Long, Slow Seconds

It's the seconds that count, in the end. Kyro.

Timeframe: Well, it's a what-happened-to-John-after-the-showdown fic, so you can work it out.

Archive: In the unlikely event that someone would actually want to archive this – ask and I'll say yes. Just let me know where it's going.

Disclaimer: All things recognisably X-Men are obviously not mine. I just like making up my own stories.

A/N: My first venture into the X-Men fandom, as I'm usually a Star Wars author – but I've fallen in love with the idea of Kitty and John together, and this had to be written! Also, who'd want to just leave poor John there to die? I couldn't do it.

His whole body was aching, and he vaguely wondered how one head-butt could cause so much pain. Moving his hands, just to see if he could, he figured he had enough strength left to get up and walk away if he tried.

He didn't want to try.

He didn't want to open his eyes, because he knew what he would see. He could hear it, smell it, feel it, almost taste it, and that was enough. The sour tang of defeat was everywhere, but the bitterness of his own regrets was sharper. He didn't want to have to see. So he kept his eyes shut, waiting for…something. Rescue, death – it didn't really matter anymore.

Lying there on what was probably the eve of his destruction, he found that time was limping. It was frustrating – if he was going to die, he wanted it to hurry up and happen. If he could throw flames at the seconds to make them shorter, he would do it. But they kept on crawling, and he remembered other times when the seconds had been long and slow.

There had been the moment when the helicopter had taken off from Alkali Lake, and he had wondered just for that second – is this right? But then he'd looked at Magneto, and the old man had smiled in a way that said that he knew what Pyro was thinking, without any of the Professor's mind-probing. He knew, and he understood. And Pyro had turned back to the lake, and this time he thought 'This is right.'

The second before Iceman had knocked him out, that long moment when he could see his former best friend's icy head coming towards him – that was when he thought 'Maybe I shouldn't have left.' For that one second, he wondered if Bobby would forgive him for stabbing him in the back. If he would remember their friendship. But by then it was too late for ifs, too late for could-have-beens, and too damn late for regrets.

Squeezing his eyes shut tighter, he began to remember other slow seconds. And this time, they were all to do with her.

Just before he'd kissed her that first time he'd almost asked aloud, 'What the hell am I doing?' He didn't fall for girls like her. He just…didn't. But then, after that initial mental outburst, a split second before his lips touched hers (and it was only a split second, because he'd grabbed her impulsively), he'd looked at her eyes, and his only coherent thought was 'She's beautiful.' And that had been the slowest, most perfect split second he'd ever lived through.

Then there was the kiss itself.

She'd been so shocked that she'd started phasing through him, and he'd tried to tighten his grip around her, because he didn't want her to walk through him until it was over. He'd almost been scared (for those few seconds) that she was going to leave. But she stopped phasing, and then he felt her hand touch his cheek.

He remembered how she'd touched his face another time, when he'd ended their relationship. He remembered how she'd stared up at him with too-bright eyes, how she'd refused to cry. He remembered the way she'd said "I love you," like a plea. And most of all, he remembered thinking, in the second after she said it, that maybe love could save them, save him, the way it saved everyone in novels and movies and TV shows. That moment in time had slowly braked to a halt, and he remembered wondering if he could somehow drag himself back up to where she was, if she helped him. But in the end, they had been too different. And he hadn't wanted to pull her down with him, when he felt himself spiralling out of control. His life wasn't a novel. It wasn't a movie, and it wasn't a TV show. It was his life, and it was screwed up. He didn't want to screw hers up too.

Love hadn't been enough to save him.

He was sick of reliving the past. Every single stupid decision, every bitter regret, every vulnerable moment had been punctuated by moments like these – long and slow. And Pyro was sick of it.

He opened his eyes and gazed, detached, at the mess of metal and stone and dust around him. And there, a little way off, was the source of the destruction. There was nothing to do now but wait for her to kill him too. A sour smirk twisted his lips – at least this way, he would stop remembering. He turned his head to the side, and his eyes widened.

There she was. Running from the wreckage, heading straight towards him with some little bald kid. She wasn't phasing them through the maze of twisted debris, so he guessed that the kid was the one who was used for the 'cure'. He half-sat up and watched as they came closer, saw how her face was half-screwed up in an effort not to show weakness.

Then she looked up, and their eyes locked.

Another eternal second passed. All he could see in her eyes was the slowly dying world, and tears. And his own reflection.

He wanted to say something, something like please – but Pyro was never a beggar. Instead, he kept his eyes on hers, trying not to let himself hope that maybe there was still love in her for him, and that maybe it would be enough to save him this time.

But she turned away and time sped up again, hurrying her on with the mutant kid – to safety, and away from danger. Away from him.

He let himself fall back down to the ground again, embracing the pain and the gathering darkness when his head struck something hard behind him. It wasn't enough, he thought.

Then black.

He could feel himself lifted up, and wondered hazily if hell was somewhere in the air instead of under the ground like everyone thought. But he seemed to be moving forwards now, not upwards, and it wasn't a gentle, smooth glide either. It was jolting. And he could hear heavy breathing.

He blearily opened his eyes (I'm not dead) and was shocked to see black leather and a blonde, curly head.


The young man just kept running, and Pyro looked around wildly, wondering why the hell the Iceman was carrying him – and away from Alcatraz. To what apparently must be safety.

And then he saw the girl running beside them, and for the second time that night he locked eyes with her.

Hers were wide and still sad, but he looked at them, and in that second – one more long, slow second – John knew.

This time, love was enough to save him.