DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Marvel Comics and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Written by: L Squared (Elspeth & Draqonelle)

Posted by: Elspeth (AKA Elspethdixon).

Author's Notes: This is an X-Men Evolution AU. The show's producers finally saw the light and added Gambit to the series, but I have to confess to being a bit disappointed that they made him an adult. We don't get to see teenage Gambit in all his juvenile delinquent glory. This story is part of me and Draq's attempt to correct that. And yes, it is a sequel to "Consider Yourself," set a few weeks after the end of that story. This time the title comes from the song "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell. All Draq's doing, I swear. I hate that song. The lyrics quoted at the beginning of this chapter are from "No-Go Showboat," by the Beach Boys.

This is probably going to be a little different from my usual fiction, as it's only half mine--Draq wrote the other half. And she's a lot better at comedy than little old angst-whore me. Most of Remy's lines are mine, though ^_~.

Ships: Scott/Jean, Kurt/Amanda, Lance/Kitty, hints of Rogue/Gambit, unrequited Pietro/Kurt

Both Sides

Chapter One: Paco, Car of Doom

Well I got a wild custom that wins every show

Yeah but everybody knows that she just don't go

White wall slicks with racing mags

She's just for looks, man, not for drags

'Cause it's a no-go showboat (no-go showboat)

Well the engine compartment's filled with all chrome goodies

Yeah but everybody takes me, even old Ford woodies

When it comes to speed, man, I'm just outa luck

I'm even shut down by the ice cream truck

'Cause it's a no-go showboat (no-go showboat)

When Kurt pulled into the Institute's parking lot in his much bragged about and long-anticipated pride and joy, the rest of the X-Men were struck speechless. The car, or what they had to call a car, had started life as a four-door Dodge Dart wagon. Since then, it had obviously spent some quality time in a chop shop. The result spread out across two parking spaces. Like a tank.

It was two-tone. Rust and primer.

"Check it out guys," Kurt called from the driver's seat. "Peep my wheels, yo."

"That looks kind of like my old Car," Forge cheered. "Just like Suppah Fly. Well, except that mine had a back window. And all of its hubcaps"

"Ja," Kurt nodded, face split with a proud grin. "It was the biggest one they had. The cheapest, too. I paid five hundred dollars for it up front."

At that price, the seller must have made five hundred dollars worth of pure profit. "It'll cost five hundred more just to get it detailed," Scott told him. He inspected the rust-pitted fender with distaste, comparing it with his own sleek red convertible and finding it severely wanting. "Man, you've been gypped."

"It smells like tacos and…" Jean wrinkled her nose. "Ew, God, what was this car used for?"

"Wow," Kitty attempted, poking tentatively at one cracked vinyl seat-cover. "It really looks… different."

"Don't listen to them." Forge had popped the hood and was now half-buried in the thing's engine. "It's got a good heart. You know how rare it is to find such high quality fuel injectors in a 1962 model?"

"It has fuel injectors?" Scott couldn't resist asking. "That thing looks like it was assembled from junked parts."

"Yeah." Forge nodded enthusiastically. "Somebody's done some hot-rodding on this baby. That's a nice engine. No offense, Scott, but his car is in really good shape. Well, on the inside."

They had a debate on what to name the car. Forge suggested the Suppah Fly II.

Jean suggested the Party-mobile. Everyone ignored her.

"The Speedmeister" was rejected as being too reminiscent of Pietro, the Kurt-mobile was deemed too boring, and the Schlampen Schelepper ("Slut Dragger," apparently some sort of German slang term for "pimp mobile") was impossible for anyone but Kurt to pronounce.

"Booty Mobile!" Evan shouted. Kurt ignored this suggestion as well.

" I don't know why we even bother," Rogue sniffed. "I would just up and call it POSC."

"Pusk?" Kurt asked, confused.

"Piece of Shit Car," she elaborated. "I've seen better cars up on cinderblocks in my neighbors' yards."

"Pusk," Kurt repeated. "No, I don't think so." He patted the grey hood. "I think I will name him Paco."

"Paco?" Rogue made a face. "What's that stand for? Pathetic-ass car-like organism?"

"She is quick, isn't she?" Remy drawled. He was leaning against the wall of the garage, observing the whole thing over the tops of his shades, and hadn't contributed a single name yet, or much of anything else, until now. He was probably just happy that Rogue was ragging on someone other than him.

"Hey this is his first car," Scott pointed out, in a complete 180 from his previous position. Crap or not, Kurt was proud of the thing, and somebody ought to defend it. "I think it's serviceable."

"Ja. I can't wait to get it painted." Kurt's eyes sparkled in glee, and his tail danced through the air behind him. "I'm going to get it done in jet black, with flames painted on the hood, or, like, St. George slaying a dragon, or maybe a crucifix, or maybe a devil and shark's teeth and all kinds of stuff."

Kurt's artistic tastes were suspended somewhere between 80's rap stars and the Rococo. He had an incredibly baroque soul. Bouncy, energetic and cluttered to the point of utter chaos. If it weren't for the institute's dress code, Kurt would probably have gone around with three pounds of gold chains and alarm clocks around his neck, like a rapper or a Venetian Doge. He couldn't wear rings, but he had an impressive collection of Bling Bling necklaces, including a huge crucifix the size of Kitty's hand in what he swore was pure gold, but he was never allowed to wear it, as Kitty had told the Professor that it offended her religious sensibilities. Scott strongly suspected that by "religious sensibilities," she really meant "aesthetic sensibilities." Usually, he settled on wearing simply the sedate chain with his St. Christopher Medallion, which had been a gift from his parents and was approximately one thousand times more tasteful than any of his other jewelry.

"Yeah, I'll buy ya a Jesus fish," Rogue snorted. "And one of those stupid bobble-head things." She was incredibly disgusted by the concept of Bobble Head Jesus dolls and fish on cars. Any kind of fish; Darwin, Jesus, Buddha, or what-have-you.

"That would be so cool," Kurt enthused, apparently oblivious to the sarcasm.

"She was kidding," Jean told him. "I mean, you aren't going to spend hundreds of bucks restoring this thing, are you?" She gestured at the newly dubbed "Paco." "It has vinyl seats."

"I'll get him some sheep-skin seat covers." Kurt grinned, imagining his baby transformed into four-wheeled glory. "And one of those scented Christmas-tree-shaped things to hang from the rear-view mirror."

"Um, Kurt, I think this car's going to need a little more than some seat covers and an air freshener." Scott couldn't keep silent, even though Jean was shooting him "let-the-poor-kid-enjoy-his-new-car-even-though-it-is-crap" glares. One of the hubcaps was missing. The entire thing was covered in rust. Forge himself had said that it was over forty years old. What if the suspension was shot, or worse, the steering or even the brake lines? "You are going to have 'Paco' checked out by a mechanic before you start driving it around, right?"

"You're just jealous because your computerized, soulless Italian harlot isn't manly enough to have a name like Paco," Kurt snapped. He looked hurt at the implied insult to his new toy—even his tail stiffened. "You know, I am going to be a Junior next year. It's about time one of us bought another car. Who knows, it may end up being the new X-mobile."

Scott highly doubted that. Wolverine might have a thing for vintage Harleys, but he and the Professor both liked the team's equipment to be state-of-the-art, and anyway, there was a difference between vintage and junk. His own convertible would be a better candidate for X-Mobile than 'Paco,' even taking into account her low suspension and lack of an armored roof. Isabella wasn't manly and tough, she was sleek and feminine. And she was neither soulless, nor a harlot, thank you very much. She was perfect, and nearly as beautiful as Jean.

"I'm not dissing your car, Kurt." Even though you did just insult mine. "I'm just saying that you ought to have somebody check it out to make sure everything is working right. Not Forge. Someone who won't try to add rocket-boosters to the exhaust pipes."

^_~

Rouge trudged across the school parking lot, carrying her diorama from art class. "Create a tribute to a historical event," Mr, Schneider had said. Brilliant assignment. Really. Just brilliant. Of course, nobody had said that she had to go with Risti's half-sarcastic suggestion that she do "the Warsaw Ghetto," but she had figured that it would be easy. A few walls with graffiti on them, some barbed wire, and some unhappy people, and she would be all set.

That was before That Bastard Schneider had announced that they would be making their dioramas out of paper maché. And thence had followed a week's worth of gooey, sticky, newspaper and glue misery. She had originally intended the thing to be far more tasteful and life-like. It had started as a sedate and somber memorial, then progressed via her lack of sculpting skills to a surrealistic piece, and finally, when the supply closet turned out to contain only Day-Glo oil paints, to the bold green and orange monstrosity it was today. While the piece had earned her a B (which was impressive for Mr. Schneider's class) and several compliments (hideous as it was, it was infinitely better than Brandon Shea's tribute to the OJ Simpson trial), she now had no idea what to do with it. It was the only time she had ever produced something half-way not sucky in art class, but instead of pride, she felt merely a sense of disgust.

She was tempted, after lugging the thing slowly through the hallways and outside, to light it on fire and run away.

"Hey Rogue." Kitty flagged her down from across the parking lot, jogging toward her--and through part of the fender of Duncan Matthew's BMW--with her arms full of textbooks. "What is that, that… thing? Is it, like, some kind of modern art?"

"Hey there, Kit." Rogue made a face at the mass of heavy-as-a-rock paper maché in her arms. "It's from Arts & Crafts. Remember, those diorama things Schneider made us do?"

Kitty nodded, shifting her books to her other arm. "It's really, um, colorful. Are you really going to bring it back on the bus? It'll get flattened."

"Shit. I didn't think of that." Rogue set it on the ground. Stupid Arts & Crafts. She never should have taken it in the first place. She should have gone for Spanish I last period after all, even if it was the dumping ground for students with no other classes scheduled, and even though she was doing French for her foreign language. When she'd made out her schedule, she hadn't anticipated doing paper maché and molding clay with gloves on.

^_~

Meanwhile, on the other side of the building…

"Amanda," Kurt's voice called out from behind her, "do you want a ride home?"

Amanda stopped in her tracks, spinning around to gape in surprise at the sight of Kurt leaning halfway out the window of a giant old station wagon. Somehow, she hadn't expected his new car to be quite so big. Or so rusty. She swallowed.

"I don't know," she temporized. "My dad said that I shouldn't get in a boy's car by myself."

"Why? Doesn't he think I'm a good driver?" Kurt wilted, looking crestfallen and guilty as only Kurt could. Suddenly, her father's advice seemed silly. This was Kurt. The day he forced his advances on somebody was the day the sun rose in the west.

Amanda found herself chuckling. "No, I mean, this is a dangerous world for a young woman and all that. You might get me in your car and try to put the moves on me."

Kurt's eyes bugged out. Clearly, he had never even considered something like that. Until now. "Ahdadad. Vas is… Err, okay…"

Amanda leaned an arm against the roof of the car, bending down to peer through the open window. "Lots of boys would try that. I guess I can trust you."

"How would I do that while I'm driving the car?" Kurt asked timidly. "It's a manual transmission."

"Well, you could maybe use your…"

"Amanda!" Kurt actually blushed, even through the image inducer. "I would never do that."

"It's just, you know, in case my dad… maybe we should have someone else with us." As she spoke, however, she was already opening the passenger-side door and climbing in. She was getting a ride home from school with her boyfriend, just like Marie or Justine, or one of the senior girls. The seat she lowered herself on to might have been cracked vinyl, but somehow it still felt exciting and romantic.

"Oh, you mean like chaperones? Chaperones. Why didn't you tell me that you wanted a chaperone?"

"Well," Amanda said softly, "maybe I don't want one." Kurt didn't hear her.

"Never fear my lady. I will get some fair maidens to protect thy honor."

^_~

Rogue was casting agonized glances between the bus and the heavy mass of her art project on the ground at her feet when Kurt's new car pulled up next to them.

"Kurt," Kitty said, grinning cheerfully. "Having fun driving? I can't wait until next month when I get my license."

"Hello, Kitty. Would you like a ride home in the Paco? Amanda says she's not supposed to get in cars with boys by herself," he explained, "but if you're here, then she won't be by herself, so it will be okay."

"Really?" Kitty's face lit up. "Come on, Rogue. Let's stuff your diorama in the back seat."

"No way." Rogue could see it now. Every one of these rich Bayville snobs had to be ragging on that thing already. She did not need to put herself in the line of fire. She did not want anyone making fun of her today. Anyway, the clouds of teen hormones hovering around that thing would probably suffocate her.

"You sure? The bus just left." Kitty got in, settling gingerly on the cracked leather seat. She wrinkled her nose slightly at the smell—a careful all-over vacuuming at the car wash had not eliminated the essence of taco—but coughed only once. "This is a big car. Man. You'd probably die in a car wreck." Which, of course, was not a remark likely to encourage Rogue to hitch a ride in the rust-mobile.

"Are you sure you don't need a ride?" Kurt asked Rogue with slightly lackluster enthusiasm. He looked at her diorama. "It looks heavy."

"No thanks. I was going to catch up with Risti."

"The diorama won't fit in that Beamer," Kitty said. "Come on. 'Paco' isn't going to eat you." She turned to Kurt and smiled. "I like big cars. My uncle is, like, the biggest gear head."

"You really like him?" Kurt grinned. "No one else appreciates my Paco. How about you, Amanda? What do you think?"

"It's nice and big," she said loyally.

"So is my car bigger than Lance's, do you think?"

"Oh yeah," Kitty nodded.

"His car is all puny and doesn't even have a roof," Kurt continued.

"Yeah, it has silly little things like seatbelts and a decent paint job." The words just seemed to pop out of Rogue's mouth, independent of her conscious mind. That was the problem with cultivating a reputation as sarcastic and tough--sometimes, your mouth didn't know when to stop.

"Well, I guess Kurt's the kind who can take care of a high maintenance car," Amanda said, coming to his defense. "I think it's kind of, of cute."

"Really? You really like it?"

Kurt making time in his new car. Rogue froze. She was in the midst of a teenage mating ritual. It was one thing to watch this kind of drivel on TV, but to be forced to watch it transpire in front of you… Positively horrific. And so monumentally unfair. She would never be able to flirt with her boyfriend in his car, since you had to have a boyfriend in order to flirt with him, and she would probably kill anyone who tried to date her.

Amanda and Kurt's eyes furtively darted toward and away from each other.

"You know, if you like this car so much, I could drive you to school tomorrow."
"All buy yourself?" Amanda's eyes sparkled.

"Why else would I get a license?" Kurt asked.

Silence Silence Blush Blush.

Some one had to save her. Someone had to grab her by the collar and pull her out of the swirling vortex of hormones and timidity. Just kiss her, for God's sake, she wanted to yell. I would, if I could.

"'ey, M'sieu Blue, wait up a sec!" The shout followed on the heels of her prayer like an answer from a malevolent god.

Remy was pounding up the sidewalk, book bag slung over one shoulder and gym bag hanging from the other, coat billowing out behind him.

"You ain't goin' to be leavin' dis Cajun out in de cold. You got room in de Paco?"

Tell him no, Kurt, Rogue prayed silently. Tell him no. Tell him my diorama takes up too much room. It would even be the truth.

"Sure, Remy. Get in."

"I thought you had track practice," Rogue told him, trying desperately to dissuade him from getting inside the car. He would end up sitting right next to her, she just knew it. And he would spend the whole ride hitting on her, dangling flirtatious hints in front of her nose like a carrot on a stick. It just wasn't fair of people to tease her like that, especially when they knew about her mutation.

"It's cancelled today. I got to get a ride back wit' someone. Cyclops over dere," Remy jerked a thumb back in the direction of Isabella, just pulling out onto the highway, "last time I was in his car was a disaster. I lit a cigarette and he lef' me in a Walmart parkin' lot."

"He's so uptight," Kurt agreed. "Hey, if you want to smoke, just stick your head out the window like a dog or something."

Remy slid inside the car, taking the seat next to Rogue, which left her squeezed into the middle. With his bags taking up all the floor space, there was nowhere left for her diorama to go but her lap. This was worse than the bus.

"Mighty ironic comin' from someone who smells like deviled eggs all de time," he commented. "You got to stop stealin' your cologne from Wolverine's gas tank."

"Man, shut up. At least I don't cause 19 forms of cancer."

Remy produced a cigarette seemingly from nowhere and lit it with a tap of his finger, glancing at Rogue to see if she had seen his sleight of hand. He rolled down the window, cranking the little handle on the door, and rested his arm on the side of the car, so that the smoke from his cigarette would be pulled out by the airsteam. "Dere, see? No smoke in de car."

Kurt eased Paco out of the parking lot and into the stream of traffic, swinging past Duncan's blue BMW and Tyler Fremont's VW Bug. "Punch buggy silver, no tag backs," Rogue announced, slamming a slightly harder then necessary punch into Remy's shoulder.

He rubbed the offended body part with one hand, looking injured. "Why you so mean to Remy, chere? What I ever do to you, other den offer de pleasure of my company? Anyway, I saw it first."

"Shoulda said something, then."

"Ow," Kitty complained. "Rogue, your diorama thing is poking me."

"Sorry." She tried to pull it farther back onto her lap, with little success. Up front, Amanda was watching Kurt, who was watching the road. She was probably seeing her visions of a romantic drive going down in flames.

"'Ey, M'sieu Blue," Remy called out, "put on some music. Dat CD player's got to be worth more'n de car."

"Could you please not call me that?" Kurt asked. "I don't call you Jailbait or thief-boy, like Rogue does."

Kitty reached down and fished up a CD case from the floor. "Beasty Boys?" She held it between two fingertips as if it were poisonous. "That's so a decade ago."

"Ja," Kurt said, grinning, distracted from his protest over the nickname. "It's old school. I've got all five of their albums."

"Nice collection." Remy rifled through the pile of CD cases scattered between the front seats. He had to lean over Rogue in order to do so, but somehow managed to avoid crumpling her art project. "I didn't know anybody had all of Ice T's Albums. I didn't t'ink dat Germans were down wit' Old School."

"Please, I'm the oldest school that there is." Kurt took the Beasties Boys CD from Kitty and replaced it on the floor, then pushed the "play" button on the stereo system. "I've got a disc in already."

O.P.P., how can I explain it?

I'll take it frame by frame it

To have y'all jumpin', shoutin', singin' it

"Turn it up!" Remy leaned forward, hanging between the front seats with an elbow on each seat back, completely blocking Rogue's view. For a moment, she felt a powerful temptation to swat him on the butt, just to hear the indignant little yelp he would probably make, but managed to resist it. He reached down to the radio to carry out his own suggestion.

"You down with OPP?"

"Yeah, you know me," he quoted. A grin. "Remy all 'bout other people's property."

"That's what I'm talking about." Kurt grinned. Rogue wondered if he knew that the song he was currently forcing them all to groove to was about picking up other people's girlfriends. It was possible that he didn't. The words to rap songs were hard enough to pick out when English was your native language. Maybe she should enlighten him. On the other hand, since he was currently driving around with both Amanda and Kitty--current girlfriend and former wannabee girlfriend, now dating someone else--it might make him feel guilty.

"Dr. Dre is friends with Eminem," Kitty volunteered.

"Isn't dat cute?" Remy smirked, cigarette dangling from his lips. "Minou don't know anyt'ing. She probably don't even remember the 80's."

"Yeah," Kitty snorted, "like you guys are so much older than I am."

"It's not de years, p'tite. It's de experience." Oh, Gawd. Where did he get lines like that? Did he look them up in a special book entitled "How to Be as Corny as Possible?"

"I'm not down with old school," Rogue announced. "Don't you have any Limp Bizkit or Eminem or anything from less than half a decade ago? Or if you have to listen to old stuff, how about 'Jailhouse Rock'?"

"Nope," Kurt said. "Eminem scares me." Remy just made a face at her.

"I will choose to ignore dat unnecessary insult."

"He was so much cooler before everyone started listening to him," Rogue went on, ignoring Remy. "Now I'm embarrassed of myself for liking him."

"Yeah." Remy nodded. "Because de moment other people start liking somet'in', it automatically becomes crap. Obviously, if de man's won Grammys an' an Oscar an' all, he can't be any good." The bastard was making fun of her. They should have left him on the pavement.

"This is all puerile bubble gum and sunshine junk used to sell Pepsi and ridiculous looking pants." Rogue rolled her eyes. "Where's your Insane Clown Posse… oh sorry, they sold out too."

"Imagine dat. People like them," the insufferable jerk continued. He was definitely sitting far too close to her for comfort, confined space or no.

"Don't crush my diorama," she snapped.

"I'm not," he protested. "Uh, what's it s'pposed to be, anyway?"

Philistine. "It's my tribute to the Warsaw Ghetto." Okay, so it was a crappy tribute. That didn't mean he needed to make fun of it. "It's better than Brandon's one on the OJ Simpson trial, okay. His had this horrible glove in it covered in red paint."

"I love the palette," he said with apparent sincerity. Only that edge of mocking smirk spoiled the effect. "Most people would stick to cool colors, browns, grays, that sort of thing. It reminds me of Gauguin."

"Since when do you know about Gauguin?" Rogue demanded.

"'Ey, I know a lot 'bout art history. You got to know what somet'ing is 'fore you can know how much it's wort'. I always preferred Toulouse L'autrec myself."

"The one who did posters for sleazy nightclubs? You would."

"He was in Moulin Rogue, right?" Kitty asked, obviously trying to shift the conversation away from an exchange of insults. "The short guy?"

In the front seat, Amanda turned to a somewhat embarrassed-looking Kurt. "Are your friends always this loud?"

^_~

Pietro Maximoff waited on the corner, nearly twitching with impatience. God, it would take him ten minutes to get home at this rate. Was every light red in this town? Was the whole universe gridlocked to cause him personal distress waiting for a light to change?

The fact that he knew he could easily weave through the cars only made it worse. But no, stupid Lance said he couldn't even run in the middle of the street anymore.

How many seconds did these jerks need to turn? Thirty? Forty? It only took 3/4th of a second to turn the wheel. And no one was in the street.

Nearly snarling under his breath at the molasses-slow drivers—they were doing it on purpose, he knew it!—Pietro looked up to see the rattiest, nastiest, most disgusting piece of crap he had ever beheld pull up at the stop light.

Pietro had never paid much attention to cars—who needs them when you can hit 170mph on a good day—but he was pretty sure that God had never intended station wagons to have tail fins.

Of course, the X-geeks were driving it. Who else would own a car like that?

"Hey, Blue Boy. Like the wheels. Too bad everything riding on top of them looks like crap."

"Ja. Have a nice walk, you mumble mumble…" Kurt floored the accelerator and pulled away in a cloud of toxic fumes.

Pietro's ears turned red, and he shot off after the junk-mobile. Nobody insulted him and got away with it.

"Well, well, well." He tapped his knuckles on Amanda's window. She looked up and shrieked. "We have a whole menagerie here. Hello, X-dorks."

"Stop pacing my car, Dude," Kurt yelled, cranking down the drivers-side window.

"You're going to get caught, and we'll all get in trouble"

"Screw you." Pietro picked up speed as Kurt tried to accelerate and shake him off. As long as the little blue geek refused to exceed the speed limit, there was no way he was going to.

"Lance is going kick your butt if he sees you pacing traffic," Rogue called out the window. She had to lean over LeBeau's lap to do it. Lucky Rogue.

"Go easy on him, Chere. This is a residential area, an' he's doin' twenty-five. He ain't breakin' no laws."

"Without a car?" Kitty reminded him.

"Why are you hanging out with these morons, Rogue? You used to be cool. I really would like to know what neurosis possessed you to decide hang out with Donnie and Marie. And the mute chick." He pointed meaningfully at Amanda in the front seat. "Why don't you come to Harry's tonight? The Brotherhood is gonna be there. We can have some fun. You can bring Cajun boy, too. We always like seeing new faces."

"You can't afford me, Honey," Rogue drawled.

"I don't swing dat way. It is a flatterin' offer, dough."

"Re-ject-ed." Kitty flashed the "loser" sign at him, and she and Kurt began laughing.

"I wasn't hitting on you. Geeze. You dumb, inbred red necks."

"Red-necks!" LeBeau and Rogue gritted their teeth, suddenly assuming identical expressions of deepest disgust and rage.

"Why you," Rogue growled.

LeBeau held up his cigarette and tossed it out the window. "Catch."

The thing seemed to arc toward Pietro in slow motion. Oh God. He'd gone too far and now LeBeau was trying to kill him. He ducked and rolled, dodging the cigarette, and slammed right into a row of plastic construction barrels.

The thing about plastic construction barrels, is that if something hits them at 40 miles per hour, they are designed to explode to absorb impact.

The spray from the first barrel shot straight up in the air like a busted fire hydrant. The junk-mobile was barely splashed, but Pietro was drenched from head to toe. And bruised. Had he mentioned bruised? Next to him, the sodden cigarette lay extinguished on the pavement. It hadn't been charged.

The car swooped past, all of the X-geeks laughing cruelly. "'Til we meet again, Ritalin Boy." LeBeau threw him a kiss. Bastard.

"Ten point landing for Mr. Maximoff," Kurt called back over his shoulder as the junk-mobile's craptastic tail fins disappeared from sight.

^_~

Amanda stared back out the window at the soaked Pietro. "Oh my God. Is he okay?"

"Yeah, he'll be fine." Rogue said, not even bothering to look back. "He'll probably declare jihad on all of us, though."

"X-Men versus Brotherhood." Kitty made a face. "But Lance and I just started dating."

"Kitty," Kurt hissed. He glared at her, the same sort of glare he got when anybody made a reference to his appearance. More secrets. Kurt had more secrets than any one she'd ever met.

"Yeah, chill, Minou."

"You're not any better," Kurt said grumpily. "Throwing cigarettes at him."

"Well, if he can run twenty-five in a residential area, I don't see why I can't t'row a cigarette at him. Ain't nothin' blown up. 'Sides, you thought it was funny."

Blown up? Okay, add the new guy to the list of maybe-mutants. Were all of Kurt's friends mutants? It would make sense; they didn't seem to mind about Kurt. She'd have to ask him, but not with everybody else around.

Amanda kept silent and stared out the window as everybody in the back seat argued. A few minutes later, they pulled up to the gates of an honest-to-God mansion. She'd heard that Kurt and Scott and Jean and everybody stayed at some sort of institute, but she'd expected some sort of boarding house.

"Everybody out," Kurt said. "I'll come back after I take Amanda home."

"Do it quick," Kitty told him, as she helped Rogue pull her giant diorama out of the back of the station wagon. "You don't want to be late for homework." She emphasized the word "homework" so strongly that it obviously meant something else entirely.

"Oh, let M'sieu Blue an' Fuzzy have some time alone wit' his girl." Remy winked at her. Those brown eyes of his really were sort of cute. Not nearly as cute as Kurt's gold ones, though. No one else had eyes like Kurt.

Kitty poked at a security pad mounted in the gatepost, and the wrought iron gates swung open. The three teenagers began trekking toward the mansion, Rouge and Remy arguing over who was going to carry the Day-Glo diorama.

"Kurt," Amanda began as soon as they had pulled away from the gates, "is Pietro a mutant like you too? I mean, how could he run that fast otherwise?"

"Well," he said uncomfortably. "I really shouldn't say. I mean, that's Pietro's secret." Which of course meant yes.

"Oh. I guess it must be really hard being a mutant. I mean, I can see why you guys all keep it a secret."

"What do you mean, 'us guys?'" Kurt rubbed one hand against the back of his head and didn't look at her.

"Ku~rt." She raised her eyebrows.

He withered. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Come on. You all live together in this huge mansion building—what's with the mansion? You never told me you lived in a mansion—and you spend all your time together, and they all know about you. And Pietro and his friends call you the X-geeks, and X-dorks, and stuff. What is that about? What does X mean? Is it from X-Files, like they're saying you all belong on the X-Files?" Instantly she wished that she hadn't said anything. This was probably the longest speech she'd made yet around Kurt, and it was all a big demand for information. Now he was going to get offended, and hate her, and never want to talk to her again.

"X is for Xavier," Kurt told her. He still wasn't looking at her, but now he was looking at the road instead of his lap, so he probably wasn't trying to avoid her. "Because we all go to Xavier's Institute, so we're the X-Men, because it sounds cooler than 'the Xavier's Institute students.' And the Brotherhood call us the X-geeks because it's easier to say than Xavier-geeks. I don't know why they're the 'Brotherhood,' but that's what it says on the sign they made to put in front of their boarding house."

"Oh. I'm sorry," she apologized. "I thought it was something important and secret, like from a super-hero comic or something. You know, the Almighty X-Men, or Uncanny X-Men."

Kurt's eyes lit up. "The Almighty X-Men. Wow. That would be so super-cool."

Amanda giggled. "So your uniform is just a school uniform. It's not some kind of superhero thing. Too bad. You would be a cute superhero."

"You think?" Kurt turned away from the road for a second to look at her. Under his fake image thing, he was probably blushing. She wished she could see it. He probably turned purple. It would have been adorable.

"Yeah. The Blue Devil. Like Duke's basketball team, only you'd fight crime. I bet disappearing powers would be very useful."

"You have no idea."

"Slow down. That one's my house up there." Amanda pointed at her driveway. Her brother hadn't mown the lawn this afternoon like he was supposed to, so it was all full of crappy-looking dandelions. Nothing at all like Kurt's mansion. He was so cool. Even his house was cool.

"Okay." Kurt pulled to a stop next to the mailbox. "Want me to pick you up tomorrow?"

"Um, okay. If you don't mind."

Suddenly, Kurt vanished from the driver's seat in a puff of smoke and appeared outside her door, pulling it open for her. He was so cool. He could disappear whenever he wanted, and lived in a mansion, and had his own car (okay, it was an absolute wreck, but it was still a car), and even had a tail. And he was so nice. She was so lucky to be dating someone like him.

As Kurt poofed back into his car and drove away, waving back out the window at her, something horrible suddenly occurred to her. All of Kurt's friends were probably mutants, with really cool powers, like shooting laser beams out of their eyes. She didn't have any powers. What if he decided that she was boring?

^_~