Author's Notes: Thank you to all who so kindly reviewed Burning Uncertainty. I truly hope you enjoy this fic as well. Kyro. It's from John/Pyro's point of view, set in movie-verse.
Dedication: For Violet Fairygirl, who can't get enough of this pairing and has fully converted me into a fan.
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men and am making no profit from this fanwork.
John Allerdyce was not a test-friendly student. He performed well enough on homework (when he actually did it) but tests were as bad as any enemy he might face in the Danger Room. Most of the time, he settled simply for letting the bad-guys of the education kind be the victor.
But then Instructor Munroe had to be the biggest bitch and threaten to flunk him if he didn't do well on his next text.
On ancient civilizations.
And she wanted "at least a C."
While failed classes didn't mean expulsion from Xavier's Institute, the Prof looked none too fondly on dropouts. Were he to take Storm's words lightly, the most probable scenario would be that the mutant codenamed Pyro would lose his place as an official member of the X-Men. John may have been a rebel, but he wasn't stupid.
The night before the test, after spending several pre-midnight hours internalizing his personal school angst, he decided that it was pointless in going on alone. When the two clock's hands aligned at the twelve, he panicked briefly because there were only eight hours left before the test. And while all John wanted to do was give Mayans, Aztecs, and Ororo Munroe the bird and go to sleep, he realized he was forced to throw away his own pride in favor of another.
And this Pryde was going to be pissed.
Even so, he snuck up to the girls' dorms with the ease of experience. The moon was high and mostly everyone was asleep. If she yelled at him, he could always bolt out the hallway window and shimmy down the drainpipe to the boys' floor below – hopefully fast enough that he'd make it before anyone came to investigate. (Wasn't it just peachy that Storm monitored this particular hall?)
He barely tapped the door at first. When there was no response, John gave a stronger knock but still made sure it was quiet. He had heard of cases where boys had been punished for stealing into girls' rooms by getting struck with taser-level lightning or pecked with hail due to Instructor Monroe's temper.
He waited, wondering if he would have to resign himself to a leather uniform-less existence – and retaking World History. When his mind finally said to fuck it and go to bed, he turned on his heel to trudge back to his room. Probably best not to wake up the kitty-cat anyway, he thought in irritation. She might claw tears in the curtains.
But then he felt something, her, right before—
He tensed for just a moment, in case there was yelling and he needed to dash for the window. When no indignant shouts came, John swiveled and saw the person he'd been looking for…if in a startling way.
Kitty's hair was loose and wavy from the bun she had worn it in that day. Yesterday, he reminded himself as he recalled it was after midnight. The only reason he remembered such a minor detail was because she had secured the style with bright red and orange chopsticks. Or so he told himself. Currently, she wore what appeared to be a light blue nightshirt in addition to a less-than-pleased expression on her makeup-free face. He estimated that he was performing that annoyed look with her entire body, the way she expressed the rest of her emotions.
Of course, there was no way to know for sure what she was doing since she had not opened the door. She was simply hanging out of the wooden panel from the waist up. Pyro couldn't help be floored, thinking of the countless dodge-ball games he could have won with a power like that.
Kitty raised her left wrist to glance at her watch. "It's going on one in the morning, John. What are you—"
In a move that was characteristically John Allerdyce, he answered her by shoving the textbook he'd brought with him up close to her face. Kitty took it from him, noting with disapproval the wrinkled loose-leaf papers stuck inside and the scorch mark on the upper right corner. Peering over the top of the book at him, she only sighed, followed by a resigned nod. "Okay, John. I get it. Just…just come on."
Without warning, she reached out and seized his upper arm. Tugging, John stumbled forward…right through the door. He blinked upon realizing he was now in Kitty's room without the logical turn of a doorknob occurring first. "Shit," he breathed in quiet amazement.
A small smirk claimed Kitty's previously agitated frown. "I know."
He saw the room first, finding it typical. A couple of posters on the wall, one for the Philharmonic Orchestra, the other for…AC/DC. Well, well, he mused, score one surprise for the Shadowcat. The only light in the room was provided by a small lamp on her desk. His gaze flashed quickly to the bed – plain white pillows, dark pink coverlet, and an odd-looking felt purple dragon that had seen better days – before noting with satisfaction that the book lying open on her semi-cluttered desk was for World History.
John's eyes went to her lastly. In this light, her dark eyes gleamed like onyx and her skin was golden from one or trips to the tanning bed with Jubilee. Her nightshirt, he noted with briefly-lifted brows, was shorter at the hem than he had expected. When Kitty caught him looking, he covered himself. "You shaved your legs this morning, Pryde. That's almost girly of you." Her reaction to the barb was swift, and she tossed his textbook at him with more force than what was necessary.
"I'm not going to believe that my legs drove you to tiptoe up here so late," she snapped. Kitty started for her desk.
"Of course not." John spoke in a way that would have seemed honest if not for the wry grin on his face. "You know I wouldn't come to you if I didn't need a real study prude."
Her eyes flashed as she sat in the swivel chair. "Or stayed awake in class," she returned briskly.
John could practically hear Bobby's voice in his head. "Oh, burn to the Pyro!" His voice grated with irritation, "Are you gonna help me or not, Kitty?"
"That isn't how you ask for help." She over her own work, pencil in hand. Her mahogany hair fell to shield her face.
Impatient, he went to her. Extending a hand, he pulled her hair away from her cheek. Kitty half-flinched, giving Pyro pause. After a moment, he finished by tucking the wayward strands behind her ear, then let his hand fall to the side. The action hadn't been romantic, and Kitty's tense form was a unsettled him for a reason he couldn't name.
"Please," he managed at last.
It took a handful of seconds, but Kitty's shoulders lowered. "Okay." The timbre in her voice kept him wondering. "Fine, John." Looking down, she flipped through the notebook she was writing in that was clearly labeled: World History. Chapter 8, Section 2. Aztecs and Mayans. John saw beneath the title margin all of the clean, printed words in tidy little paragraphs – complete with page numbers to reference in parentheses.
His eyes almost rolled into the back of his head at the uncommon sight. "Jesus, Kitty, this has to take you hours!"
Kitty watched him as though she suspected he might have a seizure. "No…I write it all down while Ms. Munroe is lecturing." She reached for the one-subject notebook stuffed haphazardly in his text and pulled it out. Loose pages went fluttering to her feet. "Why, what are your notes like?" She opened the cover before he could do anything to prevent it.
A moment passed. Then two.
"John…" Kitty stared down into the notebook as though it had sprouted wings. "We're on chapter eight. You've barely got five pages actually written on in here. And the writing isn't legible." She turned the notebook as though to prove that his words really were nothing more than squiggly lines. She gave him a hopeless look. "At this point…"
When she had trailed off, "What?" he demanded, telling himself that the flame in his gut had something to do with his DNA rather than his slowly diminishing ego.
Kitty's reply was nothing short of blunt. "You're really screwed."
Anger boiled to the surface, and John slammed a hand down on the desk, causing pens and hi-lighters to jump. "I know that! That's why—!" She shot out of the chair to cut him off with a hand over his mouth, followed by another one closing over his wrist, succeeding in silencing him.
"Shut up, John!" She hissed at him like the cat she was named for. "If you're too loud, they'll find out you're here and then we'll both be screwed."
He had to bite the inside of his cheek to refrain from telling her that she could use a good…
When Kitty released him, she did it was caution, as if by moving too fast she could set him off again. John felt an unwelcome simmer as her touch slid off his skin. He chalked it up to the fact that it was late, he was in a bad mood, and he hated that he had been forced to ask for Kitty's help.
"Here," she sighed. "Why don't you take my notebook and let some of the facts sink in a little? I'll write down all the things that are really important in yours. If you're lucky, it'll be an open-note test."
For his safety, (he still worried about the struck-by-lightning possibility) he said nothing and only followed instructions. He began reading with low expectations, only to find that he…well, he actually understood Kitty's notes. She had condensed the text in the chapters into short, precise and important excerpts.
His jaw dropped and he looked up to tell her something – maybe even thank-you – because he had the feeling it would ease some of her fury toward him. But the way her eyes were narrowed as she studied his notebook kept John from boasting.
"What is it?" he queried instead.
Kitty met his eyes, hers sharp as daggers, and he inwardly winced.
" 'Bobby Drake is a frozen bitch because he can't get any from the Life Sucker.' " Kitty glared and threw the notebook down on the desk. The lamp shivered, making the room quake between darkness and illumination. "Who the hell do you think you are, John?"
John's brain raced as he tried to catch up. When had he written that? "I—"
"You wrote that about your friend! And mine!" Kitty looked on the verge of hauling off and slugging him in the jaw. "What is it, a rough draft before you transfer it to the Danger Room wall? What is the matter with you?"
"I don't think I…" But then he remembered. He and Bobby had fought that day. The mutant called Iceman had gotten on his case – again – about grades, something that annoyed John more than anything else when it was coming from Bobby. Rather than getting in trouble for telling him off in public, he had vented to a piece of paper during the very class he was facing suspension for.
But Kitty's words dug into him the same way Bobby's had. And John Allerdyce had a way of dealing with it.
Just as Kitty gave a disgusted shake of her head and turned the chair away from him, he seized the armrests and jerked her round again to face him. Her well-organized notebook fell to the floor.
"Sorry!" he exclaimed. Maybe we can't all hold it in like you can, Pryde! We're not all good and nice! We're not all fucking perfect even if we try!"
"Some of us have fucking limits!" There was something in his brain, burning at the edges and leaving smoke trails, and watching her stare with calm, knowing eyes only fanned the flame. "Some of us are human, which is more than I can say for—"
Kitty once more proved her speed and rocketed up to his height to cut him off again before he grew too loud. But this time it wasn't her hand over his mouth.
She kissed him. Hard.
It took him several moments to process what was happening and even when he did, he didn't believe it. Kitty Pryde was kissing him. Kissing him. Kissing him. No matter what way his mental voice said it, it didn't sound right. It sounded fucking crazy, like a Fate-spinner was laughing right in his face. Maybe he had fallen asleep on his own book back in his own room, and this was all just some psychotic dream in response to a bad steak at dinner…
But then his hands came up, seemingly of their own accord, to clutch at her waist and pull her closer. And the warm solidity of her told John that he was definitely not dreaming.
And it felt right.
She began to withdraw, but he stayed with her, lowering her back down into the chair and not taking his lips from her until she was sitting. She was gasping, but he didn't even know if he remembered how to breathe.
He finally released her and waited for her to explain herself, to do something, and stop staring at him like that. When she said nothing, he became desperate.
"Kitty…" His voice cracked embarrassingly, but he was beyond caring. "Why—"
"Do you know what's best to do during a test, John?"
The question, the very idea that he was at all capable of answering questions at a time like this, threw him off and he didn't have time to form a reply before she continued.
"You look for the blank spaces. Ms. Munroe, Mr. Summers…everyone uses them. There are clues in front of them. Find the clues, choose an answer…" Her eyes glowed as she looked at him. "And fill in the blank space. Fill it with what you really think."
John felt disconnected from his body, and when his head shook back and forth, he didn't quite know why. "What if I don't know what I really think, Kitty?"
Kitty smiled. It was the first smile she had given him that night. It might even have been the first smile she had given just to him alone. "Then you skip ahead to questions you do know the answer to, and return to that space later. Not too much later," she added quickly, rising from the chair again. "You don't want to forget the question." Crouching down, she carefully picked up her notebook, the notebook he had dropped, and held it out to him.
He took it slowly. "You don't need it?" he asked, confused by all of her actions.
Kitty shrugged. "I know my answers." She guided him to the door. "And when you figure out all of yours, bring it back to me. I'll wait for you after the test tomorrow." Something glinted in her eyes as her smile suddenly widened. "Good night, John."
He recognized the mischief on her face a split second before she pressed a hand to his chest and shoved him out – through – the door.
Standing in the hallway, John stared at the only thing that separated him and his academic savior. Finally relenting, he let the confusion roll off him and smirked down at Kitty's gift. She had forgotten to give back his World History book. Maybe she would bring it to him before class in the morning.
If not, he reasoned as he made his way back to his room, he could always come back for it tomorrow night.