Due to sleepiness, not to mention her socks' unfortunate tendency to discard their mates on a hurried morning, Kitty Pryde was late for class. She finally picked a pair that may not have been in the shop together, but were both white and approximately the same fashion, and headed off. Even though she should, as a well-behaving student, be far too busy to notice her surroundings, she did see that something was missing on her door. Such as a rather big poster of the boyband Westlife she had been given as a joke for her latest birthday. Instead, there was now only a computer-written note. She stared at it for a second, and then took it down from the wall to stare at it again, bringing it with her to class.
"I'm glad to see you have chosen to join us," professor Xavier said as she stumbled into his office a few minutes later. "Have a seat. We were discussing possible solutions to the energy problem."
Kitty sat down next to Jubilee and listened to Sam giving pros and cons of nuclear power. After a while she slowly slid the note over to Jubilee, who bent down to take a look. Her ear-rings started jumping in subdued laughter.
*Girls, let it wait until after class,* Xavier chided them mentally, and Kitty hurried to shove the note into her book, blushing a little. She could see Jubilee mouth "Bobby" and nodded. That was the reasonable explanation.
After class, they both grabbed Bobby and pushed him up against the corridor wall in mock interrogation position.
"Come on, Iceman, fess up!" Jubilee said, imitating TV cops. "Where is it?"
"Where's what?" Bobby asked, squirming to get loose, although in honesty he didn't squirm very hard.
"My Westlife poster," Kitty said. "You're the one who kidnapped it, aren't you?"
"Kidnap a poster?"
Bobby sounded genuinely surprised, and the girls looked at each other. Maybe he wasn't the guilty one after all. Kitty took the folded note from her physics book, reading out loud:
Listen carefully! We have kidnapped Westlife. In order to return them unharmed, we demand 1,000,000 gingerbread men to be placed in boxes in the library, where the exchange will then take place. If you do not pay up, Westlife will soon become West-dead. Further instructions will follow.
Bobby was giggling, but his surprise seemed genuine. "Sorry, I have nothing to do with it. I wish I did, though. It's a brilliant idea."
"It would fit your tastes, yes," Jubilee said, letting go of Bobby with a shrug towards Kitty. Either Bobby was a better actor than they thought he was, or he was indeed not guilty. But if he wasn't, who was? The rest of the class were already halfway down the hall, and the girls watched them with a sort of aimless interest. Most of them were capable of a few tricks, but no one was more likely than any other.
They both turned around at the buzz as the professor wheeled out of the classroom. "Hello again."
He looked vaguely amused, and Kitty wondered if he had been listening in, or read their minds. Then a thought struck her. "Professor, couldn't you find out who has taken my poster?"
"I could, I suppose." He took the note from her hands and read it through. His face turned blank for a few seconds, and then he shook his head very slowly. "Yes, I could... but I rather think that would spoil the fun."
"But professor..." Kitty protested.
He gave the note back and proceeded down the corridor. "I believe you're due to French?"
Logan and Rogue were sitting in the common room, watching a nature program. It wasn't the kind of show where lion cubs are given cute voices and shown tripping on logs.
"Watch now," he said, pointing with his can of beer at the giant snake on the screen. "It doesn't even *swallow* its prey."
"Uh-huh," Rogue said, sounding as enthusiastic as you possibly can with your head half buried in a cushion. Logan glanced in her direction and grinned a little.
"Hey!" Kitty said, stopping on her way past when she saw the two of them sitting in front of the TV. "Have either of you two taken my Westlife poster?"
"I wouldn't touch your Westlife poster with a twenty-foot pole," Logan said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
"I take it that means no," Kitty said. "Rogue?"
"No, sweetie, I didn't take it," Rogue said, voice muffled by the cushion.
"Do you know who might have?"
"I asked Bobby, he said no. Very convincingly, I might add. There was nothing in his room either."
Rogue let the cushion fall down. "You searched Bobby's room?"
"It's a kidnapping," Kitty said with a sweet smile. "You never play by the rules!"
Rogue shook her head. "Senator Kelly was right about you."
"If you excuse me," Kitty said, not letting her dignity be disturbed by that comment, "I'll go search some other rooms as well."
She left the common room, and Rogue turned to stare at Logan, who was trying to hide his amusement. "You know what the worst part is? There's no locking her out."
"Damn." Logan looked momentarily stirred. "She wouldn't dare go into mine, right?"
Mail was normally handed out during supper, and without much comment. Some of the kids got mail often, some never, and that was all there was to it. Kitty was therefore rather surprised when Ororo stopped in front of her with an odd look on her face, staring at a letter.
"Is there one for me?" Kitty asked. Her parents wrote to her from time to time, but she could think of nothing they would send her that would cause such a reaction.
"Yes." Ororo handed the letter over and shook her head. "It just says 'Miss Pryde' in typed letters. There's not even an address."
With a growing sense of suspicion mixed with excitement, Kitty opened the letter. The font was different this time, but the tone was similar:
Do you perhaps think you are more clever than me? Let's see if you are. The poster is in one of Scott's books. Find it, or pay me. If you do neither, I will be forced to take measures neither you nor Westlife will enjoy.
"Oh, no!" Kitty said, shading her eyes. "I am a stricken woman."
Bobby leaned over her, and she hit his hand.
"Don't you dare! You're still on the list of suspects!"
"What will it take to make you trust me?" Bobby asked, reading over her shoulder. "Well, this is good news, isn't it? At least you know where to start looking."
Kitty looked across the room at Cyclops, who was currently engaged in a discussion with Jean. He was in a good mood, that was clear, but she still felt nervous at the thought of going over to him and ask permission to search his room. She wondered how the kidnapper could have gotten the poster there in the first place.
"Moral support, anyone? *Not* you," she added when Bobby started raising his hand.
"You're bullying me," Bobby pouted.
"I'll go," Piotr offered in a low voice. It was unexpected, but Kitty relaxed at the thought.
"Thanks. I don't think he'll strike me dead if you're there with me. He might, but I don't think he will."
She rose from her seat, and with a 'here goes' grimace and her heart in her mouth, she went up to Scott's table. Piotr's presence behind her gave very little comfort.
"Mr. Summers... I was wondering..." If I could search your room. What a completely idiotic thing to say. "If I could search your room."
She couldn't tell if he was staring at her, but judging from the rest of his face, he most likely was. "What?"
"Well... I got this note, see... that my poster is in one of your books."
There was the tiniest snicker coming from Jean, but Scott didn't move a muscle. Kitty forced herself to wait for a reply and was more than grateful when Piotr put a hand on her shoulder.
"I'll go through my books and see if I can find anything," Scott said, returning his attention to his meal. When Kitty didn't move, he looked up again. "Thank you, Kitty."
The kids returned to their own table, Kitty's cheeks hot with embarrassment. "I can *not* believe I just did that."
"He did say he would look for it," Piotr tried to comfort her. "If he really does..."
"Oh, he will," Kitty said. "He always keeps his promises." She shook her head. "I don't think it's in there at all. Can you imagine anyone trying to sneak into his bedroom?"
"Only about half the girls," Bobby said, attacking his pizza slice.
"But it's not much of a sport if they're lying in the notes, is it?" Piotr said. "I mean, that would take a rather lame sense of humour."
Kitty pondered that. She then pondered the sense of humour evident in most of her classmates. With a melodramatic sob, she leaned her head on her arms. "Westlife is lost forever!"
"Kitty, wait a second," Scott said after his mechanics class. Kitty remained in the doorway while the others passed by, waiting for her teacher to say something.
"I have looked through all my books. There's no poster in any of them."
"Oh." She wasn't entirely surprised, although it bothered her to be playing with someone who cheated on the rules. It occurred to her that Cyclops probably thought this was a ridiculous waste of time. They had enough trouble with real villains to worry about pretend kidnappers. "Well, it's not very important, I guess."
She started to leave, but he called her back. "Kitty... giving up at this stage is hardly a recommended strategy."
It would have been so much easier if she could see if he was winking. As it was, she simply shrugged and left. Okay, so not giving up. What then?
"Hey!" Jubes had been waiting around and now came up behind her. "What did he say?"
"He said he couldn't find it, and that I should keep looking."
"He did?" Jubilee grinned. "Well then, I think we should. Never ask a fearless leader to do something you can do yourself."
It took Kitty half a second to understand what Jubilee meant, mainly because the thought hadn't really occurred to her. "Jubes... I'm not going through Cyclops' room. I'm simply not."
"He has a Danger Room session next," Jubilee reminded her. "And Dr. Grey just left for D.C."
"Jubes..." Kitty whined, but Jubilee dragged her away into the mansion and almost pushed her through the wall.
Kitty stumbled into Scott and Jean's bedroom and stuck her head through the wall to remind Jubilee, "This is exactly the sort of thing that is discouraged by the faculty."
"Yes, you're a very bad mutant," Jubilee said, putting a hand on Kitty's forehead to force her back through the wall again.
Kitty shrugged and looked around to see if she could find anything. Being in a teacher's room -- two teachers' room -- was most definitely strange, and she tried to not look at anything personal. That was rather hard, considering that the items closest to her were a dressing table and an overfull basket of laundry. Ignoring this, she moved on to the bookshelves. Figures they wouldn't just have a nice little thing above the bed. There was no way she would be able to lift out all these books and not have Cyclops notice. He noticed *everything*. She returned to the corridor wall and stuck her head through the door. "You don't care to help me?"
Jubilee was having a conversation with Piotr, who waved at Kitty with a friendly smile. She frowned at him. "What are you doing here?"
"Helping out?" Piotr suggested. "I want to see if you find anything."
"Yeah, like a needle in a haystack?" Kitty said, turning to Jubilee. "Will you help me out?"
"Okay." Kitty drew back and unlocked the door. It wasn't until she held it open for Jubilee that the logical conclusion occurred to her. "You know, if they *lock* their bedroom door, isn't it extremely unlikely that the poster is actually hidden here?"
"Kurt could have hidden it," Jubilee pointed out, going inside. She immediately started pulling out books in a way that didn't suggest she'd remember where she had taken them.
"You don't think they would have noticed if Kurt had teleported in here?"
But of course, Jubilee wasn't to be let down by logic. She had started shaking the books, one by one, before putting them back into the shelves. The clouds of dust she raised hardly helped the condition of the floor. Kitty decided to ignore that for the time being. They were past the point of return anyway, no use in whining about it.
Half an hour later, they had gone through every book in the room, including paperbacks that fell apart when they shook them. Stacks formed on the floor, and keeping up order was simply impossible. They were incredibly busted, even if Piotr did manage to keep people away from the room until they had left.
"So, there's no way we can go with complete denial on this one, is there?" Jubilee asked after pushing in the last few books into the shelves.
Kitty shook her head and sighed. "Afraid not."
They left the bedroom, and Kitty reached a hand in to lock the door.
"Nothing?" Piotr asked, seeing the girls' displeased faces.
"Just a very tell-tale mess," Kitty replied.
He patted her on the shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. "Well, they can't kick you out, at least."
"They're not playing fair," Jubilee said with heat. She cared less about potential punishment than about winning the game. "That's the problem."
"I think they are playing fair," Kitty protested. "We must have missed a clue or something."
"So ask for another one," Piotr suggested.
The girls stared at him. As embarrassing as it was to plead for help from kidnappers, it was well within common procedure.
"Okay, so how about this: 'Please, Mr. kidnapper'..."
"It could be a girl," Jubilee pointed out.
"Fine. 'Please, Mr. or Ms. kidnapper, I am but a poor girl and don't have a million ginger bread men. I can't find Westlife, and I ask you to be merciful on me."
"Yeah, okay, that would work," Jubilee said, and then immediately dived back into her notes. They were sitting in the library, supposedly working on a Social Studies project, and Ororo was heading their way. Obviously conversation was always relaxed during group work, all the teachers knew about that, but common courtesy said that you always pretend to be working when a teacher approaches.
"How's it going, girls?" Ororo asked.
"Fine," Kitty said, putting the note into her book and instead showing the work they had actually done in between their chatting. Ororo glanced at their notes, but didn't seem all that interested.
"This is very good... but Kitty, there's something else I would like you to do as well. Scott and I have decided that it would be best if you handed in an essay next week on why anarchy isn't the optimal form of society. Five pages, by Tuesday."
This said, Ororo left, and Jubilee gave Kitty a sympathetic grimace. "Well, if Scott came up with it, he could have decided on something much worse."
"Well, if I'm going to do it, you're going to do it too," Kitty said. "Searching their bedroom was never my idea."
"That's right, just say you're an innocent bystander. Never works in a court of law, but nevertheless always tried."
By this time, the whole school knew about Kitty's problem, and the next time she was handed a letter, Rogue and Bobby who sat closest leaned over in interest.
"Miss Pryde," Kitty said, grinning. "Finally, another clue!"
As clues went, it turned out to be a rather poor one. Kitty shook out a small plastic hand attached to a keyring, and after a bit more searching she found a tiny note: "Next time it will be a real one."
"That wasn't very helpful," Bobby said, reading over her shoulder. "What's it supposed to mean?"
"If I get it correctly, they're saying we already have all the clues we need," Kitty said gloomily. "I just wish I knew what they were."
"Scott's books," Bobby said. "Except that it turned out to be false."
Kitty frowned. Bobby was one of the few students that actually called Cyclops "Scott". So if he wasn't guilty, could it be one of the adults? It didn't seem very likely.
"Maybe it's not one of his personal books," Rogue suggested. "It could be a school book. Didn't a note say something about the library?"
"The exchange was supposed to take place there." Kitty pondered this, and came to the conclusion that Rogue's suggestion was quite good. "Okay, after dinner?"
After dinner there were five of them going up to the library, since both Piotr and Jubilee asked to come along. They had seen to much of this to want to miss anything.
"So, where do we start?" Jubilee asked, eyeing the long shelves that were organized after name, rather than subject. "Anyone remember any authors?"
"Marlin," said Piotr, picking out that book and shaking it. Nothing happened. "You know, it would be much easier if there was just a Geography section."
"*And* mechanics, *and* Spanish," Rogue pointed out.
"Maybe if there was a 'Scott' section..." Kitty stopped short with a book still in her hand, and then pushed it in, quickly walking up past the shelves. She had just come up with the reason the note had said "Scott" instead of "Cyclops" or "Mr. Summers", and once she was at the letter S she started shaking books eagerly. Bobby gave her a strange glance, but the others kept up what they were doing until she suddenly gave a triumphant shriek. A folded up piece of paper had just fallen out of "The Heart of Midlothian."
They all gathered around as Kitty unfolded it, revealing the smiling faces of the Westlife boys. "Ladies and gentlemen, the case is solved."
"What are those?" Jubilee asked, pointing at little strips of paper taped over the eyes and mouths of the poster boys.
"Gags and blindfolds," Rogue was the first to say, even though Kitty and Piotr were almost as quick. Kitty laughed and stroked the poster gently.
"My poor boys, you must have suffered. But don't you worry, everything's alright now."
Jean and Scott were coming home from a movie and were passing by the common room, where most of the kids were gathered watching TV. The program came to a commercial break, playing the hit single "Queen of my Heart" to advertise a record shop, and all the kids burst into wild laughter.
"It's all thanks to us!" Kitty cheered, lying on the sofa. "Teenage girls around the world should be thanking me!"
"Or cursing you," Bobby pointed out.
"Shut up, Bobby."
Scott and Jean stopped, watching the kids without actually making their presence known, and Scott put his hand on Jean's shoulder. She turned to him with a smile and told him through their link, *All's well that ends well.*
*Easy for you to say. Who is going to put our books back in order?*
Her smile widened, and he gripped her a bit harder. Not hard enough to be a pinch, just to show he wasn't entirely pleased. *You're really much too childish for your age, you know that?*
*Excuse me? Whose idea was the plastic hand?*
*I always try to give in to my lady's wishes.* But the dimples were beginning to show in his stern face. *Besides, it was fun.*