Deck the Malls

by Mercutio

SUMMARY: Humor, some sappy bits. As Wolverine takes Jubilee shopping on Christmas Eve, the X-Men learn a little about the real meaning of Christmas. Whatever that is. Written for Jaya Mitai's Christmas challenge.

ARCHIVE: Please. As often as possible, and wherever you like.

NOTES: Alara made the unfortunate remark to me that one can never have too much Magneto, so if you're wondering why his name keeps popping up in this story, wonder no longer. ;)

All of my stories are available through my website at:

[Salem Center Mall]

"On the second day of Christmas, the X-Men gave to me -- two Ninja thugs and Magneto in a pear tree."

Wolverine scowled at the adolescent bouncing and humming along beside him. He was trying to look stern.

And failing, judging by the unrelentless stride of the fifteen-year-old as they took a second lap through the first floor of the shopping mall. Wolverine was getting tired -- not of the walking -- but of being run down by the crowds of last minute holiday shoppers who had, for some unknown reason, put their shopping off until six p.m. on December 24th.

"Watch where you're going, bub," he growled at a tall man bearing an advertisement for the season's hottest toy, two bags of shopping loot and a fixed expression.

Jubilee looked back at Wolverine -- apparently, he wasn't keeping up to her satisfaction -- and smiled sympathetically at him. Or at least, it seemed sympathetic until she said, "Ya know, you'd think it'd be easier for you to get through the mall when you're shorter than everybody else. It's easier for *me*."

His face hardened into a snarl. As he contemplated unsheathing his claws to see if that would clear him some room, she stopped, waited for him to catch up, and then said, "Poor Wolvie."

He couldn't stand it when she smiled like that. His heart melted, and he knew he'd just committed himself to at least another hour at this blasted mall. "It's all right, darlin'."


[The Mansion]

"It's Magneto, isn't it?"

"Excuse me?"

"That's why Bishop just left the house with his second biggest gun. He thinks Magneto's out there."

"He is?" Jean dropped the holly which had been intended to decorate the mantelpiece in the drawing room for the X-Men's Christmas Eve celebration. Quickly she scanned the surrounding area with her telepathic powers.

"No--" Drake said, shaking his head, "that was a joke. You see--"

She finished her scan, reporting the results. "Christmas carollers! That's what's out there." She frowned at Bobby. "*Not* Magneto."

The Iceman grinned. "Cool. Haven't had carollers out here in a while. You suppose we could drop hot oil on them like they did in the Addams Family movie?"

Jean stared at him as though he'd suddenly melted into a little puddle on the rug. "Bishop. Has anyone told Bishop about the carollers?"

"Huh? I didn't know that there were any carollers until you said so." Bobby was now genuinely confused. Jean seemed to be in a panic over something, which was unusual for Jean. "How could I tell him about something I didn't know was going to happen? I'm not a precog."

"No. I mean, has anyone told Bishop what Christmas carollers *are*?"

Bobby shrugged. "They're people who come around at Christmas time and sing carols. So what? Big deal."

"Somehow I don't think Bishop has had much acquaintance with Christmas in his future."

Mental pictures started occurring to the Iceman then. Carollers with gunshot wounds through the head. No, Bishop wouldn't shoot unarmed people. Probably not. Bobby revised the picture. Frightened people running away from the mansion. The inevitable visit from the police. The lecture from the Professor. The lecture-after-the-lecture from Scott. All of the X-Men disturbed and unwilling to have fun. Lack of fun causing tense and unhappy women to slap him even harder than usual when he caught them under the mistletoe. "Oh, geez. I wish it *was* Magneto."

"We'd better do something."


[Salem Center Mall]

Jubilee took the presents from Wolverine and set them inside the enclosed area along with the heap of other presents already gathering there under the decorated tree. The star-shaped tags, handwritten with the first name of the recipient and their request for this Christmas, had already been affixed to the precious packages.

Every year they'd been together, she and Logan had done something for others on Christmas. In New York, it was playing Santa for disadvantaged children and handicapped adults, each spending part of their own money and time to meet the requests of others.

Suddenly Jubilee whirled and threw herself into Logan's arms. He caught her easily even as Jubilee shut her eyes against tears. "Oh, Wolvie. I'm glad we're doing this, but I can't bear thinking about the kids we're doing this for. I coulda been one of them so easy, an' never found anyone to be my family, an' still been a homeless brat, and not have anybody there for me this Christmas, an' when we do this I can't help but think that maybe I've got it too easy an' I don't deserve any of this and it's all going to get taken away from me."

"I think that just makes it more important, darlin'," he said, holding her tightly to him. "Makes us remember what we have to be grateful for. We gotta give some back to other people."

"To make us feel like maybe we deserve what we've got." She nodded against his chest, then looked up at him. "Yeah. I know you're right, but like, it's hard for my heart to believe you, know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean."

She wiped away the remains of her tears, waited for him to pick up the few parcels that they had left over, and then they walked away from the corner of the mall reserved for fulfilling the gift requests of other people, most of whom were children.


[The Mansion]

Bobby grumbled as he tramped through the snow. "'Go out in the snow, Bobby. Cold doesn't bother you, Bobby.' It's not fair. Get known for having an ice form, and you're stuck with every dirty job that needs doing out in the snow. 'Shovel the driveway, Bobby. Sweep the extra snow off the roof, Bobby, before there's an accident. Tell the psychopath with the guns that the people sneaking up on the house are friendly, Bobby.' Worst part is, winter in New England lasts forever. Should move to California. Let some other sucker get stuck doing the leg work. 'Course, then everybody'd treat me like cheap air conditioning. 'More ice for my drink, Bobby. Send some of the cold over this way, Bobby. Ice the swimming pool, Bobby.' Definitely not fair. I better be getting a kiss from Jean out of this."

He jammed the top hat further onto his head. "And *this* is the final indignity. I mean, how *could* she?"

His signature mode of transportation -- ice slides -- had been vetoed as too mutant-like to be used in the presence of innocent bystanders, i.e., the Christmas carollers. Jean had overruled Bobby on that issue -- his point of view had been, with Bishop running around with guns, how weird would an ice slide be? -- although he still wasn't quite sure how she'd argued him down. But he'd refused to go out in the cold and snow if he couldn't at least *use* his ice form. So Jean had suggested a compromise.

"Stupid scarf. Stupid pipe. 'I suppose you can use your ice form. But if anyone sees you, freeze and pretend to be a snowman. You can do a snowman shape, can't you?'" Bobby shook his head. "I can't believe I agreed to this." A smile lightened his face. "Of course, if *I*'d done this to someone else, then it'd be classic. All I'd need were photos for potential blackmail purposes. Full-color copies for everyone." A furrow worried his brow. "Jean isn't *that* sneaky, is she?" He took a pause for contemplation, then shook his head. "Nah."

A bustle of noise alerted him to the approaching carollers walking up the drive. It was a large group, twenty or so, all on foot, and carrying flashlights. They seemed to be in good spirits, chatting happily and loudly between themselves. They had a good three hundred yards to go before they reached the front door of the house.

"If Bishop hasn't noticed them, then Magneto *was* here, and Bish is dead," Bobby muttered, looking about to see if he could spot his fellow X-Man.

The carollers were coming closer to him, and reluctantly, Bobby used his powers to bulk his shape out to snowman-size, disguising himself.

They'd started singing -- "The First Noel" -- in enthusiastic if not perfect voices. "Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel. Born is the King of Israel."

Bobby watched them pass -- none gave more than a cursory look at the snowman, except one man towards the back, who winked at Bobby.


The pipe dropped from Bobby's mouth as he recognized Bishop, singing in a deep bass voice and apparently enjoying himself. *No one's never going to believe this.*


[Salem Center Mall]

"Oh, look, Wolvie! Isn't it cute?" Jubilee said, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the department store.

"Isn't what cute?"

"This doll!" She darted over to a display, grabbed the last item there, and held it protectively to her chest. Jubilee was hugging the doll too closely for Wolverine to make out anything more than that it was generally colored red. "This is *THE* toy of the year, y'know. I can't believe they've still got any left."

"Any what?"

She unclasped her arms long enough to flash him a glimpse of a vaguely humanoid figure clothed in red and purple felt. "It's a Mag-by!"

"What's a Mag-by?"

Several patrons gravitated in their direction. "A Mag-by? You've got a Mag-by? That's gotta be the last one in the store."

"The last one in the entire *mall*," a haggard looking man said.

"You've got to let me have it! My son is just begging for one this Christmas!"

"My daughter, too. Listen, girl, I'll give you $10 if you let me buy that instead of you."



Wolverine watched in bemusement. When the store patrons gathered too closely for his liking, he reached out a arm and gathered Jubilee beneath it, ensuring that she would not be swept away in the frenzy. A snarl and a look was doing nothing to disperse them. "What's a Mag-by?" he asked, pulling her away from the other customers.

Jubilee ignored the frantic shoppers crowding around her. "I've got to get this. Cyke's going to have a fit!"

"Cyke wants a Mag-by?"

"No, silly." Holding the toy protectively so that it could not be snatched away from her, she pressed on its hand. A tinny voice said, "Mutants unite!"

Wolverine looked suspiciously down at it. "Tell me that isn't what I think it is, darlin'."

"It's Magneto! Isn't it cool!"

Logan pictured Cyclops' probable reaction to a toy replicate of Magneto and grinned a little. "Sure, kid. Whatever you say. Now let's get back home before we miss the party."

She smiled at him. "Home. That's a nice word, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is."


[The Mansion]

Remy surveyed his handiwork again. Mistletoe now hung from nearly every doorway in the house. Sprigs of it were artistically dangled from the ceiling in various places, and he'd even gone so far as to adorn the Christmas tree with little bunches of mistletoe suitable for grabbing at a moment's notice and holding over someone's head.

All in all, it was a beautiful piece of work.

His kinesthetic sense felt someone approaching behind him, and Remy turned around, smiling broadly. He was under the mistletoe right now, and was quite willing to buss whichever woman it was who had happened to arrive at the party first.

"Hey, bub," growled a very familiar voice. "Didja know you're standing under the mistletoe?" He stared challengingly up at Gambit.

"Logan!" Remy squeaked, and fled for the safe recesses of the kitchen.

Jubilee entered the room, right behind Wolverine, just in time to see Gambit's retreating form. "What's up with Gumbo?"

"Dunno," Wolverine said, grinning. "Could be anythin'. Think the Cajun's high-strung."

"Yeah, sure. Right." She looked up. "Hey, mistletoe!" She placed a kiss on Wolverine's cheek and laughed. "Gotcha!"

"Better go wrap the stuff you bought if you want to get it all under the tree before the party."

She nodded and took her parcels from him. "Thanks for going shopping with me, Wolvie."

"Anytime, darlin'." He watched her leave, then turned toward the kitchen.

Before he could make his way to wherever Gambit was hiding, Jean entered the room with a tray of mugs and a steaming pot of apple cider.

"Lemme help you with that, Jeannie," Logan said, stepping up to her, and taking the tray from her.

"Thank you," she said, giving it to him. "I was beginning to wonder if I should have bothered carrying it at all -- Remy nearly knocked me over in the hall just now, and I almost had to use telekinesis to keep the pot from sliding off the tray."

"Know what's bothering him?" Wolverine asked casually as he set the tray down.

She shook her head. "He was in too much of a hurry for me to ask him, and I didn't want to intrude. I'm sure it can't be anything major -- he's been in a very good mood all day. Everyone is, for once." She smiled wryly. "It's almost anathema to have a happy, joyous Christmas -- I mean, everyone *wants* to, but the stress of the season and the forced closeness usually result in something other than peace and happiness for all -- but I've been keeping my fingers crossed this year."

"I hope you get your wish." He looked up. Remy had done a thorough job with the decorations. "Mistletoe," he said, and, giving her a moment to back away, stepped into her, fastening his mouth on hers and kissing her thoroughly.

"Unhand my wife," a jolly voice said from behind Jean.

Wolverine looked up to meet the eyes of the husband of the woman he'd just kissed. "Jealous?"

"Yes." Cyclops did not look jealous. He was, in fact, smiling from ear-to-ear. "I wanted to do that first."

Jean laughed and held out her arms to him. They kissed as Wolverine looked away from them.

"Feelin' left out, sugah?" Rogue asked sympathetically, coming to stand by him. He didn't answer. "Ah always feel left out this time of year. Ah think Loki had the right idea about how to use mistletoe."

"To kill someone?" Jean asked curiously, coming up for air and re-entering the conversation. "Why would you want to do that?"

Rogue smiled sadly. "'Cause I can't kiss anybody. Not without stealin' their memories. And around here, there always seems to be a lot of kissin' this time of year."

"It's all the beautiful women," Bobby said as he joined the gathered company. The top hat sat rakishly on his head. "So, I'm here now -- let the party begin!" He grabbed a mug and filled it with cider. "What happened to the cookies, Jean? I could swear that was your hand batting me across the wrist when I went for that Santa Claus cookie earlier."

She laughed. "Coming right up. As soon as you go fetch them from the kitchen."

"Aw, man," he complained. "'Bobby, do this, Bobby do that.' I am *so* downtrodden." Good-naturedly, he set down his mug and headed off to the kitchen.

Logan eyed Rogue. "Y'know, with my healing factor, I don't think that a quick kiss is gonna do more than make my head spin."

Rogue looked at him. "What are you talkin' about?"

"This." He took her hand, spinning her into a close embrace, and pecked her on the lips, molding them against his for a brief second before letting her go.

"Logan!" came identical gasps from the other three occupants of the room.

Wolverine only watched Rogue carefully. "You all right, darlin'?"

She nodded, looking dazed. "Ah only got about the last five minutes of your memories. That wasn't that bad."

He grinned at her. "Well, then, merry Christmas, darlin'."

"But, ya know, Ah never really wanted to know what it was like to kiss Jean." There was a collective hush in the room, then Rogue smiled broadly. "Just kiddin'. That was just fine, Wolvie. Thank you."

"Yer welcome."

Several hours later, a considerably more mellow group sat in the crowded room, nursing drinks and chatting companionably among themselves. Wolverine lounged on the couch, Jubilee sitting on the floor and resting against his legs, while Warren and Betsy shared an armchair. Hank was adjusting the lights on the Christmas tree to a more pleasing geometrical pattern, while Scott tickled Jean and Rogue pointedly ignored Gambit, who seemed unaffected by this display of less than holiday cheer. The Professor held court in his hoverchair, and most of the cookies were gone.

The lights had been turned down in the room so that the Christmas tree could be more easily seen, and more than one person was staring at the hypnotically blinking lights.

"Didja hear somethin'?" Wolverine asked suddenly, stilling to listen.

The only one with hearing keen enough to compete, Beast, cocked his head as well. "No... yes-- I do hear something emanating from the rooftop, but--" Hank looked quizzically at Wolverine. "It sounds like--"

"I know. But it can't be."

"What? What?" Jubilee asked, kneeling up and pulling on Wolverine's arm. "C'mon, spill it. What's going on?"

Logan stared bemused at Hank. "Do you hear what I hear?"

"I think I do. But he's a myth."

They stood up together, and made for the door. The assembled company stared after them.

"Do we want to know?" Scott asked his wife.

"I don't know if we *should* know. This looks suspicious," Jean said. She scanned the mansion and shook her head. "I don't sense anything out of the ordinary. It *could* be an intruder, I suppose -- but I'd know if it was -- and Logan and Hank were behaving as though Santa Claus had landed on the roof or something equally ridiculous. You don't suppose they did that just to get out of watching 'It's A Wonderful Life'?"

Her husband bit his lip, trying not to laugh.

Jubilee, however, was not so easily put off. "*I* want to know what's going on!" she said, jumping up to follow her beloved Wolvie.

Gambit caught her as she passed by his chair, restraining her. "Jus' in case dere's trouble, p'tite, mebbe you should let dem handle it."

She scowled up at him. "I can handle trouble. And I don't want to watch 'It's A Wonderful Life' either. Too retro."

He cocked his head, a mischievous light in his eyes. "Remy meant, trouble like mental trouble."

"Oh." Unable to move without fighting him, Jubilee instead stared at the lights on the Christmas tree for a moment. "I didn't think they'd had *that* much to drink."

Remy regarded her seriously. "Mebbe Scott spiked de egg nog."

"Nah. He'd be having more fun if he'd done that."

"How can you tell?" Gambit asked dryly.

Jubilee whooped with laughter. "I don't know. How would you tell? 'Fun' and 'Cyke'. Two words that don't go together."

"I resent that," Scott said mildly. "I believe I had some fun once, back in 1996, I think."

That set the rest of the room off, Jean laughing the loudest and the hardest. Scott didn't laugh, but merely stared at everyone with a slightly quizzical leader-like expression that sent anyone who looked at him into repeated gales of laughter.

The door opened into that hilarity, and Jubilee looked up, still grinning, expecting to see Wolverine. Instead, a figure in red entered.

The new arrival was dressed all in red from his head to his toe, and wore a red hat. He carried a large red sack, and his hair, what could be seen of it, was as white as the snow.

Wolverine and Beast trailed in after him, looking respectively sheepish and astounded, red and white Santa hats firmly on their heads.

Xavier broke the sudden silence first. "Magneto!"

"No, silly!" Jubilee interrupted. "It's Santa Claus!"

"Uh, chere," Gambit pointed out, "dere's no such t'ing as Santa Claus."

"Sure there is!" She squirmed away from him and bounced over to the figure in red. "You wouldn't happen to have prezzies in that bag, would you?"

The apparition winked, nodded to her, and opened his bag. He gave Jubilee two small boxes, and a larger one. She squealed and grabbed them both, taking her loot to the couch, where she spread it out preparatory to tearing into it.

"Not until Christmas, Jubilation," 'Santa' said.

"Awww," she pouted, but left the gifts alone.

Swiftly, presents were passed out to the rest of the X-Men. Only Rogue was excluded. When the man in red got to her, he closed his bag, looked up at the ceiling and said, "Mistletoe", then swept her into an embrace. He kissed her thoroughly, then set her back down on her feet. "I think that's what *you* wanted for Christmas," he said, for her ears alone, then pulled away.

To the assembled company, he called out, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

The windows sprang open by themselves, and the intruder was out it in a flash, disappearing quickly from view in an upward direction.

The team ran to the window, looking out. There was a collective gasp of disbelief as they scanned the night sky and saw *something* silhouetted against the full moon.

Warren stepped back first. "I think I need my eyes checked. I thought... I think I just saw..."

"Eight tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh?" Jean asked quietly. Scott looked grim.

They all exchanged glances, looking at the window, the presents, and each other. "It didn't happen," Scott said decisively.

"No," Warren agreed.

"Dere is no Santa Claus," Remy chimed in.

Jubilee frowned. "Does this mean we have to give the presents back?"

"No, kid," Wolverine said, grabbing a bottle and pushing the presents aside so that he could sit on the couch. "This means that we're going to get very drunk and forget that this ever happened."

Jubilee brightened. "Cool."

"Not *you*."

She glared at the rest of the room, as the group broke into small clumps, everyone heading for the table of refreshments. "Well, even if you all forget -- if *I* remember, then it still happened."

Wolverine grinned from underneath the Santa hat. "Yer a little too old to still be believin' in Santa Claus, aren't you?"

"It happened! It did, it did!"

"Whatever you say, Jubilee."

She looked around at the rest of the X-Men who were now knocking back serious quantities of the egg nog, and sighed. She knew what she'd seen. She just knew that had been the real thing. Christmas was real and it had just visited them, even if none of the supposed grown-ups wanted to admit to it. How could they deny what had just happened?

A tinny voice spoke from across the room, "Preserve the mutant homeland!"

She swiveled her head, and saw Cyclops holding the toy gingerly, as if looking for some place to dispose of this hazardous material. "What *is* this?"

"It's a Mag-by," Wolverine answered, not looking over. "Merry Christmas."

Jubilee giggled, snuggled down into the couch, feet tucked under Wolverine's leg, and watched the lights on the tree until her eyelids grew heavy. This was what Christmas was about. Having fun with your family. And seeing Santa Claus.

Because, she thought sleepily, in a universe where your son could be older than you, and miracles could occur on a daily basis, and it was possible to call up the elements themselves as if they were toys to be played with, why was Santa Claus so unbelievable anyway?

-the end-