She phased through the door, silent as a ghost as she looked around the tiny Lower East Side apartment. There was a bed, sheets rumpled, and a dresser. That was it. The dresser was bare, as were the walls. A narrow door was set into the wall to her right. Kitty heard movement from inside it. Slowly, quietly, she went to the door. A shower was turned off within. There were the soft sounds of a towel being shaken out.

When she decided it was safe to look and not get a view that would make things twice as awkward as they'd be already, Kitty phased through the bathroom door. She figured knocking would be pointless by now.

John was standing with his back to her, a plain off-white towel around his waist. He was just standing there, one hand braced against the side of the shower, head down. Kitty couldn't help but look him over.

He was thin. That was the first thing she noticed. His back was bent slightly as he leaned, and the muscles were clear beneath the skin. His torso was long and looked strong, but also like he hadn't been eating well lately. He shifted, and the towel slid a bit. Kitty's eyes widened as the cloth slipped down over a patch of skin just above the curve of his hipbone, revealing a tattoo of a small arc of flames. Just as she saw that, Pyro turned around.

And stared.

And of course, Kitty had to let her eyes wander down his front just as they'd wandered down his back.

His hair was plastered to his head, dipping into his wide, shocked eyes. His mouth was open, and Kitty thought she'd never seen him this surprised. Beads of water slid down his shoulders and over his chest. Again, she noticed his thinness, but it wasn't a thinness she didn't like. John's chest was defined, just like his back, and, naked, he was just as lean and appealing as he'd felt clothed. He wasn't buff, but he was compactly muscled in a way that made Kitty's breath come harder.

When she finally met his eyes again, she was blushing so hard she could feel it.

"Hey, John," she said nervously. "Tag. I'm, uh, a little early."

"A little? More like a year!" She pursed her lips.

"I'm done waiting for you." He took a few steps closer. Now, the shock was out of his eyes and it was replaced by something she couldn't name.

"You shouldn't have come, Kitten. I needed that year. I was gonna... everything was gonna be all set." She smiled.

"You were gonna use it to get a job? A better place to live than this dump?" His lips quirked.

"Something like that, yeah. How did you find me?"

"Professor X is awake. Alive." He blinked at her.

"Oh." There was a long, uncomfortable silence in which Kitty and John did nothing but stare awkwardly around the bathroom, both equally aware of the fact that Pyro wore nothing but a bath towel.

"I'm gonna say something," Kitty said suddenly, looking quickly back at John. "I just have to get it out. It shouldn't come as that much of a surprise, especially now, but you might be a little- not that I care, anyway. Well, I do care, obviously, which is kind of the point, but-"

"Kitten. Just say it."

"I love you," she told him hurriedly, looking at her hands.

"I know," John said, making her look up at his face.

"You know? You KNOW? I tell you I love you and you say, 'I KNOW'?!" Flushing, Kitty turned and began to storm out of his bathroom. A hand caught her elbow and she was spun around, suddenly pressed against Pyro's chest. She could feel water coming through her shirt, and gulped.

"There are reasons I left, and reasons I didn't want you to find me yet," he said in a fast, low whisper. "But that all basically went to shit, as you can see, because you're you and of course you found me. So if you really think I'm gonna let you stomp out of here all self-righteous and... X-Man-like, you're dead wrong. We don't got any X-Men here, Kitten, and you're not gonna change that now." With that, he pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes.

"Ah, Kitty," John said. Only it was more of a sigh, really. "This is gonna be hard. It might not work. I'm gonna hurt you and you're gonna wish you never came."


"I've loved you all along," he finished in a low groan, sounding as if he'd tried to make it not true and failed miserably. "I can't stop."

And they were kissing now, her arms around his neck, fingers twining in his hair. His mouth was wet and warm and spicysexyaddiction, and she couldn't tell him to stop when he pulled her shirt over her head. His hands trailed fire across her skin, and she reached around his back and found the tattoo along his hipbone.

"It won't be pretty, what we have," John warned her one last time, but he sounded like what he really wanted was to tear off her pants as well as her shirt.

"I don't care," Kitty breathed, throwing herself over the edge and letting him unzip her jeans.


After, when they were curled up on his bed in the bare little room, as bare as the walls, they breathed together. Kitty could feel the soft ups-and-downs of his chest beneath her head.

"That was your first." She looked at him with soft, pillow-warm eyes.

"Yeah," Kitty whispered. He didn't say anything more, but closed his eyes and held her tightly, like he was afraid she'd slip away through the bed and be gone.

She thought about what he'd said, there in the silence. 'There are reasons I left and reasons I didn't want you to find me yet.'

'I'm gonna hurt you, and you're gonna wish you never came.'

Didn't matter. None of it. She was with him, and he loved her, so it all had to be okay. Right?

And even if it wasn't, she'd always have the Institute. Why, she was going back in a few days! She'd just have to convince him to come home...

And it would all be okay.

After all, he'd walked through Hell for her.

Surely he wouldn't harm her now.

And, as she slipped into dreams, she didn't notice that John's breathing was no longer in sync with hers... and his eyes, dark and uncertain, were open in the dim light of his small apartment.