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Gratitudes, Friendships, and Bills

Title: Gratitudes, Friendships, and Bills
Author: Kat Lee
Fandoms: X-Men with a cameo from a certain Avenger
Character/Pairing: Kitty, Captain America, and a Nightcrawler cameo
Rating: G/K
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog 67: Money
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,920
Date Written: 5 June 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.




Kitty sighs, shifting through the large stack of mail on her desk, looking at each bill again, and having no more answers this time than the first dozen times she went through them. She drops the envelopes and invoices back onto her desk and runs her hands through her hair, which is already short but is bound to be even shorter by the end of this semester. She doesn't see it. Up until now, she's been able to deduce how she's going to pay their way through this world, or at least who they're going to borrow from next, but all her sources are tapped. She'll be able to keep them going this month, maybe barely afloat next month, but the month after? The month after, unless they get a miracle, they're going to be screwed.

She swivels around in her office chair and looks out her window. She tries to imagine, again, what the Professor would do in a case like this. Maybe this is the real reason he had Ororo steal for him at times, but she's not going to do that route. They're supposed to be heroes, damn it, and heroes don't steal! But they have to pay their bills. They have to pay their land taxes and electricity and other utilities, and she has at least a hundred mouths to feed. Where the Hell is she going to get the money this time?!

With another sigh, Kitty rises and walks to her window. She looks out over her school, over the latest in a long and proud line of Xavier's schools. She believes whole-heartedly in the Dream even after all this time, but sometimes, it's hard to see how she's going to make this happen. Her eyes tear, and she longs with all her heart for the Professor to be with them again, or Logan, or for some one else to step up, some one, any one who can help her figure out what to do next. But this whole thing is resting squarely on her shoulders. Ororo and Kurt can't do it any more -- that's why she leads them -- , and the Logan they have isn't even from their world.

"What do I do, Professor?" she whispers, looking up at the bright, blue sky, but she can't hear his voice in her head. She looks down again, down across her the campus of her school, her home. This isn't Westchester, or even Muir Isle, or Snow Valley. Maybe she was a fool to relocate them here to Central Park, of all places, but they needed somewhere -- somewhere big and preferably close to home, which isn't Deerfield any more and hasn't been for a long time. Her home, for years now, has been Westchester, but it's got to be here now.

She's got to find the answers. She's got to pay these creditors not just this month but the next month and the month after that and the month after that . . . She sighs yet again, her shoulders dropping. She's got this month handled -- it's just a matter of writing the checks --, but she can't see where even the next couple of months are going to come from, not to mention the next few years. She and Hank both have new inventions on the market, but they haven't taken off yet. Once they do, the money won't be such a huge problem, but right now, it is. Right now, she can't see past it. Right now, she can't see how they're going to make it.

"Katzchen?"

Kitty jumps at the sound of Kurt's voice like she hasn't in years. She turns around and sees him poking his head just inside her office door, a sheepish grin on his face. She can see the shadow of his tail swishing. He smiles at her, and she instinctively smiles back, though she's still scared and confused and upset . . . And how the heck is she going to pay their way?!

"Sorry," he apologizes, just the tip of his fangs showing in his warm smile. She wishes it could be as reassuring as it once was. She'd like to talk to him about every worry that's plaguing her, but she promised herself, as well as him and Ororo, that she could do this. She could lead them and not burden them with too many worries. They had both been depressed when she'd talked them into coming back to the team, and she'd sworn things would get better. She would make things better, and whereas she needed their help, she wouldn't rely on them too much. She had promised, and if she's anything at all, she is a woman of her word.

She clears her throat, nods, and smiles for him. "I knocked," he says, his tail still swishing, "but you didn't answer."

"It's all right, Kurt. What's up?" Please, please, have some good news.

"You have a visitor." His bright, warm smile begins to warm Kitty's heart. Then he opens the door, and she can't believe her eyes. Her visitor isn't the Professor or Wolvy, but he is a sight for sore eyes. He stands just beyond Kurt, his hat in his hands and his blonde head bowed slightly in respect.

"Cap!" Kitty beams and barely keeps herself from running to him. Then a thought occurs to her, and her pace truly does slow. He may not be coming with good news, after all. She peers out into the hallway, but she doesn't see anybody but a few students and faculty members milling about pass Kurt and Captain America.

She extends her hand politely, cautiously wondering what the Avengers want this time. They haven't always fought on the same side, but the Captain doesn't seem angry. Of course, though, he's a man who plays his cards close to his chest. He could be pissed, and she wouldn't necessarily know it until the battle lines were drawn. "What can I do for you?" she asks as they shake hands, sounding and looking more chipper than she feels.

"Miss Pryde," he acknowledges with a nod of his head, slowly withdrawing his hand, "I'd like to talk to you in private if I may?"

Kitty presses her lips together quickly, just barely stopping herself from telling him he can tell her whatever he has to say in front of her best friend. Instead she inclines her head at Kurt. "Kurt?"

He nods, his long, blue tail still swishing. "Just call if you need me, Katzchen."

"Always," she promises with a true smile. Her mouth is open to ask him to walk, not bamf away, when he teleports.

Steve coughs, but Kitty just waves the brimstone away and leads the way into her office. "Sorry about that," she says with a shrug. "It's a habit."

"And I thought Fury's cigarettes smelled bad," Steve murmurs, grateful when Kitty shuts the door.

"So, Captain, what can I do for you?" Kitty asks, walking over to take her seat.

"Please, Miss Pryde, call me Steve. I'm not here on business -- well, at least, not direct Avengers business any way."

She nods. "Okay, but only if you call me Kitty." She grins.

"Kitty," Steve speaks directly, taking the seat before her desk, "our teams have not always seen eye to eye, but I and some of the others have always believed in the Professor's mission."

Instead of sitting as she's intended, Kitty walks around her desk and leans against it, watching him intently. She can tell he's carefully picking his words and wonders where this conversation's headed. "I also know your people have fallen on hard times a lot lately."

"That's an understatement," she murmurs, and he nods in agreement.

"What you're doing here," he continues, "is a great mission you're undertaking. I've always believed in you, Kitty. That's why I suggested you for SHIELD a few years ago."

It was more than a few years, but she remembers well the incident to which he's referring. She nods, letting him talk and wondering even more what his mission here today is.

"I know you can do this. If anybody can lead the X-Men into a better era, into a time and place where your Professor would again be proud of you, it's you, Miss Pryde -- "

"Kitty," she murmurs, watching his face.

"Kitty," he corrects with a nod. "But I know nothing about this is easy, and your resources are . . . limited, at best. I was a poor kid in Brooklyn. I know what it's like to wonder where your next meal is coming from, or how you're going to pay that next bill, and I know the government's not exactly going to help."

He looks up into her eyes as Kitty makes a sound of derision in the back of her voice. "But there are others who would like to help you," he adds, finally getting to the point, "if we may."

"Cap -- "

"Steve."

She smiles. "Steve, I . . . I don't know what to say." She shakes her head. "I won't lie. We could use the help, but -- "

"I'm not talking about a loan," he adds hurriedly. "I took up a collection. Every one who gave gave freely, gave because they wanted to help, gave because they believe in what you're doing here, Kitty. Will you let us help?" he asks and hands her a check.

She stares down at the figures written on the check, and her mouth drops wordlessly open.

"Some of us have been especially blessed in the financial area," he explains, "and everybody who chipped in did so, like I said, because they wanted to, because we, too, believe in your Professor's dream and we believe in your ability, Kitty, to make it happen."

"Cap -- Steve -- I -- I don't know what to say."

"Say you'll take it. Say you'll call me if you need help. Help of any kind."

Tears brim in Kitty's eyes. She nods wordlessly. He waits patiently until she finally says, "I . . . I will."

"Thank you," he says and, his mission complete, rises to leave.

She shakes her head. "Thank you, and Captain -- "

"Steve."

"Steve, if any of you should need our help -- "

He smiles. "I'll make sure we call. The Avengers and X-Men go a long ways back. I'd like to see us work together again."

"Me, too," she whispers. He lets himself out, and she gazes, still in shock, at the check. She lowers her head. Her tears finally start to flow. She lets herself cry for a good, long while before finally wiping her eyes and walking back over to her window. She looks out, sees Kurt, Ororo, and Logan walking down below with Captain America as they tell him goodbye. Somehow, the day seems far more beautiful than it did earlier. Her heart swells with gratitude and, for the first time in a long time, hope. A new era is starting for the X-Men, for the Avengers, for them all. She looks up into the cloudless, blue sky, smiling, and whispers, "Maybe we'll do it after all, Professor."

This time, she hears him in her head. "Yes, Katheryne. Yes, we will."

Kitty sits down to pay bills, her heart still warm and a smile on her face. Then she pulls out a drawer, picks the first thank you card out of a previously unopened box, and writes it as well. They were going to make it after all!

The End

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