Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: 13+ Set: During the time Kitty Pryde was at the mansion, after Excalibur.
Spoilers: Er. Excalibur, those issues of X-Men and Uncanny.
Notes: I'm sorry, A.j., I was trying so hard to make this end up a Kitty/Piotr shipper fic, and I couldn't do it. shrug I don't think it's either of them, I just don't 'feel' the pairing. Eh.

There Once Was a Time I Was Sure
by ALC Punk!

It was a cold night, crisp enough to send the breath freezing down your throat and clear with a thousand glittering stars. The slight breeze knifed through Kitty Pryde's jacket, and she shivered and pulled it closer. She regretted not remembering to bring a pair of gloves or a scarf. The collar did little to shelter her face from the icy cold.

Her breath steamed into the air as she walked along the path. Behind her, the mansion almost glowed in the light from the moon and stars. Small windows glittered as people slowly went to bed, turning out overhead lamps and resorting to the small bedside ones for reading. Her footsteps crunched as she stepped, the boots cutting into the slight layer of frost that lay on the paving.

Another crunch came from behind, and she turned, slowly, to face the man who'd followed her. She'd known he would, known from the moment they passed each other in the hall.

Piotr Rasputin silently offered her a cape. She took it and swung it around her shoulders, settling it. "Thanks."

"My Katya, I--"

"Stop that, Piotr." Kitty Pryde turned away from the man looking at her, his gaze as awkward as his words. "I'm not yours anymore. Despite what Storm may wish, I am not planning to be yours again, either. If I ever was yours."

His intake of breath was her only clue that she might have wounded him. And part of her was glad because he had caused her so much pain in the last several months. He deserved some back. But it shouldn't be this way, she should be able to deal with him on a daily basis without constantly wanting to shove spikes into his skin, peel back the layers of veneer and prove he was the savage bastard she thinks he is.

"That was thoughtless."

"Katya, I just wish to understand."

"What is there to understand?" She demanded, rounding on him again, "I don't love you, Piotr Rasputin. Why can't you believe that?"

"Because I still love you, Katherine Pryde." He replied simply, his eyes earnest and dark.

"How can I believe that, Piotr? You left me--more than once!"

"I was... blinded, lost without hope, Katya." Turning away from her, his eyes sought the sky. "So many things happened in too short a time. I could not change easily, as you have."

Her lips suddenly went dry. "Change? How have I changed, Piotr?"

"We both have," He smiled humorlessly. "I most of all. But through it all, Katya, you were my constant. The star I came back to be guided by."

"Even when I betrayed you?" Kitty demanded, her voice brittle as she turned away from his candor to watch the stars herself.

"You did so out of love."

"Are you so certain of that? Perhaps the professor twisted both our minds that day."

"No. Godspodin Xavier would never harm us intentionally."

"That's the sticking point, though, isn't it." Kitty was surprised at her own bitterness, but let it go a moment later when a star shot across the sky. "I used to be happy, Piotr. Happy anywhere I was."

"And now?"

"Now I wonder whether I'd be better off somewhere else. The X-Men don't need me. They certainly didn't before. And the only good I'm doing now is a sort of placeholder."

A hand tentatively touched her shoulder, and she nearly shrugged it off. "Katya, I think..."

"What, Piotr?" Kitty turned, suddenly feeling as if the world had gone off-balance again. Like it had a year ago when she'd walked out of the Black Air research station, Pete Wisdom's hand in her own.

He pulled back and looked down at his feet. "Nothing."

"No, it's not nothing." Stepping into him, she caught his chin in her fingers, pulling upwards. "Tell me."

Blue eyes looked into brown.

Kitty looked away first, sudden understanding surging through her. "Never mind." This was ridiculous.

"Yes," Piotr said softly, stepping away from her. "You feel it to, don't you, Katya. Despite your assertions and protests."

"What I feel doesn't matter, Rasputin." She grated out, angry at herself now. At him for bringing these emotions to the surface. "This isn't a game. I can't just step back into a life that abandoned me."

"I would never ask you to."

She half-laughed. "I notice you don't deny I was abandoned."

"If the truth hurts, one should accept it, Katya."

"So wise, Piotr. Do you write greeting cards, or just online sayings?"

He made a soft noise, then turned completely, and stepped back onto the path. "I'll leave you to the stars, Katya."

"No. Wait." She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I think I'm just tired and disillusioned."

"Are you?"

Kitty stared at his back for a moment, then sighed, "Yes. As disillusioned as you were when Russia fell. When the Communist Bloc was no more. When you woke up in a space station and realized you were serving a man who thought he was God."

"You're wrong." And his tone was brittle. "I have been disillusioned many times."

"When Illyana died."

"Which time, Katya?" The bite was in his voice, making it brittle and broken.

"All of them. None of them. I don't know, Piotr. I don't know how to fix things and go back. I've tried going back before, and all it does it bring heartache. So I go forward, instead."

"Forward..." He turned and looked at her. "And I am backwards."

"I'm sorry."

"As am I."

For a moment, they stood there, frozen in the cold, their shared pasts and the uncertain future. Then Kitty stepped back further. "Go back to bed, Piotr. It's cold."

"Too cold," he agreed softly before turning, and once again leaving her alone.

Kitty didn't watch him leave, instead she headed deeper into the woods, the branches rustling a brittle welcome in the icy breeze.

"Touchin'."

"Shut up."

A figure swung down out of one of the trees and crouched, his cigar dangling from his lips. "Why should I?"

"Go away, Logan." Following her own advice, Kitty began walking again, ignoring the eyes watching her back.

"You always run away now, Kit?"

She refused to answer, fists clenching as she stalked onwards. Predictably, a branch slapped her in the face, and she had to stop, cursing as she rubbed her stinging eyes.

"Quite a vocabulary you've learned, Kit."

"I learned a lot of things over the years, Logan." Kitty stopped, leaning against a tree and sighing, suddenly weary. "I've watched too many people die, too many friends disappear..." She glanced at him, noting the cigar's end flaring as he drew on it. "Pete smoked. It was the one thing I thought I'd want him to change."

"Heard about 'im." He replied, tone dry. "Not sure I liked what I heard of 'im, either."

"You two would have gotten along like a house on fire," Kitty shot back.

"Darlin', I know enough about those black ops types--"

"Pete... Yeah." With a shrug, Kitty let the tree take her weight and slid down to wrap her arms around her knees. "He was just like all of the rest, in the end."

Wolverine made a sound low in his throat, and said, "Did he hurt you?"

"No... I hurt him more than he hurt me." She tilted her head sideways and laid her forehead against her knees, still eyeing Wolverine. "Why didn't you ever tell me you were still alive?"

When he didn't answer, she continued softly, "Although... I think I wanted you to still be alive, in some way. I hoped, for instance that I'd wake up and it was all a horrible nightmare." Her gaze sharpened, "I spent seven months grieving for you and hating every day because it meant that the people I cared about most were dead. And the entire time you were still alive and well."

"Only seven?"

"It's hard to stay grieving when you're fighting for your life, and being betrayed by a woman you thought you could trust."

"Darlin', there's not much I can say. The X-Men were flyin' under the radar. We couldn't tell anyone we were still alive."

"I figured." She turned her head and breathed in the slightly musty scent of the cape. "Did you ever..." But she couldn't bring herself to ask that. It would be too pathetic a question. Too needy, and Kitty Pryde was nearly twenty. Needy shouldn't be in her vocabulary.

"We did, darlin'. Might not seem like it, but we missed you."

"So much you called every month." Her tone was sarcastic, but she couldn't help it anymore than she could help the tears that were threatening suddenly.

"Kit--"

"It hurts, Logan." Her head came up and she stared across the gulf of a hundred thousand miles, five years, and betrayal that cut deep. "I grew up without the people I loved the most."

"We can't all live in paradise."

"No. I suppose we can't." She wiped a hand over her eyes. "But the illusion was nice for a time."

He closed the distance and dropped down to sit next to her.

They were both silent for a while, the only sounds to be heard was the wind in the trees and Logan's cigar slowly falling into ash. Kitty eventually leaned her head on his shoulder, and his arm crept around her. Until, for just a moment, she felt like she was thirteen again.

An owl called, and the spell was broken. She sniffled, "It's never going to be the same."

"Nope." His arm tightened and he turned and brushed a kiss across the top of her head. "But I'm damn proud of the woman you've grown up to be, Kit."

"It was your influence. And Ororo's."

"And Chuck's--"

"No. And Kurt's. Illyana's, too. And Ray's." The tears tried to come back, but she ignored them. "I miss them, and Doug."

"You've got Wagner," he pointed out. "And the rest of us."

"I know. But... it's not the same."

"Never can be."

And Kitty decided, oddly, that she was okay with that.

The owl called again, hoots echoing in the cold, clear air. Perhaps it was singing to the stars.

f-