[ASH] LL&DD Christmas Special
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at eyrie.org
Thu Nov 27 12:17:42 PST 2008
Author: Andrew Burton
Cover: Doctor Developer and Lady Lawful (II) are sitting in front of a
Christmas tree. Lady Lawful has a wreatch wedged around her, pinning her
arms to her side. Doctor Developer is offering her a gift to unrap.
Coherent LL&DD Christmas
Comics | ADY | AWFUL __ __ Special #1
Presents an |__ |__ & | \ OCTOR | \ EVELOPER copyright 2008
ASHistory Tale: |_/ |_/ by Andrew Burton
[December 24, 1994 - Chicago, IL]
"Well, I hope you're pleased with yourself," Doctor Developer groused.
He paced back-and-forth across the warehouse floor, grumbling under his
breath. "Months of planning. I had to hire those goons out of pocket. Then
you kick down a door, and in two minutes, you almost ruined everything."
Lady Lawful was only half concentrating on Doctor Developer. The post-
taser throbbing made it hard to care about anything except the dull ache all
over her body. Having her body pulled taut, at the wrists and ankles,
hanging between a floor anchor and a pulley bolted into a ceiling beam,
didn't help very much either.
Doctor Developer stomped up in front of Lady Lawful, looking her right
in the eyes, which was possible since she was suspended six inches off the
ground. "I thought you heroes were into this kind of thing!" he snapped at
"Into what kind of thing?" she snapped back. "Robbing toy companies,
like you've been doing? Yeah, heroes go around doing that all the damn
time!" She glared at him, wishing for some kind of heat vision as an early
Christmas present. "You're off your rocker, Deedee! I have no idea what
you're up to this time, but stealing toys at Christmas is pretty low."
Doctor Developer threw up his hands and let out a small, strangle growl.
"Do you want to see the toys I've been stealing?" he asked rhetorically.
"Let me show you!" He stalked out of view.
As soon as he was out of sight, Lady Lawful began to examine her
restraints. Both her wrists and feet were bound with what looked like steel
cord. Aside from that, a loop of chain kept her ankles bound to the floor,
and a spring-loaded latch kept her wrists tied to either side of a heavy,
metal hook. Even if she managed to move the latch out of her way, she didn't
have enough slack to get her wrists over the hook.
For the time being, she was trapped.
On the upside, though, the throbbing seemed to be subsiding.
"These are the toys I stole," Doctor Developer said angrily when he
reappeared. He was carrying a handful of toy robots and baby dolls. He
dropped them on the ground, at Lady Lawful's feet, once he was closer to her.
As the toys hit the ground, she could see they were all broken in some
form or another. Arms were missing off dolls. Robot heads were on
backwards. It wasn't damaged caused by Doctor Developer's dropping them, but
rather from problems caused during production.
"You've been stealing broken toys?" Lady Lawful asked.
"You wouldn't believe the number of toys that get thrown out because
they don't meet production standards. Most of it is basic stuff, too," he
explained, "things that only a quality control agent would care about. Yes,
I've been stealing broken toys..."
"And fixing them," Lady Lawful finished. It made sense. Most of
Deedee's crimes centered on grabbing some new scientific toy to study and
research. Stealing broken toys and fixing them fit with that. "So you're
going to be Santa then, dropping off toys at orphanages and the like?"
"Of course not, that's logistically impossible," he replied. "It's
Christmas Eve, there's no way I could get to all those places...people are
coming here to pick them up." He pointed to a table with half-wrapped boxes
and spindles of ribbon. "We were quite literally wrapping things up when you
"Look, I didn't know," Lady Lawful explained, "I'm sorry."
Doctor Developer shrugged. "Can't be changed now. I think I can get
everything else finished and wrapped before too late."
"I can help," Lady Lawful offered.
"No," Doctor Developer shook his head, "You've done enough. This is a
pretty delicate operation, besides," he continued, "if you show up, people
would get nervous...or talk to the press." He stepped behind Lady Lawful,
beyond where she could see with her arms stretched above her head.
"So...what then?" she asked. "You're going to let me go?"
Before Doctor Developer answered, Lady Lawful saw her Enhancement Belt
slide across the floor. "I can't risk you talking to your hero friends until
after all this is done," he explained. She heard him rummaging through his
coat. "I'll let you go once all this is finished, and we can settle up then,
for now just...hang in there."
Lady Lawful opened her mouth to let out sardonic laugh at the terrible
pun when she felt something damp, with a sweet odor, pressed against her nose
and mouth. She let out startled yelp, and reflexively gasped afterwards.
That was all it took for the dizziness to kick in; within moments she felt
herself began to get drowsy.
As consciousness ebbed away, a dreamy thought floated through her mind.
"Merry Christmas to all," a small, giggling voice said, "and to all, a good
* * * *
[December 24, 1995 - Chicago, IL]
"So there I am, hanging from the ceiling," Jennifer Blair explained.
She crossed her wrists over her head for dramatic effect. "I'm hanging
there, and this guy says to me, 'Hang in there.'" She chuckled, shaking her
head. "I swear, I half expect that to show up on a motivational poster one
As far as Christmas parties went, the small Christmas Eve get together
that Jack Striker planned for his team had gone pretty well. Sure, Jack had
been in and out of his office in almost equal proportions; technically
William and Moira Zimmerman celebrated Chanukah; but as the small group of
co-workers, family, and friends sat around the lounge in the Four Strikes
headquarters as holiday music played on a portable stereo Jennifer had setup,
no one could be accused of not having a good time.
Except perhaps Cameron McKay, who stood helplessly mortified as Jennifer
recounted how they spent the previous year in their super-identities as
Doctor Developer and Lady Lawful, respectively. Moira and William chuckled
politely at Jennifer's retelling, until she reached the punch line. "The
funniest thing about that story is the look on his face..." She pointed at
Cameron. "...every time I tell it." At which point, Cameron's awkward
expression turned into a reddened expression of pain.
Causing both of them to blush reflexively, Moira and William let out
choked snicker when they saw Cameron's face. Triumphantly, Jennifer crowed,
"See! What'd I tell you."
William reached a hand out and clapped Cameron on the shoulder. "If you
think you've got it bad, you should hear some of the stories Moira tells
about me when we visit her parents."
Moira smiled devilishly, her green eyes twinkling, "I could tell him one
now if you like." She gently poked William in the ribs with an elbow.
"You could try, but I'm pretty sure I could cast a geas to compel you
not too quicker." He beamed a smug grin down on Moira.
"Would you like to try?" Moira gave her husband a mock look of
challenge, which lasted as long as it took for William to see it and kiss her
The kiss lasted a few moments and as it ended, Jennifer let out a small,
"Aww." The comment caught the married couple's attention. "You two look so
"A dragon said the same thing just the other day," William replied.
"I'm pretty sure he said, 'You two would cook so good together,'" Moira
corrected her husband. William nodded thoughtfully for a moment, Jennifer
and Cameron both looked perplexed. "Long story."
"Most dragon tails are long," Cameron chimed in, smiling at his own
joke. Jennifer groaned at his pun, and William took the opportunity to steal
another kiss from Moira.
As the party wound down, Moira and William said their goodbyes. Soon
after, Jack had to leave as well to handle an emergency at the DSHA, at which
point Jennifer volunteered herself and Cameron to clean up the party, not
that five adults made that much of a mess.
"So, Deedee," Jennifer asked as she put the electrical for her stereo
into its slot, "do you have any plans for the holiday?" She picked up the
stereo from its spot on the counter and turned to look at the ex-villain
trying to slide left over Christmas cookies into plastic bag.
"Not really," he answered. "Jack was going to let me come in and work
in the lab tomorrow, but since he's gone and I don't have unrestricted access
yet...." He trailed off, not wanting to actually add: "because no one trusts
an ex-villain alone in a lab." He shrugged. "I guess I'll just go home and
wait for Jack to call."
"You aren't handing out presents this year?" Jennifer asked.
"Not me," Cameron answered, "I was going to, but Jack cut a deal with
some toy execs. He keeps me from stealing their broken stuff, and they
donate to several charities around the city. I guess it's what you call a
win-win." He added, "I kind of liked fixing the toys, actually."
After a moment's pause, he asked, "How about you?"
"Mom and Dad are flying up after the New Year, so we're going to
celebrate Christmas late then. I really didn't have anything planned. I
might go out on patrol later. If you want to come..."
"I'd just slow you down."
"If you change your mind, you've got my..."
"I got you something!" Cameron blurted out. He set the bag of cookies
he was working with on the counter, and reached into his jacket. After a bit
of searching, he pulled out a small present. "I just wanted to say...I don't
know...a lot of things: thank you for vouching for me, sorry about last
Christmas. That sort of thing." Jennifer set her stereo down and accepted
"This is awfully sweet of you," she said, "Thank you, Dee...Cameron."
Jennifer made a point not to childishly rip into the present, but she also
didn't take extra care not to tear the wrapping paper. After a few seconds
of shredding paper, she reached the maroon box within the paper and lifted
"This is beautiful," Jennifer gasped. Inside the box was a gold chain
connected to a tear-shaped, red and blue crystal. Jennifer carefully picked
the necklace up to examine it. "This is..." She looked up at Cameron who
"Tourmaline is your birthstone, right?" he asked. Jennifer nodded,
looking back down at the necklace. "I kind of asked Jack what month you were
born in. I didn't ask what year, though. I know that would have rude."
"Put it on me," she said, extending the necklace out to Cameron.
Cameron accepted the necklace, which feed up Jennifer's hands enough to lift
her hair from behind her neck. It took a moment for the latch to catch, but
once it was on, Jennifer let her hair fall back down.
"I wanted to get a red, blue, and white gem, like your costume, but it
would have taken too long to set three different pieces in a necklace,"
Cameron explained, "I hope just two colors will be okay."
Jennifer looked up from admiring her necklace and grinned. "Two colors
is way beyond just 'okay.'" She fixed Cameron with a hard stare. "I'm going
to give you a hug, but don't ruin the moment by trying to knock me out,
Cameron nodded and held his hands up to offer his surrender. Without
further ado, Jennifer stepped forward and hugged Cameron. When she finally
let go, rubbing a hand under her eyes, he added, "I really am sorry about
Jennifer sniffed a bit as she reached back to pick up her stereo. "I
know," she assured him. Then, without warning, Jennifer arched an eyebrow.
"Does this mean I get jewelry for every time you've knocked me out or tied me
Cameron's face drained of most of its color as he thought about such a
prospect, which was exactly the response Jennifer wanted. She bumped him
with her hip, flashing him a wink. "I love that look you get on your face,"
she told him, which was when he realized she was picking on him.
As the two left the Four Strikes' headquarters, Jennifer headed to her
car and Cameron followed, heading in the same direction that happened to
point him at the nearest "El" station. Jennifer stopped at her car, long
enough to deposit her stereo on the back seat and throw her coat over it.
Cameron nodded good night as he passed her.
"Hey, Deedee!" she called. He paused, turned, and looked back at her.
"After I finish patrolling tomorrow evening, I was going to find some place
that was open...I don't like to cook on holidays. If I find a place, you
want to come and have dinner with me? My treat." She fingered the necklace.
"I owe you a Christmas present."
Cameron smiled and scratched the back of his head, nodding. "Sure, that
"It's a date," Jennifer stated. Then, just before they both turned to
leave, she added, "Merry Christmas, Doctor Developer."
Cameron replied in kind, "Merry Christmas, Lady Lawful."
* * * *
[December 24, 1996 - Miami, FL]
Ever since Cameron had discovered the plate of holiday sugar cookies
June left out for guests, he hadn't been seen without at least one in his
hand. Even when he finished off their plate and went with Jennifer to buy
more, he returned with a small box from the grocery's bakery to hold him over
until he convinced June to bake more. Despite his insistence that the
bakery's weren't as good as June's, he continued to eat through his box,
rationing himself as well as one might expect a five year old to do and only
sharing with Jennifer when she twisted his arm...literally.
"You know why those aren't as good, don't you?" June asked. She was
laying slices of canned cookie dough onto a sheet as she asked. Cameron
shook his head, stuffing another cookie in his mouth. Jennifer shook her
head as well, although for a completely different reason. "They don't have
my secret ingredient," she explained.
"That's not why," Jennifer interjected.
June sniffed and looked a bit hurt by her daughter's accusation. "My
daughter," she said, "the skeptic."
"What secret ingredient?" Cameron asked, genuinely curious. The mad
scientist in him, the part that made him Doctor Developer, was already hooked
by the prospect of some new, secret component that he'd never heard of. His
mind was already trying to imagine just what occult spice June Hartworth-
Blair might use for her cookies.
"She's going to say that her secret ingredient is 'love,'" Jennifer
explained before her mother could answer Cameron's question.
Undaunted by Jennifer's skepticism, Cameron asked, "How do you put it
June smiled, and Jennifer let out a small groan. "I like to think it
gets transferred when I put the dough on the sheet. That last little touch."
Cameron nodded thoughtfully, watching as June put a disc of dough down in
case there was a visible transfer.
"You two are unbelievable!" Jennifer declared.
"Think about it, Jenny," Cameron offered. "Remember Murray's blueberry
pancakes in Detroit? [Seen in LL&DD #5 - Ed.] Maybe your mom has a
secondary power that alters our perception..."
Jennifer didn't let Cameron finish his hypothesis. Instead she threw up
her arms, stood up from the kitchen chair, and stormed out of the kitchen.
June and Cameron watched until she disappeared into the family room. When
she was gone, June clucked her tongue and shook her head.
Cameron looked back to see June smiling. "Sorry about that, Cameron,"
she said mischievously, "Sometimes I can't help pulling Jenny's strings like
that. I appreciate you playing along though." She smiled and put down
another disc of dough.
To his credit, Cameron kept his face perfectly neutral while he watched
June set the dough down, keeping a sharp gaze for any visible transfer of
* * * *
[December 25, 1996 - Miami, FL]
Wilson Blair padded out of his study as quietly as his feet would carry
him. He only had a few hours left before June and Jennifer and Cameron woke
up, which meant he had fewer hours than that to finish working the bugs out
of June's present. "At least," he thought with a half smile on his face, "we
don't have any kids this year. That should give me a little more time."
Jennifer had always been the kind of kid who stayed up as late as she
could on Christmas Eve and woke up as early as possible on Christmas morning.
Growing up had tempered her holiday enthusiasm, but he had a feeling that
if...or when...she and Cameron had children, history would repeat itself.
"Her enthusiasm, plus Cameron's curiosity..." Wilson let his mind trail off,
and he couldn't help but smile a bit more.
He was still smiling when he stepped into the kitchen and found Cameron
standing at the counter. Getting closer, he could see that Cameron had used
duct tape, cellophane, and what looked like an entire box of chopsticks to
construct a clear, plastic tent on the counter. Inside the tent, sat a tray,
empty for the moment.
"Good morning, Doctor Blair," Cameron whispered. He didn't look up from
his project, but continued on by setting a sugar cookie inside a metal pan,
pushing a cellophane flap aside as he went.
"Call me Wilson, Cameron." Wilson watched as Cameron very carefully and
very quickly struck a match against the side of a matchbox, set the match
atop the cookie, and them simultaneously both pulled the flap down and
started the timer on his watch, which he was holding instead of wearing.
"Mind if I ask why you're burning cookies?"
"Hm? Oh, yes," Cameron replied, "I mean I don't mind. Mrs. Blair, ah,
June said her cookies tasted differently from the bakery because she put love
into them. I was testing to see if the addition of love affected the stored
energy of the cookie by seeing how long it took to burn. It's kind of
primitive, but the best I could do...without waking Jennifer up...until I can
get back to my lab."
Wilson stared blankly at Cameron for a moment, trying to decide if he
should let Cameron in on June's joke, her open secret about how magically her
cooking improved after she retired as Lady Lawful and took a cooking class.
It was a harmless joke they mostly used to tease Jennifer, who for some
unknown reason disliked it. Now that Cameron was almost part of the family,
Wilson was debating whether he should tell him or let Jennifer.
Instead of actively deciding, Wilson tried to change the subject,
"What's the cellophane tent for?"
"To keep the smoke alarms from going off," Cameron explained. Wilson
nodded thoughtfully for a moment, before Cameron asked, "Did I wake you up?"
"Me? Oh, no," he shook his head, "I'm trying desperately to work some
bugs out of June's Christmas gift." He paused for a moment. "Cameron, I
don't suppose I could impose on you to look at my work? I understand you
don't have the Magene, but...you'll probably understand what I've been doing
better than I do."
Cameron shrugged and followed Wilson back to his study. Back in
Chicago, after their engagement, Jennifer let Cameron keep a lot of his
equipment in her garage. Even with her car pulled in, there was enough room
to work on a medium-sized project. Wilson's study was sized somewhere
between the full area of Jennifer's garage and the space left over when her
car was pulled into it. It may have been a bit larger, but between the desk,
desk chair, bookshelves, and photocopier, Wilson probably had less room to
"I've been trying to partially duplicate Doctor Kirby's work," Wilson
explained. Cameron recognized the name of Doctor Cosmo Kirby, the man who'd
created the original Enhancement Belt that both June and now Jennifer wore
during their tenure as Lady Lawful. No one had ever been able to
successfully duplicate Kirby's work; as far as Cameron knew, that was when
Wilson met June for the first time, when her belt was damaged during a fight.
That was also the only time anyone else was able to come close to duplicating
"I'm not expecting miracles," Wilson explained, "I just wanted to
surprise her with it. If it just doubles her strength and endurance, I'll be
happy...and I think so will she." Wilson unlocked his desk drawer and pulled
out a small, gold belt and handed it to Cameron, along with blueprints that
had faded into almost greyprints.
"Does she miss being a hero?" Cameron asked, moving around Wilson so he
could spread the blueprints out on his desk. Like most of the more extreme
Violation Technology, the equations and notes written on the blueprints was a
nonsensical mess. However, Cameron recognized a few numbers here and there,
from studying Jennifer's belt, and was able to just barely follow from one
equation to the next.
"I don't think so," Wilson replied. That seemed to garner a curious
look from Cameron. "Then why do I want her to have the belt?" Wilson asked
in proxy, and Cameron nodded. "We met when her belt was damaged, you know.
I thought it would be kind of...I thought...romantic." Cameron nodded.
"I bought Jennifer a charm bracelet," Cameron replied, "And one charm
for every deathtrap of mine she escaped before we started dating." He looked
back down at the belt before Wilson's eyes had a chance to grow wide.
"How many charms did you get?" Wilson asked weakly.
"Ten," Cameron answered, "Actually nine. The bracelet came with one, a
little bear." He kept staring at the schematics, comparing them to the
circuitry housed between layers of the belt. "It was cheaper than her
alternative." Wilson didn't ask what the alternative was, he didn't want to
"Any idea about the belt?" Wilson asked after a minute.
"I think you should give it to June as it is," Cameron replied with a
nod. Wilson opened his mouth to protest, but Cameron raised a finger.
"Trust me," he explained, "Just give it to her."
* * * *
[December 25, 1996 - Miami, FL]
Christmas morning was almost ruined before it started when Jennifer
found Cameron's cookie burning apparatus still set up in the kitchen, where
he accidentally left it the night before. June couldn't stop smiling at
Jennifer, and in turn Jennifer couldn't stop letting out small groans. All
that seemed to be resolved when Cameron gave her a small box with a charm
bracelet inside. After that, the tides quickly turned.
"And this buzz saw," Jennifer announced sweetly and innocently, making
sure she pointed out the gold charm to her parents, "That's when you strapped
me to that log cutter. And this little choo-choo, the time you chained me to
the 'El' rails." She leaned over and kissed Cameron on the cheek. "I love
it, Deedee!" From the looks of masked horror on their faces, neither June
nor Wilson could say the same.
"Your turn, dad!" Jennifer called out.
He shook his head slightly, clearing it from whatever terrible, fatherly
images it was filled with before. After a moment, he reached over the side
of the couch where he and June were sitting and pulled out a small box.
After a quick glance at Cameron, who returned the look with a smiling nod, he
handed the box to June. "They were all sold out of these at the store, so I
had to make this one myself."
June gave him a look that was one part skepticism and one part childish
grin before she started to unwrap the present. It took a moment, but one all
the paper was torn away, everyone could see a familiar, gold belt. June
gasped and looked over at Wilson. "Try it on." June didn't need a second
prompt. In a moment, she was on her feet, fitting the belt around her waist.
If Wilson was at all concerned about the belt working, he did an
Oscar-worthy job of hiding it as soon as June clasped the buckle. As soon as
the buckle clicked shut, it began to glow a familiar glow. "Wilson Blair!"
June exclaimed, tugging him to his feet with her refound strength. They both
laughed at the movement, and soon Jennifer and Cameron joined in. "You are a
genius, husband. I haven't felt this powerful in years! How did you do it?"
Wilson shrugged. "Hard work, heavy research, and I had a little help."
He nodded back to Cameron. "I'm not sure what he did..."
Cameron smiled brightly. "The secret ingredient," he explained, "was
* * * *
[December 24, 1997 - Chicago, IL]
December had been a crazy month. For some reason, the Solstice Crazies
had been worse than any previous year Jennifer could remember. They seemed
to be tougher too, but tougher or not they'd been handled by her and the
other Strikes, which was all well and good as far as the safety of Chicago
went. Unfortunately, despite Lady Lawful having things well in hand,
Jennifer McKay was behind in her holiday shopping schedule.
Mom and Dad weren't much of a problem, surprisingly Cameron had come
through in spades finding some old kitschy stuff in Tinker Tom's collection
that they knew both parents would adore. The office Secret Santa exchange
went off okay thanks to a bit of creative re-gifting. The only real shopping
dilemma facing Jennifer was finding something for Cameron McKay.
Jennifer twisted the wedding band on her left hand as she waded through
similarly hurried and harried Uberstore shoppers, guiding her cart around
others. It wasn't supposed to be like this, she complained to herself.
Their first Christmas, as an honest to goodness married couple, was supposed
to better. Memorable. She doubted Cameron would know the difference, it was
how he was, and what made him Cameron. It mattered to her, though. She
could be honest to admit that. She wanted their first of many Christmases as
wife and husband to be special.
"And if I could just figure out what Cameron wanted, it would be
perfect," she told herself. Shopping for Cameron was a trick unto itself.
Most of the things her coworkers planned to get their husbands for
Christmas...new computers, one of those new MP3 players, and the like...
Cameron had already *built* for himself, one of the perils of marrying a
super-genius. She considered getting him some sort of practical gift, like a
nice shirt or a tie, but that idea went out the window when she went to look
at what kind of ties he liked. Once she began looking, she realized that
since both everyday clothes and his "costume" included ties, Cameron's tie
collection bordered on the obscene. And a literally obscene tie really
didn't fit the mood she wanted to set for their first married Christmas.
Maybe an anniversary gag gift.
Jennifer browsed past the clothing section of Uberstore, into the
sporting goods section. The easy gift would have been something obvious.
Tools. Climbing rope. Some random card for his computer. But none of those
felt right. Jennifer continued past the sporting goods and found herself
nearing the toys.
It was while wandering through this section that she caught sight of an
Uberstore employee strightening the shelves. Jennifer slowed down and looked
at the toys: ASH dolls, a couple of Brightswords, and...Jennifer stopped.
"Excuse me," she said to the employee, "are those Lady Lawfuls?"
The employee...a twenty-something boy whose tag named him as Burke...
nodded, thumping one of the dozen or more Lady Lawful dolls. "Yes, ma'am."
"There sure are a lot of them," she said to herself.
"Brightsword seems to be this year's big seller," the Burke answered
anyway. "I think most kids got their Lady Lawfuls this spring, because of
the wedding. Doctor Developer's the other big one, since they didn't have
his figure ready then."
As the employee was talking, Jennifer picked up one of the Lady Lawful
dolls to examine it. She was vaguely aware that the DSHA managed the Lady
Lawful brand, a word she never felt right associating with her mother's
legacy. She signed off on the dolls every once in a while, but never paid
that close attention to it. Most of her awareness of the dolls came from
Cameron owning a couple, which he used when modeling traps.
It was only when the Uberstore employee mentioned Doctor Developer dolls
that she turned away from the doll in her hands. "Are there any Doctor
Developer dolls left?" she asked. An idea was slowly forming in her head.
Burke looked over the shelf for a moment, checking behind various other
heroic toys. The Doctor Developer doll showed itself, hiding behind one of
the Rad dolls that had been warming the shelf since the previous holiday
season. "Looks like the last one," he said, handing Jennifer the box.
Jennifer accepted the box, and stacked it atop the Lady Lawful already
in her hands. It looked like Deedee. His nose. His tie. There was even a
little net launcher included. The more Jennifer examined the box, the bigger
her smile grew. She dumped the pair of dolls in her cart, grabbed another
pair of Lady Lawfuls, and thanked Burke for his help. Then as she was about
to head off, she turned back to Burke to ask:
"Which way are the building blocks?"
* * * *
[December 25, 1997 - Chicago, IL]
"Careful," Jennifer warned Cameron.
"I can't be careful," he complained, "I can't see."
Jennifer held onto Cameron's hand, slowly backing down the staircase
into the living room. Before getting out of bed, she was able to convice
Cameron to don a sleeping mask she picked up the night before at the
"Can I take this off?" Cameron asked, almost whining.
"Just a minute," Jennifer assured him. She continued to lead him until
they were both in the living room. Once there, she let go of Cameron's hand,
stepping back. "Okay, take it off." And so Cameron did, with such gusto
that he didn't bother to keep the mask from falling to the ground as he
shoved it over his head. "Ta-da!" Jennifer cheered when he could see.
Sitting on the floor between Cameron and the Christmas tree was a
medium-sized box. It was wrapped in green paper with a white snowflake
pattern, topped off with a red bow. Cameron stared down at the box, then
back up at Jennifer.
"What is it?" he asked plainly.
"Well, go on and open it," Jennifer encouraged him. He didn't hesitate
to comply, dropping to one knee and ripping off the paper. "Just be careful,
it's kind of fragile." Cameron nodded absently and continued peeling paper
from the box. Once all the paper was gone, Cameron stopped and looked at the
cardboard box that remained. He sniffed at being denied an answer by the lid
to the box, and promptly removed it.
"Whoa," he let out a quiet, awefilled gasp.
Inside the box was a strange arangement of building blocks, a revolving
service tray, remote controlled car, a spool of fishing thread, and pair of a
Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer dolls. Doctor Developer was posed as if he
were working some controls built from the blocks. Lady Lawful was leaned up
against a stack of blocks that had been glued down to the tray, slightly
wrapped in the fishing line.
Cameron reached inside the box, fishing for the remote control to the
car. He pressed the control forward, which did exactly what he thought it
would. Once the car was activated, the wheels wedged against the tray caused
it to spin, which spun Lady Lawful around, wrapping more and more fishing
line aroud her.
"Nice," Cameron whispered. He looked up at Jennifer. "You made this?"
"Yup," she replied, grinning at him. "You're not the only mad scientist
in this house." She paused to whatch him play with the controls again. "You
"Oh, yeah!" Cameron replied. "This is so cool."
* * * *
[December 25, 2016 - Detroit, MI]
The howling cry was the only warning Cameron recieved before he felt
ninety-five pounds of screaming excitement crash against his legs and
scramble up onto his stomach.
Adrenaline and pain were always Cameron's best stimulants, and in a
moment he was wide awake, propping up on his elbows.
"Yes...Rachel?" he asked, trying to sound pleasant.
"It's Christmas!" she cheered. She shook Cameron's arms. "There's
presents! There's presents for me!"
"Is Moira awake yet?" Cameron asked. He nudged Rachel off his stomach.
Rachel took the hint and scooted onto the floor, stepping back to give
Cameron room to join her.
"Yes!" she nodded. Her face was all smiles. As soon as Cameron's feet
touched the floor, she grabbed his hand and began tugging on his arm. "Come
"I'm coming...I'm coming."
The morning had gone by in a whirl of wrapping paper, excited cheers,
and children being children. Cameron smiled as he thought about Rachel
playing with the old Lady Lawful action figure he'd discovered buried in his
possessions. Somehow he'd managed to smile through it all, but once everyone
had dispersed to put their gifts away, Cameron had made a quick escape back
to his room.
It was there, in his room, on his bed, he sat for almost an hour staring
at the tourmaline necklace in his hand. In all the years since moving back
to Detroit, he could never remember taking the necklace from Jennifer's
jewelry box. He was thankful for its presence, though. When Jennifer
vanished, her wedding band vanished along with her; the necklace, Cameron's
first gift to his late wife, was one of the few things of hers he'd
apparently managed to keep.
Normally he kept the necklace in the end table drawer, next to his bed,
which was where photographs from his and Jennifer's time together were
stored. On days when he needed some tangible evidence to confirm his
memories, Cameron would dig out the tourmaline necklace and hold it. It was
never much of a comfort, but he was resigned to the fact that nothing ever
really would be a comfort to him.
"Doctor McKay," a small voice called from just outside his door.
Rachel's head appeared through the crack in the door. "Is it okay if I come
in?" she asked. Not completely trusting his voice, Cameron nodded and waved
As Rachel stepped into Cameron's room, he could see she was still
carrying her Lady Lawful action figure. Cameron glanced at the ten-inch toy
in her hand, smiling wistfully as he remembered why he had the spare toy to
give. Jennifer had helped him find the perfect gift for Rachel, even though
she wasn't here. While Cameron was contemplating Rachel's gift, she climbed
onto the end of his bed, sitting with her feet hanging off the side and
taking her own time to study the figure.
"Is this what Jennifer looked like?" Rachel asked as she studied the
Cameron nodded. "Pretty much," he answered. "The people who made it
were required to have her permssion before making them, and so they made them
as life-like as possible." As he finished talking, Rachel focused once more
on the toy in her hand. Cameron watched Rachel as she absently played with
her toy. He hated to admit it, especially to himself, even though this was
Rachel's third Christmas in Detroit, it felt as if this was the first
Chistmas he'd really spent with her.
"Doctor McKay, am I bad for being happy?" Rachel asked unprompted.
Part of Cameron wanted to immediately reply with a, "No," but his
curiosity overrode everything else. Instead, he found himself asking, "What
are you happy about?"
Rachel let out the kind of sigh that only an eight year old thinking
heavy thoughts can let out. "I'm happy because of my presents, and you, and
Moira, and everyone else."
"That doesn't sound bad," Cameron told her.
"But, shouldn't I be sad, like you?" Rachel asked. Her question was
enough to drop Cameron's jaw, and before he could say anything, Rachel
continued. "You're sad because you miss Jennifer," Rachel explained, "and
shouldn't I be sad because I miss my parents?"
Of Rachel, Harold, and Scarlet, only Rachel was really old enough to
remember her parents from before the quake, the Big One of 2013. There were
times when her memories troubled her, but Cameron couldn't recall any such
"I...being happy doesn't make you bad," Cameron said carefully. He
stopped for a moment, thinking. "Would your parents ever want you to be
sad?" Rachel shook her head. "Then you're not doing anything bad, Rachel."
Rachel seemed to think about that for a minute.
After a moment, Rachel asked, "Would Jennifer want you to be sad?"
Cameron smiled sadly at Rachel. "No," he answered, "she wouldn't want
me to be sad." Cameron pulled himself up into a sitting position, and turned
so he was sitting on the edge of the bed with Rachel. "She'd probably call
me a big dork for being sad." He took a deep breath and let out deep sigh.
"I guess I need to stop being sad."
Cameron reached over to put Jennifer's necklace back in his end table
drawer. As he pulled the drawer open, the tourmaline jewel slipped out of
his hand and dangled for a moment. "That's pretty," Rachel said
breathlessly. She slid off the bed so she could get a beter view of the
"You think?" Cameron asked. Rachel nodded absently, keeping her eyes
focused on the necklace. "This was the first Christmas present I ever gave
Jennifer...it's her birthstone." Cameron looked at the necklace for a
moment, then looked past it at Rachel. Her gaze was fixed on the necklace.
Cameron wasn't sure why, but all of a sudden he found himself saying,
"You know, I just thought of something. I was just going to put this up, but
I think...no, I know...Jennifer would call me a dork for keeping it put
away." Rachel tilted her head slightly to one side as Cameron spoke. "What
if instead of just putting this away, how about if you wear Jennifer's
Rachel's face broke into a broad grin. "Really?" Cameron nodded, and
began to undo the clasp on the necklace chain. "Why me?"
As Cameron began to put the necklace around Rachel's neck, he answered,
"Because, it's like you said, Jennifer wouldn't want me to be sad." He
paused to finish closing the clasp. "And seeing you wear that makes me
Rachel looked down at the necklace, feeling the tourmaline between her
fingers with the hand not holding her action figure. After a minute she
looked up at Cameron, a smile on her face. "Merry Christmas, Doctor McKay,"
Cameron smiled back. "Merry Christmas," he paused mid-sentence before
continuing, "Merry Christmas, Lady Lawful."
A few quick notes:
* Rodney "Rad" Baines is Dave Van Domelen's character.
* Deedee's originally shown playing with dolls in LL&DD #8.
* This was originally supposed to be last year's Christmas special.
Then it was going to be the Christmas In July special. Now, well, it's a
Christmas special again! Wooo.
* The cover for this was actually drawn last year by Andrew Willmore:
Rad was not named Rodney Baines in the original ASH campaign. In fact,
I can't remember what his secret ID was. But his *player* was named Rodney,
so I made it an homage of sorts. :) His toys were shelfwarming because, as
of December 1997, he'd largely been shunted aside by the growing influence of
godly avatars on ASH (as pointed out in Coherent Super Stories #8) and was in
a sort of semi-retirement until called back into action days before the whole
thing hit the fan on July 6, 1998.
MP3 players were not commercially available in the real world until
1998, mainly due to the RIAA blocking them. It has not been revealed exactly
why MP3 players emerged earlier in the ASH Universe (since it's not purely a
technological issue), but I like to think that the RIAA was revealed to be a
plot by a supervillain, who was subsequently defeated. It'd make for a
possible Time Capsules story were anyone interested in writing that....
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