cradling the cactus tree

I can't stand to watch CNN

It's such a bullshit channel; a joke really. I'm more likely to believe Extra or Entertainment Tonight than anything on CNN. At least they're honest about their tabloid quality. They don't try to pass it off as truth.

Muir Island Academy, like Xavier's, had a news room. A dozen or so TV monitors displayed different news channels from different countries, cycling every fifteen minutes if you don't stop it manually. I focused on five: two US channels, two BBC, and one Canadian. The rest, though pertinent, weren't in English. I didn't have the patience to read the subtitles.

I didn't even know why I was here. I'm about as useful as a fish's bicycle. I should be back in Westchester getting ready for the next school year-- ten new students and those are only the ones who've pre-registered. Without me or the Professor, Jean, Ro, and Hank should be able to hold the fort well enough. Not perfectly, but well enough.

That should have bugged me more. The past fifty-two hours had a way of wiping things like that from your head though.

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
café_freak has entered the room
SuperPunk7 has entered the room

café_freak: boo
SuperPunk7: Hey, Remy
café_freak: why superpunk7?
SuperPunk7: I dunno, it just seemed appropriate
café_freak: I'll bite.
café_freak: not rogue?
SuperPunk7: Nah. The leather name stays in the Danger Room.
café-freak: leather name. Sounds kinky.
SuperPunk7: I've got to introduce you to one of my roommates. You'd either be best friends or worst enemies.
café_freak: yeah?
SuperPunk7: either way, it'll be tons of fun to watch.
café_freak: glad I can make your life more entertaining.
SuperPunk7: always
SuperPunk7: hello?
café_freak: sorry. doing something else at the same time
café_freak: laundry. trying to fold stuff and it's just not cooperating.
SuperPunk7: OK
SuperPunk7: Did you want to go?
café_freak: I'm good if you're good.
café_freak: what are you doing?
SuperPunk7: Writing a paper.
café_freak: during your summer vacation?
SuperPunk7: Yep. On my handy-dandy notebook computer. It's to help me get ahead next year. I want to qualify for a sort of honours program where I get to live and work in a French-speaking city.
café_freak: what's it about?
SuperPunk7: The essay? French Around the World. Y'know, the different types of French in France, Luxembourg, Canada, even Creole.
café_freak: really? you choose that?
SuperPunk7: Sure. It's really interesting. *LOL* I'm getting to be such a word freak.
café_freak: what do you mean?
SuperPunk7: Nothing. I just get into long rhetorical tangents about words and origin of words and all that. It drives all my roomies nuts.
café_freak: *grin* well, I could of told you that.
SuperPunk7: It's actually supposed to be an intro paper but I asked if I could integrate historical roots and cite literature from those places instead of just reporting and the instructor wrote me down as an intermediate.
café_freak: good for you. That was good, right?
SuperPunk7: *LOL* yeah, it was good. Especially if I make the grade. I'm just having trouble concentrating.
café_freak: I should go then.
café_freak: let you write in peace.
SuperPunk7: You don't have to. I want you to stick around while I write.
café_freak: you missed me, chere?
SuperPunk7: *snorts*
café_freak: you did! you missed me. aw shucks
SuperPunk7: Kinda like a big, ugly mole in the middle of my nose. I can't wait to get it removed but my nose feels funny without it.
café_freak: that was beautiful. you should go into poetry. I didn't miss you a bit
SuperPunk7: Thanks a bundle!
café_freak: you didn't let me finish. I didn't miss you a bit except for the times when I was breathing
SuperPunk7: Remy! That's so sweet!
café_freak: you think so? I was gonna use it next time I went to the bar.
SuperPunk7: You're hopeless.
SuperPunk7: is on idle
café_freak: is on idle

SuperPunk7: You still there, Remy?
café_freak: yep
SuperPunk7: I've gotta go now. Thanks for sticking around.
café_freak: not a problem. see you, river rat
SuperPunk7: Ciao, swamp rat
café_freak: has left the room
SuperPunk7 has left the room

The Professor was in his element. He and MIA's resident telepath, Elisabeth Braddock, have been working on Marie. Or rather, Carol-Danvers-in-Marie. How convenient that Marie would absorb a cheesed-off reporter. It was just what we needed to slam another nail in the rapidly deteriorating human-mutant relations.

I growled at myself and banished the thought. It was an accident. A completely and utter accident. Nobody's fault except whoever started the damned riot. Still... CNN was having a field day about it all.

The professor and Braddock were exchanging psychic lingo, most of which went straight over my head. I think the gist of it was that the Professor had the power to help contain all the conflicting mental fingerprints in Marie's head. However, since she'd touched him before, he would interfere with his own residual imprint in Marie's head and perhaps make the problem worse. Braddock had never touched Marie but neither did she have the power or the training to do something as delicate as this.

Using Jono, Marie's outed friend, wasn't even a possibility. The poor kid wasn't dealing with his manifestation very well. Having your chest and half your face blown out by a psi-surge could do that. And then having your best friend go schizophrenic on top of it all? I didn't even want to know how he was still alive; I had a feeling it involved a very tenuous miracle. If we asked too many questions, it might implode.

The professor needed someone who knew Marie intimately but had never touched her. Talk about your oxymorons.

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
SuperPunk7 has entered the room
café_freak has entered the room

SuperPunk7: Hey, stranger
café_freak: stop reminding me of my new addiction. to think I used to leave my room before you showed me this IM thing.
SuperPunk7: I didn't hold a gun to your head.
café_freak: sure you didn't. done that paper yet?
SuperPunk7: *groan* I wish.
café_freak: poor river rat.
SuperPunk7: yeah. Makes me want to go back to Xaviers'.
SuperPunk7: what are you up to today?
café_freak: bought me a TV. Watching a football game.
SuperPunk7: cool. Who's winning?
café_freak: not my team. That's the only important information
SuperPunk7: You should see how ballistic the people in England are about soccer.
SuperPunk7: It's torn families apart, I swear
café_freak: as is only right.
SuperPunk7: What else did you do?
café_freak: nothing really. Ate, slept, ate some more, jogged, ate.
SuperPunk7: Whoa, better take it easy, tiger.
SuperPunk7: That Type A lifestyle's going to get you into an early grave.
café_freak: You know me. All work and no play.
SuperPunk7: *snorts*
SuperPunk7: What *do* you do all day?
café_freak: what do you mean?
SuperPunk7: Well, do you teach at Xaviers' still?
café_freak: No I'm not cut out to be a teacher
SuperPunk7: So what do you do? How're you paying for the apartment and all?
café_freak: I got me a sugar momma
café_freak: I'd tell you who she is but I'd have to kill you
SuperPunk7: If you don't want me to know, just say so.
SuperPunk7: Hello?
SuperPunk7: Remy?
SuperPunk7: Reeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyy!!
café_freak: I'm here.
café_freak: I'm an independent consultant.
SuperPunk7: Consulting what?
café_freak: whatever needs to be consulted.
SuperPunk7: Fine. Whatever.
SuperPunk7: I guess I'll just work on the paper now.
SuperPunk7 has left the room
café_freak: has left the room

I took a sip of tea; I'd been warned that Dr. MacTaggert's coffee was fatal. The way they brewed tea up here didn't have much difference from coffee as far as I could tell. The bitterness was okay. I needed it to help swallow the shit that I had to watch on TV.

This is how a rock riot gets produced.

Take one mosh pit. Add alcohol, marijuana, and a healthy dose of testosterone poisoning. Maybe a few drops of acid or E for variety. Mix well.

In any of that-- anywhere at all -- was "mutant" an ingredient? I grew up with mosh pits. Drugs weren't always a factor; it could be all music, hormones, and awesome guitar licks that drive people to purposefully run into each other at high speeds. Most of the time, the people in the centre, in the actual mosh pit, are the only ones who get hurt. Tramplings only happen in rare, extreme cases when the venue is too small or the crowd too hyper for security.

From what Marie's roommates were able to tell me, they were on the fringes of the concert. Marie didn't want to risk being jostled even though she'd been covered from the neck down. She'd encouraged two of them-- Mira and Josh-- to go up closer though, which they did somewhat reluctantly after a few minutes. They'd been jumping along for a few songs when someone threw a flaming bottle in the middle of the audience.

The next thing they knew, there was fire everywhere. In front of the stage, behind the speakers, and way in the back where Jono and Marie were standing. And the crowd was sweeping them back like a giant broom. Josh and Mira held hands to keep from getting separated. It didn't work. Mira only found Josh later near the bleachers where he was trying to keep a hysterical Jono safe from an equally hysterical batch of firemen determined to put out the "fire" that was Jono's chest.

Or course, that's what the CNN reporters would focus on. Not "Drunken Fuckwit Throws Molotov Cocktail" or "Heroic Teens Try to Stem Panic" or even "Riot Over in Under an Hour." No, they had to assume that because Jono was "making" fire in his chest, he must have started it. After all, he obviously had a dangerous mutation.

Besides, people didn't want the news to hear about stuff like that. They wanted to hear about big, bad mutants wrecking the world. Even better: big, bad, teenage mutants wrecking the world. *That* got ratings. It was easier to come up with segways. Hell, it could even become a syndicated cartoon.

The "hundreds injured" included people who'd hurt themselves in the mosh pit way before the riot. "Injured" meant everything from grass-stained pants to a broken arm. Those considered "critically injured" went off in an ambulance to get their concussion checked over. "Mutant Terrorists" meant two scared kids who'd gotten separated.

At least they got their goddamned ratings.

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
SuperPunk7 has entered the room
café_freak has entered the room

café_freak: hey stranger
SuperPunk7: Hey, sugar. What's up?
café_freak: Are you gonna throw a tantrum again if I tell you it's none of your business?
SuperPunk7: I didn't throw a tantrum!
SuperPunk7: I had paper to write.
café_freak: bullshit
SuperPunk7: I did!
SuperPunk7: Maybe that was why I seemed a bit tetchy.
café_freak: I really can't tell you what I do
SuperPunk7: Is it wise to do it then?
café_freak: fuck no but at least I'm getting paid right?
SuperPunk7: *sigh* dangit, Remy, be careful, OK?
café_freak: aw shucks maam I didn't know you cared
SuperPunk7: Sure I do
SuperPunk7: It would break Jubilee's heart if you were hurt
café_freak: tell her I appreciate the thought
SuperPunk7: I will
café_freak: gotta go duty calls
SuperPunk7: *KOTC* later then
café_freak: what's KOTC?
SuperPunk7 has left the room
café_freak: has left the room

"Mr. Summers?"

I turned my head. Mira stood a few feet away with her father's arm around her shoulders and someone I assumed was her boyfriend holding her hand. Her eyes and nose were still red from crying.

"Papa's taking me home now," she said. "I I visited Marie but she still" Her lip trembled hard. She pushed her palm against her diaphragm and took a calming breath. "She still didn't recognize me."

I tried to smile but it probably turned out like a grimace. "We're working on it, Mira."

She nodded. Her dad pulled her back a bit but she hurried to ask, "Do you think I could see Jono, too?"

Shaking my head, I said, "Sorry. He's still in containment."

Mira's nose wrinkled at the word.

"I don't like it either," I added. "But it's for his own good. If he leaves that room now, it'll be like a thousand voices screaming at him and he can't turn it off. I hear it's painful. I promise as soon as he can leave, I'll let you know."

"Thanks." She lunged over to hug me. I wasn't used to that, to spontaneous gestures of affection. She must have been another reason why Marie grew lenient with her personal space. I patted Mira's back, murmuring something like "It's gonna be all right," until her boyfriend took her away again.

Her dad stepped closer. "I just wanted to thank you for taking care of Mira while I was overseas. I can't believe I wasn't--" He dragged a trembling hand through his hair after giving me a firm shake. "It was hellish getting a flight here from the States. You know how they are with customs nowadays."

"Especially for the nations under the Mutant Rights Agreement." He looked somewhat abashed so I tried for another smile. "It's okay to say it. We should know more than anyone about it."

"I suppose you do." He clasped my hand again, using both hands and lots of emotion. Now I know there Mira got the touchy-feelies. "If there's anything I can do at all-- medical bills, some place to stay-- just let me know. I'd be more than happy to--"

There was some sort of commotion at the main entrance. I could hear over-excited British voices hissing; the sort of hissing that happens when you want to shout but weren't allowed to.

"--through the gates! If you don't stop right now, sir, I'll be forced to take extreme measures."

"How fuckin' extreme could y'get wit' half y'fuckin' face missin', hommes?"

I arrived in time to keep Remy from exploding Brian Braddock's arm. That would have made it extremely difficult to keep his sister's cooperation.

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
café_freak has entered the room
SuperPunk7 has entered the room

SuperPunk7: Sorry it's been so long.
SuperPunk7: I had more papers and jetlag to get over. It's the only thing I hate about flying.
café_freak: I figured that or you were busy with your boyfriend
SuperPunk7: Boyfriend? What boyfriend?
café_freak: tall skinny rich
café_freak: jonothan starsmore
SuperPunk7: *lol* Jono's hardly my boyfriend. We're roommates here.
SuperPunk7: The papers think he's going out with any girl he looks at twice
café_freak: if you say so
SuperPunk7: I know so. I'd never seriously go out with him.
café_freak: why not? he sounds like the guy every girl wants to bring home to ma and pa
SuperPunk7: For one thing, we all know that my parents have no problem with my boyfriends; it's me they don't like.
SuperPunk7: For another
café_freak: for another what?
SuperPunk7: Sorry, had to think. It's going to sound stupid and all soap opera-ish.
café_freak: we used to live in mutant high. that's about as soap opera as you can get
SuperPunk7: *lol* True enough.
café_freak: so spill already, river rat
SuperPunk7: If you're going to call me names, I don't see why I should bare my heart to you
café_freak: not bare it just give me a little peek
SuperPunk7: You get enough peeks at bare women to last you seven lifetimes.
café_freak: not that much. maybe five
café_freak: thanks for the compliment though
SuperPunk7: Prick
café_freak: bitch
café_freak: and you still haven't told me why you can't go out with starsmore
SuperPunk7: Tenacious, aren't you?
café_freak: sure
SuperPunk7: I can't say we didn't try to go out but something was missing.
café_freak: something was missing?
SuperPunk7: I told you it was soap opera-ish.
café_freak: no no. just what was the something?
SuperPunk7: I don't know! Maybe I just got spoiled living in the mansion but I always felt like I needed to prove something when I went out with him.
SuperPunk7: Like I'm very normal or very NOT normal or something.
SuperPunk7: And then there's the no-kissing, no touching bit. It was just way too hellish. Not like when we used to hang out when, y'know, we could flirt and talk and it's fine. It would be relaxed, no real pressure.
SuperPunk7: With Jono, we were either really good friends who couldn't touch under the pain of torture or a couple of really horny people who had nothing to say to each other. Nothing in between. Am I making any sense?
café_freak: I guess
café_freak: your asking the wrong guy
café_freak: I'm allergic to relationships. I get rashes.
SuperPunk7: *rotfl* You left that one wide open for an insult but I'm not going to take it 'cause it's too easy.
café_freak: your too kind
café_freak: I gotta go. Work.
SuperPunk7: Take care, y'hear? Don't let anything bite your ass unless you ask it to.
café_freak: you offering?
SuperPunk7: *lol* Go to hell, swamp rat
café_freak: after you mud pie *kotc*
café_freak: has left the room
SuperPunk7 has left the room

I led Remy over to the east wing where the sickbay was. He was in fine swamp-hick form today. Matched luggage under his eyes, his wrinkled coat reeking of tobacco and alcohol, his hands grimy, and his jaw mangy. His accent had been plied on thick enough to drown a rhino. It was no wonder he almost got kicked out. I swear, he gets his rocks off on annoying authority figures.

"How smart was it to threaten the guy who owns the building?" I asked to cut his nervous silence.

His card shuffling stuttered for half a second. "Didn't threaten him. He grabbed me first."

"Remy," I began in my knee-jerk teacher voice but, seeing his cards flip around double-time, I decided it wasn't quite the time for it. Unless I wanted to be the punching bag where he let off the steam that was so obviously sizzling under his skin. "How did you know?"

"Xavier. Gave me a ticket with a mental voicemail. Gonna kill the Internet with that. Should charge--"

He came to a full stop in front of the sickbay windows. My mental shields prickled slightly at the same time that I saw his eyes flare up behind his shades. I reacted before thinking, grabbing Remy's coat. He slipped through it easily enough, sprinting into the room and leaving me with five yards of ugly, smelly pleather.

"Get those things offa her!" he shouted at the stricken nursing student as he yanked on the straps binding Marie's wrists to the bed. "Get them the hell off!"

I tried to wedge myself between Remy and the bed without success. "Remy, she asked for them."

"The hell she did!"

"She asked for them," I repeated as firmly as I could, "in the five minutes or so that she was lucid. Or rather, that Erik was lucid."

"Erik?" Confusion loosened Remy's grip; he still kept his hands over the straps however.

I tapped my forehead. "Mind-Erik. The psychic residue of Erik Lensherr. He was smart enough to realise that a hundred scared people in a body of a teenager with the considerable magnetic, healing, and possibly psionic powers might be dangerous in a school."

The commotion woke Marie up, the sleeping pill ineffective against her metabolism. She cringed away from Remy.

"Who the hell are you?" she snarled.

Remy dropped his arms. The heavy Brooklyn twang had thrown me in for a loop, too, the first time I heard it. He stepped back, and again, then spun on his heel to glare at me.

"Fix her."

"The only thing needing fixing around here is you people." Marie/Carol writhed against the straps. "My head hurts so fucking much. Why don't you give me more drip?"

"We've told you before, Ms. Danvers," I said. "Marie's body breaks down drugs too quickly."

"I don't give a flying fuck about her body!" She yanked viciously on the hand straps, biting back grunts of pain. "I couldn't give a fuck what all you people do with the rest of your time. Just get me the hell out of here and back into my own goddamned body, all right?" Her face collapsed into something like fear, then hardened right back into defensive anger. She shifted her attention back to Remy who was still in shock, motionless with his hands in his pockets. "Who'd you say he was again?" she asked me.

I tried not to smirk but it snuck out anyway. "He's supposed to help you get out of there."

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
SuperPunk7 has entered the room
café_freak has entered the room

SuperPunk7: I thought you were going to be on last night
café_freak: sorry, last job took a while to finish. I crashed as soon as I got home
SuperPunk7: All parts still intact?
café_freak: and in perfect working order thanks. wanna test them out and see?
SuperPunk7: Sugar, I'm afraid of wearing out your parts.
café_freak: you can certainly try, chere
SuperPunk7: It would be awfully hard with you all the way there and me here.
café_freak: it'd be hard all right but I think I can manage
SuperPunk7: *g* You're hilarious
café_freak: I was aiming for irresistible
SuperPunk7: Your aim sucks
café_freak: oh it's sucking you were wanting. you could of just said so
SuperPunk7: Remy! You're staining my innocent virgin eyes!
café_freak: bullshit. your horns are showing under your halo
SuperPunk7: Darn it, they just don't make them like they used to
café_freak: guess not.
café_freak: what are you up to?
SuperPunk7: Just unpacking my last bits of stuff. Did I tell you we were going to Scotland for the RhadaSquat concert?
café_freak: yeah in a week right?
SuperPunk7: Yeah. We're leaving Sunday though 'cause we still have to drive there and then we have to find a good camping spot close to the stage.
SuperPunk7: And we're going to be seeing a lot of the villages around the area. You'd like them; they're your type of place.
café_freak: yeah?
SuperPunk7: Yeah. Quiet, grannies knitting, sheep chewing
café_freak: a 24/7 party in other words
SuperPunk7: *lol* Yup.
SuperPunk7: Dang. Gotta go again. Josh found a bigger, comfier couch for the commons room and we have to go pick it up.
café_freak: sure thing. take care, chere
SuperPunk7: Always. You, too.
café_freak: always
café_freak: has left the room
SuperPunk7 has left the room

I tried not to fall into the stereotypes of British nobility but the Braddocks were making it unbelievably hard. Lord Brian and Lady Betsy Braddock were like ice statues, perfectly poised, perfectly coiffed, perfectly articulated vowels. As co-owners of MIA, they had to join the committee. I sat beside Remy across from the Professor and Dr. MacTaggert. Beside her was Marie/Carol and Carol's boyfriend. I don't think the professor wanted them there. He sat a little too stiffly in his chair. Not that Marie/Carol and Col. Rossi looked comfortable either surrounded by strangers.

"As you all know," the professor began, "Lady Elisabeth and I have been attempting to help Marie separate Carol's personality from her mind. Unfortunately, we have been hampered by many factors, not the least of them being my familiarity with Marie. Usually, the problem will resolve itself in a few days as was the case with Logan three years ago.

"However,"--and now the professor passed around stack of blue folders that had been sitting in front of him--"it appears that the situation is a bit more complicated." His gaze flickered towards Marie/Carol. "Ms. Danvers has a latent mutant power--"

"What?" Marie/Carol jumped out of her chair, slamming her fists on the table. With difficultly, Col. Rossi pulled her back down. "I don't have any powers."

"Ye were latent," said Dr. MacTaggert. "Yuir power hadnae been triggered. Ye've read the literature, Carol?" At the reporter's nod, she continued, "Marie's gift caused yours tae come. That's where the problem is."

The professor took up the conversation. "We're not sure what Carol's power is at the moment. We cannot analyse it because it has gone inside Marie."

"Gone inside?" repeated Lord Braddock.

"It is as though someone spliced Carol's genes with Marie's," the professor elaborated. "Marie's body will likely display a secondary mutation for as long as this is applicable."

I interrupted at this point. "How can a psychic residue affect her body genetically?"

Dr. MacTaggert and the professor exchanged looks. "We dinnae know," the doctor confessed.

Marie/Carol threw up her hands. "Fantastic! I thought you guys were supposed to be experts."

An expression common to all teachers came over Dr. MacTaggert's face. "Mutants are new on the evolutionary scale, Ms. Danvers. Since we are an ethical research station as well as a school, progress is slow." She sighed, adjusted her glasses, and shuffled the papers in her folder.

"What do I have to with all o' this?" Remy's question startled everyone. He'd been quiet since Marie/Carol woke up, exuding anti-socialism like cheap perfume.

The professor smiled one of his knowing little smiles, the kind of smile that meant something different to everyone. "According to my records and my telepathic sweeps so far, Remy, you are the only one of Marie's friends who hasn't touched her at all."

I reared back to look at Remy. "You're kidding."

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
SuperPunk7 has entered the room
café_freak has entered the room

café_freak: didn't think you'd be online tonight. aren't you heading out in the morning?
SuperPunk7: I couldn't sleep
café_freak: why?
SuperPunk7: I don't know. Excitement?
SuperPunk7: Maybe a little nervousness, too
café_freak: what for?
SuperPunk7: All those people at the concert. I'll be covered, of course, but things could happen
café_freak: true that.
SuperPunk7: Geez, thanks a lot. You were supposed to say something like "Don't worry, it'll be okay" or "Nothing could happen to you."
café_freak: I say that and you'll float around without a care in the world. have fun but be careful.
café_freak: would be a shame if you accidentally absorb a physics professor or something.
SuperPunk7: At a rock concert?
café_freak: a drunken physics prof. scary thought
SuperPunk7: Only slightly less scary than a high physics prof
café_freak: you trying to give me nightmares, girl?
SuperPunk7: Sorry. You're right. That was just mean.
café_freak: if your really that worried maybe you shouldn't go. could be a sign
SuperPunk7: A sign? Since when have you believed in signs?
café_freak: since forever. like the first time I saw you. you had this halo looking thing around your head because of the sun and your skunk stripe.
café_freak: I knew straight away you were gonna cause me a load of trouble.
SuperPunk7: *lol* You're so full of it, swamp rat.
café_freak: yeah, I know you can't resist me
SuperPunk7: that just goes to show you how irresistible *I* am. You think it's all your plan. Soon you'll be offering to build me a castle with your own two hands.
café_freak: if I had to pick something to do for you with my own two hands, building houses wouldn't be it.
café_freak: rogue?
café_freak: hello?
café_freak: rogue I was teasing. I didn't mean to embarrass you.
SuperPunk7: You didn't.
SuperPunk7: What kinds of things would you do to me with your own two hands, Remy?
SuperPunk7: Remy?
café_freak: I saw some real thin leather gloves in a store in manhattan once. they felt softer than anything.
café_freak: I'd have you lie down on your stomach on something kinda scratchy so you could tell the difference between my touching you with the gloves and the rug under you
café_freak: rogue?
SuperPunk7: I'm here
café_freak: should I stop?
SuperPunk7: No. Are you gonna give me a back-rub?
café_freak: and a leg-rub and a neck-rub and an arm-rub.
SuperPunk7: And an bum-rub?
café_freak: if you like.
SuperPunk7: I like.
SuperPunk7: What if I want my other side rubbed?
café_freak: go ahead and turn around.
SuperPunk7: Then what?
café_freak: I'd start massaging your feet first cause they're probably the sorest. right on the pads at the base of each toe and inside the arch over and over again
café_freak: Then I'd move on to your ankles to the back of your knees one leg at a time.
SuperPunk7: *g* That tickles. Couldn't you move higher?
café_freak: higher?
SuperPunk7: Yeah. Somewhere around my thighs
café_freak: your wish is my command, chere.
café_freak: your skin's a lot softer there ain't it? soft as the skin behind your ears. I remember how you used to do that little shiver when I whispered in your ear
SuperPunk7: I always shivered when you talked
café_freak: where else would you shiver if my put my mouth against it?
SuperPunk7: If you don't know where, you've been faking all these years
SuperPunk7: Maybe we should play a guessing game
café_freak: How do you mean?
SuperPunk7: I've got my hand where I want you to whisper. You have to guess where it is.
café_freak: I think I'm gonna like this game.
SuperPunk7: I'm not done explaining the rules
café_freak: sorry
SuperPunk7: Every mistake you make, you have to take something off.
café_freak: I know I'm gonna really like this game.
café_freak: Is it on the back of your neck?
SuperPunk7: Nope. Off with your shirt
café_freak: it's gone. is it on the small of your back?
SuperPunk7: No. Are you wearing shoes?
café_freak: socks.
SuperPunk7: Take one off
café_freak: you're going from shirt to socks?
SuperPunk7: It's my game. I get to decide.
café_freak: all right. I got a naked left foot. is it on a breast?
SuperPunk7: Which breast?
café_freak: left
SuperPunk7: Nope
café_freak: right?
SuperPunk7: Not that either. You owe me another sock and a belt
café_freak: I'm not wearing a belt
SuperPunk7: What are you wearing then?
café_freak: beater, jeans, shades
SuperPunk7: No underwear?
café_freak: what do you think?
SuperPunk7: Wouldn't you like to know? Hmmm, I've always liked your shades collection
café_freak: you know I'd rather die than give any of my shades up. choose something else.
SuperPunk7: beater
café_freak: it's yours. your lucky there's a heatwave going around. is it on your lips?
SuperPunk7: Lips?
café_freak: yeah is your hand on your lips
café_freak: or your bellybutton
café_freak: that dip on your neck that you like to touch when your nervous
café_freak: rogue?
SuperPunk7: You've just run out of clothes, sugar
café_freak: like I said there's a heatwave
SuperPunk7: Why don't you ever call me Marie?
café_freak: I thought it was reserved for full-time teachers and hairy Canadians.
SuperPunk7: Cajuns are descended from Acadians who were from Canada
café_freak: you calling me hairy?
SuperPunk7: Maybe.
café_freak: so was I right about the lips?
café_freak: or any of them
SuperPunk7: North or south lips?
café_freak: I hope it's the north lips. I been aching to kiss those since forever
café_freak: rogue?
café_freak: rogue, you there?
café_freak: marie?
SuperPunk7: I'm here
SuperPunk7: Want to come and visit Cambridge sometime? I bet I could ask Mr. Summers to buy you a ticket.
café_freak: I'd love to, chere
SuperPunk7: Good. I've gotta go, sugar. See you when I see you.
café_freak: sweet dreams, river rat
SuperPunk7: You, too, swamp rat.
SuperPunk7 has left the room
café_freak: has left the room

Remy was out of the room like a shot. Cigarette smoke trailed behind him thick as a steamboat stack.

"Hey!" I caught up to him, rethinking my plan to grab him and drag him back. He looked ready to rip a limb off. It was disturbingly Logan-esque. "Where are you going?"

He stopped. My arm smacked into him. "He--" Remy snapped an accusatory finger back at the open conference room door. "--wants to mess around in my head!"

"You know why. We need detailed thoughts of Marie, thoughts that she doesn't have, to help her psyche focus and gather," I said. "Whatever the professor sees, he won't tell anyone."

"I don't care if he's the fuckin' Pope. I ain't lettin' him in my head. Not for anything."

I crossed my arms. "Not even for Marie?"

He yanked the cigarette out of his mouth, looking everywhere but my face. "Fuck." Taking one final drag, he flicked it away then rubbed his face with his hands. "Summers, I... He's gonna take my memories and empty them in her head."

"I know." I tried to sound conciliatory.

"You know?" If anything, he looked ever more enraged. "You talkin' like it's transplanting a fuckin' tulip, Scott! It's my mind! I got things in there..." He swallowed, his Adam's apple too visible against the strained tendons of his neck.

A quick look around showed an adjourned council heading in our direction. Marie/Carol looked scarily determined. So I yanked Remy into another empty room and locked the door. He slapped the lights off. My visor picked up the faint light coming in through the tinted windows, making it possible to track Remy in the room that would have been pitch-black to my everyday glasses. He walked to the back corner of the room and crouched on his haunches, head in his hands.

"He's gonna copy everythin' I ever connected t'her," he whispered when I sat down beside him. "Even some things that ain't totally... My thoughts... I can't let no-one see them, Scott. 'Specially not her."

Which was why he hadn't even risked a second of touching her. Christ. I didn't care if I had to take on an entire city; I was going to blast everyone who did this to him. How was I going to talk him around this one?

"Look," I started a few minutes later. "You've been chatting with her lately, right?"

"How'd you-- oh." He smiled, a small smile but a smile nevertheless. "I figured it was you who gave away my email. Hackin' skills, my eye."

"Guilty as charged." I stretched my legs out, getting into a comfortable pose. "You should know more than anyone what she's like."

"She runs." His jaw clenched stiff.

"But she always comes back." I almost patted his back but my hand could only hover for some strange reason. He was so strongly hostile it was like a force field around his body. I did some of my own jaw clenching. Slowly, my hand curled over his shoulder. It felt like granite. "And even if she doesn't..." Christ, this was going to turn into a Growing Pains moment, wasn't it? How frickin' embarrassing. "Even if she doesn't..."

Remy hiccoughed. Bending double, he lowered his forehead against his crossed arms.

There was no way in hell I could get the Growing Pains phrase leave my lips. Some situations were too important for clichés no matter how true. So I just squeezed his shoulder and willed the hostile aura to Go Away.

You have just entered "The Danger Grotto"
SuperPunk7 has entered the room
café_freak has entered the room

SuperPunk7: Guess where I am?
café_freak: timbuktu?
SuperPunk7: Clever.
café_freak: that was going to be my next guess
SuperPunk7: The concert's in 20 hours. I'm in my tent. I thought it would filter the eau du weed but no such luck.
café_freak: as many people as that smoking up you'll need industrial sized fans. maybe a jet engine
SuperPunk7: *lol*
SuperPunk7: I was hoping you'd be online. I wanted to talk to you
café_freak: about?
SuperPunk7: The other night.
café_freak: ok
café_freak: marie?
SuperPunk7: Hang on, I'm trying to figure out what to say.
café_freak: ok
SuperPunk7: This is so dumb
SuperPunk7: I've written a gazillion essays and I can't write this down.
café_freak: need a dictionary to help you spell it?
SuperPunk7: *g* More like Bartlett's Quotes.
SuperPunk7: I can hear what I want to say in my head but when I try to write it down and send it, it looks really dumb
SuperPunk7: Trite.
SuperPunk7: I wish I could just take you inside my head and show you what I mean.
SuperPunk7: Remy, please tell me I'm not weirding you out.
café_freak: no
café_freak: no weirdness
café_freak: me too, chere
SuperPunk7: You too what?
café_freak: what you wanted to say. me too
SuperPunk7: You sure?
café_freak: never been more sure of anything in my life.
SuperPunk7: Good. Me, too.
SuperPunk7: So I'll see you soon, okay, sugar?
café_freak: real soon, chere
SuperPunk7 has left the room
café_freak: has left the room