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Laura had learned that there were a lot of strange rituals that so-called normal people went through as the weather grew colder. And since she unnerved the people her own age so much, she always just sat back quietly and listened, watched, and sometimes learned about what was going on. Like how a snowball fight wasn’t an actual fight, since the projectiles hardly caused any damage. Or how eating more than was necessarily healthy was apparently traditional on certain days, though it all appeared illogical to her.

So when garlands of greenery began to appear, wrapped around banisters and over trim, she didn’t do more than wrinkle her nose at the subtle remains of dust clinging to them. When a large evergreen tree was set in the main living room and decorated with ribbons and strange round things that were very fragile, she simply appreciated the fresh scent in the otherwise stale air of the mansion and the pleasing colors of the decorations. When whispers and giggles began to happen around her, she noticed but wasn’t certain of the reason. Annoyed with the noise, she’d taken to hiding on the grounds except for when she had to be in the mansion. Which thanks to her rather cranky personality when the noise level was irritating her wasn’t that often.

Today, she woke up with a start as footsteps pounded outside of her room. It took a long moment for her to remember that she wasn’t in the facility anymore, or in the academy, that she wasn’t in danger. Letting out her breath slowly and carefully, she swung her feet down from the bed with a scowl. She wasn’t supposed to get violent with her fellow students. She wasn’t. But right now, for the first time, she was tempted.

Opening her door, she glared at the…now empty hallway. What was going on?

The sound of loud footsteps caught her attention. Turning her head, she felt her body tense instinctively as her original entered the hallway, a cigar in his mouth. It wasn’t like she could help it. Her instincts hadn’t quite accepted yet that he was supposed to be a paternal alpha, especially since she hadn’t had one before. He looked as worn as she did by all of this fuss. He raised both eyebrows at her. “Aren’t you going downstairs with the rest of them?”

She returned the expression. “Why?”

He blinked. For once, she’s surprised him. “It’s Christmas.”

“What’s that? I have no understanding of that word.” She’d read it before, but not without any sense of context.

Logan stared at her with an expression she didn’t know how to read. “It’s… complicated,” he finally told her, “More than it should be, but… Why don’t you go downstairs, and…” He grasped for words.

“Observe?” she suggested.

“Yes. Observe. And then if you still don’t understand later, we’ll talk about it, alright?”

Considering it, she finally nodded in agreement. Logan gestured for her to walk down the hall, and she pivoted to do so, back straight and feet light as if to spite his loudness.

Downstairs, it wasn’t hard to find the other students. She winced at a particularly loud, high squeal of excitement. Did she have to go there…? Glancing behind her, Logan stared right back at her. Yes, she did. Grumbling, she snuck her way  into an empty armchair in the corner that was unofficially hers. It wasn’t difficult. Almost everyone was gathered around the tree she’d noted before, the students on the floor and the teachers who were still here on the sofas around it. There was paper, shiny and matte, printed and solid colors, ribbon everywhere… Her confusion was only growing.

Finally, she figured out that the students (and teachers, though not as many) had been given gifts, wrapped in the paper. But why? The very concept of gifts confused her, but on a day for no particular reason? She didn’t understand…and was guilty. She hadn’t gotten anything for anybody. Bringing her legs up against her chest, Laura hoped she would go unnoticed by the others.

No dice (an expression that made no sense to her). Jubilee noticed her, and smiled, though Laura could smell how nervous the teen was about something. “Laura, there’s one here for you too!” she called out.

That made no sense. Who would have gotten her a gift? Scarier thought, what had they gotten her? Dubiously, Laura accepted the package. At least it was plain, brown paper, though the bright red ribbon was pretty. The ribbon came untied, and the paper came undone without needing any urging from her. It hadn’t been taped.

Her throat caught and she stared at the gift in her lap.

It wasn’t the simple, cardboard book hidden under her bed, splattered with blood. It was hardback, leather with old-fashioned paper, the title character embossed on the front in gold along with the title and writer. A child’s fairy tale, about a non-human entity capable of conscious thought becoming a real boy, the story her mother had told her and Laura had clung to as her only hope of growing beyond being Weapon X-23. It wasn’t the simple story she had grown up with, she knew quickly just because of the sheer depth to the book. This wasn’t a passing gift for a child that was bonded to the giver tentatively through genetics. It was thoughtful, and carefully picked out.

And Laura hadn’t a clue what to say.

The leather and paper had held on to the scent of the one who wrapped it. Her original. But why…? She’d… She’d wanted to kill him! She still did, when the parts of them that were feral came into conflict.

“Thought you could use a new one,” he said gruffly from where he lingered in a doorway, watching what was going on. “Your other isn’t for every day, right? This one could be.”

Laura looked at him, her eyes itching and not sure at all what to say, lacking the social understanding to express herself.

Rogue, thankfully, solved that problem for her. She’d opened a similarly wrapped package and squealed at the contents (Laura wasn’t able to get a good look at it). Running up to Logan, she gave him a cautious hug—cautious due to her mutation, not their feelings if Laura was to judge. “Thank yah, thank yah, thank yah!” she said repeatedly before darting back to where her present was lying.

That was helpful…in a way. Laura carefully unfolded her legs and walked to where her original was standing. She…wasn’t comfortable initiating contact. But she knew what to say now. “Thank you,” she said quietly, still feeling as if the words were inadequate for what she was feeling. Her mouth was stretching in that strange way that she now recognized as the muscles pulling back to smile.

He returned her smile, and gently patted her on the head. She hated being so short compared to him—his actions slightly reinforced that she was a member of his pack, and thus he was alpha. But for once, she didn’t mind it. Instead it made her feel…warm. “You’re welcome,” he told her, and she could feel the sincerity without taking in his scent to know it was there.

She returned to her chair and carefully began to turn the pages, reading the familiar story that somehow changed a little with the more elaborate writing. That night, her new book joined the old one. The same story from both her parents, both expressing the strong belief that she was more than just a weapon. That, more than anything, gave her a feeling of warmth that made no sense, logically, but all the sense in the world at the same time.
Christmas present for a friend. :D
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