"Thy firmness makes my circle just
And makes me end, where I begun"

   -- John Donne, 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning'

Kitty Pryde sat quietly in the small, colorful room in the boathouse. Half of the X-teams had pitched in to paint and decorate the room, hanging bright mobiles and pictures everywhere. A windchime, courtesy of Storm, tinkled softly in the breeze outside the open window, lending a note of music to the silence, which was otherwise broken only by a baby's tiny yawn.

Rachel Ororo Summers was only a week old, yet her half-open eyes already seemed to recognize the young woman who cradled her, rocking back and forth in the chair that had been Logan's gift to the baby's parents. It was Kitty's first chance to be alone with the baby since Excalibur had arrived hours before; it had taken an Imperial Edict from Jean to clear the boathouse of all of the curious parties who wanted to inspect the mansion's newest resident. Even the most stalwart X-Man had shown a tendancy to get gooey over the tiny redhead.

Kitty cradled the baby a little closer, tucking the blanket in around her feet, and smoothed the fine hair away from the baby's face, the breeze from the window shifting her own long, dark curls into her eyes.


It was hard to imagine that this tiny scrap of humanity would grow up to be the strong, stunning Phoenix. But no, the baby would not grow into Phoenix -- she would have an entirely different life that that other Rachel. The forces of the universe would never chose to intersect on this new little person, would never endow her with the responsibilities of two timelines. Would never steal from her parents, and family, and life.

A surge of resentment hit her suddenly, that this baby should have everything ahead of her, while Ray's life was already determined, while Ray was already gone. But the unreasonable anger faded as quickly as it had come, leaving Kitty ashamed as the baby took a sudden, noisy breath, freeing one hand to wave it in the air.

She breathed something that might have been a sigh or a sob, forced to smile slightly as she took the baby's tiny hand. She had never missed Ray quite so badly as she did now, holding a child who would look like her best friend, but could never be her. The pain was a steady ache in her heart, as it had been since Ray had left so many months before. Oh, she knew what Scott and Jean had told them, that Ray had gone on to found the Askani, that she had lived -- would live -- a long life of service and pride. But it didn't make the loss any easier to accept, and never would.

The baby fussed slightly in her arms, and Kitty drew back from her reverie to find that a tear had splashed down on the baby's cheek. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," she whispered, brushing the moisture away with her free hand. "I know it's not your fault, and I'm not going to do to you what I did to Douglock, expecting you to be Ray. But, oh, how I wish you could be...."

She resumed rocking after a long moment, her finger firmly clenched in the baby's warm fist. Her weight, wrapped in the warm, soft blanket that had been Moira's gift, was a comforting bundle in Kitty's arms, as the baby drifted back to sleep.

Kitty watched her breathe for a long time, hearing the windchimes tinkle softly and the sunlight dance across the walls. Her mind wandered, skipping from thought to memory to dream with no real pattern. The suncatcher Kitty had brought from England cast a rainbow on the far wall; Ray had taken her flying through a rainbow once. She planned idly to show the baby her first rainbow. The gentle motion of the chair felt like the day on the boat, she and Ray and Meggan sunning themselves while the guys argued amiably over the best way to sail; would the baby like the sea as much as Ray had? A cute Bamf doll, Kurt's contribution, grinned from the crib as it did from Kitty's bed, in the room she had shared with Ray; she smiled down at the baby, anticipating the fun they would have when she grew old enough to talk and play and tease.

Slowly, so slowly she barely noticed, the ache in her heart faded, replaced by a growing sense of peace. Ray was gone -- she'd accepted that months before, really -- but the baby was right here, and was going to need a big sister or, at the very least, a friend, to help her through the next eighteen years and beyond. It suddenly seemed a waste of time to rail against the universe for its injustice, when that same universe had gifted them all with this tiny new life, as if to make up for the one it had stolen. Not to replace the other -- never that -- but to offer a new love to comfort the loss.

She smiled again, feeling the tears run slowly down her cheeks at the same time, and hugged the baby more closely against her. The baby stirred and woke again, but still did not cry, blinking up at Kitty with half-open, blue-grey eyes as if to say, 'Well, of course that's why I'm here. Didn't you know it all along?'

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Kitty whispered once more, past the lump in her throat. "I should have known. I won't forget again, promise."

The baby... Rachel looked up at her for another long moment, what seemed to be infinite wisdom shining from her eyes. Abruptly, her face screwed up in a huge yawn that stretched her tiny body with unexpected strength. Then the first wails split the air.

Kitty laughed, sniffing away the last of the tears and standing so that she could jiggle Rachel, a simple baby once more, on her shoulder. It had no effect on the cries; Jean appeared in the doorway after only a moment, anyway.

"I think she wants her mom," Kitty grinned up at the tall redhead.

Jean smiled wryly, holding out her arms. "More like her aunt Kitty doesn't want to change a diaper."

"That, too." Kitty handed Rachel over with only a little reluctance; the baby, realizing quickly she was in the arms of an expert, subsided as Jean laid her on the changing table. Kitty leaned against the wall next to the table to watch.

"So," Jean started casually, without looking up from her daughter, "did you two get to know each other?"

"Oh, yeah," Kitty answered just as casually, making a silly face down at the baby. Rachel cooed and kicked, obstructing Jean's work. "Is she supposed to be doing that already?"

"Not so strongly," Jean said with mixed pride and resignation. "We've got ourselves a prodigy here."

Kitty winced as the diaper came off. "And welcome to her; I'm outta here. See you later, little sis." She bent to press a kiss to Rachel's sweet-smelling cheek, then headed for the door, humming a lullaby under her breath.

Sweet dreams, Rachel....



As far as I know, Baby Rachel still hasn't been born in the Marvel Universe, but I decided to write an 'What If' anyway. I miss grown-up Rachel, who became yet another victim of bad writing. She was a deeply cool character no one knew what to do with, so I can sympathize with Kitty missing her roommate. The basics of the story, natch, came to me while I was holding my baby nephew, Andrew. Babies are very inspirational, ya know? ;)

For Kara.