|DISCLAIMER: Any character you recognize is the property of Marvel Comics and is used without permission for entertainment purposes only.
Warning: This story may deal with adult issues, so be forewarned.
Just Lucky, I Guess
Pete's chin jerked twice in emphatic agreement with Logan's words, seizing upon the chance to change the subject. 'Won't do us no damn good at all t' sit here and brood all night. Best thing t' do is get our minds off of it for a while, get some rest, have a beer or two, then come back t'it tomorrow refreshed.'
"It's about bloody time!" His rough voice a little louder than usual, he echoed Logan's earlier sentiments. Leaning down stiffly to pick up his dark suit coat from where it lay in a crumpled mass at his feet, he complained "I don't know about th' rest of you, but I ain't ate all day, an' my stomach's about t' start digestin' my spine if I don't put somethin' in it right soon."
Wrinkling her nose, Kitty slid smoothly off the arm of the sofa to help him don the coat. "What my most articulate love is *trying* to say, Logan, is that he thinks sustenance is an excellent idea."
Shrugging on the jacket, Pete wrapped a lanky arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer to him. Now that the initial nervousness of meeting Kitty's 'folks' and dealing with the sensitive subject matter at hand had passed, he found himself curiously at ease. "Yeah, yeah, I need a friggin' interpreter, now. Just for that, Pryde, I oughta make *you* buy dinner tonight, if I wasn't such a soddin' gentleman an' all..." At Domino's not-so-polite cough, he smoothed the lapels of the rumpled jacket and grinned rakishly at her, doing his best to ease the residual tension in the room. "Yeah, I hear you over there, woman. You've known me long enough t' know what a gallant knight I am, Dom, even if I ain't got a built-in suit of armor like some people I know." Cable chuckled, and struck a chivalrous pose. She punched him in the arm.
Noticing Storm's narrowed gaze at the surreptitious mention of both Nathan and Peter, Kitty ignored their playful teasing, her brow creased in concern at her former mentor's chilly reception of her current love. 'Alright, Ororo, I can tell you're not crazy about him. To be honest, I really didn't expect you to be at first.' Turning her attention to Ororo, Kitty asked in her smoothest, most earnest voice, the one that always seemed to placate the oft-frayed nerves of her former leader and mother-figure. "Ororo- where would you like to go tonight? Any place in particular you know of?"
Storm's expression softened. "To be perfectly honest, Kitten," her eyes darted involuntarily at Domino and Cable, who were standing side by side near the window, trading amiable insults with Pete. Flushing at this subtle indication of Cable's allegiances, she continued "I do not much feel like going out tonight. I had hoped that we- you and I- might have some time alone before the events of tomorrow commence. Perhaps you would join me for a quiet dinner in my suite?"
Kitty paused, feeling torn between her desire to catch up with Ororo and spend time with Pete, Logan and Betsy. Sensing Kitty's distress at having to choose, Pete considered the situation and made a quick decision. "That's a good idea, love," he told her, coal-black lashes lowered to hide the hint of disappointment he couldn't quite keep from his eyes. "I know you've been wantin' t' catch up, so why don't you do that, then th' two of you meet back up with us later, after y've had a chance t' talk? If that's what y' wanna do, of course..."
Logan saw right through Pete's sacrifice, and when Kitty looked at him, her expression pleading, he nodded gruffly. "You go ahead with 'Ro, darlin'. Me an' you'll talk later..." His teeth bared in a feral grin, he laughed "'Sides, it'll give me time t' check out yer beau without you there t' take care of him."
Pete's face paled slightly, but Logan's laughter quelled any fear he might have had. Betsy, lying prone on the couch, only waved a negligent hand, managing a sleepy smile at the younger woman. Kitty sighed.
Oblivious to the watching eyes of the others, she reached up to pull Pete into a tight hug and whispered "You big faker, it's all right. If you want me to go with you, I will. Ororo can join the rest of us, and she and I'll just talk later."
Reassured beyond reason that she chose him over her old friend, Pete shook his head and whispered gruffly, lips brushing past her ear "Nah, it's OK. You go ahead- I know you ain't seen ER in a long time. Just make it up to me later." She could see a hint of a lecherous grin on his thin face before he pulled away, but it was quickly replaced by an affected, overly polite expression as he returned Storm's hard stare.
Grateful that Pete released her from that tough choice, Kitty smiled brilliantly at Storm. "Sure, Ororo. What say," She turned to face the others, glancing at the thin white-gold watch on her left wrist. "What say you call us when you get back?"
Logan stared at Pete for a long moment, then grunted "Sounds good, darlin'. Now that that's settled, I got me a hankerin' for a good, thick steak and a beer- you know anywhere we can find somethin' like that?"
"A beer? In London? You've got to be kidding, Logan, they don't do that sort of thing around here," Domino drawled.
Beside her, Cable chuckled. "I bet if we look real hard, we can find one somewhere. That sounds *real* good to me- anybody else? Betsy?"
From where she was curled on one corner of the couch, still half-asleep from the exertion of the psionic sharing of her vision with the others, Betsy's lashes fluttered open. "I'll defer to Mr. Wisdom on just where," she stretched, drawing the appreciative stares of the men "But I'm ravenously hungry myself. Count me in." Rising, still a bit unsure of her steps, she walked slowly towards the door. "Just let me change clothes and get a quick shower, and I'll meet you all downstairs in a few moments."
When they met downstairs, Kitty having assured Pete that she would most assuredly make it up to him later, the smaller group of five traveled to a nearby restaurant and settled themselves in a discreet corner table. The food was good, the libations flowing, and slowly the filling meal and the comforting atmosphere combined to erase the lingering tension left from both the mission briefing and Betsy's vision and replace it with a warm, relaxed camaraderie that was seriously enhanced when the group moved to a nearby pub.
"...Anyway, Sefton was pukin' ER guts out one mornin'," Pete rambled on, his scotch thickened tongue not wanting to completely cooperate with the commands from his brain "An' got so mad at Wagner- 'Damn man what done this t' me'" His coarse voice lilted in a mockery of Amanda's high-pitched German accent "That she 'ported him right into th' main sittin' room, butt-ass naked. Didn't take 'im but a second t' port back out, but it damn sure gave a new meaning t' th' term blue balls, lemme tell ya."
Logan, guffawing loudly at the image, nevertheless asked with some concern "How's Mandy? How's my god-baby doin'?" His chestnut eyes gleamed- the memory of the afternoon Kurt had called and asked him if he would do the newly-married couple the honor of being godparent to their unborn child would shine in his memory forever, and it was an obligation he had no intentions of taking lightly. He'd consulted Landau, Luckman and Lake that very afternoon, and a trust had been established in the baby's behalf. 'Did it fer th' rest o' my kids,' he smiled, thinking of his sons, Kitty, Jubilee and Amiko. 'Ain't no reason not t' do it fer this one.' Looking at the man who was sharing one of those 'children's' life, he felt a wave of paternal possessiveness, which was promptly squashed. Kitty was a grown woman, and his instincts were telling him she'd made a good decision with this one, rough around the edges as he was. Logan had to laugh at the thought of himself telling anyone that *they* were rough around the edges.
Pete rolled his eyes. "Ah, Sefton's fine, but if you thought she was temperamental *before* she got pregnant, lemme tell y' somethin'- you don't *know* bad until you get a hormonal sorceress pissed off and cryin' in th' middle of the night, mad at th' world. Even th' bloody little flyin' rat's got sense enough to know t' take off when she gets started good."
Betsy tilted her head curiously, and her aristocratic voice, made even crisper by the care she was taking to enunciate clearly through the slightly drunken haze of the several martinis she'd consumed, asked "And how *is* Lockheed?" She asked casually, remembering a conversation she'd had with Meggan a few weeks back about Pete's insistence that the little dragon had spoken to him repeatedly. "How are his conversational skills coming along?"
Pete cut his eyes at her, grumbling into his scotch "Cute, Braddock. You're just about as damn funny as your muscle-bound wanker of a brother."
Betsy raised an arch eyebrow but said nothing- from what she'd gathered from Brian's infrequent mention of Pete, the antipathy between them was mutual. She'd learned a long time ago not to let her brother's rather traditional tastes influence her opinions of people.
Logan shook his head "Waitaminit. 'Heed can't talk." Taking a long final pull of his beer, he sat the heavy glass down on the sturdy table. "Least no more than a grunt or two."
Chucking with the others at Pete's vulgar response, Domino leaned forward, her elbows resting squarely on the table, dark hair spilling around her shoulders. Despite her best efforts to keep herself a bit apart from the conversation, she found herself being more and more drawn into the loose joviality of the evening. All present, save one, were trusted friends and known commodities- Psylocke was the only one of whom she was even slightly unsure. Still, though, the events of the past few days had at least assured her that the woman knew something of what she was going through, and understood what privacy was, at least. Domino sipped the last of her drink and ordered another, stronger one, having decided that she could allow herself the luxury of relaxing around these people.
Watching her tilt her head back in a full-throated laugh at one of Logan's put-downs, Cable couldn't help grinning along with her, though he'd been so absorbed by his own thoughts that he hadn't heard the first word of the joke. 'I haven't seen her laugh like that in so long...' Consciously putting aside all thoughts of what the morrow might bring, he raised his glass and downed it, reaching for another one as well. 'Maybe it's just a self defense mechanism, a necessary release after the strain of what's happened lately, but it feels damn good to relax a little bit, just enjoy an evening out with friends...'
Watching Domino there, beside him, so confident, so strong even after all they'd been through lately, he felt some of the ice that had settled in his chest thaw a bit, and he felt once more the warmth in knowing that whatever happened to them, they'd be there together to share it. Breathing out, thinking of the tension that'd been between them over the last several months, he wondered just how close he'd come to letting that slip away with his inattention and focus on 'Ororo,' he sat up straighter in his seat, realizing what his straying was costing all of them 'Oh, damn. Just what the hell am I gonna do about...'
Domino shifted in her seat, facing him, violet eyes gleaming with happiness, and his thoughts were interrupted. When she leaned forward to reach for the other drink she'd ordered, his vision was drawn to the generous amount of pale skin exposed by her low-cut black top, and he swallowed tightly. 'I'll think of something,' he told himself, then in a strained voice asked the barmaid for another drink himself.
Beside him around the large circular table, Pete glanced at the clock in the corner a bit anxiously. 'Wonder how Kitty's doin'?' he thought, still more than a bit concerned about what she and Storm might be discussing. He'd called her when they moved to the pub, and given her directions, but something in her tone made him think that she wouldn't be joining them, and that worried the hell out of him. His instincts were screaming at him that her old friend Storm didn't like him one bit, and that the woman probably didn't have a problem speaking her mind. 'No tellin' what the woman's sayin' about me,' he worried, then shook his head.
'Idiot, give Kitty some credit an' just ask 'er about it when you get in, an' then if you're still worried, ask Dom about it later,' he decided. 'She might be a little more unbiased than Kitty when it comes t' Storm- or maybe not,' he remembered the tension between the two women during the debriefing. 'There's somethin' goin' on there, but maybe at least Dom'll give me another opinion about her, anyway.' In all actuality, he'd been afraid- hell, convinced- that none of them would approve of him, and had been surprised by the seeming ease of Logan's acceptance.
Domino, staring into her bourbon, an enigmatic smile playing on her lips, was surprised out of her silence by Logan's teasing "Hey, Neena, whatcha doin' over there, tryin' t' look all cool and mysterious- it won't ruin your reputation if y' loosen up and have a good time just this once."
Her eyebrows rose at the challenge, and she laughed when he winked at her. 'Ah, what the hell,' she thought, the liquor and companionship loosening her normal inhibitions. Placing one hand on Nathan's broad thigh for balance, she leaned over him until she was almost face to face with Logan, noticing Cable's sharp intake of breath and smiling to herself.
In a deep, sultry voice she breathed "Oh, I *know* how to have a good time, old man. Don't you worry about that." Tossing her hair back with a satisfied smirk, she sat back down, her body brushing lightly against Cable's massive chest as she did so, a little closer than sheer necessity would demand. Grinning at the hoots and chuckles from the others, it was apparent that Cable's bass laughter was conspiciously absent from their loud amusement. Looking up at him she found him staring at her, his left eye glowing golden, the hunger in his face plain to see even without the tingling need she felt through their link.
Domino looked away quickly, downing another drink, not knowing whether the dangerous warmth she felt at Nathan's reaction to her not so subtle flirting was a good thing or not.
Back at the hotel, Kitty and Ororo were relaxing in the suite as they consumed the relatively good room service fare and reminisced. Picking at her salad, Ororo smiled warmly at Kitty, who was being almost as fastidious in her eating habits as Ororo. 'It seems I have had quite an influence,' Ororo thought, obscurely pleased by something as insignificant as this small habit.
She was having a marvelous time- until now, she and Kitty had just talked over the old days, reminiscing over the many adventures they'd shared, delighting in each other's company. They discussed Amanda's pregnancy, and Meggan and Brian's upcoming nuptials, and other innocent gossip. It was truly good to spend time with her, alone, and she was thrilled that the odious Wisdom had not wanted Kitty to join him in the evening's libations. Kitty had mentioned meeting up with them later, but Wisdom had not called her back and Ororo certainly wasn't going to remind her of it, not when they had so much to discuss.
"And how are things with Excalibur, Kitten?" she began, genuinely curious about the welfare of her old friends on the team.
Kitty had just bit into a mouthful of crisp lettuce, and she chewed it quickly, smiling wryly at the inevitable timing of the question. "Oh, Ororo, it's been crazy," she finally answered, swallowing the last of the food. She met the older woman's affectionate gaze with an apologetic smile "There's really no excuse for my having not seen you all in so long- seems like the only time we ever get together is when someone's sick, or hurt, or a trademarked threat to human existence comes up," Kitty rolled her eyes at that last, then paused "Or there's been a death." She sucked her breath in at that, *definitely* not wanting to get into that with Ororo. The time the X-Men, led by Storm, had tricked the world into thinking they were dead *still* hurt her, after all these years. Tonight was going far too well for that old pain to resurface.
'We've had way too many of them, too,' she thought sadly 'Doug,'Yana, Maddie, Courtney, Allysande, even poor Larry Bodine,' she ran through the list in her mind, not wanting to even consider the friends and teammates who'd just slipped away over the years. 'Rachel, Kylun, Feron, Cerise, Max,' she thought, remembering the Excalibur members who were no longer with their team fondly 'Wonder how you guys are doing, where you're at?'
Ororo closed her eyes at Kitty's mention of those they'd lost, remembering the pain of Illyana's funeral just two years ago, and of the tortured life the girl who lived her life as a demon and died as an angel had led. "I know," her melodic voice was compassionate "How is Peter?"
Kitty's shoulders slumped, and she sighed. "I don't know, Ororo, I truly don't. I'd love to tell you he's fine, and leave it at that, but... as long as I've known him, as much as I thought I knew about him, I don't think I'll ever be able to figure him out."
Ororo curled her legs under her, leaning back into the soft cushions of the couch. "What is wrong?" She tilted her head curiously "I know Peter had some...issues, but I was under the impression that since he had returned to Earth and rejoined your team, he was doing much better. Surely, being so near to you has helped him deal with his feelings about Illyana and Magneto, Mikhail and Callisto..." She suppressed her own twinge of guilt at the last two names.
Kitty shook her head sadly "I wish it was that easy, Ororo. Yeah, we're on the same team, but... it's hard to describe. It's like I've changed, become a different person than I was when we were together, but Peter- Ororo, he's one of my oldest friends, and we've shared so much together, but there's an inherent childishness in him that sometimes pisses me off so much that I can't even stand to be around him." In a dark voice, she continued "I guess you've heard about what happened when he first came back."
Ororo smoothed a fold of her skirt "Tell me about it," she encouraged "Kurt alluded to an incident, but swore he was honor-bound not to reveal what had happened. What did Peter do that was so terrible, Kitty?"
Kitty sighed, her delicate features clouding at the memory of that horrible night. "Peter almost killed Pete, that's what happened." In a tight, angry voice, even after all this time, she muttered "He came back to Muir, looking for me, and found Pete and I outside. He thought- no, he didn't think, that was the problem- that Pete was attacking me, but he waited- he *waited*, Ororo- until I'd gone inside and in a jealous rage he almost killed a man he'd never met, a man who'd never harmed him in any way. "
"I would not go that far," Ororo objected, trying to reconcile this story with her gentle 'little brother'. "Certainly one could argue that by seeing you with another man, Peter felt betrayed, and acted to protect you. Seeing you with someone else after so long must have hurt him deeply."
Kitty pursed her lips angrily. "Well, that wasn't Pete's fault, and it wasn't mine." Her voice rose accusingly "It took me a long time to get over feeling guilty towards Peter for what the Professor had me do to him after Illyana's funeral. But no matter what happened, nothing gave Peter the right to act the way he did that night. Pete almost died, and if he had, I swear," She paused, collecting herself, not liking to even think about that possibility. "I don't know what I would have done." The words rushing out, tumbling over each other in a quick race to be out, she confessed all the pent-up feelings she'd had for so long. No matter how long it had been since they'd seen each other, she always treasured Ororo's counsel.
Ororo sipped her water slowly, musing over Kitty's words and the depth of feeling in them. "You would have survived, Kitty. No matter what happens, that is what we do. We survive." Remembering her own halting relationships as of late, the pain of losing Forge to Raven and the indignity of Cable's apparent defection, her expression hardened. "No man is worth losing one's self."
Kitty stood up, pacing around the room. "I know that, Ororo, I do. It's just, with Peter right there, it's sometimes hard for me to forget what he did to Pete and treat him like any other teammate."
Not liking the way the conversation had turned, Storm implored "Come now, Kitty, it cannot be that bad. You two once loved each other so much. Is everything about the love you shared gone?"
Almost grudgingly, Kitty admitted "There are some times when he acts like the same old Peter, when I'm reminded of what all we've shared and what all he's been through that I forget what a cosmic dork he's been." Hurriedly, she amended "But I'm absolutely certain it'd never work out. Even if it weren't for the fact that now Pete's in the picture- Ororo, you're gonna love Pete, you just need to get to know him better- I'm not the same person who fell in love with Piotr. I mean," she widened her eyes, raising her hands for emphasis "I was *thirteen* years old! I'm not saying I didn't love him- I sure as hell thought I did- but what I have with Pete is an adult love, an equal partnership, not the infatuated hero-worship I had for Peter. I'll never not care for Peter- we've shared too much, been through too much together for that- but I'll never love him the way I love Pete."
Keeping the disdain from her voice, Ororo carefully asked "And what about Mr. Wisdom? I read your letter, Kitten, but I had no idea I'd be meeting him so soon. Why hadn't you told us about him sooner?" There was genuine hurt in her voice.
Kitty raised one shoulder in a half-shrug. "I- well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that he hasn't made much of a first impression on you," she began "I wasn't sure how you'd react."
Ororo nodded carefully, answering honestly "I would not have chosen such a man for you, I will admit."
Kitty chuckled "Me, too. Before I got to know him, I thought he was the biggest jerk I'd ever met. That's not so, though, Ororo, trust me. He's so different, so... honest, so real. He might put on a tough show, but inwardly, he's the biggest sweetheart I've ever met. He's everything I never knew I always wanted."
Ororo met Kitty's lovestruck gaze, and, feeling pain at what she knew she must do, answered her bluntly "He is not what you need, my Kitten."
Kitty's chin jerked up "Excuse me?"
Ororo sighed. "I do not like to have to do this to you, but I see no other way around it. Your Mr. Wisdom is not the man you think he is."
Kitty's paused, puzzled, and very carefully, very calmly told her "I think you'd better explain that, Ororo,"
Before the other woman could reply, Kitty's cellular phone rang. "Hello," she answered in a distracted voice, her brown eyes trained right on Ororo's blue ones, seeking answers for the cold words she'd just heard. Yes, she'd known Ororo might not necessarily be as happy about the match as she was, and to be honest, she'd expected a little prodding about Peter, but in no way had she expected this overt hostility towards Pete.
"Pryde!" Pete's rough voice greeted her through the line "How's th' talk goin', love?"
"Just fine, Pete," she answered, not looking away from Ororo's stoic gaze, hoping the hurt didn't show in her eyes. "What's going on with you?"
"Well," he answered, and she could hear the din of the crowd in the background "We've moved t' the Lions Head Pub right across th' street from th' restaurant over on Wugumsse Street. You an' Storm wanna join us?"
She thought for a moment, then answered "I don't know- we'll think about it. Don't wait for us, though- Ororo and I are finding lots to talk about."
The coolness in her voice slipped just a bit at the obvious disappointment in his "Suit y'rself." A brief pause "You all right, Kitty? Y' sound a little strange..."
She was quick to reassure him. "No, I'm fine, Pete. Listen- call me when you get in." When he'd agreed, and was about hang up, she called "Hey!"
He stopped. "Wot? You gonna meet us after all?"
The smile in her voice was obvious even through the phone. "No, you stupid git. I just love you."
In the corner of the pub they'd just stepped into, watching Domino head directly to a large table that had very conveniently just come open, he grinned "'Course y' do. I'm so bloody charmin' you don't have a choice." Ending the connection, he smiled, then went to join the others at the table.
In the suite, Kitty folded the phone. Putting it away, she looked up at Ororo and asked "Now where were we?"