Clarice looked up at the stars. It had been two days since HQ had been destroyed. Two days since Lorna had killed Campbell. Two days since the Mutant Underground had become even more fractured than they already had been.
And two days since she'd kissed John.
She felt a warm blush spread across her cheeks at the thought before promptly mentally scolding herself. It wasn't like it necessarily had to mean anything. After all, they hadn't spoken about it since it'd happened.
The purple-haired woman sighed before returning her attention back to the stars. Stargazing had been one of her favourite things to do when she'd been at Mama D's and Carl's foster home. She would sit on the back porch and just have a chance to think away from everything. Time for herself. A pang of pain struck her heart as she thought about the people who had given her a home. The people who were dead … because of her.
No, she thought furiously, because of Sentinel Services. Because of people like Campbell.
Clarice rubbed her arms gently in an attempt to ward off the cold. The wind was harsh tonight as if serving as a constant reminder of all they had sacrificed in the war. Her teeth began to chatter as she curled into a tighter ball to ward off the cold.
A blanket was placed carefully over her shoulders and Clarice looked up in shock. Her heart fluttered as jasmine-green eyes met the warm brown eyes of the man who had occupied her thoughts for two days.
"Thought you'd be cold," he said by way of introduction before sitting next to her on the steps. His leg was pressed against the side of hers sending streams of fire coursing through her body.
"Thanks," she whispered, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye.
They sat in companionable silence for a while. Clarice resumed stargazing as she wrapped the blanket tightly around her. She kept stealing glances at John every now and again to see his gaze focused on the ground in front of them. She noticed his brow was crinkled into a frown.
"Hey," she said nudging him with her shoulder. He met her gaze and neither said anything as they just stared at each other. John's hand found hers and he began to run his fingers along her knuckles. "Everything okay?" she asked, concern lacing her voice.
John scoffed gently. "I just don't have any idea what I'm supposed to do," he said after a while. Clarice turned her body so she was facing him. "Lorna's – Lorna's gone, HQ has been reduced to rubble. Everything's just gone downhill so quickly." He sighed and ran his free hand through his hair.
"John, look at me," Clarice put a hand beneath his chin and lifted his gaze to meet hers. "You'll do what you always do. You'll lead." Determination had replaced her concern as she spoke. "The X-Men wouldn't have chosen you if they hadn't thought you'd be a capable leader. You are incredible. Everybody in this place respects you. They look up to you. Yeah, it's all gone to crap but that doesn't mean we can't pick up the pieces. It just means we're going to have to work harder to do so. OK?"
A small smile played at the corners of John's mouth.
John stroked Clarice's cheek gently. His hand was warm and she felt herself leaning into it. She shivered once more, which seemed to snap John out of his daze.
"Come here," he pulled her into his arms so she was nestled between his legs, head against his chest. His arms encircled her.
She'd never really been one for being all touchy-feely – or for relationships at all for that matter. But Clarice had never felt so safe before in her life. Warmth seeped into her bones and she smiled contently to herself.
"Is there any way I'm going to convince you to go inside?" he whispered into her hair.
"Not a chance, Proudstar." She lifted her head to meet his eyes before raising her eyebrows. "I said I'd take first watch so I'm taking it. If you're cold, by all means. I'm not stopping you," she meant the words with humour but she couldn't help the anxiety that pricked at her mind.
Everyone left her eventually. Why would he be any different?
"I'm not going anywhere," he whispered. The words sounded like some sort of promise and Clarice found herself believing him. His hand had found her cheek again and he held her in a not dissimilar way to the way he'd held her head when they'd kissed two days before. He stroked her cheek gently before leaning towards her slowly.
He hesitated slightly when his lips were millimetres from hers as if giving her the chance to stop it if she wanted.
Clarice closed the gap between them as her lips found hers. Their second kiss was more passionate and eager than the first. Clarice moaned gently as John pulled her onto his lap so she was straddling him. She opened her lips and felt his tongue flicking out to touch hers and a deep growl sounded from his throat.
As they pulled apart, they were breathing heavily and John bumped his nose gently against hers. His eyes searched hers for something and he seemed to find whatever he was looking for as he smiled gently at her before kissing her softly again.
A voice cleared behind John and both looked up to see Marcos stood in the doorway. He had a small smile on his face, which didn't meet his pain-filled eyes. For a moment, none of them spoke until Marcos broke the silence.
"You two go in and get some shut eye. I'll keep watch." John and Clarice looked at each other again. Clarice couldn't help an unsettling feeling in her gut and she stood. John followed her and opened his mouth to speak but Marcos raised a hand to stop. "John, you are my best friend but I swear to God if you say anything I will blind you." Guilt twisted through Clarice as John's hand found hers and he led her inside.
"Is he gonna be alright?" she asked looking back at Marcos as they walked over to the space John had claimed as his own. It was nothing but a sleeping bag on the floor – both had allowed others to take the few beds they had – but it'd do.
"I have no idea but I hope so," John replied before lying down. He pulled Clarice to lie beside him and kissed her gently on her forehead. As sleep claimed her she couldn't help the sentiment that washed over her.
God, she hoped everything would work out fine. She didn't think she could take another loss.
But, for not at least, they were okay.