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T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the Bus, not an Agent was stirring, except one, making a fuss. Phil Coulson's face itched something fierce, and the urge to tear his face off with his nails was nearly overwhelming. Nevertheless, he soldiered through, stuffing a few cushions up his untucked shirt and wrestling with the bulky coat he had to make several attempts at pulling on. Even the coat itched, its white man-made lining abrading whatever bare patch of skin it found, and tugging at any hairs that were unlucky enough to get caught on it.

With the coat finally on, Coulson reached for a comically oversized black plastic belt hanging next to him and, making liberal and creative use of various expletives, spent a further few minutes trying to tie it around his bulging waistline. Coulson wiped his sweaty brow with the back of a white-gloved hand once the ordeal was over, noting just how inhumanly hot his outfit was and wondering how people could stand to dress up as he did every year.

The clock on his desk crept further into the early hours of Christmas day, and Coulson hurriedly shoved his feet into a huge pair of black boots that matched his belt—and despite the size, were still somehow incredibly cramped. A simple hat completed the look, and he walked awkwardly over to a mirror he'd set up earlier. Standing before him, resplendent in a suit of bright red and pure white held together by a shiny black belt with a gold-coloured buckle, and topped off with a floppy hat, was the spitting image of Santa Clause. Or as much of a spitting image as Coulson could be, with a slightly receding hairline, using cushions for the trademark girth, lacking the wizened look and twinkling eyes, and constantly lifting up his fake beard to rake his fingernails across his itching chin.

He was satisfied, nonetheless, and dragged a sizeable sack, full of odd shapes that bulged out at the sides, from his wardrobe. Hidden behind his full rack of the exact same suit copied twenty times, the bag had been almost invisible. He'd ordered the team to bed early, but still opened his office door a crack to peek out and check if anyone was disobeying him. All the lights were off, and the Bus' autopilot was taking care of the journey, so even May wouldn't have an excuse to be up and about at this hour.

Taking deliberate care, Coulson slipped out of his office, quietly closing the door behind him, and had taken no fewer than three steps before his thigh struck something hard. A string of curses leapt to his lips, but he suppressed them and simply grimaced through the pain. Slinging the sack over his shoulder, he used his free hand to guide his way across the Bus, half wishing he'd allowed at least the strands of fairy lines that lined the walls to be kept on.

As if answering his Christmas wish, the fairy lights flicked on, casting reds, greens, blues, and whites across the interior of the plane. Some of them sparkled or glowed and dimmed, others cycled through the colours on the strand, never resting on a single combination. Coulson stared in child-like wonder, until he forced himself to question how they'd come on.

His question once again answered itself, when he was grabbed him from behind and an object thrust across his neck. Reflexively, Coulson reached into one of the coat's pockets, and wrapped his hand around a firm grip, carefully sliding it out. Coulson wondered how an intruder had gotten aboard the Bus, but most of all, why they were so intent on ruining Christmas for the team.

"Don't. Move." Said a voice that Coulson knew all too well.

"May?"

The grip on him relaxed, and he staggered forward, still clutching his weapon as he turned.

"Coulson?"

Standing not two paces away was the second Santa Claus that Coulson had seen that night. Clad in the same bright red and pure white, but less of an emphasis on the girth, stood Melinda May, complete with fake beard and floppy Christmas hat, but the same recognisable eyes. May returned the questioning stare, and then gazed at the weapon Coulson still clutched and rolled her eyes. "You're not going to do much damage with that."

"Why?"

"You're holding a jumbo-size candy cane, Phil."

Coulson looked down and, to his surprise, he was indeed gripping the curved end of a large red and white-striped candy cane. "Huh." He managed. "I thought it was a gun."

"Who carries a gun around in a Santa coat?"

"Not me, apparently." He nodded to the knife that May was holding, "Then again, who carries a knife in theirs?"

"This thing?" May said, holding it up and slamming it into her chest. Coulson cried out, until he heard May laughing. It was a rare sound, but all the more beautiful for it. He relaxed, and could tell May was smiling beneath her beard. "It's a plastic retractable; I got it out of a cracker a few years ago." She quickly regained her composure, and Coulson was almost surprised to find himself wishing she hadn't. "I've been waiting to use it for a while, and your face made the whole thing worth it."

Coulson frowned. "What sort of crackers have knives in them?"

"I'm not sure, but I wasn't going to complain." May replied. "It's better than a whistle or a keychain."

"I remember my first cracker prize." Coulson said. "It was a plastic reindeer toy." He grinned a little at the memory.

"What happened to it?"

"A dog ate it a few hours later. It came out the other end eventually, but let's say I wasn't exactly ecstatic about getting it back."

May smirked. "Sounds ruff."

"Did you just make a pun?"

"Perhaps; I think I've caught Christmas spirit." May bent down and prodded the bag that Coulson had dropped without realising. "I like your sack."

"Excuse me?" May glared at him. "Not a pun this time? Okay." He also bent low, and tugged at the drawstring to unseal the bag. A pile of neatly-wrapped shapes attempted to spill out, but Coulson nudged them back in. "They're mostly just novelty things, but there's one for everyone; including you." He said, rummaging around. "It's in here somewhere."

"Phil, you didn't have to." May said, but Coulson shook his head.

"Yes I did."

"Phil…"

"You all mean a lot to me, May; more than you might think." With a slight exclamation of success, Coulson pulled a wrapped tube out of the sack. The paper it was wrapped in, like all the others, was a generic metallic green, and a little red rosette bow was stuck on top, holding in place a festive tag that read 'Agent May – Security Level 7 or Above Required'. Coulson handed it over, watching the humour on what few features stood out from behind her beard as she read the tag. "It's probably wrong." He said as May dug into the wrapping paper. "I mean, I just wasn't sure…"

"I'm sure it'll be fine." May replied. Coulson watched her open the gift with calculated precision, not the rushed giddiness of most other people—himself included. Folds were lifted, and care was taken not to tear the paper where possible, until the gift unravelled itself.

"It's a tube of incense sticks." Coulson said, thankful that his fake beard covered up his glowing cheeks. "I figured you might be able to find a use for them, and look," He pointed to a short sentence on the tube, "it says they're for Tai Chi."

May laughed for the second time that night, and Coulson almost decided that her laughter was enough of a present that he didn't want any more this year. "I'm sure I will find a use for them, thank you Phil." May then gestured for Coulson to wait, and slipped off into the briefing room, returning a few seconds later with a small square box.

"Truth be told, I got you something, too." She said as she walked over. "And before you say I didn't have to, I-"

"Of course you did, May, it's Christmas." Coulson interrupted, hoping she'd get the humour without being able to see his boyish grin. She rolled her eyes, confirming that she did, and handed Coulson a small, square box wrapped in Captain America paper.

"It's not Christmas paper, but I know you look up to him, and thought you wouldn't mind."

"No, no it's perfect." Coulson replied, eagerly taking the proffered box and tearing into the paper. Inside was a small black box, emblazoned with Captain America's shield, and he excitedly, but carefully, lifted the lid to reveal a pair of silver cufflinks, also bearing the shield. "Look!" He exclaimed. "Cufflinks!" He made a note to wear them the next time he put on a clean suit.

May smiled at his display of exuberance. "I'm glad you like them"

"May, I love them." He looked up into her deep brown eyes. "Thank you."

The slightest hint of something existed between them for that second, and was gone as quickly as it had come, but not forgotten. Both of them standing in the silent Bus, with Christmas lights bouncing colours off their faces, ignored the world for the merest fraction of time. Coulson savoured the feeling.

"Since we're both up, do you want some wine?" Coulson found himself blurting out.

"Red? Or white?"

"Mulled."

May paused for a second, and Coulson's heart skipped. "I could go for that."
________________________________________

Coulson stirred, fighting off a powerful thumping in his head. A hand shook him briskly, and he peeled open his sensitive eyes, smacking his lips at the aftertaste of mulled wine in his mouth. May stood over him, back in her uniform, and looking like last night had never even happened.

"I wanted to leave you to sleep, but… there's something you should see." May said. Coulson recognised surprise in her tone, and his own curiosity forced him to sit up. At some point during the night he'd removed his outfit, and was in the creased trousers and unkempt, untucked shirt that he'd worn beneath it.

May led him through the Bus to the garage, stopping only to get him some water. "What's happened? Is someone hurt? Has something happened to Lola?" Worry about the state of his pride and joy suffused him.

"Nothing's happened to Lola, Phil." He breathed a sigh of relief. "It's weirder than that."
Descending the stairs to the garage, Phil noticed that the team was already assembled, in various states of dress. May had likely awoken them, too. What he noticed after, however, captured his full attention.

In the middle of the garage, stood a large, fully decorated Christmas tree, complete with a star at the top and presents underneath. Coulson stared in both confusion and wonder. He turned to May, who shook her head. "Not me, Phil, and none of the others are owning up."

"Do you believe them."

"Yes."

"Well then, what's everyone waiting for?"

"Coul- Sir?" May corrected, noting that the team was with them.

Coulson completed his descent, knelt by the tree, and plucked from beneath it a present addressed to him, claiming to be from 'Saint Nicholas'. He'd have to thank the man at some point. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to start opening my presents."
________________________________________

"It's done."

"Good."

"Any reason why you requested it?"

"Yes."

"But you're not going to tell me, are you?"

"No."

"I don't understand you, sometimes."

"And I'd like to keep it that way."

"Understood… Will that be all?"

"Yes, Agent Hill, as you were."

"Copy that, Director Fury."

The sun was beginning to rise, and Nick Fury flicked his sunglasses open and slid them into his face.

His beard itched, and his damned costume itched, but his mission had been accomplished. He turned up the radio in his car, catching the last few lines of a Christmas poem being read out and, almost against his will, he found himself reading along to it.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
The Night Before Christmas - Agents of SHIELD Fic
Coulson plans a small festive surprise for the members of his team, but is interrupted the appearance of another, rather familiar Santa Claus aboard the Bus.

---

This is my very first foray into AoS fan-fiction, so I apologise for any canon-murdering and any less-than-stellar portrayals of the characters involved; blame it on the magic of Christmas.
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"Darkness descends; test perception." "One." "Unfortunate..."
SixWordStories Word Prompt - 'Perception'
#SixWordStories' Word Prompt: 'Perception'

A little Pen'n'Paper RPG-related submission. For anyone who doesn't know, a natural (unmodified) roll of 1 when making a skill test in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons is usually not just a failure, but a critical failure. Critical failures represent what can happen when something goes really, really wrong, and usually end badly for the player who rolled it.

Now, I should probably leave; my geek is showing.
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It's been a pretty tough, hectic, and eye-opening couple of months, to say the very least. I won't go into why, but a condensed version could be that I found myself ready to give right up before I discovered one final reason to keep going, and that reason is why I'm still here today, able to write this and do what I've done to get here.

 

Soppy stuff out of the way, I say I'm only 'sort of' back because I'm not going to be dedicating nearly as much time to dA as I used to (and even that wasn't much), and I'll only be posting the occasional collection of the latest stuff I've vomited up, maybe an excerpt or a short every blue moon.

 

In any case, I'm taking this time off to focus on restoring myself. This doesn't mean I won't keep writing, but it does mean that tweaking what I write and posting it to dA for advice is going to take a backseat, as currently I couldn't care less about the quality, I care about just writing it. Criticise that outlook if you must, but in all honesty, I don't give two shits. Most of what I write for a while will probably just be helping me keep going and just getting things out in some form or another, and that's all I want from it.

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Chris de Mercado
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United Kingdom
I'm Chris, I'm 21, and I'm a writer of sorts.

There used to be a lengthy bio here but it was unnecessary so I eated it.

Instagram: chrisdemercado
Twitter: Down below.
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:iconglaiceana:
Glaiceana Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2014   General Artist
Thanks for the watch! :)
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:iconavatar-720:
Avatar-720 Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
No problem; Dakkanauts gotta stick together! =P
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:iconglaiceana:
Glaiceana Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2014   General Artist
Ah I thought I recognised the name :D
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:iconkiibun:
Kiibun Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2013  Student
:iconinkpotplz::iconkittydividerplz::iconkittydivider2plz::iconkittydivider3plz::iconkittydivider4plz::iconquillplz:

Hello! I'm the founder, =MoonlessDepth, here to welcome you to #The-Writers-Study! I can't wait to see what you'll put forth into TWS~ I know that you'll do great! If you have any questions, any at all, you can note the group, or me personally~ Feel free to ask anything!

When you have time, please look over the Rules and FAQ if you haven't already done so. It goes over basic rules, and again, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Also! If you want to become a part of our Admin team, please consult our job listings!

Oh! And don't forget~ Please enjoy your stay~

-M.D.

The Writers Study
TWS – Your library and desk
:iconthe-writers-study:

P.S. Sorry it took so long to welcome you, I just moved and I finally was able to get internet set up in my home.
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:iconmetarex12:
Metarex12 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2013  Student General Artist
Happy Birthday!
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:iconavatar-720:
Avatar-720 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Ty ^_^
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:iconxsammykayx:
xSammyKayx Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Student Writer
Hey, welcome to :iconinspireandcreate:!
We are quite happy to have you join us.

Our newest contest has just been released. If you would like more information on it, please go here: [link]

If you haven't already, please read the group rules and submission limits. These can be found in the "group info" section on the main page. Just click 'more'.

Finally, if you have any questions, or need anything, please, do not hesitate to ask.
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:iconenenraenn:
EnenraEnn Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for joining :iconauthors-club:
It is great to have you with us! Please make sure to read all the rules and if you have any kind of questions feel free to ask the group's founder or any of the admins!
Hopefully you'll have a lot of fun and share a lot of your work with us! :D
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:iconelohcin111:
elohcin111 Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for competing in Writers4Life’s 4th annual November writing contest! :glomp: :donut: :teddy:
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the :+devwatch: :huggle:
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