Disclaimer: Kitty, Pete, and company belong to Marvel. This version of them are Timesprite's, a part of her Time, Tide and Trauma timelines.

Notes: For timeline purposes, this happens... er, sometime before (iirc) 'Another Old Lang Syne'. I had spectacular fun writing this, and now have notes for the prequel (damn her). The title is because Jane Wiedlin's "Icicle" is the perfect counterpoint to this story (Off of Kissproof World. Fab cd). However, the original impetus for this story was Depeche Mode's "Dream On", the lyrics of which have resided at the bottom of this file for months. And months. Heh.

Rating: R. Violence, harsh language, mocking....

Hanging Icicles

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Then.

Session Start: Sun Apr 14 20:53:52

[20:53] Session Ident: Sam_Guthrie (SGuthrie@adsl-66-137-208-5.dsl.sfca.bell.net)

[20:53] Sam_Guthrie Hey

[20:54] KPryde Sam! Glad you came on. I was about to crash out.

[20:54] Sam_Guthrie Heh. Talked to Kurt yet?

[20:54] KPryde Yep. He says I can take a leave of absence.

[20:54] Sam_Guthrie Good.

[20:54] KPryde We're still on for drinks?

[20:55] Sam_Guthrie Of course. :) It'll be nice to see ya, Kitty.

[20:55] KPryde Yeah. Same here.

[20:55] Sam_Guthrie *chuckle* Did you want the rest of X-Force to meet you?

[20:56] KPryde Trying to frighten me?

[20:56] Sam_Guthrie We're not that bad, girl.

[20:57] KPryde No, you're worse.

[20:57] KPryde Sorry.

[20:57] Sam_Guthrie Call when you hit the states?

[20:57] KPryde Of course.

[20:57] Sam_Guthrie Ack. Must go, Tab needs to look up her boyband fics.

[20:57] KPryde Ugh.

[20:57] Sam_Guthrie Indeed.

[20:57] KPryde *g* T'care, Guthrie.

[20:57] Sam_Guthrie Fly safe, Pryde.

Session Close: Sun Apr 14 20:58:26

----

Now.

If he was ever honest with himself later, he wouldn't have let her in. Since she didn't knock, it was a moot point.

She stalked through his door and crossed the floor, kicking an empty pizza box out of her war path. It impacted on the wall, dragging him from a drunken sleep.

That first moment of shock as her fingers closed in his hair and yanked his head back sent him clawing at her, before her voice penetrated the haze in his brain. She was angry. Pissed off, and crisp as hell. "Pete Wisdom, if you scratch me, I will castrate you where you lie."

"Huh?" Real intelligent response, that.

She tugged on his hair, and he yelped. "Get up."

"Make me."

"Certainly." He was less than pleased to find her pulling on his hair, before she abandoned that tactic, and grabbed his shoulder. With that slight bit of leverage, she dragged him out of bed, letting him fall to the floor.

He thudded into pizza boxes, old curry, and empty beer cans. Something scuttled over a leg, sending him lurching upwards, away from the denizens of the trash. She caught his hair again, tugging towards the small alcove that contained a shower. He didn't resist, more interested in not getting another creepy-crawly on his anatomy, than on her.

It was a mistake.

Cold water shattered the last of his haze, and he let loose a string of curses that merely caused her to shove the bar of ancient soap in his mouth. Sputtering, he tried to remove it, while twisting out of the spray of water.

She didn't seem to care that the water was hitting her as well as she shoved him back under its spray. "It's warming up, you wimp."

Teeth chattering, he pulled the soap out, and glared at her. "The hell are you doing here, Pryde?"

A completely feline smile crossed her lips. "Telling you takes the fun out of it." She glanced down his body, and smirked, "I always wanted to see if cold water really had that effect or not."

Defiantly not covering himself, he nevertheless began applying the soap to his somewhat underwashed anatomy. "Going to stay for a shower fuck, Pryde?"

She punched him, sending his head snapping back on its neck. Blood trickled from a corner of his mouth. "Get cleaned up." She ordered, leaving the shower to him.

It took him five minutes. Five minutes in which he spent wondering what the hell her problem was, and listening worriedly to what sounded like a complete ripping apart of his flat. The roaches wouldn't survive.

Exiting the shower, he found a set of almost-clean clothes had been dropped on the commode. He scowled, wishing she'd thought to give him a towel.

"There weren't any clean ones. But you can use this if you want." A t-shirt smacked into his head, and he glared after her departing backside. Pausing to note that it was quite a nice backside, even if it was one he was currently irritated at.

A minute later he'd finished pulling on the black slacks and was buttoning up the white shirt. Stepping out into the main room, he frowned.

Kitty had disappeared, along with a large amount of the trash that had once been strewn on the floor. A moment later, she reappeared, stalking through his back wall, empty trashbag in one hand. "Ah. You're done. You want to finish this now, or get right down to business?"

"Pleasure before business."

"You find cleaning up trash pleasurable?"

He shrugged, "You appear to."

She threw a pizza box at him. "Bundle it all up in this trash bag." Thrusting the plastic bag into his hand, she turned to his bed and began stripping the sheets off. "Ugh."

"I always said my flat needed a woman's touch." He smirked at her.

"Oh. It's not your flat anymore." She smiled, "I bought your lease. It's mine. And as of ten minutes from now, you're evicted."

"Guess I should take advantage of that, huh." He had no clue why he did what he did next. Maybe it was the fact that she was still wearing damp clothing, her hair an appealing curly mass as it fell from its carefully ordered arrangement. Or maybe it was that he knew it would irritate her.

Either way, he tackled her, sending them both sprawling across the stripped mattress. After a moment of shock, she phased out of his grasp, ending up on the floor, her knees buried in curry boxes. "You bastard."

"At least I'm true to type."

She raised an eyebrow, "Oh, yes. Drinking, wenching, getting your friends injured and scarred mentally. That's exactly how you operate."

Frustrated, he rolled from the bed, and began shoving trash into the bag. "I don't know what the fuck you're on about, Pryde. But this stupid thing ends now."

"Are you sure?" She breathed in his ear, almost purring as she leaned against his back. The shirt was getting damp. He whirled, throwing the beer can in his hand at her. She dodged it, smirking. "Doesn't work, lover. I'm intangible, remember?"

He didn't get to answer. Her fist caught his jaw again, and he let the momentum carry him into the wall. He leaned against it, trying to get his bearings back. "Pryde--"

"Shut up." Her hands grabbed him, throwing him back towards the bed. "Just shut up. Clean."

For the first time, it hit him that she wasn't just upset. She was in a murderous rage. Sparks could have flown from her, and she moved with a very deliberate slowness, as if anything faster would send her spiralling down into a place she didn't want to be. It was a place he'd seen in her before, and he really didn't want to go there again.

As he shoved boxes and cans and other strange things into the trash bag, he wondered what he'd done to earn this anger from her. He ran through recent memories, and couldn't come up with anyone that she would have known.

She'd never run with Domino and X-Force. Logan, maybe, but he hadn't seen the cigar-chomping canuck in ages. Of course, he was avoiding him, but that was beside the point.

He began to smirk, "Couldn't resist my charm, eh, Pryde?"

A glance that would have scorched the sun touched him. "You're only alive because it will hurt more. Clean."

"No." He folded his arms over his chest, and grinned at her. "Make me."

She swung at him, and he dodged this time. There was only so much abuse he'd take without an explanation, and she'd reached his limit. Anger was stirring inside along with an insane desire to ravish her.

The second swing he dodged as well, and caught a scissor-kick in the gut. It doubled him over, gasping for breath. Her elbow slammed down into the middle of his back, and his knees buckled, dropping him down into the pizza boxes again. A hand closed in his hair again, and he winced, fighting the pull for a moment before giving in to glare up at her. "Clean."

"I'm getting shaved, next chance I get." He muttered, complying as his ribs ached.

She shrugged, "I could do it for you. Might not like the result, though. I'd shave everything."

He leered at her, "Everything?"

"I'd have to use cold water, of course. But you wouldn't mind, would you?" She smirked at his sudden silence. "I thought not."

After filling one bag, he was handed another. Silently, he filled that one as well, startled to find that there was actual floor underneath the layer of trash. It had once been a purple shag carpet, but was now mottled a grey and black. Kitty inspected it with distaste, "I believe a carpet cleaning is in order. And a new matress, new bedding, and a new pillow."

"Hey--"

"This is mine now, remember?" She waved a clenched fist at him. "You have no say in anything."

----

Then.

Companionable silence had fallen in the booth. Kitty sipped her drink, surprised to find that she actually liked Sam. Long ago, she'd blamed him for Illyana's death, but... that seemed past them, now. They were both adults, both more grown up than they should be. And it was nice to sit in silence, and drink.

"What?" Sam was watching her, amused.

"What?"

"You've got this very contented look on your face."

"I'm just..." Kitty grinned, "It's very strange to be content, but I am. I think." She shook her head. "So, tell me how you've been."

He raised an eyebrow, "Sure you care?"

"Yeah. I... I find a care about a lot of things now, Sam." She looked away from him, then back. "And, I'm sorry."

Silence passed between them again, then he chuckled, "Team's doing fine. Cable seems to have everything in hand. Dom..."

"Dom?"

With a shake of his head, he changed the subject, "Turnabout's fairplay, Pryde. How've you been?"

"Here and there. Excalibur..." She sighed, "Meggan and Brian are married, Kurt and Amanda are still not seeing each other. Life's a joy." Such a careful statement.

"You sound bitter."

"It's nothing." Concentrating hard, she began peeling the label off her beer. "You were saying about Domino?"

He chuckled, "I talk, then you talk. Deal?"

She grinned, "Deal."

Sam took a drink from his own bottle, letting the liquid give him time to think about things properly. "She's been different. Ever since she came back." He took another sip, trying to pin down what bothered him. "More... hard. Closed in. It's like she did something that scared her so bad she doesn't want to deal with it."

"Hm." Kitty took a sip of her own beer, other hand playing with the scraps of label. "I miss Pe--someone." She shook her head, "More than I should, I think. And seeing all the happy couples in Excalibur." She grimaced, "And Piotr... You heard about Piotr, I suppose."

"Not the details. We considered trying to make it for the funeral, but something came up." He looked at her, concerned. "What happened?"

"He died in my arms." Looking away, Kitty thought for a moment that the tall dark-haired man at the bar was familiar, and then he turned and he was all wrong. "It's all right that you couldn't make it. Most of the X-Men didn't, either." She paused, "I'm... That didn't come out right. I'm not saying that it wouldn't have been nice to see everyone, but... It was a nice, private ceremony. We could grieve." Tears had fallen all around her, but her cheeks had been so dry.

And Kurt had told her to take a vacation. Or she had snapped. She couldn't remember, anymore.

"You need cheering up," Sam suggested.

She half-grinned. "Maybe."

"That's why this walkabout, then." He grinned, "You're finding yourself."

"Can I join X-Force?"

"If that weren't facetious, I'd take you up on it."

"True." She sighed, raising her bottle. "To old friends, idiots, people who refuse to believe we've changed, Piotr, and new lovers."

"To life."

----

Now.

"Why're you here, Pryde?"

"Domino." She replied, tone clipped and cool.

He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering his last full view of the dark-haired mercenary. Blood dripping from her shoulder as she shut him out of everything. A hand caught his chin, and he blinked his eyes open. Pryde was standing in front of him, face unreadable. "Wot about 'er?"

On later reflection, he would remind himself not to antagonise someone holding his chin. She clenched her fingers tighter, digging into his jaw. He fought not to wince as one finger pressed against a fast-forming bruise. "Don't you remember, Pete?"

"Should I?"

He'd seen her after that, of course. Bandaged her up himself. Not that it made a difference.

"You tapped her for a mission, Wisdom, remember?"

A shrug caused her grip to tighten more, and he wondered what would happen if she just phased something through his jaw and left it there.

"And when you came back, she was... broken."

The image writhed across his brain as he stared at Kitty. Domino. So broken she couldn't do more than huddle in a bed for two weeks.

"She seemed fine to me." He lied around the pain in his jaw and the sadness in his heart.

Her hand jerked back then forward, the open-handed slap resoundingly echoing in the silence. Kitty's eyes were filled with a horrible rage, sending Pete back a step before he recovered and gave her look for Look.

"You're an ass, Wisdom."

"You would know."

She turned from him, controlling herself. There were more bottles to collect. More trash to pick up. Including Pete.

----

Then.

Kitty was sprawled across the couch of Logan's small apartment. It was a nice apartment, more of a bolthole than a real home. He went there to get away from the Mansion. Very few of the X-Men knew of it. In fact, Kitty assumed only she and Jubilee did. And possibly Jean. A hand appeared over the back of the couch with a cold bottle in it. She took it gratefully, "Thanks."

A grunt was her reply from the short and hairy man who flopped into the ancient and cushiony chair across from her, with his own beer.

They sipped their beers in silence for a time before he finally gave her a narrow look, and snorted.

"What?"

"Why'd ya come, Kitty?"

"To see you of course."

Logan snorted again. "Ya might be able to pull that on the rest of them, but I know you."

She shrugged and dropped all pretense, "Domino. She was one of us, wasn't she."

"Yup."

Quiet fell on them again, while she tried to figure out what it was about the enigmatic mercenary that made her want to talk about her. Maybe it was Sam's comment. Maybe it was that she had always been curious, and now seemed to have an excuse. Or maybe it was because there seemed to be this code that if Logan took you under his wing you looked out for each other.

Finally, she decided, "Tell me about her."

----

Now.

"Who sent you, Pryde?"

"No one."

"Liar."

"You're one to talk."

He shrugged, "At least I'm honest when it counts."

Silence fell for a moment, then Kitty shrugged back at him. "He didn't send me. He just told me. Logan."

"Ah." Of course.

"Do you know, Pete, I think Logan knew exactly what he was doing." She threw another empty beer bottle into the double-strength trash bag by her side. "*He* couldn't get to you, so he sent me."

"Wot?"

"You let her go."

"So?"

Kitty shook her head at him. "She cut herself up, Pete. And you just *let* her."

He opened his mouth, then closed it, shrugging.

"She was hurting." She threw a bottle at the wall, and sighed as it didn't shatter. "Cable is picking up the pieces."

"And that's my fault?" He snorted. "She's an adult, Pryde."

"Yes. Who YOU led on a mission that you KNEW would fuck her over!"

"It needed doing."

"Turning a competent mercenary into a self-destructive hurting woman needed doing?"

"Not my fault she couldn't handle it," he replied callously.

She hit him, the heel of her palm cracking his jaw and spinning him around and into the wall. Again. He slid down it, catching her elbow in his kidneys and a splinter in his cheek before curling into a ball on the floor. Kitty kicked him once then looked at him disgustedly. "You're pathetic, Wisdom."

"Thank you." He hissed and jerkily moved until he was slumped with his back against the wall. "Broke my jaw, bitch."

"Good."

Refraining from kicking him again, she turned away.

"And I used to think you were an adult, Pryde. Didn't those spandex-morons teach you that violence never solves anything?"

"It doesn't? Sad. It's so satisfying."

He studied her for a long moment, she ignored him, bagging more trash including the unbroken bottle. "You were never violent, Kitty. What happened?"

"You. I grew up." She shook her head, voice bitter. "The world sucks."

"Life sucks, Pryde. I thought you remembered that from when your parents divorced."

She whirled, anger in her eyes again. "You don't--"

"Oh, don't I?" He stepped towards her, finally tired. "Did your mother get gunned down on a random drive-by that you could have saved her from if you'd just listened?"

"No. My father disappeared after I was possessed by the essence of a demon."

He snorted, "At least yours wasn't crackers."

"I d'no, Pete, your dad was pretty canny."

A flash of amusement in her eyes startled him. She'd been so grim and angry that he'd wondered if she'd ever smile again. He moved closer, watching her warily. "M'da's insane, Pryde. Remember?"

"He thought I was a Protestant." She remarked, the amusement now touching her voice.

"Good thing y're Jewish then."

"Yeah." A sigh escaped Kitty, and she blinked, realising Pete was standing nearly close enough to touch. "Why, Pete?"

"Because I suck."

She snorted, "Start saying stupid things again. I want to stay angry with you."

He smirked, "You could never stay angry at me."

"Wanna bet?" Her eyes were cold again. "Logan told me a lot of things, Pete. How COULD you?"

"It needed doing." He hadn't expected the aftermath. But letting her know that would make him too vulnerable.

She knew, anyway. "But, Domino... Pete, she came back to the states almost insane."

"Ah." He shrugged, "Couldn't help that."

"Bullshit."

"What was I to do, Kitty? Tie her down and sit on her?"

"Get her some fucking help! Hold her hand, hold HER while she fell apart!"

"And she'd just let me do that?"

"I..." Kitty shrugged, "I don't know. But you didn't try, did you."

"Why should I?"

She hit him again, a weariness in the fist that sent him reeling into the wall again. Weariness, but no lack of force, Pete reflected as he rubbed a hand along his jaw. "It's the way it was, Pryde. What is, is. Haven't you ever heard Summers spouting that?"

An open-handed slap went undodged. "Shut up, Wisdom. Just shut the fuck up. And clean."

"Yes, mistress." He bowed to her, irony inherent in the glint in his eyes.

A bottle hit his shoulder, and he straightened, then shrugged.

"Don't."

"Don't what?"

A pizza crust smacked the side of his face, while he tried to look noble and innocent. It was stale, or he would have been left with a smear of pizza sauce on his cheek. Hard to look austere and elegant with sauce on your face. He sniffed.

"Wisdom."

"Wot?"

"Shut. Up. Or I may be forced to hurt you more."

"I'd rather you hurt me less."

----

Time had probably passed. Pete really wasn't paying it any attention, because it was easier to ignore time while he bagged trash. Kitty seemed to think he was being lazy, and occasionally came over to smack him. Or threw bottles. The bottles hurt more.

He was getting tired of them, though. It wasn't like Domino hadn't been able to look after herself. He dodged the last image he'd had of her successfully, and fully put the blame on her.

All she would've had to do was ask him for help.

Wasn't like he wouldn't've given it. Not for her, after all. A friend, someone he could count on.

Only he couldn't anymore.

Not if what he had seen that last day were true. Not if Kitty's claims were correct. Broken.

"Y'know, Pete, it's a wonder Cable hasn't just killed you before now."

She sounded tired and bitter, and he wondered what had happened. Himself, probably. "Wouldn't dare."

"Why not? I can't think of a single person who would miss you."

Damn her. He sneered, "Think anyone would miss you, Pryde?"

"Probably." She shrugged, "But we weren't talking about me. We were talking about you." She tipped her head to the side, "I'm sure the owner of the Crown would miss you stiffing him his bill every month. And the waitresses--I'm betting every waitress in London would NOT miss you pinching them, leering, and generally being a lout."

"Think tinhead would miss you?"

"Piotr?" She shrugged, "Maybe."

"He'd probably desecrate your grave wacking off."

She threw a well-aimed bottle. "It's better than wacking off over unknown hooker's graves."

"Oh, low-blow, Pryde." He leered, "You're just upset I never took you grave-hopping."

"I'm sure you thought I'd never go." She snapped, slamming another can into her bag. It crunched slightly.

He looked at her speculatively, "You would have, then? Kinky."

"In your dreams, you stupid git."

"Oh. I'm sorely wounded," He muttered, mimicing the poncy tone of a BBC announcer.

"You'll be more wounded if I phase a bottle through your skull."

"Only if it's an unemptied bottle of Guinness."

"There aren't any unemptied booze bottles."

"Good."

Silence fell again, leaving Pete wondering if she was merely preparing her next angry tirade against him, his practices, what he smoked, who he slept with, what he didn't do, what he did do--

A bottle clinked against his foot.

"Wot?"

"You stopped."

"So?"

"Don't make me hit you again, Wisdom."

He shrugged, "So what if you do?"

Kitty's fist plowed into his shoulder. "Don't be an ass."

"Being a nice guy was never what I did." He dodged her next blow, dancing away from her.

"You were always much better being the idiot."

"I never blundered," he pointed out, dodging a high kick that would've taken off his head.

She paused, considering, "You let Domino go."

"Like I could have stopped her." He sneered, "She got all mentally fucked, and branded--you heard, of course, that she cut the branding off? I hadn't even realised what she'd do. And then she did it. Made a bloody mess of her shoulder and back. Bled all over the hotel bathroom, too. Had to pay extra, for the maid. Or, well, Alistaire paid extra since he was footing the bill."

Kitty just stared at him, shock in her eyes. She finally spoke, voice grating and full of loathing. "She'd cut herself like that, and you let her go."

"Seemed the thing to do."

He barely dodged her first blow, the second took him in the side, the third doubled him over. Her knee slammed into his jaw, and he crumpled to the floor where she began kicking him. He had one glimpse of her face before he curled into a ball, and it scared him. So much pain and anger and rage.

It was enough to cause a man to worry for his life.

And then she just stopped, and leaned against the wall, staring down at him, her face suddenly drawn. "I don't--Pete, I..." She lowered her head and closed her eyes.

He lay on the floor, still curled in a ball, eyeing her warily.

The silence stretched for a while, and then when she began to speak again her voice was curiously muffled. "I need someone to hate, Pete. Anyone will do. There's so much loss and rage inside of me. And I chose you. I think--I think I should leave."

Against the logic clamouring through his mind, Wisdom reached out and tugged at her ankle. She collapsed onto the floor beside him, unresisting. He tentatively touched her closed eyes. "What happened, Pryde?"

"And the weight of the world, too?" She asked, her tone ironic, her eyes still closed.

He carefully sat up, wincing as ribs and muscles protested the previous beatings. "It seems to be."

"No." She shook her head, slowly curled into a ball and sighed. "I just... Go away, Pete."

"To where?"

"The Crown, The Times, Scicluna's cell. I don't fucking care." Her voice was suddenly harsh. "Just go the fuck away."

Pete considered for a moment, then snorted, "Yer kicking me out?"

"Sounds good to me."

"But--"

"Stop arguing, you god-damned bastard." With her eyes still closed, she nodded, "Considering what should happen to you, you're getting off lightly. After all, it's raining. You could be dead."

"Kit, I--"

"Of course, then there would be yet another funeral I would have to go to," she continued, as if he hadn't spoken, "So, perhaps you'll be good and go out the balcony. Be soaked by the time you stagger into the Crown."

He considered. But there was something about the way she lay there that said leaving was better than staying.

Pete went out the balcony.

----

It was the doll that did it, in the end.

Kitty had finally dragged herself back to work, emptied the living room of trash, and begun on the bedroom with a quick detour to the bathroom. The state of the toilet nearly gave her pause, but she set her jaw and resolutely used the broom to pull stuff from behind the bowl. The shower was almost clean, and the towels merely needed laundering. She eyed the sink, and finally decided to leave it alone for the moment. The bedroom itself had less trash, but that was probably less due to luck than just random chance. She moved mechanically, determined to finish this. To finish something before she went back to curling up and locking the world out.

After dealing with the floor, she stripped the blankets off the bed, and then the pillow. And paused at the sight of what had lain under the pillow. Probably half-forgotten. Certainly never cuddled. After all, what would the point be? Wisdom wasn't fond of Kurt anyway.

But Kitty had always wondered where her bamf doll had gotten to. Trying to decide if Pete had taken it purposely, or if it had been an accident, she sank onto the mattress and cuddled the stuffed blue toy.

And then it hit her.

She'd come here with one purpose. To hurt Pete as badly as she'd been hurt. To make someone else feel like she did. In a way, she had succeeded. But it hadn't been enough. And now she merely felt dirty--worse than Wisdom's apartment before she'd shown up. And there wasn't anything that could clean her out. No mental bleach, no emotional scouring that would allow her to forget what she had sunk to.

A soft sound escaped her, and she bent over the doll. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Bile rose in her throat, and she hastily stood and staggered into the bathroom. The bowl was less pristine a few minutes later. She wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and closed her eyes again.

Why had she allowed things to degenerate like this? It wasn't something simple, it wasn't revenge. If Domino wanted revenge for Wisdom's abuse, she could do it on her own. She didn't need some crusading X-Man to come down off her pedastal and do it for her. Kitty's lips twisted. The trek down from that pedastal hadn't been hard, had it.

And Pete certainly hadn't been in the best of states. He wasn't living happily in hog heaven, as Sam would say. He was living in his own filth, coming home drunk every morning and sleeping so badly his nightmares would have kept a goldfish in constant terror.

The door slammed open, the sound echoing through the quiet space.

Kitty stood and set the bamf doll gently onto the pillow. It was time to face him. Perhaps, this time, she could be honest.

"Get wet?" As an opening gambit, it was lacking in everything including wit.

Wisdom just eyed her a moment, then shrugged out of his coat and then his wet shirt. It made a flapping sound as it hit the floor. "Y'know," he said conversationally as he took the cap off of the scotch bottle and leaned his bare shoulder against the wall. "I would offer you some, but as an X-Man, I'm sure it's forbidden."

"Give me some anyway, you damned idiot."

He raised an eyebrow, then downed a mouthful and gave a sigh. "Wouldn't that be lowering yourself there, Pryde? Getting down in the dirt with us humans?"

"Rachel would tell me it's my own fault you're being a petty bastard," she remarked conversationally. "That I should never have started this--let him go, Kit, she'd say. Let him live his own life. You live yours." Her eyes went distant, and she tilted her head to the side. "Sam said something similar."

"Who's Rachel, when she's at home, then?"

"Summers."

"Ah. One of them." He spoke the words like they were the darkest curse of Fate imaginable.

"Indeed."

"It was too late, you know."

"Oh?" Kitty finally moved towards him and pulled the bottle from suddenly lax fingers.

"She was in hell minutes after the mission began, and I didn't realise until we'd been there two months. And then all I could do was watch and hope I wouldn't receive a report that she had become a corpse."

"But she would have made such a pretty corpse," Kitty mused before slugging back a large mouthful.

He stared at her, eyes still slightly bloodshot, but now almost worried. "What happened, Pryde?"

She coughed and handed him the bottle, then shook her head. "Nothing. Everything. You ever feel like life wants to do nothing more than screw you so hard you end up wishing that a chainsaw would come along and remove vital organs slowly?"

"Yeah."

They stood there for a while, trading the bottle back and forth, each lost to their own thoughts. Finally, Wisdom shifted, and sighed. "Why'd you come, Pryde?"

"Isn't that something that's none of your business anymore?" An arched eyebrow echoed the amusement in her eyes.

"We hurt each other," he said, his voice frank and firm. "You hurt me, I give up. I hurt you, you give up. What do you do to fix it, Pryde, give up and bury your head in the sand?"

"I drink. I laugh. I pretend as hard as I can that life's all right." She eyed the bottle. "But then I remembered that things should have been different, and I found myself crawling out of a pit so deep I didn't think light existed there."

"And you come back here."

"Where it all began, in a way." Her features twisted, and her eyes glittered, but she refused to do more than sniffle. "There's something here that calls, Pete. Some remnant of a past that wants to die, but it won't let me go. You won't let me go."

"To be accurate," he slurred slightly, deciding quite suddenly that the floor was his best friend and sliding down the wall to it. He didn't even notice that the rough wall scratched lines into his back. "You won't let *me* go. You seem hell-bent on holding me responsible for every crisis and bad thing that's ever happened in your life. Even the ones I had nothing to do with."

"Be fair, Pete." She dropped down next to him and leaned her head on his shoulder. "You opened worlds to me. It *is* your fault."

"I refuse to take all of the blame, Pryde." He wiped a hand over his face, "Bloody hell, but you were an eager little brat. How was I to know you'd like killing and dark things and danger?"

"You couldn't, of course." A sigh escaped her and she unconsciously moved closer, finding that she could remember the feel of fitting next to him like it wasn't four years and a lot of pain since it had last happened.

"Right." Pete stopped, the finger of his right arm pointed in the air. It wavered a bit, and he turned to inspect her. "What was I going to say?"

"Don't know."

"You're a bad influence, Pryde."

"So they tell me." Her eyes drifted closed and she breathed in a scent her mind had tried to excise from longing and memory. It came back out in a sigh. Her arm slid around his waist, she blinked, disturbed to find him shirtless. Then the memory of his shirt flapping on the floor came back.

Pete winced as she brushed a few too many bruises.

"I'm sorry."

"I deserved 'em."

"Mm."

There was silence again. Pete finally turned his head again and regarded the woman sleeping on his shoulder. For a moment, he considered, and then he carefully slid his left arm around her, tucking her more securely against his side. Then with his free hand he picked up the scotch again.

"To irritating women."

"And the men who love them."

He paused and stared down again. "Thought you were asleep."

"Am."

Pete snorted, "You're doin' a lovely impression there." He shifted, then winced and said, "Could we move? Or maybe I can get meself a shirt."

"No. Part of your punishment."

"*My* punishment?" He raised an eyebrow, "And I agreed to this, when?"

"The day you walked out of my life." Kitty said. She moved to look up at him, eyes calm. "Why did you keep the bamf, doll? It certainly wasn't to remember Kurt by. Unless you like remembering death threats and blue fur."

"You sure about that?" When she didn't answer, he sat up straighter, and winced. "We're out of scotch, luv."

Her response was a sleepy grunt.

Pete considered the situation for a while, enjoying the nice hazy quality to everything. And then he carefully stood and made his way to his own bed.

----

There was light pounding down into her skull. Or perhaps she was simply dead, and this didn't matter at all. But there was something that sounded like cheerful whistling coming from somewhere around her. And she was cold. Kitty realised with chagrin that she'd slept the night through on Pete's rather cold floor. She shifted and winced as her stiff body protested the movement.

The whistling drew closer.

"Can't hold your licquor, Pryde?"

She opened one eye and glared balefully up at Pete. "Who are you, and what have you done with the real Peter Winston Wisdom?"

"Nothing." He bowed mockingly, "I just thought it was my turn to ruthlessly wake someone up." He smirked.

"A Brood hatchling," she muttered, sitting up and rubbing her arms in the cool air. "Or a shapeshifter."

"Breakfast is ready. If you actually want any, you might want to be quick about it." He rubbed his stomach. "I'm very hungry."

"Bastard."

"Ah, insults. And before noon, too."

Kitty shook her head and then regretted it. "Go away."

"Back to the Crown?"

There was an edge to his voice, and Kitty sighed. "I don't care."

"Pity."

They were both silent, and then Pete left the hall to eat his breakfast.

Kitty eventually got up and had breakfast. But Pete wasn't in a communicative mood, and he went out sometime during the afternoon. She took out the cans of garbage and discovered there was a washer/dryer in the basement. Everything was carted down and ruthlessly bleached. As the evening turned darker, she considered her options, and then made a sandwich. By midnight, when Pete still wasn't back, she shrugged, stole the blanket from his bed and went to sleep on the couch.

----

The next morning, Pete still wasn't back yet. Kitty took inventory in the kitchen, and sighed. The man really had nothing in those cupboards. She sat down at the table and made up a list of things, including toiletries and a change of clothing for herself. A quick check proved that the latter were sorely in need.

Very few of the people she shopped with noticed her accent. It was less noticeable than most American accents, but then Kitty had spent a few years in the neighborhood. The shift in her tones had been gradual, but definite. She found the proper items she needed, and enough food that was easy to assemble for several days.

Then she went back to the flat.

Pete was still not there, so she appropriated the shower and spent a long time blasting hot water on herself. It was invigorating and cleansing, and she dried off feeling almost human again.

Not really thinking about it, she stepped out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel.

"Bollocks."

She blinked at the completely insane-looking man leaning against the bedroom wall. "I left my clothes out here."

He eyed her, then snorted. "Whatever." And then he left, and she heard the front door close a few moments later.

Trying to decide if she'd wanted anything from such an encounter, Kitty shook her head. Plain and simple, she simply hadn't expected him to show up and find her standing naked and dripping wet in his bedroom. Of course, he could have been standing there a while. Perhaps waiting... But that was an avenue of thought she really didn't need to pursue.

Grumbling under her breath about the male sex in general and Pete in particular, she got dressed and went to start a bowl of ramen.

----

For the next several days, the pattern remained generally the same. Pete came and went at strange hours, they growled absently at each other, and Kitty spent the time being bored until she began to set up a massive network in Pete's living room. Once that was done, she began hacking into various places for the fun of it. After exhausting the more amusing possibilities, she settled into signing up for various internet courses and billing them to mob bosses.

She also bought more clothes, deciding that she couldn't stay in only one or two changes. And it was strange to have new things that hadn't been bought with either Meggan or Rachel, or heaven forbid, came from Jubilee.

It had been more than a week when Pete finally wandered back home and stared at his transformed living room. "Pryde?"

"Hrm?"

"You plannin' on stayin'?"

She looked up at him, absently shoving her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. "I don't really know anymore. You want me to go?"

He shrugged, "You can go or stay. Doesn't really matter much to me. As long as you're not hitting me."

"I think--well, I can't promise anything, but I don't think I'll be hitting you anymore." She half-grinned, then turned back to the computer and began shutting it down. "I was going to make ramen for dinner, you want some?"

Pete wrinkled his nose, "That shite?"

"Yes. It isn't grand, but it's filling."

"I've got a better plan. We're going out." He dragged her to her feet, "I hope you've got more than the one change of clothes, Pryde."

"Do you?"

"Touche." He tapped her nose with a finger, then grinned, "C'mon. The boys at the Crown miss you."

"And you?"

"I've never made any secret of it."

"Yes." She turned away and took off her glasses. "Some of the clothes I bought online have arrived, I'll, uh, get dressed."

----

The boys really had missed her. They spent the first half of the evening toasting to Pryde, and claiming that the world in the Crown had stopped while it waited for her to return. An absence of four years hadn't changed them much. Doyle and Pittman were a little older, and some of the people she'd known were gone. Kitty knew better than to ask; given their occupations, they were probably dead. There was a slightly younger crowd there, the newest batch of Intel recruits. They seemed in awe of her and at least two of them begged for her autograph.

She gently turned them down and drank another round.

It wasn't until around midnight that one of the newly-arrived kids bought her a round and gave her condolences on the death of a teammate. The Crown quieted for a moment, as various others turned to greet this solemn occasion.

"See, I always wanted to meet him. Rasputin," the young woman said. She gave a heartfelt sigh, and raised her pint glass. "Now I guess I can't. To him, and to you, Pryde."

"To fallen comrades," Pittman said quietly.

Kitty silently tipped her glass and then downed her drink. She'd lost track of how much and what. And from the refuge of the nearly painless place she was in, she heard her own voice say quite calmly, "I killed him."

From the other side of the table, Doyle shook his head, "Ah, darlin', you're just sotted. Wisdom, better take her home before she falls on her face."

"Yeah. Yeah, mate." Pete reached over and caught her hand, "C'mon, we should go."

She frowned at him, "But--"

"There's a nice bottle of scotch at the flat." He waggled his eyebrows, "And then there's that deck of cards. I seem to remember a challenge for strip poker this morning, Pryde."

"Fine." She sighed, "Nice to see you all again. I really must make a habit of this." When she stood up, the room swayed gently. "Hrm. Interesting."

Wisdom's arm slid around her waist. "Come along, you drunken sot."

She wrinkled her nose at him. "That's you."

His eyes gleamed oddly as he looked at her, "Not right now it ain't."

The journey back to the flat was accomplished in short order. Kitty only fell once, and that was because the lamppost she'd been leaning against had been so disacommadating as to tilt sideways, and she'd slid down.

Once inside, Kitty poked at Pete. "Scotch?"

"No more for you, I think."

"Hrmph. I'm almost perfectly sober, you know."

"Riiight." He left her sitting on the couch and came back in a short while with two mugs of coffee. "Here. Drink this."

She took it and sighed. "It's not Moira's coffee, is it?"

"Would I poison you?"

"Yes."

"What happened to Rasputin, Pryde?"

The question made her shrug. "He died."

"I hadn't heard."

"Not surprised. It wasn't widely broadcast. I'm surprised that little twit at the Crown knew." She ducked her head and looked into her coffee mug.

"Kitty, what did you mean, you killed him?"

She shrugged again, "Because I did." For just a moment, memory engulfed her. Piotr, eyes pleading with her, pain filling them as he rasped hoarsely in pain, begging... She jerked out of the memory.

"Tell me."

"I--" She gulped down the still-hot coffee, yelping as she scalded her tongue.

"Idiot."

"Yes." Her voice was a whisper now, her eyes wide with the memories that had finally broken through the careful ignorance, the alcohol was giving her a comforting haze. She could touch them without being sucked in and destroyed. "We'd gone on a raid--for Alistaire. There'd been a tip-off about Black Air and some abandoned warehouse. The place was just that, until we got into a sub-basement. There we found what we were looking for. Proof that Black Air had created them."

"Them?" The voice prompted her.

Dark blue eyes full of pain... Kitty looked up at Pete. "The bullets that eat their way through people. Black Air still marketed them--oh, it's a smaller, dirtier business now. So much was destroyed when we took them down that first time. But Scicluna wasn't the only power structure."

"No."

"We were getting out, the info in our hands, charges set to take the place down--per Alistaire's orders. I thought we'd cleared the place--we must have missed someone. *I* missed someone. He was hiding, I guess, waiting for the right moment, the right target. I don't think Piotr was even thinking. We were safe, we were almost done. And he wasn't in his steel form."

The look on Piotr's face had been simple surprise. Random chance had moved him in front of her just as the gun report echoed. So loud, in such a suddenly tiny space. It echoed again. But Kitty could only see the sudden shock and pain in Piotr's eyes.

"There was--blood. So much, Pete. And then he started screaming and we realised that they were *those* bullets. And they were eating him, and--Kurt's reflexes were better than mine. I was so still, I didn't notice anything until the Black Air man's neck snapped. It was so loud. And then Piotr's screams filled the silence again. I caught him as he crumpled, trying not to let it hurt when he landed on the floor. I tried once to get to the bullets, but they were too slippery, too tiny. I couldn't phase them out, or let them drop out of Piotr. And I couldn't concentrate, because he was screaming, and I couldn't think--"

And Kurt had come over to them, looking down. He'd spoken, but she hadn't heard anything, her ears to full of the pain-filled agony of the man dying in her lap. Then he was gone. And she was alone in the warehouse, a soft whispering alternating with the screams.

"Katya, please. Kurt--"

"He's gone to get help." She thought. Didn't think. Her fingers slid through the mass of black hair in her lap.

"The pain--"

"I know." A tear dripped onto his face. "Hang in there, Piotr, darling brother I never had. Kurt's gone to get help."

"No." Through his agony, he reached up and grabbed her hand. "You know--dying in agony--you can make it... painless."

It had taken a moment to process, longer, because she didn't want to believe what he was asking. And she fought down the bile that rose from the memory and took a quick sip of coffee. "He wanted to die, Pete. Those bullets--you need a determined telekinetic. And even then, the damage is so horrific. He wouldn't have survived..."

"Katya, if you have ever loved me."

"I didn't know where Kurt had gone. I hadn't realised he'd gone to Westchester."

"Please." The voice was now hoarse, his screams were dry now. Such a short time--yet it had felt as if she'd been holding him for hours, days. "You can do this for me. Please."

"I--I--"

"You know how. It will be--" He arched, pain racking him again. "--so painless..."

Kitty bowed her head, letting the tears fall unchecked. "Of course I did. How could I be a fucking ninja assassin and not know the right pressure points, Pete?"

And he was still screaming, back there. Dying in her arms.

"He was in so much pain..." She had set her fingers to the correct points and pressed in, twisting.

It wasn't completely painless for him--her hands were shaking too much for steady pressure. But Piotr could feel nothing but pain, anyway, as the bullets continued eating their way through him.

A gurgle, a last breath. And then he stopped screaming.

"He was so still."

His eyes stared up at her, blank and staring at nothing. Kitty had removed her fingers and gently closed them. "Goodbye, Piotr."

The stench of Kurt's teleportation caught her nose, then.

"Kitty, I've brought..." his voice trailed off as he took in the sight before him.

"He's dead." She'd told Kurt, her voice dull.

"Kurt knelt, then, and bowed his head. He was crying already, silent, painful sobs. I couldn't cry, Pete. Couldn't do anything except insist that I was fine. Jean didn't believe me, she seemed to want to press the issue. I told Kurt to take her back. But the strain of a second long-distance teleportation was too much, so she took a flight that afternoon."

Silently, Pete held out a handkerchief.

Kitty took it and blew her nose. "Pretty pathetic, isn't it? I killed a man who was close enough to be a brother. And all for nothing. She could have saved him, could have gotten the bullets out. But I didn't want--"

"Ya didn't want him to die in pain," Pete replied, his voice oddly flat. "I understand that, Kitty." He moved again and pulled her to her feet. "I'm makin' more coffee."

"And you're making me stand, why?"

"Because I'm not leaving you alone."

And for some reason, perhaps it was the strange understanding in his eyes, Kitty felt a tiny bit of the burden she carried lift. "You're a strange man, Mr. Wisdom."

"Would you have me any other way, Ms. Pryde?"

"Never."

----

There had been coffee. As she woke up, Kitty remembered this. It was probably the overturned mug under her left hand that helped. She groaned softly, her head beginning to pound. There had been coffee, and she really wasn't sure what else. After a moment, it registered that she was draped awkwardly on the couch because Pete was also there. Sorting out which bits were her and which weren't took longer than it should have, but she finally solved the problem by falling off the sofa.

"Ow." The sound was a pitiful croak. What *had* she done last night?

She seemed to recall The Crown, and drinks, and then--Piotr. She'd finally told someone. And she'd told Wisdom. Yeah. Now, that, had been smart. Like sticking your hand in a combine harvester and turning it on.

Another groan escaped her and she slowly clambered to her feet, using the couch and then the computer desk until she was upright and swaying.

How had they gotten to the couch? Had they even done anything? Checking her disarranged clothing, and the general state of her body, Kitty figured not. If anything, they had simply talked or something less strenuous until falling asleep. Probably.

Not that she hadn't had sex in less comfortable places. And most of those had been with Pete. She eyed his recumbent form for a moment, then decided to see about the film on her teeth.

The phone rang before she could accomplish this task. For a moment, she glared at it balefully, the sound sending off a pounding, echoing chorus in her head. Then she grabbed it. "H'lo."

"Is Wisdom there?"

"Moment." She said shortly. Experimentally, she poked Pete in the shoulder.

When that elicited nothing more than an extra snerk to his next snore, she poked him again. Harder. There was a pause in the snoring, and slowly his head turned enough for his mouth to not be eating couch. "Wot?"

"Phone." Kitty dropped the receiver on him and left to brush her teeth.

He came in while she was rinsing them and said, "I've got to go. There's a mission from Stuart."

"Mmm." She spit, and rinsed again.

"Will you... will you be all right while I'm gone?"

She blinked and turned to look at him, "Again, I ask, what have you done with the real Pete Wisdom?"

"Gotten him stinking drunk." For a moment, those blue blue eyes bored into hers, then he looked away. "I can't stop caring, Pryde. I don't--"

"Wait. No morning after confessions, Wisdom. It's not fair to either of us."

"Oh, fuck that."

Before she knew what he was about he'd caught her by the shoulders and was shaking her. "Do you push everyone away, Pryde?"

"You're still drunk. Or hungover. And I don't--" She let out a startled squawk as he kissed her.

It was awkward and not particularly memorable, but then she stepped into him. And suddenly they fit together again, like they had a hundred times before. God, it was good. She groaned in protest when he pulled back.

"You'll be all right?"

"You're a bastard, Wisdom."

"Agreed. Will you be all right?"

"I won't be here when you get back."

Pete let her go and stepped back, eyes blank. "I wouldn't expect you to be." His lip curled, "You're so bloody predictable, Pryde."

The toothbrush hit him in the chest.

"You do taste minty fresh, though." He smirked. "I always liked that."

"Fuck off, Wisdom."

"Pryde, Pryde, Pryde, we really have to expand your vocabulary."

She gave him the finger, then snorted. "This is ridiculous. We're adults. Yes. I will be all right. No. I probably won't be here." She moved and jabbed a finger into his chest. "You. Will not get yourself killed."

"Should I salute?"

"Only if you want to go on this mission with a broken arm." She muttered, pushing past him and considering a shower. Or sleep. Sleep could be good. Her head was aching again, and she wondered if it was a real headache or only Pete-induced.

There was sludge in the bottom of the coffee maker, and she grumbled. It hadn't been turned off, of course. Sticking it under the hot tap, she watched the water swirl around and get most of it up. Which was good. Deciding that everything would be better after coffee, she refilled the carafe and hunted around until she discovered where Pete (who had been drunk) had put the coffee filters the night before. They were in the freezer, under the chocolate mousse pie she'd bought in a fit of whimsy.

"I really don't want to know how his thought processes led him to placing them there," Kitty mumbled as she put several spoonfulls of coffee grounds into the filter, then popped it into the maker.

"I'd say something about you being insane, Pryde, but you already are a bloody X-Man."

She turned and watched Pete stagger into the room. He slouched into a chair. His appearance had slightly improved. The rumpled suit had been replaced with a less rumpled suit, his tie was nearly straight, and it was almost possible that he had shaved. "Aw, how cute. You got all dressed up just for me."

The glare he gave her might have finished off the coffee pot, turning the sludge into hardened grease that would never have come up.

"Your tie's crooked." She smiled sweetly and moved to fix it.

He caught her wrists, and shook his head. "Leave it."

"But--"

"Leave it, Pryde. They'll survive." There was an intensity to him, a weight to the words that went beyond what he was actually saying.

"Fine." Jerking her wrists from his grasp, she turned away and stared blankly at the gurgling coffee maker. God, this was stupid. Ridiculous. Dumb. Assinine. She began calling herself all of those words and more as Pete finally got up and left. The front door closed, and she started saying them out loud, her whisper almost vicious. "Cunt. Idiot. Dumbass. Slut." She paused. "Ok. Accidental slut."

She giggled, then choked on something that felt like a sob. "Jesus, Pryde, get yourself together." Her voice was slightly higher than normal, and she coughed to clear her throat. "He's just an ex. Damnit."

And he doesn't want you anymore.

But you don't want him, right?

Right.

Carefully, she began packing up the computers and other equipment. The labels would have them shipped to Alistaire. He could probably always use state of the art equipment. After buying a ticket to Hawaii, Kitty turned off the last computer. Then she packed her clothing in a haversack found in Pete's closet.

"I'm going to be all right."

Yes. Yes she would.

Wisdom's lease she left under the mug of coffee she'd never drunk. Let him figure out what to do with the place. She didn't care anymore.

-finis-