by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply. Exams are over! Join me in the dance of joy!
Pete stood quietly beside Kitty, waiting for the hammer to fall. When the three walked into the room, he swallowed tightly, then walked over to greet them.
When he finally stood facing them, the room was silent for a moment as each side regarded the other. Logan stared intently at the other man, assessing him. His nostrils twitched slightly, and his eyes widened as he made a realization Boy's scared to death. Stealing a glance at Ororo's steely expression, he nodded. And looks like he oughta be. Don't sound much like what I've read of him, though...
Kitty took a deep breath. God, please let this go well, she prayed, then took Pete's arm. In a pleasantly calm voice, she introduced her lover to her old teammates. "Ororo, Logan, Betsy, I want you all to meet Pete Wisdom. Pete, this is Ororo Munroe, Logan, and Betsy Braddock, Brian's sister."
This is important t' Kitty, Pete reminded himself, and gave them his best charming smile, extending his hand. "Hello. It's nice t'meet all of you.
Ororo's lips thinned, and she took the extended hand almost disdainfully. Shaking it limply, she murmured "Charmed."
Pete swallowed, and forced himself to keep the smile on his face. I friggin' knew it, he breathed out. She's lookin' at me like I'm trash, and everybody knows it...
At Kitty's bewildered gaze, Psylocke swore under her breath. Using every ounce of her formidable charisma, Betsy turned her attention to Pete and greeted him warmly, doing her best to take the chill off of Ororo's cool reception.
"It's a great pleasure to meet you at last, Pete. Meggan and Kurt both speak very highly of you." She paused only briefly, choosing not to tell them about some of the early stories Brian had told her about Kitty's new lover. Clasping his hand in a surprisingly strong grip, she shook it warmly. "I am very glad to make your acquaintance. Kitty seems to have excellent taste." She smiled broadly at him, hoping to draw his (and Kitty's) attention away from Ororo's snub.
As Kitty beamed at the compliment, and Pete chatted with Betsy, relieved at the sincerity of her greeting, Ororo stood stock still. Coughing slightly, after a moment she excused herself and walked to the other side of the room, giving Domino and Cable a withering glance as she strode past the sofa where they were still seated, watching the introductions. Outside, the sky darkened visibly, and a faint rumble was heard in the distance. Inhaling sharply, she closed her eyes tightly, and when she reopened them the darkness was dissipating.
Shrugging her shoulders, Domino whispered under her breath "Looks like Pete could use some help. I'm gonna go make sure Logan-" She motioned to the Canadian X-Man, who still stood gazing at Pete "Takes it a little easier on him than the Windrider there did."
Cable's brow furrowed as he caught flashes of seething anger seeping through the impressive mental shielding Ororo had raised. Something's wrong, he decided, as Domino walked away. I know she doesn't like Pete- at all- but there's more to this than just that. Walking over to where Storm stood gazing out of the window, he raised a hand and placed it gently on her arm. "Are you all right, Ororo?"
Outside the window, the sky darkened again, and Ororo's head snapped around to face him, her crystal blue eyes flashing in anger. "What do you care if I am 'all right' or not, Nathan? You seem to have made your bed. Lie in it, for all I care." Turning away from him to stare out of the window again, Ororo pointedly ignored his hurt expression.
Cable took a deep breath, forcing himself to remain calm. I don't care how pissed she is about Wisdom, there's no need for all this. Maybe there's something more to it than just Pete... Aloud, he answered her "I thought we were friends, Ororo- I don't understand where all this anger's coming from, but if I've done anything to upset you-"
She didn't even turn to face him. "Upset me? Hardly, Nathan. It takes a great deal more than anything you could do to upset me."
Her mental shields were locked so tight that not even a stray thought escaped, and Nathan growled in frustration. Dammit, Ororo, what the hell's wrong with you? I could peel back those shields, but I don't want to do that.... For a psi of his caliber, it would take only a thought. For a brief moment, he considered doing just that, then shook his head slightly, ashamed that he continued to revert backto his earlier tactics so easily. Ethics, Nathan. No matter how she's acting, she is your friend, he reminded himself, ignoring the small nagging voice that said Just a friend? You weren't so sure about that a week ago, Nate. No wonder she's pissed. Seems to be a gift you have, making women angry...
Sighing, he thought There's nothing I can do about it right now. Aloud, he said "Well. If I've done anything, I apologize anyway." When she didn't respond, he muttered an Askani curse under his breath and walked away from her. She gazed out of the window, remembering the fierce thunderstorm at the mansion the afternoon she'd learned about Pete Wisdom's past. Not allowing herself to even think the things she so desperately wanted to say to all of them, she stared out of the window until she could get a better grasp on herself.
Across the room, Domino stepped up behind Pete and pinched him hard on his rear. When he whirled around, fingers glowing with the beginnings of hot-knives, she laughed at him, and smiled at Kitty, who stood quietly by his side, watching all of their reactions. "Just wanted to break the tension."
When he growled a quiet obscenity at her, she replied calmly "That's not anatomically possible. Grizz tried it years ago."
Logan laughed out loud this time, and she grinned at him. "That's better, old man. Now. Tell Pete here hello, before Kitty gets an ulcer wondering what you're going to say." She bit off a sharp comment about Storm, but saw Betsy nod anyway.
Logan stood still another brief moment, then extended his hand. Don't mean I don't have any reservations about you, but I trust Kitty's judgement. "Aw, what the hell, kid. It's good t' finally meet Kitty's beau- Glad t' know ya. I've heard a lot about ya, but I was waiting to see for myself. Looks like Kitty did all right for herself."
Pete, recognizing the universal paternal warning- you hurt her you're a dead man- in Logan's eyes, shook his hand firmly. Rather than feeling inferior, as he'd expected, and how Storm had made him feel, he instead felt like he'd passed a test. Strangely, after meeting Logan, it didn't annoy him half as much as before. He knew now that if he ever had a daughter, he'd probably do exactly the same as Logan had just done to him. Only a lot less nicely if she ever brings home a slug like me, though... He wondered briefly what Kitty's real parents were like. Though she spoke often of her childhood in Deerfield- Deerborn? he wondered- Hell, something like that, he decided- she only spoke of her parents in references to childhood memories. She rarely mentioned them in the present tense, and he hadn't asked. Lord knew he had enough bad memories of his own parents to understand her hesitance.
Focusing his attention on the present, he replied to Logan's comments with a sincere "Naw, mate, I'm the lucky one." Kitty took his hand and squeezed it, smiling up at him, and he softened slightly.
Logan grinned at the obvious warmth between the two, and decided he liked the rumpled Englishman, though they'd be sure to have a talk later about the details of treating Kitty right. "And don't you forget it, bub."
Domino, winking at Kitty as the two men spoke quietly to each other, walked over to the sofa. Sitting back down, she noticed Nathan and Storm speaking in low, strained, tones, and snorted. Oh, well. Tell him or not, doesn't matter to me. Ignoring her curiosity, she closed her eyes and leaned back into the thick cushions of the couch. Damn, I could deal with some sleep...
She'd sat there only a few minutes when Nathan returned to sit by her, his face flushed with anger. "What's wrong with you?" She asked him, yawning again.
"Nothing. Hell, everything. I'm ready to get this damn thing started, and we've got introductions going on, and feelings hurt already, and people pissed off..." Turning to face her, he muttered "Dammit, Dom, sometimes I wish I could go back to the man I was and not worry about my 'soldiers', just getting the job done."
She shook her head. "I don't. I've known you a long time, Nate, seen you go through a lot of things. That cold, hard man- that wasn't you. That was your way of dealing with some things no human being ought to have to deal with, but that wasn't you." Smiling wryly, she motioned her head in the direction of the window. "Now that doesn't mean that we can't ignore certain 'soldiers'..."
He smiled tiredly, and she grinned at him. After giving Pete a few more moments with Logan and Betsy, Domino stood up. Raising her voice, she addressed the room. "Well, then. If we've all met each other now, we need to sit down and get to work. Pete and I have a lot to talk to you about tonight."
To Be Continued...
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto
you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Do not let your
hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
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