Disclaimer: X-Men. Not mine. Making no money. Just torturing them for fun, much as

Marvel does.

Note: I've played with contunity a bit and brought back at least one person Marvel killed off,

so I suppose this could be considered AU. This will be rated R for possible disturbing

imagery, sexual content, and dark, depressing angst.

Takes place loosely after death of Moira McTaggert, before and during time X-Treme

X-Men team leaves the mansion. This will be Kitty/Peter fic eventually.

Paper Flowers

Chapter 1 – Going Under

She couldn't sleep.

God knows, she'd tried, but it was useless. It was one of those nights, seemingly more and more frequent of late, when the dead couldn't rest and neither could she.

Tonight, there was one more in their number and she

wondered what others would join the group before it ended.

It will never end.

She resolutely ignored the seductive little voice in her head, as she had done so many times before, refusing to acknowledge it's snide, devious little comments as it tried to play on her fears and sorrows.

Throwing back the covers, she sat up, swinging her long, slender legs over the side of the bed and slipping her feet into her slippers as she stood.

If she stayed in bed, tried to force herself to sleep, it would only make things worse. She'd begin seeing their faces all around her, the empty spaces where they should have been, and she'd lose her ability to function, the walls would come down, and the resultant flood would sweep her away.

Better to do something productive, get out of bed and work off some energy, try to burn out the memories. At least for a little while.

But, sooner or later, they will come back. They always come back.

The voice whispered in her ear, trying to tempt her, break her, but still she pretended not to hear.

Downstairs. The Danger Room. She could go there, forget for a while, or try to.

Anything was better than sitting here, in the dark, talking to the ghosts of the past. That never did her, nor them, any good.

So, rummaging around in her closet, she pulled out a set of green leotards and a pair of scruffy, worn ballet slippers. Not exactly fighting gear, but it would do.

You are always fighting. Aren't you tired of fighting? I can make it better. I can make it all go away. You know I can.

NO!

She cried out in her mind, trying to chase it away. Each time it was more difficult. Each time, the temptation to give in grew stronger.

And the voice was right. She was tired of fighting. Tonight, though, she wouldn't fight.

Tonight, she would dance.

******************************************************************************

In this way, Katherine Pryde, known to her friends as Kitty, known to the world as Shadowcat, found herself in the control booth of the Danger Room at 3:00 am, programming a dance sequence.

Well, at least I won't have to worry about being interrupted, she told herself as she slipped a disk into the rooms CD changer and set it on repeat.

With the program set and ready to go, she didn't bother with the door, phasing straight through the floor of the control booth and air walking down to the bare room far below.

As soon as her feet made solid contact with the floor, the room shimmered to life, the blank metal walls and floors replaced by a typical dance studio with mirrored wall, a barre, and polished hardwood floor.

The music began automatically as well, and the lithe Shadowcat began a series of warm-up exercises, bending, stretching, flexing until she was covered in a light sheen of sweat. Then, she began in earnest.

She let the music flow over her, into her. It had been too long. There was never a reason to dance anymore. Only to fight. And die.

The steps were mostly classical ballet. The music was anything but. Kitty had purposely picked the CD for the hard, driving beat beat of drums and steel guitar, and the words,- a little dark, a little depressing, a little angry- fit her mood perfectly.

Jumping, twirling, spinning, she pushed herself as hard as she could, eventually mixing in a little modern dance when she got bored with ballet. She'd studied under the best, and it showed. If things had been different, she might have been a dancer. Or the female Bill Gates. Or just an ordinary college student.

Those ideas were so completely foreign to her, Kitty really couldn't even wrap her mind around the concepts. There wasn't time in her life to be a college student, and she was anything but ordinary. She would never be ordinary again, for as long as she lived.

Catching sight of her reflection in the wall of mirrors, Kitty didn't see the grace, the fluidity of movement, the beauty of the dance. All she saw were the pale reflections of fighting moves, set to music. It seemed that even the pleasure she used to take in this one small remainder of her life before had deserted her.

Once, she had been young, full of life, excited with each new day that came, impatient to see what new adventure would come her way. This life she was now living had seemed thrilling and romantic, a true life fairy tale. Only, she wouldn't be the damsel in distress, she would be the hero. She would save the world.

And she had. More than once.

Problem was, the world, or at least some part of it, always seemed to need saving. There was no end to it, no rest. It went on and on endlessly and they never seemed to make a dent, never seemed to make a difference. They fought and died, sacrificed their lives, sometimes their very souls, in so many ways, to protect a world that hated them.

Once, she had been young. Now, at 23, she felt old. And tired. And used up. If she told the truth, if she dared admit it, even to herself, all she wanted was an end to it. In whatever way might come swiftest.

It terrified her.

And all around her, the faces of the dead, watching, waiting.

The Dream had become a nightmare and she couldn't wake up.