Disclaimer: Pete Wisdom, Romany Wisdom, The Crown, Nathan Dayspring (Cable), Scicluna, Threadgold, the Chalk and Cheese, and Sean Cassidy do not belong to me. Neither do Doyle, Pittman, or Jardine, or anyone else mentioned who I can't recall. Marvel owns them lock, stock, and smoking barrel. Even if they fail to utilise them. No money is being made from this fic, and none is needed, etc, etc.

Notes: This is a sillyfic. Continuity-wise, this occurs at some point before Pete joins Excalibur, and probably before the X-Tinction Agenda. And Moira is back from her cross-time kidnapping. Probably. Rating: PG13, for language and innuendo.

Dedication: This one's for Bevs, 'cause she spammed such cute stuff. And fun. More, twin. ;)

Dizzying Edge of Solitude

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Pete Wisdom staggered out of the Crown and headed for his flat. It appeared to be nearly dawn, with streaks of light flashing through the brightly lit London sky. At least, it felt like he'd been drinking all night. What with first Doyle, and then Pittman and then Derrick buying him round after round for coming back alive from this last Genosha stint.

Yes, he'd survived everything they could throw at him and come out to earn a little bit of leave from Scicluna. She hadn't been happy about it, had wanted to send him back into the field, but he'd threatened to run away and she'd decided to let him holiday, rather than lose her best operative in the field.

"Oh, show me the way ta go hoooome, I'm tired an' I wanna go ta beeeed," He sang drunkenly as he turned a corner. Someone, Fred, he thought, had offered to put him in a taxi. "No, lads," he'd replied, "I'm gonna partake of the lovely London night air on me way home!"

He only had one more block to go, anyway. All smart operatives had flats close to the Crown. With another chorus, he aimed for the front door of his building, and was sent sprawling as he tripped over something in the doorway.

"Wauugh!"

A whimper answered him from the pile of rags at his feet. He peered blearily at the pile and cursed. A dog lay there, liquid brown eyes shining sadly in the light at him. "No." He barked, clambering to his feet and opening the front door. "No, you fuck off and find some other lazy bugger to take care o' ya."

With a finality to it, he slammed the door and stalked up the stairs to his apartment. He listened the whole way for more whimpers and cries from his erstwhile companion. There were none.

Slamming open his apartment door, he staggered in and collapsed onto his couch. Still no sound from the dog on the stoop.

Wisdom let out a curse and rolled off the couch. Damn. Something was beginning to assert itself in his memory. Something about being kind to animals and keeping them warm, and frolicking with puppies. When the fuck had he ever frolicked with puppies?

He staggered back out his still-open door and down the stairs, cursing enough to peel what was left of the blue paint on the walls. The little dog was still huddled under a pile of rags on his front step. He glared at it. It whimpered softly at him. "Fine then," he snarled, "but this is only for the fucking night. I'm taking you to a shelter in the morning."

Re-entering his apartment, ragged dog behind him, he realised something. "One of us smells 'orrible. And it ain't me." He glared at the dog and dragged it--her, he realised--towards the tiny room that was his bath. A problem presented itself immediately. He had no bath tub, only a small tile box that housed his mold-grown shower.

"Damn."

Making a quick decision, he shed his clothes, leaving them strewn on the bathroom floor, and started the shower up. Turning back to shove the dog under the spray, he swore. She'd scarpered.

"You little bitch! Get back 'ere!"

A search of his apartment finally produced her in his closet, curled on his one good shirt. He growled at her. She sort of whimpered back, and then he picked her up and stalked back to the shower, where he proceeded to mercilessly cleanse both of them, though he accidentally used toothpaste on his hair.

There weren't any clean towels, he discovered as he stepped out of the shower. Another oath escaped him and he reached down to pick up the shirt he'd been wearing. With a grimace at the shivering dog, he bundled her into it, then stalked towards his bedroom. He thought he remembered there being a towel in there, somewhere.

He had. But it was filthy, so he just used the sheet off his bed, wrapping it around himself in a sort of toga fashion. Pete set the dog on the bed and sighed. Sleep was seeping through him, dragging at him, triumphing over the adrenaline. Even the booze he'd ingested was conspiring against him.

With a mumbled comment on females everywhere, he collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep, half-covered by the sheet.

--

Pete woke with a jerk, and rolled out of the bed, taking the sheet with him. There was someone there, in the room with him. Without even opening his sleep-glazed eyes, he readied hot knives. Carefully, he looked around the room, searching it, scanning for an enemy.

There was nothing and no one there. Except an odd little mewling sound coming from his closet. He frowned and slowly straightened, yelping as cold air hit certain portions of his suddenly exposed anatomy. The sheet pooled on the floor at his feet.

He rewrapped the sheet and headed for the closet, carefully pulling the door open the rest of the way. "Oh, fuck."

Pete sank to his knees and stared in horror, "My shirt. You bitch, that was my best shirt." He moaned, staring at the shirt the dog was currently curled upon. She was surrounded by five squirming little replicas of herself. And she looked so proud of herself as he looked at them.

"My shirt..."

One of the puppies chose that moment to whimper and Pete found himself gathering the tiny thing up. It was no bigger than the palm of one of his hands, and shivered in the air. He quickly set the little thing next to its mother and began warming up the air around them.

"Ssshhh... It's okay."

The next morning found Wisdom shopping for dog food, water bowls and another good shirt. He also found himself picking up absurd things like chew toys and rubber bones.

Okay, so, maybe the puppies were only hours old, but they might like things to play with... Wisdom hit his head against the wall as he re-entered the apartment. Yeah, and they might all hate him, too. Or Scicluna might call and give him an emergency assignment, and then where would they be.

With a curse, Pete stalked to his phone and dialed Scicluna. He got her answering machine, "Look, no emergency assignments, either, you damned bitch." He snapped, then hung the phone up. She'd know it was him. And hopefully wouldn't assign him anything.

--

He had no idea why he was doing this. He really didn't. After all, they were filthy, smelly animals, and not his responsibility. Yeah, and he could just go drive them to the vet's.

Great idea. Except that they were his.

They'd come into his world, squooshed out onto his best shirt. And he somehow found them cute. And pitiful. So, he couldn't just get rid of them. After all, that would be cruel and heartless. And it would definitely be something Scicluna or Scratch would do. Pete prefferred not to emulate either.

So he spent the next two weeks looking after a dog with puppies. He tried to sleep, he really did. Unfortunately, every little whimper and snort awakened him with the fear that they were all dying. Either that, or they'd run away.

Days were spent down the pub, getting sloshed. Nights were spent jerking awake and constantly checking on the pups and their mum. She spent most of her time sleeping and feeding them, occasionally eating and drinking when she could.

It seemed a strange dichotomy, but it was relaxing, in its own twisted way.

Scicluna called him, midway through the third week. Fitfully crying little puppies were beginning to open their eyes and wander around. She told him in no uncertain terms that there was an assignment, and he'd go on it.

He had three hours to get ready.

--

Romany Wisdom was eccentric. If she'd been poor, she would have been crazy. But she wasn't, luckily. Therefore, everyone termed her eccentric, and let her be. Mostly.

The phone was ringing, she noticed as she completed another movement of the Tao.

It continued ringing for a minute, then stopped, her answering machine cutting in.

"I know you're there, pick up, Romany."

She blinked, but finished a stretch.

"Dammit."

A smile crossed her lips, and then she bent over again.

"Fine. Ignore me. Bloody sister."

Another lean up.

"Listen, I need your help."

She bent over backwards, listening as things popped.

"The ice-bitch has sent me on assignment, and I... can't leave them alone."

Them? Coming back up straight, she froze, then shook her shoulders and arms and turned to the phone.

"So, I'm wonderin' if you could come down and take them."

"Who?"

"I *knew* you were there."

"Who?"

"Um... Puppies. They're 'bout two and a half weeks old. Their mum is takin' good care, but they need a human..."

"Ah." Romany tilted her head to the side, feeling the slide of straight glossy black hair. "What's in it for me?"

--

So Pete went on assignment. To Australia, where he joined a band of transvestites in their search for the truth. Apparently someone had watched "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" one too many times.

Not that it mattered. Pete avoided bad dresses and makeup, they provided good cover, and he collected the information Scicluna wanted.

Occasionally he worried about the puppies, and what occult things Romany might be doing to them. He had bad memories of their first cat being shaved ritually before being frozen in the freezer. He hoped she'd outgrown that stage.

It was a rather tame assignment, with barely any danger. Except from the sequins and lace.

And those he avoided adroitly.

Once back in the good old U.K., he made his swift way to the Crown (with a minor stop at the Black Wall to report to Scicluna).

The Crown was packed with many Intel types, criminals, and a few barristers. They'd started trickling in when the old Cherub's Cross had closed down. Now they seemed as much a permanent fixture as the Intel crowd and Ollie's old 'Excalibur' sword that was nailed above one of the windows.

He headed for his normal table, surprised to see someone already sitting in his seat. As he got closer, he realised it was his sister. She seemed to be holding court with Doyle and Pittman smiling genially at her.

"Wisdom! Where've you been hiding this sister of yours, she's a treasure!" Doyle slapped him on the back and smiled at Romany. "I'll be right back with that drink, ma'am."

"Evenin', harridan, I see they let you out of the asylum." Pete flopped into the just-vacated chair, and gave his sibling a Look.

"They haven't come for you yet." She replied, smirking.

"So. How are they?"

"They who?"

"You know."

"I do?" She widened her eyes, innocence personified.

He scowled as Jardine looked at them with interest, "And what are these things you're so curious about, Pete?"

"None of your--"

"Puppies, Mr. Jardine." Romany smirked, "I've been watching them for my lazy brother while he was out of town."

"Really." He adjusted his spectacles, and looked at Pete, amusement in his gaze. "And how are they?"

"Perfectly fine."

Doyle returned then, drinks in hand. "Wisdom. You're in my seat."

"Yeah." Pete swiped the beer he was handing to Romany and took a long pull on it. "Sucks, don't it."

"Move, Wisdom."

Pete held up two fingers. "Another round."

"I'll sit on you."

"You wouldn't dare."

Doyle growled, "Yes I would. You're not that great a poker player. We'd only sort of miss you."

"Fiver he sits on Wisdom," Pittman said absently to his seatmate.

Derrick Smith snickered, "Done."

It was hopeless, Pete knew. Doyle would reclaim his seat, whether he was in it or not. Since he preferred to not be a flattened agent, he moved to stand behind his sister. "Bint. They still at my flat?"

"Yup. I checked 'em every day, though."

"Good." He looked longingly at the table, but knew he needed to get back to the flat and see what the combined mischief of puppy and sister had caused. "Have to dash, mates."

"Leaving so early, Wisdom?" Pittman looked mildly sad.

"Things to do, women to ravish, you know how it is."

"He's going home to his puppies," Romany said cheerfully. "Now, next round was on Jardine, yes?"

Slouching back out of the Crown, Pete muttered things under his breath. See if *he* ever left his puppies with his sister again. Ungrateful bint. It wasn't as if she had anything *else* to do.

--

Except his flat, apparently. He stared with distaste at the stark white walls and shining floors. A cleaning crew had apparently been in. And painters. His lovely mint-green walls were now white, while his floors were black. It was enough to make a man cry. Or curse his sister. A check of his bedroom produced crisp white sheets covered by a shaggy maroon comforter. The pillows even had forest green cases on them. He shuddered.

A mewling sound distracted him to the kitchen, where his puppies were happily ensconced behind a barrier that kept them on a large swathe of newspaper and hay. He blinked. They were bigger.

He'd sort of been expecting that. Really. It was just amazing how big they'd grown in a week's time.

One of them noticed him standing in the doorway, and she gave a little yip before bouncing over to peer up at him. The others followed, mama watching from her perch on a large pillow. Pete thought he recognised one of the pillows from his bed. And a shirt that was suspiciously familiar lay underneath it.

Leaning over, he picked her up, cuddling her against his face, and sighing. The breath in had a sweet scent too it. And he pondered curling up in the kitchen with his puppies.

But that would give anyone who came into the flat too much ammunition.

With another sigh, he set the silky puppy back in the enclosure and turned away. There were sad little mewlings and a few yips from the kitchen as he stripped in preperation for bed, but he tuned them out.

Best to sleep. Scicluna had warned she would probably need him in the morning.

--

Pete couldn't decide what woke him first, the need to relieve himself, or the sound of many puppy claws skittering all over his bedroom floor. He cracked one eye and peered down as a small brown and white ball of puppy fluff pounced upon one of the socks he'd left on the floor the night before.

Before he could decide the phone rang. He considered ignoring it.

A puppy began howling at the ringing, the other four quickly joining in. Pete cursed at the din, and grabbed the handset. "Wot?"

Scicluna sounded amused, "Wisdom, dear, what's that horrible racket?"

"Nothin'." He muttered, grabbing the phone and heading for the kitchen, where the puppies were not.

"Mhm. Yes, well, when the puppies have stopped howling, give them a pat for me. And be in my office in an hour."

"Assignment?"

"Yes. You'll have to get another baby-sitter. Shouldn't be too hard. I hear Cable's in town."

"Wh--" But she'd hung up already, snickering at him. "Bitch."

A puppy yipped at him, and he glared at it, "Mangey creature."

It flopped at his foot and rolled onto its back, wriggling happily. He sighed and bent over to run a finger along its--her--tummy. "Silly little thing."

She barked at him.

"Brat."

"Bark!"

He scowled and left her to her barking, heading for the shower. Scicluna would hold it against him if he was late. He decided to take an extra long shower.

--

"Please?"

Nathan Dayspring was not exactly used to people grovelling at his feet. Especially people like Pete Wisdom, who tended to only grovel when they'd run out of booze money. Or been bested in poker. They weren't supposed to ask you to babysit their dogs, either. There was something supremely wrong with the universe, but since there was always something wrong with it, Nathan was letting it slide.

"Why?"

"The Ice Bitch is sending me on a month-long mission. I can't take them with me."

The man known as Cable raised an eyebrow, "Really. And how did you end up with puppies?"

"Accident."

"Mhmm."

"You owe me, Cable."

"Do I?"

Pete nodded, "For that job in Singapore, remember?"

"Maybe." Cable tipped his head to the side, pondering his schedule. "A month?"

"Y'can stay in me flat, even." Pete said hopefully.

Nathan felt his lips twitching. His mind was trying to reconcile the drunken reprobate in front of him with healthy and happy puppies. It wasn't working. "Show me."

The trek to Wisdom's apartment was a short one, considering how close it was to the Crown. Nathan didn't think this was bad, since it meant Wisdom generally didn't sleep in doorways after late nights full of alcohol. Most likely.

He raised an eyebrow at the new decor the flat sported. Black floors and white walls was quite different from muddy floors and green walls. "Done some redecorating, I see."

"Wasn't me." Wisdom muttered, leading him towards the kitchen.

"They had taste, though."

"Says the man with the metal arm."

"You're not staying on my good side, Wisdom."

"Puppies." The man replied, leaning over the small board that blocked the kitchen door off from the rest of the apartment. He stood up, a squirming black and grey fluffy thing in his hands. "See?"

Nathan gingerly took the little thing and held it in one hand, "Uh..."

"Like this." Wisdom rearranged it so it was nestled under his chin, wet little nose poking him.

"Um." The puppy licked his chin.

"See? She likes you."

Nathan glowered at him, "That--"

"I'm desperate, Dayspring. I need help. I can't ask me sister, she redecorated the bloody flat last time. She might skin them and sacrifice 'em to some freaky Pagan God-thing if she has to watch them again."

"...I'm your last desperate hope?"

"Yes."

"And I guess I do owe you." The puppy had graduated to curling under his ear and lapping at the lobe. It was rather disturbing.

"You do." Wisdom was looking hopeful.

"And I need a base of operations for the next few months." He scrutinised the small flat, "I guess this would work."

"You'll do it?"

Nathan nodded, then headed for the door, mind busy cataloguing what to pack first, and what could be left until later. "Give me a few hours, and I'll be back to set things up."

Pete coughed, "Um, Cable?"

"Yes?"

"The puppy." He pointed to the sleeping ball of fluff that had nestled under Nathan's collar.

"Oh. Right." He carefully removed her and handed her to Wisdom. She whined. He almost took her back. "An hour. Tops."

"Righty-ho."

--

It had been a month and a half since he'd felt completely clean. Days and weeks spent slogging around in muck and mud, getting dirtier than Black Air's politics. And for what? Nothing, in the end. A load of shit.

As Pete staggered through the halls of the Black Wall, he knew Scicluna wasn't going to be pleased with his report. He was resigned, though.

He'd done his best, it was *her* information that had been off.

The only thing keeping him on his feet was the thought of her disappointment, and a shower. And bed. There would be whiskey in there, too, dammit.

Scicluna's secretary gave him a shocked look as he staggered past her, "Mr. Wisdom--!"

"Don't care. Gonna see her now."

"She's in a meeting, sir, you--"

Pete shoved one side of the double door inwards and glared across the inch-thick blue carpet at the blonde woman sitting behind the desk. "Nothing to report. I'm off duty now." He snapped, then turned around and stalked back across the foyer. One goal was accomplished, at least.

He made it all the way to the elevators before Threadgold caught his arm, jerking him to a halt. "Wisdom."

"Wot?"

"Report back tomorrow at 6 am."

He looked up at Threadgold and smirked, "You are such a lapdog."

"Am I."

"Do you come when she calls, or do you just engineer it so its simultaneous?"

"Big words for a man who could find himself posted to Antarctica forever."

"You can't. She needs me too much." Pete smirked harder, "Bet that bites, don't it."

Threadgold visibly tensed, then relaxed and let him go, stepping back. "Just be back here by 6, Wisdom."

"Yeah, yeah." He stepped into the car that had just arrived. "Should I bring extra lube?"

The door closed before the darkening face of his boss's second-in-command could muster a reply. Pete kept up the smirk until he'd left the building, then sighed. 6 in the bloody a.m. He'd be lucky to get more than an hour's worth of sleep. If Cable let him do even that.

--

His flat was full of high-tech equipment. There was barely any room for a human to move, much less Wisdom and five puppies and their mother. He had no clue how Dayspring had moved the whole time he was gone. Maybe he hadn't.

The puppies bounced around him as he carefully threaded his way to the kitchen. They were bigger than ever, almost big enough to bite his knees (if they stood on hind legs).

"Ah, Wisdom."

"Beer."

"Sorry, Dom drank the last yesterday, and neglected to buy anymore before she left for Madripor."

"...bitch."

The large man leveled a Look at him. "That's my partner you're maligning."

"Evil bitch, then."

Nathan snorted, "Wisdom, Dom pointed out that the puppies are old enough to be given away."

"Give... away?" Pete blinked. No more puppies snuffling at him, or waking him with their mewling cries. No more scooping the poop, or buying dog food.

"Have you even considered it, Pete? They can't stay in your flat forever, it's not big enough. They need yards and children and happy families."

"But..."

"I'll even help you carry them to the local shelter."

"No." Pete sniffed, "My puppies aren't going to be looked over by a bunch of bloody-nosed toffs who wouldn't know shite if they stepped in it."

"Where will you take them, then?"

"Somewhere far away from London."

--

"You think this is far enough away from London?"

Nathan shot Wisdom a Look. They were currently hovering in a converted personal carrier over a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. "Why this and not a dozen other places on the way up the coast?"

He shrugged, "Seems a good spot."

"I think I've been here..." Nathan pondered the weather-beaten building that stood as the only structure on the island. "A long time ago."

"Oh? What'd you do, have coffee and crumpets with Lady Kinross?"

"Yes, actually. Nice woman."

"I thought MacTaggart shot visitors on sight."

"She must have liked me," Nathan shrugged, "Are you sure this will work?"

"Why don't you go sweet-talk her for me."

"They're *your* puppies."

Wisdom snorted, "You've watched them a month and a half. They're as much yours as mine."

"We go together, then."

They were in luck. Doctor MacTaggart wasn't in, but one of her assistants was. He didn't introduce himself, but if Black Air's files were correct, he was Sean Cassidy of Cassidy Keep. Pete didn't let on that he knew, though. "Sir, I was wondering if you would like a puppy."

"A puppy?"

Pete held up the basket, "Well, actually, five. And their mother."

The man chuckled, "What've ye been drinkin', lad?"

"Nothing, yet," Pete muttered, then forced a smile, "I just thought, a lonely island like this, you might want some companionship."

"Sounds nice, really, but I don't think that we're wanting pets out on this island." He started to close the door, then paused, "Y'might try the pub on Kinross land o'er there. The Chalk and Cheese."

"Mm. Pub. Thanks."

"No trouble."

--

The Chalk and Cheese was a nice little building, warm yellow wood inside, weathered tan outside, Pete breathed in the smell of sawdust, spilt beer and sweat. He sighed happily.

A blonde young woman smiled at them as they approached the bar, "What can I get fer ye?"

"Whiskey to start."

"Och, we're not servin' alcohol yet, sir." She smiled, "And what be in the basket?"

"Puppies."

Her eyes widened slightly as she glanced between him and Cable, "And what would you two gentlemen be doin' with puppies?"

"Their mother had them in me flat," Pete flopped onto a stool and attempted a pathetic look. "You're sure--"

"I'm sure." She wiped her hands on a cloth and came around the end to bend over the basket. "Now, let's see these puppies." Nathan opened a flap, and five puppies tumbled out, happy to be free of confinement. The young woman gave a giggle and scooped one up. "And aren't you a lovely cutie."

The puppy wriggled about and licked her nose.

Pete smiled, "See? Cute little buggers."

The young woman looked at him gravely, "Didn't you think of trying a newspaper ad?"

"Too much work. And, well.... With my job, I'm not home enough to screen prospective owners."

"But it's okay for you to give them to an unknown pubtender." She chuckled, "Ye're daft, man."

"That mean you'll take 'em?"

"Only if you promise to visit them on occasion."

"Done."

"Every month."

He blinked, "Two months."

She tilted her head to the side, then grinned, "Done. Me da has been wanting some dogs. These should do. And they're quite cute."

Pete nodded, "I'll see you in two months, then."

"Yes. And bring yer friend, too."

"I can try."

"Remember! It's Annie ye're wanting to see."

"Yes, ma'am. Annie."

Pete scarpered from the pub, and glanced up at Nathan as they got back in the flier. "Don't say it."

"Say what?"

"I am not a soft touch."

"Whatever you say, Wisdom."

"Bite me, Dayspring."

A chuckle echoed in the cabin as they flew towards London. "Not my job. I'll try finding someone, though."

"Bastard."

-finis-