The Third of Three Christmas Tales
The snowflake falls from the heavens, turning in ever-widening
gyres as it loses altitude. Buffeted by the winds, it glides
from the clouds to the earth. It seems insignificant, a speck
of white from a slate-gray sky, yet is unique. In the drifts
of snow that settle over the world at Christmas time, it is
as individual as a thumb-print or a retina.
Its long journey completed, the snowflake lands on the floor,
assimilated into the mass of white that blankets Salem Center.
A gloved hand scoops up some snow, molding it into a ball.
Laughingly, a voice yells: "Think fast, Cajun."
The snowball flies through the air, forming a perfect arc,
but her target dodges and retaliates with an icy projectile
of his own:
"Ya still throw like a femme, chere."
His assailant, a brunette with a white streak to her hair,
sticks out her tongue at him as she flies above his shot.
"Ah'm glad ya finally noticed," she teases, "Thought
ya would have realized long ago that Ah ain't a man, Remy."
Remy grins, his unusual eyes brilliant with pleasure. Dressed
in the burgundy sweater, which she had given him for Christmas,
and black jeans, he stands out against the white, like a robin
in a snowy field.
"Known dat f'r quite a while, Rogue," he replies,
scrambling for another handful of snow, "But don' expect
m'innate chivalry t'save ya now."
"Ah don't," her green eyes sparkle, "That's
why Ah brought back-up."
She puts her fingers to her mouth and blows a piercing, unfeminine
whistle. Nightcrawler emerges from behind the tree - a snowball
in each hand and a smirk on his face.
"Where would you like these, liebchen?"
"Use yoah discretion, sugah."
Kurt's smile becomes broader.
"On de count of t'ree?" Gambit grins at the blue
"Three!" Nightcrawler cries as he throw his two
snowballs at Rogue. They explode on impact, showering her
with powdery snow. She splutters, pushing the hair out of
her face. She regards her brother with a look that is a cross
between anger and amusement.
"You double-crossed me, fuzzy elf?"
"Nein, Rogue. I simply used my discretion," Kurt
"Shoulda seen de look on ya face, mon coeur," Remy
laughs, "Dat be a Kodak moment if I ever saw one."
She brushes the last snow-crystals off her Fair Isle pullover,
"Enjoy it while y'all can, y'two, could be th' last thing
ya ever see."
"Could t'ink of worse sights," Gambit shrugs, then
begins to shiver, "Dieu, is it jus' me or is it cold?"
"Wouldn't know, hon. Mah mutant power keeps me warm,
but not dry," Rogue makes a face, "Ah got snow down
mah back an' it's meltin' fast."
"As for me, I'm blue with cold," Nightcrawler chuckles,
then ducks as Rogue lobs some snow at him.
"Dat's de sort o' t'ing I'd expect from Drake,"
Gambit remarks, as he begins to make his way back to the mansion,
closely followed by the others.
"We goin' inta town, sugah?"
The sentence is more a statement, than a question, and Remy
has no choice but to agree.
Snowflakes settle gently on the skyscrapers of New York City,
New York, blanketing the city that never sleeps in a feather
duvet. Through the streets, taxi cabs compete with automobiles
to grind the snow into slush. The mob on the pavements jostle
each other for the same privilege; for the privilege of planting
the first step into the untrodden white. Here, he is anonymous,
a single snowflake amid a flurry. Only noted and cursed when
he gets in the way of an angry, busy pedestrian. The freedom
makes him giddy, so he whistles a Christmas song.
"Come on," Rogue holds Gambit's hand tightly as
they cut through the crowd, like the runners of a sleigh,
"We don't wanta be late."
He groans, lengthening his strides to keep pace with her.
The crowd forms an almost impenetrable barrier, broken only
by the power of pleasantries.
"Excusez-moi. Pardonnez-moi. Desoles. Excuse
Two women, dressed in matching parkas, spin out of the way
just in time. Their angry expressions soften when they see
the young couple, then harden and become brittle once more.
"Reminds me of myself and Ned before the divorce,"
one whispers, "Jerk."
"Dis better be good, chere," Remy says as he elbows
his way past yet another person.
"It is," she assures him, "It ain't every
day ya get ta hear an Intergalactic Superstar singin' th'
Seasonal Favorites. Ah pulled a few strings jus' ta get us
Finally, they come to a clearing in the mass of humanity
where two chairs remain vacant. Rogue sits, exhaling in a
puff of water vapor, her long legs curled beneath the seat.
Gambit takes the place next to her, removing a pack of cigarettes
from his pocket and extracting one. On the stage, a dark-haired
woman makes her entrance from behind the velvet curtain, microphone
in her hand.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," the compere introduces
her, "The fabulous Lila Cheney. . . ."
Nightcrawler watches from further back in the crowd, a smile
playing on his lips. Despite his sister's protests to the
effect that 'he should join them', he would have felt uncomfortable
doing so. A third-wheel. "Ja, Kurt," he thinks,
"So you are spending Boxing Day alone? With only the
fabulous Lila Cheney for company?"
He directs his attention to the stage. Lila - the consummate
show person as always - is dressed in a body-suit of reflective
silver. Her dark hair is wreathed with tinsel, framing her
heart-shaped face. She looks like an angel out of some science-fiction
writer's notion of heaven.
"Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear,"
(1) he quotes, feeling the joy of Christmas overwhelm him,
overflow in expansiveness as she begins to sing. He is not
alone. He is one of a crowd of millions; a single electron
whirling around a world-nucleus; a snowflake blown in a drift
from the sky.
'Jouez, hautbois, resonnez musettes' (2)
Lila stands on the stage, mentally taking a deep breath as
she surveys the crowd. Teenagers, children, adults all seethe
beneath her, like a million-million ants. She is simultaneously
their queen and their slave. Their goddess and their acolyte.
She closes her eyes and lets the feeling wash over her. Performing
never fails to uplift her spirits, be her audience Shi'ar,
Kree or human. The song draws to an end.
'Chantons tous son avenement.' (2)
Her mouth shuts, drawing the last note out like a silver
thread on which the public dangles as would beads. Lila moistens
her frosted lips and segues into the next number.
He pauses outside Central Park, his tune dying on his lips
as he hears her - her exquisite contralto that soars above
the crowd, like an eagle, before diving back to earth. The
entire audience is silent, lost in wonder. The songs Lila
sings are old, yet she lends them freshness and grace. Tears
trickle down his dry cheeks at the beauty of her voice; at
the promises of hope and peace contained within them.
'How could a freak sing like an angel?' he wonders, as he
stands at the gate, sorrow coursing down his face like a cleansing
All too soon, Lila bows in a shimmer of mercury and prepares
to exit. The audience is silent in her wake - a tribute to
her skill that is beyond applause.
"Wow," Rogue whispers, as she stares at the slight
figure on the stage. Suddenly, glitter explodes behind Lila,
blowing in the gentle wind like the tiny sparks of a campfire.
Only dancing gold remains where the singer was standing and
the crowd bursts into spontaneous applause.
"Ya were right, mon coeur," Gambit admits, "Dat
He wipes his cheeks and bloodshot eyes, half-ashamedly, feeling
the rough stubble of a half-formed beard against his palms.
Faking his own death had not been easy, but he had always
had the solace of his beliefs. Now, as mysteriously as the
symmetry of a snowflake, those had been ripped from him as
well. How could he hate a species capable of so much beauty?
He shakes his head to free his hair of the powdery snow that
had settled there during the performance. When he looks up,
his eyes catch those of a woman standing a few feet away.
Her white-streaked hair is piled atop her head and she is
dressed in a purple, chenille sweater. She looks at him with
horrified, incredulous recognition. Her companion - a handsome
man in a cardinal pullover and black jeans - asks her a question,
obviously having noted her surprise.
"Qu'est-que ne va pas?"
[What is wrong?]
He turns away and hurries into the crowd, but hears the remainder
of her conversation.
"Nothin', Remy. Just thought Ah recognized someone."
"Creed. Graydon Creed."
Gambit, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Lila Cheney
and Graydon Creed belong to Marvel and are used without their
permission for non-profitable purposes. All comments on this
story to firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) From Romeo and Juliet.
(2) A traditional French Carol - 'Il est ne, le divin enfant'.
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