Secretly

The bell rang and the waitress looked up from the glasses she had been wiping dry to see two tired-looking kids come into the diner. They made their way to the booth nearest the pay phone and settled in. The girl picked up the menu and stared at it listlessly while the boy took out a lighter and a crumpled pack of cigarettes then placed them on the table. He didn't light up, though. He just looked at the girl sitting across from him, seemingly waiting for her to speak. She finally put the menu down and returned his measuring gaze. He broke eye contact first.

Turning his head, the boy spotted the waitress and scowled. "Hey, can we get some service here?"

Raising an eyebrow at his tone, she nevertheless walked over to their table. "What can I get you?" she asked.

"What do you want?" the boy asked his companion. He sounded different when he talked to the girl, almost uncertain and vulnerable. Like he didn't want to spook her or anything.

"A cheeseburger, please," the girl said, "and a glass of water."

"What about you?" the waitress asked the boy.

"Just coffee," he answered.

The girl frowned. "John, you've been driving for more than three hours. Eat something."

"Okay," he quickly nodded. "Okay, Kitty. I'll have a cheeseburger, too."

The waitress took note of their orders. "Be right back."

She served them their food a few minutes later, then she retreated behind the counter and watched them as they ate. There were no other customers, not at this hour of the night, and the television was busted, so it wasn't like she had any other means to divert herself.

She started to dream up a story about the two. Her guess was that the girl was pregnant. Probably they were on their way to break the news to the unsuspecting grandparents-to-be. It was a shame. The girl looked barely old enough to be out of high school while the boy had bad news written all over him. She could see the inevitable outcome of their situation. Two years from now, the girl would be working at a place like this to feed her baby while the guy would most probably be in jail or someplace else where no one would ever hear from him again. It was a sad but common story.

They finished eating and left some bills on the table. Before they walked out the door, the girl looked at the waitress and said, "Thank you," with a little smile.

She went to the window and watched them as they made their way to their car. She was surprised when she saw how fancy the car was, one of those sporty things rich college kids usually drove. So they had money. Scratch out the diner job in the near future then.

Before they drove away, the waitress saw as the boy helped the girl into the car. It was a gesture she wouldn't have expected from him since he had seemed to be an arrogant jerk.

Shaking her head, she began to clear the table. It just goes to show, she should know better by now. People were never really what they seem.

oOo

A few miles from the diner, they spotted a motel and decided to spend the night there. Or rather, John decided, because Kitty just stared straight ahead when he asked her if she was sleepy. So he got them a room, made sure it had two beds, and even gallantly offered to let her shower first. As he waited for his turn, he sat on one of the beds and flipped unseeingly through the five channels the room's crummy television offered.

What the hell was he doing, he wondered. How did he come to be in this place, in this smelly little room, dancing attendance on a girl who had barely spoken to him since they had started their journey? Oh, yeah, he remembered. Because he had asked her to come with him. And she had said yes.

A familiar face jumped out at him from the screen.

"—the mutant known as Magneto is still at large—" He turned off the news before he could hear the rest of the report.

He suddenly felt the urge to run away. Just get up and go. Leave Kitty some money so she can call someone from the school to come and pick her up while he drove as far away from her as possible. His feet fairly itched to bolt out of the room as he thought about it. But he controlled himself, made himself stay. It wouldn't be very good manners to abandon someone after you had asked them to go on a mad, aimless road trip with you. Not even if they were obviously regretting that decision. No. He had to stick it out here. With her.

Presently, the shower stopped running. Several more minutes later and Kitty finally stepped out of the bathroom.

"I saved you some hot water," she told him.

Big of you, he thought bitterly. "Thanks," he nodded and practically pushed her out of the way as he went into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. Loudly. There. Let her know he was pissed.

He stayed in the shower till the water turned freezing. When he opened the door, the room was in darkness with the faintest light from outside coming through a crack in the drapes. It was enough illumination for him to make out Kitty lying on the bed set against the wall, her back to him. Somehow, that sight seemed to twist him up inside.

Sighing softly, he laid himself down on the other bed.

"Goodnight, John," he heard her say.

He looked towards her bed but she still had her back to him.

"Goodnight, Kitty," he replied.

oOo

"Stop."

John turned to look at Kitty, surprised that she had spoken. They had been driving since late morning and he hadn't heard a single peep from her for all that time. Now she was finally talking.

"Stop," she repeated in a louder voice. "Just stop. Please."

Confused by her sudden vehemence, he pulled over the side of the road and killed the engine. They were in open country and, for miles around, there was nothing to see but wild grass and trees. Kitty scrambled to get out of the car and began to run as soon as she was out.

John watched her retreating form for several minutes, too stupefied to realize what she was doing. When it finally sank into his mind that she was leaving, she was running away from him, he let out an angry shout.

"Damn it, Kitty! Get back here!"

He went after her. He managed to reach out and grab the hood of her jacket. She yelped as he jerked hard on it and almost stumbled, then she phased and the piece of clothing just slipped through his fingers.

"Fuck!" he swore furiously. He took out his lighter, flicked it on, and a ball of fire appeared in his hand.

"Get back here, Kitty!" he called out. "Or I swear I'll burn this whole fucking field down, even with you in it!"

She ignored his threat and kept running.

Shaking with rage, he sent out a stream of fire after her. She screamed in fright and suddenly stood still. A circle of fire quickly closed around her.

"Stop it!" she screamed. "John! Stop it!" She slowly crumpled into sobs.

Sickened by what he had done, he willed the fire to die out. He walked towards her and fell on his knees as soon as he saw her tear-stained face.

"God, Kitty. I'm sorry," he said in a hoarse whisper. He tried to put his arms around her and enfold her in a hug, but she slapped him. Still crying brokenly, she slapped him. Again and again. He took it all without a sound. Then she hugged him and pulled him so close that he thought for a moment that she had phased the two of them and they were actually one person in that instant.

"I'm sorry, John," she said, her voice muffled against his shirt. "I just wanna go home. Why can't we just go home?" She drew apart from him so she could look at his face when she asked the question.

"Home?" he echoed bitterly. "Where the hell is that? Your parents' house? The school? Magneto's rat-hole? Fucking Australia?"

"I don't know." She shook her head. "Somewhere. Some place we can be safe."

"You're safe with me."

Even as he said the words, he cursed himself for being a liar. And Kitty knew it, too.

But she still smiled at him.

"I believe you," she said.

oOo

He set the bottle down in front of her with an evil grin.

Kitty forgot the potato chips she had been eating for dinner as she gaped at it. "What is that?" she asked unnecessarily since she knew perfectly well what it was.

"Tonight is a time for celebration," he told her, a manic gleam in his eyes. "Here's to evading a nationwide manhunt for the third straight week." He pulled the cap free from the bottle then took a long swallow of the gin. Kitty felt like throwing up.

"God, how can you drink that?" she exclaimed, wrinkling her nose. "It smells like cheap perfume—that's gone bad."

"Well, I would much rather offer you champagne, but you really can't be too picky when you're shoplifting."

"John, you didn't." She suddenly looked very worried.

"Forget it, Kitty. Didn't get caught, did I? Now, how about a drink?" He held out the bottle towards her enticingly.

"No."

"Oh, come on," he wheedled.

"I said no."

"Fine." He shrugged. "More for me."

"Oh, for God's sake! Give it to me!" Kitty snapped. When she thought about it, what was a little underage drinking in addition to all the other felonies they had committed together? And, besides, she had always wondered what it would be like to be drunk.

An hour later, all the gin was gone and Kitty was giggling uncontrollably.

"What the hell's so funny?" John scowled. He was sitting on the floor and leaning against the foot of the bed while she was lying on top of it, her head close to his.

"I'm drunk," she said, breathing against his ear.

"Yeah, you are," he agreed, glancing at her flushed face.

"John?"

"What?"

"You drunk?"

"Nope."

"Liar."

"You're drunker than I am," he pointed out.

"Because I'm smaller. Less body mass for the alcohol to be absorbed into."

"Really?"

"I'm not sure. It sounds true."

They were silent for several minutes. Then, "John?"

"What?" he snapped.

"Look at me."

He did, and she held his gaze with her own.

"What?" he repeated, softly this time.

"Forget it." She looked away.

"Kitty?"

"What?"

He kissed her then.

They had been dancing around this thing for months now. It was there in between them, something they had both carefully ignored all this time because—because! Kitty didn't want to think about it, to analyze it, or even to admit to herself that it existed. Whatever it was. Because she had a feeling that it would be horrible. John, too, didn't want any of it, none of it bothering him, screwing him up more, because God knew he was already screwed up enough, thank you very much. Plus, the whole thing just made him feel sick.

But, right now, they were kissing, and nothing else seemed to matter. They were kissing and it was good, it felt good, tasted sweet, with a faint bitterness left behind by the gin they had drunk earlier. Kitty tugged at John's shirt till he got the hint and climbed onto the bed with her.

When it was all over, it was over a little too soon. John couldn't meet Kitty's eyes afterwards as he moved away from her. He sat on the edge of the bed and covered his face with his hands. He started to shake. Kitty felt a stab of pain go through her when she realized that he was crying.

"No. What's wrong? John?" She tried to embrace him but he pushed her away.

"Don't! Please don't!" His voice was ragged with sobs.

She ignored him. She held him close, held on against his struggles, until he finally gave up and rested his head on her lap. Then he cried in the worst way anyone could cry, silently and bitterly.

Suddenly, Kitty felt very small and very afraid.

She was afraid that she was falling in love.

oOo

When John came back from the grocery store, he found Kitty sitting on the bed and looking very somber.

"What's wrong?" he immediately asked, setting the paper bag full of junk food and soda on the floor.

"I'm sorry," she told him.

He frowned. "What for?"

She didn't answer. In the distance, he suddenly heard the sound of police sirens. Then he understood.

"What the fuck, Kitty?" he swore. "What did you do?"

She started to cry. "I can't do this anymore. I'm tired."

"Bullshit!" he roared. "Fuck you, Kitty! Stupid bitch! Why would you do this?"

She just cried harder.

He seemed to lose all his fury then and collapsed onto the floor. He looked at her, and his eyes were full of pain.

"I would have never hurt you," he whispered.

"I know," she said. "But you keep hurting yourself. And that kills me every day."

The police found them like that: Kitty crying on the bed and John sitting on the floor just staring at her. He never even tried to struggle when they took him away.

Later, there were the questions. Where were they headed? Was he taking her to meet up with Magneto? Did he ever mention anything about the Brotherhood and their plans? What exactly did he do to her during the weeks they were together? Did he hurt her?

"He was just running," was all she would say. "He wanted to get as far away from everything as possible. He asked me to come with him, so I did."

Stockholm syndrome, they said. Poor girl has been traumatized by the experience. Let her off the hook and jail the bastard who did this to her. No more deals this time.

Her parents wanted her to come home. She told them she would much rather stay at the school. She felt safer there. Safer, though everyone now looked at her differently. But they never said anything to her. Not to her face, at least.

Bobby was the one who finally broke the silence.

He came into the room she still shared with Jubilee, though the other girl rarely stayed there anymore. He looked at her with that suffering look she suspected he must have patented since it was so uniquely his.

"Why?" he asked. "Why'd you leave, Kitty? Why did you go with him?"

She didn't answer, but he persisted. "What was it about? Did he threaten you? Did he hurt you so you would go? Was it some kind of dare running off with him? Was it some teen rebel without a cause thing? Tell me. Why? What was it?"

It was Bobby asking. Bobby, her friend. She could be honest with him. She could tell him the truth.

"I think it was love."

oOo

When the building started shaking, the metal bars of the cells rattling and groaning like cheap special effects in a movie, John wasn't really surprised. In fact, he had been expecting something like it for several days now and had been wondering why it seemed to be taking so long.

Finally, his cell door was wrenched free from its hinges and Magneto, dark and helmeted, hovered into view. He was smiling.

"This is a call to arms, brother," he proclaimed. "How do you answer?"

Like a good soldier, Pyro answered, "Yes."

The End

"I'm not sorry that he came or that nothing could keep him." - Lyn Lishin