Christmas Then, Christmas Now

December 25, 1938

Excited shouts wake me up. One comes from near my ear. I sit up and hit my head on the top bunk. I grab my head. Kids run everywhere. No one's allowed downstairs until Mistress Elas says we can go. This year is supposed to be great. The president says we might be going to war soon. Before you know it these kids will be enlisted. I see why they want this Christmas to be special. That doesn't mean I have to like it. So loud. Mistress Elas comes to the door. Girls join the mob. God, I hate Christmas.

We stop at the tree. Little Jimmy crawls down to get the presents. Mary gets a dollhouse. Robert gets a new baseball glove and bat. James gets a stack of comic books. Samantha gets a bunch of dress-up clothes. Lucky ducks. They're the ones to be famous. Athletes and war heroes and actors. They're special. I'm nothing. One box with one doll. I'd be happy if I didn't know what this meant. Not good at anything. Never to be adopted. Just another mouth to feed. I sit in the back staring at the doll's face. Finger her hair. Everyone ignores me. At one point little Jimmy crawls next to me. He shows off his new football. I try to be interested. He talks about playing with it later before church. He pretends my doll is a quarterback. I play the part of an announcer. Before long mistresses are yelling for breakfast.

One thing marks this day apart from other Christmases: beginning of rationing. Not much, but instead of two eggs we get one. FDR thinks Hitler could attack any day. We must be ready for that day. A bowl of fruit is passed around. So many noises. I really, really hate Christmas. After breakfast everyone bundles up for outside. Mistress Baren yells at me for taking too long. Why does she care? I won't do anything anyway. I sit in a corner and play with my doll. Something hits the back of my head. A baseball. Robert comes to collect it. He taunts me. I ignore him. This day keeps getting better and better. "Stop it," I tell him.

"Whatcha gonna do about it?" he says.

A football flies into his groin. He doubles over. Little Jimmy says to beat it. He offers a hand and asks if I want to play with him now. I thank him for helping. He tosses me the football. Maybe this Christmas isn't as bad as the others.

December 25, 2012

I stare out a window in the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Christmas lights and candles are still glowing, despite it being one in the morning. I haven't slept since the Watcher's last meeting on the 21, but I can't anyway. Knowing six other people out there somewhere, copies of me, all living different lives, knowing some could be dead… I still can't wrap my head around it. At least the basics of Christmas don't change.

Christmas wreaths and poinsettias hang from emergency switches in the hallways. HQ has a tree decorated with ornaments from agents. Hot chocolate is offered alongside coffee. Earlier there was a quick sermon. Completely different from my last Christmas back in 1938.

Only a skeleton crew is on duty. I walk past a row of screens. Now that this craziness is over Fury will make me start learning what they are. Again I am ignored, but now it's okay. I've had enough attention for a lifetime. All because my name is Nicolette Storm. I stare at a screen showing damage levels. I would see the full extent, but knowing me, the minute I touch it I'll break it. I hate technology. Millions of lives lost to trans-dimensional villains from places I've never heard of. Even Hallucination, when we switched. Poor Nikki…

I end up staring out the bay window. A huge tree is set up in the middle of Central Park. Faces of everybody killed are hanging from its branches. A hand rests on my shoulder. It's Steve. Long story short he's my godfather, the closest thing to an actual family I have. "Can't sleep?" I ask.

"I'm more concerned with the fact that you aren't."

"How can I if I know there's more than one me? Especially with Hallucination gone. I could've helped her."

"She was too far gone. No one could help. Soldier on."

I sigh at the mention of soldiers. Must I need reminders? I rest my head on his arm.

"Merry Christmas, Nicolette. It's high time you get to be a kid again."

An end to the fighting at last. I'm starting to like Christmas. "Merry Christmas, Steve. Peace has come."