A Christmas Carol 3/5

A Christmas Carol
Co-authored with BFL
Written December 2001
Rated PG-13
Synopsis: Madeline is visited by three Ghosts on Christmas Eve who try to teach her that Paul is an integral part of her life.

Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. This story is a take on “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. ┬áNo infringement is intended.

Madeline’s shoulders lowered in exhaustion. Her neck and back pulsed with tense energy that had been coursing through her muscles for hours. She needed to relax. Tentatively, she approached the door that led to her private bathroom. It opened without fuss, and she gave a quiet sigh of relief. She always kept a few changes of clothing in the cabinets beneath the sink when it became impossible for her to shower in her quarters.

She quickly undressed and adjusted the water until it was as hot as she could bear. Steam rose from the showerhead, and she took a deep breath. Finally, something comforting after her evening of painful recollection. It must have been a dream. But why would it have affected her so strongly? And why had Prudence been so real?

The shower made her feel much better. After drying off, she began to get dressed. As she was buttoning her blouse, she heard a voice. “Yoo hoo! Is anyone home?”

Madeline reached for her gun, hesitating slightly. She didn’t recognize the voice, but it didn’t sound particularly threatening either. Still, to be on the safe side, she stood in the way of the sensor, and the door opened. She aimed at the intruder as he came into view.

The man was looking around her office curiously, unaware of her presence. He was young and handsome (he’d make a good Valentine operative, she thought casually) wearing a pair of pleated khakis, a mint green polo shirt, and brown loafers. He looked like the member of a country club. His wavy brown hair was perfectly styled.

“Who are you?”

The man jumped and cried out in surprise, holding his hands in the air. “Don’t shoot! Oh.” He lowered his hands with a quiet chuckle. “I forgot, I’m already dead.”

“Who are you?” she repeated more sternly.

“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present. And you are…” He pulled out a notebook and skimmed over a page. “Mabel?”

She lowered her gun with a frown. “I’m Madeline.”

The man looked at her with a puzzled expression. “Madeline? You’re supposed to be Mabel. Oh, well.” He sighed with exaggeration. “I guess Mabel won’t get to see her present.” He regarded her curiously. “So, Madeline… What are you, an accountant? A banker? Perhaps the president of a company?”

She holstered her weapon and stepped into the room with him. “I’m the chief strategist and second-in-command of a secret anti-terrorist organization.”

“A what?”

“A spy,” she clarified.

“Oooh, like James Bond?” He frowned again. “You don’t look like James Bond. I thought you spies were supposed to be all suave and sexy.”

“I’m not suave and sexy?” she repeated, putting her hands on her hips.

“Well, that isn’t even a designer suit…”

Madeline shook her head in spite of her situation. “First, I get a chain-smoking woman with some degree of wit. Now I have a fashion-conscious ghost who doesn’t think I’m suave or sexy.”

“Oh, you met Prudence!” When the only response he received was a dirty look, he pulled out his notebook again. “Madeline, Madeline… Ah, here you are!” He read the page quickly, turning it over to the other side. “All right. Now that I know a bit more about you, let’s see your present.”

He snapped his fingers exuberantly, and Madeline found herself standing by the briefing table, which had been changed into a buffet table. She smiled at the piles of food that graced it. “This looks fantastic!”

“Yes, this is Nikita’s little Christmas party. Not so little, is it?”

She recovered from her brief enthusiasm. “Oh. Is that what this is?”

“Why are you so glum? Like you said, it looks fantastic.”

Before Madeline could defend her momentary lapse in seriousness, she felt a slight tremor as a group of operatives actually walked through her on their way to the makeshift buffet table. They began to gather food with only a questioning glance at the Perch above. Madeline recognized them immediately. Clifford, Vance, and Jarvia–all field ops, all a bit obnoxious.

“They look nice,” the Ghost mentioned with a shrug. “All spirited in their Santa hats.”

“Oh, please,” Madeline contested. “Vance wouldn’t know spirit if it shot him in the foot. His success rate gets lower with every mission, yet he still manages to survive. Jarvia’s an ex-prostitute. She was brought in for Valentine skills, but we rarely use her because she’s slept with all of our terrorists. And Clifford–well, we won’t go into his unearthly love of explosives.”

Laughter erupted from Clifford and Jarvia, but Vance looked extremely irritated. The Ghost clapped his hands together. “Ooh, conflict! Let’s go have a look-see.”

As they approached, Clifford began to speak. “How long have you been here, you idiot? Haven’t you noticed that no one gives a damn about being in the holiday spirit? I mean, look up at the Perch! Operations approved the whole thing, but he’s not even coming down.”

“He’s on the phone…idiot,” Vance muttered. “He’s coming down later, but I know someone who isn’t showing up at all.”

“Who?” Jarvia asked, balancing a roll on her mound of mashed potatoes.

Clifford snorted. “How long have you been here? Who do you think, Jarvia? The Ice Goddess herself!”

“Who, Madeline?”

“Who else?”

Madeline scowled at them. She hated the nicknames that operatives gave her. She tried to think of a few official reasons to have them all cancelled.

“Look, if there’s anyone not in the Christmas spirit, it’s you, Clifford,” Jarvia defended. “What are you, her daily planner? How would you know if she’s coming or not?”

He shrugged. “Cause she’s a bitch.”

Madeline glowered, folding her arms across her chest.

Jarvia sighed and looked over at Vance. “Well, what do you think?”

The man hesitated. “Cliff’s probably right, Jarvia. Madeline isn’t exactly known for her social nature.”

“Hey, leave some food for the seasoned ops, will ya?” Walter pushed over to them with two plates, and they chuckled and walked away. He filled up the dishes, humming a Christmas tune that Madeline couldn’t quite place.

The Ghost grinned. “Let’s go with this fellow. He seems more jolly!”

Madeline followed obediently and watched Walter sit beside Nikita and Michael. The blonde grinned at all of the food on her plate. “This is great, Walter, thanks!”

“Anytime, Sugar. Are you sure you don’t want anything, Michael?”

“No, I’m not hungry.”

Walter shrugged. “Suit yourself. Christopher and his team of chefs did a great job.”

Nikita chewed on a piece of ham, admiring the decorated common area. “I’m so glad Operations approved the party. A lot of people came, more than I expected!” She gazed at the Perch. “When is Operations coming down?”

“After he finishes justifying the need for an army-sized buffet to George,” Walter joked.

She giggled for a moment before looking upwards again. “I’m glad he agreed to this. I see him in an entirely different manner now.”

“Come on, Sugar, you know he did it to exercise more control over us, don’t you?”

“Maybe he was just being nice. Did you ever consider that?”

“You keep telling yourself that. Cause that’s exactly what he wants you to think.”

“Regardless of his motives, I’m glad he’s coming.” She paused. “But I don’t see Madeline anywhere. I know he told her about it. Where is she?”

Walter grew serious. “By the look on Operations’ face lately, I would say it’s a safe bet she’s not coming.”

Madeline frowned. “By the look on his face?”

The Ghost shrugged in equal puzzlement. “Let’s go find out.”

They were suddenly in the Perch, and Paul had just hung up the phone. Now he merely stared out the windows with a soft sigh. Madeline gazed at him. “He’s sad.”

“How can you tell?”

“His face is blank and distant, but his eyes are empty.”

“Whoa, lovers off the port bow!”

Madeline didn’t even hear him as she leaned on the ledge to get a better look at Paul’s face. What would make him so sad? He wanted to join the party, didn’t he? Or maybe… She sighed. Maybe he wanted to join the party with her at his side.

“What’s that?” the Ghost asked, standing on the other side of Paul.

Madeline looked down to see him removing something from his jacket pocket. It was a small box, unlike any container she had ever seen. It was an indescribable shade of green, with little vines etched into its sides in a detailed gold trim.

“That’s quite a gift!” mentioned the Spirit. “Any idea who it’s for?”

“I think it’s for me,” Madeline replied softly. “He was hinting that he had something for me, and I can’t imagine him buying something for someone else.”

“What do you think it is?”

“It could be anything. Paul has a knack for buying something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary.” She smiled, watching him toy with the box, but her grin vanished when Paul sat it on the ledge and walked out of the Perch.

“Uh oh,” the Ghost said. “I guess he’s not giving it to you if you don’t go to the party… although I get the idea that you’ll be missing something even more important than the gift if you don’t go. This man obviously loves you and wants you to know that.”

Madeline glared at him. “You know nothing about our relationship.”

“So explain it to me. Why can’t you just love him?”

“Section policy is very much against those types of relationships.”

“Your man is at the helm! Why worry? Besides, you let other operatives be together. Why not allow yourself just one inkling of happiness?”

He had a point. Madeline paused. “Our relationship could be viewed as a weakness on both our parts.”

“Love can make you stronger! Again, your reasoning behind allowing other operatives to take lovers is so they are more efficient. Wouldn’t you become more efficient as well?”

Damn, he took another one of her reasons and twisted it! “Look, Spirit, I understand that you’re trying to be helpful, but don’t you get it? Paul and I, we can never be what you’re implying. Fate won’t allow it.”

“Oh, so you’ve changed your name to Fate, have you? Madeline, the only thing stopping your relationship is you! I understand that your past was not very loving, but that’s why they call it the past. It doesn’t have to affect you anymore. I think you understand the depth of Paul’s feelings for you but not the value.”

Madeline closed her eyes and was almost tempted to cover her ears, as she had when she was a child. “You’re beginning to sound like Prudence. Why don’t you go spend the holidays with her? I wasn’t even your assignment anyway!”

The Ghost put his hands on his hips. “Fine. You don’t want to acknowledge what you really feel, I can’t make you. But I’m sure Mabel would have acknowledged her feelings.”

She looked at him again. “Just get out.”

He shrugged. “All right, I’ll go. But remember what you’ve learned tonight. Think about how important love really is.” With a flash of light, he vanished.

End of part 3


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