Author's Notes: To give fair warning, I've sort of bastardized Jamie Madrox. I've nothing against him, but I needed a scapegoat and he drew the short straw. Sorry, Multiple.

Violet Fairygirl gave me the prompt for this: "Cast me gently into morning, for the night has been unkind." This is for you, Vi!

Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men and am making no profit from this fanwork.

Burning Uncertainty

By Nessie

"When the stars have all gone out, you'll still be burning so bright…" Sarah McLachlan, 'Answer.'

It wasn't a surprise to anyone that – despite having been caught twice with a punishment to clean both the boys' and girls' bathrooms for a week – Jamie Madrox (aka Multiple Man) decided to throw his biggest drinking party yet around New Year's Eve their senior year.

Most of the students thought he was a total moron. Cyclops had warned him that his irresponsibility wouldn't be tolerated a third time, although his words had admittedly lost some impact thanks to Dr. McCoy.

("But look here, Scott. Young Mr. Madrox certainly has selected an exquisite bottle of vodka, hasn't he? At the very least he knows his good drink from his bad one."

"You aren't helping, Hank.")

Those like Bobby and even Rogue believed that no type of alcohol was worth losing their place at Xavier's for and this time they both steered clear from Jamie and his inevitably-doomed plan. That wasn't a surprise, either.

What did come as a surprise, a shock even, was that Kitty had actually let herself get dragged to this event despite it being the first one for her. She hadn't attended the first two Madrox Happy Hours but she'd heard the horror stories (something about Mr. Summers toasting every wineglass with his optic blasts and using the melted mess to make new rearview mirrors for his motorcycle). But she had become friends with Jubilee this past year, and Jubilee was always trying to look bad-ass to make up for the fact that she didn't have very many friends to begin with.

How could Kitty say no when she was one of the few good companions Jubilation Lee actually had?

So she ended up on New Year's Eve in the main shed behind the Institute, where modification parts for the Blackbird and various other X-vehicles were stored. The lighting was dim, inviting a make-out session (which was probably what Jamie had in mind), but most of the part-goers were too jovial to take advantage of the potential mood, and the punch bowls never emptied. Jubilee stood at the food table, piling high a plate in the naïve belief that the snacks would soak up the alcohol and would keep her from getting too wasted.

Kitty rolled her eyes. It was New Year's for Christ's sake. She'd been invited by Rogue to go with her and Bobby to go Times Square and see Mariah Carey sing, but she'd had to stay and play designated phaser because it was more foreseeable that Jubilee would have an easier time running into door as opposed to opening them. She had accepted one drink just to show Jubes that she wasn't a complete prude.

Honestly? Kitty was relieved that she'd had an excuse to refuse Rogue's offer. She had played third wheel to the ice king and his glove-wearing princess before and she hadn't cared for it in the slightest. So she had come dutifully to the party and dressed up for herself rather than people. She'd curled her hair, which now hung in soft mahogany ringlets to her shoulders. She didn't like wearing a whole lot of makeup, but the dust of powder, mascara, and light pink lip gloss was all she needed anyway.

She leans against a dark wall, looking like a pillar of light against the chipped and marred off-white plaster. The dress was a number Jubilee had picked out specifically for New Year's. She couldn't help feeling a little exposed in the dark teal dress that came barely any lower than mid-thigh and barely any higher than the gentle swell of her breasts. It was off-the-shoulder and thankfully had three-quarter length sleeves, so at least it was only her legs that had nearly frozen off walking back to the shed from the manor. The entire dress had a sheen of glitter that threw sparkles over her face in the poor lighting. It was a pretty thing that even Kitty had to admit was sexy, but she'd had the damnedest time getting it on. She'd had to phase her arm through her rib cage just to zip it up.

Kitty loved it mainly because she knew that her father would hate it.

"I found a wall-flower," came a snide voice that interrupted her briefly-rebellious thoughts. "I always knew you'd be one if you ever showed at one of Jamie's things."

She coolly turned her eyes to look into the slightly-glazed ones of Pyro. "Hi, John," was her frosty reply. The sound of his voice always did one of two things for her: inevitably catch her interest or immediately annoy the hell out of her. Tonight it happened to be the latter.

John Allerdyce ran over her as though she had the power to morph into athletic objects and had become a track ring. "Of course, I never e'spected you to."

Oh, fantastic. John had gotten drunk enough to start dropping his X's. How appropriate. "John, either go away or stand there and shut up."

"You're always so damn cold, Pryde. Why is that?" The lighter came out of one of the pockets in his leather jacket. Kitty couldn't fathom why any sane person would still be wearing that because the temperature seemed to suddenly spear up a good thousand degrees. Not that heat would bother him, and not that John was sane.

There was a smile – a smirk, really – on his face that made Kitty want to reach inside him and gave a good tug on his hipbone. That'd send that arrogant look running. She knew from experience that nothing could creep John out more than being phased through.

The thought had her giving a smirk of her own. "Well, someone has to douse that flame in you, John. All the smoke keeps clouding up your head."

Instead of the fevered remark she expected out of him, John only leaned against the wall beside her….a little closer than what was proprietary. God, he must have been sloshed. "Here," he said, holding up a Styrofoam cup that she hadn't noticed he was holding. Pyro pushed it at her, and she took it on impulse. "It's almost midnight, Sourpuss." He grinned at his own bad joke. "You're supposed to make a toast."

"No," she corrected automatically, "you're supposed to kiss someone." But Kitty wasn't in the mood to deal with any taunts about how she was a lightweight, and she raised an eyebrow as she raised the cup. "I'll drink one for your health, John. Mental, that is." To prove she could be tough she downed the spiked punch in one gulp.

"You're too nice," he shot back when she swallowed. His eyes were on her jewelry-bare throat as it flashed. "If you weren't so hot right now, I'd shove that cup down your smart little neck." He completely missed the stunned look that crossed the X-woman's face and instead took her silence as a point. "What, Kitty? Got no words of wisdom for me?"

"Ten!" the small group began to shout as the countdown started on the TV someone had snuck out of the dorms. Kitty and John stayed silent. "Nine! Eight!"

Maybe that second drink had been a bad idea. Or maybe she had simply drunk it too fast. The room had began to blur somewhat.

"Seven! Six! Five!"

She could hear Jubilee screaming above all the rest, trying to get noticed – trying to get anything.

"Four! Three!"

Beside her, John had begun to flick shut the lid of his Zippo to the rhythm of the intoxicated students' shouting.

Flick.

"Two!"

Flick.

"One!"

"Kiss someone, right, Kitty?"

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

Her mind wasn't clear enough to register his words, and before she could so much as blink in recognition of him even speaking, there were hands on her shoulders. It felt like fire straight from his blood was coming in through his fingers to burn through the flesh that her dress left naked. But she couldn't feel any pain that might have accompanied the burning because he had lowered and tilted his head to seize her lips with his own.

Instinctively, Kitty's hands came up to clench around his shoulder under his arms. He tasted like the tangy punch and the fog of cigarette smoke. Her fingers eventually curled into his hair and found it was a lot softer than she'd imagined it would be (she had imagined the feel of John Allerdyce's hair?).

Their kiss didn't get broken for a long time, but when it did he kept them connected by linking his fingers through hers. He had them out of the shed before she could even think to grab her coat. John had done it for her on their way to the door.

She forgot about Jubilee, and the frigid air outside did nothing to clear the madness from her mind or the fire from his. Kitty only understood that she was letting him lead the way to his room and feeling his hand tighten on hers whenever she phased them through a door or wall to make the trip go faster.

Kitty would remember only two things he had said after she'd had that second cup of punch. The first was that her perfume turned him on. The second was that he liked her earrings.

"They make you look like a gypsy," he whispered, his breath warm against her temple as he teasingly fingered the wide golden hoops hanging from her lobes. In the next instant, he took them off her and turned to set them on his bedside table. She looked away from him just long enough to see that his bed was unmade and rumpled.

Then John turned back to take off everything else. And Kitty knew nothing else.

---

For the first time since her powers had manifested at twelve, Kitty woke up gradually instead of on full-alert the second consciousness came to her. She knew right away and without any shock that she was in John's room because she had dreamed of this year ago, months after she had first met him. She had chalked it up to being an average teenage sex dream, but it had never fully left her mind. The only different between dreaming and really being here was that this room carried of scent of lighter fluid, some dirty laundry, and the really good-smelling cologne John had gotten from Bobby freshman year that he wore on holidays.

A slow smile crossed Kitty's face. She bet he sprayed it in here when it starting smelling really bad.

She finally opened her eyes when she heard the too-familiar flick of a lighter wheel. She looked over to find John sitting on the edge of the bed, the wrinkled sheet covering his lap. He smoked the last of a cheap pack of Marlboros.

Kitty sat up, pulling her share of the sheet up to cover her chest although she didn't really know why. The shifting of the mattress drew John's attention to the fact that she was awake. "You left your curtains open," she muttered with a wincing glare at the window to her left that let in the bright morning sun that glinted off the fresh snow on the ground.

He shrugged, glanced back at her once and looked away again. "Kitty, I'm sorry."

She thought her vocal chords snapped but found them to still be functioning after a silent moment. He must have been working on figure out how to physically form those words all damn morning. "What?"

"I was an asshole. I didn't…" A sweaty hand came up and he ran it through his hair. "God, Kitty. I didn't know you were into me."

"What?" She wasn't angry, but Kitty was confused as hell and it had her voice edging up. The truth was, she hadn't known she was into him either. Her fingers tightened around the sheets at her shoulders. "John…"

"Are you cold?" He turned now and watched her. She wondered if her eyes were as wide as his. "I have more blankets in my closet. Are you—"

"John—"

"Do you want a smoke? No – you don't smoke – Jesus!"

"John!" Kitty didn't know if he fell silent before of her tone of voice or because he feared she would get too loud and wake up a teacher, but she appreciated his shutting up, whatever the reason. "I'm fine," she said at last. "I'm fine." It surprised herself, as she sat there naked but for a sheet in John Allerdyce's bed, that she really was.

John's shoulders dropped and the two fingers his cigarette was squeezed between seemed to ease a little. "You're fine," he echoed. His gaze slowly lowered to where the one of her hands not holding up the sheet rested near his pillow. "Okay…"

Kitty took the hand away and wrapped his around her knees, which she brought to her chest. "I…I guess there's nothing to talk about, is there, John?"

The man – boy, she realized – next to her said nothing at first. He took a long drag and let out the smoke. Kitty watched it curl and twist as it rose to the ceiling. "I guess not. I didn't plan that, Kitty. You know?"

She smiled again but didn't meet his eyes. "I know."

"So really…" This time it was her shoulders that tensed. "For what it means…I'm sor—"

"John, don't say it!" She snapped her gaze over to him and watched as he recoiled, leaning away from her. "You're Pyro, the freaking fire maniac who doesn't apologize for anything! And you're going to say you're sorry about this?" She shook her head in disbelief. "I don't want you to be sorry, John. Please." Her voice had softened, and he came back to her.

"Okay." He snuffed out the cigarette in an ashtray and moved closer to her body. It was awkward, but he put one harm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder just as uncomfortably. There was a bond there, but it was a tiny one. They would have to strengthen it. "What if I said I thought this would happen one day?"

The question caught her off-guard. After all the doubt he'd shown this morning, she'd nearly expected virginal tears next. John had to have been a virgin with that kind of morning-after reaction, and the idea made her glad. It took inexperience to cope with inexperience.

She almost forgot to answer him. "I think I'd say the same thing," she murmured. She turned her face into his neck as delayed embarrassment swamped her. "That wasn't the best of ways to kick off a relationship, maybe."

"At least we're legal." His voice was full of the caustic wit she always anticipated from him. A swift exhalation substituted for a laugh.

"Yeah. At least." She looked up and me the dark in his eyes, pleased with herself for not being afraid of it. It turned out there was something to talk about for them…but not yet. Later.

When they had gotten dressed, Kitty stood on his bed with her jacket in one hand, high-heeled shoes in the other. Her glittering dress looked silly on her now, but she noted the appreciation of the high hemline in John's eyes.

"How're you going to get back without being noticed?" asked Pyro, choosing to ignore that she was standing on his mattress.

The girl dubbed Shadowcat grinned down at him, wearing the same type of mischief he sported daily. "What, you never knew? John…my room's right above yours." She would remember the completely shocked look on his face as she reached up and let her hands slight like a ghost through the ceiling. She set the jacket and shoes on the floor above her, then hauled herself up afterwards. She poked her head through the floor to give a parting remark:

"Take care of my earrings. I'll be back for them." She caught the fleeting smile on John's face as she disappeared from sight.

If nothing else, Kitty Pryde was starting to gain a bit more certainty than she ever had before.

The End