Since Feeling is First
Summary: John never expected anything for his birthday - after all, nobody knew when it was. Well, almost nobody. Kyro oneshot.
Disclaimer: All things recognisably X-Men are obviously not mine. I just like making up my own stories. E. E. Cummings owns his own poetry.
A/N: Written in 2006 for the prompts 'gift' and 'secret' on the theme of 'firsts' for the livejournal kittyandpyro community.
"So, seventeen on Thursday, huh?" Bobby said to his best friend, slinging an arm around his neck as they walked into the classroom. "Only two days away."
"Shut up," John hissed, shoving him off. He glanced quickly around to see if anyone heard, but the only other person in the room was Kitty. She was busily scribbling something in her notebook, and gave no indication that she had heard.
"Why all the secrecy?" Bobby asked. "You should at least celebrate."
"We've gone through this before. I want it to go by unnoticed, alright? That's not gonna change. So drop it." With an annoyed sigh, John dropped into his usual seat up the back.
"Fine, man," Bobby replied, taking a seat next to him as the other students and Mr Summers trickled in. "If you want to be a loner on…Thursday, then go ahead."
Mr Summers began to talk about poetry, which was a subject that John was actually interested in. But he couldn't concentrate, because he was thinking about his birthday. Damn Bobby.
It wasn't that he didn't want to celebrate it. Hell, he liked a good cake as much as the next person. Especially if candles were involved. But every year, he was reminded of the times his birthday had gone by unnoticed by the people who were supposed to care. Here, everything was made easier because nobody knew when it was (except Bobby, who'd seen it when they were filling out forms for something). Nobody was supposed to care, and therefore he couldn't get let down. Simple.
Of course, he still got more irritable than usual on his birthday, when there was never anything but a 'happy birthday' from Bobby. But that was normal – after all, feelings always came first, and then his logic would kick in and remind him that it was okay – nobody knew when his birthday was. Nobody had forgotten.
John finally tuned in to what Mr Summers was saying.
"…and as an introduction to our unit on poetry, you'll be discussing in pairs what you think poetry is, and what makes good poetry. I have already chosen who's working with who, and no, you can't trade, bargain or use your mutation to get a different partner, Jubilee. Each pair should write a paragraph or two on what you've come up with – and although you won't be graded, you will be sharing with the class what you've come up with on Thursday. So put some effort into it."
Five minutes later, Kitty was sitting next to John, smiling that bright smile of hers.
"So, what do you think poetry is?" she asked him, tapping her pencil on her notebook.
"What do you think?" he shot back, crossing his arms and propping his feet up on the desk. He'd never been big on group assignments. Sharing what he thought and how he felt was never something he enjoyed.
"Well," she began slowly after pausing to think, obviously having missed the annoyance in his tone. "I guess poetry is writing with line breaks that uses things like meter and rhyme, and techniques like alliteration."
John snorted. "That's it? So all poetry has meter and rhyme and alliteration, according to you."
"What about Cummings, Kitten? Half of his poetry was written to look good on the page. No meter, no rhyme. He messed around with words. Was he not a poet?" He tilted his chair back and raised an eyebrow at his flustered companion.
"Well, I've never read any poetry by E. E. Cummings before, so –"
"And that's your problem right there."
Kitty glared at him. "Well if you're such an expert, why don't you tell me what poetry is?"
John shrugged. "I can't," he said matter-of-factly. "That's like asking someone to define God. Poetry's a million things. There aren't set rules that poets follow to make sure what they're writing is a poem."
"Well, what makes a good poem, then? That would be stuff like rhyme and meter and alliteration and assonance and all that, right?"
"No?" She sighed and put her pencil down. "Why 'no'?"
"Because someone can write a poem with all of those things in it, and that doesn't make it good. An eight-year-old could do that, and it could turn out like crap."
"There have to be some universal standards!"
"Sorry, Kitten, but there aren't. It all depends on the reader." He looked over at her notebook. "I hope you're getting all of this down. You won't be able to write the paragraphs up if you don't take notes."
She stared at him. "What makes you think that I'm going to write it all by myself?" she asked incredulously.
He smirked at her and replied, "Well, I'm doing all the work telling you what poetry is, since you obviously have no clue."
"You've just spent the lesson telling me that there is no definition for poetry!"
"Exactly," he said, taking his feet off the desk and getting up as the bell rang. "So write about that."
He left her sitting at her desk, staring at her notebook.
"John, could you please help me write this up?" Kitty pleaded.
"Kitty, come on. You're smart. You get As. You can write it up yourself." John didn't look up from his book as he spoke.
"We're supposed to be writing this together," she pointed out.
"Well, you don't want to work with me anyway, so it all works out," he replied distractedly.
"What makes you think I don't want to work with you?" she asked him, bewildered. "I don't hate you. I kind of like you, actually"
"Nobody wants to work with me," he muttered under his breath. Wait a moment. He put down his book and gave her his full attention. What did she just say? "You 'kind of like' me? Interesting…" He cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow at her.
Immediately, she blushed bright red. "I didn't mean…um…"
He laughed. "I was just messing with you, Kitten."
She visibly relaxed. "Okay."
"I'm still not going to help," he told her.
"Yes, you are."
"I'll…I'll read poetry by E. E. Cummings."
"Not good enough. You should have done that already. Everyone should."
"I'll do your laundry for a month?"
"I don't want you touching my clothes. You might take one of my T-shirts to sleep in or something," he said, grinning.
Kitty glared at him and crossed her arms, a cunning gleam coming into her eyes. "I," she said slowly and deliberately, "will tell everyone I can find that your birthday is tomorrow."
John's eyes widened. He'd thought she hadn't heard! "Don't you dare," he warned.
She grinned. "Oh, look, there's Jubilee! Hey Jubes!" she called, waving. "Guess what? John's –"
He shot up and clamped a hand over her mouth, yanking her backwards. They fell on the couch, and she phased through him, standing back up.
She opened her mouth again, and John let out a frustrated growl.
"Fine, I'll help you!" he barked. He pulled his lighter out of his pocket and began to flick it, his movements fast and angry. "Dammit, is it too much to ask to have my freaking birthday go unnoticed?" he muttered under his breath.
Kitty's face softened, and she sat down next to him. "Nobody's birthday should go unnoticed," she said, reaching out to touch his arm.
"Shut up," John snapped. Too many memories there. "Let's just do this thing."
An hour of arguments and discussion later, John silently read the page they had written, Kitty reading over his shoulder.
What poetry is – hard to define. What poetry isn't – only a little less difficult to explain.
Poetry isn't just writing with line breaks thrown in for emphasis, but it's hard to say what poetry should include. Poetry can – but doesn't have to – have meter and a rhyme scheme, alliteration and assonance, descriptive imagery, and other techniques that most people associate with poetry. Poetry can be an epic narrative, a sonnet, or a haiku, or a million things in between and beyond. Poetry is and isn't a writer's observations on life, death, love and everything in between.
Good poetry can use all of these techniques, or some of them, or even none of them. Readers don't necessarily have to completely understand a poem for it to be a good one. Poetry can be abstract or explicit, beautiful or plain, written for the eye or the ear. There are a million things that poetry can be, and a million things that a good poem can be.
Poetry, and what good poetry is, is hard to define and explain. It all depends on the reader.
"Sounds good," John said, thrusting the paper back at Kitty. He got up and stretched.
"Not bad for an hour's work, huh?" she said proudly, folding it up and sliding it into her English notebook. "Thanks, John. I don't think I'd have gotten it this good without you."
"What do you mean?" he asked, forehead creased.
Her cheeks turned a rather attractive shade of pink. "Well, you're really good at writing, and I never really knew a lot about poetry before you told me about it."
He blinked at her. "Um…thanks."
"You're welcome," she said, smiling. "Pity this isn't graded. We'd get an A for sure."
John laughed. "Yeah, well, at least the class'll learn something real from this."
"Definitely," she agreed.
They fell silent for a moment, and Kitty checked her watch.
"I've got to go, I need to get something at shops," she said, sounding almost regretful. "Thanks again, John. I knew working with you would be good."
Suddenly, she moved forward and hugged him – and was gone before he could react.
What the hell was that? he wondered. She'd hugged him. For no reason.
He shrugged and made his way outside to find something to burn. Girls, he thought. Never did understand them.
John awoke to his alarm screaming shrilly at him. But when he reached out to turn it off, it wasn't there.
Forcing his eyes open, he slid out of bed and stumbled around, trying to find it. He finally located it on his desk.
"Shut the hell up," he muttered, slamming his fist down on it. Blissful silence fell over the room, but now he was awake. Damn.
Who had moved his alarm clock? Who had set it, for that matter? He didn't remember doing it when he'd gone to bed.
He looked around his room, searching for clues, but there were none to be seen. Puzzled, he turned back to the clock – and saw that it was sitting on top of a book.
He picked it up and examined it. It wasn't one of his – it was an anthology of poetry by E. E. Cummings. He opened it up and flicked through the pages, familiar words and phrases jumping out at him. Now, for the hundredth time, he regretted leaving his own collection of Cummings' poetry behind in Australia.
He turned to the inside front cover, wondering if there was an owner. If there wasn't, he wasn't above borrowing the book for a year or two.
There was no name – but there was a yellow post-it note with Kitty's handwriting on it.
Don't worry, I haven't told anyone. But nobody's birthday should go unnoticed.
P.S. Sorry about the alarm clock. I couldn't resist!
P.P.S. I read this before I gave it to you, I hope you don't mind. My favourite's on p72.
John flipped to page 72. His eyes were immediately drawn to where Kitty had underlined some of the lines of the poem in pencil.
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
He raised his eyebrows. Kisses? The genius agreed that kisses are better than wisdom? A smirk spread across his face. He wondered what she'd do if he tested that theory, and grabbed her and kissed her, in front of everyone. Things could get interesting.
His eyes travelled down to the last underlining. Kitty had written 'John –' next to the line, so that it read:
John – we are for each other
He stopped and shut the book, one finger still in page 72. Did she mean…? He opened it up and read the line once more.
We are for each other, he mused. Hm.
John crossed the room, book still in hand, and opened the door. He was going to find Kitty, and he was going to skip breakfast in order to do so.
After all, he thought with a grin, feeling is first.