a/n: AND ALOHA NEW STORY!! Yes, I'm alive and updating as much as I can on this truly wonderful Non-Denominational Winter Break. I have two weeks, no? Should be able to get at least three chapters out; and one's out already, and here's the next one!! Granted, it will be slightly difficult to update with three stories going, again, but my motto: I MULTITASK!! (Insert evil laughter here) And…onto…

HERE BE MONSTERS

This is, by the way, the sequel to 'Elves on the Job'. And slightly darker, as well. Not by much, though…However, it is NOT NECCESSARY to read the prequel before reading this one. It might make things a tiny bit easier to understand, but I don't think that you need to read EOJ before this one.

And now I have to figure out new page dividers…stupid new edit feature…


Christmas. The season of giving. Holiday of sharing, love and laughter.

For some.

For others, it is different. Two souls—one who doesn't laugh enough, and one who laughs too much; one who gives in excess and one who barely gives at all; both of whom have not yet learned to love—will be drawn together this year under unusual circumstances.

Perhaps the stars will one day reflect their tale; and perhaps their story will one day be passed down through generation after generation after generation…

However, one may have good grounds to doubt this, as their story may be too ridiculous…too unrealistic…too full of obstacles and foolishness…Now that this humble scribe reflects, it most probably will be.

But then again…

Isn't life?


Kaethe Fletcher was a very no-nonsense sort of person. No-nonsense sort of people do not, traditionally, like their schedules to be interrupted, their orders disobeyed, nor their coffee to arrive cold. Kaethe was no exception.

At 6:30 in the morning, with all these having already happened, Kaethe was quite positive that her days could not possibly get worse. Optimistically, she tried to convince herself that it could only get better.

She was wrong.

HONK! "Get out of my way, crazy lady!" A man's loud, roughly city-accented voice hollered at her through his window as he drove his truck through a large mud puddle.

SPLASH!

No, Kaethe decided, staring chillingly calmly at her dripping reflection in the Green Grocers' shop window, the day could get very much worse.

Her alarm had refused to ring this morning at 5:00 am, as the alarm setting had very clearly stated, and had instead woken her an hour later. She had, therefore, been forced to forgo her morning shower and thank her lucky stars that she had at least taken one the night before.

The person at the coffee stand had apparently misunderstood her request for a vanilla latte. Kaethe had wound up with a 'Manila Matinee'; some sort of disgusting mix that involved coffee, berries, mangoes, and coconut. She happened to be allergic to coconut.

Not only that, but on the cold November day, the drink had arrived as equally frozen as her nose felt.

At this point, Kaethe looked up at the gray sky (perhaps to yell at whatever unkind god harbored a baseless grudge against her, but then again, it wouldn't do to lecture the behavior of an ornery, unpredictable god, after all). An obnoxious flock of seagulls was flying overhead, their screeching and crying somewhat covered by the honking of the early morning traffic.

Strangely enough, Kaethe observed, face tilted at a 90 degree angle, one seagull seemed possessed of a truly malicious nature. Why it was staring down at her right now…

SPLAT.

She had closed her eyes just in time. Blocking the sight, however, did nothing to alter the reality. Seagull sh—poo, she corrected herself strongly, does not disappear on its own.

Disappear, disappear, disappear. The less logical side of her mind chanted.

SPLAT.

Another white, sticky clump of goo joined its twin on her other cheek.

At this point, Kaethe's never-particularly-strong control snapped and she let loose a string of expletives that a single 22-year-old wandering city streets in a rather nice neighborhood should not know, and whose mother would be shocked to discover that she did, indeed, know.

"Poor girl." A kind, well-meaning, grandmotherly lady on a street bench whispered to her companion. "She must be having a very bad day."

This only served to speed up the river of foul language pouring from the young woman's mouth.


Saber Cray was fortunate enough to be possessed of a very enigmatic persona. Those with enigmatic personalities do not like their love lives looked into, their business meddled with, nor their beauty sleep interrupted.

At the ungodly hour of 6:30 am, Saber felt he was quite justified in leaping up to strangle the elf who apparently believed he was privileged enough to drag Saber away to engage in all his pet peeves.

November, he thought fiercely to himself, was not December. December was not November. Christmas was a full month away, and so Saber should by no means be even out of his bed until noon!

The villain who thought otherwise was to be hung from the top of the Towers by his toenails, the male elf finally decided, running a hand through dark blonde hair and making a dash back for his bedroom. As soon as he woke up again, of course.

Unfortunately for Saber, the villain was none other than his father.

Also known as Jared, Asshole (by his grandmother), and Santa (as of twenty years ago).

The old man (though not really old, as elves reproduced at a fairly early age as opposed to those strange humans, and Dad looked like he was 30 at age 40) was surprisingly spry.

Yes, Saber thought miserably as he was dragged to his parents' room by the name of his neck, this was clearly not going to be a very good day.

He would much rather be taking his (self-made, as his mother would never allow it) Ice Glider out for a spin (no pun intended on his mother's name), or enjoying the company of a fellow female elf, or even studying than be subjected to another Talk.

The 22-year-old young man was thrown into the room with strength a 40-year-old should most definitely not possess.

His mother stormed angrily out of the bathroom, glossy blue-black hair having yet to show a single streak of white. And stopped still upon finding her son sulkily glaring at her husband, who equally sulkily glared back.

They were like a pair of five-year-olds, the woman thought to herself in the weary tone of who has long endured it.

Saber was no stranger to gratitude. He was grateful for his magic. He was grateful that genes from both parents would enable him to age (appearance-wise) very slowly. He was grateful for his exceptionally good looks, popularity, intelligence, and moderate amiability. He simply could not, however, be grateful that his father—though quite well-meaning, he was sure—was a stubborn, ornery old man that never gave up.

Ever.

The young elf steadfastly ignored his father's ranting, already knowing what it involved. True love, why Saber hadn't found it yet, why he couldn't take anything seriously, why he couldn't set his sights on just one girl…

"For God's sake, boy, I don't care if the whatever damn girl out there for you is…is a human—just go get and find her, already!" His father pointed menacingly at him, roaring orders as Jared was very apt to do.

That decided it. Saber peered at his senile father as said man frothed at the mouth and gazed at him with the eyes of a lunatic. The old man had gone officially mad.

"Poor Dad." He clucked sympathetically, looking mock-concernedly at his mother. "He must be having a very bad day."

Which only served to set the old man off again.

However, there was one thing in his father's lecture that Saber never fully observed. We have established some of what he was, already, but there is more.

Saber was many things. He was mysterious, possessed of near-perfect good looks, possessed as well of a near-perfect heritage, intelligent, and as modest as he could be under the circumstances.

He was also very observant.

For example, Saber knew that the red-headed Bambi had a large crush on him—one that he could never reciprocate. He knew that Professor Harding, though very smooth and slithery indeed, did not like him at all. He knew that the head gardener was an alcoholic and therefore always managed to overlook a small patch of flowers in the back that Saber took care of.

He knew that he, himself, did not take anything seriously. A rare observation by oneself, and proof of Saber's clearsighted-ness, as everybody did agree that Saber was rather…selfish, careless, and spoiled when analyzed.

And the elf happily agreed with them.

Yes, Saber was very observant indeed.

But when it came down to it, Saber was very blind when it came to his own heart.


Working for a moderately important, large, successful company had its perks, Kaethe agreed with herself. For one, the cubicles were quite nice as opposed to others she had seen. For another, the Big Boss was very busy, so Kaethe had enough papers to read, files to organize, and other similar, er, stuff to do to keep her happily occupied for hours.

Many people did not like having a lot of paperwork to take care of. They thought it tedious work, and boring, and uneventful. They craved adventure, and excitement, and turned to relationships with other like-minded people to perhaps fill up that craving.

Kaethe didn't agree. She was as happy as could be when surrounded by stacks of paper and books and other such objects. Adventure? Pah. Excitement? Bah. Relationships? Ha! She hadn't had a real relationship since the ninth grade and, quite frankly, that didn't count. And she was happy with this, because she had no distractions from her life and career.

Plus, Kaethe couldn't quite comprehend why one would go insane over a mere member of the male species. Why, Kaethe was a strong, smart, independent woman living in the 21st century, and she most certainly did not need a man to make her life complete. Oh, she did like a good-looking one, once in a while…but the 22 year old, advanced beyond her years—in her opinion—never really did anything about it.

Humph. And they said she was immature. Kaethe was focused, self-made, and an entrepreneur in her own right.

Why, she even had her own little apartment, for a good rate, and in as good condition as you get for such a price in a large city.

Yes, as a realist, Kaethe was quite satisfied with her lot in life.

"Ms. Fletcher!" Big Boss (she hadn't bothered learning his name) hollered.

"Coming, sir!" Dark brown, just-below-chin-length hair whipped through the stale office air as the girl hurriedly rushed to Big Boss's office.

Her friend's eyes cautiously watched her on her way. After all, Kaethe wasn't the steadiest person on high heels, even if they were only pumps…

CRASH!

Nina cringed in embarrassment for her friend.

Kaethe, unperturbed by the accident, blinked bright green eyes at the person she had crashed into and hurried on her way.

Another problem with the prickly Kaethe, Nina noted amusedly, besides her inability to walk in heels, that is; was her utter lack of social skills.

Excitedly, Kaethe made her way to the larger office. Why, Big Boss already knew her name—she must be more important than she thought.

Or, then again, maybe she was being called in to be (she shuddered at the word) fired.

Hopefully not. It was just past Thanksgiving, after all—no one could be that cold-hearted and shriveled-souled to hand her (or anyone, for that matter) the pink slip so soon after being infused with Thanksgiving…givingness.

Right?

Confidence level dropping to sub-zero, Kaethe timidly pushed open the plywood office door and met the calculating stare of the stern businessman sitting in the typical large, black leather, swiveling chair intended to inspire fear in the already quaking hearts of employees.

It worked on Kaethe.

"Kaethe Fletcher, 22, employee as of two weeks, Cubicle 28a, I presume?" His deep voice enquired, hoarsened by expensive, hand-rolled Cuban cigars that Kaethe guessed all businessmen had an ample supply of.

"Yes, sir." She nodded. It never hurt to be respectful.

"Ah."

Uncomfortable silence reigned.

"If it's not too presumptuous, sir," Kaethe finally ventured cautiously, "may I ask as to whether there are any matters of concern that I may possibly assist in?" She said slowly, happy with her careful wording. Not too groveling, but respectful at the same time, and seemingly sincere.

"Yes, actually. It has come to my attention that resources have been…misplaced."

Oh, crap.

"I am aware that you have just recently completed college, and that you are young and naïve in the ways of the world." Pompously. "But really, I might expect better of someone with a 4.0 GPA. A company cannot be run by a principle of incompetence, nor can we simply go about giving away our products—for free, no less, Ms. Fletcher; for free!—to just anyone."

It was Thanksgiving, and I had the necessary files, and all of it was given to an orphanage…

"We manufacture toys, clothing, accessories, and almost anything else you can imagine. A large, successful company—as we are—cannot have foolish, impulsive employees endangering the company's reputation. I'm still not quite sure what I was thinking when I hired you on, Miss Fletcher, and the management is already watching me for discrepancy."

I just wanted to help.

"But, due to your otherwise impeccable performance, I will let you to with a warning. If you ever feel the need to dole out products again, come by my office and I'm sure we can sort out the consequences." His steely tone and expression informed her that the consequences would not be pleasant, either.

Kaethe nodded mutely, and, having been dismissed, made her way back to her cubicle.

While Kaethe was generally logical, pragmatic, and sensible, she had one other characteristic that sometimes belied all others. She was compassionate.

In her mind, she sometimes found it a hindrance. Giving, and giving, and giving until she had nothing else to give. Sometimes she just wished she could ignore the large well of empathy inside her; replace it with pointless facts and information that would fill up all that space and block out the emotion with cold logic of the negativities of giving.

She tried, really, though she supposed that compassion was part of what gave her humanity.

But all the same…sometimes she wished she didn't care.


Snow.

Snow, snow, snow, ice, snow everywhere. It was a disadvantage of living at the literal top of the world.

Saber was the lucky one who got to get rid of the snow blocking the pathways today, using magic.

More like exhausting his magic. Clearing all that snow required a lot of power, and drained whoever was unlucky enough to be on Snow Duty for the day.

Today just happened to be Saber's turn. Cough, yeah right, cough.

Father had probably rigged it so that Saber would be weak and unable to resist the old man's awesome, terrifying power to interrogate. In fact, Dad had probably enlisted Mom, his sister, his cousin, his second-cousin-twice-removed, adopted aunt and uncle, and most probably at least five of his ex-girlfriends to help.

Another reason Saber had to dislike Thanksgiving, New Year's, (even) Christmas, and any other holiday that gave people an excuse to pig out, feast, and stay up until midnight. Holidays like those generally involved relatives.

While relatives were all very nice, and he was sure that they had some purpose, relatives were like…Halloween. Yes. They needed to be taken in small doses. They were noisy, boisterous, and reunions involved a lot of screaming little elf babies. Generally, one felt very sick from ingesting too much 'relative-ity' at once. And it was all a very ghouly, ghostly, headachy business that Saber could do very well without.

He was quite proud of his analogy, even as he lay in bed, worn out and temporarily magic-less and waiting for his relentless onslaught of death-by-interrogation.

Dad, he thought idly, possessed a knight-in-shining-armor complex. How often had Saber heard the story (more like highly exaggerated legend) of how he had rescued Mother from an evil descendent of the Abominable Snowman? And heard Mother vehemently retort that she was the rescuer?

But back to the knight complex. Dad was out to 'save' Saber now…had been trying to since it was realized that Saber's hormones were in working order, and that he was out to use them to the best of his advantage. Apparently—and here Saber quoted—

"You are insecure; that's why you surround yourself with females, break their hearts, and move on to the next batch. You take nothing seriously, because you can't take yourself seriously."

Well, Saber had one word for that oblique theory: HA!

Saber knew himself inside out—two years ago, he had spent a whole fortnight analyzing himself after a game of Truth or Dare gone bad. After all that unpleasantry Saber had endured, how dare anyone presume to think they knew him backwards, frontwards, upside down and sideways??

The only reason Father was so persistent was because he wanted Saber to be in a state of l'amour. Enamorado. Luuuurrrrvvee.

Unfortunately, the young elf didn't believe such a thing existed, except for the very lucky—like his Dad and Mom, like his sister and Francis, like his brother and Pansy.

Saber frowned. One would thing that he would have genetically inherited the ability to sniff out the stuff, but apparently not. After all, all the afore mentioned couples had (or so that said) known they were meant for each other at an early age. His father, for example, had known he was in love with Spin since the ripe old age of 5—Mother just took a bit longer to realize she reciprocated the feeling.

And as Saber hadn't found love yet at age 22, he figured that as it was long overdue, he was to be fortunate enough to remain a bachelor for life.

BAM!

The door slammed open, and Jared walked in.

If he had aimed to catch his son by surprise, he hadn't succeeded.

Long, pale yellow hair tied back with a red velvet ribbon, the older man stomped up to the younger elf.

Saber raised an amused dark blonde eyebrow, grinning and insolently spreading out on the bed, stretching languid arms to rest behind his head. "Oh, my," he gasped mock-excitedly as dark green eyes danced wickedly with mischief, "this is a surprise. What can possibly bring you here into my sickroom on such a beautiful, snowy day?"

"…" His father seemed to have trouble getting words out and was looking vaguely combustible.

Saber was getting quite worried, really; it couldn't be healthy for a relatively old man's face to be turning purple. "You might want to get all the negative energy out, Pops, before your head explodes." Earnestly.

"Don't call me 'Pops'!" Jared barked. "You were just like this as a boy…boy! Always running around, giving the other five-year-olds wedgies, using your magic to hang them in mid-air…a regular hellion!"

Saber took out a pad of paper and began taking notes.

"I admit, it was amusing at first…but you're 22, now! You've got to get your life together…grow up…maybe even find a steady girlfriend. You can't continue going on like…like this! MY GOD, SABER, YOU TAKE ANNOYANCE TO AN ART FORM!"

While feeling semi-guilty for causing his father such high blood pressure, Saber couldn't help but smile cheekily and ask innocently, "Aw, Pops…can't you take a joke?"

To his satisfaction, Jared stomped out again in a fury.


"I worry about him." Jared muttered petulantly to his wife, who raised her eyebrow in an all too familiar gesture. Jared mentally reminded himself to briefly scold Spin for passing the thoroughly aggravating expression onto their equally annoying son.

"Because he hasn't found lurve, yet?" She laughed in his face.

All right—while she found this amusing, Jared did not. She, after all, hadn't gone through the pangs of unrequited love for nearly eleven years. As Saber hadn't shown the slightest indication of love pangs, the older elf was beginning to think something was wrong.

By all rights, he should be rolling on the floor in agony right now!!

"Actually, my dear, something else." He retorted acidly. She continued laughing at him, using his shoulder for support as her slim shoulders heaved in mirth. "I'm beginning to worry his taste turns in…the other direction."

Her laughter increased tenfold. Jared glared at his gleefully cackling wife. "Oh, never fear, love…he's not. You're so homophobic." She gasped out.

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too. I can go on like this forever, you know."

"Am…oh, shut up."

She cheerfully pecked him on the lips—a brief interlude transpired while Jared went in for a bit more with a smirk—and got up. "All right, if it makes you feel any better, I'll talk to him. Somehow I'm doubting he'll open up to a female, though." Deprecatingly.

"Just do…that female 'feeling' stuff. Girl talk."

"Jared, we have a son, not a daughter, who is named Saber."

"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure anymore…" Jared muttered darkly.

"Homophobe." Spin threw over her shoulder on her way out.

Actually, she was secretly rather pleased that she had found another name to call him. It was fun.


Needless to say, Saber was rather startled when his mother came up to him with a completely disgusted expression on her face and declared bluntly, "Apparently, due to your current bachelordom, your father is having doubts about your sexuality."

He spat his drink out. "What?!" He squawked. "Never fear, Mother, I'm straight as a ruler. I mean, I'm fine with other people who are gay…it just comes down to being called something I'm not, okay? And, Mother, for the last time…If I do find l'amour it'll be on my own terms, and not because I was pushed into it, so just please drop the subject."

Love? Psht. Yeah, right. I'm by no means going to go looking for it, if that's what they want.

"Okay, okay." She held up two hands in a gesture of self-protection. "No need to get defensive."

Comfortable silence ensued, interrupted only by the turning of pages as Saber studiously researched further into humans—after all, he was partly taking over Santa duties this year, as a trial, and he would prefer it if he knew what to expect.

Hm. Did they by any chance breathe fire or ooze slime?

"Although, maybe just one real relationship…just to try, you know—"

"Mother…"


Though many would be surprised to discover it, Kaethe was not quite man-isolated. She had gone on dates before, since the 9th grade.

Sadly, and more often than not not-so-sadly, the men habitually disappeared after the first date. It might have had something to do with the fact that Kaethe was the type of person who would rather talk a bit, get to know each other, before—to put it crudely—"jumping in the sack". Sure, sometimes Kaethe got a bit carried away with the 'talking' idea, but it shouldn't scare them off that bad.

Sighing, Kaethe realized ashamedly that due to her dating experience (or lack thereof) her only familiarity with kissing was one little, baby peck on the lips.

And this from her ninth grade boyfriend.

It was sad.

By no means was Kaethe a closet romantic. No, she was still the prickly, ornery, far too practical person she had always been, even in matters of sentiment.

Really.

But secretly…secretly, even Kaethe did just want 'her One' to be out there somewhere. That was all. She didn't entertain silly fantasies about 'Love at first sight', nor did she believe in the 'perfect love' theory. Nothing was perfect, and she didn't want 'her One' to be so.

As she lay in bed, nearly asleep, she thought dreamily to herself that it wouldn't be half-bad to find her One.

It would be…nice…just for him to be out there, somewhere. Even in…the bloody North Pole, or something…


So, as holiday presents to everybody, I am giving you this new story. So, first of all, please tell me: Has my writing style changed? I think it has, a little, but that might just be me. How does this sound, so far? Like it? Are the farthest thing from liking it? Suggestions, criticism, anything at all?

Then…assumes voice of guy who does the whole wheel-of-fortune thingy Just press that button…yes, that one riiight there that says: 'Submit a review' and press 'Ok'! Or whatever it says…

Okay. Shutting up now. Have I mentioned that I hate this new QuickEdit feature that destroys me page dividers? Apologies if it doesn't come out properly...(Five minutes later) AHA! I HAVE FOUND A WAY TO INSERT PAGE DIVIDERS NOW!!!

Please review!!!

And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everybody!!!