A/N: I wrote this way back in December 1999 and posted it to the old GI Joe cartoon mailing list and another Joe fanfic website at that time. Somehow it survived all these years on my computer and now that I've found this great website, I thought I'd share it here. I realize there have been countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol and while I hope you enjoy this little story, I encourage you to read the original by Charles Dickens if you never have. The typical disclaimer applies: I'm not affiliated with the official GI Joe franchise or anyone related to Charles Dickens. I don't own the characters, nor am I making any money from this fic. Just doing this for fun.
Part I - Ace - Christmas Past
GI Joe Headquarters
"What da ya say, Ripcord... think you can beat me at Seven Card Stud?" Ace asked as he approached his teammate and slapped him on the shoulder.
"You know I can beat you," Ripcord replied with a confident smile. "But I'll have to beat you another day. Cutter and I have to take these Christmas packages down to the V.A. center. Wanna help?" Ripcord gestured to the truckload of wrapped gifts the Joes collected for the veterans. Simple gifts, like handkerchiefs, slippers, hard candy, and books seemed to delight the elderly residents.
Ace laughed. "You kidding? Hanging out with a bunch of grumpy old men is not my idea of a fun way to spend Christmas."
"Suit yourself," Ripcord said as he climbed into the passenger side of the truck. Cutter looked at Ace with a frown before pulling away.
Ace glanced around the motor pool and saw Clutch engrossed in the engine of an older blue Buick sedan. "How about you, Clutch? You up for a game? I'll even go easy on you." Ace watched as Clutch continued to work on the engine.
Without looking up, Clutch wiped a trickle of sweat from his brow, leaving a grease smear on his face. "Can't, Ace. I wanna get this transmission fixed before Doc gets back from leave tomorrow. He'll be so surprised to see it done. The look on his face'll be priceless... It was his old man's car and he's been tryin' to keep it running as long as possible. Sentimental, ya know? I know he was callin' around before he left to haggle a price from some garage in town ..."
Ace walked away before hearing the rest of the story. He took a deck of cards out of his coat pocket and shuffled them aimlessly as he stared ahead, looking at nothing in particular. "What a bunch of losers," he muttered to himself. "It's Christmas and no one wants to do anything fun."
"Perhaps it is you who needs a reminder about Christmas and fun."
Ace almost dropped the cards, startled at the voice right behind his ear. He spun around quickly, and the color drained from his face.
"Who are you?" he asked with a dry mouth.
The figure stared into Ace's eyes, unblinking, and unmoving. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past," it said simply. "We are going to take a journey to remind you of the important things in your life." With that, and before Ace could respond, the landscape seemed to spin, a blur of bright lights and fuzzy images before it settled down. The figure and Ace were no longer at Joe Headquarters. Instead, they were at Ace's boyhood home in Rhode Island.
"Hey, how did you do that?" Ace asked, incredulously. "This is where I grew up. That's my parents!" he exclaimed, pointing to a young man and woman sitting on a floral-print sofa. "Hi Mom, Dad!"
The spirit gently placed its hand on Ace's shoulder and said, "They cannot hear or see us. We are simply observing the past." Somehow, Ace understood and slowly nodded his head.
The room was decorated for Christmas, with a Christmas tree in the background, and piles of torn wrapping paper and newly-opened presents scattered about the floor. The man had a camera pointing at a raven-haired young boy standing next to an easy chair. "Hey, is that me?" Ace asked of the spirit.
"Yes, this is you as a toddler. The only child of Russ and Paula Armbruster, you were showered with attention. Not only did you have unconditional love from your parents, but there was someone else who loved you more than anything in the world."
Ace looked at an older man sitting in the chair near the little boy. "Gramps! Wow, he looks so young there." The older man gave the boy a small wrapped gift. The boy ripped open the paper, revealing a toy airplane. The boy giggled and threw his hands around his grandfather, embracing him in a big hug. The grandfather's eyes welled up with tears at the boy's happiness.
Ace smiled. "I remember that toy airplane. Gramps had been a pilot in World War II. I used to love talking to him about dogfights and planes."
The spirit nodded. "There is more," it said as the room spun and went through the same transformation again. This time, they were in what appeared to be a park. The trees were bare and piles of old, dirty snow lined the sidewalk. The same little boy and grandfather, both several years older and bundled up in winter coats, were playing with a remote-controlled airplane. Ace watched thoughtfully as the two struggled to make it fly, and when they succeeded, they smiled and marveled at the toy plane.
"Me and Gramps struggled for hours with that plane. It always seemed to nosedive into the ground, but eventually we got it to work. I would have given up on it long before if he hadn't have been so encouraging."
Once again, the spirit took Ace to another scene from his life. This time, he was a young teen, and he was with his grandfather watching planes take off and land at the local airport. Ace smiled. "We watched those planes all afternoon. I know it was then that I made up my mind to become a pilot."
"Yes, your grandfather has always been very proud of you. Even if you had decided to pursue other hobbies or interests, he would have supported what you wanted."
Ace nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I really hit the grandfather jackpot. But why are you showing me all this?"
The spirit only waved its arms and the vision disappeared, changing again. Ace nodded as he easily recognized the man in the vision, a smiling Air Force Lieutenant in dress blues hugging his parents. He listened to the conversation. "I'll call you when I get back to base. Sorry I couldn't visit longer, but the Air Force is pretty stingy with holiday leave time for new recruits. Even us officers," he said with a cocky smile.
His mother looked at her son seriously. "Brad, you really should go visit your grandfather. He hasn't seen you since last year. I know he'd love to talk with you while you're home. He wanted to be here to see you but his nurse thought it would be too difficult for him to travel so soon after his operation."
Lieutenant Armbruster shook his head, picked up his suitcase, and opened the door. "I can't, Mom. I just don't have time. I want to see Karen one last time before I go back, and I promised the guys a couple of games too. I'll see Gramps next time I come home."
Ace looked solemnly at his memory. "Poor Gramps. He was so much a part of my life when I was younger, but then I never made time for him when I grew up. Probably when he needed someone to talk to. I guess it got lonely for him."
The spirit nodded. "Do you know where your grandfather is today?"
"Yeah, I guess he's still in that nursing home. He's had some health problems the past couple of years, a hip replacement and other stuff. He doesn't get around much."
"This is the time of year to remember those we love... and those who love us. There will always be another day to play poker," the spirit declared, then vanished.
Ace looked startled, then rubbed his eyes. "I must have imagined all this. Either that or I partied harder last night than I remember." He sighed, and slowly walked to his quarters, ignoring the few Joes he passed along the way. Once inside the small room, he sat on his bed and picked up the phone. He dialed quickly, and cleared his throat. After a few rings, his call was answered. "Hello, Gramps?" Ace stretched out on his bed, smiling as he talked. He pulled off his coat, tossing it on the chair next to him. He didn't even notice when the deck of cards fell out of his pocket, scattering the cards all over the floor.