((Disclaimer: All the characters belong to Marvel Comics and whatnot. I don't own them, I can't keep them, so I'm just borrowing them for this exciting little romp. Enjoy your reading!))
Chapter 2: Silent Fight
The rough youngish voice made her drop the hair bow and whirl, eyes wide. "Lance?"
"Hi, Kitty." Lance Alvers grinned roguishly at her, leaning against the hat shelf. " What's up?"
"Oh, like, not much," she said, smiling prettily, her voice breathless. "Just like, shopping."
Jubilee and the others had already begun to draw away cautiously; only Rogue didn't budge a step. The younger girls were wary of the older boy, and understandably so, but Kitty was unafraid and hung around to talk with him, going into what her Institute friends called "Ditz Mode."
"Late Christmas shopping, eh? Me too." Lance smiled a bit sheepishly. "I'd've gotten most of this done sooner but...we're not exactly heavy on cash at my place."
Kitty sighed sympathetically. "I like, totally understand. It's no biggie though, right? It's like, the thought that counts."
"Yeah, well..." Lance shrugged. "You wanna take a break and go get a shake or something? I do have enough change for that."
"Oh, um, actually..." Kitty checked her watch. "I have to leave in like, an hour so I've got to get this done. But I'd like, totally love to do it another time."
"Cool." Lance glanced past her at the hair thingy she'd been looking at. "So who are you shopping for now?"
"Who? Oh, like..." Kitty glanced back at her friends, who were pretending to continue to shop whilst looking over their shoulders at the odd couple. "Well, I was mostly just like, waiting for those guys to finish looking here. I've got like, totally different stuff in mind." She stepped closer to him to speak softly. "Right now I'm like, trying to find a gift for Kurt."
"The Fuzzball?" Lance blurted in disbelief.
"Shhh!" Kitty glared at him. "Of course! But he's like, the only guy I've ever really shopped for. And you know he's a little bit like, different. So I'm like, totally out of ideas."
"How about a flea collar?" Lance suggested cockily.
"Lance!" She punched him lightly in the arm. "Kurt's my friend! I'm like, serious here."
"Okay, okay." He put his hands up in surrender. "How about getting him one of those tube muff things and calling it a tail warmer?"
She glared at him, hiding her giggle. "I swear, you're like, impossible."
Lance shrugged again, rolling his eyes and frowning. "Hey, whadd'ya want? It's not a big deal, Kitty. Sideshow Boy's just a--"
"Like, what is your problem with Kurt?" she interrupted sharply, looking a bit hurt. "Why are you always so mean to him? He's my friend, okay? Like, deal with it."
"Fine." The older boy glanced around, jamming his hands in his pockets. "Guess I'll call you sometime."
With a final not-quite-contemptuous glance at the not-quite-cowering young girls further down the aisle, Lance Alvers turned and left.
But lo and behold--who might that be, lurking by the entrance to the little department? Well, if it wasn't the Sideshow Freak himself, and his bleach-blond buddy. Spyke looked clueless, as usual, but Creepy 'Crawler was directing a look of pure venom Lance's way.
Their eyes met; glares clashed, invisible sparks flew.
Heh. Check this out, Freak Show. Just watch me work. Watch me and choke on it.
And he was walking out of the store, out into the mall to rejoin his friends, a smug smile on his face.
"Dude, we've checked every shop in this mall!" Evan complained, beginning to be out of breath. "What are you so worried about? Kitty's fine--she's with the others. It's not like Alvers is gonna kidnap her or something--"
"Klappe. Keep looking."
Evan shut his mouth. Hearing that tone out of Kurt was so rare it demanded he obey. And the look on his face hadn't changed--it was still somewhere between frantic and furious. What Kurt was so weirded out about was beyond him, but he followed him anyway.
"Alright, man, if we don't find her soon I'm gonna--"
Evan followed Kurt's pointed "fingers" into one of the larger shops on the mall. "Man, that's just Jean. Where's--?"
"Don't you know anything, dummkopf? Girls always travel in packs. The others are in there." Kurt strode forward, heading for the store. Along the way, his unpleasant expression was industriously morphing into his usual cheerful one, ready to face Kitty with a big happy "Hi! Howzit goin'?"
He spotted Kitty from the entrance, just at the end of a large rack of hair accessories. He was in mid-step when he saw the tall brown-haired boy standing next to her.
Kurt froze, teeth gritting. "Scheisse."
Lance hadn't seen him; Kitty and Lance were talking, and Kitty was smiling and blushing--and she looked so happy to see him. Lance leaned toward her, against the shelf, and Kitty's smile brightened at his words.
His words. Lance Alvers. He was over there making Kitty smile like that.
Kurt's gritted teeth almost emerged in a grimace. He could feel his fur bristling, prickling against his clothes.
Alvers...der Bastard... Just seeing Lance anywhere near Kitty set him off, and angered him more and more each time--especially when his own efforts proved fruitless time and again. Ich kann ihn nicht ausstehen. The jerk.
And Kitty was actually stepping close to him! She liked Lance; she enjoyed being with him, didn't mind being seen in public with him. That stung more than anything else--that a lowlife bastard like Alvers had a normal face and normal skin and normal hands, and he, Kurt, was stuck with the form of a freak.
If only he was a real freak, Kurt thought. If only he would turn inside-out, then Kitty would see he's much more hideous than me!
Lance's expression became a bit...sour. Kurt tensed, hands balling into fists. Come on, du Trottel...give me a reason to come over there. Yell at her. Threaten her. Just touch her. Damn you, try it! Du traust dich ja nicht! C'mon, just give me a reason to rip your head off...
But he didn't; the brown-haired mutant merely shrugged with a last word to Kitty and headed out of the store. He spotted Kurt and Evan on his way by--and his smug smile made Kurt's hackles bristle even higher than they already were.
Bastard... Kurt let his teeth show in a tiny snarl. You and your smirk can just...scher dich zum Teufel!
When their eyes met, Lance's smile broadened just a bit, and Kurt knew that triumphant look was meant for him. Lance didn't slow nor falter as he passed the two by the entrance, heading out into the mall. Kurt watched him go, eyes narrowed.
Evan imagined that look on Kurt's face with his natural features--the dark fur, the burning yellow eyes, the just-barely-showing fangs--and shuddered. He never wanted a look like that directed at him; it would have melted him on the spot. Very few people realized that Kurt even had a temper, so rarely did he show it. He was so very good at hiding it.
Evan didn't want to know what might happen if Kurt ever let that temper go.
In as little time as it took to blink, however, that venomous look was gone-- What the--? How does he do that? --replaced by Kurt's usual happy-goofy smile. And Kurt was already trotting into the store, making Evan hurry to catch up.
"Hi Jean!" Kurt greeted the older girl at the watch case. "Fancy meeting you here! How are you?"
Jean cocked an eyebrow. "Well, hello Kurt. Hm, fancy meeting me indeed. And just what are you doing in a store full of girls' accessories?"
Kurt grinned innocently, rubbing the back of his head. "Heh heh...well, I saw you in here--and what do you know, there's Kitty! I just thought I'd stop by and say hi." Please don't pry, Jean, he prayed silently, not sure if she could hear, not sure if she was searching his thoughts for the truth. Please don't look. Don't see the real reason...!
"Okay, whatever," Jean replied. "I'd be careful if I were you. Those girls are doing some serious shopping."
"I've been warned," Kurt replied, grinning. His grin faded a notch when he noticed that Kitty had caught sight of him--and that her expression had turned to a frown. "Ach....um, in any case, we'll just be on our way."
Evan breathed a sigh of relief--a break fromt the girlie stores!
"See you around, Jean!" Kurt waved and turned away. He almost ran out of the store, his shopping mood pretty much destroyed after the Lance interlude.
When they were a ways down the mall, Kurt stopped to flop into one of the convenient benches, remembering at the last moment not to curl himself up into a comfortable ball. Evan sat beside him, still looking perplexed.
"Man, that was freaky. What were you so upset about, dude? He wasn't doing anything wrong. I thought you were going to walk over there and tear Alvers' arms out. In public."
So did I, mein freund. Kurt sighed, rubbing his temples. "Ach...I just don't like it when he hangs around Kitty."
Evan patted his shoulder sympathetically, a wry look on his face. "Dude, I had no idea you were that jealous."
"Halt den Mund! Mach keinen Quatsch!" Kurt sat up straight and all but yelled at him. Evan blinked in confusion, so Kurt took a deep breath. "Just knock it off. That's not it."
Now Evan looked extremely skeptical. "Then what is 'it,' man?"
"Lance is with the Brotherhood--if he influences her too much, she might even join them. We'd lose her, Evan. And she'd get hurt..."
"Damn....dude, it would really bite if we had to fight the K-girl."
Fight Kitty? For a moment, his mind's eye supplied him with a scenario. Facing off against Alvers and Dukes and the rest of their gang--bad enough Tabitha Smith was with them now; seeing Kitty fighting by their side, even attacking the X-Men...and himself, facing off with her...it was unbearable. He couldn't...
I can't fight her. I just wouldn't be able to do it. Never... His expression was falling to morose. "See what I mean, Evan? We've already lost Tabby. The team might never recover if we lost Kitty too."
Evan raised an eyebrow at him. "You mean you might never recover."
"Glaub das bloss nicht. Just let it be, Evan."
"Dude, I know you like Kitty. Duh, I'm busting my butt all over this mall, risking total mortification in the girls' department to help you find a present for her. Hello? Heck, everybody at the Institute already knows."
"Vas?" Kurt glanced at him. "Just what do you say behind my back?"
Evan winced. "Sorry, man. But the guys do talk, and we're not exactly blind. The way you hang around her, the way you pull all those crazy stunts to impress her, the way you're always getting on-edge when Lance comes around--dude, even Jamie noticed, and he's just a kid."
"Am I the butt of so much gossip?"
"Yeah," Evan confessed. "I know it's not real nice of us, but...people talk, man. We're not rocks. I'm just surprised the girls haven't told Kitty about it yet. I think they have a standing bet about how long it'll take you to get your act together..."
"Unglaublich! The girls too?" Kurt sank lower on the bench. "Ach...Ich bin erledigt..."
Evan gave him a commiserating look. "Hey man, women see all, know all. They're the ones that got us thinking about it. I mean, Jubilee told Bobby, and Bobby broke it to Ray and I, and it kept going from there. Scott was the one who said we shouldn't go blurting out that we all know, and I'm not sure how the girls are handling it."
"Wunderbar...my life is a veritable treasure trove of gossip."
"We're not gossiping, man," Evan protested. "Most of us would really like to see you two get together. Some of the guys like Kitty too, but they'd rather see her with you than with Alvers. Dude, why do you think Ray and Sam haven't put the moves on her? Because they know, man. You like her, you were there first, and you've got seniority. That's like this big sign that says, 'Hands off!' The guys aren't gonna cross that line." He paused a little before continuing. "And we've all seen what you get like when Lance is around her. Nobody wants you pissed off at us, dude."
"And just how long was this betting and gossiping supposed to go on?" Kurt asked, his voice a sullen murmur.
"Just 'til you got off your tail and went out with K-girl," Evan replied. "But everyone's sorta wondering what the holdup is."
Kurt sighed. "Evan, take a good look at me. Without the holo-projector. Then think about what the holdup is."
"Aw, man, not that again," Evan groaned. "Dude, nobody cares! Does anybody at the Institute razz you about it--I mean seriously razz you about it? Kitty doesn't care either!"
"You weren't here when she first arrived," Kurt retorted.
"She was scared to death of me the first time we met," Kurt confessed sadly. "She couldn't stand me. Ask Jean or Scott--she didn't want to be anywhere near me. By the time you came I guess she'd gotten used to me, but still...even now..."
Evan stared at him. "Whoa. Man, I'm sorry--I didn't know. Scott never said anything."
"He wouldn't." Kurt looked up at him. "Evan, behalte das für dich. As friends, keep this between us."
"No problem. I will. But, dude...is that why you've been wearing your watch nonstop every day?"
Kurt sat up suddenly. "Nein! That has nothing to do with it!" He stood and began to walk off. "Hör auf! Let's go."
Evan sat on the bench for a confused moment. "Wow. And I thought the Kitty issue was a touchy subject..." He shook his head, hopping up off the bench and heading after his friend. "Yo, Kurt, wait up!"
The girls' car and the guys' van arrived at the Institute at the same time. Everyone giggled and chattered and shooed others away from double-ply shopping bags and mysterious, enticing packages. People were hurriedly hiding things under their jackets and behind their backs as they sorted out their stuff from trunks and backseats and hustled toward the house. It was just past dark and getting quite cold.
Kurt was his usual goofy self by the time he piled out of the van behind Ray and Bobby. The only one who didn't have any packages to take in, he bounded into the snow on the lawn near the garage and started scooping it up, ready to launch an attack on the nearest unlucky victim.
"Look out, he's loaded!" Evan shouted, clutching his bag and taking off for the front door.
The slightly messy exodus from the garage became a mad scramble to get into the house where, thank God, snowball fights were outlawed.
Kurt hopped toward them, both hands full of snow. "The Luftwaffe squadron comes in for a devastating bombing run! Brrreeeearrrrrr!" he buzzed, imitating a biplane's puttering hum.
"Hold it right there, Elf!" called Logan's gravelly voice from the front step. "Remember what the Prof said about goofing with the watch on."
Most everyone had made it to the relative safety of indoors, but those still outside saw an amazing sight. Kurt's little antic was short-circuited; the snow fell from his hands and he quite visibly drooped. "Jawohl, Herr Logan. I remember." His bounce became a walk as he turned to go inside.
"That was like, totally not Kurt," Kitty commented to Jubilee beside her.
"No kidding. But nice save from Mr Logan, there." Jubilee ducked in the door after Logan.
The last ones to the door, Kitty turned to Kurt as he came up the steps. "Like, what's the matter, Kurt? Usually nobody can stop you from starting like, the biggest snowball fight ever."
"It's nothing," Kurt replied, uncharacteristically reserved. "I'll get them tomorrow."
Her voice made him pause, brought his gaze around to her.
"You're like, okay, aren't you?" she asked quietly. "I mean you're not like, dying or anything?"
That made his mouth quirk up. "Nein, Kitty. I promise I'm not dying. I'm fine--see?" He grinned at her, but even so, his grin seemed...hollow.
"Okay," she said reluctantly. "Like, whatever you say, Fuzzy."
He held the door for her, but as she stopped in the entryway to pull off her wet shoes, Kurt went on, muttering something in German. "...verdammt Winterpelz..." was all she could make out of his mumbling.
"Okay," Kitty said to herself as she headed for her room. "I like, totally need a German dictionary to deal with that guy."
To be continued...
|"Idiot" or "Stupid."|
"Ich kann ihn nicht ausstehen."
|"I can't stand him."|
"Du traust dich ja nicht!"
|"I dare you!"|
"Cher dich zum Teufel!"
|"Go to Hell!"|
"Halt den Mund!"
|"Shut your mouth!"|
"Mach keinen Quatsch!"
|"Don't be silly!"|
"Glaub das bloss nicht."
|"Don't run away with the idea."|
|less polite "Unbelievable!"|
"Ich bin erledigt."
|"I'm toast," or "I'm a goner."|
"Behalte das für dich."
|"Keep this private."|
|"Knock it off!"|
|stronger "Yes," or "Yes sir."|
|"Mister" or "Sir"|
|"Damn," or "Dammit."|
* * * * *