I don't think the showers had ever felt better than after that gruelling Danger Room session. Logan had really put us through our paces; nine of the kids had been "killed" by the paintball splats - including me. Just Cyclops, Magma and Kitty made it out alive, and Kitty only made it because the paintballs couldn't hit her.
Actually, one other X-Man survived...
"That was ripping good fun!" Risty said cheerily as I pulled a clean shirt over my still-damp hair. Her uniform was a mess - none of it paint, though. "I've come to find these mock-battles invigorating!"
"That's because you kick ass," I grumbled. So I was a little grouchy; I'd been picked off less than a minute into the exercise when Bobby used me as a human shield. I'd get him for that.
"Cheer up, luv," she panted, leaning heavily on my shoulder. "At least Iceman fared little better; he was dispatched just seconds after you."
"Whatever, it's fine." I shoved a boot on and started buckling it.
"I'd better hit that shower," she said, wiping her brow. "I'm a living tribute to grime everywhere!"
As Risty grabbed her towel and toiletries, I stomped out the locker room door, only to run into Scott on the other side.
"Whoa, where's the fire?"
"Hey," he said, probably noticing the vein popping out on my forehead. "Bobby's gonna get his for what he did. No need to go tear him limb from limb yourself."
"I know." Inspiration seized me. "Scott, where's the Prof?"
"The Professor? Hmm... I think he's off doing some kinda community service thing."
"Community service? What'd he do?"
An eyebrow raised above his visor. "People can do stuff like that just for the good of humanity, you know."
"Why, what's up?" We started making our way to the elevator.
"Well, I've been thinking about putting in some extra time in the Danger Room... y'know, heighten my game."
"Why? You're a key member of the team - nothing lacking, as far as I've seen. You're a good, conscious fighter." He caught the look on my face and sighed. "Today's a bad example."
"Or a good example of why I need to step it up."
"Well, I admire your dedication, but... look, just talk to the Professor when he gets back. I think you're doing great, though."
Under different circumstances, the compliment from Scott probably would've turned me crimson and tripped up my words, but I was too preoccupied for it to penetrate me that far. "Thanks." The elevator dinged and opened onto the second floor. "Well, see ya."
"Later." He looked over his shoulder at me for a second before opening the door to his room and walking inside.
"Rogue... why so glum, chum?"
Risty crept over to me, eyes alight with wicked amusement darting into the corners of the kitchen. "I've got something that'll cheer you up, I reckon... c'mon, quick!"
Her hand clamped on my arm, and before I could give voice to my protests she was dragging me upstairs.
"You won't believe what I've stumbled upon," she giggled. "I just hope we're not too late!"
"What, what is-"
"Shh!" We had reached the end of my hallway. "Quiet, now..."
To my confusion, it was my door Risty was creeping toward, half-crouched and still clutching my arm. My mouth opened, but she raised a preemptive finger to her lips. Then I heard something from the inside.
"Vhat are ve looking at?" a voice behind me hissed. Risty clamped her hand over my mouth just before I screamed.
"Shh!" she hissed back at Kurt. "Listen." The giggles were getting louder.
"Who's in there?" he whispered.
A voice drifted out from the crack under the door - muffled, but still distinguishable. "Lance, cut it out..."
"Kitty," Risty breathed, her impish grin spreading. "And company, obviously."
"Heilige Scheiße," Kurt said in hushed tones. "You don't think-"
"Holy shit," I mouthed. "That's my room, too! They better not be messin' around on my bed, or..."
"Hey, what- oooohhh..."
After hearing that, all three of us forgot what we were saying; the show was getting more intense.
"Oh, Kitty..." The hallway rumbled slightly, almost knocking us over.
"Lance, d-don't, we- we shouldn't- MMMMHHH! Oh, Lance!"
"What the hell are you locos doing?"
Everything was dead quiet in the mansion for ten agonizing seconds. Then Kurt, thinking quickly, grabbed Risty, me, and the bumbling Roberto and teleported us all to his room before Kitty or Lance could get up the nerve to check the hallway - assuming they didn't have to put their clothes back on, first.
"You GIT!" Risty said, flicking Roberto's ear as hard as she could. "Doesn't the sight of three people crouched on the floor, deathly silent and unmoving, send up any flares that maybe you shouldn't go shouting things like a braindead banshee?"
"I cannot believe it!" Kurt babbled, eyes wide in disbelief. "They vere... they vere..."
"Wearing out bedsprings," I finished for him.
"Not a mental picture I vanted!" He grabbed the sides of his head, plopping into his desk chair.
"One more time," Roberto said as his eyebrows knitted even more. "What the hell?"
Even though we'd almost been caught at it - no thanks to Roberto - the little activity had made me forget all about my jealousy of Risty's semi-natural martial arts talent. She was my best friend, and I should be proud of her for doing so well... even if she was leaving me in the dust.
Just in case you were worried, we did get Roberto to promise he wouldn't squeal on us to Kitty or Lance. He was shocked, but we wouldn't let him leave Kurt's room until he swore.
Kitty was jumpy for the rest of the day. Every time I saw her, she was laughing nervously, talking to herself, or glancing around like a fox who'd been in the Queen's henhouse.
"Eventful day?" I asked innocently when she walked into our room later that evening.
"ACK!" She clutched her heart for a moment, then laughed nervously (again). "Wh-why do you ask?"
"You act all excited?"
"I'm... I'm nervous about, um, finals! Yeah!"
Her nod quickly turned into a shake. "No, of course not. Well, actually I am, yeah, but..."
"But what?" I pressed. Think of this as my revenge on her for spreading rumours about Risty; a little harmless torture. I was waiting for her to blow up at me and tell me to mind my own damn business.
That might be why it threw me when she suddenly flung herself on her bed and started crying. Between sobs, I heard words that suspiciously sounded like, "I'm not a slut! I'm not!"
Torn between comforting her and clearing out to give her some privacy, I slowly moved to the middle of the room, fidgeting with a strap on my tank top. Finally, I knew I couldn't just leave her there, all alone and pitiful. That's almost cruel.
"Kitty, what's wrong?" I sat down next to her, petting her hair (like you would a cat, right?). "You can tell me."
"I... I think I made some mis- mistakes today," she blubbered, refusing to show me her face. "Big ones."
"Yeah?" What really went on in here earlier? "How big?"
"Ultra majorly über colossal," she moaned into the pillow. "Lance... he and I... we..."
"Oh, come on!" Now she faced me, a look of stark desperation in her eyes. "D-Don't make me-!"
"I mean, how far?"
Almost relieved that I knew what she was talking about, her gaze dropped to the floor. "Like, shortstop or something."
"We didn't go all the way!" she shouted indignantly; whether or not she thought that was a good thing, I couldn't tell. "But... it wasn't all over-the-clothes type stuff, either."
"Please tell me you didn't use my bed," I mumbled.
"Nothing. Look," I said uneasily, "do you know what you're doing? I mean, this is kind of a big thing, and Lance..."
Her eyes blazed as she looked up at me. "He's a great guy, Rogue. You don't know him like I do!"
"He's a Brotherhood thug, Kitty! You can't just ignore that!"
"I'm not! But... but I can't ignore my feelings, either! I really like him! It... it might even be the L-word!"
The sarcastic remark about how mature she was acting came to the surface of my mind, strained to get out, but somehow I bit it back. "Er... just be careful, okay? You don't want to be hearing the pitter-patter of little paws just yet."
"God, you sound like my mom," she said with disgust, then sighed. "You're right, though, I guess. But you don't know how bad the temptation is! Haven't you ever really wanted to just... y'know, like, keep going?"
"Can't say I have."
She rolled to her side, propping herself up on one elbow. "Oh, wow... me and my stupid mouth, I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry, Rogue, really..."
"No, seriously," she said, sitting up and putting her hand on my forearm. "I've been acting like a selfish jerk about this, whining about Lance and me, and you can't even-"
"Hey, you didn't spin the roulette wheel of life that won me these stupid powers. Don't worry about it."
She nodded glumly for a second, then cleared her throat hesitantly. "Um, look... don't tell anybody about this, okay? I think some people already caught wind of it somehow, but... but if they knew the truth, I'd..."
"My lips are sealed." I performed the necessary hand motion of zipping them closed. Of course, I still felt like telling the whole damn school to get back at her... but this was way too personal, and just seeing the tears streaming from her glittering blue eyes was enough to tell me it wouldn't be worth it.
"Thanks." She smiled at me for a second, then sighed and flopped back on the bed. "This wouldn't be so weird if Lance hadn't gone back to those assholes..."
"Y'know, it's funny; Lance thought he heard somebody out in the hall, but when he went to check, nobody was there. You think maybe he just got cold feet?"
"Oh, wow... I feel absolutely horrible."
Risty leaned back against the wall, clutching her pillow. True to my word, I hadn't repeated any of the details, but I thought her and Kurt should know how scared and confused she was about all this.
"And here I vas just thinking about how crazy and disturbing it is," Kurt said, sitting down heavily in Risty's desk chair. "Poor Kitty..."
"We can't tell anybody about this," I said firmly. "I mean, she's our friend, right?"
"I know I wouldn't want anyone to know about my first hesitant sexual exploits," Risty agreed. "I didn't realize that's what we were listening to, I... I thought this was just the most recent! Christ, I feel like such a pervert!"
"Exactly," Kurt lamented. "Ve need some memory soap or something."
"Hey, so Shadowcat's not as innocent as we thought... so what?" There wasn't much else to say, but I couldn't stand how uncomfortable the silence was. "She's still Kitty. And you said so yourself, Risty... Lance ain't so bad."
A gasp from the doorway drew our attention.
"You promised," Kitty croaked.
"YOU PROMISED, DAMMIT!"
"Hey, hey, I kept it!" I said quickly. "They already knew, I swear!"
"Y... you're lying!"
"She's not," Kurt said - and the tone of his voice made it clear he wished otherwise.
"Kitty, seriously, I didn't blab anything! I just wanted to shut down the rumour mill before it got started!"
All Kitty could do now was shake her head and sob, backing away as I moved toward her. It ate me up inside, knowing she thought I'd betrayed her in the worst way possible.
"I didn't tell them anything new besides how upset you were... I just, I thought they should know what a sensitive topic this is, and..."
She broke down in the hallway. We quickly pulled her into Risty's room (though the first time we tried, our hands passed through her out-of-phase arms) and gave her use of the spare bed.
"Why does everybody have to know?" she finally blubbered into the mattress. "We might as well have been on the front lawn!"
Risty and I petted her reassuringly; Kurt just sat there looking uncomfortable. When Risty's clock-radio quietly started playing "Get Down Make Love", Kitty's sobs began anew.
"Damn crap station," Risty muttered, bashing the offending device silent.
"Do you guys swear not to tell?" Kitty pleaded. "Unless... does anybody else know?"
The whole story came out, starting with Risty happening to hear something in the hall and ending with Kurt groaning about bad mental images. We all told an even amount, not wanting to share too much of the blame, or shove off too much on somebody else.
"So Roberto knows zippo," Kurt was saying. "Just that ve vere up to something, and somebody else vas."
"This is all my bloody fault," Risty cursed. "I dragged everybody into this. They didn't even know what was going on."
"Why'd you do that to me?" Kitty asked, her eyes flashing. "It's not funny, y'know!"
Hesitation. "I... I dunno, luv... it just seemed like you were trying to get away with something unseemly, and... and I suppose I was still a bit cross over you telling everyone my little secret - or trying to. It was childish of me."
Kitty's anger abated. "Man... I never did apologize for that, did I? God, I'm such a hypocrite!"
"Vhat ve need," Kurt interrupted, "is an all-night movie fest! Ve can bond, ingest mass quantities of junk food, and enjoy other people's misery onscreen!" He thought a moment, then added, "Maybe if ve vere a little better acquainted, ve von't keep ruining each other's lives, right?"
We accepted his suggestion, and it was everything he promised and more. By the end of "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle", popcorn and Sno-Caps were all over the day room, and so were the sounds of hilarity; Bobby, Jubilee, Sam, Ray and Amara heard us at about midnight and came downstairs to see what was going on, and it wasn't long before Scott, Jean and Evan joined the party, too.
"Nuh-uh! You're full of it!"
"I swear, all true!"
"What a loser!"
"The worst thing," Risty continued, shaking so hard from unreleased giggles she nearly dumped nail polish all over Kitty's leg, "was when he said, 'So you're with the Hare Krishna?'"
The room erupted in laughter, hardly penetrated by Amara's innocent "I don't get it..."
Of course, half the movies we watched were worthless crap, and Kurt's imitation of Jim Carrey almost broke a floor lamp (thank God for Jean's telekinesis!), but at least we got to talk and goof around. Considering what the future held, I'm extremely glad we had that night to ourselves...
••••••••••••••••••X•••••••••••••••••• END CH VII