Breathe


Summary: 'You can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable.' Sometimes all you can do is breathe. Kitty/Pyro oneshot.
Timeline: Post-X3
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Author's Note: Written last year, based on Anna Nalick's song 'Breathe (2 AM)'. This plot bunny existed in my head for three years and now I've finally put it to rest. This was intended to be my last hurrah in the Kyro fandom, and I think I gave it a proper send-off!


"Get him out of there!"

"Is he going to-"

"...need to get him to the med bay, now!"

"Someone get Beast!"

There's just noise, noise, noise and everyone is moving and Kitty feels like she's stuck where she stands as the world rushes by, too fast.


Someone grabs her arm and yells her codename but she pays no attention. She doesn't care that they're in the middle of another war, she doesn't care that there are cuts and bruises all over her body, and she doesn't care that there is still another Sentinel that needs to be taken down. All that matters is that John is hurt, and all of a sudden she's running, running after Bobby as he carries him away.

He doesn't say anything when he sees her following. And Kitty can't tear her eyes away from John's face, and she doesn't dare think about what might happen if they can't get him to the med bay in time. She just keeps breathing, in and out, and silently wills him to do the same.


It's two in the morning and Kitty is awake because she can't seem to fall asleep properly any more, not since Alcatraz. When the knock sounds at her door she blinks, surprised, but her voice and face are calm when she answers.

Marie's voice is thick with emotion and Kitty listens and holds her as she cries and tells her that she feels like even more of an outsider without her power, that she doesn't love Bobby enough to stay with him while she feels so lost, that she wants to run away and figure out who she is now that she's Marie and not Rogue any more. Kitty's heart aches for her friend, and for the relationship that she had been sure could last through anything. She's been learning the hard way that nothing is invincible.

Kitty refuses when Marie begs for her help to leave the mansion. She explains that she thinks it would be a mistake. Please stay, she says through the lump in her throat. We'd all miss you. You belong here, with your friends. Running away won't fix anything. You're just adjusting to the change; just give it time and you'll figure out who you are and what you want. Don't give up on us. Give Bobby another chance - you still love him, don't you?

She lets Marie sit on her bed until all her frustration and confusion is cried out. In the end, at ten past five, she manages to convince her that staying is the best thing to do (or, at least, that leaving without saying goodbye to her boyfriend and her friends is a terrible thing to do). She walks her friend back to her room, returns her hug and waves aside her apology.

There are too many pessimistic thoughts in her head, and she decides that she needs fresh air. She slips through the mansion and ends up somewhere near the front gates. The early morning sunlight is pale and beautiful, and Kitty begins to feel something like hope. Like maybe good things can last, and the war they are fighting isn't pointless, and one day mutants and humans will co-exist peacefully.

It's then that she hears the noise and sees the person staggering up to the gates, obviously badly injured.

Her first instinct tells her to run back inside and call the ambulance or wake up Beast. Her second instinct tells her to run back inside and call the police, or at least alert Ororo and Logan.

She ends up listening to the third instinct, which is simply to stare and say his name.

John?


Kitty is appointed to take him up to his room when he's finished in the med bay. He doesn't say much, just shudders slightly every time she phases them through a door or a wall.

She is under instructions to get him upstairs as inconspicuously as possible, but the mansion is a rumour mill on the best of days and almost everyone knows he's back. They can't move too fast because John's still in pain, and though Kitty does her best to slip them through unnoticed, she can't make them invisible.

It surprises her how similar the expressions of the other students are. They stare with accusing and fearful eyes, and she can practically hear them think, What is he doing here? He doesn't belong. He's a criminal.

John appears unaffected, but Kitty feels the muscles tense in his arm. And she is suddenly struck by her classmates' hypocrisy.

He's here because he needs help, she wants to tell them. He's here because people are scared of him and want to hurt him. He's here for the exact same reason most of you are.

She feels angry, angry that she seems to be the only one who remembers him for who he was before Alkali, before Alcatraz, and all they can see is the man who made the evening news at Magneto's side. She remembers the ridiculous prank wars he'd have with Bobby, both of them trying to persuade her to take a side. She remembers the boy who had been her Secret Santa and had given her a silver daisy pendant, her favourite flower. She remembers the time she'd had a nightmare and accidentally phased into his room, when, after a bit of teasing, he'd let her stay until she was calm enough to phase back.

Surely people can't change that much,she thinks.

She glances at him, at his bruised and cut-up face, at the blank expressionless stare that holds no trace of the boy she knew, and she tries not to admit to herself that she's a little scared of him, too.


She's been patched up and the others have defeated the last Sentinel, and now she sits beside his bed, holding his hand. Beast has done all he can, but John is broken in so many places. They have to wait and hope he recovers.

He isn't hooked up to life support, and his drug-assisted sleep seems peaceful. But she can see the marks, the wounds, the scars. She can see the traces of pain in his face.

"Nothing is invincible," she thinks.

Kitty doesn't move, doesn't speak. She doesn't cry. She just watches his chest rise and fall, faintly comforted by the fact that she can see him breathe.


It falls to her to bring him food and accompany him around the mansion. He can't hurt you, Storm explains. And if he tries anything, you can phase him out of there.

At first she hates it. She knows he doesn't want her company, and for the first two weeks he refuses to speak to her, except for a scathing quip every now and then. But eventually she sees that, for all his bravado and attitude, he's just broken and lost. She can see the way he watches the other students, like he's starving for humanity, while all they offer him is indifference, or worse, hostility.

So she talks to him. Tells him about her day, her classes, training sessions in the Danger Room. She recounts the day the Professor came to invite her to the school. She fills him in on the events he missed while with the Brotherhood. She tells him about how she used to dream of being a science teacher, how she never thought she'd end up as a soldier in a seemingly never-ending war.

And eventually, though it takes weeks, he begins to talk back.

It's sporadic, at first. Just a hint of an opinion, a point of view. The first time he tells her a personal story, she is so surprised that she stares, wide-eyed, until he snaps at her to stop. After that she is careful, and he begins to tell her more. His past, his time with the Brotherhood, everything that happened after Alcatraz. The stories he tells are frightening, full of darkness and violence. But Kitty listens. She listens and asks gentle questions and responds to his sarcasm with sass of her own. And slowly, bit by bit, she begins to reconcile the boy she knew with the man he is now - hardened and weathered by too many things people shouldn't have to experience, but still the same person underneath it all.

When they decide they trust him enough to let him walk the grounds by himself, she resolves not to seek him out, giving him the option of space. She pretends not to mind that she doesn't see him at all for two days. She pretends not to miss him. She pretends she doesn't care that he doesn't seem to care.

So she's surprised on the third day when she opens her door to go downstairs for breakfast, and he's standing there, leaning against the wall next to the doorframe.

You been avoiding me, Kit-Kat? he asks, and if she didn't know better, she'd think his nonchalance was feigned.

All she can manage is a stammered I - no.

Because it's kind of quiet, he continues, as if she hadn't said anything, without you yammering in my ear.

She smiles and rolls her eyes. And as they walk downstairs together, she pretends she's not elated that he sought her out.


They're sitting side by side on the floor in his room and Kitty notes that he's quieter than usual, not responding to her gentle teasing with his usual sharpness.

She opens her mouth to ask if he's okay, but he speaks first.

It's my birthday today, he tells her, staring blankly at his hands.

Really? Happy birthday, she offers tentatively, confused by his melancholy.

He shrugs. Just a day. Nothing special about it.

Kitty doesn't know what to say. Well, she tries, maybe it would feel special if we celebrated.

His glare makes her recoil a little, and she doesn't understand why he's angry.

I don't want to celebrate, Kitty. His gaze returns to his hands. My life is nothing to celebrate.

And suddenly she understands and her heart breaks for him because she knows he's broken. She watches him watch his hands and she's seized with a desire, a need, to erase the distance between them and just hold him, hold him together.

It's all pointless, he mutters, turning his head away from her.

She stretches out a hand, trying not to notice that it is trembling slightly, and places it on his arm. He turns to face her, eyebrows knitted, and she speaks.

I think your life is worth celebrating, she says, voice soft and touch softer. I'm glad you're around.

Yeah? His lips quirk into a small half-smile, and it's so rare and so beautiful that when she thinks about it later, it makes her eyes wet and her heart ache.

Yeah, she answers. His smile remains on his face, and she lays her head on his shoulder.


When Bobby comes down to the med bay, Kitty just glances over her shoulder once and resumes her vigil. He walks up beside her and stands awkwardly with hands shoved in pockets.

"Kitty, are you sure you don't want to-"

"I'm fine."

John's hand feels cold in hers, and she runs her thumb up and down his skin partially to try and warm it and partially because she needs to reassure herself that he's still there with her and not totally gone.

She hears Bobby sigh beside her.

"I'm sorry, Kitty," he says, voice heavy. "I know you two were... close."

"Don't use past tense," she tells him quietly. "He's going to be fine."

"Of course," Bobby covers quickly. "I didn't mean -"

"I know."

The silence is awkward and she can practically hear the seconds ticking over. She waits patiently, knowing that eventually, he - like all the others - will take the hint and leave her alone with John.

Finally, he takes his leave. "I'll come back later to bring you some dinner," he tells her, ever the considerate friend.

"Okay."

The room falls silent again, and she tries not to think about the kinds of things John would say to fill the empty space. Instead, she concentrates on her breathing, on the sound of it, so loud and alive that it deafens her to the silence.


The news about the Sentinels travels fast. Storm orders all the younger students to evacuate under Jubilee's care. Everyone else, everyone who can fight, is ordered to prepare for battle.

That's when Kitty sees him shrugging on his jacket and slipping out the door.

She runs after him, phasing through everything between them.

Where are you going? she asks breathlessly, grabbing his arm.

I'm not sticking around while those Sentinels take this place down. He glances at the mansion, expression unreadable. Nothing's invincible, he mutters, seemingly to himself.

She blinks and presses her lips together. You... you won't stay to help?

I'm not one of you, he snaps. And I don't care what happens to this place. I never belonged here.

There are tears in her eyes, but she pretends they don't exist. His face is hard and that expressionless mask is back, the same look he wore when he returned. And something inside her snaps.

She shoves him away as she drops his arm. So you're just running away, is that it? Her voice is sharp and controlled and she wields it like a weapon. Just like you did at Alkali. Just like at Alcatraz. It's all too much for you so you just take off.

He's stunned by her vehemence and it takes him a moment to recover and rally. When he does, the mask is gone, replaced by anger and spite and maybe even a little bit of pain. So what if I do? Who would care? You and your precious X-Men don't need me. he spits. Go save the world, do whatever you want. Just leave me the hell alone.

Kitty watches as he turns away, and she doesn't notice that her cheeks are wet.

You walk away now, she says, and he stops with his back to her. You walk away, and you're just making the same mistake, all over again.

He doesn't move and she takes one step closer. I care, she whispers. And she can't bring herself to say the three words she wanted to say, because already she feels stripped bare, and for all her intangibility she has never felt so vulnerable.

Seconds tick by and she can hear noise in the distance, her teammates getting ready, classmates being herded into the escape tunnels. And she knows her place is with them, but she can't leave until he answers, until he does something.

John clenches his fists and his head bows just slightly, and for a moment she thinks he's going to turn around, turn around and take her hand and fight with her. But then he keeps walking, and Kitty watches her heart drag on the ground behind him.


It's the panic of battle. Kitty has no time to think about anything but the next move, and when she sees part of the west wing burst into flame, she doesn't think about him because he's gone, gone, gone, and all that exists are the two Sentinels that are tearing apart her home.

There's just confusion and noise and she can't stop moving because if she does she'll be killed. And she's trying to find a way to stop the Sentinels because she's so useless like this, just a ghost, and ghosts can't hurt giant metal gods of destruction.

Then finally she's got it, she's got an idea, and she yells for Colossus. They get into position, and he throws her straight up - and then she's falling straight down through that giant metal body, and she shuts her eyes and focuses on her molecules.

She tears at wires and mechanics as she falls, half-phased, and they tear back at her; she can feel her uniform ripping and her skin underneath it, but she doesn't stop, she just keeps falling, falling, grabbing at anything and pulling until she hits the ground.

She forces her eyes open and the Sentinel has stopped, and now it's wavering and then falling, toppling, and she tries to move out of the way but she's in too much pain, too exhausted to move or phase. So her eyes shut again and she braces herself.

Then, all of a sudden, there is a rush of searing heat, and she opens her eyes and there's just flame, roaring and pushing, and the falling Sentinel is blasted aside, landing with a vibrating thud just metres from her. Kitty scrambles back and whips around (where is he, where is he) and he's there with arms outstretched, surrounded by fire, fury and fear written on his face.

John, she cries out, struggling to her feet, and then he's moving towards her; they're both stumbling through the battlefield, blind to everything.

He doesn't see the giant silver hand swinging back at him, but she does. She screams his name again (John!), urgent and terrified, and she's sprinting to him, praying to be fast enough to phase him to safety, but it's too late. He's knocked off his feet and slammed, two stories up, into the broken, burning wall behind him. There is nothing to soften his fall except piles of rubble and debris.

And Kitty stops, and there's just noise, noise, noise and everyone is moving and she's stuck where she stands as the world rushes by, too fast.


She's slumped in her chair, head resting on their joined hands, and it's the slight movement of his fingers that wakes her.

Immediately alert, she moves closer, and there is no hesitation or trembling when she reaches out her other hand to smooth his hair from his forehead.

"John," she whispers, but there is nothing in his face to show that he's really awake, nothing to show that he hears her.

"John." There is no response, just the shallow rise and fall of his chest, and finally, she breaks. Laying her forehead down against his arm, silent sobs quaking through her body, she pleads with him. "John, please." She doesn't know what she's praying for; all she knows is that she needs him to hear her, to say something, anything. The words fall out of her like they're being pushed overboard. "I love you, please, John, I love you."

Minutes pass. She stills, skin connected to his. She's not sure how long she remains in that position. It feels like hours.

His hand twitches again, but this time she doesn't look up, just curls her fingers tighter around his.

And then there is a weak cough and a voice that is faint and hoarse but still his.

"Kitty."

She raises her head slowly, gradually, like she's afraid of what she'll see. But then his eyes open and fix on her, and she's not afraid any more.

Moving closer, she feels his hand pressing back into her own, like he's pulling her in. There are too many three-word phrases to choose from: "I love you," "You saved me", "You're my everything", "Please don't die". But she chooses the words that cover them all. "You came back," she says, and she touches his cheek as if to make sure he's really there.

His gaze sinks deep into her and his next words send her heart to her throat, because she knows he has chosen them to cover everything else. "Only for you."

As she touches her lips to his in the gentlest, lightest kiss, she realises that this is where they were always headed: filling their lungs with each other's air, breathing together.

Fin