Paint By Numbers

Epilogue

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"Open the door, Katya," Peter said as he stood in the hallway outside her room.

"No! I'm still mad at you," she yelled back through the wood. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. No matter how much his girlfriend pouted, he knew she was only play acting, feigning anger because she was supposed to, not because she actually meant it.

"Then I will just have to knock the door down," he teased.

"Go ahead and try!" she shot back.

"If you don't open the door, I can not give you your present," Peter cajoled.

"Present?" he head her mutter, knowing her curiosity was getting the better of her. Kitty's hand phased through the door and she held her palm out expectantly, withdrawing it only after Peter had placed the string of the gift bag safely around her fingers.

"I received a letter from back home this morning," he told her, continuing to speak through the door. From the inside he could hear the rustling of tissue paper as she rummaged around for her gift. "My mother wrote of how Illyana loves the little dragon you left with her. You never told me that you gave her Martin."

"That's because I didn't give her Martin. I let her borrow him for an unspecified amount of time," she informed him from the other side of the wall, still searching through the bag.

"Borrow? You mean like I let you borrow my sweatshirt?" Peter teased, his cornflower blue eyes dancing with amusement.

Without warning her head poked through the door, a mystified look on her face. "There's nothing in this," she complained, holding the offending gift bag out towards him.

Peter grinned at her and produced the surprise from behind his back, holding it up so that Kitty could see.

"Awwwww," she cooed, phasing the rest of the way through the door and taking the stuffed purple dragon from his hands.

"I thought you might want a replacement, what with Martin being so far away," he explained. "But I am sorry, I could not find another green one."

"Don't be. Lockheed's perfect," Kitty told him happily, already cradling the toy in her arms as though it was a little baby.

Watching her, Peter was hit with the sudden realization of what a wonderful mother his Katya would be someday. A moment later he was stifling a laugh at the absurdity that the image of his girlfriend fawning over a plush lizard with wings could evoke that particular thought.

"Thank you, Peter. I love him. And I love you," she told him sweetly, entwining her arms around her neck and phasing them both into her room, where they stood, still holding on to another, in front of the doorframe. "But you're still not getting your sweatshirt back."

"It looks better on you anyway," he conceded. "So tell me, Katya, what was the real reason you left my sister your toy? And do not attempt to tell me it was because you are too old for stuffed animals."

"Well, I thought it was only fair. She gets my dragon, I get her big brother," Kitty told him flirtatiously, standing on her tiptoes to reach his mouth, being just tall enough to reach his lower lip.

Peter bent down to meet her kiss, pulling her closer to him. She loved it in his embrace. It wasn't just the feeling of his lips on hers, it was the way he held her. It was strong and safe, but sensual, and she kissed him with deeper ardor. Without either of them making a conscious effort, the pair moved further across the room, until they found themselves on her bed.

Peter realized what was happening between them first. One moment he was nuzzling the crook of her neck, the next he abruptly stopped, and she felt his muscles tighten under her hand on his bare back. He stared down at her, unsure if they should continue.

Kitty faintly remembered phasing Peter's shirt off somewhere on the journey between the door and the bed. She tilted her head sideways and saw it lying on the floor, partially covering the head of her poor dragon, which had been dropped along the way.

When she turned back she found herself again in Peter's eyes. He was starring at her intensely, his brows furrowed, and she waited for what seemed like an eternity for him to make a decision, not quite sure what she wanted to happen. His eyes fluttered reluctantly closed, and he tilted his chin up, placing a soft kiss on her forehead.

"Peter, wait," she protested, holding his arms, not wanting him to leave. She felt guilt-ridden, knowing that he wanted this, but had pulled away for her.

"Nyet, it's not the right time. You are-"

"I'm eighteen! I'm old enough," she protested.

"But you are not yet ready, Katya," he told her gently, knowing how scared she was. "And until you are, I can wait."

As he shifted his body, preparing to move away from her, she let go of his forearms and grabbed the sides of his face, holding it steady as she kissed him tenderly, her tongue lightly caressing his as their bodies melted together.

The door slammed and they broke apart, exchanging guilty looks. Rogue stared at them for a moment, then continued to make her way to the dresser and grabbed her discman. She threw her headphones on, turning the volume loud enough for them to hear the pounding beats of Korn. Without a word to them, she left the room.

Kitty sighed as Peter looked back at her. They both knew the moment had passed.

"So how is she doing?" Peter asked as he rolled next to her and sat up.

"As perky and cheerful as always."

"He's really going to miss her," Piotr muttered sadly.

"He doesn't have to go!"

"Yes, he does," he explained calmly, trying to help her understand his friend's point-of-view. "Katya, my heart once told me to me to leave my home. Now Remy's is telling him to return to it."

She glared at him. "And what about Rogue? What about her heart?"

"He has tried many times Katya. But she never let him in. He finally gave up."

"I don't know why you have to take his side," she pouted, remembering why she had been so upset with him earlier.

Peter shrugged. "For a long time, he was the closest thing I had to a friend."

"Yeah, well I guess if my choices were between him, a smelly homicidal maniac, a creepy tattooed mind controller, and a fire bug a few french fries short of a happy meal, I'd probably pick Gambit too." she admitted grudgingly. " I should go talk to Rogue, shouldn't I?"

"I'll help you find her," he offered, getting up towards the door.

"Uh, Peter?" she asked, starring at his bare chest.

"Da?"

She picked his shirt off the floor, crumpling it into a ball before she threw it to him.

"Maybe you should put your shirt back on."

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Rogue saw Peter and Kitty walk down the steps of the Institute from her vantage point at the edge of the fountain ledge in the front yard. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Kitty turned towards her boyfriend. Piotr reached out and ran his hands soothingly up and down her arms, bending down for what she assumed was a quick kiss before he went back inside. Rogue looked away, pretending not to notice as Kitty made her way over.

"Hi Rogue," she said .

She closed her eyes and moved her head to the beat of the music.

"That's a really good song," Kitty told Rogue, her voice far too optimistically perky for Rogue's liking .

"What?!" she yelled.

"That's a really good song!" she shouted over the music.

Rogue rolled her eyes. She knew her roommate's taste in music well enough to know that in her mind this qualified as the very antithesis of good. Even so, she took the headphones off.

"So you managed to tear yourself away from Peter to talk to me? Ah'm touched."

"How are you?" Kitty asked as she sat down next to her.

Rogue bristled at the pity seeping from her voice. "So tell me Kit, when ol' Petey turns into his steel form, does everything get bigger?" she asked, but there was no familiar teasing in her voice, only bitterness. Kitty chose to ignore it.

"Talk to him, Rogue," she implored.

"No," she said firmly.

"Yes!" Kitty argued.

"No!"

"Yes!"

"No!"

"No!"

Rogue smirked, catching her friend's trick. "Glad ya agree."

"Damn it! Why not?" Kitty demanded.

"Because it's better this way. For both of us," she told her her tone becalming more calm and resigned.

"But how can it be better?" Kitty asked dolefully.

"You really don't understand, do you?" she questioned, looking at the slightly younger girl's confused face, her anger fading. Kitty may be the smartest of the teenage X-Men, at least according to the IQ tests Proffessor X kept making them take, but she was still the most naive. "Ah hope ya never have to."

"So that's it? You're just going to let him go?"

"Yes," Rogue told her with such finality that her friend didn't even try to dissuade her. Instead, she just stared at her with such sorrow in her eyes that she knew Kitty's heart was bleeding for her. And in a strange way, that brought her some comfort.

"Ah'm sorry for what Ah said earlier, about Peter. You know Ah like you with him. Ah swear, ever since the two of ya started spending time together you've been acting much more mature, like an actual grown up. Ah even heard you have an entire conversation without using the word "like" once. And Ah can't even remember the last time you even mentioned the mall."

"And I liked you with Gambit. He made you smile."

"Yeah? Ah kinda liked it with Gambit too."

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"I'll write you Chere," Remy told Rogue as he stood outside the mansion's steps. Nearly everyone else had already said their goodbyes, and only the two of them, Kitty, Peter, and Kurt were left.

"Why?" she asked coldly, throwing his hand off her clothed arm.

"I never wanted to go, Rogue, that be why it took me so long to make a decision. But I have to leave. Jean-Luc, he's my pere. I know he's not always been da best, but he be sick. He needs me to take care of him, to run da Guild. Da X-Men, dey have enough. Dey don't need me. Not like mon Pere."

She stared at him with her patented death glare. "You're right. We don't need you," she snapped, walking away.

"Chere! Rogue!" he called out after her retreating figure. She kept walking.

Gambit's face fell and he looked down, rubbing his temples. "Well mon amies, I guess dat be dat."

"Gambit, stay. Maybe-"

"Non, non. Merci, Katie, but I've stayed here too long already. It's time for me to go." He gave Kitty a hug, leaning in close to her ear. "You take care of my chere, d'accord? Keep bein' her friend. You good at dat."

She nodded but when he pulled away there was a sour look on her face, showing her obvious displeasure with his actions.

Gambit politely shook Kurt's hand before the blue mutant teleported away to find his sister. He did the same to Peter, and winced as he clapped his hand on his back. After all this time the big Russian still didn't know his own strength. He shot one last smile at Kitty who glowered at him, only making his grin widen further. With that angry look on her face she reminded him of Rogue. Of course, he had a feeling every time he saw a pretty girl glaring at him he would be reminded of his chere.

"I be seein' you," Remy said, offering his last goodbye, knowing what he had just said was a lie. He was never going to see any of these people again, but it was nice to think he would. Much as he acted like he didn't care, he had liked it here.

Peter and Kitty waved, watching him drive out of the mansion gates.

"Peter?" she asked as they walked back towards the mansion, hand in hand.

"Da?"

"Thank you."

He stopped walking and looked down at her, not sure what she was talking about, knowing from her tone she was too serious to be simply thanking him for the present he had given her the day before.

"For what, Katya?"

She looked down, remembering all Peter had done to make her fall so in love with him. How kind he had always been, even when she was with Lance; how he had made her smile when she felt like crying; the way he would tease her with such a good-natured look in those sweet, twinkling blue eyes that she never once took it to heart. Peter made her feel safe and happy and fulfilled. He was her counter-balance, silent where she was loud, calm where she was temperamental, steady where she was impetuous. Strange, before she loved him she had never known she even needed one. Somewhere off in the distance, Gambit's motorcycle made one last roar as he rode away. Kitty looked back at Peter, amazed she couldn't think of a single thing about him that she didn't love.

"Thank you for never giving up on me."

He laughed as he reached down and grabbed her legs, scooping her up and holding her close in his arms as he walked with her up the steps. "Never."

She giggled, holding him tighter. "Promise?"

"Always."

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So that's the end, hope you like it. I didn't want to write this chapter because I felt bad for Rogue and because I'm really more excited about the sequel. It's going to be titled "The Knight and the Maiden". It's all planned out, and chapter 1 will be posted on Friday, June 1. I'm really having a lot of fun writing it, so I hope you like it. As for hints about the plot, to borrow a line from UXM #110, "Always and forever are two different things."

Also like to point out there's a little bit of an homage to UXM #165 in this chapter. I tried to work in a lot of old phrases and plots from the older comics throughout this story, and that was kind of the last silver age issue I thought still needed to referenced.

And to all my reviewers thank you so much. You've made this entire thing worth writing.

SperryDee - I know, they've been needing to kiss for awhile. Actually, the plan was to have them kiss after a big Lance-Piotr fight, but no matter what I did that just didn't seem to make sense. Besides, this way was much more fluffy.

KittieKat8- Thanks! Your cool too! Thanks for all the support!

alygny- Kiotr fluff is always a good thing, at least in my opinion. The sequel is a little darker in some parts, but still has its fluffy moments.

DemonRogue13- Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.

Dark-bat- I'm happy that chapter made you happy. It made me pretty happy too. Just like "Shiny" does. :)

B - I'm happy to know you like the kiss scene. That was my favorite part to write. I hope you like the sequel!

ishandahalf- Sorry to say Rogue and Remy don't have a happy ending this time around. But don't worry. That's what sequels are for.

Kitrazzle Fayn- Yeah, I was kind of proud of Kitty too. That wasn't the original plan I had for her way back when I started this fic, but it seemed to work the best. Glad you liked it!

The Uncanny R-Man- I'm glad you felt like Kitty and Peter have been together forever, it makes me feel better about keeping them apart so long. And the sequel will be posted soon, so look for it in two weeks!

oldprydefan- I made you cry? You know what, you deserve that, because "Paper Flowers" has me crying at every other chapter. Of course, that's one of the many reasons why I love your story so much. And I'm guessing you'll be happy to know that Kitty's had the valley girl written out of her. Not one solitary "like" will be uttered in the sequel, I promise.

Steph Silverstar- Thanks! Happy to know you like it

Thank you all for reviewing!