Part Four: The Last Round

            "Ahhh, a seven," Kurt grinned evilly. "That's what I wanted to see." Pointedly, he looked down at his bare chest. In the middle of winter too! Good thing he had this fuzz… "Husk… why don't you take them all, Liebchen?"

            She narrowed her eyes dangerously, and he only grinned.

            "Turn about is fair play. That is the saying, nein?" He watched her take seven drinks with great satisfaction. And tried to keep from laughing too much.

            Perhaps it had been rather a long time since he and Wolverine had been on one of their drinking binges. Had he really been so busy that his tolerance had dropped? But it was so nice to sit and listen to them, his team, laughing and joking. He hadn't wanted to speak, afraid that he would ruin it. It was especially nice to see Iceman smiling again. He never quite understood what it was about Bobby, perhaps his tendency to hide behind jokes, that was so endearing. But he didn't know anyone who didn't have something of a soft spot for the guy.

            Through a mild haze, he watched Jean-Paul pick up another card… and look at it. With his face twisted up into a mask of hate. Slowly, the elfin x-man put the card down, hit the table, then raised his hand to his forehead. And smacked himself.

            It was, of course, a ten.

            The look on his face was so severely pained, and so extremely amusing, however, that the others had a difficult time smacking themselves in the forehead before he did. Bobby, in the end, wound up on the ground, tickled nearly to death with the fate of his team mate, and lost that round.

            Northstar just shook his head, nostrils still slightly flaring, lips pressed thin, until he couldn't help it anymore and a smile broke through.

            Nightcrawler, still laughing, reached out and thumped him lightly on the back, and received a shake of the head and a smile from the other man.

            "Oh… oh god… Prince Charming…," Bobby was still giggling as he pulled himself back up to his chair, "Poetic Justice! The likes of which has never been seen before, nor will be again!"

            Bobby calmed himself and prepared for the next card, still wanting to have fits over Northstar's last draw. Oh god, that was brilliant.

            Not that he didn't like the man. He did, honestly, he was a good guy. Hell, he'd saved his ass, that much was for sure. But Bobby had never noticed that underneath all that dry sarcastic bullshit… there was a sense of humor.

            He could appreciate that.

            Alex, just to his right, drew a card now, and it was a Queen. He was looking pink and happy, giddy like a high school kid. "Questions, I guess," he sounded kind of sleepy even. "Who's ready to quit and go to bed?"

            Bobby felt his brow furrow as he batted Havok on the arm, "Who's being a pansy bitch if he calls it a night right now?""

            "What do we do to pansy bitches?" Paige glared at Alex threateningly.

            "I… aw… well fuck," Warren laughed, totally at a loss.

            And Warren! What a mood he was in! "Aw man, that one didn't get very far!" Bobby chuckled.

            Warren made some sort of gurgling noises and took a drink of his beer. Paige put a hand in his hair and messed it up a bit, smiling over at him, and he smiled back.

            He looked… happy.

            For some reason, it made him sad.

            He put out a hand to draw a card of his own now, and was delighted enough with the results, or intoxicated enough, to push it aside for a moment. Nothing complicated. "Four! They go to the Cherry Bomb, for being a pansy bitch!"

            Alex gave a little laugh, obviously far from offended, and took his four drinks.

            Paige moved to pick up a card, and did a little happy dance in her seat. "Woohoo! Another nine!" She rejoiced, laying it on the table.

            Kurt shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest again. "Here we go…"

            "Anyone who says the word "fuck" has to drink!"

            Alex piped up immediately, "what the fuck?!"

            "Drink!" She and Warren chorused.

            Bobby had a feeling this rule was going to be bad for him. He hadn't had that much, but it'd been awfully fast…

            Paige turned expectantly to Warren now, wanting to run her fingers through his hair again, but unwilling to do so in front of everyone. It wasn't that she wanted the game to end. She was having a smashing time here with the boys.

            But she could see Alex's head starting to droop, and Nightcrawler's tail wasn't swishing nearly as fast as it had been earlier. Perhaps this whole superhero thing really did wear you out. The others looked fine of course, and really this game could go on forever, theoretically. But the drinking had sped up, and she was about to being her fifth in… god couldn't be much over an hour…

            Oh wouldn't Sam be proud of her now.

            "An eight," Warren said brightly. "Never have I ever…" He pretended to be thinking. She didn't know how she knew, but he was pretending. And he looked straight at her. "Had a crush on someone in this room."

            And then, he drank.

            Looking straight at her.

            She grinned, and took a drink.

            "Holy Christ Warren," Bobby protested, "what is this a fucking sleepover?"

            "Drink!" She insisted, looking over at Bobby, for saying "fuck."

            And noticing that Northstar had been drinking too. She didn't mean to, of course, but she stared at him a moment. Cocked her head.

            Who the hell did he have a crush on?!

            Pure innocence, he just smiled at her.

            Alex noticed too, and was staring at him with some measure of confusion on his face, as well as Kurt, who looked highly amused by the whole situation.

            Bobby was shaking his head, after finishing his drink. "Oh god, you bunch of girls. Next!"

            Kurt reached out, still looking amused, and picked up his card. "A nine! And with this nine, I hereby nullify all rules set forth by Kentucky Friend Paige!"

            A cheer went up, and Paige set to pouting. But honestly, she thought it was funny. And her head was fuzzy enough to forget about Jean-Paul's crush, anyhow, when she laughed at the look on Nightcrawler's grinning, handsome face.

            Quickly, Jean-Paul reached out, took his card, and flipped it over. "A two. Those go to Warren, for his Canadian jokes!"

            Warren laughed and took his drinks as Alex picked his up. "A six! Four to Bobby, for calling me a pansy bitch! And, as a consolation, two to Warren, for proving who the real pansy bitch here tonight is with that last never have I ever!"

            The two men caught each others' eyes, smiled, and drank. And it was nice to see it, really.

            Jean-Paul groaned as Bobby flipped over his card. It was an Ace.

            The waterfall destroyed them all, of course. Even he couldn't hold out this time, putting his beer down a few moments after Kurt did just to his right. His stomach felt full, though not sick full. But a few more drinks, and he would be done in.

            And he was starting to feel sad again. Irritated, mostly. So much work to do. So much frustration.

            "Well, mes amis, it has been a pleasure drinking with you. But I must go," he stood then, surprised to find his legs a bit shaky, and stepped away from the table, nodding at them a bit.

            "Alright Northstar?" Alex gripped his arm sappily and smiled up at him.

            He patted the blonde man on the shoulder and smiled. "Yes, thank you. Good night all."

            They muttered their good nights, and started to break up the party, Kurt picking up the bottles and caps with the help of Alex, Bobby standing and reaching for his pants again, Paige and Warren kind of staring at each other like idiots.

            They were cute really. The two of them.

            He turned to go, and instead of turning right at the steps, he made a left and opened the front door. Fresh air would be nice. After all, that's what he'd come down here for, wasn't it?

            "Hey, Jean-Paul." A voice behind him, that made his stomach clench again.

            "Oui?" He asked, without looking. The door was halfway open already. Cold outside. It felt good on his flushed cheeks.

            "Alright man?"

            This time he turned. "Fine, thank you, Bobby. I came down here, before, to get some fresh air. Thought I'd carry through with the plan before I went to bed." A closer examination. Yes. The tired lines around Bobby's eyes were returning.

            But he still looked lovely.

            "Are you alright?"

            The younger man nodded, quickly, "Yeah sure. You just left fast is all. Just, you know, makin' sure."

            He just stared for a minute, too fuzzy to think. Too warm. "Drink some water, non? Before bed."

            Bobby nodded, smiling, "Yeah, was just on my way."

            Jean-Paul nodded in return, "Goodnight, then."


            And he walked out the door, into the cold November night, breathing deeply.

            Warren sighed, warm, fuzzy, and content. "That was fun. Good idea, Paige."

            She smiled at him, suddenly noticing that Alex and Kurt were working around them, trying to clean things up. She jumped to help, even though there wasn't much to be done. This, of course, made Warren notice, and feel like something of a heel. So he tried to make himself useful, putting what few bottles he saw into a bag, turning off the stereo Bobby had left running.

             "You know," Kurt was saying, "at home, we would never say goodnight. That phrase, it implies some sort of… relationship, nein? You say to some old woman in the grocery store, "Oh, guten Nacht, Frau Wagner," and she would probably hit you over the head with a loaf of bread."

            "Why's that?" He heard Paige ask, as he looked for the CD case Bobby had found this thing in. It had no name on it, and he had no idea what the kid was listening to these days.

            Not that he was a kid anymore. Not that he ever really had been, any more than Warren.

            "We just don't say such things. It implies the bed, I think. Then this Frau, she is thinking, why is this young man talking about my bed? It's insulting. You would only say that to your family, to your close friends," Kurt explained, his soft voice going on and on, gently.

            He had the voice to be a priest, Archangel thought. But too much damn integrity to be one.

            The room was cleaned up, everything put away, and Kurt and Alex said their goodnights. And he was left alone with Paige.

            "I really did have a nice evening," he told her. "All of it."

            She smiled. Young face. Innocent.

            But she was no child. She'd seen almost as much as he had. Not quite. But she would, before it was all over.

            "Me too, Warren. I'm glad you—"

            He stopped her though, put a hand over her soft, cherry lips. "Shhh. Later. Goodnight for now, Husk. I'll see you tomorrow."

            And she watched as he took her hand in his, and kissed it softly.

            "Night, Archangel."

            And Warren K. Worthington III went to bed happy.

            Alex Summers really didn't feel too badly anymore. Yeah, things were shitty. Ok, some things were really shitty. Lorna was still… lost. Annie was still… Annie. And he wasn't Scott.

            Well, that last thing, he was pretty much over now.

            At least, at the moment he was.

            He managed to grab a glass of water in the kitchen before hauling himself upstairs. He forced himself to undress for bed, knowing he'd feel awful if he woke up in his jeans, and he crawled into bed.

            Clean sheets, against his skin. A smell like home. Another drink of water.

            He smiled to himself, in the dark. More to life than drama, after all. Little things.

            And he fell asleep before he knew it.