Excalibur: A Bitter Cup Of Hope

By Ana Lyssie Cotton (lysskiki@yahoo.com)

This part of the Project is hosted by

Fonts Of Wisdom

Author's Note: This one's set in the actual Excalibur timeline, and currently the team is split up. Kitty, Kurt and Piotr are with the X-Men. Brian and Meggan are married and living in Braddock Manor. As to Micromax, Feron, Rachel, and Kylun, I've no idea where they are. I think Cerise is still with the Shi'ar. And Pete Wisdom is in Genosha, or some god-forsaken place like that.

Disclaimer: All characters herein are the property of Marvel Comics and are used without permission, but no harm is intended and no money is being made. Please do not archive without permission from the author. Feedback is appreciated.

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Meggan Braddock watched the snow fall with a sense of glee. It was so pretty, all white and fluffy. It made her want to dash around in it, laughing and giggling. Snow looked like sugar crystals, like fluff from pillows. Yet it was very cold to the touch. Meggan watched the snow and lamented not being out in it. Not having children to share it with.

Around her, Braddock Manor shifted and moaned, as old houses are wont to do. Braddock Manor, of course, even had more than the requisite complement of ghosts. But Meggan didn't care about the ghosts. She was watching the snow and pondering the beginning of life.

In a somewhat darker section of the Manor, Brian Braddock sighed and tried to finish writing out his notes from the most recent experiment. Ever since he and Meggan had been married, he'd felt the need to settle down to an almost quiet life. Just him, her and his experiments and studies. And Meggan's. His wife was very good at her reading and sums, now. He smiled with quiet pride.

She was the most wonderful thing that had happened to him. And she was his. She was also currently dancing into the laboratory, bringing her own special magic. It seemed comprised of flowers and sunlight and the smell that comes right after the summer rain.

"Brian, let's go make snowmen and dance in the snow," Meggan suggested brightly, smiling at him.

"I..." He glanced down at his notes. The notes that he had so far been unable to finish. And smiled. "Let's do."

Meggan clapped her hands with glee and leaned in to kiss him. "Wonderful! Now, let's go up and get your winter clothes on. You, your mittens and hat and coat..."

"And you your woolen stockings and gloves?" he guessed, smiling as they walked from the room.

"Brian, you know I have no need of covering once I synch myself to the weather!" His wife laughed. "You're teasing, you big lummox!"

"Yes." He stopped and smiled down at her. "Did I ever tell you how lovely you are, how much I adore you?"

"Why, Brian Braddock, Ah do declare -- someone has come and taken you away and left me a pod person!" Meggan teased in a very bad Southern accent.

"Silly."

"Yes, I am." Meggan teasingly reached out and cupped his cheek. "Go get your coat on, boy!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Peter Paul Wisdom decided that he hated Christmas. It was a decision he came to every year around the holiday. This year, of course, he had double reason to hate it. Around him in the airport, people milled around, laughing and chatting, lovers kissing and hugging. Children screaming or running to and fro. And over all the hubbub, the music. That tinny, overly-heard Christmas music. Right now, a really horrid version of "Jingle Bells" was playing.

"Bloody hell," he muttered under his breath as he waited to get to the counter so he could get on his flight and go home. He sorely needed London, now. Needed the horrible air, the garbage on every corner, the rats living under the bed in his filthy apartment. He paused. Maybe he didn't quite need all of that. But he needed London. The city itself was a balm to his soul.

Especially now, especially when -- he involuntarily reached up to his eye and lightly touched the patch over it.

"Next, please."

He jumped and stepped up to the window. "Hallo. I'd like a one-way ticket to Heathrow, London."

"Gaze no more in the bitter glass..."

Kitty Pryde sat in the window of her room in the X-Mansion. She watched the stars as they twinkled and glistened in the winter sky. Below the window, snow coated the Westchester Estate's ground. It covered the trees, too. Like a perfect Christmas card.

She sighed. Life felt so complicated these days, she really wished it were simpler. Like last Christmas. Last year, things had been...quiet. Peaceful. And Pete had been there. She winced, hoping he was okay.

Below her, in the rest of the mansion, the others chatted and laughed and decorated to celebrate another year passed. And all still alive. Kitty leaned her head against the pane and sighed as the cold seeped into her brain. Others had not survived to see this year.

Her head ached from the constant frivolity and happiness and giddiness and-- Dammit, I'm being stupid. She pulled away from the window and glanced at her dresser. The only thing on top of it at the moment was the candelabra Kurt had given her earlier. He'd said to use it for her Menorah. Since they wouldn't be able to stop and get her one.

Not with all the planning and plotting going on.

She stood up from the window seat and padded on bare feet across the wooden boards. She stopped at her bedside table for her lighter, then continued to the dresser.

As she walked towards it, she said softly, "Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season."

Standing before the candlabra, she studied the eight candles and one stick of wood that Kurt had scrounged up. Three of them were tapers, two red, one white. Two of them were stubby candles as large around as Cable's wrist. The other three were little votives, white and waxy. And all of them had been lit before.

"Blessed are You," she began again, flicking on the lighter, "the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light."

Reaching out, she lit the first one and then the second, third, fourth. She paused. "Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season."

She continued lighting them, reciting the blessings under her breath again. As she reached the stick, she paused. Why couldn't someone have just gone out and gotten another candle? I know they're all absorbed in this whole Apocalypse thing, but... She sighed. "But I'm being silly and childish. And I'll just have to--"

A knock came from the door, she turned. "Come in."

The door swung inward and Kurt stepped in, smiling brightly. "Ah Katzchen, I've found you the last candle needed." He held it out between blue-furred fingers.

It was long and slim, a creamy white. And it had never been lit before. "Kurt... I--" She looked up into his eyes and smiled. "Thank you."

She hugged him quickly and stepped back to the dresser, where she replaced the stick of wood. "O rock of my salvation, with delight I praise you..." she began softly singing as she lit the last candle.

In a somewhat squalid flat in Longon, England, Pete Wisdom slumped in a chair and drank. And smoke. And tried to forget that Christmas, Chanukah and the holidays had ever existed.

Meggan Braddock snuggled closer to her sleeping husband and smiled to herself, her hand rubbing over her abdomen. Tomorrow. She would tell her beloved tomorrow.

The End

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Notes: The prayers Kitty says are slightly altered in order, and are from the website at www.chanukah.com Oh. So is the song.