Disclaimer: I don't own the X-Men. I don't even get paid for writing them, though I wish I did. But I don't. Thanks to both Luba and Taekwondodo for beta-reading, to Beaubier and Scribe for pestering the hell out of me until I started writing again, and to everyone who demanded a continuation to what was supposed to be a one-shot!
Growing Up, Moving On
Saturday Morning, Xavier Institute for Higher Learning
Kitty awoke abruptly with the feeling she was going to be late, and sat bolt upright in her bed. Lockheed immediately went airborne, looking for imminent danger, and turned to hiss at Kitty irritably when he discovered there wasn't any. Kitty barely noticed, intent on trying to read the display on her digital alarm clock, which had been pushed to the far side of her nightstand to accommodate a box she'd been packing the night before. The green numbers fuzzed back at her mockingly, until she finally gave it up as a lost cause and leaned over to grab it.
Four thirty. She dropped it back on the nightstand disgustedly and plopped back on her bed, Lockheed landing at her side while still protesting the rude awakening. She tried to remember the dream she'd been having, hoping to be sucked back into it – it had something to do with Illyana kidnapping Bobby and taking him to Limbo, only to return him as a seven year old, suggesting that Kitty have fun babysitting now that his actual age matched his maturity level. She'd also added that he was a little terror and she was welcome to him.
Kitty chuckled wryly at the thought, even though she was uncomfortable with the similarities between her dream and Illyana's life. She decided that it must have been prompted by a combination of mixed feeling about leaving the mansion, where she and Illyana had spent so much time together, and Mrs. Drake showing her albums full of family pictures from Bobby's childhood, much to his dismay. He'd been an awfully cute kid, with hair that looked perpetually tousled and an equally perpetual glint of mischief in his eyes. Of course, he looked much the same now, Kitty had to admit. But despite dream-Illyana's comment, Kitty wasn't complaining in the least. His sense of humor was one of the things she liked best about him.
Still laughing to herself at the memory of the exasperated look on Illyana's face, and unwilling to think further about the more negative connotations of her dream, she decided she might as well get up. Given her abrupt awakening, she was unlikely to get back to sleep anyway, and she had a lot to do today.
After all, it wasn't every day you moved into your first apartment.
She was more than a little nervous about it, she admitted to herself as she shrugged on her bathrobe, grabbed her shower supplies and made her way to the communal bathroom, her slippers making flip-flop sounds as she walked. So nervous that she and Bobby had been on the phone late into the night as he tried to reassure her that she was doing the right thing.
And, contrary to what most people in the mansion would assume, it wasn't moving in with Bobby that she was worried about. It was the whole "normal life" thing. What the hell did she know about living a normal life, anyway? Her brief tenure at St. Searles had been more of a failure than not, after all, and at least there she hadn't had to worry about things like bills – or the money to pay them.
Bobby, as good as his word, had sent her the information on that accounting package they'd discussed, and was urging her to take the job. That's where the problem came in.
As she turned on the hot water, she considered the situation.
What did she know about accounting packages? Or the needs of normal, everyday, ordinary businesses? She could design a defense system worthy of the Pentagon, but how many manufacturing companies would be interested in that?
Bobby had assured her that she'd do fine, but she wasn't convinced. He didn't understand; she'd been a career superhero since she was thirteen years old. Well, so had he, but he'd left and rejoined reality. Repeatedly. He'd gone to college and lived in the dorms, rented an apartment with Hank, worked in an accounting firm. Granted, he always seemed to gravitate back to superhero-ing, but those interludes had left him with at least some idea how the outside world worked. She had only a thirteen year old's perception to work from, and some knowledge of the world of academics from her recent stint at the university. Hardly enough to base a business upon.
She soaped her hair, luxuriating in the hot water she'd done without as often as not while the mansion was undergoing repairs, and tried to convince herself that it'd all work out. Jean had given her a list of names the day before, after all; friends of the Professor who might be interested in having some computer work done. And friends of the Professor were likely to have unique requirements, scenarios where her extensive background in things like Shi'ar technology might actually come in handy. And if, in the meantime, she got in some practice with reality by helping out Bobby's client, well, there was no harm in that, either. At least, from the specs, it looked simple enough.
And speaking of helping out Bobby…a grin formed on her face as she thought of the surprise she'd constructed in between packing. She'd figured on it for a birthday present, but his birthday was still a month away and she was quite sure she didn't want to wait that long now that she had it operational. A housewarming gift would be good, though – especially once she'd talked to Hank about potential side affects. She sincerely hoped there weren't any, both for his sake and her own.
"Mental note," she thought as she turned off the water and grabbed her towel, having finished her shower while imagining Bobby's reaction to her "gift". "Go visit Hank in the lab before Bobby gets here." She moved over to the sinks, and popped her contact lenses into her eyes, smiling as the world came into focus. "Some breakfast first, though, I think…"
A brief stop in her room provided a "Cat's Laughing" sweatshirt and jeans, a ponytailer for her hair, and a brief glance from a sleepy Lockheed. "It's ok, Dragon," she laughed. "I'm not staying." Quickly, she dressed, braided her hair and fastened it, and exited the room, the rumbling in her stomach reminding her that while she'd been so busy the night before that she'd skipped supper, her body wasn't going to appreciate it if she skipped breakfast as well.
"Guten morgen, Katzchen," Kurt said as she entered the kitchen.
"Good morning to you too, Fuzzy Elf!" she replied, smiling at him. He was sitting at the table, his tail twitching casually as he stirred his tea, and Kitty thought absently that she really preferred him this way, no matter how unconventional his appearance might be.
"Today is the day, yes?" he asked, smiling back. "The big move. Are you quite certain –" he began, but Kitty interrupted.
"Yes, I'm certain I'm doing the right thing!" she said indignantly, and stared at Kurt in amazement as he began laughing.
"Did I touch a sore spot, perhaps? I was merely going to ask if you were positive you did not wish me to wear my image inducer to help you move. I don't mind, if you do," he added, shrugging. "And perhaps it would be more prudent to determine your neighbors' attitudes towards mutants before exposing them to a blue fuzzy elf, however charming he may be."
Kitty chuckled as she smeared peanut butter on an English muffin. "Sorry, Kurt, it seems as if someone's asking me that question every time I turn around. And no, I don't want you to wear your image inducer, unless you'd prefer to. Is that what you're saying? I mean, if you're concerned that someone will put two and two together and you'll have problems at the seminary –"
"I've withdrawn from the seminary," Kurt said, shrugging.
"What?" Kitty replied, amazed, setting down the knife. She knew she'd been busy the last few days, but she thought Kurt would've found time to mention that. "You didn't tell me that! Why?"
"Well, for one thing, many of my instructors had difficulty accepting my appearance, and I refuse to wear an image inducer for the remainder of my life," he said lightly enough, but Kitty could hear the grief behind the lighthearted words. "But mostly, I found myself doubting that I had a true vocation, especially after Amanda stopped by to visit the other night…"
"Ahh," Kitty said, a smile forming on her face, knowing the first explanation likely had more to do with her friend's decision but willing to play along for his sake. "The truth comes out at last! A priestly vocation is no match for a determined sorceress!"
"Alas, it is true in this case," Kurt said, his eyes twinkling. "She had a message for you, by the way – she asked me to wish you well, and to tell you that if you ever needed to borrow the Soul Sword to keep Bobby in line you had simply to let her know."
"I'll keep that in mind," she replied around the piece of muffin she had in her mouth. "Speaking of whom, if I don't get a move on he'll be here before I'm ready. You coming?"
"Naturlich, meine Freundin," he said, groaning as he pulled himself to his feet. "How can I possibly pass up the opportunity to help you carry insanely heavy boxes up several flights of stairs?"
"Bobby mentioned that we'll be ordering pizza and beer after the move," she countered, grinning, as she picked up her muffin to take with her. After a moment's thought, she turned back to grab the box of Twinkies she'd seen in the cabinet. Hank could probably use some breakfast, too.
"Incentive enough!" he laughed, as they made their way out of the kitchen. "Where are you going now?"
"I need to pop down to the lab and talk to Hank, but I'll see you in a bit, ok?" she added, stuffing the box under her arm and taking another bite out of her muffin.
"Fine. Ask him for some Aleve, while you're down there; after hauling what you insist are light boxes I'm likely to need it!"
"Oh, you!" she said laughing, then put the muffin in her mouth so she could punch him on the shoulder before turning to dart down the stairs to the lower level. She could hear his protest behind her as she went, and chuckled. Of all the people and things she would miss at the mansion, Kurt was at the top of the list.
"You've invented what?"
Kitty shifted in her seat uncomfortably under the intensity of Hank's startled stare, wishing she dared give Bobby her gift without having this conversation first. Because, damn, it was embarrassing…
"Well, I didn't invent it, precisely," she clarified, trying to avoid the question, which was making her decidedly uncomfortable. "I just – Douglock downloaded the High Evolutionary's designs, and I…adapted them."
"You invented a mutant power suppression system," he stated, still staring at her. "With variable settings, that can either shut off one's mutant abilities completely, or dampen them down by varied degrees. One the size of a relatively small shoe box. Which can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet, or wired into traditional 220 wiring and operated with a switch?"
Hank began laughing. And kept laughing, as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever heard, while Kitty felt her face growing warmer and warmer. Finally, he pointed at her with one furry finger, and, gasping for breath, said, "You – you created something that most world governments have had research teams struggling with for a decade, in one week, simply to help Bobby with his - how can I put it delicately? Issues?"
"Well, it did occur to me that it might have other applications," she mumbled, and was rewarded by an increase in the volume of Hank's laughter.
"I do apologize, my dear Katherine," he said, still chuckling when he finally calmed down enough to speak coherently. "It was just so unexpected – and the look on your face…"
"Well, I'm glad you're finding it amusing," she said irritably. "But I do have a few questions I was hoping you could answer."
"Such as?" he asked, peering over the tops of his glasses. "I'm afraid I've not accomplished anything even nearly as impressive this week; my time has been occupied with the anxieties of new parenthood, after all."
Kitty refused to rise to the bait, though normally she knew she'd find Hank's lamentations over foster-parenthood amusing, and glared at him instead.
"You used to come in and at least pretend to listen to me," he protested.
"I want to listen to you," she replied. "I want to listen to you answering my questions, preferably before my new roommate arrives. But I did bring something for you," she added, proffering the box of Twinkies she'd appropriated from the kitchen.
"Ah, Katherine, you do know how to capture my attention," he said, reaching out for the box, which she immediately pulled out of his grasp.
"After you stop laughing long enough to answer me," she clarified, smirking.
Oh fine. You do realize," said Hank in an injured tone, "that you're picking up all of Bobby's bad habits, don't you?"
Kitty simply grinned at him in response.
"You were asking?"
"What are the potential side affects of using the device?" she queried, her concern trickling into her voice. Much as she liked the idea of being able to dampen down their powers at will, she didn't like it well enough to risk Bobby's overall health, or her own.
"Well, you do understand that this is purely speculation?" Hank asked, and she nodded. "I would presume that there would be no true side affects at all, provided," he held up his finger as if making an important point, "that you use it at the setting you demonstrated, and not to nullify the X-gene completely. That, as you've no doubt realized given Bobby's recent difficulties in regulating his temperature, can have ill affects if implemented regularly, or for long durations. Dampening them, however," he mused, "could possibly be a useful solution for a number of people at this time."
"How so?" she asked, interested. "I mean, I know you suggested Bobby find his 'power belt', but…"
"Bobby is not the only one who has suffered ill affects from the High Evolutionary's field," Hank clarified. "On the contrary, many mutants, especially those whose abilities have been tampered with or enhanced since the time of their initial manifestation have experienced similar control issues. My belief," and Kitty recognized the signs of Hank going into full lecture mode, "is that the long expanse of time when these mutants were without their abilities caused their bodies to essentially revert to their natural levels. So, for example, our friend Bobby's body maintained the ability to generated and control the reduced temperatures for which he is renowned, and which were part of his original birthright as a mutant. However, his body re-acclimated to those levels of ability, not the greater ones that were imposed by Loki in Asgard. I suspect it will take him a period of time not unlike the initial one to readapt. Others are in the same state; Betsy has reported serious difficulties controlling her dimensional shifting abilities, for example."
"What about you?" Kitty asked, looking Hank over. "Much of your mutation was artificially induced, and you seem to be fine."
Hank grinned in response and wagged a finger at her. "Ah now, Katherine, must I report your interest in my admittedly hirsute but otherwise spectacularly fit frame to Bobby? No, all joking aside, my mutation is predominantly a physical one, after all. There is little difference when it comes to control, though, I admit, I am shedding spectacularly. Look," he said, pointing to the floor around his chair, which was littered with blue hair. "And it itches," he added, in an aggrieved tone.
Grinning, Kitty stood up, walked around the desk, and began scratching Hank's back. "What about me, then? My powers were tampered with, and I've had no control issues; or at least, not past the first day."
"Ah, but Shadowcat…oh, that feels excellent, right there, if you please…your powers were not enhanced but scrambled. In fact," he added, turning his chair to look at her, "I would expect you to be having rather less difficulty remaining tangible?"
Kitty thought about it for a moment before replying. Throughout the intervening years, she'd had progressively less and less difficulty remaining solid, unless suddenly startled, but her body had never made the actual jump to return to its natural state since her initial encounter with Scrambler. Once her abilities were restored, she had immediately resumed her low-level effort to remain solid as second nature, without giving it any thought. She relaxed that control, now, and laid her hand on Hank's cluttered desk. Amazingly, it didn't go through.
"You're right!" she exclaimed, delighted. "But how? – Moira said that would never happen."
"Time to heal, Kitty," Hank replied, smiling at her. "Time to heal, without the physical stress of transversing regularly from solid to intangible. You are one for whom this time was a blessing, despite your myriad of bruises," he added, grinning. "But, in answer to your question, it will certainly not hurt Bobby to have his powers dampened down to a level he can better control, which is why I initially recommended he utilize the power dampening belt that had proven so effective in the past. I can, however, understand his reluctance to do so, given its origins and connotations. Perhaps your diminutive box, there," he gestured towards it, "can offer the same reprieve, and allow his body to adapt without being subjected to the extremes of temperature he has described. Might I ask you to make another? I should very much like to analyze one at my leisure; it may give me some valuable insights on other technology we are exposed to, as well as to the functionality of the X-Gene when dampened," he pleaded, much like a child asking for a new toy, and Kitty laughed.
"No problem, it'll just take me a couple of days. Thanks, Hank," she said, leaning in to give him a kiss on the cheek just as the door opened.
"Hey Hankmeister, what's up?" Bobby asked, then grinned as Hank pulled Kitty onto his lap.
"Endeavoring to entreat this lovely and talented young lady, of whom you are certainly not worthy, to run off with me instead," he replied, pretending to nuzzle Kitty's face while she laughed, brushing his hands away as they began tickling her.
"Sorry, I found her first," Bobby replied, coming over and grabbing hold of her hand. She phased the rest of her body free of Hank's arms and allowed Bobby to pull her to him, then re-materialized.
"My hero," she said dramatically, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"What kind of reward do I get?" he asked hopefully, his brown eyes twinkling, and as Kitty leaned in to kiss him, Hank chuckled.
"You'll find out, soon enough."
Bobby's face assumed a confused expression as Kitty and Hank began laughing. "Thanks, Hank," Kitty said, in what she hoped was a casual way, as she let go of Bobby, retrieved her box from his desktop, and tossed him the box of Twinkies.
"Have fun," Hank responded as he opened it, pulled one out, and began unwrapping it. "I'll see you both shortly; I have some paperwork to finish up, and will need to get my no-doubt exhausted daughter," he paused and attempted to glare menacingly at Bobby, whose grin in response was only partially a response to the cream filling now speckling the fur around Hank's mouth, "out of bed and prepared to accompany us. She was up until the wee hours of the morning playing video games with Jubilee," he added when Kitty looked at him curiously.
"How do you know?" Kitty asked.
Hank grinned, "Because I was up until the wee hours of the morning myself, beating the pants off of them. I've worked long and hard to become the resident champion on those games; I must defend my title!"
"Which he's only had since I left the mansion," Bobby pretended to whisper to Kitty.
"I heard that, and would have even had I not had the benefit of enhanced auditory perception!" Hank replied, shooing them out of his office. "Now go, pack. I'll be up in a while to help you move. And, knowing our shared fondness for literary works of a technical nature, I'll bring the Aleve with me. The boxes of we bibliophiles are always heavy."
"I'm going to miss this place," Kitty said as she and Bobby made their way back to her room. Suddenly she stopped outside one of the doors, and set her hand on the doorknob.
"I didn't think anyone was using that one," Bobby said.
"No one is," Kitty replied, turning the knob and entering. The room was mostly empty; only a single bed, desk, and a few boxes remained in it. Kitty looked around, a little misty-eyed.
"Yours?" Bobby asked quietly.
"It was," she admitted. "I couldn't stay here, though – I kept expecting Illyana to come in, or to hear Doug's voice down the hall. Hey, look – apparently this is where Lockheed hides out," she added, gesturing to a green sweater that was bunched up, nest-like, on one of the beds. "At least now I know where my favorite old sweater disappeared to. I guess I owe Betsy an apology; I accused her of having thrown it out when she did laundry. She always did complain I had abysmal taste in clothes," she chuckled, picking up the sweater and shaking it.
"Hmmm, you look fine to me," Bobby said, wrapping his arms around her from behind. She leaned back into his embrace, entangling his arms with her own, and realized she missed the warmth she'd found there a scant week before. Even when he wasn't having problems with his powers, Bobby's body temperature was lower than usual, and he always seemed to feel cool, now. It was something she knew she'd get used to, and probably appreciate greatly in summer, but with winter coming soon she missed the heat he'd always seemed to generate.
"It could be that you're prejudiced," she craning her head back to kiss him. "But I'm not complaining."
Bobby just chuckled and returned the kiss, then let her go. "Is there anything here you need?" he asked, looking at the labels on the boxes.
"Nah, someone other than Lockheed's been using it for storage," she said, a little indignant that someone was using "her" room, despite the fact that she wasn't. "Let's go," she added, turning her back on the room and everything it represented. It was time to move forward, after all.
"Ok," Bobby agreed, following her out. "I've got the U-Haul downstairs, so anytime you're ready we can start loading it."
"Who's all helping?" she asked, curiously. She'd recruited Kurt and Jubilee, of course, but she knew Bobby had been begging assistance earlier in the week, and wondered who he'd suckered into it.
"Hmm? Oh, Hank and Cailin, and Jubilee; you knew that, right? And she said something about if she had to waste her Saturday so did Seth, so I think we can count him in, too. Is Logan back yet?" he asked, and she looked at him curiously.
"I don't think so, why?"
Bobby laughed. "He said if he was he'd lend a hand. Personally, I think he and Jean'll stay away until we're done, just so he doesn't have to help."
"Too bad, Jean's telekinesis'd be useful right now."
"No shit. Hey, did you find any furniture?"
"Some," she admitted. "Come on, we might as well start getting it upstairs," she added, grabbing his hand and phasing them through the floor, down through the entry-way where Betsy blinked and then waved as she walked towards the door, and down into the basement. The area in which the furniture was stored was packed with student discards, but some furniture had been bunched up near the door, and it was to that that Kitty led Bobby.
"There wasn't much selection, really," she said apologetically. "I think most of the good stuff went back upstairs after the last time the mansion got destroyed."
"Nah, this is cool!" Bobby insisted, flopping down on a dilapidated plaid couch and pulling Kitty down on top of him despite her laughing protestations. "I remember this stuff – I think it was upstairs when I was a student. Yeah, look!" he said excitedly, sitting up and nearly dumping Kitty off the couch. "See the glue? Scott was following Jean like a puppy dog and not looking where he was going, and he tripped over my feet. His glasses slipped just a little, and he took out the arm of the couch. The Professor made me fix it," he added, a wry grin on his face.
"Why you?" Kitty asked, confused, as she got comfortable, draping her legs across Bobby's lap.
"Well, umm, because I stuck my feet out and tripped him on purpose?" he admitted, his eyes twinkling.
"The early efforts of the famous prankster?" Kitty asked, running her fingers down the side of his face.
"Mmmhmm," he replied, then leaned over and kissed her. His lips met hers, tentatively at first, but she pulled him closer, shifting so that her legs were no longer on Bobby's lap and leaning back, so that he was obliged to half lay on, half straddle her for their lips to remain in contact.
"Nice couch," she commented, smiling, as Bobby's lips began working their way down her neck. One of his hands was tangled in her hair, while the other slid, gently, down her side, pausing momentarily at her breast before working its way down to the bottom of her sweatshirt.
"Always…liked it," he mumbled, as he worked his way back to her ear, and she felt her breath quicken at the tingly sensation of his cool mouth on her skin. "Very comfy…"
"Yeah," she breathed, as his hand reached under her shirt and began tracing patterns on her ribs. She pulled at his t-shirt, tugging it out of his pants, then concentrated for a moment and phased it and her hands so that she could pull it off.
"Nice trick," he said, as his hands met her breasts and she gasped. "Wish I could do that…"
"Hmmm," she said, thinking quickly. "Brace yourself, ok?" Bobby obligingly shifted so his weight was on the couch rather than her, only one hand still cradling her breast, and raised his eyebrows. She phased her head and torso, careful not to phase her clothes with her – a much easier trick when she wasn't distracted by the touch of his skin on her own - and her bra, Bobby's hand, and her sweatshirt phased through her.
"Hey!" he exclaimed as his hand hit the seat of the couch, and he pulled it back abruptly, staring at the site where his hand had apparently been stuck through her chest.
"Close enough?" she asked as she solidified. "Sorry, I can't phase just my bra off unless I'm the one touching it…"
Bobby stared at her in astonishment, then grinned broadly. "You're not going to hear me complaining!"
She laughed, delighted at the look on his face, and pulled herself up enough to kiss him, quickly. Then phased again as he leaned in to return the kiss.
"Stop that!" he complained, mock glaring at her. "You know, this gives a whole new meaning to, "Look, don't touch…"
"Hmmm, that could be fun," she said, grinning at him, as she reached out to stroke his chest, slowly, then phased as he reached for her.
Bobby laughed. "It could…how long can you keep that up?"
She shrugged one shoulder, raising her eyebrows. "Why do you ask?" she asked, unphasing so she could speak. With timing worthy of Quicksilver, Bobby grabbed her arm and pulled her close.
"So I can do this while you answer," he said, laughing. She looked up into his brown eyes and felt something inside her melt.
"I could get away," she said quietly, still smiling.
"You could," he admitted, a lopsided smile on his face. "But do you want to?"
"Hmmm, maybe another time…"
"It's a date." He kissed her, then, and she wrapped her arms around him, loving the feel of him as her hands traced the muscles of his back and shoulders. He was warm – warmer than he'd been without external assistance in weeks – and she felt her own body growing warmer as well, despite her lack of a shirt. Or, perhaps, because of it. The tip of his tongue probed her lips, and she opened her mouth, slightly, to let it in even as his body pushed hers back onto the couch…
And heard footsteps. Damn.
"Ummm, maybe not the best time to come see if you need help?" Jubilee asked behind them, and Bobby leaned down, picked up Kitty's discarded shirt, and threw it at the other girl. "Whoa! Definitely not the best time!"
She heard Jubilee make a hasty retreat, and smiled up at Bobby, shrugging one shoulder. "Take a rain-check until later?"
He groaned in response, and she giggled. Then paused. Maybe Hank was right, and Bobby was having a negative affect on her…she couldn't remember the last time she'd giggled.
"Later," he promised.
Two hours later, a somewhat unusual crew of movers was assembled outside their new apartment building.
"What…did you pack…in this one?" Kurt asked breathlessly as he attempted to carry a large box up the steps to the front door.
"Oh here, give me that," Kitty said quickly, phasing and grabbing the box out of his hands. Luckily, things were much lighter when she phased them; she couldn't imagine how Kurt had managed to get the box of computer equipment as far as he had. Remaining phased, she airwalked it up the stairs, only the lack of footsteps betraying the fact that she wasn't actually, physically climbing them. While she and Bobby had urged their friends not to hide their true appearances, they'd also decided that flaunting their own mutations in front of their new neighbors was probably not the best plan. She had to admit, though, that Bobby's suggestion that they move their furniture in through the patio doors using an ice slide would have made the whole process go faster. The fact that she could hear the guys below her, trying to haul a couch up the stairs, served as proof that they'd discarded the idea.
She sighed inwardly when she got to the top of the stairs and found that someone had once again closed the door to the apartment. Looking around quickly to make sure that no one was watching, she phased herself and the box through it, startling Mrs. Drake on the other side.
"Oh my – Kitty, that looks heavy, do you need help…" Bobby's mother exclaimed, and Kitty shook her head quickly, unwilling, given the weight of the box, to un-phase long enough to answer. She carried it through the wall into the office, and rematerialized, pausing to catch her breath. Even phased, that one was heavy. Next time she moved she'd have to remember to use smaller boxes. She came back into the living room, where she found herself facing a scowling William Drake.
"I thought you weren't planning on putting on a show," he accused her, and she shrugged, grinning broadly, as he shook his head with irritation.
"Between you and my son, I'm not sure who's worse."
"I am, Dad," Bobby said as he backed into the apartment, one end of the couch in his hands. "I'm just a bad influence on her. Kitty, do you think you could phase just part of this thing? It's going to be a real pain to get it around the corner, otherwise."
"Hmm, I don't think so, but let me try," she replied, hurrying over and phasing, then concentrating on affecting only the part of the couch that was threatening to get stuck on the wall. At first, it seemed to be working, but she saw it begin to sink through Bobby's hands and shook her head, waiting until he shifted his hands underneath it before letting go and allowing it to rematerialize.
"Sorry, all or nothing," she answered, shrugging. "You want me to phase it and pull it in?"
"Nah, don't sweat it – we'll manage," Bobby said, then addressed Seth, who was holding the other end, still outside the door. "Gonna have to flip it."
"On three, then?" Seth asked, but Kitty didn't wait to hear Bobby's answer. Peeking around Seth into the hallway, she checked that the coast was clear and made her exit through the wall rather than wait until they managed to dislodge the couch, then hurried back down the stairs.
She emerged from the building to find that Hank had once again been surrounded by people from the surrounding area, who were taking advantage of his presence to have Avengers' memorabilia autographed. She groaned. While she though it was terrific that at least one of the X-Men was a public celebrity, the fact remained that he was supposed to be helping them move. She caught sight of Cailin standing at his side, and laughed as the girl rolled her eyes skyward before excusing herself and racing over to Kitty's side.
"Is it always like this?" the young girl asked, an aggrieved tone in her voice.
"Hank's fan club? Nah," Kitty reassured her, "he's just something of a celebrity, and he doesn't make many public appearances without an image inducer. Which I'm beginning to wish I had asked him to wear," she added, watching as another man, with a toddler in tow, joined the crowd around the former-Avenger.
"Is there anything I can do?" the girl asked, following her gaze. "I want to help…"
"Well, you could give them all upset stomachs so they'd go home," Kitty said, but grabbed Cailin's shoulder as it looked as if she was going to comply. "No, I was just kidding. Look, why don't you go inside and help Bobby's mom put away the dishes and stuff? I think she's having trouble reaching some of the cabinets; maybe you can climb up on the counters for her?"
"K," Cailin replied, and raced into the building. Kitty felt exhausted, just watching her – she wished she still had that kind of energy. Even ninja/X-Men training didn't add up to the natural exuberance of an eight year old.
She grinned, though. Maybe the training didn't, but her adrenaline levels were certainly compensating. This was fun.
A couple of hours later, she wasn't so sure.
The U-Haul had been unloaded; and the furniture was more or less in place. Since they didn't have much of it, that'd gone pretty fast.
The Drakes had left, much to Kitty's relief. Not, as she'd half-expected, because of Bobby's father – they were getting along remarkably well - but because his mother had definite ideas as to where things should go; ideas that bore little to no resemblance to the plans Kitty had made. She suspected she'd be spending the next few days rearranging everything.
Hank's fan club had finally dissipated, and he'd made his way into the kitchen, where he'd plopped down in one of their newly acquired hand-me-down chairs, only to find it wasn't as sturdy as he'd originally thought. The broken pieces were stacked in the corner with the empty boxes, waiting to be taken out to the curb for the garbage pick-up, and Hank was now seated on the floor listening to Jubilee jabber his ears off, as Bobby had jokingly told him he wasn't allowed to sit on any of the other furniture until Kitty had had time to do a stress analysis on it.
The landlord had stopped by with some paperwork he'd forgotten to have them sign earlier in the week, arriving just in time to see Jubilee attempt to light one of Kitty's candles with her own pyrotechnics. While he'd known from the start that Bobby and Kitty were mutants (they hadn't seen any point in trying to hide it from him), he'd judged their abilities as relatively innocuous. Apparently he didn't feel the same about Jubilee's, as he'd pulled them aside and informed them that he was going to have to require a significantly higher security deposit. Kitty had grudgingly written out a check while threatening under her breath to disown her sister at her first opportunity, and wincing as she saw the remaining balance in her checkbook. She was just relieved that he hadn't noticed Lockheed lounging on the windowsill – somehow she suspected he'd be even more upset by her pet.
As for Kurt; well, they hadn't seen Kurt for a while. She smiled at the thought. For all his concerns, he'd probably made the biggest positive impression of them all. Admittedly, he'd suffered a few glares and started looks, but apparently one of the downstairs neighbor kids was a Lord of the Rings fan, and was now parading him to her friends as her own personal "elf". As the girl's older sister was visiting, Kurt didn't seem to be complaining.
Meanwhile, Bobby had explained to her that it was "traditional" for the people being moved to provide pizza and beer, so the living room was now littered with half-empty pizza boxes, paper plates with crusts on them, and empty cans of soda. She looked around, cringing at the thought of getting it all cleaned up yet tonight, especially since Bobby and Seth had made a belated run to the convenience store down the block to pick up the beer, which the pizza place wouldn't deliver.
And, to top it all off, her back hurt, her shoulders hurt – even the palms of her hands hurt from where she'd repeatedly abraded them against box tops. Much though she loved her friends, and appreciated their help, she wished they'd all just go home, now, and leave her and Bobby in piece.
Instead, the doorbell rang.
Wincing, Kitty stood up and made her way to the door, wondering who in the world would be stopping by. The members of the moving crew had been in and out all day, and were hardly likely to start ringing the doorbell now…
She peered through the peephole in the door and saw that Logan and Jean had finally arrived. She sighed as she opened the door, hoping there was still pizza left somewhere, and that Bobby would bring back more beer than she'd estimated they'd need.
"How'd the move go, kid?" Logan asked as he came through the door and looked around. "Not a bad place. Sorry we didn't get here sooner – got tied up."
"It's very nice," Jean added, wandering into the kitchen and taking it all in. "Once you get settled in and do some decorating, it'll feel like home in no time."
"It already does," Kitty heard from outside the door, and Kitty turned to see Bobby and Seth, both of them carrying cases of beer. "Ever see my room at the mansion, Jean? It wasn't a far cry from this, mess-wise." He went around the corner to set the beer down in the kitchen, then came out and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"Yeah, only thing wrong I can see is that it's a long trip for you to and from school. How're you gonna manage it?" Logan asked.
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "I thought about having Brian ship me the car Courtney bought me for my fifteenth birthday, but, given the price we were quoted for shipping, it wasn't worth the effort. I think I'll ask him to sell it there, outright, and just send me the money – maybe I can use it to as a down payment on something else."
"Or, you can just keep using my bike," Logan said, his eyes sparkling. "Since you're used to it and everything."
"Oh, I couldn't do that," she protested, even as he handed her the keys, chuckling.
"Won't do you much good in the winter, but maybe the Popsicle here can give you a ride when the weather's rough. I was gonna get you a car, but Jeannie figured you'd get too stubborn about it, and I know better than to cross ya when yer claws are out. So I got me a new bike instead, and you take this one off my hands. You gotta get yourself a real license, though," he warned. "They ain't gonna sell you insurance without one."
"Logan, I…don't know what to say," she replied, tears welling up in her eyes, and she stepped forward and hugged him. "Thank you," she added, thinking of everything her surrogate father had done for her over the years since he'd first taken her, a young, inexperienced teen, under his wing.
"Yeah well, kid, ya said enough right there," he answered gruffly, and hugged her awkwardly. "Call it a house warming present, ok?"
She nodded, slipping out of his embarrassed embrace, even as Jubilee called out, "You get one for me too?" and heard Logan chuckle.
"I don't even trust ya behind the wheel of a car, Jubilee. And I hope that's not beer you're holding there…"
"Busted!" Jubilee protested, and everyone in the room burst out laughing.
Two hours later, Kitty and Bobby stood at the door, saying goodbye to Kurt, the last person left at the impromptu house-warming party.
"Now, don't forget to stay in touch, Katzchen," Kurt warned her, pulling her close for a hug, and she felt the soft plush of his fur against her face.
"It's not like I'm disappearing off the face of the earth, Fuzzy," she replied, laughing. "I'll be over at the mansion later this week – I've got some work to do on the security system yet. Besides," she added, pulling back and winking at him, "I'll be very surprised if we don't see you again soon – you can't tell me you spent all evening with the munchkin downstairs!"
"Ach, well, much of it," Kurt stammered, then grinned. It was difficult to tell, given his fur coloring, but she suspected he was blushing. "If I also spent it in the company of her college-age sister, well then, where's the harm in that? Margot's a very nice girl, with, I might add, a particular affection for elves, it would appear. And there's no harm in flirting – I'm woefully out of practice," he added, sulking playfully.
"You'd better hope Amanda agrees," Bobby said jokingly, then yawned. "Damn, busy day."
"Ja. Amanda wouldn't complain, I'm sure – she knows where my heart is. But I'd best be going. Have a good time settling in," Kurt replied suggestively, and Kitty laughed as she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thanks for your help," she said, meaning far more than just the help with the move, then stood back, melting into the cold arm Bobby put around her shoulders.
"Anytime," he answered, and waved as he closed the door behind him.
Kitty turned to Bobby, and realized he was shivering. "Oh no," she said, concerned. "When did this start?"
"When you kissed the elf?" he joked feebly. "No, seriously, it's been coming and going for a while, now – I've pretty much had it under control. But…"
"C'mon," she interrupted, taking his arm and heading back to the bedroom, congratulating herself for her foresight in having made the bed earlier. And for having set a certain device in a strategic location in the nightstand drawer. She flipped on the lights as she led him in, then directed him towards the bed.
"Kitty, I'm sorry," he began, his teeth chattering. "I don't think…"
"Shhh," she said, sitting down next to him and wrapping her arm around his shoulders. She really, truly hated seeing him like this – not because she minded the cold, but because it seemed to take so much out of him, both physically and emotionally. Much as she wanted to flip the switch on the box and just make the problem go away, she suspected that might not be the best course of action – at least not initially. So instead, she pulled him over so he was lying in her lap, and began rubbing his back gently, trying to get him to relax - though she suspected exhaustion probably had more to do with it, this time, than stress. "It's ok, really. Besides, once you stop shivering, I've got a surprise for you…"
"Love…surprises," he said, trying to leer and failing miserably. "Gonna…warm…me up?"
"Definitely," she replied, and she felt the tension in his shoulders increase as he made an effort to raise his body temperature. "Now stop that – the surprise'll wait. Just relax…"
"Got that blanket handy?" he asked pleadingly, and she laughed as she reached over and grabbed the comforter from the top of the bed and draped it over him.
"Yeah, but we're sitting on top of it. Want to crawl into bed?"
"Hmmmm," Bobby replied, flipping the comforter off and sitting up. "Yeah, good idea," he said as he stood up and flipped the covers down, then crawled in under them, still fully dressed. "Not quite…what I'd intended…for tonight, but…"
"Hey!" Kitty objected, mock-glaring at him. "You could at least take your shoes off…"
"Sorry," he replied, and she felt guilty as she saw the abashed expression that appeared on his face as he sat back up and began pulling at his shoes under the covers.
"No, I'm sorry – here, let me help," she replied, phasing her hands through the covers and pulling his shoes off as he lay back down. She could feel the cold emanating from his body as she dropped them next to the bed, then climbed over him to the other side and opened the nightstand drawer. This wasn't quite what she'd planned, but it was a hell of a lot more important to get him warmed up than it was to present his present properly. She pulled out the box-shaped device and plugged the power cord into the wall outlet, then sat back down on the bed, and held it out to show him. "Happy house-warming," she said, a half-smile forming on her face.
"Hey, you shouldn't have – what is that? Isn't that the thing you were carrying around this morning? I thought it was some new computer toy," Bobby said through still chattering teeth. "What does it do?"
Kitty smiled as she turned the knob to its lowest setting, then gradually increased the dampening field, watching as Bobby's eyes got wider and the cold gradually began to decrease. "I know it's not especially romantic, or anything, but I thought…" she stammered, hoping she hadn't made a huge mistake. Other than surprise, she couldn't make out anything from his expression.
"How…?" he asked as he sat up and reached out for the machine, and she handed it to him.
"It…was just an idea," she said, trying to read the expression on his face as he turned it over, studying it intently. "I mean…we can turn it back off, if you want, but I figured you'd probably want to stop shivering, at least, and it'll help…" She couldn't for the life of her figure out what Bobby was thinking. Until his mouth broadened into a grin, and his eyes lit up, and he set the dampener down on the nightstand. And reached out to pull her down on top of him.
"Thank you," he said, and she could hear the emotion in his voice as he held her close, and his body grew closer to its normal temperature. Still cool, but not freezing cold. Which, as far as she was concerned, was just fine.
"Still gonna warm me up though, right?" he asked as she pulled up, bracing herself with her arms as she looked into his laughing eyes. And she grinned.
"You'd better believe it, Bobby," she answered. "For as long as you want me to."
"Hmmm. For the rest of my life, then," he replied as he pulled her back down and kissed her.
And here we leave Bobby and Kitty – no longer just a couple of kids.