Ah. My Christmas story. *grins*
No beta reader on this, so the fault is all mine. And I'm releasing it when I'm too tired to properly edit, so my opinion is that it's probably not up to par... but if I don't release it, I never will! ;)
Anyway, these are Ultimate X-Men characters. Have fun. :)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine, making no money, don't sue. I'm broke, anyway.

Better Watch Out
by J.B. McDonald

His breath came out in a puff of crystallized air. It hung in front of him, slowly drifting apart and disappearing into the night sky.

"You doing anything for Christmas?"

There was no response. Not that Bobby had really expected one. Wolverine crouched next to him, watching the compound through low power binoculars. Bobby could barely see the sprawling complex, almost covered in snow. No roads led to or from it; the men and women who worked there came and went via an underground subway.

"I was supposed to go home. I had to tell my parents that Chuck was keeping me over vacation, because I did bad on my test scores." He watched for a reaction, but there was none from the man beside him. "I didn't, of course." He laughed nervously. "You don't slack off the homework when your prof is a telepath." He rubbed his upper arms, more out of habit than any sense of cold. "I wanted to go home, but--"

"Get inside." Wolverine tucked the binoculars back into the pouch on his belt and in a single stride was off the ramp of the jet, into waist-deep snow.

Bobby scrambled back, into the interior of the plane, and quickly flipped the lever to pull the ramp up. With a hiss of hydraulics it lifted, sealing everyone else out, and Bobby in. He looked at the ramp a moment more, his eyes adjusting to the dark.

"I couldn't, because I was needed here," he finished his sentence quietly. No one was listening. Not that anyone had been listening before.

Bobby sighed and walked up the isle to the cockpit, slapping one of the chairs on the way and sending it spinning. A glance at the clock told him it was almost 1 a.m., Christmas morning. Normally his parents would still be up, putting presents under the tree. He wondered if they were doing that now, for each other. His mom's famous turkey would have been marinating since 4 p.m. the night before; they wouldn't eat it until late.

Bobby flopped down into the pilot's chair, his arms sprawled over the sides and his feet stretched out in front of him.

This was great. Just peachy. Giving up Christmas for a stupid assignment they apparently didn't even need him for. An integral part of the team. Sure. Needed to keep their drinks cool, maybe. Bobby sighed and kicked the console, then nearly jumped out of his chair when something squealed.

"Come in, Iceman."

He grabbed for his communications link, trying to shut it up. Man, that had scared him.


"Bring the jet around. Be careful."

'Bring the jet around.' He sounded like a chauffer.

Bobby tossed the link onto the seat next to him, then started up the 'bird and, only slightly haltingly, cruised it around to the rendezvous point. At least they'd finished. He wondered absently what was so important about those documents, anyway. Breaking in in the middle of Christmas night he got; the place had the least staff right now than any other time. But for files? Maybe Scott would let him have a peek at what was inside...

The jet had a less than smooth landing, but at least nothing had broken. Bobby smirked. The new kid may be able to teleport, but he sure couldn't land a plane.

It took Bobby a moment to find the shield release. The front window went from white to perfectly clear in less than a second, revealing a much-closer compound, though still across fields of snow. The top of the chain link fence could just be seen about a hundred feet away, nearly buried under a drift. There was no sign of anyone moving in the dark night. Bobby couldn't even see the tracks he knew Wolverine had made into the woods. He flipped a switch and the window turned green, illuminating the outside world. Still no sign of anyone.

Frowning, Bobby wondered if he'd gone to the wrong spot. Wouldn't that be embarrassing! He glanced down at the scrawled instructions -- the ones he wasn't supposed to make, but there were so many details, how ELSE was he supposed to remember them all?

These were the coordinates. He sighed and kicked back in the pilot's chair, feet propped up. Maybe they were just running late. Or had told him to get here early. Or maybe that hadn't been Scott at all, but someone who had found the frequency and--

The comm link crackled again, and once more Bobby jumped before scrabbling for it. It slipped to the floor under the seat, and he dove after it, nearly smashing his head on the chair. Huddled half underneath, he finally grabbed the comm and hit the button. "Yeah?"

"We'll be there in a moment. Be prepared to open the hatch."

"Sure. Hey, Cyc, what are you doing for Christmas? 'Cause, y'know, I was thinking that Christmas is a big deal, and maybe it would be fun to do something. All of us. I mean, if the others wanted to." He paused and waited for an answer, but none was forthcoming.

"Cyc?" Bobby frowned and pulled the link away, eyeing it. A red light flashed; the connection had been cut. Bobby sighed and crawled out from under the chair, comm unit clutched in one hand. Maybe they would get back in time for him to catch a flight home. Eat dinner with his parents. He missed them.

Bobby kicked back in the pilot's chair once more, knowing he'd have to give it up in a moment. Jean always insisted on being the one to fly. The green-lit window gave an eerie look to the world outside. The snow on the ground and now softly falling from the sky looked surreal. Like the scene in Jurassic Park, where the dinosaur had come to munch them all up like those tasty little popcorn chickens from KFC, and that guy on the toilet had gotten killed and the cars were crushed. Malcolm's legs had been all bloody.

It was so quiet. Bobby cleared his throat, just to hear a voice, and then rolled his eyes at himself. "Right, Drake," he said derisively. "Like a dino's gonna come and munch you. Get a gri--"

He fell out of his seat at the knock on the hatch. Heart thumping against his rib cage, he yanked himself up and stomped to the door. He was so dang jumpy. It was annoying!

He flipped the lever and stood, glowering, waiting for the door to open. They could have at least let him know they were there through the comm link. Sure, Jean's telepathy didn't work through the anti-telepathic jet walls, but that's what technology was for. Oh noooo, they had to just--

Bobby blinked. The night was dark, and after standing in the lit jet he was having a hard time seeing out. But not a hard enough time that he couldn't see people.

Only, no one was there.


No answer.

"Guys? Is this a joke?"

It had to be a joke. Probably Hank, thinking it was hilarious. After all, they'd met up with no problems tonight. And Hank always thought it was funny to make Bobby jump.

"Come on, guys!" Snow fell silently, dropping to the ground and cloaking everything with an absolute stillness. Was that someone breathing?

No. They wouldn't carry a joke this far. Would they? Nah. Jean would get impatient. Or Ororo would giggle. She never could keep her mouth shut. Bobby didn't' know how she'd survived so long.

Maybe he'd imagined the knock. After all, why would they knock? They wouldn't do that, they'd call it in first. They wouldn't want to wait in the snow for him to open the hatch, after all.

Bobby almost screamed when the comm link scratched to life again.

"Iceman, start opening the hatch. We're coming over the rise and will be there in about two minutes." Bobby checked his body for the link -- as if he could pin it onto his ice form! -- then realized he'd left it in the pilot's seat. He scrabbled for it quickly. He'd imagined the noise! If the others found out about it he'd probably get in trouble for opening the hatch early, and then never live down the fact that he'd practically panicked!

Bobby leaned over the arm of the chair, fingers closing around the link that was sitting innocently in the middle of the seat. He fumbled with the button before muttering, "Uh, yeah, Cyclops, I'm opening it." He only hoped that Scott didn't hear the tremor in his voice. Adrenaline was a bitch.

The red light flipped on; communications were cut.

Bobby took several deep breaths, trying to calm his heart. All right. So he would get in trouble for opening the hatch, and teased for panicking. So he would just pretend like it hadn't happened. Yeah, that was it. Everything was cool. Nothing was out of the ordinary. He'd just opened the hatch when Scott called, that was it. Everything was fine.

Bobby sighed and flipped over, slumping with his rump against the arm of the chair.

Someone was in the jet. And it wasn't Scott.

"Who are you?"

Bobby stared blankly, realizing that he wasn't the one who'd spoken. He didn't move. He didn't think he could. His brain frozen, he wondered what would happen if he got shot in his ice form.

That was a very big gun.

"Who the hell are you?"

"They're approaching, Captain."

There was more than one. Bobby blinked, trying to focus, to get his mind to work again, and realized there were at least three inside the jet, and another outside.

All he could think was that Scott would kill him.

"Who the HELL--"

The chair shifted underneath him, and the next thing he knew he'd lost his balance and it was swiveling. Bobby swung to the floor, landing hard on his arm. A gunshot rang out almost immediately after, the bullet plowing into the back of the chair as it spun around and around. Bobby shouted in panic and lashed out with his powers, freezing everything. He didn't know what, he didn't' have time to pay that much attention. There were three of them and they were SHOOTING at him. He froze.

The snow was still falling outside. He could see the occasional flake land just inside the door, and melt away. There were three pairs of feet, still in the same place, his view of their bodies blocked by the spinning chair. It creaked softly, a small whine for every circle.

Slowly, Bobby stood. "D-don't move," he stuttered, "or I'll do it again!" Two minutes. Scott had said two minutes. Hadn't it been that long yet?

He put out a hand and stopped the chair, using it for what questionable balance it offered. His other arm he put in front of him, as if his palm could stop any bullets that might fly.

The man in back was looking out the door, a scowl on his face. The one in the middle was looking in surprise toward the front window. The one in the lead was still holding his weapon up, his face twisted into a silent shout. Their guns were shining, almost glaringly bright. Even their skin looked metallic.

Bobby let out a shuddering breath, and it came out so white it might have been the fog in New York. "Don't move," he said again. He wasn't sure they could. Hadn't it been two minutes? Surely it had. It must have been.

He stepped forward, trembling all over, and reached for the man's gun. "Let it go." They weren't moving. They should be moving at least a little. Had he frozen them? Draped them in a thin layer of ice like he did to himself, only smaller? After all, they still had color to them. Maybe they were scared. Stiff.

"Let go," he said again, a little bit louder this time. There was no response, and he pulled on the barrel of the gun.

There was a cracking noise, like breaking ice out of a tray. Bobby paused. Their ice was cracking? Of course. If he moved their arms, it would only make sense that the ice would flake off. That had to be it.

He pulled harder, and felt a sudden give accompanied by a sharp snap. Bobby stared in horrified fascination at the man's hands, still grasping the handle. They shouldn't have been able to stay that straight with the gun at that angle.

Slowly, Bobby's eyes traveled up the barrel of the gun, then up the man's hands, past his wrists, to a point on his forearms where they simply ... bent.

There were shards of ice on the floor. Bobby shivered and swallowed hard.

Had it been two minutes? It seemed so much longer.

"Sir?" his voice was a whisper. "Did I freeze your clothes?"

Arms shouldn't bend at that angle.

None of the men moved. Not a sound was made.

Bobby let go of the gun. There was another sharp crack, and the tip of it dropped toward the floor. It didn't completely fall, though. The man's shirt wasn't frozen. Not entirely. His arms shouldn't have bent at that angle, but the cloth--it seemed to be keeping things together.

"Oh my God."

It could be repaired. Surely it could be repaired. They were just covered in ice. That was all.

Had it been two minutes?

Bobby stumbled forward, reaching out with a trembling hand to the man's neck.

No pulse. But he wasn't good at finding heartbeats, anyway. He probably was just feeling the wrong area, that was all. Or maybe he couldn't feel it under the sheet of ice. Could he feel his own pulse? Bobby put his fingers to his neck.

No, he couldn't feel his pulse. Other than his blood pounding in his head, there was no feeling at all. That was it, then. They were simply coated in ice. He just had to get rid of it, that was all.

Before the others got back and saw what he'd done.

He scratched at the ice on the man's neck, feeling it flake off under his nails. There, see? It was coming right off. It was on thick, though; he dug for several seconds, watching a little pile of slivered ice build up on the floor, very slowly melting away.

Two minutes. Had it been two minutes? Were the others on their way back? They couldn't see this.

"Wake up!" he snapped in frustration, hitting the man on the head. The ice cracked, and a few pieces dropped to the ground. It looked like hair.

But of course that wasn't possible. It only had a sheet of ice over it. It shouldn't break.

"Watch it!"

Bobby jumped and ducked, rolling toward the pilot's seat at the sound of Scott's voice. He ended up on his knees, wedged between the wall and the chair, watching a red glow in the doorway and listening to the blasting, roaring noise Scott's beams made.

There was a moment of silence.

"What the hell...?"

Slowly, Scott entered. He looked at the officer looking directly at him, then reached up and poked the man on the forehead.

Cyclops frowned, then glanced around. "Bobby?"

"Here." He couldn't quite keep the tremble out of his voice. "They ambushed me, Scott, and shot at me, and I covered them in ice before I could think about it. It's just--I can't seem to unfreeze them. I can't get the ice off."

Most of the others entered one by one, only Wolverine missing.

"You ... covered them with ice?" Jean asked quietly, watching one of them as she walked slowly around.

"Yeah," Bobby whispered. He realized with a start that he was still huddled low, and somehow he managed to pull himself up. "Yeah." The word was a little stronger. So the others had found out; this was a good thing. Maybe they could help him. "I was trying to flake it off--"

"Is that blood? What the hell happened to his neck?" Ororo demanded, standing beside the first man and glaring down by his feet. "Or his arms? Fuck, Bobby, What'd you do?" She looked up at Scott, whose expression beneath his visor was unreadable. "Is that why that guy shattered when you blasted him?" She turned, looking at Bobby in horror. "Did you fucking freeze them solid?"

"No - no!" Bobby corrected quickly, running to the first man. "Look, it's just an ice sheath! It chips off!" he scratched at the man's face and ice peeled away in little rivulets, showing red beneath. It had to be irritated skin; so he'd reached skin, and that was good. Quickly, he shook his hands and let the ice beneath his nails fall to the floor, then reached up to try and get more off.

"Oh my god, you're peeling him!" Ororo screamed, and slapped Bobby's hands away. "Fuck, Bobby, that guy out there shattered!"

Bobby started toward the door, nearly running. "Scott shouldn't be blasting like that," he said frantically. "Not until we know what his blasts do--" Piotr stepped in his path, nearly picking him up off the ground.

"Don't go out there," he said quietly. "Get the -- men out of here," Scott said tersely. "We need to go pick up Wolverine."

"They'll be fine, right Scott?" Bobby asked, staying put where Piotr had left him and watching as Hank picked up two of the men and tossed them out, Jean tossing the third out telekinetically. "I mean, I couldn't have frozen them solid. I wouldn't do that. I couldn't do that. You know that, right Scott?"

"Bobby, you're bleeding," Scott said in answer, throwing a cloth at him. "Wipe off your shoulder and sit down. We're taking off."

Jean was already in the pilot's seat. The others buckled in quickly; she never waited for anyone.

"They'll be okay, right?" His hands were trembling as he fumbled with his seatbelt, craning his head to see Cyclops in the co-pilot seat. "I mean, people who are frozen have a better chance of surviving the cold than anyone else!" Scott wasn't listening. Bobby twisted, looking for agreement anywhere, and his eyes finally landed on Hank, who was buckling his own seatbelt. "They'll probably be found in the morning and thawed out, right Hank?" he asked, still unable to buckle his seatbelt with his shaking hands.

Hank reached over and snapped the locks together, then picked up the cloth and dabbed at Bobby's shoulder. "I'm sure they're fine. After all, you freeze water -- not skin. Right?"

"Yeah," Bobby said, nodding and settling back in his chair. "That's right. Okay. They'll be fine." He breathed deeply, trying to keep his mind clear, watching Jean as she flew the 'bird to the landing site. They dropped to the ground and Wolverine got in, wiping his claws on his pants. They left deep red streaks in three perfect rows, and Bobby couldn't quite decide if Wolverine had cut himself, or if it was from someone else. It must have been Wolverine's. X-Men didn't kill. Bobby hadn't killed. They were just coated, that was all.

"Why's everyone so quiet?"

Bobby ripped his gaze from the red marks and realized that Wolverine was buckled in and they were flying again. Ororo was sitting next to him, glancing furtively at Bobby.

"The 'bird was attacked while Bobby was alone," Scott said tersely.

"Oh. So?" Wolverine asked, frowning.

"Bobby ... defended himself," Piotr murmured.

Wolverine looked at Bobby, eyebrows raised.

"I just coated them in ice," Bobby said quickly, shaking his head. "I'm sure they'll be fine when they thaw." He looked around and saw Ororo looking at her toes. He tried to catch Hank's gaze, just for the affirmation, but Hank was inspecting the buckle of his harness. Bobby swallowed, licked his lips, and looked again at Wolverine; the only person who could look at him back just then. "It's just that I couldn't get it off, and Scott wanted to go--" he stopped, and found his gaze traveling to the small pile of slivered ice. It was gone, and someone must have been bleeding because all that was left was a small puddle of red. It must have been someone bleeding; he'd just scratched off ice, that was all, and ice didn't bleed.

Wolverine followed Bobby's gaze, then his eyes snapped back up. "Coated them in ice? Not froze 'em solid?"

"I can't do that," Bobby murmured. "I mean, I freeze water, not bodies. Right, Hank?"

"Right, Bobby," Hank answered softly, still inspecting his seatbelt.

"Well, the human body is mostly water." Wolverine pulled a cigar from a pouch meant for ammunition and started to light up. A dirty look from Ororo stopped him, and he flipped it between his fingers instead.

"No -- no, I couldn't have done that. My powers don't work that way -- right, Hank? They don't, do they? They couldn't, it's just not possible, I didn't--"

"It's all right, Bobby," Hank said, still softly. He let go of the seatbelt and put his hand on Bobby's knee. They both watched it, as if it contained all the answers. After a moment, Hank continued. "No one's blaming you for anything. Just ... don't think about it."

"They were just coated with ice," Bobby whispered, his voice trembling.

"I know."

Wolverine snorted and stuck his unlit cigar in his mouth. "Sure, kid. They were just coated in ice."

Cold. It was so cold. Bobby shivered and rubbed his arms, then flinched when he hit his bandaged shoulder. The doctor said it would heal. Bobby didn't think it would. Maybe he'd lost too much blood. Maybe that was why it was so cold.

Goosebumps rose on his arms and chest, and he shivered.

Like ice. The examining table was hard and cold, just like ice.

Charles came in, his cat on his lap. It had such white fur. And pale blue eyes that stared at him accusingly. As if it thought that he'd killed those men. But he hadn't. He'd just coated them in ice. Like that cat's eyes.

"Hello, Bobby."

The sudden sound of a voice in the otherwise silent room startled him, and he jumped before looking up to meet the professor's eyes. The professor's face was guarded, and Bobby wondered if his mind was being read, if the professor knew that he hadn't killed those men, because he hadn't, he couldn't have, it just wasn't possible.

"Your parents called."

Bobby shivered and shifted on the slab of metallic ice, and nodded. The cat was staring at him, as if those eyes were really frozen and out of them stared those dead men -- but of course they weren't dead, they were simply waiting to be found and they'd be fine, just fine, because people frozen had a better chance of surviving the cold than others, or so Bobby'd heard, and besides he hadn't frozen them solid, he couldn't do that.

"Perhaps you should take a flight, go see them tomorrow. Stay over New Year's."

That voice sounded so harsh in the deadly quiet room. Grating, echoing, bouncing off cold white walls. "Sure." He didn't care, he just wanted the professor to go away and not read his mind, not hear what had happened -- not that anything had, of course -- just go away and stop talking in this cold white room. It made something in the back of his head whisper about cold and white and dying caked in cold and white and scared and so cold--

"Well, if you're feeling all right and want to leave, perhaps I should let you go."

He looked up in alarm. Did the professor know he wanted to leave because he' d thought it too loud? Were his thoughts being read, or was it just a guess?

But the professor had already turned around and was about to depart, and Bobby wasted no time in jumping up and following. He had to leave the cold white tomb. He had to get out of there, with the voices whispering to him of dying in ice.

It was with great relief that he made it up the ride in the elevator, stepping out onto the soft blue carpeting of the hall. He could hear noises coming from the rec room; the television playing, people talking, the clack of pool balls crashing together. Ororo looked up in time to see him, and her laughter silenced immediately. A moment later heads were peeking around the doorway, watching him, all looking at him as if they knew something about him, something he didn't want them to know.

He hadn't killed those men.

Bobby shivered and turned toward the stairway.


He jumped, sure for a moment that it had been the sound of the captain. But he hadn't killed those men. They were fine. "Yeah, Hank?"

"You're still in uniform."

Bobby looked down at himself and realized he'd forgotten to change while downstairs. "Oh." He pondered that for a moment, but he didn't want to go back down into the white halls and rooms to change. It was so cold, all over, but colder down there. He headed once more for the stairs.


He stopped again and with a trembling hand pulled his bandana from his head. "Yeah, Piotr?"

"Would you like to join us?"

Ororo elbowed Piotr in the doorway, hissing something at him. Bobby didn't quite catch it; he was so cold, and all he wanted was to go upstairs and curl up in his blanket. He wanted that more than anything, because maybe he would get warm again. Not that he should. Those men would never be warm again. Please, God, he couldn't have killed them. "Sure," he whispered in a choked voice, then started again for the stairs. He didn't pause when he heard the next person.


"Yeah?" he asked, reaching the banister and using it for balance.

Scott hesitated. "Ah ... Merry Christmas."

Bobby nodded once and continued up the stairs. "Okay." His bandana slipped from his fingers, and landed in a cold wet heap on the floor. "Merry Christmas."

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