Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
Someone To Fall Back On
He doesn't understand why it is that she can be so comfortable sitting like this with him, out on the open grounds of the Xavier Institute while the sky above stays blue and the grass below stays green. Some things, little things, make him feel as though his time as a "dead" man had no impact on the world he is still a part of.
Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin knows, however, that things are different if just because the terrible Legacy Virus no longer seizes the lives of mutants. That should be enough for him. Yet…
"And that weather man said there was an eighty percent chance of rain. What does he know? Storm's not even around and it's beautiful out today!"
He smiles at the meaningless chatter and replies with some of his own. "He makes bad prediction indeed." His serious nature always takes a turn for the better when she balances him out with her usual cheerfulness.
Kitty reclines back on the sloping hill they sit on, her arms behind her head. The curve of her hip just barely touches the sleek muscle of his thigh. Peter knows she thinks nothing of it, but he cannot help but linger over the casual touch. She has always been so trusting of him.
He, a man whose warm flesh goes to ice-cold steel in an instant. She, a woman whose whole body becomes untouchable just as quickly. In a way, it seems they were made for each other. In another way, it's as though they can never reach each other despite years of stretching.
With her rich brown hair fanned over the grass, some delicate strands caught in the wind, he thinks of her as a sort of princess, an angel. Peter knows he will forever remember the way it felt to be in her arms, awash in blood-red light after so much torturing loneliness. It is the same kind of comfort he has long found in religion, in being part of the X-Men, a group that accepts him.
But he is no prince, thinks Peter, and he is no saint.
They are opposites. He is a mass of destruction at times, and she cannot easily use her power to harm others. She is loudmouthed and optimistic. He is introverted and prone to bouts of hopelessness. (Much like now.) He needs her. She is fully independent.
She has no need of a prince or a saint, anyway.
Propping up on an elbow, he turns toward her and stares down. Just looking. Kitty notices far too quickly and sends him a sly, slow smile. There is a shadow of caution in her eyes even so. "You've got that look you get when you're thinking too hard, Peter."
He remembers a time when he wished he could just hear her say his name. Like that.
"Maybe I think too hard too much," he concedes. "These days I think much of you."
She blinks. "What is it? You're very intense today. Not that you're not usually intense, but I mean beyond the usual."
"Katya…" And how he wished she had been there to hear him say her name. "Was it so long ago when you depended on me?"
Her face slackens in off-guard surprise. For a moment, he does not know this face, so calculating and intelligent – he recalls the naïve, wishful girl who he shattered by breaking up with her. But then she smiles, and recognition returns. "I still depend on you for things."
"If you weren't there to wake me up in the mornings, I would never make it to any of my classes on time."
"I am not joking, Katya," Peter insists. "Besides waking you, have you truly any need of me?"
The playful light in her eyes dims. "I know you weren't joking. Peter…I like to think that in the time we were apart, I learned to protect myself, to fight in a way that I would become a use to the others. Fighting with Excaliber, teaching here again, I think it made me stronger." Looking away from him, she twists her fingers together. "And I needed to become stronger," she murmurs lowly.
"When you…" Peter doesn't know what makes him ask the question. "When you learned of your father's death…was it hard?"
Her eyes shoot up to his, twin centers of emotion. "I was on probation at the time, in Chicago…for fighting a member of an anti-mutant organization. I accidentally found a…a video recording." Her hands part, and one of them falls on his arm. "Of his death. He said he loved me, and to make him proud. Just before—"
He holds her to him before she can finish, sorry he asked. "I would never bring it up, Katya. I don't want you to hurt."
"Oh, Peter." Her form is tense, then relaxes into his embrace. Peter smells the sweetness of her hair, feels the softness of her skin, and he is reminded that he is alive, and this is real. She is real. "I've accepted it. You should know what happened in my life while you were, well…dead." This time it is he that tenses, but one of her palm rises to press against his cheek. "I think it's times like these I really do depend on you, Peter. You listen so well."
He kisses her and revels briefly in the accompanying surge of emotion. He is not angry, and for so many months anger was all he had been able to feel. Now… "I wish I could make you happier, Katya," he whispers against her lips.
Her reaction stuns him. She gives him a light, non-painful smack on the shoulder. "And how do you not make me happy, Peter Rasputin?" The demand is stubborn, not upset. "What do you think I expect from you?"
"I…hurt you very much before," he begins awkwardly.
"Yes," she agrees, "and other people hurt me more. Hurt you more. For goodness sake! Peter, do you love me?" A smile has breached her seriousness now, and it is catching.
His own lips turn upward. "Yes."
"Did you love me when I was fourteen, and we thought we would be killed by the Brood?"
That particular memory makes his cheeks pink. "Yes."
Her tone softens, and he felt wonder at how her different volume levels could affect him. "Then that is all you have to do. I don't want you to walk on coals, Peter. I just want you with me."
The sky above is still blue, and the grass below is still green, but these two have both changed much and very little. As Peter turns her onto her back to kiss her again, he thinks with a smile: Kitty Pryde does not need a prince or a saint.
She only needs someone – him – to fall back on.