Make the Escape

An X-Men Evolution Fanfic by Stormy

Rating: G

Warnings: None

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Monday, March 10, 2003

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Lance sat in the darkness of his room. A single ray of moonlight played shadows against the wall from the only exposed corner of his broken window. Ragged curtains were pinned to cardboard that was nailed to the wall to prevent drafts from entering, but he still felt a chill sweep over him.

It didn't feel right anymore. Staying there in Mystique's broken-down home, subject to the whims of yet another puppet-master who twirled their strings whenever he felt like it. Lance hated being at someone else's beck and call.

Lance knew all about control. It took every ounce of his own to keep from destroying his own teammates each time he attacked the X-men. It took all of his willpower to keep from breaking down into tears at the sheer pain that pounded through his skull with each use.

Lately though, he had no control. Lance stared unseeing at the wall. No control and no home. It didn't fit right anymore.

Through that wall, he knew Todd was sleeping soundly in his own bed. Wise-cracking and mischievous he might be during the day, at night Todd was like a little kid again. Several times during the cooler nights, Lance had stopped his little midnight patrol routine just to check and see if Todd had kicked the blankets on the ground again, to lie shivering in a ball in the center of the bed. Todd was the youngest of the Brotherhood, and the most tormented, but he was always good for a laugh when anyone was feeling down. It was a quality Lance admired.

Down the hall, Fred was probably snoring loud enough to rival dueling chainsaws, no doubt drooling of never-ending supplies of cheese dogs and apple pie, an addiction left over from his days in the carnival, before he'd gone to the auto show. Fred was tough, big and strong, but everyone seemed to think that big equaled stupid. Fred wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box, but he wasn't dumb. He could be remarkably intelligent – and he was a pure genius in the kitchen. The days he made breakfast- when there was enough food in the kitchen to do such a thing – were marked events that nobody missed.

The protective feelings Lance had for those two were etched in stone. They would probably never change. But now…Lance didn't think he could do that anymore, play the role he'd played for so long. He turned his head to face the door.

Directly in the room across from him, Pietro Maximoff was sleeping in his silk boxers and t-shirt. His room would be spotless, his clothes from earlier that day folded neatly and placed in a pile in the corner of the room to await washing. He would be curled around his pillow, hugging it in his sleep, substitute for a plush toy he may have had at some point.

Lance knew that once, his protective feelings had extended to the white-haired boy, just as strongly as for the others. But now…

He was tired. Tired of being used, tired of being a pawn. Earlier that day he'd found out from the school principal that they had only been allowed back in class to torment the X-Men. When they'd outlived their usefulness, they had been cast aside. Lance knew that feeling well.

Once, he'd had dreams of making it. Sure, he was a troublemaker – he'd always had a blast breaking the rules with his old gang. But he also knew that he was smart, smart enough to graduate high school with good enough marks to get into a decent college. He glanced at the boarded up window of his room, knowing his jeep was parked just below.

He had always thought he'd make a decent mechanic. The inner workings of machines had fascinated him from a young age. At one of the more acceptable orphanages he'd partaken of in his youth, he had befriended the caretaker who had been happy to show him how to fix the orphanage manager's cars, or how to coax a few more months of use out of the ancient heating system. He'd even let Lance fix the air conditioner one summer. Lance had never been as proud as he'd been that day, to feel the sweet cool air blowing across his skin, from a machine that had been destined for the scrap yard before applying his magic touch.

What did he have now? Mystique didn't care for any of them. Lance lost track of how many times she had verbally abused him and the others, and poor Todd had more then once born the brunt of her anger. Magneto had eyes only for his campaign of war against humans, and saw them as tools, to be wielded as he saw fit. The principal had tried to use them against the X-Men, tried to manipulate them as everyone else did. Even the Professor used them, forging alliances when necessary, but discriminating against them when he ran out of use for them. Lance hadn't forgotten what Todd had been put through all those months ago. The X-Men had attacked him on the pretence of 'testing' him, even though Todd hadn't wanted to do it in the first place. Todd respected Scott Summers, though he'd never tell the shades-wearing X-Geek that – it had been Mystique who had attacked Todd, threatening him if he didn't do as she commanded. And Pietro…

Pietro now stalked around the house like a predator eyeing his prey. No longer the friend he had once known, he now felt only anger and wariness where he once felt affection and warmth. Pietro had abandoned them, ditched them all to follow his father, a man who only cared for Pietro as long as he had use for him. Lance hadn't even bothered trying to explain that concept to the quasi-albino. He was better off saving his breath.

Pawns. That was all they were, and all they would ever be, especially if they stayed there. Lance sighed and raked a hand through his hair. He was just so damn tired.

He glanced down at his bed, tracing the envelopes lying there so innocently. All he had to do was leave them where the others would find them. A part of him didn't want to leave, but another part of him cried out for relief from the life he was stuck in. He didn't want to fight anymore. What was the point? He had seen Fred and Todd hurt by their side and the X-Men, forget the humans. And why? This was Magneto's vendetta, not theirs.

Lance wanted out. It hurt, thinking of a life with out Fred and Todd. And Pietro too, even though his feelings were less then happy on that note. Still, Pie had been a member of their close-knit group for years. He would miss the friend he once had, not the military look-alike that had shown up that day, looking like he'd never been gone.

Long ago, he'd had a friend. A good one, like the Brotherhood had come to mean to him. It had been a long time since he'd thought of that strange boy. All he had was a scrap of faded, yellowing paper with an address. A far away address.

He'd been contemplating visiting for a long time, saving up the money for years, and he'd stolen the last little bit from the bountiful treasures they'd found in Mystique's abandoned room. But could he really go through with it?

A bolt of resolve shot through him. Standing up, Lance grabbed the letters and picked his duffel bag off the ground, slinging it over his shoulder. Silently he stole down the hallway, slipping the envelopes under their respective doors, pausing outside each one for a minute, remembering. Then he took a deep breath and strode down the stairs. They creaked under his feet, threatening to give him away, but he knew that wouldn't wake the others. The old house was always making noises as it rotted more and more each day, both from natural causes, and from the use of their powers during their fights.

Lance tossed his bag into the passenger side of his jeep, and put the vehicle in neutral, releasing the brake. With a minimal amount of effort, he managed to push the jeep down the driveway and partway down the street, until he was sure he was far enough away to keep anyone else from hearing. Sliding inside, he started the engine, listening to the purr of the engine he'd spent countless hours tinkering with until it worked perfectly.

A final glance through the rearview mirror, one final sigh of regret. Then Lance resolutely turned his eyes forward, to the road ahead. Towards a possible future? He didn't know. But at least it would be on his terms. A faint smile appeared on his face, and the sheen of tears in his eyes was nothing more then a memory as he stepped on the gas and headed towards the horizon.

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Next morning:

Hey Todd.

It's kinda cliché, but by the time you read this, I'll be long gone. Not an impulsive action, but something I've planned for a while now.

Of all the guys, you probably knew best how much I wanted a normal life. I loved being with you guys – you were part of the first stable family life I'd had in a long time. Kinda sad, isn't it?

I want out. I don't want to fight other people's battles anymore. You of all people can understand why. I want to go to school, and do something I can be proud of. I want to prove to myself that I'm more then just the 'hood' Kitty accused me of being. Even I can see that she was right at the time.

You're a good kid Todd, the little brother I never had. If I thought you'd be better off with me, I'd have brought you along, but I don't even know if I'm going to make it, honestly. I just know I have to try at least once.

Stay cool Todd – stay the little brother I've always known and have been proud of, even if I didn't show it the best. Heh – it's funny how easy it is to write this stuff down. If I even thought about saying it out loud, I think I would be six shades of red by now, and avalanching everything in the house to distract you guys into forgetting I said it. But I wanted you to know that I'm proud of you kid. I hope I wasn't a disappointment as your short-lived leader.

Later bro.

Lance

Todd very gently traced Lance's signature, as though trying to imprint the shape and swirl of the letters, like the letter would disappear the minute he stopped reading it. He read it through about six times before he was finally able to carefully fold it back up and slide it back inside the envelope. He then placed the envelope under his pillow, and huddled there on the floor, his long legs tucked up against his body, resting his head on his forearms.

He didn't cry. Members of the Brotherhood didn't cry, especially not over another one. He swallowed the anger and sadness and pity he couldn't help but feel and turned his head slightly, staring out the dirt-streaked glass of his window.

He would be back. He had to come back. Until then, Todd would hold down the fort.

He didn't notice the single tear that escaped and made the trek down his cheekbones. He didn't notice the heavy footsteps that stopped outside his door, the ones that waited a minute and then headed back the way they came.

Todd stayed in his room all day that day.

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End part 1

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