Preamble... I'm too busy for anything really long right now, but these vignettes are a compromise gesture :) There's no particular chronological order at the moment, though I may rearrange it at a future date. Each chapter is a stand-alone min-fic (you can jump right in here!), yet can also be read as fitting in with the rest of my Kitty/Kurt-verse (Parts of a Whole, A Different Sameness, Whole into Parts). I'm not sure how many chapters there will ultimately be, but until I decide I'm "done," I'll try to post one chapter/vignette per month (fingers crossed!). Long overdue edit: I ended up abandoning this story for eight (!) years, but now it's back! (I know, I can't believe it either—quarantine's doing strange things to us all ;))
Disclaimer #1: I don't own any of the X-Men, so I don't make a thin dime writing about them.
Disclaimer #2: Heroes always practice consent and safe sex.
As usual, reviews are great! Also as usual, a heartfelt thank you to all those who support and inspire—you know who you are ;)
*Set in the aftermath of Uncanny X-Men v. 1 #150. General context: Kitty, who is "13 and a half" and very new to the X-Men, stows away on a mission to confront Magneto. Magneto nearly kills her, has a fit of remorse when he realizes she's "just a child," and takes off (but he still hates the X-Men). This happens after all that :)
Two hours had passed since Kitty had come face-to-face with her first supervillain, and survived. She wasn't entirely sure how, though she had an unsettling premonition dumb luck had a lot to do with it. Her clearest memory from her encounter with Magneto was the pain. The pain had been unimaginable and finally overwhelming, penetrating her limbs, blood, and nerves, even in her phased state. After that, she'd blacked out. She'd come to cradled in Ororo's arms, with Magneto long gone.
Now, the X-Men were taking their time repairing the Blackbird, enjoying a few precious hours of what passed for downtime amid the sand, tropical sun, and palm trees surrounding Magneto's ruined base. For a while, Kitty had joined them. Gradually, however, the din of voices had begun to overwhelm her in a different way, and she'd been struck with an urge to be somewhere else. She'd needed space and quiet to properly think through how close she'd come to never thinking anything again. And so, she'd ventured some distance down the white sand beach, away from the base, and the Blackbird, and her friends, and found a comfortable spot leaning against the sloping trunk of a palm tree, shaded by its faintly rattling leaves.
Staring at the calm turquoise ocean stretching out toward the cloudless azure sky, Kitty marveled at the indifference of the landscape. There were no visible signs of the battle that had so recently taken place, no obvious indication that one or more X-Men had almost lost their lives. The water didn't care, and neither did the trees or the birds, soaring on wind currents and watching the waves for food. Kitty shivered in the sunshine, realizing—she could be the birds or the fish, depending on the time of day or the threat they were facing. That morning, she'd woken up believing she was untouchable. She'd end the day knowing she wasn't.
After a while, she knew she wanted company, but couldn't quite decide what type. She thought about Peter, conjuring in her mind's eye a vision of his blue eyes and black hair, his square shoulders and equally square jaw, anointed with a tiny dimple. Peter rarely smiled, but she imagined him smiling, anyway, flashing his straight teeth at her, for her. Yet try as she might, she couldn't picture his smile reaching his eyes; instead, they remained elusive, always looking elsewhere else, above her head, or behind her shoulder.
Ororo would be okay, except that Kitty had been feeling confused, lately, about the nature of their relationship. During her three months as an X-Men, Kitty had grown to dearly love Ororo. But there was a distance to her, sometimes, a faraway look in her eyes and a hard line to her lips, hinting at conflicts beyond the present or even the realm of the flesh. Kitty had started to understand some of Ororo's occasional coldness the first time she'd seen her powers outside the Danger Room. Maybe part of Ororo had to stay locked away, for her safety, and theirs; Kitty wasn't sure, and didn't think it was her place to ask.
Scott was an obvious impossibility, as was the Professor, whose attention was a nightmare at the best of times. Kitty knew exactly how such an exchange would play out. The Professor would ask her what was wrong, assuring her he never read her mind without permission, even as the cool intensity of his gaze suggested otherwise. Logan's company was out of the question only because Kitty was forced to like him secretly. They upheld a silent contract not to acknowledge their growing bond for fear of shattering it; Logan's studied disaffection only allowed for mild teasing and the occasional meaningful glance.
In the end, the right kind of company came from the last place Kitty expected. She heard a shuffle of movement to her left, and looked up to meet the sound. As she did, the sun flashed in her eyes, turning the approaching body into a silhouette. For a moment, he was only a man—only loosely set, square shoulders and taut pecs above a narrow waist of equally taut abs. His sashaying tail gave him away a split-second before his voice did. To Kitty, the warm, German-accented voice of the man in question was almost as unique as the sleek indigo fur that came into focus as he stepped into the shade, or the two-fingered hand that held out a bottle of water.
"I thought you might be thirsty," said Kurt. "Not very exotic, but it gets the job done."
Kitty had stripped off most of her makeshift uniform, but was still wearing her leggings and bodysuit. Kurt, meanwhile, was wearing nothing but a pair of black swim briefs. Kitty was suddenly very conscious of the fact she'd never seen Kurt so very nearly naked, so very close. She looked past the water bottle to his velvet-coated midsection, where patches of his fur were dark and shiny with sweat.
"Sorry," Kitty said quickly, blinking decisively as she accepted the water. "I just… don't think I've ever seen you sweat."
Kurt raised a skeptical eyebrow. "That's surprising, considering how rarely you see me when I'm not scrambling to save my skin, in the Danger Room or out of it."
Kitty bit her cheek, and dropped her eyes to her bare toes half-buried in the white sand. She wanted a sip of water, but instead found herself picking the bottle's label with the edge of her fingernail. "Maybe I just never really noticed."
"Probably because I'm so cool under pressure," Kurt assured her, dropping his shoulder against the tree trunk and folding his arms over his chest. "But in all honesty—fur and tropical temperatures really don't mix. I was designed for cooler climates."
Kitty didn't feel up to meeting his eyes, those reflection-less, glowing orbs that both repelled and penetrated. She wasn't scared of his eyes anymore—not really. Yet no amount of tropical sun could completely eclipse her memory of the first time she'd confronted them. Three months ago, when she'd been running from the Hellfire guards and then run from Kurt toward the guards, those eyes had conjured every imagined watcher in the dark—the monster under the bed, in the closet, and at the foot of the basement stairs, all of them ready to gobble her up or steal her away.
Yet the alternatives to Kurt's eyes were almost worse. There was only the humbling expanse of the landscape, her own body, or Kurt's. Kurt hadn't meant to put her in that position, she was sure of it. Peter wasn't wearing any more than Kurt was, and that hadn't bothered her. Or at least, it hadn't bothered her the same way Kurt's body was currently bothering her. Kitty didn't mind gazing at Peter. But she felt strange gazing at Kurt. Partly, she was worried her gaze might become a stare. But she was also worried about the way looking at him sometimes made her fingers start to tingle. The strangeness of Kurt's body seemed to demand touching, if only to confirm under her own familiar hands the reality of its strangeness.
Kitty settled for blurring her vision, fighting a distracted impulse to follow the single bead of sweat weaving its way through Kurt's sleek fur, snaking between the darker ripples of his abs toward the pitch-black crevice of his belly button.
"Do you really think that?" she asked.
"That you were… designed."
"In which sense?"
"I mean—do you really think there's a purpose behind it. Behind us. Behind Magneto. All of it."
Kurt chose his words carefully. "I think… life is something you're given. Purpose is something you make for yourself."
"What about mutants?"
"What about them?"
"Magneto thinks we're the next step in evolution. That someday, everyone will be like us."
Kurt took a long breath, and released it. "I don't know if anyone can know that for sure. Coming from Magneto, it sounds too much like a justification."
Kitty shook her head vaguely, hands tightening around the neck of the water bottle she still hadn't found the courage to open. "I'm not questioning whether I picked the right side, or anything. It's just that sometimes... I wish I understood a bit better what we were fighting for."
She watched Kurt's two-toed feet flex in the warm sand next to hers, the forked tip of his tail kicking up a small trail of white grains before bending around his ankle. Kitty wondered if he found it tiring to keep his tail off the ground, since it was slightly too long not to drag when hanging straight. Or maybe, she thought, a tail liked to work that way, perpetually making and unmaking the serpentine curves either divinity or genetics meant it to form.
"When I first joined you guys," Kitty continued, "I wanted to fight for people. For everybody—all the people in the whole world who can't fight for themselves. But most of the time, it seems like we end up fighting for ourselves, against other mutants. Maybe we're the next step in evolution, or maybe… maybe we're just a mistake."
"Katzchen. Look at me."
As she raised her head, a gust of wind stirred the palm leaves. In the flickering light, Kurt's eyes alternated between rich gold and pale white. They were still reflection-less, yet his emotions were plain, carved into the pucker of his blue-black eyebrows and the small wrinkles bordering his serious frown. Kurt often joked, but he wasn't joking now. "One person's mistake is another person's opportunity. We can't help how we were born, just as we can't always choose our enemies, or even our battles."
"So what can we choose?"
All at once, his face changed, fangs glinting in a narrow ray of sunshine. "Well—our friends, for one."
Kitty forced a dry swallow, pursing her lips into a half-smile. "Yeah?"
Kurt offered up the smaller of his two fingers, and Kitty, hesitating only slightly, wrapped her pinky finger around it, squeezing tightly. Kurt's hands were smooth underneath, and velvet on top. It was the first time she'd felt his fur; the other times they'd touched, he'd been wearing gloves, or she had. She hadn't expected it be quite so soft, any more than her childhood self had expected the monsters under her bed to feel like the individually named stuffed animals protecting her from them. Demons should be scaly or slimy, not soft like a toy, or the dress she'd worn to her last grade school dance. That thought inspired a jolt of nervous energy, which escaped as a snort of laughter. Kurt chuckled in turn as he released her, swiping the back of his hand across his damp brow before pushing his blue-black hair away from his face, behind his pointed ears.
"Now…" he began, stepping away from the tree. "Perhaps we should rejoin the others. Ororo's started a campfire, and Logan's grilling rations on his claws. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of that rarest of spectacles—a Scott Summers smile. And did I mention that colossal Russian you're so fond of also discarded his shirt some time ago…?"
Kitty frowned instinctively. "I'm not… fond of him."
"Oh. So you dislike him then."
"No, I just…" She ground her teeth as she trailed off, then grumbled, "You're the worst, you know that?"
Kurt cocked his head, grinning lopsidedly. "Would you really have it any other way?" He stepped back to perform a gracious half bow, and extended his hand, palm up. "My lady—your public awaits."
Kitty chewed her lip as she considered his hand. She did want to accept it. It would feel nice to have his hand around hers again, his soft indigo fingers engulfing her smaller pink ones. But then she remembered her jolt of nerves, and said, "I'm sorry, I'm just... not quite ready yet."
Kurt straightened, eyeing her. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. But I'll get there. I promise."
"We'll be waiting."
Kitty watched him leave, heading back toward the crooked line of white smoke rising into the sky above the location of the Blackbird. Even walking in the sand, Kurt was preternaturally graceful, aided, no doubt, by his singular feet. His tail was the crowning glory of his fluid, rolling gate, each slow curve sounding the harmonious rhythm of his supple limbs and lithe muscles. If he were a human athlete, he'd look most like a swimmer or a gymnast, but he moved more like a dancer, someone tuned to finesse as well as power. But his gracefulness was almost too natural, too thoughtless. His simian dexterity was paired with the unconscious elegance of a cat, or any creature whose beauty was both easy and unaware, not sought but simply there, as a function of its being.
Kitty continued to stare until Kurt rounded another cluster of trees, and disappeared. The she wrenched open the bottle of water, its label torn and dangling, and took a long, deep drink.
~END~ (for now...)
Notes: I did not invent all the male X-Men wearing speedos in this issue. This was a thing that actually happened (style at the time?), and I spent so much time thinking about it, I had to write a whole fanfic about it, lol. It totally doesn't matter, but for anyone out there who may be a super big fan of my Kitty/Kurt stories—there's a reference to this story in another fic of mine, called "A Different Sameness." My fics aren't quite a shared continuity universe, but it sometimes amuses me to try ;)
Next: We jump forward in continuity, to Kitty, Kurt, and Piotr cruising back to the States after the disbanding of Excalibur.