Carol of the Bells * II *

By Nichole (Neko-chan) Johnson

Written: May 16 – 18, 2003

Rated: PG (may go up)

Pairings: Mainly Kurt/Kitty; canon pairings mentioned (Scott/Jean, Rogue/Remy)

Disclaimer: I don't own either the X-Men: Evolution series or the X-Men in general. Each is the respective property of Warner Bros. and Marvel.

Author's Note: This chapter starts out with a flashback or memory sequence, for those of you who may not get what's going on. It switches back to the present (or future, but it's the present in this story) after the sequence break (the 3 asterisks). And yay! Kurt finally appears in this chapter! Don't worry, you'll be seeing more of him in the next chapter, I promise (he is my fav character, after all.)

"What are you, my own personal Ghost of Christmas Past or something?"

- Davey Stone (a.k.a. Adam Sandler)

It wasn't unusual for Kitty to be receiving her first gift of Hanukkah the day before Winter Break began. It was, however, out of the ordinary that a letter of apology should accompany it.

She had almost expected as much that year. After the explosion of anti-mutant sentiment in Bayville due to the majority of the Institute's students having been exposed to the world as mutants, she could only assume her parents would be feeling somewhat hesitant about bringing their "special" daughter home for the holidays and exposing their association with the dreaded term. It had taken some time, but Kitty had quickly gotten used to and come to terms with her mutant abilities. Her parents, on the other hand, had not.

Kitty knew her parents loved her. But to a family who had prided themselves on living the American Dream in utter normality up until that fateful day when their daughter awoke in the basement with her bed sheets hanging from the ceiling, Kitty's unusual abilities were not an easy thing to get used to. As was the fact that her abilities gained her the added bane of being called a 'mutant'. Those were not things the Prydes could become easily adjusted to, after the relative harmony of their urban existence.

Even so, Kitty couldn't help but feel somewhat bitter as she watched the rest of the manor bustle about in preparation for their own visits home for the holidays. The letter had been short, and though filled with many admissions of regret and heartfelt apologies, it had held little of an actual explanation as to the reason for them canceling on her, which only strengthened her belief of their true motives. It hurt to think that, in their own way, even her own parents—who had continued to love her even after the discovery of her mutant genes—would at one point abandon her because of it, if only to retain their carefully maintained image of normality amidst the currently waning mutant scare that had swept parts of the nation. Watching the other students who were still left after everything that had transpired in the last several months, she couldn't help but feel the stirrings of envy at their collective joy at returning home for winter vacation.

And so she had slipped quietly away from the excited frenzy of preparations, seeking solitude. Which is how she found herself in the library. It was a welcome change from the craze that had overcome the rest of the estate for it remained, as always, still and silent; a sanctuary from the whir of activity outside.

She found she wasn't the only one who thought of it as such.

Kitty was actually somewhat proud that she didn't jump for once. Perhaps she had just gotten better at spotting the blue elf. It was, after all, the tail that gave him away in the end; which she had first spotted swishing lazily from the top of one of the bookcases and had kept her from jumping outright when he finally spoke.

"Hey, Katzchen. Why aren't you packing?"

Perhaps she hadn't quite gotten over his slight abandonment several months back, or perhaps she was just moodier than she thought over her parents own current abandonment, but she found herself shooting Kurt a dark glare, hoping her would sense her annoyance and therefore leave her to her thoughts.

She knew, with Kurt, it was a hopeless venture. The furry mutant could pick up on a person's mood from a mile away, and nearly always took it upon himself to remedy the situation, whether his methods were welcome or not.

And knowing his methods, Kitty was certain they were not in this situation—welcome, that was.

Plopping down into one of the couches at the far side of the room, she curled into proper sulking posture, shooting the German mutant one last warning glance over her shoulder before settling in to watch the snow fall in ever-growing drifts outside the immense windows.

She was treated to a loud BAMF! as Kurt perched himself anew on the far armrest of her couch, replete with the familiar aroma of sulfur she was so unpleasantly familiar with. Kitty didn't even bother to turn, though the glare in her eyes increased somewhat with the knowledge that she wasn't going to be left alone anytime soon.

"You and Rogue have another fight over room privileges this year?" she heard him quip from over her shoulder, sounding both amused and properly sympathetic at the thought. She could practically hear his grin, then, as he chuckled suddenly in recollection. "I can still remember the one you two had last year. I think everyone can, especially Evan—who got the full shock of Rogue's bare hand after you ran straight through the door and then him with one of Rogue's precious Reign of Darkness posters in hand…"

Kitty grit her teeth, not finding the memory quite as amusing. She had hated that awful poster, and it had been on her side of the room, despite anything Rogue may have said.

Regardless, that wasn't the issue right now. Right now she just wanted to be left alone to pout in peace.

"Kurt, could you, like, leave me alone right now?" she attempted, controlling her voice as best she could and trying to remain polite despite her irritation.

There was another soft BAMF! and Kurt was suddenly peering at her from the coffee table, head canted quizzically and one of his trademark impish grins tugging at the corners of his mouth. Had she turned more to look, she would have seen the mischievous glint in his pale eyes as well, but she didn't need to see it to know it was there.

"Ah, so there vas a fight then, ja?" came the heavily accented reply, also heavily laced with amusement.

Finally Kitty allowed herself to turn to the inquisitive elf, the very picture of angry exasperation. "Kurt, there like, wasn't a fight! I just want to be left alone!" she huffed in annoyance, turning back to her window-gazing with an angry flounce.

Kurt actually managed to remain silent for several heartbeats; then there was another BAMF! and it seemed that she would finally have the room all to herself.

It remained so for another minute, for which Kitty was grateful as she gazed gloomily out the expansive library window at the snow falling heavily on the grounds; and then he reappeared suddenly with a soft implosion on the couch, and she nearly jumped in surprise, turning to him with an angry retort on her lips.

She froze momentarily, though, at the sudden seriousness that had overcome his features. It always surprised her somewhat how swiftly and easily Kurt could alter his expressions and moods, like the flick of a switch it seemed. And also how unreadable some of those expressions could be, as was the one he now wore.

"Zhey canceled on you, didn't zhey?" he spoke suddenly, his tone ambiguously soft. His accent was even more pronounced than usual with the unaccustomed tone, giving Kitty pause for thought.

She floundered momentarily, pretending not to understand his meaning. "Wha-what do you mean? Who?" She caught a slight movement, her eyes darting from his face to his lap where his hands lay fiddling uncomfortably with a piece of paper.

Where did that come from? she thought briefly, and then she recalled his short absence, her interest casually piqued.

Her gaze corrected itself hastily, and she realized he had turned to look at her with a sympathetic expression. "Your parents," he clarified carefully, and it was clear he knew exactly why she was so upset.

Kitty turned away hastily, embarrassed that he had figured it out so easily. She tried to cover up her hurt with indignation.

"So, what, the Professor tell you or something? Or do you read minds now, too?" she grumped irritably, all hope of getting some alone time now decidedly dashed by this intrusion.

"Nein," was his reply in a tone she could only describe as light. She could only guess that his smile was just as watered. "Just…judging by what you've told us about your parents, I figured as much after, well…every'sing that's happened this year…"

Despite the truth of his words, old defenses rose instinctively in the girl as she turned to favor him with another sharp glare, jumping hastily from the couch. "Oh, so now you're calling my parents bigots or something, is that it? Maybe it's got nothing to do with all this stupid anti-mutant rioting, okay! Maybe they're just, like, really busy with work 'n stuff, or expenses are a little tight this year! You ever think of that, fuzzbrain?!"

The older boy's face seemed to fall slightly, but Kitty wasn't certain if it was over her name-calling or not. There was a momentary silence after her little outburst, as if he were giving her a moment to rein herself in, and then he finally spoke up, and his words nearly pierced her heart.

"Is that really what you believe, Katzchen?"

She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream, and shout, and call him every mean name she could think of and throw things. She wanted to break things and make a mess. Because he was right, and it hurt. She hurt.

Instead, she released her breath in a loud huff and sat down heavily beside him on the couch once again. It wasn't worth having a tantrum. She knew all of her anger had drained from her then, baring her hurt expression to him at last as she sat slumped on the couch, studying the pattern of the rug with sudden interest.

"I'm not that stupid," she admitted finally to his semi-rhetoric inquiry, her voice small and tired. She sighed once again, tiredly, turning her gaze to her hands which she spread open-faced upon her knees in contemplation.

"I guess…I was kind of expecting it, too. Not quite, but…let's just say I wasn't entirely surprised," she continued bitterly, not really caring now how self-pitying she may have sounded. She found she felt like that around Kurt more than any of the other X-Men. Somehow, he just made it easy to talk to him; one didn't care what they revealed. Perhaps it was his famous go-lucky outlook on life shining through, even in his darkest of moods. Kurt would never let you think that you were alone or that a situation was hopeless, which was what often gained him the notoriety for being one of the sweetest guys at the Institute as well as the best listener.

It was also one of the reasons they all put up with his wildly stupid stunts and over exuberance at the Institute so often. Kitty was sure there would be far more complaining going around about the rambunctious elf if he wasn't so sweet-natured.

Said elf looked thoughtful, his eyes focused on some far point on the coffee table's surface. He was silent for several moments, brows furrowing slightly as he considered his words.

"Your parents love you, Katzchen—you know that, right?" he spoke up finally after a pregnant pause, his gaze finally flicking to her again, questioning.

In reply, Kitty's thin brows furrowed darkly, lips pursing bitterly. But even so, she nodded faintly. "Yeah, yeah, I know," she commented with a huff, but there seemed to be a hint of appreciation underneath the bitter tone. "It's just…stupid, y'know. It's really stupid."

He nodded lightly in agreement, a wry grin touching his lips. "Ja. It is."

She continued on, releasing her frustrations in small verbal outbursts. "They sent me this dumb letter that basically said nothing, just how sorry they were and how much they plan on 'making it up to me' when they, like, know there's no way they can! I mean, did they really think I was like, that stupid? That I wouldn't figure out why they didn't want me to come this year?! Seriously! I'm like, not six anymore!"

She was standing up now, pacing occasionally, gesticulating outrageously. She could feel Kurt's gaze following her with thinly-veiled amusement as she expressed her indignation, getting it all out.

"…And then they gave me this stupid snowglobe!" she huffed finally, plopping resignedly down on the couch once again.

Kurt blinked momentarily, confused. "A snowglobe?"

Kitty sighed sufferably. "Yeah. It's this stupid tradition of theirs or something, and they know I hate it," she elaborated, toying absent-mindedly with the collar of her sweater. "Every time they'd cancel something on me, or we'd be, like, unable to celebrate Passover together because they had to work overtime or something, they'd send me this stupid souvenir from wherever they were. One time it was this really stupid Statue of Liberty lighter, and this other time it was some New Mexico Indian carving or whatever."

"I've got, like, a whole drawer of stupid things like that from them."

She caught the look of continued confusion in Kurt's eyes as he studied her quizzically. "A snowglobe doesn't sound that bad," he offered helpfully with a slight grin piercing through his confusion and a faint shrug of his shoulders.

Kitty rolled her eyes, though inwardly she appreciated his continued attempts at optimism. "You don't get it, Fuzzy. They sent me a snowglobe with this little sky view of Chicago inside it, so when you shake it, it looks like the city in the winter."

She sighed again, and the full extent of her sorrow seemed to be portrayed by her expression. "I didn't really mind all the other souvenirs before—they were just dumb. I had never been to any of those places, so they didn't mean anything to me."

"But that stupid snowglobe…"

At last some understanding filled Kurt's pale eyes. His dark brows furrowed sympathetically as she trailed off bitterly, scowling at the floor.

"It reminds you of home," he finished softly, looking as if he felt just as hurt as she by the situation.

Kitty nodded briskly. "Yeah. Like I said, the whole thing's stupid," she concluded, sounding sheepish. Suddenly she felt incredibly silly for admitting all of this to Kurt.

The German shook his head adamantly, eyes wide and sympathetic. "No it's not, Kitty," he insisted supportively, "It makes perfect sense. But I don't think your parents meant it that way…"

The auburn-haired girl turned to gaze at him curiously, feeling somewhat comforted despite herself. "Yeah, you're right. I mean, I know they didn't mean it that way, I just couldn't help but feel a little homesick about it."

A hesitant grin cracked Kurt's dark features, one white fang standing out in startling contrast with the effort. "Hey, everyone feels a little homesick during the holidays. That's why they write so many songs about it."

Kitty couldn't help but spare a small grin at the characteristic Kurt crack. "You have, like, the strangest reasoning, Fuzzy," she remarked wryly. A sudden thought occurred to her, and she glanced once more to his hands where the innocuous piece of paper was still clutched.

"Hey, what about you?" she spoke up suddenly, her face serious once again. "Why aren't you, like, packing for Germany right now?"

"Oh…" The elf's grin wavered momentarily, but remained in place; attempting assurance. He couldn't quite fool Kitty, however, who—though some still remained a mystery to her—had come to know some of the energetic elf's expressions as second-hand. And the one he was giving her right now was obviously his 'brave face.'

She frowned at him slightly in disapproval, but Kurt seemed not to notice, or at least pretended not to.

"Apparently, they're having some bad weather over in Munich right now, so my flight's been cancelled until the snow has cleared up," was his unconcerned reply. "Right now they're saying it could be a day or two."

He grinned, and this one looked almost genuine as he leaned back on the couch, getting more comfortable. "Besides, I'm already packed. You're the one who always starts packing last minute and has to be dragged out the door by Herr Logan so that you don't miss your flight."

"I do not pack last minute. And I do not almost miss my flights!"

"Whatever you say, Kitty…"

"Kurt!"

The blue mutant chuckled lightly at her indignation. "Hey, lighten up! For the next two days, you and I have the run of the house after everyone's gone! We are going to party!"

This grin was definitely sincere, she decided, because it was having the usual effect of both annoying her to no end and charming her despite herself. Her expression was dubious when she spoke. "Kurt, like you just said, it's just you 'n me. Do you know how like, boring that's gonna' be?"

The mischievous glint in Kurt's eyes begged to differ. Kitty felt a sudden sense of dread.

"Katzchen, with your phasing abilities, and my teleportation skills, I can think of a million things we could do around this place…"

"None of them being good," added Kitty with a groan, half to herself. She could practically see the elf's mind working away furiously at all the tricks he could pull on their housemates in their absence, and she was almost afraid to find out first-hand. Whatever Kurt may have been upset about when she brought the issue up, didn't seem to matter anymore, for he was definitely back to his usual irritating self.

Maybe Kitty wouldn't have it any other way. She certainly wasn't feeling so sore about her parents canceling on her anymore, at least for the moment, and she was pretty sure it was mainly his doing. She didn't quite know how he did it, but she was grateful.

Thanks, Elf, she thought to herself, a smile tugging at her lips. Maybe the holidays wouldn't be as bad as she thought this year…

She turned, considering Kurt's mischievous smirk once again. Well, until everyone gets back from their vacations, she corrected herself wryly. Then there was more than likely going to be hell to pay.

Kitty wondered why it was that that particular memory had occurred to her just then. There was many a memory that could be connected to the library or any other room in the spacious mansion for that matter. She supposed it was the fact that it was the holidays, for when she really thought about it, she had few holiday memories that actually involved the Institute seeing as how she had spent the majority of them at home with her parents.

The young woman smiled a bit, then as she made the connection. This would be her second Hanukkah spent at the Institute instead of home. No wonder the memory had come back to her.

But as had any recollections she'd made of her high school friends on this visit, a pang of heartache accompanied the memory. Swallowing the feeling, she followed the tall and slender form of Jean Grey into the room; reasserting a warm smile on her face as she did so and banishing the remnants of her nostalgia as she greeted the other occupants of the room.

"Kitty," greeted a tall, auburn-haired man, "It's good to see you." He smiled warmly, the red lenses of his shades flashing in the light from the fire as he moved to greet her, pulling her into a chaste hug.

Kitty smiled wryly into his sleeve, returning the hug just as warmly. Scott was just as she remembered him; ever the big-brother and just a tad too tight-in-the-collar in comparison to the rest of the X-Men, but a nice guy nonetheless. She recalled her girlish infatuation with the older boy her first year at the Institute with some amusement as she pulled away from the embrace, grinning up at him with growing good humor.

"It's good to see you, too, Scott," she said with a laugh, enjoying the flustered expression on his face at her sudden jocularity. He had never really been one for humor, the poor guy, and she suddenly wished that Kurt or Evan were there to help lighten him up a bit as they had back in high school.

Shaking her head wryly at the thought, she gave Scott a good-natured punch to the arm. "Boy, but do you never change…"

She could hear Jean's chuckled amusement from behind her, and she turned to share a warm grin with the older woman as Scott continued to gaze at them both; his face a picture of sheepish puzzlement.

Turning from the two, Kitty turned another warm smile on the other source of gentle chuckling in the room, as Jean turned comfortingly to her lover; a merry twinkle still in her green eyes.

"Mr. McCoy," she said in warm greeting, throwing her arms in a wide hug around her former professor. "How have you been?"

Long, powerful arms held her in a gentle embrace, the shaggy mutant's blue eyes twinkling merrily with intelligent humor. "The years have treated me quite well, my dear," he replied in kind, well-educated tones. He released her, holding her at arms length to study her with affection. "But come, enough with the formalities. Call me 'Hank'—we are all adults, after all."

Kitty laughed faintly, feeling slightly overwhelmed. "Has it really been that long?" she exclaimed breathlessly, looking around at the three of them and then the old-familiarity of the room with wistful blue eyes.

Hank's blue eyes were warm with an almost paternal affection. "It is good to have you home once again, Kitty."

The young woman's gaze turned once again to her old friends, noting the faint tracks that time had made in their familiar faces: Jean a distinguished woman, green eyes somewhat darkened with wisdom and time, certain in her immense powers; and Scott, looking the seasoned and straight-laced leader he had always presaged in her youth. The changes were more subtle in Hank who had already been 'old' to her eyes when she had been a student, and who's blue fur camouflaged his features to some extent. But she sensed more than saw the more recent lines in his face, and she felt somehow that his bushy brows were slightly thicker and heavier than she remembered them.

These things she noticed only on closer inspection, however. When she looked again, they were just as she remembered them, and a buoyant smile graced her lips.

"You know, it's good to be home…"

From the looks on their faces, all three seemed to share in her sentiment.

They chatted for what seemed like hours, exchanging anecdotal accounts of college and travels outside of their days at the Institute; filling in the gaps from where they'd last seen one another. The fire crackled merrily in the hearth whilst outside, snow had begun to fall; swirling spirals of fragile flakes that glittered beyond the immense windows like the delicate ballet of so many faeries. Any doubts, any misgivings she had had seemed to melt away from Kitty's being as she indulged herself in the warm comfort of old friends; in the heat from the fire and the warm mug of cocoa she had accepted from Jean as they'd all settled down for a good long chat on this cold winter night.

Kitty couldn't help but feel as if she had returned home, in some way. The friendly warmth in Jean's emerald eyes; the secret, lovers' glances she and Scott would occasionally share; and Hank's genial wit and gentle guidance—they were all so familiar and dear to her. But she was distinctly aware that she was no longer a righteous, fifteen-year-old girl with a valley-girl vernacular and a thick ponytail of abundant, auburn locks; that they were no longer a bunch of high school buddies joking around and sharing classroom traumas. And there was a distance there, between them, despite the ease and friendly camaraderie they seemed to share. It wasn't painful, merely disconcerting, and it was a feeling she could handle. It was what she had expected; she felt no disappointment.

And seeing their faces, so familiar and full of an acceptance she had never quite achieved since her departure, she was content.

At some point in the night they had moved from regaling one another with their goings-on in recent years to spirited flights of nostalgia; recalling former classmates and companions with wistful expressions and soft chuckles. More specifically, their reminiscing turned to winter and Christmas memories from their student days at the Institute—or in the case of Hank, early teaching days—and their accounts were wild and filled with colorful commentary.

"No, you're kidding!" laughed Jean in delighted disbelief, clutching her stomach with mirth. "He did not!"

Kitty struggled to control her own laughter, a hand to her mouth. "Oh, he so did! I thought Rahne was going to bite his head off!"

"Seriously? A dog sled?!"

"Yep. He even got Jamie to go along with it; had seven of 'im harnessed up like a team of grinning sled dogs when he unveiled it to her. And wearing bells, to boot."

Even Scott was clearly amused despite himself as he shot his long-time girlfriend a sidelong glance. "I can't believe you never heard about this, Jean…" he mused affectionately.

Jean gasped with rapt amazement. "Like jingle bells? Oh my—I can't believe Roberto did that!" she exclaimed, breaking into even more peals of laughter.

She sucked in a sudden breath, a thought occurring to her, and shot Kitty a suspicious glance. "Wait a—there's no way that boy thought up something like that on his own…" she ventured warily, eyeing both Kitty and Scott disbelievingly. "In fact, there's only one person I know of who could've constructed such a stunt."

Again, even Scott couldn't hide a wry grin at the obvious implications. From his comfortable perch in one of the far armchairs, Hank smiled softly and knowingly.

Kitty had come to the same conclusions back when the stunt had first occurred, but she feigned continued mystification on the matter, shrugging lightly. "Hey, your guess is as good as mine, Jean. It was only rumored, after all…"

The redhead's snort of laughter implied that she wasn't buying it. "Oh, this time you have really got to be kidding me, Kitty... This is Kurt, we're talking about."

"Even so, the boy denies to this day that he had anything to do with it," interjected Hank from his armchair. The mischievous light in his blue eyes made it apparent that he was just as disbelieving of such claims on the blue elf's part as the telepath.

"And as they say, 'innocent until proven guilty', my dear," he added with a faint chuckle.

Jean laughed in amazement at his calm amusement over the matter, shaking her head lightly.

The laughter began to die down a bit, and Kitty once again felt a pang of wistful melancholy at the mention of the exuberant German elf. There was no denying that a close bond of friendship had developed between the two of them in her last several years at the Institute, and it had been a difficult parting upon her leave for college. But her parents had been eager for her to attend classes closer to home after graduation, and she couldn't deny her own longings to return to Illinois once again; not to mention the growing sense of unwelcome hostility she had withstood for the past three years in Bayville. Graduation had been her chance to escape, and though she was loathe to leave Kurt and her other friends behind, the lure of her roots and the chance for a new beginning had won her over and she had returned to Illinois and her parents to attend college in the guise of a normal student.

In the years since, she had been plagued by an often fleeting sense of doubt. She had been able to dismiss such nagging thoughts without much difficulty before, no matter how often they surfaced. But she had never quite felt them to the extent that she had been feeling them since she had received the Professor's summons nearly a month ago.

She realized suddenly that as she had lapsed into contemplative silence, the others had turned to peer at her with growing expressions of concern.

"Kitty, is something wrong?" spoke up Jean hesitantly, snapping the auburn-haired young woman out of her slight reverie.

Kitty turned to her, expression mildly apologetic as she caught the concerned edge in the older woman's gaze. "Oh, it's nothing, really. I guess I was just feeling a little homesick for the old days," was her wistful reply, a watery smile gracing her lips.

Jean's smile was comforting, seeming to share her sentiment somewhat. "I know what you mean. But that's what reunions are for after all, don't you think?" The sudden wry gleam in her green eyes piqued Kitty's curiosity as she turned meaningfully to Scott, the two of them sharing a glance.

"That's right," quipped the young man, his features once again their usual humorless nature…though the tone in his voice spoke of anticipation. "We're still expecting Logan, who's been off on some private business for a couple of days now, but is expected within the day or so. And Rogue is due to arrive sometime tomorrow, if her flight doesn't run into any bad weather before then."

"Speaking of flight difficulties," spoke up Jean suddenly, looking thoughtful, "I almost forgot. The Professor contacted me awhile ago while we were discussing something and wanted me to let you all know that Kurt's flight has finally touched down at Manhattan Air. It seems Manhattan was hit by a small snowstorm earlier tonight so they were forced to delay landing by several hours again."

No one seemed to notice the momentarily frozen expression on Kitty's face as they continued to discuss Kurt's delayed flight with a casualness she did not feel. Her heart had nearly seized in her throat at Jean's announcement, having been caught completely unawares by the news.

"It's about time," Scott was exclaiming with some irritation. "The Professor's been on the phone and Cerebro for most of the day dealing with all of the flight changes he's had to make. Apparently, the weather's been hell over in Europe and it only gets worse over the Atlantic."

"The poor boy," murmured Hank sympathetically from his chair, "He must be worn ragged by all those flight changes and stopovers. He certainly is determined to arrive today."

Jean chuckled good-naturedly. "You know Kurt. 'Never say die.' All the optimism of a golden retriever…" Realizing her choice of wording all too late, she shot Scott a sharp warning glance. "Don't you dare say a thing!"

"What?" exclaimed her beau, looking hurt. "All I was going to say was that he also has the energy of one…"

Seeming to regain her voice, Kitty finally managed to speak up. "No one told me Kurt was going to be here," she remarked pointedly, looking surprised and slightly hurt.

All three turned to stare at her in astonishment at the unexpected declaration.

"Really?" exclaimed Hank, looking rather bemused. He scratched his chin slightly in wonder, looking bewildered. "I would have thought that you of all people would have been the first of us to learn of his coming."

Jean, however, looked hesitant; almost guilty. "You mean…you didn't get a letter from him?"

Kitty tried not to let her disappointment show. "No. Are you saying all of you did?"

The three nodded faintly, exchanging curious glances. There was a thoughtful expression in Jean's green eyes.

Kitty continued, a thread of irritation replacing her momentary shock. "I haven't gotten any letters from him since…well, last Hanukkah, I think. So almost a year," she told them, brows furrowing ever-so slightly.

Her blue eyes had turned bright and sharp; the others seemed hesitant to interrupt. They all knew Kitty's righteous indignation quite well, and seemed to be wondering why Kurt would wish to incite it.

The younger woman huffed angrily, an angry smirk twisting her lips. "Oh, when he gets here…" she managed to huff threateningly. But the sudden, eager light in her blue eyes belied her elation at the news.

The telepath seemed to have picked up on her underlying enthusiasm, her warm smile renewed as she glanced at the men folk in assurance. "It looks as if we'll be having quite the reunion after all," she commented wryly, the good mood restored once again.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Yikes! This was a long chapter—much longer than I'd intended! So, gift to you all! I hope you enjoyed. The first chapter was quite short so hopefully this one made up for it a bit. Of course, once again I ended it on a semi-cliffhanger—only this time around, it was intended. I certainly didn't mean it in the first chapter, it just sort of happened that way. But I knew all along that chapter 2 was going to be a cliffhanger. Heh. I know, I'm so mean.

Anyway, thanks so much to those of you who reviewed the first chapter! I got some really great and encouraging reviews! You guys are what kept me determined to complete this second chapter…though it took muuuuuch longer than I'd intended because there just ended up being so much that needed to be said! I don't know what I'm going to do when Kurt finally makes his actual appearance—he just runs away with himself. What's a poor fan-writer to do?

My personal thanks to:

Queequegg – Yay! Thanks so much—you were my very first reviewer! Thank you so much for the great comments! I was really flattered! I hope you'll enjoy this chapter just as much!

Kaminarimon – Wow! I can't believe I had that affect on you! Though I'm not sure I know who Takari is; maybe I'm just not cultured enough, ja? I hope you'll keep reading, and maybe educate me a little on Takari. ^_^

Selene – Thank you so much for the compliment, though I have to admit I'm not so confident in my writing skills as you. I simply enjoy writing, and what's the point of writing if not to share something? So I'm glad there are others who could enjoy my flights of fancy along with me.

Shadow-fire – Lol. I'm glad you want more. I hope you like this chapter as much as the last. I'll try to update as often as possible, because you seem so eager. And I'm glad I caught your review before posting this. Thanks so much for the support!

Thanks so much to all of you reviewers! Your comments are always appreciated!

~Neko-chan