In Jason's own words:

Note about Continuity: I realize that after Operation Zero Tolerance, everyone needed time to heal. This funeral takes place after that. Some of these characters still would not be able to make the funeral, but Iím changing that. Iím also assuming that certain people (especially the X-Men) probably had to really stretch to make ends meet to even make it to Muir Island, but that they all managed to do so nonetheless.

Disclaimer: The X-Men, X-Factor, Excalibur, X-Force, Generation X, and assorted X-characters are not mine. Welcome to my world and my version of them.

Chapter Five

Kitty sat at the kitchen table. The bags under her eyes had become more than just a physical appearance, so she finally ventured on a mission to get some coffee (more particularly, caffeine) to wake her up.

She swirled the sugar into her coffee and opened the horror book she was reading by a man named Clive Barker, who was from Liverpool. Dreary place, she thought. Been there before. It was unusual, indeed, that someone who had been dealing with horror and violence and real monsters still enjoyed curling up with a good horror book and scaring the wits out of herself.

Today, however, she just wasnít in the mood. She had a lot of lingering feelings that needed to be dealt with, but she didnít really want to. Peterís death, her own recent rape, Illyanaís return, the memorial service they had today, the new members of Excalibur (Illyana, Blue, Neophyte, and Dr. Cecilia Reyes). She had too much to deal with, and too many emotions to sort out.

"Clive Barker?" a voice called from the doorway. "Someone whoís personally fought off scarier monsters than he could ever make up isnít the type of person Iíd be expecting to read those kind of books, Kitty."

Kitty looked up from the book she was reading and grinned. The voice, like the face, was very familiar, and itís very presence made Kitty feel better. She was now looking at an old, kind friend. "Hello, Jean," Kitty greeted.

"Didnít you have your own personal run-in with a horror monster when you first joined the X-Men?" Jean Grey inquired. "I think I remember hearing about it."

"Yes, I did," Kitty grinned. "I had practically just joined the X-Men, and a NíGari monster attacked the mansion when only I was home. I managed to take care of him."

"Him and half the mansion, if I remember correctly," Jean laughed, sitting next to Kitty at the table. "You donít give yourself enough credit." Kitty smiled weakly and shut her book. "Kitty, part of the reason I decided to visit Excalibur is because I heard of a lot of the things that have been happening lately, and I want to help. Do you want to talk about it? Iím here for you."

Of course, Kitty didnít want to talk about it. How could she? Sheíd lost one of her best friends, another best friend she had lost long ago had come back again, even though it wasnít the same friend she knew. That seemed to be happening a lot. And on top of all that, sheíd been on an emotional roller coaster lately while trying to deal with her treatment at the hands of Graydon Creed. How could she explain this to Jean?

Kitty looked up at Jean as Jean put her hand on Kittyís. As soon as she felt Jeanís comforting hand, saw Jeanís sympathetic and caring face, she broke down crying. Maybe she couldnít tell her what happened, but she could cry about it.

Jean hugged her. "Kitty, Iím sorry. I canít make everything better, but I can help. We all want to. Iím here for you, and so are a lot of other people. Weíre all here for you, Kitty, because we love you."

Kitty just cried until she couldnít cry anymore, and then Jean brought her some tissues. "One day, things will be okay again. I promise you that," Jean swore. "Horrible things have happened to you, and for that, weíre all sorry."

"Thank you, Jean," Kitty replied. "Iíve had a hard time remembering all that latelyÖ"

"Thatís what friends are for, Kitty," Jean grinned. "To help you remember how to live again, how to have hope again, how to love again."

For awhile they just sat there, hugging each other in the kitchen, as the clocks kept ticking and the world kept living.

A shadowy figure sighed at the other doorway.

"Youíre pretty tired, arenít you?" Jean asked. "Why donít you go to bed? Iíll clean up here, okay? You could use some rest, and everything will feel better in the morning."

Kitty nodded and walked to the door. "Thank you, Jean," she said before she walked away.

"Anytime, Kitty," Jean told her.

Jean set off to clean the kitchen up. In the middle of her job, she spoke. "You really love her, donít you?" Jean asked.

The shadowy figure walked into the light. "Ya better believe it," Pete Wisdom answered.

"Well, she needs you now, Pete, more than ever," Jean said.

"I know," he sputtered. "And if you tell me that if I wind up ever hurting her that ya will-"

"Iím not here for warnings, Pete," Jean interrupted him. "I can tell you love her." She turned around and looked at him. "This has been hard for you, hasnít it?"

Pete looked like heíd seen a ghost. "Wot?!"

"All this, itís been hard for you to deal with, hasnít it?" Jean repeated.

"Look, lady, I dunno if ya know or not, but before I was with this lot I was a Black Air agent. Iíve seen many things in my time, I donít need no therapy," Pete said.

"Pete, youíre never gonna get anywhere if you donít open up to people," Jean said. "And Iíve seen many things in my time, too, but Iím still human. So are you."

Pete looked at her inquisitively. She stepped forward and put her hand on his shoulder. "Pete, Iím sorry for what happened to Kitty, but itís not your fault at all. Youíre not responsible," Jean explained.

"I know," Pete managed to say. Suddenly he felt all choked up.

"And Iíve heard about your Black Air days, and I know you have had a horrible past. Believe it or not, I know exactly how you feel. You may have done horrible things in the past, but you canít change that, Pete. Youíre here now, and thatís all that matters," Jean continued.

Pete just looked at her. She hugged him gently, and he pulled away. "Look, Grey, I ainít no X-Man, so donít go huggin me like that," Pete said while he pulled away.

Jean stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, while Pete walked away. "Pete?" she called. He turned around for a moment. "How do you expect to feel any better if you donít let anyone in?"

He walked away.

Jean continued to clean up the kitchen. When she was nearly done, Cecilia Reyes crept quietly into the room. "Who do I have to kill to get some coffee?" Cecilia asked.

"No one at all," Jean smiled. "Iíll make some for you in a jiff. How about you have a seat?"

"Sure, uh, thanks," Cecilia hesitated.

"Cecilia?" Jean began.

"If this is some initiation lecture, I donít want to here it," Cecilia replied.

"No, itís not," Jean said. "I just wanted to ask you, are you sure this is what you want? Youíll be okay here?"

"Iíll be fine, Jean," Cecilia said. "Iíve lived though many hard things in my lifetime."

"Welcome to the club," Jean sighed, as put a cup of coffee on the table in front of Cecilia.

Jean cleaned everything up, and as she was about to walk away, Cecilia paused.

"Why do you do it?" Cecilia asked Jean.

Jean turned around and looked her in the eye, knowing exactly what she meant. "Do what?" Jean checked.

"Take care of everyone else all the time. What about you?" Cecilia wanted to know.

"Cecilia, I-" Jean began. "I-"

"Why do any of you do it? Look what weíve been through lately, look what Excaliburís been through! Why do you do it?"

"I donít know, Cecilia," Jean answered.

"I thought so," Cecilia said.

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