Why am I doing this again?
Oh, right. I'm broke.
Danny sighed. Quietly, of course. Otherwise, the screaming kid in his lap would probably start bawling even louder or, even worse, lose control of her tiny bladder. And he definitely didn't want that.
Playing Santa at the Amity Park Mall was supposed to be a fun, not to mention easy, job. Wear a Santa suit, look jolly, listen to little kids' Christmas lists, go home with sixty bucks more in his pocket. But, of course, Danny had overestimated the younger population of Amity Park. No, instead of excitedly telling Santa their Christmas lists and smiling for a photo, most of them would either scream his eardrums out or pee on him. The worst part was, he had to seem happy and jolly the whole time or risk being fired. It was humiliating. This is why he never risked telling his parents or his friends. They would never let him live it down.
Luckily, he was pretty decently disguised. He was able to change his voice well enough to the stereotypical Santa voice. His messy black hair was hidden quite well under his Santa hat and the pillow stuffed in the enormous red suit really made him shake like a bowl full of jelly. The beard helped, too. The only part of his face that was visible was his icy blue eyes. Danny actually wondered why they hired such a young guy to play Santa; he was only sixteen. Apparently, age didn't matter to his employers as long as he wasn't an asshole to the kids.
His elf helper, Nate, managed to take the picture and get the screaming kid off his lap before she wet herself. Thank god.
"Hey, Nate," Danny asked, forgetting his Santa voice, "how much longer do we have 'til closing time?"
"Well, Santa," Nate started, "it's about ten after twelve, so somewhere around five hours."
Danny groaned. This was going to be a long day.
- - - - - - -
"Ugh, Tucker, do you HAVE to eat that right in front of me?" Sam shivered at the amount of meat her friend was shoveling into his mouth at breakneck speed.
Tucker's eyes narrowed. "You ate your tofu crap in front of me," he reminded her pointedly. "I should be able to eat my mega mighty meaty burger in front of you."
Sam rolled her eyes. Why did that new restaurant in the Amity Park mall have to be meat-themed? "Tuck? You have some dead cow on your upper lip."
Why are we doing this again?
Sam had purchased presents for everyone she knew ahead of time. Her holiday shopping was basically complete. The only person she hadn't gotten anything for was Danny. Yeah, he was her best friend. Sure, she'd known him over half her life. That didn't mean she knew what to get him for Christmas. He was always the hardest to shop for because he was the one who required the most thought. Her parents got nothing because they had everything, her grandma got a a louder horn for her scooter, and Tuck got PDA upgrades. But Danny? She wanted his gift to be perfect. No, scratch that. Perfection does not exist, Sam thought to herself. No, it just needs to be meaningful and say exactly what I want it to say.
"Sam? Saaam?" Tucker was waving his hand in front of her face. Crap. "Finally! What were you daydreaming about there?"
Sam sighed. "I wasn't daydreaming, Tuck," she said in an annoyed tone, "I was just thinking."
"Suuure," he drawled teasingly. "I bet you were thinking about Danny." Sam's face, peculiarly, blanched and reddened at the same time. If looks could kill, Tucker would be six feet under. "So have you gotten him a gift yet?" Tucker asked, obviously changing the subject to avoid Sam's death glare.
"As a matter of fact, I haven't." Sam slammed her head against the wall with a loud groan, earning several strange looks from the passers-by. "I have NO IDEA of what to get him. Tucker, help me out?"
"Nah." Sam shot another death glare at him. This time, Tucker merely shrugged it off. "It's gotta come from you."
"I guess," Sam said, sighing again. "It'd still be nice if I had some help with picking something..." She glanced beside her. No Tuck. "And now I'm talking to myself. Great."
Tucker had stopped a few yards behind her, gazing entrancedly at Santa. "Ooh, Sam! Look! It's SANTA!"
Sam raised an eyebrow as she fought to stifle a laugh. He was practically drooling at the mall's Santa. "Tucker, get a grip. That's just some guy they hired to play Santa, he's not the real deal."
"Well, duh, Sam, but mall Santas are fun!" Tucker exclaimed. "It's been years since I last sat on Santa's lap. Wait," he said, pulling out his trusty PDA. "It's been exactly five years and three days."
"Is there anything you don't have programmed in there?"
"Nope." Tucker pointed towards Santa. "Let's do it."
Sam looked at him as though he'd just sprouted another head and a few tentacles. "What?"
"You heard me. Let's sit on Santa's lap."
"Are you crazy?" Sam took a step back. Maybe he was. His attachment to that PDA wasn't exactly normal. "We're sixteen years old. You said it yourself, the last time you allowed yourself to sit on Santa's lap was when you were eleven!"
"Which is why we should indulge ourselves now." Tucker grabbed her by the arm and led her to the line. "Come on, Sam, it'll be fun!"
Sam groaned. This was going to be a long day.
- - - - - - -
Danny bit back a groan of frustration. Were all little kids this infuriating? If so, he might have to seriously reconsider fatherhood...
His eyes scanned the line of kids. Geez. This pretty much kills any ideas I had for a break, doesn't it? The line was so long that it wound around the Santa area four or five times. He saw a couple of older looking kids as well. Chuckling, his eye was caught by two familiar-looking figures near the front of the line. His face blanched as all thoughts of jolliness seeped out of him. Sam? Tucker? What the hell are they doing here? Oh, god, they found out! I don't know how, but they must have found out somehow! I'll be made fun of for the rest of my life!
He could barely talk as the next kid, one of the few calm children, ranted on about how he wanted peace on earth or something. Danny wasn't even listening. All he could think about was the impending doom that came right after the kid. Tucker and Sam were up next.
- - - - - - -
"You go first," said Sam, pushing Tucker in front of her. She felt conspicuous as the only one in the line taller than four feet. Other than Tucker, anyways.
"Fine." He walked up to a rather shaky looking Santa and blabbed on about some techno-geek stuff that he wanted to find under the tree. As much as she was used to getting stares for being an individual and not conforming to the will of the masses, she was pretty uneasy with some of the looks she was getting. She wasn't five; why was she in the line? Sam didn't even know what to ask for. Hell, I don't even celebrate Christmas! I just came here to get Danny a gift, but NO, Tucker has to shove us in front of Santa Claus. Great. Just great.
And that's when she was struck with an idea.
- - - - - - -
Well, Danny had survived Tucker. That meant that they hadn't figured out his little secret. Unfortunately, that meant that they were still open to recognzing him and being that more amused. Sure, Tucker hadn't rrealized it was Danny in the Santa suits, but Tucker was sometimes as dense as a rock. Sam was bound to be much more observant. He watched as she gave some money to Nate the elf for the picture later. What am I going to do?
Sam walked up nervously. She'd never done this before. "Um, hi." She gingerly placed herself on Santa's right leg, her legs dangling a bit.
Danny Ho-Ho-Hoed nervously. "Why, hello there, little girl!" He couldn't believe he was playing Santa with his best friend. This was so weird..."What would you like for Christmas this year?"
Sam was really just going to say something stupid and abandon the plan altogether. After all, this was a mall Santa. He couldn't actually do anything about it. He couldn't guarantee her anything. But then she looked in his eyes. His icy blue eyes gave her a sort of comfort. She could go through with it. "Actually, uh, Santa, it's not exactly something for me."
Danny's eyebrow shot up. What was she talking about? "What do you mean, it's not for you?" he asked in his fake Santa voice.
"Well, actually, Santa..." For some reason she was blushing. Oh, come on! It's not like Mall Santa over here's gonna go tell anyone! "Actually, I'd like to know what I should get for one of my friends. I've been looking everywhere for a gift meaningful enough to give him, but I'm kind of stuck. Think you can help?" Sam finished with a rather sheepish grin.
Danny's other eyebrow shot up to join the first. He was just about to drop the whole jolly act and ask her what the hell she was talking about when he realized that he would most likely get fired from that course of action. "Um..." Oh crap, I need to use the Santa voice! "Uh, well, I'm sorry, but I can't really help you with that."
Sam shrugged. "Okay, I kind of figured you wouldn't be - "
"That is, unless you give me this friend of your's name?" he interrupted. Sam looked at him. Mall Santa had a mischievious twinkle in his eye. Well, he must not be a serial killer or half the kids in the mall would be dead by now. What can it hurt?
"Danny. Danny Fenton." Danny's eyebrows now succeeded in disappearing into his cap. She's agonizing over a gift for me? She's sitting on Santa's lap for ME? Needless to say, Danny was confused. And a bit thick, as always.
"Uh..." What could he say to that? 'Well, yeah, sure I can tell you what he wants! I'm not Santa! I'm Danny Fenton! Surprise!' Yeah, right. He'd be fired, kicked out, and mocked mercilessly for the rest of his life. Not to mention be pummeled to a pulp by an angry Sam. Suddenly, he was struck with inspiration. "I'll tell you what, little girl. How's about I give you a hint as to what this boy wants and then you tell me what YOU want for Christmas?" He hadn't done his own Christmas shopping yet and figured that this was as good a way as any to figure out what he should get Sam. He'd wanted to give her something special even before she came to "Santa" for advice.
Sam paused for a moment, her fingers stroking her chin as she thought. "Deal. You first."
Danny thought. What does he want for Christmas? "Well, this Danny fellow would want something that comes from the heart. I'm sure you'll know as soon as you see it." There, that wasn't so bad an answer, was it?
Sam frowned. That wasn't what I wanted to hear! "Alright, now I guess it's my turn?" Santa nodded. "I want Danny to stop being so clueless."
What? Danny thought. What the hell does THAT mean? He'd have to think about it later. Right now, he had to smile as the camera clicked.
- - - - - - -
Tucker was waiting for her. "So? How was it?"
Sam wrinkled her nose. "Eh. It was kind of weird."
"I heard you mention Danny's name." Tucker waggled his eyebrows up and down. "Wishing for him to come to Christmas in his Birthday suit?"
"Yup." Tucker's jaw dropped for about a minute before he realized Sam was kidding. Something caught her eye. "Ooh, Tuck, new bookstore!"
Tucker groaned. He hated bookstores. They reminded him too much of the school library, which, in turn, reminded him of school. Which is never a fun thing to be reminded of while on Christmas vacation. Or ever, really. "You go ahead, Sam. I'm sure they have a whole Gothic novel section. I'll just be over by the fountain." And with that, he walked off.
Hmm, I wonder what I can find in here? It seemed like a normal bookstore, not Gothic like her favorites. Oh well. Books were books and Sam loved reading. She scanned the shelves for interesting titles when something jumped out at her. Hello, what's this? She pulled the book off the shelf and flipped through a few of the pages. She grinned.
This is perfect!
- - - - - - -
Danny went to bed that night, thinking about what Sam had said. Okay, first she says that she wants to find me a meaningful gift, then she says that she wants me to not be clueless? And all of it without realizing it's me? Well, at least I'm not the only clueless one...
What did she mean by "clueless?" How was he clueless? Sure, he may not have been passing a few classes at school, but that didn't make him clueless! What's worse is that it's not the first time he's been called clueless, either. It had become an almost daily occurance. But this, this was the first time anyone had said something about correcting it.
Hmm. Well, what is there to be clueless about? Maybe I can start from there and then become unclueless. That's not a word, is it? Danny thought about anything and everything that would earn him the nickname of clueless. Unfortunately for him, he was so thick that the obvious never occurred to him. Hey, wait a minute, Sam's not the only one who's called me clueless. That means Tucker's gotta know!
He hurriedly dialed Tucker's number. "Hello?" asked a mildly sleepy Tucker.
"Hey, Tuck, it's me. I need a favor."
"Sure, Danny. Whatever. Just don't call this late ever again." He paused. "Well, okay, unless it's a ghost."
"How am I clueless?"
Tucker nearly dropped the phone. "Um, I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," he squeaked, adding a nervois laugh at the end.
"Tucker!" He could just about feel Danny's eyes roll. "I'm serious! Tell me now!"
Tucker narrowed his eyes at the receiver. "Oh, yeah? Why should I?"
"Tuck, if you don't cooperate, you'll be streaking through the hallways tomorrow."
Tucker blanched at the thought. Oh, shit! "Um, well...uh..." Tucker was running out of ideas. Hell, he didn't have that many ideas to begin with. Wait a sec, it's not like he doesn't love her back! Tucker sighed. "Fine, Danny. You win. You're clueless because Sam likes you and you haven't noticed it for the past four years or so. Good job, doofus."
Danny's jaw dropped. "WHAT?"
"Have you seriously not noticed how she'll always blush when your hands touch? Or how she hates Paulina and Valerie? You couldn't seriously think she harbored that much hatred for any random bitch. It's because you liked them and she was jealous. Duh."
Danny couldn't believe it. Sam liked him? "And that's why I'm clueless?"
Tucker groaned over the phone. "YES! THAT'S WHY YOU'RE CLUELESS! NOW LET ME SLEEP!"
Danny didn't register that Tucker slammed the phone down. He didn't register that he was still holding the phone as it started to beep. All he could think about was his idiotic cluelessness. She's liked me for four years and I haven't even noticed! If I'd known, I would never have drooled over Paulina and Valerie. Danny had liked her for awhile, too. He'd always thought she was beautiful and her individuality and passion made her irresistable. He'd just never thought she'd like him back; she always treated him like a brother rather than a potential boyfriend.
But now that I know she likes me, things can finally change.
- - - - - - -
The trio of friends never exchanged Christmas presents on Christmas. Too cliched for them. That, and none of their parents actually allowed them to hang out. Christmas was supposed to "family time", or something like that. No, instead, they would always meet up at Sam's house sometime during the week before Christmas. There wasn't a specific date because they always had to plan around Sam's parents; they hated her "impoverished" friends. But they always managed to do it at Sam's because her house was, as Danny and Tucker discovered freshman year, the best place to have a party.
Unfortunately, Tucker caught the flu the day before the party. Even more unfortunately, Sam's parents were only going out that night, so they had no time to reschedule. Danny and Sam, having both gotten their flu shots, had already stopped by Tucker's house to deliver his presents before heading out to Sam's place.
"You know," Danny said, stopping suddenly in front of his house, "my parents are at some random ghost hunting...thing. We could always just go to the Op center, since it's right here and all."
Sam frowned. "But it's tradition. We always go -"
Danny cut her off. "Tuck's not here. It's always been a tradition with the three of us. But now its just you and me." For obvoius reasons, he blushed when he said that. Home alone, just the two of them...
Sam thought for a minute. "Yeah, I guess you're right," she said at last. "I have your present here anyway."
Danny ducked behind his house. "I'm going ghost!" Two energy rings encircled his body as he transformed into Danny Phantom. Sam shivered. Besides his ghostly chill, she had always seen a sort of confidence that Danny had as Phantom that was rarely present as Fenton. He put his arm around Sam's waist, his ghostly pallor becoming slightly pink, and flew them up to the Op center.
As they landed, becoming visible again, Sam noticed that his arm lingered on her waist. She was about to say something before Danny realized, his eyes wide, and quickly removed his arm. She saw his cheeks go pinker. I didn't know he could blush in his ghost form. "So, uh, Danny," she started nervously, "your present's right here." She motioned to the flat object in her hand.
Danny smiled as he transformed back into a human. "Ooh, what is it, Sammy?" She cringed slightly at the nickname, but proceeded to give him the gift. Danny tore at the wrapping paper, eyes widening as he saw what it was. "Whoa..." It was a book on all of the constellations and what each of them meant. Sam knew that his dream was to become an astronaut, so she figured that anything having to do with space would suit his tastes quite nicely.
"Thanks, Sam! This is awesome!" he exclaimed, pulling her into a tight embrace. She hesitantly wrapped her arms around him, following suit, blushing slightly as she realized the position they were in. Like we were going to kiss or something...
"Hey, Sam," he whispered into her ear. She shivered slightly, hoping that he couldn't feel it in the tight embrace. "Now it's time for you to get your present. Something I know you wanted..."
He broke the embrace a little, bringing one of his hands up to her face to cup her cheek. Sam's face was frozen with a mix of horror and happiness. HOLY SHIT! He leaned closer to her until their noses were touching. He needed to know that she actually did want this, and that it wasn't just his raging teenage hormones talking. Sam understood, moving one of her hands to the back of his head as she leaned in to close the space. Their lips touched, lightly at first, but growing deeper and more desperate as the moments passed. Both darted their tongues out at the same time with the same idea in mind; instead, they met together immediately, joined together in dance.
Danny ended the kiss, his lungs aflame. He looked up at Sam, who looked happy. very happy, but confused. "Danny, how did you know?"
Danny chuckled. "One of Santa's elves told me." He smiled as Sam began to look even more puzzled, obviously thinking about her trip to the mall earlier that day. Taking one of Sam's hands in his own before she could even begin to figure anything out, he whispered, "Sam, this isn't even the best part."
Sam's eyes widened. "Daniel Fenton, you had better not be saying what I think you're saying."
Danny looked confused for a second before his eyes widened as well. "NO! No, not that! No!" Not that it would be a bad idea after a bit..."I just thought you'd like to know that I am officially no longer clueless."
Sam smiled. "You can say that's the best part if you want, Danny," she said leaning towards him. She kissed him lightly on the lips, moving deeper as she leaned into him. His arms caught her waist just before he fell over. Above him, or, rather on top of him, Sam flashed a wicked smile. "But I care to disagree."