Birthday Gift


Lia Fail and Jeremy Harper

Disclaimer – X-Men: Evolution is the property of Marvel Comics and is used without permission.

Peter walked along the shores of Breakstone Lake, his favorite place on the sprawling grounds of the Xavier estate, and looked out over the gently swelling water. He juggled a flat stone in one hand, determined to keep his attention focused on catching the rock in his strong palm every time it came falling back down. A spray of mist drew his eyes back to the lake, and he began to toss the stone in slower, steadier movements, mirroring the sound of the laps that broke in placid rhythm against the thin strip of sandy, pebble filled shoreline. A grin broke across his face as he watched the water swirl and dance freely across the rocks, the grace of its movement reminding him so distinctly of his Katya. Peter's smile broadened as he remembered the date they had shared the previous night, alone in his room, much to Kurt's chagrin, watching "The Goonies" on his computer. They started the night curled up to each other on his bed, and it didn't take long for the two mutants to find the adventures of Mikey, Chunk, Data, and company losing their appeal in favor of deep kisses and professions of love from one another, murmured as soft and as gentle as a sigh.

Peter shook his head, bringing himself back into the moment. A puzzled expression knitted his brow, and he looked down at his empty palm, spying the stone he had unwittingly dropped while lost in thoughts of the golden-eyed girl he had come to love so dearly. "Katya," he chuckled lightly, bending down to recapture the fallen rock, "Look what you do to me."

When Kitty Pryde finally made up her mind about what she truly wanted from Peter Rasputin for her eighteenth birthday, she went out looking for him. She found him in the first place she looked, along the shores of Breakstone Lake, juggling a flat stone in his hand. She made a point of admiring his backside as she approached, trying to ignore the mounting flutter of nerves in the pit of her stomach. As she came near, he whipped back his arm and threw the stone, sending it skipping across the water, almost reaching the other side. He watched it sink beneath the surface, satisfied with his effort, and he stared, his eyes focused on the ripples as they faded away from sight.

Peter's gaze was still transfixed on the same spot when Kitty reached him. She stared up at him, grinning as she took in the expression on his face; he looked as though his mind was far away, and he was filled with warm, almost goofy contentment that the young woman found charming and endearingly cute. She had seen this expression enough times to know it meant he was thinking about her, though the stoic Russian would never admit to it. "Nice throw, Petey," Kitty teased, nudging him lightly with her elbow. Peter gave a startled flinch as he noticed her standing next to him for the first time, an affectionate smile quickly replacing the look of surprise on his face.

"Thank you, Katya. How are you? I have not seen you all day."

"I'm feeling pretty good. I've just been doing a lot of thinking, but I'm done now. Mind if I join you for a spell?"

"Not at all." Kitty walked up next to him, hooking her arm through his. Peter smiled again and gave her hand a soft squeeze. After three months of seeing each other, their movements came natural and were quite comfortable for them both. They enjoyed each other's company tremendously. Sometimes it surprised Peter, just how much he had come to care for this girl in the short time he had been an X-Man. They started to walk along the lakeshore.

"You know," chirped Kitty, "my eighteenth birthday is this week."

"Yes, I know." Peter smiled. "How could I forget, with you reminding everyone at every opportunity?"

"What can I say? I'm excited! …So, did you get me something?"

"Of course." He had gotten a nice hardcover edition of the complete short fiction of Cordwainer Smith he had seen Kitty exclaim excitedly over the last time they visited the bookstore at the mall. Also, he had for her a delicately wrought silver necklace with a tear-cut crystal pendant - very expensive, but worth it, in his estimation. Besides, he could afford it. He had little reason to like Magneto much, but he had to admit, the stipend the Old Man had given his Acolytes was quite generous. Most of it he had sent to his family in Siberia, but what he had left made for a nice little nest egg.

"Cool! Whatcha get me?"

"You'll have to wait and see."

"Oh, come on! Give me a little hint, at least."

"You are too impatient, Katya."

"That's because I'm a spoiled brat. That happens a lot to only children."

Peter laughed. "True, but since your parents have so thoroughly spoiled you, there is no need for me to do so further. Rest assured, Katya, I think you will like what I have gotten you." He smirked and sat down on the grass, holding out his hand to help her down next to him. "And if you phase into my closet to peek at them, I will be very cross."

"Spoilsport," Kitty laughed, a mischievous grin lighting up her delicate features. "You know, if I can't look at them, I guess I'll just have to find a way to get the answers out of you," she warned.

"And tell me, Katerina, how exactly do you plan on doing that?" he asked, appearing quite amused by her threat, the confidence in his voice a clear indication of who he thought would win in a match between them. "I have a bit of height and weight over you, as you may have noticed with that big brain of yours."

Kitty scrunched up her nose at him and looked away. "While it is true that you have a tad more muscle than I," she began haughtily, trying not to let him see the smile pulling at the corner of her lips, "I am also aware, Piotr Nikolievitch, of exactly where your weakness is!" The last few words left her mouth quickly, and before he had a chance to react Kitty had reached over and phased off his tennis shoe with her left hand, reaching across with her right to tickle his foot. He withdrew it, trying to hold in his laugh as she grasped at the tip of his gold-toed sock, managing to pull it halfway off his foot. With one gentle swoop he wrapped one strong arm around her waist, lifting her up and away from his feet. She attempted to wriggle out of his grasp, laughing too hard to phase, as he walked backwards up the embankment towards the mansion. She squirmed against him harder, and Peter lost his footing, falling backwards onto the grassy lawn, Kitty landing on top of him. With one last giggle she rolled over next to him, resting her head on his sturdy bicep, and gave a small, contented sigh, reaching up to caress Peter's chest with fingertips that danced lightly across his body. Peter reached out and tenderly took hold of her fingers, kissing the top of her palm softly. They stayed like this for a time, enjoying the comfort and warmth of the body next to them, reveling in the silence. Kitty closed her eyes, trying to drown out all but Peter's touch. She snuggled closer to his embrace, perfectly at peace until the sound of a loud belch ruined her contentment.

"Peter!" Kitty exclaimed, slapping him lightly on the chest and propping herself up on one elbow so she could see his face.

"What?" he asked innocently, his eyes still closed, and a wide, satisfied smile on his face.

"Way to ruin the moment."

"What?" Peter asked again, his blue eyes looking up at her with confusion.

Kitty smiled fondly at him and shook her head. "Nothing, Big Guy," she laughed. He tilted his head up to kiss her, and she turned to the side, giving him her cheek. He pressed his lips against her skin, nuzzling her face quickly, almost as though he didn't want her to know if it was a caress or an accidental brush of skin, before pulling away. Peter laid his head back down on the grass. Kitty stayed still, continuing to stare at him in loving wonderment.

"What?" he asked for the third time, a soft laugh following his question.

Kitty's smile widened and he reached up, brushing a loose strand of hair away from her face. She pursed her lips and moved back into his arms, resting her head once again on his bicep. "You're really not going to tell me what you got me for my birthday, are you?" she asked in mock astonishment, quite pleased to feel Peter run his hand through her dark curls of hair.

"Da Katya," he agreed, closing his eyes once again. "I am truly not."

"Oh well, as long as it isn't a gift certificate." Her last birthday, it seemed like everyone except Kurt and Rogue had gotten her gift certificates - even her parents. While she did end up spending them, they felt rather impersonal to her.

"They are not," Peter assured her.

"Oooh, multiple presents. Good." Her smile faded and she sat up. She looked out over the lake for a moment, her hand on Peter's knee, then glanced back at him with a soft smile. "I know I'll love whatever you get me. But, whatever it is, I think it won't be what I really want from you for my birthday."

"Oh really?" he asked lightly, moving into a sitting position and draping his arm around her shoulder. "And what do you want from me?"

Kitty grinned, her cheeks turning slightly pink. "I bet you can't guess."

"Let me see, then… Halo 2?"

Kitty giggled. "Nope. All ready have that. I was playing it against Kurt, Bobby and Sam last night. I beat the snot out of them, too."

"I did not know. But then again, all those games look alike to me." Peter pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I wonder if Bobby knows the meaning of some of those words he was using."

Kitty laughed. "Heck, I didn't know the meaning of most of those words, and I have a humongous vocabulary. But Ororo sure did."

"I still think she over-reacted. English is such a pallid language to swear in."

Kitty arched an eyebrow at him. "If you quote the Merovingian I'll kick your butt," she warned, lightly hitting his leg with her knee in example. Peter chuckled. "Come on, you still haven't guessed."

"Okay… Ahhh… an advanced bootleg copy of Revenge of the Sith."

"Not bad, but still not it. You could definitely add that to my multiple pile of presents, though."

"I guess I am having a failure of imagination, then. I have not the slightest idea."

"You're so clueless." Peter made a face at her. She laughed, and then her expression became a trifle nervous. "Do you want me to tell you?"


Kitty took a deep breath and turned her head, leaning in close to the side of Peter's face. She paused for a moment, and Peter's curiosity was piqued when he turned and noticed she was blushing. She squeezed her eyes shut, steeling courage, and whispered in his ear. Peter blinked, then his eyes went wide and he looked at Kitty, his own face turning as red as hers.

"Katya, I...that is...are you sure that is what you want?" he stammered, feeling his heart pounding in anticipation of her answer.

Kitty grinned. "Positive," she said simply.

"You don't have to reply so quickly. This is a decision that you need to think about, with care, with both your heart and your head. It should not be made lightly." Peter looked at her, his blue eyes blazing intensely. "I do not want to rush you."

"I know, and it's not. You're not. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time now, and I think I'm ready, with you. And I'll be eighteen, Peter - that makes me an adult, sort of, and old enough to make my own decisions. Old enough to know what I want." She smiled warmly and put her tiny hand against his cheek. Peter leaned forward and the couple rested their foreheads against each other, golden eyes staring deeply into ones as blue as the Pacific on a summer's day. "I want you. I want to be with you."

Assured by her answer, Peter met her lips for a deeply passionate kiss, and gently led her back, atop the grass, their embrace reaching fierce heights before they reluctantly pulled away from one another, lying back down and cuddling on the lawn. Peter murmured soft Russian words to the lithe girl beside him, then pressed his lips against her temple. Kitty, in turn, ran her bare foot up the length of his faded work jeans, her touch somehow making the coarse fabric feel soft against his skin. Her foot covered the distance of his leg, moving up to the start of his knee, then back down; a tender, soothing motion. Kitty looked down at their feet as her skin ran across his cotton sock she had earlier tried to pull off, finding it still dangling off his foot, half of it folded over the tips of his toes. A small giggle escaped her.


"You have grass stains on your sock."

Rogue took one look at the kitchen and lost her appetite. Her roommate was sitting on the island's marble counter, her legs wrapped around the handsome man standing before her, straddling his waist. Kitty's slender arms were wrapped snugly around his neck, while Peter rested his hands on the side of her thighs, his thumbs gently rubbing the exposed skin of her legs.

"Well now, chere, I never took you for much of a voyeur, least not with your eyes. But that does look like fun, non?" Rogue rolled her eyes and her mouth turned into a hard line at the sound of the Cajun's smooth voice whispering in her ear, trying not to think about the warm tingle the feel of his breath left on her skin. Without turning to face him, she made her retort.

"Ya come downstairs for food, Remy, or are ya just here ta annoy me?"

Behind her, Gambit smirked and placed his hand low on her waist. "What can I say? They in there having there fun, I'm out here having mine."

"Ass," she snapped, pushing his hand off of her and striding forward, away from him and into the kitchen. The thick soles of her heavy black boots caught the attention of the couple necking at the counter.

"Hiya Rogue!" Kitty chirped, in a noticeably bubbly mood. "Hey Gambit," she added, smiling widely, delighted to see those two particular teammates entering side by side. "So...You two come in together?"

"No. Unlike you and Peter, we're not joined at the pelvis," Rogue bristled. The young couple looked up at each other, abashed, and shied away; Peter moving to the refrigerator to fetch Remy and himself a beer while Kitty hopped off the counter and, after a quick goodbye to the boys, took hold of Rogue's arm, dragging her out of the kitchen and into the foyer.

"Is there a reason why you 'ere pullin' me like a damn bloodhound that just caught the trail of a r'coon?" she grumbled. Kitty turned around, her face lit up by the bright, perky smile that never failed to make Rogue feel like the ugly stepsister to Kitty's sweet and sickeningly perfect Cinderella. Sometimes she was as bad as Jean.

"I have to tell you something," she burst out in a hushed whisper, her voice full of breathless excitement.

"Great," Rogue began flatly, "another hour long speech about the wonder that is Peter Rasputin. Ah swear, that boy's replaced shopping as your favorite thing to talk about."

Kitty stayed silent as her friend groused, picking up on the bitterness her friend tried to hide underneath her sarcasm. She looked back at Rogue sympathetically, which her roommate mistook as pity, causing her to glower at the slender brunette.

"I was just going to tell you that Peter said he got me more than one present for my birthday. You know how I like presents," Kitty explained, her voice meeker than she would have liked.

Rogue's face softened and she gave her friend a small smile. "Good. If he got you two gifts, it means Ah won't have to get you any," she teased. "That way, it'll all balance out."

"Oh it does so not work like that," Kitty exclaimed. "You better get me a present! And it better not be a gift certificate, either," she ordered, trying to emulate the stern, sullen expression Rogue was so good at.

"Fine, Ah'll get ya a damn present," she grumbled good-naturedly. "Maybe Ah'll get ya some good music, so you can finally take your Kelly Clarkson CD out of the stereo."

"But I like that CD!"

"Which is why you need me to buy you some music," she laughed, walking towards the stairs. "You comin'?"

"Nah, I have some stuff to take care of," Kitty explained, gesturing towards the kitchen. Rogue nodded and headed back to her room, while Kitty went in search of the one person she needed to talk to.

Scott Summers was hunched over in his chair, grading Bobby's report on the practical usages of his powers with amused dismay, when the red ballpoint pen he held in his hand broke free of his grasp and moved downward, guided by an invisible hand as it drew a large heart on the middle of the paper.

The tactical leader of the X-Men looked up to find Jean sitting at the desk across from him, her hand pressed against her temple in concentration. "The practical uses of my powers." the red headed telepath explained with a smile, "Getting my boyfriend's attention."

Scott looked down at the typed piece of paper covered by the large heart and blinked. "You know, Bobby's probably going to think I have a crush on him now." He glanced over at Jean's stack of paperwork. "You're finished already?"

"Almost. But I think we could both use a break," she said, strolling over to his desk and sitting on the ledge.

"We're not supposed to mess around in the classroom," he reminded as he stared admiringly down at her long, smooth legs. "As teachers, we're supposed to set an example."

"Yes, but as boyfriend and girlfriend were supposed to set a very different kind of example," she whispered sensually into his ear. Cyclops flushed a red as deep as the ruby quartz that held back his powers and smiled at her tempting; then his expression sobered and pulled away.

"We promised the professor that we'd finish these tonight. Besides," he added weakly, "We can't break the rules."

Jean's face darkened momentarily in annoyance, and quickly gave way to an impish grin. "Okay," she shrugged breezily, getting up to return to her own desk.

"Wait," he stopped her, standing up and intertwining his hands with hers. "I suppose if no one knows were not setting an example, than technically we're still following the rules," he reasoned, leaning in for a kiss. Jean met his lips and the two kissed briefly before she pulled away.

"Kitty's coming," she told him, grinning as she heard the thoughts of her teammate. "She's at the other side of the door, but she hasn't knocked because she heard kissing noises."

"Can't you make her think she wants to go away?" he cajoled, leaning back in for a kiss.

"Sorry," Jean laughed, pulling away, "But she and I have a very important mission to finish, at the mall. And you," she added, her eyes shining as she picked up her two un-graded essays and placed them on her boyfriend's desk, "have work to do."

"So what are we looking for?" Jean asked as the two women stared up at the rows of bustiers inside the Bayville Mall's lingerie chain store.

"Something pink," Kitty said decisively, the color of the garment the only thing she felt sure of in this particular section of the store. Jean shot her a grin.

"Pink, huh? I don't think that'll be too hard to find in this place. What do you think of that one? She inquired, pointing to a white cropped bustier adorned with pink flowers and lace trim. Kitty nodded in silent agreement, and the curvaceous red head stood on her tiptoes, finding herself only tall enough to reach the garment tags. "Anyone looking?" she asked quietly. Kitty glanced around the room and whispered a soft "no", her teammate hearing the younger girl's response in her mind before she spoke it aloud. With a thought, Jean moved the hanger off the upper rack and into her open hand, than set her feet flat against the floor and passed Kitty the piece of lingerie. "It looks like your style," she commented, watching the brunette scrutinize the bustier unreceptively. She flipped it over and her frown deepened.

"The back is practically see-through."

"Probably the look they were going for," Jean countered, her emerald eyes dancing like leaves in the wind. "We'll keep that in the maybe pile until we find a better one. Now see, this looks like a good fit," she pointed out, rummaging through the rack for Kitty's size. "And it's even pink," she added encouragingly, handing her friend a fuchsia bustier with ruffle details and black trim.

"The ruffles are nice," she agreed, reluctantly taking hold of the hanger, "but don't you think its a little dark?"

"No, I thought it looked perfect." Jean gave a small sigh and continued to eye the choices. "Ohh, look at this one," she breathed, picking up a deep green satin corset bustier with yellow laces.

"But that's not even pink," Kitty protested

Jean looked up at the younger girl and smiled sensitively. "You have a point. Alright, I'm going to stop butting in and let you pick out one you actually want."

The seventeen year old gave her friend a small smile, a flash of rosebud pink on the wall behind Jean catching her eye. "That one's sort of okay," she muttered, pointing to the shiny pink bustier, adorned with floral embroidery, ribbon trim, and deep pink rosettes. Jean turned to look at the item behind her, her eyes lighting up with delight.

"That is perfect for you," she squealed excitedly, snatching up one from the rack. "You have to go try this on. I'll go with you," the red head added, picking up the green corset bustier she had admired in a considerably larger bust size than the one she had chosen for Kitty.

The two girls headed to the dressing room, and as Jean went into the stall next to her, Kitty thought she might have finally understood what Rogue felt every time she dragged her along to shop with her. The young X-Man undressed, took the outfit off the hanger and stared at it warily, then sucked in her stomach as tightly as possible and wriggled as she pulled the piece of clothing on over her undergarments. She stared sourly at her reflection in the mirror. There was a light knock on the door, and Kitty distractedly moved to respond, watching her reflection out of the corner of her eye.

"Kitty!" Jean hissed as the younger girl phased her head through the dressing room door, "Powers!"

"Oops!" Kitty's eyes widened as she pulled her head back in. "Sorry!" she called out.

"I think you're okay," Jean said telepathically, checking the room for anyone who might have witnesses of Kitty's abilities, "but you are so going to have an extra danger room session for using your powers in public."

"You used your powers in public!" she protested.

"That was different!"


"I was paying attention!" Jean took a deep breath and spoke out loud. "Come on, let me in." She heard the sound of a lock clicking open and the door swung out slightly. The telepath squeezed inside, careful not to open the door wide enough to let anyone see in. "What's wrong?" she asked gently, sitting down on the stool in the back of the stall. Kitty frowned and flicked the price tag disdainfully.

"It's over a hundred dollars, and that's not even including the matching underwear!"

"You want to go someplace else and look?"

"No," she responded glumly.

"Why not?"

"I don't know anywhere else," she admitted, sitting down next to Jean. "And this thing makes me feel like a kid playing dress up."

"You do know you don't have to wear that for Peter, right?" she asked with a grin. "You actually don't have to wear anything. I don't think he'd complain about that."

"But when I was trying to decide if this is what I wanted for my birthday, I rented the first four DVDs of "Sex and the City", for advice, and they always bought these or nighties when they knew that night was going to be a special occasion."

Jean smiled kindly at the girl, amused by her naiveté, and put a sisterly arm around her shoulders. "Kitty, why did you ask me to come with you instead of Rogue?"

"Because, it would have been mean to throw this in Rogue's face. You know, about this kind of stuff."

"Right," the scarlet haired mutant agreed, "so you have me to get advice from instead of some cable TV show. Now I don't know your boyfriend very well, but I helped the Professor interview him when he first came to the institute, and the one thing that stuck with me is that once Peter loves you, you're in his heart forever. The wrong lingerie isn't going to change that. Besides, I'm sure he'd rather have the real you, instead of the you that's trying to be perfect." The older woman looked up, a twinkle in her jade eyes. "Besides, why pay that much for something he's going to rip off you anyway?"

"It's just, what if I'm not good?

"Then he'll probably dump you," she deadpanned quickly, her face solemn.

"No he wouldn't!"



"Then what do you have to worry about?"

"Nothing, I guess. And I don't, when I'm with him. It's only when he leaves that I start to worry about disappointing him.

"How do you know that he's not worried about disappointing you?"

"He couldn't ever do that," Kitty murmured softly. "A lot of the kids, especially Kurt, they don't really get what I see in him. I mean he's quiet, maybe even a bit of a mystery to everyone, but given all that happened with Magneto and his family, it makes him a little hesitant to open up. But when he does… he's sweet and kind and loving and all those stupid things you try to use to describe someone when there really aren't any words, at least none as strong as what you feel." Kitty paused, smiling tenderly at a moment she had suddenly remembered. "You know, this morning, he had a grass stain on his sock. It made me laugh, because all I could think about was that it was the most adorable grass stain I'd ever seen. Just 'cause it was his."

Jean smiled knowingly. "You love him."


"It wasn't a question. Still, what you're planning to do, it's a big step."

"Not so much - more of a natural step. And I'm scared, but I'm ready. I want this." She looked up at Jean gratefully. "Thank you, for not trying to talk me out of this."

"Hey, I know what it's like to be young and in love - I'm not that old. Besides," she grinned, lifting her finger to her temple, "I also know better than most people when someone's mind is made up."

Remy straightened up from the pool table, leaning on his cue, surveying the results of his shot with a critical eye. He had a good screen against Peter set up – not that it really mattered. Peter did not seem to be very interested in the game today. He sat on a stool, right foot propped on a rung, staring out the rec room's large picture windows while absent-mindedly chalking his stick. "Your turn, Petey." Peter did not hear him. "Hey, brother! Your shot." The big Russian gave a start, looked at Remy, then nodded and stood.

"Sorry," he murmured. He glanced over the table, frowning, tried to sink the ten ball and failed, banking it off the far bumper. He did succeed in clearing some of the screen, but unfortunately he also improved Remy's opportunities. Shaking his head, he sat back on his stool, taking a swig from the bottle of Sam Adam's Summer Ale he had on the counter next to it.

"Maybe you should lay off the beer, go back to those black cherry sodas you so fond of," teased Remy as he contemplated his next shot. "I think alcohol is throwing you off your game."

"Perhaps." He watched Remy line up his shot. Just as he was about to make it, Peter suddenly said, "Don't scratch." Remy shot too hard, and the cue ball clunked in the side pocket right after the one ball.

Remy scowled at his friend as Peter started to laugh. "That was bush league, brother."

"Sorry," Peter apologized, not really meaning it. Remy grunted, fished the cue ball out of the pocket and tossed it to Peter underhand. He caught it easily, went to the pool table, and set it down. He took a deep breath, then preceded to sink four balls in three shots, nearly catching up with Remy's score, the Cajun thief's scowl etching deeper with each successful play. But Peter missed his fourth shot, and Remy finished the game, sinking his last three balls and the eight ball with professional quickness. He turned to Peter, still scowling.

"Where you learn to pull shit like that?" he demanded.

Peter shrugged. "Where else? From watching you."

Remy's scowl turned into a grin. "Good boy. I was wondering if you were payin' attention. Want to make it four out of seven?"

Peter shook his head. "No, thank you. I do not seem to be too interested in pool today."

"No kiddin'. Good thing we weren't playing for money today. I would have cleaned you out."

"Not a big deal – I would just win it back from you the next time we played poker." They cleaned up the rec room, racking the balls, putting away the cues and chalk, then finished their beers and strolled to the kitchen to get rid of the bottles. Remy got another Sam Adams, while Peter took his advice and grabbed a Stewart's black cherry soda. They headed for the front and lounged on the front steps, sipping their drinks and enjoying the clear late afternoon day.

"Nice day today," Remy commented. Peter nodded in agreement. "Hell, been a nice summer, period. Not too hot, not too wet." He looked across the front lawn and grinned. "Not to mention so many ladies being seasonably fashionable." Peter followed his friend's gaze. Tabitha and Jubilee were playing Frisbee with Bobby and Roberto. Jubilee was wearing a white tube top belly shirt, white linen shorts and flip-flops, while Tabitha was jumping around bare-foot in a black bikini top and high-cut denim shorts. Bobby and Roberto seemed to be having a hard time paying attention to the Frisbee. "Ten, twenty years from now, I bet the ladies will be runnin' around stark during the summer. That a trend I thoroughly approve." Peter shrugged and sipped at his soda. Remy gave him an amused look. "You know, we ain't doin' too bad for ourselves. Probably better than we deserve, in fact. Sure, Xavier don't pay as well as the Old Man, but the digs are more luxurious and the company we keep is a hell of a lot more congenial."

"Mmmm," murmured Peter.

"You a mouthy bastard, you know that Petey?"

"Brevity is the soul of wit."

Remy laughed. "So what's up, homme? Your head's been in the clouds all day."

Peter shrugged. "Katya is on my mind."

"What else is new? There a problem in paradise? You two looked pretty cozy in the kitchen earlier."

"Ummm…" Peter drank some more soda. "How long were you watching us?"

"Five, ten minutes maybe. I wanted a beer, but I just didn't have the heart to interrupt you two."

"I bet…" Peter grumbled, making a face. "No, we are fine – better than fine. I have not been this happy in a very long time, Remy. I am just wondering about the… the gifts I am getting Katya for her eighteenth birthday, whether she will like them."

Remy took a swig of his Sam Adams. "What you giving her?"

"A book she really wanted – a nice hard cover limited edition. A silver and crystal necklace." And my virginity, he thought wryly.

"Sounds good. What you worried about?"

"I am just… I am just hoping I do not… disappoint her."

"Feh. You worrying over nothin'. That girl is crazy about you. You could probably give her a rock and she'd think it the greatest thing ever."

Peter laughed. "I do not think I will put that theory to the test. Have you gotten her anything yet?"

"Thinkin' maybe one of those DVD boxed sets of those shows she always watchin'. What it called… Muffy?"

"Buffy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Peter answered in an amused tone. "The other show is called Angel."

Remy rolled his red on black eyes. "Least she ain't a Trekkie. Has she got any of those sets?"

Peter thought for a moment. "I think she has up to Season Three with Buffy, and only Season One for Angel."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"I'm sure she'd like one of those, and she will appreciate that you are not getting her a gift certificate."

"Hey, Katie's my best friend's lady. Nothin' too good for her."

The front door swung open and Rogue stepped out onto the stoop. Peter and Remy looked up at her. "Hallo chere," said Remy. "You know, I meant to ask you earlier, but ain't you hot, all wrapped up like that?"

Rogue frowned and glanced down at her outfit of green gauze and black denim. "Not really."

"I don't buy it. I think you'd be a lot more comfortable if followed those ladies example." He gestured towards Jubilee and Tabitha.

Rogue snorted. "Don't you wish. Stop ogling the jail-bait, Swamp Rat – you got things to do."

Peter arched an eyebrow. "He does? That is news to me."

"News to me, too," said Remy. "Something I miss?"

"Ah don't know, but Scott does. He wants to see you."

"The hell – what the Boy Scout think I do now?"

Rogue smirked. "I don't know, but he sure ain't happy."

"A shocking development," muttered Peter. He gave Remy a wry look. "What was that you were saying about congenial company?"

Remy drained the last of his beer and gained his feet. "Hey, rather deal with Scooter than Creed or Allerdyce any day of the week." He suddenly grinned. "Bet you ten bucks I can get him stuttering in five minutes, Petey."

Peter grinned back. "You're on."

Rogue's expression was peculiar, as if she could not decide if she were amused or offended. "Ya know, you shouldn't be so hard on him. He ain't that bad."

"Hey, we give him a break the day he stops lookin' at Petey and me as if we're gonna make off in the middle of the night with the good silver." Remy stretched his arms over his head. "Ah, to Hell with it. See ya in a bit, brother." Remy walked into the manor, Rogue walking behind him. Peter shook his head, sipped some soda, and looked out over the lawn, smiling gently. He sat still for a while, contemplating the strange turns his life had taken over the past four years. Back then, he believed he would be a farmer all his life and never leave Siberia, let alone Russia. Now here he was, an ex-mutant terrorist - albeit an unwilling one - turned super-hero, living in a suburb of the largest city in the world, loved by and very much loving back a beautiful young woman. "Remy is right," he murmured to himself. "We are doing well for ourselves."

He finished his soda, and was thinking about heading to his room and fetching one of his sketchbooks, when he heard the front door open. Slender arms wrapped around his shoulders. His smile widened.

"Miss me?" Kitty whispered in his ear. Peter turned his head and looked at her pretty, smiling face.

"Terribly." He gave her a kiss. She sighed in contentment and sat down next to him, her dark blue summer skirt flouncing slightly. "Where did you go?"

"Oh, just shopping with Jean."

Peter shook his head in mock dismay. "I should have known. Should you really be buying things when you will be getting a whole bunch of… ah… swag, this Friday?"

Kitty gave her boyfriend a look. "Swag?"

He nodded. "Swag."

Kitty laughed. "Probably not, but I need a new outfit. I want to look good for my birthday. You only turn eighteen once, you know."

"Katya, you have a closet and large bureau stuffed to bursting with blouses and dresses and what not. You could not find something suitable in what you had all ready?"

"Nope. I've all ready worn everything there at least once. I was overdue for some new clothes." She gave him a sly, sidelong look. "Besides, I think you'll like what I got."

"Oh really?" Kitty nodded, her cheeks tinting pink. "That is not a surprise. You know I would like you in any kind of outfit." He grinned, leaning over to whisper in her ear. "Or wearing nothing at all, for that matter."

Kitty's eyes went wide and she gave Peter a little swat on the chest. They both laughed. Kitty leaned against Peter, resting her head on his shoulder, while put his hand in her lap and stroked her thigh. They sat quietly together for a minute, then Kitty asked, "Where's Gambit? Hanging out with Rogue?"

Peter frowned slightly. "I am not certain. Depends if our Fearless Leader is done with him yet, I guess."

Kitty looked up. "What happened this time?"

"I do not know. I thought Remy has been very well behaved the past few weeks, but evidently Scott disagrees, if what Rogue said about him being unhappy is true."

Kitty rolled her eyes. "What he needs to do is pull that stick out of his butt, but I think it's up so far not even Jean's telekinesis could pry it out." Peter snorted. Kitty gave her boyfriend a serious look. "You know, I'm getting a wee bit tired of him picking on you two all the time. You guys have been nothing but beneficial to the team. Heck, if it weren't for you two, the Upstarts probably would have beaten us last month, and that would have been bad… Field leader or not, I think Scott's getting out of line. I wish Logan or Ororo or the Professor would tell him to lay off."

Peter gave her knee a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "It is not their place. Don't worry about my brother and me, Katya. We're tough. As I've told you before, Scott is a cream puff compared to Creed or the Old Man. He'll have to get a lot more obnoxious before he gets a real rise out of either of us."

"I know you're tough, but it still isn't right. At least he isn't chewing you out along with Remy."

"I think he is trying a new tactic. Together, Remy and I can get him pretty well flustered. Perhaps he believes he will have better luck dealing with us individually. It would be nice if he is right."

Kitty gave her boyfriend a curious look. "Why do you say that?"

"Because Remy bet ten dollars he can get Scott stuttering in under five minutes today. If he doesn't, I win, and I'll take you out to dinner tonight."

Kitty smiled. "And if Remy wins?"

"Then he'll treat us to dinner."

Kitty giggled. "You're evil." Peter's smile faded a bit, and he looked down at the hand resting in his lap.

"Am I?" he asked quietly. Kitty turned to him, draping her arm across his broad shoulders, and with her free hand touching his chin and making him look at her.

"No," she said simply, a gentle smile curving her full lips, her golden eyes warm and loving. "You're the nicest guy I've ever had the luck to meet."

Peter smiled back at her, wrapping his own arms around her, his hand resting on her hip. Suddenly his ocean-blue eyes narrowed slightly, a hot gleam lighting up within them. "Oh? Just how nice?" he asked quietly. As he spoke his hand caressed up her side and back down, his fingertips briefly touching the side of her breast. Kitty let out a little gasp, a wonderful, scary shiver chasing down her spine. Peter had never touched her like that before, and she never thought he would do something like this in public. Kitty glanced through the open front door, saw no one in the hall, then looked over at the New Recruits playing on the front yard. They were a good distance away, their concentration on the Frisbee and each other. Kitty looked into Peter's face, her cheeks red, and a naughty, mischievous smile on her lips. She covered Peter's hand with hers.

"You're nice, but not too nice." She dragged his hand up her side, square onto her breast. Peter sucked in his breath in surprise. Kitty leaned into his touch, her golden-brown eyes bright and hot. "I wouldn't want you to be too nice," she said, her voice a breathy whisper.

Peter swallowed, his face flushing a deep, rich red, the gleam in his eyes growing hotter. He squeezed Kitty gently, his thumb brushing over her nipple, erect and pressing against the thin cloth of her bra and blouse, and she let out a kittenish moan, her eyes closing, her blush deepening. Peter let his hand fall back onto her hip, and he pulled her up onto his lap. "You are full of pleasant surprises today, Katerina Anna."

Kitty opened her eyes and grinned. "How pleasant?"

"Very pleasant." He leaned over and kissed her deeply, his tongue cozening gently into her mouth, twining with hers. She wrapped both arms around his broad shoulders and clung to him tight. They became so involved with one another they failed to notice the couple approaching them.

"Well, aren't you two having fun?" Amanda Sefton laughed. Kitty and Peter looked up to see the dark skinned beauty standing in front of the stoop, her arm twined with her boyfriend Kurt's, who had just shut down his image inducer. Amanda seemed affectionately amused, while Kurt looked at them with slight disapproval.

Kitty grinned up at Amanda. "Oh, we sure are!" She and her boyfriend were both blushing, but not from embarrassment.

"Katzchen, should you and Peter really be making out on the front steps?" Kurt asked her. Kitty looked at him closely for a moment, then flashed him a wicked smile.

"Well, Kurt, Peter and I have made out everywhere else in the manor, so we figured we might as well make a clean sweep of it."

Peter chuckled. "Not quite everywhere, Katya," he said, following his girlfriend's lead. "There are one or two places we've missed."

"Oh? What are they?"

"Ororo's attic for one. The roof, for another."

"The roof?" giggled Amanda. "Isn't that a bit… uh… precarious?"

Peter shrugged and smiled. "Risk spices the experience."

"I like how my boyfriend thinks," said Kitty. "Anywhere else, Petey?"

Peter grinned at Kurt. "Kurt's room."

"Oooh, that's right! So how about it, Fuzzy-Elf – do you mind if we borrowed your room for an hour or so? We promise we'll leave it intact… mostly."

"Katzchen…" Kurt chided in a slightly pained voice. Amanda was laughing very hard.

"Sorry, Kitty, but you two will have to wait your turn. Kurt and I have his room reserved for our own love-fest, and we're running late."

"AMANDA!" Kurt exclaimed, scandalized. Everyone else laughed.

"So what brings you here, Amanda?" Kitty asked.

"Kurt invited me over for dinner and smoochies, not exactly in that order." Amanda gave Kurt's arm an affectionate squeeze. Kurt shifted and ducked his head. "After dinner we're going to watch some movies. I picked up a few new DVDs the other day."

"Cool! Anything good?"

"I think so – I have the new release of 'The Fifth Element'. You two feel like laughing at DJ Ruby Rhod?"

"I'm up for the entire thing. You know what a big s.f. geek I am, and 'The Fifth Element' was a ton of fun."

"I'm game, too," said Peter, hugging Kitty with one arm. Kitty gave him a teasing look.

"I dunno – this a movie I wouldn't want to miss, and you have a pleasant knack for distracting me."

"What if I promise to be on my best behavior?" Peter asked with a smile. "Will you let me watch with you then?"

"Well, you don't have to be on your best best behavior. I have no problems with just a little distraction."

"As long as you two don't distract Kurt and me from each other," laughed Amanda. "So it's a date then. We'll see you guys later." She and Kurt headed into the house.

While walking up the stairs to the second floor, Amanda glanced at Kurt curiously. He seemed very pensive. In fact, she had not seen him looked so tense since back when the X-Men were first outed as mutants during the fight with the Sentinel, and he was trying to decide whether he should reveal his true form and status to the student body of Bayville High. When the couple entered Kurt's room, Amanda stepped in front of him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Okay, m'love, what's wrong?"

Kurt looked at Amanda, his yellow, cat-like eyes opening wide. "What makes you think something is wrong?"

"Please, Kurt. I know you better than anyone, 'cept maybe Kitty, and you were throwing off a ton of bad vibes out there. And since when did you become such a prude? You and I have done a bit more than neck in some not-so-private places. So come clean and tell me what's bothering you."

"You shouldn't encourage them," he snapped, his voice sounding harsher then he had intended.

"Kurt, those two have been dating for what, three months now? I don't think they need my encouragement to want to kiss each other. They're a hands-on kind of couple. So are we," she reminded him, pulling him closer and giving him a quick kiss on the lips. Kurt remained unconvinced.

"She's fallen too hard for him. I don't think she knows what she's doing."

Amanda laughed at his sentiment. "She's in love, Kurt. Isn't that all she really needs to know?" Her boyfriend glowered at her, his disapproving yellow eyes showing he clearly did not agree. "God, if this is how you handle her dating a member of your own team, I would have hated to see how you must have freaked out over Lance," she muttered.

"Lance was different. With him, they were never together long enough to do anything…regrettable. And at least I didn't have to see it."

"Lance also wasn't good for her. Peter is." She paused and stared at him, her eyes searching. "Where is this even coming from? I thought you and Peter had become friends."

"Katzchen- she is like a sister to me, as is Rogue. Within the team, they were always the ones I was closest to." Kurt gave a small sigh and looked away. "We were doing fine, on our own. We didn't need Peter or Remy."

"You're right, you probably didn't. But they needed this team, for penance, for redemption, for whatever it was Magneto took from them. And now that he's here, Peter and Kitty need each other. He's a good guy, and they're good together; you just…aren't letting yourself see it yet. Kind of like how my parents can't see that I need you."

Kurt looked up at his girlfriend with sorrowful eyes. "I just don't want to see her getting hurt," he explained softly.

"Oh Fuzzy, I know you do. But you can't protect her from everything."

"I know. That's what worries me."

"This is new," Kitty muttered as she reached for the large picture frame on the nightstand next to Peter's bed. She studied it for a moment, then brought it closer to her. "Are you ready yet?" she called out, glancing over to the bathroom door. She gave a bored sigh as she waited for a response. "You know the boy is supposed to ready before the girl."

"The boy was ready until the girl made him change his pants," Peter answered good-naturedly as he exited the bathroom, now wearing a pair of navy Dockers that brought out the deeper tones of his cobalt eyes. He walked over to his easy chair and draped his discarded work jeans over the overstuffed arm, amused and somewhat pleased by the sight of Kitty settled atop his bed in perfect ease and contentment.

"Yeah, but you look so good in them," Kitty countered, eyeing her boyfriend appreciatively, sitting up to hide the slight squirm of her body caused by the warm tingle in her stomach. She met Peter halfway across the room and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Very handsome," she complimented. "And you look much better now than you do in this," she said with a playful smile, holding up the framed picture of a dark haired man in front of a large building, drawn with the clumsy hand of a child with a box of Crayolas sent by her brother. "Self portrait?" she teased.

Peter nodded solemnly, playing along. "Da," he agreed, a droll grin on his face. "I think I've finally found my style. Wax stick figures seem to suit me." He reached out and gently took the frame from her, studying its content. "Illyana wrote that you were in the drawing as well," he added softly.

"Really? Where?" Kitty asked, pulling the top of the frame down to look.

"There, as best I can tell," explained Peter, pointing to a small grouping of brown, gold, and blue scribbles behind what was meant to be Peter.

Kitty frowned at the shape. "You're sister doesn't like me much, does she?"

"On the contrary, my parents say Illyana is quite taken by what she knows of you. She thinks you're powers mean you are one of the woodland spirits- a sprite."

Kitty looked up at him adoringly, a wide smile lighting up her face. "Awww," she cooed, "You write your family about me?" Peter nodded. "What do they say?"

Peter chucked at her liveliness and strode over to his nightstand, opening the upper drawer and removing the topmost piece of paper. "This is the latest one," he explained, handing the letter to her, and wrapping his arms snugly around her waist, holding her as she read.

Kitty stared at the paper blankly. "Peter?" she asked sheepishly, turning her head to look at her boyfriend. "With the exception of 'Katya', 'Piotr', 'da', 'nyet, 'and tovarich', my Russian's a little rusty."

Peter stared at her, his eyes burning with momentary intensely before they softened, and he grinned impishly at the slender beauty. "It is nothing to worry over, Katya. I suppose I will just have to teach you about my native tongue."

Kitty smirked. "I won't argue with that," she purred, turning into his body. "Your tongue is something I never get tired of learning about." They gazed into each others eyes, both full of desire, and Peter licked his lips before dipping his head to kiss her, taking hold of her waist with one muscular arm and lifting her up. Kitty gave a soft moan as their tongues caressed and she threw her arms around his neck, clinging to him tightly. His kisses traveled down the side of her neck, and she leaned her head back to let his mouth roam where it wished, offering him her throat. Kitty reached up to run her hand through his dark hair, nearly losing her hold on him. She wrapped one long, svelte leg around his body, the other running slowly up the back of his thigh before curving around his waist. Sweat began to bead on the back of his neck, and she lost some of her grasp, her body sliding down slightly before she quickly regained her hold, pulling herself up, rubbing against his body. Peter gasped at the friction, then gave in to one last kiss before setting her down remorsefully.

"It's alright," Kitty whispered. "Soon."

"Soon," he agreed. He stood for a moment, catching his breath, and then took her hand. "Come here," Peter said, gently leading her to the bed and drawing her into his lap. Kitty snuggled against him, her breathing still slightly shallow as he reached down and picked the letter from his parents off the polished hardwood floor. His arms encircled her, and he rested his chin against her shoulder. "This is what I wanted to show you," he whispered, his warm breath keeping her cooling skin flushed. "Russian," Peter explained, "Is a very sensual language, more so than even the French. Their words, they are sharp and empty. My language is simple. Deep. Warm. Honest," he explained, ending each word with a kiss. Kitty turned and smiled tenderly at him. "Lyublyu tebya vsem sertsem, vsey dushoyu, Katerina," he whispered. The lithe brunette smiled blissfully and took his hand, pressing her lips against it lovingly before he continued. "Unlike the other European countries, our words do not come from the gut, or the nasal, or the rolled tongue, but the heart. Perhaps that is why we are a nation of such few words. When what you say comes from the heart, there is no need for excess to prove it as true."

Kitty looked at him and smiled knowingly. "Piotr Nikolievitch," she breathed, his body stirring at hearing his name fall from her lips, "would you read me the letter?"

Peter's face broke into a broad grin, and he held the girl in his arms tighter, finding her all the more precious. He read to her softly, stumbling over once-familiar words. Kitty listened quietly, stroking his arm as he read, staring at him fondly. As he went on her expression changed, and she looked at him searchingly, her furrowed brow disappearing before it was noticed by the handsome Russian.

After he finished, he pointed up, to the first line. "See this part, 'Milaya Piotr'? It says 'Dear Peter. So 'milaya' means 'dear'."

"Milaya," she repeated.

He smiled at her pronunciation. "It goes on to say that they're doing well, that the crops are flourishing, and that Illyana lost her first tooth. Heh. When I responded I enclosed a quarter in the envelope, and wrote to her of the American tradition of the tooth fairy."

Kitty smiled and touched his face. "You're good to your family," she told Peter, prompting his smile to widen further.

"Down here, this is where they wrote about you. See there? That is your name in our letters. They say that you sound very lovely, and that they would one day like to meet the woman who brought joy back into their youngest son's heart."

"You can tell them it's a fair trade. He brings joy to my heart, too."

Kitty leaned her head back, and Peter lowered his head to meet her. They kissed; long, slow, and tender. They did not notice the bedroom door quietly open. Remy leaned against the jamb, smiling a rare, honest smile, showing the happiness he felt for his two friends. A wistful expression momentarily lit the Cajun's red on black eyes, but he quickly suppressed it, his face settling into its usual mask of insouciant humor. He cleared his throat, attracting the attention of Peter and Kitty.

"Ahem. As sorry as I am to interrupt, mon amis, you're the ones who wanted to leave for dinner early so you could be back in time to watch the movie. Besides, my dates are getting impatient."

Peter and Kitty looked at each other uncertainly. "Dates?"

"Finally!" Tabitha exclaimed as Kitty and Peter followed Remy down the stairs and into the foyer where the two girls were waiting.

"Yeah, what took you so long?" Jubilee piped in, finishing her question with a trademark pop of her bubblegum.

"Kitty made her boyfriend change clothes," Remy snickered, helping Jubilee into her bright yellow coat and holding the heavy oak door open for his companions.

"Yeah, but don't you think the wait was worth it?" Kitty asked as the three girls walked towards the garage, the men trailing a few feet behind.

"Oh yeah, totally. Your boy's a hottie." Tabitha agreed, glancing over her shoulder at Peter appreciatively. She turned back to Kitty, a wide grin on her face. "And speaking of hot, wait 'til you see what car we're taking to dinner."

"I was right about congenial company in this place," Gambit smirked, his eyes fixed on the back of Boom Boom's sauntering figure.

"But two of them, Remy?" Peter chided lightly, reaching into his pocket for the keys to the school's shared Escalade.

"What would you have me do, invite one and break the other's heart? Remember, mon ami; I'm a true gentleman."

"More like a charlatan. We both know your real interest lies with only one of the girls in this mansion."

"And with my interest lies the problem. A man should never allow himself to become too fixated on only one conquest. It can only lead to a broken, bored heart, or worse - to the man living his life by the whims and demands of his love. By the way Petey, lookin' spiffy in those pants."

"So Rogue told you no, then?" the tall Russian asked, amused, unscathed by his friend's remark. In return, Remy gave a disgruntled snort and reached out to take the key ring from Peter's hands, quickly examining each key.

"Let's just say her response was less than congenial for a gentleman like myself, enough so to prompt me to move on to my plan B. And C," he smirked.

"Just remember they're jailbait," Peter reminded him solemnly, in a tone the Cajun had learned to recognize as an order hidden in the form of a friendly request.

"So is yours," Remy shot back, tossing the key ring, now one number short, back to its owner before following the girls into the garage.

"Not for long," Peter said quietly to himself, a knowing smile on his face.

"So Remy, what happens if Scott finds out you've been chauffeuring us around town in his car tonight?" Jubilee questioned, reaching out to nab the last piece of bread in the wicker basket in the center of the table.

"That is not a worry you need to concern your pretty little head with. I heard he's staying in all night 'grading papers' with Jean, which means he'll never even know the car was touched, let alone borrowed. Besides, it's all worth the risk. Ladies like you should ride in style," he grinned charismatically, throwing her a quick wink.

"Plus there's the fact that he used Peter's master key to the school's vehicles, so if he does get caught Peter will probably get the blame," Kitty added dryly, trying not to show her amusement.

"I couldn't have used my key!" Gambit protested.

"That's because they took it away!" she shot back.

"Why'd they go and do something like that?" Tabitha wondered aloud, looking at the Cajun with a touch of love struck admiration

"Because he kept borrowing Cyclops' car," Kitty responded, a giggle escaping her, prompting the other ladies to laugh along with her. She looked up at Peter and he smiled back at her, placing his palm on her thigh.

"Why don't we get to have one?" Jubilee asked, Tabitha chiming in with indignant agreement.

"First, you have to be on the senior team, and the second reason is the same reason Katie here doesn't have one, either," Remy answered smoothly. "You have to know how to drive more than five feet without crashing into a parked car."

Gambit grinned charmingly as he teased her, and Kitty returned the smile sweetly, then caused him to grimace as she kicked him swiftly under the table as a penalty for his quip.

"Dessert's coming!" Jubilee announced, leaning out of the booth to watch the waiter come down the aisle with a tray full of different varieties of cheesecake.

"Yeah, baby, bring on the chocolate!" Tabitha cheered as the waiter placed a plate of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake down in front of her. "This is so good," she sighed, savoring the flavor. "You want some, Kitty?"

"Sure," she accepted, reaching her fork across the table and taking a mouthful. "Mmm, can I have this as my birthday cake?" she asked, reaching over to steal another bite.

"Of course. Is you're birthday coming up soon?" she teased, her smile quickly faltering at the horror-struck look Kitty shot her. "Kidding!" Tabitha explained, holding up her hands. "What about you, Petey, you want a bite?"

"No. Thank you," he answered woodenly.

"Oh, come on. I promise I don't have cooties," she wheedled, waving her fork about in the air.

"Thank you, Tabitha, but I'll pass."

The blonde mutant gave a defeated shrug and turned back to her dessert, looking slightly snubbed. "Fine. More chocolaty goodness for me."

"Mon cheres, if you're ready, we have a movie to get to" Gambit reminded the two girls after everyone had finished eating. "You two sure you don't want to join us?" he asked, looking towards Kitty and Peter as he and the girls slipped out of the booth.

"Can't. We promised Amanda that we'd be back at the school in an hour," she reminded.

"Suit yourselves. I just thought you might like to see 'Constantine'," Remy shrugged, trying to hide his grin as he saw Kitty's interest pique.

"You're going to see that? No, it doesn't matter, we already promised," she sighed glumly. "But I did love Keanu in the Matrix movies." She looked down at her unused silverware and grinned, picking up one of the heavy utensils. "There is no spoon," she recited, holding it up and moving her phased hand through the metal.

"Yeah. We're gonna go now," Jubilee said, giving Kitty an odd look before turning to walk away.

As their teammates were out of sight, Kitty and Peter slid into the middle of the wide-backed booth, cozying up to one another, and silently taking in the view of the sun setting over the gently swelling surf, silhouetting all that lied beyond the edge of the bay.

"Ocean's pretty," Kitty murmured softly.


She continued to watch the breakers roll and crash against the jetty, a thoughtful, crooked smile on her face. "Did you know my first performance on stage was tap dancing to the Beatles 'Yellow Submarine'? I couldn't have been more than five, and I loved dancing, but every time I heard that song I couldn't help but think that if the whole tap thing didn't pan out, I could always be a submarine captain. But only if it was a yellow one." Peter smirked, shook his head, but held her all the more tighter. "What? It would be fun."

"I suppose."

She frowned at him, a small pout marring her slender features of her delicate face. "Then tell me, Mister, what did you want to be when you were little?"

"A farmer," he answered simply.

"That's it?"

Peter shifted against the burgundy leather booth and smiled wearily. "I'm afraid none of my aspirations were as grand or creative as yours, Katya. All I wanted was to be with my family- raise a family- and work the land as had my father before me."

Kitty listened to him finish, brow furrowed, empathy and sorrow filling her wide, brown eyes. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.

Peter sighed. "It is not so rare for the dreams of a child to fall by the wayside."

"Yeah. But you wanted so little."

"Da," he nodded in agreement, his blue eyes glittering like sapphires as he gazed at her intensely. He reached out to finger her soft curls, a tender smile illuminating his chiseled face. "Lately," he began softly, "I have begun to think that, perhaps, old dreams end only to lead us to something better."

"I think I can understand that," she said firmly, exchanging the melancholy in her eyes for a blithe grin. "Even so, I ever become the captain of a Yellow Submarine, I'm taking you with me." Peter smiled and gazed at her with warm fondness. "What?" she questioned, her voice soft and affectionate.

"The dream I spoke of, it always has you in it, standing beside me. From the moment…" he hesitated and took a deep breath, "From the moment we first met."

Kitty gaped at the man beside her silently, then closed her eyes and smiled, taking in and savoring his words with delight. "I love it when you do this," she murmured. "When you let me in and don't hold back, when you let me see what's in you."

Peter smiled, and they kissed, tender and slow, breaking away only to settle against each other and wordlessly take in the scenery before them.

"You barely said a word at dinner," she commented, breaking their reverie.

"You chatter enough for the both of us," he countered lightly.

"I guess so," she murmured. "You know the last time I came to this place was only a few weeks after you moved in. Jean brought me. She bought me a cheese dog and a glass of pink lemonade and we walked down to the end of the pier and ate our lunch against the railing. She told me all about her relationships with Scott and Duncan. I knew why. I tried to listen to what she had to say, and I tried to think about Lance, but my mind kept wandering down to the water, and all I could think was that the ocean reminded me so much of you."

She sighed, and stared out the window, watching the gentle waves break against the rock. "You look into it, and all you see is blue. But there's so much hidden in the depths, so much that never surfaces, that you never see, unless you go looking for it. And for all its beauty, and power, it always seems just a little bit lonely. You can stand at the edge of the shore and wait for the tide to rise high enough to reach you, but in the end the water's only there for a moment before it pulls away. And then there's that awful, disappointing feeling you get when the sand is swept away along with it, no matter how tightly you had curled your toes around it. And when the water's gone, all that's left is the cold chill wherever it touched you."

Kitty paused, and placed a soft hand on his cheek.

"But you don't pull away anymore. Not like you used to, not with me. You don't have to do that with them, either. If they don't like you, so what? There's nothing you could do that could make me stop loving you."

He nodded contemplatively, and she snuggled back into his arms, sighing in content.

Peter held her, caressing her tenderly. "Katya?"


"I lied; it was Mikhail. The other dream came later, when I was older, but when I was very young, the first thing I ever wanted to be was my big brother."

Kitty looked up at Peter, her expression wondering, all of her awareness focused totally on him. "You've never told me much about Mikhail," she said softly. "I know he was an astronaut, and that he died, but that's all."

"I know," Peter answered. "It is still painful to talk about him, even after all this time." He glanced briefly up at the ceiling, then looked at his girlfriend, smiling with gentle wistfulness. "He was a good nine years older than me. Very strong, and very smart. Maybe even as smart as you, Katya."

A grin tugged at the corner of Kitty's mouth. "I don't think that's possible, Petey."

"Mmmm, perhaps not," Peter conceded with a smile. "But he was more than ordinarily smart, and very curious, as well. He was always tramping about, exploring the forests and the hills, the ponds and the streams - the wild lands around Lake Baikal. Many times he'd take me camping with him. Sometimes Papa would go with us, if he did not have anything pressing to do around the farm, which wasn't too often, so mostly it was just we boys. At night, we would look up into the sky and he would name the constellations for me. He loved space, and he dreamed of going there one day, of seizing the stars with his own hands.

"I aspired to be like him, Katya – a fearless explorer. And I planned to, in my own way. Space did not hold the same fascination for me as it did for Mikhail. I wanted to see Russia, see the world, and capture all of its wonders, its terrors, its beauties, in sketches and paintings. I wanted to be a modern day Audubon, or Sir Richard Burton, because of Mikhail. I studied art, history and geography as fervently as he studied astronomy, science and aerodynamics."

Peter paused, smiling in happy, gentle remembrance. But by slow degrees his smile faded, replaced by melancholy, and long remembered pain. His pulled Kitty closer to him. "When I was fourteen, just after I developed my mutation, Mikhail… Misha, he died. On the cusp of achieving his dream, of going into space for a tour of duty on the International Space Station, his craft exploded on the launch pad because of a faulty fuel line." Peter closed his eyes, and Kitty hugged him tighter, sympathy and unselfish love for him welling within her. Peter sighed, shook his head and opened his eyes. "As I said, even after seven years it still hurts. But as much as I grieved, my parents grieved more. Mama and Papa, they just… stopped. It was… disconcerting, seeing them like that. They had always been so strong before, and over night they became frail, hollow." He looked down at Kitty, smiling sadly. "That is when my dream changed, Katya. My parents needed me, depended on me. I had to hide my grief, for their sake, and be strong for them. So I put my dreams of art and travel aside, dismissed them as childish things, and decided to grow up, be sensible. I would be a farmer, as my father and grandfather were, and stay with my family for the rest of my days." His smile brightened a little. "My parents did get better, in time. Even the deepest of griefs fade eventually, and they also had Illyana, who has been joy incarnate since the day she was born. But my ambitions remained modest. I wanted to be there for them, just in case." Peter sighed one last time and shrugged. "And then, when I turned eighteen, Magneto came and made his offer, and when I refused it, he made his threat. You know the rest."

"Yes, I do," said Kitty, frowning as conflicted thoughts towards Magneto surfaced within her. While she was willing, reluctantly, to concede that perhaps he was not as bad a man as she first thought, a part of her would never forgive him for blackmailing Peter into joining the Acolytes, holding his family hostage against Peter's servitude. Magneto's justification that it was for the greater good for mutant kind held little weight with Kitty – she learned enough of history to know that such was an excuse used by tyrants and villains since the dawn of history. Yet the funny thing was, if Magneto had not coerced Peter, she would never had met the young Russian who held such a large part of her heart… Kitty shook her head, dismissing all such philosophical conundrums from her mind. Peter was here now. That was all that mattered. She looked up at Peter. "Your parents had you and your siblings far apart," she commented.

Peter nodded. "My parents have said to me that Mikhail was the child of their spring, I the child of their summer, and Illyana the child of their autumn."

"I like that."

They watched the ocean for a little while longer before getting up to go, Peter leaving a generous tip for their waitress. They walked out to the Escalade in contemplative silence, holding each other's hand. In the car, Kitty looked at Peter and smiled fondly. "Thank you,"

"For what?"

"For sharing that with me. For giving me memories so precious to you."

Peter looked back at her, his ocean-blue eyes eloquent. He caressed her cheek gently with the back of his hand. "Everything that I am, Katya, is yours, if you want it."

Kitty shivered, savoring Peter's touch, his heartfelt words and all of their implications warming her to the core. "Oh yes," she whispered, just before she leaned over to kiss him.

"I had an awesome time, Remy," said Jubilee as she, Tabitha and Remy walked along the stone path to the Xavier Mansion's front door. Twilight had gathered over the front lawn, cool and soothing.

"Yeah. I got to admit, Cajun – you really know how to charm a lady," added Boom-Boom. "Thanks lots."

"No need to thank me. It is both my privilege and my pleasure to escort two such lovely young women for a night out." They stopped in front of the stoop, and Remy gave the two girls a courtly bow.

"Wow, you're a living doll, you know that?" said Jubilee with a laugh. Suddenly she blushed, struggling with a sudden impulse. Giving in to it, she walked up to Remy and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Thanksalotg'night!" she babbled as she rushed into the mansion. Remy watched her go with raised eyebrows, touching the spot she kissed with a fingertip.

"That a pleasant surprise," he commented with a grin.

"Better watch out, Remy," Tabitha said between laughs. "If Bobby hears about this, he'll try to flash-freeze your butt."

"I won't worry too much. Jealous beaus be an occupational hazard for men as suave as myself." He took Tabitha's hand and gave it a gentle kiss. Tabitha grinned nearly ear-to-ear, her cheeks flushing as her heart sped up.

"Oh yeah, you're a charmer. I think I better get inside before I'm overcome," she said, fanning her face with her free hand. "If I'm gonna swoon, I want to do it where there's a soft couch to break my fall. You comin'?"

"In a bit. I gonna have a cigarette before I go in. Scott don't want me smokin' in my room anymore, the little killjoy. That one of the things we had a 'discussion' about today."

"Translation: he yelled at you while you took the piss out of him."

Remy laughed. "True. And I won my bet with Petey to boot. I had Scott stutterin' in less than three minutes."

"You're a wicked, wicked man, Remy. I like that. Thanks again for the dinner and movie." Remy nodded, and Tabitha made for the door. On the stoop she paused and looked back over her shoulder. "Hey Remy."


"You know, later, if you're feeling bored or something, you can drop by my room for a… talk… if you want."

Remy looked at Tabitha silently for a good minute. She felt herself start to fidget under the gaze of his exotic eyes. Remy smiled softly at her, and bowed his head. "I do thank you for the offer, Tabitha, but I'm afraid I must decline. I on thin enough ice with the… Boy Scout, and other people, as it is. You flatter this old thief, though, and I most appreciate it."

"You're not that old," Tabitha answered with a wistful grin. She felt a little disappointed, but she was not surprised. "You know what I think, Remy?"

"What that?"

"I think Rogue needs a swift kick in the ass. I also think that if she doesn't get herself in gear in about four months, she better watch out. You have a good night."

"You too, chere." Tabitha went inside, leaving Remy alone in the twilight. He produced a cigarette, lit it, and sat on the stoop, smoking in contemplative silence. He finished it, snuffing it out, and started another, his last for the night. The door opened behind him and he looked up. Rogue had stepped out onto the stoop. "Hey, chere."

"Hey yourself. Ah see that you're back from corrupting the jail-bait."

Remy grinned. "I don't corrupt anyone who ain't willin' to be corrupted. My brother and Katie back yet?"

"Yeah. They're in the den, watchin' movies with Kurt and Amanda."

"Surprised you ain't there with 'em."

"Ah didn't feel like watchin' Kitty and Amanda crawl all over their boyfriends," she answered sourly.

"Tell you what, then. Why don't you and I go join 'em, and you can crawl all over me if you want, so you don't feel so left out."

Rogue snorted. "In your dreams, Swamp Rat."

Remy's smile faded, and he looked down at his sneakers. "Yah, I reckon so." Rogue blinked and looked closely at the Cajun thief, startled by the weary, almost sad tone of his voice. "Why didn't you come with us to dinner, chere? We all had a good time. You could have, too. Haven't you figured out by now that Remy here, he's like an old dog? I bark a lot, but I don't bite." He looked up and smiled. "That is, unless you want me to."

Rogue swallowed, feeling suddenly unnerved. "Ah… Ah just didn't feel like it." She turned her face away from Remy. "Kit, she's my best friend, but I don't feel all that comfortable when she's around Peter. All their cooing, it gets a bit too much, you know?"

"No, I don't know," answered Remy. He stood up, dropped his cigarette and stepped on it. "What I do think is that I sure wish you stop hidin' from life."

Rogue scowled. "What the Hell you mean by that?"

"I mean just what I say." He turned to face her, his expression intense, almost pleading. "The good God knows, fate dealt you a bad hand, Rogue. But that don't mean you have to live it on those terms. Life is hard, and often cruel. No one know that better than I. But there good things to be had from it, as well - my brother be living proof of that. For a long time Peter hid himself behind walls so high and so hard they made his steel form seem as soft as clay. You wouldn't believe how I had to work to get him to crack a smile, back when we worked for the Old Man. But I managed. He started to come out from behind those walls, more and more often. He started to live, and look how happy he is now." He took a step towards Rogue. "When are you gonna stop hidin' chere?"

Rogue stepped back, looking down at the ground, folding her arms in front of her chest. "Ah ain't hidin'!" she said angrily. "But my powers don't exactly give me much of a choice as what Ah can do with myself."

"What you mean to say is you too scared to find a way to work around your powers, 'cause if you did, you don't have an excuse to hide your pretty little self behind anymore."

Rogue bit her lip, then looked up and glared hard at Remy. "Fuck you, Swamp Rat. Who in Hell gave you the right to talk to me like this?"

"No one but myself," he answered calmly. He sighed and shook his head. "Look, Rogue. If you don't like me, the way I want you to, then there be nothing I can do to change your mind. But even that so, I still think it a shame, a pretty girl like you hidin' herself away, when the world has so much to offer you. I guess I can only hope you one day come out from behind those walls you've put up around you – and not for my sake, either, but for your own." With out another word Remy went inside, leaving Rogue behind. The young woman glared down at the ground again, her eyes blinking rapidly as she fought the tears welling in them.

'The Fifth Element' played out on the big screen HDTV in the den, all bright color, loud sound and baroque imagery. Kurt tried very hard to pay attention to it, and to Amanda, who sat next to him on the love seat, her arm around his shoulders. But his eyes kept drifting to Kitty and Peter lying together stretched out on the couch. Peter was behind Kitty, his muscular arms wrapped around her, his right hand on her shoulder, his left resting on her stomach. He whispered something in Kitty's ear. She giggled, and he gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. Peter settled back and started to caress Kitty's belly. Kurt looked away, trying very hard not to scowl. Amanda gave him a questioning look. He smiled weakly at her, and gave her a kiss. She smiled back, settling against him, watching the movie with half-closed eyes. He watched for a few moments too, but then looked back to Peter and Kitty – just in time to see Peter's hand slide up and cup Kitty's right breast. Kitty sighed happily, arching into his touch, and then snuggled back, pressing closer to him. His hand stayed on her. Kurt hissed, and as Amanda glanced at him, he vanished with a bamf and a cloud of brimstone. Amanda let out a little shriek of surprise, and Peter and Kitty jerked up, startled.

"What happened?" Kitty asked.

"I… I don't know," said Amanda, coughing. She stood and walked away from the love seat, fanning her face.

Kurt teleported back in, right in front of the couch, startling everyone again. He offered a small plate of Oreo cookies and a pint bottle of chocolate milk to Kitty. "Snacks, Katzchen?" he asked in mild voice, but his expression was anything but mild. He was glaring at Peter, hard. Peter blinked, momentarily confused, then started to glare back, his anger rising. Kitty looked at Kurt, then at her boyfriend, then back to Kurt again, her face stern.

"Thank you very much, Kurt," she said firmly, taking the plate and bottle from him. "Now please sit back down – I don't want to miss this next part." Kurt nodded, strode over to the love seat and sat, his eyes still locked with Peter's. Kitty put the cookies and milk on the floor and settled back down on the couch. When Peter didn't follow suit, she shifted, sat up, grabbed him by the t-shirt and pulled. Kitty was very strong for her size, and Peter, taken by surprise, found himself lying on his side, on the couch, Kitty's face two inches from his. Before he could say anything Kitty kissed him, hard and deep, thrusting her tongue into his mouth. Almost instantly Peter felt his anger dissipate into nothing, and he returned her affection. They kissed for a long time, and when they finally broke apart, Kitty grinned at him, mischief alight in her eyes. Peter chuckled, stroking her face, and she giggled. She rolled over to face the TV, settling back against Peter. He embraced her again, but when he placed his hand on her stomach she covered it with one of her own and pulled it up onto her breast. Peter stiffened slightly, but then relaxed, nuzzling the back of her head. Kitty looked at Kurt, her gaze challenging. Kurt pursed his lips, looked away from Kitty, and into Amanda's angry face. A cold chill crept down his back, and he gulped. With a snort of disgust Amanda sidled away from Kurt and concentrated her attention firmly on the movie. Kurt sighed and looked down at his lap, feeling suddenly ashamed.

The movie finished up, and the foursome straightened up the den in silence then walked out to the foyer. Amanda was still pointedly ignoring Kurt, while Kurt kept his eyes leveled firmly at the ground. Peter was careful not to look at Kurt, not wanting to inadvertently start a fight. Kitty sighed inaudibly. After how well her day had gone, she had no wish to end it on such a sour note. She took a breath, looked at Amanda and smiled brightly. "Thanks again for bringing over that movie, Amanda. It was fun, seeing it again. I forgot just how good 'The Fifth Element' was."

Amanda smiled almost gratefully at Kitty. "Yeah, it is. I… I had fun, too. I think we should try to get together more often. I don't get to see all of you very often, now that we've all graduated."

"Oh, most definitely. Tell you what – we're throwing a party for my birthday this Friday. Did Kurt mention that to you?"

"In passing, I think."

"Well, it'll start at five, and I would love to have you come by. I'm turning eighteen, so it's going to be a blowout. Music, dancing, lots of food, games – I'm telling you now, it's gonna be the event of the year!"

Amanda laughed, feeling her mood lighten. Kitty's enthusiasm was irresistible. "All right, you've sold me. I'll be there, with bells on and bearing magnificent gifts."

"That's the spirit! Especially with the magnificent gifts."

"Katya likes gifts," Peter added with a chuckle.

"What girl doesn't?" asked Amanda, grinning at the big Russian. "So what are you getting Kitty, Peter?"

"You expect me to say with her right here?" he said, amused.

"If he won't tell me, then he's not going to tell you, Amanda. He won't even give me a hint, the jerk," Kitty mock-grumbled.

"Have you tried to be persuasive?" asked Amanda with a wicked smile. Kurt fidgeted a little, not liking the insinuation in her voice, but kept his peace.

Kitty returned the smile in full measure, and nodded vigorously. "Yup. I asked nicely, tickled him – even gave him my best puppy-eyes. Nothing worked."

Amanda laughed again. "Oh well, I'm sure you'll live. Nothing wrong with a bit of mystery in your life, anyway." They stopped in front of the door. "Well, we have to go. Kurt is driving me back to my house. I'll see the two of you Friday. Let's go, Kurt." Kurt cringed at the way his girlfriend spoke his name, and with obvious reluctance followed her out, his eyes still downcast. When the door shut behind him Kitty started to giggle.

"Oh man, is Fuzzy going to get it." Peter nodded in agreement, his mouth quirked, as if he were trying to decide whether to laugh or frown. Kitty looked at him fondly, lacing her arm through his. "Walk me to my room?"

Peter nodded again, remaining silent as they mounted the stairs. Kitty waited patiently. Halfway up Peter sighed and shook his head. "I fear Kurt is not as fond of me as I once thought," he commented, his voice deceptively neutral, but Kitty easily detected the traces of hurt and anger hidden within it.

"No, it's not that, Peter. He likes you fine. Kurt is just being… Kurt." Kitty shook her head and gave him a helpless little smile. "He's one of my dearest friends, and I love him to death, but sometimes he takes his 'big brother' act a bit too seriously."

Peter smiled back at Kitty. It was small, but earnest. "In that case, I am surprised he has been so amiable towards Remy, all things with Rogue considered."

"That's because poor Remy isn't anywhere near as close to Rogue as you are to me."

"Good point."

Kitty sighed. "You know what I'd like from Kurt for my birthday? For him to realize that I'm not a fragile little china doll. He's not all that much older than me, and he's only got a week's seniority on me as an X-Man. I've been in my fair share of scrapes, and have done well by the team, but yet he seems to think that I'll just shatter if someone looks at me the wrong way."

"I am surprised he sees you that way. Your strength, it is so obvious – at least to me. It is one of the things that attracted me to you."


"Yes." Peter thought for a moment. He smiled, and reached over with his free hand to trace her cheek with the pad of his thumb. "You are as soft as the finest silk, but within you is a core of steel, strong and unyielding, yet pliant, when there is need."

Kitty turned her head, kissing the palm of Peter's hand. She smiled at him. "You know, for someone who says he's not very good with words, you sure have a gift for poetic turns-of-phrase."

Peter chuckled. "I try."

They stopped in front of Kitty's door. Kitty let go of Peter's arm, and they turned to face each other, staring into each other's eyes.

"Well…" murmured Kitty.

"Well…" answered Peter. They continued to look at each other, their eyes filled with loving yearning. Kitty sighed, hugging Peter, resting her head against his chest, listening to the comforting beat of his heart. Peter ran a hand through her chestnut brown hair, played with her ponytail. His other hand gently rubbed her back.

"This… this is harder than I thought it would be. Waiting, I mean…" she whispered.

"Yes. I never thought four days could feel like an eternity, but it seems that way, right now."

Kitty looked up at him, the incandescence of her passion making her eyes seem like twin pools of liquid gold. "We don't have to wait, if you don't want to."

"Want your birthday gift early, eh?" Peter tried to joke, but his voice was strained, his attempt at a smile flickering away. He ducked his head and kissed her, long, deep and hard, hugging her tight, his tongue tangling with hers. He groaned softly into her mouth as he felt her arms tighten around him with exquisite pressure. He pulled away from her reluctantly, gasping like a diver coming up for air. "Gods and devils, Katya, you tempt me," he hissed. "You have no idea how much you tempt me."

"You're wrong, Peter," she whispered hoarsely. "I do know, because you do the same thing to me."

Peter nodded. "I want to take you with me, carry you off to my bed," he confessed. "I have been wanting to do that all day, since we talked down by the lake, and to Hell with what anyone thought. But… but I think we should wait – though the white wolf knows that I don't want to."

Kitty stared into his shimmering blue eyes, sorely tempted to try to change his mind, her body suffused with a pleasant ache that demanded relief. She forced herself to take a deep breath, then nodded, restraining her instinct as best she could. "Yeah, you're right. Wish you weren't. I don't want to wait either, but I guess it is best that we do."

Peter nodded in agreement, stroking Kitty's face. They kissed again, gently this time, and Kitty stepped out of his arms. "Good night, Peter."

"Good night, Katya. See you tomorrow." Kitty phased through her door, leaving Peter alone in the hall. He took several deep breaths, bending over slightly, palms pressed just above his knees, trying to cool his blood through force of will. It did not work, and he knew that nothing less than indulging himself in fantasy would calm him. He wondered briefly if Kitty felt as bad off as he did, and would be seeking a similar relief. He quickly broke off that line of speculation – the last thing he needed to do was feed the fire within him. Shaking his head, he headed for his bedroom, eager for privacy. He was about to turn the corner of the hallway when Logan stepped out in front of him, baring his way.

Peter halted, startled by the Canadian mutant's sudden appearance; Wolverine's knack for stealth at times made Remy seem as quiet as a bull in a china shop. "Hello, Logan."

Logan did not answer. Instead he walked right up to Peter and stared at him hard, his harsh face set in grim lines. "I'm just gonna say this once, big man, so listen up: don't you do anything that'll make me make you regret it."

Peter's eyes opened wide in surprise, then narrowed into angry, burning azure slits as he scowled at Logan. For a long, interminable minute two tough, dangerous men glared at each other, eyes locked, neither one willing to back down. Then Logan surprised Peter again. He visibly relaxed, his eyes and expression gentling. He looked Peter up and down, then nodded slightly, almost in approval. "G'night," he murmured, walking past Peter, heading for the stairs. Peter watched him leave, not sure exactly about what had happened, saved that he evidently passed some sort of test. He rubbed the line of his jaw, smiling wryly at the sense of relief sweeping over him – he did not relish the prospect of a rematch against the Wolverine. He continued to his bedroom, deep in thought, his ardor now considerably cooled, yet not forgotten.

Kurt snuck a glance at the woman next to him, only to find her face hidden in shadow and her body turned away from him in obvious displeasure. With a repentant shake of the head he turned back to face the windshield and his three-fingered blue hands gripped the steering wheel anxiously.

"Amanda?" he ventured timidly, watching his girlfriend from the corner of his eye. "I didn't mean to-"

Kurt stopped, mid-sentence, as his girlfriend reached forward suddenly and hit the dash, changing the radio from the pop station she loved to the local hard rock channel. With a dissatisfied grumble she settled back in her seat and folded her arms pointedly across her chest, her disgruntled expression visible through the darkness.

The German mutant took a heavy breath and closed his eyes, then started again. "I just wanted to-"

Wordlessly, Amanda leaned forward and spun the radio dial, turning the volume up high enough to make the car shake with each beat of music.

With a defeated sigh Kurt flicked the radio off and turned his attention back to the road in front of him, and the couple drove the rest of the way through the dim streets in uncomfortable silence.

Kitty leaned back against her bedroom door; her eyes shut tight, a deep blush spreading over her face, down her neck, across her breasts. She pursed her lips tight, took a deep breath through her nose. She could not recall the last time she felt so aroused, every nerve in her alight with a glorious fire. She hoped Rogue was not here yet – maybe, if she was quick, she could take care of herself and get settled down before her roommate came up to bed. Kitty opened her eyes, and to her consternation saw Rogue. Kitty had been so caught up with herself she had not noticed the Southern Goth was all ready in bed. She was fully dressed, laying on top of the covers, curled up in a fetal position, her back to the door. Kitty felt her arousal slowly begin to fade as she realized that Rogue looked absolutely miserable.

"Hey," Kitty called out. Rogue curled up tighter. Kitty walked over and sat on the bed. She carefully laid a hand on Rogue's arm. "Are you okay?" Rogue flinched away, rolling onto her stomach, burying her face into her pillow. "Right, stupid question. It's obvious you're pretty far from okay. What happened, Rogue? Do you want to talk?"

Rogue turned and stared at her friend darkly; then turned away and let out an exasperated breath of air that sounded halfway between a sigh and a growl.

"I'll take that as a no," Kitty murmured, trying to think of something that would cheer her teammate up. "Oh, I brought you some cheesecake from the restaurant. It's in the fridge," Kitty offered, wondering what, though not who, had upset her friend this time.


"You're not gonna eat it now?" Rogue shook her head. "Oh. Well, in my experience, that only means one of two things: You've either aren't upset enough to wanna eat, or you're so upset that you don't even have the energy or desire to eat. Now, seeing how you seem to have lost the will to mock, I'm going to go with the second one, which means you have no choice. You gotta spill."

"Please, just leave me alone," she grumbled, burying her head into her pillow.

"No!" Kitty exclaimed, fed up with her friend's dispirited behavior. "I'm tired of going through this almost every week. Gambit likes you. That's obvious. And you like him. So instead of pushing him away and moping over how miserable he makes you, go and do something about it!"

"I can't-"

"I don't want to hear about your powers. If Remy doesn't care, than neither should you."

The Southern mutant looked down, then regarded her roommate evenly. "If you had my powers, Kit, would you stay with Peter?"


"You would? Knowing that he would never be able to feel your touch, or know the taste of your lips against his. Knowing that he could never have you, that you could never give him children somewhere down the road, or sleep in the same bed with him without having to cover your whole body. Knowing that no matter that no matter how much he loves you, you could never make him completely happy. Would you do that? Would you stay?"

Kitty's face fell. "No," she whispered, pained.

The older woman closed her eyes and nodded regretfully, sliding off the bed and heading towards the hall.

"Where are you going?"

Rogue rolled her eyes at her friend's concerned inquiry. "To have some cheesecake," she replied sardonically.

Kitty hesitated. "You want me to come?"

Rogue smiled sadly. "No," she said, quietly shutting the door and walking away.

Peter stood in the shower, a warm spray of water washing over him, lost in fantasy. The scenario was simple – Katya sharing the shower with him…

Her hands roamed over his body, exploring willfully. She kissed a trail down his chest and stomach, going down on her knees, her mouth wet and loving on him. After a minute he gently took hold of her shoulders and pulled her up into his arms. He kissed her deeply before picking her up. Strong, slim arms and legs wrapped around his shoulders and waist as he carefully pinned her between his body and the stall's slick wall. His breath came in shallow gasps now. She was so hot and tight, it was hard for him to keep control. She hugged him harder, moaning in his ear, whispering endearments, demands for more. Pleasure surged through him in a long, hot rush that left him shivering.

Languor cloaked Peter, and he was hard-pressed not to fall asleep where he stood.

Peter finished his shower, toweled off and pulled on a light pair of sweatpants before throwing himself into bed and shutting off the lights. He felt somewhat sated, but nowhere near satisfied. He folded his hands behind the back of his head and stared up at the ceiling, the white plaster barely visible in the dark, his lips quirked in a small, wistful smile. He wanted Kitty, bad. All of their interplay today, from when they talked down by the shores of Breakstone Lake, to their goodnight kiss in the hall, had honed his desire to a razor's sharpness. The wait until Friday stretched before him as an interminable gulf of time. He glanced towards his door, struggling with his urge to go knock on Kitty's door and telling her he was tired of waiting. He rolled on his side with a sigh, putting his back to the door, forcing down his feelings. Kitty was still a minor, and he knew his position here at the Institute was still somewhat tenuous, especially with Summers longing for an excuse to try to kick him and Remy out. He did not need that kind of grief, and he especially did not want Kitty to get caught up in it. He would sooner rejoin Magneto's cause than deliberately do something that could hurt her.

Peter rolled onto his back, smiling gently again. Sometimes it frightened him, this intensity of love he had for Kitty. Some days he literally ached for her presence, her touch. Did that make him obsessed? The thought bothered him, and he forced himself to consider it. After a while he decided that he was not. First and foremost, he wanted her to be happy, and if that ever meant letting her go, he knew he would do so, even though it would mean the death of his heart. If he were merely obsessed, he doubted he could ever entertain such a thought, even idly. Still, he did not like thinking about a life without Kitty, and turned his mind to more pleasant matters.

Peter sifted through the events of the day gone by, focused on the kissing and touching he and Kitty had indulged in. Since they started seeing each other seriously, they had not been shy in displaying affection to one another, but never to such an intimate degree. His thought jumped to his fantasy in the shower. He closed his eyes, his smile deepening. He was very much looking forward to Kitty's birthday, and to being allowed to show her physically, without restraint, just how much he loved and desired her. Kitty was giving to him something very precious; he hoped he would be good enough for her, able to please her in the way she deserved. Anxiety crept into him, briefly tainting his pleasant languor before he forced it away. He sighed as he settled back into his mattress, his thoughts becoming hazy as sleep overcame him. He began to dream that he was walking hand-in-hand with Kitty, both of them laughing as they tramped along the trails that wound through the beautiful forests surrounding Lake Baikal, far away from mutant conflicts and distrustful teammates. Peter's last conscious thought before surrendering totally to the dream was that this was very pleasant, and he hoped it would last the night through.

Kitty tilted her head back and gathered her hair, piling her soft golden curls atop her head and securing them loosely with an oversized banana clip. Tentatively, she checked the temperature of the water with the tip of her toes, then let her towel fall to the white tiled floor as she climbed into the bathtub.

Kitty relaxed her body; resting her head against the porcelain rim, one arm dangling off the edge as the other lightly skimmed the surface of the water in a rhythmic motion. She shut her eyes, drowning out unwanted thoughts as she lulled in the wash, the feel of the water against her lean body making her warm and flushed, much like Peter's touch did. With a smile, her thoughts drifted to him, as they often did, and she found herself daydreaming about what being with him would be like…

They sat across from one another, delicate feet resting atop sturdy thighs, caressing them with gentle grace as the crystal water lapped soothingly against the porcelain walls. Peter gazed at her hungrily, with deep longing in his indigo eyes that seemed to dance with the reflection of the candlelight.

With a rascally smile, Kitty pushed her foot inward, stroking the inside of his thigh.

"Katya," he breathed in pleasure.

"You like that?"

"Da," Peter sighed.

Kitty giggled. "Is there anything about me you don't like?" Her grin widened as he shook his head. "Even my feet?" she asked, lifting one long, toned leg out of the water for him to admire.

"I have to say, I like this one better," Peter told her, gently stroking the foot that was resting upon his thigh, "but I adore this one, almost as much." He took a tender hold of her and guided her knee back, bringing her foot to his lips and placing a soft kiss on it. "I also adore this leg," he murmured. Kitty uncurled her knee, resting her ankle on top of Peter's shoulder so his lips could make their way up her calf.

Kitty arched her back against the side of the bathtub, little moans of delight escaping from her as Peter's velvet lips continued sucking and nibbling their way up her leg. Peter grinned and pulled her closer towards him, settling her atop of his muscular calves.

"I love this hand," Peter told her, his mouth caressing the front of her palm. "And I have to say, I'm glad were in a bathtub, Ms. Pryde."

"And why is that, Mr. Rasputin?"

"Because the things I'm going to do to you are very, very dirty."

Peter reached out and took hold of her slender fingers, drawing her towards him with gentle force. Kitty ran her arms around his neck and pressed herself to him tightly, her warm, firm breasts rubbing against his strong chest as the two kissed fervently. She shifted position; sitting on her knees and straddling the man she loved, taking delight in the feel of his muscular body trembling and rising beneath her. Peter's powerful arms embraced her, holding her securely against him, and she shook her head.

"Not here," she whispered. "It should be the bed."

He nodded, breathing heavily, and gathered her into his arms, getting out of the tub and carrying her towards the bedroom. The water dripping from their bodies fell like rain against the snow-white tile, and they continued to kiss feverishly as Peter made his way quickly across the room, both wanting more of each other.

He gave her once last, powerful kiss before setting her down gently on the bed, trying to take a calming breath before continuing, afraid he, with his desire, could unintentionally hurt her. Halfway through his gasp, Kitty reached and grabbed his hand, pulling him on top of her with surprising strength. Peter let out a laugh, and in a sea of sweat and sheets, they made love.

Kitty eyes open as her daydream ended, her body hot and tingling despite the now-tepid water. With a grin she pulled herself out of the tub and wrapped her terrycloth towel tightly around her body, wishing it was Peter's arms.

Reluctantly, she hung the towel back up and slipped into her sunshine yellow PJ set. Kitty drifted happily over to her bed, and pulled out a pink-striped bag hidden underneath. She took a quick peek at the outfit inside, shivering with delight at the thought of what would happen the night she wore it. With a grin, Kitty pushed the bag back in its hiding spot and snuggled into bed, falling easily into a blissful sleep, knowing that when morning came she would be one day closer to having her dreams come true.

Jeremy's Notes – For all of you wondering where those risqué, humorous shorts I posted a little while ago came from, here's your answer.

As I mentioned before, Lia and I wanted to do something a bit fluffier for our next story. While Jealous and Muir were fun to write, we needed a change of pace. Birthday Gift is the result of that desire. There will be drama, yes, but very little angst – at least for our favorite couple.

If you haven't figured it out all ready, this is going to be a pretty long story. As such, this will give Lia and I a chance to respond to your comments. Questions and constructive criticism is more than welcomed. Flamers will be fed to a small, purple dragon (who, while not appearing in this story in his accustomed form, is lurking somewhere in the wings).

Thanks all for your time and tolerance.

Lia's Notes- This story is a bit of a switch from the others, mainly because Peter and Kitty aren't torturing themselves over one another. It was a nice break from our past stories, and it gave us a chance to write plenty of fluff, and allowed us a few more characters to play around with.

Stick around; there arestill a few more chapters to go, and a few more characters to pop up.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.