Happily Ever After

By Madripoor Rose

Chapter Three: Battle Plans

A position in the jewelry department of the Carlisle Auction House was not precisely inducive to a quiet life. There were occasional robbery attempts by members of New York's more...colorful...criminal element...there had been a few consignments that were either inherently magical, cursed, or the misplaced property of mythological creatures or alien races.

And then there were the clients. The nouveau riche, the established families...the celebrities...New York's particular celebrities. Justin had risen to his position as head of the Jewelry Department at the Carlisle Auction House by maintaining a certain relationship with the New York set. One of his underlings was on a permanent assignment to Fabrege auctions, spearheading Natasha Romanov's attempt to reclaim her family treasures. If the Juggernaut ever decided to pawn the Crimson Gem Of Cyttorak, he would come to the Carlisle. And Justin knew exactly how much Emma Frost was worth dead. By carat weight.

Despite his scrupulous discretion, word got around. So Justin wasn't precisely surprised when Wolverine of the X Men appeared one day, asking for him.

He had Patrice take him to one of the meeting rooms and give him coffee while he did a quick review of the X Men. Charles Xavier was believed dead again, at the moment. In any case, most of the family pieces had been looted by that dreadful fortune hunter the mother had married. There were of course the Worthington Emeralds, the Braddock Pearls...but nothing currently stolen or rumored to be on the market.

A cool professional smile pasted on his lips, Justin went out to meet his first X Man.

Wolverine proved to be shorter than he expected, and surprisingly blunt. "I want you to track down jewelry belonging to the Howlett family of Alberta Canada, around 1900. There was a pearl choker with a cameo, and sapphires and diamonds. The old man was a mining baron, so there's probably more stuff, but them two in particular. I want to know if they're still in one piece and if the owner's willing to sell."

There were a few small details to be dealt with, and Justin settled down to his newest commission with enthusiasm. Research was first, getting the names of the Howlett family of the period, and then cross checking with the archives of prominent jewelers. It would, he assured Wolverine, take some time, but he was quite sure one of the family pieces could be located.

He didn't ask why Wolverine wanted it done.

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Kitty had spent the day shopping and doing a little scouting for touristy stuff she could do with her mother during the impending visit. Logan had volunteered to drive into the city on some mysterious business of his own. Which Kitty didn't actually believe in. Logan had been getting mushy---well, mushy for Logan---over her engagement to Piotr. Wanting to spend some time alone in the car with her and fighting over radio stations was pretty Logan-mushy.

On the drive back she was expecting another gruff comment that he was happy they were so happy, another offer to kick Piotr's ass if he went astray, and then he'd change the subject and talk hockey for the last half hour of the drive.

At the Starbucks where they were to meet, Kitty treated herself to an overpriced cup of coffee while she waited. Keeping an eye on her shopping bags, she wondered how Piotr was going to react to the little surprise she'd picked up for him.

It was an unwritten rule in the X Men that you always slept in something suitable for battle or the 11:00 pm news. Kitty's personal taste had been toward comfort. The wispy bit of lace she'd bought wouldn't be worn for long, and she'd also gotten a new set of brushed sateen pajamas to change into afterward.

She realized that she was staring off into space with a silly grin. She reached for her coffee cup, and let the light catch her engagement ring, making it sparkle.

Mrs. Piotr Rasputin. Mrs. Kitty Rasputin. Kitty Pryde-Rasputin. She'd practiced writing her married name a million times when she was a girl. Now that she was actually marrying the guy you'd think it would be easier to pick one. Keeping her maiden name. Taking his. Hyphenating.

There were still so many details to be planning. They needed to get together and make a list. Granted, things had been pretty grim lately and the wedding was captivating everyone's attention as something to look forward to, and snowballing out of control.

She missed Emma Frost's usual behavior toward her. The cool disdain and catty sniping. Compared to the recent Martha Stewart On Crack personality change.

She'd tried warning Scott that Emma was going evil again, but he just laughed and claimed the upcoming Pryde-Rasputin nuptials had awakened Emma's Inner Event Planner.

Whatever. Kitty had asked her for her opinion on one bridesmaids' dress design, just to be polite, and now she had swatches of silk being imported from Italy.

Kitty picked at what was left of the blueberry scone she'd had with the coffee, and wondered if she and Piotr could just sign out the Blackbird and elope. Vegas, or Niagra Falls. Get married by an Elvis impersonator.

She'd wanted a simple wedding in the mansion's garden. Not a mutant media event.

"Hey Pun'kin. Get your shopping done?"

She looked up to grin at Logan. The childhood nicknames were coming up more frequently. Mushy.

"I'm done. You finish that top-secret errand of yours?"

He nodded. "Got your stuff?"

Kitty gathered up her shopping bags and started to get up. "Do you want to get a coffee to go?" she asked, teasingly. He snorted.

"Darlin', if you can't tar a roof with it, it ain't coffee. Let's get on the road."

Overpriced coffee and pompous baristas occupied Logan's conversation until they got to parking structure where they'd left the car. Kitty merely had to make agreeing noises whenever he stopped for breath.

The drive back to the school went as predicted. They reached Xavier's shortly before dinner. The students were taking advantage of the nice weather to study or play outside. Kitty got upstairs to her room without running into anyone except Lockheed, sprawled across the pillows of her bed with possessive glee, sound asleep.

She rarely bothered to sleep in her own bedroom. Instead, it had become a glorified walk-in closet. She knew she was going to miss the space once they were married and moved into one of the suites Scott had the architect build into the last remodel of the mansion.

Kitty glanced down at the bags she'd just dropped on the foot of the bed, at her open closet door and the packed row of clothes on hangers and the shoe-boxed stacked on the shelf. She looked at the bookcases stacked with books and DVDs and CDs, and at her dresser top, buried under jewelry and cosmetics.

"I'm going to have to do a major decluttering before Peter and I move in together, too. Junk sure piles up fast," she sighed.

Kitty glanced at the stack of bridal magazines on her nightstand, and the decorated notebook a couple of her girlier-girl students had made her, for wedding plans. The cover was decoupaged with a picture of Piotr kissing her, framed in a heart shaped border of clip-art roses, doves, and wedding bells.

She decided to go find Piotr, and get him to sit down with her and look through some of the magazines. She headed out to look for him. One of his art students told her that he was in the attic of the north wing.

Speaking of decluttering. The mansion might have been completely rebuilt several times over the years, but the attics never stayed empty for long. When Kitty was a girl, it had been mazes of mysterious boxes and trunks, except for the servants dormitory that Ororo claimed for her garden loft.

Now it was home to odds and ends, old furniture, textbooks for the school, boxes of possessions left behind by those who came and went, discarded souvenirs from off-world or other dimensions.

She found Piotr at last, under one of the skylights, going through a large cardboard box with his name scrawled in sharpie on the side.

"Hey Peter. Whatcha got there?" she stared, surprised, at the box and several like it stacked nearby.

"Hello Katya. Enjoy your shopping? Scott recalled that some of my belongings that had been in storage were brought here. I am looking to see what is salvagable."

"Oh cool. I didn't think you had any of your old stuff any more. Find anything interesting?"

He smiled and picked up a drape of red cloth folded on one of the unopened boxes, shaking it out. His old red University Of Siberia tee-shirt. The yellow lettering had faded almost white, but the crest with the brown bear, star, and crescent moon was still bright and vibrant. He hadn't gone to school there, had left to join the X Men as a teenager. It had been a present from an aunt who taught there.

"I found some clothing. They will have to be laundered, but still wearable, I think." Finding clothing to fit Piotr's height and heavily muscled frame was still a bit of a problem, although there were specialty stores in the city. "Ah, and my Ambassador hat," he held up the fur hat and swatted it lightly to knock dust loose and fluff up the fur a bit.

"Want some help?"

"Pick a box," he waved vaguely.

"We need to look at some wedding stuff tonight," she warned him, and opened one of the boxes. His old wooden paint box was right at the top, and some books on painting. Old sketchbooks. She flipped through one. Seascapes. Muir Island, Brighton Beach. Another, close studies of wildflowers.

The third...had a different color cover. And was...

Naked people. Women. Naked women.

Ororo, a very good likeness. A slim blonde. Two girls with the mohawked hair of the Fall People in the Savage Land. And then...herself. Drawn reclining, not quite nude at first, filmy draperies covering her...Lockheed's wings and tail in a pastiche of that famous poster of Nastassia Kinski with a boa constrictor.

A few pages of her completely naked, looking coyly back over her shoulder, or a side view of her seated with her knees drawn up. Drawings of herself as she was at fourteen, paired with guesses of what she'd look like older. More filled out.

Piotr had overestimated cup size, a bit.

She looked up. Piotr was pretending not to have noticed, a Converse All Star sneaker in one hand, he dug through a box looking for its mate. Blushing faintly.

Kitty turned another page and old pain quenched her amusement like a bucket of ice water.

Waist-length mane of hair, sharply oval, almost feline face with large almond shaped eyes.

Zsaji.

Her rival.

The alien healer really had been beautiful.

She took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and turned to the next page. More pictures of Kitty. And in some of them, Piotr, joining her. Kissing her. Holding her in his arms. The rest of the pages were blank.

Piotr had told her that he'd begun to regret breaking up with her over Zsaji's memory almost immediately. She'd never quite believed him until now.

She looked up at Piotr again. He was definitely blushing. It was really rather sweet. "Is this what I think it is?" she asked him, lightly.

"Figure studies. I was practicing poses, portraits..."

"Playboy," she said flatly. "You drew your own Playboy."

"Da," he said sheepishly. "It was mostly for the drawing practice...but also a little secret thrill, to be drawing nudes."

"Hm. You were a little overly generous with me. Hoping I'd fill out more?"

"Nothing like that!" he protested. "You were still young, growing. You have filled out a bit more."

"And you were just guessing because I never posed for you..." she hesitated. "I want to pose for you."

He gave her a tentative smile. "I would like that," he said, and they went back to work digging through boxes, unpacking them, and sorting out what he wanted to keep, packing the things he didn't want back into the storage boxes.

Kitty whistled at the end of it. "Seven pairs of pants, three pairs of shoes, twelve shirts, five sweaters, a coat and hat. That's a better haul than I got from a day in the department stores! Not bad!"

Piotr put a stack of old paperbacks in the small box with his clothes. "And I think I will reread these before adding them to the school library."

He carried the box down to his room, and it was time to wash up after the dust and cobwebs of the attic, for supper.

They were seated at different tables in the dining hall. There were enough students for each table to need an adult to supervise. Piotr had to deal with a brief food-fight among the younger students at his table. He gave her a helpless look as he marched them off to a detention time-out before dessert. She waved him on.

After dinner, Kitty went back to her room and put away her new things. Then plopped on the foot of her bed and flipped idly through one of the bridal magazines. Lockheed had departed to pester the kitchen staff for scraps.

She decided that the wedding notebook was too nice to write in when she was going to be doing a lot of scratching out and starting over, so she retrieved a plain notebook and pen from her desk, and made a nest out of the pillows against the headboard, getting comfortable in the middle of the bed.

She opened the notebook and stared at the blank white page for a long moment, then she wrote;

Wedding dress and shoes

Tux for Piotr

That totally counted as wedding planning. She could quit now. For the day. Noone would blame her.

She wrote;

Talk to Piotr about ceremony. Civil ceremony, Kurt presiding, or does 'a Jewish girl, her Atheist boyfriend getting married by a Catholic ex-priest' sound too much like the opening line of a joke?

Nibbling on the cap of the pen for a moment, she added,

If Kurt officiates and Logan walks me down the aisle, who is Piotr's best man? Kurt and Logan are his best buds.

I wish Illyana was here to be my matron of honor.

Kitty reread that and immediately scratched it out so that Piotr would never have to see it. She reread the entire list, then tore the page off the spiral binding, balled it up and tossed it in the general direction of the wastebasket.

On a fresh, clean page she wrote:

Wedding dress and shoes.

Tuxedo for Piotr.

Ceremony/writing our own vows?

Wedding party/who officiates?/Best Man, Matron of Honor, 'Father' of Bride, ring bearer, flower girl, bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Tuxes for groomsmen and dresses for bridesmaids.

Catering/Wedding cake.

Guests.

Reading it over, Kitty nodded to herself. This was good, this was a real outline of what she needed to discuss with Piotr, and it didn't really make sense to get too many details nailed down before her mother's visit. She'd just feel hurt and left out if Kitty didn't involve her in the planning process.

On the other hand, if she wasn't careful, her mother would take over the planning entirely and she and Piotr might find themselves getting married back in Deerfield with only distant relatives and her mother's friends in attendance.

Feeling like she'd accomplished something, Kitty set the notebook aside and settled down with one of her new science fiction novels she'

d bought that morning.

Almost two hours later, there was a tap at the door and Piotr entered. "I am sorry, my love, I had to put the children on kitchen duty and watch over their work. You wanted to do some planning for our wedding?"

She sat up, grabbing a bookmark off the nightstand, and put her novel down, trading it for the notebook, and patted the bed beside her. Piotr sat obediently, leaning down for a quick kiss.

She showed him the list. "We've made a start on planning, but nothing's finalized. We need to start settling details," she explained.

"Like our honeymoon," Piotr suggested with a playful leer. "You do not have planning a honeymoon written down on this list."

"Okay," she uncapped the pen and added Plan Honeymoon to the list. "Where would you like to go for our honeymoon?"

"Somewhere we can be alone. No students, no alerts in the middle of the night…" he added a bit wistfully, and Kitty smothered a grin. The last time anti-mutant zealots had attacked the school in the middle of the night had interrupted an intimate moment, and Colossus had thrown them back over the wall with a bit more force than was strictly necessary. "…maybe a nice quiet, romantic bed and breakfast somewhere in the country, near the mountains or the shore. Or a city. A boutique hotel, somewhere with museums and restaurants."

"Hm. Long romantic walks on a beach…" Kitty mused, letting her imagination take over. "…at sunset."

"It does not matter so much to me where we go, so long as we have some time alone together," Piotr added, leaning down to kiss the nape of her neck.

"Peter, no necking. Wedding," she tapped the end of the pen pointedly against the notebook.

He made a small murmur of protest, but obediently sat up. "Miami? There are the art deco hotels and restaurants and beaches where you could wear a bikini."

"Ooh! Yes! I'll get online and do some price checking." Kitty wrote Miami down in the notebook under Honeymoon, and underlined it. "But we'd better make some backup plans…spas, resorts, mountains, deserts…I'll find the nicest places for the best price for each and we can pick from the list." Kitty added a couple of website urls and search terms. "Dresses and Tuxes have to wait…we're not having a religious ceremony, do you want to write our own vows?"

Silence.

She looked up questioningly. Piotr gave her a lopsided grin. "Katya, you know I am not so good with words."

"Your proposal wasn't half bad," she smiled up at him.

"Da, and do you know how many years I had to work on it?"

She smirked. "You've been daydreaming about marrying me since I was fourteen and you never thought about the vows, huh?"

"I mostly skipped from proposing and your yes, to you in white satin dress and the wedding night," he confessed.

Kitty shook her head ruefully, "and you seemed like such a nice boy."

"I am a nice boy," he retorted. "I fantasized about marrying you first."

She snorted. "I'll look up nontraditional vows on the internet, there's probably something we can adapt," she jotted that down.

"No quotes from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, if you please. I am not saying sex poodle in front of the other X Men and your mother."

"Ah, my love, you know me so well," she chortled. "Nah, Xander left Anya at the altar, remember? But I might suggest a Star Trek costume theme. Just to watch Emma's head explode."

"Ah, she is still suggesting designers?"

"And being nice. It's creepy. I don't think Emma came back with us from the Breakworld. SWORD planted a life model decoy. Scott's used to so much of her being plastic, he wouldn't notice."

"Katya…"

"I know! I used to say that sort of stuff to Emma's face and she'd fight back! Now she just gets this hurt look in her eyes and she's no fun any more," she complained lightly. Kitty knew there was a reason for Emma's attempts to make amends. Michael. She just wasn't quite ready to forgive her.

And she certainly didn't want to think about it while she was starting to plan what everybody kept telling her was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

"I think that's enough for tonight. We've got the honeymoon almost sorted out, a couple of minutes of research left and that's it," Piotr suggested. "We've made a start."

"Peter, it's barely eight o'clock, we've only been working…."she trailed off and raised an eyebrow. "You brought that sketchbook downstairs. And you stopped to look at it after kitchen duty."

He gave her a sheepish smile. "You did not think I captured you so well. I wanted to refresh my memory and see what errors I made."

She looked at him.

"And also I found watching you look at nude pictures I've drawn of you to be unbelievably hot."

"You used to be such a nice boy, and now you're a sex maniac. What happened?" She closed the notebook and capped the pen.

Piotr grinned, pulling off his shirt. "You remember how you used to chase after me? Tag, you're it."