The Dresden Files is copyright Jim Butcher. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction. The X-men are copyright Marvel Comics.
In all my years as a licensed investigator - I'm in the book, the only entry under "Wizards" - I've seen a lot of weird come through the door to my office. Hell's bells, I've been hired by Mab, Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness herself. But this time just may have taken the cake - the biscuit at the very least, and possibly the entire right side of the menu at the Cheesecake Factory.
"Yeah, I can meet him tonight," I spoke into the phone, forcing my voice into a casual register. "Thanks for the referral, Elaine." Elaine Mallory was my first love, my first everything. I'd thought she was dead, but those reports were, as Twain said, greatly exaggerated. She had popped back into my life several years ago, having been saved by, and working for, the Summer Court of the Sidhe, and afterwards had followed my example as a private investigator. Together, we'd helped found the Paranet, a loose collection of minor talents in the mystical arts.
Elaine had called me, saying one of the Paranet members worked for Grayson Bonham, a West Coast producer-type who was going to be in Chicago and was in need of some assistance that apparently only I could provide. I was to meet him at the United Center, where the 'Hawks would be playing the Los Angeles Kings.
There was a knock at the door, and it opened slowly to reveal two refugees from a costume party. "Listen Elaine, I have to go... thanks again."
The girl was maybe five and a half feet tall, maybe early twenties, with curly brown hair and a lean, athletic body. Her nose was somewhat longer than would be generally considered attractive, but it fit her face well, and would have given her somewhat of an impish cast if not for the frown currently in place. Her large, brown eyes were narrowed with skepticism. It isn't that I'm not used to that particular look, most of my prospective clients are suspicious at best. But most clients didn't show up to the office wearing yellow and black spandex hidden clumsily under an unlicensed Chicago Cubs windbreaker, the kind they sell cheap at street side touristy stands. She crossed her arms in defiance.
"Go ahead, crack the joke, smartass," she snarled. "It's nothing I won't have heard in the last twenty five blocks getting here, and if it'll get that damn smirk off your face, I can take it."
"Katya," her companion said reprovingly, He stood at least a foot taller than his companion, only a couple inches shy of my own considerable height. I was willing to bet he and I could trade near-concussion stories about hitting our heads into doorframes, lintels and low basement ceilings. He also had dark hair, like me, but that was where our similarities ended. I'm what can be charitably called "lanky"; this guy looked like a body builder. Muscles on top of muscles, cut, ripped and shredded to the point where the red and yellow spandex he wore didn't look half as stupid as it would on normal folks like me. The guy had thews, and mighty ones at that. No, I wasn't envious. Not at all. He turned to me, and held out his hand, "Mr. Dresden, my name is Peter Rasputin, and this is-"
"Kitty Pryde, yeah, I figured," I finished for him. I'm used to people using pseudonyms, especially if they've read that wizards can use your name against you. "And you want me to find, who, 'Wolverine'? 'Professor X'? I'm afraid Dark Phoenix would be a bit out of my league." Their eyes widened a bit, but I shrugged it off - maybe they didn't expect a gumshoe to be familiar with comic books. "Really, kids, epic cosplay and all, if you aren't going to be up front with me, there's probably not a lot I can do to help you."
OK, my mouth often gets me in trouble, and it's cost me a client or two over the years, even back when I wasn't pulling in a check from the Wardens - the wizard police I got shanghaied into a couple years ago when they were very, very desperate. I expected the pair to walk off in a huff, and me to get back to a towering stack of reports and other paperwork the White Council paper pushers had been asking for. Crap.
Maybe I was in luck - for once. Instead of storming out, the two were whispering to one another, barely audible but nonetheless heated. "Kitty" clearly didn't trust me, "Peter" seemed willing to give me a shot, but his bearing had a sense of desperation. I got the feeling that they weren't jerking my chain here, despite the comic book cover names. They needed help, and I was inclined to give it. And no, not just to avoid the magical Bureaucracy. I figured their hushed conversation might shed some light on the situation. So I Listened in.
Yeah, I have some bad habits.
"- care if he's legit or not, he's not worth it, Piotr."
"Detective Rawlins said he was the best person to help find -"
"How do we know that 'detective' wasn't trying to pull a con? I mean, we look like we're going to a costume party in our uniforms, why would he take us seriously? He's probably playing a prank on this guy..."
"And if he is not? The police will not look for Illyana without evidence of abduction. He will."
"And how long will it take him? Our ATM cards won't work in this - whatever it is, so we only have the stash of money we had hidden in our costumes. Sure, the money looks the same - thank God the timeline doesn't appear to have diverged that much – can you imagine if the South had won the Civil War? Or the British the Revolutionary War?"
Well, that settled it. As intriguing as their conversation was - and the way they stayed in character throughout certainly had piqued my interest - there was no way I was going to take suspicious money. Advertising as a wizard tends to make people a tad suspicious of cash from me, and the last thing I needed was to be tossed into jail for passing counterfeits.
But then, if their story was true, then there was a young woman out there who might need help, and if Rawlins had sent them to me, I might be the only one who could do it.
Yeah, I'm a sucker.
"Listen kids," I said, "You have to understand that I get a lot of cranks coming through here, think its funny to play games with the so-called 'Wizard', especially with those Harry Potter books coming out. My instincts say you aren't here to see if I'm packing a wand and can cast a Disarming spell. If you were, I'm thinking you'd be wearing robes instead of those X-men outfits."
"Kitty" looked at her partner quickly, "Ok, now I need some answers from you - how did you know my name, and what do you know of the X-men?"
Some people get way too into character. "Listen lady, I may come across like a suave, sophisticated man about town, but I've got geek cred. I'm more a Spidey guy, honestly, but I've read an X-book from time to time. And like I said, you and your friend with the muscles really nailed the look."
"Mr. Dresden, I don't know what you're talking about," the big guy - "Colossus" - said, "Are you saying you've read about us... in books?"
"Well, yeah, the comics, anyway." Call me old fashioned, but I never went for that 'graphic novel' business.
They continued to glance at one another. They seemed genuinely surprised. The girl shook her head, "That doesn't make sense - we're not public like Captain America or She-Hulk... they shouldn't have our real names. The professor's lawyers would have a field day with that."
A sneaking suspicion was coming over me that these two weren't what they appeared. My head must have been wrapped in wool - or at least I figured the Nevernever wouldn't have the pop culture knowledge to come disguised as comic book characters - or if they did, and knew me, they'd come as Peter Parker. Or Mary Jane Watson. Va-va-vavoom. Maybe Wolverine, if they wanted to do the X-men thing. It was a nice bit there, as I vaguely remembered that the Marvel comics were printed in universe, under some sort of licensing agreement. I think Captain America was even the artist on his own comic at one point.
Of course, true fae can't say a word that's untrue, and these two had said some pretty outlandish things that seemed to contradict that. I began to wonder if I was acting like the normal folks that went to ridiculous lengths to ignore evidence of the supernatural. I was considering every possibility except that they were telling the truth.
More fool me, right?
"Can you do me a favor?" I asked them. "Can you repeat your name for me?"
The man shrugged. "Peter Rasputin," he said tersely.
"Thrice I ask and done, what is your name?"
"Shto?" he said in Russian, confused.
"I get it - he's checking to see if we're of the fair folk," commented "Kitty", "They aren't supposed to be able to lie when they say something three times." She turned to me. "I read a lot of fantasy growing up."
"I swear to you, I am Peter Rasputin," he said again, "and this really is Kitty Pryde."
Well, shit. This definitely made things more interesting.