THE KNIGHT AND THE MAIDEN

CHAPTER 9


The Blackbird touched down on a secluded road just outside Boston. Six teenagers sat on the curb, watching as their headmaster went over to greet the team, their headmistress keeping her distance, her white stilettos tapping against the sidewalk in frustration. Behind them the Massachusetts Academy lay in ruble, thick smoke still rising in the air.

"You're late," Emma Frost remarked, her voice full of cold detachment.

"Sorry about that, Ems" Kitty chirped innocently, finding satisfaction in watching the blonde woman's already pursed expression tighten further. "My fault."

"Tell me, Katherine, have you hit puberty since the last time I saw you? Judging by the size of your chest, I'd say no," Emma shot back, projecting the words into her head.

"Paige!" Cannonball yelled, rushing from the Blackbird to his little sister, giving her a quick hug before grabbing her shoulders and checking for injuries.

"I'm fine, Sam," she told him quietly. "I husked just in time."

"Unfortunately, it appears we can't say the same about the school," Beast remarked, watching the dark smoke billow endlessly up into the blue summer sky.

"Who did this, Sean?" Cyclops demanded, his solemn, grave expression hidden behind the thick ruby quartz of his visor. "Friends of Humanity? Black Tom?"

"Tuh," Emma huffed, a taut, derisive smile pulling at the corners of her glossy white coated lips. "Why worry about villains attacking us when our own students are perfectly capable of causing more than enough damage on their own?"

"Now Emma, lass, we've talked about this," Sean soothed wearily, trying to calm his friend's agitation. "Kids make mistakes, it's all apart of learnin' an' growin' up," he explained in his convivial Irish brogue.

"I understand that, Sean," she snapped, "and up until now I've taken those mistakes, along with their flagrant disrespect of every rule I've ever given them, with a grain of salt. But when they bloody well blow up my school-"

"The students did this?" Iceman interrupted, his attention finally being drawn away from Emma's breasts, which he had been staring at since exiting the plane. The strikingly attractive telepath's eyes curved into dangerously narrow slits and she folded her arms deliberately across her chest, refocusing her temper.

"Congratulations, Mr. Drake, you've figured it out. I'd give you a prize for your scintillating display of intellect, but it seems all my possessions have been reduced to little more than ash." She turned to Scott, brazenly staring down the leader of the X-Men. "I sincerely hope Charles doesn't expect me to pay for the reconstruction, seeing how I-"

"Emma, I'll handle this," Sean ordered, his voice leaving no room for argument.

"I am headmistress of this school-"

"Aye, that's true, but your shrieking right now is more painful to listen to than my voice when I use me powers."

Emma gapped at him, then turned away with a scowl. "I always knew I liked that man," Kitty muttered, watching the blonde telepath saunter away in a blur of white to stand next to her children and sulk.

"She means well, she just has a habit of comin' on a little strong," Banshee explained guiltily to the remaining group. "But no matter now. This was all just an accident, Scott. Let's just say some of me students need a bit more work on how not to let their emotions control their powers."

There headmaster's comment drew snickers from Angelo and Jubilee, while Jono and Paige looked down at the sidewalk, refusing eye contact.

"Paige?" Cannonball asked, looking at his sister in surprise.

"I'll explain it later," she shushed him, her eyes still focused on the ground. "In private."

"Have the police come by yet?"

"Local cops only. Emma took care of it."

"Simple minded creatures, the lot of them," she drawled haughtily, the use of her name drawing her back into the conversation. "As far as they're concerned, it was an unfortunate gas leak. But I have no doubt there will be a follow up investigation. The Massachusetts Academy is a very prestigious school, and there are a fair share of high powered individuals expecting to send their children here for the fall term in less than two weeks. Not to mention the damage Frost Industries Stocks will suffer once the media finds out."

"One problem at a time, Emma," the X-Men team leader sighed. "As far as the public knows, this is nothing but a high end boarding school, not a training ground for the next generation of X-Men. So lets go through the remains, see if we can salvage anything from the rubble that might cause suspicion. Once it's checked out, Hank and I can help you write a press statement. And until the school is rebuilt, the team can all stay in Westchester with us."

"What do you want us to do, boss?" Jubilee asked Cyclops, ready for whatever mission was thrown her way.

"Stay here and try to stay out of trouble," he ordered, walking away with the rest of the adults.

"That is so rude," Jubilee muttered after their retreating figures, flouncing back down on the curb. "It's not like any of this was my fault."

"Yeah, smooth move, man," Skin said dryly, slapping Chamber on the back. "Here's a tip: next time a chica tries to kiss you, don't try to blow her up."

Jono hung his head. If it had been anyone but Paige who had induced that reaction from him, his blast probably would have killed them. "Or crippled them," he thought to himself, remembering Gayle, the girlfriend he paralyzed when his powers kicked in for the first time. "I'm sorry, gel," he apologized telepathically to the blonde Southern beauty, "I don't know what-"

"It's okay, Jono," Paige muttered softly, "I shouldn't have kissed you. I know better now."

"What's with all this moping?" Jubilee piped back in, snapping a piece of trademark pink bubblegum. "You guys are looking at this completely the wrong way. We just got a brand new house and a free, all-expense paid vacation to the X-Mansion, home of Wolvie and the Danger Room. And let me tell you, that place is awesome. When I was with the X-Men-"

"Please, make it stop," Synch groaned. "Not another 'When I was with the X-Men' story."

"Oh Ev, you know you love them," she said, flashing him a brilliant smile.

"When my family goes on vacation we only stay at five star hotels and have the best of everything," Monet announced, looking directly at Jubilee. "Judging by the uniforms they wear and the fact that they allowed you as a member, it appears that having taste is not a requirement to being a X-Man. Staying at their home will be like living on the streets. I think I'll have father send the private jet over to pick me up," she droned in a bored tone as she examined her flawlessly manicured fingernails.

"Really?" Jubilee asked, her voice full of rosy excitement. "You're not just saying that to get my hopes up? Cause there's a pay phone right down the street. Here, I'll even give you the money," she offered, dumping a handful of quarters into the Moroccan beauty's hand. "Now off you go, Monet," she said, shooing her rival off. "Hurry! The sooner you call, the sooner you go away."

The dark haired teenage stared down at the change in her hand in dismay, her normal confidence faltering slightly. "I've never in my life used a payphone before," she muttered. "Well, desperate times, I suppose. Everett, will you walk with me?" M asked coyly, linking his arm with her own.

"Oh no, he's not going anywhere with you," Jubilee protested, grabbing Synch's other arm.

"Actually Jubilee, no one is. You are all staying put inside the Blackbird until we leave," Kitty instructed, walking up behind them.

"Your not going to help them search?" Everett asked, relieved to be free of the two girl's grips.

"Cyclops felt I would be more productive away from your Headmistress," she grumbled, leading them onto the X-Men's jet. "Besides, we realized leaving the six of you alone to your own devices was an inherently dumb idea," she teased, looking back at plasma wielding mutant. "I'm friends with Logan, Jubilee. I know the stories."

"Isn't she the one getting married?" Husk asked Skin as they boarded the ramp.

"I think so," he muttered.

"We should congratulate her," Paige decided, acting a little more like her normal, upbeat self.

The gray skinned Angelino stared at her in exasperation and shook his head. "Suck up."


Peter stood over the kitchen table fixing sandwiches while Illyana sat next to him, tugging at the lid of the strawberry jam. The steel-skinned Russian rested the peanut butter knife on the paper plate and lifted the jar from her hands, effortlessly twisting it open. While he was focused on the jam, the young girl snuck a quick look at Peter's face, then reached out for the knife. His large hand flew on top of it, covering the handle, causing hers to hover in mid air.

"I want to make it," she pleaded, again reaching for the blade in his hand.

"Sorry, Snowflake," Piotr said firmly, cutting the crusts off their sandwiches and slicing them into triangular fourths. "You are much too little for such a big knife."

"But Mommy lets me make my own," she lied, reaching up to grab the knife. He placed it on the other side of the table, away from her grasp, and handed her a sandwich.

"Too late. All done."

"I don't want jam. I want butter," she pouted, accustomed to getting her way when it came to her father.

"A peanut butter and butter sandwich?" he asked lightly, ignoring the sour expression on her face. "I think we should stick with jam. That way, when Katya comes home we can tell her we had our daily requirement of fruits and vegetables."

"What vegetables?" the flaxen haired child sulked, slumping back in her chair and poking the Wonderbread with her index finger in distaste.

Peter grinned. "We'll make something up," he said mischievously, eliciting a grudging smile from her.

"Ack, sandwiches," Kurt observed as he and Amanda entered the kitchen. "Fortunately I picked up some real food," the fuzzy, blue mutant added, holding up a greasy paper sack.

"Heaven forbid he goes a day without a Gut Bomb," Amanda laughed, giving Illyana's ponytail an affectionate tug before sitting down across from her. "Hey, Pete. Where's Kitty today?" she asked, unloading the hamburgers while Nightcrawler went to the refrigerator to find them drinks.

"Mission," he said absently, watching perplexedly as Illyana rifled through the half-empty bag of fast food. The little blonde girl grabbed a handful of french fries in her tiny fist and dumped them on Peter's plate, then reached back and took another handful for herself.

"Vegetables," she explained proudly, noticing her father's mystified expression.

The steel-skinned mutant grinned and played along with her game, catching the ketchup packet Amanda tossed him and holding it up in triumph. "More vegetables," he declared, squeezing the red condiment next to her pile of fries.

"Hey, get your own fast food," Kurt complained good-naturedly, handing his girlfriend her diet pepsi.

"Kitty wouldn't let me!" he protested.

"Awww," Amanda sighed from her end of the table. "She has you well behaved."

"There's another word for that, Liebchen."

"Kurt!" Amanda warned, smacking him on the arm.

"I'm only joking," he griped, massaging the spot she had just hit.

"At least he's made a real commitment. When are you going to propose to me?"

"When you stop being so violent."

"So never."

"Ja."

Peter refocused his attention to the child sitting next to him, ill at ease with the undercurrent of resentment that accompanied the playful tone the couple sitting across from him normally used when bantering with one another. "Eat your sandwich, Snowflake," he instructed quietly.

"I still want butter," she complained, sullenly picking up one of the sandwich pieces.

"Good girl," Peter told her as she slowly chewed her food, a begrudging expression on her face.

"You know, Peter," Kurt interrupted, pointing a french fry accusingly at his friend, "This is all your fault."

"What is?"

"You and Katzchen. All this marriage stuff is putting idea's into Amanda's head. She already has our whole lives planned out. And the lives of our kids. And the lives of your kids." Amanda blushed as the German-born mutant continued his story. "I heard her and Kitty talking. They want to have babies at the same time. A boy and a girl, so they can grow up and get married and we can be in-laws.

"We were just joking around," Amanda explained, embarrassed her boyfriend had chosen to share this particular conversation.

"There is no need to worry, Kurt," Peter said lightheartedly, giving Amanda an encouraging smile. "It as not as though that will ever happen. There is no way I would let a child of mine marry a child of yours."

"Funny."

"Da, I thought so," Piotr agreed, prompting his German friend to throw a fry in his direction. Amanda slapped Kurt on the arm again, only lightly this time, her amusement winning out over her mortification.

"So how are the wedding plans coming?" she asked, trying to steer the conversation in a more suitable direction. "It's not much longer now."

"Too be honest, we haven't had much time to think about it. We have been otherwise occupied."

Nightcrawler smirked at his words. "Mien freud, don't you know you're supposed to save that stuff for the honeymoon?"

"Kurt!" Peter shushed, looking pointedly at his friend, "don't say things like that around- Illyana, what did I tell you about the knife!"

While the adults had been talking, the blonde haired child had snuck over to the other side of the table, determined to make herself a sandwich. Terrified of his little girl injuring herself, Peter snatched the knife away from her, accidentally lightly nicking the inside of her index finger as he pulled it away.

"You hurt me!" she cried, pulling away from Peter and cradling her finger with her good hand, holding it protectively under her chin as she glared daggers at him.

"No, I didn't...I would not, I, I am sorry," he stuttered, noticing the small trickle of blood run from her hands. He fell numbly into the chair behind him, his shoulders hunched and his face in his hands, hiding the look of despair mingled with guilt and grief in his tired eyes. "So, so sorry."

"It's ok," Illyana conceded, worry and trepidation filling her wide, sapphire eyes.

"No!" he yelled, his tone causing her to jump. "It's not. I-"

"Peter-" Amanda interjected, placing her hand on his shoulder, shocked at his strange behavior.

"I could have killed her!" he argued, shrugging her hand off. At his words, Illyana burst into tears, silently crying as the adults tried to calm her father.

"Peter, please," Amanda begged, moving over to comfort the little girl, who was standing very still, staring wide-eyed at the situation around her. "You're upsetting her," she added, looking toward her boyfriend for help.

"Peter, listen to her," Kurt broke in. "The wedding, all that's happening, it's very stressful. Why don't you go upstairs and get some rest? Amanda and I can watch Illyana."

"No," he argued, shaking his head stubbornly. "I am not going to-"

"It's ok, Daddy," Illyana spoke up. "You should go."

He stared searchingly at her and gave a weary nod, defeated. As he walked away, his heavy body dragging, Illyana slipped out of Amanda's hold and ran to her father, throwing her arms around his waist and clinging to him tightly. Peter stood woodenly, afraid to touch her, until she let go and ran back to Amanda.

"Come on old friend, let's go get you to sleep," Kurt said, clapping a three fingered hand on the Russian's broad back. "You'll feel better when you're all rested."


Piotr shifted uncomfortably in his empty bed, trying to push the day's incident from his mind, as he had done with the images of the past that threatened the life he was living know. Most of the time he could ignore them, but every so often, especially when he was alone, one would force his way back into his mind as he slept. Today was no different. The memory of the day he left the X-Men washed over him, as clearly if it was happening that very moment.

Piotr found her out by the pool, alone, sitting on one of the white plastic lounge chairs. She was wearing jeans and a red sweatshirt, hugging her knees to her chest, seemingly apathetic to the stinging drops of heavy rain pouring down on them. Peter thought she looked beautiful, soft and hazy in the ethereal glow of the rain, as though she had stepped out of a Sargent oil painting. He walked cautiously towards her, his wet sneakers squeaking against the concrete, and sat down in the lounger next to her. Kitty continued to stare ahead at the pool, watching the overflow of water seep across the ground.

"Storm hasn't stopped the rain today. Maybe she's hoping it'll be cathartic," she mused bitterly, acknowledging his presence. "She's going to do the eulogy, Storm. I'd do it, but it's just too....Do you want to give one?" she asked quietly, looking at him for the first time. Piotr stayed silent, and she turned away. "No, of course not. That would involve actually talking."

Peter watched her pull her body in tighter, shivering from the cold. He took off his shirt, ignoring the rush of icy water against his skin, and held it up over her wet, matted hair, trying to shield her from the rain. "I don't need your shirt!" she yelled, shoving his hand away from her. Kitty closed her eyes and laid back against the lounge chair, turning herself intangible and letting the stinging drops of water fall harmlessly through her. "The rain can't hurt me. I can't even feel it," she murmured, reaching out to take his hand "I can keep you safe from-"

Her words died as he wretched his hand away from hers only a moment after they touched. Wearily, Kitty lifted herself off the chair and walked over to the pool, turning her back to him and folding her arms protectively over her chest. "Do you even love me, Peter?" she asked, her voice trembling. "Did you ever? Or did you stop when...do you blame me?"

"No."

Kitty watched, her chocolate colored eyes wide and full of anguish, as he got off the chair and walked over to her, until they were only inches away. "Why wont you talk to me? Why wont you let me touch you? Please," she begged, "I just, I need you to hold me." She leaned into him, watching as he drew his hand up to touch her cheek, only to pull away at the last moment. Her shoulders fell and she closed her eyes in disappointment. Piotr watched them open again, full of anger, as her intangible body passed through him on her way back to the lounge chair. He drank in the sight of her, lying there, eyes closed, one last time before turning to retreat back into the mansion. He never knew how long she stayed by the pool that day, only that when he looked out the window after packing his suitcase she was still down there, alone in the rain.

Peter woke up sweating, full of self-loathing, with a dull ache in his heart. He closed his eyes and focused on shoving the incident to the back of his mind, trying his best not to think about it again.


"It's so romantic, marrying your first love," Paige sighed as the Blackbird cut through the clear night sky. The Kentuckian metamorph had chosen to sit next to Kitty on the way back to Westchester, much to her brother's chagrin. Sam sat one aisle over and back, watching his sister like a hawk, the only Guthrie on the plane still reeling from the morning's close call.

"So what does your dress look like?" Jubilee asked from the seat in front of them. She had slipped out of her seatbelt long ago and was propped up on her knees, peering backwards over her headrest.

"I haven't picked it out yet," Kitty realized, remembering she had never gotten a dress. The girls stared at her in shock.

"But that's the most important part," Paige gasped, gapping at her.

"One would think that would be the actual marriage," M said dryly from her seat Sean had placed her in next to Jubilee, momentarily forgetting to pretend she was uninterested in the conversation happening around her. The Asian firecracker glowered at Monet and took her gum out of her mouth, ready to drop it on her unsuspecting teammate's hair.

"Jubilee!" Kitty hissed, pushing her hand away from M's head. "No more of that," she warned, watching the Gen X'er lean over and stick the gum on the bottom of the seat before getting a fresh piece. "And she has a point. Getting married is the best thing about a wedding."

"So the dress doesn't matter at all?" Jubes asked, raising her eyebrows in disbelief.

"Well, maybe a little," Kitty conceded with a grin.

"You know, the two of us could help you plan your wedding," Paige said excitedly, ideas already forming in her head. "What kind of dress do you want? A big, pouffy, white one or a-"

"Why does it always have to be white?" Jubilee blanched. "Why not have it be a fun color?"

"Like what? Yellow?"

"Works for me."

"Ha," M muttered from her seat.

"You have something better?" Jubliee demanded. Monet gave an exasperated sigh and turned to face Paige and Kitty.

"Miss Pryde, did you design your uniform?" she asked. Kitty nodded, and the Moroccan girl stared appraisingly at her deep blue bodysuit with gold trim, boots, and belt. "Your dress should be classy, but simple. Silk, floor length, sleeveless. Draped back and neckline, not showing off too much cleavage. Fitted, but not skin tight," she stated, then look pointedly at Husk. "Not pouffy," she said, turning a critical eye to Jubilee. "White."

"I have to give her credit, girls. She's good."

"Obviously," Monet agreed. "Of course, a dress like that will seem out of place when these two sophisticates have you square dancing to a fiddle playing "Turkey In the Straw" for your first dance as husband and wife," she shot, excusing herself and striding over to observe Logan and Scott steering the jet.

"Yeah, so I don't like her," Kitty announced as the dark haired girl walked away.

Husked grinned. "Join the club, right Jubes?"

Jubilee rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. "Let's put it this way; Kitty, in all your years as a X-Man, have you ever killed anyone?"

"No."

"Have you ever wanted to?

Kitty teeth clenched and she turned away to stare out the window, a faraway look in her eyes as she retreated into her own emotions. "Once."

The two Generation X girls scrutinized her, wondering what they had done to upset her. "Miss Pryde?" Husk asked reluctantly, getting no response.

Jubilee sighed and snapped her gum. "It's times like these I miss the magical pooka."


"We did good. She had fun. You think she had fun, right?" Amanda asked, settling into her boyfriend's arms.

"I think she's still upset."

"Kurt, she's an eight year old girl, and you made her watch an old, black and white Errol Flynn movie about pirates. She wasn't upset, she was bored. That makes her normal. Although you know what? I think she may have a talent for magik. I sensed an air about her."

"I more worried about Peter," he mused, still concerned about his friend's earlier erratic behavior.

"I know! Where did that all come from today?"

"I don't know. Has Kitty mentioned anything to you about the two of them having trouble?"

"No, but then again I don't know much about the wedding," she told him, a hint of bitterness in her tone.

"You're still upset she didn't ask you to be a bridesmaid."

"I'm not upset! A little disappointed, sure, but I understand. Rogue's her best friend and Storm's practically a second mother to her. And of course Illyana has to be the maid-of-honor. It's just that, and I know I shouldn't feel this way, but it's just that it's another one of those things that makes me feel like the rest of them see me as just your girlfriend and not their friend."

"But you and Kitty get along well. And you and-" he searched for another name, to no avail. Amanda pursed her lips and glared at him, annoyance brimming in her eyes.

"Look, the point is, I'm expendable. No one wants to be my friend because they figure if we break up they'll never see me again. Maybe if you didn't keep giving them the impression that I'm just an occasional fling-"

"Maybe if you didn't leave every time Margali snaps her fingers," he argued, taking a breath to calm himself down. "Look, you're going to New York tomorrow, and I wont see you until the wedding, then your off to Europe. Do we have to waste our time talking about this now?" he asked lightly, wrapping his arms around her waist.

"What would rather do, hold it in until it explodes? We shouldn't have even waited this long," she chided gently. "I love you, fuzzy. I don't want this to fall apart. So you're going to sit down and we are going to work this out, even if it takes all night, she ordered, pushing him onto the couch.

"I like the sound of that..."

"Ahem," Peter said, walking into the room. "Sorry to interrupt, but I was looking for my daughter. She can't fall asleep until Kitty or I tuck her in."

"Amanda already took her to bed," Kurt told him, speaking in a concerned tone that the steel-skinned Russian slightly resented. "She was falling asleep-"

"-From boredom-" Amanda muttered.

"- During the movie, so we decided to call it an early night," he explained.

"Oh. Thank you then, for watching her."

"It was welcome change from me and Kurt's usual movie nights," Amanda said lightly, trying to ease the tension in the room. "I actually got to have a mature conversation."

"Ja, it was no trouble. How are feeling Peter?" Nightcrawler asked cautiously.

"I'm fine, I was simply tired, just as you thought." The Russian born mutant ran his hand through his hair, nervous about his next question. "How...how is Illyana?" He asked, his eyes focused on the ground.

"You know kids; they think band-aids are magic. As soon as you put them on everything is all better," Amanda told him, pleased to see him crack a tiny smile as soon as he heard his little girl was all right. "And she practically fell asleep right away," she continued, hoping to make him feel better. "You should have heard her, Peter, it was the sweetest thing. As I was tucking her in she turned to me and said in the cutest little voice "I miss Mama and Papa"."

The flicker of a smile disappeared from his face, replaced by an emotionless mask. "Thank you, Amanda," he said flatly, "for taking such good care of her. You have done so much, I feel selfish to ask for anything else."

"What is it?" she pressed

"We'll help you with whatever you need," her boyfriend agreed.

"Would you be kind enough not to mention any of this to Kitty?" he asked, struggling with the words. "She does not deserve to have me cause her any more pain."

Kurt and Amanda looked at each other, both unsure how to respond. "Of course," Nightcrawler decided, his girlfriend nodding in agreement.

"Spaceeba," Piotr muttered, wandering out of the room, unaware his two friends were continuing to watch him with concern. Peter made his way up the stairs, pausing in the doorframe of his and Kitty's room. He stared at the empty bed, then shut the door, making his way to Illyana's room and taking a seat in the armchair in the corner of her room, guarding her as she slept.


"See you in the morning guys," Bobby said as the three X-Men reached the landing after trudging up the stairs.

"Off to dream about a certain attractive yet aloof headmistress?" Beast ribbed.

"Come on, Hank. Think about it. Frost? Iceman? Our names alone prove we're perfect for each other."

"I wish you luck with that, my friend," Hank called out as disappeared into his room. "You'll need it," he added with a toothy grin. "Goodnight, Katherine, and alas, for parting is such sweet sorrow," Beast said congenially.

"Night, Hank," Kitty yawned, offering a weary smile as her teammate bounded away to his room. She continued down the opposite end of the hall, stepping lightly, until she reached Illyana's door. Kitty phased inside and looked in on the little girl, finding her sleeping fitfully, meek whimpers escaping from her lips. With only the light of the moon to guide her, she made her way nimbly across the room, stooping down to pick up the tattered, well-loved stuffed animal lying at the side of the bed. The russet-haired woman sat down gingerly on the edge of the mattress and wrapped her child's arms around her green stuffed dragon, stroking her arm soothingly until the whimpering stopped and a serene, dreamy smile softened her face. "Goodnight, Snowflake," she whispered, her bright eyes, the color of warm coffee, gazing lovingly down at her slumbering child. Behind her she heard the groan of the armchair in the corner and turned to find her love asleep, his face cloaked in the shadows.

"Oh, Peter, were you up keeping watch over our little one?" she asked in her hushed voice, treading over to Illyana's closet. "Or where you waiting for me to come home?" she wondered aloud, standing on her tiptoes to reach the blanket on the top shelf. "You know I'll always come back to you," she whispered, placing the powder blue fleece blanket over him, the same dreamy smile Illyana had beginning to play at the corner of his lips. Kitty bent over, kissing him tenderly atop his head, lightly running her smooth fingers down the side of his face. "It's you I worry about," she sighed, pulling her hand away from him and letting the tips of her fingers rest on her chest.

She walked away, looking back upon her sleeping family one last time, a bittersweet smile on her face. "Sleep tight," she whispered.

Kitty padded across the hall and into her and Peter's room, phasing out of her boots and uniform as she made her way to the bed. She collapsed onto the mattress, unaccustomed with how big it seemed without Peter's broad body taking up most of it. Kitty fidgeted, uncomfortable with all the space surrounding her. She pulled the blankets over her, cold in spite of the August heat, missing the warmth of strong arms encircling her body. Still feeling restless, she fought the urge to dart across the hall and wake up her fiancee so she could spend the night in his embrace. Instead, she hurried over to the dresser and pulled out his old red sweatshirt, slipping it on over her bra and panties. Peter's scent, the smell of fresh air and pine, was embedded into the fabric, comforting her and tricking her mind into feeling not so alone. The lithe, brown eyed woman climbed back into the bed, grabbing her purple stuffed dragon from his spot on the nightstand on her way back and clutching it to her chest. "Guess it's just you and me tonight, Lockheed," she sighed wistfully, drifting off to sleep alone in her cold, empty bed, wishing Peter was beside her.


Kitty was awakened by the sound of tiny feet bounding across the floor and the swaying of the bed as a light figure climbed in. "I had a bad dream," Illyana whimpered, crawling next to her and clutching onto her arm.

"Daddy's in your room," the brunette X-Man said groggily. "Did you wake him?"

"Uncle Kurt said he needs his sleep."

Kitty rubbed her eyes, confused by her statement. "How'd you get this?" she questioned, noticing the pink bandage wrapped around her index finger.

"Accident."

"Poor thing," she fussed, putting a comforting arm around her daughter's shoulder.

"Mommy?" Illyana asked tentatively, her lower lip beginning to tremble,"I don't think I did a good job taking care of Daddy today."

"Ohh, that's not true," she shushed, giving her shoulder a squeeze, "I'm sure you did your best."

The blonde haired girl looked down, thick tears beginning to roll down her cheeks. "He's not ok, is he?"

"He's fine," Kitty soothed, masking her own worry as she comforted her child. "He's gonna be fine."

"You can't leave again like you did today, all right?" she begged. "He's always better when you're here."

"I won't leave," she vowed, holding her daughter even tighter, feeling tears starting to well up in her own eyes.

"Promise?" she sniffled.

"Promise. But on one condition," Kitty said, kissing the top of the Russian child's head. "You try and go to bed. Little girls need their sleep."

"Can I stay here?"

"Of course," Kitty soothed, settling back into bed, Illyana still clutching her arm with both hands.

"Can we put Lockheed over here?" the small child whispered, patting the empty space beside her. Kitty moved her stuffed dragon to the other side of Illyana, using it as a buffer between her and the side of the bed, protecting her from any approaching monsters.

"All safe. You didn't bring Martin?" she asked her little girl, surprised she would leave her room at night without the green dragon she had given her years ago.

"I left him with Daddy," she explained, snuggling up against her mother, reading for sleep to claim her.

"What a sweet girl," Kitty cooed, pulling the blankets on top of Illyana. "Love you, munchkin," she yawned.

"Love you, too," she mumbled, at peace in her mother's arms as she and Kitty fell asleep. Across the hall, Piotr continued to sit alone in his daughter's empty room, a stuffed green dragon sitting on the dresser, watching over him as he slept.


Arg! Again, sorry this took so long. I'm still not completely happy with it, but I don't think I'm in the mindset to be able to improve it much. The next chapter should hopefully be up around two weeks form now. Oh, and the magical pooka Jubilee mentioned is real. I didn't make him up, he's from Hama's run of Gen X, and his name was Reginald. And to be fair, no one misses him.

oldprydefan- Good to hear from you! Does this mean we can expect another chapter of 'Paper Flowers' in the near future? I miss that story. And yes, I feel the Joss love. He used to be my hero, but Astonishing has elevated him to my God. I must build a shrine to worship him and burn Chuck Austin issues in sacrifice. But seriously, when I read the end to Astonishing, I threw the comic on my bed and started jumping up and down, then stopped, picked up the book, and continued to jump with it in hand. So much happiness, but also a little apprehension of what might happen next. Oh, and have you read 'Deathless' over in the X-Men ff section? It's an amazing story, on par if not better than Astonishing. I'm absolutely sure you will love it, it's so well-crafted and executed perfectly. Plus, there's some pretty gut wrenching Piotr-Kitty moments, so go read it now! Anyway, thanks so much for the review, and, again, it's good to hear from you. I really value your opinion, as you are one the few people whose love for the Kitty-Piotr pairing rivals my own. Thanks again. Now go read 'Deathless'!

The Uncanny R-Man- You cracked my surprise guest star code! Generation X probably wont show up much after this, they were just a nice little break from the monotony of writing the same characters for so long. Plus, all the X-books seem to be on Emma Frost overload at the moment, so I guess she's sort of seeping into my brain. As for the Magik thing, it's not much longer now. My outlines getting shuffled around a bit, so I'm not sure on the exact chapter, but it is coming. Thanks for reviewing!

Leafee LeBeau- Glad you liked it! I love the big guy, too, sometimes a little too much. I made a wallpaper with him on it to help me when I can't write this story, and occasionally I end up just starring at it. It's surprisingly easy to make him adorable, I just write him the way he was in the classic comic era before secret wars and Lobdell destroyed him. Thanks for the review!

DemonRogue13- Glad you liked it! Hopefully it will continue to make sense, since occasionally I lose focus:) Thanks for the review!

KittieKat8- I swear, I'm not trying to torture the readers, just the characters! Good luck on your fic! Do you have a title for it? I keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the review!
Lucas'sgirl- Is your username from 'One Tree Hill'? I just started watching that show last week and now it's already one of my favorites. I can't believe I missed out on pretty much the whole first season. Glad you liked the last chapter. Thanks for the review! Oh, and romy is coming next :)

Jeremy Harper- So there was a little more about what's going on in Peter's head, but there's still a lot more I have planned out for him, so I couldn't give it all away yet. There will be a memory of him in Genosha coming up soon, maybe in the next chapter. It should give a few more clues as to why he left. There is a reason why he never directly speaks or thinks about what he's feeling, which was mentioned in the chapter, so infer from that what you will. As for Rouge's powers, they'll come into play later on in the story. Plus, I just don't find her as interesting without her Ms. Marvel's abilities, like she is now in the 616 universe. Although it was never explained why she got her powers back, but it must have affected her brain, since in her solo series she's been acting about as intelligent as a sixth grader. Thanks for the review!

ishandahalf- Chad is Whitney's brother? Whitney is PREGNANT! That made me laugh hysterically for like twenty minutes. And I got to see the last two episodes! So happy. But this new Fox? No, no, no! Fox must be foxy. It's a requirement for the role. It's even in his characters name! This actor is even worse than the new Belle over in "Days of our Lives." Although I'm accepting of the new Theresa. Do you know if she was on another soap before, maybe Sunset Beach? She looks familiar. But Teresa pregnant with two different babies? That's weird, even for 'Passions'. Hell, what am I thinking? Nothing has ever been too wierd for 'Passions'. But why wont Paloma die? Martin, too. Although I love the fact that they're trying to make you think Luis, Sheridan, et. all are dead in the jungle, then show you a commercial for next weeks episodes where Luis is proposing to Sheridan while the others watch. But Chad and Whitney! The thought of them still makes me giggle, and feel sick to my stomach at the same time. Anyway, the romy is coming next chapter, so not too far off. But there was some Kurmanda to tide you over (I know, it's just not the same as romy though, is it?) But at least there was no Scouge! Although, despite Emma Frost showing up, there will be no Scott-Emma (which I suppose would be called Scemma?) I'm a Bobby-Emma fan personally, since that boy needs a girl. Thanks for reviewing!

B- I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for reviewing this and 'Moving Forward'. I think my writers block is mainly because I want to get to the ending chapters of the story, and there's less fluff to write in the upcoming chapters. Again, thanks for the reviews!