Disclaimers: Marvel owns them, Chris and Joss chart their lives and we just stand back and stare.

Rating: PG-13 to mild R. Some sensuality, language and typical mutant fisticuffs.

Spoilers: Astonishing X-Men 1-12, Colossus: Bloodlines and Madripoor Rose's Bloodlines epilogue, Soul Survivor. This story takes place pre-House of M.

Author's note: What can I say? I read Madripoor Rose's latest opus and my muse got busy. I'm sent this to Madripoor Rose for her stamp of approval. To her I dedicate this effort.

Summary: As Hank McCoy observed, "His name's Rasputin. Should have known he wouldn't be so easy to kill."

Bloodlines: Family Reunions

By Kirayoshi

Chapter one:
Pentimento

"Come on, Baby don't you want to go?
Come on, Baby don't you want to go?
Back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chigago!

Now one and one is two,
Two and two is four,
I'm heavy loaded baby, I'm booked, I gotta go!
Cryin' baby, honey don't you want to go?
Back to that same old place, my Sweet Home Chicago!"

--Robert Johnson
"Sweet Home Chicago"

"Hey, Scott," Kitty shouted into her cellular, hitching her carry-on bag over her shoulder as she navigated her way through the vast and crowded concourse of O'Hare Airport. "Peter and I arrived safely in Chicago. Yeah, he's waiting by the luggage carousel now… Yes, I thought about this. No, we're not quitting the team, we're just taking a vacation…Va-ca-tion. It's something normal people do…Oh, I dunno," she added tersely, "I guess I wanted to wake up in the morning and not have to deal with alien warmongers or the training area going psycho on me! Just for the novelty factor!"

Kitty lifted the brim of her Chicago Cubs cap, closed her eyes and pictured herself in a meadow in order to maintain her patience as Scott Summers pleaded with her to cut her planned vacation short. "Look, Scott," she answered calmly, "I know things are tough for us X-types. When are they not? Yes, I—yeah, I—Look, Pete's been through the wringer back in Russia, he needs this vacation and after all else that's happened, so do I! Just two weeks for us to be normal people for once. Is that too much to ask? Okay, if Apocalypse comes, beep me. And tell Rachel to take good care of Lockheed for me, okay? Okay. Okay—okay—look, you can keep talking if you want, I'm hanging up now. 'Bye!"

Kitty snapped her cell-phone shut and released a deep sigh of exasperation. "Take thy pole from out thine ass, Scott," she muttered to herself. She groused at herself for taking her foul mood out on Scott Summers, even if he did deserve it: even though she and Piotr managed to catch some sleep on the red-eye flight from Russia, she was still feeling the faint vestiges of jet-lag. She vowed that the first thing she would do once they got to their suite was take a long hot shower. That would help her feel more like a human being again.

As she pocketed her phone and headed toward the carousel she stopped long enough to remember that she had forgotten to give Scott the number where she and Piotr could be reached. "I'll give him the number tomorrow," she decided, "maybe."

Piotr stood patiently amid the throng of fellow passengers at the carousel, watching as assorted suitcases emerged on the conveyor belt and slowly deposited themselves onto the revolving platform. He relaxed slightly as three suitcases he recognized as his and Kitty's tumbled off the conveyer belt. As he reached for the largest case, he felt a hand gently grasp his left buttock.

Without turning around he froze in place and said, "Hello, Katya."

Kitty smirked, removing her hand from Piotr's posterior. "How'd you guess?"

"Easily," Piotr answered as he hefted the suitcase from the carousel and placed it gently on the floor. "A pickpocket would have gone for the side where I keep my wallet." He turned to face Kitty, a slightly lopsided smile on his face. "Besides, I'd know that hand anywhere."

"You were a lot more fun to tease when I first joined the X-Men," Kitty commented as she retrieved her remaining suitcase. Piotr reached to grab the last bag, which he slung over his shoulder.

"You mean when I was more naïve?" Piotr quipped, earning a rude face from Kitty. "So, how are Scott and the others?"

"The usual," Kitty huffed. "Scott still wants us back at the mansion, saying, 'We X-Men have to stick together', yadda yadda yadda. Other than that, Ororo's in Africa, Logan, Hank and Kurt are playing darts at Harry's Hideaway, Rachel's babysitting Lockheed and Emma's a ho."

Piotr regarded Kitty with a raised eyebrow. "Scott didn't say that last part, did he?"

"He didn't have to," Kitty answered turning away from Piotr and heading toward the concourse, "it's a given."

As he followed Kitty, rolling his wheeled suitcase behind him, Piotr kept his opinions of Emma Frost to himself. While he understood Kitty's mistrust of the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club—even shared in that mistrust to a degree, he conceded that she had helped him greatly after his rescue from Benetech's tender mercies. It still amazed him that the paintings he had created during his amnesiac period, when he had become an artist named Peter Nicholas, had become so prized by collectors during his 'death'. Emma dismissed the success of his artwork, attributing the money she raised from dealing in his paintings as resulting from the art world's "flavor of the month" mentality, but what she had done with that money was nothing short of astounding for the former farm boy.

He still felt a lump in his throat whenever he passed by the plaque she had set up in the front foyer of the Xavier Institute; a stylized silver snowflake embedded in walnut, bearing the inscription: "The Snowflake Foundation. Established 2002. In Memory of Illyana Nikolovna Rasputina and Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin." Through the Snowflake Foundation, Emma was able to help provide shelter and necessities for mutant children whose parents disowned them. And the remaining funds from her shrewd handling of the art market after his 'resurrection', invested into a series of CDs and investments she had set up, insured that Piotr would live comfortably for many years to come, whatever he did with his life.

A life that he happily envisioned sharing with Kitty.

He caught up with Kitty on the moving walkway heading for the main exit. Peter craned his neck in amazement as they moved past the enormous neon sculptures and myriad shops and restaurants. "Should we make base camp here?" he quipped sardonically.

Kitty chuckled at his observation. "O'Hare's not that big, Peter," she assured him. "We'll be out of here in ten minutes."

"You seem confident," Peter observed, admiring Kitty's form from his vantage point behind her. Yes, he conceded, she had changed over the years, and all for the better. Her legs, he had decided, were still her best feature, but the rest of her body had filled out pleasantly. Even as she was now, wearing faded cargo pants and an oversized Cubs jacket, her ponytail sticking out from behind her baseball cap, he found her nothing less than desirable.

"You forget, Big Guy," Kitty reminded him gently, linking her arm with his, "this is my home turf. Chicago, Second City, the Windy City, that Toddlin' Town."

Piotr nodded knowingly as he recalled something he had read in one of Professor Xavier's literature classes years ago: "Hog Butcher for the World," he recited, attracting Kitty's attention. "Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat. Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler. Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders."

Kitty smiled in recognition. "Carl Sandburg," she identified the poet. Peter nodded happily, pleased that his recitation was able to coax a smile from Kitty's travel-weary face. She leaned into his shoulder and he welcomed her presence, her warmth.

"So," Piotr commented after a few minutes companionable silence, "when we agreed to take this trip, you trusted me to arrange hotel accommodations through an internet travel site. I hope this meets with your approval." He withdrew a brochure from his jacket pocket and handed it to Kitty for her approval. "The Four Points by Sheraton. The site described it as a four-star luxury suite hotel in close proximity to Michigan Street."

"Oh yeah," Kitty grinned hugely. "The Magnificent Mile. We have to swing by there. Marshall Fields, Navy Pier, the Art Institute of Chicago—"

"Easy, Katya," Piotr laughed, gently placing his arm around Kitty's slim shoulders. "We have two weeks before we return to the Mansion. Let's first check into the hotel and put our luggage away. I don't know about you, but after that long flight from Russia, the first thing I want to do is eat."

"I hear you," Kitty answered. "Okay, once we lose the luggage, we'll go sample the continental breakfast at the Four Points. But later tonight, I'm treating you to some pizza."

"The first dinner you want in Chicago is a pizza?" Piotr asked, his hand idly combing through her ponytail. "Couldn't you get a good pizza anywhere?"

Kitty regarded Piotr's comment with a bemused smirk. "A good pizza?" Kitty started. "You just proved to anyone listening that you're an out-of-towner. Saying that Chicago deep-dish is 'a good pizza' is like saying the Taj Mahal is a big pile of bricks. Tell me, Piotr, have you ever had an authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza?"

Piotr stood in thought for a moment, before answering, "Probably not."

Kitty shook her head in mock-sympathy. "Piotr, you've never had pizza before."

"I haven't?"

"No," Kitty answered, "you only think you've had pizza. Trust me, Chicago deep-dish is the real stuff."

Piotr pursed his lips in thought. "You make it sound like losing my virginity," he whispered, a smirking leer plastered on his face.

Kitty gleefully turned toward Piotr, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself up to kiss him soundly on the lips. "You got it," she promised, smiling wickedly, "and today, Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasuptin, you will become a man."


Once they were settled into their suite and the bellboy appropriately tipped, Piotr glanced around at the well-appointed suite. The semi-circular rattan chair he was sitting in was lined with an enormous down cushion, soft yet firm, that supported his weight comfortably. The living area and bedroom were both furnished with palms and bamboo branches over off-white paint and wallpaper, with an enormous full window dominating one wall, providing a view of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan beyond. The spacious room was appointed with two rattan chairs like the one Piotr was relaxing in with matching ottomans, a large fold-out sofa upholstered in off-white cotton chenille and almost buried in satin pastel pillows, glass-top brass end and coffee tables, and a widescreen television with DVD and CD players. The bedroom décor matched the living space, and was dominated by a king-sized canopy-covered bed.

While waiting for Kitty to finish her shower, Piotr watched the news for a few minutes: no major disasters, a handful of interviews but no new developments regarding governmental concerns over the continued 'mutant situation', and the announcement that the Benetech Corporation was declaring bankruptcy following the 'mutant cure' scandal. Situation normal, he reflected. Still a powder keg. At least for the time being Katya and I are safe from the potential blast. He then stood up and turned to the window, tracking the sailboats that skated across Lake Michigan. White cirrus clouds dappled the sky, floating serenely in the gentle winds from the lake, occasionally obscuring the sun for a few moments.

"Hey, Pete," Kitty chirped happily as she emerged from the bathroom, her body draped in a white velvet hotel robe, a towel wrapped around her wet hair. She strolled toward Piotr and lifted her head to kiss him gently on the lips. "You have to see the bathroom. Six showerheads from different directions and a sunken Jacuzzi bath big enough for two people."

"Really?" Piotr raised an eyebrow, rather reminding Kitty of pro-wrestler The Rock, an image that caused her to giggle slightly.

"Well, it looked that big," Kitty flashed Piotr a canary-swallowing grin, her arms draped on his shoulders, her fingers idly playing with the hair at the back of his neck. "Wanna try it out?"

Piotr started to squirm slightly as the warmth of Kitty's body against hers, coupled with her whispered innuendo, caused his manhood to stir. "Katya," he gently pushed her away, "as tempting as that offer is, right now my main desire is to wash the dust of travel off of my body."

Kitty pouted prettily but allowed herself to half-phase, half-slip out of Piotr's arms. "You're right, Piotr. Neither of us had a chance to shower since we left Russia. Plus you've got some stubble action on your cheek. Go, make yourself clean, scrape your face, I'm going to let Mom know I'm in town." Piotr smiled wearily as he reluctantly released his hold on Kitty and headed for the shower.

Six jets of spray hit his body at different angles, the water pressure slowly kneading away the tensions of travel. As he soaped up his body and relaxed in the growing steam cloud, he found his mind drifting to the last few weeks, and to the chestnut-haired woman waiting for him in the suite. Last week he had told Kitty that he wasn't returning to the X-Men, that he wished to travel before considering the next stage of his life. Words he spoke in a fit of despair, having seen the last of his family slaughtered by his hated ancestor Grigorii. More than when Illyana died, more than his years of imprisonment in Ord's dungeon, he had truly felt alone in the world. That night and the following morning Kitty reminded him, with her words and with her body, that he wasn't alone, that loneliness was a choice he didn't have to make.

After they traveled to the Savage Land to insure that young Peter, his son from an illicit liason with Nereel of the Fall People, wasn't endangered by the Rasputin curse, he and Kitty returned to his rented dacha in Siberia to plan for the immediate future. He still wished to travel for a time before considering whether he wanted to return to the X-Men, and Kitty wanted to show him her beloved Chicago. They spent two days planning their vacation, interrupting their plans to eat occasionally and make love frequently, and for the first time for longer than he could remember, Piotr started to feel whole.

As he and Kitty felt their way through their newly reborn love, he found himself wondering if he could ever bear to be parted from her. If she were to die—and he prayed fervently to whatever powers held sway in his life that such would not happen soon—would he be able to live without her?

After much soul-searching, he came to a conclusion that agreed with him; yes, he could and would, if necessary, survive without Kitty in his life. Possibly even thrive. However, the fact that life without Kitty was no longer a requirement for him filled him with great joy. For Piotr Rasputin, a life with Kitty in it was much more satisfying.

His shower completed, he toweled himself off and donned his robe. As he stepped out of the bathroom, Kitty emerged from the bedroom, smiling. She was wearing blue jeans so faded as to be nearly white, a blue hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with an Old Navy logo and pair of street shoes. "Only one bed, Piotr?" she teased him. "What would the maids say?"

"Well, if you think me presumptuous," Piotr demurred, "I can always take the sofa-bed in the living room."

"Nah," Kitty's smile carried a faint chord of wantonness, "I'd miss my six-foot-six teddy bear."

Piotr chuckled throatily, amused (and steadily aroused) by her boldness. "So, do the accommodations meet with milady's approval?" he asked, bowing to her in a courtly manner.

"They do, kind sir," she answered, presenting her hand to Piotr, who took her hand in his and kissed her knuckle. "Oh, I just called Mom, and she insists that we have dinner with her tomorrow night."

"Is she still living in Deerfield?" Piotr asked.

Kitty shrugged her shoulders. "No, she moved here a few years ago when she was promoted to assistant manager, so I got to spend more time with her while I was attending Chicago State University last year."

Piotr paused briefly before approaching Kitty. He stood behind her, gently wrapping his arms around her waist. She leaned into his embrace, molding herself into his chest as though their bodies were component parts that fit perfectly together. "Do you miss it, Katya?" he whispered into her ear, breathing in the scent of her floral shampoo. "Attending college? Living a normal life?"

"A little," Kitty admitted. "But somehow it doesn't feel like I belong there, at least not yet. I do want to go back to Robert A. Heinlein university someday, get my degree in political sciences and see where I can go with it, but somehow, I feel—" she mentally cursed herself for her inability to express herself.

"You feel that there is something you have yet to accomplish," Piotr suggested, and his words registered in Kitty's heart. "Some purpose for being who and what you are—a mutant, an X-Man—something that goes beyond just being in the right place at the right time to find me."

Kitty nodded, the memories of seeing the man whose ashes she thought she had scattered over Lake Baikal years ago on his knees and sobbing in her arms still fresh in her mind. "Yeah," she breathed. "Like there's some reason I have this set of abilities no one else has, other than some shuffling of the genetic cards." Piotr said nothing, but held her a little tighter, wordlessly conveying his understanding to the woman who had entered his heart ten years ago and took up permanent residence there since.

Kitty suddenly smiled, resolved not to let this momentary melancholy dampen her spirits. Spinning her lithe form around in Piotr's embrace, she announced, "But right now, none of that matters. We're on vacation, it's nine-forty-five a.m.," she added as she glanced at the clock on the wall, "so let's have some fun."

"And did you have any plans for us this fine day?" Piotr asked.

"Nothing set in stone," Kitty admitted. "The desk clerk told me there as a Monet exhibit this week at the Art Institute, so I figured you'd like that after we ate."

"I'm sure we'll have a chance to go there this week," Piotr agreed happily. As he disengaged the hug with Kitty, he located his coat on a hanger in the spacious closet. "But this afternoon, I had something else in mind." He withdrew a small envelop from the coat pocket and presented it to Kitty with a flourish.

"What are you up to, Piotr?" Kitty asked as she opened the envelop. She withdrew two slips of paper and read the computer printing, her eyes growing wide with astonishment. "No—way!" she shrieked. "Cubs vs. Cardinals? The home-opener? And you scored tickets?"

"I saw that they were available as part of a travel package while I made the hotel arrangements in Russia," Piotr smiled in mock-innocence. "They were waiting for me when I spoke with front desk clerk. I didn't think you'd mind—" Piotr's explanation was cut short by Kitty's suddenly vaulting into his arms, her hands around his back, her legs draped over his right arm and her lips fused to his in a passionate kiss. Once the kiss ended, Kitty regarded Piotr with amusement in her eyes. "I remember the very first time I jumped in your arms," she commented dreamily. "You ended up hitting the wall. You were so mad you ended up calling me 'Kitty' instead of 'Katya'."

"This time I anticipated your reaction to the tickets, Katya," Piotr smiled lopsidedly, "and braced myself for impact." The Russian farmboy glanced at the young woman in his arms and asked, "So you like them?"

"You have no idea!" Kitty whooped joyously. "It's been too long since I've seen the Cubs play in the Friendly Confines!" When Piotr flashed Kitty a puzzled expression, she explained, "That's what we townies call Wrigley Field. I mean, I was going to check the baseball schedules while we were in town, but I didn't think you'd want me to drag you along to a game!"

Piotr laughed gently, kissing Kitty on the nose. "I hasten to remind you, Katya," he observed, "that I helped develop a battle maneuver called the Fastball Special. So no, I have no problem with being, as you say, 'dragged' to a Cubs game." Glancing at the clock, he added, "However, the game begins in three hours, and I doubt that this robe would be welcome attire for a sporting event, so if you'll permit me, I shall change into something more appropriate, and meet you in the lobby for a fast breakfast."

"A capital suggestion," Kitty lowered herself back to the floor, reluctantly breaking contact with Piotr as he prepared to get dressed. Before he entered his bedroom, Kitty called out, "Piotr?"

"Yes, Katya?"

Kitty blushed slightly as she spoke, faint tears of joy welling in her eyes. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

Piotr nodded. "Van Morrison, right? And I love you too, Katya." Kitty said nothing else, but the thousand-watt smile she gave Piotr conveyed her happiness most eloquently.

As he fumbled with his shirt buttons, he still couldn't wipe the stupid happy grin off of his face.


The captain was skimming through the latest reports of a string of home invasion robberies along the west side of Chicago when the incessant knocking at the door drew his attention. "Come in."

A professionally dressed woman, mid-thirties, Caucasian with short black hair, strode into his office, holding open a walled to display her badge. "Captain Cronin?" the visitor greeted the captain, who stood up and accepted the offered handshake. "I'm Lieutenant Garibaldi, Internal Affairs."

The balding police captain greeted the IA officer curtly. "What can I do for you?"

"I apologize for the interruption," Garibaldi explained, "but I have some questions regarding one of your men. Sergeant Daniel Wyzcenko. What can you tell me about him?"

"He's a good officer," Cronin answered matter-of-factly. "His arrest record is one of the highest of my squad, he works well with the other officers and his partner's had no complaints against him. Why do you ask?"

Garibaldi checked to make sure the office door was closed and the shades were drawn. She then placed the manila folder she was carrying on Cronin's desk. Cronin thumbed through the files, reading dossiers on a number of prostitutes. Some of them he remembered seeing as they were brought through his squad room for arrests or questioning at various times "There's been a string of disappearances among some known prostitutes," Garibaldi explained. "Three witnesses confirmed that Sergeant Wyzcenko was seen talking to the missing women before their disappearances. He is considered a person of interest in their abductions."

Cronin barked a mirthless laugh. "My detectives frequently have to question the local nightlife. It's not uncommon for my officers to know the working girls by name. As for whether he's capable of what you're suggesting, he's served under me for nearly ten years, I think I know a little about the man. You're going to need more proof than a few folders and photos to convince me."

"Unfortunately," Garibaldi answered, "I'm not the only person who has an interest in his case." She opened the door and nodded to the figure standing behind the doorway. A thin, gaunt man strode into the room, straight black hair cut moderately short, a European cigarette dangling from his lip, a disheveled trenchcoat draped haphazardly over his body. "Captain Cronin, meet Agent Wisdom of Interpol."

Garibaldi scowled at the interloper. "You even think about lighting that thing in my office," he warned, "I'll have you in lock-up before you can say 'diplomatic immunity'."

Pete Wisdom grimaced as he removed the Morley from his mouth. "Body fascist," he muttered bitterly.


The Cardinals scored early and managed to keep Chicago runless for eight innings, although Angel Guzman's pitching prevented St. Louis from scoring a second run during that time. At the bottom of the ninth inning, Todd Walker belted the ball out of the Friendly Confines with two men on base, scoring three runs to win the game.

As they strolled out of the Friendly Confines, Piotr and Kitty still felt the faint heady rush of adrenalin from the game. They both roared themselves nearly hoarse cheering on the Cubs, and cheered the final runs that won the game. Piotr smiled inwardly watching as the woman on his arm playfully tossed a peanut from her box of Cracker-Jacks into the air and caught it in her mouth. "So, Katya," Piotr asked, "did you enjoy the game?"

"You bet your gorgeously sculpted ass," Kitty smiled hugely, snuggling closer to her boyfriend. "Thank you for thinking of this, Piotr. This was the perfect way to start our vacation."

Piotr chuckled. "Are you always this affectionate after a Cubs game?" he teased.

Kitty glanced up at Piotr, craning her neck to kiss him softly on the lips. "Only when they win."

"In that case," Piotr commented, "I sincerely hope that they make the World Series." This elicited a giggle from Kitty, as Piotr gently placed his arm around Kitty's shoulder and marveled at how light his heart felt that moment. He couldn't remember the last time he felt more comfortable in his own skin.

"You okay, Big Guy?" Kitty asked Piotr suddenly. Piotr turned his head, his eyes meeting Kitty's. Her charcoal eyes still sparkled with happiness, but he could sense the concern in her gaze as well. "It's just that I was—I mean, we were all worried about you, especially since—"

"Since I tore down my bedroom wall during one of my nightmares?" Piotr hazarded a guess. Kitty nodded slightly, reluctantly. "Be at peace, Katya," Piotr assured her. "I had much to deal with, and still do perhaps. But those night terrors are gone. It's been over a week since the memories of my captivity have invaded my sleep."

"Which oddly enough is about when we started sleeping together," Kitty observed, a sly smile on her lips. "Coincidence?"

"Maybe," Piotr drawled slightly. "Making love with you has proven very therapeutic."

"Oh, great," Kitty scowled mockingly at Piotr. "Therapy sex. How romantic!" After flashing Piotr a teasing sneer, Kitty then fell silent.

"Katya?" Piotr asked after a few moments. "Is something the matter?"

"Piotr?" Kitty started, her voice softer, almost timid. "If I tell you something, promise you won't get mad at me?"

"What is it, Katya?"

"Promise," Kitty insisted.

"I promise," Piotr swore. "What is it you wish to tell me?"

"Well—" she started in a hesitant tone, "you remember that painting you were working on, just before your trip to Russia? The one you didn't want me to see?"

Piotr nodded knowingly. "You saw it."

Kitty nodded. "I'm sorry, Piotr, but we were all worried about you. And when I saw what you painted—" She shuddered slightly at the nightmare image; Piotr had described it as a self-portrait, but the monstrous figure in the painting bore almost no resemblance to the kind-hearted man she knew and truly loved. "Well, that's when I decided to fly out to Russia. I guess I figured you shouldn't be alone. I'm sorry if I broke your trust, Piotr. I just—I love you too much to see you hurting."

Whatever anger Piotr might have felt at her invasion of his privacy was rapidly extinguished by her contrite apology and explanation of her actions. "All I can say, Katya," he nodded, holding her just a little closer, "is that if your sneaking into my room to look at my painting resulted in our meeting again at Lake Baikal, then perhaps my hideous painting did serve a good purpose." Kitty smiled with relief that he welcomed her intrusion. "Katya, for longer than I care to admit I did feel that I was the monster in that portrait. There was a darkness inside of me, I could feel it like an animal trapped within me, prowling the perimeter of its cage, waiting patiently for its opportunity to escape. Now that the curse of great-grandfather Gregorii has finally been dispelled, that darkness is lessened. The animal no longer frightens me. Between my laying that curse to rest and our slowly feeling our way back toward each other, I'm truly beginning to heal." He paused, glancing back into Kitty's eyes, seeing the love they rediscovered reflected in its warm depths. "Are you familiar with the term 'pentimento'?"

"I think so," Kitty's brow wrinkled slightly as she recalled the term. "It means painting over another painting, right? I read some conspiracy theory rumors once regarding Da Vinci supposedly painting his Mona Lisa over another portrait or something."

Piotr nodded, satisfied that Kitty understood the term. "When we return to the mansion," Piotr started, "the first thing I shall do is paint over my 'self-portrait'. Perhaps you'd care to pose for me?"

"Nude?" Kitty asked eagerly.

Piotr chuckled throatily at her suggestion. "Possibly," he compromised. "But for now, how shall we spend the rest of the day?"

"I promised you pizza," Kitty recalled.

"I am feeling ravenous at that," Piotr admitted. "And then what?"

Kitty's grin suddenly grew more wicked. "Then, I think we should return to our suite," she purred, drawing herself up to take Piotr's mouth with her own again, "for some more therapy. We'll see if that bathtub really can hold two people." She closed the distance between her lips and his, their kiss growing more deep and urgent with each second.

When she backed away to breath, Piotr positively leered at her. "We could always do the pizza later," he offered.

Kitty considered his suggestion for a second, but shook her head. "We'd better do the pizza first," she grinned as she leaned forward for another kiss. "Don't want you tiring out on me."

So lost was Piotr in the passionate embrace she shared with Kitty that he almost didn't notice the sudden bright light that appeared behind him. However, Kitty could feel the light stinging her eyes when she opened them for a second, and backed away suddenly. As she backed away, Piotr glanced again at her face, only to see her eyes and mouth wide open in startlement. He turned around, still holding her in his arms, and saw what had shocked Kitty out of their kiss.

The incandescent oval shape hung about sixteen inches off the ground, and was ringed in what most closely resembled blue tubeless neon. Before Piotr could react to the sight, a female figure stepped out of the ring and onto the solid pavement below. The ring collapsed like the iris of a camera closing, and once the halo effect faded from their vision, Piotr and Kitty could finally take a good look at the interloper.

She wore khaki cargo pants and a pale pink t-shirt, and her heart shaped face was framed in short blond hair with bangs over her forhead, just stopping short of her eyebrows. But the shape and color of her eyes and the familiar quirky smile were so familiar to Piotr and Kitty that they would never mistake them as belonging to anyone else. She regarded the couple with Caribbean blue eyes and smiled. "About time you two got back together," she spoke, her voice betraying only the faintest vestige of her Russian heritage.

Kitty and Piotr stood stunned at the figure before them. Finally Piotr approached the young blond, almost afraid of what she might reply, and spoke one word;

"Snowflake?"

"Still as quick on the uptake as ever, huh, Peter?" Illyana Rasputina teased her big brother. Turning to Kitty she added, "How's it going, best friend?"