The place was cold.
And the meeting was more boring than usual.
Those fools were arguing over lights and festoons.
But how is it possible the ‘terrors of the universe’ would get confused by Christmas lights and festoons?
He let them talk to each other, hoping that no one would notice him.
That meeting was so boring!
He contemplated with concern the thought of ending up falling asleep before it was over.
He must have gotten pretty close to it because Nemesis had to call him twice before getting an answer.
So he found himself having to explain what Christmas is to a group of ignorant, boring aliens.
“Basically a party where you don’t work, exchange gifts, gather in groups and do nonsense that everyone thinks funny.”
Well the concept is that.
Stubborn, stupid Outrider!
“To do something different than usual. To have fun. To have an excuse to exchange a gift. To... I’ve no idea... do something. it’s different for whoever takes part.”
“You don’t seem to find it very funny, Jesse,” Nemesis pointed out.
No and I don’t find it funny that YOU find it funny either!
“Everyone has their own tastes,” he replied diplomatically.
“Well, I declare that, from this year, the Outriders will also celebrate Christmas. I’m curious to see if it will be fun.”
What? He went crazy all of a sudden?
The meeting ended with this dramatic decision.
It was cold on Earth.
It wasn’t snowing, luckily it wasn’t in one of those stupid movies where it always snows at Christmas, but it was cold.
A terrible cold.
Maybe if it snows it would even be better...
Well, now he was on Earth, so what could he do next?
With all those people who thought they had to be happy...
Oh well, seeing them celebrate Christmas is always better than seeing the Outriders engage in this idiocy...
A mass on the street.
A group of brats grabs a peer of theirs and throws him to the ground.
A peer of theirs... no, that brat looks smaller.
And now he will start crying.
And no one will stop to help him.
People are always so busy worrying about being good and kind at Christmas to hardly find the time to actually do it.
The brat stands up and, instead of complaining, he throws a punch at the leader of the group.
Or rather he tries to do so.
His aim is slightly off and he loses his balance.
He’s on the ground.
And the group leader, angered by his lack of surrender and the attempted attack, decided to show him who the boss is.
This seems to drag on...
it’s an old story, it’s always been like that.
The strongest wins, the weakest...
He hates Christmas.
And the idiotic and incapable street bullies.
To scare one off a bit, it’s a revenge on the past.
It’s a bit childish too, but who cares?
With the boss the whole gang withdraws and he finds himself there alone with a battered brat who declares: “I would have managed it on my own!”
Unintentionally he smiles.
“Yeah, surely. Next time you want to hit someone taller than you, aim for the stomach not the face.”
Then he resumes his way.
And he discovers that he is being followed.
Bored, he turns toward the brat.
“What do you want?”
“You helped me. I owe you a favour. I’ll follow you until I’ll return it.”
What? But are there people who still do this nonsense?
Everything he said to make the brat desist didn’t work.
Well, he wasn’t exactly prepared for this kind of persuasion.
And a homeless brat with no family can be stubborn and he knows this pretty well.
He might always run away... but running away from a brat isn’t exactly the kind of feat he wants to accomplish.
Okay, so the day can’t get worse than this.
Things can always get worse.
To think that by now one has reached the bottom is stupid.
One may, for example, meet the star sheriffs, who were supposed to be on the other side of the galaxy, but suddenly remembered that there is a great place to shop here, one of April’s ideas of course and...
“What are YOU doing here?”
“None of your business, cowboy. Think about keeping company to the girl of your life number 2014.”
Maybe he shouldn’t provoke him.
But he never appreciated invasions of his privacy.
An unexpected detail intrudes in their discussion.
Jesse had forgotten that he has a ‘bodyguard’ who decides that now might be the time to return him the favour.
“Get off, brat. Colt won’t start a fight in the middle of the street with all these people.”
“Jesse is right, calm down, Colt,” Saber Rider whispered.
“And who is this child?” April asked, pointing to the brat.
Jesse shrugged and resumed walking.
Evidently the shopping was not so urgent because the Sheriffs also decided to follow him.
“If someone else starts following me I’ll be able to boast about being better than the Pied Piper of Hammelin,” he observed in the warmth of a club, while waiting for something warm.
“You’re not the type to be allowed to walk around town alone,” Colt declared.
“There is no war and, alone, it would be a bit uncomfortable for me to conquer the city,” he replied calmly.
“What are you doing here by the way? Don’t tell me you feel the Spirit of Christmas too?” Fireball continued.
“Don’t start talking about nonsense you too. The Outriders are enough for me. The Spirit of Christmas... it’s just the chattering of hypocrites with money who want to make children behave.”
“The Spirit of Christmas is not nonsense!” April cried, romantic as usual.
Jesse shrugged in reply.
“Do Outriders celebrate Christmas?” Robin, who had steadfastly refused to leave Colt despite his protests, questioned.
“They saw the Earthlings do it and decided to try as well. They think it’s funny. I didn’t want to stay there and see what they would have done.”
“You left? And how? What excuse have you found?” there was an amused note in Saber Rider’s voice.
“I told them the truth. I said if they were to celebrate an Earth Christmas I would do as I did here, I would take a vacation and go somewhere. And so I did.” The statement brought a wave of general good humour.
The brat sneezed.
The waitress arrived with what the customers had ordered including a hot chocolate for the brat.
And that he was about to refuse.
“If you want to keep stalking me, swallow that stuff. If not, go bore someone else.”
The brat knew it was an ultimatum.
And accepted the drink.
“Um… Jesse… he, well, who is he? I mean, I didn’t know you had a son. He looks like you though,” April asked him.
“HE IS NOT MY SON!”
What an absurdity, which use would I have for a brat?
The brat’s story was soon explained, causing a general laugh.
Jesse didn’t take it well.
The brat took it worse.
It is not usually thought that such a small brat could have such a... colourful language.
“Never underestimate the feelings of brats,” the Outrider Commander recalled, trying to stifle a laugh.
And never underestimate the stubbornness of an Earthman who is convinced he is doing the right thing (however idiotic it may be).
“Keeping me company is a nice idea but you aren’t really think about spending Christmas following me.”
Maybe it would have been better if I remained in the Vapour Zone!
“Oh, really, Commander, don’t tell me you don’t appreciate our company?”
“You know, I think it’s you who won’t appreciate a whole night out walking around the town. The temperature will drop a lot, and I don’t think you planned to spend Christmas like this, cowboy.”
“Don’t worry about my plans.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
A gust of cold wind made everyone shiver.
“Jesse, but you don’t really plan spending Christmas like this!” April snapped, rubbing her hands.
“It’s not prohibited by law, is it? Among other things, I don’t see why I should change my habits.”
“But this is not the way to spend Christmas! At Christmas one should be spent with the family exchanging gifts and...”
“The cemetery closes at a certain hour. And I’m not the type to waste time on silly romance.”
“What does the cemetery have to do with it? Wait, you mean that...”
“What are you doing, brat? Are you leaving us for shopping?”
The Commander of the Outriders also found himself pausing in front of the shop window in front of which the child had stopped, and which sported a large collection of toy spaceships.
“Spaceships! As a child I spent hours in front of the shops, wanting one! “ Colt declared, lost in his childhood memories.
“I really preferred the toy cars.”
“Because you’ve never seen the wonders of the sporting goods department. There was a fencing outfit that... “
“Oh Robin, Sincia, look what a wonderful doll! As a child I had one just like that!”
“Time goes by but brats’ tastes stay the same, mn?”
A little hand grabbed the sleeve of his jacket.
Jesse looked down to meet the boy’s eyes.
“What did you want when you were a child?”
Why in the world should I answer?
“A laser gun. But when I had all the money I needed a bully threw me against a wall and stole it.”
“What a tragic childhood experience.”
“For him without a doubt. Especially when he had to explain to his mother and three shop attendants why he was taking an unpaid toy car home.”
“Did you have him accused of theft?”
“First, he was a thief, second, all I did was sound the alarm at the right time with a little tinkering of the contacts. The toy car was something he had picked up by himself.”
“You should have reported the theft, not take revenge on him yourself!” Saber Rider said, a note of reproach in his voice.
“My word against the one of a rich and spoiled brat?”
Jesse felt another pull on his sleeve.
The brat needed to drop this habit!
“He gave you back the money, then?”
“Obviously not. But he also didn’t have much to be happy about that Christmas.”
In retrospect, there had been little satisfaction in that revenge.
Back then though, he couldn’t have hoped for more.
But the truth was, what he got wasn’t enough.
He stared at the shop.
It would soon be empty.
“Jesse, where are you going?”
“But they are about to close! Jesse, wait...”
He didn’t stop to listen to April’s words.
Throughout his life he could count on the fingers of one hand the people he had listened to.
And still save some.
He enter the shop with a firm step followed by the brat and then by the others.
That day wasn’t meant to be good.
It was obvious that if he were to walk into a department store, there would also have to be some guys intending to rob him.
Well armed too.
How to blame them?
The takings should have been fabulous by now.
He assessed the situation.
“What’s now?” he heard Colt muttering to the others.
The brat was clinging to his leg in a whooping grip.
Jesse looked up at that childish little face.
The brat was weird.
He didn’t seem scared just... worried... and determined... to do what Jesse had no idea.
“You’re the hero, cowboy,” he reminded Colt determined not to intervene.”Do something.”
“Count on it.”
Jesse thought he should have known letting the Star Sheriffs lead the action wasn’t a great idea.
He thought he should have known it damn well, especially when he saw himself in the line of sight of a stray bullet.
And when he found himself on the ground without a scratch, he knew he had just received his “Christmas present”.
“Jesse, are you okay?”
He nodded back to April’s question, his gaze fixed on the brat who was now clinging to him and that had just caused him to trip.
“We’re even now, I suppose. The Outrider Commander saved by a brat. If I tell it around, they won’t believe it.”
The brat gave no sign of having heard him.
He was still holding on to him.
Jesse, in order to get up, had no choice but to take him in his arms.
Not that it bothered him that much after all.
He didn’t know why, but that brat reminded him so much of himself.
And so he had no reason to be rude to him, did he?
The commander watched as the unfortunate thieves were carried out of the shop with the others.
Saber Rider had the task of explaining everything to the local police.
He was starting to feel rather tired.
The wind was blowing.
But it wasn’t that cold.
He had never thought about the fact that holding a brat would warm him up.
He still had the star sheriffs around.
They still hadn’t given up on their idea of following him.
He was thinking of a plan to get rid of them when the doubt that he had dropped the child assailed him, since he no longer felt any weight in his arms.
He looked down at him but the child was still there.
With a rather sad expression.
“I have to go now, I suppose,” he murmured in a small voice.
“Where do you think you’re going, kid? This is not the time of the day in which children can walk around alone.”
The little one smiled.
Jesse thought that smile was very similar to his own, even if it looked a little sadder.
“I have to go. You are not dead and so I guess my time is up.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I was sick before. I think I was about to die. Like my mom and my dad. My mom... I don’t know how she died... or if she really died... my dad... they shot him... when I was little... I only saw him in a photography. .. I... I don’t know why but then I woke up here... and time hadn’t passed... and you were alive... and I thought that maybe... at least you could remain as such... and maybe I could be with you... I wouldn’t have bored you... but now I know that I have to go back to my time... or maybe I’m dead... I don’t know...”
Jesse tried to piece together the pieces of that strange conversation.
It just didn’t make sense.
And if it was a joke it wasn’t funny.
“Little one, I have no children and you don’t seem like dying to me. Or sick. Probably you just read ‘Dragonball’ too many times”.
“I really prefer ‘Back to the Future’, Dad. It ends better.”
“It makes no difference.”
“Jesse, but he actually looks like you...”
“Shut up, Colt. He is at least eight years old and I’m sure that at twelve I didn’t have time to find a girlfriend!”
“I told you this is not my year,” the boy murmured, a note of disappointment in his voice.
Jesse was about to retort a rational explanation when the child interrupted him.
“It’s not important you’ll believe it, you know? I just wanted...”his voice dropped dramatically, “Does it bother you a lot if I hug you? Only once, I promise!”
No, currently it didn’t bother the Outrider Commander.
What bothered him was not understanding anything of what was going on.
The problem becomes secondary when the child pressed against him.
He couldn’t remember the last hug he received from someone who loved him.
But in his mind there was the feeling that the child was his own.
He always had a possessive character.
He wouldn’t let him go.
But things did not go as he thought.
Not that he let him go.
He simply didn’t find him in his arms anymore.
And the last memory he had was of that little voice whispering to him: “I love you, dad!”
Midnight had struck shortly after the kid had disappeared.
The group looked confused.
Jesse didn’t seem very focused.
The Commander, devoid of that self-confident and arrogant air he always wore, was lost in some reasoning of his own.
“Listen, Jesse... what are you going to do?”
“Well, anyway, that child said...”
“I have no children.”
“Yes, but that child...”
“Damn you, can’t you understand? I have no children! That child must have been a hallucination. Or something like that!”
“It couldn’t have been a hallucination. Hallucinations do not drink hot chocolate. And they don’t let themselves be held in someone’s arms. Or save people’s lives,” Saber Rider reminded him.
“So he should have been something else, what I don’t know! What do you want me to do? How do I find someone whose name or age I don’t know? If only I had asked him at least his name!”
“Well, maybe, you can track down the mother. This should be simpler.”
“Unlike you, I don’t keep a list of the girls I hang out with, Colt! Besides, he can’t be my son. I pay attention to certain things. And he didn’t look like anyone I know. Damn, couldn’t he have looked like his mother instead than like me?”
“Well, maybe once you got distracted...”
“In that case I must have been completely drunk, only in this case I doubt I would remember the mother!”
“Well, you could still check with your ex-girlfriends!”
Jesse gave him a skeptical look.
Colt was assailed by doubts that Jesse had more ‘ex-girlfriends’ than he imagined.
“First, that child probably does not exist, second, if he did exist it would be impossible to trace him, third, I hate brats and fourth, by now the Outriders will have finished messing up and I’m going back.”
“But you can’t leave! That child is your son and you...”
“And even if I stayed here what would change?” the commander gave her a hostile look and then left.
“Jesse! If we find the child... how do we warn you?”
The Commander stopped for a moment.
Without turning around he replied: “If you find something, I’ll know before you do. Outriders are far better spies than Earthlings, and don’t think they’ve lost their sources.”
Having said so he went away.
“I can’t believe he behaves like that! Yet he seemed to like that kid!”
“Forget it, April. he’s just a heartless bastard. You were wrong, Saber, to offer to warn him.”
“You’re wrong, Fireball. He will search for the kid. In his own way. But he will search for him. Jesse has a possessive character. He will not easily give up on something that is his.”
The Outriders had finished their partying.
Nemesis had not enjoyed himself as he hoped.
Surprising the entire Outrider assembly Jesse simply told him he would be better off next time, then announced that he had work to do and left the assembly.
In the control room, the Commander checked the archive of the last few years and gave orders to check the hospitals.
The only real detailed earthling identification index is the hospital one. It was probably just a dream. But if it was reality, I’m not going to hope in a lucky shoot. The brat said he was sick. If this is reported in time... if... It’s the only way and I have to try.
A strange fanfic that I wrote around Christmas as I wanted a story that fit that period.