A/N: Merry Christmas! And other such holidays as well! As all my writer-friends are the best gifts anyone could have, I am doing a week-before-Christmas thing to get everyone in the mood for Christmas with a series of loosely connected oneshots set at Wammy's house. I hope you enjoy them! And if you do, please review!
This story is for Akane.
"So you see, it's more of a tale of psychological evolution and self-realization and identity than mindless gore. Not that there's not gore, of course, but it all has a point, you know, not just so you can see blood and guts flying-"
Sighing, enduring his 2nd hour of being dressed as Santa Claus and listening to children tell him what they wanted for Christmas, Mike looked down at the scrawny boy on his lap, who was still prattling on about why the Silent Hill games were completely appropriate to give to a nine year-old as a gift. Mike examined the kid through his unneeded glasses, trying to ignore the tickling of his false beard against his neck. The kid was odd, long and lanky looking, like a twisted mime his dusty red hair, striped shirt, and random goggles. Matt, he had said his name was?
"Ho ho ho!" Mike chuckled, for what must have been the 50th time that day. "Well, we'll see if you get your computer games, if you've been a good boy!" The elf helper to the side beckoned the boy off his lap, looking tired and put-upon. Mike suppressed a sigh of relief as the boy reluctantly slid off his knee, being sure to rumble his fake belly as he said his line. "Ho ho ho, Matt! And merry Christmas!"
"They're not computer games," Matt muttered, skulking off. "They're video art experiences. And I have been a good boy. I haven't killed anyone..."
Mike pinched his nose tightly as the elf helper called for the next kid. Being paid $6 an hour to play Father Christmas for these weird little orphanage kids was not nearly enough.
Pasting on a smile, Mike turned to look down at the next kid, a small, white-haired child wearing oversized white pajamas and socks. He was twirling his hair, looking up at him with wide eyes. Mike blinked. There were all sorts of weird ones here.
He picked him up and set him on his lap, watching as the odd boy stiffened. Mike raised an eyebrow. Apparently, this kid wasn't used to being touched.
"Ho ho ho!" Mike chuckled merrily. "And what is your name, little boy?"
The boy looked up at him, still twirling his hair.
"Shouldn't you know my name already?" he asked tonelessly. "If you don't know what our names are, how will you know and remember what each of us want as a gift?"
"Ahh- Santa's list only has names and addresses, not photos," he said quickly, wracking his mind. "So if you don't tell Santa your name, I won't be able to give you what you want."
The boy blinked. "That's completely illogical," he said. "If you don't know our identities, what's to stop us from lying about our names, giving you the name of a child who we know to be good, and messing your system up?"
"Erm- because Santa always knows when you're lying or not, using the same technology he uses to tell who's naughty or nice." Mike was pleased to see the child's eyes widen in unquestioning belief. He didn't know what he'd have done if he'd called his bluff. "Thinking" hadn't been a requirement on the application for this cruddy job. "so, little boy, let's try this again. Just what is your name?"
The boy looked up at him, his eyes wide.
"Near," he said quietly. "I'm Near."
Mike sighed to himself in relief. "Ho ho ho! And have you been a good little boy this year, Near?"
Near met his eyes emotionlessly. "Aren't you supposed to have that on your list?" he said.
"Um- it is on Santa's list," Mike said quickly. "But I didn't bring it with me today. So I just need you to tell me to remind me, and I'll check and see if you're lying when I get back to the North pole."
Near looked up at him blankly, saying nothing. Mike bit his lip.
"Ho ho ho! So, Near, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?"
Near looked up at him for a moment.
"How did you get here from the North Pole?"
Mike blinked. "What?"
"How did you get here from the North Pole?" Near repeated. "Someone would have taken a picture of you if you used your sleigh during the day and it'd have been all over the Internet and tabloids by now. So how did you get here?"
Mike laughed uneasily. "Don't you worry about how Santa came here to see you, Near. Just tell Santa what you want."
"Did you come in your sleigh? Do you have an invisibility shield on it?" Near was watching him, his eyes wide. "Can you teleport? How fast can your sleigh go?"
Mike blinked. "Err- as fast as a normal sleigh goes?"
"But then how can you visit every child's house in only one night?" Near asked. "Do your elves help you in other sleighs? Do you whip your reindeer to speed them up? Can you stop time?"
"Stop time?" Mike faltered. "I- Santa- how-"
"Do you have an evil brother?" Near asked suddenly. "Do you have an evil twin?"
"An evil twin?" Mike said incredulously. "Why would you think that?"
"The French seem to think you do," Near said reasonably. "The have both you, who they call Père Noël, and your evil brother, Père Fouettard. They say you give gifts to the good children while your brother whips the bad."
Mike knew nothing about the French. "Do they really?" he asked.
Near nodded. "Is that even ethical? Could he be tried for assault and battery? Did you two get along when you were kids? Does he live at the South Pole? Does he hack your naughty and nice list to know who to whip?"
"Well-" Mike started, unsure. "I- Santa only concerns himself with giving gifts to the nice little children-"
"Why do you give gifts to the nice children?" Near inquired, looking up at him with his wide, unblinking eyes. Mike relaxed. This was one he knew the answer to.
"Why, to reward the good little girls and boys, of course! Ho ho-"
"Isn't doing good supposed to be its own reward?" Near interrupted, idly twirling his hair. "Aren't you bribing children with presents to get them to behave? Aren't you just further ruining the world and contributing to the already decaying morals of society? You're breaking into people's houses, too. That's not setting a good example for children."
Mike stared back at Near blankly. In the space of five minutes, Santa had gone from a jolly old elf to a disgusting, disgruntled criminal who liked breaking into little kids houses and souring society. "Err- I don't-"
"How old are you?"
Mike blinked down at the kid on his knee. "What?"
"How old are you?" Near repeated patiently. "You're not a woman, so I'm assuming you're not overly sensitive and preoccupied with your age..."
"Oh," Mike said. "Santa- Santa is very old. Very old indeed..."
"Were you around for the first Christmas?" Near asked, his eyes betraying none of his thoughts. Mike smiled.
"Of course, Near," he said. "That's why I'm called 'Father Christmas', after all..."
"What did you get baby Jesus for the first Christmas?" Near asked suddenly, looking up at him.
Mike stared at him. "What did I get him?"
"Yes," Near said. "You said you were around for it. Did you get him myrrh? Myrrh's a rather depressing gift for someone's birthday... did Jesus get birthday gifts? Or only Christmas gifts? Or both? Or-"
"Well, I imagine his gifts would count for both..." Mike theorized.
"No, actually, you're wrong," Near said tonelessly. "Jesus was actually born in March, while Christmas was moved to December 25th by the Vatican to make it easier for pagans to convert. And it wasn't established until long after his death, anyway."
Mike sweatdropped. "Near?" he ventured. "How old are you?"
"I'm eight," Near said simply. "Were you eight once? Or did you just sort of appear and not be born? Did you see Jesus being born? Or did you-"
"Near," Mike interrupted, pinching the bridge of his nose tightly, his tone pleading. "As fascinating as this conversation is, I still have lots of other kids to talk to today, and I can't really spend anymore time with you. So how about helping Santa out a little and just telling me what you want for Christmas?"
"Oh," Near blinked. "Okay." He turned on his lap to look the other way, and Mike turned to look as well. "Do you see that kid in the front of the line?" Near asked. "The one dressed in black with the blonde hair, the one picking on the kid behind him?"
Mike blinked. "Yeah..." he said.
"That's Mello," Near told him. "I want Mello to get whatever he wants for Christmas."
"Wait..." Mike said, puzzled. "All you want for Christmas is for Mello to get his Christmas wish?"
Near nodded. "Yes," he said. "Mello might not always be very good, so it's highly likely he'll be on the 'naughty' list. This way, Mello will still get what he wants, and he'll be happy, then, even if it's through subverting your system."
Mike looked down at the little boy, touched. "That's very selfless, Near," he said. "You and Mello must be very close."
"Not really," Near said, looking down. "He hates me. Merry Christmas."
Without another word, Near slipped off of his knee smoothly, going over to the other side to wait with the red-haired video-game kid and the others silently, twirling his hair. Mike watched him for a moment, before being dragged back to reality by the grumpy elf helper calling "next".
Turning, Mike only had time to see a brief flash of black and yellow as a child suddenly catapulted himself onto his knee, landing hard on his lap, causing Mike to exert a brief "oof" at the impact and pain.
"You're Santa, right?" the child demanded, his eyes hard. "I'm Mello. And you'll keep whatever it is we want for Christmas a secret, right? And you'll never tell anyone?"
Mike relaxed a bit, glad to see that this child seemed more prone to asking the normal, typical questions that children of this age were prone to ask. "Of course, Mello," he said soothingly. "Santa won't tell anyone. Now, just what is it that you want?"
Mello's eyes flared, and he leaned forward conspiratorially before speaking, his eyes glinting.
"You see that little boy in white over there?" Mello asked, pointing. "The one that was just on your lap?"
"Near?" Mike asked.
"Yeah, Near," Mello said, nodding. "Stupid kid. Well, he's what I want for Christmas."
Mike faltered. "You want... Near?"
"Yes!" Mello's tone was determined, and his eyes flashed. "I don't care how or why or in what context you get him. I just want Near to be mine."
Mike tried not to gape or groan as Mello began detailing the diamond-studded collar and leash he would make Near wear once he was his, pinching the bridge of his nose tightly as the Mello boy prattled on, promising himself a stiff whiskey after this all was done.
There was no way he was possibly being paid enough for this job.
Yay for Christmas-y page breaks! Did you like the story? What did you think? Please, review and let me know! As a Christmas gift? I love and cherish every one!