dedication: sonya for doing the rewatch with me, and eleni for introducing me to it more than a decade ago and cementing our friendship for life, and les because les.
notes: LEAVE ME TO MY OTP AND MY TEARS
title: a deep red line
summary: Katherine Pryde is a geneticist. Lance Alvers is a criminal. She's left her powers and her past behind her. He, on the other hand, has not. — Lance/Kitty.
Katherine flopped down on her bed, face down into the pillows as the exhaustion of the day finally took her. It sent all her bones to creaking and clacking in a way they never used to—once, Katherine Pryde had been flexible enough to pass through matter, and while she still technically could, that had been rather a long time ago.`
And, quite frankly, she had much more important things to worry about, now.
Katherine was intelligent. She'd always been intelligent; she'd worked hard, studied harder (except, well, geometry, but that was totally different, okay?), and rarely had the time or the motivation to do anything more than missions and more research. She'd needed to understand, needed to grasp what made her so, so different from everyone else—and it had to be genetics, it just had to be, but she still wasn't sure…
No, Katherine told herself firmly. No, No work at home. You do enough thinking for three people as it is, you don't need to think about it at home, too.
She sighed, and pressed her fingers to her temples. A shower sounded good, right about then—she always stopped thinking when she was in the shower, and it was nice.
She made not a single sound as she walked to the bathroom. Logan's training, she thought with a bitter smile. It never failed.
The tap gushed steaming over her hands. She shed her clothes, folded them neatly into a pile on the toilet seat, and slipped into the shower.
It was scalding. Katherine sighed, and got to work on getting clean. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, she sang softly to herself, then arms, thighs, breasts, back, hips. She scrubbed herself raw and red, and then she scrubbed herself some more.
Sometimes, it felt like she was trying to wash the past away.
Not that it ever worked.
Katherine stayed in the shower until the water ran cold and she was a shivering mess of no peace of mind. The professor would be able to fix that, she knew, because he was the professor and he could fix, well, everything. But he was too far away—across the country, as a matter of fact—and Katherine was better off on her own.
She phased through the bathroom door without even thinking about it in a ratty old bathrobe that had been some vibrant colour, but was now a dull dark red. It had belonged to… someone, once. Katherine couldn't quite remember who. Maybe Jean—Jean was married now, this was a ridiculous train of thought—
Something shifted in the dark of her room.
There was someone there.
Katherine moved fast. Her hand went through kevlon then flesh, and her phased-in fingers closed around the person's heart. She could feel it pumping under her touch, and she knew that if she let the phase end, she could rip his heart out.
(Logan's training had been thorough.)
"Who are you? Katherine asked. Her voice was a gentle, sweet caress, silky as the ease of her phasing. Water trickled down her neck to pool in the hollow of her throat. Her hair dripped, too—dripped onto wide shoulders that blocked out her window, and Katherine could feel the heart rate speed up. Male, then, and no reply. She shifted, and closed her fingers a little tighter.
"I would speak up, if I were you," she told him softly, "or I'll rip your heart out of your chest, and no one will ever know where you went."
"Good to see you, too, pretty Kitty," he chuckled.
Oh god, she knew that rasp. And that—that nickname, oh god, oh god, oh god ohgodohgodohgod, only one person used that nickname—Katherine withdrew faster than she'd gone in.
"Lan—Alvers? What are you—what are you doing here?!" she squeaked at him.
His hands settled on her hips, and she could feel his breathing go even and a little less constricted as he regained control of the pump of his heart. In the darkness of her room, she couldn't see his face.
"Came to see you," he said.
"Obviously," Katherine pursed her lips. "How'd you even find me?"
"How'd'you think?" he asked in reply.
Katherine didn't even have to think. "The Professor?"
"Hole in one, Kitty-cat. Your old man is looking for you."
"He could have just called," Katherine replied. "He knows where I am, he knows how to contact me—so why'd he send you? And don't lie to me, Alvers, I am so not in the mood."
He looked down, and his hair was in his eyes—the movement was a leftover thing from when they were teenagers, Katherine knew, because she'd watched him do it when they were in school and he knew the answer to a question a teacher had asked but wasn't about to let on that he knew anything at all. Lance had been smart, she remembered. He just didn't want anyone to know it.
"I don't answer to you, Kitty," he said, and the stress on her name made her understand.
She sighed. "Could you not call me that? I'm Katherine, now. But—fine. Lance. Why'd he send you of all people?"
"I think I'm offended," he feigned, but Katherine could see the slight upturn of his lips. He was about to start laughing, and she ground her teeth just the littlest bit. God, god, god, this was why she had left in the first place, first Lance then Piotr—
No, no, no.
"Why, Lance?" Katherine asked, and she shoved him hard enough that he toppled backwards on the bed. His hands on her hips brought her down with him, and she phased him down just enough that he'd be stuck there unless she helped him out. Her eyes flashed, and Shadowcat stared down at him with fire in her gaze.
"Ah," said Lance, grinning hard, "there's my girl."
"I hate you," she snarled, and phased him down further. "I will phase you through the floor and let you choke."
"You'll be coming with me, pretty Kitty," he said, fingers digging into her hips. "And I'll shake this place to fuckin' pieces."
She relented, if only because she knew he would. Property damage wasn't something you thought about very often when you were a mutant; you usually had bigger things to worry about, and when your power was as destruction-based as Lance's was, you really didn't have time to care.
"God, fine, I won't," Kitty said, irritable.
"You gonna pull me up?" asked Lance.
"Not 'til you tell me why the Professor didn't just call," Kitty said pleasantly. She crossed her arms—something inside of her itched to touch him, touch him all over, map out the changes that time had wrought with her fingers 'til she knew him as well as she knew the inside of her eyelids. She'd known him like that once, when they were still teenagers, but god, it had been such a long time ago.
He was her first real sin; he was a deep red line she'd drawn in her mind at seventeen and Kitty couldn't understand why he was back to haunt her now.
Lance shrugged uncomfortably beneath her—as much as he could, anyway, a good portion of his shoulders were phased into her bed—and tried to shake his head. "I don't fuckin' know."
"Are you lying to me, Lance?" she asked, bent down so close their noses touched. His fingers crawled up the curve of her spine, and something shivery tender inside of her shuddered. God, god, god, what was she doing?
"Now, why would I do that?" he chuckled again, that same dark rasp that he'd started with, and Kitty wanted to pull his heart out.
She hated him so much.
Kitty cradled his head in her hands, and pulled him up. The angle was awkward and was probably hurting him, and something primal and wild in the deep depths of her gut liked the thought of that very, very much.
"Lance," she said. "Tell me."
"I'm a criminal, beautiful. I don't ask questions when someone pays me to do something," he said. "I just do it."
She wanted to hit him.
Instead, she kissed him.
Her mouth vicious and hot biting hard and violent as it slid across his. She phased him upwards 'til they were both on the bed, not in it, and she kissed him even when she was out of breath and her lungs were ragged for it, ragged for oxygen and Kitty—Katherine—Kitty knew how this worked, knew the biology behind it now in a way she hadn't when she was seventeen, understood better how the X gene was passed on, and God, thinking was so not her strong point right now—
There was a soft strange tenderness to him, something that seemed out of place here. He cradled her like she was a tiny, breakable thing, too precious to destroy.
But Kitty had never known a Lance who thought something was not worth breaking, whether it was a building or her heart, and she didn't have time to contemplate it. She tugged at his shirt once, and phased it off him before he had any idea what she was doing. She was head for his pants next, but his hands on her shoulders stopped her.
"Kitty, what d'you think you're getting into, here?"
"Your pants," she said, as she stopped, and glared up at him.
That surprised a laugh out of him, and set his shoulders to shaking, and Kitty remembered a time when he'd knocked her out of the way of a falling, flaming eagle that probably would have killed her. And she remembered how his shoulders looked then, the desperation on his face as he reached and reached for her.
And she thought, where did we go wrong, Lance? What happened to us?
"Pretty, pretty, pretty Kitty," he said, dragging his fingers through her dark wet mass that was her hair. It curled when it was wet like this, just a little at the ends, and he pulled at them, something a little like love hidden in the movements.
Kitty remembered that, too. She collapsed on top of him.
"What do you want from me, Lance?" she asked. She asked it so softly she thought he might not have heard it, because she very nearly breathed it into the skin of his shoulder.
"To take you home," he said, hands still in her hair.
"This is my home," she said in reply.
"Liar," Lance said simply.
She really hated that he knew her that well, even after all this time. She'd always been a weak liar, even when it counted. Especially when it counted. And the strange thing was, she was only lying a little bit. There was a part of her that was attached to this place, and the friends she'd made that didn't know who (or what) she was, and the research she was doing. She liked it.
But it still wasn't Bayville.
He tilted her head back so that they had space to look at each other. Kitty remembered those eyes, the darkness in them that had always drawn her too close, too close—Piotr had been different, there'd been kindness in place of the darkness, and maybe that was why they'd never worked out.
"I hate your goatee," she said.
"That's the weakest excuse I've heard outta you yet, Kitten."
"Can you stop it with the fucking nicknames?" Kitty asked. The rage came back, and ate at the back of her eyes. Everything was red and furious and she hated him and this was Lance, Lance, Lance, the same Lance who had saved her life and took her virginity and broke her heart.
"Dirty talk," he grinned. "Sexy."
Kitty slapped him.
(Not the first time. Probably not the last.)
He didn't even look hurt, despite the red mark her hand had left burning on his cheek. But the darkness in his eyes took on something predatory, something hungry, and he pulled her down again, mouth to mouth, chest to chest, hips to hips.
Kitty cursed her robe, tangled in it as she was, and Lance's laughter rumbled through her warm and reassuring. The itch to touch him was back. She shucked the bathrobe off, and then his mouth was on her neck, biting down hard enough that there was probably going to be a bruise, and a high-pitched whine escaped her throat.
She'd never enjoyed violence this much before.
And she did map out his skin, hands smoothing over his shoulders, biceps, over his chest and down his stomach, and he pulled his mouth away from hers to hiss when she brushed her hand over the bulge in his pants. Kitty smiled against his mouth.
"Take that, jerk," she said.
Lance chuckled, deep and low in his throat, and then flipped her over. She was beneath him, shuddering as bit his way down her throat, licked across her collarbone. Kitty arched up when his mouth closed around her nipple and he slid his thumb across her clit, fingers deep inside and she thought oh, oh, oh, and when his mouth curled into a smarmy smile at the apex of her thighs, she nearly screamed at him to finish the job.
His tongue replaced his fingers inside her, and she screamed.
The world was hot-wet-dirty and went white then hazy gold and everything felt like—felt like—
Kitty jerked her hips, hauled him up, and bit his ear in retaliation. He rumbled again, that dark low thing that sent all her nerves into overdrive.
When he kissed her, she tasted herself and she hated it and wow, that was really, really hot.
"Lance," Kitty mumbled, "Lance, Lance, please—"
"Please what, Kitten?" he asked.
The shivers took her, then, and she was strung-out and unreal and she phased his pants away without even thinking about it. She was greedy, wanted him all to herself, wanted everything, and she was running on the ragged edge between hope and desperation—at least it was something they were both good at. Kitty scrambled out from underneath him, shaking and determined for something, for anything—
She squirmed onto his lap. His fingers dug into her hips again when she sunk down on his cock, and they both snarled at that. Lance jerked up so that they were sitting up, pressed body-to-body again.
"Love you, love you, love you," he said over and over again into the crook of her neck.
A lie plus a lie plus a lie and it was all just fine, Kitty thought, ground down and full up and just about to hit that place that would send her vision spiraling white.
She bit his shoulder instead of screaming when she finally came.
She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
But he held her still when she was going to roll off, and she didn't have the energy to fight him right them. She could have phased through his arms, but she was tired, and it had been such a long time since someone had held her while she'd slept.
And there was still the strange shivery tenderness in the pit of her stomach, and maybe she'd been waiting for this closure for a long, long time.
Kitty resolved to think on it in the morning.
"Aren't you supposed to be gone by now?" Katherine asked him in the morning. Shadowcat and the girl underneath the mask gone, for now, because the sun was up and she'd taken a shower and she had work and oh god, Lance Alvers was still stretched out naked in her bed.
"Nah," he yawned. "I told you. I gotta bring you home."
"Before you get paid, right?" Katherine asked, hand on her hip, lips pulling up in a sneer. "Gotta deliver the goods, right?"
He blinked. "Your old man paid me up front."
She didn't know why he called the Professor that. She had a father and a mother that she loved and spoke to often, and yet she didn't… mind. Not really. The Professor had been there when there was no one else except—well, no one else except Lance.
Katherine hated how comfortably he arranged himself in her bed, like he did it all the time. Like he belonged there.
She wanted to slap him again.
(The slap she'd given him the previous night had blossomed into a beautiful dark bruise that Shadowcat couldn't help admiring. There was nothing like marking one's property—where had that come from?)
"If he paid you up front, why are you even here?" she asked, all nastiness and smarmy sarcasm.
Lance blinked again. "'Cause I told him I'd bring you home, Kitten."
Katherine clenched her fists. "Go away, Alvers."
"Kitty," he said.
She looked at him. "What?"
"I'm not leaving until you want to go home. That's all," he said. And then he stretched out in her pillows and for all appearances went back to sleep.
Katherine nearly screamed.
She stomped to the front door of her apartment—it was still locked, how had he gotten in?—grabbed her coat and her purse, and slammed the door on her way out. She hoped to God it woke him up, the ungrateful ass, but with her recent luck, he probably didn't even hear it.
The rest of the day was relatively normal.
Katherine helped an intern with a gene separation and ate her lunch in blissful peace. The only thing that was slightly out of whack were the looks the rest of the researchers were giving it, and it was finally at two o'clock when one of the other girls looped an arm through hers, and dragged her to the bathroom.
"Did you get laid? Kath, you're, like, glowing."
Katherine grinned a little. "Oh my god, does it even matter?"
"Of course it does!" the girl shrieked. Her name was Rachel. She was fresh out of university and a sweetheart, and Katherine knew that they were nothing, nothing, alike. Maybe they had been, once, but that was before she'd learned how to kill a person and feel no guilt.
"Oh, fine, whatever—yes, I did, if you must know."
Rachel screeched again, and Katherine giggled a little.
It was so high school, it almost felt a little good.
They chatted for a little while longer—Katherine explained that it was an old boyfriend, someone that had been really important, but she meticulously left out where they'd gone to school and exactly what sort of ex-boyfriend he was—and then they scooted back to the lab to finish up the day's work.
Katherine was in the middle of isolating the X gene yet again when the phone at her desk went off. She huffed, and reached for it.
"Miss Pryde, there's someone here to see you. A Lance Alvers? He says he's here to pick you up."
"Yes, I—just—um—okay, give me a few minutes, I'll be down in a little bit. Could you tell him to wait?"
"Of course, Miss Pryde."
Katherine stripped off her gloves, dropped them on her desk, and flapped out of her office. She was going to kill him. Really, really, really, this time she was going to sink him into the ground and bury him and he would never breathe again—
The elevator dinged and she stepped out, raging fury in her every step.
And there he was, leaning casually against the marble countertop and chatting up the receptionist. The girl was flushed—ooh, Katherine knew that effect, she was just going to kill him—
"What are you doing here, Lance?!" she demanded. The click of her heels against the floor was a sharp, harsh sound that she liked because it commanded respect and attention, and at this moment, she couldn't have asked for more. She was going to have to thank Jean for teaching her to walk in these things, at some point.
"There's my girl," he snarked, and wrapped his arms around her before she could do something satisfying like punch him. "How was your day, pretty Kitty?"
"You—I—don't call me that! What are you even—?"
"Taking you home," he said, and spun a ring of car keys around his finger with long-practised ease.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I'm still on shift, Lance, I can't just leave, I've got responsibilities here—"
"How about this—," he said, and turned to look at the receptionist. The poor girl was flushed and starry-eyed watching them. Katherine wanted to kick something profoundly. This was not a romance film, and they were most certainly not—not anything!
"—thanks. She just works too much and I think she needs a break, and if her boss needs to yell at someone, tell them to come yell at me."
"But, uh, Miss Pryde is the boss—"
A muscle twitched in Lance's jaw, like he was about to burst out laughing. "Well then. I've got nothing to worry about. C'mon, Kitten, I'm taking you home."
"What are you even—?"
Lance looped an arm around her shoulders and steered her outside. Katherine nearly stumbled but righted herself before he caught her. Her mouth was a thin tight line. "I don't need you to save me, Lance."
He stretched (why was he always stretching? It wasn't like he needed it, his muscles were—well, she'd discovered them biblically last night), and laced his fingers together behind his head. The bend in his elbow made her want to do something to him that was a cross between savage and possessive, and her insides squirmed around with it. It was a horrible-wonderful feeling.
"Not trying to save you, Kitten. You can damn well do that on your own."
This mollified her some.
But not completely. "Then what are you trying to do?"
He sighed, long and deep, and for a minute, Katherine could see all the years between them; she could see all the people he'd kill and all the people she'd saved, and all the ways he'd ruined things and made them better, and all the ways she'd messed up and fixed things. And she thought she could see the shining flip of a coin in Gambit's hand as he spoke to Rogue—I'd bet on you, cherie, you and your little Shadowcat, and the way Rogue grinned with her teeth and oh God, Kitty missed her so much it made her want to cry.
"Just try'na get you home, Kitty. That's it."
"Not yet," she said. "Not yet."
And then she was crying, stupid big fat wet tears that had no place on her face, and Kitty wiped them away, angry at herself and at him and at everything, because this was hard and she just wanted things to be easy the way they had been before he'd shown up and turned her into mess of ribbons on the floor. Her shoulders shook underneath his arm, and he somehow got her into a car that was way too expensive for an asshole like him, and that was all Kitty could think—he'd had a rusty Jeep that he'd taken her on terrible dates in, and she'd had so much fun and she'd been so innocent and she'd loved him so much.
Somewhere in between the thoughts, Kitty started to laugh.
"This is so stupid," she said.
"You okay?" Lance asked.
"Yes. No. Yes."
"That doesn't even make sense," he said and he sat her down in his stupid-expensive car and let her cry herself out.
Kitty tipped her head back. "Take me home."
"Which one?" Lance asked.
The twist to her lips was wry. "The one your broke into last night. If you're sticking around, you can sleep on the couch."
Lance snorted. "Like hell. Your bed's big enough for the both of us."
"Oh, fuck off," Kitty said. "My bed is mine."
Lance shook his head, smirking, and gunned the engine. They pulled out of the parking lot, and Kitty clutched at the door handle mostly for the effect. Lance liked to drive fast, but it wasn't anything like she used to drive, and it was nothing like Logan drove, so they were fine.
He parked in her stall, and she wanted to hate him, but really couldn't.
They trudged up the stairs, and Kitty had to wonder how this was going to go. She wasn't ready to leave, not yet, not yet, and if he was actually going to stick around—well—they would figure something out.
Kitty unlocked her apartment. "See, Lance, this is a key, it's how most people get through doors, because if they don't have a key it means they aren't welcome—"
He kissed her, teeth clacking together, and it was horrible and it was wonderful and Lance kicked the door shut behind them, already stripping her clothes away.
They fucked right there in the front entrance up against a wall. It was messy and slutty and they broke a table and three vases, and it was the best thing Kitty had ever done in her life.
They sat on the floor together afterwards, naked and unashamed. She'd scored marks all down his chest with her nails, but she wasn't about to apologize. She still had bruises on her hips, and she could already tell that this was going to be one of the stupider things she'd decided to do in her life.
"I'm gonna have to get you a key," she mumbled to herself.
She shrugged. "If you're not leaving until I go back to Bayville. You're gonna need a key. It might be a while."
He shrugged in return.
"Whatever," he said.
"I hate you," Kitty smiled.
"I know," he smiled in return.
They fell into the strangest pattern. Katherine went to work, but suddenly everyone was calling her Kitty again and it was all Lance's fault (what wasn't his fault), and so she started answering to it again.
And Lance would pick her up and drive her home and he would cook which was great, because Kitty couldn't cook to save her life and had subsisted on the pity of her neighbours and take-out for the last three-and-a-half years.
He didn't let her work obscenely long hours and he flirted with all the receptionists and Kitty would roll her eyes and kick him with pointy shoes and he would just laugh.
And they fucked.
They fucked a lot.
When they fucked, sometimes he lost control, and the whole apartment building would shake. Kitty would laugh so hard into his shoulder she'd tremble right along with the foundations, and all the other inhabitants of the building were suddenly worried about earthquakes.
And things were easier and harder all at once, because now she had to share not only her bedroom but her bed, which she'd never done ever, not even when she and Piotr had been together (they'd both had so many issues, like, wow).
But it was kind of nice, because she woke up tangled all around him and when Lance was still asleep, it was hard to say that he wasn't kind of totally perfect.
It was stupid and she hated it and she loved it, and once she came home early and the apartment smelled like sugar and spice and Lance was wearing an apron—the only one she had in her apartment, purple and frilly and ridiculous-looking on a man that was six-one and built bigger than a pro-wrestler. He was baking. Kitty had laughed herself to tears, and then stole the left-over cookie dough. He'd whacked half-heartedly at her with a spoon, and she'd laughed some more.
One week turned into two turned into three turned into a month, then two, then six. Then a whole year. A whole, whole year, and he was still around.
It was really weird.
It was really fucking weird.
But one night when they'd curled up on the couch together, Kitty tucked between Lance's legs as he flicked through the channels to find something to watch that they wouldn't fight over, she twisted around to look at him.
"What if I told you I was ready?" she asked.
"To go home," she said.
"We are home—oh," he said. "Oh."
Kitty waited, and watched the thoughts blur past his eyes. He was so easy to read, Lance; he wore his heart on his sleeve as often as she did, but right now, she couldn't tell what he was thinking at all.
"That's why you came here in the first place, wasn't it?" Kitty asked.
"Yeah, it—it was, and… I would—take you back, I guess," he said. It ground out through his teeth, a pained sound, like he didn't want to say it at all. His arms tightened around her, and Kitty turned in his grip to run her fingertips along the sides of his face.
"Hey," she said. "Hey. Even if we do go back—if—this doesn't have to, you know, be over. Like, at all. Unless you want to be, but, like… look, Lance, I just—"
"I love you," he said quietly. "I've loved you my whole goddamn life, Kitten. And that's not gonna change if we go back."
"Then why do you look so sad?" asked Kitty, soft and gentle.
Lance dropped his forehead to the crook of her neck and just breathed.
"I love you, too, if that helps?" she said.
He chuckled briefly, and it felt like it was that first night, a few days shy of a whole year ago, only he was the one exhausted and she was the one who was intruding on that. She took his face her in hands, and pressed a tiny kiss to the corner of his mouth.
"Nothing's going to change, Lance," she said.
"Everything will," he replied.
"No," she said. "It won't. Because we'll go back and we'll stay for a while, and then we'll come back here. Because, like… This is my home. Yours. Ours. Whatever. It's our place, and I don't want to leave it for good. Is that okay?"
His arms closed tighter around her, and he nodded into her shoulder. Kitty threaded her fingers through the soft dark hair at the nape of his neck, and tugged lightly.
"You need a haircut," she laughed softly into his ear.
"I thought you liked it long," Lance said.
"I do," she replied. "But if you're going to meet my parents, you're going to have to be like at least little bit presentable."
"I've met your parents," he grumbled. "They didn't like me very much."
"I didn't like you very much, then, stupid," Kitty said, affectionate. "It'll be okay, I promise."
Lance pulled away and looked at her for a long, long time. He looked at her like she was benediction, forgiveness, and everything good any person ever deserved.
He brushed her bangs away from her face.
"You are fuckin' crazy," he shook his head.
"I know," she smiled. "You like it.
He kissed her anyway.
notes2: and then I accidentally wrote five thousand words in one night? oops?