Title: I Miss You Most

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Marvel/20th Century Fox/Stan the Man are geniuses, and I am but a lowly Textual Poacher.

Notes: In response toa Christmas drabble challenge: 500 words involving a Christmas gift. The first Christmas after X2, Ororo muses on Christmas without her best friend.Rather bittersweet.

I am bad at Christmas shopping.

In my own defense, I didn't really experience Christmas until my mid-twenties; they may know it's Christmas in Africa, but it is nowhere near the massive event it is in New York. Even now, years later, the droves of people and the overwhelming glitz of displays tend to distract me from the actual shopping. I find myself picking up countless useless baubles, wondering vainly what a tie rack is good for or who considers processed sausage a welcome gift.

Jean Grey, on the other hand, was the undisputed mistress of Christmas shopping. It helped that she read people's minds: but even without psi she just knew what the perfect gift for anyone would be -- and where to find it. Christmas shopping was one of our rare 'girls-only' activities, and Jean used the full power of her upper-class-American upbringing to guide my transplanted African cluelessness through the chaos.

I miss her. This is my first Christmas shopping alone, without Jean to keep me on-task, without her to laugh with me over the outrageous ugliness of ties with flashing lights, without her suggestions of where we should shop next or stop for lunch.

I got a haircut a few weeks ago, a bad one that doesn't flatter me; and I had no best friend to take me out to coffee and commiserate with me over it. There is a Jean-sized emptiness at my side that no amount of Christmas shopping will fill.

Christmas Eve: when the adults at the School (and Kurt, whose delight at the season falls into that murky area between childlike and grownup) take a few moments to open our gifts to each other. In tomorrow morning's rampant explosion of paper, ribbons and students, there will not be time.

Scott hands me a lumpy package. It's got all the hallmarks of his wrapping skills on it; but the tag reads (in Scott's handwriting) Ororo from Jean.

A million emotions tear through me -- loss and anger (Scott, if this is a joke it's not funny) and, mostly, confusion. I must look like I feel, because Scott clears his throat and explains.

"She bought it months ago. Before." He looks away quickly, the pain he has kept buried surfacing and then disappearing again.

I nod, without words for the grief we both share: and I open the package gingerly, as if my touch might dissolve this time-capsule final gift from my vanished best friend.

It is a hat. Stylish, classy, the sort of hat Jean would choose, the sort I would try on but never buy for myself -- just as I have done on a thousand Christmas shopping trips that will never return. The sort of hat Jean would buy in response to a disastrous haircut, and give me over a commiserating cup of coffee.

I put it on, tugging it down over the haircut I hate, and find suddenly that I am crying.

Jean was always good at Christmas shopping.