I suppose, for continuity's sake, this takes place before UXM #318 and well before Gen X #4. Of course, if she's still thirteen as Marvel claims, Gen X #4 would have been her first Christmas with the X-teams, but that's a blatently ridiculous notion, worthy of the Marvel editors, so I'm ignoring it. Asterisks lead to wise-ass notes at the bottom. Everyone should expect those by now.


"I want a hippopatamus for Christmas, only a hippopatamus will do. No elephants or rhinocerouses, all I really want is a hippopatamuses. I want a hippopata---"*

"Will ya knock it off with the singing already?" Wolverine growled as Jubilee launched into her three hundredth repetition of the song since breakfast. As it wasn't even lunch yet, and still two weeks to Christmas, the others in the room cheered him on.

"Listen to the man, chere," Gambit advised. "De life you save could be your own."

Jubilee huffed and threw herself into an arm chair with the boneless grace only teenage girls can ever pull off. "You guys are all just a bunch of Scrooges. Look at this place - it's almost Christmas and we haven't even got, like, a tree up. No lights, no decorations, no snow.... no prezzies...."

"Ah, now we arrive at the heart of the matter," Hank teased from his armchair opposite her, looking over his glasses at the girl. "And what do you expect to find under the tree, Miss Lee?"

"Think coal," Jean advised as she walked past the doorway. "Lots of coal."

Jubilee stuck her tongue out at Jean's back. "Even in SoCal with the parentals, we knew how to do Christmas better than this," she continued to complain. "All anyone in this joint can do for Christmas is slink around bein' all depressed and everything. Ol' Fearless Leader's turned inta the Grim Reaper, you're grumpier than usual," she aimed at Wolverine, "the Prof hasn't come out of his office in days; I'm starting to wonder if he's still alive in there. Like, what is with this place?"

"Seems like dis ain't 'xactly anyone's favorite holiday, chere, least of all Xavier's," Gambit shrugged.

"Well, it's not exactly a picnic for me either," Jubilee pointed out, a shadow flickering across her face, "but at least I'm *trying* to get into the spirit of things."

The three men looked at her with narrowed eyes. She was obviously attempting to guilt trip them, which, of course, made them feel all the more guilty. Jubilee was usually so cheerful it was easy to forget it hadn't been that many holidays since her parents had died.

Wolverine, more susceptible to his sidekick than the other two, and more inclined to accept his fate, gave in first and got up. "All right, kid, let's go inta Salem Center and get a tree."

Jubilee sat up straight, all signs of depression and sulking magically gone. "Really?" she asked in a voice that, if she had not been so grown-up and mature, would have been perilously close to a squeal.

"Yeah, really. Get your coat."

She jumped out of her chair, hugged Wolverine enthusiastically, then ran out the door, almost running over Jean and Scott.

"What's got her so wound up?" Scott asked.

"Logan caved -- dey gonna get de Christmas tree," Gambit informed them.

"That didn't take long," Jean observed with amusement. "She's only been working on us for two days."

Wolverine shrugged, trying to look mean, tough and in control; not easy considering the smile he was trying to hide. No one bought it, but they did attempt not to openly laugh at him.

"So, is anyone else invited?" Scott asked with a straight face. "We need to get a tree for the boathouse."

"Why not?" Wolverine said, "I got a feelin' this is gonna turn into a flamin' parade anyway."

He was right, of course. Before the original twosome managed to get out of the house, almost every resident of the mansion had heard the plans and invited themselves along. After the half-an-hour required to track down coats and mufflers, match gloves and squabble over ownership of earmuffs ("When did I become a den mother?" Jean asked no one in particular at one point, separating Bobby and Jubilee), the group finally got divided into the four cars it took to carry them all and the show got on the road.

"I do not understand why I must come along, or, for that matter, why we are buying a tree in the first place. Don't we have enough trees on the grounds already?"

The response to Bishop's question was an almost unified raspberry from Rogue, Storm and Hank, who had dragged their teammate out of the Danger Room to accompany them. "Sugah, a Christmas tree is real different from the ones growin' outside," Rogue informed him. "This tree comes inside and gets decorated - haven't you ever seen a Christmas tree before?"

"I doubt it."

His deadly serious tone (actually, he didn't have any other kind of tone)** almost managed to put a damper on the spirits in the car, until Rogue rallied.

"Well, you're about to see one, sugah. And choosin' a tree is a real serious business, so be prepared."

"For an attack?'

"No," Storm answered, an expectant smile beginning to spread across her face. "For the bickering."

"It's too short."
"What do you mean it's too short? It's almost ten feet tall!"
"And the ceiling in the entryway is eleven feet, so it's too short."

"I like this one."
"No way, look at this side, it's a mess."
"It is not, it's just got character."
"Character is for people, we're looking for a tree!"

"It's too big."
"Oh, come on, it would great in the living room."
"It wouldn't leave any room for *us* in the living room."
"We'll be in the mansion all day anyway."

"A Fraser fir? Seriously? Where's the red uniform?"***

"That's not a Christmas tree, it's not even a spruce."
"So who says it's gotta be a spruce?'
"Everyone, it's how Christmas trees are done."
"Yeah, right. Not!"

"Too dry."
"Too dry?"
"Yes, this tree was apparently cut too soon. As you can see, the water required to prevent a coniferous tree from losing its needles has not been supplied and will, therefore, cause the rec room carpet to soon accumulate more needles than the tree, which would--"****
"Too dry. Got it."

"Found one!"
"Looks like we found more than one. What are we going to do with four trees?"
"Put one on each car, obviously."

"It would work better if you would tie it down through the window."
"It's too cold to drive with the windows down."
"Hey, cold doesn't bother some of us."
"Fine, you can walk home."

"Kid, I said square, not granny."
"What's the difference?"
"None, if you want it t' fall off halfway down Greymalkin."

"Ouch! Was my head bothering your tree?"

"Damn, catch it!...Jean, people are going to notice a floating pine tree."
"Oh. Right."
< thunk >
"You couldn't have landed it on the roof?"

"That tree is not going to fit through the front door."
"So we use de window, neh? Cher?"
"Second or third story, sugah?"
"Forget it.< snikt > We'll make the door bigger."

It took the combined efforts of all of the guys, Jean and Rogue (with interference designed to be helpful from Jubilee) to wrestle trees into the mansion (one in the front hall, one in the rec room, one outside of the Professor's office) and the boathouse. It took even longer (and a great deal more cursing in various languages -- Gambit's tirade in a mixture of French and English to one stubborn tree trunk drew rounds of applause) to track down and assemble stands for all of them. When they were finally up, everyone collapsed on couches and floors to admire their handiwork.

Well, almost everyone.

"What are you guys just sitting around for?" Jubilee demanded, almost vibrating in place. "We gotta decorate 'em! Do you want to just sit around and stare at naked trees?"

"Actually," Gambit drawled, "be more fun t' stare at..." Rogue's elbow effectively cut off whatever he was about to say. He grinned, rubbing his ribs.

"Come on, you lumps!" Jubilee urged, darting over to the battered boxes of Christmas supplies.

"I'll help you, Jubes," Rogue volunteered, helping the younger girl pull sets of lights out of the boxes. "We'll let *them* sit around while we do the fun stuff."

Scott groaned, putting a hand over his eyes. "They're not going to stop until we put on the decorations, are they?"

"No," at least three people said, echoing the groan. One by one, they pulled themselves to their feet and wandered over to the growing pile of decorations.

"Tell you one thing," Wolverine offered, eyeing the trees, then the pile. "We're gonna need more lights."

"This strand's not working."
"One of the bulbs is probably burnt out."
"I *know* one of the bulbs is burnt out. Which one?"
"I'm a telepath, not a clairvoyant. Check them all."
"Thanks for your help." "No problem."

"You can't put two red ornaments together, you have to have another color in between."
"According to who?"
"It's how Christmas trees are done. Trust me."
"How would you like two red ornaments shoved up your nose?"
"...So much for peace on Earth."

"The lights are working!" < pop > "Damn."
"Spare bulbs are available over here, m'boy."

"Look at this, you've got everything in one place, spread 'em out."
"Ah like them all together like that."
"It looks awful!"
"You want to fight about it, *sugah*?" "...On second thought, it looks good."

"You're stepping on the lights!"
"I am not stepping... " < pop > "Damn."
"Told you so."

"Try putting some up higher."
"Easy for you to say, you can fly."
"Then hand them up to me, and I will put them on."

"Now only the green ones are lit!"

"The popcorn goes on the string, not in your mouth."

"Extension cord?"
"Used 'em all."
"We goin' t' blow a fuse, at dis rate."

"You're supposed to be decorating the trees, not each other."
"But the tinsel looks so lovely on his fur!"

"Are these lights supposed to be blinking?"
"Yes. I think."

"Don't move that, I'm using it to cover up that bare spot."
"I need it to cover up this spot."
"Put it back or I'll use *you* to cover up the bare spot."
"Yes, dear."

"Don't just lay the lights over the branches, you have to kinda wrap them around."
"You want to do this?"
"Um, no?"
"Right. Shaddup."

"Remy, don't throw it at the tree, you have put it on strand by strand."
"T'rowin' it's more fun, 'tite."
"Gambit, why don't you start a fire in the fireplace and leave the tinsel to us?"
"Sure, Stormy." < charge, drop, bang >

"Can't you make them blink together?"
There's three strands on here; no, I *can't* make them blink together."
"Have you tried?"
"That's it, next year the women do the lights."
"Assumin' any of 'em survive until next year."
"Love you too, Wolvie."

"You've got too much tinsel on, popcorn-brain!"
"Look who's talking, bulb-head!"

"All lights are working!"
"Good. When are we going to do the outside ones?"
"...He's right, you're not going to survive."

"Hey! We forgot the star!"
"No, we didn't. Upsi-daisy, kid."

Xavier sat in the doorway to the rec room, quietly eavesdropping. After being attacked by a brightly-lit pine tree directly outside his office door (which he assumed would soon be inside his office), he had tracked the laughter and good-natured (and not-so-good-natured) squabbling to its source.

The entire house seeemed transformed. Garlands decked every inch of banister and mantles, wreaths hung on every door and mistletoe above every doorway -- Xavier detected Remy and Logan's hands in that. Fires, most of them set slightly more decorously than the first, burned cheerfully, and Jean had found time to put cider on to heat. Cinnamon filled the rooms, mingling with pine and smoke, and Christmas lights gleamed against the darkening skies outside the windows.

The trees themselves were cheerfully, wildly chaotic -- it was possible to identify the decorator by the choice of color and organization. Half of the rec room tree was almost certainly Jubilee's work, as it held what seemed to be a hundred red and gold bulbs and several pounds of tinsel. The geometrically planned arrangement next to it had Hank written all over it, while the ornaments scattered gracefully over the top of the tree were certainly Storm's handiwork. And that was just one tree.

They were finishing that tree now -- Wolverine was holding Jubilee high in the air, while she carefully leaned forward to place the star on the top of the tree. She fussed with it, turning it back and forth until Wolverine finally growled, "It's done!"

She dropped her hands and slid to the ground, before throwing her arms around Wolverine's neck. "Isn't it great, Wolvie?" she announced boastfully.

The X-Men gathered around seemed to agree, judging from the pride glowing from their faces. He had rarely seen them so happy, with no clouds over their heads. Betsy leaned against Warren, violet hair against blue skin; Scott and Jean stood with their arms around each other. Hank and Bobby kibitzed Jubilee's work while Bishop studied the result like an art critic; Remy offered Rogue a melted marshmallow while Storm stood like a chaperone over the two, smiling benevolently.

"They are beautiful," he finally pronounced, unsure whether he was talking about the decorations or the people.

They swung around to see him standing in the door. "Oh, shoot," Rogue said, "It was supposed to be a surprise. Ah told you two you were arguin' too loud," she told Jubilee and Bobby.

"It wasn't our fault, you were the one yellin' at the Cajun loud enough t' wake the dead!" Jubilee said defensively.

"I assure you both, it is indeed a surprise," Xavier inserted before another fight could break out. "A very much appreciated surprise."

"Better be appreciated after what we went through with those lights," Wolverine muttered. Jubilee kicked him; he didn't appear to notice.

"It's pretty neat, huh, Prof?" Jubilee asked somewhat hesitantly.

Looking at her glowing eyes, Xavier felt ashamed for a moment. He had hidden away, trying to avoid the many emotions brought by Christmas - thoughts of his son, of his family, of the many lives lost to him. He had abandoned his students, including the 13-year-old child, to their own pain and left them to pull themselves into the holiday spirit.

And he was deeply proud that they had.

"Yes, Jubilee, I would say it is extremely neat," he said finally. The girl grinned and then, amazingly, hugged him.

He returned the embrace after a moment's hesitation, while the others watched indulgently. Then Jubilee straightened and looked around. "Okay, guys, bring on the prezzies!"

Only Xavier saw her with Wolverine a moment later, accepting an offered kleenex to dry her eyes, then laughing as Bishop's voice rose above the chatter: "What is the purpose of 'mistletoe'?"

Three women instantly volunteered to demonstrate over vehement male protests. Xavier shook his head and rolled over to referee. Another crisis averted. Time now to celebrate with his family.



*This is an actual, incredibly catchy, song on the radio -- I don't have to make this stuff up.

** Has anyone else noticed it's remarkably easy to write Bishop - just give him anything Worf would say on ST:TNG and you've got it.

***Sorry, random Due South joke

****Come to think of it, Hank tends to sound a lot like Fraser when they get off on one of their random lectures. And they both wind up sounding like Data.

I whipped this off after an evening spent decorating trees with my family -- it cost me almost no time and no effort. Naturally, I get three times as many comments on this short piece than the long ones I slaved over for months. :P There is no justice!

Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah/Glorious Solstice/etc......