I can still remember how I felt that evening. We had been to the pub. Pete had passed whatever male initiation ceremony Brain and Kurt had seen fit to put him through, and he'd done it with flying colours. I was tipsy and so was Pete, with single malt Scotch and with relief. I had sat in his lap all the way back, never mind the awkwardness, because we were now officially together. Sitting there, snuggling tight into his rumpled shirt, I knew everything was going to be okay. Something in me that had been broken for ever so long was getting pieced back together.
I was so happy I forgot the most basic rule. I forgot to watch his back. When he said he wanted to stay outside, have a cigarette, I didn't stay with him to see he was alright. I didn't stay, although I knew he'd been drinking and he was unfamiliar with the terrain. I was cold, so I kissed him and left him there and went up to the house with the others. For a few minutes I chatted with Meggan in the living room and checked with Rahne to see she hadn't been disturbed by the night's events. After they'd gone to their rooms, I had one last drink in front of the fire and then I went upstairs too. I brushed my teeth, slipped out of my clothes, poured Pete a drink and waited for him in bed. While I did this, Peter Rasputin stepped out of the sea and killed my lover with a single blow.
It was Meggan, empath and sympath, who realised what had happened. She and Brian hit the big alert button and flew out the window to take down the intruder. Both Kurt and Rahne got there before I did, too, and when I came running they had Peter on the ground and Pete was...just lying there. His head had been smashed down into his chest, killing him instantly. I took him in my arms and his brain leaked out of his skull and dripped down my hands. I tried to push it back in, but it didn't work, and then I blew air into what was left of his nose, but it didn't work either. So I phased him, I didn't want anyone else to touch him, and carried him to the medlab.
Moira had me put him on one of her surgery tables and unphase. She showed me how there was almost nothing left inside his head and that his pupils didn't react to light. His ribcage was crushed, his heart ripped to shreds and his spine was broken in three places. She showed me all this, without a word, because she knew I must see for myself, I must have proof or I wouldn't believe it, and then she told me he was dead.
We washed him together, Moira and I. We washed away all the blood and the grey and white matter that had been Pete, until there was just a body lying there. His head was lodged so firmly inside his chest that I had to phase it out and then fix it with tape to keep it from rolling off the table. I kissed him one last time, on the lips, and stepped back. By then it was morning. I went on the intercom and told Excalibur to get down to the medlab. We had a decision to make and an execution to execute.
Pete was with me during that meeting, in every sense. I had refused to let Moira zip him or even put a sheet over him. I wanted everyone in Excalibur to see what Peter had done and why he shouldn't get another opportunity. They tried to look away, of course. They didn't have the guts to look at him, or at me, except to offer comfort, which I didn't need. The only thing I needed was justice. I needed to see Peter's dead body beside Pete, if I had to put it there myself.
The rest of Excalibur didn't agree. They wanted to talk about rehabilitation and therapy for Peter and suddenly the issue was whether they should tell the X-Men about Peter or not. I didn't argue with them, I phased instead, to get to Peter and carry out my justice and I was halfway through the floor when Kurt caught me.
He must have panicked. I can't believe he'd have done it if he'd been in his right mind. He 'ported us, with me in a phased state. We ended up on the limestone cliff on Muir. Or most of me did. Just about enough to keep me on the verge of solid, but not enough to squeeze the life out of someone with my bare hands anymore. Well then, I thought, this is it, here I come, Pete. I prepared myself to throw all my molecules to the wind and step out of time. Franklin had stopped me once. He wasn't here now. And Pete wasn't here, would never be here again, but I could be with him.
I stood on the cliff and my sole wish was to die, but my legs wouldn't let me take that last step and the molecules in my body wouldn't disperse any further. The next thing I was aware of was Amanda 'porting me back to the medlab and then into the stasis tank I had been kept in when I was fifteen. I was in there for a long time. The person coming out of the tank wasn't the Kitty they had been used to, but then, all of me hadn't gone into the tank to start with, either.==
An eternity later I was back in my room, in my own bed, with electrodes all over my body to generate a weak atomic forcefield. Logan was there, straddling a chair the wrong way around and watching over me.
"Kill him," I said, like I had said every time I had woken up from unconsciousness or sleep. "Just kill him."
And like Ororo, Kurt and Moira, like anyone who kept watch by my bedside, Logan shook his head, slowly, relentlessly, at my words.
"Peter is in therapy," he said.
"Pete is _dead_," I said. "Kill him. Please."
Logan touched my shoulder, a clumsy caress. My outer molecular layer wavered but stayed solid. The elctrodes attached to my scalp itched, but I couldn't raise my hand. My upper arms obeyed conscious movement, lower arms did not.
"Punkin'," he said, "when the psis are finished with him, he ain't gonna _be_ Piotr Rasputin anymore, he's gonna be Peter Nicholas who never hurt anybody. A painter with a few holes in his memory and a brainlock against violence. Let it go, punkin'."
"Then kill _me_," I begged of him. "Logan, let me die. If you love me, do for me what you did for Mariko. End my pain."
His face changed. Ogun's mask settled over his drawn features, blanking out the animal and the man both. I knew his answer before he shook his head and I turned my head to the wall and spoke no more to him.==
Betsy seemed a little surprised to see me sitting on her doorstep. She had known I was out, of course. Peter was out, also, painting in Paris and having a wonderful time. He hadn't smashed anymore skulls, lately, or the cover-ups had been extremely discreet. I hadn't seen him at all, I had been ordered to stay away from him and to ensure I would, Jean had put in a brainlock. It was alright, I had other things to do first and the brainlock wasn't personalised. Any psi could take it off.
"I didn't know you smoked," she said.
I tapped ash from the cigarette and shrugged. It was the only smell of Pete I could replicate. With a limited phase, I could literally inhale the smoke all the way down to my toes and get a buzz as every nicotinic receptor in my body was stimulated simultaneously.
"I didn't know you had put something in my head," I said. "It was a lousy trick. I was helpless back there."
Betsy had been with me, holding my mind together. I had trusted her and she had rewritten my mind.
"You tried to kill yourself," she remarked. "I wasn't about to let that happen again. You're a driven person, Katherine, a very angry person. From what I've heard lately, you need what I put there."
I didn't know what she had heard. Since I had been released, I had been busy working on a couple of electronic devices. Forge may be the master of his craft, but there's no one who understands computer components like I do.
"What exactly did you put in?"
"A loop. You can't self-destruct. There are a couple of other things you can't do, either, like killing someone in cold blood. And anticipating your questions,yes, it's personalized and no, I won't take it off."
She was very calm. She didn't seem scared even when I slammed her up against the wall and I might have let her go if she hadn't told me she was pregnant. She was pregnant and I wasn't. I would never bear Pete's child or any child, thanks to Peter and Kurt. I looked up. Warren was circling above us now, keeping an eagle-eye on me.
"Really?" I asked her and then I shot Warren out of the sky with the one of my power inhibitor devices.
He fell without a cry. It was Betsy who screamed, who felt his death in a way I never had, because Peter had cheated me of it, he and Kurt, both. I hadn't been there when Pete died, never said goodbye and I had been in a fucking tank the day he was buried. All I had was the memory of his brain in my hands.
The other inhibitor device shielded me from Betsy's psi attack. She used lethal force, and I knew she could fully comprehend my feelings now. When she tried a physical attack, I kicked her in the stomach. She doubled over and fell, trying to protect her unborn child. The child that was even more precious to her, now that it was all she had to remember its father by.
"Will you unlock it?" I said reasonably. "I promise I won't hurt you or your baby if you'll just do as I say."
She shook her head, probably thinking I'd kill her once she had removed the block. She might have been right. We'll never know, because she didn't oblige me. In the end, she did lose the baby, but I left her alive.==
It took a while, not least because Betsy had put out a contract on me, but finally I found a psi who would do what I asked. The psi, Shrine, lifted the restraining order right out of my head with no trouble at all. He installed blocks to withstand any psionic assault. Other adjustments jacked up my nervous system, improved reflexes and speed. Expensive, but I was making big money on my weapons interfaces and I could afford it.
Finding Peter wasn't nearly as difficult as it might have been. Peter Nicholas had his own homepage with thumbnails of mediocre paintings and a studio address. Peter Nicholas was happy to set up a meeting with a wealthy young woman, who might provide inspiration and financial support, and he didn't mind accompanying her to an isolated Swedish island to get to know her better, although he was rather surprised by the considerable defense systems. So were the X-Men, when they came for me.
They didn't come to kill me, even after what I had done to Betsy and Warren and the baby. I honestly believe that is so. They wanted me to see reason, to let Peter go. I suppose they've must have been fighting Magneto for too long, a man who truly did his best not to hurt them even when he fought them. I gave them fair warning, I told them what I could do and that I would. I don't know which part of it they didn't believe.
The final prototype of the device that I had used on Warren took care of all the airborne X-Men. From my penthouse window I watched Ororo plummet into the sea, her hair aflame. Rogue, Sam and Jean followed her, tumbling down helplessly into the waves. My outer perimeter defenses took care of the rest of the first assualt team, crippling them as they had crippled me. Only Logan got as far as to my comm station. He placed himself where I could see him and yelled:
"Punkin', it ain't too late to come home!"
"It's Katherine, now," I told him and then I blew him to hell.
Most of Excalibur was in the second team. I was sorry about Brian and Meggan, I really was, but they would never have forgiven me for Betsy, and Douglock was just a machine anyway. Rahne wasn't there, for which I was grateful. Kurt came last, 'porting right into my computer room, just like he and I had used to do. I don't know what he was thinking; perhaps that he could appeal to me or reason with me. Good old Kurt, deep in denial.
"Katherine," he said, mindful of Logan's mistake. "Don't do this."
I smiled and signed at Shrine to come through the door.
"Kurt, " I said. "This is my telepath Shrine, formerly of Black Air. He's the reason you can't just 'port out of here. And I believe you've already met Peter Rasputin, aka Peter Nicholas, painter and murderer in one."
I yanked at the chain leash, hard, and Peter slithered closer. Shrine came up to me, put his arm around my waist and began to touch me. Peter drooled with happiness. Kurt stared at the three of us with horror and fear. My confidence disturbed him. The way I stood, displaying myself, disturbed him even more.
"C'mon Kurt, " I purred. "It's time you joined our little freak show."==
Shrine says it was almost too easy to condition Peter and Kurt the way I wanted. According to him, they already had strong feelings for me, bordering on the obsessive. The two of them are my dogs now. I feed them from my own plate. When there is need, I discipline them. When there is need, I bring them to my bed and I watch them do it to each other. Sometimes Shrine and I do it and they only get to watch. They don't like that, they whine and whimper through the gags and it takes a lot to them shut up. It's fun. Shrine likes it too, says it reminds him of Scicluna and what they used to do. He's good in bed, inventive, and since he started spending the night I don't dream anymore.
Yet I feel there's something missing. I'm not talking about the body parts Kurt left on the floor in the medlab; anyone can live without an uterus and I do well with only one kidney, although typing would be easier if I had ten fingers. It's something else. Sometimes I think I can almost see what it is, but then I lose it again.