Chapter 1: Parts of a Whole


All-Ages Summary: Kitty and Kurt nurse an attraction but are troubled by the past—specifically, a traumatizing encounter during Kitty's early days as an X-Man, in which she caught Kurt and Amanda in a decidedly compromising position.

Preamble: This is set in the comics universe. The story goes back and forth between a behind-the-scenes imagining of the aftermath of Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (the one where it's Kurt's birthday and his foster mom sends them to hell and we find out Amanda is really Kurt's foster sister etc.) and the later (post-Excalibur) X-Men Unlimited v2 #38 (the one where Kurt goes to visit Kitty at college to comfort her on the anniversary of Peter/Colossus' death). BUT—you absolutely do not have to read either comic to read this story; there's enough exposition (I think!) to make everything relatively stand-alone. Both of those comics are awesome, though, so you should probably go ahead and read them anyway if you haven't already :)

And remember: if you like this one, be sure to check out the sequels: A Different Sameness and Whole into Parts.

Review if you like! But most of all—ENJOY!

Disclaimer: I don't own the X-Men, but boy if I did…

Parts of a Whole

Six Years Ago

Amanda was kissing Kurt everywhere. Or she was trying to. She kissed his forehead, his eyelid, and both cheeks. She had just started in on his lips when Kurt stopped her, backing subtly out of her embrace. He glanced quickly over his shoulder and cautioned her in a not-quite-low-enough voice,

"Just… Not in front of Kitty."

Kitty's face grew how as she felt the statuesque blonde's cool blue eyes bore into her from across the room. Kitty tried to avert her own gaze but she saw in the corner of her curious eye that Amanda was still staring at her, looking over Kurt's shoulder from her slightly greater height, while she whispered a response into Kurt's ear, something that made him twitch his tail and take another uncertain step away from her.

Everyone mingled for another hour or so, calming their shattered nerves in alcohol and company. Kitty had only seen part of that evening's harrowing events, which begun with Kurt's dramatic collapse into seeming death while opening a birthday present. The rest she was able to piece together by talking to Logan and Peter. Somehow, Kurt's gypsy-sorceress-foster-mother had created an illusion of Dante's Inferno to punish Kurt for his supposed murder of his foster brother, her son. Thankfully, Kurt was innocent of those charges, so Kurt's gypsy-sorceress-foster-mother forgave him and disappeared in a puff of smoke (as sorceresses tend to do). Also, in what Kitty considered the strangest turn of the night, it was revealed that Kurt's erstwhile girlfriend was actually his sister—his foster sister—in disguise, a fact that Kurt hadn't known but which seemed to make him very happy once he did.

Kitty watched Kurt and Amanda surreptitiously for most of the hour, morbidly intrigued despite herself. Even beyond the obvious scandal of Kurt dating his sister (not blood, but still), there was something fascinating to Kitty about the way Kurt acted around Amanda, the way his body language responded to hers. Even in the wake of that evening's traumatic events, within the sphere of Amanda's orbit Kurt was the most relaxed that Kitty had ever seen him. It wasn't just that a weight had been lifted from his chest following the confrontation with his foster mother; it was her, Amanda, her presence and her body and her smile, and whatever the things were that she kept whispering to Kurt out of earshot under her breath, things that seemed to repel and then corral his body into an ever-closer orbit, tail encircling her in intricate serpentine caresses that never quite touched her body.

Returning to her room after the party broke up, Kitty tried to temper her distraction with work; specifically, some printouts from a diagnostic she was helping Professor Xavier run on the Danger Room systems. She worked away for most of another hour, crunching numbers and trying to find commonalities in the malfunctions, before she got stuck on a problem reported by Kurt and Logan that didn't seem to fit the pattern she was piecing together. Asking Logan for more info was out of the question; birthday or no, Kurt seemed like the easier target.

Reading while she walked, Kitty was fully absorbed in the printout as she arrived at Kurt's room. She began talking loudly outside the door before proceeding to phase inside.

"Hey, Kurt, I know it's your birthday and all but I was checking out this diagnostic we did on the danger room systems and I figured you'd still be—"

Everything that happened next happened very quickly. Kurt's panicked voice gasping a German swear word preceded a flurry of movement like bugs scattering from a light. In just a couple of seconds Kurt had a sheet wrapped clumsily around his waist and Amanda was fumbling with the belt of a burgundy robe. Kitty stood, dumbfounded, for one more second before turning and running back through the wall towards her own room, ignoring Kurt's voice crying after her.

Kitty phased through the door of her own quarters and solidified as she threw herself across her bed and buried her face in her pillow. But of course that made everything worse, because what she'd seen in those seconds after entering Kurt's quarters kept replaying in the darkened theatre behind her eyelids. There was Kurt, and there was Amanda. Naked. Presumably, anyway—she couldn't see much of Amanda, who was turned away from her, bent slightly forward with her forearms braced against the wall. Kurt was behind her, proving both his flexibility and dexterity with the foot he propped against the windowsill above Amanda's waist. His two-fingered hands were squeezing both of her breasts, whose ample weight bounced in concert with Kurt's thrusts and Amanda's moans, and Kurt's tail was… In her brief glimpse Kitty couldn't quite trace it. Her mind's replay exaggerated the scene so that it seemed like it was everywhere, entangling every appendage and threaded through every orifice while Amanda moaned and Kurt groaned, his toes like fingers tightening their grip on the windowsill…

Kitty threw herself onto her back, opened her eyes, and stared up at the ceiling, trying to sear her mind's eye in the overhead light. She lay there silently, not moving, trying not to think. After a period of time that was either a moment or an eternity, her body and mind were jolted back to reality by a tentative wrapping of knuckles against the door.

"Katzchen? Kitty, are you in there?"

Now

Kurt-

Have to get to class. If you're able to stick around, I'd love to buy you dinner. Thanks for being you.

-Kitty

When Kitty had left for class early that morning, Kurt had been fast asleep on her couch, an almost sickeningly adorable pile of tangled velvet limbs and tousled blue-black curls half in and half out of an equally tangled blanket. She'd left the note under a cup of coffee next to Kurt's face where she was sure he would find it. Yet when she returned to the apartment that evening, struggling through the front door with her arms full of books, she was still surprised to find him there.

"Welcome home, Katzchen!" he greeted her enthusiastically as she entered, coming quickly to her side to help unburden her load. "I would have gotten the door for you but I left my inducer in the other room, and I wouldn't want to unduly frighten your neighbours."

"No problem, I—Hey, thanks. I'm glad you're still here."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Why indeed, thought Kitty. It wasn't that she didn't trust him. Kitty had trusted Kurt with her life countless times, just as she had trusted him to listen when she'd called up in the middle of the night two days before, making wild claims about her dead ex-boyfriend walking the streets in the guise of a policeman. Kitty was also well accustomed to the unpredictable nature of life as an X-Man, which carried with it the very real possibility of being called away at any minute of the day or night to who knows where (or when) to battle who knows what space alien, robot, or evil mutant despot. So it wasn't a lack of trust or a presentiment of crisis that led her to expect Kurt's absence. The truth was, she was surprised to find Kurt in her apartment because she'd been fairly certain he would find a reason not to be there.

That Kitty and Kurt's relationship had always been complicated was not perhaps surprising, given the nature of their first meeting. That fateful night, Kurt had saved Kitty's life, and Kitty had shown her gratefulness by running away screaming, terrified far more of Kurt's demonic features than the enormous guns of the faceless Hellfire guards. Over the years, Kitty had grown to love Kurt, as anyone who knew him well inevitably did. During their years together with Excalibur, when they'd been left behind on a lonely island in Scotland by the rest of the X-Men, who had apparently gotten themselves killed, their relationship had deepened into something truly unbreakable: the unconditional bond of family.

Yet the circumstances of that bond were, like their first meeting, strange. When Kitty and Kurt formed Excalibur, each had been all the other had left, as they both struggled to endure the soul-shattering pain of loosing all their closest friends in one fell swoop. Since taking her leave from the X-Men to attend college, one of Kitty's preoccupying worries was that she'd lose touch with her friends and teammates. It wasn't the time or the distance she feared but the change in situation, the majority of her bonds among the X-Men, and especially her bond with Kurt, being born in strife and catastrophe. When it came right down to it, Kitty was worried that if they weren't in the midst of saving the world, she and Kurt might have nothing to talk about; perhaps, in the absence of crisis, they might discover that they didn't really need each other after all.

And yet, here he was, making a careful pile of her books on a side-table before helping her take off her coat, which he dutifully hung in the closet.

"What are you, my butler?"

"No, just a gentleman. How was your day?"

Kitty wasn't quite ready to tell Kurt about her healing confrontation with Peter Rasputin's look-a-like. Instead, she responded with a tired groan as she stalked into the living room and threw herself down on the couch.

"Ugh. College. You know."

"Not really," said Kurt, sitting down on the arm of the couch across from her.

"Right. You've never… Wait, did you even—" she raised her body to look at him. "Have you ever been to school? Any school?"

"Not as such, no."

"But how did you… I mean, you can read. And do math… I mean, presumably. You are a pilot…"

Kurt grinned. "Unlicensed. But yes, I can read. German, English, and Latin. And do math. A bit of math, anyway. My mother taught me—taught us. Until Jimaine—that is, Amanda—her brother Stefan and I were old enough to teach each other." He shrugged. "We got by."

"God… Here I am complaining about school and you never even got to—God, Kurt, I'm sorry. I am such a tool."

Kurt seemed genuinely amused by her apology. "I wouldn't worry about it, Katzchen. From your demeanour it doesn't seem like I'm missing much."

"Oh, you'd hate it. Sitting still for hours at a time—in and not on a chair, they would never let you do that there—listening to some old guy drone on and on about the nature of the universe… But hey, maybe I'm reminding you of priest school, huh? That's one you went to."

"You've brought that up a couple of times this visit."

"Have I?" she asked, feigning innocence into Kurt's sudden frown. "I didn't notice."

"Hm. Well, anyway, now that you've escaped the salt mines, what do you want to do for the evening? Your wish is my command."

"Dinner. I owe you. We'll go out somewhere. Just… give me minute to change into something less… academic."

In fact, Kitty took fifteen minutes, far longer than she'd intended. Entering the bedroom, she'd meant to simply change her sweater, but then she caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror and something came over her. A sweater become earrings, and earrings became a seldom-worn black cocktail dress, which in turn found itself paired with equally seldom-worn conservative black pumps and a dash of cherry red lipstick that she barely remembered buying.

When she appeared in the hallway, Kurt's eyes widened in an expression that Kitty hoped was pleasant rather than inquisitive surprise.

"You… You look lovely, Katzchen. All set?"

"I guess so. I just hope I remember how to walk in these shoes."

"Don't worry—I'd carry you."

"I know. You're a gentleman."

He glanced down at his own clothes—soft, faded jeans and a heather grey T-shirt with a black leather bomber jacket in hand—as he handed off her coat.

"I'm sorry I'm not dressed to match," he said. "But, then, since I won't be going as myself anyway…"

Kitty reached across and grabbed his arm before he had a chance to activate his inducer.

"Wait. What are you… Who are you going to go as?"

"What do you—"

"Please just… Don't go as Errol Flynn, or a priest or—Can you just go as you? I mean, you know, 'human' you."

Kurt dropped his gaze. "I have a setting for that but I don't usually… It's almost worse, you know?"

"It's just…" Kitty struggled to articulate her suddenly desperate need to not be parted from his face. "It's bad enough talking to you through that thing anyway and… If I can't be with the real you tonight, I want to be with someone as much like the real you as possible." She ran her hand up his arm against the subtle grain of his fur and squeezed his shoulder. "Please? This once? You can pretend you're a know-it-all grad student showing me the ropes."

Kurt smiled bravely. "Your wish…"

He was still smiling as the always uncanny transformation occurred, an electronic, flickering wave replacing blue fur with pink skin, golden eyes with brown irises and black pupils.

"… is my command."

And just like that he was standing in front of her, Kurt but not Kurt. Kurt the sexy foreign exchange student or touring German footballer, but not Kurt the mutant. He was wearing—that is, his image was wearing—a narrow black suit with the jacket undone over a white shirt unbuttoned to the collarbone.

Kitty tried to smile in approval but couldn't quite come up with it against an inexorable wave of existential grief. Kurt was right—in a way, this really was worse. She quickly dropped her hand from his shoulder to avoid the unsettling disconnection between her senses of touch and sight.

"You look nice," she managed, which was, at least, the truth.

"Thanks," he offered, also slightly forced but, like her, committed. "Shall we go?"

Then—

"Katzchen? Kitty, are you in there?"

Kitty sat up but merely stared at the door, at a loss for the appropriate response for being confronted in the flesh by the star of her nightmare.

"Kitty?" Kurt's muffled voice called again, his tone pleading. "Please, Kitty, if you're in there, we need to talk. Please, just… Let me in, okay? Please?"

Mechanically, barely aware of what she was doing or why, Kitty got up and opened the door.

"Oh thank God," sighed Kurt, genuinely relieved. His mouth twitched into a nervous half smile. "I was just about to promise you I was wearing pants, but I wasn't sure how well that would go over under the circumstances."

Kurt's smile fell as he registered the blankness of Kitty's expression. He cleared his throat and forced his face into a more serious vein. "Um… Yes, well. Thanks again for… letting me in."

Kitty said nothing, but cleared the way for him to enter by going back over to the bed and sitting down.

Kurt closed the door behind him and stood uncertainly for a moment before his eyes landed on her desk chair. Kitty remained silent as Kurt moved the chair over to the side of the bed. Once he was sitting, though, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands folded, he froze again, glazed-over golden eyes settled somewhere between the floor and Kitty's shins as he struggled to decide how to begin.

As silent minutes ticked away, Kitty stared unseeingly into Kurt's general direction until her eyes caught hold of a quiver of movement behind him. Hungry for any distraction, her eyes zeroed in on the source of the movement, slipping into a kind of trance watching a hypnotic pendulum motion. It was a full minute before it dawned on her that what she was watching was the end of Kurt's tail where in hung down behind him through the open back of the chair, swishing a rhythm so regular it had to be unconscious.

Kitty blinked as Kurt's tail abruptly stilled, her eyes drawing back toward the new most arresting thing in the room, which was the penetrating intensity of Kurt's golden eyes.

Now—

They ended up dodging rain into a Thai restaurant just a few blocks down the street, where they sat in the window under coloured paper lanterns looking very overdressed.

They filled the time before their meals arrived with all the standard catching up they hadn't done the night before: how everyone was doing back at the Mansion, the state of the mutant cause, Logan's various new ladyfriends, and, of course, the new crop of students. Kitty waited until her pad thai was in front of her to broach the topic of her conversation with the Peter look-a-like, wanting to use the food as a distraction.

"I wanted to tell you," she began tentatively, chopsticks circling idly through her noodles. "That I saw him again,"

Kurt took his time swallowing a mouthful of his keang puk before responding.

"Did you talk to him?"

"Yes. He's lived here for 8 years and been a cop for 6. He's got a wife and two kids."

"I see."

"We had a coffee together and I explained about why I'd been following him. I… told him about Peter. I mean, you know, the safe parts. He listened. Then we went our separate ways."

Kurt looked down, apparently absorbed in the food he wasn't eating.

"Are you mad?" Kitty asked, searching his strange, too-human countenance for hints.

"No," he said finally. "I'm glad you did it, glad you were able to find some closure."

"I just… I had to know. I had to know if I was crazy."

"Sometimes… Love can feel like madness. But then—" he raised his eyes, smiling softly. "—I wouldn't want to live without it. Would you?"

"No."

They finished their food in relatively companionable silence, watching through the window as people—mostly book-laden students and young couples—scuttled past them with their many-coloured umbrellas on the rain-misted street. Sitting there across from the false image of her genuine friend, Kitty was struck, as she'd often been in the past, by how nervous Kurt seemed engaging in mundane human behaviour, even under the protection of his inducer. Facing off against an army of space pirates, a legion of Brood, or even an arch foe like Magneto, Kurt was in his element, the picture of poise; Kitty had watched countless times as Kurt confronted the possibility of death with a brave determination that almost embarrassed her. And yet here, sitting in the window of a restaurant in a student neighbourhood on a rainy evening, he was all darting eyes and stiff shoulders. Kitty supposed that Kurt's behaviour threw into relief how strange his life truly was, and, not for the first time, she wondered how much of that strangeness he might have chosen to keep or jettison had he simply been born looking like everyone else.

When the bill arrived, Kurt beat her to it.

"Oh, Kurt, you don't have to do that—it was supposed to be my treat."

"Don't worry about it. Even my meagre finances likely make me much wealthier than you. I have to use my card, though. I'll be right back."

Kurt was barely gone a moment before a piercing female voice cried out her name from across the room.

"Kitty!"

Then—

"Kitty? I'm… Listen, I'm sorry," Kurt said at last, golden eyes pleading. "I really am. But it just… It happens, okay? It's an embarrassing story. No doubt we'll laugh about it later. And if you… I mean, I won't even tell anyone. Not even Logan. Okay? So you see, it's not—"

"I've never seen anyone having sex before," Kitty blurted out, the first words she'd spoken in the last half hour. "Never. Not even my parents when I was a toddler. Not even in a video at a slumber party. This… was my first time."

"Oh…. Well, I… um… It's still… It's not…" Kurt looked down, rubbing the back of his neck as he trailed off helplessly.

Several more long moments of thoughtful silence elapsed. Finally, he looked up again into her cloudy eyes.

"Kitty… Why were you staring at my tail just now?"

"What?"

"My tail. You were…" His eyes flickering down and up. "Is that what this is about?"

"I don't…" Kitty trailed off for a moment and then shook her head definitively. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"This isn't about catching someone having sex, is it? This is about you catching me having sex. Isn't it?"

"Of course not!" Kitty insisted, a little too forcefully.

"Mein Gott…" Kurt buried his face in his two-fingered hands.

"Kurt… Kurt, I'm sorry, I—"

"Kitty… You know, I'm trying here. I have tried. We've been living together, training together, saving the world together, for months now. What do I have to do to—"

"Nothing! You don't have to do anything! Kurt, I… You're one of the best friends I've ever had!"

"And yet, you're still…" he removed his hands from his face but continued to avoid her gaze, head lowered. "I don't even know what it is. Disgust? Or… fear? It really seems sometimes like you're afraid of me. Afraid of the way I look."

"No, I'm not. I swear I—"

"Kitty."

Now—

"Kitty! Ki-tty!

Kitty's recently devoured noodles turned over in her stomach as she heard Carol Holmes' boisterous voice calling her from the other side of the restaurant. Carol was a classmate and ostensible friend of Kitty's, though their interactions generally consisted of Kitty parrying a series of veiled insults about what Carol viewed as Kitty's incomprehensible commitment to scholarship and all its unglamorous aspects. Carol was the token "pretty girl" in the science department, a well-built blonde whose wealthy parents were bound to guarantee her entrance into a renowned medical school regardless of marks. Freed of all financial or scholarly pressures, she spent the majority of her time shopping, dressing, and coming up with new and exciting ways of prodding people like Kitty for not following her impossible example. Gritting her teeth against the almost overwhelming urge to phase through the floor, Kitty forced her face into an approximation of a welcoming smile as Carol danced nimbly across the room, expertly navigating her way through a swarming maze of people and tables in her towering stiletto heels; for Carol, being overdressed was par for the course.

"Kitty Kat!" Carol exclaimed again as she arrived at Kitty's side. "You're all dressed up. What's the occasion?"

"Carol! No, um… no occasion. Just—"

Kitty watched Carol's eyes look past her, condescending smile becoming positively gleeful as she got a load of Kurt returning to Kitty's side.

"Well. Now I understand. Hello there, pleasure to meet you. I'm Carol." She held out her hand for Kurt who, being Kurt, naturally substituted Carol's proposed handshake for courtly kiss of her knuckles.

"The pleasure's all mine."

"This is Kurt," Kitty offered, scowling at the spectacle of Carol's delight as Kurt released her hand.

"Love the accent," she gushed. "German?"

"Kurt goes to university in Berlin," Kitty said quickly. "But he's just visiting, attending a conference on… genetics."

Carol arched an eyebrow. "Scientist, eh? You strike me more as the athletic type."

Kurt's smile involved just one side of his mouth. "You know what they say. Healthy body…"

"Indeed," cooed Carol, glittering eyes sweeping deliberately over him.

Kitty cleared her throat loudly.

"Are you here long?" Carol asked. "I could show you around."

"I'm sure that would be lovely," Kurt assured her. "But I'm leaving. Tomorrow."

Carol pouted exaggeratedly. "Too bad. Well, it was nice meeting you, anyway. Next time, Pryde, try not to hog all the hot foreign scientists for yourself, huh?"

"Sure, Carol," Kitty grumbled.

Carol offered Kurt one final seductive smile as she brushed suggestively past him. She also mouthed "he is so hot" and gave Kitty a thumbs up of encouragement behind Kurt's back. Kurt glanced backward at the prompting of Kitty's mortified face but Carol had already disappeared into her crowd of friends.

"Let's… let's go," said Kitty.

Back out in the drizzle, Kitty started to apologize. "I'm sorry about her. She's… Well, she's the worst. She… Kurt—are you okay?"

"I'm fine," he said, though, truthfully, he didn't look fine at all. "It's just… This is part of the reason why I don't like using…" He shook his head and forced a small smile. "It's fine. Really."

Kitty arched an eyebrow. "Worried she'd be goggle-eyed for a different reason if she got a glimpse of your tail?"

Kurt's dark pupils shot her an unmistakable glance.

"Okay, okay," she digressed. "But it does bother you, doesn't it? That women hit on you when you're like this."

Kurt's fake black pupils looked at her for a long moment before dropping to his fake five-toed feet hidden inside his fake shoes.

"Yes," he admitted finally. "I know it's stupid but… Yes. But it's not really…"

"It's the principle of the thing."

"I suppose."

"Maybe you shouldn't go around kissing ladies' hands then, hmm?"

"I can't turn off my manners, Katzchen."

"Un huh. How did she not notice, anyway? How your hand—not to mention your face—feels a lot different than it looks?"

Kurt shrugged. "Minimal contact. And, in my experience, people are happy to believe their eyes unless you give them a very compelling reason not to."

"I guess that makes sense. The truth is too crazy to be believed, right?"

"Something like that."

They made room on the narrow sidewalk for a young couple walking arm and arm in the opposite direction, and Kurt's invisible tail brushed inadvertently against Kitty's bare leg.

"Have you ever done that?" she asked. "Started dating someone who didn't, you know…"

"Only when I first met Amanda. Before I knew she was Jimaine, I mean."

"So what did you…"

"We only went out a few times," Kurt explained. "It was winter, so I had a good excuse to be wearing gloves most of the time. But then after the third date we kissed and… I knew I'd have to tell her. Or stop seeing her. Both seemed like viable options since she seemed not to have noticed anything amiss. But, then, of course, she knew all along."

"But you didn't know that. Did you end up telling her, then?"

"Ja. I decided to risk it. I figured, what's the worst that can happen? She has a heart attack and I call 911 and teleport away," Kurt smiled ruefully but not unhappily at the memory.

"Really, though," he continued. "At the time, it felt like the worst day of my life. Her roommate was going to be away Saturday and she was cooking dinner for me at her place—implication to spend the night and all that. I waited until after dinner. I don't even know how I managed to eat, I was so nauseous. Maybe I didn't, I can't even remember. Then we went into the living room after dinner and… Mein Gott, it was horrible, like one of those scenes in Superman, but a thousand times worse of course because… well, because I'm me and it was really happening. Finally, I just went for it, closed my eyes and turned off my inducer. When I opened my eyes she was leaning in to kiss me. It should have been a very romantic moment. But, of course, I was practically unconscious from nerves. If there was one time in my life I might have fainted, it was then. Needless to say, I didn't spend the night. We made a date for the next week—my birthday—so she could come over and meet everyone, know what she was really getting into. And, of course, that night everything… Well."

Responding to a sudden seizure of her heart, Kitty reached for his hand, luxuriating in the reassurance of its familiar softness and the unmistakable—to anyone who was looking for it—feel of his two large fingers entwined with hers. She noticed Kurt glance down quickly at her hand but he didn't try to pull away, curling his fingers around hers as they continued walking. Kitty's thumb traced small patterns in the velvet fur on the back of his hand as she watched for waving glimpses of their reflection in the inky puddles underfoot.

Kitty only released him once they reached the door to her apartment and she needed both hands to fumble with her keys.

"Still," she said as she pushed open the door. "Carol's pretty, though, right?"

Kurt paused on the threshold of the room. "Why Katzchen… You sound almost jealous."

Kitty snorted. "Jealous. Right."

Her studied indifference was shattered by a squeal of surprise as Kurt seized her hand and swung her in a graceful pirouette through the doorway, pulling the door closed behind them with his still invisible tail.

"It's been a wonderful night Katzchen, mein prinzessin. But, alas, there's a shadow hanging over our love."

Getting into the spirit of the thing despite herself, Kitty swooned backwards into his supporting arm. "Oh, Herr Wagner, what could possibly sully this perfect moment?"

"My darling," crooned Kurt, pulling her up towards him in his deceptively strong arms. "The time has come to tell you the truth."

"Oh, Herr Wagner," she purred back, reaching up to stoke his cheek dramatically. "What soft skin you have."

"I know our love is pure, that you were able to see past my monstrous pink-skinned appearance. But I was not always this way. In truth, I'm a blue-furred prince, and your love has freed me from my evil enchantment. Observe!"

He deactivated his inducer and she did feel her heart skip a beat, so welcome were his familiar features after the evening spent hiding. Her hand felt suddenly slow and heavy against his cheek, and she stroked her index finger along the crest of his cheek to the upper edge of his blue, pointed ear, caressing it as though his ear itself were a long-lost friend. Time crept as she savoured the reunification of her senses, fingers once more confirming the evidence of her eyes as they passed over his ear and down the back of his neck, her fingernails sinking lightly into his sleek fur. She blinked and realized she was no longer sure how long they'd paused there with their faces so close, barely inches apart, a distance that seemed to shorten with each passing second until Kurt pulled away abruptly.

"We should probably… I know you have to get up early in the morning, and I've got to… I'm sure I'm due back as well. Who knows how many crises have befallen mutantkind in the 48 hours I've been out of touch."

"I hope it's at least five," she quipped back quickly to disguise the unsteadiness permeating her limbs. "I wouldn't want you to feel like you weren't missed."

"Don't even joke."

"Seriously, then. You've got to get back to super-heroing, and I've got to get back to studying, but right now we're both here and the world's not ending around us. For once. I think that deserves a modest celebration."

She skipped quickly into the kitchen and uncovered an unopened bottle of red wine left over from her housewarming. Returning to the living room, she brandished bottle, glasses and corkscrew.

"Nightcap?"

Kurt's fang-y smile calmed what she was sure had been a brief, nervous flicker in his eyes. "Sure. Why not?"

Kitty wondered why her own heart was fluttering with anxiety as she led them over to the couch.

Then—

"I'm not afraid of you," she said at last. "I'm afraid of me."

"What?" Kurt raised his dim golden eyes to look at her.

"I'm afraid…" Kitty bit her bottom lip for the steadying sensation of pain. "I'm afraid of… of being a mutant. There! I said it!"

"But what does that have to do with—"

Floodgates opened, Kitty's words poured out in a torrent. "It was confusing to me when I came, you know? How you're the only one of us that really looks different. I mean, Ororo has white hair and Scott has his sunglasses but you're… Anyway, I wanted to know why, why your mutation seems to be different than everyone else's. So I asked the Professor about it. He told me to ask you. So I broke into the Professor's files and found out. He thinks you're a second-generation mutant, that you're the son of mutant parents, and that accelerated your mutation, made you more… mutated than the rest of us."

"And you're scared that… if you had children…"

"I'm just scared Kurt."

Kurt dropped his gaze, mysterious pupil-less eyes blinking thoughtfully. Kitty's wall clock ticked thunderingly in the vacuum-like silence.

"I didn't… You should have talked to me, Katzchen."

"Yes," she agreed. "But it wouldn't have stopped me walking in on you and your sister having sex, would it?"

"She's not my—"

"Sorry. Foster sister."

"We just grew up together. We're not related, so it's not… Okay, well, I guess I could see how it might seem a little bit weird, but—"

"Kurt. It's okay. I was just teasing. Remember?" She raised her eyebrows encouragingly. Jokes?"

"Vaguely." His hollow tone suggested he was telling the truth.

"Yeah." Kitty looked down guiltily at her shoes.

Now—

An hour and most of the bottle later found them slouched at opposite ends of the couch with their legs meeting in the middle. Kitty's yoga pant-clad legs were kicked up over the back of the couch, ankles resting against one of Kurt's raised knees. Kurt's other leg draped over the side of the couch, foot resting on the floor. Where it emerged from the darkness between his legs, his tail looped over the thigh of the leg that met the floor, still save the occasional subconscious twitch near its forked tip.

"So…" Kitty began, deciding she'd had just enough wine to turn the conversation toward "serious" matters. "Are you seeing anyone right now?"

Kurt hesitated mid-sip. "Not… as such."

"Not even any Amanda in your life?"

"I'm afraid not. Since she took over limbo she's… Well. She has her fill of demons at the moment, I think."

"But you are… on the market, right?"

"'On the market'?" Kurt echoed.

"I mean, you're not… You know…" Kitty swirled her wine

"Umm… Celibate?"

Kitty smiled graciously as she swung one of her legs off the back of the couch and tapped him in the chest with her bare toes. "That's the word I was looking for."

Kurt set down his glass on the coffee table to better defend himself against any further physical intrusions. "No. I'm not a priest anymore and besides, I made a decision that I don't… I don't think I believe in it as a rule. I don't think not having sex is good for people. It makes them crazy."

"Did it make you crazy?"

"Almost, I think, I don't know. It seemed at the time that I had more women throwing themselves at me than usual, but that might just have been a symptom of craziness."

"Didn't Cerise come after you, even?"

Kurt's eyes shot skyward. "Ach, don't remind me."

"Of Cerise in general, or the fact that you shut down her intergalactic booty call?"

"I don't know. Both."

"Ha!" Kitty gave him a gentle kick in the chest, at which Kurt tried to frown, though he was clearly fighting a smile.

"Seriously, though," Kitty continued. "A girl travels halfway across the galaxy to jump your bones—you've got to take that as a compliment. What did you do to that girl?"

"You should check the inter-galactic channels. For all we know, Cerise's armour recorded it."

"On my God! You could be space-sex-famous!"

Kurt grinned. "If that isn't all I lack to make my life complete..."

They shared a heartfelt laugh that somehow descended quickly into a slightly awkward silence. Kitty took another large swallow of wine.

"Do you remember… your birthday?" she asked.

Kurt's body seemed to grow very still against hers. "I remember a lot of crazy things happened that night…"

"But you do remember. Don't you?"

"I… Yes, I remember."

Though seized with a desperate urge to rearrange her body out of its suddenly awkward-seeming position, Kitty refused to surrender to it, refused to admit the awkwardness and thus make Kurt aware of it.

"I was such a dweeb," she said at last.

Kurt subtly avoided her eyes. "No comment."

"While we're on the topic, though… What was it you were doing that night? I know there was something… What exactly were you doing with your tail?"

Kurt hesitated, screening her tone and expression for sarcasm through narrowed eyes. "You don't… Are you joking?"

She regarded him squarely. "You did promise to tell me when I was older."

"Um…"

"You'd tell Logan."

"Logan is much older than you."

"But I'm more mature."

Kurt eyed her suspiciously for another long moment.

"Oh, c'mon, Kurt. I'm not a child. I see worse in biology class every day."

"Funny. Okay, well, Amanda likes… We were having anal sex so I used my tail to… Well. You get the picture."

Kitty did her protestations of maturity partial credit by not allowing her jaw to drop more than an inch. "Wait. You mean you used your tail so that you could fuck anally and vaginally at the same time?"

Kurt wrinkled his nose. "Your description makes it sound… weird."

"Um, isn't it?"

"Not if you have a prehensile tail and a girlfriend who likes anal sex."

"I can't believe you use your powers for sex…"

"Well, that's not really 'powers' so much as my body, but… Anyway. What about you, though? You've never used your abilities for sex?"

Kitty snorted. "Yeah, right. Phasing. Real useful. 'I've got a naughty idea—wouldn't it be super sexy if we couldn't touch each other?'"

"But what about…" Kurt stopped himself. "I'm sorry. Forget I brought it up."

"You were going to ask about Peter."

"Really, forget it, I—"

"You and he never talked about that?"

"Piotr?" Kurt smiled fondly at the memory, staring down unseeingly at her foot on his chest. "He would blush whenever Logan or I mentioned you. I mean, I know he had… when he was in his metal form…"

"First of all," Kitty intervened. "Trust me—the enormous metal wang thing is way more intriguing to men than it is to women. Secondly, though, Peter couldn't really feel anything when he was metal."

"So he couldn't get—"

"Un huh."

"Well, that's ten bucks I owe Logan."

Now it was Kitty's turn to force a frown. "You had better be joking."

"I am."

"Good."

Kitty set down her own glass on the table and got more comfortable, bringing her other foot down off the back of the couch to rest across Kurt's upper body. He shifted to accommodate her, curling his arm around her calves. Idly, perhaps unconsciously, his fingers stroked her gently behind her knees. Kitty released a silent, contented sigh.

"What does it feel like to be…" she stopped herself, realizing she'd spoken without thinking. "Oh, never mind."

"What?"

"I just… I don't even know if you can answer this because, I mean, you've always been you so… But I've just always wondered what it feels like to… I mean, with fur what does it feel like to…to be…"

Kurt arched an indigo eyebrow. "To be… touched?"

"I'm sorry," she offered quickly. "You don't have to…"

"No," he assured her. "No, it's okay. You're right. I mean, I've always had fur, so I don't really know what it's like on your end but I know that I… That is, I've been told that I'm more…"

"Sensitive?"

"For lack of a better word. Things… feel better for me, I think. Touching and…"

"Petting?" Kitty tickled the side of her bare foot playfully against Kurt's t-shirt clad chest.

Kurt caught her feet in his hand. "And you wonder why I don't talk to you about these things."

"Oh c'mon. With the grain, or against?"

"Kitty…"

"What?" she protested, feigning innocence. "I'm just asking."

"Well that's…" he released her foot and rested his arm casually along the length of her calf. "You see, that's a complicated question. It depends on the context. With the grain is sort of… soothing… and against is kind of… I don't know, sort of uncomfortable-comfortable. It depends on the context."

"So you keep saying."

"Okay, okay," Kurt wriggled himself out of her clutches and back into an upright sitting position. "That's enough twenty-questions for one bottle. But speaking of the wonderful features of fur, I'm feeling kind of disgusting from being out in that rain earlier. Do you mind if I have a shower before we call it a night?"

"Knock yourself out."

"But first," Kurt said, raising the last swallow of wine in his glass. "A toast. To absent friends."

"Yes," Kitty agreed, meeting his glass. "And present ones."

Then—

Kurt stood, clenching and unclenching his two-fingered fists as he his blue feet rolled over the carpet from one side of her room to the other. Kitty studied the movement of his body with a new awareness. Kurt possessed such a ridiculous assortment of features. Some, like his fangs, forked tail, and glowing golden eyes, were objectively nightmarish, redolent of nearly every depiction of demons across countless cultures. Yet those demonic features were offset by gentler qualities, like his velvet soft fur, and his large, blunt hands and feet. It was his easy athleticism, though, that made the combination seem harmonious. If there was a method behind the madness of Kurt's design, it was that everything worked together to enhance his unparalleled gracefulness. He flowed like water, from the rolling motion of his extra-jointed feet through to the slow sashay of his tail that echoed the dancerly quality of his entire liquid-smooth body. Pivoting easily on his hips, Kurt's every well-oiled step reminded you he could perform an effortless double-backflip at the drop of a hat.

That his body exhibited such a perfect unity of form and function was, however, also why Kitty found Kurt so unsettlingly alien. While she marvelled at his gracefulness, it felt more like the way she would appreciate a tiger or a famous racehorse: beautiful, but decidedly un-human. Sometimes she even wished she could ignore Kurt's humanity to better love his strange body's undeniable beauty. But then he would turn to her, as he did then, with his eyes so full of pain there could be no doubt of it, and his body became a wall again, a barrier between her head and her heart.

"What can I do to make this right?" he asked her.

Kitty regarded him quizzically.

Kurt said, "It's not that bad, you know? All of this."

"I don't—"

"This." Kurt stopped his pacing and made an expansive gesture with his hands to indicate his body. "It's… This is who I am, Katzchen. And… I know it might be difficult for you to understand, but I really like being me."

Kitty considered him thoughtfully. She wanted to believe him. "Despite everything? Despite angry mobs trying to kill you?"

Kurt sighed wearily. "It's hard, sure. Being yourself is hard. But what can you do? Even if I'm not being hunted down for being a mutant, someone else, somewhere else, is being hunted for having the wrong skin, loving the wrong person, worshipping the wrong God… We both know this, you and I. Perhaps more than most, ja?"

"Yes," Kitty agreed seriously. It was not something she and Kurt had ever talked about, his German and her Jewish heritage. Compared to the enormity of being a mutant, all other prejudices, historical or otherwise, sometimes seemed inconsequential. But of course they weren't; they were just additional symptoms of the problem, further proof of humanity's apparent thirst for reasons to hate and destroy one another.

"Besides," Kurt added, flashing just a hint of a mischievous smile. "This body has its advantages. I was going to say 'I'll tell you about it when you're older,' but…"

Distress retook Kitty's features like a tidal wave smashing into the coast. She bent her head and began to cry.

"Kitty…!"

Kurt raced to her side, concern for a damsel in distress overriding all other considerations. He sat down next to her and reached for her hand, squeezing it in a comforting gesture. She looked up at him with her face full of tears and he seemed to realize all at once what he'd done, trying to comfort her by breeching the very boundaries that had caused her distress. He tried to pull away but she seized his hand, keeping him by her side.

She stared down at their joined hands, her four tiny, white fingers curled around his two large blue ones. Then her eyes travelled up his body to the point where his dark indigo fur met the white sleeve of the t-shirt pulled taught against his compact muscles. The fur was so fine, she reflected, you could almost forget about it unless you concentrated, and then you could start to pick up the texture of it, the way the tiny grains bent against the sleeve of his shirt and broke over the curves of his muscles, changing colour in the light between various shades of ultramarine, indigo and almost-black. At first his shirt seemed stark white against his body but she gradually saw this was not so—his fur stained it through the fabric where it fit tight against his square, flat pecs, like it had gone through the wash with dark denim. This observation brought her back to the realization, strange because she'd never arrived at it before seeing for herself, that his entire body, in all its otherwise classic male beauty, was covered with the same sleek, indigo fur. How could he be so clearly a man and yet…

She swallowed hard and threw her arms around his body, pressing her cheek against his chest, over his heart. Kurt accommodated her stiffly.

"I just… It was a joke. I…"

"I know, Kurt. I know…"

Now—

Kitty was arranging blankets for a bed on the couch when Kurt entered the living room, naked except for the towel wrapped around his waist.

"Oh," he stopped walking when he saw her. "I'm sorry, I just… I left my things in here and I…"

"No problem. I'm done with this anyway."

"You don't have to do that."

"Hey, you're my guest. It's the least I can do."

She looked up from what she was doing and he was standing a few feet away from her, looking for something to wear from his bag that was sitting on the coffee table. Kitty's heart fluttered and then settled into a thundering lurch as time slowed around her for the second time that evening. Kurt's blue-black curls were damp and glistening in the low light from the floor lamp in the corner. His fur, too, seemed faintly damp, shining in spots and creases around the curves of his lean muscles as his body moved. A drop of water from his hair was dripping down his back, cutting its way jaggedly through the sleek grain of his fur diagonally, toward his spine, to the crease where his tail began, hidden beneath the white towel.

She didn't give herself a chance to think about it. Turning into Kurt's body as he stood upright and turned toward her, she sealed her lips firmly against his. Kurt took a half step backwards before wrapping his hands, one of which was holding a clean t-shirt, around her waist, though whether he grabbed her out of passion, instinct, or simply to keep his balance was unclear given the rather tentative response of his tongue to hers. Undeterred, Kitty slid her hands up his back, gently upwards against the grain of his slightly damp fur with her fingernails and then quickly down again with the flat of her hand. Kurt leaned into her kiss and body for just a moment as her hands swept over his lower back, tail curling toward her as his hips tilted into hers. But it was only a moment, a brief glimmer of what might have been that would forever keep her wondering. He'd barely brushed his firm, warm abdomen against hers when he wrenched himself away, taking a full step backward so that she was forced to release his body.

"Oh my…"

"…what did…"

"… I'm… oh God…"

"…I…"

"…you were looking so… and I… oh God…"

"You're just…" Kurt took a deep, steadying breath as he tightened the towel around his waist, looking profoundly uncomfortable in his near nakedness. "You're lonely, and you're hurting. You just… you miss Piotr."

"Yes. But that's not… It's not the first time I've wanted… I… "

"What are you—"

"You've never thought about it? In all the years we've known each other, you've never… wondered?"

"I'm…" Kurt trailed off, shaking his head as though to clear away a fog. "I don't know. You're just… You're my sister. I mean… the sister I don't have sex with."

Kitty was suddenly indignant. "Why? Because I'm not a five foot ten blonde with double d's?"

"What? That is not what I—"

"So what did you mean?"

"I'm—I don't know. I meant… what I said. It… I'm sorry."

"But why can't be have both?"

Kurt shook his head again slowly, staring down at the white t-shirt he was still holding, crumpling and uncrumpling it between his fingers. "Maybe two other people could do that. But not you and me."

"Why not you and me? What is… You're not still…"

Kurt turned away, hand massaging the back of his neck. The gesture felt heart-sickeningly familiar. Kitty reached out to grab him, to pull him back to her, but stopped herself just short of touching him.

"Kurt… What are you afraid of?"

Kurt's tail swished slowly back and forth beneath the towel.

"It was a long time ago, Kurt."

"That's not—"

"Isn't it?"

"I told you then I forgave you," he said earnestly, turning to face her. "And I meant it."

"So then what's—"

"Just what I said. This isn't right for us."

Kitty swallowed, her emotions and her pride and a thousand things she wanted to say. She swallowed them largely because of what Kurt didn't know—that after he'd left her that night six years ago, she'd had another visitor.

"You know," she said after a moment. "When I came home this evening, I was sure you wouldn't be here."

"Oh Katzchen…"

He reached out for her and she surrendered gratefully into the strong velvet arms and tail that pulled her tight against his body.

"I will always be here," he spoke softly into her hair. "Just not… Just… give me some time to think about it, okay?"

"How much time?"

"Shall we synchronize watches?"

"Kurt…"

"Okay, okay, I know. Just… some time, Katzchen."

She sank deeper into his embrace, head resting against his heart, and the years melted away, but took on a new meaning. All of a sudden, she realized what she'd meant by "it's not the first time," words she hadn't even known to be true before speaking them.

Back in the past of her memory, Kurt relaxed into her hug enough to squeeze her shoulder gently, resting his chin against the top of her head.

"Just… give me some time, Kurt."

His large thumb moved up and down against her shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere."

"But things… they move pretty fast around here, you know?"

"Tell me about it," he agreed. "A few hours ago, I thought I was dead. And now… here we are."

"And where are we, Kurt?"

In the present, she said, "48 hours ago I was calling you on the phone, desperate because I thought I'd seen a clone of my dead boyfriend masquerading as a police officer. And now, we're here."

"Which is where?"

"I don't know." They were his words from the past, repeated by her in the present. "But it's okay for now."

"On the bright side," Kurt of the present said lightly, pulling away enough to offer her a small, peace-making smile. "I plan to grow even handsomer as I age."

Kitty did her best to return his smile against the stronger impulse to cry. "I don't doubt it."

Yet even her forced smile became impossible to maintain as she confronted the confusion he wasn't quite able to hide, the inescapable truth that he still couldn't decide whether she was joking. And she thought of a phrase she'd heard before: I can tear my heart out trying to patch that wound but it will never be enough…

Kitty disengaged herself from Kurt's arms and cleared her throat. "I'll… um… I'll be up in the morning to see you off, okay?"

"I'd like that."

"Goodnight, Kurt."

"Goodnight, mein prinzessin."

Back in the past, the door had been safely closed behind Kurt for an hour before another knock came. This one was frank and demanding, resounding with impatient purpose. Already used to anticipating random disasters, Kitty threw off her blankets and went quickly to answer it.

It was Amanda. She was still wearing the burgundy robe, her blue eyes slightly red around the edges and her long blonde hair dishevelled, though she was no less striking for all that.

"Is Kurt here?" she demanded brusquely.

"No he… He left almost an hour ago."

Amanda stalked into the room, leaving Kitty no choice but to step aside and let her pass, closing the door behind her.

"He didn't come back. He said he was coming to talk to you about what happened and then he didn't… He left an hour ago?"

"Have you checked… Sometimes he and Wolverine…"

"I wouldn't know where to look—this place is a maze. But I wanted to talk to you, anyway."

"Oh! I'm just… Kurt already apologized and we—"

Amanda had been pacing the room distractedly but she stopped abruptly as she interrupted her. "He what?"

"Um…"

"As I see it, you walked in on us. If anyone should be apologizing—"

"I did," Kitty interrupted, anger building despite her best efforts. "I did apologize."

Amanda crossed her arms definitely beneath her breasts. "Then why isn't Kurt in bed with me right now?"

"What? That isn't my fault! I told you, he left here—"

"An hour ago, I heard you the first time. Ach!" she threw up her arms in a gesture of exasperation and retreated to the window, staring out blindly into the invisible, black night. "You really don't understand at all, do you? Don't you think Kurt was ever 13? Don't you think we all were? You weren't there, were you? When Kurt's adult teeth grew in as fangs, or when his teleportation first emerged. You don't know how I missed his face in the crowd where he could never be, how he was never allowed to appear in front of a group of strangers until it was time to perform for them, and even then he had to pretend to be someone else, something else, a man impersonating a demon…"

She paused, collecting herself, swallowing hard against the crack that had seeped into her voice. When she continued, her voice was softer, though no less resolute. "You know, don't you, why he came here? That man, that awful, disgusting man… Kurt went with him to America and they put him in a cage. Like an animal. This is Kurt in a cage, my lovely, beautiful Kurt. Can you imagine? And I can't erase that. I kiss him and I love him and I give him my soul but I can't… I can tear my heart out trying to patch that wound but it will never be enough. He will never be the same. And then when he got back, those people… They came to the circus, they burned down our tents and my mother… We could do nothing. I watched them leave, heading back into town to find him, to find my Kurt, and they were going to… going to…"

Her voice cracked badly amid this second torrent of words, and she clapped a hand over her mouth, either to stifle further speech or her threatening tears. Kitty was silent and numb, woefully unequipped to process the implications of Amanda's outburst. She wasn't familiar enough with Kurt's history to make sense of everything Amanda had said, though the main thread was easy enough to grasp. Try as she might, however, Kitty could not honestly imagine the Kurt she knew ever being as helpless as Amanda described. To her, he seemed like the others: an omnipotent adult. How could he ever have been… How could… Why would… In a cage?

Finally, Amanda recovered herself. "I'm sorry," she offered, turning to affix Kitty with her large, blue, red-rimmed eyes. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have… But you just… you don't know. You don't know how happy I am that he found this place. Even at the circus, it was always his relentless training and my mother's influence that kept him out of the freak show. But here… He's finally found a place where he can be himself. Here, risking his life every second day, it's the first time he's ever really been safe. Does that make sense?"

"I… I think so."

Amanda shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry to have burdened you with all this. But you must… Have you ever been in love?"

Kitty breathed out an awkward half-cough. "I… Yes… No… I mean, I don't know. I don't think so."

Amanda smiled, warmly and knowingly, all the bitterness and anger from a few minutes before seemingly evaporated. "Well, when you are, you'll know. Then I hope you can forgive me. He's my lover and my baby brother—the combination can make me a bit crazy."

"That's… understandable."

Amanda smiled mischievously below her tired eyes; lack of family resemblance aside, her grin was like a distant echo of Kurt's. "So you do think I'm crazy, hm?"

"No! No, I—"

"That's okay. You're probably right. That's why I need Kurt—to keep me sane." She waited for Kitty's laugh and when she didn't get it she laughed herself, boisterously and musically. "That was a joke. But I guess maybe you don't know my Kurt yet as well as I thought."

The communicator next to Kitty's bed picked that moment to buzz, rescuing Kitty from trying to formulate an answer to Amanda's rhetorical question. Kitty pressed the button to answer.

"This is Kitty."

"Hey, this is Wolverine. No crisis or anything. Just checkin' to see if you'd seen Amanda. I'm lookin' to unload a drunken elf."

"Wolverine! Yes, she's here."

"Great. Tell her I'm sending… hopefully not carrying… Kurt up to his quarters."

"I'll tell her."

"Thanks. 'Night."

Amanda was already at the door, pulling her robe tight, smoothing her hair. "I guess we've each burst in on each other once this evening. Perhaps we can call it even?"

"Sure."

Amanda paused at the threshold, hand on the doorknob. "And also… Thanks for listening. I guess I… It can be hard for me too, you know?"

"It's hard for all of us," said Kitty.

Amanda smiled ruefully. "I know."

And then she was gone.

Just like in the present, Kitty had been left alone that night to lie in bed, stare at the ceiling, and hate herself, the x-gene, and the world that seemed to make everything so difficult. When she woke up in the present, Kurt was already gone. But he left his watch behind with a note atop a pile of folded blankets:

Dearest Katzchen,

Sorry for running out on you—blame it on a premonition of impending crisis. But I will be back for my favourite watch. Feel free to synchronize it with yours to save time when next we meet. Love,

Kurt

~END~

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the sequels, A Different Sameness, and Whole into Parts. (Accessible through my profile.)