Tommy and Tristan's Christmas Special, by Terrance Riverdarb.

"What do you want for Christmas, Tommy?"

"Will you quit asking me that? You know I hate Christmas."

Tristan chuckled. He knew it was true, but that didn't stop him from having fun nonetheless. Besides, his best friend hating Christmas was just wrong and part of him was hoping that all this pestering would get Tommy to lighten up about the whole thing.

"Really? I had no idea…"

Tommy wheeled around in his chair so that he was facing Tristan directly. "Is that sarcasm, Trist? Because I hate that too."

"You're starting to sound like a real Scrooge," Tristan joked. "Call me a humbug and it's golden."

Tommy scowled and wheeled back around to face his computer. He tapped the return key on the keyboard and the screen changed from plain black to an even more monotonous stack of numbers. He commenced punching more numbers in.

"Alright then, maybe you can help me out tonight," Tristan continued. "Christmas Eve…you know; everybody needs a little Christmas action."

"What are you talking about, Trist?" Tommy asked in a flat voice without even looking at him.

"Well I need you to wing me," Tristan replied with a hopeful expression which Tommy couldn't see.

"Pass," Tommy said. "I think I'm just gonna sleep or something."

"What? No…it's Christmas Eve, you can't just sleep…"

"Look man, I got a lot of numbers to crunch before my shift ends, do you mind?" He turned to Tristan, a look of impatience was pressed firmly into his face.

Tristan just stared at him for a while. Tommy never really actually hated him being around him at work that much; he actually sort of always welcomed it because of the place's monotonous nature. It must have been all this Christmas talk getting to his head. Tristan never really figured why Tommy hated Christmas so much, but he suspected it was because it was that one day every year he was forced to spend in its entirety with his family.

"Fine," Tristan said, failing to filter how offended he was from his tone. He turned and took a few steps, but then wheeled back around with a huge grin plastered on his face.

"You do realize you just called me a humbug though, right?"

Tommy sucked his teeth, but a smile curved his lips as he turned back to the computer screen. Tristan in turn spun back around, bumping into that red head chick who always seemed to be hanging around Tommy lately.

"Sorry," he muttered, passing her by and walking out the door.

---

Tommy walked into his home and was welcomed not with fanfare, but the blank faces of his wife and son. They were sitting in the middle of the living room playing scrabble with Timothy's (Tommy's son) little brat friends.

"I'm home," he muttered, but nobody paid him mind as he headed for the stairs.

"That's not a word!" He heard Timmy say as he climbed them. He thought briefly of having a few shots of rum, but decided waking up on Christmas day in a hangover wouldn't be the best of his acclaimed ideas. He fished into his bedroom and dropped unto the bed without even bothering to change. He must have been lying there for fifteen minutes when he felt a commotion at his feet. It must have been his wife.

Only it wasn't, as he discovered when he rolled off his belly and unto his back. The woman standing there was a lot more beautiful, at least, in his eyes. Except, she was really pale. He imagined he'd never quite seen anyone so pale before in his life.

"Well you're not gunna just stand there, are you?" He asked with a grin. "Just shut the door first, don't want the wife to come barging in here. She always ruins this kinda thing for me."

As shocking as that seemed, Tommy's excuse was that he was under the impression that the whole thing was another one of those dreams. The pale woman raised her eyebrow.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past, let more show you where you have come from." She said.

Before Tommy could object the room dissolved into theme park, no really. From the rides he knew it was Garner's Corner, which had closed two years before out of bankruptcy. He and the "ghost" were standing in the middle of the park, among the busy buzzing of adults and children scurrying to and from the various attractions. He had been glancing around when he spotted himself over at an Ice Cream stand, holding his young son's hand.

He put his hand to his mouth to prevent himself from yelling some kind of profanity out of shock, but then realized how pointless that was since nobody probably would have heard him. The ghost, as if she knew what he was thinking, turned to him with a smile.

"Starting to catch on?"

He ignored her. "That's me and Timmy," he said with a smile and his doppelganger knelt down and handed a much younger Timothy an ice-cream cone. "We were happy."

"Hmm," said the ghost. "Do you remember this day?"

Tommy didn't speak, but nodded for a reply. His eyes started scanning again for the scene that his doppelganger was about to discover. At last he found it, his wife and Tristan were getting off the Ferris Wheel. She slipped and fell into his grip, seeming to linger there for a while as she regained her composure. But then, her hand slowly fell to his groin as she whispered something in his ear. "I want you," as Tristan would later relate.

It took Tristan three full seconds to realize what was going on, and another to react. He blatantly shoved her away, his eyes shooting toward young Tommy's direction to find out if he had seen. He had. Tommy younger-self had seen every bit of it, standing there and staring in disbelief. It wasn't until Timmy tugged on his trousers that he snapped back to action, scooping him up and heading towards the teacup.

"I remember," Tommy finally said. "The day I stopped loving my wife."

- - -

Tristan secretly dreaded the idea of having to meet women. He wasn't good at it, not without Tommy around to be his wingman. He was mostly a social recluse until he met Tommy, and sort of needed him constantly nearby so that side of him would sneak back.

He didn't know why he chose the Café instead of a bar…oh yeah; he didn't know any. Still what sort of woman would hang out at a Café on Christmas Eve night anyway? As he looked around he saw exactly what types; Types he didn't want. All the women in the Café were either with another man or severely unattractive. The thought "when in doubt, go ugly" came to mind.

He chuckled to himself then turned to a fortune cookie in his plate. Now fortune cookies were always a reliable source of entertainment; he found it amusing when they gave some generic insight into his future, the sort of thing that would amuse any psychic. He picked it up and snapped it open, rolling out the piece of paper inside so he could read.

I see warmth and fuzziness for you

He looked around the Café again, failing still to spot a pretty lady, and then outside at the falling snow. That prospect was highly unlikely.

- - -

Tommy rolled over in his bed and turned over his pillow. He lay there for quite a few moments before sitting up suddenly. He didn't remember anything after seeing his younger self putting Timmy in a giant teacup; how was he suddenly in bed? And undressed? Did that crazy lady…

"No, I did."

Tommy turned suddenly to see a pale man standing at his window. There was something about hi posture that was entirely effeminate. Tommy's eyes widened.

"Why?!" He yelled.

"Well you were dreaming and saying these horrible things," hissed the man with a disturbing smile. "Poor soul, you were having a nightmare…all sweaty. Didn't want you to soil your clothes, did we?"

"My legs don't sweat; you didn't have to take off my pants—I didn't ask you to take off anything thing for that matter!"

"God, blow me!" said the man. "A girl tries to do a nice thing around here and this is what she gets."

Tommy raised his eyebrow. "Who are you?"

"I, sweet sir, am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the man. "I am here to show you what you are."

"Forget it, I'm not going anywhere with you."

"But you have no choice, do you sweetie?"

The room dissolved again, and this time they were standing outside that Café he and Tristan had been coming to a lot lately. He glanced cautiously at the ghost to his side before peering inside. He saw Tristan sitting at a table near the center of the Café…alone. He suddenly felt a bit sorry; the poor guy looked like he didn't quite know what he was doing there. And the girls…the girls were butt ugly.

"I should've took him to that bar," Tommy said. "He's hopeless."

"Not completely; that man at the counter seems to have a particular interest." Said the ghost.

Tommy looked to the counter and saw that a man, was indeed, staring his pal down in a rather intense manner as he waited for his order. Tommy turned to the ghost with a scowl.

"Just saying…" said the ghost in a sing-song voice.

"I'm really not that good a friend, am I?" Tommy muttered, turning back to where Tristan sat. And then something strange happened.

Tristan turned to where they were standing and furrowed his brow.

"Can he see us?" Tommy asked.

"No, no-one can; unless they're…never mind," said the ghost. "There must be something happening behind us."

Tommy spun around. There was something happening alright. The most beautiful woman he had seen in ages was shaking off her umbrella, and her body arts shook merrily along with it. He would have made a boner, but his member felt like it was made from air. He hated that.

The scene started to dissolve again.

"That's enough peep show for you," said the ghost.

"Wait no! I wanna see how he does with her!"

"Ask him in the morning."

And then they were back at his house, except now they were in the living room again. His wife and son and friends were still at Scrabble by the fireplace. They were laughing and grinning, their faces not at all as blank as they were whenever he came in the room.

"They're having so much fun without me," Tommy muttered. "I always assumed Christmas sucked as much for them as it did for me…"

"They've learnt to enjoy themselves without you," said the ghost. "That is how you taught them."

"God, I suck," Tommy said.

"That's what he said," the ghost joked.

Tommy stared at him blankly before speaking again.

"This isn't what I wanted." Tommy said. "I want to be a part of my family; they can't have fun without me!"

"Not exactly the lesson that F.A.T.E. wants you to learn, but if it helps you change…"

Tommy glanced from the ghost and to his family. Change? Wasn't there an easier solution? One that involved them not having fun?

- - -

Tristan glared at the door as the most beautiful woman he'd seen in weeks came through it. She stood at the counter and ordered while glancing casually around the room. His fingers jittered nervously as she scooped up her croissant and headed for what seemed to be his table.

"Excuse me sir, there's nowhere else to sit," she said. "Do you mind?"

Unlike Tommy, he wasn't made of air, and something of his stood straight up at attention.

He tried to play it cool and nodded for her to sit. "Mind? Why I was saving it for you."

"I'm sorry?" She chuckled as she sat. "Do I know you?"

"No." He admitted. "But still, I knew that somebody beautiful was going to grace these floors tonight, and not have anywhere to sit. So I saved the seat."

"And yet you gave it up for this old thing?" she asked.

Tommy barely managed to stop himself from scowling; she had missed the cue to ask him about his psychic ability, the weapon of intrigue his best friend had once taught him to use.

A few moments of silence passed before he attempted to stir up conversation.

"You know, it's considered bad luck to bring black umbrellas indoors in some cultures." He said, and his mind instantly screamed "You are so pathetic!"

She smiled. "I thought it was opening them up inside that brought bad luck."

"No, that brings death."

She looked at him for a moment as though he were a crazy person. "You're one of those really superstitious people, aren't you?" Her eyes held a high level of fascination.

"Well I sort of have to be; I'm psychic," he spotted the opportunity and stole it immediately.

Her eyes, if not bright before, lit to a phenomenal level. "Really? You know, my grandmother was a psychic so I know for sure you guys exist. Can you give me a reading?"

Alas, the part he was never prepared for. He would always manage to fascinate the living brains out of a beautiful woman by telling her he was psychic, but when the time to prove it came, he couldn't quite bring himself to tell her that "it doesn't work like that".

His eyes managed to catch a glimpse of the discarded fortune on his plate. He couldn't help it.

"I see warm and fuzzy for you…"

- - -

It was the second time that night Tommy woke up in his bed having no idea how he got there, and it was beginning to get a bit disturbing. The first thing he noticed was that he was wearing his clothes again. He sat up and looked around, expecting to see a third ghost, but he saw nothing. Somewhat relieved, he decided now would be a good time to go downstairs and crash his family's fun little party.

He walked out the door and down the hall, but as soon as the staircase came into view, he froze. There was a figure standing at the top that looked strikingly like the grim reaper, complete with hooded cloak and sharp scythe.

When it spoke, its voice was light and raspy, and sent chills down Tommy's spine. "I, am the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come." It said. "I shall show you what lies in store for your world."

The hallway dissolved again. They were standing in an office. There were boxes of things lying about on the floor, things Tommy recognized to be his own. Tommy spun around in surprise as the door opened, and a slightly older Tristan walked in. Perhaps he looked older because of his darkened eyes, but the rest of him still looked twenty-something. Tristan hung his coat on the door and went to one of two desks that sat in the office, passing straight through Tommy's airy body.

Tommy groped his abdomen once it had become solid again, but his attention was still focused ahead of him. Tristan sat and sighed a long heavy sigh, and it didn't take Tommy long to see just how lonely he was. It made him wonder where his doppelganger was in all this; there were, after all, two desks.

The older Tristan turned to the second desk, staring at the chair as if there was someone sitting there. As the door opened again, he snapped forward suddenly and smiled at whoever just walked in. Tommy turned around, expecting to see his older self, but instead there was a redhead woman hanging her coat.

"Good morning, Tristan," she said. "Ready to crack some cases today?"

Crack some cases. Tommy realized it must have been the P.I. service he and Tristan had been planning to start since college, but never actually did. And now Tristan was doing it with someone else.

"He replaced me?" Tommy asked.

But the ghost didn't respond. Instead, the room dissolved once more, this time to a place Tommy vaguely recognized. It was his sister in law's; her backyard. A pre-teen Timothy was playing with his group of friends, but his mother was nowhere in sight. And then…

"I'm glad he's gone," came her voice. It sounded awfully close. "I'm glad I left him."

Tommy spun around to see her sitting with her sister and brother-in-law.

"Now he's gone for good." Her voice sounded so light and cheerful, as though she felt no remorse of the fact.

"Gone for good?" Tommy asked. "What does that mean?"

Still, the ghost did not answer. They moved to one final place: a graveyard. It was cluttered with tombstones running wildly in every direction, but they were standing over a specific one. Tommy gasped when he read it.

THOMAS CUMMINGS

Born 1979, Died 2008

He turned to the ghost. "I'm gonna die?" He asked. "That's not far; it's just three years! Is this true?"

The ghost didn't respond, but seemed to stare at the tombstone (Tommy couldn't be sure because he couldn't see its eyes).

"This can't be!" Tommy glared at the carved rock which showed his gloomy fate. "It's not fair; I'm still young. Is it because I'm mean?"

The ghost still said nothing.

"I'm mean huh? And that's how they're gunna remember me, isn't it?" Tommy asked. "I have to start being nice to them, don't I?"

The ghost let out a long sigh. "Look man, I don't know, okay?" it said. "This is a $5 an hour job; it's bad enough without having to answer your dumb questions. I have to remember all these lines, and re-dress everybody after that g…you know what; it's not your problem. Forget everything I just said. Yes, be nice to everyone, I think that's why F.A.T.E. sent me here to help you realize, but what do I know? Be nice to everyone and maybe you won't die, okay?"

Tommy stared wide-eyed.

"Can we go now?" The ghost asked.

"Yes please…"

- - -

Tommy woke up on Christmas morning with a mission; to bond again with his family. He ran downstairs humming the only Christmas carol he knew, and found his son opening presents by the fireplace. He scooped him up in his arms and started grinning at him.

"Merry Christmas, Timmy," he said. "It's all gonna change now; you'll see."

Timmy kicked him hard in the stomach. "Put me down you jerk!"

Tommy groaned and obeyed, thinking about what a little devil his son was. Wincing, he turned to the doorway and met his wife, who was staring at his with a raised eyebrow.

"What the hell is your problem?" She asked.

"Fine!" He yelled and stormed out, thinking that the whole thing was just a stupid dream anyway.

- - -

Tristan smiled broadly, mentally boasting about the woman lying in bed with her head on his chest. She had been so fascinated by his psychic powers that she surrendered to his charm and begged him to take her to his home. Of course, he wouldn't dare take her to the mess of a place he liberally called so, so he took her to a motel instead. They'd spent the night doing all sort of outragous things, things too outragous for a T rating.

Not too shabby. It seemed he didn't need Tommy around to help him get laid, after all. Which reminded him; he would have to remember to ask Tommy why he was standing outside the Cafe in the snow, in his underpants, with some other guy, staring at him. It struck him as more than a little weird.

He sighed and looked out the window at the falling snow. It was Christmas.