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Entry for the Christmas challenge over on beautifulxbeast.

Title: untitled
Words: 2310
Rating: PG-13 for slight pre-teen profanity
'Verse: 616 comicverse, set with Astonishing team living in the mansion.
Notes: Un-betaed, so any abuses of the comma and grammar are mine.
Summary: Hank goes on a last minute gift buying spree but comes back with something he hadn't expected on getting.

Snow flew in every direction as Hank made his way through the throng of last minute shoppers. A strong gust of wind had him ducking his chin further into the upturned collar of his coat and tucking his gloved hands under his arms to try and conserve whatever heat he could. He hated shopping, especially Christmas shopping. The team had decided that since there were a vast number of people living in the mansion at one time, they would each draw a name from a hat and shop for those people only. Everyone had pretty much everything they could ever need in life; it was the things that they wanted that were stumping him. Bobby was the easiest to shop for. A quick trip into a novelty comedy store had all the fixings for a gag gift complete with rubber chickens and whoopee cushions.

Bobby was also one of the people not on his list that he had gone and gotten presents for anyway. It would be against best friend codes not to get something. Hank already knew the annual economy pack of Twinkies from Bobby would be sitting under the tree come the twenty-fifth. Scott was another, but Hank really couldn’t resist getting him the set of fishing lures he knew his friend had been eyeing for weeks.

So there he was, standing alone amidst the multitude of people, wondering just what in the world to give Logan. Oh sure, he could just dash on down to the local liquor store and buy a six-pack of his favorite beer, but that was too easy. A sweater, perhaps? No, too generic. A book? He had no idea what type of author Logan liked, though he vaguely remembered seeing the Canadian reading a Hemmingway novel a few weeks back in a brief moment of down time. Or was that a Jeffery Deaver paperback? He couldn’t remember. Safe to say, books were out, as was music.

“I should have called Jubilee and asked,” he mused, passing by the elaborately done store window displays. He paused briefly and smiled, remembering when he had been on similar walks with different people that had never before seen the Macy’s or any of the other store’s windows. It was fun to see how their faces would light up as something triggered a memory of their own Christmas experiences.

He looked at his watch and sighed. It was nearly eight, and most of the stores would be shutting down for the night. They had stayed open late nearly all month, but tonight was Christmas Eve, and there were people that needed to be with their loved ones instead of waiting on those that had waited until the last minute to buy a gift. Henry was usually early with his shopping, but he had been so caught up in a complex experiment that involved many hours watching for slight changes that he had been totally unaware of what day it was. The old Absentminded Professor excuse comes in handy every once in a while.

Then again, with only a shopping bag full of novelty joke items that he was certain the mansion’s resident Canuck wouldn’t appreciate getting, Henry felt like he was running out of time. That six-pack wasn’t looking as dumb as it had earlier, and he could probably throw in a box of cigars, though Emma detested the smell of them in the mansion and Scott had already tried to read Logan the riot act for smoking around the students, not that it had stopped Logan from ever doing what he wanted to do anyway…

Hank was pulled from his thoughts by a faint jerking on his coat pocket. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to let him know that his wallet had been taken. He turned sharply in time to see a figure running off, something clutched to their chest. Not bothering to shout out, he simply took off after them.

He followed the figure, even though they tried their best to blend in with the crowd, as they darted off into an alleyway. Hank jumped over a chain link fence and kept to the shadows, the brick of the building cold against his back even through the thick layers of his coat and sweater. His early days with the X-Men had gifted him with intimate knowledge of New York’s street layout, and he was very familiar with the shopping district, especially since Jean had always asked him to accompany her on her shopping forays simply because he could carry more bags than any of the other three boys. While she had been shopping, Hank had wandered the streets nearby, trying to make a mental map just in case one of the bad guys of the week would try a sneak attack and they would require an alternate way of escape.

As it was, the alleyways and side streets hadn’t changed at all in all those years, right down to the placement of concealing dumpsters. He crouched down and waited as the sound of running feet grew louder. They suddenly stopped on the opposite side of the dumpster and he heard whoever had been running from him let out a sigh.

“This had better be worth it,” the person said, still trying to catch their breath. From the sound of it, his pickpocket was a young boy. Hank listened as the boy opened his wallet, mentally imagining a host of moths flying out. He might be a scientist that worked in an elaborate laboratory, but his own personal finances were slim to none at times. Being an X-Man didn’t exactly come with a paycheck and good dental insurance, after all. The two gifts he had bought for Bobby and Scott had pretty much drained his ready cash supply down to about a dollar and some change that was now currently sitting in the bottom of his right front pant pocket. He winced slightly as the boy kicked the dumpster, then cursed loudly at his rotten luck.

“You think you have it bad,” Hank said, stepping away from the dumpster. He shifted his weight on the balls of his feet, ready to give chase if the boy decided to run again. “Try getting your billfold stolen by an unappreciative urchin.”

Instead of running, the boy raised his hands in defeat. “Well have your stupid wallet back. Who the hell runs around New York without any cash on them? You’ve gotta have some cab fare at least.”

“Perhaps one that is in possession of their own car? Tell me, what were you going to do with the money you thought I carried?” Upon closer inspection, the boy looked to be about ten or eleven years old, malnourished, and filthy. One of his sneakers had a hole in it big enough for Hank to see that the boy had stuffed sheets of newspaper inside to try and keep his feet warm.

The boy shrugged, his bony shoulders sticking out painfully thin through a threadbare shirt. “Dunno. Buy a burger or something. Haven’t had anything decent to eat in a couple of days.”

“Where have you been staying?”

“Here and there. Most of the shelters are already full, so I’ve been kinda going wherever I can.” He held out Hank’s wallet, eyeing it sadly. Hank took it back and put it in the pocket of his jeans instead.

“Tell you what, if you’d like, we can go over to the vendor serving consumable goods across the street and converse about your habit of stealing from unsuspecting bystanders.”

The boy looked up at him with a confused expression on his face. “Huh?”

“Wanna grab a hot dog with the works from that guy over there?” he clarified. The boy stared at him, then at the hot dog stand, then back. Apparently his hunger won out over the fear of being with a stranger that he had just recently stolen something from and he nearly ran towards the vendor’s cart. Hank stood behind him and nodded to the man behind the cart as the boy rattled off a list of toppings he wanted on his dog. Hank again noticed how the boy’s hole-ridden shirt hung on his thin frame and motioned for the vendor to fix two more hot dogs.

“’Ow ‘ou gonna ‘ay for thiff?” the boy asked, his mouth full and sauerkraut dripping onto his chin. “You’re broke.”

“Ah, allow me to introduce you to the wonderful world of credit cards,” Hank said, fishing out his wallet from his pant pocket and handing over the lone card he possessed. If the X-Men needed a motto, it would more than likely read something like Xavier Platinum Card: never leave home without it. He tried not to use it very much except for utmost emergencies, mainly because Charles insisted on footing the bills. He felt guilty enough requesting highly expensive lab equipment, but risking life and limb on multiple occasions seemed to be fair trade for free room and board. The only other things that sat inside his wallet were his photo ID, an ATM card he had been planning on using to withdraw some more money to buy Logan’s gift with, a season pass to Ranger games in Madison Square Garden, a membership card to an art gallery Peter had given everyone yet Hank had rarely had time to use, and his library card that was bent at the edges and well worn from being swiped over and over at the circulation desk‘s counter.

“Wouldn’t have ever been able to use those,” the boy muttered, more to himself than to Hank as he allowed Hank to steer him towards a bench.

“No, I daresay you wouldn’t. My superhero credit card retrieval system would have found you out before you could have gone a whole city block.”

The boy’s eyes bugged out and he nearly spit out the big bite he was taking from his third hot dog. “You’ve gotta be shitting me! You’re a superhero? Like Spider Man or the Fantastic Four, you mean?”

Hank shrugged. “Well, not exactly. I did do some work with the Avengers, but that was years ago.” He shivered as another gust of wind blew and tugged his coat closer to his body. “And language. You’re what, eleven? I bet you wouldn‘t talk to your mother that way.”

A shadow passed over the boy’s thin face as he swallowed. “Twelve. My birthday was about six months ago.” He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “And my mom’s dead.”

“I’m sorry.”

“She was in an accident. My old man blames me, so he threw me out. I wasn‘t even in the car with her.”

Hank frowned. “That was judgmental of him.”

The boy seemed the shrink further into himself as he clutched his hands around his elbows. “I didn’t mean to do it either. It was just that I was so pissed off about some stupid shit, and…” He looked up at Hank with eyes set deep within dark circles. “Her car just… blew up. I really didn’t mean to do it, I loved my mom.”

“So you’re a mutant.”

The boy looked as if he was ready to run again. “You’re not one of those people that they show on the news are you? The kind that beat up on muties just because?”

“Believe me, I am not one of those people.” If Hank’s instincts were correct, this boy was more than likely responsible for the minor explosions that had been going around the harbor area a few weeks ago. Friends of Humanity had been doing a protest-slash-mutant hunt when their fun had been cut short when several nearby boats had seemingly spontaneously exploded. Police squads first on the scene and forensics teams that combed the area later on couldn’t find any traces of catalysts that would have started the fires or even mechanical bomb parts, so they were at a loss.

“Somehow I kinda figured that out,” the boy said. “What’s your name?”

“Henry. My friends call me Hank though. May I inquire as to yours?”

“I’m Toby.”

Hank leaned over, resting his forearms on his knees. “Pleased to meet you. Toby, how much do you like double chocolate cake?”

“Dude, I haven’t had one of those in a really long time.”

Hank smiled. Besides the occasional pre-teen profanity and temper-induced pyrotechnics, Toby seemed to be an okay kid. “I’ll make you a deal. I know somebody that might be able to help you out with your temper problems. You come with me and we’ll go confiscate the biggest slice of cake on the condition that you listen to everything we have to offer with an open mind.”

Toby looked at him pretty much like he had looked earlier when judging if getting a free meal was worth talking to a stranger or not. “Can’t hurt anything,” he said timidly. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

Hank grinned. Standing up, he noticed as Toby shivered. Taking his coat off, he put it on the young boy’s shoulders. Shivering himself as another gust of wind blew snow all around them, he turned his head against the crook of his neck, thankful that his sweater was thick. Tucking his hands under his arms to conserve body heat, he motioned for Toby to grab his shopping bag and follow him.

Lights were shutting down in the department stores and Hank knew that he had lost his window of opportunity for buying Logan anything. If he was lucky, Logan would take his new charge in with a minimum of fuss. Being one of the senior members of the team that had a volatile temper himself, Wolverine often found himself teaching the students at Xavier’s how to deal with theirs.

Merry Christmas, Logan, Hank thought as he steered Toby towards the parking garage he had left his car.

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