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Scenes From A Multiverse Christmas Carol

Chapter Text

“Now, in this season of giving, it has been decided that – um – that we should. . . .”

It was the glaring that finally got to Marty. That unrelenting, hard-eyed stare. He crushed the roll of paper in his hands. “Look, the guy running this is new,” he said desperately, pushing his hat back on his head. “He made us come here!”

"Did he,” Edna replied, not sounding impressed in the slightest.

“The man is an eternal optimist,” Emmett explained, sighing. “He was hoping we could persuade you to make some sort of donation this year, despite your reluctance for the past decade. . . .” He shook his head. “I’m honestly surprised you don’t ever give anything, though. Back when – I knew you, you were all about charity. You delivered soup for soup kitchens, tried to help drunks get back on their feet. . . .”

“All poppycock,” Edna declared. “I was a foolish young woman, and you know it. The soup kitchen was merely a front for the mob, and those drunks – well, nothing could help them. It’s impossible to get through to those sorts, so I gave up. One must look after their own interests first, otherwise the country’s done for. Besides, I still support some institutions that look after the poor and the addicted.”

“Do you?” Emmett said, starting to smile.

“Yes. Prisons and workhouses.”

The smile vanished. “I can’t think of anyone who wants to be in prison. . .and most people would rather die than go to a workhouse.”

“Then they should do so. Decrease the surplus population. There’s too many young people being silly and disgusting out in public as it is.”

Marty was plenty mad at Strickland for that already – but it was catching sight of the stricken look on Victor Van Dort’s face that made him want to punch her.

Chapter Text

And another day over with!

Victor hummed to himself as he locked up the counting-house. Although it was just as cold outside as it had been within, he swore he felt a new warmth in his limbs. Probably because I’ve got a day away from Miss Strickland tomorrow, he thought, smiling. And it’s Christmas to boot. A day of merriment and fun, and not one letter to copy!

He stuck his hands in the pocket of his thin coat and started toward home, eager to see his wife and children again. As he rounded the corner, however, he saw a group of young people (he would have said children, but there were more than a couple adolescents and young adults among them) sliding down a sheet of ice covering one of the streets. He spotted his oldest son in the thick of the crowd. “Chester!”

Chester turned and smiled brightly. “Dad!” He waved a hand at the makeshift slide. “Care for a go?”

Deep inside, Victor knew he shouldn’t. He wasn’t a young man anymore – goodness, he’d celebrated his fortieth birthday this summer! And he’d never exactly been built for navigating ice without falling on his face. The intelligent thing to do would have been to politely turn Chester down and simply linger on the sidelines to watch.

But then, since when was he known for doing the intelligent thing? Laughing, he ran forward. “In honor of Christmas!” he declared as he jumped on the ice.

True to form, he started his journey looking like a tap-dancing flamingo, and ended it flat on his face in a snowdrift. But the delighted cheers of the onlookers – especially his son – made it all worth it.

Chapter Text

Edna Strickland was still partially of the mind that this could not be happening.

After all, the entire situation was ridiculous. Her old business partner and friend come back as a ghost, chained and shackled, to warn her off her current course lest she suffer like he did? It was absurd. Madness. She’d clearly fallen asleep in front of the fire and any moment now she’d wake and find everything as it should be. Yes. Any moment now.

“You still doubt the evidence of your senses?”

Edna glared up at the shade of Angus Bumby. “It’s all a little hard to taken in, Angus! You claim that I’m doomed to a life of imprisonment and misery if I keep going on as I have, but – have I really done anything that wrong?”

“You’ve hardened your heart to those around you,” Angus replied, frowning at her through his spectacles as he folded his arms, his chains clinking. “You go through life ignoring the common man on the street in need. Or you rail at him for his shortcomings without even the least thought of helping him! Much as I did,” he added, lowering his eyes. “I went through life just like you, and now I’m paying the price.”

“Nonsense!” Edna protested. “Angus, you were charitable! You had that orphanage you founded – the Houndsditch Home for Wayward Youth, I believe?”

There was a moment of silence. “That – that was actually a front for a child prostitution ring,” Angus finally admitted, not meeting her eyes.

Edna’s jaw dropped. “. . .A what?! And – and your only punishment is those shackles?!” she growled, eyes narrowing to near slits.

“They’re usually red-hot,” Angus said, grimacing. “And let me tell you, the other ghosts do like having someone worse than them around when they’re in particularly bitter moods. . . .”

Chapter Text

The curtains by Edna’s face were abruptly thrust back. “Hi!”

Edna gaped. Before her stood – stood – this couldn’t be right. “Are – are you the spirit whose coming was f-foretold to me?” she stammered, sitting up.

“That’s me!” the ghost replied with a smile. “I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past!”

“. . .Why in God’s name do you look like my ex-boyfriend at age eighteen?”

The spirit laughed, a familiar nasally sound. “Well, it is your past we’re going to be exploring on this trip,” he said, adjusting the goggles that sat on his forehead.

“My past? Whatever for?”

“Your welfare!”

“I rather think a good night’s sleep would have been better suited to that,” Edna said without thinking.

“Your reclamation, then,” the Ghost of Christmas Past said with a shrug. “Now come on, get up! We’ve got a lot of years to cover!”

So saying, he seized Edna’s wrist and dragged her out of the bed. It really was remarkable just how like Emmett he was, she thought. Not only the same face and voice, but the same manic energy, the same infectious enthusiasm. It was just like going back in time – which she supposed made sense for a spirit representing the Past.

The Ghost made for the window, pulling Edna behind him. “What – we’re not going out through there?” she gasped, staring. “I don’t know about you, but I’ll fall!”

“Oh, no worries,” the Ghost said with a maddening smile. “We’ve got transportation.” He opened the window and pointed to some sort of ramshackle conglomeration of metal hovering just outside the sill, occasionally spitting sparks from its back end.

Edna stared for a moment, then shook her head. “I’m not getting in that.”

The Ghost grinned wickedly. “Sorry Edna,” he said, yanking her through the window. “You don’t have a choice.”

Chapter Text

“We’re – this Christmas?!”

“Well, yeah! It was an important Christmas for you!”

“I was in jail!”

The Emmett of Christmas Past (as she’d come to think of him), frowned back at her. “You can’t say you didn’t deserve to be there,” he said, setting the metal carriage down in front of the building which housed those criminals that the Hill Valley police had been able to catch. “You burned down four taverns. The only reason you don’t have an automatic ticket to Bumby’s fate is because you always did your best to make sure you didn’t kill anyone.”

Edna fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat. “Drink is evil,” she mumbled.

“And arson isn’t?”

“Why are we here?” Edna demanded, wanting to get off this line of questioning.

Emmett’s response was to conduct her to the window. Looking inside, she saw herself and Irving “Kid” Tannen in adjoining cells, with a sprig of mistletoe hung between them. As she watched, Kid managed to cajole her younger self into a brief kiss. She frowned as the two shades’ lips met. “I still can’t believe I did that. He was a mobster, for God’s sake.”

“Yeah – but he genuinely cared about you,” Emmett said as the younger Edna and Kid separated again.

“He was a married man! I shouldn’t have given into temptation in the first place! I told him as much when we left the jail! And he agreed!”

“So why did you two get together for six months after his wife left him?”

Edna glared at Emmett. “Must you always ask the most awkward questions?”

“Part of being a spirit, ma’am,” Emmett smirked. “Should I go ahead and take you to the next Christmas you shared together?”

“Do I have any choice in the matter at all?”

“Nope!”

Chapter Text

“Hey, babe! Come on in! Have a drink! Get to know me better!”

Edna took a deep breath and entered the room, figuring herself prepared for just about anything. One look at the Ghost of Christmas Present – for who else could this mysterious apparition be? – proved her wrong, however. She stopped and stared, wondering why any Christmas spirit would choose such a form. What was Christmassy about a skeleton?!

Granted, he seemed to be a particularly jolly skeleton, with a wide, cheerful smile – although that might have just been a natural result of having no lips to frown with. He was a long and lanky fellow, with huge feet and a lower jaw that stuck out about a foot. Despite having nothing indecent to hide, he was clad in a simple green robe, trimmed with white fur and tied with a matching belt. Upon his head he wore a bowler hat, bedecked with holly and icicles. He lounged upon a throne of various meats and fruits, watching her with a single eye which he rolled from socket to socket. “Never seen the like of me before, eh?” he questioned as she timidly approached his mountain.

“Never,” Edna replied, shaking her head.

“Come on – you never met any of my older brothers or sisters? I thought Past proved you had a few good Christmases in you,” Present insisted, leaning down and rattling his single eye into a different socket.

“I never met any spirits associated with them,” Edna said, fiddling with her hands. “Certainly none that looked like you.” Unable to help herself, she added, “Isn’t a skeleton more appropriate for All Hallow’s Eve?”

“Maybe, maybe – but you know, the spirit of merriment is pretty much the same between the holidays,” Present pointed out. “Christmas is just less about the macabre.” He clapped his hands. “So! Ready to go and learn something?”

“So long as you don’t force me into any ‘cars.’”

“Nah. You get to walk this time. Just hang onto my robe, girlie, and I’ll show you what you’ve been missin’!”

Chapter Text

“I don’t understand this!”

The Ghost of Christmas Present looked at her curiously. “What’s not to get? Family sitting down to eat a nice Christmas dinner of goose, applesauce, and mashed potatoes, with Christmas pudding coming up.”

“But look at that goose! It’s tiny! How is that enough for eight people?” Edna demanded, walking around the table with a deep frown. “No wonder they’re all so thin!”

“Weell, it’s not like you pay him an awful lot,” the Ghost said, waving at Victor. “This is the best they can afford.”

“But – but he’s a Van Dort!” Edna protested. “The son of the biggest fish magnate in all of England!”

“Ooooh – you really weren’t paying attention during Victor’s interview, were you?”

Edna arched an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

“Victor’s been disowned. His parents threw him out of their lives when he decided he was going to marry the woman he loved, instead of the woman they chose for him. He hasn’t gotten a ha’penny from them in years.”

Edna stared at the ghost in silence for a moment, then looked back at Victor. Her clerk was passing plates to his children, making pleasant conversation and acting as if this goose was rarer than a black swan. All this time, she’d thought it was fine to give him a little less than usual on the basis that he had rich parents. After all, it wasn’t as if he needed to work, right? Shame billowed up from her guts. How could she have been so cold and callous?

Her eyes turned to the little child sitting next to Victor – Timothy, if she’d heard correctly. He looked so weak and fragile, with his leg trapped in that iron frame. And yet he smiled warmly at his parents and siblings, and joked with them about how soon they’d be able to use his crutch for firewood. “Is he going to live?” she asked, voice soft.

“Well, the future’s not really my gig, but – if things keep on going the way they are, all I see is a empty stool by the fireplace, and a crutch with no owner leaned up against it, both carefully preserved,” the Ghost replied.

“No!” Edna begged, turning around. “No, tell me he’ll live!”

“I’m just saying – if the future doesn’t change any, he’s going to die. And what of it? If he’s fated to die, he should do it. Decrease the surplus population. There’s too many young people being silly and disgusting out in public as it is.”

Edna felt like she’d been slapped in the face – not that she didn’t deserve it. “I--”

“You’re a bitch and a party pooper,” the Ghost cut her off in severe tones. “Don’t claim you’re not.”

“I wasn’t going to put it quite like that. . . .”

Chapter Text

“Yeah! She actually called Christmas a ‘humbug!’ Can you believe that, Dad?”

“Yeah, I can believe it,” Irving “Kid” Tannen nodded from his chair by the fire. “That dame always had a stick up her ass. If it was fun, she was against it.” He looked out the window, a strange, wistful expression on his face. “Most of the time.”

“I don’t believe you ever had a fling with her, Grandpa,” Biff’s daughter Tiffany said from the floor. “I mean--” She stuck her nose up in the air and did her best impression of Edna’s voice “– 'I would never stoop so low as to even touch a Tannen!’”

“Oh, she touched me all right,” Kid said with a smirk. “We had loads of fun together.”

“Ewww!” Tiffany made a face. “Too much information, Grandpa!”

“Well, you started it,” Kid replied, sticking his tongue out at her. His gaze went back to the window, and he sighed. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Loads of fun.”

Edna watched him, feeling a most peculiar sensation inside. Something light and heavy all at once. “He can’t possibly miss me,” she mumbled.

“Sure he can,” the Ghost of Christmas Present replied, tilting his head and rolling his eye between his eye sockets. “You two had some good times, right? Christmas Past covered those, right?”

“He covered our first kiss, then our breakup.”

“All right, maybe a bad example – but there were good times in between those, weren’t there?”

Edna looked at Kid’s wrinkled profile. Slowly, a smile came to her lips. “Yes,” she admitted with only a touch of reluctance. “There were.” She placed a hand on the back of his chair. “Maybe – maybe when we get back – I could say hello again. Just – just in the spirit of the season.”

“I think he’d appreciate a lot more than a ‘hello.’”

“I think you are incredibly crude.”

Chapter Text

The last stroke of midnight vibrated for a moment in the air, then ceased. Edna pulled her dressing gown close around her, shivering with cold and anticipation. What mysterious, unexpected figure would make itself known to her now?

Without warning, her body was bathed in deep shadow. Taking in a deep, steadying breath, she turned around, ready to confront whatever figure was standing behind her.

Except – there was nothing there. Nothing physical, anyway. Instead, she beheld the silhouette of a man, top-hatted and big-chinned, looking as if it had been painted on the very air itself. It reached out and took one of her hands, kissing it in greeting. Her flesh grew icy where the insubstantial lips touched. She shuddered and drew her hand back. “You are the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?”

The shadow bowed, then pointed outward with one arm, as if indicating something behind her. “Can’t you speak?” Edna asked, unwilling to set out on her latest journey just yet. “The other two were very talkative.”

The shadow didn’t reply, except to jab his finger outward more forcefully. “I thought I would have been happy with some quiet,” Edna murmured, looking at her feet. “But – you scare me most of all.” She looked up again, setting her shoulders. “But I know you have my welfare at heart, so – please. Lead on.”

The shadow glided forward, taking her hand in a gentle yet unshakeable grip as it passed. Edna allowed it to pull her along, frightened she would not have the strength to follow otherwise. Funny – she’d always sort of wanted to see the future. Wanted to see if the people around her would stop being so silly and stupid and improper. Wanted to see they would finally wake up to the fact that her sort of life was the best one.

Now she was terrified by the prospect – because what if they had?

Chapter Text

“I promised him I’d go walk there on a Sunday. Oh, Alice, if you could – could just s-see how g-green and – and--”

All at once, Victor broke down in sobs, burying his face in his hands. His family huddled around him, embracing him tightly as they too wept. Alice pressed her head against his hair, squeezing her eyes shut. “He’s in a better place now,” she mumbled, sounding like she was trying to convince herself as much as her husband.

Victor nodded, but did not stop crying. Edna pressed her hands against her chest, feeling her heart break as she watched the mourning family. She’d never liked children – she’d always considered them too messy and noisy – but to see this. . .to see such innocent, kind people suffering so. . . .

Victor abruptly stood, murmuring, “Excuse me,” to his wife and children. Edna watched from her perch halfway up the stairs as he approached, his steps slow and ponderous as he made his way to the second story. God, he looked so old now. . . .

And then he stopped for a moment, looking straight at her.

Edna froze, pinned by his gaze. She knew he didn’t really see her. That he was just staring at the steps before him, as if they were the highest, most dangerous mountain in the world. But it was all too easy to read accusation in those pain-filled eyes. Why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t you at least pay me a decent wage?

Why did you let my son die?

Then he continued up, passing right through her as he laboriously continued his ascent. Edna turned and reached out to him, even though she knew it was useless. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to deaf ears. “Oh God, Victor, I – I--”

It was too much. After all that she’d seen, it was too much. She collapsed on the stairs, weeping. “I’m, so, so sorry. . . .”

Chapter Text

“Mother! Mother, there’s someone pulling up outside!”

Alice peered over her children’s heads. Sure enough, through the frosted glass she could faintly see a carriage stopping outside the little two-up, two-down the Van Dorts called home. Frowning curiously, she opened the door as the driver got down. “May I help you?”

“I was told to take this fellow to Mr. and Mrs. Van Dort’s,” the driver said, as the door to the carriage opened. “Are you the lady of the house?”

“That’s me,” Alice confirmed, privately marveling over anyone calling her the “lady of the house.” “What’s all this abou–”

She stopped dead. The man coming out of the cab was from the local poulter – and he was carrying the biggest turkey she’d ever seen in her life. Behind her, she heard Vincent and Lorina gasp. “Compliments of the season, Mrs. Van Dort,” the man said with a smile. “Our biggest prize turkey, hand-delivered.”

Alice gaped for a moment, staring at the bird. It was huge and white and wonderful. A bounty, a feast, a –

A mistake. She swallowed and got her wits about her. “There’s been some sort of misunderstanding,” she said, even as she heard the twins hiss, “No Mum!” “That can’t be for us.”

The man frowned at her. “You are Mrs. Van Dort, are you not?”

“Yes, but--”

“What’s going on?”

Victor appeared on the scene, looking quite confused. “Who’s at – oh my,” he said, eyes going wide as he spotted the turkey. “What’s that doing here?”

“He claims it’s for us,” Alice said, looking up at her husband. “You haven’t ordered anything but that goose from the poulter’s, have you?"

“No! Look, I’m sorry, there must be a mistake,” Victor told the man. “We have no way to pay for that.”

“Oh, no trouble there, sir,” the man said with a bright grin. “Paid for.”

Alice’s jaw dropped. “Paid for?” she whispered. “That’s – that’s free?”

“For you, anyway,” the man chuckled. “Anonymous donor. Said for you to have a Merry Christmas.”

Alice and Victor stared at each other. “Anonymous – it couldn’t be--” Victor said slowly.

“Your parents? No, we both know they’d never do a thing like that,” Alice replied. “And I haven’t the slightest clue who else could have. . .but I’m not turning down free meals for a month,” she added, turning back toward the man with a grin. “Bring it in!”

Chapter Text

What was she thinking? She couldn’t go in there. They didn’t really want her in there. This entire family hated her entire family. They were diametrically opposed on practically every area of life. The invitation had only been extended out of pity for the patriarch. Nobody expected her to come. Nobody wanted her to come.

Except Irving.

Edna forced herself to stop pacing and knock on the Tannens’ front door. “Hello, miss,” she greeted the servant who opened it. “I’m here to see Mr. Tannen. The elder.”

The woman -- Edna was pretty sure her name was Trixie -- frowned, clearly puzzled, but let Edna in regardless. “Shall I announce you, ma’am?” she asked as she helped Edna off with her coat.

“No, I – he knows me,” Edna said. “It’s a bit of a surprise. . .through here, yes? Thank you.” Without allowing herself to stop, lest she linger on her doubts, she strode forward confidently and opened the door.

The group was in the middle of the guessing game she’d seen before. In fact, as the door opened, Tiffany was already on her feet, laughing. “I know! I know, Dad! It’s--”

The teenager’s voice died as she caught sight of who was standing in their doorway. Jaws dropped all over the room as everyone turned to see what had struck the normally-boisterous girl dumb. “Edna Strickland?” Irving said softly, getting up from his chair.

Edna did her best to smile. “H-hello,” he said, wishing her voice wouldn’t waver so. “I – I believe I was invited to lunch?”

“I thought you said you’d rather see us in Hell first,” Biff pointed out, staring at her.

Edna winced, but kept smiling. “A woman is allowed to change her mind, isn’t she?”

Irving snorted. “You change your mind enough for ten women,” he said, sidling up to her. “What’s the matter? Couldn’t bear the thought of us being happy for ten minutes?”

Edna was on the verge of apologizing and leaving when she caught sight of the playful smirk on Irving’s lips – and of the genuine gladness in his eyes. She smirked back. “Someone has got to keep your family of hooligans in check,” she retorted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that granddaughter of yours hasn’t already gone around singing obscene carols.”

The granddaughter in question groaned. “Oh, this is going to be the worst Christmas ever!”

“Close enough to,” Irving said, gently nudging Edna’s side.

Edna nudged him back, a light, fluttery feeling in her chest. “I’ll do my best.”

Chapter Text

Oh no. He’d doomed his family, all for the sake of a turkey. Now Miss Strickland was going to fire him, and he’d have to scrape around for another job, and Timothy – no, he couldn’t think of it. Tim was getting better, Tim was going to be fine

“And therefore – I am going to raise your salary!”

“Please, Miss – what?”

Miss Strickland burst into laughter and threw an arm around his shoulders. “Yes! I will raise your salary, and help your struggling family, and do a million other things to make up for all the wrongs I’ve wrought! You may sleep easily tonight, Mr. Van Dort, knowing that everything will be well!”

Victor stared at his employer, then at the ruler resting on her desk. She was his elder by about thirty years – one quick hit, and then he could run for help and a strait-waistcoat. . . .

Except she was saying things like raising his salary. And buying another coal scuttle. And helping Timothy.

Well. There were certainly worse ways for her to go mad.

Chapter Text

“Miss Strickland? I just – Miss Strickland!”

Victor darted to his employer’s side, eyes wide with shock. “What happened? Can you speak?”

“Yes,” Edna choked out. “I just – I thought it was merely a cough–”

“I knew you were ill,” Victor muttered, helping her over to the fire. “You stay there and I’ll be right back.”

Edna nodded and watched him dash out the door. Dear man – how had she treated him so poorly for so long? Just a year ago he surely wouldn’t have been half as attentive to her needs –

Oh. That’s why her future tombstone had seemed so premature.