Disclaimer: The following fanfic was done by a fan for other fans; not for any kind commercial, tyrannical, or terrorist gains. The rights of all the cast, characters, original story, for better for worse until death do us part, - do not belong to me. They belong to Sandy Frank (author ducks as squids are pelted at her). I am not a professional writer; I am barely an amateur.
The following story was the result of too much eggnog and the feelings you get when you miss your mom at Christmas.
"Alright gang, what’s the hold up?" Mark asked. He reached over and flipped the ‘Come in we’re open!’ sign around to the ‘Closed’ side. The last of the noon time customers had left the Snack J and Princess was finished cleaning up.
Tiny downed the last of his hot chocolate and passed the cup back to Princess.
"I’m ready! Bring on the mall!" he cheered.
"I still don’t see why I have to come along. You could all fit in the Chief’s car," Jason huffed, his arms crossed, "I don’t need to go."
"Come on, Jase. It’ll be fun! Christmas isn’t Christmas without the mall madness!" Princess replied. She gathered up all their cups and hid them behind the counter.
The Chief’s car pulled up to the side of the road. Mark was surprised to see Anderson driving himself. The door chimes rang happily as the Chief stepped inside.
"Where’s your driver, Chief?" Mark asked.
"It’s Christmas, Mark. He’s on holidays." Anderson replied.
"Lucky him." Jason snapped.
"I see you’ve relapsed back into your cheery Christmas spirit, Jason. Are we all ready to go?" Anderson asked.
"We’re just waiting for Keeyop," Tiny answered, "He’s been upstairs all morning. I think he was pretty pooped after yesterday’s mission."
The Chief nodded and went up to fetch Keeyop himself. He paused outside the door to the boy’s room. He could hear Keeyop talking inside. Anderson opened the door a crack.
"B-b-b-b-oy. B-b-b-b-oy. Boy." Keeyop was working intently at his little desk.
Anderson stepped into the room, knocking on the opened door. Keeyop flushed and hastily piled the papers in front of him. He had been practising the vocal exercises that the Chief had given him last year to improve his speech. The boy was making progress, but Anderson knew it was going to take time. Still, Keeyop looked very weary.
"Made fun of me." Keeyop answered before the Chief could ask.
"Who did? Who made fun of you? Jason again?" Anderson put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
"N-n-no. Zoltar’s goons," Keeyop sniffed. "Yes-yes-yesterday."
"I know it’s difficult," Anderson spoke softly, "But it will come. You’ve improved so much already. From what Mark tells me, you certainly made an impression on Zoltar yesterday, and he is very proud of you. You are a very special boy, Keeyop."
"Not special. Different."
"Keeyop, it is your differences that make you unique." Anderson replied.
"Wish I was standard issue instead." Keeyop said sadly.
"None of the members of G-Force are standard issue," Anderson said sternly, "And speaking of which, the team is waiting for you downstairs. Think you are up to some Christmas shopping?"
Keeyop brightened. He dug deeply into his pockets and revealed a handful of crumpled bills.
"Need to get a present," he smiled, "for Princess!"
Anderson ruffled his hair and marched the boy downstairs. The others were waiting with their coats on and Jason was already outside in the G-2. Keeyop took in the scene and jumped to the bottom of the stairs.
"Shot-gun!" Keeyop shouted. He darted past the others and raced for the passenger door of Jason’s car.
Mark and Tiny humoured him and pretended to race after him. Yelling and shoving, the three young men wrestled on the sidewalk while Jason just rolled his eyes at them. Princess slipped her arm through the Chief’s and walked with him to the door.
"Looks like it’s you and me, Chief!" she smiled happily.
They stopped outside so Princess could lock up the Snack J behind her. Jason revved the engine impatiently. Chief Anderson noticed the little plastic tree in the Snack J window. Aside from a few other meager ornaments, it was the only decoration Princess had put up. She turned the bolt, and was surprised to see Anderson holding the car door open for her. He smiled as she slipped into the car and crossed over to the driver’s side ignoring the wrestling match still taking place within the G-2.
Princess sang along with the Christmas melodies playing on the radio as they drove to the mall. Anderson found himself smiling. Her spirit was infectious. Princess noticed his expression and her eyes sparkled in return. The Chief couldn’t help but reflect on the woman she had become. Even when she had been a little girl, Princess had always been a happy soul. Despite the fact that she had been orphaned and thrown into a menagerie of a family with four other boys, she had never felt sorry for herself. She was always the first to notice when another team member was unhappy and the first to try and do something about it. Always sensitive to their rebukes, she would come to him and cry in his arms when the boys excluded her from their activities. Every time, however, her determination would prevail and she would figure out some way to prove her importance. Now that they were adults, Princess’ importance was never questioned. She was an invaluable member of G-Force and Anderson was very proud of the woman she had become. He cared for all of his wards of course, but Princess truly felt like his own daughter.
"So what would you like for Christmas?" he asked her.
"Me? I don’t know Chief. I hadn’t really thought about it." she hummed to herself softly. In the rearview mirror she saw her four brothers trying to amputate each other in a moving vehicle.
"Check that," she added smiling, "I do know what I want. Nothing would make me happier than to have a peaceful Christmas this year. All of us, together - and happy."
Anderson just nodded. Inwardly, he resolved to make her Christmas wish come true.
The scene at the mall was more chaotic than a Spectra mecha going down in flames. People darted in every direction lugging packages, groceries, and screaming toddlers. Shop keepers bartered loudly with customers, while boxes of merchandise were piled up haphazardly, threatening to topple at the slightest breeze. Generic Christmas music blasted from speakers high above them.
"Wow." Mark said, looking pale.
Jason just shook his head.
Princess’ eyes were darting in all directions. Mark could see the strategies forming in her mind. Briefly, he wondered if it was safer to stick by her side or to disappear into the crowd. Either way, it was going to be one hell of a workout.
"Hey Keeyop!" Tiny pointed, "There’s Santa! You wanna drop off your Christmas list?"
"Give me a break," Jason said, "The kid doesn’t believe in that fairy tale anymore."
"JASON!!" Mark, Princess, Tiny and the Chief all yelled in unison.
Keeyop, however, hadn’t heard. He was indeed staring over at the Santa booth, but not actually at Santa himself. He was staring at the lineup. Dozens of kids were standing anxiously in line, gripping Mom or Dad’s hand in anticipation. The parents fluttered about their children, fixing collars and combing unruly hair. One father held his boy in his arms and was explaining the antique toy train set. His boy was enraptured, hanging on every word his father spoke. Keeyop turned away and stared at his feet. Resolving not to cry in front of the others, he sniffed loudly and pointed himself in the direction of the nearest jewellery store. He had work to do.
"I’m going to find a turkey!" Tiny said matter of factly.
"A turkey?" Mark asked in surprise.
"Yeah! A big, fat butterball for Christmas supper! With all the trimmings! I’ll catch up to you guys later."
"Okay, Tiny." Mark patted his shoulder, "But let’s meet back here at eight o’clock before the mall closes, alright?"
"Eight o’clock?!" Jason nearly shouted, "Nobody said I had to be here that late! What the heck am I supposed to do for five hours?"
"Why don’t you go find some orphans to yell at you old Scrooge!" Princess teased.
"What do you mean?" Jason said hotly, "I can yell at any of you anytime I want."
Princess recoiled in shock.
"Knock it off!" Mark said angrily, "That was totally uncalled for."
"Whatever." Jason dismissed them with a shrug and followed Keeyop into the jewellery store.
"What the heck is with him?" Mark said to himself. He draped an arm over Princess’ shoulder protectively. He knew Jason probably didn’t mean to sting her that much, but this time of year was hard on everyone.
"Ready to do some power shopping, Prin?" Mark asked. She brightened and nodded affirmatively.
"How about it Chief," Princess asked, "You with us?"
"You go on ahead. I’ll stay with Keeyop." Anderson waved them off. He walked in to the store that Jason and Keeyop had gone into and found them both at a counter admiring a pair of gold earrings. The salesclerk was holding them up so the light would reflect off the shiny surface.
"Swans!" Keeyop pointed happily. Then he saw the price tag. His smile vanished.
"Is this a present for your Mom, little one?" the clerk asked innocently.
Jason saw Keeyop’s lip tremble. The boy didn’t speak. Jason sighed. This was why he hated Christmas. Ribbons and Santas and money and expectations. No wonder the kid was sad.
"We’ll take them." Jason said to the clerk. She nodded and disappeared to wrap up the expensive gift. Before Keeyop could say anything, Jason stuffed a wad full of money into the boy’s hands. Keeyop looked up at him in stunned silence. Jason turned to leave the scene and found himself face to face with Chief Anderson.
"That was a nice thing to do." Anderson said softly to him.
"Somebody ought to have a nice Christmas." Jason said with sarcasm.
"You could have a nice Christmas if you tried." Anderson replied.
"Not in this place," Jason snorted derisively, "See you at eight."
Chief Anderson watched Jason disappear into the crowd by himself. It was going to be harder than he thought to grant Princess’ wish. When had his team become so jaded? Keeyop appeared at his side gingerly holding the little box.
"Hold it for me?" Keeyop asked.
"Of course," Anderson smiled. He slipped the box into his inside jacket pocket, "Where to now?"
Keeyop looked around sheepishly. Twisting his foot on one spot he asked hopefully, "Santa?"
Anderson laughed out loud. He clapped the boy on his shoulder and led him out of the store to join the impossibly long Santa line up. Keeyop spoke eagerly to Anderson while they slowly moved closer to the front. At one point, they passed by Santa’s mailbox. When he thought the Chief wasn’t looking, Keeyop slipped a letter out of his pocket and dropped it into the slot. The box was brimming full with letters. Finally his turn came and Keeyop bounded happily into Santa’s lap for his photo. Anderson took the opportunity to wander back to the mail box and gingerly lifted Keeyop’s letter from the crammed opening. One of Santa’s helpers noticed, but only winked knowingly to Anderson’s relief. He paid for the photo as it developed and promised Keeyop not to tell the others.
They hadn’t walked five minutes when Keeyop spotted the toy store. Anderson could actually feel the excitement resonating from the boy.
"Go." Anderson sighed.
Keeyop took off like a rocket into the noisy store. The Chief took a seat on a bench outside the store beside other weary parents. Making sure the boy was nowhere in sight, Anderson pulled out the letter to Santa and slipped out the contents. Expecting to find a long list of toys, he was surprised to find only one item listed on the hand scrawled note. His eyes widened even more when he read the request.
Chief Anderson closed his eyes. He tucked the letter back into his pocket beside the little gift box. It was becoming apparent that he had a lot of work to do in the next twelve hours.
Jason sat at the table, tapping his fingers impatiently. Anderson and Mark sat with him while Keeyop and Princess were buying ice-cream. They were waiting for Tiny.
"Relax Jason, he’ll be along." Mark said casually.
Jason checked his watch again. He didn’t reply.
"Did you get all of your shopping done, Mark?" Anderson asked.
"I didn’t have much shopping to do, Chief," Mark replied, "I just kept Princess company. At least that way she won’t be as mad at me for not showing up tonight."
"You aren’t going back to the Snack J?" Anderson asked with concern.
"Just for a minute. Then I’ve got to go. I’ve got someone to visit tonight." Mark said soberly.
Tiny arrived on the scene just then, huffing and puffing. His face was red and there was a storm in his eyes.
"About time." Jason said, rising from his seat.
"Aw, shove it Jason." Tiny gruffed.
"Tiny!" Mark reprimanded, "What’s up? I thought you were going to get a turkey?"
"Can you believe it?" Tiny was flabbergasted, "There isn’t a turkey within five miles of here! I could just break something. Here we are, off saving the world so that everyone can have a nice Christmas, and they don’t even save us a single bird! We were so busy with Spectra I didn’t get a chance to get anything for Christmas supper!"
"Who cares Tiny?" Jason asked, "It’s just a stupid turkey."
"It is NOT a stupid turkey!" Tiny yelled, "Christmas dinner is a special thing - only once a year. The whole family is supposed to gather at the table around the beautiful golden bird! You slice her up all nice, and add some gravy, and potatoes, and stuffing! Everyone gets to eat until they’re stuffed and then you dive into the pumpkin pie and sip eggnog and..."
"All you ever think about is food." Jason shook his head.
"What do you know, ya big grinch! All you care about it griping about what everyone else wants for Christmas! You killed Santa for Keeyop, tore Princess’ heart out over shopping and spat on my turkey dinner! Why don’t I go get a reindeer so you can shoot it and call it a night?" Tiny fumed.
"Look, if that’s what you want out of Christmas? Fine. You can have it. I’m outta here." Jason spun and stormed off. He checked his watch one more time on the way out.
"Jason!" Mark called after him.
"Let him go, Mark," Chief Anderson said, "We can all ride back in my car."
"Where is HE going?" Princess asked with concern as they rejoined the group.
"He’s going to fill our stockings with coal." Tiny gruffed.
"No he isn’t," Anderson said quietly, "I know where he’s going."
"Where, Chief?" Princess asked.
"He wears that St. Christopher pendant for a reason. He’s going to mass."
Tiny slapped his hand to his forehead. "I’ve been a goof."
"Oh no," Princess said pensively, "Here we were going on about presents and Santa and food. We should have known that Christmas means something different to him."
"I’m afraid so," Anderson went on, "But I think we can make it up to him."
"We can go to mass too!" Princess offered.
"Only if you want to. But go for the right reasons. I’m sure it’ll mean a lot to him."
"I’ll go!" Keeyop piped. The others sounded in chorus.
"Good," Anderson nodded. "I’ll drive. But I want to stop by the office on the way first. I need to pick up some things."
When they arrived at the science building, Princess, Tiny and Keeyop stayed in the car while Anderson and Mark went in. Mark followed as Anderson went into his office and pulled a framed picture out of his desk drawer.
"What are you up to, Chief?" Mark asked, watching the Chief peel the photo out of its frame.
"Just some Christmas magic." Anderson answered. He proceeded to phone half a dozen people, using both bribe and begging to set his plan in motion. Mark shook his head in wonder.
"If you pull it off, Chief, it will be a miracle."
"Are you going to the church?" Anderson asked.
"I’ll catch up to you there. There is something I have to do first."
"I know. We’ll be waiting for you." Anderson nodded.
"Oh, one more thing Chief. You should know. Jason lost that pendant a couple of months back. He lost it somewhere on Spectra. He was pretty bent up about it."
"I see." Chief Anderson stroked his moustache thoughtfully.
"One more miracle?" Mark asked hopefully.
Anderson nodded. Mark left him alone in the office and returned to the car. Anderson waited for him to go and opened his security safe in the wall. He pulled two plain envelopes from inside.
"Two more miracles." he said to himself.
It was eleven thirty when they arrived at the church. Chief Anderson went in by himself and the others waited for him to call them in. The church was packed with people. Hundreds of candles were lit on the alter and the young choir boys sang a solemn hymn. The dim glow of light and serene music cast a peaceful calm over the place. The churchgoers sang in unison with the boys, reveling in a sense of community. Anderson found Jason alone in one of the back pews. He sat down beside him in silence.
"You are supposed to genuflect when you enter a church." Jason said. There was no surprise in his voice. No joy at Anderson’s presence, not even a flicker of gladness.
"Can we let it go, Jason? Just for one night."
Jason closed his eyes, and breathed a deep breath. He opened them again and stared at the figure high in front of him, looking down with compassion from a huge bronze cross.
"I have something for you," he extended the little brown envelope, "You were supposed to get it when you turned twenty-one, but I think now is a better time."
Jason took the envelope in silence and let the contents slide into his hand. This time he was surprised. The silver crucifix glinted in the candle light. Gently, Jason let it dangle from his fingers.
"It was your mother’s. You should have told me when you lost the pendant."
Jason looked away.
"It was all I had of them. I should never have lost it. It was careless." Jason’s voice was raw.
"The others are here," Anderson added, "Can they join you?"
"Just give me a second." Jason whispered. He stood up and walked over to one of the priests standing outside the confessional. Anderson watched as Jason extended the crucifix and the priest’s eyes glittered with compassion. The quiet man touched Jason’s forehead and then the silver cross in his hand. Smiling, Jason returned to Anderson’s side.
"Did he bless it for you?" Anderson asked.
"Yes, but he said it was already blessed." Jason smiled. He lifted the chain up and over his head. The cross came to rest at the base of his neck.
Anderson nodded in approval, and the others came in. Princess hugged Jason, and Tiny shook his hand. Jason passed them each a hymn book. Keeyop was entranced by the church, and Jason was more than happy to point out the different meanings of the stations on the wall. The Chief slipped out the back of the church to perform his second miracle.
Mark was walking distance from the big church. In the cold darkness, Anderson found him sitting cross legged in front of a familiar head stone. A Rigan fighter plane was etched into the marble. Anderson sat down on the ground beside him. They sat that way in silence for some time.
"It is a difficult time of year, Mark." Anderson said softly.
"I’m sorry Chief. I know this isn’t easy for you either. He was your friend too. You know, you’re the only father I’ve ever known, but he..." Mark rested his hand on the cold marble.
"He did what he had to Mark."
"I know. I know that now. I just wish ... that we had had more time. That I could have know him better, that ..."
"He could have known you better? He did know you Mark. He may not have been there, but he never stopped thinking about you. Not ever."
"I just wish I knew. I wish I knew what he thought about me. I can’t help but think I failed him. I failed him as a son."
"Mark, listen to me. I want you to know, for whatever it’s worth, that I am very proud of you."
Mark looked up at Anderson.
"I may not be your father, but you are a son to me. And I couldn’t have wanted anything more in a son," he held out the other envelope, "Take this. It is a letter from Cronus. I don’t know what it says, but he wrote it for you after you returned home from your first mission."
Hands shaking, Mark took the letter from Anderson. The Chief squeezed his arm and then stood to leave.
"I’ll be in the church with the others. When you’re ready, come and join us. We should be together tonight."
Over half an hour later, Mark joined them in the church. He walked in silently and stood beside Jason. They greeted each other without words, Jason noticing the redness in Mark’s eyes and Mark spotting the silver on Jason’s chest. They stood beside each other and drew strength from one another. Jason handed him a hymn book and they sang together with the rest. Princess looked over at them and then at the Chief, her eyes full of wonder. He winked and whispered.
"There’s more to come."
By the time mass was over, both Mark and Jason were smiling ear to ear. They laughed and joked all the way back to the Snack J. Princess unlocked the doors and let everyone inside the darkness of the Snack J. She flicked on the lights.
"I’ll get some hot..."
She was stunned into silence. Bright lights zigzagged across the ceiling. Beautiful red flowers rested in pots on every table. The smell of pine was everywhere. The plastic tree had been replaced by a tall, full evergreen and a sparkling ornament dangled from every branch.
Tiny let out a loud whoop and clapped his hands together.
A big, golden turkey waiting for him on the counter. Dozens of steaming dishes surrounded it. Cranberries, yams, savoury stuffing ... all the things he had been dreaming of. Tiny inhaled deeply, filling his senses with the wonderful aroma. The others laughed at his delight. With great flourish Tiny made them all sit down and served them all some cranberry wine. He flushed red when he was given the honour of carving the bird. Smiling with satisfaction, he surveyed everyone’s plates before they were allowed to dig in. Jason was forced to smile when Tiny asked him to say grace for the meal. Anderson was surprised to see that Tiny barely ate anything himself. Instead the young man’s face lit up with joy as he watched the others eat, and laughed greatly at their jokes. After all the plates had been cleared away, Tiny sported a look of pure satisfaction.
Then came the presents. Chief Anderson passed out the brightly papered boxes. There weren’t many, but each gift brought a smile to the receiver’s face. Keeyop watched intently as Princess began to unwrap the little box. She paused at the tag.
"From Keeyop and Jason? Since when do you two work together on anything?" she asked.
Keeyop beamed. Jason couldn’t hide his own surprise. Both expressions were dwarfed by Princess’ face when she popped open the velvet lid.
He jumped over and hugged her tightly. She kissed him on the cheek and winked at Jason. Keeyop helped her put the earrings on so she could show them off.
Finally, there was only one present left. A small, flat box for Keeyop. It was the only gift marked "From Santa." Keeyop held it briefly in his hands, then announced he was going to open it in private. After a bit of teasing about a mysterious girlfriend, the others retreated to the punch bowl to give him some privacy. Gingerly, Keeyop undid the bow. He opened the box. His letter to Santa was inside, with a note and a picture. He read the note.
I don’t need to grant your Christmas wish. You already have a family.
Keeyop looked at the picture. It was a picture taken of the team a few summers ago. They were all sitting on a park bench fooling around, and the Chief was standing behind them. Keeyop looked over at his family around the punch bowl. Princess was smiling happily, while Tiny was giving Jason a punch in the arm. Mark looked back at Keeyop. He walked over and squatted beside him.
"Watcha got squirt?" he asked looking down at the picture.
"Family portrait." Keeyop answered, wiping the tears from his eyes.
Mark recognized the picture and tousled Keeyop’s hair.
"Better put that somewhere safe." Mark cautioned.
Keeyop smiled and ran upstairs, clutching the picture tightly. Princess noticed him running upstairs and walked over to Mark.
"Is he alright?" she asked with concern.
"Better than that. How about you?" Mark smiled at her.
"I couldn’t be happier." her face was positively glowing.
"Wanna bet?" Mark leaned over and kissed her tenderly on the lips. Just as quickly he retreated and smiled. He squeezed her fingers. Princess followed with her eyes as he left her and went to help Jason beat up on Tiny.
As she scanned the room, she suddenly realized who was missing. While the others were preoccupied, she slipped out the front door. Chief Anderson was sitting on a bench outside looking up at the stars. She walked over and sat beside him.
"Beautiful night." she said.
"Definitely." he replied.
She laughed lightly. "I don’t know how you did it, Chief. But there they are. Acting like a real family."
"Nothing the Chief of Security couldn’t handle." He joked.
Princess leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank-you." she whispered. He smiled back in satisfaction.
Princess grinned, then dug something out of her pockets.
"I got you something today." she offered out her gift.
Anderson took the slim box in surprise. He undid the blue ribbon and opened the box. Two fat, rich brown cigars stared back at him. The Chief laughed and hugged Princess around one shoulder. He bit off the end of one cigar and offered it to her. She graciously accepted. They sat together, happily blowing smoke rings and looking up at the Christmas sky. They stayed on the bench for quite some time, enjoying the peaceful evening. Chief Anderson was truly content that evening, discovering that in granting Princess’ Christmas wish he had also granted his own. For tonight, even Zoltar was a million miles away. He felt like an ordinary man, with an ordinary family.
And it felt wonderful.