After All

If it had been a normal class fieldtrip to a museum, things probably wouldn't have turned out the way they had; but instead, John had lit a boy on fire, Bobby had iced the same boy to put out the fire, and Professor Xavier had frozen time to give both boys a reprimand.

The rented bus they were in was quiet, filled with a sort of tension caused by the entire episode. Even the teachers were silent.

Kitty kept glancing somewhat fearfully at her seatmate, afraid the boy would do something else crazy when she wasn't looking. But so far, John Allerdyce had been content to stare moodily at his lighter as he flicked it open and closed repeatedly.

She wasn't sure why he had sat next to her. Honestly, she would have asked him to move but she was too polite to be so bad-mannered and also too afraid of getting him angry. He had plopped down casually in the seat, sitting in a slouch and staring ahead in a very bored way. He hadn't once looked at her or acknowledged her in any way, which was very rude, Kitty thought. But, at least she wasn't sitting by Jubilee. That girl could talk for years on end.

Kitty watched the scenery fly by, along with other cars on the highway. She smiled, imagining what it would be like if she were to phase out of the bus and into a car or two. Wouldn't it be funny to see peoples' reactions? Before she could finish the thought and imagine exactly how horrified and surprised an expression was humanly possible, the bus began to slow.

"Looks like a traffic jam," Scott announced from the front, and several students groaned. "A… very large traffic jam…" he said, sounding somewhat awed. The bus came to a complete stop and even more discontent groans ensued.

"Great," John muttered sarcastically, giving his lighter a very loud and impatient flick.

Kitty gave him a slightly irritated glance, then peered up over her seat, which was extremely hard since she was so short. She had to half-stand and then pull herself up to see the gigantic traffic jam stretching past the curve in the highway.

"Wow," was all she could say, and she dejectedly sank back down into her seat, resigning herself to the fact that they would probably be there for hours.

John was silent, but his lighter wasn't. Each time he closed the lighter, the sound became more painful and grating on Kitty's ears. Finally, she turned to him, trying to lower the level of frustration in her voice and bat away the fear of talking to him.

"Could you please stop that?"

He finally looked at her, his gaze disinterestedly annoyed. He gave his lighter another flick and closed it with gusto, a small, bullying smile on his face.

"Or what?" He asked.

Kitty stared at him with disbelief. God, this kid was just trouble!

He smiled at her reaction and continued to open and close the lighter loudly. "Or." Clink. "What?" Clink. He smirked.

Kitty shook her head. Oh, he should not have done that. She sat up straight in her seat and gave him the look – the look she saved for people who were about to get it.

He frowned slightly, unsure of her facial expression, hesitating mid-clink. Kitty reached over to his seat and placed her hand on it. With a startled yelp, John fell through the seat and hit the floor, dropping his lighter and letting out a curse word or two as he recovered from the unexpected fall. Kitty just smirked, reaching across the seat with her free hand to snatch up the lighter and keeping the seat intangible until he was clear of it. Sometimes she loved being a mutant.

Now it was John's turn to stare at Kitty in disbelief from where he stood – he hadn't even known she could do that with her abilities – Kitty just gave him a sarcastic smile and held up his lighter between two fingers, wiggling it mischievously.

John looked at his lighter purposefully, then at Kitty warily.

"John, sit down." Storm said from a little further back. She obviously hadn't seen what exactly had happened. "We may move at any second."

John looked at her disagreeably but did as she said, taking his seat again – but this time, he wasn't staring around aimlessly. He didn't take his eyes off Kitty.

"Give that back."

"Or what?" Kitty asked with overly dramatic innocence.

Now thoroughly irritated, John shot his hand out to make a grab for his lighter, but Kitty was too quick. She snatched it away with a smile. He tried again, and this time she let his hand go through hers. She gave an amused chuckle as he looked at her angrily.

"I'll give it back when my headache is gone," she said, placing special emphasis on the word 'headache' and pointing to her head, trying to induce guilt.

John gave a disgustedly resigned shake of the head and sank down into his seat, muttering curse words and something about "the second damn time today."

Kitty smiled. Finally. Peace and quiet.

And then suddenly the radio came on full-blast, causing Kitty to clap her hands over her ears and phase halfway through her seat in surprise while John groaned very loudly and made a grossed-out face.

"Bye, Bye, Bye! Don't wanna be a fool for you, just another player in your game for two-"

"Err… sorry," a very sheepish looking Scott said, turning down the radio and switching channels. "I just thought some music would be nice."

Several of the students giggled, and one little girl squealed something about Justin Timberlake to her friend.

"That crap is not music," John mumbled, more to himself than to anyone else.

Kitty looked at him sidelong. She imagined John probably liked angry, loud music like Linkin Park, Deftones, and Godsmack. But the more she looked at him, the more she decided he didn't look like he could fit into a category. She couldn't think of a single label he might fit. Maybe 'the outcast' or 'the bad boy,' but truthfully, he just looked like he didn't care. He hardly ever cut his hair, he wore the same things over and over – the only person he ever really talked to was Bobby.

Kitty wondered if he had the same attitude about the ideals and morals Professor Xavier taught at his school. Most of the students accepted the principles taught there… but Kitty knew John was an angry and vengeful guy. She found it difficult to believe he would be for saving humans when mutants were continually mistreated by humans.

As if he could hear her thinking about him, he looked at her, shrugging slightly as if to ask 'what?'

"Is your headache gone yet?" He asked sarcastically, eying his lighter.

Kitty looked at him seriously and thoughtfully, oblivious to his question. "Why are you here?"

It was a simple question, but what she was asking had no simple answer. He blinked once, an uncertain expression on his usually rebelliously blank face.

"Well, why are you here?" He shot back, crossing his arms.

"Well… because… well…" Kitty trailed off. What could she say? 'Because my parents wanted me to'? 'Because it sounded like an okay idea'? When she had first gone to the school, Xavier had basically talked her into it. She hadn't wanted to; she had been afraid.

"Because I didn't know what else to do," she answered truthfully, slightly ashamed.

Instead of sneering at her and giving a smart-ass retort, John nodded with only a touch of smugness, like he had known.

"Same here." He paused, looking around the bus with mild interest. "I think most of us are here for that reason."

He looked back at her, and Kitty gave him a slight smile as if to approve of his statement.

Suddenly his eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed in concentration, as if he could hear or see something she couldn't.

"What is it?" Kitty asked.

He craned his neck to look out the window. "There's a big fire nearby."

Kitty looked out the window, and realized they had been inching along in traffic and had rounded the curve. She could see the source of the traffic jam ahead – it was a couple of cars on fire to the side of the road. Two right lanes had been closed. The flames were sky high, and Kitty saw a fire engine – but the fighters couldn't seem to kill the fire. Grimacing as the flames wildly danced higher, Kitty hoped no one was seriously injured.

John suddenly leaned across her lap, prompting Kitty to yelp and ask, "What are you…?"

But then she realized what he was doing. And then she realized that John smelled good, like soap and some sort of aftershave, and that the weight of his torso on her lap wasn't exactly unpleasant. He braced one hand on her leg and held the other out, stretched toward the cars, and Kitty watched dumbfounded as the fire just died, leaving a cloud of smoke and some very baffled firemen.

He breathed out, and Kitty looked at him somewhat timidly as he sat back up, full of a surprising, small respect for the boy who was always in trouble.

He shrugged offhandedly. "That was my one good deed for the day."

Kitty couldn't help but think he was using that sarcastic tone to cover up the truth. She didn't say anything about it, though. She just smiled.

"That was pretty cool, John."

The bus passengers erupted into cheers as the bus began to travel at a steady pace once again, and John gave a mock-excited expression.

Kitty looked at the lighter in her hand and back at him. He looked too hopeful to disappoint; Kitty held it out slowly, and he look it hesitantly.

"Thanks, Kitty," he said quietly, not meeting her gaze as he said it.

Kitty looked at him in surprise, but he was looking straight ahead once more. He knew her name? Somehow, that made her feel better.

As she gazed out the window into a sky full of sunset, Kitty toyed with the idea of being John's friend.

She smiled.

Maybe he wasn't all that bad after all.


I love reviews. This was written as answer to a challenge over at the livejournal community "phase fire" – join if you love Kyro fanfiction!