What Happens in Vegas

Chapter Two

The Elephant in the Living Room

"On my way up north
Up on the Ventura
I pulled back the hood
And I was talking to you
And I knew then it would be
A life long thing
But I didn't know that we
We could break a silver lining

And I'm so sad
Like a good book
I can't put this day back
A sorta fairytale
With you
A sorta fairytale
With you."

--Tori Amos
"A Sort of Fairy Tale"

And Rachel woke up...

The drum solo from "Inna Gadda Da Vida" was hammering inside her skull as she began to shake the wool out of her mind. Awareness began to trickle into her mind like a thin stream. Way too much champagne last night, girl, she lamented as her hangover gained in strength. Okay Rachel, she thought, slowly summoning her mental processes to shake off the dull pressing ache in her head, let's get organized. I'm in a bed--she opened her eyes and promptly wished she hadn't as harsh light assailed her eyes.

She squinted for a moment and slowly willed herself to pry her lids open. As her eyes grew accustomed to the daylight streaming in from the window, she took stock of her surroundings. She recognized the framed lithograph on the wall opposite her eyes; the painting depicted the first encounter between Bilbo Baggins and the dragon Smaug from Tolkein's "The Hobbit", and was a gift she had given Kitty three birthdays ago. Okay, I'm in Kitty's room, Rachel smiled. Familiar surroundings, that's good. And that explains the warm body next to me...she turned around in the bed, snuggling contentedly into the back of the warm body lying next to her...

Only to realize that the body next to her was too big to be Kitty.

A sudden shock of memory, of passion shared with two others, nearly jolted Rachel out of her skin. Her heart hammered in her chest as blind panic threatened to engulf her. Slowly, she managed to rein in her fear, only to be hit again with the pain of her hangover. Okay, let's do something about that. A firebird sillhouette flared briefly over her right eye as she summoned her powers. Within moments, she suppressed her hangover, and without the distraction of pain, she was able to think rationally again.

She remembered the night's activities more clearly; she had run to Kitty in desperate need of solace, only to interrupt Kitty and Peter in a prelude to passion. She remembered feeling mortally embarrassed as Kitty comforted her over her unrequited love for Kurt. A dangerous combination, she reflected, alcohol and arousal. All three of them had a bit too much of the drink taken. And Kitty suddenly was hit by inspration...

Rachel blanched as she remembered what had happened next.

Oh...my...God...what have I done? I seduced my best friend's boyfriend! I'm no better than Emma...

Kitty invited you to, Rachel, she reminded herself. It was her idea, remember?

She did remember. She remembered Kitty's warm hands guiding her body toward Peter's, she remembered the shock and fear that Peter felt when he first realized what Kitty was planning, and how his fear gave way to desire quickly enough. She remembered the feel of his body against hers, and Kitty's body embracing them both...

And she remembered the telepathic rapport that she accidently triggered between the three of them. She remembered diving into her lovers' minds, seeing their lovemaking through their eyes...and seeing their lives unfold before them. Without prying, she had become privy to their innermost secrets and desires. And she knew that most of those desires were built around each other.

There was no other way to say it; Peter Rasputin and Kitty Pryde were, for want of a better word, soulmates.

That thought made her happy, more than she could possibly imagine. Kitty and Peter had gone through so much pain in their young lives, seen so much loss...Doug, Mikhail, Illyana, Carmen, Nicholai and Alexandria... If her best friend and the man she so clearly loved could find happiness with each other, then Rachel would not dream of standing in their way.

Peter's body suddenly tensed up under her touch. About time you two woke up, she smiled as she gently touched their minds, just a surface scan. "You guys can stop pretending you're asleep, y'know."

Kitty slowly groaned, her voice a whispered ache. "Would any one mind if I phased through the floor and into the center of the Earth now?"

"Not as long as you take me with you," Peter grumbled, his body rigid.

"Cowards," Rachel mused as she touched their minds again, this time deadening the pain of their hangovers with a telepathic supression.

As their heads cleared, their bodies began to relax. "Nice Jedi mind trick there, Ray," Kitty grudgingly admitted.

"Indeed," Peter added. "Many thanks."

"Don't mention it, Tovaricsh," Rachel beamed.

"Believe me," Kitty groaned, holding a corner of the bedspread over her breasts, "I have no intention of mentioning any of this to anyone." Peter turned his head away from Rachel, his embarrassment almost an oppressive force against the young telepath.

"Hey now," Rachel admonished her friends. "None of that. No recriminations here, okay?" She slowly lifted her body, naked and unashamed, from the bed and swung her slender legs around the side so her feet were placed on the floor. She found her bra and panties in a small heap on the floor next to her and quickly grabbed for them. As she dressed, she spoke to her friends. "What happened last night happened because we wanted it to happen. No one was hurt, and unless my telepathy's way off, all three of us enjoyed it. We didn't do anything wrong, okay guys?"

Peter lifted his body up, the blanket still covering his midsection. Kitty sat up with him as they looked at their friend, now partially clad in her undergarments and an oversized red shirt. Kitty felt a faint surge of jealousy at how, even in her disheveled state, Rachel was incapable of being less than absolutely gorgeous, and her arm began to circle Peter's waist protectively. Rachel frowned at Kitty, clearly picking up on her friend's insecurity. "Kitty, believe me, I don't have any designs on Peter. Last night was a one-time deal. I'm cool with that. You're still my best friend and I would never intentionally do anything to screw that up."

"I know," Kitty relaxed somewhat. "I guess I was scared when I woke up. Suddenly I'm remembering everything we did...and yeah, it was pretty incredible..." Peter nodded slightly, agreeing with Kitty's statement but trying not to look like he agreed with her on this. "I mean, it was the hottest thing I've ever done. I just didn't want to jeopardize what I had with you before." Turning to Peter, she added, "With either of you."

Peter smiled warmly at his beloved, taking her face in his hands and pulling her toward him for a lingering kiss. Rachel smiled at the sight as she headed for the door. "Okay, I'm gonna go back to my room at the carriage house and get dressed, okay guys? I'll meet you in the kitchen for breakfast in an hour or so."

"Sounds good," Peter agreed. Kitty nodded, adding, "Yeah, we did burn the calories last night, didn't we?"

"Good, 'cause I make a mean French toast," Rachel grinned as she headed for the door. Just before exiting, she turned to the two lovers who still hadn't left the bed. "Oh, and when I say 'in an hour or so', I mean 'in an hour or so'. You two have some serious alone-time to catch up on, if you know what I mean. Later." With a pixie grin, she left the bedroom, leaving Peter and Kitty alone.

Peter pursed his lips in thought for a moment. "What does she mean, Katya?"

Kitty smirked at Peter, leaning her body forward. "I think she meant this..." She pressed her still-naked form against his. "And this..." She started nipping against his ears. "And this..." She began to stroke his firm chest with her hands.

Peter groaned under her gentle ministrations. "I'll give you until the count of ten to stop that..." he murmured.

"Good thing I know how to make you lose count," Kitty's voice grew husky with desire as her open mouth met his.

It was close to two hours before Kitty and Peter met Rachel for breakfast, but none of them minded.

Peter noticed the red-light over the main entrance to the Danger Room and shrugged his shoulders in bemused resignation; he had hoped for a fast jog around Red Square to loosen up some of the tension he had felt all day. It had been two days since his...the proper word still eluded him for what had happened between himself, Kitty and Rachel. 'Tryst' didn't seem accurate, 'threesome' was too bawdy ("Too 'American Pie'," Kitty had complained when Rachel suggested it), and 'menage-a-tois' seemed deliberately vague. So far he had been leaning toward 'rendezvous'; short, concise without being too descriptive and above else tasteful. But even though he and Kitty seemed to be returning to their earlier groove together, he still felt a certain unease, especially around Rachel. Somewhere above the mansion, he imagined the spirit of Damacles dangling a sword over his head.

He pressed his hand against the palmplate on the side of the door, triggering the room's 'doorbell' function. A gentle voice chimed over the intercom; "Who's there?"

Peter jumped as the voice of Kitty's best friend(and briefly their lover) answered. "Oh, forgive me, Rachel," Peter stammered slightly. "I was about to start my morning constitutional..."

"C'mon in, Peter," Rachel chirped, "I'm almost done in here anyway." The airlock door slid open with a faint sigh of decompressing air.

Peter stepped gingerly into the Danger Room, and stopped at the bucolic sight beyond the metal doors. The courtyard of a Tuscan country house opened up before him, with a rustic fountain splashing merrily at his left, and a fragrant olive grove to his right. Wild, verdant plants grew in riotous splendor under a canopy of sapphire blue, dotted with just enough clouds to give the sky some character. Near the fountain, he saw Rachel, her midlength red hair tightly wound into a braid behind her head, a black muscle-shirt and thigh-length spandex shorts clinging tightly to her curves as she moved her body in a slow methodical series of stances and moves, similar to the karate katas Peter had observed Kitty perform in the past. Five for Fighting's "One Hundred Years to Live" played in the background on the Danger Room's speaker system as Rachel moved. Peter found himself transfixed; Rachel's athletic body was different from Kitty's dancer's form, but had its charms as well, charms that Peter had gotten to know intimately two nights ago. As the song wound down, Rachel stilled her movements and resumed a relaxed stance, her head thrown back in exhausted triumph.

The sound of hearty handclaps broke her out of her reverie, and she took an impromptu bow in front of Peter. "Glad you enjoyed it, Peter," Rachel smiled. "Just doing some tai chi. Great way to decompress from my workout." She grabbed a towel that was draped haphazardly on a stone wall next to her and started to dab at her face with the soft terrycloth.

"I enjoy running for that myself," Peter admitted. "I was going to warm up with a jog around Moscow before my morning work-out. But this is a nice setting too."

"You like?" Rachel asked. "I got the idea from Kenneth Branaugh's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The whole pastoral Italian countryside thing."

"Very nice," Peter admitted. "Suits you."

"Yeah, I like it," Rachel nodded, scanning the locale approvingly. "Very relaxing. Hey, maybe you and Kitty should plan a picnic here. Y'know, something romantic."

"I doubt she would like that," Peter shook his head. "After that incident a few months back when the Danger Room became sentient, she tends to avoid this place except for team exercises. Not that I blame her," Peter's shoulders rippled with a tight shudder. "Even with the protocols she and Hank introduced, I still feel slightly ill-at-ease here."

"Refresh my memory, Pete," Rachel smirked. "Was that before or after I got turned into a dino-girl in the Savage Land?"

"After, I believe," Peter grinned, stifling a chuckle. Rachel laughed heartily, as Peter commented, "Yes, just a typical Saturday night for the X-Men!"

"Yeah, too true," Rachel laughed, gasping for oxygen. After a few moments, their pulses calmed and they sighed happily.

Rachel rested her eyes again on Peter's form; muscular, well-definied but not grotesquely so, his contours revealing strength that was belied by his innate gentleness and sensitivity. Peter, for his part, couldn't help but admire Rachel's toned body and striking face; both power and compassion shining in her green eyes. Yes, he considered, very much like her mother...

"Rachel," Peter asked, his voice barely above a whisper, "if I were to ask you a sensitive question, will you go Phoenix on me?"

"Depends," Rachel answered. "What's the question?"

Peter swallowed hard and considered his question before stating it. "The other night, when you and Katya and I..." Rachel eyed him with amused curiosity, sensing what he was going to ask, but wanting to hear him say it. "Is it always so...intense...for a telepath?"

"Y'mean sex?" Rachel asked innocently. "Well, yeah, I guess. The way I see it, when you make love, you're completely exposing yourself to your lover, and not just your body. Surely you've felt something like that with Kitty, right?" Peter thought for a moment and simply nodded. With anyone else, he'd have been embarrassed to hear such frank talk about sexuality, but after what he and Rachel had shared, it seemed natural. "Seriously, at that level of intimacy, it's virtually impossible for a telepath to hide her thoughts, or to shield her mind from her lover."

"And that was why the three of us shared each other's feelings?" Peter asked.

"Yeah. After my first...climax," she said diplomatically, "I guess I linked the three of us mentally. I could feel everything all three of us felt. And something else..." Rachel strode up to the handsome Russian, her eyes wide with affection, and something akin to awe. "I could see into your mind, into your memories. It was like seeing into your soul. I saw all the heartache you experienced in your life...how much it hurt you to tell Kitty about Zsaji, how devastated you were by Illyana's death, your moment of madness when you joined with Magneto's Acolytes, and the rage you felt when you first saw Kitty with that Wisdom guy...and above all else, throughout all that I sensed how deeply you love Kitty."

Peter lowered his head, a faint melancholy creeping into his soul. "After all the pain I caused her over the years, I am constantly humbled by the miracle that she still wants me in her life."

"No, Peter," Rachel touched his cheek gently, green eyes meeting blue. "It's not a miracle, it's you. Your love for her is the greatest constant in your life. I have to admit, I didn't really trust you when you and Kitty got back together. I guess I remember all the times you hurt her. But two nights ago, I really felt your love for her. I know now that you would lay down your own life before you willingly hurt her again." She smiled sweetly, warming Peter's heart to the core. "I'm glad you're back in her life. You're good for her. And I almost feel like I've made a new best friend."

Peter nodded, his eyes shining wetly. "I think I'd like that. Thank you, Rachel."

"No problem, Pete," Rachel winked, slapping his face lightly with her fingertips before strolling away. "Hey, I gotta go meet up with Kitty. I had to blow her off when the XSE was dispatched yesterday to take down Sabretooth and Mammomax...who now officially has the lamest name for any supervillain ever...so I promised her I'd take her up on that lunch offer."

"Oh, that new deli?" Peter observed. "We went there last week. I especially enjoyed their pizza."

"I'll save you some pepperoni," Rachel promised. "Well, gotta run."

As she headed out of the Danger Room airlock, she passed Logan. "Hey, Wolvie, what up?" she greeted him merrily.

"Mornin'," Logan grunted as he ambled into the Danger Room, gently tipping his cowboy hat.

Rachel smiled. "Don't ever change, Logan. See ya around, Peter."

"Have fun, Rachel," Peter replied. "And give Katya my love."

Rachel waved once more before heading out of the Danger Room. Logan stood silently near the door, staring intently at the redhead as she left. As the door whooshed shut behind her, Logan inhaled briefly through his nose, testing the air around him. He then stared hard at Peter, who had begun to feel an unpleasant weight welling deep in his stomach.

"Good morning, Logan," Peter greeted his long-time partner in Fastball Special as he manipulated the Danger Room's control tablet, transforming the bucolic Tuscan landscape into the heart of Moscow. "I was about to start my morning constitutional around Red Square. Care to join me?"

Logan slowly walked toward Peter, his eyes hooded and unreadable under the brim of his Stetson as he gauged the younger man. He then smirked mirthlessly as he approached her. "Y'know, Pete," he said, his voice sounding conversational but with an undertone of steel. "It's the darndest thing. Normally when I'm around you, I can smell Kitty, just faintly. But today, I'm around you and I smell Rachel. And when I passed Rachel, I could smell you. And Kitty. Care to explain that to me?"

Peter sighed inwardly; he figured that if there was one team-mate who would discern what he, Kitty and Rachel were up to, it would be Logan. He stood his ground, maintaining a calm deadpan. "I will be glad to discuss it with you...the moment it becomes any of your business."

Logan harrumphed. "For now, it's none of my business. But actions have consequences, Peter. And if your actions have the consequence of causing Kitty any pain...then it damn well becomes my business."

"What will you do then?" Peter asked, steadily reining in his temper. "Get me drunk and throw me at Juggernaut?"

Logan snorted briefly. "If he's available. And if I think you've earned it." Taking off his hat and tossing it casually to the side, he added, "So, how about that jog? Here to Lenin's tomb and back?" As Logan started running toward the stated destination, Peter felt a grave chill across his heart. Logan was the last person he wished to cross. And if the Canadian fighter believed that he had ever hurt Kitty...He swallowed hard and tried not to consider the results as he began running after Logan.

"What a game this has been, sports fans!" Jubilee gleefully called out into the microphone in the makeshift 'press box' of the Xavier Institute's outdoor sports facility, as students and faculty sat on the aluminum bleachers and cheered their favorite teams. "Who woulda thunk when Scott Summers and Emma Frost first chose sides last week for the annual X-Men Summer Classic that we'd get such a nailbiter of a game out of it? For eight innings the two star pitchers, Kitty Pryde for the Hellions and Peter Rasputin for the Corsairs, have turned this game into a pitchers' duel, completely run-less until the top of the ninth, when Bobby Drake scored a run for the Hellions. Now, at the bottom of the ninth, it's Hellions 1, Corsairs 0, the Corsairs are up, two outs and one man, er, woman, on base. And stepping up to the plate is Mr. Fastball Special himself, Peter Rasputin!"

The Russian farmboy selected a hard maple bat and strode to the plate, facing the opposing pitcher. "You ready, Too Tall?" Kitty teased him as she adjusted her cap.

"I hope I'm not too small a target, Katya," Peter answered playfully, giving the bat a practice swing.

"You know what they say, Peter. The bigger they are, the bigger the strike zone." Kitty lazily tossed the horsehide sphere from hand to hand. "You realize that you'll probably be the last batter in this game."

"One way or another, I mean to be," Peter promised.

"Oooh, cocky," Kitty dimpled as she grinned. "Hope you're this feisty later tonight!"

"Hey, Kitty," first baseman Bobby Drake shouted to his teammate as Rachel stood behind him, her foot lightly resting on the base. "You two wanna rent a room or do you wanna play some baseball?"

Kitty said nothing more, as she placed her feet in position on the pitcher's mound, holding the ball behind her back with her right hand. She glanced at Kurt Wagner, his face obscured by the catcher's mask, a specially designed mitt on his hand. His tail waved lazily over his head, but once he caught Kitty's eye the tip of his tail twitched twice on his left side. Kitty nodded, resting her fingertips on the surface of the ball for a slider. With a smooth whiplike motion, Kitty threw her arm back, then forward, releasing the ball.

"Hey batta-batta-batta---" Kurt chanted behind Peter as he swung, "Sah-WING! Batta-batta-batta!" The ball thudded soundly into Kurt's mitt, and Kurt tossed it back to Kitty. Peter glared at Kurt, annoyed by his efforts to distract him.

"Ste-RIKE ONE!" umpire Logan shouted.

Kitty stared intently at the batter, smiling. "Two more, Peter," she warned him. "Two more."

"Perhaps just one more, Katya," Peter answered.

"Yeah right," Kitty nodded. Don't let him psyche you, Kitty, she mentally reminded herself. Just remember, pitchers aren't supposed to hit. She glanced back at Kurt's tail. One twitch forward. Kitty smiled. Time to bring the heat.

"Check out my Fastball Special," she whispered as she got into her stance. Cocking her body back, her arm swung forward like a catapult, releasing the ball toward home plate.

A loud crack echoed across the diamond as the heads of players and spectators alike craned their heads to mark the trajectory of the ball.

"SWEET JESUS IN A FLAMING BIRCH BARK CANOE!" Jubilee screamed into the mike. "That baby is going--going--it is out of here! Peter Rasputin just knocked that sucker over the fence for a two-run homer! That's right, Sports fans, Rasputin scored the game-winner for the Corsairs!" Rachel rounded third base, jogging the last ninety feet to home, followedy by Peter. "The final score, Corsairs 2, Hellions 1!"

Scott Summers led his teammates out of the dugout while Emma Frost's team converged from the field. Peter finished running the final feet, his foot landing firmly on home plate, as the rest of the Corsairs mobbed him. Remy and Rogue slapped his back, while Scott stepped up to shake his hand.

Kitty sagged her shoulders slightly, somewhat annoyed at the loss, but thrilled to see Peter pull off the home-run. Man, the Cubs could use him this season, she mused. She joined Ororo and Alex as they and the rest of the Hellions met to congratulate the winning team.

As Kitty approached Peter, Rachel had met the game's hero, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Way to go, Big Guy," she purred happily, kissing his cheek. Peter blushed slightly, but returned the embrace warmly. As they turned in their embrace, Peter glanced toward Kitty, who stood watching the two of them, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

"Ah, Katya," Peter disengaged the hug and walked toward the brunette. "You played very well."

"Yeah," Kitty nodded, frowning slightly. "But the better team won. Congratulations, guys."

"Hey," Rachel announced, leaning against Peter's back, "we're gonna go out for a victory party. You wanna join us?"

"Uh, no," Kitty hedged slightly, backing away. "This is your party. You guys go have fun. I'm gonna hit the showers and collapse on the bed." Kitty turned away from the others, and ran briskly from the baseball field, toward the mansion.

"Katya?" Peter called out before she disappeared from his line of sight. He started after him, but a hand touching his arm made him stop.

He turned around and saw Rachel's face, her green eyes pleading with him. "Let her go, Peter," she said. "She needs some alone time."

"Rachel, I don't understand," Peter answered. "She looked upset. I know she can be competitive, but it was just a baseball game, right?"

Rachel snorted derisively, shaking her head. "You dope, this has nothing to do with baseball."

"Then what's upsetting her?"

Rachel leaned forward, whispering one word; "Vegas."

Peter looked at Rachel, his gaze an unasked question. Then Rachel's utterance registered with a sobering clarity. "Do you think she is jealous of us? She knows that we're only friends, right?"

"Sure she knows that," Rachel argued. "Just like you knew that she and Doug Ramsey were friends, back in the day!"

Peter stood silently for a moment, then lowered his head sadly. "I've been a fool. I should have realized that our--tryst--would have consequences sooner or later."

"Well, it's nothing that can't be fixed, Tovarisch," Rachel assured him. "Just wait a few hours. Let her work out her aggressions. She'll probably attack some holographic Sentinels or something in the Danger Room. Just let her decompress." She lifted her face to Peter's and smiled at him. "Oh, and one more thing."

She touched his brow with her right hand, and Peter could have sworn that he felt a light tingling in his scalp. "What was that, Rachel?"

"You'll find out when you see Kitty," Rachel promised him, a mysterious smile playing at her lips. "C'mon, farmboy, let's join the party!"

Peter followed Rachel's lead, although his desire to celebrate had been clearly diminished. His only thought for most of the afternoon remained; Have I hurt Katya too much to ever deserve her?

The cave was dark and damp, and smelled of rotting flesh. Jagged stelagtites jutted from the ceiling of the cave like inverted cathedral spires. Kitty didn't give the dark majesty around her a second thought as she ran for her life, a grenade launcher clutched firmly in her hands. Her t-shirt clung damply to her body, the grime on her skin seemed to seep into her pores, and sweat from her matted hair stung her eyes.

The snarling things in the cavern followed her, the gap between them closing rapidly. She ran as though the hounds of Hell were nipping at her heels, and given what was chasing her, she wasn't far off. Suddenly her foot hid a puddle, and skidded out from under her, causing her to fall in an ungainly heap. Her powers neutralized by the alien monsters that pursued her, she couldn't phase to safety. Not that there was any safety for her on this world.

She clutched the grenade launcher, her finger resting on the trigger, as the monsters closed in on her. Five hideous insectoid creatures, each ten to twelve feet in length, enormous stingers protruding in front of their carapaces, salivating mouths wide open displaying rows of needle-like teeth. The Brood warriors hovered like mosquitoes over Kitty as she scrambled away from them, pointing her grenade launcher at the beasts.

"How fortunate," the lead Brood hissed to its comrades. "The Queen Mother requires a superior specimen to host her eggs. This creature will serve that purpose well!"

"Not in this lifetime, Sleazoid!" Kitty growled as she fired the launcher. The grenade exploded upon impact with the Brood leader, scattering its charring remains across the cave floor. The four remaining Brood closed ranks, and began to charge Kitty. One Brood warrior wrapped a tentacle aroud Kitty's leg and began pulling the young mutant toward its needle-lined maw.

A sudden bright light filled the cavern, causing Kitty to blink furiously. Once her vision cleared and she could open her eyes comfortably, the cave walls were replaced by white acoustic tile.

"Hey, whoever turned off the training program, I almost had those buggers!" Kitty shouted, patently annoyed.

An airlock opened, and Emma Frost strolled into the Danger Room, dressed conservatively(which in her case meant her midriff was covered) in white slacks and business suit. "Katherine, while I agree with the principle of working out your aggressions when you need to, could you have found a less repulsive image? What were those...things anyway?"

"They're called the Brood, Frost," Kitty grumbled. "Giant insects that reproduce by turning mutants into hosts for their eggs. They exist only for themselves, and are concerned only with reproduction. You'd get along fine with them, you have so much in common."

Emma ignored Kitty's barb; even out of her diamond form her skin could be pretty thick. "Kitty, I wish to discuss something with you."

"Yeah, well, you're about the last person I want to talk to right now," Kitty started, but Emma raised her hand, a sly smile on her lips.

"Very well," she answered. "I'll talk. What I have to say is vital, for yourself and for the Institution."

Kitty sighed morosely and relaxed somewhat. "I'm listening," she told Emma blankly.

Emma nodded as she began. "I think I can express my point best with a story..." Kitty groaned, but said nothing, as Emma began to speak...

Once upon a time (Emma's story began) a great caliph ruled over a small principality in Arabia. Mighty in battle, wise in council, just and compassionate in judgement, he was beloved by his people and his land prospered. However, he had one weakness; he loved to collect treasures. Rare antiquities, priceless artworks, elaborate clockwork toys, the rarer and finer the treasure, the more he coveted it. As a result, his palace had become a veritable museum.

One day his principality was visited by Hakim. Hakim was a most skilled grifter and bandit, and especially excelled as a con artist. He had heard of the caliph's love of treasures, and saw in that weakness a means to make himself rich beyond his wildest dreams. Enlisting a friend of his, he had rigged a sophisticated series of pulleys and thin ropes to an old Persain carpet, then set out to the palace.

In the guise of a peddler, he greeted the guard at the front gate, saying "I have come from a far kingdom, to seek an audience with your Caliph."

"Begone, desert rat," the guard shouted. "You have no business here!"

"Please, my good sir," Hakim spoke reverently. "If you would please inform the caliph, he would be most rewarded to speak with me. I come bearing a great treasure, one that he would be most interested in observing."

The guard thought for a moment, and then told Hakim, "You will wait here." The guard then left his post to speak with the Caliph.

Ten minutes later, the Caliph stood at the door, greeting the shabbily dressed peddler. "What is the meaning of this intrusion, peasant?" the Caliph asked. "What 'treasure' do you truly have?"

"Only this," Hakim snapped his fingers, and the rug seemed to lower itself from high in the air to the ground at Hakim's feet. "Behold, oh Serene Highness," Hakim declared, "the only true flying carpet in all of existance!" He sat in lotus position on the carpet and snapped his fingers again, and the carpet rose four feet in the air, bearing Hakim's weight. "With this as your transport," Hakim continued, "you may travel the length and breadth of your kindgom in a twinkling. The journey from here to Mecca, a matter of hours!"

"Wonderful!" cried the Caliph. "I must have it! Name your price!"

"Only a hundred-thousand gold coins, oh Radiant Majesty."

Within minutes the bargain was struck, and Hakim presented the carpet(removed from the thin ropes that he and his friend had rigged to raise it into the air) to the Caliph. The Caliph immediately unrolled the carpet and was about to sit on it, when Hakim stopped him. "Forgive me, oh Splendid Prince," he exclaimed, "but there is one flaw in the weave of this carpet, that affects the magic that allows it to fly."

"Are you cheating me, Hakim?" the Caliph asked.

"Not at all, oh Great Majesty," Hakim answered hastily. "The carpet will fly and transport you to anywhere you desire...but only if you don't think about elephants." With that he took his leave of the Caliph, one hundred thousand gold pieces in his bag.

And for the remainder of his reign, the Caliph was unable to make that carpet fly. And he couldn't bring himself to admit that he had been conned. For after all, he knew the carpet would indeed fly. If only he could stop thinking about elephants.

As Emma finished her story, Kitty glared at her. "And this has to do with anything--what?"

"I just wish to point out," Emma answered imperiously, "that there is currently an elephant in the mansion's living room, one called Kitty Peter Rachel."

Kitty stared hard at Emma, her eyes and mouth both wide open. "How--how did you--"

"What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas," Emma answered, a knowing gleam in flashing in her eyes. "Believe me, I wish I hadn't found out; the mental image of the three of you carrying on was so clear, I couldn't not sense it." As Kitty stood in pure shock, her mouth unable to make more than rudimentary sounds, Emma smiled with something that, in other people, would be akin to compassion. "Do not worry. I have no intention of telling anyone about your tryst. And no, I do not object to your--experimenting--so long as it does not affect your work, either as a member of the school administration or as an X-Man. All I ask is that you, Peter and Rachel work this out, whatever it is between the three of you. Otherwise, like the Caliph, you won't be able to stop thinking about that elephant."

Kitty stood incredulously as Emma spoke to her. She knew what had happened last week, but instead of holding it over her head, Emma was giving her surprisingly sage advice. "Why are you telling me this, Emma?" Kitty asked. "Why are you being so--nice to me?"

"Nice?" Emma chuckled. "It's simply a matter of respect. You are too good to let petty jealousy eat you from the inside. You're a fine councilor and teacher, and an asset to the X-Men. And if you tell Scott I said that," she added hurriedly, "I'll deny it!"

"Don't worry," Kitty smirked. "Your secret is safe with me."

"Just talk to Peter and Rachel, Kitty," Emma answered curtly. "For your sake, and for the sake of the school." As she strolled toward the airlock door, Emma paused and glanced back at Kitty. "And for the record, the three of you are amateurs. Two girls and one guy? During my time with the Hellfire Club, I witnessed, and sometimes participated in debaucheries that made your little tête-à-tête look like a Knights of Colombus meeting!" She closed the airlock behind her, leaving Kitty in a flustered state.

She hated to admit it, but Emma was right. Kitty needed to straighten things out with Peter and Rachel. And soon.

Before she lost both her lover and her best friend.

Peter had eaten his pizza and drunk his root beer without really tasting either. While his fellow teammates had celebrated their victory on the diamond and consoled the vanquished, he sat in the corner of the banquet area that Scott had reserved for the party, making only a token attempt at mingling with his friends. Even when Scott gave a speech honoring Peter as the X-Men's 'Most Valuable Player' for giving up only one run in nine innings of pitching, followed by his two-run homer, he merely tipped his oversized baseball cap in Scott's general direction, said his thank-you's to his team members, and sat back down.

He had spent most of the afternoon watching the front door of the pizza place, hoping against all hope to see Kitty arrive. She never came. Emma Frost had arrived reasonably late, making a curt apology to the others while kissing Scott on the lips, but not explaining her tardiness. Kurt had tried briefly to coax Peter into resolving a debate between himself and Sam Guthrie over whether Errol Flynn's Robin Hood could have beat Inigo Montoya in a swordfight, but Rachel politely drew the conversation away from Peter, recognizing his need for solitude. Later, Rachel had made a point of intercepting Logan, who had seemed determined to question Peter over Kitty's absence, but most of the rest of the team assumed that he was simply people-watching, perhaps seeking inspiration for his next painting, and left him alone.

Later, once the party had wound down and the revellers had returned to the mansion, Peter stood alone outside of his bedroom, lost in thought. Okay, Piotr, he mentally weighed his options, what are you going to do now? Do we charge ahead, like you did after Zsaji? Or do we try something completely different and think about the consequences of our actions?

He smirked, chuckling ruefully at his phrasing of the dilemma in which he found himself. Well, Rasputin, considering the last time you wanted to charge into telling Katya the truth, without even fully understanding the truth yourself... He could hear his words of seven years previous coming back to haunt him; "I care for you deeply, Kitty, but the commitment isn't there." He remembered with a sick sensation in his gut, how he had caused her pain because he had wanted to be honest with her. All for the love of a dead woman whom he had known for less than a week, whose hold on him was, he had come to learn, influenced by her unwitting empathic coersion more than any true affection on his part.

The question remained. Do I confront Katya while the matter is still fresh and risk accidently saying something that would break her heart all over again, or do I go to bed and rest my mind, in the hope that the dawn will bring a clearer perspective?

Sometimes, Comrade, to phrase the question is to know the answer.

His decision made, he opened his bedroom door and turned on the light...and stopped dead in his tracks at the surprising sight that awaited him.

Kitty was sitting in lotus position in the exact center of his bed, her hands folded in her lap, her head low and her eyes staring intently at her hands. Peter absently tried to remember whether he had locked his door before it occurred to him that even if he had it would be no barrier to Kitty.

"Hey, Peter," Kitty lifted her head, her eyes meeting Peter's. Her face was somewhat pale, her lips downturned, but her eyes were dry. Peter felt relieved that she hadn't been in his room crying all day. "I hope you don't mind my being here."

"Katya," Peter breathed gently as he closed the door, "you are always welcome here."

"Thanks," Kitty shifted slightly, her hands dropping to her sides as she pushed herself back, relaxing a little. "I wanted to apologize for my performance today. I was a cast-iron bitch and you deserve better than that."

Peter blinked at this unexpected development. "Nyet, Katya," he hastily interjected. "Don't apologize for being competitive. Scott assures me that a little, I believe he called it 'trash-talking', is normal for a friendly competition."

"No, Peter, that's not what I meant," Kitty interrupted. "It was...after the game, when I saw you and Rachel..."

Peter began to understand, and his first instinct was to scoop her up in his strong arms and murmur assurances to her, that she would always be the one he loved. He stifled that instinct immediately; in her defensive posture and her tone of voice, he could sense that she had something to say, and that her need to say her peace was greater than her need for his assurances. He nodded once, giving his silent consent for her to continue.

"Back when we were in Excalibur together," Kitty began, "Rachel and I became best friends. I had never felt that comfortable around a girl my age since Illyana, before..." she fell silent, unable to finish that sentence. "But there was still one little thing that bugged me about Rachel. The fact was that she was so gorgeous...how can I explain this?" She shook her head and twisted her hands together, trying to find the right words to express her insecurities.

"About a year or so after we formed Excalibur," she continued, "I visited this pub in Scotland. I was feeling pretty good, some hunky guys were giving me the eye. Even got in a little dancing. Then Rachel arrives, wearing that red leather jacket of hers. And suddenly I'm standing in the corner while all the guys who were watching me dance forget I'm even in the room. And I kinda got on Rachel's case about that. I was a bit jealous, I guess, but hey, can you blame me? With her body and that red hair of hers, Rachel'd be right at home on the cover of Maxim, standing between Evangelista and Watson-Parker. I don't blame her, not really. It's simply a fact that Rachel is a major hottie who can stop traffic just by wearing a t-shirt and jeans and, well, I have what's called a 'dancer's body'. In other words I look like two tangerines on an ironing board."

Peter listened to Kitty's words, and to her voice as she described herself; somewhat good humored but tenuous, fragile. So unlike the strong-willed, assertive young woman whom he had fallen in love with so many years ago. "And when you saw Rachel hugging me after the game..." Peter ventured gently.

"I was afraid that it'd be Zsaji all over again," Kitty admitted, frowning. "I had this mental image of you calling me 'Kitty' instead of 'Katya' and saying something to the effect of 'we can still be friends'."

Peter slowly moved away from the door and toward the bed. Sitting on the matress next to Kitty, he took her delicate hands in his large ones and stroked her palms gently with his fingers. "I feel as though I should be asking your forgivness," Peter admitted, "for not recognizing your fears. Considering my own petty jealousies over your friendship with Doug Ramsey, I hadn't considered that my friendship with Rachel--and I hasten to stress that it is no more than friendship--could be interpreted differently by the casual observer."

"Yeah, I guess we both made mistakes, forgetting about each others feelings," she agreed.

"For the record, Katya," Peter stated, his voice warm and low, "yes, I find Rachel to be very attractive. You would have to be blind not to see that. But you are the one to whom I've given my heart. And if I don't say it often enough, I apologize. But to me you are far more beautiful than either Evangelista or this Watson-Parker woman. Not to mention infinitely more sexy." He punctuated this last comment with a lascivious smirk that made Kitty giggle.

"You really don't think I'd be sexier with bigger boobs?" Kitty challenged, her mood and her voice more playful.

"Believe me, Katya," Peter smiled, waggling his eyebrows in an aproximation of a leer, "your body is proportioned perfectly. Larger breasts would be a waste." Peter let go of Kitty's hands and reached out to caress her cheek with feather-light touches. Kitty leaned happily into his palm, moving her hand over his, her lips straying on his palm.

"And besides," he whispered huskily, "I happen to like the taste of tangerines..." He slowly leaned forward, craning his head slightly, and Kitty closed her eyes as the kiss began---

Kitty stood in the middle of the wheat field, feeling the weight of the pitchfork in her hand, sweat plastering the tank-top to her body. She dug at the ground with the fork, loosening the soil to allow the threshing machine behind her to more easily harvest the wheat. The harvest was plentiful this year, and she and her friends and comrades were satsified with their work, that their land would prosper--

"PETER, LOOK!" someone shouted from the fields. "YOUR SISTER!"

Kitty turned, dropping the pitchfork. She saw it at once; the runaway tractor, barreling down the hill, the blond-haired child playing blissfully, not knowing her life was in peril. Without a second's hesitation, Kitty ran toward the child, pushing herself to the limit to snatch the girl from harm's way. Her body hardened as she ran, her body shining like chrome steel in the sun. She grabbed the child in her strong arms, but was unable to clear the tractor in time. With one last desperate surge of strength, she threw her fist forward, effectively halting the metel behemoth in its tracks.

As she surveyed the wrecked tractor parts, she held Illyana tightly to her, relieved that she was safe. Suddenly her relief was intruded by a voice that she had never heard before, ringing clearly through her head:

"Peter Rasputin. I wish to talk to you---"

Kitty felt herself falling backward, until her back bumped into the headboard. Shaking herself, she blinked furiously and turned her head, her eyes scanning the surroundings. She breathed a sigh of relief when she realized she was back in Peter's bedroom. Peter backed away for a second, his eyes widening in surprise.

"What...just...happened?" Kitty asked. From Peter's slack-jawed expression she surmised that he had a similar experience to hers. "Peter, did you see the wheat field?"

"Wheat field?" Peter asked, somewhat dazed. He shook his head briefly, collecting his thoughts. "Nyet, Katya. But I was...somewhere else. It was like a waking dream; I knew it wasn't real, but it felt real. I was in a house, and while it felt familiar it didn't look that way. I was on the top of a stairway, watching a couple arguing. I saw Emma Frost, she had just left the house. And I had a terrible headache. I made my way to a bed, wishing the headache would go away..."

"And when you woke up you were in the kitchen, right?" Kitty nodded as Peter's story registered in her memory. "Peter, that's the first time I phased. And I had a similar waking dream. I was in a wheatfield, helping with the harvest, when I saw a tractor barreling down on a young girl. I charged after the girl to pull her out of harm's way, and when I got to her, I ended up smashing the tractor. My arms were steel! And the girl--the girl was Illyana!"

"Boshe moi," Peter breathed. "I remember that moment as though I had just lived it. It was the day I first met Professor Xavier."

"And the day I fell through the kitchen ceiling," Kitty realized, "was the day I first met the Professor. And Ororo and Logan." She chuckled for a second, blushing prettily. "And you. I remember wondering who that neat looking guy pushing the wheelchair was."

"I remember that day as well," Peter smiled warmly at Kitty, his hand reaching for Kitty's. "I remember first seeing this lovely young child and thinking how pretty she was. I had no idea that this girl would proceed to turn my life upside-down."

Kitty couldn't help but blush even more at Peter's words. "Yeah, I guess both our lives changed because of the X-Men. But that doesn't explain why we're suddenly file-sharing each others' memories." This little mystery both baffled and annoyed Kitty; considering what she and Peter were doing before their shared memories occurred, Kitty had reasoned that by this time they should be topless or completely naked, and in the advanced stages of foreplay.

"Indeed," Peter nodded. "Is this some kind of psychic illusion, like Mastermind, or a mental link of some sort, like..." Peter's voice tapered off suddenly as a random causal connection occurred to him. "Rachel," he uttered slowly. "Like what happened to us last week…"

Kitty blinked furiously at the mention of her friend's name. "Uh, Peter, you and Rachel after the game. Did she say something to you?"

"Da," Peter answered, his mind casting back to the post-game celebrations. "She said that I should give you some time to cool down, but that we still needed to talk. And then she--she touched my head. All she would say to me was 'you'll find out'. Why do you ask?"

"The other day I asked her about that mental bond thing she did when the three of us were making love," Kitty mused. "How I could feel yours and Rachel's orgasms along with my own..."

"I had broached that subject a few days ago myself," Peter admitted. "But what made you think..."

Epiphany slowly rose over the heads of the two lovers, bringing a strange lightheadedness, like breathing in rarified air. Kitty and Peter began to giggle, as Kitty voiced the conclusion to which they both arrived; "That little minx! She psi-bonded us!"

"Like the bond Scott and Jean used to share," Peter nodded. "But why did she feel it was necessary?"

"Maybe because we X-Men are notorious for not communicating our feelings," Kitty realized. "She must have figured that, left to our own devices we'd sit alone and brood until we ended up snapping at each other."

"Much like Remy and Rogue half the time," Peter acknowledged.

"My favorite soap," Kitty grinned. As she and Peter sat in silence, the enormity of Rachel's gift dawned on them, leaving them awed.

"Wow," Kitty breathed, summing up the emotions they both felt and shared. "This could take some getting used to."

"Given the training that Professor Xavier had given us in shielding our minds from psychic attack," Peter reached toward Kitty, scooping her in his arms in a comforting bear hug, "I do not think that we have to worry about sharing each others' thoughts." Touching his lips to her forehead, he added mentally, And for what it's worth, I believe I would enjoy being inside your head.

Yeah, Kitty agreed, her own lips slowly raining soft warm kisses on Peter's face, chin and neck, I could get used to seeing the world through your eyes myself. As her body relaxed under Peter's strong but gentle hands, Kitty commented We really should do something nice for Rachel.

Isn't that how we got here in the first place? Peter quipped, causing Kitty to lean back in startlement, an expression of mock fury on her face. "Not that nice, you doofus," she spoke loudly. "From now on, you, Peter Rasputin, are a one-woman man!"

"Indeed," Peter growled huskily, a feral gleam of desire lighting his eyes as he playfully tackled Kitty, his legs pinning Kitty to the mattress as they gleefully fumbled with buttons, zippers and catches.

Their passion was heightened by the psychic connection they now shared, but beyond the physical rapture they now experienced together a deeper sensation emerged. Even after their bodies were finally sated and they lay in each others' arms, relishing the skin-to-skin contact, their minds still hungered for communion. Wordlessly, almost without movement they shared fond memories, reveled in forgotten pleasures of childhood, consoled each other for past hurts, and revealed secret fantasies. Peter and Kitty not only shared the deepest parts of their souls with each other, they both saw themselves through each others' eyes.

Peter was amused at Kitty's image of him; at once dashing, strong, heroic, yet also kind and gentle. A broad-chested figure with a body that Michaelangelo might have carved out of marble, but with a warm, animated face. The fact that Kitty's dream-image of Peter was dressed as a pirate, with a cutlass in one hand and a spyglass in the other, standing gallantly atop the tall mast of a sailing vessel struck him as amusing, and very flattering.

Kitty, for her part, was stunned by Peter's image of her; an elfin woman dancing in an enchanted glade, at once both demure and ferocious; equal parts angel and tomboy, ninja and loving wife. A princess from a fantasy novel, riding on the back of a powerful dragon, her stance both mighty and delicate. By turns a lover, a warrior and a protector.

"My God..." Kitty whispered, awed by what she saw in Peter's mind. "I never saw myself that way...I never saw me as being so beautiful..."

Peter extended the tip of his finger to Kitty's face to wipe away a single tear. "It is who you are, Katya," Peter breathed. "Strength and grace, courage and compassion. To me you are all these things."

"Just as you have always been my hero," Kitty confessed, her eyes shining with joyous tears. "My knight, my champion, my beloved…" Peter gathered Kitty again in his arms, smoothing his hands against the soft skin of her lower back, calming her soul with thoughts of love.

Nothing else was spoken for the rest of the night, nor was such communication needed. Wordlessly, Peter slipped off the bed long enough to retrieve a small ring box from his nightstand. He opened the case, revealing a diamond ring that Kitty recognized (although she had never seen the ring before) as a family heirloom that once belonged to Peter's grandmother Svetlana, and that his family had somehow hidden from the Socialist government all these years.

Silently she trembled as Peter slipped the ring on her finger, gazing at the small but flawless diamond, realizing that she and Peter were now officially engaged. Although Kitty found herself thinking (and Peter followed that thought behind her) that the wedding, when it occurred, apart from being a public affirmation of their love, would be superfluous.

In the truest sense of the word, Kitty and Peter both realized simultaneously and to their great joy, they were already married.


Rachel made a point of avoiding Peter's bedroom, as the mental vibes of the passion he shared with Kitty still ebbed and flowed from the immediate area long into the night. She glanced in the general direction of the bedroom with a lingering look, remembering what was, and would never be again. She smiled at the realization that she would never lose her closest friends. "C'mon, Lockheed," Rachel addressed the small violet dragon draped around her neck, "let's go rustle up some kibble." The small bat-winged creature stretched contentedly. His mistress was happy and his belly would soon be full, that's all that mattered to him.

As Rachel made her way to the kitchen, she noticed Kurt's lithe figure poking his head in the refrigerator, rooting throught the meat drawer for sandwich fixings. "Hey, Kurt," Rachel greeted the suave German elf. "Putting together a midnight snack?"

"Guten abend, mein Freunde," Kurt stood up from the fridge, balancing a half-pound of deli-shaved roast beef and a jar of stoneground mustard. "What a fetching stole," he teased the redhead.

"Yeah, Kitty's with Peter tonight, so I'm dragon-sitting," she explained.

"Ah, it's good that they're working out whatever's wrong with them."

Rachel turned toward Kurt, surprise in her features. "You could tell something was wrong with them?"

"No more than anyone else," Kurt admitted. "She seemed a trifle brusque with him after the game today. I figure it was just losing that pitcher's duel. But I'm sure they'll pull through splendidly." As he fetched a loaf of rye bread, Kurt asked, "Would you two care for a sandwich?"

Rachel glanced at the creature that was still hanging over her shoulders. "Whaddya say, dragon, you hungry?" Lockheed nodded his great head enthusiastically. "Uh, no mustard for the dragon, Elf. Kitty told me that he doesn't like mustard."

"Yes, I was there when he stuck his snout into a jar of prepared yellow," Kurt groaned silently. "Couldn't control his fire for an hour after that--ended up trashing the toaster and a few potted plants." As he spread some mayonaise over the bread, he added, "Oh, and if I didn't get the chance to say so earlier, congratulations on a well-fought contest. You and Peter deserve the win."

"Thanks, Kurt," Rachel answered. "Hey, you care for something to wash that sandwich down?"

"A capital idea," Kurt grinned.

"Why thank you, kind sir," Rachel chuckled briefly as she pulled the over-haughty dragon off of her shoulders and onto the table. Rachel opened the refrigerator door and took a gander at the contents. "Let's see, there's diet cola, orange juice, Logan's private stock--touch without his permission and you shall reap the whirlwind--and some of that guarna-taurine energy drink that Kitty likes. Tastes like carbonated cough syrup to me, but..."

"I believe I have some Reisling on the back of the upper left shelf," Kurt suggested as he spread a dollop of mustard over his bread. And an excellent vintage, if I do say so myself. Care to share a bottle?"

"Maybe a dram," Rachel nodded, making a mental note to keep in moderation. She withdrew the bottle, closed the fridge door and fetched two pieces crystal stemware. As Kurt placed the three sandwiches on the table and Lockheed tucked in to his meal ravenously, Rachel handed Kurt a glass which he accepted gladly. "Dragons," he quipped as he watched the alien being practically inhale his food. "No table manners anywhere."

"That's why they don't serve dragons at the 21 Club," Rachel answered. Lifting her glass, she toasted, "To Kitty and Peter. And to the annual Xavier Summer Classic. Today's been a gala day."

"Well, a gal a day's just fine with me," Kurt drawled, wagging his eyebrows furiously. "I don't think I could handle more than that."

"Was that 'Duck Soup'?" Rachel asked. Kurt lifted his head, his eyes widening in surprise. "Why yes it is," Kurt answered, his smile growing broader. "Never thought you were familiar with the Marx Brothers."

"You kiddin'?" Rachel smirked through a mouthful of roast beef. "Funniest line in any movie ever was in Animal Crackers, though I'm surprised the censors didn't catch it. Chico's about to start playing piano, when Grocho announces..."

"'The maestro will now play Somewhere My Loves Lies Sleeping, with a male chorus'!" Kurt joined Rachel as they happily chorused the infamous one-liner.

Rachel shrugged her shoulders, trying to control her giggling while she ate. "Should have known better than to try to stump the movie trivia master."

"Many have tried, meine schon Fraulein," Kurt quipped playfully.

Rachel smiled as she lifted her wineglass to her lips, gazing at Kurt over the rim. Kitty'll never fogive me if I let this chance go. A wicked smile lit her face.

"Say, Kurt," Rachel said quietly, "were you aware of the new revival house in downtown Salem, the Magic Lantern?"

Kurt glanced up from his sandwich and peered into Rachel's green eyes. "A revival house?" he asked.

"You know," Rachel purred, standing up from her seat and slipping behind the surprised devil-featured mutant. "A revival house, as in a theater that's not part of a multiplex or owned by a soulless conglomerate." She placed a featherlight fingertip on his shoulder, just long enough to enjoy the feel of his muscles reacting to her touch. "A theater that plays classic movies, on the wide screen, in front of an audience, in stereo, the way movies were meant to be seen." Leaning down so her lips were next to Kurt's pointed ear, she whispered, "Next Saturday they're doing a late-night Errol Flynn double-bill. Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood."

Kurt turned his head slowly toward Rachel, her green eyes flashing with mischief, and with something that almost looked like lust. "Mrs Robinson," Kurt quipped, trying to mask his suddenly racing pulse behind a facade of nonchalance, "I believe you are trying to seduce me."

"Dustin Hoffman, 'The Graduate'," Rachel replied. "And I am. So, me and Errol, you free? Maybe I'll let you take me dancing later?"

Kurt's cavilier grin was tinged with sheer delight, and perhaps some lust of his own. "Why, I could dance with you 'til the cows come home! On second thought--"

"I'll dance with the cows 'til you come home!" Rachel gleefully joined in with Kurt. The initial tension of officially asking Kurt for a date broken, Rachel allowed herself to relax, to be comfortable with Kurt as they finished their sandwiches and wine, discussing favorite movie moments, and then moving onto other likes and dislikes.

As she returned to her bedroom in the wee small hours Rachel gave one last passing thought to Peter Rasputin and Kitty Pryde. She smiled, recalling their one night of passion, that crazy wonderful night that could have destroyed them, but instead restored them. Even with her telepathy off and her thoughts masked, she was aware of the sea-change that took place between her two best friends. Kate Rasputin, she thought absently, recalling another world, another lifetime, where a much older and sadder Kate Rasputin taught her survival in a New York that had become Hell on Earth.

Here's hoping you two have better luck in this world, Rachel thought. God knows you've earned some happiness. Her thoughts turned again to Kurt Wagner, and the sudden change in their relationship. And so do we. Oh Kurt, my sweet, gorgeous, sexy little elf, you don't stand a chance!

Without bothering to undress, Rachel collapsed onto her bed and drifted off pleasantly; her sound sleep interrupted only by dreams of a handsome German cavilier who rescued her from a terrible snarling monster, assuring her that his intentions were honorable.


Author's Notes: Much thanks for all the feedback. This has been a different experience for me. As much as I enjoy a good smut piece, I think that eroticism is better when it's well written, with as much attention paid to the characterization and setting(or even more) as to the physical aspect.

Jeremy, I for one sincerely hope that you don't give up your work. You're definitely a fine writer(I wish I could write action scenes as well as you've done so far in "Deathless") and your stories are always must-reads when I see them. As for my taking your ideas and running with them, to quote Sir Isaac Newton, "If I have seen farther, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

After I wrote the epilogue for this story, I learned about the death of Anne Bancroft, the actress best remembered for playing the seductive Mrs. Robinson in the movie "The Graduate". To her memory, I dedicate this chapter.

And here's to you, Mrs Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know...