A/N: Again, thank you to all those who reviewed. Hope you enjoy this chapter - for some reason it was one of my favorite chapters to write so far.
Kitty hadn't stopped phasing from Bobby and John and Piotr and the fountain and everything that was currently wrong with her life until she reached the gym. Not the one she wanted, granted. Right now she craved the highest level Danger Room setting she could get, a chance to phase and destroy everything in sight until she was tired enough to give up and let the pain of the lasers replace the pain she felt inside.
But no, she had been told in no certain terms that she wasn't worthy of that kind of workout. So here she was, kicking and punching at the innocent red bag in front of her until she couldn't see it through her tears.
That made two almost first kisses both ruined by Bobby Drake. If she had allowed herself to think and not feel, Kitty could have admitted that she didn't want her first kiss to be with John Allerdyce. Despite what others may think she didn't entirely trust her former enemy. At the same time, she couldn't believe that he was as bad as the others thought either. In spite of his bad choices, he was just another person and he had needs, including the need for companionship. And if Kitty was the only one to provide that, well, wasn't that living Xavier's dream?
Xavier's dead, Kit. The voice in her head sounded a lot like Bobby, but lately every voice and object for that matter in some way reminded her of him. Another plus for hanging out with Pyro, they both had agreed it was better not to mention Bobby.
While it may have seemed obvious to the entire mansion, Kitty hadn't realized until she was by the fountain once more that she missed Bobby more than someone should miss a friend, even a best friend. She couldn't lie to herself anymore. She wanted more. And she could never have it. Bobby was happy with Marie and would never forgive her for screwing that up. If truth be told, Kitty wasn't sure she'd forgive herself, either.
But why wouldn't he let her move on? Why every time she had finally managed to begin to put it behind her did he show up feigning concern and protection only to shut down on her again as soon as she dared to hope? She could take care of herself – if she had outmaneuvered the unstoppable Juggernaut, she could certainly handle a little flame thrower.
It was enough to drive a girl to distraction. Or at the least, home to Illinois. Not for the first time, Kitty considered how easy it would be to go back home to a normal life. Unlike a lot of students her parents were supportive and loving of her, mutation and all. In fact, they would be thrilled if she decided to return. Her powers were not overt and Kitty had almost precision control, she could fit in fine at a local high school, something not everyone at the Institute could say. She could be applying to MIT or Harvard by fall or take a year off and explore opportunities at Oxford. She could forget about saving the world with a team that didn't want her and go save herself.
As tempting as it sounded, Kitty knew better than to make decisions while upset. And so she stood to get a few more reps in on the punching bag, taking a deep breath to make sure this time was more exercise than emotion. Both were therapeutic, but the former came at considerably less risk of physical injury.
She had only gotten two kicks in before she heard the door open softly behind her. Please don't be, Bobby. Let be anyone in the world but Bobby, she softly prayed.
"Is this a private ass-kicking or can anyone volunteer to be the dummy?" Logan's voice growled behind her.
Kitty wondered in vain if she could amend her prayer. Anyone in the world except Bobby or Logan.
She gave the defenseless punching bag one last roundhouse kick almost screaming in frustration before she turned to her visitor.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, making sure that there were no traces of tears anywhere on her face.
"You think you're the only one in this school frustrated, kid?" Logan smiled in a way that was not entirely friendly.
Kitty was in no mood to back down. In fact, she hadn't thought she had it in her to ever feel the way she did now, but she realized was in the mood to pick a fight. Or maybe she was just suicidal considering the only option standing in front of her was the Wolverine. "I'm not a kid. And I'm sick and tired of everyone around here treating me like one!"
"I didn't come down to argue with you, I came to get out some aggression. Leave if you like, or stay, but I'm done." Kitty was surprised at the tone in which he replied, it was nothing like the gruff, but tender one he normally used with his students, but hard. She didn't back down but stood up straight and defiant.
"Then let's fight it out. One on one. I beat you and I'm back on the team and you stop treating me like a child. You beat me and I suck it up and deal." The idea popped out of Kitty's mouth before it ever popped into her head.
"Now, Half-pint, why would I do a thing like that? Things already are the way I want them to be and we both know that I wouldn't get near enough a workout from the deal," Logan seemed nonetheless amused by her proposition.
"Fine," Kitty replied coolly. "I just didn't peg you as the type to back down from a challenge." She gathered her things as if to leave.
His voice stopped her at the door. "I'm not going to go easy on you."
She smiled and dropped her pool towel. "I didn't ask you to."
The two faced off on the large rubber mats that lined the lower gym, taking a minute to take stock of the other for a moment. Kitty knew she was insane for suggesting the idea and even crazier for actually going through with it, but she wasn't going to back down now. This was her chance to prove herself. Looking into Wolverine's eyes, she didn't think that he was kidding about not going easy on her.
They started slowly at first, Kitty took a few jabs that Logan easily blocked; then he tried a few kicks that she narrowly avoided. The pace quickly picked up in both speed and intensity. Before long though they were both sweating from the exertion of attack and counterattack, back and forth. While Kitty found herself in the defensive position more often than not, she had surprisingly gotten a few decent licks in, usually exploiting her knowledge of Wolverine's patterned moves to outthink him and be two steps ahead. The hits he got in were more of the brute strength variety although he had, thankfully, kept his claws sheathed the entire time.
He couldn't turn off his healing factor though, and as time wore on Kitty was getting more bruised and tired and the Wolverine was still going strong. It was only a matter of time before she lost and they both knew it. Unless Kitty started using her own powers to her advantage.
She let Wolverine kick her legs out from under her, and then jumped to phase through him, meaning to deliver a final kick to his back. But as she phased through him she felt as if her very atoms were being crushed, a pain unlike anything she ever felt before. Instead of delivering a finishing blow, she crumpled to her knees, grimacing.
Logan, unaware that anything was remiss, turned and kicked her over before pinning her to the floor. "You fought hard, kid, but I win."
Thoughts of winning or losing had long left Kitty's mind, filled only with the pain that she had felt on passing through Wolverine's body. She could walk through steel, iron, anything and had never felt any pain whatsoever.
Suddenly, it clicked. The adamantium in Wolverine's skeleton was the most dense substance in the world. When she phased, she moved her atoms to the spaces around most objects there was room to spare. Apparently that was not so with Logan's skeleton.
Kitty refused to let him see her weakness however. She had lost, but she would maintain her pride. She accepted the proffered hand, before turning to leave, trying to hide the residual pain that still tingled in her very atoms. "Congratulations," she said softly, although she couldn't help one last jab at the unfairness of it all. "I'll keep my seat at the kiddie table for now."
"You want us to stop treating you like a kid? Stop acting like one. You gotta re-gain control of your emotions and think before you speak. Lately, you're acting on emotion and that's dangerous." Kitty tried to move away from him, but Logan refused to let go of her wrist. Kitty flinched at the pressure.
"Are you hurt?" he asked suddenly concerned, picking up on even that slight movement.
"No," Kitty lied although she knew he could tell. Mr. Logan swore he could "smell" these things. She didn't intend to admit anything that could be construed as the fact that she couldn't keep up. But apparently that was exactly what she had done.
"This is what I'm talking about, acting like a kid," Logan growled, angrily. "I didn't mean to hurt you, but if I did, say something and let's get you fixed up."
"You didn't hurt me," Kitty replied, still refusing to give in. This much at least was true. Kitty had done this to herself.
Logan looked perplexed as he no doubt could sense her sincerity now and couldn't reconcile it with her earlier lie. Kitty felt like she could see the wheels turning in his head and while he may not work through problems as quickly as she did, Logan wasn't stupid. "Why are you still here?" he asked finally.
"What?" Kitty rolled her eyes. "You were lecturing me. Shouldn't I be listening?"
"That hasn't been stopping you lately. Why haven't you phased out of my grip?" Logan asked.
Kitty felt her heart drop to her stomach. "I was being polite. I could any time I wanted to."
"Right." Logan smiled and she knew that he had figured it out. "So do it."
"Sure." Kitty gulped nervously. Before she hadn't expected it to hurt. This time as she pulled her wrist through Logan's reinforced finger bones, the anticipation of the pain seemed to magnify it and she let out a gasp of pain, clutching her wrist tightly to her chest.
"Why did you do that?" Logan shouted, eyes flashing.
"You told me to!" Kitty shouted back equally loud.
"Not if it hurt you! And you knew it would. How long have you been unable to phase? Why didn't you tell anyone?" Logan wouldn't let Kitty get a word in edgewise as he steered her toward the door. "Let's get you to the infirmary and then try and figure out why your powers aren't working."
"Logan, stop!" It was the first time Kitty had ever used his first name on it's own before and she wasn't sure if he had stopped because she asked or because he was too surprised she had dropped the 'Mr.' "My powers are working fine."
"Kitty, I appreciate you're stubborn. I know a thing or to about that myself, but you really need to stop lying." Logan looked disappointed in her almost.
"I'm not lying," she explained quickly. "I'm just not being completely honest. It's not my powers. It's yours. Well, sort of." Logan looked confused so she continued slowly. "Your skeleton is composed of adamantium. Its atoms are too close together for mine to squeeze through when I phase. At least for me to do it comfortably."
"Why weren't you going to tell me, darlin'?" Logan asked concerned.
"Because I'm not a kid and I can take care of myself, despite what Bobby says. I kept you going longer than you thought you would!" Kitty sat down on a pile of mats by the door. "I thought if you knew, you might use it to keep me off the team longer."
Logan sat next to her. "I'm not so great at this whole pep talk thing. That was always Charlie's deal. But Kit, you gotta believe me when I say the only person keeping you from being an X-Man is you." Kitty snorted in disbelief. "'Ro and I never doubted your physical ability but lately . . . since the Professor died, it's been hard on all of us, but Kitty, going off on your own, talking out in class, snapping at your classmates, picking fights with your teammates? Those little moments where you lose self-control can mean the difference between life and death in a battle."
"You're right," Kitty said, slowly.
"I am?" Logan seemed surprised that she had given in so easily.
"You are not so great at pep talks. That's bullshit and you know it," Kitty stood up only wincing slightly.
"Listen, kid, believe me or don't. But you've got great potential. Just take some time to get your head on straight. In the meantime, let's work out together."
Kitty looked at him quickly trying to gauge sincerity from his expression. "Do you mean that?"
Logan looked surprised himself. "Sure. Like you said you went toe to toe with me longer than I thought would have been possible. Plus this new world of pain I've introduced you to is the perfect way to keep you from relying too heavily on your powers, which you tend to do."
Kitty opened her mouth to argue with him, then reconsidered remembering what Logan had just told her. Maybe her new found temper really was the only thing keeping her from where she wanted to be. It was worth biting her tongue a bit if it got her back on the team. "I'd like that," she answered finally.
"Now let's see about the infirmary and get you some pain killers," Logan continued.
Kitty groaned. "You don't need any pain killers. I can keep up."
Logan smiled and this time it seemed completely heartfelt. "I've got a healing factor; you don't. You may say that now but come tomorrow? You are going to be one sore little girl." He held up his hands as if to physically ward off her protests. "I know, I know, I know. You're not a little girl. But you're going one way or another, so don't make me drag you there myself. You can't phase through me, remember?"
Kitty smiled back wryly. "I knew I shouldn't have told you that."
"Didn't give you much choice, pun'kin," Logan reminded her.
The pair traded little jabs the entire way to the infirmary, which Kitty was more than relieved to see was empty. She didn't know if she could handle round two of the pseudo duel for her honor.
She made it back to her room, uneventfully, laden down with ice packs, Icy Hot and aspirin, to see her best friend standing at her door.
"What happened to you?" Jubilee asked raising one eyebrow.
"Don't ask," Kitty laughed trying to shrug it off as nothing. It would take way too long to explain about her fight with Mr. Logan, let alone how she had gotten to the gym on a Saturday in the first place or why she was currently still in her swim wear.
"Fine," Jubilee looked a little hurt. "Your parents called, you're supposed to call back."
Jubilee started to stalk away and Kitty realized that she had been so caught up in the noble calling of helping out John, she may have been neglecting her best friend the same way Bobby was neglecting her.
"Hey, JuJuB?" she called using a nickname she knew her friend hated.
"Yeah, KitKat?" Jubilee turned, returning with an equally evil candy inspired nickname.
"I don't know about you but I am in serious need of a girls' night. You know, girl talk, movies, makeup . . ." It was mostly a lie, Kitty could care less about makeup or the gossip Jubilee loved but she knew that she had to make some sort of peace offering considering the way she had ignored her friend lately.
"Makeover?" Jubilee asked with a gleam in her eye.
Kitty knew it was trouble, but also knew that she needed to do something to earn her best friend's forgiveness. "Sure, why not," she shrugged.
Jubilee squealed and came rushing over to give her friend a hug, not noticing the grimace Kitty flashed at having her sore muscles squashed. "I knew that I could count you. That witch Jessie Devereaux said that you were only moving on to your next conquest since Bobby dumped you and would drop all your other friends in a heartbeat, but I didn't listen to a word." Kitty wondered how Jubilee knew all this since she hadn't heard a word, but wisely kept her mouth shut.
"Let's skip dinner and order pizzas instead, hey, Kit? I can go back to my diet tomorrow." Despite being quite possibly one of the smallest girls in the mansion, Jubilee was forever dieting. However, after the events of this afternoon with John and Bobby, Kitty was all for avoiding the dining room and a potential scene. "And I can tell you all about my new guy – you'll never guess who asked me out earlier!"
"Sounds great, Jubes. Let me shower first and call back my mom and dad and then I'll meet you in your room, say in half an hour?" Kitty moved to open her door only to find that her muscles had stiffened in the time she had stood talking to Jubilee. She called down to her retreating friend. "Hey, Jubes? Make that an hour."
She decided to call her parents first, considering that would leave more time for a hot soak afterwards and dialed the familiar numbers quickly.
"Kitty?" Her mom's voice sounded worried, as if she had been waiting by the phone for her daughter to call.
"Yeah, Mom, it's me. Have you been answering the phone like that all day?" She tried to make the mood light but her mother was having none of it, too caught up in her own worries to be derailed.
"Kitty, I just got a phone call from one of your instructors, a Mr. Worthington?"
Kitty knew she hadn't been a model student lately, but as much as she racked her brain, she had no idea what she had done in any of Mr. Worthington's classes. "Warren? Isn't he great, Mom? He's really smart, great head for business. I take Econ with him."
"That's great, dear. He seemed to think you were a wonderful student, but he was calling about something else. Kitty, did you know that one of your classmates is a convicted felon? He blew up that clinic in Manhattan a few weeks ago – started a fire that killed three and injured a few hundred people," Terri Pryde continued, unaware that her daughter had begun to tune her out, caught up in her own thoughts.
Mr. Worthington had called her mother to tell her about JOHN? This was insane. Bobby had to have put him up to this and in doing so had totally crossed a line. Sore and tired or not she would find Bobby after this and explain in no uncertain terms that he was unwelcome in her life any longer . . . no matter how much it hurt her to imagine that fact.
She caught the last part of her mother's speech, trying to avoid imagining just that scenario. ". . . which is why they were calling all the parents to notify them, just in case of course."
"Mr. Worthington is calling everyone's parents? About John?" As soon as the words left her mouth Kitty knew she had made a mistake, but she was too relieved that this at least was not Bobby's fault that she couldn't stop herself.
The silence on the other end of the line confirmed her fears. When her mother was able to speak again, her voice sounded shaky. "So you do know this boy, Katherine."
Kitty sighed. She couldn't well deny it now. "Yeah, mom. We have a few classes together. In fact, he was here before . . ."
Kitty let her voice trail off. Before what? Before he had left to join the ranks of the FBI's Most Wanted mutant terrorist? Before he had killed innocents? Before he made his mistake? Fortunately she was saved from finishing her sentence.
"Kitty, your father and I were thinking. It's almost summer and you've sounded so unhappy in your calls and e-mails since Professor Xavier's passing . . . and with everything else. We thought you might like to come home," Mrs. Pryde's voice trembled with some emotion that Kitty largely suspected was hope.
"Mom," Kitty started. Not two hours ago she would have jumped at the chance. In fact, she was planning on calling home and suggesting it herself. But what would that prove? If Logan was right about the fact that what was keeping her from the X-Men was her own childishness, then running away at the first sign of trouble was definitely going to prove that his concerns were dead on. And after the look on Jubilee's face at the hint of spending time with her best friend, could she really tell her that she was leaving the Institute? Especially when she knew Jubilee's own history better than anyone? Despite everything that had happened recently, could she leave Bobby? Did she want to?
"Mom, I won't say that the thought hasn't occurred to me. And I do want to come this summer," Kitty heard her mother's sigh of relief on the other end of the line and hated to be the one to burst it for her. "But only for a visit."
"But Kitty, it's so dangerous there!" Her mom whispered into the phone.
"Mom, I'm a mutant. It's going to be dangerous no matter where I am, no matter how hard I try to fight it or hide it. Here . . . here I have a chance to maybe change that so the world will be less dangerous for others." Kitty was surprised by the conviction in her own voice. I mean, she tried to do the right thing and she thought that Xavier's Institute would help her figure out how to do so, but she had never realized how much she had made his dream her own.
"Kitty, I just worry about you. I love you," her mom was crying now.
"I love you, too," Kitty whispered, surprised that she herself had tears under her eyes.
When the two hung up the phone twenty minutes later, Kitty sat next to it for a moment and sobbed. She had made her choice – the right one she was convinced, even if it was not going to be easy. Now she just needed to figure out how to live with it.