Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@...
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Summary: Logan finds something special beneath the Christmas tree.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox create the characters that sell. Not me.
Notes: Written for a Christmas-gift ficlet challenge at my AniMag LiveJournal community. The character Kristen Mayhew is my own; this story is set prior to the others in which she has appeared.
I'd had a bad day.
Maybe it was the racket the kids made, out playing in the snow when all I wanted to do was smoke a cigar in some peace and quiet. Maybe it was the way Rogue followed me around like a puppy, trying to drag me into their stupid games. Maybe it was having to watch Jean and Scott under the mistletoe. Whatever it was, I'd had enough of Christmastime at Xavier's School, and I decided I was finally going to do something about it.
That night, I laid on my bed and listened until the mansion was quiet. Then I got up, put on my jacket, and over my shoulder I slung the duffel bag I'd packed hours earlier. I slipped out the bedroom door, then silently crept down a staircase festooned with fake pine garlands and big red bows.
The tall fir tree next to the stairs was real enough. The tinsel dripping off its branches couldn't mask its sweet green smell; it made me feel a little homesick for the Great White North, and that made my decision feel a little easier. I picked up my pace toward the front door.
Just as I stepped past the tree, I heard a little sighing sound behind me.
I turned and looked. In the middle of the packages under the tree, there was a pink flannel bundle--and it was breathing. Morbid curiosity got the better of me, and with a frown, I stepped closer.
The bundle turned over and stretched, letting go of a raggedy teddy bear, and opened two huge blue eyes.
Most of the kids would have cringed if they woke up and saw me standing over them, but this one just stared back at me and gave me a drowsy smile. I recognized her as the runt who got sick a lot, and tried to dredge up a name: Christie, Crystalâ¦ no, *Kristen*. The school's youngest, a little girl with wisps of pale-blonde hair that made her look like a dandelion puff.
âWhat are you doing there?â I asked, trying for a soft voice and not really succeeding.
Her answer was a sleepy mumble, but I thought I heard the word *claws*, and that was enough to get my attention.
Kristen sat up, pulling her teddy bear back into her lap. âWaiting for Santa Claus. When he comes, I'm gonna ask him to leave a new bike at my house for my little brother.â
âOh.â It was Christmas Eve. I'd forgotten.
Something else about what the kid said took a moment longer to sink in. After I thought of it, I bent down beside her. âSo you've got a family someplace. How come you're not spending Christmas with them?â
Wrong thing to say. Kristen dropped her gaze, rubbing the bear's ear in some kind of nervous gesture, and answered in a sad voice. âMom and Dad... don't really want me to be home anymore.â
I knew what that meant, and for a split second my anger flared up, bright and hot; anger at scared, ignorant normal people, or maybe the whole world. But then she looked up at me, and the anger died away, quicker than I'd ever known it to before. This kid didn't even know enough to be angry. Here she was, wishing for a present for a brother who was probably being raised to think he didn't *have* a sister.
âAre you going someplace, Mister Wolverine?â Kristen asked innocently.
I looked down at the duffel bag under my arm, then back at her, and didnât have a thing to say.
âYou... oughta be in bed,â I fumbled at last.
âBut I gotta talk to Santa.â
I floundered some more. âWell... he won't come unless you're asleep, you know. Let's write him a note instead.â
That seemed to make her happy. I scrounged up a scrap of paper and pencil in the library down the hall, then waited while she carefully wrote her message to Saint Nick in large first-grader's scrawl. She set the note in plain sight under the tree, then gathered her teddy bear and stood up. Holding out her hand, she looked up at me brightly, as if she expected me to take it in mine.
I debated with myself for a moment, then bent down and picked her up.
As I climbed the stairs, Kristen snuggled against my chest, squishing the bear between us. She gripped my jacket collar with fingernails that were painted a pearly pink. There was a fresh, bubble-bath scent about her that I found strangely calming.
Because she got colds so often, she had a small bedroom to herself. I shouldered open the door, went in, and set her down on the bed. The teddy bear slipped to the floor; I picked it up and put it in her arms, and she squeezed it and smiled at me. I mumbled a good-night and turned to leave the room.
âWait!â her little voice piped behind me.
I looked back. Kristen slid off the bed and scuffed across the floor in slippered feet, moving to her dresser. She picked something up, then came over and held it out to me.
âMerry Christmas, Mister Wolverine.â
Gingerly I took the object, a painted clay sculpture she had obviously made herself. I didn't know what it was supposed to be; some kind of orange and purple animal with a round bovine body, a tiny head on a giraffe neck, stumpy legs, and a long tail. I stared down at it for a long time... not so much because I was trying to figure it out, but because I was trying to ignore the sudden itch in my eyes.
It finally occurred to me that gift-giving was usually a two-way thing, and I fumbled in my jacket pockets, coming up with a Canadian penny. It was a few years old, but it was still at least a little bit shiny. I gave it to Kristen, placing it in her eagerly outstretched palm. She gazed down at it happily, rubbing the maple-leaf design, cooing over it as if it were a diamond ring.
âThank you, Mister Wolverine,â she said softly.
âMy name's Logan,â I replied, and found that I needed to clear my throat.
Kristen climbed back into bed then, kicking off her slippers and laying down, with her teddy bear in her arms and the penny still clutched in her small fist. I pulled the covers over her, then quickly found my bag where it had dropped beside the door, and left the room without looking back.
Downstairs, I retraced my steps toward the front door... but I found myself drawn back to the Christmas tree, staring at Kristen's simple note to Santa Claus. Suddenly I became aware again of the weight of something in my hand, and I looked down at the painted clay whatchamacallit I held cradled to my chest.
Even I know that love given where it hasn't been received is something special.
Slowly, I climbed the stairs to my room. I unpacked my bag, tucking away old clothes in drawers with a neatness that wasn't like me. Then I set Kristen's gift on a shelf and laid down, staring up at it thoughtfully for a long time.
The place to be on Christmas is home--and finding that out was the best penny I ever spent.
(c) 2005 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback