AN: I was a fan of the old 90's x-men cartoon and have a bit of canon comic x-men knowledge, but I love the Evolution version of the Nightcrawler/Shadowcat dynamic, and read it as the beginning of a friendship that leads into the long-term trust and team that they eventually build in Excalibur. (I know that's fudging the canon a bit, but hey.) So this isn't really a Kurtty, except in the way that real friendship is often rather more about love than love is. Feedback always appreciated, what fic author doesn't love it? ;)
Characters used without permission. This story will be removed upon request of any owners of these characters or the x-men universe.
X-men: Evolution's Nightcrawler and Shadowcat in "Working Without a Net": Part I of II
Part I: Kitty Pryde
Kitty. Come to the foyer at once.
With no transition, before she even realized that she was no longer dreaming, Kitty Pryde was sitting upright and perfectly awake in her bed. It was pure reflex to swing her legs over the side, pushing her feet into her slippers; she barely noted the stillness of the air in the room, the absence of the everyday sleep noises of the Xavier Institue, but the artificiality of the rhythm of Rogue's breathing was enough to jolt her consciousness to sudden understanding. The professor had pushed the other students asleep, just as he had nudged her to full consciousness despite the late hour.
Kitty's feet slid through the slippers, at this thought, and smoothly into the floorboards below—not reflex, she realized, but a subtle telepathic suggestion that had been hidden in the professor's call: quick as a shadow, quiet as a cat. She pursed her lips as she let herself slip down into the hallway below. She would have to chew out the professor later. The convenience of avoiding grogginess was one thing, but Xavier usually drew the line at telepathic coersion. More than just annoying, it was, if she let herself admit it, a little frightening, a lack of control on the professor's part. And the silence lying over the house like a shroud... as she ran down the hall towards the foyer, she pulled her thoughts together as well as she could, trying to shake off the influence, finding a hazy memory surfacing: herself waking in shock, gasping and fuzzy-headed with the hour, to a clatter and a strangled scream—then the touch of the professor's voice: sleep. Sleep. That was the very suggestion, she realized, that now lay over most of the rest of the institute.
Then, with a sudden lurching feeling in her chest, she recognized the voice that had screamed.
Kitty's feet skittered as she burst through the door and and into the grand foyer of the institute. The noises suddenly went normal again, and she heard her own breath loud in her throat. There was a faint odor of sulfur. Hank McCoy was crouched beside the professor, both of them looking, oddly enough, at an armchair. Jean Grey was behind them. She was still in her nightgown, pale-faced, feet hovering just slightly above the floor like an apparition, and she was trying her hardest not to look at the armchair. Kitty found herself wanting to laugh, despite everything; it was like an Edward Gorey illustration. But then she looked down.
It was the armchair that usually stood at the side of the stairs; now it was near the middle of the room. It was also, in a confused tangle of blue fur, cushion stuffing, and splinters, Kurt Wagner.
His arm had come up through the seat of the chair, scattering its cotton entrails. One wisp of cotton, though, seemed to have come through his arm instead somehow, stuck halfway between wrist and elbow, slowly seeping red. Underneath, one chair leg was simply shattered, the wood frayed like rope where it had broken. Another wooden leg disappeared into Kurt's knee—bloodlessly, but the joint was swollen as if it would burst. His thigh was twitching above it. And a third leg was merged straight through the T-shirt he slept in and deep into his chest.
"My god," Kitty said, her hand flying to her mouth. She should have felt sick. She should be overcome with pity, something—"Oh my God," she said again, and felt the blood draining away from her face. She was beside them now, kneeling beside Kurt, taking his free hand in hers, and the panic hit her all in a rush at the soft warmth of physical contact. This was real. This was really happening. Kurt's mouth was pulled into a stiff, humorless expression, lips clamped shut by force. His eyes were closed, but below the lids she could see the irises racing wildly. Low, muffled noises came from the back of his throat—like caged panic and pain—but at the touch of her hand his eyes flickered open at her, and he smiled—just a little pulling at the corner of his mouth, an acknowledgement of her presence although he couldn't spare the control to speak. She met his eyes, and then his two broad fingers were gripping tighter, shaking uncontrollably, and his eyes rolled back in his head and--
Kitty was looking up at the professor, her heart beat slowly regulating itself, and Kurt's eyes were closed again.
"Can you phase him clear?" The voice was Mr. McCoy's, not Xavier's. He had placed a broad hand on her shoulder, and he nodded reassuringly.
"What happened?" she blurted out, squeezing Kurt's hand. There was no response anymore. She felt oddly calm. "Is he dead?"
"No, not dead. The professor forced him to sleep. He's keeping you calm, too, by the way." McCoy smiled curtly. "It's a bad 'port, Kitty, probably in his sleep. He's... merged with the chair somehow. It's different from your phasing; both sets of molecules are competing for the same space. Jean's managing to hold it all together for now, but we need you to extricate them. Do you think you could do that for us?" The urgency in his tone added: and quickly, Kitty, now.
Kitty looked down again. Kurt's face was disturbingly blank. Nobody that spastic should ever look so still, she thought. But in his one free lung his breath was quick and shallow, beating away like a small animal, shrinking down into himself. Now that his face was no longer a rictus grin, she could see that he had bitten through his lip, not only with his fangs, but with his human front teeth as well.
You can do it, Katherine. selfconfidence reassurance The professor's mental touch was strained, but backed by waves of emotional support, the rapport filling her, relaxing her neck and her back, pulling her out of her huddled crouch. We shouldn't move him yet, so gently, gently careful reassurance phase the chair free.
She set Kurt's hand down, stroking the fur along it as she did so; then grabbed the chair. Gently? She had never applied an adjective to her powers. One was in phase or out of it. It was more a reflex than anything else. The same way Kurt shifted dimensions, with the natural innocence and confidence of inborn talent. Gently... Kitty slid into the strange sideways that let her pass through solid matter, and slowly pulled at the chair.
It was a strange feeling. At first the whole mess of Kurt/armchair started to go intangible, but then she backed off her pulling, trying to find a point halfway. There were bits that were obviously chair; there were bits that were obviously Kurt; but there was also a sort of in-between region that couldn't decide what it wanted to be, like watercolors bleeding into one another. Kitty's hand began to shake. If only she had been practicing for this kind of control; not running through thicker walls or phasing larger objects, but maybe, say, pulling the noodle out of her spaghetti without getting any of the sauce. Or separating out the polyester from the cotton in cheap T-shirts. Just think of the imaginative broad- daylight panty raids she could have been pulling... for now, though, she tried to focus small—the boundaries of objects—cells? A part of her she had never fully understood was squinting, trying to peer through the eye of a needle. This part of the mess was firm and wooden, but it was hard to tell whether it was chairleg or rib. (And all the while the more human parts of her brain were thinking: his breathing is slowing down. I don't have time no time no time) Make a decision, Pryde. Kitty thought chair with all her might—thought wood and cotton and everything that is not my friend, thought fuzzy and smiles and the smell of sulfur and pushed against it, just pulling a really big splinter... a really big, ugly, badly upholstered splinter... and then Kitty Pryde pulled.
Kurt's torso contorted violently. All his limbs had begun to shake. His eyes suddenly flew open, and his head jerked to the side as he coughed and coughed, and thick blood oozed from the side of his mouth; and then blood was staining the front of his shirt too suddenly and his chest was sinking away into shadows and his eyes rolling up, he wasn't breathing don't let go of the chair Kitty you mustn't you have to pull it free, reassurance her heart pounding and behind her McCoy's voice: "Jean, the lung's collapsing. Can you erect a telekinetic field inside it? Keep the blood out? I know you can, Jean, come on, you can do it..." and then the chair was free and Xavier's presence was abruptly gone from her mind, ripped away with an almost tactile rend (she couldn't help crying out in sudden selfish protest at the abandonment), but all his attentions were focused on Kurt and on Jean, who was gently lifting Kurt—grimacing with concentration—and all three of them had raced through the doors to the infirmary, and she really was alone then, swaying in their wake.
She had been sitting on her knees; now, shaking, she collapsed onto her seat, unable to get her legs under her to follow them. She felt... she couldn't think what she felt, like something had been ripped out of her, leaving her quivering-- like jello fruit cocktail with all the fruit suddenly taken out, her mind suggested, and she grimaced against the inappropriateness of the mental image. The foyer was very quiet and dark.
She realized that she was still holding the armchair, still phasing it, and clutched her hand back to herself. The chair leaned over its shattered leg and clattered onto the floor. One of the legs was slowly dripping blood. She wondered whether the blood was a smear on the outside or whether it was coming from a little piece of Kurt that had been left on the inside.
Kitty threw up.
It was two hours before Rogue found her. Three sets of medical specialists had come and gone, one of whom—a young woman with an apologetic cast to her face—had helped Kitty onto the couch before racing down to the infirmary.
"You all right?" Rogue asked, rubbing sleep from her eyes. "Ah thought ah might've heard a noise, and then ah saw you were missing... what happened to the chair?" Then she wrinkled her nose as the scent of Kitty's accident reached her.
For the second time that night, Kitty could have laughed—this time out of sheer exhaustion. "Bamf," she said. "Happened to the chair." As Rogue raised an eyebrow, Kitty suddenly lashed out with her foot. The chair flew halfway across the room.
"Infirmary," she said, before Rogue could cut in to ask what she meant. "The elf. Kurt, I mean, not... it was nasty, Rogue, I don't know what's going to happen to him, but the world won't stay under me, I tried to go find out but I started to phase through the floor and I had to pull myself out and—"
"Whoa, whoa there. You just stay right here now, okay?" Rogue nodded her head firmly, but there was a worry line between her eyes now, and it deepened as she turned away towards the door.
Kitty wasn't sure how long Rogue was gone; she hugged the couch cushion, wishing it were Lockheed, disgusted at her inability to clean her own mess; every joke, every flirtation, every stupid stunt Nightcrawler had ever pulled kept running through her head. The time they'd accidentally stowed away with an enraged Wolverine. His hurt when they'd met and she had been afraid of him; how well they'd teamed up together when the school had been exposed. Most of all, his careless joy in teleporting right in front of her just to tick her off, cutting it a wire close, grinning, and then bamf away again while she dropped whatever she was carrying in shock, yelling at him in annoyance—
A gloved hand was on her forehead. "Kitty," Rogue's soft drawl drifted down, and Kitty realized her eyes had been closed. Now she saw the windows blue with early pre-dawn light; the sun would be rising soon.
"Professor says he'll be fine," Rogue said. "Gonna take time, but he'll be all right. Now c'mon, up you go."
Then Rogue, who never touched anyone, was lifting her up to her chest, carefully resting Kitty's forehead on a clothed shoulder. Although they'd roomed together for almost a year, and been friendly for most of the last part of it, there had never been any casual contact between them, even though Rogue was only dangerous with bare skin contact; the older girl simply preferred to keep things that way. Now in her arms, Kitty was surprised to feel how warm Rogue was. But then of course she was warm.
"You always been this skinny, sugah?" Rogue said.
Sugah? Kitty forced one eye open, but didn't say anything. Rogue, if she noticed, ignored her. "Ah don't think you wanna be around when all hell breaks loose down here," she pointed out as they reached the top of the stairs. "Where bah all hell I mean, of course, breakfast."
"We're still not sure what triggered it," Professor Xavier said, wheeling around from bedside to face Kitty.
After sleeping fitfully—what was to prevent Kurt from teleporting again, what was to prevent her from suddenly being called to face another monstrous nightmare come to life—she had awoken unrested, but no longer in shock. Now the school was subdued but buzzing with the news of the accident, her own part in which had, thus far, been kept secret thanks to Rogue and Jean; and she had been able to make it down to where Kurt was sleeping. The mid afternoon sun was streaming into the recovery room, sending stray bits of dust floating around the hospital beds—provisions for the coming war, Kitty thought, and imagined all the beds full: there Rogue, there Scott and Jean, Bobby, even Amara...
"Perhaps a nightmare?" the professor continued. "His adoptive parents never mentioned involuntary or unconscious teleportation, and he certainly never told me. In any case, without his concious spacial sense to guide him, he was unable to make a safe jump. Still, it's a dangerous new development of his mutant ability, as Jean had last year. One that I'll clearly have to work with him on." The professor flexed his hands together and brought the fingertips to his pursed lips.
Kitty had already turned back to Kurt. The fur on his chest had been shaved in several small patches to allow them to stick the EKG electrodes to him; another, larger shaved patch showed the stitched-up incision they had used to remove several large wooden splinters from his lung tissue. The skin underneath looked very smooth, a darker rather than a lighter blue, and vaguely indecent—exposed.
"He's not going to wake up until tomorrow," Professor X said. "I've personally made sure of it. Nothing will heal him but rest. But I thought it was important that you see him after what you witnessed last night—to set your mind at ease. Thank you for your help, Kitty."
"Yeah, sure." she put her hand next to the shorn patch. That would leave a scar. "Some job I did."
"You did an excellent job in a situation that far exceeded your training. Surely you know that. Mr. Wagner will be fine."
Kitty pushed a stray hair behind her ear. "I know, it's just..." she grimaced "...I don't get it. It was fine when we bamfed to school when we had the flu that time. I didn't know that this kind of accident could happen to him!"
Xavier pulled his chair closer. "Kitty, this has happened before?" He cocked an eyebrow. "I see it has... and neither of you told me?"
"We didn't think it was dangerous!" She was tangling her hand in the blue fur now, looking down resolutely, but she could feel her face burning anyway. "Nothing happened, professor. He was asleep the whole time, we must've teleported ten places all over town... it was like so embarrassing. Every time he sneezed it set us off. We decided not to mention it. But we didn't have any problems like that!" She paused. "But if I told you about it, and maybe you could have helped him..."
The professor was silent for a few moments, then turned away. "I won't lie to you, Kitty. It's possible this could have been averted. But it's true neither of you had reason to believe there was a danger of this sort of accident."
"Why now? How come nothing happened that time?"
"Because of you, of course." The professor passed a hand across his brow. "When Kurt teleports, he runs this risk every time. It's why he only ports to a place he knows well, or can see. But with intangibility from contact with you, he's in no danger of any landing. He's very lucky you, ah, came along for the ride last time."
Kitty looked at the hand tangled in the blue fur. "So you're saying as long as I'm touching him, he can't be hurt."
"The same goes for any of your teammates. You know that. It's part of the training as a team..."
"...and right now, the teammember who needs me is Kurt." Once she'd said it, it all came clear; of course. She and Kurt worked best as a team; they were meant to work as a team. The accident hadn't been her fault; it had been a warning. And she would never, never have to see something like that again. Kitty slid her hand down into Kurt's limp one and grasped it firmly. This one, at least, she thought, I can keep safe. With that thought in her mind, she took a deeper breath than she had in twelve hours; her chest released. She almost felt she could float away. Instead she squeezed herself onto the side of the recovery bed, his hand clenched against her chest; and finally, curled against his side, fell asleep.