Any X-type folks mentioned belong to Marvel. No money. Don't sue.
Kai, Candy, Mama Francis, Darius, Three Eyes, etc. etc. etc. are mine. Don't touch without permission. Ever had a fingernail split? Like, down to the root split? Y'know how it sorta curls up, and gets all dark and icky looking, and pretty much dies right there on your finger, and even when it gets to the point that it doesn't hurt anymore you've still got this disgusting, stomach-heave-creating thing on the tip of your finger? Well...I'll be the one to peel that off if you trod on my territory without permission. 'Kay? ;-)
This is...herm. What is it? Well, it's sorta a stand-alone thing that just touches on a few pieces of Kai's past. "Her past?" you say. "Haven't we already seen all about it? Conditioning...Sensei...Lasher...Kincaid... What else is there?"
The past before KI-5. The past involving a mom and a dad. In other words...this is a snippet where -- like it or not -- Kai finds out a bit about life as Kaitlin Francis Harper. :-)
This'd take place right after "Kai: Boredom."
And another dedication: Dan Heaven, step right up! You've made me smile, made me laugh, and made me walk around with a goofy grin plastered over my face for days at a time. Can't thank you enough, Dan.
Comments (always welcome!) toKaylee1109@aol.com. So, um, how's it going? Life good? Are you reading (and more importantly enjoying) my stories and not sending feedback? Shame on you! It's all right, though. Repent now, change your evil ways, send feedback, and all will be forgiven. ;-)
Kai: The Past Be Not Forgotten
Candy comes up to visit me often enough. It's always been a bit odd for me to have good female friends: I intimidate some, scandalize others, and just don't understand so much of what's vitally important to other women. Part of it comes, I'm sure, from not remembering what it was like to be a kid -- a girl -- growing up and being raised with all the things girls are raised with. Dolls. Puppies. Dresses. Giggled conversations about boys behind half-closed bedroom doors.
But different as Candy and I are, somehow I find it easier to relate to her than most of the women I know, X-Men and otherwise. There're no pretensions with her. You take her as you see her; skinny, brown-blonde hair, too-pale. Honest and blunt, yet considerate and generous. A better outlook on life than you'd think a prostitute would have. Yeah, Candy's a good sort, and so hearing feet coming up the stairs didn't surprise me at all.
Until I realized that those feet were moving with a far heavier tread than Candy has, and sounded as if they were wearing some sort of hard-soled boots rather than Candy's Keds or the high-heeled torture numbers she wears when going out for a night's business.
So I did what I usually do when there's an unknown marching his way up to my door -- I grabbed the cute little Cougar Mini 9mm from the bedside stand, checked the mag and the pipe, found both ready, and parked myself by the door with the safety off. Guns aren't my favorite first line of defense, but I won't turn 'em down when given the option. You never know what you're gonna face when you open the door around here. A lot of baddies are cocky enough to come right in the main entrance rather than sneaking.
Or maybe that just has something to do with my choice of companion...
I swear, I've been in the biz the entire life I remember, in some form or other, and I don't have nearly as many old enemies popping up outta the woodwork as he does. I'm pretty sure there's a message there, and I'm pretty sure it's one about women and superiority. Or maybe just me and superiority. I may have to figure it out and tell Logan one day.
A knock. More importantly, a knock I recognized. A signal knock.
From a Three Eyes agent.
And the scent that crept under the door was familiar, too, though only barely. I kept the gun ready as I unlocked it, then opened the door swiftly, bringing the 9mm to bear on a not-startled face with ironic blue eyes and tousled brownish hair.
"You do that every time," he said with a wry half-smile.
"You've only delivered here twice," I answered as I pushed past him to peer down the stairwell. Nothing. Backed up and looked at him again. There was the typical unmarked manila envelope, thicker than usual. He handed it over with a slightly wider smile.
"Direct from the boss again." A look of interest. This guy -- I'd never asked for or been offered his name -- didn't seem to quite have the misplaced awe of me that so many Three Eyes agents did. Maybe that's why Darius used him as our courier. He knows how irritated I get with that. "You get your orders from high up."
"I don't get orders. I get offers." Maybe it sounded arrogant as all get-out, but it was an important distinction for me. Orders were what I took as KI-5. Darius knows that. Knows it well. He wouldn't try to command me. My work for Three Eyes is entirely 'as willing and available.' I'm not an agent anymore, and don't intend to ever be again.
Nope. Now I'm a "hero." If the man wondered why I snickered, he didn't comment.
I took the envelope from him, frowning at it. "You supposed to wait for anything?"
"Just to see that you received it," he answered, smiling and touching a finger to his forehead in a quaint sort of salute. "And you did, so I'm off. Have a good day, 'Ms. Smith.'"
"Thanks." As he turned to leave, I shut the door and regarded the envelope again. Darius usually contacts me by phone when there's something that he wants me on, and that typically goes something like, 'Hello, Kai. Could you meet me for lunch at the restaurant?' Which actually means, 'Hey. Job for you. Head to the local outpost ASAP and wait for instructions.' I decided long ago that the 'please' part was understood.
Sending info by courier like this was a pain, 'cause it usually meant I'd be spending time deciphering one of the codes he used. I sighed and glanced at the door, wondering if perhaps I could find a reason to put off opening this thing and inviting myself into whatever mess he was contacting me about.
But nothing sprang to mind, so it looked as though I was stuck. I scowled, set the safety on the nine and laid it on the breakfast bar, opened the envelope (after a little check to make sure there weren't any "surprises" there for me -- I trust Darius, but didn't know diddly about the courier), then dumped the contents across the counter to take a look.
A look at Francis Harper's gently smiling face, gray hair neatly pinned up and warm brown eyes gleaming.
"What the fuck...?" I breathed, eyes narrowing as they scanned the assorted papers. Pictures of her; young and old. Pages and pages of documentation covering her life. Pictures of her husband, or copies of pictures, rather -- grainy black and white photos, and not many of them. Information, too. I glimpsed a military document in there.
Pictures of her daughter.
Darius, you little shit...
My stomach wrapped tightly into a knot, all on its own like a conscious thing. One of the sheets of paper had a familiar neat scrawl over it. I picked up the note from Darius, tearing my eyes from the rest.
Something told me you wouldn't look into this on your own, so I thought I'd give you a little jumpstart. Here's everything we could find on Kaitlin Francis Harper, her parents, family, and her life and presumed death. Turns out that if we want everything on Francis Harper herself, it'll take a lot more than one manila envelope to carry it. Fascinating woman.
At any rate, you have the information, like it or not. What you decide to do with it is up to you.
She's eighty years old, Kai.
"Sonuvabitch," I hissed around the angry fist in my throat. "Damn you, Darius. I'd've looked into it when I was ready." Why the fuck had I told him about that?
Because he came to see you in decontamination after the Alaska thing. Because he knew just who "Nest" was to you, and he wanted to know how it ended. Because he asked. And like a halfwit inexperienced greenhorn, you told.
Gazing over the scattered papers and photos was like looking through a dangerous portal to the past. There were pictures of me in there. Me as a child. Me as a little girl. Me before KI-5. There was information on the woman who carried me -- or rather, who carried Kaitlin. And the man I wouldn't ever have a chance to know because Francis had been widowed decades ago: Kaitlin's father.
Kaitlin's father, damnit.
My first impulse was to burn the whole thing.
Wonder what'd happen to me if I assassinated the First Commander of Three Eyes...
With another curse I swept everything into a messy pile and started to jam papers back into the envelope. Another photo fell. I grabbed it, trying not to look, trying not to see...
But I glimpsed it before will was firm enough to avert my gaze, and I felt -- against all reason, all rationality, everything I know about myself -- tears sting sharply in my eyes.
He was clean-cut. Handsome, in a somehow fierce and gentle way. Dark hair in a serviceman's buzz. Sharp cheekbones...my cheekbones. My face, made masculine. There was a smile -- excited, giving, happy -- over his lips as he half-knelt next to a little girl who looked... looked so much like him, and...
And a telescope pointed directly at the heavens.
A tear escaped. I couldn't find it in me to brush it away. It tickled its way down my cheek with unfamiliar dampness.
This isn't possible...I've forgotten everything...those memories are lost forever...
Probably so. But apparently some had lingered, even through conditioning. Something to hold on to. Something to grasp, to try to remember who I was, what I'd been...
My father showed me the stars.
"It's real once you acknowledge it, isn't it?" Sensei'd said the first time he'd seen me cry, on a night when all that had happened had just...been too heavy. "Up until then you can smile and ignore everything well enough, but when that moment comes when you let yourself realize just how much it hurts...you can't run away from it anymore."
I hadn't even known what was happening to me, really. Just felt this painful constriction around my throat. A burning in my eyes. Pressure in my chest and tingling at the top of my nose. It'd been so long since I'd cried...
And for the first time in my living memory I'd been hugged. Not the gentle, afraid-she's-gonna-break type of holding, but wiry arms wrapped tight around me, snugging me against his chest, letting me bury my face in his shirt even though the tears soaked damply through the fabric. He'd said in his low voice all those words that mean nothing and everything-- "Let it out...everything's gonna be okay...it's all right..." And he'd smelled of fury and sweat and grief, and I'd realized all at once, for the first time ever, that he really cared about me and that I...
He threw me a party the next day to celebrate the "breakthrough." No one else was told the occasion, of course, but the dojo crowd never needed much of an excuse to have fun. I felt raw and newborn and uncertain, wanting to experience everything but positive everything would turn around and bite me. By the end of the night I'd gathered the courage to finally take up John -- the senior black belt -- on his offer of companionship. I flipped the finger at ten years of being told how I would live, what risks I would take, who I would sleep with. The sex wasn't the best -- I didn't know what I liked, or how to respond when he said the things men say to express appreciation for a partner -- but it was the best, too. Because even though I was using skills I'd been forced to learn as part of the training I underwent, I chose to hop in the sack with him, and every shred of sensation or pleasure was new.
Maybe these weren't the right memories to call up when I was looking at a picture of half my genetic makeup. Maybe I shoulda been thinking of all the times we must've had, or imagining his voice in my ear as he pointed to Sirius and told me how the star had gotten its name, or wondering if he ever yelled, if he ever hit me, if he was a good man or a bad man or just a human man, which is a mix of both and more.
Carefully, I set down the messy stack of papers and photographs. I dimly noticed a faint tremble in my fingers as I brushed one after the other aside. More pictures. Francis. Her husband. Their daughter, tomboyish even then, smiling mischievously at her mother, hair a wild, wind-tossed thing that settled warily around her shoulders. She looked so...innocent.
For the first time in years, I started asking again that utterly futile question-- "Why?"
A birth certificate. Kaitlin Francis Harper, born -- and I couldn't restrain the snort at this -- April 1, 1934. April Fools Day...how fucking appropriate. And 1934. That made me...
Damn, I'm old.
Sixty-two years old this year. Old enough to be a grandma easily, for all that I looked maybe half that. That meant that I'd forgotten more than two-thirds of my life. Conditioning happened in '75, so there were forty-one years before Kincaid and Three Eyes that were just...gone.
The military document...Army...addressed to Francis. The only words I saw -- the ones that jumped up and grabbed me -- were, "...regret to inform you that your husband, Thomas Henry Harper, is missing in action and presumed dead."
Thomas Henry Harper. I picked up the photograph that held Kaitlin and her father and the stars, scrutinizing his face to see if he looked like a Thomas. Or did Francis call him Tom? Or did he go by his middle name, saying, "Hi, I'm Henry," when he met new people? And did he call me -- her -- Kaitlin or Katie or Kit or Kate? And did I -- she -- call him Father, Dad, Daddy, Papa...?
Died in World War II. A hero? A grunt? A traitor? According to this he was declared MIA in '44, which was only a little less than a year before Kaitlin was reported missing.
Missing, and they thought they found her body, and that little Kaitlin was the victim of some heinous crime. But they didn't find her. And she didn't truly die until KI-5 was born. Or did she?
Conditioning happened in '75. Where was I for thirty years?
A small piece of my life accounted for, but more questions raised than answers supplied. Thirty years gone, and all Three Eyes' records on that time period fucked up...at least all records pertaining to me. So far as Darius and I had discovered, I wasn't even mentioned in the files until I was given to Kincaid in '75.
I'm thinking of decades as if they're nothing. When the fuck did that happen?
Thomas' father was Irish and English. His mother was... Well look at that...I was right. She was Sioux; full-blooded. I did have Native American blood, then. A good share of it. And his father passed away twenty-three years ago, and his mother passed away...
That couldn't be right.
His mother -- Kaitlin's grandmother -- was still alive.
I had a mother and a grandmother.
I cannot fucking handle this.
I dropped everything to the coffee table and walked to the kitchen resolutely. There was a bottle of the hard stuff above the fridge, and though it wouldn't really do a damned thing for me there was always the placebo affect...
I poured myself a shot into one of a nice set of tinted-red shot glasses that Jean -- of all people -- had given me. For a moment I just stared into the amber liquid that glinted so invitingly and tried to hide the fact that it was poison. But poison I could handle. Fingers closed around the glass and lifted it. Red tinting made it glimmer like thin blood.
An image came to me -- a memory. The anniversary of Sensei's wife's death...walking into the dojo late at night after I'd just gotten back in town...finding the door locked so that I had to use my key, the lights out, the building cold. I'd known what the night was to him in a distant, distracted way. I hadn't really thought about how it affected him. What he thought about. How he felt.
How he coped.
He'd been blind-stinkin'-drunk. Of course. Not just a few beers; not that night. Bottles were lined up like the trophies won by students lined the main floor. The man I'd thought was invulnerable had raised red-rimmed eyes...stood to greet me...swayed on his feet. Drinking to handle the pain, to numb the ache, to dull the edge.
My stomach gave a lurch. I closed my eyes, then opened them and slowly poured the liquor into the sink.
I wanted Logan there. I wanted him there not for the heat and thrill of sex, not for amusing and lively companionship, not for training or playing or comparing egos. For once I was willing to admit that I just wanted to curl up on the couch with him, snuggle against his chest, and simply be for a while. Feel his arms around me, his warmth against me, and know that he was there, and that I didn't have to figure all this out alone.
But he wasn't there. He was off on one of his "I'll be back when I get back" trips...the ones where he woke up in the morning restless, eyes roving and settling on the window to Outside. And as always when I saw that mood displayed on his lined face, I said very little and watched him get ready, handing him his jacket on the way out the door with a "Have a good time" and a peck on the lips.
Just as well. I knew from experience that these vulnerable thoughts and feelings would fade in a little while, and I'd be relieved that he hadn't seen this uncertainty from me. Not over something like this. I mean, I was being a coward over my damn family. I could call Francis at any time and make an effort to get to know her.
(She's eighty years old, Kai.)
"Yeah?" I muttered. "And I'm sixty-two."
("There are a lot of motherless daughters. You don't have to be one anymore.")
Words she'd said to me; told me in a warm voice when I was nothing to her but a stranger off the street.
"No one's that...good," I told the waiting air. "Something's missing. Something's wrong. Why did she pretend she didn't have a daughter?"
Well, on second thought...would I tell some crazy woman claiming the impossible that my only biological child had been abducted and murdered fifty years earlier?
No. And I wouldn't let her call me 'Mama,' either.
A father to learn about. A living mother. Even a damn grandmother. A life spent being alone was suddenly...crowded.
I shoved everything into the folder, sealed it resolutely, and walked back into the bedroom to bury it beneath rumpled clothing in my dresser. The dangerous documents safely out of the way for the moment, I pulled off my shirt, donned a fresh one, rebrushed and braided my hair, then grabbed keys and started for the door.
The liquor murmured again; tempting.
I called it a few ugly names and walked out, slamming and locking the door behind me as I headed off to wander wherever my feet wanted to take me. Just so long as they took me away from that evidence of a forgotten life.
Away from lost memories. Away from injustices I couldn't even recall to avenge.