Summary: There was always an element of caution to touching a girl who could let you fall right through her, who could slip from your grasp like a handful of sand.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own or am in any way affiliated in any official capacity with X-Men. Sob.
Author's Note: Written for the prompt "Touch", from Prompt Table #6 at the livejournal community phasefire.
Click. Click. Click.
The boy in the bed kept running his thumb over the flint wheel of the Zippo in his hand, even though it was empty and the wick wouldn't ignite.
He'd been there for three days. No…four? There was a clock in his room, a window, even a calendar, but he didn't see much point in keeping track of time. Game over, the good guys won. Roll credits.
His thumb felt sticky, and he realized it was bleeding, rubbed raw from the never-ending failed attempts to make the lighter fulfill its purpose. Still he kept trying.
"You should let me clean that off for you." She spoke softly, but it made him jump a mile. The door hadn't opened…oh, wait; it was Kitty. The door hadn't needed to open. He settled into a sitting position on the edge of the bed.
The boy who called himself Pyro stared through her, his features set in an odd blend of curiosity and anger. Kitty waited for him to react, but he gave nothing away. What had she been expecting? For him to try to hit her, maybe, scream at her and pour out all the resentment that John Allerdyce used to carry around with him like a security blanket.
"What do you want?" There were shadows of the trademark attitude, but the hesitation in his voice made Kitty's heart tear a little. He sounded broken in a way that no one should ever sound, bad guy or not.
She opened the first aid kit she'd brought in with her, and reached for his hand. He shied away from her touch, but when she persisted he passed the lighter to his other hand and conceded defeat.
Her heart tore a little more. There's no fight left in him, she thought as she swabbed the wound with peroxide. John didn't even wince as the disinfectant bubbled on his thumb.
He pulled away when she picked up a bandage. "Not on my thumb," he said. "Can't light it with something on my thumb."
"You can't light it anyway, John."
"Don't call me that."
"It's your name."
"It's not my name." A spark of life among the ashes. "I don't want anything on my hands." I have too much on my hands already.
Had he anywhere to go, he might have stomped off in fury, but given his lack of escape routes he settled for turning his back on her and waiting for her to leave. After a minute of silence, he put the lighter back in his injured hand and flipped the lid open.
She put her hand over his, wrapping her fingers over his thumb before he could try again to bring back the fire he couldn't control any longer. "Please."
The contact startled him. There was always an element of caution to touching a girl who could let you fall right through her, who could slip from your grasp like a handful of sand. This time it was different. Her hold was firm, and John knew she wouldn't let him slide through her skin. She would let him push her, hit her, but she wouldn't let go of his hand. She didn't want him to hurt anymore.
It was the first time anyone had ever touched him like that.
John reached over with his other hand, took the lighter again so she would let go. When she did, he took her gently by the wrist and pressed the Zippo into her palm, curling her fingers over the scuffed chrome.
"You could fill it for me…?" His brow furrowed just a little, making tiny lines above the bridge of his nose. "It's empty."
She couldn't. Kitty knew it wouldn't be allowed, knew that even though he'd been robbed of his ability to withstand the destruction of fire he might still burn the place down with them and him in it.
Kitty didn't have the heart to tell him that, though. When he let go of her wrist, she pulled it towards her and pressed it against her chest. "Yeah, John. I'll fill it for you."
"Thanks." He signaled the end of their conversation by lying back down on his side, back to her, knees drawn up slightly. When her breathing had faded away, he rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling.
Gently he rubbed his fingers over the small wound on his thumb, and was surprised to find that although he didn't miss the feel of the lighter in his hand much at all, he missed the feel of Kitty's fingers over his.
It was the last thing on his mind as he drifted off to sleep.