Kitty didn't know where else to go. While she had friends, most of them lived with roommates in dorms on campus. She couldn't just show up on their doorsteps in the middle of the night, looking for a place to crash. The only person she could think of was Chris. She knew his house was big, and she had a good feeling he'd let her in.

Chris looked rumpled from sleep when he answered the door. He took one look at Kitty and frowned. "Kitty! What happened to you?"

"I…I left Lance," she said.

Chris wrapped his arm around her shoulders and escorted her into the house. "Oh my God, Kitty, I'm so sorry," he said, making himself sound as genuine as possible, despite the fact that he was thrilled that she'd left the husband Chris considered a deadbeat. He led her over to the couch. "Have a seat, and I'll get you a cup of tea to warm you up, okay?"

"Thank you," Kitty said. "I'm sorry for coming over so late like this. I just didn't know where else to go."

"It's all right. You're welcome over here, any time of day or night."

"Thanks."

Chris disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a cup of tea for Kitty. "You can stay here as long as you want, you know."

"I couldn't."

"Sure ya could. I have plenty of guest rooms."

"I'm not, I mean, I…"

"I know," Chris said. "And that's okay. I wouldn't try to make a move on you. I feel terrible for kissing you the other night."

"Don't feel bad about that."

"Look, it makes sense for you to stay here for a little while, all right? At least while you get back on your feet."

Kitty had to admit to herself, it did make sense. "Can I sleep on it?"

"Of course."

*** *** ***

Kitty came home looking dazed. Chris was in the kitchen, cooking dinner. "Hard day at work?"

Kitty shook her head. "The divorce…it was final today."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Kitten."

"I just can't believe it's really over. I mean, I loved him so much, and now…it's over. Just like that."

"You don't still love him, do you?"

"No! Of course not. After all he put me through…"

Chris frowned. "You seem pretty upset for someone who isn't in love anymore."

"It's just difficult to accept," Kitty said. "I'm moving on, but it isn't easy."

"Maybe if you had someone to help you, it would be easier."

"What…what do you mean?"

"Kitty, I know I promised you that our living arrangements would be strictly platonic, but I just can't deny how I feel for you anymore. I love you more than I even thought it was possible to love anyone. Please, at least let me try to make you happy."

"Chris, I don't know. I mean, you're a great guy and I care about you, but the timing…"

Chris grabbed her and kissed her, not wanting to give up yet. Kitty froze at first, but quickly gave in to his insistent caress. She wanted to lose herself in him, wanted to forget what she'd had with Lance. She pushed herself up against Chris more, telling herself that she could move on.

Chris reached over and turned off the stove before carrying her upstairs.

*** *** ***

Kitty watched Chris beside her, snoring lightly. She crept out of the bed, slipping Chris's discarded shirt on before going out onto the balcony. She thought about how Chris had first kissed her there, when she'd still be Lance's wife. Then, the kiss had disappointed her on the grounds that it held none of the knee-weakening passion every touch of Lance's instilled in her. That aspect hadn't changed. Kitty guessed she couldn't really complain, since Chris adored her and did everything he could to make her happy, but he just couldn't make her melt the way her husband had. She knew she'd never have that again. She'd made the safe choice, trading passion for comfort.

Kitty leaned over the balcony, tears rolling down her cheeks. She wondered where Lance was, and if he was all right. She'd tried so hard to be angry at him when she'd first left, tried hard to hate him for the direction her life had taken since she'd gotten with him. She couldn't. She'd known what she'd been getting into, or at least she should have.

She wondered if she should've just walked away when they first started getting together, and Lance had kept telling her that they'd be better off apart. She could've left, could've avoided all the heartache and pain she'd known over the years. If she'd only known…

Kitty shook her head. She would've done it anyway. If she'd known from the start how much loving Lance was going to hurt, she would've still loved him. She couldn't have helped it. She'd loved him too deeply from the start, and even now that she was with another man and no longer Lance's wife, her feelings for him hadn't died. She stroked the finger that once held his rings, and cried harder. She wished she could wake up, and find that it was all a dream—that she was still in Lance's arms, and that he'd chosen her over the alcohol.

It was a long time before she could go back in to Chris.

*** *** ***

Kitty hung up the phone, still in shock, hardly able to believe that conversation had actually taken place. She'd applied not expecting to ever be accepted. Could she take the job? She'd spent the past six months since her college graduation unemployed, but now…

"Chris!" she called. "Chris! Come downstairs."

Chris walked down to her. "What is it, Kitten?"

"I got the job!" she said. "They actually want me."

"Who?"

She furrowed her brow. "The FBI. They want me working in their tech crimes division right here in Chicago."

"You seem happy."

"Well, yeah. I mean, when I heard about the opening, I knew I'd always wanted to do something like that, but I never expected to actually get it."

Chris's expression was non-responsive. "When would you start?"

"Monday."

Chris sighed. "Kitty, honey, you're obviously very excited about this, but I think you need to think it through. The FBI is, well, a dangerous job."

"I wouldn't be a field agent," she said. "I would have to fly to Virginia for some training seminars and stuff, but I'd be basically in the Chicago office all the time, doing stuff from a computer."

"I don't like it."

"Chris, it's what I want to do. I can't pass up this opportunity."

"I don't even understand why you want a job. I told you we can get married, and you can stay home and take care of the house, and eventually, the kids."

"I don't want to do that!"

"Why not? You'd be completely taken care of."

"Because I don't want to be my mother!" Kitty shouted. "Being a housewife is fine for lots of women, I know, but I wouldn't be happy. I'm just too independent for that."

"I don't want my wife working for the FBI."

"Chris, we're not even engaged."

"Only because you keep saying you're not ready!"

"I'm not!"

"When will you be?"

"I don't know."

Chris met her eyes. "So you can marry a drunk high school drop-out, but you can't marry a man with a college degree and a good job?"

"Geez Chris, could you make me sound anymore like a bimbo?"

"I don't know! Hey, how about this—I knock you up and then see how quickly you marry me?"

Kitty stepped back a few feet, horror on her face. "I…I can't believe you said that."

Chris did look apologetic. "Kitty, I didn't mean…I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking when I said that." Kitty started upstairs. "Where are you going?" Chris called after her. She didn't answer with words, only with the slamming of the bedroom door. Chris ran up and knocked on the door. "Let me in, Kitty."

"No!"

"Kitty, please, darling. I'm sorry. I'm just worried about you, taking a job like that. Come out and talk to me, okay?"

"No!"

"Open the damn door, Katherine."

"Go away! I don't want to see you right now!"

Chris pounded harder on the door. Kitty could hear him trying to bust in, and suddenly she felt afraid. The door broke off the hinges, and he came barging in, grabbing her and slamming her against the wall. Kitty started up at him in shock. He'd never been violent, but now, with the look in his eyes, she was fearing for her life. "Chris…"

Chris's eyes changed, as if he suddenly came back to himself. "Kitty…"

He let her go, and Kitty started to cry. She slipped down the wall, sitting on the floor and sobbing uncontrollably. Chris sat down in front of her, and pulled her to him. "I'm so sorry, Kitten," he said, soothingly. "I'm so sorry…"

"You…you were gonna hit me," Kitty said.

"I wouldn't have," Chris assured her. "I never would've hit you."

"What happened, Chris?"

"I'm sorry. I thought…I thought I'd dealt with it."

"Dealt with what?"

Chris looked at the floor. "My problem."

"I deserve more of an explanation than that."

"I've had anger management issues ever since I was a kid. I just…snap sometimes. It's rare nowadays. Hasn't happened in a while."

"But it could happen again?"

"Yes."

"I can't live with that, Chris."

"Kitty, please, don't say that. I can work on it more, I swear. I love you, I really do."

"When you came after me, you were like another person," Kitty said. "You scared me. I can't just get passed that, especially when I know it can happen again."

"It won't," Chris said, his voice firm. "I won't let it happen."

Kitty pulled away from him. "No. I'm sorry, but I just can't put myself in this situation."

"I love you, Kitten. I love you."

Kitty turned away from him. She wasn't going to let herself fall into this type of relationship again.

It was time for her to be on her own.

*** *** ***

For the first time in her life, Kitty Pryde had her own place. She was making enough money at the FBI to comfortably support herself, and she was finding she liked independence. She finally knew who she was.

Still, sometimes late at night, she'd get lonely. She brought home a stray cat from the SPCA, but it wasn't the same. She'd often sit on the couch and wonder where Lance was those days.

It didn't surprise her that she never thought about Chris.

Her cat sat beside her, meowing for her attention. She scratched him behind the ears, and he purred. "Must be pretty nice to be a cat, huh, Stan?" she asked. "Never having any worries." The cat mewed.

At twenty-five, Kitty had been divorced for close to three years. Sometimes she couldn't believe that had ever been her life, and sometimes she couldn't believe it wasn't anymore.

She stopped petting Stan, and he nipped at her hand, trying to get her attention. She sighed, and started to stroke him absent-mindedly. Three years divorced, and she was still in love. She wondered what it was about Lance Alvers that made it impossible for her to just move on.

Maybe she'd find the answer someday and be finally free.

*** *** ***

Kitty stood on the side of the highway, kicking her car. She sighed. That wasn't helping. It had been working fine when she'd left work, but about fifteen miles up the road, her check engine light came on. A few seconds later, there was a popping sound, and she was just able to make it to the shoulder before it died completely.

The tow truck she called finally made it, loading her car onto the back. He helped her into his cab. "Where do you want me to take this, ma'am?" he asked.

"Whatever's closest," Kitty said.

The tow truck driver frowned. "There's a place five miles away, but I wouldn't trust them. Owner has a habit of jackin' up the price, especially when there's a pretty young woman involved. Now there's a place a little bit further up the road that's newer, but I think it's better. The guy who runs it is a real professional. He'll get ya fixed up, and for a good deal, too."

Kitty was inclined to take the man's advice. "All right, Take me there, then."

The driver nodded, and they took off.

*** *** ***

Kitty decided she hadn't been led astray. The auto shop the tow truck driver had taken her to was nice, with a friendly staff. The receptionist—Sandra—had been one of the most accommodating individuals Kitty had ever met, going out of her way to make sure Kitty was comfortable while she waited to find out what was wrong with her car and how long it would take to get it fixed.

Kitty looked out a long pane of glass to where her car was being worked on. She caught sight of one of the mechanics and blanched. It couldn't be… She wanted him to turn around, to show her she was wrong, but he didn't. "Who's that?" she asked Sandra, pointing to the man.

Sandra looked where Kitty was pointing. "Him? That's the owner. Lance Alvers."

"Can I…can I go out there?" Kitty asked.

"Customers aren't usually allowed," she replied. "Legal issues, you know. It's sorta dangerous out there."

"Lance is…my ex husband," Kitty said.

Sandra's eyes grew wide. "Wow. I saw you're name was Katherine Pryde, but I didn't think… Yeah, go on out. Lance'll want to see you, I'm sure."

"He's…he's talked about me?"

"Oh yeah." Sandra looked around, as if she was about to say something conspiratorially. "Most of us around here think he never got over you."

Kitty wasn't sure how to take what she was hearing. Lance talked about her to the point his employees believed he was still in love? It couldn't be real… "How long has he owned this place?" Kitty asked.

"Two years. He took out a loan to buy it from the last owner, and he runs it better than he ever did, if you ask me. He's a shrewd business man, Lance."

That didn't sound like the man Kitty had divorced. She'd certainly changed a lot in three years—was it possible he had, too? She stepped out into the bay. "Lance?"

Lance wheeled around, staring at his ex-wife in disbelief. "Kitty? What are you doing here?"

She pointed to the Honda behind him. "That's my car."

Lance smiled briefly. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"That bad?"

"It can be fixed. I'll go ahead and work on it, see what I can get done tonight." He started to walk away.

"Lance!"

He turned back around. "Yes?"

"That's it?"

"Yeah, Kitty, that's it."

"But, I…"

"You walked out on me three years ago, Kitty. Now let me see if I can get your car running so you can leave my life again."

Kitty turned around and went back to the waiting room.

*** *** ***

"I hope you know you're an asshole, Alvers."

Lance didn't look up from the car engine. "I don't want to hear it, Sandra."

"Your ex-wife is sitting in the waiting room sobbing hysterically."

"That's great. Now she can know some of the pain she put me through."

"Oh come off it, Lance. I'm sure she knew plenty of pain over your break up. You were a drunk, Lance. I'll bet good money that you put the poor girl through hell."

"Yeah, well, she could've stuck with me a little longer. I sobered up."

"Because she left your sorry ass."

"How much do you like your job? Look, tell Ms. Pryde her car'll be ready within the hour if she wants to wait."

Sandra's mouth was a tight line. "I'll do just that, Mr. Alvers."

*** *** ***

Lance's estimate on when her car would be done must've been overly optimistic, Kitty decided. It had been almost three hours since Sandra had told her it would only be an hour. She and Lance were the only ones left in the garage. Sandra had left regretfully, saying she had to pick her child up from daycare. Kitty tried to pretend she was more interested in the Car and Driver magazine she'd found on the table than the fact that Lance was standing only a few feet away, working in a white tank top and tight jeans.

She gave up with a sigh, and decided to concentrate on the view, no matter how much it ripped at her heart. She missed him so much, more than she'd even realized before. She wished she'd just stayed with him, although she reminded herself that the last part of their relationship was hell, and she'd been doing what she had to by leaving. Kitty noticed something that didn't seem quite right. She squinted. At first glance, it would look like Lance was working on her car, but at closer inspection, she realized he was just under her hood with random tools, not really doing anything at all. She frowned. Why would he be simply pretending to work on her car?

She got up and walked back out to the bay, shouting over his radio. "Hey, Alvers."

It's been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been a while
Since I first saw you
It's been a while
Since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it's been a while
Since I could call you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that are rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

Lance jumped. "What?"

"Is my car ready yet?"

"No. Go away."

"Then why aren't you really doing anything?"

"I am! Go let me finish."

"I'm not dumb, you know."

Lance sighed. "I finished two hours ago, okay? I just didn't want you to leave."

"Why?"

It's been a while
Since I couldn't say that I wasn't addicted
And it's been awhile
Since I couldn't say I love my self as well
It's been a while
Since I've gone and fucked things up the way I always do
And it's been a while
But all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you

Lance stared down at his hands. "I still love you, Kitty. Oh God, I love you. I'm just…hurt."

"I still love you, too."

"So where does it leave us?"

"I don't know."

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've gone and fucked things up again

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day

"I'm not drinking anymore," Lance told her. "I've turned my life around. Finally got my GED, and an associates degree, too. I've been doing well with this place."

"I'm working for the FBI," Kitty said. She chuckled at Lance's expression. "I'm investigating computer crimes."

"Wow. I'm proud of you, babe."

"I'm proud of you, too."

It's been a while
Since I could look at myself straight
And it's been awhile
Since I said I'm sorry

And It's been a while
Since I've sent the way the candles light your face
And it's been a while
But I can still remember just the way you taste

"You think maybe, if we'd met later in life, under different circumstances, things would've worked between us?" Lance asked.

"You mean like if we'd met now instead of then?"

"Yeah."

"We're meeting again now, Lance."

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem to me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me

And it's been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been a while
Since I said I'm sorry

Lance moved closer to Kitty, not even fully aware of his own movements. "Yeah, we are." He brought her to him, and kissed her, shuttering with the feel of her next to him again. Kitty wrapped her arms around him, melting at the touch. This was where she belonged—where she'd always belonged.

She'd never leave again.

*** *** ***

That's the end. Leave me feedback.
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Soundtrack:

Song: "Leather and Lace"
Performers: Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
Album: Belladonna

Song: "She's in Love with the Boy"
Performer: Trisha Yearwood
Album: Trisha Yearwood

Song: "Dear Diary"
Performer: Britney Spears
Album: Oops...I Did it Again

Song: "Love is a Battlefield"
Performer: Pat Benatar
Album: Live from the Earth

Song: "Crazy for this Girl"
Performer: Evan and Jaron
Album: Evan and Jaron

Song: "It's Been a While"
Performer: Staind
Album: Break the Cycle