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Lights in the Dark

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Dates mean little now. Even the seasons have been muddled by the use of ever advancing weaponry that clouds the sky and mutants lashing out desperately with their powers in an attempt to secure their own survival.

Professor Xavier, with his mental touch keeping track of the humans smug and isolated behind Sentinel guardians, he does his best to remind them of important dates. Birthdays, New Years, religious holidays, anything that can lift the spirits and remind them all that they are surviving in the face of odds once unthinkable.

His mental touch reminds them that they are not alone, and that they are more than just survivors, that they are people as well. At one point Kitty wondered if Professor Xavier expended the effort to keep their spirits up because there was so little he could do against a direct Sentinel attack. After he arranged for several Sentinel programmers to sabotage their own creations and then fall into comas so that she and Erik could celebrate Chanukah, Kitty decided that she didn’t care about why he made the effort, she just appreciated that he did.

As comforting as the telepathic contact is, Professor Xavier cannot offer some things. Religion is not his area; his faith has long been devoted to people and ideals in the more general sense. So while he can offer reminders to celebrate, it is Erik that Kitty depends on to keep their faith alive.

 


 

 

Kitty and Erik are among the very few Jews still alive.

Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Israel saw the implications of the Sentinel deployment first. If mutations were genetic, then the non-mutant parents of mutants would not be spared once the Sentinels found their targets. And killing off bloodlines was horrifically familiar. There were Jewish mutants, and the Jewish population was interconnected and surprisingly easy to track. It would not take much for the proponents of mutant eradication to trace Jewish mutant children up their family tree and eventually paint the entire population as dangerous.

So Israel tried to shelter as many mutants, Jewish and not, as possible. Smaller Jewish communities followed suit, with more than one mutant family seeking shelter in local synagogues as they were hunted by the governments that were supposed to offer protection. And in the end, the Jewish people once again lost their homeland as Sentinels swept through the Holy Land. It was never formalized, but Jewish centers outside of Israel were also razed on the presumption that they objected to the Sentinel program; the leaders of the Sentinel program, though confident in their success, had learned not to document their genocide.

As the Sentinels swept through the devastated landscape, more than one Holocaust survivor wondered if mutant was just a new word that automatically encompassed the Jew; after all, their people had been credited with supernatural powers throughout history. And when there were demonstrable super abilities among the population regardless of religious affiliation, Jews still suffered.

The devastation of the Jewish community made preserving her people’s legacy all the more important to Kitty. And though she was aware that Erik had embraced mutants as his people rather than just his fellow Jews, he had done his best to help Kitty maintain her connection to her faith. Kitty wasn’t certain she would have been able to do it on her own.

 


 

 

The first time she tried to observe a Pesach Seder after the death of her family, Kitty found that she could not remember the Hebrew. As a child in her family, she was used to asking the Four Questions at the Passover Seder, not having the responsibility to answer back and tell the story. But she was the only survivor of the Pryde family, and she owed it to her family to make sure the history did not die. She had thought that her new family, survivors in a horrific world, would appreciate the story of Passover and the escape from bondage.

Kitty was pleased when Bobby enthusiastically offered his support, and the rest of the team participated as well. And then, in the candlelight, she found that she could only tell the story in English. Other than the traditional child’s questions, the Hebrew would not come. Still, she persevered, and made sure that the Passover story was told, and consoled herself with the knowledge that her team would not have understood the Hebrew anyway.

She’s still not sure how he knew, but Charles must have passed his knowledge of her pain at forgetting to Erik. Because in the next exchange they had with Xavier’s team, Erik had managed to get his hands on relatively clean paper. In careful print, written small to conserve space, the Pasach Seder was written out in transliterated Hebrew. Kitty wept when she received it, and wondered how deeply Charles must have entered Erik’s memories for him to be able to record the haggadah for her.


After that first Seder, Kitty notices that Erik makes more of an effort to help her keep Judaism alive. Two months later, as she enters a bolt hole prepared by the X-men, she finds a metal mezuzah affixed to the door: the door is crafted of metal and artificially weathered to blend in with the cave it covers- so clearly the Jewish symbol was placed for her, rather than a holdover from another family. When she opens the prayer case, Kitty finds that Erik has inscribed the Shema Yisrael on paper-thin metal before rolling it carefully and setting it into the mezuzah for her.  Only Erik had the power and skill to create the case and the prayer, but perhaps more importantly to Kitty, only a fellow Jew would have the knowledge to create it.

 

Once, Erik managed to make Hamisteshen for Purim. In return, Kitty had scavenged an apple orchard for ingredients to make charoset for the next Passover. Each small act is a way of defying a world that had tried to destroy their people, and continues to hunt them.

 

But after hearing that an entire group of refugees had been lost to a brutal Sentinel attack just one week prior, Kitty has trouble seeing the point in celebrating Chanukah. The festival of lights seems almost a mockery in the face of more lives lost, and the miracle it celebrates practically trivial.

 


 

 

It is then that Professor X rips through the minds of Sentinel programmers in order to arrange enough breathing room for a larger gathering. It’s difficult for Charles to reach out to so many minds at once at such a large distance, especially when he has to make sure that none of them have entered shielded facilities. Fortunately, his actions are usually subtle enough that only the highest level of command crams themselves regularly into telepathy resistant rooms. This strike manages to set back the human aggressors for months while letting Erik and Kitty celebrate together in the same place for the first time in years.

Kitty knows that the timing has more to do with the lost group than it does with practicing her faith, but she is still grateful.

They meet in what once was Morocco. The ruins provide enough shelter that they can light candles without fear of detection. For once, Kitty isn’t worried about trying to find a menorah. Erik’s abilities mean that they can follow the Ashkenazi tradition and have individual candelabras to light, without having to scrounge for matching candle-holders in mimicry of the customary menorah.


Kitty almost cries when Charles helps Erik make a perfect replica of her family’s menorah, lost so many years ago. The telepath carefully holds the memory in the front of her mind while Erik spins out his power and shapes metal to match. To Kitty’s surprise, Erik then follows suit, recreating the simple menorah of his own childhood as Charles pulls the memory to the front of his mind in turn. Kitty carefully ignores the tears in both men’s eyes.


Although she often invites her team to celebrate with her, and she in turn helps them remember their own traditions and holidays, this first night of Chanukah is just for Erik and Kitty. The rest of the group make themselves scarce, taking the time to catch up on the gossip and news that is too trivial to share over the limited communications they normally have. Charles simply smiles and reminds them that thanks to a lucky find, they have enough candles for all the nights, and that they can leave them burning as they recite the prayers, rather than try to conserve the resources.

Erik’s Hebrew is rusty, and colored with a Yiddish accent that reminds her painfully of her Grandmother. Kitty knows that her Hebrew is stilted, reflecting the Hebrew lessons she had in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah years ago. The menorah cannot be displayed in a window to offer light and hope to everyone who sees it. But together, they light the candles in the darkness and tell the story of how their people survived persecution, and how one day they will triumph again.

For the first time in years, as Kitty thinks of her developing powers, she thinks that the latter might be true.