BLOODLINE: SOUL SURVIVOR

BY MADRIPOOR ROSE

Disclaimer: The X Men are the property of Marvel Entertainment. This is a work of fanfiction, no copyright infringement intended.

Author's Note: The premise behind the Colossus: Bloodline miniseries was intriguing. The actual comic, not so much. Therefore, AU. And obviously, spoilers for Bloodline, Astonishing, and odd bits and pieces of the 616 universe.

Mother Russia.

The last of his family was gone, but the mountains cradled Lake Baikal like Mother Russia's welcoming arms. After the funerals, Piotr Rasputin rented a dasha deep in the woods, to grieve, and to try to understand this tragedy that had become a family curse.

He read histories, biographies. The letters and diary in Great Grandmother Elena's trunk. He consulted known magic users, the few they could trust.

He knew some of the stories. Distorted by time and retellings. He needed the truth.

When the peeled log walls were closing in, he went for long walks. Snowshoeing through the woods, and along the shore of the long lake. The sunlight and the sharp cold air brought ruddiness back to his cheeks, color back to skin made too pale from confinement.

It had been dark in that cell in the Benetech basement. Dark and cramped and antiseptic. Now, he was free to walk under the open sky, and chose to. Breathing in the scent of pine, watching the lake for seals and tracking deer through the forest.

The homesickness was an ache that had grown so familiar over the years, he hadn't noticed it until it was gone. The long walks through his native land healed something long wounded inside.

And exhausted him so that he could sleep without dreaming.

Without nightmares.

The deaths of his uncle and cousins had given him some new ones.

Noone should die the way Uncle Vladimir died, not even a monster. And Larissa...he still remembered the bright, inquisitive child she had been, playing quietly with her as she made up stories for the pictures he drew.

He'd been too late to save her.

He knew what he had to do now. And finally, this evil spell that had been cast nearly a hundred years ago would be broken.

He planned to leave in the morning, and took one last hike through the woods. He didn't know if he'd ever come back.

When he returned to the dasha, a rented car was parked in the drive, and Kitty Pryde leaned against the hood, huddled in a dark coat against the cold.

She smiled wanly as he approached, and held up the familiar red, blue and tan carton of a six-pack of Tinkov. "Brewski?"

"Peevah," he corrected her with a small smile. "You've been spending too much time with Logan."

"I also got some black bread and some of that smoked fish they sell, like, every five feet around the lake," she set the six pack down on the hood and hugged him, hard. "Peter. I'm so sorry."

Maybe your power influenced your personality. No matter how many walls he put up around himself, Kitty walked right through them. He'd needed the time alone, but now that she had come, he was genuinely glad to see her.

She was pale, and when he brushed his lips against her forehead in greeting, her skin was like ice. How long had she been waiting? "You're half-frozen. Let's get you warmed up. How are things at the school?" He helped carry her luggage into the cabin.

"Good. We, uh, fixed the wall in your room. We set up a gym for the kids, because free weights are so much less likely to develop sentience and go insane. Oh, and Wing's parents are suing us, Benetech, and the Shi'ar Empire for wrongful death. Y'know. The usual."

He laughed softly. "Have you noticed, Katya, that our definition of normal greatly differs from the one in the dictionary?"

"Yeah. But at least life isn't boring." Kitty was looking around, wide eyed, at the large room of golden wood, rustic furniture in bright colors. The cathedral ceiling and full wall fieldstone fireplace. "Geez. When Logan said you'd rented a cabin..."

Piotr shrugged. "Capitalism. Breeds Yuppies. There's a spa tub in the bath. You should go have a good hot soak, thaw those bones, and then we'll talk." He still wasn't used to the money. It had always been a joke that artists were worth more dead than alive... Emma Frost had begun to collect his surviving paintings, to bring them back in the family, as it were. Despite being a known mutant, Emma was still something of a trendsetter in her circles and his paintings had a posthumous revival in popularity.

The paintings Emma resold at the height of the feeding frenzy went for enough to establish the Snowflake Foundation. Six students at Xavier's who had been abandoned by their parents at manifestation were fed, clothed and housed by this memorial to him and his sister Illyana.

By the time it was discovered that he had been taken captive by Ord, that the body they cremated was a clone supplied by Sinister to Benetech...the sale of a few canvases he still had in storage from his Peter Nicholas period meant that he was comfortably set.

He took Kitty's suitcase into the second bedroom, and went to build a fire and fix dinner, adding Kitty's contributions to the larder. He opened a bottle of the Tinkov's, and drank some beer while he worked in the kitchen, warming the bread in the oven, and reheating a thick savory soup he'd made the day before.

It was ready just as Kitty emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in a velour robe, hair damp. She walked over to the large farmhouse table, and looked at the papers and books scattered over it.

She picked up the photograph of Grigorii Rasputin, and Elena. "So that's the old man himself," she said softly.

Piotr stacked up piles of printouts, and books. "Yes. The Mad Monk. My great-grandfather."

She stared at the photograph, then looked up at him, tilting her head slightly. "I kinda see the resemblance. Remember Excalibur? That time you and me and Kurt were trapped in that pocket dimension with the alternate versions of us? Brother Rasputin, with the beard."

Piotr paused, a volume of Anastasia survival conspiracy theories in one hand. "Perhaps they were from a universe where Grigorii's plan for reincarnation through possession took me. Yes," his free hand went to touch his chest thoughtfully. "If I had not been killed and resuscitated..."

"You drowned in the Bermuda Triangle, Logan and I had to do CPR. Deathbird speared you and Sikorsky had to put you in stasis while it rebuilt your heart. The Legacy cure...I thought it was 'cats who had nine lives," the girl codenamed Shadowcat teased.

"Just lucky, I guess," he smiled in spite of himself. "Lucky to have you in my life. You are always saving me, Katya. Since the day we met and the White Queen captured the X Men, finding me in Ord's cell. Perhaps it does mean something, that you always find me, at that. My heroine."

Their eyes met across the table, and then Kitty ducked her head, coloring slightly, and Piotr continued clearing the table and setting it for dinner.

They ate, keeping dinner conversation light, small talk, avoiding any emotionally charged subjects.

After dinner, he cleaned up the kitchen quickly, while Kitty built up the fire with logs from the woodbox by the hearth, and walked back to the palatial kitchen just as he was brushing the last of the crumbs from the granite countertop. They took a couple of bottles of beer, and retired to the sofa angled to take in the fire and the daylight view of the lake and mountains through the enormous windows. Piotr turned the outside lights on long enough to see that it was snowing again, and drew the heavy lined velvet drapes.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Piotr had moved most of his research to the coffee table here, and Kitty picked up a framed photograph of a striking young woman in a peach satin evening gown.

Jet black ringlets framing an elfinly pretty face, light blue eyes and alabaster skin.

"This is your cousin? Lissa?" she asked, trying to remember the name she'd only heard spoken once, when Emma passed on the phone message two months ago.

"Larissa." Piotr joined her, sitting heavily at the other end of the couch. "Larissa Mishchenko. Her mother was my father's sister Tatya. We weren't close...the last time I saw her before she called me for help, she was fourteen," he closed his eyes, weary beyond measure. "She called me for help, and I could not save her."

"What happened?" Kitty asked gently.

"Larissa saw on the news, the monster we fought with the Fantastic Four, so she knew I was...back. She was a reporter, with the St. Petersburg Gazeta, and she was working on a big expose, military, mafiya. She was being followed, so she had a friend impersonate her, be a decoy to lose the tail. Her friend was killed. Burnt alive by the touch of a strange man's hand, a mutant assassin. So she called me."

He took the photo of Larissa from Kitty's unresisting hand, and stared hopelessly at it. "She did some investigating, and discovered that there had been other deaths, all over Russia, and that the victims had one thing in common. Rumors that they were descended from Rasputin, the Rasputin. Grigorii. Like us."

He sighed heavily, put the picture down, and dragged his hands through his hair roughly. "I did not want to believe her, until she showed me the things from our Great Grandmother Elena's trunk. Our uncle, Vladimir, often spoke of Rasputin and the fall of the Romanov Empire...it was his obsession. Trying to prove we were related. It is not an uncommon name, from the word for 'crossroad' when so many in Siberia took new names in the past...I never believed there was a connection, and denied it when Americans with a historical interest asked. But Vlad's children, our cousins, were among the victims. Larissa had crime scene photographs, from her contacts in the police department."

Kitty made a small wordless sound of sympathy.

Piotr continued, "We went to see Vladimir, to learn more. After all...he was the family historian, he was the one who knew the most about this. I was a fool not to see it," he said, softly, bitterly. "It was Vladimir. And he and Sinister were waiting for us."

"What did Sinister have to do with it?"

"Now that is a long story," Piotr sighed, and glanced at the pink tank-top and pajama pants now visible under her robe. "And not a very good bedtime story, I'm afraid. What do you know about Grigorii Rasputin?"

"Um. He was part of Tsar Nicholas' royal court, because their only son and heir was a hemophiliac, and Rasputin could apparently cure him, prolong his life, through prayer. Or I guess, mutant powers. He was murdered by a conspiracy of men worried by his influence on the royal family...and it took a lot to kill him." Kitty paused, took a sip of her beer. "A lot more than anyone thought, if he was possessing your uncle."

"From what I can reconstruct, and what Vladimir told us, he was a mutant and a sorcerer. His power was to transfer his lifeforce into another, healing physical ailments. But with repeated sessions, he could have quite likely transferred his consciousness into another body."

"The Tsarievich Alexei," Kitty breathed, eyes widening.

"Yes. He was trying to take over Alexei Romanov's body, he meant to rule Russia as Tsar. He believed he had been sent by God to save Russia. He had visions...and a well-documented severe head injury in his youth. So...maybe he was evil...maybe he was just insane. And then Sinister found him. Whispers of his uncanny powers reached England, the royal families were closely tied."

"Sinister explained his theories on mutation and evolution...and suggested that Grigorii sire as many bastards as possible, a proposition to which the old debaucher readily agreed. Sinister settled in St. Petersburg and began a little eugenics program, looking for suitable women to breed with his new subject. One of whom was my great grandmother Elena. His 'Celestial Brides'. Much of this comes from Elena's diary," he picked up a small volume bound in tooled leather.

"When he was killed, and they tossed him into the canal to die...he managed to crawl out and get to Sinister. He asked Sinister to summon the Brides...all the women pregnant with his offspring who could reach them in time."

Piotr got up, and walked over to the fireplace to poke the logs, one of them collapsing into coals that fell through the grate, sending up a shower of red-gold sparks. He watched the flames dance as he spoke. "At the time, Sinister claimed, he thought he was witnessing a touching goodbye. But Grigorii had a plan. He divided his lifeforce and put it in the unborn babies. Used a spell to ensure it would continue, until he was reborn. Each of us, since that generation...each of us has been born with a piece of Grigorii Rasputin's soul. And when we die, it leaves us to be spread among the rest. Until there is one descendant left...who will be obliterated and become Grigorii. Vladimir...for some reason it was stronger with him...he began to remember things, and he contacted his old friend, Sinister."

Piotr looked at the dancing flames. "This they explained to us...as apology for taking our lives, that Vladimir might become Grigorii Rasputin, whole and complete. Sinister reached out, and Larissa was dead before I could move. Before she could scream. Uncle Vladimir tried to stab me while I was too distracted by the murder to transform...and Sinister killed him, as well. I am younger, stronger. The better candidate."

"But you've already been dead," Kitty said softly, and walked over to join him at the hearth, touching his shoulder gently, turning him to face her.

"Da. It had already left me, I had no piece of the soul to call to the others. Sinister was quite surprised. I nearly killed him, but he got away. And I made my report, and came here, to prepare."

"Prepare?"

Piotr wouldn't meet her eyes. "I am not the last of the Rasputins. Tomorrow I leave for the Savage Land. I..."

"Peter Junior."

He looked up, warily. "You knew?"

Her mouth tightened into a thin line. "The X Men visited the Savage Land and you met a girl named Nereel. When we went back, Nereel had a son named Peter. Even with the time warp the Fell People went through, I could do the math. You never talk about your son."

"I never considered him my son." The look Kitty was giving him made him hasten to explain. "There was a dinosaur attack...a girl was killed. Nereel explained that it was a tradition, the hope of a new life after a death, and bringing outlander blood into the tribe to strengthen it. I was young. We had not yet met. And I was weak, I was homesick, and lonely, and afraid. It was the first time a girl I liked accepted me, as a mutant. Nereel and Fahe saw me turn to steel, and still wanted me. So I..." he looked down. "I spent the night with them. Not long after, we left the Savage Land. When we returned, I was glad to see I had given Nereel the child she wanted. Nothing more. It had been quite thoroughly explained that their ways were not our ways. Nereel and Peter are of the Fell People...and I...am not."

Some of the anger had left Kitty's eyes when he looked up, replaced by humor. "Nereel and Fahe, eh?"

He smiled slightly.

"If Grigorii has taken him...the culture shock would certainly slow down his plans for world conquest. I have an exorcism, a spell that could force the sundered soul from the boy's body, and block it from returning. But if the spell fails..."

Kitty read the resignation in his eyes. "Peter..."

"You didn't hear Vladimir's raving, Katya. He'll be another Apocalypse, or worse. I cannot allow Grigorii Rasputin to leave the Savage Land. And if I have to kill him...I'm not coming back to the school."

She looked at him with shards of her heart in her eyes. She looked at him like she did the day he told her about Zsaji.

All they ever did was hurt each other.

But to his surprise, she nodded, eyes downcast. "I understand."

"You do?"

She turned away, hugging herself. "After I scattered your---his---whoever the hell that was---after I scattered those ashes about fifty miles along the lake from here. I quit. Sent Xavier a letter asking him not to look for me. Went to college and got a job tending bar. Tried to be Kitty Pryde for a while, instead of Shadowcat."

He put his arms around her, and rested his chin on the top of her head. "I'm not leaving you. Just the school. I'm tired. Of the fighting. Of losing everyone I care about. Of trying so hard, and nothing changes but the outfits."

"Where will you, I mean, how?" she turned in his arms, and looked up.

"I have a little money set aside, thanks to Emma's expert manipulation of the art galleries. I thought I might travel a bit. Find some peace, some quiet, and see some of this world I've been saving since I was sixteen years old. Then back to New York. Millions of people live lives that don't involve mutant infighting, space aliens, and giant robots, it can't be that difficult to find something to do with my life."

"Maybe the Salem Center public schools need an art teacher?"

"Perhaps. Katya...it's late, and I know you're tired from traveling. I think we should call it a night. I leave early tomorrow...the dasha is paid up for another week. You could stay, if you like."

"It is very nice."

They said their goodnights. Piotr checked the locks, the fireplace, and went to his bedroom, changing into pajamas, doing the last of his packing, before going to bed. He lay there, dim moonlight streaming in from the window, and looked up at the ceiling, listening to her footsteps in the hall. He closed his eyes and waited as Kitty walked into the room, and lifted the covers, crawling into bed with him.

She settled herself right against his side, and whispered, "I'm not crowding you now, am I?"

"No. This is just exactly close enough," he breathed, gratefully.

She made no advances, merely offered whatever comfort he chose to take. He held her close, felt the warm, breathing reality of her, and brushed a few light kisses on her cheeks and lips.

Drowsily, he said, "it might be dangerous for you to sleep here. The night terrors...I punched a hole right through the wall at Xavier's."

"I have good reflexes."

XxXxXxXxXxX

Piotr woke, for the first time he could remember, not in a blind panic. He had not had a warm bedpartner in the cell at Benetech. Kitty was still in his arms. They'd slept, for a few hours. He'd slept without dreaming. He was still holding Kitty close, and his erection pressed so hard against her belly he had to look to see if he wore flesh or steel.

He should move, he knew, guiltily enjoying the sensation. And then she stirred, and sleepily questioned, "Peter?"

"Sorry," he started to roll over, groaning ruefully. "I warned you it might be dangerous to sleep here."

"Well. We are X Men, after all. Danger is our business." She said it lightly, playfully, but Piotr's breath caught at the serious subtext as she moved closer, and kissed him again. With more heat to it than the companionable kisses they'd shared for years.

"Katya...are you sure?"

"I love you," she said quietly. "You said you were tired of losing people you care about? I lost you. Or thought I had. We were supposed to have a second chance. We got one. And I'm not going to waste it. I know I should give you more time to recover, to get your bearings...but we keep overthinking this, stepping back, we keep waiting, and god, I just want to be kissing you right now."

He kissed her, wonderingly, and then with growing passion. They parted for breath. "I love you Katya. I always have. I always will. But...I don't...I'm safe, any children would be safe, but we..."

She rolled away, fumbled on the nightstand and showed him the strip of foil packets she'd brought in from her luggage.

"I...uh...be prepared?"

He kissed her again, and then hesitantly confessed, "and...I was held captive for a long time, and I have not, since. I won't..."

"It's okay," she reassured him with another kiss, and settled down with her head on his shoulder. "Lay back, and let me take care of you. Then we'll play."

He nodded dumbly, and let his eyes close again, as her hand slid down his chest, fingers dipping under the waistband, and phasing his pajamas free. They kissed again as she began to caress him. They cuddled, kissing and caressing, and soon enough Piotr shuddered with pleasure.

He opened his eyes as Kitty sat up, pushing the covers down, and straddled him, pulling her tank top off over her head.

He smiled. "You do look different," he breathed, pushing himself up on his elbows.

She looked down at herself. "Yeah. College. No more dance class or training, eating a lot of junk food. Put on the 'freshman fifteen' and finally...oooh...filled out a little. Mmm. Y'know, you USED to tell me you were a leg man."

"Because you had excellent legs, but no bosom."

"Flatterer."

Dawn was breaking before Kitty sighed, and pushed a handful of sweat tangled hair out of her eyes, grinning loopily at Peter as he crawled back up to drop heavily on the pillow beside her.

"Well...I think that was definitely worth the wait, what do you think?" she purred, as he reached out and dragged her over, tucking her into the crook of his arm.

"I think I should have hit Wisdom harder," he grumbled, not altogether successful in feigning anger.

"Peter!" She goosed him in the ribs. "And here I was about to ask which of your girlfriends taught you that!"

"Actually...technically Wolverine." He grinned.

There was a reflective pause. "Okay...now there's a disturbing yet oddly hot mental image. What?"

He kissed her temple. "Logan used to get me...men's magazines. There were the articles, how to drive women wild, that sort of thing."

She snorted. "Only you, Peter, would read the articles. So Logan got you porn. Again with the what? Why?"

"Hmmm. When I came to the X Men, I was very young...very naive. Very much the farmboy. I think he saw it as a duty to see that I would gain some sophistication. And then you came along, and I fell very much in love with a girl five years my junior, jailbait is the term he used when he pressed the magazines on me, insisting I needed some release. The way you tormented me."

"Who, me?"

"Always stealing kisses. And worse. I recall an occasion, after a week of extremely erotic dreams, I took you to the ice cream parlor. You ordered a sundae, we were seated at the window. When my attention was distracted by someone on the sidewalk, and I had just taken a large sip from my float...you, in your innocence, asked if I wanted your cherry. Root beer is a very effective decongestant, aspirated through the nose."

"Oh I remember that!" Kitty began to laugh. "Peter, that wasn't an innocent remark. That's what I considered subtle innuendo. We'd been flirting..."

"I should have known. Subtle you weren't."

"That time I jumped into your arms and shoved my tongue into your mouth should have indicated my idea of subtle, yes."

"You are very forthright. About what you want. No guessing, or games. I like that."

"I want to go with you to the Savage Land. You shouldn't have to go alone."

"No," he agreed quietly. "I'm not alone now."

XxXxXxXxXxX

The Savage Land.

A hidden valley in the middle of Antarctica.

A lost world, with a tropical climate provided by alien technology as yet undeciphered, where extinct and alien species flourished. Zoo, game preserve, botanical garden.

The ethereal beauty of the landscape should have stirred the senses of any artist.

Piotr Rasputin was miserable.

Kitty stopped walking, and turned back to watch as he struggled up the incline, idly lifting her drooping ponytail to wipe sweat from the back of her neck.

"Peter?"

"I. hate. humidity," he snarled, panting hard.

"It is a big change from Siberia, isn't it?" she stopped to admire an orchid as large as a basketball, and give him a chance to catch up to her, and rest a moment in the shade, he noted gratefully.

"The nights are cooler. And it's not much farther to the Fell People's camp."

They walked on, at a slightly slower pace.

After another hour's walk, a tanned and lithe youth in a loincloth, reddish brown hair cut into a mohawk was standing on the path. He looked at them curiously, but spoke in careful English. "The Chieftainess welcomes Peter Ironskin and the outlander woman to our village."

They walked on with their escort, and finally came into the camp. Simple huts and tents arranged around a central circle, a great fire in the middle space roasting a wild boar on a spit, attended by several elderly cooks. Children of all ages ran around, playing.

Their young guide led them to one of the huts, and spoke quietly to the young woman resident. Piotr smiled at the chubby toddler playing with a set of carved wooden animals at the threshold.

"You will rest and refresh yourselves here," their guide said, as their hostess smiled and scurried away.

"Thank you," Kitty said. She was looking at the baby with an odd expression on her face.

"We need to see Nereel and her son Peter as soon as possible," Piotr explained. "We come with a warning of great danger to the Savage Land and all the lands beyond."

"I will carry your words to the Chieftainess." The youth bowed, and departed.

Piotr swung his pack off, and sat wearily, closing his eyes. A few more minutes and they would know...and it would be over.

Something thwacked into his knee, sharp enough to sting. He opened his eyes, and looked into a sunnily smiling little face, wide brown eyes framed with jetty curls. The small hand thrust out the gaily painted wooden horse again. Piotr took it, automatically assessing the skill of the carving, the stylized figure, the outrageous purple spots. "A pretty pony," he said, and tried to hand it back.

The toddler giggled, and wobbled over to her abandoned game, determinedly returning with a triceratops, which she offered to Kitty, and sat down in front of them with a human doll.

Piotr looked at Kitty. Kitty raised an eyebrow, and attacked the horse with her triceratops, making Lockheed-noises. Piotr whickered and galloped the horse away.

The little girl shrieked with laughter.

The child's mother returned, with a couple of other women, bearing clay jars of cool water scented with flower petals, and baskets of fruit. She lifted the child, protesting, and carried her away.

"Sweet little girl, huh?" Kitty asked, dipping her hands into the water, and lightly splashing her face.

"Adorable," Piotr agreed, washing in turn, and reaching for a slice of melon.

It wasn't long before Nereel joined them. "My son tends to cattle in the north valley. I have sent a runner, he will soon come. What is this danger of which you speak?"

"An evil spirit tied to my family. Has he seemed...different...in the last weeks?"

Nereel frowned. "No. This spirit seeks to do him harm?"

"The spirit is an ancestor who seeks to live again, by taking a body of his bloodline as his own by force." Piotr explained.

"We have a spell that will drive the spirit from him, if he is possessed," Kitty added.

Piotr performed a quick introduction, a bit of tension turning his stomach over. Introducing his first lover to the woman he loved. The women visibly sized each other up, and he had to resist a vague urge to armor himself, no doubt inspired by the Jean/Scott/Emma triangle.

Nereel asked, "You are pair-mated? The way of your people?" and Piotr was spared having to answer that by Peter's hailing them as he jogged across the camp. He paused, to speak to the young mother. Piotr stared at him anxiously, seeking any sign that the young man was possessed by Grigorii.

He was a tall young man, not quite reaching his height, but tall and black haired. Piotr supposed that came from him, but fancied he resembled his mother more. He had her nose and chin.

The last time Piotr had seen Peter, he had been but a little older than the child that he now stooped to sweep up into his arms and swing around, before handing her off to her mother. A small boy who happily rode on his shoulders and drummed on his armored hair with a stick.

He had asked Nereel, tentatively, about the boy...half hoping she would ask him to stay...selfishly wanting to ask for a visit, to bring the boy home and show him his world. But in the end, he had seen they were well, and happy, and he had been satisfied with that when his team left the Savage Land.

He glanced at Kitty and smiled, thinking of his daydreams about their wedding, and children, a family of his own to play proud papa to. It was too soon in this rekindled relationship to start thinking of such things seriously, even if he had been in love with her since he was eighteen years old.

He watched the boy cross the camp, stopping to kiss another young woman on the cheek, catching a leather ball and tossing it back to the players.

Peter approached, and Piotr braced himself, Kitty tensed for battle, and he spoke the spell that should have driven the revenant spirit of Grigorii Rasputin forth.

Peter merely looked slightly puzzled. "I do not know that tongue. I speak English, and our language. Is it Russian?"

"Yes," Piotr was nonplused. He'd been prepared for some fight, physical or magical. "Have...have you died and come back?"

"Three years ago," he nodded, looking at his mother in confusion.

Nereel looked relieved. "He drowned, spear-fishing in the Gorahn Sea, a tangle-leg had him. Lord Ka-zar gave him breath."

Kevin Plunder, the explorer and son of explorers, knew field medicine. He'd performed CPR.

Piotr sighed, and closed his eyes with relief. Kitty squeezed his arm. "Then the bloodline is severed, and Grigorii's curse ended with Vladimir's death."

"I don't understand."

Piotr explained again, about his great grandfather, the spell to ensure reincarnation, how their coincidental deaths and revivals had cheated Grigorii out of a host to possess.

Understanding turned to alarm. "Elari!" Peter said quickly, turning to look at the little girl with the carved animals. "He would not take Elari? The child came to Kasharra after I lay with her. After I drowned."

Piotr stared at the toddler.

Peter's daughter.

His granddaughter.

He could hear himself reassuring him that the death and revival severed the bloodline, that the piece of Grigorii's soul he had carried had fled before he sired the babe.

"A fine reason to celebrate!" Nereel declared. "This evil one has been lost to the void, the world is spared his second reign. We shall have a feast, and you can tell us news of the outlander world."

There was music, and dancing, and food cooked over an open fire. Also many cups of a sweet liquor the Fell People brewed from a rare fruit.

Piotr leaned back and grinned happily at his Katya. "I'm a grandfather," he said again, in a tone of vague disbelief.

Kitty was tolerantly amused, considering Piotr had been making this stunned announcement over and over for the last two hours. "Well, you are a very, very old man. Five years older than this spinster schoolmarm."

Piotr laughed, and pulled her down for a kiss. Kitty had a momentary feeling that there was something she was forgetting, something important, but as Piotr murmured that she made him feel young and nuzzled at her neck, it slipped away.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Chicago.

He opened his eyes, drew a breath, and it was sweet.

He was lying in a bed, in an apartment, and his eyes moved over the strange furnishings as he got to his feet. The body he inhabited was young, strong, powerful, and he felt a moment's pity for this descendant who had given his life for him.

Tomorrow Grigorii Rasputin would begin again the noble work, seek to take his rightful place of power.

Today, he must learn who Daniel Wyzcenko had been.

The End