holiday nonsense from me to you!
It wasn’t that Donovan hated Christmas. He just hated Christmas specials. He hated Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. He hated The Little Drummer Boy. He really hated It’s a Wonderful Life. All that shit about angels getting their wings when a fucking bell rang. It made him want to put his claws through the television screen.
So every Christmas he commandeered the shared television set, and each night he, Lucius, Leliel and Shateiel watched gory horror movies instead. He couldn’t even watch this stuff on Halloween, since Lucius insisted on pap like Casper and Hocus Pocus around that time.
Thus it was amidst the clamor of Evil Dead that Lucius, hanging upside down off the couch (precisely because he wanted the blood rush to the head), asked, “So, Donovan…what do you want for Christmas?”
“I would like the oceans to boil crimson with fresh blood and the air to quiver with the screams of the innocent.”
“Oh. I wonder where you can buy that.”
“Shamshiel, you know he says that every year,” Leliel said indulgently. “He’s just being silly.”
“Well,” Lucius said, his face now as red as the center of his hair, “I want a video game.”
“Which?” Leliel asked.
“Grand Theft Auto, Vice City,” he said, drawing out the 'vice' with glee. “I heard that was neat.”
“Isn’t that the one where you beat up whores?” Donovan said.
“Yep,” Lucius said. “And there’s lots of eighties music in this one.” He sighed. “I loved the eighties. The clothes were so colorful.”
“Freakish, you mean,” Donovan said.
“Shh,” said Shateiel. “I’m trying to watch the movie.”
“Hey, baby. Those ain’t blueberries up there,” Sean grinned, pointing to the mistletoe Claris’s mother had hung from nearly every doorway in the house. He leaned against the door’s frame, his Santa hat falling over into his face.
“S-Sean…” Claris said, “You’re a dork.”
He brushed aside the tassel. “Aw, c’mon. I’m wearing this hat for you.”
“M-maybe later,” Claris said. “We need your manly strength to put up the tree.”
“Of course, of course.”
“Already on it,” Cadmiel yelled. He and Tialiel bowed proudly in front of the tree (fake, because of the cat multitudes sharing Claris’s house).
“Aren’t we special,” Sean strode over to the open boxes of ornaments strewn about the wooden floor. He yanked out a string of lights. “Let’s get on with the decorations then.”
“Th-thanks, you guys,” Claris said, as Sean wantonly strung the lights over the tree’s plastic branches.
“Eh, no problem,” said Cadmiel. “Not like we’ve got anything better to do.”
Tialiel fidgeted at Sean’s uneven stringing. He adjusted it while the others started hanging ornaments.
“So,” Sean said. “Is there really a Santa Claus?”
“I think we’ve spoiled enough cosmic mysteries, Virginia,” said Cadmiel.
“Jeez, no one around here has any Christmas spirit,” Sean said.
“Have you even gone shopping yet?” Cadmiel said shrewdly.
“Uh…” said Sean, “Maybe.”
“That’d be a no,” Cadmiel said cheerfully, passing Sean the angel to set on the tree’s top.
“I-it’s Christmas Eve,” Claris said in consternation.
“Re-lax,” Sean said.
“He can’t go Christmas shopping,” said Anael. She put one hand on Sean’s bare chest and took another swig of eggnog with the other. “He’d have to put on a shirt.”
“I don’t recall giving you permission to touch me,” Sean growled, “And I have plenty of shirts.”
“Nowhere in the world is plenty defined as two,” Anael said mildly.
A white Christmas in Vinton was rare. The December month tended towards cold, windy thunderstorms, which occasionally became hailstorms if the temperature dropped low enough. Sometimes a few flurries managed to form, but they melted quickly on the streets.
Donovan walked to Best Buy under a purple sky, and lightning flashed around him as he opened the door. He smiled to himself as he threw his coat over his shoulder.
Five minutes after that, Sean’s feet hit the roof of the electronics store. He jumped off the edge, gliding down easily, his enormous wings hidden under the night. Another explosion of lightning briefly illuminated his wings as he folded them behind his back and covered them with a heavy trenchcoat. Thunder shook the wet sidewalk beneath his boots as he entered the building.
“I want to go caroling,” he announced when he sat up.
“You do?” Leliel hit the rewind button on Donovan’s tape.
“I do,” he said with conviction.
Leliel glanced at Shateiel.
“Could be fun,” he answered. “Might be good to exercise our vocal chords before Christmas Day.”
“But Ireul’s not here,” Leliel said.
“Review that statement in your mind and connect it with wanting to go door to door singing Christmas songs,” Shateiel said dryly.
“Mm. You’re right. I’ll get the umbrellas.”
“Yay!” Lucius exclaimed.
Claris’s windows bristled against the quickening wind. Rain splattered the glass, and the leftover drops glowed in the following strikes of lightning.
“I see a bad moon rising,” Anael hummed.
“D-don’t s-say that,” Claris nibbled her lip. “Sean went out there.”
“Don’t go out tonight,” she continued, “it’s bound to take your life…”
Anael. Metatron frowned.
The plump, fluffy cat in his lap wriggled as he rubbed its belly. Don’t aggravate Claris’s paranoid neurosis.
“Yeah,” she said, dangling a stuffed mouse toy in front of another overfed cat.
“How many cats do you have?” Cadmiel asked.
“Six,” Claris answered. “Sean’s always trying to kill them, so I have to take roll call every night.”
“Hmm, yes, I have noticed his efforts to poison their food and cut open their bellies while they sleep,” Cadmiel mused.
“I-I’m sure he’s just playing around,” Tialiel said sheepishly.
“I don’t think so…” Claris said. “They scatter in fear whenever they hear his footsteps.”
“Don’t most people do that, though?” Tialiel said.
The sky growled again, and Claris’s house shuddered in reply.
“I hope he gets home soon,” Claris said.
As he entered the video game aisles, he saw kids clustered around a sample console, playing a violent action game where crimson red splattered the screen after an enemy kill.
Donovan loved technology.
Sean thought it very lucky that he had just one person to buy for, not for lack of funds, but because if he had to tolerate these people for very long he feared he would commit a large number of atrocities.
His height worked for him in navigating the walls of flesh, but nevertheless someone collided with his back, front, or side every few minutes. A push from the back hurt especially, he felt his wings crushing against his spine and the warmth of his own blood dripping down his back.
“And I just washed this shirt, too,” he grumbled.
Fortunately he reached the video game section without breaking anyone’s bones, but as he began scanning the shelves for the kind of game Claris liked (swords, sorcery, large malformed yellow ostriches, so on and so forth), he noticed a familiar glare.
“Donovan!” he said, tensing.
The other man spoke through grit teeth, his muscles clenching visibly as well. “Sean.”
“What are you doing here?”
“What do you think?” Donovan tapped the game he held with his index finger, longing suddenly for his claw.
“Isn’t that the game where you beat up whores?”
“Yes,” Donovan said, “Lucius wants it.”
“Aw, Donny,” Sean sneered, “You’re such a wonderful friend.”
“Didn’t ask you,” Donovan hissed. “Keep talking, though. I’ll rip off that coat so this conglomeration of the unwashed masses can see your beautiful wings.”
“Try it,” Sean said. He selected a different game from the shelves, recognizing its title as one Claris had mentioned wanting. “But I wouldn’t want to get your internal organs all over these shiny displays.”
“You’re as inspid as ever,” Donovan said.
“That hurts me, Ireul,” Sean said. “Right here. I’m gonna go home and cry into my pillow right now.”
“You’re lucky we’re in a public place,” Donovan spat.
Sean dropped his mocking grin and scowled. “So are you.”
Claris’s cat, bored with Metatron’s belly rub, was now attached to his hand with his teeth, chewing idly on Metatron’s knuckles.
“M-Metatron… doesn’t that hurt?” Claris said.
Not really. Metatron scratched behind the cat’s ears, and it purred. What’s this one’s name?
The doorbell rang, and Claris rose to answer it. She passed the other angels, who were drinking eggnog at the table.
Leliel, Shateiel and Lucius stood on her porch.
“Uh-oh,” Claris said.
“Don’t worry, we’re just caroling,” Leliel assured her, and they promptly began a rendition of “Silent Night.”
Their music stalled Claris’s panicked instinct to shut the door in their faces. It stalled most of her senses; in fact, she could not even move her eyes. She felt the music on every pressure point in her body, through her skin to her bile, to her atoms. When they stopped mid-song, she gasped, “Why did you stop?”
“You’d stopped breathing,” Leliel said kindly.
“Your face was turning purple,” Lucius said. “Very pretty. But not healthy.”
“Claris?” Cadmiel walked into the lobby and hit the light switch. “What’s going on? I heard singing…”
“Hello, Cadmiel,” Leliel said.
“You!” Cadmiel drew his sword. “Guys, get out here.”
“So violent,” said Shateiel. “We’re only singing.”
“Why?” Cadmiel said suspiciously, but he put his sword away and the others dropped any visible guard.
“Because it’s Christmas Eve?” Leliel said.
“Angels, just like you.”
“U-um,” Claris said. “Do you want to come in?”
“Claris…” Cadmiel began, even as the three angels folded their umbrellas.
“Don’t worry,” Leliel said. “We’re all about goodwill towards men.”
“Tonight,” Shateiel clarified.
They were drinking warmed glasses of eggnog by the fire when Claris said, after a long drought of silence, “D-do you all s-sing like that?”
“Yes,” said Tialiel. He coughed. “Except, um, Metatron.”
Metatron shrugged. I’m content to listen.
Despite their profession of a truce, Lucius still sat as far away as possible from Metatron, and made faces when he spoke besides.
“Stop that, Shamshiel,” Leliel whispered, flicking one of his bangs.
“It feels like he’s invading my brain,” Lucius pouted, slurping his eggnog and sulking.
“We sing every Sunday,” Cadmiel explained. “And on special occasions.”
“Like Christmas!” Lucius said.
“Like Christmas,” Cadmiel agreed warily.
“Hey…” Leliel said. “Where are the other two you’re always with?”
“You mean Necavi and Alistair?” Claris asked. “They’re upstairs. The company that makes the game they’re from released a fighting game based on the series characters. They’ve been playing as themselves.”
“They’ve been at it for three hours,” Anael said.
“Ooh, video games!” Lucius jumped up, running for the stairs. “Let’s go watch!”
“Suppose I had better check if the machine’s exploded yet…” Claris mumbled, and followed him up.
“We’ve played sixty games,” Alistair huffed. “I’ve won thirty.”
“As have I,” Necavi said darkly.
“This is the championship match,” Alistair said.
“You guys haven’t gotten blood on my controllers, have you?” Claris asked.
“Silence!” Necavi said, as the television shouted, “Fight!”
“I hate you,” Sean said.
“Aw, honey,” said Donovan in falsetto, “I feel the same way.”
Outside, the storm intensified, as rain pelted the store’s glass doors heavily.
“I just want to get out of here,” Sean muttered. “And also kick your ass. But right now, just getting out of here would be fine.”
“Again our sentiments match,” Donovan said. “Too bad it would be such a mess to mow down everyone in front of us.”
“Yeah,” Sean said wistfully.
An enormous roar of thunder, more deafening even than the consumers’ din, flew against the walls of the Best Buy. A flash of lightning followed it, and after a few crackling sounds, the power shut down, throwing them into the chaos of darkness.
“Hm,” Sean said.
“Damn it!” Alistair cried indignantly. “I so blocked that.”
“Don’t blame the controller for your lack of skills, boy,” Necavi jeered triumphantly.
Now both of their lifebars were nearly drained. One hit from either side would stagger the opponent. A mere exhalation of breath from one would knock over the other.
“It’s not over yet,” Alistair said. “Goodness will prevail!”
“Over my cold, dead body,” Necavi said.
Necavi’s fingers, bruised and sweaty like Alistair’s, struggled with the buttons. Alistair blocked or dodged every attack.
“Fight like a man!” Necavi cried.
“I’m waiting for the right moment,” Alistair insisted.
They glared at each other, eyes burning. Each of them made a move.
Then, the screen blackened, the machine clicked off, and the lights above their heads faded.
Leliel covered Lucius’s ears as Alistair and Necavi both shouted elaborate obscenities.
“I’ll get a flashlight,” Claris said.
Shateiel heard the sound of metal sliding against leather.
“Cadmiel, we’re not going to attack you,” Leliel sighed.
“Sorry, doll,” Cadmiel replied. “Can’t trust you.”
Lucius (now glowing) flung himself into Cadmiel’s lap. “How could we hurt you? You wear such shiny pants!”
Cadmiel petted Lucius’s hair. “Eheh… it’s not really you I’m worried about, kid.”
Claris returned with a metal flashlight and an armful of candles. She arranged them on the table, shining the flashlight's beam over them so she could light them.
“Candles!” Lucius waved his hand over the candles and the wicks lit up under his fingers.
“Thanks,” Claris said. She wasn't particularly fond of using matches, anyway.
The crowd surged against Donovan and Sean as panic took hold.
“Fuck! They’re touching me!” Sean yelled.
“I wish I had my claw,” Donovan said, unwittingly putting his back against Sean’s. “If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to do something drastic.”
Sean turned his head, nearly hitting Donovan. “Dammit, is that you?”
“Ugh, sorry,” said Donovan. “Bit hard to see in the fucking dark.”
“I’ve half a mind,” Sean said, “to just walk out.”
“Without paying?” Donovan said mockingly. “How very wicked.”
“Shut the hell up,” Sean snapped. He kicked an unseen body away from him. “I’ve had enough.”
He fought his way to the counter, squinting to see the confused cashier. He grabbed him by the collar. “You! Take this.” He shoved a small pile of bills into the cashier’s hand.
“Uh…” said the cashier, as Donovan grabbed his arm and did the same thing.
“B-but, I can’t get you a receipt… or change…” the cashier stammered.
“Forget the receipt and keep the change,” Sean said. “Merry Christmas.”
Finally free of the store, Sean took off his coat as Donovan pulled his on.
“Wing slits, eh,” Sean said. Donovan’s wings stretched out on his back.
“Yes,” Donovan stuck the game cartridge in his coat pocket. “Goodnight.”
“Merry Christmas, you miserable bastard,” Sean said.
“Same to you.”
The house alarm beeped when Sean opened the door.
“Honey, I’m home!” he yelled, navigating his way out of the lightless laundry room and to the stairs. “You lot up there?”
“Sean,” Claris said, smiling.
“What the hell are they doing here?” Sean gestured to Leliel, Lucius and Shateiel.
“They were caroling,” Tialiel said.
“They’re really good,” Claris nodded.
“Thanks, hon,” said Leliel.
“Met your friend at the store,” Sean said, jumping over the couch and landing next to Claris.
“Ireul?” Leliel said.
“You have any other friends?” asked Sean.
“Don’t be mean now,” Claris said.
“We’d better call him and tell him we’re here,” Leliel said. Claris handed her a phone.
You’re being awfully kind to them.
Claris looked at Metatron. Well… it is Christmas.
“He’s not going to come over, is he?” Sean said, his expression pained.
Leliel hung up. “Yep.”
“Wait a minute…” Cadmiel said. “Having you all here is one thing, but you all plus Sean plus Ireul…”
“Don’t make me knock you unconscious, sugar,” Leliel said sweetly. “It’s fine.”
Cadmiel sighed irritably. “As long as everyone knows I am completely against this.”
“Yee!” Lucius hugged the game cartridge and then attached himself to Donovan’s waist in joy. “Thanks, Donovan!”
Donovan pried him off gently. “You’re welcome.”
“Where’s my Christmas present?” Leliel said mildly.
“Later,” Donovan said, prompting Lucius (and Sean) to screw up his nose.
The rain had slowed to a drizzle, but the lights remained off. Finally, Metatron left his space on the couch and knelt beside a power outlet, pressing his hand against one of the sockets. Sparks from his skin traveled through the wires, and in a minute the television came to life and the lights above them flooded the room.
“That is completely illogical,” Sean said.
As long as it works. Metatron said. He turned to Claris. Do you have any cider, perchance?
“Five bottles,” Claris said. “I think we’re out of eggnog anyway.”
Donovan was putting Lucius’s game into the console.
“Isn’t this the one where you beat up whores?” Cadmiel said when the title screen showed up.
“Yeah,” Donovan said.
Claris brought up a tray of tall glasses filled with hot cider and browned cookies, which she set on the coffee table in front of the couches.
“I think we should come here every year,” Lucius said happily, diving for the cookies and cider. “Mmmm.”
“Th-they’re a bit burned…” Claris said.
“Delicious,” Lucius proclaimed, and Claris beamed.
“Cider’s good too,” Donovan said, gulping it like water. “Warms the insides.”
“Hey, let me try this game,” Sean stole the controller from Donovan. “I want to run over some cops.”
“See, Cadmiel?” Leliel said. “Goodwill.”
“Eh…” Cadmiel relaxed and took a cup of cider. “I guess you’re right.”
Donovan grinned. “But New Year’s is fair game.”
I know, pointless.
But it was fun to write. XB Maybe I'll write something with actual
signficance next year.