Dust's First Christmas Shopping
"This is awful! I've never seen so many people in one place at one time and they all look really ticked off. Are you sure we have to do this?"
Dawn Summers, former key and a respected member of the Watcher's council at the ripe old age of 24, rolled her eyes. "Dust, this is your first ever Christmas. This means presents, and that means Christmas shopping. It's fun!"
"It's doesn't look that fu..."
She ignored him completely and continued eagerly. "And I haven't had a chance to do some hardcore shopping for ages. Stupid apocalypses. Or is it apocalyi? I can never tell..."
"What was the point again?"
Dawn grinned at him. "The point? The point is shopping! Gift shopping! With lots of shops! It's great!"
"It's great? Look, I've never really done much shopping before. In Scathck we just kind of bartered for what we needed."
"Then trust me. Thousands of people do Christmas shopping every year, and 99.99999 percent of them return unscathed."
He looked vaguely alarmed. "What happens to the other 0.00001 percent?"
"What? Oh. Well, Ceelus demons mostly."
"They travel around in these stores that seem to just appear in vacant lots. It's a dimensional portal thing. Then they coax unwary shoppers inside by showing them all these wonderful gifts. As soon as they walk through the door though, the shop disappears and the demons go and sell the shoppers off in other-dimensional realms. Human shoppers apparently go for big bucks."
"Oh my god!"
"It's okay though." Dawn patted him encouragingly on the back. "It hardly ever happens. So who do you have to buy for?"
Dust gave her a worried look. "Just you, and Andrew, and the girls at the council house. I don't really know anyone else. What you were saying though..."
"Ooh! The girls! This gives us the perfect excuse to visit the new Lush store that's opened at the end of the mall."
"It does! There're all kinds of girly stuff there. Perfect!"
"But they're mostly Slayers. Are you sure they'll want girly stuff?"
Dawn sighed and tutted. "Didn't I tell you to trust me on this?"
"Yoink?" And he yelped as Dawn dragged him into the seething crowd.
Dust blinked at the entrance of the coveted Lush shop. "Wow. It smells like the whole shop is made of soap." He paused. "The whole shop isn't made of soap, is it?"
Dawn giggled in a way that was actually kind of worrying, and pushed him further in. "It's not made of soap. It's just full of soap. And shampoo, and body lotion, and shower gel - isn't it great?"
He frowned and picked up an object. "What about this stuff that looks like chocolate?"
"Looks like chocolate. Smells like chocolate. But in actual fact it's a massage bar."
Dust looked at it dubiously. "Why would someone want to get rubbed over with chocolate?"
"You know, I'm just going to pretend you didn't say that. Have a look at this!"
"It looks like brakenweed porridge. We used to have it back in Scathck all the time."
"That means it's good! Only the best face masks look like porridge."
"You don't know what face masks are? Hey, I know. I'll get an extra one and we can cleanse out your pores before Christmas day."
"Should I be saying yes or no to that?"
"And look! Their bath bombs are the coolest."
"No, they're not actually bombs. Maybe you should just stick with soap."
"Sounds okay to me." Dust allowed himself to be led over to the soap section, which was filled with large semi-translucent blocks that smelled of everything you could possibly conceive of.
"Ooh! This is good! It smells like canterberries!"
"I'm guessing this is another Scathck thing?"
Dust grinned. "Sorry, yeah."
"'S'okay." She checked the label. "Apparently it's mulberry scented. Wow, I haven't had those for ages."
"You can eat them? Can't be all that similar to canterberries then."
"I'm guessing you can't eat them."
"Not unless you want to induce projectile vomiting, no. They smell really good, though. I might get some of this for Chao Ahn. You think she'd like it?"
"Sure. Why not? Now, you've got how many girls to go?"
Two hours later Dust had loaded himself up with enough soap-like substances to keep the entire staff of the council house very clean indeed. Dawn had set him free to buy her present half an hour ago, and after a few false starts he'd managed to find a watch in a second hand jewellery store that seemed perfect. He watched the jeweller box his gift and then handed over the money gratefully.
The jeweller smiled at him. "Will that be all?"
"That'd be all, yeah. Oh, wait. You wouldn't know what to give a guy who likes comics, TV shows and summoning demons, would you?"
The jeweller blinked and pretended not to hear the last statement. "There's a comic shop down near the plaza entrance."
He nodded gloomily. "I know, I had a look in there. But I didn't know what to get and when I asked the shop owner he started talking in this whole different language. He asked whether I liked the mutant books or something called manga, and then he wanted to know whether I wanted them to be from the sixties and when I tried to answer he went off onto this rant about how comics aren't as good as they were in something called the Silver age. Was that after the Bronze age?"
The jeweller was sympathetic. "Yeah, I tried to go in there to get my nephew some Donald Duck comics once. Ended up going to the one across town. The owner was a bit more coherent."
"So, nothing else around here?"
"I'm afraid not. There's a DVD store straight down and to the right after the K-Mart, though. You might try that."
Dust looked apologetic. "Actually we're going to be travelling around a lot, so that might not be the best idea. Thanks for the help though."
"No problem. Oh, hello ma'am! Can I help you?"
Dust slid out of the store and sat down glumly on a bench in a small lane a few shops down. He'd been thinking about what to get Andrew for a few days now, and still nothing had come to mind. The problem was that there were plenty of things he could get, but he really wanted this to be special. It was his first ever time at giving Christmas gifts, after all. He hadn't really expected it to be so hard.
"Looking for a gift there, Sonny?"
He jumped and swivelled around. An old lady with a friendly smile was approaching him from a store situated at the end of the lane. Dust was almost certain that it hadn't been there before.
He stared at the lady. "Your shop wasn't there a minute ago."
The old lady gave him an amused look. "Don't be silly, sonny. Where else would it have been? Now, if you're looking for something unusual I've got..."
"I'm not being silly. It really wasn't."
Her smile slipped a fraction. "Now then, it's really not possible for a store to just appear, is it?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Are you a Ceelus demon who's planning to trap me in your store and sell me off?"
There was an awkward pause. The old lady looked fairly dumbfounded. "...Why would you think that?"
Dust crossed his arms. "I got told all about this by a friend of mine. She's a Watcher."
"Yes, a Watcher. She's in charge of a council house with a staff of twenty Slayers and at least five relatively powerful Witches."
The old lady looked at him worriedly. "Well then," she said. "Maybe I might just be trundling along then..."
Dust frowned, suddenly struck with an idea. "Wait a second."
She hovered nervously. "What?"
"You have got things that could be used as gifts in your store, haven't you?"
"My store? Ah... well I don't really think..."
"Let's have a look then."
"What? You can't..."
Dust strode determinedly into the store. It actually looked like quite an interesting place. Strange objects glittered from the shelves and beautiful jewellery filled the cabinets. He stared around. "Wow, this stuff is really nice. Have you ever thought of getting rid of the whole trapping people shtick and making a living actually selling things?"
The old lady standing uncertainly in the doorway looked indignant at this. "Selling these? I can't do that! I'm a Ceelus demon! Our race has always trapped helpless souls and sold them! What would the others think?"
Dust picked up a small glowing globe. "What does this do?"
She sniffed. "That? It's just an emotesphere. You set it by recording an emotion of yours and then you get an echo of the emotion whenever you squeeze it."
"I'll give you fifty dollars for it." He pulled out his wallet.
"What? I can't sell... What are those?"
Dust followed her gaze. "What, these? They're nickels."
"Nickels? Are they made of..." She touched one. "They are! And you have more of them!"
"What, nickels? I have tons of them. If you want I could go get you some change and pay you in them. That'd give you hundreds."
The Ceelus stared at him in astonishment. "Hundreds?"
"And this world is full of people who have them. They'd all be willing to pay in them if you want. You mean you've never seen nickels before? Surely you've seen them on people you've trapped?"
"I don't look at humans. They're icky. I just sell them. And you say people everywhere have these?"
"Everywhere in America."
She stared at him in astonishment. "And they'd all give me lots just for little things like that?"
"Sure. They'd love to."
The Ceelus sat down on a nearby desk, looking completely flabbergasted. "Well that's... that's just..."
Dust fished out all his change. "Here. That's all I've got in coins. I'll come back if you want though."
She stared in awe at the coins. "Nickels..."
"I'll just have this then, okay?"
She waved her hand distractedly. "Yes, yes of course."
"Thanks for the service!"
The Ceelus looked up as he walked out. Suddenly, her eyes widened in revelation.
"Thankyou! " She said. "Come again!"
Andrew opened the carefully wrapped parcel and curiously picked up the glowing globe inside. He looked up at Dust, slightly confused. "Wow... that's..."
Dust grinned. "Squeeze it!"
He raised an eyebrow and complied, then gasped in astonishment. "Oh! That's really... What is it?"
"It's an emotesphere. You have to set an emotion beforehand so I set it to friendship and a little bit of thankfulness for getting me away from the dullness that is Scathck. You can carry it with you and if we get separated or you're feeling lonely or in a bad mood all you have to do is squeeze it and you can feel better!"
Andrew smiled at him. "It's perfect. Thanks so much. I mean, it's just... Where did you get it? You must have gone to a lot of trouble."
Dust grinned at him. "Nah", he said. "No trouble at all. And y'know? I actually think I quite like shopping."
The End :-).