Carcer’s Christmas Eve

Talking with Hoodiejoy today reminded me of this little story from the last Christmas City of Heroes had, just after the game was shuttered. It’s a story about what one character, Carceri, did, and it featured his friends. I’m putting it here because this is basically an enormous tweet.

Move along, nothing to see here.

With the marked downturn in crime in the city lately, Hyperion Force i doing a bit more JLA style stuff, only leaping into action when the mile-high Lizard Cannon is deployed and pointed at Oklahoma City or something like that. Means that patrols are done in smaller groups, taking it more easily – people are on call, but not meeting in the base on a daily basis.

Christmas Eve, Carcer took a train on his own out to Salamanca. Rode out on the train, head down, shoulders in with an old coat that was battered a bit, weathered at the elbows. A little detour from the city, with a scrap of paperwork in his pocket saying he had permission from Longbow to leave the city unescorted. Sat in the train as it waited at the Salamanca stop, just looking out the train windows at the fields over in Croatoa’s woodlands, away from the houses. A trip he made many times, this time not even needing to leave the train to feel it. Then the train pulled out and took him back into Paragon.

Bulk of the day spent doing last minute stuff, preparing and locking down loose ends. In the work going on at the base, he drops off his gifts for Alexia and Carrie so it’ll get mixed in with their presents.

At around four, he sits down with Zeta and explains what Christmas is, and asks her if she wants to help him celebrate it with his friend. Some discussion, and she agreed, whereupon he got permission to take her out of the base.

Carcer took her to a six PM recital at a church in Founders, where St Lucy’s Girls School had their yearly Christmas recital; classic songs, some hymns, and some more modern songs sung in group or as parts of presentations. He gave Zeta a pair of dark glasses and told her to enjoy the show and he’d be back.

Then he went out to meet with Ashley at a place allowed. He had plans in place to literally chase her onto Nation if he had to, but she had learned to not defy a determined Carcer, so she met with him in Skyway, where he first made sure she was rugged up warm – scarf, coat, earmuffs for ridiculous ears, boots – and they went to a soup kitchen where they spent an hour or so making dinner and serving hot food to homeless or economically hurting people – even families. Things are pretty rough in those straits – you have whole families that are coming down to eat at these communal events because they simply can’t afford celebrations right now. Crime’s down in Paragon, but the economy is still barking shins and squeezing pockets.

After that, he took Ash to the lake in Atlas, frozen over, and set up fire barrels for people while she could enjoy herself skating and icedancing, and playing in the snow with other people and their kids, teenagers and friends goofing off. With the coat and scarf and beany and such, easy to miss how different she looked.

Throughout the whole affair, Carcer didn’t ‘hide’ – he looked as black and blue as he does in combat.

Then at 8pm, he’d take Ash with him to the church, to meet with Zeta, just in time to hear the nun at the head of the church say, “And now, thanks to our friends in the Hyperion Force, we have a special musical performance, acapella, from a ms Ashley Faulconer. Let’s make her welcome, girls.”

Remember that Ash has self-confidence issues, feels isolated, feels alone, feels she has lost her home and her connection to her god after her mutation erupted all over. And Carcer stood there with his hand on the door, keeping her from leaving. In a daze, and probably irritated and angry, but embracing the opportuntity to do what she wanted to do, Ash walked up the aisle, and sang.

She sings beautifully, by the way. Carcer had never heard it, but he knew it. She wouldn’t care so much if she couldn’t. And Ashley sung, sung for the girls of St Lucy’s; they sat with their canes and their dogs and their smiles, and they didn’t judge her for how she looked, they just lived in the music with her.

And then the nun, as Ashley finished, asked her if she wanted to stay around – and it was only then that she realised what that meant. Realised that here, nobody was going to know her as anything but Ashley, the sweet voice… and so she stayed.

Zeta, wearing dark glasses, had no idea what was going on, but on the other hand, dogs and music and warmth and community, so that was nice.

That’s how it played out until midnight, when it was Christmas. Carcer stepped out of the church, into the snow, with his two friends, then took them to a little place near the Longbow barracks where they do temp lodging, and used the kitchenette to make them pancakes, and to set up a little tree, where he placed their presents. Ashley got a bunch of CDs from a second-hand store. Chess, Wicked, and Matchbox 20’s Mad Season, and a photo album full of pictures of dogs. Zeta got a big collection of the Animorphs books, but missing a few of the early ones.

Then, with that all done, Ash told Carcer that she’d forgotten his present – annoyedly – and thanked him, and … I dunno, I’m not sure if she’d have hugged him, given their mutual issues. But then she went home, and he took Zeta back to the Hyperion Force base, and then he went home to his girlfriend, in her pajamas, sitting at the table looking at all the writing and trying to take her pencil back from Carcer’s mechanised pokemon Withoutle, created by @Swiftgear.

Wordlessly, he put an arm around her, his other arm sliding down underneath her butt, and the boy with a body of a boxer picked her up, turned her around, and cuddled her against his shoulder as he walked off to bed with her, to sleep so they could wake up on Christmas day.

The rest of the story, don’t think you’re old enough for, but Carcer and Colette miss Christmas Lunch and Breakfast.

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