Silver Leaf

This story is a giftfic for Oldprydefan. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters, locations and concepts belonging to Marvel Entertainment. No claim of ownership is made or implied by me in using their property. No part of this work is intended for material gain of any kind. It is intended for the sole purpose of creative exercise and the entertainment of others.

At the cusp of Fifteen, she'd already cultivated an aptitude for making her will known that would do any domineering Mother Superior proud. The set of her jaw was an anchor no force could budge. Whenever it suited her, honey-brown eyes became twin coals: hard, cold and on the verge of flaring at the merest spark. Her voice could instantly become a machete, cleaving through every objection in her path. Even sitting down she projected the same aura of challenge she normally achieved when she drew herself up, placed her hands on her hips and gave a piece of her mind to whichever poor soul unfortunate enough to cross her. She knew, with absolute certainty, that when she wanted to be heard, nobody would think to ignore her (This could of course backfire when she was being a selfish brat, but she was confident that wasn't a problem at the moment.) Just as her mutant power allowed her to barrel through any obstacle in her path as if it didn't exist, so too had that become her approach to any other confrontation. The likes of Arnold Friend posed no threat to one such as her.

Kitty Pryde didn't always bring these talents to bear, and she wasn't expecting to use them now. In her opinion it was enough just to know she could if she needed to. When it was important. "Okay, one more time," she said, gazing at Peter with steady, serious eyes, the only hint of what she was holding in reserve to ensure his cooperation.

This would be the third 'one more time' so far.

"I think we've already done enough, don't you?" Peter asked, shifting slightly as he sat across the kitchen table from Kitty. The miniscule lift of one brow spoke volumes of how his patience had far from expired, but he was now actively working to keep it that way.

"I want to be sure."

"The Beyonder is gone, Kitty. And all his misguided deeds are undone."

Kitty gave a derisive snort. Villainous deeds was closer to how she'd describe what the Beyonder had done, and among his most heinous acts was the very subject she was so intent on picking apart with Peter. "He killed them." Kitty clenched her fist as a fresh wave of anger surged through her at the thought. She wanted to hit something, but even when she'd been face-to-face with the Beyonder, sick with grief and hopelessness, she'd resisted that impulse and simply told him off. It had turned out to be the wiser course of action. "He slaughtered every single one of the New Mutants and he did it with all the emotion of... of buttering toast." She punctuated her point with a quick gesture toward the plate between them. "He killed your sister." That, at least, got more of a reaction from Peter. His face stiffened, momentarily clouding the expression of sympathetic understanding he'd been wearing since their conversation began. Not that she thought for a moment he was heartless about the whole thing, but she did feel some amount of satisfaction at seeing the effect those words had on him.

"And when he was done, he erased them. He wiped out everyone's memory and all trace of their existence." Why he'd bothered was something Kitty still couldn't make sense of. She'd made herself sick dwelling on it and had come no closer to finding any logic in his seemingly whimsical cruelty and destruction. In some ways, Kitty considered that the worst part about what he'd done, because out of everyone, she had kept her memories. The mysterious link she shared with Illyana had somehow overcome the Beyonder's own power and left Kitty clad in eldritch armor, the legacy as supreme ruler of Limbo passed once again from her soul sister. She'd never felt so alone, haunted by an awareness nobody else shared and faced with blank looks whenever she mentioned the New Mutants.

Peter nodded slowly, watching the emotions play across Kitty's face. "Those are all true things," he said. "But he also restored them to life, as well our memories. It is as if nothing at all had happened to them."

"I want to believe that. I really do."

"And yet something prevents you," Peter finished for her. "Even though I have recited everything I know about Illyana from the day she was born to her favorite pizza toppings."

"The Beyonder could have planted all that," Kitty said. "How do we know they're your real memories, or that Illyana and Doug and all the others are really back?" She burst from her seat and began to pace around the kitchen, hands slapping at her sides with worry and frustration each time she did an about face. "What if they're just clones, or simulacrums or some other pale imitation of the genuine articles? It could all be one big trick."

Peter rose and crossed the floor to where Kitty was, placing a hand on each shoulder to stay her agitated course. She looked up at him, suddenly feeling very small, and not just because of how he dwarfed her physically. She tried to lift her face higher and found she couldn't make herself meet his eyes.

"I need to be sure," she repeated, knowing how lame it sounded.

When Peter took one of her hands in his own she didn't protest, nor did she raise an objection when he pressed it against his chest. "I would know it here." His voice sent vibrations she felt along with his heartbeat. She had to suppress an urge to shiver at the sensation. "No artificial memory could ever duplicate the way I feel when I think about my Snowflake. She lives and she is real. If I can accept this, how is it you cannot?"

"They were all dead, and he just brings them back with a snap of his fingers," Kitty said. She slipped her hand out from where his still held it and then drew back a step. It was easier to meet his eyes now, but the words she spoke still came slow and quiet, like shadows she didn't want to examine too closely. "It just doesn't seem possible."

"You've seen for yourself the power wielded by the Beyonder. Is it so hard to believe he could bring the dead back to life?"

A shadow fell over Kitty's face at his question, but she was silent. That was a path she didn't want to go down, especially with the man in front of her. Normally he would have been right. A resurrection or five would seem like child's play compared to some of the other things she'd witnessed. Then again, if the Beyonder could bring the New Mutants back to life, why couldn't he do the same when Peter had wished with all his heart for Zasji's death to be undone?

The obvious answer to that question was one she refused to entertain. She no longer blamed Zasji herself for Peter falling in love with her while he and the rest of the X-Men had been stranded on Battleworld. She'd long ago shifted the responsibility for that betrayal to the Beyonder himself, but the love Peter had felt for the healer, regardless of how it had happened, had to be real. Crushed as she'd been, she could live with the idea that Peter's feelings for her had waned because he'd found true love in the arms of a gentle, simple farm girl who had more in common with Peter than she could ever hope to have (even if Zsaji had been an alien to boot). Discovering that her heart had been shattered over a false infatuation, something he'd only thought was real, was more than Kitty believed she could bear.

She'd die before she told Peter any of that, though.

Peter waited for Kitty's answer, and when it became clear none would be forthcoming, he said, "We can go over it again later, if you still want to. For now, perhaps we could do something else?"

For the briefest of moments Kitty considered dropping back into lecture mode and insisting that they would keep going over every little detail about Peter's memories of Illyana until she was satisfied, but just as quickly abandoned it. Instead, a thoughtful smile slowly spread across her face. One that would probably fill Peter with dread, she supposed, but there wasn't anything he'd be able to do about it.

"Now that you mention it, there is something I've been meaning to do with you lately."