SECRET SANTA FANFIC EXCHANGE 2018
Trudy sat on her bed, watching Brady play with the Stuffed Bear. It had been some weeks now that she and Brady had been staying here at The Old Bailey Hotel. The place had seen several groups of tenants since the time of The Virus, but was currently the operational Headquarters for Mega’s Techno Army.
As she reflected on her current living arrangements, Trudy was once again struck by life’s ironic twists. Twice now she had found herself living with her “enemies”, forever feeling the outcast…the Least Loved of the MallRats.
The MallRats…her supposed family. Well, Brady was the only family she truly had, Trudy reflected bitterly. Bray had chosen Amber…and now Jay had chosen Amber too. Trudy felt heartsick and lonely, so much so that she had left The Mall, and tried to leave The City too, only to be picked up by The Technos and brought here.
Mega had offered her a place to stay. “no strings attached”, he had said. He seemed to genuinely empathize with Trudy’s plight, and she had taken the refuge he offered. But being here, amongst people she couldn’t trust, Trudy felt trapped and isolated. She knew that she should be wary of Mega, but so far he had shown her nothing but kindness and sympathy, even going so far as to bring the stuffed bear for Brady. Leaving The Mall in a state of grief, Trudy had taken nothing but herself and her daughter, and ran. Now she couldn’t tell what to do, or who she could trust (if anyone).
From where she played on the floor, Brady looked up at her mother and laughed, showing her the red hair ribbon that she had tied round the bear’s neck. “Very pretty, Brady!” Trudy said to her daughter, smiling. She knelt down on the floor to play with Brady, trying to shake off her bad mood.
At least here, at The Hotel, she didn’t have to see their betraying, hateful, stupid faces snogging around every corner. How could they ever have called themselves her friends?
Mega watched Trudy on the computer monitor in his office. The hidden camera feed showed only the main room of the hotel suite which he had assigned to Trudy & Brady, but that main room was where the girls spent most of their time.
Mega didn’t want to admit it, but he had been spending more and more time observing Trudy on the monitor. He had also been making daily visits to “check on her and the little one” since their arrival here.
Initially, those visits were meant only to make the scared girl feel more at ease, and to help ensure that someday Trudy would come to feel that she could trust Mega.
Recently, he had found himself coming up with more and more reasons to approach Trudy throughout the day.
He had even given his stuffed bear to Brady…
He didn’t understand what was happening to him. how could he have given the kid that bear?
He kept asking himself what it was that had compelled him to do it. That bear was the only thing he had from before. His mother had given the bear to him when he was still in his cradle. It meant more to him that he could say.
And that was a big deal…because Mega didn’t allow himself to attach sentiment to anything. Not people…not objects.
“Destroy your emotions”.
That was the mandate he had learned early on…the slogan which had propelled him quickly up through the techno ranks.
“Destroy your emotions, and they can have no control over you.”
It was the motto he had lived by ever since the Technos had found him and taken him in.
And he had destroyed his emotions, almost completely… everything except that one item. That one thing that kept him connected to the person he was before Mega. And he had given that item to some simpering little girl.
Mega tried to be angry with himself for doing it…but as he watched the mother and child play together over the computer monitor… play together with his bear…he couldn’t feel angry, or even detached. Instead, he felt warm inside. And a little like someone was squeezing his heart in their fist.
Mega shook his head and switched off the monitor screen…trying to expel the thoughts from his mind. He wouldn’t even admit to himself that he was having an emotional response. Emotions weren’t part of his system. He stood up from the desk and left the office.
Walking down the corridor, he gave a few brief commands to the Techno soldiers who passed him in the hallways. He glanced into the main security room as he walked by, but didn’t stay to make further inquiries of his team. He didn’t even realize where he was going until he found himself standing outside of the door to Trudy’s room.
He thought about turning to walk away…then raised his hand and knocked gently on the door. He didn’t have any idea what to say or do next…but it was too late to take it back now.
Opening the door, Trudy found herself face to face with Mega. He didn’t say anything, but put his hands behind his back, military style, and stood up straight to his full height…looking Trudy directly in the eyes.
Being a tall girl, Trudy had no trouble returning his direct gaze.
Having been the Supreme Mother of The Chosen, there were very few people who could out-stare Trudy… and Mega was no exception. Feeling suddenly like she was being challenged, Trudy just stood there, at the open door, and stared back at her Host. They stood like that, staring into each other’s eyes…for a really long moment.
As the impromptu staring-contest became an akward moment… and as that akward moment drew to the point of being unbearable…and right as each of the two was just on the verge of speaking, Brady ran up and pushed past her mother’s legs to grab Mega around his thigh in a child sized leg-hug. “Hi!” She exclaimed, in her happy little voice. Letting go of his Leg, Brady raised her arms to show him the stuffed bear, still feeling proud of the red ribbon adorning it’s furry neck. “Look at Mr. Bear.” She demanded of him, in her bossy-little-girl way.
Mega smiled, looking down at the girl and “Mr. Bear”.
“Yes, very pretty.” Mega complimented the little girl’s handiwork, in a genuine way, but with the awkwardness of one who is not accustomed to small children.
Grateful for Brady’s interruption, Trudy laughed a bit… backing away from the door and asking Mega “won’t you please come inside?”
Turning away, she felt her cheeks flush. his eyes… she thought to herself, feeling suddenly like a little butterfly had just come to life in her stomach. It suddenly occurred to her that she felt attracted to him. To Mega. Which she shouldn’t do…right?
The thought had to be put aside though, as Mega was now akwardly trying to explain (to the back of her head) why he was there, and, that he would like to stay, but he should really be going to check on so-and-so that such-and-such was properly installed…and blah blah blah yada yada…
Trudy didn’t really tune into the words he was saying…she was suddenly listening to How Mega was saying them. He was nervous! Trudy could hardly believe it…but it was certain. Mega was rambling out of nervousness…and she was the cause of those nerves.
Feeling both very flattered, and seriously confused, Trudy cued back into what was being said just in time to hear Mega say “so I should go, and make sure it’s done properly…but I would like to invite you and your daughter to join me for dinner this evening.” Mega paused, “that is, if you haven’t any prior engagements planned.”
Trudy laughed at that last question…he knew very well that she didn’t. She had no friends here at The Hotel. But even as she had that thought…a new one began to take its place.
maybe I do… have a friend here, after all.
She looked shyly into his eyes…“We would love to.” She replied.
“Very good. I shall call on you at 6 o’clock.” Mega replied, very formally, before turning smartly on his heel and leaving at a quick pace down the corridor. Trudy looked after him, feeling bewildered, and pleasantly curious. She didn’t even realize that she was no longer focused on feeling lonely…
OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS, Mega visited Trudy more and more often, first giving her a tour of the Techno Headquarters…showing her the “Vert-Approved” areas and talking with her about his more minor plans for The City. He felt relaxed when he was around Trudy. And he found himself liking the little girl, Brady, as well.
By the 4th week, Mega started to realize that one of the things that was drawing them together was Trudy’s obsession with keeping Brady Happy and Safe. More than that, safely with her mother.
If Mega were being completely honest with himself, he would have realized that he was starting to empathize with, (and even share a bit of) Trudy’s obsession.
This child was special, there was no denying it. But it was the fierce motherly instinct to care for her child at any cost that really resonated with Mega.
Having been so young when the Virus took the Adults, (his own parents amongst them) it wasn’t until now, after spending so much time around Trudy, that Mega was starting to realize how much the loss of family had affected him.
For years, he had told himself that the Techno Army that raised him were his family…but now…he could see they had never offered him the one thing every child needs to thrive: Unconditional Love.
Trudy loved Brady like that. Mega was fascinated.
IN THE WEEKS FOLLOWING Trudy’s arrival at The Hotel, she had been visited by the Traitor, Amber, several times. Each time, Trudy had the Techno guards send Amber away. Trudy refused to see her…there was nothing to say to her. She had seen all she needed to know. No explanation would change how she felt, Nor change how things were now.
Worse than Amber’s attempts at reconciliation, was the fact that Jay had not tried to visit her at all. Trudy felt used up and thrown away. Substitute Lover…that’s me… Trudy would think to herself late at night after Brady had gone to bed. She had cried herself to sleep many nights in the first couple weeks of her stay at The Horton Bailey.
Besides the small comforts that Brady could offer her through hugs and sweet childish words, Trudy found that her only source of Joy since coming here came from the now regular visits she received from Mega.
Trudy was finding her encounters with Mega to be of a more personal nature each time he came to visit. At first, he seemed only to want to distract her from her melancholy by showing off his Headquarters, and Trudy had taken it as a show of boyish pride, nothing more. He was just being kind to her.
In her darker moments though, Trudy considered that maybe Mega thought he could use her against the MallRats… but Trudy no longer cared. None of them had bothered to warn her about Jay and Amber…the friends, NO! Family she thought she had was just another lie…another manipulation. Once again, Trudy felt like the lonely outcast girl who had been voted out of the Mall.
If it weren’t for the fact Trudy had gone into Labor just as she & Bray were leaving The Mall, then Trudy would have ended up somewhere else, with a different tribe. Perhaps even the Technos, she reflected …more than once.
At a certain point, Trudy started to daydream about this scenario…about herself being a Techno. It wouldn’t be so bad, really, she thought one day, as she watched Mega at combat practice.
It was December now, and the weather had turned snowy in the night. But the Technos were as much an army as you could expect in this new world, and The fresh powder on the ground and flurries of wind driven snowflakes did nothing to stop them from their hand-to-hand combat training.
Two weeks ago, a squad of Techno soldiers had been ambushed by Ebony’s band of Zootists, and for the first time since their invasion, the Technos had suffered major casualties.
The Zootists had killed a whole squad of the soldiers in a terrible guerilla warfare style attack… The threat of Zappers seemed to be entirely irrelevant to the Zootists these days…even when they’d been turned up from Stun to Delete.
Mega had confided to Trudy that the Zootists were becoming religious zealots…willing to martyr themselves for their New God, Zoot.
Trudy understood exactly what Ebony was up to. Trudy understood religious propaganda better than probably anyone in The City. It was clear that Ebony had taken a page directly out of The Chosen’s Playbook.
The Zootists Ebony had with her were mostly the Chosen stragglers that had never been welcomed into a regular tribe after being with The Chosen.
Now those stragglers had been Given back their purpose, and the “Zoot sightings” had emboldened them beyond the point of natural fear. They believed wholeheartedly in their Living God, and would do anything Ebony, Bride of Zoot, asked of them.
Trudy’s attention snapped back to the present as a gust of wind blew some snow in her direction, making her pull her scarf more tightly around her neck. Brady, playing at snowman a few feet away, didnt seem to notice the cold, even though her cheeks and nose were bright pink, and she kept rubbing the back of her hand across her face in an effort to stop her runny nose.
Trudy smiled, knowing it was just about time they went indoors, but she couldn’t help but stay a few more minutes to linger and watch Mega. He had just unzipped the top half of his Techno Jumper, baring his chest to the waist.
Trudy stood there, admiring his physique, noticing how his muscles rippled. She was thoroughly enjoying physical combat training.
Mega was so focused on his opponents, he seemed to have not noticed Trudy and Brady at all during the training session. She didn’t mind, it meant that she was able to stare more openly than she might have otherwise.
Sighing loudly, she took in one last good look and picked up Brady, before heading inside the Hotel. Quietly, to Brady, she whispered…“not really, Brady…it wouldn’t be so bad, us being Technos. Not bad at all…”
INSIDE THE HORTON BAILEY, CHRISTMAS EVE
The anticipation was killing him. Mega has been quietly arranging a Christmas Surprise for Brady and Trudy.
He didn’t know how…or exactly when, but at some point over the last months, Mega had quietly Fallen In Love with Trudy. He hadn’t been sure of her feelings towards him at all, not until the day he recently saw her watching him at hand-to-hand combat training in the yard. He had tried to studiously pretend he hadn’t noticed her watching, but from that point on, he had been planning on winning her over somehow. He had never felt this way about anyone. He was dizzy with the feeling of it. It’s like his heart had more room in it than it ever had before.
He hadn’t stopped worrying about the threat of Ebony and The Zootists, nor the annoyances of Jay & the MallRat Rebel Alliance…
But with the coming of the heavy winter snows this year, the threats were significantly reduced. Everyone was tucked into their warm dens as tight as could be…or else they were a desperate fool. Especially since 3 nights past, when a Blizzard decided to dump exorbitant amounts snow on top of their heads and roofs. It was frozen out there, and the snow was the highest Mega had ever seen it. He was just glad that his troops were well provisioned, warm and secure. And grateful that he had been able to acquire everything he needed for this evening before the storm hit.
He peered around the corner, making sure the coast was clear, before hurrying along a corridor and then into the main Banquet hall of the Hotel. He closed the double doors behind himself, locking them securely.
Turning around, he grinned at his handiwork.
A 10foot tall Chrostmas Tree, decked to the brim with baubles and bows, ornaments of all kinds. At the top, there glittered a big silver star.
The Christmas Tree stood front and center in the high ceilinged space. The room was decorated in all sorts of seasonal clutter. A large fire burned in below the classic darkwood mantle of the large stone fireplace in the background.
It was like Christmas days of his childhood…something that suddenly seemed only a blink away instead of years in the past.
From an old battery operated CD player under the Tree, he could hear the sounds of sleighbells and old Christmas carols in the air. He made a quick change of clothes and deposited his Techno clothing behind a chair in the corner of the room, hidden from view.
His new costume consisted of a Jolly red coat and trousers, white-fur cuffed and with a big black belt. The Gold beltbuckle was oversized, and matched his big black boots with their gold buttons to the knee. He pulled on the false beard and with a final touch, the red fur rimmed pointed cap and canvas bag hung over his back.
“This isnt quite right.” He mused to himself, trying to recall the stories of Christmas past. “AHA!”
Mega exclaimed, and turned, searching around for something suitable.
Since there was a linen closet near by, he was able to find a pillow. He stuffed his shirt with the pillow, adjusted the costume, and looked down.
He picked up the sack full of presents and opened the door to the hallway a crack, calling over one of his guards. The kid came quickly, and asked no stupid questions when Mega opened the door dressed as an old fat man in red. He simply followed the instructions from Mega and went to fetch Brady and her mother to the Banquet Hall.
She was just returned from the evening meal, which was held in as a group event here, when Trudy heard a knock on her door. It was Volt, one of Megas pers ok mal bodyguards. He smiled at her as she opened the door.
“Hi, Trudy. Merry Christmas. I’m here to invite you to join in for Christmas Eve in the Banquet Hall, with little Brady, of course.”
Trudy smiled. Volt was one of the people she had got on best with, here. She smiled back, saying “Merry Christmas to you too. When? Now?”
It took a moment or two to sort the details, but a few minutes later, Trudy found herself getting Brady dressed in the Purple Holiday outfit that Trudy had been able to acquire a few weeks ago, before the snows got bad.
Once Brady was ready, Trudy changed into a more holiday-appropriate outfit as well.
She then picked up Brady, carrying her down the Hall on her hip. They quickly found their way to the banquet room.
Trudy could see the doors were slightly ajar, and could hear the music coming from inside.
Brady laughed, hearing the music, which made Trudy smile.
She stepped forward and pushed open the double doors.
For a moment, the shine and glitter was almost blinding, and Trudy put up her right hand to shield her eyes, balancing Brady on her left hip.
The sound of Christmas Carol’s filled the air, and she could smell the Christmas Tree before she saw it.
She placed the excited and now giggling little girl on the floor and stood up straight.
Brady ran to the tree, squealing in delight. Tucked under one tiny arm was Mr. Bear. She took him everywhere.
“Look, Mr. Bear!” She pointed at the tree, “Look mama!”
It was such a beautiful surprise, Trudy could feel tears welling in her eyes. She had scarcely hoped that Brady would get to see a Christmas Tree of this calibur. It was gorgeous. Trudy stood, admiring the tree while Brady explored the ornaments along it’s lower branches.
A few moments later, the song changed…Trudy recognized the old carol as ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.
A few bars into the new song, Trudy was surprised to hear “HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
In a deep voice from behind the Tree.
Out stepped a jolly figure dressed all in Red, with a large bag slung over his shoulder.
Brady, curious as ever but cautious too, ran behind Trudy and peered out from behind her knees, unsure of how she was meant to react to this strange personage.
Trudy laughed, smiling at “Santa”.
She leaned down, saying to the little girl, “well, my darling, it seems you have been very good this year, to have Santa himself pay you a visit”.
Brady had heard stories of Santa, and received presents at Christmas time, but this was her first ever real experience with the mythical figure of Santa Claus.
Hearing the tone of her mothers voice, and sensing this was supposed to be fun, Brady quickly recovered her nerve, and stepped out to meet the round bellied figure. She looked him over thoroughly, then nodded her small head.
“Hi, Santa.” She lifted her Teddy to show it off to the new person. “Mr. Bear.”
“Ho ho ho!” The jolly man laughed, shaking his belly. He smiled through his large white beard at the child, and asked her… “Well, Brady, would you like to help me unload this sack of presents? They belong under the Tree.” He unslung the bag from his back, opening the tie and showing Brady what was inside.
Christmas Eve was spent in the best way possible. Santa Claus made his appearance, and the presents made their way to their place beneath the tree, before Santa made his polite exit. Mega made sure that Brady felt like she had been 1st on Santa’s list, before disappearing out the back door of the room with a Jolly “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas to all, & to all, a Good Night!”
Brady was allowed to open one gift, especially picked out for Christmas Eve. A pair of fleece pajamas, which Brady was very excited to chang into straight away.
Soon after Santa’s departure, Mega made his entrance into the Banquet Hall. For once, he wasn’t dressed in his Techno Uniform. Instead, he wore black slacks and a black button down shirt, with a crisp white tie. He looked very tall and handsome, Trudy thought as he entered the room.
She was thoroughly enjoying seeing him without all his Techno lackeys and the constant rigid authority. He was smiling, more relaxed than Trudy had ever seen him.
He kept looking at her, in a new way. She could feel his eyes on her, and she knew that she was blushing.
Mega approached Trudy, and unexpectedly took her by the hand, leading her to sit in front of the fireplace. Brady remained playing quietly near the tree with Mr. Bear.
Sitting down by the fire, seeing Mega happy like this…it was so special. Trudy was happy. She hadn’t thought to find happiness again for a long time, and had never fathomed that she might feel this way about another man so soon after having her heart crushed by Jay.
It was all kind of ironic…and Trudy wasn’t even sure how Mega felt towards her. She only knew that she wanted to enjoy every moment that she could tonight, while the Cristmas Magic still lingered in the air.
As Mega changed out of the Santa costume, he felt butterflies building up momentum in his gut. He felt that the Santa Surprise had gone very well, and he was pleased to see how happy Brady had been. But now, he was about to put his heart on the line…and he was nervous.
Mega didn’t like feeling nervous. He didn’t much like feelings in general until recently. He had trained himself to be free of emotion. To cut himself off, and be completely analytical. But Trudy had changed everything. He was crazy about her. And tonight, he would tell her he loved, tonight.
He pushed the butterflies down, straightened his tie, and turned on his heel. He marched towards the Banquet hall, patting the pocket of his shirt. He had a gift for Trudy too, and now he just had to keep up the nerve to give it to her.
Once he was inside the banquet hall, he only had eyes for her. She looked gorgeous in purples and red. He smiled, in spite of his nerves, and walked towards her. She smiled back as he took her by the hand and led her to the fireplace.
They both sat, making themselves comfortable in front of the fire. For a few moments, neither one spoke.
Mega was suddenly afraid to speak, and he stuttered a bit as he said
"T-trudy, I…well I…I mean, I have something. Something I want to give you. And, also, something I want to say.
Mega swallowed the huge lump in his throat. This was suddenly very difficult, so he did the only thing he could think to do…he just blurted it all out.
"Trudy, I’m not an easy man. Not easy to Love. I…well, I dont know how to be, different. And my past… it’s complicated. And I’ve done things, things you would hate me for…but Trudy, I would take care of you amd Brady.
You would never want for anything. I would make you happy…I…I Love You, Trudy.
I love you.
She had not been expecting this.
That he should feel for her what she was feeling for him.
They had never spoken about it…there had been no kiss, no courtship in the traditional sense of the word, but Trudy somehow felt that everything had gone exactly as it should.
He had said that he loved her, and she could see in his eyes it was true.
Her happiness threatened to overwhelm her. Megas fears and Hope’s were written plainly on his face as he had blurted out his confession.
Trudy, looking back into Megas eyes, took his hand and said quietly, but clearly,
"I don’t care who you are, or where you’re from. I don’t care what you did…as long as you love me.
She leaned forward, just enough, and their lips met.
The kiss was gentle, and the moment pure. Brady was suddenly there, hugging them both.
Trudy smiled, and kissed Mega again. They had found their way home.