Disclaimer: Characters and situations are the property of K.A. Applegate. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: This takes place sometime between book 35 and book 45.

Holiday Shopping

by Beth Epstein

"For Nora, do you think?" Marco asks me, holding up a CD.

I almost fall over laughing. The CD is "The Count Counts". Like the pointy eared purple guy on Sesame Street. That count.

"I take it you don't think it's a good idea? I mean, it's about counting, she's a math teacher.... and I don't know what else to get her," Marco sighs.

"What about a gift certificate?" I suggest.

"My Dad would kill me. Worse than-- well, you know," he replies.

I nod. The Yeerks. If they knew we were Animorphs.

"I'm about ready to give in and get one for Tom," I shake my head. "I don't know what he likes anymore."

"Doesn't he blast the stereo 'til your ears bleed once in awhile?"

"No, and even if he did, I wouldn't know if it was his choice, or... well..."

"I know," Marco says quickly, looking around.

"I want something for *him*."

"Can I help you with something?" Luke Hately, one of Tom's "friends" from The Sharing asks. He 's wearing a name tag, he must work here.

I should just ask him if he knows what Tom would like. Thing is, I'm sure it's his Yeerk picking something out for Tom's Yeerk. Not to mention the host in question is notorious for a big mouth. "No, thanks."

"You sure, Jake?"

"Yeah. I'm sure."

"Hey, has Tom ever asked you to join The Sharing?"

"Yeah, and I'll tell you what I told him: No thank you," I reply. Marco and I walk away, into the used section.

Old habit, we buy most of our CDs used. When your allowance goes into new morphs (er, admission to The Gardens) and emergency back-up clothes, you don't have much left over for fun stuff. I'm so far behind on Star Wars novels it's not even funny anymore.

My eyes float to an old single, and I pick it up.

"That? Are you crazy, Jake?" Marco asks.

"Do you know the words? The chorus?"

"Yeah, that's why I'm worried," Marco replies. "Think Jake, 'whatever I did wrong, just tell me the song and I will sing it'-- what if the 'song' is joining the Sharing?"

I sigh. "You're right."

It's the last line of the chorus that appeals to me. "I just want you back for good."

I put the single back.

"Hey, midget, what are you doing here?"

I nearly jump out of my skin.

Tom.

"I, ah, Christmas shopping? Marco and I just sorta ducked down here to avoid a clerk. They're so pushy this time of year," I try.

"You know, if you joined The Sharing, we could help you with being more assertive," Tom suggests.

'Yeah, by sticking an aggressive Yeerk in my ear,' I think. Out loud, I say "No, thanks, Tom, I'd rather figure it out on my own."

"Well, OK, I guess," he says. He glances at the rack to the side of him, the one opposite to the single I'd been looking at. His face then jerks away, almost as if....
Nah.

"See you at home, midget."

"I think that was your hint," Marco whispers after Tom is out of earshot.

We look at the rack.

"Any ideas?"

"Oh, yeah, he used to have a crush on her," I point at one of the CDs. "OK, let's see if we can find this new....."

The End

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