Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters, locations and concepts belonging to Marvel Entertainment. No claim of ownership is made or implied by me in using their property. No part of this work is intended for material gain of any kind. It is intended for the sole purpose of creative exercise and the entertainment of others.

Author's Note: This story is part of a series titled the Xavier Institute Chronicles, which takes place before X-1. Special thanks to Sue for graciously beta-ing my first attempt at Movieverse fic! This giftfic's for Amokitty. I hope you like it!

Seating Arrangements

"Oh, crumbs!"

The migraines were happening much less frequently since I'd started consciously using my mutant power, but they still struck on occasion, and always the worst times. The outburst wasn't so much due to the pain, that awful sensation of my brain being squeezed in a vise while thorns laced in acid prodded the rest of my head from the inside. What had me uttering my favorite curse, (which I knew was lame, but you try coming up with something you can say when you want to rant as often as I do and not get screamed at by your parents for being rude.) was the sudden loss of the stack of books and papers I'd been carrying as my body became intangible and gravity quickly took over.

I had to suppress the urge to resolidify and try to catch them. If my timing was off, and so much as one atom of mine tried to occupy the same space as one from something else, well, the results wouldn't be very pretty.

So instead I let them fall to the ground, spilling around my feet in a wave of loose sheets and splayed bookcovers. My entire report on the flaws of the Rarita-Schwinger Equation was completely out of order and one page looked like it had fallen into a puddle of… something, so it was probably going to have to be reprinted before I could turn it in. I'd also completely lost track of the arguments I'd been rehearsing in my head in favor of the existence of Hawking Radiation. I'd have to wait until after class to organize my thoughts on that again, since I was already running late. At least that also meant the halls were mostly empty, so there wasn't much chance of anyone spotting me like this.

A little more than a month ago those intense headaches had been so bad I'd been halfway convinced I was going to die. That was before I'd found out I was a mutant, as if being a fourteen-year old physics prodigy wasn't bad enough when it came to relating to my peers. It hadn't improved until I came to Professor Xavier's school, where he had helped me understand what I was and how to control my power better. Some things were just taking longer to figure out than others, forcing me to deal with the occasional, and frustrating, loss of whatever I happened to be carrying.

Bending down as I grumbled a few more choice words under my breath, I worked on gathering up everything that had fallen. Why now, of all times, and why couldn't I have gotten an energy projection power like Bobby, Jubilee, or my roommate Terry? All they had to worry about was learning how to control the way their power was generated and applied, which seemed easy to me, but maybe that was because calculating the physics behind them was a snap. Instead, I got the power that affected my entire body, and involved an as-yet unheard of atomic behavior even I was having trouble understanding.

Bobby and Jubes were lucky, even if they didn't know it. They were my best friends and partners in crime, but I kinda wished there was someone with a power more like mine I could talk to. Someone who knew what it was like to basically transform from head to toe whenever you used your power.

"Are you okay?" a concerned voice said. I didn't recognize it at first, given how preoccupied I was, but it had a strong, earthy quality that was impossible to ignore.

Unfortunately for Mystery Voice, that meant he got the full quota of attitude from me when I decided to respond. "What's it look like?" I snarled, sandwiching my papers between the books. "Unless you think I like dropping my stuff all the-"

I glanced up and found myself staring straight into the most beautiful pair of bright blue eyes I'd ever seen. Kneeling in front of me was Peter, one of the other students at the school. One I hadn't gotten to know yet because I couldn't summon the courage to even say "Hello" to him. But I had definitely noticed him. He was tall, confident and gorgeous. He easily stood out compared to everyone else, and considering who everyone else was, that was really saying something. I could barely pay attention during my first class with him. No matter how hard I tried, my eyes kept drifting back his way. Total. Hunk. Squared.

I always wondered if he even knew I existed.

And now I was barely more than a foot from his face, getting a spectacular view of his chiseled jaw and strong cheekbones, the deep jet hair that looked like it belonged on a movie star, and those eyes. Gazing into them was like having my heart wrapped in a warm pillow and then packed into a G-Force simulator. "I-"

I phased. Once again the books and papers slipped through my ghostlike body, clattering against the hall floor and utterly ruining my attempts to salvage what order still remained of it. "Oh, god," I moaned as I groped at the papers and books. Every time I tried to gather them back up, however, they slipped through my fingers. I could feel him watching me, and I seriously wished I could just die. Why did this have to happen now?

Fumbling with each sheet or book I managed to keep hold of, I tried to look anywhere but at Peter, who wasn't moving, and no matter what I did, things just kept getting worse. As I reached for a stray page filled with a number of calculations run off Pauli Matrices, a large hand gently covered mine, staying me from my seemingly endless circle of humiliation.

"Kitty," Peter said, again in a voice that was like a furnace set at just the right temperature, and my stomach suddenly jumped into my throat and did a tango. His hand was firm and warm, which seemed odd, since his touch made me want to shiver all over, and suddenly I was no longer phasing. I could feel the soft press of his hand with pulse-pounding clarity.

Turning my eyes back on his, I didn't know whether to run away, or throw up or just burst into flames. I couldn't seem to tear myself away from that deep, piercing, luminous gaze. "Yes?" I stammered helplessly. God, I must have sounded like such an idiot.

"Would you like me to carry your books to class for you?"

Oh, wow.

I felt a steady warming of my cheeks, but if Peter noticed, he made no sign. "Uh, sure," I said intelligently.

There was a slight pause, and I wondered if he'd suddenly changed his mind, or maybe I'd just misheard him completely. Before I could ask him what was wrong, however, he said, "I am going to need you to move your hand, then." There was a hint of a smile in his voice, and it almost looked like his cheeks were coloring a little, too. That was probably just my overactive imagination going again, though.

A nervous chuckle escaped, and I… very reluctantly… slid my hand out from underneath his. "Yeah," I said. "Can't seem to keep hold of anything. Stupid migraines." At least that sort of thing never happened to my clothes. Not that it hadn't stopped Bobby and Jubes from asking if it did. Goofs. If something like that ever happened I wouldn't have to worry about living in a world that hates and fears me. I'd figure out a way to turn invisible and nobody would ever see me again.

Peter was able to pick up everything in three passes while I sat on my knees, fingertips tracing unconsciously against the coarse denim of my jeans. I watched him in silence, nervously chewing at my bottom lip. Say something, I thought to myself, but my mind kept coming up infuriatingly blank, as if coherent thought was suddenly as intangible as I could be. It didn't help that my mind kept issuing the same command with increasing severity and desperation. He's going to think you're stupid, my mind added, not at all helpfully.

"These are much more advanced than the textbooks the Professor has assigned," Peter suddenly remarked as he rose to his feet. I followed like a lodestone next to an electromagnet. "You must be very smart."

If my cheeks got any warmer they were going to set off the overhead sprinklers. Somehow his compliment helped me find my voice, though. "I'm kind of a genius," I shrugged, and almost immediately had to suppress the urge to slap my palm against my forehead. "Sorry," I said with a slight cringe. "That sounded really bad."

"Nyet," Peter said decisively. "We are mutants, yes, but we should be proud of all our gifts."

Flushing again, I smiled almost gratefully and brushed a stray hair out of my face. "Yeah," I agreed, smiling wider. I hadn't thought of it that way, but my power was still pretty new to me. "I loved your report on the Battle of Thermopylae. History's sort of my Achilles Heel, y'know?"

"Thank you," Peter said, and he definitely seemed to blush this time. He shifted his arm, tucking my things against his hip as if they were no more than a roll of paper towels, and for a moment I was distracted by his enormous biceps. I'd heard he used to live on a farm, and briefly wondered if he got so muscular from all that work of if he was just naturally built that way.

It was only as I started wondering if I should ask him about it that I realized I was staring a little. He took half a step down the hall and glanced back, but I caught myself just in time and lifted my eyes back to where they belonged. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, that note of concern back in his voice.

I blinked for a second, wondering if he'd noticed me staring after all, but quickly realized he meant something else. "Oh! Yeah, headache's completely gone," I assured him, waving my hand dismissively and bobbing my chin for added emphasis. "Thanks." I could hardly believe what was happening. Here I was, alone in the hall with the hottest guy in school, and we were talking about the migraines I was still having. Time to change subjects, and quickly.

"How come you're never in the cafeteria during lunch?" I asked abruptly, rolling back on my heels a little as I did so.

His brow furrowed the slightest bit and for a moment I worried that I'd offended him with my curiosity. "I prefer to eat outside, on the lawn," he explained, not sounding bothered at all, and I relaxed a little. "It is a more relaxing place to work on my sketches."

That made sense. I'd noticed him doodling in his notepad more than a couple of times during class, but mostly figured he was just messing around. "Really? Are you an artist, then?"

"I wouldn't say that," Peter said after a moment's hesitation. "But it is something I enjoy very much."

"Can I see, sometime?"

Before he could answer, a stern, cultured voice suddenly intruded in our minds. "Katherine, Peter, while I understand the unexpected delay, I would appreciate it if you joined us in class, now."

"Coming, Professor," we both answered simultaneously as we came to attention despite still being alone in the hall. I'd already grown used to responding to him with my mind when he spoke to me like that. At least he hadn't snapped at us. His telepathy sometimes hurt when he did that, and I wasn't in the mood for another headache so soon after the last one. That was the first time I'd heard anyone's voice besides the Professor's in my mind, and I smiled over at Peter as we hastened toward the classroom. I liked the way he sounded in my head even more than his real voice.

"There are two seats near the back," the Professor continued. "Please try to avoid disrupting the class as you come in."

"Yes, Professor," I said quickly before I felt his presence leave my mind. I usually preferred to sit in the front, but sitting in the back didn't seem so bad, especially if it was right next to the other empty seat he'd mentioned.

I thought that was pretty much going to be the end of it. It was cool while it lasted, but what was I expecting? So it took me completely by surprise when, in a quiet voice, Peter said, "I've never shown my sketchbook to anyone, but I think I would like for you to see it, if you wish."

"No foolin'?" I said as we got closer to our class.

"Da," he answered. "If you want I'll even draw something for you."

Oh, wow.

"That'd be great," I said, trying to sound casual. Remembering at the last moment we were supposed to be discrete when we entered the class I reached out for the doorknob as slowly turned it. Just before opening the door I whispered, "So, how are you with dragons?"

I couldn't stop smiling the whole rest of the day.