Unidentified Human Remains & The True Nature of Love: Part 7
by Amanda Sichter
'We didn't know whether it was one of yours,' said the policeman, carefully not looking at the body on the floor. 'It wasn't like the others but it seemed like - it's not dismembered - but we thought it was better if you saw.' He was a Metropolitan policeman and it was clear that he'd never seen anything like the body that lay beside him.
The DCI nodded. 'You did the right thing - if you just want to go and see that man over there,' he pointed at Jenkins, 'and tell him everything.'
'Yes, sir,' said the copper and fled as quickly as he could.
'What do you think?' asked the DCI, looking down at the body. 'The MO is different but - what do you think?'
Kitty and Pete looked at the body. ~So different,~ thought Kitty. ~You never think you'll see anyone like this - except in an anatomy class. He doesn't look like he was ever human.~ She looked up into Pete's questioning eyes and nodded.
He turned to the DCI. 'I agree, sir,' he said. 'I think it's our murderer.'
'Yes, so do I,' said the DCI, his voice quiet. 'I know it dismembered the others, but there's no obvious murder wounds, there's no reason for the murder, we're getting negatives back from the neighbours on whether they saw anything. It's the demon.'
'It's nearly done,' said Kitty, her eyes locked on the body in front of her. 'It's nearly got all its pieces. I checked this morning against what it'd already taken. I didn't think - it would take the skin until the end. And not all off one person.'
Pete grimaced. 'It must be able to use magic to attach the pieces together. I guess it can put them together in any order it wants.' He frowned suddenly. 'I thought it would have taken a brain before this, though.'
It didn't happen as a blinding revelation. Kitty felt, instead, as though everything she had read and seen and researched and heard about demons in the last few weeks suddenly connected up, as if, like a 3-D puzzle, everything had just suddenly come into focus.
'It won't take a brain,' she said, so softly the DCI strained to hear. 'It doesn't need a brain. It's making its own body, a vessel for itself. It doesn't want a human brain. It'll be horrible, Pete. The body of a human with the mind of a demon. It'll revel in blood and death and hate and it'll be invisible inside the body of a human. You won't be able to find it - because it'll be hidden away with the humans - hidden in plain sight. And it will kill and kill and kill.' She shuddered suddenly.
'It'll have to get past us first,' said the DCI. 'I have faith in you, Wisdom. How are you going with finding out more from the PIU files? Anything back yet?'
'Kitty broke the encryption a couple of days ago,' said Pete. 'We haven't got anything back on a Sethanek though. Kitty?' he asked gently.
She looked up at him, suddenly snapped back into focus. 'I've got a program in and running,' she said to the DCI. 'It's a creeper program - it's running through everything there is on file. It's having to go slowly - the security systems are amazing. It's going to be at least a few more days before I have any results.'
'Keep working on it,' said the DCI. 'The more information you can get the better.'
'If you don't mind me asking,' said Kitty. 'How come you're not that worried about what I'm doing? After all, I did just tell you that I'm hacking into the classified database of a government department.' Her voice was puzzled.
The DCI shrugged. 'Did you mention what you were doing on any official reports?' Kitty shook her head. 'Then how do I know how you're getting your information? All I know is that it came from Wisdom.' He looked down at the body again. 'A few more days?' he asked.
Pete shrugged. 'If Kitty says it'll be a few more days, it'll be a few more days. The goddess of computing has never been known to be wrong when it comes to this sort of stuff.'
'Well, I hope you're right,' said the DCI. 'If you can get in and get us at least some information, the magicians'll have a better chance of taking this fucker down.'
'I still can't believe you have magicians on the force,' said Kitty.
The DCI shot her a startled glance. 'We don't,' he said. 'I didn't realise you had that impression. We get contractors in on a job like this - best in the business, too. I've seen them put down demons the size of buses. The face of modern policing, you see - outsource everything.'
'So that's why you pay Wisdom,' said Kitty, and flashed an impish grin. 'I thought it was just for his natural charm and diplomatic skills.'
'Tart,' muttered Pete and then sobered as he looked at the flayed body in front of him. 'Hopefully it won't be much longer before we can find this one and stop him. Seeing it will be a him now.' This victim had been a man.
'Do you need to supervise your program, Miss Pryde?' asked the DCI, unexpectedly.
'What?' Kitty was startled. 'No,' she said. 'Once I've inserted it onto a system it can run itself. It packages up all the results in the end and that's all I see.'
'Well, then,' said the DCI, turning to Wisdom, 'I want you to take a few days off. You and the young lady have been working non-stop on this thing for months now. If you aren't going to get any results for a while I want you to take a break.'
'But,' said Wisdom, astonished. 'But - there'll be more bodies.'
'You don't need to see them all,' said the DCI. 'Look, Wisdom, between you and your young lady, you've nearly managed to solve this case. There isn't anything else we're going to learn from any bodies we see. We know what it needs - we know what it'll take. What we need is what you can get out of that system. And if that's going to be a few more days then I want you to take that time off. I think Miss Pryde needs a break from the bodies,' he added.
Pete's look modulated down from complete surprise to understanding and then acceptance. He'd always known the DCI was good at gauging his staff - that's why he managed to keep the best on his task force. For the first time Wisdom realised exactly how good the DCI was.
'We'll do that,' he said. 'We'll get the information to you as soon as we can.'
'You do that,' said the DCI, looking down at the body again and sighing. 'Now take your young lady and try and forget about this for a few days.'
'Yes, sir,' said Wisdom and, taking Kitty's arm, led her from the murder scene.
* * * * *
Somehow, they had almost managed to forget. Force of will, deliberate choice, relief, fear - it could have been any of those reasons. But somehow they had nearly managed to forget what would await them once Kitty's program had run its course.
Pete had used his contacts at the Yard to track down Dai Thomas for Kitty. He had never met the man himself, the superintendent having retired before he started acting as a consultant for the Yard, but Kitty had insisted that they try and find him. They had eventually tracked him down to a small village in Wales with a name that had more Ps, Gs and Ls in it than either of them considered strictly necessary - or pronounceable. Dai had been delighted to hear from Kitty again, and they had spent a blissful two days with him in his tiny retirement cottage, reminiscing about old times in the case of Kitty, discussing the changes in procedure in the Yard in the case of Pete.
'Never would have been heard of in my day,' said Dai, his Welsh accent stronger now than Kitty had remembered it. 'All this outsourcing nonsense - coppers are paid to do what coppers do. You civilians don't know what you're letting yourself in for.'
'Oh, yes?' said Kitty, arching one eyebrow. 'I seem to recall you getting Excalibur in to help you on more than the odd occasion.' She grinned at Dai's outraged expression and daintily sipped at her beer.
'True,' said Dai, looking sadly into his empty glass. 'Fat lot of good it did us. Next thing we know, you're all heroes and then what do we have to put up with? A run on Spandex. My next-door neighbours' boy threw himself off the roof last week saying he'd seen a flying woman on the news and he knew he could do it. Silly bugger broke his collar-bone.'
'The curse of mutants,' said Kitty, softly, wondering how much hate that particular incident had caused.
'What are you talking about, you daft woman?' asked Dai. 'Boys have been throwing themselves off roofs since we had roofs - they probably threw themselves out of trees before that. Thirty years ago they did it because they wanted to be Superman - and he's just a comic-book character. You really need to get over your prejudices, young Kitty. Some of us have grown up enough to realise that mutants aren't the be-all and end-all of evil in the world - and if I can say that, then so can a lot of other people.'
'I think it's the Spandex,' said Pete suddenly. He grinned at their confused faces. 'I don't think it's being a mutant that's the problem - I think it's all the Spandex the heroes wear. I don't know about you,' he nodded at Dai, 'but all I can think about when I see one is what a wicked case of crotch-itch they're going to have.'
'Pete - you - I,' Kitty began in outrage, but Pete just ploughed on.
'And that's to say nothing about the smell. You should smell 'em, Dai, when they get the gear off. It's worse than being in the dressing room after a hard-fought rugby match.' He grinned outrageously at Kitty, who had been reduced to incoherent sputtering, and then looked down at his empty glass. 'You got any more Scotch?' he asked Dai, plaintively.
'Na,' replied Dai. 'But the pub's open. C'mon, get hold of your spluttering little girlfriend and we'll start doing some real drinking.'
The night degenerated into a blur after that for Kitty. She was plied with drink by Pete and Dai and the villagers that had wandered in. Their association with Dai had meant that neither of them met with "out-of-towner" suspicion and Kitty quickly found herself relaxing. Of course, the alcohol probably had a lot to do with that. She found herself drinking things that were blue and yellow and other amazing, clearly artificial colours - sometimes all in the same glass. She remembered at one point someone had started the "that's not a scar, this is a scar" game and after a while of that she had actually demonstrated her phasing power. Her hand halfway through the bar she had had a terrifying moment of clarity and wondered if she was about to get them killed. What she hadn't expected was the round of applause when she brought out the beer glass she'd been reaching for. After that, Pete had had to demonstrate his hot-knives and light cigarettes for everyone who smoked and then someone else was showing how they could get their tongue to touch their nose and then everything went away again into the blur. It was only when she realised that there was a fart-lighting competition going on that she begged Dai to take her home.
Dai and Pete had to carry her. Dai left them at the front door and Pete carefully carried her up the stairs to her bedroom and left her on the bed. 'Yer okay to get your clothes off?' he asked and she nodded and then wondered why the room was spinning so much. He looked at her for a long moment and eventually pulled off her shoes. 'You're on your own now,' he said and went off to his room across the hall.
She listened carefully for the clicks and then yipped happily to herself. ~He hasn't locked the door,~ she thought, forgetting her own ability to phase. ~I can get into his room. I can. Can hunt him down on his bed and kiss him. Yep that's what I'll do. I'll kiss him. Soon as the room stops spinning.~ She frowned at the thought and fell back on the bed and knew no more.
It was a very sick and very sullen Kitty that Pete, having consumed far less alcohol than she, drove home the next day. She completely refused to speak to him - he wasn't sure whether that was because she was angry at him or because every time she opened her mouth she was violently ill. He kept a tally and discovered that they stopped fourteen times to allow Kitty to lean out of the car and heave her guts up.
'You see,' he said at one point as he patted her back gently, 'if you could learn to hold yer drink properly, like I can, you'd be okay. Course, I got enough sense not to drink anything that has artificial colouring in it.' His only response was a gargle so evil-sounding and so full of harmful intent that he shut up for the rest of the journey.
Kitty had curled up in bed for a few hours after they got back to the flat, but had finally confessed to feeling somewhat better - she thought she could handle a takeaway and a couple of videos. The takeaway had been easy enough to organise - they both had a similar passion for Thai food (although Kitty's half of the order definitely fell on the bland side), but the videos had turned into a huge barney. Eventually Wisdom had dragged her down to the store with him and they had prowled the aisles and shouted at each other over choices, until Wisdom had finally claimed victory by pointing out that the video-library card was in his name. Kitty had sulked the whole way home.
'You've seen this movie too many times,' she pouted as Pete put Monty Python & The Holy Grail into the machine.
'No way, Pryde,' responded Pete. 'This movie's a classic - no matter how many times you've seen it, it's always one time too few.'
They had both ended up laughing the whole way through the movie and shouting out the lines they both knew too well. They had followed up with The Usual Suspects which, surprisingly enough, neither of them had seen. Fifteen minutes into it Pete had scornfully announced that Keyser Soze was Kevin Spacey, 'Anyone can see that - he's the only survivor,' and he and Kitty had pleasantly argued the movie away with Pete finally claiming victory as the credits went up.
By that time, Kitty was curled up on the lounge, her head nestled in Pete's lap, attempting to eat the popcorn he'd rustled up without choking. They stayed there as the video rewound, Pete's hand gently caressing her hair, almost without him thinking about it. Kitty sighed and felt herself relax suddenly, a deep, almost primal lessening of the tensions inside of her.
Softly, her voice low, she began to tell Pete about what happened between her and Piotr.
'When I was thirteen,' she said. 'When I'd been ripped out of my home and taken to a strange place and nearly been killed and rescued by a woman who died shortly after and then turned out not to be dead - I needed him then. I needed what Piotr could give me - he was stoic and solid and he was exactly what a scared, flighty little thirteen-year old needed in a boyfriend. He never pushed me, you know - never tried to take me further than I should have gone. When I was terrified I was going to die and wanted him to make love to me - he didn't. He knew it wouldn't be right - he knew I wasn't ready for it. He was the right person for me, then.'
'I'm not thirteen any more. He wasn't right for me any more. He'd hurt me so badly, Pete, in so many ways. The thing with Caliban and then that interplanetary witch who was his "soul-mate" and the way he treated me after Illyana died, blaming me for being there, and then when he beat you up so badly - like I was his possession - all those things - you think you're over them - but they never really stop hurting. And then I forced you out of my life and we went back to the X-Men and all of a sudden - it was expected.' She didn't look up at Pete, but he knew she was crying - mainly because his trouser leg was developing a sudden damp spot that he definitely was not responsible for.
'You know what it's like,' she said. 'You know when people around you just - expect something to happen. No reason, no rhyme - except it's what they knew before. It's what they're comfortable with. Same reason humans hate mutants so much - because we're different. Well, the X-Men didn't like the fact that Piotr and I had changed. They did everything they could to make sure that we would end up back together. Oh, nothing unsubtle, nothing like what Lockheed had tried at Meggan's wedding,' Pete didn't know about that, but he didn't want to interrupt her narrative, 'but just making it abundantly clear that we should be a couple again. Little things - all the time - pairing us together in Danger Room exercises, making sure we sat next to each other when we went to Harry's, pushing us under the bloody mistletoe at Christmas. And then Kurt and Amanda got married, and he was the only one who didn't push me, and he stopped paying attention - not that I blame him for that - and all of a sudden it was too hard to keep resisting. All of a sudden, I was Piotr's little Katya again - and I don't even really know how it happened.'
'It was hell, Pete,' said Kitty, her voice so soft he could barely hear it. 'He didn't do anything bad - didn't try anything on - didn't suddenly turn into a monster. But we were just - I was just so changed. I didn't need what he was offering me any more. I didn't want what he was. Oh, he was still stoic and stolid and all those things - but I didn't need that any more. I needed someone who responded to me, who let me know what their feelings were, who - gave me feedback, I suppose. All I got from Piotr was "Yes, Katya" or "No, Katya" until I wanted to scream with frustration. I used to get down on my knees and beg him to tell me what he was thinking - what he was feeling - but all I got was the surface - that cold, solid, steel surface that never let me in and never let anything out. Oh, I know all the reasons why he doesn't want to show anything - doesn't want to be vulnerable to be hurt any more - he's been hurt so much - but I thought I deserved something back. I thought - he could trust me with his feelings. But he obviously never thought that way.'
'And there were all these wounds - Caliban, the way he told me about Zsaji, what he did to you, betraying the X-Men - I thought they'd been healed, I really did. But when I was that close to him I realised how much all those things still hurt - and I couldn't get any response out of him. All he would say was that it was in the past now. I used to go to my bedroom and cry for hours - and then come out all shiny and happy because that was what everyone expected. In a house full of telepaths, no-one ever noticed how much I was hurting.' She snorted suddenly. 'It's amazing what you can't see when you don't want to see it. And no-one wanted to see how much I was hurting.'
'Oh, and it was still separate bedrooms. Piotr - doesn't have a high libido, I found out. And, well,' she blushed suddenly, 'well, you know about my libido. Just another source of pure frustration.'
'Logan noticed it eventually - he told me to get out of the relationship - that it was killing me. But he wasn't enough - he couldn't overcome the weight of everyone else's expectations. Just the way they looked at me and him - they used to pity him, Pete. Used to look at him like they were sorry he had to put up with my tantrums and how good it was that he still cared for me when I was treating him so badly. And I just - I couldn't break free of that. I couldn't - be the bad girl. I couldn't be the one who broke his heart again - just like it had been broken so many times before. I was such a fool.' Her voice trailed off, as if she had suddenly run out of words.
'What happened?' asked Pete gently, trying not to break the spell.
Kitty whimpered slightly. 'I did something - unforgivable, Pete. And so did he. We just - it was one time too often and I couldn't take his "Yes Katya" any longer and I told him to call me by my real name and then it just escalated from there - one of those stupid fights that just grow from nothing. And he just stood there silently and took every accusation I threw at him - and I can tell you I brought up everything I could think of that would hurt him - and he didn't give me anything back - he wouldn't even do me the courtesy of a real stand-up, knock-down fight. And then I said - I told him he wouldn't have sex with me because he was too busy with his fantasies of fucking his "little snowflake" and that was why he wouldn't fuck another woman. I just - oh, God, it was a long step too far.' Kitty's tears fell freely now.
'What did he do?' asked Pete.
'He hit me,' said Kitty, simply. 'I was so surprised I didn't even phase. He just slapped me so hard he nearly broke my jaw. That's where I got this from.' She touched the scar on the corner of her top lip. 'Then he stood over me and told me he would never forgive me for what I had said about his darling Illyana and that it was over between us and then he walked away and left me there. I couldn't move, Pete - the pain was so bad I nearly passed out. It was an hour before Logan found me and took me to the medi-lab. I know I had said something - oh, God, what I said - but I can never forgive him for leaving me there, Pete. Never.'
'No,' said Pete, gently caressing her hair. 'No, you shouldn't have to, either. What happened - when the others found out?'
Kitty drew a deep breath. 'It was just the same as when he beat you up, Pete. They forgave him. They always forgive him. Poor Piotr - with his dead sister and his stolen life and his missing brother and his artistic temperament and his flighty, nasty little girlfriend - he was the forgiven one. I was the one who'd gone too far - I was the one who'd done something unforgivable. Only Logan and Kurt and Amanda stood by me and even they saw his side. God, I could see his side, Pete. But it just - I can't forgive him. I can't forgive them. He hit me just like he hit you - and once again we just let him get away with it. I can't, Pete. I can't let him get away with it. He hurt me too much - and this time I can't pretend it was an accident.' Her tears rolled silently down her face and Pete stroked her hair for what seemed like an eternity until she finally relaxed again beneath his hand.
'Kitty?' said Pete, and then louder, 'Kitty?' But he was only greeted by the soft, regular breathing of the deeply asleep.
'My leg's going to sleep,' he whispered, but Kitty didn't wake. When he lifted her head to slide out from under her, though, she whimpered and clutched at his hand. He tried to move her again, but she just clutched at his fingers harder. Sighing, he managed to slowly manoeuvre his legs out from under Kitty and slip a cushion under her head instead - but he couldn't get her to let go of his fingers. Carefully, he slid down until he was tucked in behind her in the position his mum had always called spoons. He reached down to the end of the couch and pulled a blanket up over them. 'See, I told you leaving everything out in a big pile was useful,' he said.
He curved an arm carefully over her and she snuggled down into his embrace. ~She trusts me,~ he thought. ~She never stopped trusting me. She'll sleep in my arms, she'll tell me how she really feels about the X-Men, hell, she came over to England when I asked her just because she trusts me. You don't know what that means to me, Kitty. You're the only one who ever trusted me so completely, you know. Not just with your life - enough people did that - but with your heart. When you left - I thought I'd die. If you'd left because you didn't trust me any more, I would have found a way not to be alive. But you never stopped trusting me - no matter what. You have no idea what a comfort that was in the long, dark nights.~
He leaned forward slightly and kissed the mass of her dark hair where it curved over her neck. 'I love you, Kitty Pryde,' he whispered, and then sleep came and drifted him into the dark.
* * * * *
When he woke in the morning his arms were empty and he frowned, trying to remember why that wasn't how it should be. Then the smell of bacon and eggs wafted past his nose and he remembered.
'Kitty?' he called out and she poked her nose out from the kitchen.
'Morning, sleepy-head,' she said and smiled at him. 'I woke up a while ago, so I thought I'd try and make you one of your disgusting fry-ups. I seem to be doing okay - well, so long as you don't ask any questions about what happened to the first lot of eggs.'
He grinned at her and uncurled from under the blanket. 'I knew I'd get you into the kitchen eventually,' he said and ducked the tea-towel that was flung in his general direction.
'Oops,' said Kitty and vanished again as he heard a sudden, loud sizzle. She swore for a moment out of sight but then yelped triumphantly. 'Got it,' she said. 'Come, your majesty,' she said, grandly. 'Your breakfast awaits.'
She watched him with the same fascination she'd always had for his eating habits - as she said, it was like watching a car-crash - but he did eat it in record time. 'Impressive, Pryde,' he said as he finished off the last bit of bacon. 'Keep this up and I'll have to call you a cook.'
'I don't know if I could keep cooking it,' said Kitty, dubiously. 'I think my cholesterol went up three points just looking at it. And the way you eat it - no wonder your butt's getting big.'
'My bum's getting big!' said Pete in mock outrage. 'I'll have you know, Pryde, I can still wear the suits I bought ten years ago.'
She grinned at him, her face mischievous. 'That explains the smell, then,' she said and then he was chasing her around the kitchen, holding his spoon menacingly before him. Finally he cornered her against the kitchen bench.
'For that I'll have to punish you,' he said, seriously, holding the spoon up.
'Oh, yeah, how?' asked Kitty and smiled up at him.
He looked down at her, wrapped tight in his arms and making no attempt to escape, and suddenly Pete knew he wanted to kiss her more than he wanted anything in the world. The little voice in his head started to speak to him again, telling him what a bad idea it was, but it was so faint and so far away now that he thought he could ignore it.
What he couldn't ignore was the sudden, strident beep that Kitty's computer gave off. 'That'd be your program,' said Pete, gruffly.
'Yeah,' replied Kitty, her voice somewhat breathless.
'You'd better go and get it,' said Pete.
'Yeah,' said Kitty again and then she was phasing through him and over to her computer. But he thought he felt, just for a moment, her solid mouth pressed against his.
She was looking intently through the file by the time he got there. 'Look,' she hissed. 'It's pulled together everything it could find associated with Sethanek. It's not much but it's probably enough. There's the name of the magician who raised him - and a deceased note beside his name. That must be the spell they used to raise him,' she pointed at a word that had an inordinate amounts of Gs and Zs in it. 'That'll give the magicians something to work with. And there's an address.'
'Okay,' said Pete, his gaze firmly fixed on the screen, and reached for the phone next to the computer. He called through to the task force, but Kitty could see he was frustrated with the conversation he was having. 'There's no-one there,' he said, eventually hanging up. 'They've found another body - they're all out at the scene. I've left a message with a bobby but I think we're better off going out to see the DCI. I don't want to ring on the mobile - the press monitor all the numbers now - I don't want them at the address before we get there.'
'Well, I can e-mail everything I've got as well,' said Kitty and at Pete's nod she quickly did.
'Let's go,' said Pete and went to the cupboard to pull out his coat.
'Um, Pete,' said Kitty, suddenly.
'What?' he asked, turning puzzled eyes on her.
'I'd rather tell someone now,' she said. 'You know - in case my e-mail goes astray - in case we get skooshed in the car on the way over. In case your message gets garbled.'
'So who do you want to tell?' asked Pete, frowning at her.
'Logan,' said Kitty and raised her hands as Pete began to protest. 'I know it seems strange, but he knows what I'm doing and I trust him and if worse comes to worst he can be over here in the Blackbird in less than an hour. I just want to tell someone, Pete.'
'Okay, go ahead,' said Pete, clearly still puzzled but not inclined to argue. He just wanted to tell the DCI and get the magicians out as quickly as he could. While Kitty dialled and talked to Logan he printed out the information sitting on the screen.
'If you don't hear from me in two hours, you know what to do,' he heard Kitty say and felt his surprise deepen. He wondered for a fleeting moment what she was playing at and then shook his head. It didn't matter - they had the demon by the balls now and nothing was going to get in Pete's way.
Then Kitty had hung up and turned back to him and he scooped up his coat and they almost ran to the elevators. The funny thing was - neither of them noticed that they were holding hands.
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