Title: Hell of a Thing
Fandom: Astonishing X-men
Description: It doesn't take telepathy. They've all known each other too long. Scott has a (repeated) line in "Gifted," which, on re-reading, just devastated me, and made me want a conversation between Scott and Kitty.
Characters: Kitty & Scott, post "Gifted" (gen, with references Scott/Emma, Scott/Jean, Peter/Kitty and, for some reason, the fact that Logan and Scott act like an old married couple).
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 1619
Disclaimer: Marvel owns them, etc, though these are definitely Joss's version.

Kitty finds him sitting on the pier, down by the boathouse. He has built a pyramid of small flat stones, and periodically, he picks one up to throw it across the moonlit water. Every fifth throw, he touches a finger to his visor and sends a small optic blast to shatter the pebble before it hits the surface. Once, he misses and strikes the water. A wave ripples to the other side of the lake.

When Kitty steps on the dock, the wood shakes, and Scott jerks his head around. "God, can't you just let me --?" He registers her, and relaxes. "Oh. Cat." That might be a smile he's trying to show her. Then he shakes his head. "It's just me. Emma's not here."

"What, with the bugs and the dirt? You're kidding." His brow furrows as though maybe he's heard of these 'joke' things but never seen one in the wild. "I'm not looking for Emma."

"I figured." He taps the wood plank beside him, and then she remembers he does have a sense of humor; it just happens to be as dry as the Mojave. "Sit. Talk. I don't bite. Can't speak for my girlfriend, but like I said --"

"She's not here." Kitty crosses her legs and drops down beside him, But she has to ask. "Though, really, is she ever not here?" She isn't exactly sure of the range of Emma's psychic powers, but if the woman wants to tune into a private conversation between her boyfriend and the young, arguably cute, old-new girl in town -- she'll probably find a way.

Kitty half expects him to snap at her; apparently, "fighting among the faculty" is the new black. But, then, if he's going to defend Emma at a knee-jerk, she figures she ought to know that.

Scott just nods. "Point taken. I guess I'm used to it." She wonders suddenly if this is what he sees in Emma. With Jean dead and buried (again . . .for good?), with the professor gone God-knows where, maybe Scott just couldn't stand the thought of being alone in his own brain.

"So, then –" Cracking his knuckles, Scott stretches his hands over his head and leans back. It's an old gesture of Logan's, Kitty realizes, a reaction to metal grating under skin. She remembers reading something about long-married couples, the way they grow to resemble each other, from years of mirroring expressions. It's just possible that they've all been doing this so long, knowing each other so well, that literally reading minds has become redundant. Years of saving and losing each other, love and death and broken faith and bartered allegiances; as time goes on, just maybe, they'll all start turning into each other, and for a second she can understand why even loving an old enemy could seem like a sensible thing to do.

Scott lowers his hands and stares at the knuckles. Kitty wonders whether he's been thinking along similar lines, and then it occurs to her that this supposed insight might all be coming from Emma in the first place. She thinks not, though. It's a subtle thought, and sort of amorphous -- not exactly Emma's style. If she wakes up with an urge to hop a train to the city and pick up the latest Versace as a thinking-of-you gift for the headmistress, then she'll start to worry.

"Look at it this way," says Scott. "You can feel free to say what you think of her, since she knows anyway."

"Yes," Kitty agrees, then, "I've been doing that." Loudly and regularly. In case you hadn't noticed. Scott may not be the mind reader here, but he should be able to read that thought from the look she gives him.

"Oh," he says. "True. True true." He picks up another rock and flicks it across the water. It lands far out, skips twice, and sinks.

"That's weak," Kitty declares, and lifts one of her own. "Brute strength's not the way to go." Her throw hits the surface closer in, but skips twice as far as Scott's. "It's all in the wrist."

She hasn't come here to talk about Emma.

Scott picks a larger stone and throws it as far as it will go. The thing just plops in. "I meant to do that," he says.

"Sore loser."

"Me? Never." He lifts another stone and bounces it in his hand. Instead of throwing, though, he gets to his feet, unfolding that long lean frame, and slips the rock into his pocket. "So," he says. "Peter. Hell of a thing."

The words surprise Kitty, but just for a second. It wouldn't exactly take a psychic to know what is really on her mind. Now that he's brought it up, though, she can't think of anything to say aside from the blindingly obvious. "I'm the one who found him."

"Yeah." Scott starts to crack his knuckles again, then looks at her and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"I think so," says Kitty. Her heart starts to race, because if it isn't just her, if someone else is thinking this, if Scott of all people –

"That's right," he says. "You belong on the team. We were upstairs getting our collective ass handed to us, while you found the secret lab and brought in the cavalry. You see now why we wanted you here?"

Kitty feels her face flush. So he doesn't get it at all, it's just some silly schoolgirl fantasy, and her embarrassment rushes out as anger. "You wanted me here because your girlfriend said so, and she wants me here because she knows I hate her."

"That's absurd. Emma wouldn't. . ."

"Scott, she told me that's why she suggested me for the team. She wants someone keeping an eye on her who isn't dazzled by the White Queen."

"Oh." Scott bites his lip, and Kitty has to look away because this time the gesture makes her think of Jean, and there's no way she wants him to realize that. "Is it weird," he says after a moment, "that that actually sort of makes sense to me?"

Is there anything about you and Emma that isn't weird? But she isn't here to talk about Emma. She skips another stone of the water, and watches it splash over the path of moonlight, because maybe it will be easier to say this when she isn't looking at him. "What you said, though. About me finding Pete. And it meaning something. I guess, the thing is, I want it to mean something. And I don't know if that's selfish. I mean, no, that's wrong. I know it's selfish. Because everything he's been through, all this time, I just know it's terrible, I can't even begin to imagine but –" She looks up at last and he's staring at her, jaw tight and unmoving as ever. "I'm babbling."

"No." She waits for him to say more, realizes she'll be waiting a long time.

Kitty tries to gather her words a little better (she's a teacher now, for God's sake, she should be able to put a sentence together). "I feel selfish," she says. "Because instead of thinking like this horrible thing happened to Pete, I keep waking up in the morning, feeling really alive for the first time since. . ." She can't say 'Genosha.' She knows she doesn't need to. "I wake up feeling like it's this wonderful thing that happened to me. Like it's a miracle and somehow I made it happen." That might be the best she can say it, and so she lets the words hang there, hoping Scott will pick them up. He stuffs hands deeper in his pockets. It's awful, but Kitty wishes she could see his goddamn eyes. "You know?" she says at last.

He looks down at the pile of stones, and Kitty thinks he's going to pick up another. Instead, he pulls back his foot and kicks, hard, knocking them all into the water. "I know," he says, and then a sound she almost doesn't recognize, because it's deeper than she expected and she's not entirely certain that she's ever heard it before. Scott Summers is laughing. "So I'm the person you thought you'd talk to about Pete? This must be the longest conversation we've had since you were back."

They haven't talked one on one, since she's been back. He has to realize that. In fact, this is very possibly the longest conversation that they've had. Ever. "I guess," answers Kitty.

"Kitty." Scott shakes his head. "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. Don't ask me about selfish." The knuckle crack again, because he has stopped thinking about it and reverted to instinct. "I like Pete," he says. "I love Pete. He's been through some tough stuff, but so have we all. I couldn't be happier to have Pete back with us."

And, he doesn't say, I would have traded Pete for Jean in a heartbeat. I'd trade in dead Pete, and live Emma, too, though that part I never knew for sure while Jean was with me. I know it now when it couldn't possibly matter, and I'm a fool for letting myself believe that it ever could matter again. It doesn't take telepathy. They've all known each other too long.

A dragonfly lands on Scott's shoulder. He slaps at it and scowls. "Fu – damn bugs. We ought to get inside. Anyway, wouldn't want to keep the lady waiting. Or the guy." He squeezes her shoulder. "For God's sake, Kitty. Enjoy your miracle."

And then there's the part he doesn't need to say. Just don't let yourself get used to it.

END