...Please don't kill me.
I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus right now, but, well, this story is actually already written. Seriously, I wrote it about a year ago. And since it's a Christmas-y story, and I won't have Internet closer to Christmas, I'm posting it now, one chapter a day. A Starry Night Song started on Ushi No Tane, a Harvest Moon fansite, and eventually spread to my deviantart account, and now it's here. O.o Apparently it's rather popular.
In short, it's based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which is my favourite book of all time. (It's just so funny and sad and awesome!) It's a Sunshine Islands fic, with Vaughn playing the part of everyone's favourite miser. There will be several references to things that happen in the books and in certain movie adaptations. For example, each chapter will be called a 'Stave,' which is what the chapters in the original novella were called, and their titles will be based on the stave titles as well.
It's time to play "Spot the Original Line," kids! There is one line from the original novel in each stave. It will be revealed at the end of the stave, and those who get it right can reward themselves with a cookie. *small print-the author takes no responsibility for parents getting angry at their child(ren) for the taking of a cookie without asking*
Okay, I'll stop talking now.
*Disclaimer: I don't own anything.*

Vaughn stepped off the boat onto the dock and glanced around him. It was late on Winter 23–a Sunday this year–and he was, once again, on the Sunny Islands. Sprout Island, to be exact. He hoisted his bag on his shoulder and began the long walk to the hotel.

Vaughn had started staying at the hotel instead of Mirabelle's shop ever since Julia and Elliot got married and Julia had moved out. He felt bad for leaving Mirabelle on her own, but she kept trying to 'mother' Vaughn. Carol, the innkeeper, didn't, and that suited Vaughn just fine. He lived in the room that Lily had lived in before she married Will and moved in with him.

He blew on his hands to keep them warm as he trudged along. As he approached Regis's mansion, he quickened his pace and silently prayed that Sabrina wasn't visiting her father. Thankfully, the Harvest Goddess seemed to be on his side, and he breezed by without incident. Vaughn had been avoiding Sabrina as much as possible ever since she'd married Mark. It seemed like everyone around him was happy (except Regis, who never was), and most of them had 'significant others,' too.

Lanna and Denny. Lily and Will. Pierre and Natalie. Even Eliza and Charlie, older now and more mature every time Vaughn saw them, were shy and awkward around each other.

Vaughn's thoughts were interrupted by a cry of, "Uncle Vaughn!" He raised his head and saw Julia and Elliot's son, Joseph, jumping up and down in front of the hotel, waving wildly. Joseph had been born about seven years ago, about a year before Elliot's grandfather, Taro, died. Because Julia regarded Vaughn as a 'big brother,' Joseph thought of him as his uncle.

Vaughn didn't mind. Joseph was one of the few people Vaughn got along with. When he reached his 'nephew,' he picked him up, dropping his bag, and lifted him into the air, not without some effort, of course.

"Joseph, you get bigger every week," he laughed. Goddess, it felt good to laugh. It felt like he hadn't in years. "What's Grandma Felicia feeding you?"

Joseph made a disgusted face. "Vegetables."

"Veggies!" Vaughn set him down. "Of all things . . . " Vaughn had never liked vegetables. Especially carrots.

"Uncle Vaughn, Mommy wants you to come over for dinner tomorrow cuz it's the Starry Night Festival," Joseph said. "You gonna come?"

Vaughn picked up his bag and looked at the blonde boy. "I don't think I can make it. Sorry, kiddo."

Joseph pouted. "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?"

"I'll see." Vaughn had no intentions of going. He planned on balancing his books and doing inventory on Winter 24.

"Okay. I gotta go or Daddy'll be worried. Bye Uncle Vaughn! Happy Starry Night!" The boy ran off with a wave.

Vaughn checked into the hotel and dumped his bag in his room before heading for Chelsea's room. Chelsea was the only other person he really got along with. She lived in the hotel, in the room next to his. After they chatted (well, Chelsea chatted, mostly) for a few minutes, Vaughn left, giving the excuse that he was tired.

As he unlocked the door to his room, he happened to glance at the number. Room 203. He glanced back at the lock, which was not cooperating, and he was wrestling with the doorknob when a ghostly glow began . . . well, glowing above his head. Vaughn looked up and yelped.

The sign that had read '203' was gone, replaced instead by an old man's head. He was bald and very angry.

"T-Taro?" Vaughn whispered, reaching toward it.

Suddenly it was gone, and Chelsea was looking out from her room, asking if he was all right.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry. Stubbed my toe," he mumbled. With a final glance at the number, he opened the door, waved to Chelsea, and walked into the room.

You wouldn't think Vaughn the type to flop, but he flopped onto his bed and stared at the ceiling. Thoughts were swirling around in his head. Why did Taro's head appear like that? Am I going crazy? I should just pretend it didn't happen, I guess.

He felt better once he had a plan of action, such as it was, and he sat up. He dug through his bag, searching for the thermos of porridge he'd packed. Vaughn hadn't eaten for twelve hours, and he was hungry.

As he wolfed the food down, he happened to glance at the calendar opposite him on the wall. Winter 24 was circled in bold red, and a bright yellow star was drawn on it. The porridge suddenly turned sour in his mouth, but Vaughn swallowed it anyway, along with the lump forming in his throat. He shook his head to clear it, blinking back angry tears. This is stupid. The Starry Night Festival is only good for people who have someone to celebrate it with. Like, a girlfriend or someone. Who do I have? I've got no one! Sabrina's smiling face, framed by her raven hair, popped into his head. She laughed as she adjusted her too-big glasses, but Vaughn waved the image away. Sabrina abandoned me! He scowled and kicked the table to vent his anger, but only succeeded in hurting his foot. He limped over to the bed and started pulling off his cowboy boots. Why did she leave me? I'd have given anything for her, dammit!

"Oi! How long are you going to sulk, you moron?"

Vaughn almost screamed again, but he managed to stop himself. A ghostly figure was standing right in front of him, fists on its hips, glaring at him. It was Taro again. Vaughn stared. "Taro? Is that really–"

"Of course it's really me!" he–it–whatever–snapped. "Who did you think I was?"

Vaughn glanced at the thermos. Something must have been wrong with the porridge . . .

See-through fingers snapped in front of his face, and he jumped. "Hey, pay attention!" the spirit shouted. "What I'm about to tell you will save your soul!"

Vaughn squinted, annoyed. "My what?"

"Your soul." There was a brief pause as Vaughn raised an eyebrow. Taro cleared his throat. "Your !" he screamed.

"Okay, I get it, but from what?"

"From yourself!"

"Cut to the chase, old man."

Taro sighed. "Fine. For the past 15 years, you've been an antisocial, grumpy, grouchy, loner cowboy, and a tightfisted hand at the grindstone, to boot."

"Hey, I resent that!" Vaughn usually thought of himself as cool and distant with a good head for business. It sounded better.

"And as for your attitude toward the Starry Night . . . " Taro trailed off, shaking his head. "It's abominable."

Vaughn scowled and looked away. "What do you want?"

"If your attitude doesn't change soon, you'll be eternally cursed to spend your afterlife wandering the world, trying to do good deeds but being unable to help anyone!"

"Why would I want to do that?"

Tar shrugged. "It's how it works up there. Listen. There's still time. You can still be saved."

"Great," Vaughn said sarcastically.

"You'll be visited by three spirits."

Vaughn blanched. "Including you?" he asked hopefully.

"No, three ghosts and me . . . or four ghosts including me . . . or . . . wait, that's . . . " Taro seemed confused. Then he regained his composure. "Listen to them and do what they say. Or else!"

Vaughn groaned. This was not how he'd been planning to spend his evening.

"The first ghost will be here soon, so I'd better be going," Taro sang, floating toward the window.

"Wait!" Vaughn cried, jumping up. "What will the ghosts be doing?"

"You'll see" was the only reply he got before Taro passed through the window and disappeared. Vaughn rushed to the window, but there was nobody there.

Then there was a knock on the door. "Vaughn, are you okay in there?" came Chelsea's voice.

Vaughn, never taking his eyes off the window, backed up to the door and opened it. Chelsea was standing there in her pyjamas, without her favourite red bandana, blinking her big brown eyes sleepily in the light.

He felt his mouth go dry as he nodded. "Y-yeah, I'm fine."

They both stood there awkwardly for a minute, fidgeting. Then Chelsea mumbled something incomprehensible and wandered back into her room. Vaughn watched her go, then closed the door. That was weird, he thought. The whole evening had been weird. Vaughn decided to put it out of his head. He changed into his pyjamas–pale blue with an embroidered cow on the left breast, a present from Julia a few years ago–and climbed into bed, drawing the curtains around him.


So, what was the line from the novella? If you said:
"a tightfisted hand at the grindstone"
then you may reward yourself with a cookie! Thanks for reading! Please review, and I'll see you tomorrow!
~Ed