How Naboo Stole Christmas

When Naboo goes Grinch and steals all public holidays from his hapless employees, Howard and Vince must make do with the one day they've got. So what is there to celebrate on a non-holiday holiday? (Well, fluff, for one thing.)


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How Naboo Stole Christmas by huntingsnarks

Vince was angry. Outraged. His hair was all spiked and feathering skyward as if he’d known all morning that he’d soon be required to burst out in anger like a hedgehog.

Howard was cowering – only slightly, and he’d never admit to it, of course, but this situation was shouting for some good, safe cowering, and Howard had never been one to refuse a situation what it wanted.

“Hey now, whoa there, little man,” he soothed, patting the air and shuffling backwards. “Holidays are meant to be enjoyed in a calm and rational manner, not sliced apart with violence and shouting. Don’t let the festive season get you down.”

The thing was, the festive season always got Howard down, and not beneath a limbo pole either. Holidays were synonymous with stress and disappointment and loneliness, and nobody ever gave him any satisfactory presents either. No sir; to Howard T.J. Moon, holidays were times for deep thinking and locked doors, and the occasional glass of eggnog. So really, Naboo had done him a favour in culling all traditional holidays for the employees of the Nabootique.

“Festive season?” Vince demanded, flinging his words at Howard like squeaky boomerangs. “Last time I checked, there was more than one day in a season.” He paused, frowning. “There were at least seven days – possibly fourteen.”

Howard, having backed himself onto the couch, shook his head but chose not to question Vince’s conclusion. He hadn’t seen the electro poof so worked up since his Numan tapes had caught on fire. Howard was still convinced that there must be an easier way to burn music onto CDs.

“And if we only have a day to celebrate a whole year’s worth of holidays,” Vince continued, glowering towards the note that Naboo had left them that morning, “then why did you let me sleep in till half eleven?”

“You know how you get if I wake you up before midday on holidays,” Howard said, arms wide in a placatory fashion. “When Howard Moon dies, the murder weapon will be Time’s deadly toll, not a set of hair straighteners, Sonny Jim. And besides, I only found Naboo’s note ten minutes ago.”

Vince stalked over to the fridge and tore a scrap of yellowed parchment from beneath a death’s head magnet. His blue eyes narrowed as he (stiltedly) read aloud:

‘“Gone to Shamansburys for the day to threaten Bollo with superior familiars. Don’t touch my stuff. And by the way, leave the shop shut and take the day off. I’m restricting your annual holiday allowance to today, so enjoy it. Saboo says it might help out the shop during the credit crunch. And don’t touch my stuff, you ballbags.’”

Vince screwed up the note and hurled it towards Howard’s prized collection of jazz-funk fusion records.

“Oi,” said Howard indignantly, forgetting to cower as he leapt to the defence of his music collection. “Those are priceless musical artefacts, you muppet!”

With a look of confusion, Vince turned back to the towering stack of records. “Oh, sorry, Howard. I thought Naboo was starting a new garbage disposal system in the living room.”

Here was a double-fisted blow of an insult, and Howard puffed up like an indignant toady. “Why would Naboo want to collect garbage in the living room of his apartment, you twit? There are rules and regulations concerning the disposal of-”

“Well, why would he want to collect Herbie Hancock records in here either?” Vince said with a glance and a shudder towards the topmost sleave. “Those things aren’t just going to melt away like a giant Berocca, Howard. I mean, it doesn’t rain indoors.”

“My jazz records don’t need to be melted away,” Howard growled, fists clenching into solid slabs of menace. “They don’t need to be eaten, they don’t need to be smashed to bits by an ape, and they certainly don’t need to be burnt into a more useful and modern format.”

“Alright, alright, cool your boots,” sighed Vince, slumping glumly onto the couch. He pulled his knees together and ducked his head. “I had so much planned for this year’s holidays.”

“What, all of them? Already?” Howard asked, taken aback. Then – and somehow, derision seemed to taint the words – “Do you mean costumes, Vince?”

“Yeah, I was going to look genius at Halloween,” Vince started enthusiastically, completely missing Howard’s scepticism, but then the vigour faded and blue eyes fluttered downward dejectedly. “Well, costumes among other things,” he said slowly, gaze fixed to the floor like old blu-tack. “And I won’t even be able to renew my New Year’s Resolution when I fail it this year, will I?”

Vince looked miserable, a kicked puppy in silver boots and a genius wig. His toes prodded deep into the carpet and his face fell just as low. Howard was beginning to feel himself melt just a little with compassion – not exactly like a Berocca, more like chocolate ice cream on a warm day. Even though Howard personally viewed holidays as a seasonal sufferance, he knew that Vince lived for festive opportunities.

“Hey there, little man,” he said carefully, placing his hand on Vince’s knee for a very small fraction of a second and then snatching it back to his own lap. “It’ll be alright. We can still celebrate down in the shop. At Halloween, you could dress like a gothic prostitute every day, and I bet nobody would even notice! At Easter, I’ll hide chocolate eggs amongst the sales items, and you can go on a sugar romp just like every other year!” Howard paused. “Though I may have to hide the chocolate-scented erasers first.”

“Cheers, Howard,” Vince said, and it did seem like his face had brightened a little at the thought of chocolate and costumes. He slid across the couch towards Howard. “What about Christmas?”

Howard’s forehead creased in thought. “Well, I suppose we could decorate the Sellotape tree with miniature baubles and tinselly pipe cleaners. During our lunch break, I could serenade our meal of turkey sandwiches with a selection of my finest Christmas dirges. You could vandalise the window shutters with expressions of goodwill, and while we wait for customers, we could scrape the ice out of the freezer and build snowmen right on the floor of the shop!”

“Wow,” said Vince, nodding along with Howard’s words. “You know you’ve gone wrong in your mind tank, yeah?”

Howard scowled. “Look, quite frankly, it sounds like more fun than our last Christmas was, and we weren’t even stuck in the Nabootique! I don’t know about you, sir, but I miss the days of the Zooniverse, when celebrations were only permitted in Fossil’s office, by his direct order. You and I stuck together back then, Vince. I miss that.”

As the silence stretched on, Howard began to feel that he had said more than he’d planned to let on. After all, a holiday really wasn’t the time for bickering, was it? It was a time for mournful reflection, and Howard was feeling too worked up and uncomfortable for any of that, anyway.

Finally, Vince looked up at Howard and flashed him a brief smile. “I miss it too, Howard. I could never have a real holiday without you being there, anyway.” His voice seemed to die away at the end of his sentence, and Howard watched curiously as black hair was allowed to flutter into a shade over Vince’s eyes. “I’ll let you do all the rest of that Christmassy stuff if you promise not to sing.”

Howard sighed. “I suppose we could always blackmail Naboo into giving us our holidays back.”

Vince straightened immediately, a proper smile curling across his face. “Yeah, you mean by threatening to tell the Shaman Council about his unofficial magic carpet capers?”

“I was thinking we could contact the RSPCA about a gorilla in the flat, but that’s just as good.”

“But what if it doesn’t work?” Vince cried out, his voice unexpectedly loud in the small flat. Howard cringed away from the rude protrusion of emotion, but stopped when his right elbow become submerged in cushion. “What will we do at New Years if we have to work past midnight?”

Howard sighed, scrubbing at his head with the heel of his palm. “Well, Vince, if it really comes down to it, I suppose I could let you whisper your resolution in my ear while the customers are distracted with their champagne and fireworks and anonymous dalliances with strangers.”

“But who will I kiss at midnight?” Vince demanded, pulling at Howard’s sleeve. His breath was hot against Howard’s skin. “You can’t let me become a social piranha, Howard – you can’t!”

“I don’t know,” Howard said after a moment, honestly at a loss. An unexpected twinge of irritation had assaulted his person at Vince’s words. He really couldn’t stop himself from bursting out with the next bit. “Is this something else that you have to plan a year in advance, just so you don’t end up without some Camden dollybird on your lips on New Year’s Eve?”

Vince jerked back, rounding his shoulders away from Howard rather frostily. “I don’t plan out exactly who decides to latch on,” he said defensively, but his voice was low, and sounded almost hurt.

“Well, it shouldn’t matter whether you plan it or not,” Howard said quietly, and he sighed. “There’s always going to be someone around who’s willing to volunteer for the task.”

“Even on New Year’s?” Vince asked, shifting around slightly so his narrow shoulders were back against the cushions of the couch. “Even if everyone’s too busy having it large at the Velvet Onion to come and buy stuff from the shop?”

“Yeah,” Howard answered without really thinking about it, and then stiffened. “Er, probably. I mean, there’s always sure to be someone about.” He gained confidence. “In fact, you’ll probably be able to borrow one of the lovely ladies hanging from my arm during the evening. She’ll be disappointed, to be sure, but Howard Moon will be ready to comfort her sore heart in the New Year, yes sir.”

Vince didn’t even trouble himself to roll his eyes. “There won’t be any customers around on New Years, will there, Howard?” Vince said softly.

After a brief pause, Howard shook his head.

“Can I tell you my resolution now, Howard?”

“Can’t see why not,” Howard said, but for some odd reason, his voice squeaked sharply as if with nerves.

Quickly, Vince leaned right over, placing one slender hand along Howard’s cheek, and whispered a very short sentence into his ear.

A moment later, Howard cleared his throat. His beady eyes fixed determinedly on Vince’s shiny boots. “That’s this year’s resolution, then?”

Vince nodded.

“Mine’s quite similar,” Howard said awkwardly, rubbing his palms together and generally twitching a bit all over. “But replace my name with yours, and add a couple of lines about becoming a world-renowned author.” He shot a nervous glance at Vince, who was now grinning as widely as a pumpkin at Halloween. “And tone it down a little, will you?”

“You know what, Howard,” Vince said, tongue flicking coyly about an incisor, “I don’t think I will. I don’t do holidays by halves, you know.”

“I know,” Howard stammered, patting the air with his hands again as Vince slipped to his knees and shuffled even closer along the couch. “I just thought you were going to wait till New Year’s and all, give me some time to prepare – not that I need it, just–”

“But Howard, you plum, this is New Year’s! Today is supposed to be a mixture of all of this year’s holidays.” Vince leaned closer, and Howard forgot how to breathe, remembered for one breathy second, and then promptly forgot again. “So Merry New Year’s Christmas Easter Generic Bank Holiday.” And he leaned in closer and pressed his lips against Howard’s.

When he pulled back, it seemed that Howard had finally embraced the holiday spirit. “Right back atcha, little man,” he announced. “Remind me to thank Naboo before we report him for the exploitation of his employees.”

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