Since he is from India, everyone assumed that Neal Shaara would be at a disadvantage when sides were chosen for the snowball fight. They were wrong. Neal is from a tea planter’s family in the province of Assam, which is in the shadow of the Himalayas. Snow has been a part of his life as much as the mountains. Better yet, he was raised hearing the stories of how his homeland’s heroes defended their lands from invaders from hilltop strongholds. Neal plans on doing the same.
Neal chucks a snowball down from Lookout Knob, a hill that gives a splendid view of Breakstone Lake and the Connecticut border. While walking through town, he and his fellow X-Men noticed a group of middle school children defending themselves from some high school students and no one could hold back. They quickly divided themselves up into equal teams. Up top with Neal and the middle school kids are Bobby Drake and Kurt Wagner, also known as Iceman and Nightcrawler. Down below with the high school students are Peter Rasputin, Warren Worthington III and Elizabeth Braddock, also known as Colossus, Archangel and Psylocke. Both Warren and Kurt use image inducers to hide their true, blue forms.
Psylocke uses her telekinesis to throw her snowballs with better accuracy then everyone else present. However, Iceman proves to her that, in a snowball fight, volume counts, as he creates some snowballs. However, both use their powers surreptitiously, as to detract any attention from them. Colossus, who is so comfortable in snow that he wears a sleeveless shirt, knocks down part of the snow fort up top and tells him comrades that victory is at hand for them. Colossus looks up just in time for Iceman drop a massive snowball on him. Iceman then sends some middle school kids to pile on the man and wrestle him down.
Nightcrawler uses his acrobatic skills to send snowballs at Psylocke, who gracefully dodges them. However, Archangel is not as graceful and bears the brunt of the barrage. Neal takes advantage of the situation and leaps towards Warren to tackle him, but Psylocke intercepts the man. The two land on the snow and roll down the hill to the bottom, with Betsy on top and a smile of amusement on her face. Neal tells her that she cheated by using her telekinesis, to which Betsy asks him if Bobby made the snowballs the old fashioned way. Betsy smiles and tells Neal to lose graciously. The fight is over and he lost.
Neal quickly rolls them over so he is on top, which catches Betsy off guard. He reminds her that her British ancestors had the same opinion until his Indian ancestors taught them their lesson. Betsy tells Neal that fun is fun and then asks him to let her up. Flirtatiously, Neal asks her if he cares to make him. Continuing the flirtation, Betsy tells him to be careful what he wishes for, because she is a trained martial artist. At the top of the hill, Bobby, Warren and Kurt watch the two below and Bobby wonders what is going on between them. Bitterly, Warren tells him that it is a free country. He has no claim on Betsy, so she can do what she wants. Worried, Kurt tells Warren that it is just play. “Yeah,” remarks Warren, unconvinced.
Down below, someone behind Neal and Betsy asks them if they need a hand up. Neal turns around to see Rogue and Gambit, who is carrying many presents. Neal is surprised to see them and is more surprised by the question, to which he asks her why she asks. Rogue tells him that she knows he is smarter than that and asks him if he has forgotten that Betsy is spoken for. Neal looks up the hill to see Warren. “Oh,” replies Neal. Neal helps Betsy up, who supposes that this is her cue to blush, but too bad she has nothing to be ashamed about. She smiles and runs back up the hill to Warren, who is waiting for her.
Neal watches Betsy go and calls her remarkable. Rogue smiles and tells Neal that she is trouble. Neal tries to defend his actions earlier, but Rogue tells him that she has not seen a look like the one on Betsy’s face between her and anyone. She is not telling him to back off, since he and Betsy are adults, but he should remember that actions have repercussions. Rogue winces from pain and rubs her head. Neal asks her if she is all right. Rogue tells him that she has been having a series of killer headaches.
The three walk through town and Neal asks Rogue if the headaches have anything to do with her power changes. She had no headaches before and now she does, says Rogue. There is a connection. Gambit tells Rogue that she should stop making jokes and start taking the situation serious. Rogue tells Gambit that her DNA has mutated. Before, she just absorbed people and the memories and powers faded away. Now, she is manifesting powers and is out of control. She has no control whatsoever, except for one power. Rogue pops out her bone claws and tells the men that this change is permanent. Neal is worried and tells Rogue to put the claws away before someone sees.
Rogue pulls her claws back and Gambit tells her that she could have blown their cover. Rogue tells him that she does not care. She feels as if her body and soul are not hers anymore. Neal tells Rogue that Professor Xavier founded the X-Men. He can help her. Rogue tells him that she has tried that route before. She is the one exception, the mutant even Xavier cannot help. Psylocke catches up with the group in time to hear the comment and tells Rogue that she does not believe it and neither does Rogue. Rogue asks Betsy if she is alone, to which Betsy replies that Warren had business in the city, so they will meet later. In the meantime, wonders Psylocke, is anyone up for some cocoa?
At a local restaurant, Neal, Betsy and Rogue sit down and drink some cocoa. Neal tells Rogue that she is brave to let Gambit go out on the ice by himself. Rogue tells him that either she trusts the man or she does not. There is no more time for middle ground. Besides, Gambit is as much as home in the winter as in the bayou. She, however, hates the winter. Right now, thought, there is a thought in her head running around telling her that she loves the winter. Right now, the pain is gone, but Rogue wonders if the headaches are occurring due to too many psyches in one head. Every morning, she now wakes up wondering if she is the real her or not.
Betsy reminds Rogue that they had the same conversation after Sharon Kelly was killed by the Master Mold. Now Kelly is dead. They are still outcasts. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Neal argues that they don’t. He explains the idea of karma and how the deeds of the present determine the future. The ultimate goal is to reach a state of grace in order to remove oneself from the wheel of destiny. Neal tells the women that he knows he is new to the team but what he believes in as a Hindu is also in Xavier’s dream. They can never just give up the fight. They just have to figure out the best way to win. What is funny, comments Rogue, is that is what Gambit went out to talk to Storm about.
Out on the frozen lake, Trish Tilby screams at her boyfriend, Hank McCoy, also known as the Beast, that, if she breaks something out on the ice, her network will have his hide. Hank, disguised with an image inducer, smiles and asks Trish if that is any way for an “award-winning” broadcast journalist to talk. Trish exclaims that the ice is slippery. Hank reminds her that ice is supposed to be. Trish swears that she will get even with him. Gambit skates past Hank and Trish to Storm and remarks on the romance between the two and how it seems that Trish isn’t skating so smoothly. Passively, Storm tells Gambit that, if she falls, Hank will catch her and she will forgive him. Gambit asks Storm why he doesn’t think that it is a coincidence that they meet out in a crowded public area.
Storm tells Gambit that telepaths do not like crowds. Background noise makes it almost impossible to eavesdrop. Hank comes up next to Storm and tells her that the Professor would not spy on them. She tells him that she would rather be safe than sorry and then asks him if he has learned any information. Hank tells Storm that he can confirm everything Mystique told her and Gambit. Destiny wrote thirteen volumes of her precognitions of the future of humanity. They have one volume, Xavier has all the diaries that Mystique gave him and the rest are missing. Gambit is worried and tells the two that reading the diaries is what made Mystique into the woman she is. Suppose the same happens to Xavier?
Annoyed, Hank reminds Gambit that they are talking about Xavier. Gambit rebuts and tells Hank that Xavier doesn’t always play straight with people. Nice talk, says Hank, as he gets up in Gambit’s face, coming from a thief. They have all made mistakes. He chooses to trust the Professor, no matter what. Gambit gets in Hank’s face and asks him if the name Onslaught rings a bell to him. Annoyed, Trish comes up between the men and pushes them apart. She tells them that too much testosterone is unattractive and tells them to work out whatever they were talking about. They need to act like X-Men, not babies.
Storm tells the two to listen to Trish. Their objective is to make sure that the books do not fall into the wrong hands. Hank asks her if she puts the Professor into that category. Storm tells Hank that Xavier is the most powerful telepath and much of who they are is because of him. However, the diaries represent unlimited knowledge and give the reader the power to shape the course of countless generations. With that power, there is always a limit to what she or Hank could do. With Xavier, that is not true. With absolute power, absolute corruption is created. It may be that Xavier will not be corrupted, but Storm refuses to take that chance. Xavier has fought will all his heart and soul to save them. Now they must return the favor.
For Kurt Wagner, a part of his heart and soul will always remain in the circus. That is why, this afternoon, he has found himself working to put on a show at the circus. It is one of the few places where he can set aside his image inducer. As Kurt swings from the hanging bars, he laughs at the irony of a priest who looks like a demon. Kurt swings into the air, where is meets Cerise. The two embrace midair and Kurt teleports them to the ground where they bow for the cheering audience, who think this is all part of the show. On the ground, Cerise asks Kurt if giving up everything, including her, is worth his faith. Kurt tells Cerise that he loves her and the X-Men, but the “I” comes from God. He cannot be true to the rest without being true to God.
Nearby, Peter wonders how he was dragged into this, as he and several clowns dressed up Mystique, Magneto and Toad engage in a food fight. However, villains always cheat. Peter looks up just in time to see a 16 ton block with a maniacal smiley face and the word “Blob” written on it land on him. The crowd is shocked and thinks that Peter was really crushed, but the man breaks the weight and reveals his true armored form. The audience cheers, but Colossus’ attention turns to a girl in the audience, who looks like his deceased sister, Illyana. Peter smiles and tells his dead sister that this performance, joy and laughter are for her, from her loving big brother.
That night, Betsy and Warren meet at Warren’s wrecked penthouse in Manhattan. Everything is broken all over the place and the ceiling is gone, revealing the New York skyline. Warren surveys the wreckage and calls it a mess. Betsy comes up from behind and tells him that he can rebuild. Warren shows Betsy some papers and tells her that he has been evicted from his own building. Apparently, since he is a suspected mutant, the other tenants consider him a danger and the housing courts agree with them. Betsy tells him that he can appeal or, better yet, she adds with a seductive smile, he can move in with her.
Frustrated, Warren tells her that it is over. The apartment is finished and so are they. Shocked, Betsy asks him if their relationship is going to end like that, without any warning or explanation. Warren tells her that he has seen the way she looks at Thunderbird and that tells him everything he needs to know. Warren takes off into the sky and Betsy uses her telekinesis to follow him. She tells him that she can look at whomever she pleases, but her commitment was always to him. The millionaire playboy tells her that he sees things differently.
Betsy catches up with Warren and tells him that this isn’t fair, to which he replies that life is not fair. Betsy argues that he isn’t even giving them a chance to work this out. Warren tells her not to kid and asks if she really means commitment, as in the ones recited in wedding vows. They have had great times, but is she happy with what they have. Betsy asks him if he would rather be alone. Warren argues that the fear of being alone shouldn’t be why they are together. He once thought they were just a bunch of action junkies, who lived in the present because they could not rely on the future. It is true for her but what he wants is what Scott and Jean had. However, Scott is gone and he is worried that he might lose that or fail. In the end, that is what he wants, though. It is not what they have. The two land on a girder to a building under construction. Betsy tells him that she hopes he finds what he is looking for. Warren flies off and tells her to be happy. “I’m alive, Warren,” says Betsy, alone and cold in the night, “That’s a start.”
Outside the 11th Street Firehouse of Engine and Ladder Company 220 in Brooklyn, Bishop drops off a massive sack of gifts to the men for the Toys for Tots program. A fireman shakes Bishops hand and thanks him for the gifts. Suddenly, a car zooms down the street from the nearby bank and the robbers shoot bullets at people in the streets as they race by. Bishop’s reaction is like any other cops. He takes out his gun and shoots the car, causing the vehicle to flip in the air and then land. He uses his ability to absorb the energy from the explosion and crabs the cars front grill. He then slams the car to the ground and to a dead halt. One of the firemen compliments Bishop and presumes he is a mutant. “Vitamins,” says Bishop, “and clean living.” The firefighter tells Bishop he is okay by them, as invites him to join them inside for some “Christmas Cheer,” to which Bishop agrees.
Wolverine visits the home of the Clan Yashida in Agarashima Prefecture in Japan. Logan kneels before the snow-covered grave of Mariko, with a white rose in his hand. He tells his deceased love that he has not been back in a while and much has happened. He then picks up a scent and asks Viper what she is doing here. He pops out his claws, but Viper smiles and tells him that she is also here to pay her respects. She knees by the grave and puts down a white rose and tells Wolverine that it is ironic that Mariko was his true love, yet he married her in the end, a pirate ruler of a pirate nation. Wolverine tells her that it was nothing more than a payment of an old debt.
Viper gives Wolverine a Christmas present in a box and tells him that she is also here to repay an old debt. Wolverine opens the box and finds one of his old bone claws and realizes that it is from Kitty Pryde, who is telling him that she is alive and for the X-Men to stop worrying about her. Wolverine thanks Viper, who takes the pleasure in kissing Logan on the lips and tells him that maybe their relationship will grow to be more than just a debt. Wolverine frowns and tells her that it is all in her dreams, but Viper smiles and tells him that, with the X-Men, even the most far-fetched dreams can come true.
In Salem Center, Rogue and Gambit walk back to the mansion and stop to see some kids fix a nativity scene they created, which was vandalized and had “Die Muties!” spray-painted on it. Instead of the original characters that are supposed to be in the scene, however, everyone is replaced with X-Men, such as Colossus, Wolverine and Storm. Gambit asks the youths fixing the scene about what happened. One of the kids tells the two that they built the scene to show the different ways to celebrate the season. They used mutants in this one to respect Senator Kelly. The same people that trashed the mutant nativity scene also trashed their menorah, but the kids won’t be deterred.
Gambit tells Rogue that the one thing he loves about the holidays is how it sometimes deals a surprise hand. He now feels that maybe all the pain and sacrifice is making a difference. Rouge simply says, “whatever,” and Gambit asks her if she is okay. Rogue complains that she is tired. Gambit tells Rogue that, when she is hurt like she is now, she shouldn’t cut people who care out of her life. Rogue snaps at him and tells him that she does not want the people close to her to get hurt.
Gambit tells her that it is his own risk, but Rogue collapses the ground and covers her eyes. Gambit drops the gifts he was holding and tries to help Rogue, but realizes that her eyes are glowing with Cyclops’ energy signature. She unleashes the optic blast into the night sky and then flies up with her eyes covered. She tells Gambit that she needs some ruby quartz glasses and goes off somewhere isolated to cut loose. Gambit thinks to himself that he wants to help this woman, but doesn’t know how. Gambit picks up the bundles and realizes that the children are still there. The kids are terrified and realize that Gambit and Rogue are both mutants and runaways. Gambit tells the kids that they have great ideals, but it is dealing with reality that takes the most work.
That night, the X-Men all return to the mansion to celebrate Christmas. Though all come from different places and, in some cases, different time periods, all are bound together by one dream. Celebrating that night are Bishop, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, Colossus, Beast, Trish Tilby, Nightcrawler, Cerise, Professor Xavier, Thunderbird, Archangel, Psylocke and Wolverine. All have one thing in common and that is that they refuse to accept the world as it is and strive to make it better. The odds are against them, but their commitment is something they honor, even if that means journeying into the unknown for some.
While the celebrations go underway, Storm selects a small group of X-Men to meet her in her attic bedroom. Wolverine lies down in Storm’s hammock, while Gambit sits in the sit in front of him. Bishop stands behind Wolverine with his arms folding in front of his chest. Psylocke, Beast, Thunderbird and Rogue, who wears ruby quartz sunglasses to contain her optic blasts, stand with Storm in the middle of the room. Storm begins her meeting by telling the X-Men what she already knows. To read the diaries of Destiny is to be tempted to change the future. However, the diaries that they have show a distorted picture. The observations have proven to be accurate but, in most cases, the conclusions that have been drawn were wrong. Worse, they do not have all the diaries and, while they can predict what will happen in a thousand years, the next thousand days are in shadows.
Storm proposes that they seek out Destiny’s missing journals. They will leave the X-Men and go their own way. For the protection of the team, they shall stay out of contact, which will lessen the risk of being compromised. Beast interrupts and tells Storm that, in the end, she does not trust Xavier. Ororo tells her friend that the stakes are too high. Beast then asks how they can convince a world not to fear them when they cannot trust each other. Bluntly, Storm tells him that she does not know, but her instincts are telling her to be wary. She will go alone if she must, though.
Storm then asks Rogue if she will come with her. Rogue agrees. Beast is asked next, who also agrees to go, in all honesty. Thunderbird and Psylocke also agree to go. Bishop decides to join Storm, but tells her that he hopes that she is wrong about Xavier. When Storm asks Gambit, however, Rogue interjects and tells Storm to leave Gambit out of this. Gambit gets up and tells Rogue not to speak for him, so Rogue begs Remy not to come. She knows that they belong together but, right now, they cannot be. Her powers are out of control and she does not want to hurt him. In disbelief, Gambit tells Rogue that it is crazy to put her friends in danger and not him. Rogue tells him that her heart would be broken if they got hurt. However, if Gambit was hurt by her, she will die.
Wolverine watches “the course of true love” and asks Storm why she didn’t call his name. Storm explains that she needs him to stay, because his mind is impossible to scan, which makes him best suited to be a modicum of contact between the team and the mansion. Wolverine tells her that it shouldn’t be a problem and then, suddenly, leaps up, as he smells something. Surprised, Wolverine tells Storm that she cannot be serious about taking her.
A woman enters the room and Storm introduces her as Sage, though, as Wolverine points out, most people know her as Tessa. Storm explains that Sage is their living, breathing Cerebro. Wolverine points out that, not too long ago, she worked for Sebastian Shaw. Not wanting to argue, Storm tells Wolverine that, without Sage, the diaries will be lost. Wolverine comments that maybe the diaries should be lost and then tells Storm that he hopes her decision doesn’t cost her.
Later on, after making an extreme decision to leave, Storm’s team rejoins the others for the part. Carols are sung and stockings are hung. Gifts are exchanged and, for the first time in awhile, there is laughter in the mansion. By the pool, Beast sits alone with Trish and tells her that moments like this should last forever. Trish asks where the fun is in that. She is a woman in love and she is also greedy. She wants moments like these as often as possible, each one better than the last.
Inside, Gambit holds Rogue, who cries after opening the present Gambit gave her. Rogue tells Remy that after all she said he shouldn’t have given her something so beautiful. Gambit tells her that, no matter how far she goes, he will always be with her. Elsewhere, Thunderbird opens his present from Betsy and is shocked to see what is in the box. Cerise, Kurt and Peter laugh and ask him if they can see what is inside. “Absolutely not!” says the blushing Neal. Bishop opens his present from Xavier and finds a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. Xavier explains that the book has meant much to him and Bishop promises to treasure it.
Outside, Storm kneels in the snow with a box, the tag on it says, “To my windrider, Gotcha!” Storm opens in and finds a beautiful new uniform inside from Xavier. Xavier comes to her and asks her that when she came from Kenya that if she ever thought things would turn out like this. If he means, replies Storm, that she regrets pick-pocketing him, the answer is no. She has no regrets. Charles tells her that he envies her, for he sees nothing but regrets this night. Storm takes his hand and the two look into a window to see the X-Men putting the star on the tree. Storm shows him his legacy. Generations of X-Men, together and living the dream. They have a birthright worth fighting for and cherishing. It is one to be proud of, just as how the X-Men will always remain proud of him.
This story is a reprint of X-Men (1st series) #98, where the X-Men battle the Sentinels on Christmas.
This story is a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #143, where Shadowcat is alone against an N’garai.
This story is a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #341, in which Cannonball battles Gladiator.