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Spark. Spark. Flame. He puffed the end of the cigarette until he could see the bright orange glow caused by the burning of the other end. Watched the fire creep along the paper hungrily, magically turning all in its path into nothing more than ash. Dust.

He understood dust. He understood it as the foothold of all the world. Wasn't that the story? God created Adam from clay? Holding the Earth in your hands, the foundation of all that ever was, all that ever would be. That was something Lance understood, although admittedly not always to the magnitude it deserved. But this fire. It was different. It took that stick and burned. Turned it back into dust. Undid God's work. Every morning a person gets out of bed and steps onto the ground never really realizing it's there. But the house catches fire and that person's life changes forever in those ten seconds.

He took another slow deep breath and couldn't help but feel a little jealous of Pyro.

But he stopped. If he really wanted to, he could put his lighter to anything and watch it go up in that glorious show of power. The power of dust was much more subtle, much more like Lance. No. He lit a cigarette. His first in two weeks and one of a very few that needed to last him until he could wrangle up another box… somehow. He was going to savor this one. Watch the smoke as it danced in the breeze undulating like waves in an ocean, making him wonder if this was the closest to an ocean he'd ever get. He gently moved his fingers and felt the paper between them. The taste of tobacco through a filter that didn't really filter anything. The fumes entering his lungs, and as he held his breath, circulating to every iota of his body, leaving nothing unmarked until he finally lets them escape through the round opening of his mouth in a mix of gray smoke and warm breath condensing in the cool night air.

She could see him from across the street leaning against the wall in that movie 'bad boy' way. Tending to prefer subtlety and anonymity she knew he had intentionally avoided the dull hub of the nearby streetlight. Attempting to mix with the shadows, the glow from his stick left an orange aura on his face betraying his position to the girl as he inhaled once more. Not that she wouldn't have discovered him anyways.

"You know those things will kill you," Kitty stated, now standing in the darkness beside him, as if he hadn't heard it time and time before.

He acted as if he didn't even notice. Just stared into the black in front of him. Like he expected her. And who's to say he didn't?

"Who says I don't want them to?"

She reached her hand over to his and he looked down at her suspiciously.

"Well…." She traced her fingers along the grooves of his knuckles. Her touch used to bring knots to his stomach. One kiss and he could feel her surge through every corner of his body in a way even her phasing could never match. He felt twelve again, again and for the first time. She was the tingle in his hands. The tremble of his fingers.

"Maybe I wouldn't mind dying either." The same Kitty that single-handedly used those large brown 'puppy dog' eyes of hers to actually guilt the big bad Wolverine into no longer bringing those 'cancer sticks' inside the Institute. But Lance couldn't say he was all that surprised.

He yanked his hand away quickly in an obvious attempt to protect his own cancer stick from her and a hopefully less obvious attempt to hide his now shaking fingers from the both of them. "Sorry. I don't share."

Kitty took two steps forward until she stood right in front of him. He watched her with a tantalized interest. Their breaths mingling visibly in the cold.

Never turning her eyes away from his, her finger ran seductively down the zipper of his vest and then back up. Her thumb and forefinger clasped near the top and she pulled the corner away from his chest. With her other hand she caressed its underside as she navigated her way to its inside pocket perfectly. She pulled the small pack of cigarettes out of the pocket and held it up plainly for him to see, never once actually touching him. "I guess I'll just have to take one of these then." He stood there mesmerized as she took one of his last few precious cigarettes even though it pained him to think of how he could no longer enjoy its noxiously delicious taste. She then slipped them back into their proper place, fixed the jacket on his chest and lightly pat the bulge in the pocket from the outside.

She cracked that crooked half smile she always had when she was toying with him, snapping him out of it. Would she do this to Kurt? To the metal guy that worked for Magneto? Never. She cared about them.

Angry with himself he dug deep into his pants' pocket and pulled out his lighter, which he then tossed to her. She caught it expectantly and raised an eyebrow in his direction.

"What? You expecting a gentleman to hold the light for you?" he inquired bitterly not caring if she answered or not.

"No." She held the flame in one hand and shielded it from the wind with the other. Puff. Puff. "I wasn't expecting anything," she mumbled, the newly lit cigarette bobbing in her mouth. Drag. She was a natural. "Although I guess on a night like tonight," feigning a shiver, "I'd expect a gentleman would wear a jacket, or some kind of vest," she added with a quick judging glance at Lance's attire, "and then he'd offer it to a lady." She looked again at the unmoving Lance. "But, I guess I'm not really a lady, and I never did say I wanted a gentleman."

Lance grunted. "Don't I know it." He tried the gentleman thing. He tried lots of things. It didn't matter. She didn't want that. He swore she was attracted to the fact that he was a misfit. So she wouldn't have to feel guilty about the things she did. The things she did because of him. The things she did with him. The things she did to him. Because after all, she was the lady and he was just some thug. Thugs didn't deserve better.

But somewhere along the way he realized there had to be at least a speck of gentleman in him somewhere. Because even after he knew the lady she wasn't, it was that gentleman inside of him that brought him back to her. Over and over again. It was the gentleman, not the thug, that caused him all of his problems.

Neither of them new exactly why they did it. The way they toyed with each other, played games with emotions like two pre-teen sisters fighting for Daddy's love. Hurting each other the way that they did. Maybe creating more pain for each other was the only way they could numb those everyday aches of life anymore. Maybe if they could each hurt the other a little bit more than they themselves were hurt, then for that one moment they would at least know it wasn't just them. Somebody out there was hurting more than they were.

And there were times when Lance swore that was it and he was done. After all, it was her that started it. Made things so unbearably ugly. That's how it was. Everyone saw it but no one actually cared. They worried about her and talked about how he was no good and a jerk and he didn't deserve her. But the way she would tease him and make jokes and break his heart. It was okay though because she was an x-man, innocent and cute and oh so righteous, and he was just some 'hood.' She berated and he withdrew and only if he was lucky, vice versa. Thus the vicious cycle of revenge that he all too often lost had begun.

He was a simple guy and she knew that. Knew how he worked, what made him click. Could read his mind better than any telepath. And she had the upper hand one too many times he would tell himself over and over again. He was walking away… and then never did so. Could never actually get himself to walk away from his pretty kitty.

Maybe he didn't need to have her to hold; maybe he just needed to have her. And in this way she was his. And he was free to love her or to hate her or to feel nothing at all because as long as they shared this there would always be a Lance and Kitty.

He mentally smiled to himself. "That's too bad though, cause I kind of wanted a lady myself." His expression like a rock as hers softened dramatically. Looked almost genuine. He felt joy in his actions, accomplishment. That was when he knew he had her. When he could do to her what she did to him that some 97 percent of the time. When she decided to stop playing because they both knew she wasn't winning anymore.

"Well, I guess now that we've got that all cleared up, you can cool it with the whole flirting thing. Some of the other prospects might get jealous," he spoke matter-of-factly.

"Prospects?" She used to thrive on the idea that Lance needed her and although she often told herself she didn't want him, it hurt to realize she could actually lose him. And he saw it in her. The fact that she didn't want to lose this. To lose him. That maybe he was more important to her than either of them had ever realized.

"Mine. Yours." He shrugged. "Whatever." You see that Kitty? Looks like I don't care anymore. Looks like I don't need you anymore. Looks like I don't even want you.

"I guess that was always our problem wasn't it?" 'Our problem?' he repeated in his mind. Because there once was an 'us' wasn't there? More than this kind of 'us.' And he wasn't the only one that saw it.

"Hmm?" he responded almost mechanically all the while mentally reveling in the moment. Enlighten him Kitty. Tell him what 'our problem' was.

"All the others in our lives? Family, friends. X-men, Brotherhood."

He chuckled lightly at the response. "No, that wasn't our problem. Our problem was that we wanted different things. You wanted a reputation. You wanted the x-men."

"And you, Lance?" Her voice. So sincere, so vulnerable. You have her Lance. She's all yours. Now crush her.

"What? Couldn't you tell, Kit?" He rubbed the lightly smoldering end of his cigarette out on the wall behind them, then looked at her. He wanted so badly to throw that rock on her. Show her how powerful this thing she walked over so often truly could be. But he didn't. "I wanted you." Because part of him realized she already knew. She always knew. And the other part? It realized that none of that mattered anyways. All that mattered was that every once in awhile he remembered it too.

"Well," hands in his pockets as he backed away from her slowly. "See you around the battlefield," he shrugged and walked off.

"Hey, Lance?" she called after him when he was already a sizeable distance away. He turned around and continued to walk away from her backwards.

"Kit?" she asked with some doubt. She was right where he thought he always wanted her. If only. If only, he could see it back then. If only he wanted her still.

"Don't worry." He smiled at her genuinely for the first time in a long time, a smile that was not much 'bad boy' at all. Just boyish. "I'll always think you're pretty."


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