Hello all! Yes, I'm still alive, but I'm a full time teacher now, so writing has taken a bit of a backseat. However, while you're waiting for something new, I bring you a co-written holiday fic by myself, Alicia Blade, and Lillie Bell. This fic can also be found on Alicia's fanfic page.
For reference, Darien/Serena chapters are written by Alicia, Amy/Scott chapters are by myself, and Raye/Chad chapters are by Lillie.
Lyrics from "A Pocketful of Miracles" by Frank Sinatra.
A Pocketful of Miracles
By Lillie Bell, Alicia Blade, and Kaitlyn Fall
Practicality doesn't interest me.
Love the life that I lead.
I've got a pocketful of miracles,
And with a pocketful of miracles,
One little miracle a day is all I need.
"Hey, Darien, wake up! I need your opinion on these."
Sprawled out on the bench press machine, Darien opened his eyes and blinked groggily up at the iron dumbbell that hung over his brow. Tilting his head to the side, he saw Andrew hovering over him, his fists tucked into thick boxing gloves—one was neon pink and the other was black with yellow daisies. Darien squinted from the gloves to his friend, then braced himself against the dumbbell and pushed himself to sitting.
"Definitely the flowers. That shade of pink does horrible things to your complexion."
"They're for Lita," said Andrew, holding his hands in front of him. "I heard she's taking a kickboxing class, so I thought maybe she could use some new gloves. I think I like the pink ones best."
"Then by all means, get the pink ones."
"They just have a certain sense of irony about them that I like. Girly and kickass all at the same time."
"Right . . . can we leave now?"
"Although the flowered ones match her hair clip. You know the green bauble thing?" He twirled the flowered glove around his ear.
"Would you just pick one? We've been at this godforsaken mall all morning."
"Well if you would be a little more helpful with your opinions, this wouldn't be taking so long," Andrew said, reaching forward and bopping Darien on the nose with the pink glove.
Darien pulled himself off the bench. "My opinion is that Lita would be happy if you gave her a lump of coal."
"Yeah, okay, but—would she rather have a pink lump of coal or a black one with daisies?" He held up the gloves again, weighing them up and down on an invisible scale.
Rolling his eyes, Darien thwapped down the flowered gloves. "Get the pink ones."
"Good call. I'm going to go put these ones back."
"I'll wait for you out in the mall," said Darien, thrusting his hands into his pockets. Andrew wiggled his padded fingers goodbye as Darien trekked out of the crowded sports store, dodging flying Wiffle balls and children on rollerblades careening down the aisles.
The stores were packed on Christmas Eve and were only becoming more crowded as the day wore on. Every year, Darien swore he wouldn't get dragged out to the mall on this horrible day of excessive spending and desperate decisions, and yet every year Andrew managed to talk him into it, pleading for moral support.
Darien barely managed to escape from the sports store unscathed, but the mall's main corridor was no better, especially as Darien found himself standing right before the North Pole and Santa's Station—that sad Christmas tradition of long lines, greedy children, and overpriced Polaroid pictures. Darien leaned against one of the mall's marble pillars and folded his arms, watching as a little girl in a velvet dress was lifted off of Santa's lap and replaced with a little boy who tried to pull off St. Nick's fluffy white beard.
The beard stayed stubbornly in place though and, unhappy to be foiled in his mischief, the boy spent the rest of his time on Santa's lap pouting and refusing to speak.
Darien sighed and turned his attention to the people swarming past, laden down with shopping bags and boxes. He knew he should get a gift for Andrew, knowing that Andrew would have gotten him something, despite the fact that he'd told him a dozen times not to. He spotted a candy store across the way. Andrew's sweet tooth was almost as bad as his own, and it's not like picking out a box of chocolates would be particularly inconvenient or anything, given that he was already right there.
He glanced back at the sports store and spotted Andrew waiting in a line about twenty people long. Satisfied that he had plenty of time, he squared his shoulders and darted toward the candy store.
"Excuse me, sir?"
Darien paused at a tug on his sleeve. Glancing down, he noticed a boy who couldn't have been more than ten years old dressed in a green elf outfit. Ears and all.
Aww, now what kind of parent would do that to their poor kid?
"Santa would like to speak to you."
Darien squinted at the strangely serious face. "Excuse me?"
"Santa." The boy pointed toward the North Pole. Well, not the real North Pole, but the pretend sleigh in the pretend snow that the pretend Santa was sitting on. "He asked me to come get you. He needs to speak with you. He says it's a matter of great Christmas importance."
"Are you sure he didn't mean someone else? I was just going to—"
"He said the man in the hideous green jacket. He could only have meant you."
"Hideous?" Darien brushed his hands along his the front of his jacket. "Look, I'm not—" His gaze landed on Santa, then, and saw the merry blue eyes twinkling straight at him in a way that was more than a little disconcerting.
"Come on," said the boy. "It's Christmas Eve, you know. We haven't got all day."
Taking hold of Darien's sleeve, he dragged him toward Candy Cane Lane, past the line of sniveling, waiting children and their irritated parents, past Santa's teenage helpers in their inappropriately short skirts, straight up to the big man himself.
Darien looked behind him, at the line he'd just cut to the front of, and cringed with embarrassment. "Uh, sorry," he said to the mother right behind him, who was giving him a very frightening evil eye. "This will just take a minute."
Clearing his throat, he turned to Santa Claus, who was sitting on his sleigh with his hands spread out on both knees.
"Hello!" he bellowed at Darien. "Merry Christmas!"
"Uh, yeah, hi. I was told you wanted to see me?"
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" said Santa like a preprogrammed Santa doll. "Yes, indeed, my boy. I have you on my list as being a very good boy this year."
Darien frowned and glanced at the little elf who had dragged him along, then back at the line of children stretching off into the mall, then back at Santa. "I think there's been a mistake."
"Nope, no mistakes here! We keep very good records, you know. Ho! Ho! Ho!"
"Right. Checking it twice and all that."
"You got that right! So as you've been such a good boy, I'm going to give you a very special present."
"I can't wait."
Santa leaned forward and stage-whispered to the elf, "Why don't you bring Mr. Shields his present. You know which one it is, right?" The boy nodded and started digging through a giant brown bag beside the sleigh.
Darien's frown deepened. "How did you know my name?"
Santa just winked and tapped a finger against his nostril. "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake."
"Okay, that's creepy."
"Here it is, boss," said the elf, handing a red velvet box to Santa.
"Very good, thank you." Santa took the box in both hands and held it out to Darien. "Here you are then, my boy. I want you to treat these with extra care."
Darien eyed the box suspiciously, but his hands reached for it almost against his will. "Look, I'm not sure I—"
"No need to thank me. Just doing my job!" Leaning forward again, he coaxed Darien closer with a curled finger. "Just make sure to use them very wisely. Understand?"
Santa sat back again and slapped his palms against his rotund belly. "That's good, my boy. Now you have a Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!"
Darien opened his mouth to argue against taking the gift, but before he could speak, he was ushered away from Santa and his sleigh by the little elf boy who was peculiarly strong for his size. "Move along now," he piped, "Santa hasn't got all day, busy busy busy. Oh—and Merry Christmas!"
Stumbling through the last candy cane arch, Darien turned and looked back at Santa, already with another little boy on his lap.
"There you are!"
Darien spun around as Andrew emerged from the crowd, carrying his own assortment of shopping bags.
"That takes care of Lita," said Andrew. "Which just leaves Serena. We're cutting it a little close, but maybe we can get her a giftcard or—hey, what's that?" Andrew frowned, eyeing the red box in Darien's hands.
"I'm not sure, but probably an illegal substance of some sort."
"Nevermind. Santa Claus just gave it to me."
Andrew looked past Darien's shoulders to Santa and the long line of children. "Don't tell me I missed you sitting on Santa's lap."
"Oh, please." Darien strolled off down the mall, suddenly eager to get away from the crazy man in the red suit. The box in his hands had no markings, just plain red velvet, and it was peculiarly light, as if filled with nothing but tissue paper.
"Aren't you going to open it?" Andrew said as the crowd started to thin toward the less-holiday-centric part of the mall. "Maybe it's food. I'm getting kind of hungry."
"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to accept food from strangers?"
Shaking his head, Darien paused and, gripping the base of the box with one hand, wriggled off the lid with the other. Andrew leaned forward as they both peered down into the box.
Inside, on a bed of more red velvet, rested fourmilky-white glass balls. Above them sat a small gold plaque, engraved in script letters:
"Marbles?" said Darien after a heavy moment of silence. "He gave me marbles?"
"Not marbles, Darien. Miracles."
"Right. They look like marbles to me." Handing the lid to Andrew, Darien took one of the glass spheres out of the box and held it up. The fogginess seemed to be swirling and churning inside the glass, a weird trick of the light. "It feels like blown glass, it's so light," he said, peering into the milky depths. "What a useless gift."
The glass ball leaped from his fingertips, as if slicked with oil. Darien gasped and reached for it, snatching it briefly from the air, but a moment later it slipped through his fingertips and shattered on the tile floor, followed by a tiny puff of smoke.
"Smooth move," said Andrew, as they both gaped down at the tiny glass shards. "Remind me never to give you anything breaka—"
The red box jumped out of Darien's hand and right into Andrew's arms before, a moment later, a small form toppled on top of Darien. His heel caught on one of the slippery shards of glass and he fell backward with a yelp, landing on the hard floor, his arms wrapped around a slender waist and his mouth full of hair.
He spat out the hair and groaned. His entire body throbbed with pain.
The girl slowly sat up, trembling, and ran her hands over her intact arms and head. "Oh my goodness," she breathed. "I'm not dead. I can't believe I'm not dead. You saved my life! How can I ever thank y—oh. It's just you."
Rubbing his head, Darien peered dizzily up at bright blue eyes and two tails of gold hair. "I should have known," he said with a pained moan. As the world stopped spinning, Darien sat up beside her and raised his eyes to the mall's ceiling. "Did you just fall out of the sky?"
"Yes," said Serena, "and for my next trick, I'll be sprouting wings and playing a harp. Honestly, Darien." She accepted Andrew's hand and stood, finger-combing the tangles from her hair.
"Where did you come from?" Darien said, standing too fast and having to pause with his hand on Andrew's shoulder to keep from falling over again.
"I . . . well, I . . ." Serena scratched at the back of her neck and peered upward. "I kind of fell off the balcony. No biggie."
"Are you all right?" asked Andrew. They all looked up at the second floor that wrapped around the main corridor, surrounded by a waist-high railing. A group of people had converged above them and were gawking down at Serena.
She smiled nervously and waved at them. "I'm okay. Just shaken up."
"Yeah, you're okay because you fell on me. You could have killed us both. What kind of an idiot jumps off a second-story balcony?"
"Hey, I'm not suicidal!"
"One has to wonder."
"I tripped and fell, okay?"
"Egad, you're even klutzier than I realized. They should lock you away for being a menace to society—before someone gets seriously hurt."
"Well they should lock you away for being . . . a . . . a jerk to society!"
"Wow, good one, Meatball Head."
"Oh, shut up."
"So, Serena!" Andrew said, shoving the red velvet box back into Darien's hands. "You're coming to the party at the arcade tonight, right?"
Her face was flushed with anger as she peeled her gaze away from Darien and forced a smile. "But of course, Andrew! Which reminds me, is there anything I can bring?"
"Nope, I've got everything covered."
"Aren't you hot?"
Serena turned to Darien, hesitated a moment, then grinned devilishly and tossed a lock of hair over her shoulder. "Gee, thanks for noticing, Darien."
He scowled and took the end of her wool scarf between his fingertips. "Don't flatter yourself, Meatball Head. You do realize it's sixty degrees outside, right?"
"Yes," she said, snapping the scarf away from him and looking down at her clothes—two layered sweaters, a down jacket, scarf, mittens, and yellow galoshes. "But I don't care what the weatherman says. It's Christmas, and I'm going to dress like it's Christmas. Besides, maybe if enough of us believed that it could snow, then it would. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run. Raye's working today, and she's going to help me pick out some last-minute gifts."
"You can't make it snow with the power of your thoughts, Meatball Head."
Serena plugged her ears with her fingers and sang, "Lalala, I can't hear you! Your cynicism cannot ruin my holiday mood!"
"Oh, that's real mature."
"I'll see you tonight, Andrew! Bye!" She jaunted off, ears still plugged, while Andrew waved after her.
"She is so—"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but are you okay?" said a middle-aged woman, disrupting whatever accusation Darien had been preparing. "That was quite the fall that girl had."
Darien grunted, in as kindly a manner as possible. "I'm fine, thanks."
"I'm so glad," said the woman. "It's a miracle that you were here to catch her!"
Darien's heart leaped at the word miracle. He watched as the woman walked away into the crowd, clutching the red velvet box to his side. Turning toward Andrew, he saw his friend eying him with amazement.
"She's right," Andrew breathed. "It was a miracle."
"Oh, no. It was a coincidence. There are no such things as miracles, especially miracles that come in the form of little glass balls from crazy men with pompoms on their hats."
Andrew glanced down at the red box and slowly shook his head. "I don't know. That was awfully lucky to just be coincidence."
"Lucky? I nearly got a concussion! How is that lucky?"
Shrugging, Andrew shifted his heavy bags to his other hand. "I wouldn't mind having a pretty girl fall out of the sky and into my arms."
Darien squinted in disbelief, looking from Andrew, to the box, back to Andrew. Only too grateful, he shoved the box down into one of Andrew's shopping bags. "Well then, they're all yours. One near-fatal collision a day is plenty enough for me."
"Wow, thanks," said Andrew, grinning as if Darien had just handed him a winning lottery ticket. "Do you think I can use one to make time slow down today? I'm never going to have time to get a gift for Serena and set up for the party at this rate."
"You should have thought of that before waiting until the last day to do your shopping."
"Ooh, I have an idea! Do you think you could pick up a gift for her?"
"What? Me? Wasn't saving her life enough?"
"It's not like you have anything better to do today."
Darien threw his hands up before him. "Absolutely not. I'm going to go postal if I have to stay in this nightmare of a mall for another minute."
"Don't be such a Scrooge. It's not going to kill you, and I really need to get back to the arcade. Just pick out something simple for her, okay? Thanks, Darien, I owe you!" Without waiting to be denied, Andrew gathered up his bags in both arms and dodged through the crowd in the opposite direction that Serena had gone, leaving Darien stranded amidst the sea of harried shoppers.
As he realized that he'd just been deserted, in a mall, on Christmas Eve, Darien turned in a slow circle, gaping at all the signs advertising "50-70 percent off!," all the displays of "perfect gifts" and "holiday ideas," all the clerks loitering outside their stores, trying to entice the wayward shoppers.
Head spinning, he rubbed at his pounding temples. "On second thought, I might need one of those miracles after all."
Alicia says: Sign up for my newsletter at aliciablade dot com. (This year I'm finding a literary agent. Should be barrels of fun!)
Kaitlyn says: Not. Just joking, Alicia ;p … Kind of.
Lillie says: I hope everyone enjoys our first foray into shared fiction. We had a lot of fun writing together. It definitely helped those of us who have been a bit less productive in the last year… or two… or three (i.e., me!)