Title: Diamonds for Breakfast
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: G. Beware the Fluff.
Characters: Cyclops and family, with an obligatory appearance by Wolverine.
Setting: Sometime in the future (chucking the whole Jean-is-dead/X3 thing, of course).
Summary: To fulfill his daughter's innocently mistaken Christmas wish, Scott Summers makes some personal sacrifices.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox create the characters that sell. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: This story is a Christmas gift for a friend of mine. It was inspired by the random memory of a jewelry-store commercial from years ago. As I recall, a similar plot was involved there, but it failed to exploit the comic potential. *g*
As a teacher, I've always believed a child could never be too young to learn.
Or at least, I *did* believe that until one Saturday morning in December, when my four-year-old daughter sat poring over the newspaper at breakfast.
Don't get me wrong there—Rachel isn't a prodigy, at least not yet. Like any average toddler, she started out playing with alphabet magnets at the age of three; she can sing the complete alphabet with gusto, and count all the way up to one hundred. But her spelling achievements so far have not surpassed some two dozen words on the order of *cat* and *dog* and *tree*.
On the other hand, receiving an allowance at her tender age has taught her something about the value of money—which was the first mistake.
And the second mistake was giving her oatmeal for breakfast.
You see, Rachel hates oatmeal. Whether sweetened with honey or spiced with cinnamon, flavored with maple syrup or swirled with strawberry jelly, her reaction is always the same: Oatmeal Is Gross. And her rejection of this wholesome breakfast has, unfortunately, become the subject of her first battle of wills with my wife the doctor. Jean flatly insists that our growing daughter must have three bowls of oatmeal a week—and furthermore, that she must actually consume at least half of it before she can go play.
Which is why Rachel was still sitting with me at the table after two hours, casting baleful glances at her barely-dented serving of whole grains, and groping for anything to do that didn't involve Eating Oatmeal.
In point of fact, I was the one actually <i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">reading* the newspaper. Between the full-time occupations of teaching, parenting, and keeping mutant terrorists or rogue scientists or killer robots from destroying the world, it isn't often I have the chance just to sit down with the news and a cup of coffee. Not that reading the headlines isn't almost as stressful as grading tests or saving the planet, of course; but when there are politicians in office who think there should be leash laws for you, it's a generally good idea to keep up with the times.
That day I had an entire week's worth of papers to catch up on, and I was about halfway through them. As I finished browsing each one, it was carefully folded and set aside in its proper order...
...Until Rachel lighted on the stack, purely as a distraction from the bowl of alien slime in front of her.
With typical childlike restlessness, she ruffled through the pages and stared at the grainy pictures (after I had quickly made sure there were no unpleasant images from the world's latest war zones to scar her young psyche). She even squinted at the blocks of text, occasionally reading aloud some familiar short word. Soon the tabletop was layered with wrinkled, misfolded, and generally disarrayed sheets of newsprint, ensuring that the papers would never again be assembled in their rightful form.
I was a little annoyed, but not overly so. After all, in the middle of December, the paper is almost nothing but ads for holiday sales anyway—and naturally, those glossy pages full of toys and clothes and shiny things were what attracted Rachel the most. She paged through the slick, full-color bonanzas of consumerism in silent awe.
If Jean hadn't been away with Hank and the Professor at a scientific conference in Manhattan, she would have reproved me for letting our child wallow in such unhealthy, materialistic propaganda. But it was a lazy Saturday, and I was reading the paper in blessed tranquility, and Rachel was at least looking at some form of printed page instead of watching cartoons. So I let her ogle to her heart's content... never imagining that her ideas would go beyond merely adding a few more items to her pending letter to Santa Claus.
After a while, I felt her tugging at my sleeve.
"Daddy? I wanna buy Mommy a Christmas present."
"Oh yeah?" I didn't look up from the article I was reading about biomedical company stocks. Even in this economy, those Worthingtons do alright for themselves...
"See? It's right here in the paper. I got enough saved from my 'llowance to get it," Rachel elaborated, her head raised proudly. "It's only three dollars an' niney-nine cents."
I finally pried myself away from the financial section, leaning over to look at the ad spread out in front of Rachel. It was a circular for a jewelry store at the Westchester Mall. Her stubby finger was resting on the picture of an elegant, heart-shaped pendant, with three colorless stones or crystals set in it.
*Nice little trinket for that price*, I thought. *Unless it's one of those cheap-junk-with-purchase deals*.
In search of fine print, I finally looked at the numbers printed under the picture... and I swallowed hard as I realized there was no decimal point. The pendant was made of real gold, and set with real diamonds. And instead of the three dollars and ninety-nine cents my darling daughter had construed, its price was *three hundred and ninety-nine* dollars.
"Will you take me to buy it, Daddy?" Rachel asked eagerly, gazing up at me with melting blue eyes.
I looked at her, and somehow I managed a feeble smile.
"Well, I'll... I'll tell you what," I faltered, trying to sound casual. "If you eat your *entire* bowl of oatmeal... then sure. I'll take you."
*There. She can't possibly live up to that*.
...And ten minutes later, I was staring down at an empty bowl with a comical look on my face, as Rachel trotted off to fetch her piggy bank.
While my offspring was counting out her pennies on the table, I left her and went upstairs. In our little family's suite of rooms, I took down my motorcycle manual from the bookshelf, and removed the cluster of fifty- and twenty-dollar bills tucked into the back cover. I counted them with a frown; then I slipped them into my wallet, and made my way down the hall.
After a hesitation, I forced myself to knock on the door of someone who, I suppose, must loosely be called a fellow teacher.
There was some muffled grumbling from within the room, comprised of what sounded like terminology it was just as well Rachel wasn't there to hear. At last the door opened three inches, and a disgruntled, half-asleep Logan glared out at me, his stiff ridges of hair even more disshevelled than usual.
"*What*?" he asked, bluntly and irritably.
"Sorry to wake you up at..." I checked my watch. "Ten-fifteen A.M. But if you've got it now, I need the money you owe me."
His scowl deepened suspiciously. "What money?"
"The money from our little bet—you know, the one you *lost*. The money I was going to put toward some work on my bike."
"Oh. I thought you still had to save up for that," Logan murmured somewhat dismissively, as he began to turn away.
I wrapped my hand around the edge of the door before he could close it behind him. "Yeah, well—Rachel has other plans. She wants to go shopping for a Christmas present for Jean."
Logan paused, glancing back at me. There was a gleam of devious amusement in his eyes.
"That kid of yours is gonna make a great bookie someday. You know that, right?"
"Not if she spends as little time around *you* as I can help."
The Wolverine snorted a half-laugh. "Hey, the bet was *your* idea!"
Not exactly able to argue that point, I folded my arms and stared back at him firmly. He shrugged and retreated into his bedroom, still chuckling at whatever it was he thought was so funny. After some rummaging around in the bureau, he returned to the doorway, counting through a crumpled wad of cash.
"I guess my name won't even go on the tag," he attempted wryly, handing over several bills.
"*No*," I shot back as I took the money. "But if it's any consolation, neither will mine. Rachel thinks she's doing this all by herself."
"I get it." Logan's lips twitched. "Not that it matters. Jean'll know anyway."
"Maybe," I admitted, as much as I disliked the idea. "But Rachel won't. That's what matters."
"I thought you'd figure it was better for her to buy something she can afford with her own money. You know, give her a real-life math lesson on the value of a buck."
That thought had occurred to me—a fact that only made me feel more defensive. I scowled and shrugged.
"Well... it's Christmas, Logan. Maybe you still don't get it, but Rachel wants to do something special for her mother."
"I *do* get it, Scott," Logan retorted. For one brief, intriguing moment, something in his eyes softened... and then he gave me a crooked smile. "If I didn't, you'd be getting that money a month from now—to spend on a bike *I* use more than you do."
Somehow, I couldn't help grinning all the way down the stairs.
The Westchester Mall was as jammed as one might expect for a Saturday two weeks before Christmas, and the only parking spaces to be had were on the outer edges of the lot. I managed to swoop into one just ahead of a blonde in a BMW who was preoccupied with her cellphone. *Then* I waited to get out of the car until she stopped glaring at me and went away.
When the coast was clear, I took Rachel from the back seat. She was fiercely gripping a little beaded-leather coin purse Jubilee had given her for her birthday, with all of four dollars and fifty cents inside it—and I suspected any offer to carry it myself would only earn me a dose of budding feminine indignance. Instead I settled for helping her tuck it securely into the inner pocket of her pink-and-purple jacket. I pulled her hood up over her strawberry-blonde ringlets, to protect her face from the chilly breeze; she gave me an obstinate look, and pushed it back again.
Then she seized my fingers in her small gloved hand, and towed me off toward the mall entrance.
When Rachel is on a mission, her single-minded determination is the equal of any full-grown X-Man facing life or death. She pulled me straight past the toy store, and the pet store where puppies and kittens frolicked in the display windows, and even "Santa's Village" with the miniature train that encircled it. She hauled me halfway across the mall in a fraction of the time it would have taken to make the same trip with Jean—and when we reached her objective, *I* was the one who was slightly out of breath.
Like Superman's fortress of solitude, the jeweler was a glittering arctic palace, a maze of white-satin-lined cases beneath crystal chandeliers. I could almost feel my wallet cringing in my back pocket. Rachel, on the other hand, was undaunted, and she released my hand to scamper ahead eagerly. She moved from one display to the next, pressing her nose against the glass, in search of the bauble that had fatefully caught her eye in the newspaper.
While she was looking for her prize, I seized my chance to make the acquaintance of a fresh-faced, dark-haired young man behind the counter.
"Good morning, sir!" I grasped his hand and pumped it vigorously. "Nice to meet you. My name's Scott. That's my daughter, Rachel."
"Uh... hi. I'm Doug..."
With a slightly dazed expression, he pulled back his hand. He stared down for a moment at the wad of money that had magically appeared in his palm—and then he looked up suspiciously at me.
I quickly put my finger to my lips, then tilted my head toward Rachel. The first flicker of vague comprehension passed through his eyes just as she started jumping up and down.
"Here it is, Daddy! Right here!"
I went over to her. Still looking confused, Doug automatically moved down the counter to join us. He somehow had the foresight to stash the money in his pocket before Rachel could see it—but then, she had her face and both gloved hands pushed flat against the glass, gazing at her Grail. There lay the heart-shaped gold pendant with the three diamonds, resting on a white silk pillow.
"Well, tell the man what you want," I said patiently. At the same time, I shot Doug a significant glance that I hoped would translate through my ruby-quartz glasses. His head wobbled slightly in a movement that was neither a nod nor a shake, and I could only hope he understood.
"I wanna buy *that* necklace for my Mommy," Rachel explained, emphatically pointing to the heart pendant.
Doug winced slightly and glanced at me. I gave him a slight nod, so he shrugged and took out his key to unlock the case. Rachel watched him like a hawk as he reverently lifted out the necklace and carried it back over to the register. He tucked it into a little velvet jewelry case, then slid that inside a more discreet cardboard gift box.
"And, uh—how do you want to pay for that?" he asked uncertainly, leaning over the high counter to look down at Rachel—and making an obvious effort not to dart any more glances toward me.
She gave him a prideful look. "*I'm* buying it. With *my* money," she said, and went for her coin purse.
While she was fumbling with the zipper of her jacket, I hastily pointed a thumb toward Doug's pocket. He flinched and pulled out the cash I had palmed him, quickly counting through it. He barely had time to nod at me and tuck it out of sight again before Rachel won her battle with the zipper, and triumphantly brought up her little pouch.
I lifted her up so she could count out her money in front of him: three dollar bills, three quarters, and an assortment of small change to make up the balance of ninety-nine cents. Doug goggled slightly, but he rang up the sale—by its real price, of course—and then made a show of putting away Rachel's money in the cash register.
He hesitated slightly, giving me another glance, then handed the box to Rachel.
"You'd better look and make sure he gave you the right necklace," I said as I put her down—gently but deliberately turning her away from the counter.
She complied, intently pulling the boxes open to examine her treasure, and this time Doug took his cue perfectly. With practiced swiftness he recounted my money, then quickly took the correct change from the register.
"Thanks for coming in," he said, and shook my hand—palming off the change and receipt to me with an amused grin.
"Oh, no. Thank *you*," I answered gratefully, almost in a sigh of relief. "Rachel, what do you say, sweetheart?"
My daughter turned to smile up at the hapless sales clerk. "Thank you," she said prettily.
Doug grinned, and I thought he was blushing a little. "Any time."
Rachel's mission was now accomplished. Clutching her precious box, she slipped her hand into mine, and we went home...
...Two train rides, one Barbie doll, and half an hour of puppy-watching later.
Because Christmas Day is taken up with the boisterous free-for-all of the Xavier School's celebrations, Jean and I have adopted the tradition of our own intimate little family observance on Christmas Eve. After dinner we open the gifts waiting under the small tree in our apartment, then sing carols and roast chestnuts (or in Rachel's case, pop Jiffy-Pop) at the fireplace.
It's the reason why Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.
That evening, we exchanged our presents. This mostly involved Jean and I watching Rachel as she eagerly tore through her stack of gifts—but our daughter had saved one small, haphazardly wrapped box for last. The word *Mommy* was scrawled on its tag in black crayon, and after she'd had her fill of examining her own loot, she reverently set the package on Jean's lap.
"This is for you, Mommy."
Smiling, Jean shot a glance at me, then carefully peeled back the wrapping paper. She opened the cardboard gift box, then the velvet case that lay within it... and caught her breath at the sight of the necklace within.
"Oh, it's beautiful, Baby." Beaming, she gently touched the diamonds that ornamented the heart pendant. "Three jewels—one for each of us."
"That's what *I* thought of," Rachel lied shamelessly. "I bought it all by myself, Mommy."
"That was so sweet of you!" Jean exclaimed.
Then she cast a knowing glance in my direction, and I blushed. After all our years together, it's still hard to get used to the fact that you can't hide anything from a telepath.
She put on the necklace, and gave Rachel a tight, lingering hug. Our little girl bore it sheepishly, and when her mother finally let her go, she scampered off to play with her own new toys.
The pendant sparkled beautifully on Jean's neck. She fingered it thoughtfully, smiling it me, then reached up to stroke my cheek. "And it was sweet of *you*, too."
I felt my blush grow a little hotter. "Oh, it was just..."
"No, really. I know what you gave up to get this for me—and to make Rachel happy." My wife kissed me. "I'll make it up to you."
"Aw... you already have." I ducked my head. "I'm just glad you like it. I wasn't sure you'd be so happy about letting Rachel think she did this by herself."
Jean smiled. "Children deserve a chance to act on that pure faith of theirs sometimes. Besides, by letting her believe just this once, you proved you're a father first—and a teacher second. I'm proud of you for that."
Feeling a warm glow inside me, I pulled Jean close, and leaned my head against hers.
Then I heard her voice again, close to my ear.
"*Now*, about that bet with Logan..."
© 2008 Jordanna Morgan