sam nodded. "They must have cost a fortune!"
Sam's gaze lowered in slight embarrassment. "I, uh… I don't really know…"
"I bet they're worth an awful lot now, too."
"Yeah," she replied. Then, a thought suddenly crossed her mind. "They are…" she went on, this time more to herself, a realization dawning on her.
"Well, like I said, I need to get home," the woman said. "Good luck with your shopping, and Merry Christmas!"
"Yeah," Sam said, internally thanking the woman for her help. "You too."
As they went their separate ways, Sam thought about her new idea. She wasn't sure it would work, but she knew it was her only hope of getting the perfect gift for Danny. So as she ran as fast as she could back to the antiques shop, she found herself once again hoping against hope that things would work out just this once.
When she reached the shop, she pushed open the door and hurried inside, sprinting right up to the front desk, where the same man still stood, half-smiling at her.
"Well hello again," he said kindly. "What can I do for you?"
She was out of breath from running all the way there as she halted in front of him. Without a word, she hastily but carefully removed her earrings and set them purposefully on the countertop. "How much would you say these are worth?"
Again he pulled his glasses from his vest pocket and placed them at the edge of his nose, then carefully picked up the earrings in his hand, examining them through the magnifying reading lenses in his glasses.
"Hmm…solid amethyst-diamond…pure silver…almost-new condition…" After a few seconds, he looked at her. "Five hundred and thirty-five dollars," he stated. Sam looked at him expectantly, arching her eyebrows slightly. He set down the earrings and removed his glasses, folding them up and placing them back into his vest pocket. "You want to sell them to me for the money to purchase the box," he concluded. Sam didn't retreat her gaze. She continued to stare at him hopefully. "Alright, if it is what you want…" he paused, seemingly giving her time to change her mind, but she had thought hard about it, and knew it was what she wanted. She would gladly give up a simple, material possession, if it meant Danny's happiness. He nodded knowingly, before turning to the register and removing the aforementioned amount of money. He handed it to her, before picking up the earrings once again and setting them cautiously on the table behind him. Sam went over to the back table where she'd first seen the box, picked it up, and headed back to the front desk, her heart pounding all the while. The man took the money she presented to him, smiling to himself, that increasingly familiar twinkle in his eye.
"Shall I wrap this for you?" he asked in his kind voice. She glanced at a wooden clock that hung from the wall behind him. It showed 6:55. She had five minutes to get to Danny's house for the Fentons' annual Christmas party, meaning she wouldn't have time to go home and wrap the gift. She turned back to the man and nodded politely. He turned around again and went to wrapping the box in shiny, red wrapping paper, topping it off with a large bow made of gold ribbon. He turned again and handed her the gift, which she took carefully.
She looked up at him, a smile on her face that easily showed her immense gratitude. "Thank you," she told him honestly, knowing those two words were enough.
He inclined his head. "You're very welcome." He knew it too.
As Sam turned and walked rapidly out of the antiques shop that winter evening, she did not know if she would ever see that man again. But she did know that no matter the answer to that question, she would never forget him. He had shown her kindness, had helped her to find the perfect gift for her best friend, and she really was eternally grateful. As she now moved at a quickened pace toward Danny's house, she also felt no sense of loss for what she had thought was her most prized possession. She knew somewhere inside that her parents would be angry at her, they had loved those earrings and had not particularly liked Danny, but she didn't care. She felt accomplished. She had done what she had set out to do. She had found the perfect gift.
When she reached the home for which she was headed, she rang the doorbell twice, like she always did. Immediately she heard footsteps nearing the door, before it pulled open to reveal Danny, wearing a pleased and relieved smile.
"Hey, Sam," he greeted her, stepping aside to let her in and closing the door behind her. "We thought you weren't gonna show; you're never late. Tucker kept saying he knew you weren't gonna be on time, something about 'last minute errands'…?"
She grinned. "Yeah, something like that." As he took her coat and hung it in the closet, she pulled the gift out from under her arm, holding it in front of Danny. "Merry Christmas!" she said excitedly, as he took it from her with a similar expression.
"Hey, come on, I've got your present under the tree." He gestured toward the living room, which was currently filled with chatting people. They walked over to the gigantic Christmas tree in the corner and sat down in front of it. Danny fished through the mounds of wrapped gifts underneath, until he found the one he was looking for. It was small and square, about the size of a fist, and wrapped in green and red striped wrapping paper, topped with a green bow. He handed it to her. "Merry Christmas," he said, smiling as she took it from him. "You go first."
"No way," she refused, wanting to see his reaction to her gift. "You first."
He paused a moment. "Same time," he said, and she nodded in agreement.
She grinned at him, before tearing off the paper to find a small, blue box. When she opened it, she found close to the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever seen. Inside was a pair of earring extensions, the kind you can hook onto a pair of earrings to add to them. They were primarily silver, shaped like hearts, with the centers removed. In the centers instead shone in each an amethyst-colored crystal diamond, cut with intricate precision and sparkling brilliantly against the tiny lights on the tree above them. They were nothing like Sam had seen, and yet they immediately filled her with a guilty pang in her heart. It was clear, these extensions were meant to go with the earrings she had worn that day, the earrings she had sold to buy Danny's gift.
As you can probably imagine, she felt terrible at this, but forced herself to think of how happy Danny would be with his gift. When she looked over at him, however, she did not see immense joy on his face, as she had hoped, but extreme confusion and, like her, a pang of guilt. As she watched him, he slowly raised his head to look her in the eye.
"What's wrong?" she decided to ask, her voice slightly cracking with her inner conflicts.
"This is…" he began, but trailed off. "I…"
"It's for your Zodiac stones," Sam clarified, in case he wasn't sure. Still not knowing exactly how she planned to handle the situation with her gift from Danny. She was now vying for time to think of something to say. "What, will they not fit inside?"
Danny took a deep breath. "Sam…I sold my stones to buy your gift."
This comment, however, pulled Sam out of her inner conflicting thoughts and harshly back to the events at hand. "…What?"
"I sold my stones to buy your gift," he repeated, in the exact same tone as before.
"B-but…" she tried to speak, her mind racing. "I…sold my earrings…to buy your gift…"
Danny's eyes widened, as his expression gave way to leave only shock and surprise. Both simply sat there for an indefinite period of time, staring at each other with confused expressions. Then, though neither knew why or how, they started laughing. It was first just giggles and chuckles, which soon progressed to outright laughter, which ended with the two of them lying on the floor at the base of the tree, laughing maniacally.
When the giggles had finally subsided, Danny propped his head up on his hand and looked at Sam. "What just happened?" he asked.
She turned from her spot on the ground to face him. "We both sold our most prized possessions to buy a gift for each other, only to find gifts that ended up being completely worthless in the end."
"Wow," he said, voice full of wonder. "You know what this means, right?"
He grinned. "Next year, we pick out our own gifts for each other. And nothing we can't afford."
She grinned back, before facing him with a saddened look. "It's just that… I really wanted to get you the perfect gift, you know?" She knew it may have been a risk telling him this, but she felt he had to know. "I just wanted to see you really, truly happy."
Danny looked at her with a serious expression. "I'd be happy with anything you'd give me. You know that."
"Yeah, that's what Tucker said too. But I still had to find the perfect gift. And I thought I'd found it… But I guess not…"
"You know, all I wanted was the perfect gift for you, too," he replied, glancing up at the ceiling. "I know how much you loved those earrings, so I thought those extensions would be perfect. But, well… I guess we both made the same mistake, huh?" She smiled to herself, as he did the same. "It's funny… We were both ready and willing to give up our own most valuable things…just to please each other. What is it about this holiday season that makes people do things like that?"
"Oh, I don't know if it's only the season…" Even as the words came out of her mouth, she didn't know why she'd said it. Well, she knew it was true, she knew she had deeper reasons for giving so much of herself to make Danny happy, reasons of which he didn't know, but what she didn't know was why she was saying it aloud. But as Danny turned to face her with a slightly bemused expression, she didn't regret it. Maybe there really was something about this season, something that brought out people's true thoughts and true feelings. And as she and Danny sat beneath the tree in Danny's living room that Christmas Eve night, they reached an understanding within themselves, that the gifts they had truly given each other that night, had not been material gifts at all. Before that moment, they had not known the true meaning of the 'perfect gift', that there was a fine distinction between a present and a gift, that the presents they had bought for each other had indeed been materially useless, but had at the same time been the most valuable they had ever received. For those presents had brought forth the hidden gifts that lay beneath the veil, the gift of friendship, the gift of sacrifice, the gift of love. So let this be a guide to all of us; sometimes the most foolish acts or useless presents can turn out to be the wisest of choices and the most valuable of all gifts. For only in loss of what we believe to be the 'perfect gift', can we hope to find what truly is the perfect gift.
"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."
- O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi
Well? Well? Wadja think? Kinda long, I know. Think I should try some more random unrelated one-shots or just leave this be? I need feedback, people! You'll review for me, won'tcha? Please?
Also, I'm planning on doing some somgfics in here as well, so if you have any Christmas songs in mind you'd like me to try to use, gimme a shout! I'll see what I can do! And that also goes for if ya got any theme ideas for normal one-shots, too. I'd love to try and write some ideas from readers (and yeah, I'd credit ya; don't worry bout that). So lemmi know, kay?
Till next time—