That's right, it's that time of year again. All of the old tales get hauled out, dusted off and retold. Of course, when we of the Kimmunity get hold of them...

As usual, with one exception, I do not own the rights to the characters in this story. I just get to play with them for a while.


A Christmas Carol Retold

Francis Lurman, aka Frugal Lucre, was sitting on the old recliner in a corner of his bedroom, staring at the snow falling gently to the street below. His mother was out at a party with some old friends, and wasn't going to be back for some time. Philadelphia lay under a mantle of white, and lights adorned the windows and porches of the houses in the neighborhood. Francis was contemplating the awful week that he had been having, all because of this stupid holiday.

Christmas eve bothered him immensely. He could never really say why. When he had worked at Smarty Mart, the constant comings and goings of customers would irk him. They were spending good money on things that weren't needed, on trivialities. Even at discounted prices, that just seemed so wrong to him. Why, these people probably had things at home they could have gifted to others. Every penny saved was as good as two earned. All of those decorations; they used up electricity that could be better used for schemes designed to make easy money. The whole season was just too much.

After his stint in prison, courtesy of Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, he had been working as a grocery packer at the local store. It wasn't much, but nobody was willing to trust him around electronics. He made the best of it. At least he didn't have a lot of expenses, living with is mother and all. The fact that he was paroled into her custody was a pain.

He had been watching the customers buying all of the candy and expensive party snacks. Waste! They could have gotten chips and dip at Smarty Mart for half the price.

For the better part of the month, he had been besieged by people seeking charitable donations. If it wasn't the Salvation Army on the corner, with their kettle and bells, it was somebody wanting money for toys for children in the Sick Kids Hospital. Just to make matters worse, every one of these people had handed him the line about how even a single dollar could make a difference in somebody's life. It was a bitter irony that he just couldn't stomach. He had pushed them out of his way, grumbling about how no one had been willing to spare him a dollar, in exchange for the security of the internet.

Francis had not received a single card. Of course, he never sent any either. It was an extravagance he would not put himself to. If somebody wanted to wish him a merry Christmas, they could just come to his door.

As the day wore on, he began to nod off. Loud snores (the kind that used to drive Drakken batty in prison) issued from his dreary corner of the room, as the snow continued to fall in the light of the street lamps.

xx

It was the stroke of midnight, and the clock out in the hall downstairs chimed. The sound startled Francis from his slumber. He looked about the room, and noticed how late it was, and how very stiff he was from sleeping in the chair. Rising, he stretched his arms over his head, cracking his knuckles. Well, he'd just sleep through the noise and wasteful commotion the next day. Going down the stairs, he went to the cupboard and grabbed a granola bar. He took it and a glass of water back to his room, changed into his pajamas and climbed under the covers.

As he was settling in against his pillows, he heard a noise from downstairs. "Mother?" he called. "Is that you?" There was a light step on the stairs, accompanied by a tapping noise. That was odd.

He was about to go to the door to investigate when the noise stopped on the other side. As he watched, the knob began to turn, rattling just ever so slightly. Francis pulled the blankets up tighter around himself, frightened for reasons he could not understand. A warm air seeped into the room as the door began to swing open.

"Francis Lurman." A deep voice, seemingly a happy one called out. The door opened fully to reveal a man. He was quite elderly, dressed in an impeccably neat coat and vest over dark trousers. A gold chain went from a fob in one vest pocket to a watch in the other. It was revealed as such when the old man pulled it from its place and glanced at the dial. He smiled and took off the top hat that was perched atop his head, just clearing the door frame.

"W-who are you?" Francis managed to stammer.

"Begging your pardon, Mr. Lurman." He looked down at the skinny little man. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Scrooge, Ebeneezer Scrooge."

"But, you aren't real!" Francis cried out. "You are a character in a book, not a real person."

"In fact, I am a little bit of everyone, Francis. Whenever somebody fails to embody the spirit of compassion, of Christmas, my tale is told as a reminder. You have lost the meaning of this time of year, and so I have been sent, as Marley was sent to me." Ebeneezer looked critically about the room and it's meager furnishings. "I see that I was well sent. These might be copies of my rooms, early in the tale Mr. Dickens wrote. You see, in every tale told, there is just the little hint of truth, if you are wise enough to see it."

"It is your turn now, Francis Lurman. If you see fit to learn the lessons that my character learned in the story, your life could change for the better. It is entirely up to you, and the only guarantee is that if you put in the effort, you can make the world a place you want to live in. If not, you have only yourself to blame for where you wind up." With that, Scrooge put the hat back on his head and turned, looking once more at his watch. "Your time is short, Francis. Make the most of it." As he was walking out of the door, his form dissolved, and he disappeared completely.

"I must be dreaming. Must check the expiration date on those granola bars."

xx

The clock downstairs struck the first hour. Francis turned over in his bed, pulling the sheets tighter about him. A light began to glow from outside of his window. He tried to ignore it as much as possible, but the glow increased in intensity until he was forced to put his arm over his eyes. It seemed to come closer and closer. Try as he might, he could not avoid looking at it.

Finally throwing back the covers, he turned toward the window. The sash rose, seemingly of it's own volition. An old man, dressed in some kind of robes floated through the now open window. He was "seated" in mid air, in a lotus position. His long white beard trailed down the front of his robes, puddling in his lap. When he was completely in the room, he looked behind him and the window closed once again. As he straightened his legs, the glow began to dim, until finally there was just the old man, standing there regarding Francis.

"Greetings, Mr. Lurman. I am Sensei. On this night, I am here to reacquaint you with your past, and help you to learn from it."

"Is this going to be another version of the Scrooge story?" Francis looked at the old man with a critical eye. "You certainly don't look like the the ghost of Christmas past to me."

"No, I am not a ghost, not in the conventional sense. Still I am here to show you what has brought you here, the events that were meant to shape your life. You don't need a spirit to guide you, just somebody to show them to you from a new perspective." Sensei raised his arm and offered it to the younger man. "Let us begin our journey. Take hold and we will visit your past."

With scorn on his face, Francis lightly touched the sleeve. Suddenly, he felt as if he was being tugged. Closing his eyes against the sense of vertigo, he weathered the strangest sensation he had ever experienced. The feeling stopped, and he carefully opened his eyes again. He and the old man were no longer in his room. Instead, they were downstairs, but, it wasn't the way it should have been.

"I understand your confusion, Francis. This is your past, not the house as you now live in it. Notice the light outside of the window. There is no snow." Now that he looked around, Francis could indeed remember the look of the living room. This was how the place had looked when he was a young boy.

Suddenly, that young boy came running in the front door, his mother hot on his heels. "Francis, you will calm down this instant. I said the you might have the new bike, if you are very good. We both know that Santa Claus does not come to naughty and hyper young children." The grown up Francis Lurman looked at the woman. She was bright and perky, her long dark hair shiny and healthy. Only this last evening he had seen that hair thin and gray, washed out from years of hard work. Still, the eyes were the same, with a smile behind them and a glimmer of something else, hope for the future.

"You remember this day, don't you?"

"Yes. This was one of the happiest days of my life. One of the last truly happy ones."

The scene melted, and was replaced with the same room. It was night, and there was a bright Christmas tree in the corner. A young couple sat on the sofa, the man with his head in his hands. "I don't know what to do, Emily. They handed out the pink slips and the holiday bonuses out in the same envelope. If I don't find something, things are going to be very tight around here."

"Maybe we shouldn't have spent so much for the presents. I'm sure Francis..."

"No! He was a good boy for six month, working at chores without complaining. Even if it is more than we can afford, he's earned that bike under the tree. I'll find something." Neither of them noticed their young son at the bottom of the stairs. He crawled back up, feeling like he had caused trouble for his father, that he had asked too much.

"You remember this too?" Sensei looked after the young boy, watching him go up the steps.

"This is the day that I learned that parting with money will not bring you happiness. It just leaves you vulnerable." The bitter tone is his voice left no doubt that living with the new circumstances had changed him. "Save everything you can, get everything you can. My father worked himself to an early grave, and why, to give gifts." He looked at the man on the couch.

"Yet they never felt that giving was a burden." Sensei pointed to the front hall, and the scene dissolved yet again. Now they were watching as Mr. Lurman and his wife were at the door. A man in a Salvation Army uniform was on the front step.

"This is a most generous gift. It will help a family that was just burned out of their home."

"We have much to be thankful for, sir. We really do need to help where we can." The couple looked into each others eyes. "You never know when you will be in need, or how badly."

As the uniformed man left, Mr. Lurman took his wife's hand. "I wish we had been able to give more. That family needs it so much. Ten dollars is hard to come by, but at least we have a roof over our heads tonight."

Francis watched as his parents closed the door and walked past him. He hung his head. "I never realized, I'd forgotten how much they did for the community. Even when times were rough, my parents always were willing to share what we had." He was ashamed of himself, and thought of the charity kettle he had passed so rudely earlier in his week. "I'm sorry, Dad. I forgot."

When he brought his eyes up, Sensei had returned him to his room. The old man took him back to his bed and sat him down. Francis watched him resume floating in the lotus position, a bright ball of light about him.

"Remember what you have seen this night. Honor the example that your parents set. It is well to be frugal, but beware becoming a miser in the process. Money saved for the sake of saving will never bring the warmth of resources used to make lives better." The window opened again, and Sensei floated out. He disappeared into the night, the light fading away like it had never existed. The window closed, and Francis was left alone on his bed.

xx

The clock in the downstairs hall chimed twice. There was a thunk somewhere on the roof, followed quickly by a second. Going to his window, Francis looked out on the back yard. What he saw was Kim Possible scaling the wall, looking down to where her partner and friend, Ron Stoppable was fumbling with his belt. No! What were those two doing here?

"Head in the game, Ron! Honestly, we're here to help a man."

"C'mon, KP, I'm doing my best. I can't help it if I'm grapple gun challenged."

Eventually the two of them were at the window and sliding up the sash. Kim entered and deftly recoiled the cable, which had been wrapped around the chimney. Ron had more trouble, and landed in a heap on the floor. Grinning sheepishly, he stood and pressed the button that retracted the cable of his own gun.

"What are you doing here?! I've kept my nose clean. I go to work, I go to the appointments with my parole officer." By now, Lurman was backed up against the small chest of drawers on one wall of the room. He had thought about running, but decided that he would just have to face them again later if he did. Better to get the confrontation over with. Nothing screamed guilt like running, and he was feeling guilty enough anyway, after seeing the way he had behaved in a new light.

The duo at the window looked at each other, and shut the window against the cold night air.

"Look, Lucre, we were sent here for some reason, told that you needed to see certain things. The hit on the website wasn't exactly specific." Kim advanced on the man she knew only as Frugal Lucre, would-be villain. She motioned for Ron to take up a place at his other elbow. They hustled him down the stairs and waited while he put on his coat and gloves.

The Sloth was parked by the curb, and Ron climbed into the back seat, while Kim stood behind Lucre, to keep him from getting away. Once he was in the car, she jogged around to the driver's side and hopped in. Revving the engine, she pulled away from the house with a lurch.

"What's the hurry?" Francis asked, more than a little unnerved. He was used to public transit, which was considerably more sedate.

"We don't have a lot of time." Ron piped up from the middle of the back seat. "We were given a time table of places to be, and even with the Sloth, we're going to be cutting it close." A slight grin came to the boy's face. "Relax, Lucre, Kim is the best behind the wheel, no matter what Barkin's grade books show."

"Ron! You promised not to bring up the whole driver's ed thing and Bonnie's A." Kim pouted at him while keeping a close eye on the streets.

In a short time, they pulled into the parking lot of a local shelter.

"What are we doing here?"

"We're strictly here as observers, Lucre. I expect you to keep a low profile. If you draw attention to yourself, you aren't going to learn anything." As Kim gave him these instructions, Ron passed them each a scruffy hat and scarf. With luck, they would blend in among the homeless men and women that were shuffling into the building.

What shocked Francis more than anything was the number of children already in the large room, sitting with their parents. They all had a pinched, hungry look on their faces. The adults with them wore despondent expressions. These people were at the ends of their ropes. He knew that the economy had been rough lately, but he had been paying more attention to his own concerns. Now he thought back to his attempts to grab all he could, even if it was just small amounts from large numbers of people. He'd had a job, he didn't want for food or shelter.

As he was looking about the room, he heard a familiar voice. His mother was making her way about the families, trying to coax smiles from the children, patting the shoulders of men and women in a reassuring manner. Francis thought that she must have gone home hours ago. For that matter, he thought she had been at a party. He tried to go to her and ask what she was doing out so late. Kim and Ron pulled him away, so that she would not see him.

"Do you see, your mother is here to do what she can to make lives better. She remembers the hard times your family suffered, and wants to help others through it. It doesn't take all that much." Ron looked at the small tray of crackers and cheese that Mrs. Lurman was carrying around. There was a stirring in one of his coat pockets, and Rufus poked his head out of his warm little nest. He looked at the cheese, and then at the small children nearest to him. The mole rat hopped out and went to another tray and grabbed a few pieces of cheese and took them to the kids. They giggled and tickled his belly as he presented the food to them.

"Your mother is a good woman, doing what she can for others. You are a part of her, and she a part of you. I'm sure you could learn to care as she does." Kim laid a hand on Francis arm. "Don't disappoint her, or underestimate what you can do." He looked down at her hand, and then into her eyes.

She was radiating confidence, not her usual self confidence, but a belief in him. Kim Possible was sure of him of all people, a man she had sent to prison for his greedy crime. Maybe, just maybe, it was possible for him to change for the better.

Ron looked at his watch and collected his little friend, who had been eliciting squeals from the children as their parents tucked them under the blankets on the makeshift beds in the shelter. "It's time to get moving Kim, we don't want to miss our next stop." Each of them grabbed an arm and took him back out to the Sloth.

A short time later, they pulled up at Smarty Mart headquarters.

"Um, I'm not exactly supposed to be here." One of the terms of his parole was that Francis was not to be on Smarty Mart premises. After all, company equipment had been used in the commission of criminal acts. He really didn't want to screw this up. Not if he was ever to do any good with what he learned.

"See, Kim, he can be taught! Don't worry, we won't be seen, and if anything happens, we will keep you in the clear."

With the help of the equipment Wade had provided, they were inside the building in no time. Kim guided them around the security cameras and the guards working their patrols, even on Christmas eve. They stopped outside the half open door of Martin Smarty. Remarkably, the man was still in his office. He was talking on his phone, sounding most pleased.

"Look, I wanted to thank you for getting those toys delivered on time." There was a brief pause. "I know, it cost a bit more, but I've had a good year, despite the economic slow down. With so many people hit, I had to do something. There is more to life than profits." Another pause. "I have to go, one of those more important things is waiting for me back home." Mr. Smarty looked at the picture of his son. "You have a merry Christmas, and thanks again for the hard work." He put the phone down and went to get his coat.

Kim and Ron pulled Francis back out of the building, being sure to lock up behind them, leaving no trace of their visit.

"Martin Smarty knows what this season is all about. He has put people ahead of money." Ron looked at the man from between the seats. "I think he is someone that you can learn from. I've learned a lot about financial responsibility from him."

They drove him back to his house and let him out. As Ron climbed into the front bucket seat, Francis leaned over and looked into the cabin of the car. "Thank you, both of you. You've shown me a lot, and given me lots to think about. Merry Christmas." He closed the car door and went up to the front door.

xx

As he was closing the door behind him, Francis heard the clock in the hall strike three. Had it only been an hour since Team Possible had entered through his window? He took off his coat and boots. It was at that point that he noticed the small sounds coming from the living room. Cautiously, he looked around the door frame. The room was now dark, with none of the lights or the tree that his mother had asked him to help with the day before. Looking out of one of the large windows was a small girl, maybe eight years old or so.

She had long blonde curls, which fell down over the red coat that she wore. When she turned to face him, she showed a fair skinned face with familiar freckles, and equally familiar green eyes. For the life of him, Francis couldn't place any of the features he now saw.

"I suppose you are the 'ghost of Christmas future', here to show me what will be." By now, he was mightily tired, but he knew that all of this was meant to be for his benefit. Even Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable had seemed concerned for his welfare. They had expressed belief in his ability to change and do good for others.

"Well, I'm not a ghost," the girl giggled into her hand. "but I am here to show you the future as it could be." She skipped across what was really a dark and dreary room and took his hand. "Do you think you are ready?" She pulled him toward her, guiding him into the room.

When his foot had crossed the threshold, he found himself in a very unfamiliar place. The large room was chilly, and the lights were bright. In chairs scattered about the place, elderly men and women sat blankly staring into space, or mumbling to themselves. The young girl looked about her, searching. Finding the individual she wanted, she led Francis across to a woman seated in a rocking chair, staring out of the window.

"Mom!" Francis cried, rushing to her side. "What are you doing here?"

"Remember, this is a possible future. She can't hear or see us. See, she is older than you remember, but not as much as you might think." Francis looked closer, and noticed the gray hair was thinner, and she was much thinner than he liked the look of.

"Why is she here? She looks so frail."

"This is the only home she could afford on her pension. She doesn't have anyone else to turn to, so she is here." The girl reached up a hand and made as if to brush the woman's hair out of her face. The fresh, young smile had disappeared from her visage. "It doesn't take long for a place like this to drain the life out of residents. There are so many of these unfortunate souls, and so many that don't have to be here."

"How did she get left here? Why am I not taking care of her?" Francis looked around, as if expecting himself to come in and take his mother away. It quickly became clear that he wasn't going to. "Please, why is she not home with me?"

"Not yet, Mr. Lurman. We have another stop to make first." The blonde curls bounced as the little girl took his hand once more and walked to the door. Her pace this time was much more sedate, in keeping with their surroundings. As they crossed through the doors, the scene blurred and changed again. When things were clear again, they were in the shelter that had been visited earlier. This time there were considerably more people waiting in line for what food was available. The elderly sat listlessly, and the children cried.

Francis looked around, but didn't go far before hearing a conversation from a couple of men sitting against a cold brick wall.

"I had a good job, I was making a living doing something that helped people. Then that idiot had to go playing with the internet again. This time, it was too late to stop him." The man slammed a foot down and twisted, as if treading out a weed. "Once systems started going down, an economic decline became a bloody depression."

"I hear tell that Team Possible almost had him, but he'd gone and set up a cheap system, so they couldn't get into it fast enough to stop the virus. I only hope he's catching a virus of his own where they put him." The second man grinned maliciously at the thought. "Whatever happened, it was too good for him. My brother lost everything, his home, his wife and kids, everything when the collapse happened."

Francis wasn't stupid. He was pretty sure he knew what had brought these men to this. Rather, who had done it. In shame, he looked anywhere but at them, even thought they could not see him. His eyes caught another disturbing sight.

At the tables, serving hot drinks, Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable looked exhausted. Kim wore an expression of defeat, and Ron was lethargic, but pushing on.

"What happened to them?" He touched the girl's shoulder and pointed. The girl sobbed for a moment, and pulled herself together.

"For a long time, people blamed them for what happened. They hadn't been fast enough, hadn't tried hard enough." She stared at them wistfully. "They believed that for a long time, and things got worse when they lost their confidence. Only now are they starting to make their way back."

At that moment, Francis vision blurred, and he found himself back in his room. Except, his view of the girl was not clear.

"Why can't I see you properly?"

"If this future does not change, I will never be. Team Possible will be divided, and I can't be born. My parents are Ron and Kim Stoppable. My name is Sarah Anne Stoppable."

Francis lunged at the girl, willing her to come back into existence. "No, you have to be born! Your parents have to go on saving the world!" He grabbed at the mist that was all that remained. "I will change. I will remember what you have all taught me. I swear, I can change! Please, don't leave!"

He opened his eyes, and she was gone.

xx

Unable to sleep, the visions of things that were and could be in his head, he went downstairs. Just as he reached the bottom tread, there was the click of the lock on the front door. Emily Lurman came in, and stared at her son.

"What are you doing up, Francis? I told you I was going to be out all night." She reached out and brushed a few strands of hair out of his face. The boy might be a little misguided sometimes, but he was still her son, and she loved him dearly. So much of his father was in him. Now he was looking slightly upset.

"I thought you were at a party. It's early morning."

"My friends and I went down to the shelter on the west side. We do it every year. Don't worry, son, we were perfectly safe."

"I know, you can take care of yourself mom. It's just that it is a lot of work for you and your friends. From now on, let me know, and I will go with you." Francis took her coat and put it up in the hall closet. He had the distinct feeling that his father was watching from somewhere, with a smile on his face.

"Now what brought that on? You've been keeping to yourself since you came home."

"Let's just say I've begun to see things more clearly tonight, after a lot of soul searching." He took his mother into the kitchen and made her a cup of tea before bed. "Thank you for another chance, everyone." he thought to himself.