Carol of the Bells * IV *

By Nichole (Neko-chan) Johnson

Written: May 27 – 31, 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: Hmmm… And here comes a partially humorous chapter—yay for me! It's funny, 'cuz I've written a lot of crazy humor-type pieces in the past, and yet my serious pieces are always so…angsty or something. I hope you'll all appreciate the humorous banter, though. That's what Kurt's good for, after all, and I sooo don't want to make him angsty (it is a word! I say so!) in this fic. That's what Kitty's for, lol. (Poor Katzchen…) But I plan on starting a silly fic any day now, so I hope you'll all watch for it! It'll probably be a Halloween fic—I know, another holiday one! But I couldn't resist, because I had an idea come to me one day when I was really hyper and ran up the stairs to greet my family with, "I AM…the Pumpkin King!" which I used to do all the time early on in high school. Ah, memories! But I digress…

"Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."

- William Shakespeare

I'm going to bed. I'm going to bed. I need to sleep…

As much as she assured herself of her intentions, Kitty couldn't help but be aware of the fact that her legs were most definitely not taking her in the direction of her room.

Despite what she would have expected after Kurt's arrival, the reunion had been brief. They had hardly had time to settle themselves once again in the comfy confines of the library when Kurt had excused himself, claiming exhaustion. The others had immediately looked apologetic, even a little shocked with themselves at having forgotten the troubles he had gone through in getting there; and wishing him and then each other good night, had dispersed to their own rooms for some long-awaited rest.

Kitty, however, had found herself making an aimless trek through the empty halls, far too restless to let sleep claim her. It must have been sometime after one in the morning, yet she felt completely awake.

I should go to bed, she told herself once more, insistently, I'm going to be exhausted in the morning and I need to talk to the Professor.

Instead of convincing her, her arguments only seemed to fuel her agitation. Kitty groaned softly to herself, halting for a moment in the hallway she had been wandering idly; attempting to reorganize her thoughts and focus at last on a destination.

The kitchen, she thought after a moment, turning to head in that new direction. I left a sandwich in the kitchen. She sighed again, resignedly; her mind on auto-pilot as she struggled to push aside the anxiety that had arisen at mention of her business with the Professor.

I'll eat something. Then I can go to bed, she reasoned silently.

She stopped short upon entering the room, blinking at the unexpected light and sight that greeted her, and mentally chastised herself for not having expected it in the first place.

The blue elf didn't even bother turning from the counter, where he stood apparently preparing one of his legendary sub sandwiches. The counter was strewn with just about every topping and food item imaginable that could be found in the large kitchen, most of which were inedible to Kitty's tastes, but the case was obviously not so with Kurt; who diligently incorporated all of it into the sandwich before him.

His tail seemed suddenly to snake out of nowhere, retrieving a plate from the far end of the counter and handing it towards her with a small flourish, wrapped loosely within its prehensile grasp.

"Forget something, fraulein?"

Kitty blinked, slowly coming out of her daze. A small smile quirked at her lips as she took the plate from him, glancing at the remains of her sandwich and then him with a slightly raised brow.

"How did you know it was mine?" she countered, sounding amused.

He threw her a familiar, roguish grin over his shoulder. "Who else but you eats that trödel, mein liebling?" was his wry reply, gold eyes twinkling merrily against his dark fur.

Shaking her head lightly, Kitty came all of the way into the room, taking a seat once more at the little island.

"Well apparently someone else around here, that's who," she countered righteously, though she still appeared amused despite herself. "Where do you think I got the ingredients?"

She watched with mild interest as Kurt finished his sandwich creation and began swiftly returning the ingredients to their places, his back still to her as he moved about the room. When he was through, he took a seat of his own at the small island beside her, his sandwich and a large glass of milk in hand. Kitty made a show of looking disgusted, raising a brow at his choice of food in distaste.

"And you call what I'm eating junk?" she exclaimed distastefully, eyeing his sandwich with over-dramatized revulsion, just as she had so many times as a teenager.

He merely grinned at her and winked cheekily, well aware of her view on his unusual tastes, and went quickly to work on his food. Rolling her eyes lightly on sheer principle, Kitty buried a smile in her own sandwich.

Both ate in companionable silence for sometime, Kitty watching the snow that continued to build up outside the immense windows with mindless fascination. Beside her, Kurt quickly polished off the large sandwich and began raiding the fridge and cupboards once again, apparently still hungry. She listened to the sounds of cupboards closing, and pots and pans clanging softly somewhere behind her with half an ear; her thoughts turning inward as she watched the swirling snow.

After several minutes, Kurt's voice broke into her thoughts, jolting her back to the present. "Were you surprised?" he was asking her, and it seemed as if he had had to repeat himself, though he didn't sound at all annoyed with it. His tone was decidedly mild for him, in fact; not carrying the usual energy or humor, and she turned to regard him curiously. The smell of cooking oil hit her nose as she did.

Kitty caught his gaze, which was watching her with a slightly perplexed expression; dark brows raised questioningly. "Hnn? What?" she murmured absently, her blue eyes taking in the box of pancake mix and the large bowl of batter he was holding.

He smiled slightly at her, but it was soft and warm; not his usual, thousand-watt grin. "My coming here," he elaborated.

She watched him spill batter neatly into the skillet, frowning slightly in perplexion.

"The others told you, of course," he continued, grinning slightly in his sardonic way. "It was supposed to be a surprise, you know. Maybe I should've mentioned it in their letters, ja?" He frowned slightly, for show, glancing about for a spatula; and spotting one at the far end of the counter, retrieved it quite easily with his tail.

"I'll have to come up with some payback for that one…"

Kitty raised her brows a bit, unable to hide a small smile of her own at his remarks. "Oh, so is that why you didn't send me a letter, Fuzzy?"

Kurt shot her a devilish grin, flipping the spatula into the air and catching it easily in one hand with a flourish. "Nein. I just forgot." A regretful sigh now, and a contrite expression; and she was reminded all-too-much of what a goofball he could be. "Can you ever forgive me, mein Katzchen?"

She frowned at his flippancy this time, aware of the old ploy, but didn't remark on it. She had known him long enough to know that he always joked to avoid something, and it was obvious he was doing that now. Instead, she swallowed the old instinct to pry—which was what she would have done in the past—and resolved herself to bring it up later, perhaps when he was less en guard about the subject.

Kitty forced a sunny smile on her face, canting her head appreciatively at his show of retribution. "I suppose…just this once…" she replied with a sigh and equal dramatics, playing along for now.

It always surprised her how much she enjoyed playing these silly games with him. She hadn't always; it had been a gradual sort of thing, the way she became tolerant and then joined in on his ever-facetious ways. She just hadn't understood in the beginning, how he could be so flippant and cheerful with all of the discrimination they'd faced. He'd faced.

"How can you joke at a time like this?!" she had often found herself exploding on him, in an inexplicable burst of irritation and fury.

And more often than not, he had simply grinned at her, unfazed; perplexing her further at his unwavering optimism. "What better time to joke, Katzchen," he would counter, gesturing expansively with his arms. "You should lighten up, Kitty; not take things so seriously. Life's not as dark as you take it to be, mein liebes..."

Not as dark as you take it to be…she repeated thoughtfully to herself. She wished he had been there to assure her of this in the past six years. Her outlook had gotten so dark in such a small amount of time. So how was it she could so easily fall into the familiar pattern she had found with him in her youth?

He was holding a hand over his heart now in a show of relief at her words, and she couldn't help but submit a bit to the old urge to smile.

"Gutt," he exclaimed heartily, his grin returning like sun from behind wayward clouds. That grin had been her lifeline at times as a girl; it was something she could always rely on from him. And it warmed her now to know it hadn't changed.

"I'll sleep easier knowing you're not out for my blood," Kurt continued with a wink, flipping the pancakes with an expert flick of the wrist.

Kitty frowned at him faintly, trying to ignore the way her stomach grumbled at the enticing smell coming from the skillet he was standing over.

"Wasn't that what you went off to do in the first place?" she pointed out sardonically.

"Food always comes before sleep, mein freund," was his matter-of-fact reply, feigning seriousness. "Blue Elf's most important Cardinal Rule. Never to be broken."

Twirling the spatula with true exhibitionistic flair, he flipped the contents of the skillet onto a plate and turned swiftly, sliding the plate down the length of the island towards her and just as quickly turning back to the hot plate, the batter already in his other hand.

Kitty blinked slowly in surprise, catching the plate before it could slide off the edge of the counter, staring at the small stack of pancakes in wonder.

"Uh…thanks," she managed after a brief pause, her stomach once again betraying her at the delectable smell wafting from the plate before her.

"Was nicht," he replied dismissively, his back to her once again as he started up another batch, "Think I couldn't see you eyeing the skillet from over there like a starved animal, Katzchen? Can't have zhat now, can we?"

She giggled, knowing he was probably right as she abandoned her seat momentarily to retrieve the syrup and milk from the refrigerator. Still, she attempted to deny it, enjoying the banter.

"Oh, I was not, you paranoid little elf!" she retorted with a laugh, retrieving a fork from one of the drawers as well and returning to her seat. She frowned a little at the syrup bottle, disappointed to find it wasn't Lite, and then poured a minimal amount over her pancakes anyway.

Kurt pretended to be offended, shooting her an almost scandalized expression from where he stood over the skillet, spatula poised mid-air in a comical impression of shock. Kitty almost laughed aloud at the spectacle he made, but thought better of it; focusing instead on pouring herself a glass of milk.

"Not paranoid, fraulein," objected the elf adamantly, gold eyes wide and innocent, "Only concerned for mein Katze's health. Ach, but to think you've been starved all these years without my culinary skills around to sustain you…!"

She did laugh then, feeling lighter than she'd felt in some time. She couldn't even seem to recall what had had her so stressed and anxious earlier.

"Stop it, you goof," she exclaimed amidst her laughter, shaking her head in dismay. "I've done just fine without the artery-clogging disasters you make with said 'culinary skills', thank-you-very-much…"

"You wound me, fraulein."

"Oh, would you stop that?" she laughed, taking a bite of her pancakes at last. Her eyes widened momentarily in surprise, and then a look of amazed bliss overcame her features. She took another more desperate bite, almost moaning with pleasure at the overwhelming flavor.

She didn't catch the flash of a smug grin on Kurt's face as she began to dig in eagerly. Flipping several more pancakes onto his spatula with practiced ease, he held them out to her with a knowing grin.

"More artery-clogging goodness, mein liebling?" he inquired innocently, waggling his brows at her.

Ignoring his tone but for a righteous frown, Kitty held out her plate to accept the proffered seconds.

"Biß mich," she muttered cheerfully around a mouthful of pancake, and began to dig in.

She had polished off her fifth pancake, which was quite a feat for her, when Kurt finally turned off the skillet and took a seat beside her once again at the island, a plate piled high with pancakes in front of him.

"Kurt?"

He raised his brows at her over his plate, curious, the syrup in one hand.

She smiled softly, almost to herself, watching idly and for once not making a face of disgust as he proceeded to drown his food in the sticky substance. "I was surprised," she admitted momentarily, trying surreptitiously to sneak a bite from his plate where the syrup wasn't quite so heavy.

He smacked her hand away absently, ignoring the playful pout she gave him. "Hmm? Über was?" he prompted, digging into his food with relish.

"Seeing you," she elaborated, still pouting at him, "The others told me, but I was still pretty surprised. I just…didn't expect you'd be coming back, I guess."

She tried once again to steal a bite from his plate, but he slid it just out of her reach, never even looking up from his food. Kitty shot him a frustrated glare, but still he didn't look up.

"Why is that?" he asked after a moment, still focused entirely on his food.

Kitty wondered briefly if he was doing it just to annoy her, but didn't comment on it, deciding she'd rather stay on topic than start a petty argument. She was silent for a moment, looking thoughtful. "I don't know," she replied finally, pursing her lips. "I guess…I expected Scott and Jean, since they've begun teaching here recently. And Hank and Logan, of course, for the same reasons, though it was kind of iffy in Logan's case—he's not always around, but that's expected."

She was twirling her fork idling, watching the lights glint off of the metal with absentminded fascination as she talked. A small smile tugged at her lips. "And I got a letter from Rogue a couple of weeks ago, so I knew she'd be coming."

She could see him smiling lightly out of the corner of her eye, a wry expression in his pale eyes. "Ach, the dreaded Rogue letters!" he muttered amidst bites, sounding amused. "So you get them too, eh, Katzchen?"

Kitty gave him a disapproving look. "Hey, what's so bad about her letters? They're nice…"

He finally looked up from his food at her, flashing his fangs in a tight grin that somehow resembled a grimace. "Oh, ja, zhey're nice…" he admitted slowly with a faint shrug, "but it's like trying to read your doctor's grocery list."

She smiled a bit sheepishly at that, recalling that it always was somewhat difficult deciphering the southern woman's scrawling handwriting. "Okay, so maybe she doesn't have the best of handwriting…" she admitted reluctantly.

He pointed his fork at her meaningfully, eyeing her with over-done seriousness. "Now try reading that when your first language isn't even English, mein freund," he remarked pointedly, turning back to his food with the quick flash of a grin. "I can never tell if she's wishing me good health or hoping I'll be trampled by antelope…"

Kitty rolled her eyes, but allowed herself a small laugh at his exaggeration. "Anyway, you get what I'm trying to say. I had no idea you were coming until the others told me."

He paused a moment, his fork in the air, and shot her an assuring grin. "Well it wouldn't have been much of a reunion without me, don't you think? Got to have the fuzzy elf around to keep spirits up if all of you sentimental dopes are to get together."

She pulled a wry face. "Thanks for the concern," she remarked sardonically. He winked at her in reply and turned back to his food once again, and the both of them fell once more into companionable silence as he finished off the huge stack of pancakes in front of him; Kitty watching him in idle boredom, deep in thought.

Kitty glanced absently at the clock on the wall. They had been in the kitchen for over an hour now, talking and eating, and yet, they hadn't really touched on anything of real importance, she realized regretfully. And there was so much she wanted to ask him, really. Just where exactly had he been all these years? What had he done? And most importantly, what had made him decide to come back? She had received letters from him on occasion; wishing her well, speaking idly of places he'd visited, joking about how he missed her 'wonderful cooking' and hoped she wasn't 'eating too much' in college. And she'd sent back replies just as vague; chewing him out for insulting her cooking and weight, briefing him somewhat on the classes she was taking, remarking how she was actually passing without him around to annoy her, wishing him well.

But they had come only twice a year, at the most. They were nothing in comparison to the years they'd spent apart; it was as if he'd been wiped completely from her life.

It shouldn't have happened that way…she thought regretfully, a sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. He had been her best friend in high school, perhaps more than that…and she had let him fade unnoticed from her life just like everyone else at the Institute. What kind of gratitude was that, she asked herself. Had she forgotten everything she'd learned in the four years she had spent here; about herself, about life, about being different?

Or had she chosen to ignore that?

There was too much she wanted to say right now and not enough courage to do so. She glanced sideways at Kurt once more, as if she were trying to figure him out in that glance.

It was with the air of someone who had just decided something that she spoke finally, gazing at him fully and finally drawing his eyes to her once again.

"I should've written more letters, Kurt," she exclaimed abruptly, a bit sorrowfully, looking away slowly in shame. "We shouldn't have lost contact like that, after everything we'd gone through together."

"Same here," he replied without pause, a similar note of sorrow in his own tone. She looked at him in surprise. It was as if he'd been thinking the same thing.

He smiled at her warmly, a hint of regret to his eyes. "It was just as much my fault, liebes. Perhaps we both just needed to hear it from each other, ja?"

She peered at him searchingly for several moments, then a slow smile of her own spread across her features. "Maybe you're right," she said finally, sighing heavily and looking relieved.

"Of course I'm right," was his firm reply, causing her to chuckle a bit.

When her laughter had died down, she peered at him sideways, growing serious once again. "So what made you come back?"

He took another bite, seeming to ponder this for a moment; brows furrowing in an endearing expression. After a moment he scowled lightly in frustration, turning back to his food with a mildly anxious flourish.

"Ach, how should I know?" he exclaimed at last with a sigh. And suddenly he flashed her another grin. "Just a feeling, I guess, Katzchen? I can't really explain it…"

She stared at him for a moment, and then began nodding slowly in understanding. "No, I understand," she assured him, looking to the window; watching the snowfall that continued unabated outside.

"What's it like over in Germany?"

The question was sudden and out of the blue; she could sense his hesitation, even without looking at him.

Finally, he made a noncommittal sort of grunt. "Boring," was his reply, his tone bland. She flicked a quick glance in his direction, in time to catch the watered smile that flitted across his face.

"But nice," he added after a moment's pause. He chuckled softly, shaking his head a bit in recollection. "I'd forgotten how much I missed it, you know? Ze air over there…It was a nice change."

He turned to her, leaning his head on his hand. "Und you? How was Illinois?" he said teasingly, his eyes laughing.

"The same," she remarked, smiling a bit. "I missed it, too." But after a moment, her face fell; blue eyes suddenly distant.

Kurt sighed in dismay at her mood, straightening up in his seat to peer at her with mock concern. "Ach, Katzchen, you disappoint me!" he exclaimed with mock reprisal. "Things change; you know that! No need to get so down about it, ja?"

He leaned in closer once again, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder and smiling at her warmly. "From your letters, it sounded like you were enjoying college; am I right?"

Kitty smiled at him appreciatively, shaking her head slightly as if to dispel her sudden change in mood. "O-oh, yeah! College was great," she assured him quickly, looking slightly apologetic. "I-I'm sorry about that. I was thinking of something else there for a moment."

He seemed to frown at her for a moment and she squirmed inwardly at his gaze, embarrassed to have arisen his concern. The expression was brief, however, and then he was smiling faintly at her once again. Giving her shoulder one last, assuring squeeze, he pulled his hand away and climbed to his feet.

"If you say so…" he said with a knowing sort of smile, gathering up his discarded dishes and taking them to the sink.

Kitty watched him go about cleaning up the kitchen, and it suddenly hit her how tired she was. She could practically feel her eyelids drooping, her whole body begging for sleep.

"What do you say we finish this conversation in the morning?" spoke up Kurt from over his shoulder. He glanced quickly at the clock, correcting himself with a grin. "Well, at a less ungodly hour, I should say."

Kitty couldn't help but smile, getting up and taking her own dishes over to the sink. "Sounds like a good idea," she replied, her voice decidedly weary.

Wrapping her arms around his middle, she gave him a quick squeeze, surprising him yet again. "Thanks for the pancakes, Fuzzy," she murmured, repressing a yawn.

He patted her back affectionately. "Bitteschon. Anytime, liebchen," he returned warmly, a note of amusement in his tone as always. He gave her a small push in the direction of the door, sounding like a scolding father when he spoke again.

"Now get some sleep. We've got a lot to do in the morning!"

Kitty paused in the doorway, raising a brow curiously at him. "Oh? I thought this was supposed to be a vacation?" she countered, amused.

Kurt's grin was one of boyish delight. "Ja, it is. Und we've got a lot of vacationing to do. Someone's got to put all this lovely snow to good use…"

She gave a small laugh, shaking her head in amazement as she turned into the hall. "I'm going to bed…" she muttered dryly back to him, already out of sight.

Still smiling to herself as he wished her goodnight in cheerful, German tones, she headed off to bed; his words lingering after her in the deserted hall like a companionable presence.

Tomorrow was definitely going to be interesting.

TO BE CONTINUED…

~ Glossary ~

trödel – junk

Gutt – good

Was nicht – was nothing (my shortened version of Es war nichts, or "It was nothing")

Biß mich – Bite me (took me forever to get this one grammatically correct. Stupid Babblefish…)

Über was? – About what?

Bitteschon – You're welcome

…And now I'm going to differentiate between the different terms of endearment Kurt uses, because though we all may recognize them, it's easy to mix them up; I know I do.

Liebes – dear

Liebling – darling (or favorite)

Liebchen – sweetheart

…I'm assuming you all know what fraulein means, and all of the other smaller, common phrases. And if you don't know that Katzchen means "kitty" by now, and Katze means "cat", I'd be worried, no offense…

Well, that's all for now. Just wanted to mention that I'm writing Kurt in the sense that he's lived abroad for the past six years, and therefore would be more inclined to slip German into his speech than usual. His accent is also more than likely heavier (yay!). I'll have Kitty mention it at some point, there just hasn't really been an opening to do so yet.

And the faith issue is coming up! Don't know when, but it's coming.

Love you all for the great reviews! Please, do keep it up!

~Neko-chan