Disclaimer: This is the X-Men... in a femslash story. I own a dusty copy of Gray's Anatomy, but nothing else. Continuing further means I'm not liable for you falling off the desk and mangling yourself.

Notes: Ever get confused with the X-Men plot lines? I did, enough to drop all the research and plop this story into the realm of AU. Betsy's dead but that Xorn disguised as Magneto stuff didn't happen yet. The Xtreme X-Men are back, and Wolverine? He's still cool.

Henry McCoy, renowned scientist, outspoken mutant, and former X-Man, rolled around in his bed, caught in the grip of yet another terrible nightmare. Throughout his life, the man called Beast had been subject to unspeakable horrors and atrocities, most of which would shatter the mind of a normal human. The comfort, the will to go on, the ability to keep fighting the "good" fight, stemmed from his determination to prevent those aforementioned disasters from falling upon anyone else.

But even the greatest of spirits break in due time. Hank broke six months ago when the madman, Vargas, broke every bone in his body and impaled his friend, Betsy Braddock, a.k.a. Psylocke, through the stomach, killing her. Even when the bones mended, something was never quite right with Hank after that. Perhaps it was the helplessness which seized him as he writhed on the cold floor or the empty gaze in Betsy's eyes as the body bag was zipped up, but shortly afterward, he quit the X-Men. His resignation barreled into an ocean of responses, the most heated when Logan cornered him in his lab.

"Look Hank, Betts gave up her life so you an' Rogue could live. I got no qualms with you takin' time off an' sortin' out your thoughts. What rubs my fur the wrong way is you up and leaving the rest of your friends--your family--behind. The Hank I knew was never a quitter."

"You are correct," Beast allowed while lifting a heavy box of spare computer parts, "But the Hank you knew is dead. I think Ms. Pryde said it best when she took away Piotr's ashes: 'I'm tired of death.' And frankly Logan, I am so very tired."

More words were exchanged after that, eventually degrading into a fistfight which Emma Frost of all people had to break up. Logan left with a fractured jaw and a broken rib while Beast himself sported a broken nose. The rest of the parting exchanges didn't come to blows, but the words smarted like no wound could. Disappointment, guilt, sadness, frustration, confusion, surprise, anger--each reaction attached itself to the appropriate face.

"Dis da way it ends, mon ami?" Gambit, cigarette at hand, leaning up against the doorframe while casting a wayward glance down the hall at a pissed off and semi-hurt Wolverine.

"Henry, don't blame yourself. Blame me for your pain." Storm, her toughened exterior adding yet another thick layer, ready to accept the hate of another for the good of the team.

"Ah'm gonna miss ya, Beast. Don't be a stranger, ya hear?" Rogue, tears streaming down her face as the self-loathing and frustration reflected Hank's own rattled state.

"Quite a trip down memory lane."

The unexpected voice shattered the imagery littering Hank's dreamscape. Caught between wakefulness and sleep, Beast felt the foreign presence exert its power and trap his panicking mind in place. A flash of pain lanced through his being, making him roar like an animal. Through squinted, tear soaked eyes, he saw the lithe form of Psylocke, the mark of the Crimson Dawn gone from her face, but other than that, quite alive.

Approaching her immobilized prey, Psylocke grinned sadistically, her psychic knife coming into existence. "Hank McCoy," she purred, slowly tracing the knife around Beast's jaw, "How sweet of you to still remember me."

"This... isn't... real..." grunted Hank, resorting to denial to defend himself. "All in... my... my..."

"Your head? Sure, of course this is in your head. How else could I be doing this? Not like you left me with much of a body being buried at Braddock Manor for so long now."

"Betsy, I'm so sorry. I... I..."

The psychic knife plunged through the captive mutant's temple. "Tell them," whispered Psylocke, "Tell them that I've come back to claim my revenge."

Hank woke up screaming, sweat matting his blue fur to his skin. Heart pounding like a marching band bass drum, he heaved gulps of air as his entire body convulsed, the trademark aftermath of Betsy's deadly psychic knife. Sheets were torn asunder while the mattress absorbed inhuman punishment, every item surrounding Beast bearing the brunt of his desperate flailing.

Soon, he stopped thrashing, the movements replaced by silence.

At Xavier's Institute for Higher Learning, Emma Grace Frost carefully brought the cup of white chocolate mocha to her lips, savoring the coffee's warmth and silky smoothness. Around her lay a sea of term papers, all in varying states of "gradedness." Poet laureates and professional novelists these children were not, but a disturbing amount of the aforementioned papers read like train wrecks and in some cases even looked like them.

As a senior instructor at the school, Emma was responsible for reading over a good number of her students' semester-end final project, the broadly defined "My Observations on Mutanthood."

Rubbing her temples, Emma picked up a random wad of paper and steeled herself for the tedious and often painful task at hand. Wouldn't something, ANYTHING, save her from the students' half wit, half assed-

And the savior came in the form of someone knocking on the door. Giving a sigh of relief, Emma replaced the paper and reached out with her telepathy to see who she should thank for staving off this hideous eventuality. A pupil perhaps? Maybe even Charles, but he was unlikely. One of the groundskeepers?

The guessing game came to a screeching halt when she felt the semi-familiar, always distant (at least to Emma) Kitty Pryde.

She suppressed her urge to rifle through Pryde's mind. Although Shadowcat was a welcomed ex-member of the X-teams, she made it known that she wanted nothing to do with death anymore. Occasionally, she'd show up or call the mansion in search of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Beast, or the Professor--well, not Hank so much given how he's off on his own. Never had she made an attempt to talk to Emma herself, not that the blonde cared or minded. After all, their first impressions made years ago didn't go well, and ever since then, whenever they were on the same side, an aura of distrust came between them.

Emma shut off the reminiscing part of her mind and called out, "Katherine, please come in."

"Thank you."

She looked... rejuvenated. Last Emma saw Kitty, she was haggard and tired. Her hair was short then, her way of dress coarse and her posture rough--par for the course for an X-Man. Now, this Pryde looked different, complete with a thick offering of brown locks and a sense of serenity gained from having the world run her over about a hundred too many times.

"In other words," Emma mused, "She looks likes me."

She quickly brushed that fleeting thought aside. "What can I do for you, Katherine?"

Oh, make no mistake about it: Shadowcat was here only because of a last resort. No way would she bare her neck to "Frosty" willingly. All her various mentors, acquaintances, and alternate-dimensional friends must've failed her before she even considered darkening the White Queen's doorstep.

The two had an understanding like that.

Without preamble, Kitty said, "I was wondering if you could help me find Hank."

So many replies to the request, some hostile, some compliant, all pushing the envelope. But why? Absolutely no reason to be condescending, that was the new Emma Frost's philosophy. Let them have it when they deserved it because anything otherwise would waste too much energy, energy she didn't have anymore after taking this damned job.

Instead, Emma asked a question out of genuine concern. "Is there something wrong with Hank?"

The Beast was a regal man, a thorough-bred gentleman, and when most had written her off, he didn't. A part of her deep down (VERY deep down) cared for the blue haired mongrel. Unless something was amiss, why wouldn't or couldn't Kitty get in touch with him? The resources at her disposal were more than capable of scouring for one man sized furball.

"He's just gone," Kitty replied, trying to keep the conversation as professional as possible, "I went to his apartment a day ago and he wasn't there. The bedroom was in ruins but I couldn't find any clues where he went. I've tried calling the Professor but no one's picking up..."

Emma nodded slightly. "Off saving the Summers family tree again."

"I see..."

"And yes Katherine, I will help you find Hank."

Kitty let out an almost imperceptible sigh of relief. "When can we get started?"

"Right now," the White Queen stated, picking up the phone and dialing a number. Seconds ticked by before someone picked up. "Hello Isa. Yes, good day to you too. I'm ecstatic over your ability to read the Caller ID screen. I need you to run a search for me. Why? Because I said so. No time you say? Let me put it this way: I own the phone you're using, the floor you're standing on, and the computer holding all your research. Yes. Yes, call it 'funder's perks' if you like. Ok, that's more like it. Thank you for your cooperation. Now, search for one Dr. Henry McCoy. Yes, THE Doctor Henry 'Hank' McCoy. Call my cell with the results."

With just a little extra force than necessary, Emma threw down the phone. She returned her gaze to Kitty, charming smile erasing all signs of her infamous ice queen demeanor. "Would you care to have a seat?"

Kitty stood dumbfounded. "What just happened?"

Emma sat and shrugged. "I called in a favor."

"Who happens to have a mutant tracking device?"

"My dear, surely you don't think Frost Enterprises is just a fancy name. I have subsidiaries which branch out into all facets of the global market. Funding mutant research happens to be a subject very dear to my heart."

Kitty bit back the caustic remark threatening to spill from her mouth. Emma always managed to put her on the edge, but as it was, the blonde was all smiles and sunshine. Instead, Kitty delved into more acceptable conversation pieces.

"What other kinds of research do you endorse?"

"Dangerous research," Emma replied, "Research that bigots and hostile government figures would kill to get a piece of. I control the most detrimental projects so that they will not get out and make my world a worse place for me."

"What about Cerebra?"

"Forge is fixing it. Won't be ready for another week."

The two stared at each other for a good ten minutes after that. Kitty tried to say something more to break the silence, but nothing seemed appropriate under the White Queen's unwavering gaze. Emma, for her part, internally laughed, amused at the sheer intimidating presence she held over Kitty.

Who ever said Emma wasn't petty?

The staring match would've continued indefinitely if an explosion didn't rock the mansion. Both women leapt to action right away, scrambling for the window to try and get a sense of what was happening. Besides the prerequisite dust, soot, debris, and demolished front gate (Really, Emma thought to herself, How many times has that thing been destroyed like that? Why, I know I did that at least two times.), nothing seemed to be amiss.

No laughing villain. No charging humans. No protesters (Thank God). No additional explosions. Nothing.

"Come on," Kitty said. She grabbed Emma's wrist and activated her powers, phasing them through the wall and slowly touching down on the front lawn.

Being close to Christmas, many students left to be with family. If not that, then at least they were having a relaxing day out on the town. Add the pending Summers family crisis to the mix, and well, that left Xavier's Institute nearly abandoned. Good thing too since the children tended to flock toward random explosions and other forms of trouble like a moth to a flame.

Despite not being frontline fighters, the two had more than enough experience to approach with caution. Kitty phased and took the lead while Emma held back and scanned for signs of trouble. The blonde only picked up one signature, and it was an awfully familiar signature.

"Katherine!" yelled Emma. "Henry is in the debris!"

Shadowcat nodded and disappeared into the dust. Emma continued scouting, keeping an eye on Kitty and another on potential danger.

"All clear," Emma telepathically said. "Phase Henry out of the debris so we can assist him."

A few grunts accompanied the mental reply. "Easy enough for you to say, Emma! Hank weighs a ton! Little help here?"

"And ruin my Gucci boots?"

"This is no time to be vain!" Kitty shouted, after which some unintelligible grumbles came out.

"You're young," Emma shot back, smiling at Kitty's choice words, "I can't phase, and Henry, though hurt, isn't in critical condition. You can handle it."

"Unlike your Gucci boots?"

"Yes, unlike my Gucci boots."

Reappearing from the destruction with Hank in a tow, Kitty materialized and waved Emma over. "Fat help you were," she said out of frustration, aloud this time.

"On the contrary," Emma pointed out, "You asked me to find Henry for you, and voila, here he is."

Letting the conversation die, they positioned themselves to carry the Beast into the infirmary. As she lifted Hank's arm so she could put it over her shoulder, Emma spotted a sliver of paper clenched in the man's left fist. Her curiosity got the better of her as she pulled it from his grasp and shoved it in her pocket.

Kitty was none the wiser.

Halfway to the mansion, Emma sensed another presence appear out of nowhere. Her inability to identify, much less get a good read, on the subject made her shout a "Look out!"

The pessimist in Emma expected to be taken off her feet or shot at, and by reflex, she shifted into her diamond form. Strength augmented, she pulled the Beast into her arms and spun around to meet the threat. Kitty wasn't idle either as she rolled to the side, her battle hardened instincts making her react before her mind caught up.

And catch up it did.

"Brian?" Kitty said upon seeing the ex-Captain Britain--former Excalibur teammate, dear friend, and current ruler of the Otherworld--dressed in a jeans/t-shirt ensemble and hovering in midair.

For a second, the man's eyes lit up in joyous recognition, but then his expression dulled when he remembered why he was here. "Kitty, are you all right?"

"We're fine," stated Emma. "I want to know what's going on, Mr. Braddock."

Squashing the annoyance at having been interrupted, Brian focused on the White Queen. "I take it you just found Dr. McCoy?"

Emma nodded.

"This," Brian sighed, "is going to take smidge of time. Come on, I'll help you with him and fill you in on what's happening."

To be continued...