Disclaimer: Marvel owns them, I don't. More pity them. Part of this story was inspired by a comment by Jeremy Harper over at the Livejournal Kiotr forum.

My contribution for the holidays. Just a little sugarplum to dance in your heads. Some spoilers for recent events, up to "Dark Reign", as well as speculation regarding upcoming Marvel storylines.

Rating: PG-13, due largely to a suggestive t-shirt.

Summary: A memento of Christmas past, and a promise of the future.

Naughty or Nice

By Kirayoshi

" Got no sleigh with reindeer, no sack on my back
You're gonna see me comin' in a big black Cadillac

"Whoa it's Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is fallin' on the ground
Well, you be a real good little baby
'Cause Santa Claus is back in town!"

--Elvis Presley

"Santa Claus is Back in Town"

Somewhere in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, British Columbia:

"And after you, Katya," Piotr opened the door with one hand while balancing a stack of parcels in his free arm. Kitty regarded her fiancé with a weary but affectionate glance as she entered the spacious cabin, shopping bags clutched in her fists. Kitty recalled being relieved that the cabin was close enough to Vancouver that she and Piotr could do an occasional grocery run, as well as some gift shopping for the holidays, but far enough from civilization that they could truly be alone together.

Even if Piotr's natural tendency toward chivalry could wear thin. "At ease, Captain Carrot," Kitty groused as she entered the cabin. "You don't need to open the door for me all the time. I can phase y'know. Remember phasing?"

"I remember that very well, my lovely Angua," Piotr chuckled, winning an approving smirk from Kitty. Despite her initial doubts, it seems that he has been reading those Discworld novels that she had given him for Christmas last year. "Just as I remember," he added, more soberly as he placed his packages on the coffee table in front of the futon, "that Hank McCoy warned you not to exert yourself so soon after being freed from the Breakworld bullet."

Kitty shuddered uncomfortably at Piotr's somber reminder. While it seemed that she had been trapped in that missile for a few minutes, she was shocked to learn that she had been aboard the bullet for over eight months. Due to the stress of phasing the skyscraper-long missile through the Earth to prevent it from cracking the planet like an egg, her body was literally fused to the alien metal, trapped in stasis, looking(she was later informed) rater like Han Solo in the carbonite block. It was nearly six months later before Hank McCoy and Reed Richards were able to devise a method of extracting her from the bullet, which was well on its way toward the Andromeda galaxy by the time the X-Men (using one of Richards' deep space explorer ships), were able to launch a rescue mission. Since the bullet was traveling just barely under light speed, she experienced Einstein's theory of time dilation at light speed first hand.

After returning to Earth, Hank insisted that Kitty take a six-month sabbatical before he would clear her to return to the X-Men. And as much as she initially protested, Kitty was forced to concede to Dr. McCoy's wishes. She still occasionally felt some stiffness in her joints when she stretched. And while Piotr's knowing hands were able to relax that stiffness away she still wasn't ready to go into active duty as an X-Man, not just yet.

Since her return, Kitty spent much of her time recovering from her ordeal, reconnecting with Piotr and catching up on recent events. Since that fateful encounter with the Breakworld, the X-Men dealt with a war over the birth of a mutant baby, a move to San Francisco, a Skrull invasion and a plot by Norman Osborn to overthrow the US government. Kitty still rolled her eyes at that last one. What was Obama thinking? Even now, President Obama was dealing with the fallout from his decision to appoint Osborn as head of the 50-states Initiative, replacing a disgraced Tony Stark. Almost immediately the former media darling "Hero of the Skrull Invasion" shed the mask of respectability and displayed his true colors as an absolute monster.

Within two months, he sent an army of Sentinels to attack both registered and rogue superheroes while leading a brainwashed Sentry and his so-called Dark Avengers to invade the White House, holding the First Family hostage in order to force Obama to acknowledge Osborn as ruler of the United States. Only a joint effort by the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four brought about victory and the arrest of Osborn. The man once known as the Green Goblin was convicted of over a hundred separate counts of terrorism and treason and confined to the very same Negative Zone prison where he planned to exile all of Earth's heroes, with the assurances of the President that he would rot there. Since then, Congress was debating either modifying or repealing the Superhero Registration Act, while the public continued to regard most superheroes with skepticism.

And when it was learned that Emma Frost had willingly allied herself with Osborn in an attempt to negotiate a separate peace for Earth's mutants—a peace that Osborn had no interest in honoring—Scott Summers' heart turned to ice. He didn't even blink as federal officers dragged her away in power-dampening chains. And beneath his ruby glasses, his eyes would smolder with quiet rage if anyone ever mentioned the name Emma Frost in his presence. Even with a public exoneration by President Obama for their role in taking down Osborn's organization, the future of the X-Men seemed more tenuous than ever. Kitty couldn't even enjoy the bitter satisfaction of knowing that she was right about Emma all along.

On the plus side, both Steven Brust and Terry Pratchett published new novels in Kitty's absence.

As an early Chanukah present, Logan had given Piotr and Kitty use of his cabin in British Columbia for the holidays. Logan had constructed the cabin with his own hands decades ago, and over the years had used the secluded woods as a place for meditation and contemplation, whenever the beast within his soul threatened to overtake him. Which was not to say that he lived like a hermit; the cabin featured not only electricity, heat, a gas stove and oven, and plumbing, but satellite TV ("Nothin's gonna keep me from watching hockey whenever and wherever I want, half-pint. It's my inalienable right as a Canadian!") and wireless internet. There was no separate bedroom, but a large futon in the living room folded out to a king-sized bed, which Kitty and Piotr employed vigorously since they arrived.

"Peter," Kitty dropped her bags on the floor and lifted herself up on her toes to kiss her lover on the cheek, "it's sweet that you're worried about me, but I'm not planning on charging into the fray again in the near future. We're on hiatus from the team until January, and then Scott agreed that I should only sign on as a teacher until Hank gives me the go-ahead."

"I'm relieved to hear that," Piotr admitted darkly as he sat down on the futon, and Kitty could almost feel the shiver that traveled down his spine.

Kitty sat beside Piotr and took his hand in hers. "You had the dream again last night," she spoke gently. It was a statement of fact, not a question.

Piotr nodded once, his bright blue eyes growing glassy with unshed tears. "The dreams have been less frequent, Katya," he feebly assured her, "but they still shake me to the marrow when they occur. I see you, trapped on the missile, unable to free yourself, crying out to me, begging me to save you..."

"Piotr," Kitty stroked his arm tenderly as her voice calmed his nerves, "it's okay. You did save me. You and the rest of the team." She lifted her left hand, displaying the diamond engagement ring that Piotr had given her on the first night of Chanukah. "I'm here with you now. I'm not going anywhere. And we will be married in the spring, Piotr Rasputin."

Piotr smiled warmly at Kitty's fierce declaration, and welcomed her into his embrace, dispelling the last vestiges of his nightmare. After kissing for a few more precious seconds, Kitty reluctantly disengaged the embrace, saying, "So, what's for dinner?"

"I picked up a pot roast and vegetables at the market," Piotr answered, lifting himself off of the futon and headed for the kitchenette. "I'll set up the crock pot."

"Good idea," Kitty kissed him on the cheek. "I'm going to go shower. Back in twenty. Love ya." She picked up one of her shopping bags and headed for the bathroom, flashing Piotr a smile before closing the door.

Piotr couldn't help but smile as he started cutting the vegetables. He could not remember any time in his life where his way seemed so clear. Katya was whole and well, and would soon be his wife. And while Illyana had chosen to remain in Limbo to forever seal away the demons whom Belasco had unleashed, she had reclaimed her soul and would someday be able to return to him. While he knew in his heart that there would be struggles in his life, as a husband and as a mutant, he felt truly prepared to tackle those challenges for the first time in a very long time.

He had finished filling the crock pot with the roast, vegetables, seasoning, a can of beef broth and a cup of merlot. He set the timer on the pot, figuring that it would be ready in a few hours. Fortunately, it was still early afternoon; the sun hadn't yet set, and the sunlight reflecting off the snow outside lent an almost fairyland feel to their surroundings.

He returned to the futon, and reached for a book that lay on the coffee table. The leather-bound copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was a much cherished Christmas gift from Kurt. He turned to a familiar page toward the center of the book, on the page where Scrooge first met the Ghost of Christmas Present. Nestled between the pages, he found the sprig of mistletoe, pressed flat and dried but still green.

He had acquired the mistletoe the same year that Kurt gave him the book. It was the first Christmas after Jean had sacrificed herself to end the terror that was the Dark Phoenix. A grim period made more pleasant by the arrival of a new student, a young girl from Illinois with the ability to phase through walls. She had elected to remain in the mansion while the X-Men celebrated Christmas elsewhere, still uncertain about her place in the team and wishing to remain true to her Jewish heritage.

He could still remember the flush of embarrassment as Kitty stood on the staircase behind him, held the sprig of mistletoe over his head and kissed him soundly on the cheek, murmuring, "Merry Christmas, Sexy." He was awkward in the ways of the world, and unsure whether her actions were proper, but no one ever called him sexy before. No girl had ever displayed such open affection to him before. Even Anya Marakova had been reserved about her attraction to him, until she discovered that he was a mutant and attraction turned to revulsion.

He shook his head, banishing that dark turn in his thoughts. He had made his peace with Anya and had no need to dwell on her now. He smiled again as he regarded the dried sprig in his hand. Out of that one innocent flirtation so many Christmases ago, there arose a strange and enduring love story. It was not a perfect story, not by any stretch. He had strayed, he had given up on her, she had believed him dead not once but twice, they had both found other loves at one time or another. But the affection they held for each other still survived, still flourished. And in the last two years, they had again found the love they thought was lost. Where they once had a past, they now had a future to look forward to.

The shower had stopped running, bringing Piotr back to the present. He returned the mistletoe to its resting place in the pages of Dickens. "Katya," he called out, reaching for his carry-on bag. "I think we have time for a movie before the roast is done, and Kurt packed some holiday DVDs in my bags before we left San Francisco." Rifling through his bag he continued, "We have 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'A Christmas Sto—"

The bathroom door opened, and Kitty walked toward Piotr, sashaying her hips slightly, a mischievous grin turning her lips. She was clad in two separate articles of clothing; a pink lace low-cut bikini and a red t-shirt cut above the midriff. Piotr gasped as he read the white script font printed on Kitty's barely-there shirt; WANNA JOIN ME ON THE NAUGHTY LIST? The combined effect of her attire, her dancer's legs and her sultry gaze achieved the desired effect of rendering Piotr speechless.

"Picked this up at the Victoria's Secret at the mall while we were out. You like?"

Not trusting his ability to speak, Piotr simply nodded. Giggling huskily, Kitty stepped around the coffee table and sat down on Piotr's lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Do you want me to tell you what I want for Christmas, Santa?" she purred.

"I believe that I can guess," Piotr chuckled throatily, his own desire mounting. Their lips met in a slow drawn-out kiss, one that built up its own heat and momentum. His hands reached around Kitty to slowly caress her back. Kitty pulled her face away from Piotr for a moment, glancing toward the kitchenette. "You did set the crock pot, right?"

"It's set for six-thirty," Piotr nodded, taking a quick look at the clock beside the stove. "It's about three-thirty now."

"So we have three hours," Kitty smiled wickedly.

"Oh no, Katya," Piotr replied as his lips sought hers again, "we have the rest of our lives."

The roast turned out a little overcooked, but neither one complained.

FIN