Timeline: X1 through X3.
Word Count: 2,720
Summary: "Maybe that's why he left. He didn't want her to slip through his uncertainty as easily as she could slip her hand into his chest and squeeze the life out of his heart. To him, the end results were one and the same."
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own or am in any way affiliated in any official capacity with X-Men. Sob.
Author's Note: I woke up one morning and started writing this after reading maybe two Kyro fics ever. I've tried to be as accurate as possible with details, but I watched X2 like three times over trying to figure out what color Aaron Stanford's eyes are and still couldn't figure it out. So apologies for any inconsistencies.
WARNINGS: Excessive swearing (this is John we're dealing with, after all), abuse of the semicolon. Sorry, high school english teachers.
A fic by Vi
Rogue was the one who told her, but Bobby was the one who held her while she raged. She didn't let herself phase through his arms, though she could have without a second thought; instead she allowed herself to be restrained. It was comforting to feel like someone was in control while she fell apart inside.
Gone. With Magneto. Bastard.
That breakdown was the first and the last. Kitty threw herself into her training, adding the flamethrowers to her solo sessions in the Danger Room. Little punk-ass bitch wants a fight, I'll give him a fight. Classes till noon. Combat training until eight. She started hand-to-hand techniques with Logan, something she hadn't bothered with much before. She hadn't needed to-hers were defensive powers. That changed after he left. She wanted to hit and be hit. Turnabout was fair play; she dreamed of looking him straight in the eye and getting to cause him as much pain as he'd caused her.
Is that what it was all about, John? Hurting the girl who couldn't be hurt by anything?
"You're in my seat," she said to the scowling boy at the back table.
He lifted an eyebrow. "I don't see your name on it."
"Suit yourself," Kitty said with a shrug, and sat on him. Or, rather, IN him, as she phased herself through his solid form to rest on the molecules of the chair.
Instantly he was on his feet, scowl replaced with pale shock. "Holy shit," he exclaimed, running a nervous hand through light brown hair. "How the hell did you do that?"
Looking at him with as much innocence as she could muster, Kitty smiled. "The same way everyone here does what they do," she said. "It's my mutation."
The scowl returned. "Right," he mumbled. "It's a regular freak show."
His words might have stung, but it was close enough to how she had felt in the beginning that she understood. "My name's Kitty. Is today your first day?" She pulled out the chair to her left with what she hoped was a welcoming motion.
Green eyes studied her warily. "First day of classes. I got here last week." He kicked the chair backwards a couple more inches and slumped into it. A few more students trickled through the doors.
Kitty pulled her books and binder out of her bag, trying to keep her voice casual. "So what're you in for?" she joked.
Without turning his head, he gazed at her sidelong for a few moments, the compulsion to show off overpowering his determination to stay the outsider. He pulled his lighter out of his pants pocket, drawing it quickly backwards and upside down over his leg to flip the lid open, and then flicking the flint wheel along the rough denim of his jeans. The bit of dazzling orange that burst to life danced on the wick of the lighter for a moment, and then he held up his other hand and the flame leaped into his palm like a small pet. As Kitty watched, it grew into a large sphere, a miniature sun in his hand. It straightened and stretched itself out into a tube, twisted into a roiling column, and then he closed his hand with a faint slapping noise and the fire-thing blinked out of existence.
She exhaled (why was she holding her breath?), eyes wide and impressed. "Cool," she breathed.
The scowl didn't vanish completely, but it softened a little. "Yeah," he said. "It comes in handy." This time he turned his head to face her straight on. "I'm John."
"It's nice to meet you." Kitty would have continued her interrogation, but Professor Grey walked into the room with her heels clicking sharply and everyone snapped to attention-except John, who moved his head to face the front of the room but didn't sit up out of his slouch.
"Go ahead and flip your textbook open to page 168-we're going to skip ahead a bit today." Their statuesque teacher smiled at her new student. "We're glad to have you, John."
He nodded, but didn't smile back.
He could hear her voice in his head so clearly that he had to reassure himself that she wasn't a telepath. It's not all about you, John.
That's where she was wrong. It was all about him, for him-just like it was all about Kitty, for Kitty. Look out for number one. If there was one thing he had learned in his life, it was to watch your own ass and never expect anyone else to do it for you.
If that came off as selfish, then so be it. It's not like anyone else cared enough to make him the center of their universe; he would be the center of his own.
I cared. Christ, she talked even more in his head than she did in person. Somehow she had managed to work her way past his pretense of indifference, and had left her imprint on the pieces of himself that no one else had ever come close to. As though the walls in his mind were of no more resistance to her than the walls she breezed through every day.
Maybe that's why he left. He didn't want her to slip through his uncertainty as easily as she could slip her hand into his chest and squeeze the life out of his heart. To him, the end results were one and the same.
Kitty's unwelcome introduction might have been the end of it, if she didn't keep finding excuses to talk to him. She needed to double-check which unit questions were due tomorrow; she wanted to make sure she'd copied the review questions down correctly. Things she could have asked anyone.
"Were we supposed to read chapters fifteen and sixteen, or sixteen and seventeen? I missed it, Jubilee was trying to ask me what I wanted to do on our next trip into town…" She babbled on merrily as she dug through her book bag, paying no heed to the obvious boredom on his face.
"Sixteen and seventeen," he snapped. "If you're gonna ask me a question, you should at least shut up long enough for me to answer it."
Her head snapped up, dark bangs falling over brown eyes in disarray, and the look on her face reminded John of the time he'd hit a stray cat in the ass with an apple core, trying to drive it off; stunned and confused. Something in his chest flinched.
Then she set her jaw (Do girls even set their jaws? Maybe she's just pouting), muttered "Thanks," and then took off through the jumble of chairs and disappeared into the door. The few students that had lingered in the room with them watched her go, then turned their eyes back to John with a questioning stare.
There was no question that John had screwed up. "Fuck", he breathed, dropping his head to stare at his feet as though he could find a solution taped to the tops of his shoes. Goddamn girls and their goddamn feelings.
She didn't speak to him for a week after that. After seven days of getting both the cold shoulder and the evil eye from Kitty, on top of now spending all his free time being dragged around by be-my-good-buddy Bobby Drake, he decided he couldn't stand it anymore.
"I think Freud just really needed to get laid," he said as he slid into the seat next to her in their Psychology class.
"Hmm. Just like someone else I know," she replied, without missing a beat.
It was the closest John had ever come to an apology. It was close enough; by the end of class she was back to talking his ear off, and he was back to pretending he wasn't listening to a word.
Bobby just wouldn't leave her the hell alone, and for that Kitty was grateful. His company couldn't fill the hole in her chest, but it did fill the emptiness next to her in class, on the sofa, at the memorial services. (How many, now? More than I ever thought we'd have.) She had one less vacancy to worry about, now that there were so many to fill.
Sometimes she thought they blamed her for him leaving, as ridiculous as it sounded. No one else had known how important he was to her, John probably the least of all.
She ached for home. A place where she wasn't Shadowcat, wasn't defined by her powers, wasn't defined by a boy who wasn't there anymore. Kitty had taken the picture of them down off her mirror, the picture from their school trip out to NYC last summer, quite possibly the only picture anyone anywhere had of John Allerdyce with even a hint of a smile on his mouth.
It was in her sock drawer now. Burning it would give him too much satisfaction.
She kept her hands over his eyes for the entire walk down the east wing hall, through the commons and into the kitchen.
"Annnnnnnd…SURPRISE!" Kitty pulled her hands away to reveal a small, slightly lopsided cake with grayish frosting. Sixteen candles ringed the little candy letters that said "Happy Birthday".
Tact had never been one of John's strengths. "I've never seen frosting that color in my life," he said. "Did it go bad?"
His petite companion stuck her tongue out at him. "I made the whole thing myself, thank you very much. I just had…a food coloring mishap."
"Sure." He reached out with Zippo in hand and lit one candle, sending the flame circling around the cake to light the rest. "Thanks."
Kitty's cheeks turned rosy. "Well, I know you're going into town with everyone else for your birthday," she said, "but it just doesn't seem right to have a birthday without a cake, you know?"
"I've never had a cake for my birthday before." Before Kitty could come up with a sympathetic response, John leaned over and blew out all the candles, the old-fashioned way.
"Did you make a wish?" Her eyes were anxious.
There was something big about this moment, a feeling like he was completely exposed, or at least that he could be if he would just say it out loud-
-and then Bobby walked into the kitchen and asked if he was ready to go yet, and it was gone, just like that. I'm sorry.
"I'll stick this in the fridge for when you get back later, okay?" She had snapped back to her usual easygoing self so quickly John thought maybe he had just been imagining things.
"Yeah-you going to the museum tomorrow?" It was the first time he'd ever asked her what her plans were.
"I don't know. If I do, I'll have to spend the whole time with my study group." Disappointment edged into her voice.
"I'll see you around, then."
The woman Magneto brought back with him was not Dr. Grey. She bore no resemblance to his old teacher except for her looks. Her mannerisms were strange, almost childlike, and goddamn she was powerful-just standing in her general vicinity was enough to make the hairs on John's arms stand on end.
He didn't like the way she looked at him. Most of the time, her eyes were vacant and dull, but every so often they would gleam with a sharp lucidity that made him feel like was being…hunted.
One damp morning, as most of their brethren lay sleeping in their makeshift homesteads, the former Dr. Grey surprised him as he tried to coax a flame out of the soggy kindling in the fire pit. He was crouching and distracted, and when she spoke he nearly fell headfirst into the pile of twigs and ashes.
"Why do you miss her?"
"Jesus," he swore, spinning on his heels to face her and landing flat on his ass. "What? Miss who?"
"Kitty. She's been on your mind a lot lately." The light in her eyes was bright as she looked down on him, but it was somehow softer; less predatory, more curious.
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," he lied, even as he realized the absurdity of being untruthful to a high-level telepath.
John waited for the questions, for this weird creature to rip off all his scabs and leave him raw and whimpering, but they never came. Instead she nodded.
"She still thinks about you." A rustle of scarlet layers and she was gone. He'd been wrong. No reopening of old wounds; just a knife to the heart.
He was channel surfing in the media room after dinner when she confronted him about his earlier altercation in the museum food court, arms crossed and eyes flashing. "That was a stupid stunt to pull."
"I prefer to think of it as 'instant karma,'" he replied, craning his neck to try and look around her and see the television screen she was blocking. "Could you get out of the way?"
"What if you actually hurt that kid? Do you really think that would help anything right now?" She stood immovable in front of the TV.
"Help what? The 'cause'?" The cynical defiance that was usually absent from their conversations crept into his voice. "That kid was a little shit who wouldn't have thought twice about beating the crap out of me if he knew what I was."
"You don't know that."
"Yeah, well, you don't know much." He stood up and turned to leave, putting a hand in his pocket to palm his lighter.
"I know you can't solve all your problems by torching them or running away from them." The instant the words left her mouth, Kitty knew she'd done something very wrong.
John went still, with only his thumb moving as it stroked the chrome plating on the Zippo. "Shut the fuck up, Kitty."
He said it so softly she wasn't sure if she'd heard him right. "What?"
"I said shut the fuck up, Kitty." He spat her name like an expletive. "You don't know a goddamn thing about me."
Five minutes after he left the room, Kitty realized she was still shaking.
He woke up in a blinding white world. White, and very quiet, except for the soft beeping of the machines next to him, and the soft breathing of the girl in the corner of the room…
Alcatraz. Standing with Magneto on the bridge, facing off with Bobby, being just conscious enough to watch as friend and foe and everything in between dissolved like sugar in a glass of tea. The images slammed into his mind one after the other, overwhelming him so fast his eyes welled up and spilled over, just once.
She didn't make a sound, aside from inhaling sharply when he opened his eyes. Her hands balled into fists around the ends of the sleeves of her too-big sweater. Her stomach twisted itself into a knot, launching itself into her throat (why am I even here?), then plummeting down again.
It was several minutes before he spoke, and the tear that had run down the side of his face had long dried. "I guess you do know jack shit."
"Yeah, and he's right in front of me." Her voice was laced with bitterness, even as she stood up from her chair and crossed the room to stand at his bedside.
John laughed, a humorless sound that turned into a sharp cough as his ribs contracted from pain. "So did you carry me yourself, or did you get Snowman to do it for you?"
"Bobby grabbed you. He saved your life."
"Did you ask him to?" Was he mocking her?
"I didn't have to." She turned to leave. "I've got to go tell Dr. McCoy you're awake."
He reached out and grasped a loose fold of her sweater. "Are you coming back?"
Kitty thought about phasing on through him, decided not to. "Maybe I'll be back when you finally learn that running away just keeps bringing you back."
"To what?" He released her sleeve, and she walked to the door, then stopped without turning around.
"To me." She glanced over her shoulder. "Get some rest, John."
John didn't move for a long time after she left, but rest was the last thing on his mind.