A/N: Ben and Zephyr go shopping for birthday/Christmas presents, and chaos ensues.

-

Zephyr and Ben's Magical Adventure

"Pfft…" Zephyr sighed. "It's that time of year again." Zephyr reluctantly jumped down from the branch he had been resting on and looked around. Surrounding the oak he had temporarily taken up residence in, there was a run down strip mall, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a large outdoor shopping mall, and a couple of fast food restaurants. "Well, I can't do this on an empty stomach," Zephyr said, clearly procrastinating as he headed across the street toward the nearest Taco Bell.

He approached the counter. "Gimme two half-pound cheesy bean and rice burritos and some cinnamon twists," he said to the high school girl working the cash register and tossed a ten-dollar bill at her. He moved over to the sauce counter and waited impatiently for his order to be completed. He tapped his foot, galled at the incompetence of the workers, as they, not once, but twice, got his order wrong.

"'Scuse me. You're blocking the trash can," he heard someone say. Then the same voice said, "Oh, Zephyr. It's been a while."

Zephyr looked up from the sauce package that he had been reading to see who was addressing him. "Ah. Ben. 'Syou," he said, throwing the mild sauce into the back of the restaurant at the man who was preparing his food.

Seeing the sour mood Zephyr was in, Ben cleared his throat cautiously. "So, what are you doing today? I don't normally see you around here…"

"It's Lauren's birthday next week. Now I have to get her a stupid present," Zephyr answered, anger clearly present in his voice.

"Oh. You know, I haven't gotten Erin anything for Christmas yet. Maybe we could go together. Two heads are better than one, I guess," Ben suggested.

"Number 246, your order's ready. Number 246," the intercom up above blared.

Wordlessly, Zephyr left the sauce counter and picked up his order. He returned with one full pound of burrito and was already scarfing down his cinnamon twists.

"I guess we could go together," he said in answer to Ben's suggestion, spewing pieces of his lunch onto the counter. "I gotta find something cheap though. I'm short on cash."

Ben nodded in agreement. "Women can be expensive, but I know somewhere there are always low prices."

-

After a short walk, they made it to the Wal-Mart across the street. Once inside, a man in a blue vest greeted them. "Would either of you young men like a sticker?" he asked the duo, holding up a roll of the Wal-Mart smiley face logos.

"I don't need to take a friggin' sticker from you, old man," Zephyr scoffed. The man looked disappointed.

"Um, I guess I'll take a sticker," Ben said, trying to comfort him. The man's expression brightened significantly, and he peeled a smiley face off the sticker roll and handed it to Ben, who then stuck it on the pocket of one of his pant legs.

"Okay, let's get this over with. What do girls like?" Zephyr asked.

Ben looked thoughtful. "I don't think it's a question of what girls in general like. It's more a question of what Erin and Lauren like, and well, that might be a difficult question to answer. I mean, you've met them. They're impossibly unpredictable."

Zephyr's spirits seemed considerably dampened, although they weren't that high in the first place. He huffed. "Well, we have to start somewhere. I say we go this way." He pointed his thumb to the left before looking at what he was directing to.

"If you say so," Ben snorted. "I doubt we'll find anything that suits them there, though."

Zephyr looked to where he had pointed and immediately flushed. He was too proud to admit his mistake however, so he straightened his posture and walked over to the lingerie department.

Ben, greatly amused by Zephyr's reaction, followed to see what his companion's next move would be. Zephyr had made it farther than Ben had expected him to. He had walked ten feet into the department and even looked at a few things on a display table before turning around, face as red as a tomato, and saying, "I don't think there's anything for them here."

Together, they walked out of the lingerie section and into a main aisle. "I think something from over there might be more their thing," Zephyr suggested, eager to correct his mistake. Ben saw that this time Zephyr was pointing to the video game section and he nodded his head in agreement.

"Yes. It's definitely 'more their thing.'"

Before they could actually get down the first gaming aisle, though, they spotted a Playstation 3 in a glass case, with a NASCAR '08 game in it. "Awesome," Ben muttered under his breath.

"Bet you can't even win one race against me," Zephyr sneered.

"I beg to differ," Ben said, snatching up the Player 1 controller. Zephyr took the second controller in his own hands and they began to play. They started out with the Kansas Speedway, and Zephyr dominated against Ben. They soon became wholly distracted by the game, forgetting what they were supposed to be doing and why. They raced twenty-three different speedways. Zephyr was winning by a hair with twelve successful races under his belt, while Ben had only won eleven. Before their twenty-fourth race, they spotted the Wal-Mart Speedway, and they were shaken back to reality.

"Crap," Ben said, looking around the superstore. "We need to be doing something productive."

Hurriedly, Zephyr dropped the PS3 controller and walked into a game aisle. "Hmm… What about this for Lauren?" he asked Ben, pointing to a DDR game.

"She probably already has that. But maybe this for Eri-. No, she'd never use a Nintendo DS." Ben sighed frustratedly.

"Hey, uh, d'you know if she has this?" Zephyr asked.

"Who?"

"Lauren! Duh," he answered, holding up a copy of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers PS2 game. "Of course she does, she must have every game on the face of the planet. She just wants to make life difficult for me," he angrily threw the game on the ground.

"Sir?" a timid employee said, addressing Zephyr. "I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave. You're scaring other customers."

"What if I refuse?" Zephyr bit back. "I don't wanna leave."

"Come on, Zeph. Don't hurt yourself," Ben said, taking Zephyr's arm and dragging him towards the exit. "There are plenty of other convenience stores with mediocre products and poor sanitation where we can buy Lauren and Erin's presents." He sneered at the cashier on his way out, and then he ripped off his smiley face sticker and threw it in the trash.

"Darn Wal-Mart and their darn attractive low prices," Zephyr fumed, kicking a trashcan as he did so. "It's all your fault, you know. It was your friggin' idea to go in there."

"What do you mean, 'my fault'?" Ben spat back. "If you hadn't lost your temper we would still be in there. Besides, I didn't hear you giving any suggestions as to what we should do."

"Well it's too late now! We'll never find them presents!" Zephyr said.

"'We'? I don't know about you, but I will find Erin a Christmas present," Ben assured him. "I have time and patience. You, my friend, are screwed."

"Maybe we should just go our separate ways then!" Zephyr yelled.

"Maybe."

And with that, they both turned on their right heel and stormed off in the opposite direction.

-Later that day-

Zephyr looked through the packaged foods at the Asian Market across the street from Wal-Mart. He looked at the pocky, and then the green tea. He just couldn't find something unique that Lauren hadn't already tried. He walked into the next aisle and saw none other than his recent opponent.

"So, Z… How's your, um, task progressing?" Ben asked.

"Oh, like couldn't guess," Zephyr snarled. "What about you? It can't be much better!"

"No, I'm afraid not," Ben agreed. "I'd better be on my way if I'm going to find something for Erin any time soon." With that, he walked out of the store.

Zephyr grunted, dismayed at his friend's apparent calmness towards the situation. He would have to try harder and get a birthday present for Lauren before Ben got a Christmas present for Erin. Determinedly, he strutted out of the store to the mall entrance.

Once at the doorway, he faltered. He then asked himself, "Do I really want to walk into the chaos and turmoil of a shopping mall?" Then he saw Ben confidently walking into the Dollar General across the street, and he made up his mind. Zephyr marched into the mall, and looked for a store that would have something in it that might interest Lauren. Hesitantly, he walked into the nearest store, Abercrombie and Fitch.

Immediately after walking into the entryway, he turned up his nose. "What is that smell?" he thought of the perfume that had been on a display near the entrance of the store. "It can't be attracting customers, can it?" He continued into the store. Looking around, he saw lots of skimpy girls clothing. He didn't think that Lauren would like that type of thing. Then, horrified he spotted what was hanging on the walls. There were pictures of very attractive (not that Zephyr would know), half-naked male models lined up all over the walls. Horrified, he backed up and attempted to run out of the store, but knocked over a rack of girls' camisoles.

"Hey!" an employee yelled. "You pick those up."

"Uh, of course," Zephyr said, his face flaming. He bent over to put all of the tops back on the rack. He struggled with getting the camisoles to stay on their hangers. He eventually achieved this task, but the hangers kept getting caught together and he was having a hard time prying them apart. Finally, he got the tank tops back on the rack.

"Excuse me, sir," the employee said. "Those are arranged by color."

Zephyr let out a furious grumble, and stormed out of the store. "Stupid male models. Stupid employees. Who do they think they are?" he murmured.

"We meet again," he heard Ben drawl.

"What do you want?" Zephyr growled.

"Well, I'm not quite having the best time finding a present for Erin. I thought that we could, maybe, reform our team," Ben suggested.

"Why would I make that mistake again, jerk-face?"

"Because you're clueless about women, and you have no idea what Lauren would like," Ben jibed.

"What makes you think that? I so totally know what Lauren would like," Zephyr said.

"You just walked into Abercrombie and Fitch," Ben said laughingly. "That should say something about what you know about Lauren's taste."

"Nuh-uh," Zephyr taunted. "That says I don't know anything about shopping." He then paused and realized that he had just insulted himself.

Ben laughed harder. "Oh, come on. Whaddya say? We can get more done with the two of us looking for something to buy them."

"Uh, well… I guess," Zephyr agreed begrudgingly. "I'm not going to enjoy it though."

"I'd say we find a map, and then work from there. Sound good?"

"Whatever…" Zephyr pouted.

They ventured deeper into the shopping center in search of a map of all the stores, but to no avail. There didn't seem to be a map anywhere. They kept getting thrown off course by crowds of people plowing through the mall trying to do the same thing they were doing: get last minute gifts. Zephyr and Ben had picked a bad time to search for presents, December being the busiest month for shopping of the year, but the situation was unavoidable. The fact that Hanukkah, Christmas, and the Winter Solstice festivals were so close together was just unfortunate.

Zephyr thought he spotted salvation. A security guard was watching over the throng of shoppers. "Hey you!" Zephyr shouted. The security guard looked his way. "Hey, we need to find a map. Help us out."

The guard sneered at him. "That's not part of my job, you rude little snot. Find it yourself."

Suddenly, Ben was pushing Zephyr out of the way and diving to the floor. He reached out and was attempting to grab something.

"What the heck are you doing?" Zephyr exclaimed. "Get off the floor you moron."

Ben DID get off the floor, and he was grinning like an idiot as he did so. "Look!" he said excitedly. "Look what I have!"

"It's just a dirty, stepped on piece of paper." Zephyr rolled his eyes.

"Yes, it is a dirty, stepped on piece of paper, but it's also so much more!" Ben waved the paper hysterically. "It's a map! It's a map of the mall!"

Zephyr's eyes widened considerably. "Ooh… Wait, where are you going?!"

Ben was pushing through the crowd trying to get to the food court. "I'm making a plan," he said, shouting over his shoulder. Then, he firmly planted himself down at a table in front of the Great Steak and Potato Co.

Zephyr sighed and ran to catch up to him. He sat down across the table from Ben and rubbed his hands together. "Okay, what's the situation here?"

Ben was in still in the process of unfolding the map, and he looked up at Zephyr and glared. "I don't know. I was just getting there," he said through a clenched jaw. Then his stomach growled in an embarrassingly loud manner. "BUT I'm going to get some food first." He left the table, opening his wallet and looking for somewhere suitable to eat.

Zephyr was then sitting at the table all by himself. He looked around the mall absent-mindedly, and then took out his pocket watch. He was also getting a little hungry. 'It IS nearly six-thirty,' he reasoned with himself. It had been hours since he had eaten those cheesy bean burritos. He scanned the food court to see where Ben had gone to eat, but he was nowhere in sight.

Grunting, Zephyr rose from the table and got in the line for McDonald's. He tapped his foot impatiently. 'Why can't this line go any faster? Darn cashiers…'

"Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?" the cashier said after what seemed like an eternity in line.

"Do you have pancakes?" Zephyr demanded to know.

"I'm sorry, sir. We stop serving breakfast food at eleven o' clock AM. Can I get you something else?"

Zephyr snarled. "Fine. I'll have four double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a large Dr. Pepper," he finally said.

The cashier mumbled the price of the meal off the register and Zephyr ruffled through the pockets of his cargo pants to find some cash. "Here you go," he said, throwing exact change at the cashier and taking his meal back to the table.

Ben had already returned from with a foot long meatball sub from Subway and was proceeding to devour it. "Hey," he said, his mouth full of meat and condiments. He swallowed and said clearly, "So, I've been looking at this map, but I'm still completely confused. I don't know what kind of stores Erin and Lauren shop at, so you and I are going to have to help each other."

"Let me see this map," Zephyr said confidently. He turned the paper to face him and looked at the list of stores. Eddie Bauer, Bath and Body Works, Victoria's Secret… He didn't know what these stores were or what they carried. "Yeah," he said. "I think I'm pretty much screwed."

"You're not the only one whose head is at stake here," Ben reminded him. "Erin just might kill me if I don't get her an awesome present." Ben chewed his meatball sub thoughtfully. "You know, it's not like we're the only people here… I'm sure we could find someone who's willing to help us pick out presents."

"That's not a bad idea…" Zephyr said, also gnawing away at his dinner. "We could just people watch for a while until we see someone who seems like they're into the same kind of things that Lauren and Erin are into."

"Yes, exactly," Ben said. "Let's get started now!" He scarfed down the rest of his sub and placed his tray on the shelf above the trashcan. Zephyr quickly followed suit, and then made his way over the escalator.

Ben and Zephyr looked around on one of the main levels for a bench to sit on, and once they found one, they made themselves comfortable. Then, they people-watched. Young and old passed their bench, but none seemed fit to help them out. After what seemed like an hour (but was probably only twenty minutes), Zephyr thought that he had spotted some people that could help. A group of girls passed them, laughing like hyenas.

"Hey," Zephyr said, "what about those girls over there? They might- I mean, they could probably- Well, they're girls, right? They probably know something about getting gifts for other girls."

Ben looked at the group Zephyr was referring to and wrinkled his nose. "I dunno… they seem kind of different than Lauren and Erin. Just look at them."

Zephyr looked, and he immediately saw what Ben meant. The girls were wearing Hollister clothing and carrying designer handbags. (Zephyr didn't know they were designer; he just thought they looked expensive.) These girls weren't anything like Lauren and Erin. "Yeah," he agreed. "Maybe we should wait for someone else to come along."

So they waited, and waited, and waited. It was almost eight o' clock when they found some other people that looked suitable. It was Ben who spotted them.

"Okay, what about the kids standing by the fountain? The ones eating soft pretzels and reading comic books," he suggested. "They look like the kind of people Lauren and Erin would hang out with."

"All right. Why don't you go over there and ask them for help," Zephyr said.

"Why me?" Ben wanted to know.

"Well, because you're the one that found them," Zephyr explained, as if it were obvious.

"Exactly! I've already done my part, so you should do yours and go ask them for help," Ben said in his own defense, pushing Zephyr in the direction of the girls.

Zephyr didn't really know what to do, except to keep walking toward the fountain. When he was face to face with the group of girls, he was speechless. His mouth was hanging open and his eyes were darting back and forth, as if trying to find an escape route.

The girls were giggling, as most girls do when a decent looking boy approaches them. "Do you need something?" one of the girls asked. Now the girls seemed to be laughing at Zephyr's behavior and not at his good looks.

"U-uh…" Zephyr said nervously. "We need help."

"Are you lost?" another girl teased.

Then Zephyr snapped. "No!" he replied angrily. "I just wanted your opinion on what kind of present to buy for a friend of mine!" Realizing how stupid he'd sounded, he immediately shrank back and added in a small voice, "Please?"

The group of girls continued to giggle, and Zephyr stared at them with a pleading look on his face. "We could help…" one of the girls said slyly, "you know, if you got me a date with your friend."

"Um, well, uh…" Zephyr stuttered, knowing Ben was definitely taken, but Ben had put him through heck that day and deserved full well whatever was coming for him. "Sure! I'm positive he would love to go out with you. Come on over here." He led the girls over to the kiosk where Ben was innocently standing.

"What's your Saturday evening looking like?" the girl who was promised a date asked him. "I'm Courtney, by the way," she added.

"Oh, hi Courtney," a bewildered Ben greeted. "Uh… who are your friends?"

"I'm Brittany and this is Rachel," one of the other girls said.

"Okay, well I won't remember that," Ben said. "So, you're going to help us then? We both need some serious advice."

"Both of you? I thought we were just helping him," Courtney said dismayed as she pointed to Zephyr.

"I guess I forgot to mention that," Zephyr said innocently, scratching the back of his head.

Courtney sighed, realizing she probably wouldn't be getting that date anytime soon. "So what kind of girls are you supposed to buying for?" she asked exasperatedly.

Ben and Zephyr both looked at each other rather hopelessly. "They like…" "Well, I think they might…" "There was this one time when she said…" they were both mumbling.

"Let's start smaller," the girl named Rachel said. "What do they like to watch on TV?" she asked slowly.

"Anime!" Zephyr was quick to answer. "They watch lots of anime."

"Now we're getting somewhere," Brittany said, "but you guys are going to need some serious help with this." She glanced down at her watch. "We'll have to come back to this tomorrow."

Zephyr pulled his pocket watch out of his cargo pants and saw what she meant. It was already nine thirty. The mall would be closing soon.

"We could meet back here at ten o' clock tomorrow morning," Ben suggested. "If that's okay with you of course."

Courtney nodded her head in a dazed manner, as she had begun staring at Ben once more.

Soon they departed from the mall, and as soon as Zephyr found a nice maple to snooze in, he was out like a light.

-

That is, until he was rudely awoken at the crack of dawn (or so it seemed). "Get your butt out of that tree. We gotta get stuff done!" Ben yelled from the ground.

"Aargh!" Zephyr responded. "Do you know what time it is?"

"I do, as a matter of fact. Do you?"

"Uh…" he squinted at the sun in order to determine the time, but to no avail. Then, in a moment of realization, he to took out his pocket watch. "It's only NINE o' clock. We don't have to be there until ten. Why'dya wake me up so friggin' early?"

"I thought you'd appreciate it," Ben said, acting hurt. "Besides, I knew you'd want this." He held up a bag of Egg McMuffins. "I guess I was wrong. I'll just have to eat these all by myself."

Zephyr immediately leapt down from his branch and grabbed the McMuffins. "These are for me?" he asked.

"Not all of them!" Ben cried. "I have to eat too, you know!" He snatched the McDonald's bag out of Zephyr's hands. "There are four for you, and six for me."

"That's not fair! We gotta split it fifty-fifty!" Zephyr shouted.

"Not when I bought them!" Ben reasoned. "I can take however many I want to. In fact, I'm just going to take them all since you're complaining about it."

"No, no! It's okay; I didn't mean it! You can take six; I only need four, I swear!" Zephyr said, waving his hands up in the air as a sign of distress.

"Okay, I guess," Ben huffed, as he handed Zephyr four Egg McMuffins.

Zephyr happily took them and promptly swallowed them in a matter of seconds. "So," he said, mouth still full, "are we heading to meet those chicks?"

Ben checked his watch. "Oh, probably in like forty-five minutes or so," he said.

Zephyr gaped. "Forty-five minutes! It only takes five to walk to the mall."

"Eh…" Ben sighed. "We could walk through the department stores for a while. You know, to get some inspiration."

"I guess," Zephyr grunted. "Let's go."

They made their way to the mall, and when they arrived they stood outside the doors, mouths open. "They're all so big…" Ben said, overwhelmed by the size of the department store. "Where do we start?"

"Don't ask me. It wasn't my idea to come here," Zephyr said in response.

"Let's just pick a store, and dive in," Ben suggested. "How about, uh, Macy's? Does that sound good to you?" He sounded a bit hopeless.

"Pssh, whatever," Zephyr said, taking a stride toward the door. "Let's just get this over with."

Ben followed suit and he and Zephyr walked into the department store. They looked in the clothes department for something until they realized they had no idea what sizes Lauren and Erin wore, then wandered over to the toy section, but thought everything there was a little to Pre-K for them. With fifteen minutes still left they looked over to the department of the store they had been dreading: make-up.

Zephyr and Ben looked hesitantly at each other. "I'll go if you go," Ben suggested.

"Fine…" Zephyr muttered, and together they walked to the make-up counter. He and Ben looked through the glass cases for a few minutes before a middle-aged woman approached them.

"Shopping for a girlfriend?" she asked.

"N-n-no!" Zephyr said, waving his hands in the air defensively.

The woman gave him a strange look. "For yourself then?" she suggested quizzically.

Zephyr just stood looking horrified, and Ben answered for him. "No, it's his girlfriend. Right, Zeph?" He nudged Zephyr with his elbow. Zephyr nodded, still shocked at the woman's insinuation.

The saleslady looked confused but began making suggestions nonetheless. "Have you thought about perfume? We have some lovely scents." Without waiting for a response, she walked around the counter and leaned down to get a sample.

Out of curiosity, Zephyr decided to lean over the counter just as she sprayed some of the perfume for them to smell. "Aargh!" he shouted. "What the heck was that for?" He began to rub his eyes furiously. "It stiiings!" he moaned.

Ben pushed him aside. "I apologize for his idiocy," he told the saleswoman courteously. Then in a completely different tone, he said, "Let's go, moron," to Zephyr.

"Ouch, ouch, ouch!" Zephyr was still howling when they stopped in the center of the mall. "That hurt." He had stopped rubbing his eyes, leaving them red and swollen.

"Gross!" Ben said when he saw Zephyr's eyes. "Put these on so I don't have to look at them." He handed Zephyr a pair of sunglasses.

"Where did you get these?" Zephyr began to ask, when he realized that Ben was quickly leading both of them away from the Sunglasses Hut. "Hey, aren't supposed to meet those girls now?" He remembered. "That's the whole reason we're here."

"Oh, right," Ben muttered. "Well, let's go then." They walked past a few stores to where they had left Courtney and her friends the previous night, where the girls were already waiting.

"Lets get this over with," Rachel said, popping her gum obnoxiously.

"I second that notion," Ben sneered, obviously not happy with the help Zephyr had recruited.

Courtney sensed the tension in the air. "Ahem," she coughed, and turned to Zephyr. "You said they liked anime, right? That narrows down options quite a bit."

"Yeah, let's go to the bookstore. Duh," Brittany said. The girls all began to move towards Waldenbooks, and Zephyr and Ben had no choice but to follow them.

"What's at the bookstore?" Zephyr questioned.

"Manga," Rachel said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world (which it was to most people but Zephyr).

Ben and Zephyr exchanged worried glances, but followed the lead of their helpers and bent down to browse the manga shelves.

After a while of looking, Courtney held up a book. "How 'bout this one?" she asked, a mischievous smile on her face.

"Lemme see that," Ben said, taking the book (called Gravitation) out of her hands. He opened the book. Immediately after, he made a disgusted, grunting sound and threw the book across the store. "Why?" he gasped. "Why would you do that?"

The girls were laughing too hard to answer him. Zephyr, curious as he was, moved toward the manga to see what had caused Ben's extreme reaction.

"No!" Ben shouted. "As a friend, I am telling you not to look at that book."

Not thinking anything of Ben's warning, Zephyr picked the manga up off the ground, and opened up to a random page. His reaction nearly rivaled Ben's in extremity. Closing the book and slamming it on the top of a nearby shelf, he shouted to the girls, "You sick, sick people!"

Courtney and her friends were too busy laughing to notice Zephyr's anger. This angered Zephyr even more, and soon he began to scream, "You know what? We don't need your help! We can find presents all by ourselves!"

"Yeah, we can do stuff by ourselves!" Ben mimicked

"Pssh, good luck," said Brittany. "You guys are helpless!"

"Whatever," Courtney said. Then she turned to her friends. "Let's go. We're to cool to be seen with them anyways." Then she and her drones stormed out of the bookstore.

"Ugh, now what are we going to do?" Ben said.

"How would I know?" Zephyr said. "We could just walk around for a little while. Maybe something will come to us."

"That was the original plan, remember?" Ben said exasperatedly. "It didn't work!"

"Oh yeah…" Zephyr said. "We could try again. We have to find something; this mall is huge."

"Fine," Ben agreed reluctantly. "At least it's something."

With that, they left the bookstore and ventured into the mall.

They wandered to and fro, never entering a store. They 'window shopped' to avoid making a serious commitment to a gift.

"This isn't working," Ben said after an hour of such activity.

"Why don't you pick a store to go into then?" Zephyr retorted. "You haven't exactly been full of suggestions."

"Okay then. I'll pick," Ben said. He then pointed in a random direction. "That one. Uhh… Hot Topic."

"Okay let's go," Zephyr said.

"Okay," Ben said. "Well, come on."

Reluctantly, they both walked into Hot Topic. They were oblivious of what to expect, as neither of them had been into the store before.

They had no idea where to start when they walked through the entryway. "Why don't you look over there by the novelty t-shirts, and I'll go look by the anime paraphernalia?" Ben suggested.

"Uh, sure," Zephyr said, and he walked over to the clothing racks.

Ben went to the back of the store and began to look at the various anime toys. There were action figures and puppets and light switch plates. Nothing remarkable, he thought. He was looking through a collection of trading card decks when he felt a fierce tug on his sleeve. When he turned around to see who wanted his attention he saw Zephyr.

"Leave, now," he was gasping. His eyes were darting back and forth. "We need get out!" Zephyr pointed frantically toward the exit. With that, he dragged Ben out of the store by his arm.

"What's your problem, Zeph? And let go of me." Ben finally managed to shake Zephyr off of him.

Zephyr was still mumbling, "It was candy, but it was so dirty. Why? Why underwear?"

"What?!" Ben asked, bewildered. "Candy underwear? Get a hold of yourself, man."

"Sorry," Zephyr said. "The store you picked sucked, by the way. I'm picking the next one."

"All right," Ben said. "Go ahead. Pick away. Anytime soon would be great—"

"Shut up!" Zephyr shouted. "I'm working on it. I gotta think about it for a couple minutes." He then turned to look at the surrounding stores. He contemplated each place before turning to look at the next one. "Okay, I got it," he finally said. "I pick that one." He pointed to the store he was referring to.

"What, the astronomy store?" Ben asked. "What are we gonna find in there?"

"I don't really know. I just thought there might be something in there," he said. "I went into the store you picked, so let's just go in and see."

"Whatever," Ben said skeptically. "Let's go in."

They walked into the store, where a sales associate greeted them. "May I help you boys today?" she asked with a wide, fake smile on her face.

"We're not really looking for anything in particular," Ben answered.

"Well," Zephyr cut in. "We're kind of looking for gifts."

"Yeah, but we don't really know what to buy," Ben added.

"Would these gifts happen to be for your lady friends?" the saleslady asked, now with genuine curiosity.

"Uh, yeah," Zephyr mumbled awkwardly.

"Ooh, I know just the thing!" the sales associate said eagerly. "A telescope so you can look up at the stars together. What a romantic gift that would be, don't you think?"

Zephyr coughed. "It's not really that sort of lady friend," he informed her.

This disappointed the saleslady quite a bit. "Oh… well we can surely find you something else to buy." She gazed around the store with an intent look on her face.

"Really, we can find something by ourselves," Ben said, clearly thinking that he could have chosen a better store.

"No, no!" the saleslady insisted. "I know exactly what you should get your friends!"

"Score!" Zephyr rejoiced. "What is it?"

Ben was curious now, too. "Yes, what?" he asked.

The lady didn't answer either of them. Instead she turned around and walked to behind the cashier's counter. She bent down to retrieve something below the countertop. Both Zephyr and Ben leaned over the counter to see what she was doing. The saleslady finally emerged from below with a stack of forms.

"What's that?" they both eagerly asked.

"It's the perfect gift!" she said. "You can name a star after them!"

"Huh?" Zephyr asked.

"You see, when you name a star after your friends, it comes with a nice certificate and a star chart so you know which one it is. Your friends will love it!" the lady explained.

"I'll take one!" Ben said, slamming his hand on the counter. He then began filling out the forms.

Following his lead, Zephyr took the other set of forms and started to fill those out.

The saleslady looked satisfied with her sale and took the forms into the back to be processed.

"I picked a good store," Zephyr taunted.

"Shut up," Ben said. He looked at his shoes, disappointed in himself for being unable to find Erin's present by himself.

The lady returned with the certificates in frames and star charts and she put them in boxes. The boys then paid and left the store feeling satisfied.

"Well," Zephyr said, looking at the box, "I guess I should go give this to Lauren now."

"Wait! You can't give that to her without wrapping it!" Ben said.

"Oh," Zephyr responded, dismayed. "Well, do you know how to wrap presents?"

"Uh, no… Do you?"

"No, but I guess we can improvise," Zephyr suggested.

Then, they set off to find wrapping paper, but that's a whole different story.

-

A/N: Happy birthday Mai-Ekaki. I've been working on this since it seems like forever. The next chapter to my other story will be up hopefully tonight. Review, if you please.