Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Shadowcat, past Colossus/Shadowcat, Iceman cameo, References to Shadowcat/Magik and Shadowcat/Prestige
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else." -- J.M. Barrie
Warning(s): Spoilers, References to Cannon Character Death
Word Count: 2,786
Date Written: 26 September 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
The knock on her office door comes late at night. She looks up with a frown, her pencil poised above the latest student’s paper to come across her desk. “Come in.” She used to love to see him, but now she almost dreads the approach of the hulking, handsome figure who emerges into her office.
Had she really gone so giddy over that deep, Russian voice as a teenager? She knows she did. She remembers the girl she was and how infatuated she was with this man whose friendship she still cherishes, even if it does feel almost like an entirely different lifetime ago. “Piotr.” Carefully, she pushes her frown away and forces herself to smile at him. He said he would not push her, but yet he continues to come to her at all times of the day and night. She knows, even though he doesn’t say one word about his proposal, that part of him is still seeking an answer, an answer both which she is not ready to give and which he will not like when she finally does give it. “What are you doing up?”
“I could ask the same of you.”
They both glance at the clock on her wall, whose hands are pointing at 3. Three hours until the time she has risen every day for as long as she can remember, no matter how late she’s been out saving the world or doing any other of the numerous activities involved in being an X-Man and, now, in running their school and team. She shrugs and looks back down at the paper in front of her, pretending not to notice how the words seem to run together. “I have work to do.”
“I could help.” He walks around her desk and lays large hands, whose gentility, even after all this time, are still sometimes surprising. There is not an intentionally mean bone in Piotr’s body, Kitty knows. He’s such a gentle soul that, despite the heartache and tears he’s caused her over their long years together, she still doesn’t want to hurt him. She’d do anything to keep from hurting him, anything but go back on the promise she’s made herself, the Professor, and all the mutants in their world, even if she’s the only one who actually knows about the promise she voiced late that one night that, again, seems like so long ago.
“Thanks, but you really can’t,” she says, not looking back up at him. “They’re my papers to grade.” My bills to pay, she reflects, thinking back on her earlier activities tonight. My promise to keep. My school to run. She will accept his gracious help as far as she can, but when it boils down to it, she’s the one who’s taken the X-Men’s continued existence upon her own shoulders.
She’s the one who’s picked up the Professor’s legacy, and Wolverine’s, and Scott’s before he went crazy. She’s the one who made the promise that she will find a way to make the X-Men work to make their school to work, and to finally make the Professor’s Dream in which they all believe but have all suffered so much in fighting for a reality at long last. It all rests on her, and he can not share the burden, not really. It’s sweet of him to try, but she’s got to do this somewhat on her own. The others can help in battle, and in training classes, and in guiding these children whose very special lives are in their hands, but when it comes right down to it, to the fundamental background workings that make their team and school run, she’s got to do it on her own.
It also doesn’t help that she feels guilty every time he’s near, every time he speaks her name in that special way that once made her swoon, every time he looks at her in such a way that she knows his heart is yearning for her. She wishes she could just tell him the truth, but telling him the truth will hurt him -- and yet, she knows, one of these days, she’s going to have to tell him point blank. She tried dropping subtle hints. She tried to tell him gently without telling him the full truth of it all, -- and that was the very night he proposed.
She smirks at herself. Some genius she is. She can’t even find a way to get rid of a man without crushing his heart. But she also can’t let herself go backwards, not any more, and returning to Piotr, trying to make things work with him when her heart no longer feels love for him, that would be completely backwards. If this, any of this, what she’s doing with the X-Men, for the Dream, or with her own life is going to work, she’s got to go forward, not backwards, and lying about how she feels or returning to him in any way will be nothing but going backward, backward in her life, backward in the promise she made to herself and to all those she loves, including Piotr, who will always hold a special place in her heart though it’s not the one for which he longs.
“Let me help,” he says, beginning to rub her shoulders. “I can help.”
God, she’d forgotten how good his massages feel! Her eyes roll closed as he rubs the tenseness out of her shoulders. He’s always been able to touch her like nobody else, but what she’d once mistaken for romantic love she knows now is another kind of love entirely. She doesn’t want to lose him, she thinks, but she can’t love him the way he wants either. The moan that slips from her surprises her.
Think, Pryde! Think! She’s dangerously close to falling back into the old pattern of swooning for him. It would be so easy. Piotr is a good, kind, handsome, wonderful guy with an amazing touch, she thinks of she moans again underneath his skilled, gentle hands, but he’s still a guy. She hasn’t been with a guy, or wanted to be with a guy, in years.
“They’ll never know if I help you grade,” he whispers in her ear. “I know the material well enough.” Another soft moan slips its way free of her restraint. “Perhaps, after we finish grading them, you can get some sleep. You need to sleep, Katya. I know you are tired, beyond tired. You work all the time now. You are working for a good cause, I know, the best cause, but you will work yourself out, Katya, if you do not rest some. When you do not, you will be unable to help anyone.”
She stiffens as his words sink in. She’s not going to burn herself out! She’s strong; she’s brilliant -- a certified genius! She can do this! She can make all of this happen! She can make the Dream come true, and with her at the helm, her friends and family will finally succeed at making certain that all the deaths of the loved ones they’ve lost were not in vain! The Professor’s was not in vain! Logan’s was not in vain!
Piotr’s hands raise slightly from her shoulders as he senses the sudden change in her. “I am only concerned -- “ he starts.
She knows he is, but she will not do what he thinks! Besides, this isn’t just work! This is her life, the life she’s wanted since she was barely a teenager and first found a real family, a family whose love and connections were far more real to her than her struggling bond with her parents ever was, with the X-Men! This is her dream! And going back to Piotr, being with him, has only ever brought her pain, heartache, and away from realizing her dreams!
“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else,” she snaps, vaguely recognizing the words from a book she read once when she was still a kid, “and this isn’t just work, Piotr -- “
“It’s your life,” he says gently. She fears his sorrow and defeat in his voice and instantly regrets snapping at him. “I know. I only want to help,” he says again.
She doesn’t look up at him. She doesn’t dare. He may be one of her absolutely most cherished friends, but she will never again have feelings for him the way he desires. He isn’t the answer. Going to him always leads to more trouble, not less, and besides, there’s simply no longer any romantic desire left in her for him, not really. For Rachel, who doesn’t even remember their time together in England as she comes from yet another timeline, yes, for Illyana, who Kitty barely sees these days, yes, but for Piotr? It simply isn’t there any longer.
“I know you do,” she says, trying to convey gentleness and gratitude in her voice, “but the best way you can help me right now is by letting me do my work.”
“Very well, but should you change your mind -- “
Should you change your mind about us, she hears plainly though he doesn’t say the actual words, should you decide to accept my proposal to become my wife --
“You’ll be the first one I call,” she assures him but still doesn’t look back up. She scrutinizes the paper in front of her instead as though it’s the most interesting document she’s seen in weeks. But the moment she hears him walk out her door and walk away from her office, Kitty drops her pencil onto her desk and her head into her hands.
She weeps quietly, her shoulders shaking, as she wonders yet again why all of this has to be hard. She’s trying to do what’s right here not just for herself but for him as well and for everybody who’s depending upon her! Why does it have to be so hard?! Why does turning to him for all her solutions have to be so damn tempting?!
Despite her promise, despite her determination, she would love to hand the helm to somebody else, to anybody else she thought could and would do the job she’s determined to do herself. Ororo could do it, but she doesn’t have the heart for it any more. The very same thing can be said for Kurt or Hank. There are others who could do it, but they can not for they’ve suffered even more than she has. They’ve all but given up.
She knows she’s the only thing keeping Ororo and Kurt here. They’ve both told her, separately and in private, that she gives them hope. And they’ve both been there for her practically ever since she discovered her own mutant power. They cared for her and saved her so many times as a teenager and a young woman. They’ve saved her so many times throughout practically her whole life! Now, like any good daughter growing up and caring for her parents when they grow older, she has to care for them. She has to make it to where they, and others, can still fight, where they can still believe that the Dream can yet happen, where they can still have hope. They need her.
They all need her. There may be others who can do this as far as their actual capabilities are concerned, but their hearts, their souls, can no longer do it. Why, Kurt doesn’t even have his soul any more -- or so he claims, though she finds that impossible to believe every time she looks into his eyes, sees him safe a life, or feels his arms around her! Kitty’s shoulders shake. She could use a hug like his right now, but she can’t go to him. She can’t add her burdens to all those he already has.
There’s Old Man Logan, but despite the looks, and the attitude, and again the capabilities, he is not her Logan. And besides, he had to kill his X-Men. He’ll never trust himself to lead another team. But she doesn’t need somebody else right now who can lead another team. What she needs, what she really needs, is a friend, someone who understands her, someone who . . .
Kitty nearly leaps out of her office chair. She moves so fast that she has to phase through her desk to keep from colliding with it. Before she can change her mind, she goes for that friend she needs, another X-Man who has his own troubles but whose burdens aren’t nearly as bad as some of the others, her own included, another friend who, like Piotr, over the years, has become more like a brother to her.
Surprisingly, she doesn’t have to bang on his door. He opens it upon her third knock, takes one look at her beautiful face with tears still pouring down it, and opens his arms. He pulls her into his room and shuts the door behind them. He holds her as she cries, and he just lets her cry. He doesn’t try to say anything. He doesn’t attempt to assuage her tormented feeling with meager words. He just holds her and lets her cry until, at last, through great, gasping sobs, she tells him, speaking the words for the first time just as he himself has had such difficulty doing recently, “Bobby, . . . I’m gay.”
“I know,” is his simple answer, “and it’s going to be okay.” He shrugs one shoulder. “You’ll probably piss Peter off, but he’ll get over it.”
“Do you really think so?” she asks, pulling back to look up at him through her tears so that she can see if his conviction is true or not.
He nods. “He will. I had a lot of women who were pissed at me when I first came out, but they got over it. So will he -- “
“But he -- “
“Thinks he’s in love with you?” She nods mutely. “I can’t say my exes believed that, but they moved on and so will he. We all have a missing half out there, Kitty. You’re not his missing half, because he’s not yours, so you can’t be the one to make him whole but he’ll find that person.”
Bobby nods again. “Yeah,” he says, wiping the tears from her forlorn face with his bare fingers. “Just like you will.”
“I never knew you were such a romantic.” No longer crying as hard, Kitty smirks up at him.
“I learned it from you,” he tells her, “and I learned a lot more from you.”
“Really? Like what?”
“Like you’re going to be the one to make us all whole again, Kitty.”
“You really believe that?”
He hugs tightly, and in that moment, his embrace is the best feeling in the world to her. “I do,” he breathes into her ear, but then he takes her hand and leads her away from the door. “But for now, why don’t you crash on my couch? You can use a little catnap.” He grins at her. “I promise the world will still be waiting for you to save it when you wake back up.”
Her answering smile is somewhere between a genuine grin and another smirk. “As long as you promise,” she teases, feeling so much better already now that she’s finally told someone.
“I do.” He gazes into her eyes as he turns her toward his couch and lets go of her hand. “We’re not going anywhere, Kitty, not anywhere you don’t lead us to first.”
She does smile this time as she sinks down onto his couch. She’s asleep the moment her head touches the arm. He bends down, lifts her legs, and helps her move into a more comfortable position, her entire body curled onto his couch. He looks down at the amazing woman who he’s watched grow from a scared girl who was barely a teen into a strong, capable woman full of power and strength not just in her physical capabilities but in her heart and soul most of all.
“You’ll save us,” he whispers, brushing her hair with his fingers like a fond, older brother, “and you are going forward, not backward.” They both are, he realizes with a sudden rush of pride. The smile she gives him tells him she’s both heard and believes him; he goes back to bed with a smile of his own. The Dream’s going to happen this time. She’s going to make it, and he’s going to be there with her every step of the way, helping where he can as he watches history for all their people be made!