Title: A Christmas Tail
Author: Jordanna Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G. Pure fluff.
Characters: Mainly Nightcrawler and Storm, with others here and there.
Summary: An extra appendage becomes improbably well acquainted with a snow shovel… and therein hangs a tail.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox create the characters that sell. Not me.
Notes: Replete with many subtle private jokes, this fluffy little “tail” is a Christmas gift for my dear friend and favorite X-fic writer, Skybright Daye—which after all is only fitting, because she was responsible for inspiring it in the first place. Merry Christmas!
A Christmas Tail
The nearly-new snow shovel glistened under the fluorescent light, dripping a slushy puddle of melting snow into the sink over which it was carefully balanced. Attached to the shovel was a long blue tail… and attached to that tail, wearing a painfully sheepish expression, was a very uncomfortable Kurt Wagner.
For the Incredible Nightcrawler, it was an ignominious conclusion to the annual Xavier Institute Snowball War.
“…So how exactly did this happen?” Ororo Munroe asked, trying to suppress a grin, as she watched Jean Grey gently sponge the juncture between frozen shovel and tail with warm water. In the background, a dozen of the school’s students made an amused and curious audience—much to Kurt’s chagrin.
The German ducked his head, a rose-purple tinge flushing his blue cheeks. “I think my tail was wet because I was using it to sweep up the snow… to make snowballs faster,” he explained awkwardly, running his cloven fingers over the extra extremity—talking of which always made him feel terribly self-conscious. “And then I ran behind the garden shed. I didn’t see the shovel, and I guess…”
“It just sort of got away from you,” Jean concluded for him, unable to resist a pained smile. “Well, I think we’ve almost got it. Hold still—this might smart just a little.”
Slowly and carefully, Jean began to remove the last slightly adhering portion of tail from the cold shovel blade, using her telekinesis to aid the process on an almost microscopic level. Kurt winced and clenched his teeth, letting out a stifled yelp only when the last bit of tail skin abruptly came loose from its unwelcome attachment. He moved to pull his tail back, but Jean held on to it briefly, giving him a glance of reassurance before she examined it with medical scrutiny.
“Okay, I don’t think there’s any real harm done,” she announced at last, letting go. “But it still feels frozen. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Oh, I… I don’t feel the cold in it much,” Kurt admitted, gingerly rubbing the now-tender section of tail.
“Don’t give the kids ideas,” Jean cautioned him wryly. “And be more careful—you could get frostbite. You should think about covering your tail when you’re out in the cold. Now, you’d better go warm it up by the fire, and get the circulation back.” She smiled at Kurt, then turned the expression upon the peanut gallery of gawking teenagers. “I’ll bring in hot chocolate in a few minutes.”
With exclamations of glee, the students trooped out of the kitchen, and Kurt rather diffidently trailed behind them—the after portion of his tail still delicately clutched in his hands.
Jean grinned at Ororo, turning to the large pot of hot chocolate that was already simmering on the stove. “Well. The school’s seen its share of tongues stuck to the flagpole—but this is the first time I’ve unstuck a tail. Or even seen someone get stuck accidentally.”
“Poor Kurt,” said Ororo; and although her lips twitched, there was a genuine sympathy in her heart.
The next day was Christmas Eve, and it marked yet another annual event in the school’s Christmas holiday and unofficial winter games: the snowman-building competition. It was the culmination of an entire year’s preparation; for within the mansion there was a special closet, filled with the last twelve months’ worth of old and unwanted pieces of clothing and junk. This was the day when the Snowman Supply Closet was raided, contributing its most random and outlandish contents to the adornment of the snowman army on the front lawn.
It appeared that Kurt had not only taken his mishap and Jean’s warning to heart, but had personally availed himself of the closet’s bounty as well. Ororo tried not to stare when he meekly stepped outside with his entire tail—save for its spear-pointed tip—trussed up like a sausage in a threadbare old purple scarf, wrapped lengthwise around the appendage and tied with string.
That was when Ororo began to do some serious thinking.
In short order, the thinking turned to planning… and by that afternoon, the planning turned to action.
“Hi, Kurt!” Kitty Pryde exclaimed, skittering up to her teacher and friend in the front hallway of the mansion. Judging by the ice skates slung over her shoulder, she was on her way out to the makeshift skating rink Bobby had made.
Kurt smiled fondly at her. “Hello, Kitty. Are you going skating?”
“Yeah…” Kitty grinned and shrugged. “It’s been a few years since I had lessons, but it’s nice to keep in practice. I used to have a pretty good double axel. Uh…” She darted a glance past Kurt, as if looking for something. “I wanted to tell you those cinnamon pancakes you made this morning were awesome.”
“Thank you.” Kurt ducked his head. “I thought I would try something festive for the holiday.”
“Oh, yeah, it… it was.” Another questing look. “And—I’m really looking forward to your apple strudel tomorrow night.”
Kurt’s tail twitched pleasedly. “I’m glad.” He paused. “Tell me, Kitty, have you seen Fräulein Munroe? I was looking for her.”
“Oh—I, ah, um, uh…” Kitty’s unexpectedly startled response sounded like the beginning of some bizarre chant. Her glance shot past Kurt again—looking a trifle desperate. “She, uh… she had to go into town for something.”
“On Christmas Eve?” Kurt frowned. “I thought all the shopping was done. Won’t the crowds be terrible now?” He presumed this fact only from secondhand knowledge, as he himself—with an appearance apt to cause astonishment and even fright in public—had never yet ventured into a shopping mall, at the holidays or at any other time. His own humble gifts had been purchased online, with Kitty’s help in navigating the alien technology of the computer.
The girl shrugged awkwardly. “Well, I… I guess they might. Depending on where she’s going, I mean. I—don’t know.”
Kitty was plainly uncomfortable. She tilted her head to look around Kurt’s shoulder again, and his curiosity overcame him. He turned; and that slight lateral movement caused him to nearly bump into Peter Rasputin, who he found towering behind him. The Russian had his sketchpad and pencil case tucked under one arm—but his other hand quickly made a furtive movement toward his pocket.
“Hello, Mister Wagner,” he said smoothly.
Kurt raised an eyebrow. “Ah… hello, Peter.”
“So there you are!” Kitty piped up brightly, as if she had only just noticed Peter—which, given both his awestriking size and the fact that he was standing six inches behind Kurt, was patently impossible. She stepped past their German teacher and slipped an arm around Peter’s waist. “I’ve been waiting for you… He’s going to make some sketches of me skating,” she asided to Kurt in explanation, fully recovering her aplomb.
“I see…” Kurt blinked at the pair, thoroughly feeling as though he had missed something. “Well, then… have fun.”
Peter half-frowned a little worriedly, but Kitty flashed a smile at Kurt and dragged her boyfriend away by the arm. Mystified, Kurt watched them retreat… and when they were halfway down the hall, he saw Peter take something like a wadded strip of ribbon from his pocket and begin to roll it up.
With a sudden flicker of suspicion, Kurt remembered past acts of mischief perpetrated by other students—as well as Jean’s admonishment on the subject the day before—and felt compelled to turn and look at his tail. However, it remained unadorned by any form of prankish bow. Then he felt vaguely guilty to have thought it, for he was sure that Kitty would not have been party to such a thing. (Well, at least not at his expense. At Jubilee’s, on the other hand…)
Shrugging to himself in puzzlement, he turned and made his way down the hall.
As far as Logan was concerned, the occasion of Christmas Eve was no excuse not to prowl the house on his regular night patrol—regardless of the fact that a few younger students were afraid he might scare away Santa Claus.
In fact, the plate of homemade cookies under the Christmas tree was just an added incentive for his nocturnal rambles.
Contentedly munching the last bite of a purloined macaroon, the Wolverine made his languid way along the upstairs landings, listening briefly at the doors of the bedrooms to confirm there was peace within. Around here, one never knew when a secondary mutant power might manifest in some alarming way—or when the more common varieties of teenage trouble would rear an annoyingly secretive head.
This was the way Logan cared.
When he neared the door of Ororo’s room, his keen hearing detected the sound of a soft mechanical whirring from within. He paused to listen in quizzical bemusement. The rhythm of the sound was not unfamiliar, although he could not quite place it. Sometimes it slowed; now and then it stopped altogether for a few moments, allowing an interlude for a few clicks or snips.
Logan thought back to Ororo’s return from her mysterious errand that evening. She was furtive about it, but he had gotten a partial glimpse of the store name on the bag she was hiding under her coat, and wondered what she could have wanted from the place.
Suddenly it all made a certain amount of sense, and Logan cracked a smile.
“Never knew you had it in you, ’Ro,” he murmured under his breath, and silently continued on his patrol.
On Christmas, the students and teachers of Xavier’s School felt more like a true family than on any other day. The morning brought with it all the joy and warmth that was natural to the occasion, as gifts and laughter were exchanged around the tree.
Ororo gasped softly as she opened the box Jean had given her, revealing a plush angora sweater in the richest royal blue she had ever seen. “Oh, it’s beautiful, Jean!”
“I’ve noticed how much you’ve gotten to like the color blue,” Jean answered with a wry smile.
Blushing, Ororo glanced across the room, to the place where Kurt was enthusiastically admiring the gifts the children had received. “Yeah… yeah, I have.”
She was wearing the sweater when she approached Kurt shortly afterward, with a small bundle wrapped in snowflake-patterned blue and white paper. He looked up at her in pleased surprise as she set the package in his lap.
“It isn’t perfect,” she said, somewhat shyly, brushing back a lock of her ivory hair. “But I thought it might be a start.”
With an eager smile, Kurt looked down at the gift. His large fingers had a slight bit of trouble finding an edge to tear the paper open; but after a moment he succeeded, and the wrapping fell away from a curiously-shaped bundle of blue fabric. His eyebrows went up, and he lifted it out of the paper, letting it tumble to its full length.
In shape it was something like a thick section of garden hose, but it was made of sturdy wool. One end was open; the other was tipped with an odd triangular pouch. A zipper ran the length of the object, and when unzipped, a lining of soft white fleece was revealed within the strange fabric tube.
Kurt was puzzled for only a moment; and then the purpose of this extraordinary article of clothing dawned upon him. His yellow eyes grew wide, and he looked up at Ororo in wonderment.
“Oh, how cute!” a beaming Kitty chirped, before either the giver or the receiver could speak. She looked at Kurt with a grin. “I hope it fits. Uh… Peter took the measurements yesterday, while I was sort of… distracting you.”
Abruptly Kurt swallowed a chuckle. “So that’s what you were doing.” He shook his head in humorous amazement, then sobered slightly as he turned back to Ororo. “You… made this? Last night?”
Ororo blushed and nodded. “I hope it holds up alright. It was a little hard to get the hang of the sewing machine.”
Kurt’s lips parted in a dazzling smile, as he regarded her with an expression of perfect delight. Then his gaze dropped excitedly to the gift, and he unzipped it. He gently snugged his barbed tail-tip into the pouch on the end, then wrapped the length of it around his wiry tail and zipped it up. The fit was perfect, and he stared at it with a sort of quiet awe.
His now-ensheathed tail slowly waved back and forth, and he beamed. Then he turned to Ororo, with a childlike joy shining in his eyes. “Thank you!”
Ororo’s blush darkened—but before she could answer, Kurt bounded to his feet, looking around at the students.
Peals of happy laughter broke out at this declaration of war, and the children unanimously stampeded for the front door. Kurt turned to follow; but then he turned back, smiling, and held out his hand to Ororo. “Will you come too?”
Returning the smile, Ororo put her hand in his, and did not let go for a moment after he had helped her to her feet.
“Let me get my coat,” she said eagerly, and ran for the stairs.
© 2007 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback