Author's Note

I was going to post this on Christmas, I really was, but somebody decided to cut the power in our house for a few days. I'm not going to complain, though; my Christmas was great nonetheless, even if it was really hot due to the lack of air conditioning.

Anyway, I enjoyed writing this, even though the last part was rather severely out of my comfort zone. I don't think I'm meant to write lovey-dovey scenes like that. Speaking of which, I felt Kitty's response there was familiar; I hope I didn't subconsciously steal it from somewhere.

Toad is an interesting character to write, too... It's hard to convey his speech in writing; his voice actor in the show does a very good job of giving Toad a characteristic sound. There's not really a way to accurately write those sounds, but perhaps you can imagine them.

Anyway, I'm not going to go into a long speech, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it - and your holidays. (Since it's too late to say Merry Christmas.)

Before I forget, thank you 8fangirl8 for the anonymous review. Made me very happy.

Disclaimer: X-Men and characters belong to Marvel.

PS: I'm aware Kitty's Jewish, but... she was getting presents in the episode 'On Angel's Wings', so that's what I'm basing this off of.

A Last-Minute Christmas

Yes, it was horrible of him. Yes, he should have been ashamed. Yes, he should have looked for a Christmas present long before the twenty-fourth. To his credit, though, he had bought a scarf for her, but yesterday he learned from Evan that she was irritated by the particular material. Of course, he blamed himself for not realizing that. No, he probably didn't deserve a friend like Kitty if this was how he was going to treat her. Thinking like that, though, wasn't going to get him anywhere. The fact was, he'd made a mistake, and now he had to do some last minute shopping.

The other fact was that many of the stores were sold out, some of them even closed, and quite a few weren't Christmas-related at all. Kurt, clad in his holographic coat and hat, not to mention his human image, discovered this as he desperately explored the mall, his hopes taking a dive every time he passed another 'sold out' sign.

Thankfully, the mall was mostly empty, so he didn't have to worry so much about hiding his identity, but this was also a grim reminder that everyone had already finished their shopping - and that the stores were all out of stock.

'No, there's got to be something!' he screamed to himself, and ran up the final escalator. And if there wasn't... he was in trouble. He couldn't exactly go to another mall; no one would take him there. He had to walk here, as it was.

Little did Kurt know that there was another mutant in the mall thinking exactly the same thing.

Kurt wandered through the final floor, the food court, with little hope, as there was unlikely to be any worthwhile store in the food section. Sure enough, very soon he found himself at the downward escalator, and he sighed. "Verdammt, zere's nozing," he moaned, holding his face in his hands.

But just as he was about to give up, he noticed that beside the stairs, there was a seclusive corner behind which he hadn't looked. Trembling with anticipation, he made his way towards it and peeked around the corner.

There, where people would normally assume the restrooms to be, was an inconspicuous little store, its lighted sign marred by several broken lightbulbs but still clearly showing a diamond and the word 'jewelry'. There were still items on display, and none of those items was a sign reading 'sold out'. And that was all he needed.

"Yes!" Kurt exclaimed, leaping for joy. Almost forgetting civility and scampering to the door, he manage to pace himself and reach the store in a controlled, albeit speedy, walk.

He entered the store and triggered a chiming tone from a motion detector nearby. Immediately, a salesclerk was in his face.

"Good day, young man!" said the clerk, an old man, probably in his late sixties, with receding grey hair. The smile on his face was so sincere that Kurt had to feel some sympathy and relaxed. "May I help you?"

Nevertheless, Kurt stepped back instinctively, wary of anyone getting too close. "Hello, sir," he replied cordially, nodding his head in greeting. "I vas searching for a Christmas present for mein friend. I know it's a little late, but..."

"Nonsense, it's never too late!" the man interrupted, waving him away with his hand. "Now, this friend... This would be a lady friend, yes?"

"Ja," Kurt answered, feeling his face grow warm.

Even though it was impossible, the man seemed to notice and chuckled. "Wonderful. For something special, have a look at these items over here," he said, leading Kurt to one of the many glass shelves in the store.

Kurt looked over the sparkling, golden necklaces and brilliant, colorful gems. As he did so, he vaguely perceived the bell chiming as another person entered the store and the salesclerk going to talk to him, but the blue mutant was too engrossed in his search to pay it much thought. His eyes fell upon a beautiful silver necklace, and he was thinking what a wonderful gift it would be when he saw the price tag. Then he saw all the price tags.

His ears drooped and he deflated like a punctured car tire. "Agh, nein!" he hissed to himself, hitting his forehead with his palm. "Vhat vas I zinking? Zat's a digit too expensive!"

The old man was back at his side. "Is something the matter?"

Kurt averted his eyes shyly. "Vell, I... I'm sorry, sir, but I can't afford zis... I've only got a hundred..."

Not put off in the least, the salesclerk smiled again. "You are in luck, then. There is one remaining item that you can afford, and it's one of my personal favorites."

The man led him to another wall, except this one was completely bare save for one glass case. In it, draped over a velvety, white cushion, was an elegant gold chain with a simple ruby pendant. Although it wasn't as glamorous as the others, it did look like something Kitty would like.

However, it was then that Kurt noticed the smell. The putrid smell that always made him cringe and could only belong to either a mountain of sweaty shoes or one particular person.

"Toad," Kurt grumbled, turning to the other mutant, who was some distance next to him, staring at the same glass case. Sure enough, it was Toad - long filthy hair, yellow eyes and teeth, and that disgusting smell which was not lessened at all by the thick and raggedy coat he was wearing.

Toad pretended to ignore him and jumped up to the salesclerk. "Yo, how much for this here charm?"

Kurt blinked in surprise at that, but his surprise was soon replaced by irritation, and he glared daggers into the back of Toad's unsuspecting head. Before Toad could take things any further, Kurt stomped over to them and pulled Toad backwards by the collar of his coat. He turned to the salesclerk with a plastic smile. "Sorry to interrupt, excuse us for just a second."

The salesclerk could only stare blankly as Kurt dragged the struggling Toad to the corner outside the store, out of view.

"Get yer paws off me," Toad yelped, finally managing to release Kurt's hold on his coat.

"Vhat are you doing here?!" Kurt snapped, feeling his tail starting to lash back and forth.

"Same thing you're doin'," Toad replied casually, digging into his ear with a finger. "Gettin' a present. For Wanda."

Kurt's eyes softened slightly, but his fists remained clenched. "You? Buying a present?" he scoffed. "You can't afford anyzing in zat store."

"I can!" said Toad with indignation, gesturing to himself with his thumb. "That little necklace he was talkin' about."

'Great,' Kurt groaned to himself, realizing the obvious conflict, 'we both want the same thing.' He sighed and rubbed his eyes with exasperation. "Look, Toad, you're going to have to find anozer store."

"What? No way, blue-boy! You find another store!"

"I vas here first," Kurt asserted, a low growl in his voice - though with his holowatch on, it probably didn't sound very menacing.

It was Toad's turn to scoff. "So? All's fair in love and war, yo."

With that, Toad turned to return to the store. Thinking quickly, Kurt glanced down to the stairs - if he squinted, he could see more than one floor below. It was risky, but... After making sure they were indeed out of sight, he grabbed Toad's sleeve and they were gone in a cloud of smoke.

They reappeared two floors down, behind the escalator. Fortunately, no one seemed to be near that area.

"Sorry, Toad," Kurt said, releasing the other mutant. Before Toad could say anything, Kurt was gone again in another BAMF.

The blue mutant reappeared back where he and Toad had argued and, without wasting any time, headed straight to the store.

"Hello again," Kurt said quickly to the salesclerk, whose eyes were still wide at the strangeness of the situation. "Ve, er, came to an agreement. Could I buy zat necklace, please?"

Kurt pointed to the golden necklace, the only affordable item in the store, and the man followed with his gaze. "Certainly," he replied, a little shakily, and open the glass case with a key and took out the necklace.

As the salesclerk packaged the item, Kurt fidgeted nervously, watching the outside of the store for signs of Toad. He wasn't going to give up that easily.

"Here it is," said the salesclerk, holding a small, white shopping bag. "That'll be a hundred dollars, please."

Kurt found the exact bill - the only bill, as fate would have it - in his pocket and handed it over.

The salesclerk accepted with a smile. "Thank you, and goodbye. Have a Merry Christmas."

"Zank you, sir; you too," Kurt replied, and with that, he grabbed the bag and, somewhat hastily, left the store.

The blue mutant briskly made his way down the escalators to the first floor, keeping an eye out for Toad, finding his absence to be somewhat suspicious. But by the time he arrived at the first floor, he allowed himself to relax a bit. Surely Toad would have tried something by now if he'd wanted to.

Now there was the walk home. Kurt shivered as he approached the mall doors. Even with fur like his, it was still pretty chilly outside, and it didn't help that he wasn't actually wearing a coat - beneath his hologram, he wore, as always, only his X-Man uniform. It was an old habit that he really should have been working to get rid of. It wasn't that he was entirely cold; it was only his feet. The uniform didn't provide much foot-warmth for trudging through the snow, but then again, it was difficult to find winter shoes with his kind of foot.

However, Kurt was snapped out of these thoughts when he was suddenly shoved through a pair of doors and into what looked like a janitor's closet. He found himself pinned against the wall and staring into the face of Toad.

"So you wanna use powers in public, huh?" Toad said, a foreboding look in his eyes. "Alright, that's cool."

Kurt recovered from the shock and struggled against Toad's grip. "Toad, vhat are you–"

Unfortunately, he could say no more as Toad spat a glob of slime into his face. Gagging at the revolting taste and smell of it, Kurt frantically clawed it off his face. Then he spent a good minute coughing and sputtering, trying to get the taste off his tongue. By the time he was done, he felt sick to his stomach, Toad was nowhere to be seen, and the shopping bag was gone.

Kurt bristled with anger as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve for the hundredth time. 'Toad's going to get it,' he growled to himself as he stormed out of the room.

It was half an hour later that Nightcrawler, his image inducer turned off, finally arrived at the Brotherhood house. His feet were cold and wet, his facial and tail fur was matted with snow, and he still avoided breathing through his nose, but none of those things were going to stop him. This was the only chance he had to not disappoint Kitty, and he wasn't going to let Toad take that away.

He wasn't simply going to charge in, though; the Brotherhood would probably throw him out. No, this was a stealth mission. Kurt 'ported to a nearby tree branch and peered into one of the upper windows. Empty. He 'ported to another branch and glanced into another window, with the same result.

On the third window, he caught a glimpse of Toad, setting the shopping bag down and pulling the box out of it. Kurt's tail began lashing around again, and something within him snapped. Stealth went out the window.


"Give it back, Toad!" yelled Kurt, tackling Toad to the ground. Toad yelped in surprise as the box flew out of his hands and landed a short distance away. Kurt wasted no time and jumped to get it, but Toad snagged Kurt's foot with his elongated tongue, making him fall flat on his face.

Toad used the opportunity to grab the box, but Kurt tackled him again. The two rolled around in a comical cloud of limbs, both trying to get the upper hand, until Kurt finally held the box and kicked Toad away. He hit the wall with a loud thud, and the door to the room suddenly slammed open.

"What is going on up here?!" Wanda demanded, but she did a double-take when she saw Kurt, who immediately tried to look as innocent as possible.

"Look, Vanda," Kurt started, holding his hands up placatingly, "I'm only here because–"

The air was knocked out of him when Toad tackled him to the floor, face-first. While Kurt was dazed, Toad grabbed both his hands and held them behind his back, effectively immobilizing him. "No worries, baby-cakes," grinned Toad, sitting victoriously on the vainly struggling mutant's back. Just to rub it in, Toad rubbed his knuckles vigorously against Kurt's scalp, making him wince as his hair was pulled. "Toad's got everythin' under control."

Needless to say, Kurt was livid. Growling, he slapped Toad's face with his tail, loosening Toad's grip enough for Kurt to turn over and kick him off again. However, as Kurt stood up to retrieve the box, which was now in Toad's possession, Lance and Fred stepped into the room.

"You better get out the way you came in, blue-boy," warned Avalanche, stepping forward and raising his fist threateningly.

"I'll be happy to, vonce Toad gives back vhat he stole," Kurt snapped, still furious as he glanced at the box Toad clutched in his arms.

"No can do," responded Avalanche, and with a clench of his fists, the room began to tremble.

His eyes widening, Kurt realized it was over and hurriedly 'ported away with a BAMF.

He reappeared below the window and glared at it with contempt, but as the adrenalin from the tussle died down, his tail drooped and the anger left him. Instead, he was filled with regret and shame, and he sighed dejectedly at his failure. He didn't have his Christmas present for Kitty, he didn't have any more money to buy another one, and there was no time to do so anyway.

Coming to terms with it, he hung his head and started dragging his feet home when he suddenly found himself surrounded by a blue light.

"Crawler," came a familiar voice from behind him.

"Vanda?" he breathed, turning back to the window to see the Scarlet Witch holding him with her powers.

"A piece of cheap jewelry isn't worth it, anyway," she said cryptically, and with that, she disappeared.

Kurt stood there for a minute, pondering over what she'd said. Even as he trudged towards the Xavier mansion, it was still on his mind.

After spending ten additional minutes in the shower, trying to vanquish any trace of Toad's slime on his fur, Kurt, now dressed in the more comfortable red shirt and beige trousers, lay on his bed, deep in thought. Gifts were supposed to be exchanged after dinner, since many people - including himself and Kitty - were leaving early tomorrow.

But he still had absolutely nothing for Kitty.

That lone thought plagued him for the next hour. It was the only thing on his mind during dinner; he was unresponsive and toyed with his food to the point that Jean asked him whether he was sick. It continued to haunt him after dinner, when everyone gathered at the tall Christmas tree in the living room, laughing and chattering as jolly music played in the background. And it was almost tearing him apart when he watched Kitty receive and smile delightedly at other gifts.

Trying to stave off the inevitable, he focused on everyone else first. He gave Evan one of those miniature skateboards - the ones controlled by fingers, not feet. He gave Jean a cardigan sweater (he'd had to call his mother for that idea), and he gave Scott, more as a joke than anything else, a model of a red convertible that looked almost exactly like Scott's car. With Evan, he gave the Professor a snowglobe of the Xavier mansion. And contrary to Rogue's orders, he hugged her for a while before giving her a bracelet. It warmed his spirits when she hugged back, and he almost forgot about his predicament.

However, before he knew it, he found himself face to face with Kitty. She was sitting near the lighted fireplace, a smile on her face while she took stock of her presents. For whatever reason, he found himself staring at her and thinking how pretty her skin looked in the glow of the fire.

Shaking his head to snap himself out of it, he leapt over to her and perched himself on the arm of her chair. "Hello, Kätzchen!" he beamed. Before she could say anything, he stuck his hand into his pocket and pretended to pull something out. "I don't have your present wrapped, so... could you close your eyes?"

Kitty rolled her eyes before closing them. "Whatever you say, Fuzzy," she said, sitting back into the chair. "But this better not be another–"

She could say no more as Kurt pulled some mistletoe out of his pocket, held it above them with one arm, and gave her a soft kiss on the lips.

"Kurt!" she yelped, pushing him off.

The blue mutant deftly dodged his plummeting emotions - the feeling like he'd been punched in the gut - and everyone's stare by grinning mischievously. "Zat's for escaping me last time."

Of course, last Christmas, he'd chased her as a prank, not as an actual present. Her reaction was the same both times, but the way he felt now was incomparable to last year.

With Kurt's remark, everyone relaxed somewhat and the room seemed to release a held breath, but Kurt felt that a part of him was suddenly missing. Unable to keep his mask of cheer on for long, he smooth-talked his way from the group. With convincing grins and jovial repetitions of "Merry Christmas!", Kurt eventually managed to escape to an empty hallway.

Once he was there, he sighed and immediately proceeded to bang his head against the wall. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" he hissed through clenched teeth, and hit his head harder.

"You will be, if you keep hitting yourself like that," said a voice, and Kurt wheeled around to see Kitty standing behind him, smiling.

"Kitty, hello!" he began, not sure how to act and thus pretending to be simply embarrassed by averting his eyes and rubbing the back of his neck. "I vas just testing ze durability of zis vall. You know, in case of, erm... intruders."

"Look, Fuzzy," she sighed, ignoring the lame excuse and walking over to him, her head hanging low. "I'm sorry for how I reacted... It's not your fault; I just wasn't expecting it, that's all."

"Zat vas razer ze point, Kätzchen," he answered sardonically.

"Still," Kitty shrugged, and pretended to think. "For such a Christmas present, I'd feel bad not to give you anything."

And before Kurt could say anything, she placed her palms on his cheeks and kissed him. This time it was he who tensed, and his eyes widened with shock, but soon this and all his other worries were melted away by a warm, tingling sensation that spread through his body. He almost didn't notice when she pulled away gently and, giggling, ran off through a wall. He remained standing there for a long time, a goofy grin on his face.

Merry Christmas indeed.