Thirty-Fourth

And so we'll drive as fast as we can go

Right through the black night, black ice and the snow

Until we see some street signs that we know-

We're coming home...

Relient K- We Wish You a Merry Christmas

There had been no time to see it coming. His eyes had gone wide at the realization that it was upon him, razor-sharp claws extended, venom dripping off its icy fangs in long ropes. There hadn't been any time to react to its onslaught, and he had fallen beneath its freezing body, trampled into the snow by the ripping talons and snapping jaws. Now he lay, spread-eagled in the snow, watching the creature's snarling mouth plunge toward his neck.

That was when he finally decided to do something about it.

With an exhalation of obvious relief, Kit crossed the first name off his Christmas list. It was the seven in the evening on the twenty-third of December, and the Macy's on Thirty-Fourth thronged with adrenaline and high pressure. Chronic procrastinators abounded, their eyes red and bleary from long nights spent shopping online and buying next-day delivery. In sad, stark contrast to Kit, most of them were nearing the completion of their insane shopping frenzies.

He sighed again, this time in slight annoyance at himself as he realized he probably should have clued into this holiday shopping thing starting in late November. But no, it had taken him an entire extra month to even get started. And that was with Christmas music in four different languages pounding on his ears fifteen hours a day.

Gingerly sidestepping yet another fight, Kit began to reflect on how much he abhorred the very idea of shopping in Macy's. But there were only twenty-two people left on his list, and only four more people to be bought for in Macy's. Good. The sooner he got out of here, the better.

But, goddamn it, all of them were girls.

Resigned to his inevitable fate, he checked his list again. Carmela and his mother had both mentioned how much they wanted new bottles of perfume, whereas Nita and Helen had both been put down for jewelry.

Now it was merely a matter of choosing between the lesser of two evils.

Heaving yet another resigned sigh, he dug into his pocket for a coin. Fishing out a quarter and almost losing his wallet in the process, he balanced it on his thumb and forefinger and flicked it into the air.

Heads says perfume, tails says jewelry.

Snatching it out of the air, he slapped the quarter onto the palm of his hand, took a breath, and lifted the hand covering the coin.

Heads.

Another sigh as he began to plow his way through the hordes of people, slowly making his unwilling way towards the perfume counter.

He knew he was close as the smell of eighty thousand different perfumes suddenly washed into his nasal passages, making his eyes water and giving him the vague need to sneeze. This time there was no sigh; he didn't trust himself to stay conscious, given the sheer amount of .

Making his way up to the counter, he managed to wave down one of the assistants, who walked over wearing a distinctly suspicious look.

"May I help you?"

Kit blinked. "Uh. Yeah. Do you have any...uh…" He made a few vague gestures with his hands, suddenly realizing how incredibly stupid it would be to ask if they had any perfume, and hoping she'd clue in.

No such luck. She cocked a heavily penciled eyebrow at him. "Any…?"

"Uh. Perfumey-smelling…stuff… you know, like…uh…" Dammitdammitdammit…

Both eyebrows went up. "…well, yeah, this is the perfume department…"

Damage control was needed, and fast. "Uh. Uhm. Yeah. Sorry. Uh. I'll take uhm. Those two," he stammered, pointing at two black bottles that didn't look too expensive.

Having run out of eyebrows to raise, she opened her eyes wider. "Sir, those are our most expensive scents, I'm not sure if you want to- "

More damage control!

"Ah. Uh. Uhmmm… your best selling perfume then, please. Two bottles."

An eyebrow went down. "You sure?"

"I'm sure."

The other went down. "Okay. Let me get them for you, and I can ring you up over here…" An eyebrow went back up. "You want these uh. Boxed, or…will you be wearing them?"

He nearly passed out. "Boxed. Please."

Five minutes later, he was free again, bright red in the face, and much, much worse for the wear. Terrified of what laid in store for him, he reluctantly forced himself towards the jewelry department, halfheartedly telling himself it couldn't get much worse.

Halfway to the jewelry counter, he paused for a moment beside a display of Star Wars action figures. His hesitation was momentary; after a moment of consideration, he picked out a box that didn't look too battered, dusted it off, and continued on his way to Hell Number Two.

Having picked out a small gold ring for Nita and a white gold necklace for Helen, Kit leaned awkwardly against the counter, warming his hands against the edge of the display case, waiting for an associate to show up. He had been standing idly contemplating the various ways someone could rob the counter for about three minutes when a harried-looking young man in a Santa hat hurried up to him.

"Can I help you with that, sir…?"

Kit snapped out of his reverie and nodded, indicating the jewelry to him.

"These two, please."

He glanced up, looking the associate fully in the face for the first time, and froze.

The Lone Power gave him a half-scathing-half-embarrassed look before he could say anything.

"Shut up."

"I didn't say anyth-"

"I heard you think it."

Kit rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, well. I didn't walk up here expecting to meet the creator of entropy and death behind a Macy's jewelry counter. What are you doing here, anyway?"

The Lone Power resignedly slid open the back of one of the display cases and removed the ring, plunking it down on the counter.

"It's a long story. This the one? What size?"

"Uh. Yeah, dunno what size."

"Right. Well. It's Christmas time. Again. And you know how it is at Christmas. My wonderful family gets together just like everybody else's. And this year, my sister showed up, 'Lucie, I'm hooooome'. I hate being called Lucie. So we have the family together just before Christmas, and my dear sister decides to revive the tradition of pulling straws. You know Stonehenge? My sister lost that year. Pyramids of Giza? That was me. So, we draw straws, and guess what? I lost. This necklace?"

"That's the one."

"Mhmm. My family, being big on tradition, wouldn't hear of anything but seeing me help out again down here. You mortals have nothing going on at the moment. Absolutely nothing. So I took up a job here. Only temporarily, keep in mind, but I still get to wear this lovely uniform and hat. My sister gave me the hat. Joy. You want these boxed?"

"Please and thank you."

The Lone Power sighed. "I'll ring this up too."

Kit pushed him the box of action figures, watching the Lone Power ring his purchase up.

"Darth Vader," he remarked towards Kit. "A symbol of the corruption of power, of the inevitable fascination of the dark…"

Kit blinked. "Yeah, I can see why you'd be interested in him."

"Mhmm. I only ever saw the first two. Oh well. I'm back, might as well take the opportunity to see the other five…three.…others..."

Sweeping his boxes off the counter and taking the proffered receipt, Kit nodded. "Good luck with that. I won't take you out here, there's too many witnesses. And plus, hey, it's Christmas. You don't want to be here, neither do I."

"Tell me about it. All right then. Enjoy this day off. You might not get another one."

Kit shrugged as he started walking away from the counter. "Maybe, maybe not. Merry Christmas, Fairest and Fallen."

The Lone Power rolled his eyes and sauntered off, bored and unhappy.

Glancing back over his shoulder, Kit chuckled for a moment as he reached the doors, then pushed them open and stepped out into the chilly night, the first few flakes of snow falling around him as he made his way toward the subway station.

Five down, eighteen to go. And he had twenty-four hours to do it all in.

Dear God, he hated shopping…

End.

Best wishes for the coming year to all who have read this, and I wish you all a safe and merry Christmas.

A/N: Well. I've resurrected myself for a few days on winter break, and I apologize for the massive gap in updates, which seems to be getting bigger and bigger as time goes on. It's getting harder and harder to write and procrastinate with each passing year. Haha. Just kidding. Well. This one-shot started off as a reflection of last-minute Christmas shopping (and belated Christmas shopping), and turned into this. Mhmm. Lone Power is incredibly OOC, I know, and so is Kit. Apologies, I normally write much better than this, but I really wanted to produce a Christmas one-shot again this year, and I haven't gotten a chance to write before tonight, the twenty-third/twenty-fourth of December.