DISCLAIMER: All characters are the property of Marvel Comics.
SPOILERS: This takes place between the end of the Astonishing X-Men story "Gifted" and before the beginning of "Dangerous." I am presuming that a few weeks or possibly months exist between those two stories. Spoilers for "Gifted" and hints about "Dangerous." The story also refers heavily to past X-family events. I admit, though, that I despise the X-stories from around 1994 to 2000, and I ignore them as much as possible.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No one used the Danger Room at two in the morning.
Kitty punched in her Staff Access codes and called up a program, a personal favorite. She waited in the middle of the room, bouncing slightly on her toes. When the micro-sentinels began climbing down the walls she was ready. She dodged and kicked, whirling with athletic precision. After forty minutes the program ended, leaving her kneeling on the floor, sweating and panting.
But still not tired.
It was all too much. The cure. "Hope," it had been called. Peter. Ray. Too much. And being back here, where nothing seemed to be different. She'd left. She'd left to grow, to change. She'd come here so young -- it'd been too hard to change while surrounded by the people who'd seen her every flaw and adolescent failure. Coming back, she'd thought she'd grown enough to hold onto her changes. But everything was falling back into place. All the old faces had come back to haunt her. Rachel. Ororo. Kurt. Peter. And now the White-flipping-Queen was one of the good guys.
Kitty cleaned up and trudged to the staff lounge behind the kitchen. She grabbed the ice cream out of the fridge and flopped on the couch to watch late night videos. At this hour the music video stations actually played music, not reality shows. She stared at the images, not really watching them. Dimly she heard someone pad down the stairs outside the room. A faint whiff of cigar revealed the nocturnal prowler to be Logan. He probably had bad dreams too. Kitty almost called to him but stopped. Let him grumble around with his own demons and leave her alone with hers.
She'd talked with Ray already. They'd spent a night or two together, for old times' sake. There was still love, still passion even. But they weren't teenagers anymore. They were adults with differing responsibilities, on different X-teams with different jobs to do. They'd always be there for each other, Kitty knew. Ray'd rebuilt their psychic link. If one called the other would hear, and come a'runnin'. But that relationship seemed to have grown and changed. The old edges weren't raw. They weren't what kept her up at night.
Peter was a question for another day. God.
No, the one that was bothering her was Emma. Kitty hated Emma's supercilious smirk. Hated her superior comments, her contempt, her faux-British classist crap. Kitty had too many memories of Emma. Every time she saw the White Queen she tensed up, wary and nervous.
Emma had captured Kitty. Tortured her. Mindraped her on more than one occasion. Emma had been involved in destroying Jean Grey and unleashing the Phoenix. Kitty remembered.
Running through the alleys, running for her life. Sweat pouring off of her in terror, the stink and slick rot of garbage in the alleys. Scraped and bleeding, bruised and exhausted. The tears running down her face were fear, fear and rage. . . .
She was tied, bound to the chair, unable to phase. She was so used to escape, the sheer novelty of being trapped was terrifying in and of itself. But she'd be dammed before letting this woman know her fear. But the laughing look in the White Queen's eyes revealed just how futile such vows were. Telepath. Third or fourth best in the world. Kitty felt tears of shame roll down her cheeks as Ms. Frost tasted her fear and laughed.
Kitty jumped up, turning off the t.v. with decisive irritation. This wasn't helping. Leaving her towel on the couch and re-tying her shoes, she slipped out into the night and went for a pre-dawn run around the grounds.
Kitty limped into her room just before sunrise. Great. Enough time to shower and change and get set for another day of counseling and student evaluation. She stood in her shower, groaning slightly as the hot water hit sore muscles. *Kitty* It was Ray, asking for a moment's private conversation.
*Babe. You have to stop this.*
*I don't know what you're talking about,* Kitty thought back with a slight mental smile. Lying to Ray had never been an option. *Unless you mean punishing my insomnia with over-exercise.*
Ray's mental voice grinned back briefly, then turned serious. *I meant this obsessing about Ms. Frost. If you have unfinished business with her just talk to her about it.*
Kitty got dressed slowly out of respect for her aching body. *I -- Ray. It's not . . . Simple. It's not simple. She hurt me.*
Rachel didn't reply, but sent wordless support over their link.
Kitty stopped. Even though Rachel wasn't physically here, Kitty still felt the need to drop her gaze. *She hurt people I care about. She made me afraid, Rache. I was a kid and she made me afraid of things I, . . . of things I couldn't even name. I see her look at me and -- oh Ray . . .*
*Kitty. My Kate.* Rachel's voice sounded firm in Kitty's mind now. Serious. Intent. *I came of age in the camps. I know about some kinds of fear. I think you should talk t-*
*No. Rachel, no. Ray I -- I gotta go. I have to teach.* Kitty broke off the contact with a haste that could only be called fleeing. She was resentfully grateful that Rachel didn't prove a point and force the contact. But the line of thought Rachel had been pursuing stuck with Kitty all day. In between appointments she kept returning to it, unable to drop the subject. Rachel had been a teen in the concentration camps of an alternate world. Ray didn't talk about it much. When she did, she tended to talk about the deaths of her friends and family. She didn't talk too much about what happened to her. But Kitty had seen glimpses in Rachel's mind, back when they were in Magneto's X-Men. Kitty knew Rachel had been raped. She knew that Ray's introduction to sex was through the abuse of power. Rogue, too, now that Kitty was thinking about it. In the old-Genosha prison camps when the X-Men had been captured and depowered. God. Rogue was . . . tense, since Mystique had infiltrated Gambit's team. The last person Kitty wanted to try to talk to was Rogue.
Well. Maybe not the last person. Because here was the absolute last person Kitty wanted to see in this state of mind. Kitty walked into the staff lounge and nearly ran directly into Emma.
"I thought cats were supposed to be graceful, dear. Perhaps you should reconsider your nickname?" Emma smiled slightly and walked out.
Kitty stood fuming for a moment. Then, with deliberate grace, she stalked off to the Danger Room.
Logan was just finishing a class. Under other circumstances Kitty would've found the limping exhaustion of the students amusing. But Kitty couldn't find it in herself to notice. She was . . . Angry. That was it. Upon recognition of the emotion it surged to the fore. Kitty wasn't just angry. She was furious. Who at was a question she was unwilling to examine right now. Right now she needed to hit something. Ideally, someone.
Logan stopped in front of Kitty . He really is a short man, she mused, not quite meeting his eyes. He stared at her for a long level moment, his nostrils flaring slightly. Kitty didn't want to think too much about what he might be picking up with his enhanced senses. He grunted, then waved her in to the Danger Room. Without talking he programmed up two katanas and tossed one to Kitty. He bowed and held it, waiting for her to respond.
Kitty always knew that Logan would hold an unparalleled place in her heart. Mentor, father, bad-ass wayward cousin all rolled into one.
"You're all sweaty or I'd kiss you, Logan." Kitty stepped up and bowed, matching his stance.
"And make me feel either like a Grandpa or a pervert. I'd rather kick your ass, Pryde," he growled. "Now. Break!"
They sparred. And then fought. And somewhere in there Kitty realized Logan was humoring her. The rage flared again. Kitty let it go. She didn't quite remember how it happened, but Logan's blade was out of line and hers was solidly through his lung. He stared at her, exhaling a slight pink foam. Kitty let go of her sword, her hands loose without her will. She stepped back.
"I hope." He grabbed the hilt of her katana. "That you are done -- erghk -- christ almighty, girl, I hope you ain't that pissed at me." With a final grunt he pulled the sword free and sat down with a thump. "Gimme a sec. Jesus, punkin." He looked up at her and lit a cigar.
"Don't you want to wait until you have two lungs before you inhale?" Kitty could hear her voice shake. She couldn't help it and hated that he could tell.
Logan grunted and half-smiled. "Lungs heal quick. Now. Kit. Who is it you want to kill so bad?"
Kitty looked away.
"You know," he continued, " 'cause if it's Petey I can beat the living crap out of him again. I've done it before. Well. I meant to. Events intervened."
"No! I mean, no. It's not Peter. Logan . . ." Kitty looked at him. With great effort of will she met his eyes. "Logan, I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I didn't mean to, oh god, you know." Kitty smiled weakly. "I should suggest a new class to Scott, 'How to Apologize After Skewering Your Fellow X-Man.' We seem to do it enough."
He snorted. "Tell Emma. She's in charge of curriculum redesign." Logan's head snapped up, though Kitty swore she hadn't moved or flinched. "Emma? It's Emma that's bothering you? Christ, Kitty, ya gotta watch your blood pressure. What's she done to you?"
Kitty stood silent long enough for the moment to pass through obvious, through awkward, and into downright painful. Logan broke the tableau and stood. He stretched and fingered his chest. "There. All better." He stood next to Kitty, looking past her at the wall and nothing in particular. "All right. You got history with her. But you don't know what we're gonna have to do next. What kinda trust we're gonna need. I suggest. Punkin. You figure this out." He ground the cigar out on his hand, a move he knew made Kitty uncomfortable, and leaned close. His lips just brushed her ear. "Before you get killing-mad again. 'Cause you won't always be so lucky to kill me."
Kitty lay in her bed, still unable to sleep.
Enough. The damn school had too many telepaths, empaths, heightened senses, and other miscellaneous nosy-buttinsky types. Kitty knew she had to clear the air with Emma, if only to avoid having some student, Blindfold, or the Cuckoos maybe, or Rahne if she was still around, ask her what was going on. In public and embarrassingly. Rahne in particular had absolutely no tact.
Kitty pulled her robe on over her workout clothes. She walked past the rooms of the other X-Men until she reached Scott and Emma's door. Oh. Scott. This would be awkward. Dammit! She turned to go, vowing to talk to Emma first thing in the morning.
*Stop skulking, darling. Or is this stalking?*
"Emma. Get out of my head. Unless we're on a mission, you stay out of my head." Kitty was furious to find she was trembling with tension.
Emma opened her door. She stepped back gracefully, waving Kitty an invitation. "Scott's not here, if that's what you were wondering. Can I help you with . . . something?"
Kitty braced herself and walked into Emma and Scott's bedroom. As she passed by the White Queen, Kitty felt sick and scared all over again. And blindingly furious. The anger was so great she nearly stumbled, but she phased slightly and hoped Emma didn't notice.
Emma closed the door and returned to the bed, where she had obviously been sitting. A glass of wine sat on the side table, a book lay opened on the bed. (A Peace to End all Peace, by David Fromkin. Huh.) The covers were rumpled. The sight made Kitty feel odd. She looked at Emma instead. Frost sat calmly on the bed, rearranging her nightgown, though Kitty wasn't sure that was the right word for the silky scraps of cloth, around her hips. Okay. That felt odd, too. Emma raised one elegant eyebrow and reached for her wine. "Do take your time, Katherine. I wouldn't dream of imposing my schedule on your . . . needs."
Kitty flushed. Emma did that to her all the time. Made her feel small, and petty, and . . . dirty, somehow. She wished Emma wouldn't dress like that. It didn't help. Kitty sat down on a small chair near the dresser. The room smelled of Frost's perfume, of Scott, and of new paint. The paint on the window frames was still fresh from the repair needed after Scott blew Logan through the wall a few days ago. Kitty took a deep breath.
"Emma. Do you remember when we met?"
"The night of the day we met, your goons chased me through the alleys of Chicago. Do you know how old I was when you tried to kidnap me?"
Emma paused. " . . . Thirteen, I believe you said?"
Kitty paused, trembling. "Thirteen. I was younger than your current students. Do you remember when you kidnapped me? When you fogged Doug Ramsey's mind and held me prisoner?"
"Yes." Emma looked slightly discomfited now. Kitty felt a surge of dark glee.
"I was fifteen when you tied me to a chair. Do you remember what you did to me then?"
"Does this scintillating trip down memory lane have a purpose, Miss Pryde?" Emma swallowed a rather large mouthful of wine, gazing at Kitty over the rim.
"Why don't you tell me what you did to me that night. Emma. Tell me what you did."
"I . . . I think I convinced you to join my Hellions." Emma looked uncomfortable now. She dropped her gaze.
"You broke into my mind without my consent. You yanked at my mind, pulled out every angry or private thing I thought and you, you fondled them. You laughed, and you, you teased, and you awarded prizes for things you found particularly amusing or dirty or shameful. You raped me, Emma. You -- you just broke in and you took what you wanted and you didn't care at all what you left!" Kitty was standing now, shaking from head to toe. "Do you know what you left with me? Do you know what you left, with your Hellfire Club and your costumes and your goddam attitude and using everybody, you're using everybody and everything and you make it all about sex and smut and you twist everything! Everything that should be sweet and nice you make it all tawdry and vile! Do you even -- do you care? No, goddamit, I know you don't, you don't care what you left in my head! I lived with -- I didn't know how, what you -- I . . . " Kitty stopped, her voice choking, and she realized in shame that she was crying in front of Emma.
"Oh god I swore I'd never --" Kitty stopped, she could hear how broken her voice sounded, and Emma was a blur now through the tears. "This isn't what -- this wasn't how it was suppo -- You're supposed to cry, dammit! You're supposed to feel like shit you miserable cow -- oh god . . ." Kitty turned blindly and lunged for the door.
"Kitty! Ican'tstopyouifyouphase but please, Kitty, wait a moment."
Kitty stopped, one hand and foot through the door. Waiting.
"You asked me questions, Miss Pryde. Do you want to hear my reply?" Kitty couldn't answer. Emma sighed. "I will take your silence to indicated interest. Please." Kitty heard Emma shift on the bed. "Please come here. I can't talk to four-fifths of you. Besides. If you are sticking out of my door someone will think something odd is occurring. And we wouldn't want anyone to think this was outré, now would we?"
Kitty stepped back into the room and faced Frost. "Emma. If we are going to have this conversation, I need you to do something. If you can. Please stop making those . . . remarks. The innuendo. I don't think I can sit here and listen to that."
Emma gazed levelly at Kitty for a long moment. "I shall do my best. But I cannot be held responsible for what you may hear. Only what I intend. Now please. Come sit down here." She patted the bed next to her, the way one might gesture to a cat. Kitty stared at the bed as if it concealed weapons. Or pillows. Or some other dire fate. She sniffed one last time and gingerly sat down next to Emma.
"I had no intention to kill you," Emma began. "Ever. I wanted what I have always wanted for the young mutants who cross my path. I wanted you in my school, under my care and protection. I believed then that Xavier's was going to be the death of you all. I wasn't wrong on a few accounts. Do you still remember that creature who called himself The Beyonder?"
Kitty nodded. "I think I'm one of the few who does. I remember Magneto invited you over after -- after something happened? What happened?"
Emma tilted her head back against the headboard and sighed. She looked both graceful and suddenly very tired. "The New Mutants all died. Not the first young ones whose death I couldn't prevent. Not the last. Oh, Kitty. No. I never wanted you dead." Emma sounded sincere. And, what -- tired?
Emma's hand rested on the bedcover between her thigh and Kitty's hand. Kitty stared at it, waiting for Emma to continue.
"I did hold you against your will. And I did go in your mind. I thought it best at the time." No, Emma sounded, not tired, resigned -- fatalistic, maybe? Kitty couldn't quite put her finger on it.
Fingers. Emma's hand was so close to Kitty's that Kitty could feel the warmth of Emma's body.
"And now?" Kitty asked softly. "Do you now think it was for the best?"
Kitty became aware, in the long silence that followed, of Emma's body next to hers. She couldn't really fault Scott for his taste. Not on a purely physical level. Emma's eyes were closed, her head tilted back. The long line of her throat looked vulnerable. Her chest rose and fell slightly, and her lips, slightly open, trembled as she breathed. Kitty was struck by the image of her sword through Emma as it had been through Wolverine earlier today, of her blade violating that smooth skin, of blood pouring over the cream-colored silk. For a moment Kitty could see a thin line of bloody foam on Emma's lips. She blinked and the hallucination passed. She didn't feel vindicated. She felt sick. Whatever rage had driven her to this conversation was ebbing, leaving her with, what? Some complicated mess of emotions. Kitty was aware that perhaps she ought to leave. Now. Before . . . something she couldn't identify. Leaving and coming back later, angry and righteous again, seemed smart. Smarter.
"Yes." Emma lifted her head and looked at Kitty. Kitty had gotten tangled in looking at Emma and had to remember the conversation. Oh. Emma reached over and picked up Kitty's hand, gently stroking her thumb over the palm of Kitty's hand. Oh.
"Yes. I thought saving your life was worth violating some obtuse standard of Xavierian ethics. And you must know that if I thought this was my choice again, I would cheerfully violate your little mind to save you. If only to see you live to berate me." Emma's superior smile was slightly crooked. Oh. Kitty had it now. Emma sounded guilty and resolved. Of course it sounded familiar. Kitty heard it from Ray, from Logan, from Jean before she died, from Rogue, from all the reformed villains and inadvertent mass murderers Kitty numbered among her friends. Kitty searched Emma's face, confused. My god. She's only a few years older than me. Why that thought should intrude now Kitty did not know. She shook it off. Emma raised one eyebrow.
"Nothing." Kitty straightened a bit in the bed, pulling away. Emma let go of her hand. Kitty felt -- odd. About that. About that, what, loss? Not holding hands with the White Queen was a loss? Okay. That was confusing.
"Emma. Are you in my mind right now?"
"No." Frost's face set. She looked slightly hurt. "You asked me to stay out mere minutes ago, if you'll recall."
"I know. I just -- never mind." Focus, Kitty. Right. "Okay. You thought you were saving my life. I have serious issues with your methods, but we can argue that later. I know I've done a few things that might not stand up to the light of day." Emma gave a slight nod to Kitty, an obscure villain gesture of respect, Kitty thought with distaste. She wasn't bragging, for goodness' sake, that was supposed to be a confession of poor choices. "What about the rest though," Kitty continued, "what about the things you left?"
Emma looked quizzically at Kitty. "You'll have to be more detailed, darling. I do not know to what you are referring."
Kitty stared at the opposite wall, her face set. "After I broke free of you and left the Hellions, I was starting to date Peter. And when I was with him I . . . I thought things that . . . I mean, things that I didn't understand. I'm from Deerfield, for goodness' sake!" she finished irrelevantly. "I never told him, of course. He wouldn't've understood. Goddammit! I didn't understand!" Kitty pounded her fist briefly into the bed in frustration.
Emma took her hand. "Ah. I think . . . I see." Emma held Kitty's hand and smoothed out her fist. She opened Kitty's fingers and gently traced the line of palm and wrist. "You are talking about sex." She sighed. "You and Scott have more in common than I would have thought." Emma's fingers were warm, soft, their touch a constant light distraction. "He, too, is terribly upset whenever he thinks anything the least bit naughty. He thinks it makes him a bad man." Emma smiled, a slow secret smile. "I keep telling him it actually makes him rather a good man, if you take my meaning." Kitty watched Emma's fingers stroking her arm. Emma's skin looked pale against Kitty's.
Kitty cleared her throat. "Emma. Please don't do that."
"My apologies, Katherine. I shall endeavor to avoid innuendo. Or . . . did you mean I should release your hand?"
"Uh -- I meant the innuendo."
"Then you consent to my hold on your hand?"
Kitty didn't know what to say. This felt very much like a precipice. But she couldn't see what lay ahead in any direction. Emma's fingers stopped their massage of Kitty's hand while Kitty thought about it. Oh. That didn't feel as good. The stopping. Which must mean that the touching, the slow firm stroking of palm and wrist and the soft whisper of fingertips along her arm, that must feel good, better than stopping --
"Yeah. I, I consent to it. The hand thing. Emma."
"Thank you. Katherine."
"Why do you call me that?" Kitty asked.
Emma shrugged, causing distracting things to happen to her (admit it Pryde, it's a negligee) her negligee, which slipped half-open. Emma didn't seem to notice. "It is your name. And it is more dignified than 'Kitty.' Diminutives diminish, in my opinion. And there is, well." Emma looked away, across the room at nothing. "When one has given one's nickname or pet-name to the world, then what is there for one's friends and intimates to call one? What name is there to mark intimacy and trust? No. As long as the world, and the bloody media jackals, call you 'Kitty,' I shall call you something with more weight. A more serious name for a woman who should not be underestimated." Emma shifted at the end of her speech, turning to half-face Kitty in the bed. She placed her arm across the headboard behind Kitty's head, her hand resting now next to Kitty's far shoulder. Kitty felt highly ambivalent about this new proximity.
"Um." Kitty had gotten stuck on a point in Emma's explanation. "So you call me Katherine because it's more intimate?"
"You think we're intimate? Or friends? Or something?"
"We are not now enemies. That is 'something'."
"We're not intimate."
"You are in my bed, both in our night-clothes, at three in the morning, holding my hand. I take it, then, that you are this brazen with complete strangers?"
Kitty jerked back as though Emma had slapped her. She flushed with humiliation and pulled her hand from Emma's. She phased out of the bed and towards the door.
"Bloody hell Katherine, wait, please! Stop! I didn't mean it that way, I'm a fool oh, dammit "
Kitty phased through the door and into the hall, unable to speak. She heard Emma as she left.
"Kitty, please, I am sorry!"
When she got back to her room Kitty lay on top of the covers, unable to sleep. She felt hollow. Unable to cry, unmotivated to move, Kitty lay there until dawn. She got up. She had work to do. Advanced Computational Theory. Students. Another day to face.
Emma stared at her bedroom door.
Not everyone appreciated her wry, observant sense of humor, it seemed. She would have to find some way to approach Kitty about this evening's odd interaction.
Well. There would be no sleep now. In addition to being somewhat aroused by the seductive undertones in the conversation, Emma felt slightly guilty. Perhaps she oughtn't've pushed the physical contact quite so far. Kitty was, Emma knew, at least open to the prospect of sexual encounters with both men and women. But that did not mean Kitty was interested in her. Besides. All these Moral High Ground sorts had terribly ambivalent relationships with their sexuality. Perhaps flirting with one's teammates should be kept to a minimum.
Emma returned to her book, expecting to either be engrossed or lulled to sleep by the dense text. Her mind kept returning to the conversation with Kitty, though. It had seemed, what -- confessional? It was remarkably similar to a number of conversations Emma and Scott had a few months ago. Emma put her book aside. She wasn't the only one flirting. Kitty had been watching Emma's negligee fall open, had been looking at her thighs. And had seemed, what -- angry at Emma for it. Blame the object of attraction for the attraction seemed a bit petty and obvious. But that might be compounding Kitty's misdirected anger. Hmm. It seemed that the Xavier institutional traditions included a deep prudery and suspicion about sex. Emma concluded she might have to do something about that. A Human Sexuality course could be added for the students. Something, anything, to remove the automatic assumption that lust meant moral corruption.
But something else was bothering Emma. Some trace of guilt. She put her book aside and poured another glass of wine. Wrapping a robe around her shoulders, Emma took her wine to the window seat. She perched in it, curled and wrapped in her fur-trimmed shawl. She wished Scott were here, instead of out teaching an overnight survival class. She could ask him what in god's name was wrong with Kitty.
Emma swallowed the wine, hardly tasting it. Guilt. That never sat well. A Frost did not feel guilt, because a Frost was always proved correct by subsequent events -- that was what her father had always said. Emma did not feel bad for trying to save the New Mutants, or Kitty. They had been children. And she always knew, knew that Xavier's methods were going to get them killed. Thank god Charles had gone with his alien mistress and left the school in Eric's hands. He was far more sensible on the subject of alliance and mutual aid.
No. That wasn't it. Emma would cheerfully violate every mind around her to achieve her goals of a lasting peace and safety for her charges. She had too many dead children in her life. Any means would suit to prevent the deaths of more.
Kitty clearly blamed Emma for something else. Something sexual. Hmm. Emma reviewed the bits she'd picked up from the younger woman's leaking shields. It didn't seem to be a problem of lack of desire. No. In fact, Kitty had seemed oddly sensitive to Emma's physical presence. Emma doubted Kitty had noticed, but her breath had quickened when Emma stroked her hand. That didn't make a lot of sense. Emma had noticed that Kitty was usually rather unaffected by physical closeness. Due, Emma was certain, to the fact that physical closeness was entirely optional for Kitty. She could always phase and remove all normal touch. Kitty was accustomed to constant physical freedom. At a cost, to be sure -- maintaining solidity was an effort. But freedom was always at hand.
So why hadn't Kitty phased away from Emma?
Clearly the younger woman was conflicted. Emma was a psychiatrist, a trained therapist, a genius, a world-ranked telepath, and a teacher of teenagers. Surely, she mused, she could determine the source of one young woman's angst. And effect a solution. Emma yawned and stretched, the wine glass empty and the horizon lightening out the window. A solution was called for -- if only to bring a halt to nocturnal visits from Miss Pryde.
Emma remembered to refrain from calling Kitty into her office telepathically. Just. Kitty walked in with "uncomfortable" writ large in her body.
"To what do I owe this visit, Miss Pryde?"
Kitty stood in front of Emma's desk, looking for all the world like a naughty student. Emma took that thought and every thought that might possibly come after it and shoved them in a high-security area of her mind. If Kitty caught a whiff of that she would be furious. She'd certainly think the worst of Emma -- that Emma might actually misuse her power with a student in that way. While Emma was honest enough to admit she was not immune to the temptations presented by teaching young brilliant talent, she had never acted on that temptation. And she trusted that no student of hers had ever noticed anything untoward. No. That sort of inappropriate impulse was best saved for games with the freely consenting adults. Scott, for instance. He certainly had Issues from his student days. And Emma was teaching him that working out one's emotional quirks could be fun, with the right tutor. So to speak.
"I need you to do something. It's about Wing."
"Do continue . . . ?"
"I'm worried about him. Since Ord stripped him of his powers he's been . . . Well, you can guess." Kitty sat in the chair behind her. She looked tired. Worried.
"Actually, I can't guess. Some might be pleased to be free of their mutant curse. Others would be crushed. Others would be left with nothing. How does Wing feel?"
"He's crushed. I'm worried that he might be, might be suicidal. But I can't tell." Kitty frowned at Emma's desk, then looked the telepath in the eyes. "I want you to scan his mind, find out if he's going to kill himself."
Emma trusted that her face gave nothing away, no hint of her conflicting emotions. Glee. Triumph. Worry. Anger. She paused for a moment to adjust the edge of her skirt.
"You want me to violate the privacy of this boy's mind? Read his thoughts without his permission? For his own good?" Emma looked up at Kitty. The expression on Kitty's face wiped away all trace of the humor Emma had felt. Kitty looked . . . Blank. Affectless. Numb.
"Yes." Kitty's voice was soft, so soft. But it did not shake or shirk. "I want you to violate his mind for his own good. It is my decision to do so. I take full responsibility."
Emma leaned back. She wanted Kitty to see things more her way, certainly, but not to break on the shoals of her damnable Xavierian principles. Kitty looked . . . Breaking. She looked like she was breaking.
"You can't take responsibility, darling. It's my power, and I decide." Emma paused. She sent out a tendril of thought. Wing was in the cafeteria. A quick rummage through his surface thoughts gave Emma the answers Kitty needed. "You are half-right, Kitty. Wing has been thinking about suicide, quite a bit. But he is interested in a young woman, Hisako? I think? As long as they are friends I think he will be all right. If they have a falling out, however, I would be cautious. I think he's ceded some of his moral authority to her. He might do whatever she asked of him."
Kitty stood. "Thank you, Emma." Without another word she walked out.
Emma stared at the door after Kitty left. This wasn't what she'd meant at all.
Kitty locked the Danger Room door behind her and walked to the control console. She called up a program and waited. The walls dissolved into the city of Genosha. The sun shone on an crisp fall day, and the street was filled with bustling people. Kitty found herself sitting at a café table, a coffee in hand. She smiled at the sunshine, waiting for the next part.
"I still don't know how you found me here, Kitten," the man said as he sat down. He patted her hand once, fondly.
Kitty smiled back. "Just my native curiosity, Dad. So how have you been?"
"I'm well. Business is dependable. But how are you? You look tired, sweetheart. Have you been taking care of yourself?"
Kitty frowned slightly. That was new. The script for the scenario varied slightly, and the Danger Room had some discretion to improvise, but still . . . She would have to ask Henry if he had updated the software.
But that didn't matter. Because the program always ended the same way. And here they came. Kitty had seen the scant video footage of the Sentinel attack on Genosha. She knew that most of the island was obliterated in massive range attacks, giving nothing to fight against. But Kitty had modified the program to provide her with foes more like the Sentinels that had attacked her and Xian in Chicago.
Kitty grabbed her father and ran.
Forty minutes later the program ended the way it always did. As the ruins of Genosha faded Kitty wiped her father's blood off of her face. Sweating, she walked to the control console and ran the program again.
When the illusions faded this time Kitty was shaking. She staggered to the console and had to make two attempts to reset the parameters. Her hands wouldn't solidify the first time. Tired. She was getting tired. Good. She looked at the override confirm prompt and entered her codes.
The concussive beam that always surprised her came from below this time, a Sentinel hiding in a pile of rubble. She lost her grip on her father's hand, he slipped, he always slipped when she let go, and two Sentinels dove down. One skewered him from above. The other incinerated half his body. She watched. She always made sure to watch his death. She hadn't been there when it had happened, so she made sure to watch every time. But she was tired, and she was hurt, and the concussive beam struck her again. Slightly stunned she failed to dodge the length of rebar the Sentinel threw at her. The rebar went through her side. She screamed and phased, pulling the rebar free. She finished off the last Sentinel and dropped. She was bleeding. Damn.
Kitty staggered into the locker rooms down the hall. Each locker room had a small first aid station just inside the door. Kitty stripped and examined her side. Phasing had taken most of the sting out of the rebar. She was cut, not skewered. Shivering a bit from exhaustion and the pain, Kitty cleaned her side and stepped into the showers.
The water was hot. She turned it up. Hotter. Nothing these days seemed to feel clean enough to her. And, Kitty thought, that was one more thing she blamed on Emma. The thing that she hated most about Emma's presence at the mansion was the doubt. Kitty was on guard all the time, watching, waiting for whatever Emma's plan was to come into play. Watching, waiting for some sign that Emma was in her head, twisting things. The woman was absolute poison. She made everything around her tawdry, soiled. Everything she said dripped venom and innuendo. And it was made worse by the way the other X-Men, the men, reacted. Kitty could see their faces. They always noticed Emma's remarks. Her clothes. The way she walked. The long smooth line of her waist and the way it curved in over the low-cut leather pants she wore. The quiet, assured click of her heels, the soft creak of warm leather. Her voice, low and arch and purring softly. Kitty turned the shower as cold as it would go and phased, letting the icy spray go through her body, washing everything away, as cold and clean as she could stand it.
Kitty walked back to her locker shivering uncontrollably. Her hands shook as she found her clothes. Of course her shirt was ruined. She pulled it on anyway. A new one would have to wait until she got back to her room. She had the shirt over her head when she heard Emma's voice.
Kitty finished dressing, glad that Emma hadn't come in earlier. Kitty absolutely hated being naked around the sculpted perfection of Emma's body. Kitty knew she was attractive enough, athletic and graceful enough, but Emma was stunning. The inevitable comparisons made her feel all of twelve years old.
"Emma." Kitty continued sitting on the bench. If she stood Emma would see she was hurt, and Kitty did not want to show any weakness. Emma sat next to her. Ah. That wasn't really the plan. Hm.
"Kitty. I think it's time you and I resolved this little snit you're in. Regarding me. It's unseemly and it undermines both our authority with the students. Who, rest assured, can sense the tension. Come to my office tomorrow afternoon and we'll discuss it." Emma started to get up. Kitty grabbed her arm.
"No." Emma looked at Kitty with one eyebrow raised, waiting for her to explain. "In the Danger Room," Kitty continued. "Not your office. Neutral ground. The Danger Room."
Emma nodded. "That will be fine. Tomor- what did you do to your side?" Emma interrupted herself, her eyes dropping to the tear in Kitty's shirt. Kitty pulled her arm back against her side.
"Nothing. I'm fine," she replied. Emma moved Kitty's arm out of the way, her touch gentler than Kitty was expecting. She pulled aside the edges of Kitty's shirt.
After a moment Emma tsked. "You did this yourself, and it shows. Sloppy first aid leads to infections. Which our little superhero club can't afford. Come over here." Emma lead Kitty by the hand to the first aid station.
"Take off your shirt," Emma said. Kitty phased through her shirt, letting it drop to the floor. Easier than lifting her arms above her head to get it off. Emma removed the bandage Kitty had applied. She paused. "This needs a stitch or two. Shall I call Henry? Or can you hold still while I do it?"
Kitty looked at Emma, surprised. "You know how to put in stitches?"
Emma snorted. "World's third-greatest living telepath who's not disembodied. I know almost everything. And, before you ask, yes, I have done it before."
Kitty really didn't want to let anyone else in on her Danger Room goof. They would pry, and ask questions, and want to know how it happened. Kitty was actually oddly grateful that Emma was the one here, helping her. The woman was certainly irritating enough but she didn't ask stupid questions. She didn't seem to care, just concerned herself with practical matters. Emma's hands felt good, too. As good, at least, as they could while bandaging a long painful cut. Strong. Cool. Kitty wondered for a flashing moment what Emma's fingers would feel like as diamonds. Would they be colder? Still as warm as flesh? Strong and hard, certainly. Kitty's breath caught for just a moment, she couldn't tell why, something, something in her thoughts and she turned away from it in her mind and pushed whatever it was away and there was nothing else to think about and she flushed all the way to the tops of her ears, she just knew it and oh god she was standing less than a foot away from a telepath and now Emma knew something and oh god--
"Well? Shall I get Henry or not?" Emma's voice jerked Kitty out of her panicked reverie.
"uh. Mm. You can do it. Please. Thank you." Kitty sat on the stool facing away from Emma. She knew she was still flushed, but didn't know why. This felt very odd. Oh god, it felt safe. Safe? That was asinine. Completely ridiculous. Emma was not safe. She was untrustworthy and dangerous and a scheming cow. Her hands were soft and gentle, though, and when the needle went in Emma blocked the pain for Kitty telepathically and she put her free hand on Kitty's stomach to hold her still and Emma's breath was warm on Kitty's side as she leaned forward to see, warm breath ghosting across Kitty's breast and -- .
That did it. The penny finally dropped.
Oh god. That's impossible. Kitty got it. She was attracted to Emma. Extremely physically attracted to Emma. Kitty swallowed hard and tightened all her mental shields, employing every trick Xavier and Rachel had ever taught her.
Emma finished the stitches and rebandaged Kitty's side. She didn't do a single inappropriate thing and Kitty was mortified to recognize, now, that she was a little disappointed at that. When Emma finished she turned to go without comment.
"Tomorrow, then, in the Danger Room. And we shall clear the air," Emma called over her shoulder. After she left, Kitty pounded her head briefly on the wall. This was going to suck. Oh dear.
Kitty found Logan watching t.v. with a six-pack next to him on the couch. She moved the beer and sat next to him. He didn't look at her until she opened a can and started drinking. He finished his can and turned off the t.v., standing. "Let's walk," he said.
Kitty grabbed her can and the six-pack and followed him.
They walked the grounds, occasionally running into a student patrolling the perimeter. Logan reappropriated his dwindling six-pack and drank a couple more. Kitty finished her one beer about the time Logan finished the last can. They stopped near the soccer fields and sat.
"I think I hate her, Logan," Kitty began without explanation, "and I am attracted to her. Insane, but there it is. I watch her all the time and I can't tell if I'm suspicious of her motives or if I'm watching her butt through her skirt. It's crazy-making."
Logan grunted assent.
"You know what it's like," Kitty continued slowly, "wanting something you can't have. Something really bad for you. I thought you might, have advice. Or something?"
Logan lit a cigar. Kitty glared at him and moved to his other side, upwind. He shrugged apologetically.
"It looks like you already made up your mind, Kitty," Logan said.
"No, I haven't, that's why I'm talking to you," Kitty replied with exasperation.
Logan smiled. "No," he said, "you're talking to me because I have the kind of attitude you're looking for. You're not asking Kurt, or Rogue, or Hank. Or anybody in this building with restraint and self-denial. You're asking me. And you know what I'm gonna say. I'm gonna say do what you need to do until the lady tells you no." He reached out without looking and patted Kitty in mock consolation on the shoulder. "And if this lady says no I imagine you'll get the message just fine. Those diamond fists are pretty hard. And she can punch."
Kitty glared at him. "Maybe I'm asking you first, and I'll get everyone else's opinion later, huh?"
Logan chuckled. "No, you won't." He turned to look at her, squinting in the smoke from his cigar. "I may not remember everything in my life, Kitty, but I have been around a long time. And I know how people lie. The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves. And you're in the middle of pulling a classic. You're pretending that you're not deciding what happens next. You're pretending that you aren't acting, aren't doing. That things are happening to you without your input. It's a lie, Kit." He turned away, with what Kitty privately thought of as his sad thinking-of-Jean-expression on his face. "If you want her, you want her. Decide what you want to do. Decide whether you're gonna do it. And accept what comes next, no regrets. But if Emma's not messin' with your head, then this is all yours. It comes from you. You gotta take control and not let your feelings take control of you."
"I wish . . . I wish I knew if Emma was messing with me," Kitty said, pulling at the grass between her feet. "It'd be simpler if she was."
Logan leaned over, close. Way too close. And sniffed her. A lot. Kitty had enough and shoved his head away. "Hey! Not!"
Logan grinned. "I don't think she's in your head, Kitty. I think what you're feeling is all you. And I wouldn't, if I were you, stand too close to Rahne in her wolf-form if you want to keep secrets."
Kitty blushed and mock-slugged him. "That's just . . . Logan, geez. Way to make a girl self-conscious. Thanks a lot!"
Logan shrugged. "C'mon. Let's go get lunch."
Emma arrived at the Danger Room slightly late. It was an old habit from her Hellfire Club days. One asserted one's superior status in as many small ways as possible. Everything was status, was power. If you could make powerful people wait then you had more power. Simplicity itself. She walked into the Danger Room to find Kitty waiting.
The younger woman was sitting on the floor meditating. The house lights were up, and Kitty had not called forth any programs. The Danger Room was empty. Without its masks and illusions. Emma was direly certain that this was symbolic. Meaningful. Kitty was making a point. She was meditating to get ready for what came next. Emma wished faintly that she'd taken the time to change her clothes before coming down here. Her own form of meditation and preparation, as it were. Kitty opened her eyes and got up.
"Thank you for coming, Emma," Kitty began. She walked closer and stood right next to the telepath. "I've realized something in the last day. And I know what my problem is now. But I still don't know what to do about it. And I'm," Kitty's voice faltered slightly and Emma noticed now how scared she looked. No, not scared. Nervous. Damning all Xavierian scruples, Emma refrained from attempting to read Kitty's mind. She'd say her intentions or she wouldn't. Emma just had to wait.
"I'm worried that you will have ideas about what to do. About it. The thing. And I want you to think a moment before you start talking about your ideas. Because I'm not sure I can listen to any. Ideas. You know?"
Emma blinked. That was apparently the end of a thought. Not a useful or cogent thought, but a thought. "Actually, Katherine, I have no idea what you are talking about. Shall we sit down and you can try again?"
"I'm attracted to you and I am scared of you and I don't trust you and you are one of the strongest people I know and I don't know what I want." Kitty never stopped looking into Emma's eyes. She said her part, her voice shaking with adrenaline, and she didn't look away. Oh.
"I . . . I'm flattered, Katherine. Thank you." Emma paused. While she might, under other circumstances, have any number of suggestions regarding what to do next, there was something in the simplicity of the young woman's confession that gave her pause. Kitty wanted something from her. Understanding. Compassion, perhaps. Emma reached out and gently took Kitty's hand. She pretended to not notice that Kitty's breath caught when their hands touched.
"This is . . . not what I was anticipating," Emma began. She took a deep breath. "You understand, of course, that I am in a relationship with Scott. And, while it is not my inclination or my first choice, he has asked that I remain faithful to him. And I said I would try."
Kitty looked at the floor, chewing on her lip, but not before Emma caught the stricken look in Kitty's eyes. "I know," Kitty replied. "I'm not expecting anything. I just wanted you to know." She pulled her hands free and turned toward the door. "I won't let this interfere with our professional relationship."
"Katherine, wait. Please."
Kitty stopped but didn't turn back. Waiting.
"I have told Scott I would be faithful to him. But he and I, we do not always see eye to eye on what that means. I -- I am not brushing you off, or trying to let you down gently, or any other absurd sort of dishonesty usual to these conversations. I am not turning you down, Katherine. If that bizarre declaration was an offer, which I think it was. I am not turning you away, I am simply letting you know of the difficulties. The circumstances that may affect any resolution." Emma stopped as Kitty began to turn towards her. She had to see the younger woman's face before she could continue.
Kitty cleared her throat. "I think it was, is, an offer. I guess. But I don't understand, why, -- I mean, what would you," she said, her voice cracking, "why would you want to say yes?"
A simple question, delivered with as much dignity as Kitty could muster. Not a plea for sympathy or reassurance, ploys which Emma despised as weak. An honest request for information, for understanding. If there were only two sorts of fools Emma could not abide, they would be beggars and those who deceived themselves first. Kitty, it seemed, was neither a beggar nor a liar. Naïve in many ways certainly. But . . . Strong. Emma closed the distance between them and put her arms around Kitty's neck, pulling her closer. That was it, yes. Strong people had always been more interesting.
"Because I do remember you, Katherine. As a child you showed incredible promise. Leadership, intellect, will. All there. You needed only time to grow into who you were going to be. And you have. Moreover you have both the courage of your convictions and the requisite flexibility to be a true leader. You are a fascinating young woman, Katherine. And you dislike me enough to be dangerously interesting. I return your interest. And attraction. Katherine."
Their faces were less than an inch apart now. Emma could feel Kitty's breath on her neck and face. She could smell Kitty's hair. She wasn't sure Kitty understood the part about the attractive nature of danger. But that could be explored another time. Emma leaned in. With great care and slow deliberation she brushed her lips over Kitty's cheek, the skin soft, down to the corner of Kitty's mouth. Emma paused there, just at the edge of Kitty's lips, and ended the caress with a small and careful kiss. She stood back, smiling.
Kitty's eyes were wide now. With a start she resumed breathing, as she had apparently forgotten to do so while Emma kissed her. Oh, this could certainly be enjoyable, if Scott could be convinced to see reason. Emma began walking toward the exit.
"I'll talk to Scott tonight and let you know what we decide, Katherine."
"What!" Kitty yelped. "I mean, of course, I suppose -- oh, god, you're going to tell Scott I'm attracted to you? Scott! Geez, I mean --"
Emma turned at the real nervousness in Kitty's voice. "You don't want me to cheat on him, do you?" she inquired.
"No, of course not. Oh god." Kitty buried her face in her hands momentarily, then looked up. "It's just that Scott is like this stern older brother or something. And he's so, so . . . " Kitty waved her hands about as if the right word was floating in front of her.
"So uptight?" Emma asked. Kitty nodded. "Ah. You see," Emma continued, "Scott is in fact quite uptight. Incredibly judgmental, especially of himself. You should hear some of the things he calls himself when no one is listening, it's almost disturbing. But he's not very judgmental of other people's personal relationships. As long as they do not affect missions or the goals of the mutant community or the safety of the school. He doesn't think that much about what people are doing in their free time. It's kind of sweet, really. He doesn't suspect the worst of people sexually -- he just doesn't think about it that much." Emma smiled at Kitty. "We'll talk about it. I'll find you tomorrow and let you know. There is, though, one thing?"
"What?" Kitty asked.
"Do I have your permission to contact you telepathically? Around the mansion, and in other non-mission circumstances? It's tedious, this having to actually find you in order to speak with you."
The silence as Kitty considered her answer grew. Emma was beginning to wonder if she ought to be getting nervous at how long Kitty was taking to answer, when Kitty did so.
"Yes. You may contact me telepathically." Kitty looked Emma in the eyes. "Please do not make me regret this decision." Emma nodded once and left.
Finally. Emma pushed away the last of her phone messages. The morning's administrative work was done and she could find Kitty. Her conversation last night with Scott had gone smoothly. Scott's prudery was non-judgmental -- for everyone except himself, that is. He still held himself to absurd standards. But Emma was working on that, too. As for Emma's fidelity, well . . . Scot had a streak of a trait Emma had found tiresomely common in men. Namely that he didn't really think of sexual relations between Kitty and Emma as equivalent to anything he did with Emma. Silly, yes. Shortsighted, probably. Was Emma going to take advantage if it? Oh yes. As long as she "kept her relationship with Scott at the forefront", he consented. Treat Kitty well, don't lie to her or lead her on, that was his other request.. Emma didn't have the heart to tell Scott that this really wasn't faithful monogamy he was espousing, more like practical polyfidelity with a strong hierarchy. That was probably a conversation for another day.
Emma stretched, working out the tension in her neck from sitting at the desk too long. She looked up to see a ghostly outline of dark black and orange flame floating in front of her. After a flash of intense panic Emma realized it was not dead-Jean, but Rachel, contacting her.
*May I come in, Emma?*
Rachel opened the office door and walked in. Opened the door without touching it, Emma noticed warily. Rachel was showing off. If she was doing it on purpose she was upset. If she was doing it without noticing then Emma was pretty sure they were going to fight. Again.
*Rachel. What can I do for you?*
Rachel placed her hands on Emma's desk. The wood smoldered slightly under her palms. That was not good.
"I want your word of honor, Emma. That you are not playing with her. She's important to me. And if you hurt her I. Will. Know. And I will have answers from you about your behavior. Sincere answers. Willing or not."
Emma stood to her full height and sneered down her nose at the unruly redhead. All power, no grace.
"Rachel, I have no control over your erstwhile girlfriend's heart. I can assure you that I have no intention to cause deliberate pain to Katherine. But I cannot guarantee that she will not get hurt. Now. If threatening me was the sum of your business here, you are free to leave."
"Emma." Rachel eyes began to glow. Oh no. This was not good. "Emma, I can tell if you are lying. I just have to let the Phoenix Force wash over you. It wants to, you know." Rachel raised her hands off the desk, leaving her prints burned into the top. "It misses you. It tells me," she said, cocking her head, "that it liked the taste of you last time. When Jean wanted the truth from you. Shall we give it another little taste? A lick of Emma, a little bit of your heart? Hmm?"
Emma narrowed her eyes in disdain. A Frost never. Ever. Showed fear. Not ever. "If you can't accept my word, then pray, why did you ask for it? I strongly advise you to refrain from attacking me in my own office. It would certainly get the attention of the rest of the school. And Kitty wouldn't thank you for making her feelings the subject of a public brawl and public gossip." Emma waited. Rachel was levitating now. But the fire left her eyes, and it pulled off her hands like pale water, pulled back into her or wherever the fire went when it wasn't real. Rachel floated gently to the floor and considered Emma.
*Fine. I'll be waiting when you screw it up.*
*Good day, then, Ms. Grey. The door is behind you.*
Kitty stood outside Emma and Scott's bedroom door. Bedroom. God. Why didn't she say they should meet in an office? Or the kitchen? Or maybe the front hall? God. Bedrooms. Things -- unspecified, shadowy things -- could happen in bedrooms. Huh. But what if they didn't happen? What if all this was just her overactive imagination? Oh god, that would be bad too. Worse? Hard to say. Something or nothing, both bad.
"I am in so much trouble," Kitty whispered to herself. Then she knocked.
*Come in, please.*
Kitty walked into Emma's room. It was clean. Clean sheets and the bed made, she couldn't help noticing. Emma was standing near the desk, pouring wine for two. She turned and offered a glass to Kitty. Kitty closed the door behind her and walked across the rug, accepting the glass.
Emma kept hold of the stem for a moment, smiling at Kitty as their hands touched. "I thought this might set your nerves at ease, Katherine. I could hear you coming down the hall. You sound . . . Tense. Are you nervous?"
Kitty took the glass and drank a large swallow of the wine. While it was no doubt an expensive vintage she didn't taste it. "Yes. I'm nervous. I don't know what is happening, or what Scott said, or what to expect from you. I am nervous. And, umm, the wine is lovely. Thank you." She finished her glass. Emma took her hand and held it still while she poured more wine. Kitty's breath caught. This was a lot of touching. And it was on purpose.
"I talked to Scott," Emma began, "and he has no objections to any arrangement you and I might arrive at. So I thought we might chat a bit tonight about what happens next. Get to know each other a bit better. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?"
Kitty gulped her second glass and held it out voluntarily for a refill. Emma poured again, not a small portion, either. Generous. The wine was a dark red, jewel-like in color, Kitty noticed.
Kitty turned abruptly and walked to the bed. She stared at it for a second and sat down, leaning against the headboard. Emma raised an eyebrow at her.
"I suppose," Kitty said, "that I could just tell you what was stuck. In my head, after, you know, when you were convincing me to join the Hellions. It's in my head, you know, when I see you, and I don't think it will go away without talking about it. And I need for you to hear it."
Emma nodded and moved to the other side of the bed, leaning against the footboard in the opposite corner. Both on the bed but as far from each other as they could be. Kitty gulped her third glass of wine and waved her hand at Emma for the bottle.
"Do you think that's a good idea, Katherine?" Emma asked.
"I don't think any of this is a great idea, but I am not going to get drunk and pretend I didn't choose it. Or say you made me. Or that I didn't know what I was doing. Logan'd kick my ass if I pulled that, for starters, and Ray'd know the truth anyway. Nothing like having a telepathic lover to keep lying at a minimum," Kitty trailed off mumbling, still holding out her hand for the bottle. Emma shrugged and handed it over. Kitty poured her fourth glass and drank it off. She could tell her cheeks were flushed. The wine was getting to her, obviously, four glasses, what'd'ya think would happen Pryde, but now she was too hot. She reached up and undid the top two buttons on her shirt, put her head back, and closed her eyes.
"After I was free of you, I would have dreams," Kitty began, her voice low and quiet. "Sort of dreams. Day dreams, maybe. In these dreams I was still your prisoner. Tied to the chair. And you were taunting me, saying the things you did. Except I was smarter, better, had better things to say. Pure wish-fulfillment fantasy stuff. And then . . . In the dream you got angry. And you hit me. Slapped me. And I spat blood on your white outfit, your corset. And that made you angrier. And you . . . Grabbed my head and made me clean it off. Your clothes. And in my dream it feels, it felt terrible and in my dream I was crying and defiant and I tried to get away. And you touched the blood on my face and you kissed me hard and held my head pulled back so I had to kiss you back. And in my dream I hated it. But I would wake up -- well, not upset. If you follow. And then when I was kissing Peter he was so gentle, always so careful with me, I just wanted to scream at him. Because he wouldn't he wouldn't hold me still or grab me. And he never got angry. He's angry enough now, god knows, after what Ord did, but now that he's angry he won't touch me or even really look at me. It's like he can only be near me when he's safe, and that's not really enough, not when I stare out the window and can feel hands holding me in one place, not gentle but rough. I think, I think I'm stuck on it because I can always get away, the whole idea of being trapped is . . . terrifying and awful. Ray's not gentle, you know," Kitty said, as if her segues were making sense, "she forgets what she's doing and with who. Sometimes. Sometimes she gets confused as to time and place and who I am exactly. She's never hurt me that much, and not on purpose. But it's dangerous. She's dangerous. Wild. And she holds me in one place and I can't, can't get away from her. And it feels so scary and so good. Peter will never understand that. God. But, I know you do. I'm not stupid. I'm not even really naïve, when I admit to myself what I know. I walked through all the rooms of the Hellfire Club when I was fifteen. I saw what there was to see in the guest rooms. I know what your costumes refer to and what they play at, and what the playing really means. And I think that's not really what I want. Not really what I mean. I just -- I want sometimes, I want to not get away. From you. From myself. I want it to be real and right there and for there to be no escape."
Kitty stopped talking but didn't dare open her eyes. There it was. That darkness. She heard Emma move. Heard her put the glasses on the bedside table. Felt her move across the bed. Emma crawled over Kitty's legs, up her body. Kitty didn't dare move, only faintly realized she was holding her breath. Emma sat straddling Kitty's hips, one hand to either side of Kitty's head on the headboard.
"Look at me, Katherine," she asked.
Kitty opened her eyes. Oh god. Oh god. Emma was there, inches away. Alive and wild and gorgeous. Her pupils were dark, her mouth open slightly, her cheeks pink. Oh yes. She was one of the most beautifully sexual women Kitty had ever seen in her entire life.
"Kitty. Let me in your mind. I want something from you." Emma leaned forward, ducking her head along the line of Kitty's neck. She kissed Kitty just under the ear, soft. Kitty jumped. Emma kissed her again, lower, a little harder. The touch of teeth. Lower again, following the curve of her neck, over the pulse now, and Kitty could feel her pulse pounding in her neck and Emma opened her mouth and kissed there, kissed it hard and pulled on the skin and bit and set her teeth to the flesh and Kitty couldn't help it, she jumped and pressed her hips up against Emma's weight. Embarrassed at her reaction Kitty pulled away slightly, trying to twist out from under Emma. Emma chuckled and let go. "What was my request?" she breathed into Kitty's ear, and then promptly drove all thought out of Kitty's head by flicking her tongue lightly around the curve of Kitty's ear. Kitty squirmed again. Maybe she was trying to get away. Maybe she was trying to get her legs wrapped around Emma's thigh. Kitty thought even a trained telepath would have one hell of a time figuring out what Kitty's motives and intentions were at this moment.
"Uhh. What?" she asked.
"Let me in your mind."
Emma sat on Kitty's legs now, her weight holding Kitty down but in all the wrong places for relief. Nothing to push against, nothing to squirm against and rock. Just pinned down. Oh, pinned down. Kitty writhed between Emma's legs, pushing up against her. Emma's body curved over Kitty, waiting. Kitty looked at her and saw desire. Mischief. Lust. Emma's eyes shone with want, maybe as much as Kitty thought her own must at this moment. To hell with it. Fine. Caution be dammed.
"All right. Come in. Ray will kill you if you hurt me." Okay, maybe not entirely caution-less.
*I know. Shh.*
Kitty looked in Emma's eyes while the telepath did . . . whatever she was doing. Emma was being gentle, but Kitty could still feel it. Feel her rummaging around. Looking? Doing something? Kitty didn't know. This was it -- this was the moment that Emma would reveal her true colors, her real intentions. If Emma was going to hurt her -- imprison her, or even kill her -- this was going to be the time. Kitty froze, waiting. The longer Emma took the more nervous Kitty became. And not in a sexual tension good way, more like an 'am I going to have to kill someone to live' way.
Emma spoke. "For a while now, you can't phase. Just for a while. It will wear off soon."
Kitty couldn't phase. Can't phase. Kitty couldn't breathe. She tried to phase -- no -- stuck -- And then -- something happened. Something, she wasn't sure quite what, there was a struggle, maybe?, and Kitty was laying flat on the bed with Emma pinning her by the wrists and with her weight, and Emma was panting. Blood was dripping from a cut on Emma's lip and she had a bruise coming up, a real shiner on her eye. She was talking, saying something.
Kitty listened to her.
" . . . that's it, calm down, it's okay, you're safe, no one's going to hurt you, just calm down, relax, that's right. Take a deep breath. Good. Now another. Good." Emma stopped and peered at Kitty. "Katherine. Are you back with us?"
"Wh- What happened?"
"You do not like being unable to phase. At all. You panicked. Rather strongly. Do you feel a little better now?"
"Please let me go." Kitty's voice was shaking. Emma let her go right away and sat up, away on the bed. Kitty pushed up onto her elbows and looked at Emma, puzzled. "Why did you let me go?"
Emma frowned at her. "Because the person who is prone to unpredictable panic-stricken violence is the person who gets what they ask. And," she added, "because we are not, so far as I know, playing the sorts of games in which I refuse to listen to your requests. If we are playing that sort of game you ought tell me ahead of time," Emma finished archly.
"I was sure I thought you wouldn't let me go. That that was sort of the point. Of making me not able to phase."
Emma pursed her lips. "Katherine, you have to ask for that sort of thing. I think you were not paying as much attention to the Hellfire Club games as you imagined you were, to miss that part. That's the most important part if it is, in fact, a game. And not in deadly earnest." Emma paused, considering. "Is that what you want?"
Kitty thought for a moment. "No," she said. "I think . . . I think I just want you to do what you were doing. With the kissing bits. And holding onto me. And," Kitty started to lose her train of thought as Emma crawled back up the bed. Slowly. Purposefully. Smiling. " . . . and I want to see that. Oh. Oh yeah, that look." Kitty reached up and wrapped her arms around Emma and the telepath lay down on top of Kitty, holding her to the bed with her weight.
Emma's hair fell in straight pale sheets on either side of her face as she bent forward, her mouth on Kitty's throat and shoulders, brushing the unbuttoned shirt collar aside. Kitty wrapped her legs around Emma's leg, straddling it, finally, and wrapped her arms around Emma's back to pull her down. Emma pushed Kitty's shirt up in an untidy shove. Her fingers were cool and strong and she traced the edge of the bandage Kitty wore under her shirt, the bandage from the Danger Room injury the day before. Emma pushed Kitty's head to one side and bit her on the neck, oh so gently, so gently, so soft with the teeth almost hurting but failing utterly to hurt. Her hand under Kitty's shirt traced along the underside of her breasts, wrapping along her ribs as Kitty pushed against her touch, trying to make Emma touch her more, more directly, less playing around dammit and more sex.
Emma chuckled and removed her hand from Kitty's stomach. Kitty moaned in disappointment and grabbed at Emma's shirt, pulling it askew in trying to get it off. Emma sat up and pulled the white silk off over her head. Kitty whimpered and reached for Emma's body, trying to touch Emma's breasts. Emma grabbed Kitty's wrists and pushed them back against the pillows above their heads. Kitty froze for a moment and looked at Emma. Emma paused and looked back. She smiled, and the smile looked genuine. Wanting, yes, lustful, yes, but maybe something nice. Maybe something sweet. Kitty relaxed a bit.
"Are you still willing?" Emma asked.
Oh. She would want to hear it said. Kitty closed her eyes to look for her courage. Huh. All those times of defiance. All those fights, battles, life or death situations with the world on the line -- she'd always said no. She'd shouted her no's, whispered them, forced her no's out through teeth clenched in pain. She'd said no in grief and, so many times, in rage. This yes. This tiny little yes was proving as hard as any of the no's. Denying another's will forced on her own was easier than saying aloud what her own will wanted. But look, there it was -- she did want this. Maybe she wouldn't want it again, or maybe she'd regret it later. But for right now she wanted this. And Kitty wasn't one to back down from her own soul. So. Yes.
"Yes. Emma. Please, um, keep seducing me."
"I'm seducing you?" Emma smiled. "I thought you were luring me?"
"I, um, I don't mind what we call it. But I want to have, well, have sex with you and I'd really -- oh hell." Kitty swallowed. "I'd like it if you did it faster, please," she whispered.
Emma grinned. And then she stopped playing and started in earnest on Kitty's body. Emma pulled Kitty's arms down to her sides and kept them pinned there while she lowered her mouth to Kitty's breast. She began at the side with lips, kissing the curve as Kitty writhed. Then teeth, softly nipping at the skin in smaller and smaller circles. Emma paused at Kitty's nipple, breathing on it, not touching.
"Ask me," she murmured.
"Huh?" was Kitty's scintillating reply.
"If you want my mouth on your nipple, my tongue and teeth grazing your skin, hot and war-"
"Emma! Please! Pl- please, please put your mouth on me -- on my nipple. Please?"
Emma flicked her tongue across Kitty's nipple and Kitty yelped. She didn't mean to. It just happened. Emma's lips closed on her nipple and pulled lightly, her tongue flickering across the end, rolling the skin back and forth. Kitty became unmistakably wet. She could feel her pulse between her legs, felt the wetness spreading and felt herself opening up. Kitty groaned and arched her back, pushing her entire body up against Emma.
Emma turned to diamond. Kitty wasn't expecting that and gasped at the new weight. Emma let go of Kitty's hands. She shifted, her mouth still on Kitty's breast and nipple, harder and colder but still flickering tongue and pulling teeth and Kitty was rocking back and forth in need when Emma began unbuttoning Kitty's jeans. Kitty lifted her hips off the bed to help as Emma pushed the jeans down. At the knees Kitty kicked them off entirely. Something had happened to her underwear, probably something connected to that ripping noise she'd heard a moment ago. Emma stopped, again.
"Ask me," Emma said, panting. Damn the woman.
"Yes." It was easier the more you said it, Kitty noticed. Yes was easier each time.
Emma moaned and slid lower on the bed, curved to the side of Kitty's hip, her head resting on Kitty's stomach and her right arm under the younger woman's back, holding her in place. But her left arm. Her left hand, now, that. Her left hand was between Kitty's legs. She pushed Kitty's legs apart with slow force. One finger traced the muscles of Kitty's inner thigh. Those muscles were trembling with tension and need. Kitty didn't care that Emma could tell. She didn't care that Emma could probably smell her, smell lust and wet heat. Emma began stroking between Kitty's legs, rubbing cold hard fingers against Kitty's lips. Emma chuckled.
"Ohh, that's delicious," Emma said. She turned her head to look up at Kitty and brought her fingers up for them both to see. They glistened in the light from the bedside lamp, wet. Emma smiled slowly and, slowly, licked her fingers. "Delicious," she repeated. Still watching Kitty's face Emma put her fingers back down and slowly pressed one between the outer labia and inside. It was easy. So very easy.
Kitty whimpered. "more. please."
Emma slid a second finger inside and began moving them. Sliding her fingers in and out. Fucking Kitty slow and deep. Kitty's eyes were shut tight but she thought Emma was watching her face. She didn't care. As long as Emma kept fucking her she could look all she liked. Kitty reached blindly for Emma, trying to touch or hold her.
"Ow!" Kitty's eyes jerked open at the pain in her fingers. Her finger was bleeding from where she'd cut it on, what? Oh.
Emma had stopped moving, waiting to see what was wrong. Kitty held her bleeding finger up for them both to see. Emma stared for a minute. Kitty gave a twisted little smile. "You need to change back if I'm going to touch your hair, Emma. Razor-thin shards of diamond? With the Ow?"
Emma blinked and changed back to flesh. She looked embarrassed. "It occurs to me," she said, "that I think this particular circumstance has not occurred since my secondary mutation manifested. I . . . I apologize, Kitty."
Kitty smiled. "Katherine. I like it when you call me Katherine. Please," she continued, "please don't stop."
Emma nodded. And slithered further down the bed. She lay between Kitty's legs, her fingers still inside, still strong and sure and fucking her deep. And then Emma kissed her. And then more. Emma's mouth began to work on Kitty's clit, so wet and so very warm and Kitty thought she couldn't stand it oh god Emma's tongue and she was sucking light and slow and fingers fucking her oh god oh god oh g--
Kitty arched and shook in completely unexpected orgasm. Emma had been going down on her for, what, two minutes, and Kitty came so hard she saw dark spots cross her vision. She fell back gasping, sweat trickling down her ribs and her chest heaving. Oh god. Emma pulled her fingers out and crawled back up to lay next to Kitty. Emma was panting as well. Kitty rolled her head to look at Emma, a huge effort on her part, and smiled at what she saw. Emma was turned on. God. She was still gorgeous. Kitty groaned and sat up.
"Where are you going?" Emma asked, a little breathless.
"Where you want me to. Emma." Kitty grinned, looking at the astonishing body next to hers on the bed. "I don't have the faintest idea what you want. But, please, tell me?"
Emma looked at Kitty for a moment. She put her hands between her legs and began fucking herself with one hand, stroking her clit with the other.
"Watch me," Emma said. "Sit there and watch me and touch yourself. So I can see you. Please. I want to see you watching me. Uhhn . . "
Kitty scooted to the end of the bed and sat against it so she could see Emma. See all of Emma. Kitty couldn't really bear to touch herself so soon, but she idly ran her fingers over her own breasts in compliance with Emma's request. It figured that Emma, the ultimate voyeur, would want to be watched. Just like Kitty knew that being trapped was the fear of hers that turned her on. Huh. People were just weird that way. Kitty obviously included.
Emma was panting harder now. She came almost silently, a fact which Kitty thought was rather revealing of Emma's overall sexual experience. Silent.
Kitty crawled up the bed to Emma. She paused. She didn't think, somehow, that Emma was a cuddler. But the still-panting blonde patted the pillow next to her in invitation. Kitty lay down next to her. What on earth was she supposed to do now? Emma turned towards her and broke the growing silence.
"Well, Katherine," Emma said, "this . . . This was something you wanted. Have you been satisfied?"
Kitty smirked in ill-timed post-coital humor. "Are you asking me if I came?"
Emma squinted disapprovingly. "No, I know the answer to that. Don't be flip. Are we better? Resolved in some way?"
Kitty looked away in thought. "I . . .I don't know. I think I feel better about you. You didn't take advantage. And you could have. A lot. But I don't know if I feel better about me. About the things I guess I want." Kitty felt colder and sat up to find her shirt. Emma reached out to stop her, one hand at her arm.
"Do you want to know what I think, Katherine?" Emma asked softly. Kitty nodded. "I think you are an incredibly strong woman, brave for admitting to your fears and desires. I had to work on Scott for months before he had the slightest inkling of his own desires. You are brave. And," Emma continued, smiling, "you are welcome to continue working through your ambivalence in this fashion." Emma half-sat, shirtless and tousled and her pants undone and rumpled. Emma was rumpled. Kitty couldn't help grinning.
"Soooo, this is, what, . . . therapy?" Kitty asked.
"Entirely," Emma replied, grinning back. She sat up and began to look for her clothes. Kitty stood and began searching the floor for her shirt as well. They dressed in a silence that was, if not entirely easy, at least companionable. Not comfortable. But comfortable enough for now.
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