a/n: this story will be the death of me. but i will finish it soon...soonish...eventually.
He was attempting to scrub a stain out of one of his older shirts with a rag dipped in detergent when there was a knock on the door. He scanned the space around him quickly, making sure the clutter that littered his floor wasn't anything of a too embarrassing nature. After shoving a couple of dirty boxer briefs under his bed he grinned and called, "Come in."
"Hello, John," she greeted, stepping in through the now opened door, his smile dimming from sunshine to twilight with record speed.
Storm raised her eyebrows at his blatant disappointment, "Expecting someone else?" she mused.
"Maybe a different female," he shrugged.
"Well," Storm responded, drifting into the room so much like the breezes she controlled and sat at his desk chair, "Kitty's downstairs working out with Logan."
Now it was John's turn to raise his eyebrows but decided to keep any further comments to himself. There was always something slightly unnerving about the older woman that compelled John to run his mouth less than he usually tended to. He didn't trust her and she knew it, probably finding that preferable since she didn't trust him either. John felt that, despite the fact that her mutation gave her other gifts, that she could see and read every thought in his head and was filing them away until she needed those pieces of information. To do what? He didn't know, but he knew it would be messy.
"What are you doing?" she wondered lightly, gesturing to the shirt in his hands. He held up the fabric so she could study the dark brown smudge that ran down the left side.
"Looks like blood," she stated, her eyes darting from his face to the shirt several times.
He nodded, swallowing hard, "Probably. It usually is, you know."
"John, I," Storm began, her voice a little thin and tight from any combination of barely restrained emotions. "None of this is easy for me. Not just what's happened this past year, but letting you be here, that's not easy for me to deal with. It's not a secret that I don't want you anywhere near this school."
"Then why did you let me stay?" he spat.
"Because I like the idea of you anywhere else even less. Because it's what," she huffed out a breath, "Because it's what he would have done. He would have given you a second chance and I haven't forgotten yet that this is still his place, his home."
"He's not coming back, Storm," John reminded her gently, with sympathy, a feat he was surprised he could accomplish considering her less than affectionate words.
"Jean came back," she countered.
John laughed, the biting hysterical edge of it startling her, John could see the muscles in her legs and shoulders tense, like she was preparing to fight, "Do you really want him to if he's going to be like Phoenix? You didn't spend as much time with her as I did. She never...Jean never really came back either."
"I miss him," she admitted softly.
"Me too," he whispered.
She nodded, chewing the inside of her cheek while John stared helplessly at the damaged cloth in his lap, trying to remember all the times he had bled on himself and wondering which time it was that made this mess.
"I want to trust you, someday maybe I will, if you stick around long enough for that. But for now, I just don't know where you stand."
He decided then, even though she wouldn't like the answer, to tell her the truth. If the thoughts in his head and the words that left his mouth would someday be ammunition is her arsenal against him, he would rather them be whole truths and not lies that sounded pretty.
"Neither do I," he confessed.
She got up to leave, pausing just inside the door frame, leaning against the wood to look at him again. "Peroxide and cold water," she told him, nodding towards the shirt, "You'll probably need to know that in the next week."
"I got a call this morning, Bobby and Rogue are coming home in a few days."
"Oh...well, thanks," he shouted sarcastically as she walked away.
He didn't move from his position, standing hunched over by the window, straining his eyes to see the sunset just beyond the trees. He could still make out glimmers and specks of violent orange behind layers of leaves and it left him strangely unsatisfied. It wasn't enough and he didn't know when it had stopped. The glowing sun and the words of wiser men. The fire that had burned in his veins for as long as he could remember, guiding his every move and action, and the simple, undefinable way the air in the room sharpened and held still whenever Kitty walked in, somehow it just wasn't enough anymore.
"I don't care."
Bobby Drake was back. And Rogue with him. The two people he had spent that past dozen months efficiently convincing himself that he felt absolutely nothing for. And now they were again under the same roof that had forced them together a lifetime before. It hadn't been much of an effort to stay out of their way for the handful of days they had still been in the mansion when he had first arrived, but something told him the situation had changed.
It wouldn't be long before someone enlightened the Iceman and Sweet Marie to who John had been spending all of his time with.
Everything was only a matter of time and now that the sunset was finally over, that was a little easier for him to accept.
"Will you at least walk downstairs with me?" she asked, sighing.
"No," he answered easily, quietly, and he still didn't look at her because he would either see her face fall or absolute indifference, and both would hurt him in ways that still didn't make sense.
He squinted again, scanning the canopy of the trees for any sign of the sun, almost willing to stand there until afternoon brought the star hanging bright and heavy over his head.
"He'll hate you, you know," he said suddenly, sighing at his lack of tact, subtlety, "He wont understand. Hell, I don't even understand what this is."
"I don't care."
He chuckled thinly, turning away from his window and slumping onto his bed, finally catching sight of Kitty, her shadow standing by the door. He had barely settled himself against the wall when she was next to him, mimicking his position with feminine twists.
"I like your room."
"But we can't hide in here forever, John. It doesn't work that way."
He shoved himself off the bed quickly, her words registering in his brain like coins clattering on a tabletop, sharp and ringing. He threw himself back to the window, restless with worry and snapping aggressive energy. Because something was wrong with him now and he couldn't stomach being close to her. Not when...
Bobby fucking Drake.
They will take you away from me.
It was too soon, it was way too goddamn soon for them to be in the same room and be able to even play at civility. It was too soon for him to look at John and see anything but snow and dyed blonde hair and a Judas to Xavier's Christ.
He pressed his forehead against the window, "Yes I can, Kitty."
"No, we can't-"
"There is no 'we' in this, Katherine!" John suddenly yelled, rounding back to the bed. "Not with him. Not with Bobby and Rogue! There will be no forgiveness there! They will look at me and they'll...They will hate me. And if there is an 'us' or a 'we,' they will hate you too. Did you even think about that? Are you at all ready for that?"
They will take you away from me. They'll convince you that I'm nothing and they will take you away from me. I can't ask you, I won't ask you, to be hated. Not for me.
"Then we'll make them understand," Kitty argued, shaking a little as she walked to his side, grabbing his shoulder and forcing him to face her.
"Because we have to. Because this hasn't been about just me or just you for a while now."
John nodded after a moment, wondering when exactly it was that she gained the ability to make decisions for him, to speak in heartbreaking absolutes. She could make the pretty lies he refused to tell sound righteous and golden, humming with honesty that he had no right to be near. He pushed the loose strands of her hair behind her ears, hoping she couldn't see the doubt on him, feel the fear.
But she must have because she began again, striving to reassure, "We will make them under-"
He couldn't bear to hear it a second time, hear her make a promise that terrified him because he wanted her to mean it. But how was he supposed to put his faith in the tones of her voice when they will take you away from me.
So he kissed her instead, firmly cupping her face and drawing it up to meet him, stroking her temples and moving his lips over hers, asking for comfort without words. Words sounded and disappeared, but this, this could go on forever if she let it. If she chose him over...
Not for me, never for me.
When they broke apart she buried her face in his neck, smiling against his skin and her body seemed to breathe the word finally.
Everything was only a matter of time but John didn't care because the only light coming in from outside was the dim glow of the city, miles away.
"I know we can't hide in here forever. But can we hide in here for now?"
"Yeah," she whispered into his shirt and he found he could believe in that.
Never for me.