"That is soooo romantic."
"It might be if that Reeves bloke knew how to act."
"You have no soul, Pete. No sense of romance. But I guess it's not your fault, you can't help being typically male."
"No romance? Typical? What d'ya call this?"
"That's... um... not romance. That's...um... it's... well, it's not romance."
"It'll do in a pinch."
In the only suitable response, Kitty threw the contents of the half- empty bowl of popcorn on her lap directly at Pete's smug, extremely *male* smile. He jumped away from her and off the couch, trying to keep the kernels from going down his shirt. Kitty watched him shake himself out, trying not to laugh too loudly. It *was* three a.m., after all, and most of the other residents of Muir Island were asleep.
"You'd better help me clean this up, or sure as hell, that bloody MacTaggert witch is going to blame me!" he blustered quietly.
Kitty swallowed a few more giggles, then got down on her hands and knees to start picking up popcorn kernels. *One of those times I'd like to have a really useful mutant power, like telekinesis,* she thought. *Or telepathy. Always assuming there is actually a mind in there.* "Now, if this isn't romantic, I don't know what is," she said out loud. "You take me to the nicest places."
Pete gave her a baleful look from a foot away, before looking around the main living room. "*This* is romantic? I always knew you were a strange bird, Pryde."
"That's the point. And be grateful, Wisdom, would anyone but a 'strange bird' have taken you on? Believe me, you have to be *pretty* strange for that," she shot back.
"Trust me, I'm grateful," he assured her with a slow, sexy grin. "Gimme a min t' finish this up, and I'll show you how grateful..."
He got another handful of popcorn in the face. "Men! You're not listening."
"Yeah I am. Hard not to, since you're yellin'," he grumbled half- heartedly, concentrating on shaking popcorn off his shirt again.
Kitty looked at him, sprawled in the middle of the floor with popcorn in his hair, and gave up. He might be dense, but he *was* kinda cute. And he was all hers. . . at least for now.
The conversation stuck with Pete for the next few days. He freely admitted that he didn't understand any woman, much less Kitty Pryde, and he had the distinct impression he'd been missing something. Something was bothering Kitty, and he was damned if he could figure it out.
So, being Pete, he decided to go nosing around. Unfortunately, being Pete, he was somewhat less than tactful about it.
"What's wrong with you, Pryde?"
"Nothing. What's nothing?"
"If it was nothing, you wouldn't be acting like I killed the cat or something. So tell me what I did!"
"Nothing, Pete. Honestly."
What really drove him crazy was that she had the nerve to look surprised that he'd *noticed* something was wrong.
He steeled himself, drawing on his deepest reserves of courage. There was no way around it, he was going to have to ask for help.
Unfortunately, one of the major disadvantages of living on Muir Island was the decided lack of anyone *other* than Kitty to talk to who didn't prefer to growl at him...
"Meggan, you're a woman...."
"Kinda hard to miss."
"I think Brian has a few times."
"I'm not going to touch that. Look, Meggan, you're a woman; do you know what's bothering Kitty?"
"What has she told you is bothering her?"
"Nothing? What's nothing?"
"Great, deja vu. Meggan..."
"Oops, 'Due South' is coming on. I just love that wolf, he's so cute. I like Canadians. Talk to you later, Pete."
"What's with Kitty?"
"... Nothin'. Why d'ye ask?"
"That's what I figured you'd say. No reason. Thanks."
That was when he started getting desperate.
"Lockheed...mate. Now, I know you and I have had our differences, but, in Kitty's best interests...."
"Forget it! I'm not talking to a ruddy *dragon*!"
"Brian, got a minute?"
"For you? Probably not."
"Give it a break, mate; I... um ...dammit, I need some advice."
Brian didn't look away from the underside of the Midnight Runner; it was a little too hard to keep a straight face. And if he laughed, he was a dead man. "Advice on what?"
"You don't have to sound so ruddy suspicious! It's, ah, about Kitty."
"What'd you do?"
"Nothing! I don't think..."
For all that Brian disliked Pete Wisdom, the part of him that went back to male bonding in caves felt pity for the man, and decided to throw him a bone. A *small* bone. "That's more than likely the problem. Meggan gets upset at me for that."
"That's all she'll tell me, that it's nothing."
"I don't know, she won't tell me. Just looks unhappy for a few days, then decides to forgive me."
Brian shrugged, genuinely baffled. "I have no idea."
"...Thanks, Braddock, you've been... almost no help."
Brian didn't work too hard at hiding his smirk. "Sorry."
"Yeah," Pete said with disgust. "I can tell that."
"I could ask MacTaggert... or the man in the bloody moon."
"Well, mein freund, you look like a man at the end of his rope."
"You're not kidding." Pete slouched against the wall of Kurt's 'jungle gym', watching the acrobat swing himself around the bars with an unnerving disregard for the law of gravity.
"Would this have something to do with why Kitty is upset?"
"You don't know?"
"Haven't got clue one." He looked up at Kurt hopefully. "I don't suppose you know? And if you say 'Nothing', there'll be violence."
"You've been talking to the frauleins, have you?"
"Yeah. And Braddock, but he wasn't exactly a big help."
"You asked *Brian* for advice on women?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Pete looked disgusted. "I figured it was worth a try."
"Did you learn anything?" Kurt knew he shouldn't be giving Pete this hard of a time; he might not be enthusiastic about the man personally, but he was Kitty's choice, and undoubtedly cared for her. Still, the temptation was impossible to resist.
Pete looked even more disgusted. "Women're all in a conspiracy."
*How right you are,* Kurt smirked to himself, but confined himself to saying, unhelpfully, "I've often thought the same." He bounced between bars with the aplomb of an Olympic gymnast, or a hyper- active seven-year-old. "Have you tried asking Kitty what is bothering her, or have you contented yourself with interrogating the other ladies?"
"I asked," Pete said defensively.
"What did she say?"
Pete sighed heavily, raking a hand through his hair. "'Nothing.'"
"Aahhhh." Kurt abruptly took pity on him; the game had gone on long enough. He swung down from the bars, landing gracefully in front of Pete and making a sweeping bow. "Fear not, Herr Wisdom, Kurt Wagner, professional hero and lover of ladies, is here to offer assistance."
"Great. Offer away."
Kurt shook his head with mock disappointment. "You're not getting into the spirit of this, mein freund."
"Forgive me, O Great One," Pete said with a reluctant flash of humor. "This humblestudent begs to be instructed."
A smile split Kurt's fuzzy blue face. "That's a start. All right, let's begin at the beginning. Welcome to Romance 101. I am your professor, Charles X. Angst." Pete snorted, trying to hide his laugh. Kurt ignored him magnificently, but deliberately deepened his accent. "We begin with the concept of dating, which has apparently completely passed you by, Herr Wisdom."
"I *know* what a date is. I've taken Kitty on dates."
Kurt just looked at him. "Drinking at a pub with seven other people, two of whom are threatening to take your head off, is not considered a date. Neither is dragging your lady around a top-secret military lab."
"Or recouperating after being pounded into the ground by your 'lady's' psycho ex," Pete muttered.
Kurt paused, but chose to pretend he hadn't heard. *This* time. "Dates involve prior notice, no more than two people, and a certain amount of attention to detail. Any sort of violent encounters are strictly verboten. For example..."
Pete settled in -- this sounded like it was going to be a long one. For a moment, he remembered the blissful, uncomplicated single life, then shrugged. Kitty was worth it. *More* than worth it.
"Braddock, I need to borrow the Midnight Runner."
"Over my dead body."
"Kurt already agreed."
"...One scratch and you'll never be able to close your eyes again."
"Right. Oh yeah, I also need to borrow your girlfriend."
"Look, dragon, I'm getting into this room whether you like it or not. Now get out of my way, or I'll make luggage out of you."
Something was going on; Kitty Pryde knew it as surely as her name. But she couldn't for the life of her figure out what it was, and everyone she asked simply looked at her varying degrees of amusement, smugness and frustration, and stayed quiet.
She finally gave up and retreated to her room, where she was reasonably sure Lockheed wouldn't snicker at some unknown joke behind her back.
The scent of the roses hit her as soon as she phased through the door. They were the darkest, purest pink, filling the room with a heady fragrance, and there must have been three dozen of them.
She stopped and stared and sniffed for several long minutes, before walking forward to pick up the card with an unsteady hand. Pete's distinctive scrawl slashed across it.
Roses are a cliche, but they were the only things I could find that were close to being as beautiful as you. Meet me in the front hall at six, and we'll see if we can find anything closer.She'd been to the ends of the universe, fought aliens and mutants and supervillains, and often felt as old as the stars themselves. But holding Pete's note in one hand, and one of his roses in the other, Katherine Pryde suddenly felt like the 18-year-old she was. And it looked suspiciously like Prom Night.
She didn't hear Meggan's knock, or see the door open until Rahne spoke. "Kitty? D'ye want help dressin'?"
She stared dreamily off into space. "Yeah. I guess I do."
Rahne and Meggan looked at each other with smothered smiles. This was going to be fun -- more than worth all the time and trouble it had taken to blackmail Kurt and Brian into going along with their little game. They'd done it for Kitty's happiness after all.
"Where the bloody hell is she?" Pete paced the floor of the entryway nervously, taking a long drag on his third cigarette of the hour. "How long can it take to get dressed?"
"From past experience in the mansion," Kurt told him, "multiply the usual hour by the number of women assisting and you should be fairly accurate."
"You're enjoying this, you bloody sadists!" Pete glared at Brian and Kurt, who were leaning against the walls being distinctly uncomforting, and not even trying to hide their grins.
"Who, us?" Brian asked innocently.
Pete didn't deign to answer, just finished his cigarette and started to reach for another one.
"Kitty dislikes cigarette smoke," Kurt reminded him. Pete growled, but tossed the pack onto the table by the front door. Brian smothered a laugh.
"At least that MacTaggert witch isn't up enjoying this," Pete muttered.
"Och, Peter, ye should know better than t' use a witch's name, or she'll appear." Moira strolled up to the trio, looking Pete over. "Well, I see y' clean up better than the rest of us are generally treated to -- must be quite an occasion."
Pete made an anatomically improbable suggestion; her lips twitched. "A jacket, and slacks that match -- and aren't black -- 'tis a miracle in m' own puir household! I may have t' steal ye from Kitty and keep ye for m'self!"
"Not if it'd mean drinking your coffee," Pete snarled, running his hands through hair that had, at one time, been neat. Kurt silently handed him a comb.
Meggan stuck her head around the corner and winked at Brian. He and Kurt exchanged conspiratorial smiles and cleared their throats. "I believe your lady is waiting," Kurt said formally.
Pete wiped his hands on his slacks and headed for the bottom of the stairs. His jaw dropped when he saw Kitty, already halfway down.
She was wearing one of the dresses Rachel had talked into buying at one point, which she'd never had the courage to actually wear in public, a slim red number with spaghetti straps and matching high heels. Her hair was up in a complicated weave, courtesy of Meggan, and she was the most beautiful sight Pete Wisdom had ever laid eyes on.
She stopped a few steps above him, hands clutching a small purse. "Well?"
Pete tried to say something and had to clear his throat. By then, he'd forgotten what he had been going to say. He looked desperately at Kurt, who made a small motion with his hand. Pete grabbed the cue and swept into a low bow. He felt like an idiot, but Kitty smiled in delight.
He still couldn't remember the line he'd practiced, and fell back on honesty. "You look amazing."
She colored slightly. "Thank you. I like the jacket."
He self-conciously smoothed the grey lapels -- score one for Meggan -- and offered Kitty his arm. "Your carriage waits in the hanger," he managed to say relatively smoothly.
She took his arm and came the rest of the way down the steps. "Lead the way."
"Any time." They walked towards the hanger, too engrossed in each other to pay any attention to the group of sentimental smiles that followed them out of the room.
Moira sniffed loudly. "Och, that's sweet. Who would hae thought the man had it in him?"
Meggan snuggled under Brian's arm, smiling in satisfaction. "*I* would have," she said smugly.
Kurt smiled fondly at her. "We should go into business, leibling -- Matchmakers Incorporated." His eyes wandered over to Rahne. "And I think I see our next customer."
Rahne's eyes widened; she stuttered something incomprehensible, then exercised the better part of valor and left. Quickly.
The sun descended slowly behind the beach, casting the North Sea into darkness shaded with fire. It gleamed red off of two wine glasses, left carelessly on a blanket next to an empty picnic basket, and silhoutted the two lovers who strolled on the beach.
"I told you I'd show you a sunset in Essex," Pete whispered into Kitty's ear, as she stood nestled into his chest.
She smiled dreamily up at him. "You were right; I've never seen anything more beautiful."
"I have." She blushed, and he kissed her, slowly and sweetly. "I'm sorry it took me so long to remember."
"It's all right, Pete. It's just a sunset."
"No. It's not." He held her tightly, sheltering her from the wind that was beginning to blow off the sea. "I won't forget again. Promise."
Kitty smiled, hidden against Pete's jacket. *Not bad, guys,* she mentally applauded her devious friends. *Not bad at all.*
Then she forgot about them; there were much more interesting things to think about.
And the night was still young.
I adored Pete Wisdom from the start, and Marvel's decision to ditch him for no reason when they didn't know how to write him was one of the huge reasons I stopped reading the X-Men comics. :P He was my kind of guy.