Chapter Eleven – Repercussion
A/N – I suppose I'll have to admit that I can't keep to a monthly schedule. While I refuse to abandon this project, I won't lie and say the next chapter will be up soon, because God knows when that will be. I'm sorry, if that helps.
A/N 2 – And a humongous thank you to all the people who support me in this project and convince me to work on new chapters. You know who you are, and you have my heartfelt thanks.
"Of all those useful things I learned in high school, they never did teach me how to surprise a telepath on her birthday." Scott's Thoughts
Sunday morning was quiet. Nobody spoke around the breakfast table. Lorna took a seat at the end and spent most of her time gazing into her cereal. Bobby grabbed an orange Creamsicle and quart of strawberry ice cream before he left the room and slammed the door. At first, Scott kept looking anxiously, wondering if he should go after him, but decided against it. Bobby wanted to be alone, fine.
Remy was particularly twitchy. A fierce wind was buffeting sheets of snow against the windows, and every once in a while he'd bite his lip and shudder. Rogue bit her own ruby lips and hung her head every time that happened.
Lorna was feeling guilty, Rogue was feeling guilty, and all the emotional feedback was giving Jean a headache. She tried several ties to start a conversation, but to no avail. All she received were a few muffled grunts and weak giggles. Scott tried his best too, but his faux smile could only stay on for half a minute before his cheeks started to ache.
Kurt would have been a welcome addition to help cheer the mood, but he'd gone to service and had dragged Hank along with him. Jean wished either of them were nearby, or at least someone who could hold a decent conversation.
"So, how about we go see a movie tonight or something?" She said, smiling with an all-too cheery air. She was a few seconds away from mind-washing everyone into a better mood.
"I'm not going outside." Remy muttered, and Rogue looked downcast.
"Oh, that'll be great, Jean. We'll walk into a sappy chic-flic with over-romantic plots and forget our problems! It'll solve everything! What fun!" Lorna snapped.
Jean sighed and rubbed her temples. "Don't think I didn't ask you."
Lorna took a gargantuan gulp of her coffee as if it was alcohol. She drank it as if it could make her forget things, make her less guilty, and remove the weight of blame from around her neck.
Remy started when the heater made a clunking sound. Rogue sighed and sucked on her oatmeal spoon sadly. Jean looked at Scott and received only a shrug in return.
The redhead tried again. "Well, can't we do something? Are we just going to mope all day?"
"You bet." Bobby called from the other room. "And unless you wanna cook, I think it's microwave dinner too."
Jean groaned in frustration and stomped out of the room.
"Are telepaths always dis cranky?" Remy asked.
"I think it's the weather." Scott mused. "Or the fact that you guys are all sulking. One or the other." He stood up, fairly peeved himself, and left.
Lorna, Remy and Rogue ate the rest of breakfast in silence.
Kurt had been fairly surprised by Hank's willingness to go to church with him. He'd always believed the other blue furry to be more science-oriented, and had always doubted any religious faith in him.
Hank explained during the car ride there. "Although I have no strong belief in the presence of an Almighty, I find most houses of worship to be rather serene and visually stunning."
"Mein freund…I have enough trouble understanding regular English as it is." Kurt blushed beneath his fur.
Hank chuckled pleasantly. "I don't believe in God, but I think the churches are quite beautiful."
"Ah." Kurt grinned, baring two pointed teeth.
"Besides, you were the only person in the mansion not looking positively murderous."
It was Kurt's turn to chuckle. "True, true." He steered the car with his tail. "They are so dramatic!"
Hank smiled. "My thespian friend, you'd know all about dramatic, wouldn't you?"
"Ja, but my drama entertains. Theirs just makes people angry." Kurt mused.
Jean sprawled out on her bed and ran her hands through her hair. Two ibuprofen and New Age music couldn't keep this headache away. Her room was the only safe place, where no one was entering and giving off their angry emotional vibes. She knew well enough that they could mask their thoughts from her, but they didn't seem to care at the moment. She needed a retreat. She needed solitude.
"Honey?" She heard Scott from the door.
"Not now." She growled.
Scott left, wondering why he was the only sane one left in the house.
Jean wasn't the only woman in need of some peace. Lorna took the other car and drove out to town. She didn't have anywhere she wanted to go, so she decided to stop at the local park. She'd never been there before, and even while it was snowing she ventured out and took a walk.
After about ten minutes of clutching her coat to herself and letting her hair get snowy and plastered to her face, she set up a magnetic shield around herself and kept walking. She didn't want snow.
The walk through the park was quite lonely. She needed a dog. She needed a friend who'd love her no matter what, even if it meant trekking through snow when she was in a bad mood.
The only problem was, that friend had been there all along, and she had rejected him from a mixture of fear and hope. Afraid she'd have to choose again, if her hope held out and Alex returned.
She'd have to name the dog. She didn't know what she would call it. Maybe she'd let Bobby do it.
Had his frigophobia not been a sore spot for her, Rogue would have laughed at the amount of times Remy checked the thermostat. Instead, she bit her lip and read the paper.
Bombings in Iraq, gay rights denied, shootout at mutant school, Scott Peterson, femicide in Guatemala, more bodies in Genosha.
She skipped to the Life section. Old Abigail was still giving out marital bliss in gift-wrapped boxes, accompanied by a package of good parenting.
The Cathy comic made her giggle. The Dilbert one made her snort.
"What's so funny, chere?" Remy leaned over her shoulder and read. She smiled, but it was a farce. Their motions and words were loving, but inside they were sizing each other up, afraid of the impending battle. Neither was loving each other deep down, even though both wanted things to work out.
"Look, chere, Trish Tilby's in de paper." He pointed at an article on time-space anomalies. "M'sieu Bete was tellin' me about a Discovery Channel show on dese anomaly t'ings, but I think he missed it. Bet he didn't know Trish was reportin'."
"Ah'll cut it out for him." Rogue folded the paper, pressed down with her nails, licked the edge and tore it neatly away. She passed it to Remy, who used a smiley-faced magnet to stick it to the freezer.
The heater made another clunking sound and Remy started. "I'll check dat heater again. It sure doesn't seem like dis place is sixty degrees."
"Sugah, Ah'm in shorts and a T-shirt…"
"Yeah, well, you also like ice cream at three a.m., so you're judgment don't count." He said offhandedly, as if nothing was the matter.
And on the surface, nothing was.
"Bobby, what are you doing?" Scott had gone out after the wind had died down and found Bobby wearing pajamas out in the snow, methodically pitching snowballs at the mansion.
"Nuthin'. Zilch. Nada. Zip. Not a thing." Bobby packed another snowball and threw it, knocking a clump of snow from a windowsill.
"The more you lie the more obvious it is that you're not being straight with me. You don't have to say the same thing five times for me to get the point, you know." Scott said skeptically.
Bobby sneered and scooped up another snowball, flinging it at a window. "So? Since when do I have to be honest with you?"
Scott's cheeks flushed, either from cold or from anger. If he was angry, he did a good job keeping his voice even. "I thought you were always honest with your teammates."
"Oh, so this about teammates now? Haven't you noticed we're on vacation?" Bobby asked, tilting his head mockingly.
"Bobby, I won't pretend to understand about what happened between you and Lorna, but I really think-"
Bobby's eyes suddenly flared and he yelled. His hands balled into fists. "Yeah, that's right, you don't understand. You've never been shot down, Scott! You went off and married your first love! The rest of us normal, unlucky people get our hearts trampled on every day and you just don't get it!"
A snowball appeared in his hand and he flung it viciously at the window. Scott quickly looked over his shades and shattered it with an optic beam.
"Right, that wasn't a snowball. That was ice." Scott said sternly. Bobby glared. "You need to cut this out."
"Drop dead, Scott. You're my team leader, not my mother."
Scott pursed his lips in surrender. "Fine, but you pay for any windows you break."
"Whatever. Deal." Bobby nodded, sitting down in the snow. He looked deflated.
"And you have to help them reinstall it." Scott threw over his shoulder as he began to leave.
"Yeah, okay." Bobby fell back into the snow, waving his arms slightly and making a snow angel. A few snowflakes landed on his nose and the stray locks of hair on his face. They even caught on his eyelashes and fluttered up and down, up and down with each blink.
And they melted on his lips as he smiled bitterly and sighed.
Hank did not believe in God, but he happily joined in the church proceedings. The whole building was so beautiful it made his heart beat fast. Colors like water spilled through the stained-glass windows and spattered over the floor in jewel drops. The fine stone was craved so perfectly it smiled down on them. Arts had never been Henry's favorite study (that was a position reserved for science), but he loved the church's beauty.
Kurt was in one of his favorite places too. His only regret was that while he felt he was safe with God, he had to use his image inducer around all the church-goers. Even in the house of God he was not accepted.
The hymns ended and the pastor read. Hank smiled beneath his inducer and Kurt bowed his head in prayer.
Humming some old Patsy Cline tune to herself, Rogue checked the fridge and smiled to see that Bobby hadn't eaten all the ice cream. She promised herself she wouldn't eat too much, but she knew well enough that that promise wouldn't last. Lately she'd been binge-eating more and more. It seemed that winter was killing both her and Remy, by driving him inside and by putting the pounds on her.
But of course, another inch around the waist wasn't the end of the world. She had to constantly remind herself that a few months indoors didn't qualify a terminal illness either.
"Save some for everyone else, chere." Remy smiled. She looked up and blushed, caught by her beau while she was shoveling orange sherbet down her throat.
"You didn't see nuthin', Cajun." She teased.
His expression changed from bemusement to concern. "Right, den can I talk about 'nuthin''?"
"Ah guess." She looked at him quizzically.
He sat down next to her, grabbing a stick of jerky from the drawer. "I been worried about ya. Ya don' seem happy anymore." He tried to act casual unwrapping chewing on his jerky, but he seemed nervous. Worried.
"Ah'm fine, sugah." She smiled, but it was fake. "Ah'm just a bit worried about you."
"Remy's doin' fine." He said, bluffing as easily as if it was at cards.
Rogue's brow furrowed. "Ah told mahself Ah wouldn't press the subject…"
"What subject, chere?" He knew, he just didn't want it to be obvious.
Rogue bit her lip. "Nuthin'." She sighed. "Everythin'll be fine in the spring…" She said softly, hardly loud enough for him to hear.
Live and endure. They had to make it till spring, preserve their love, tame their insecurities, live, and endure. They had to lie to themselves and each other just until the first buds graced the trees.
Lorna returned to her car, cheeks pinked and hands shivering despite her magnetic shield. The car itself was warm, and she turned up the heater and the stereo at the same time. She didn't even think as she was driving back. Her mind set itself to autopilot and she turned the steering wheel methodically.
The snow was melting when she stepped out of the car and onto the driveway. Bobby was leaning against a tree outside. He turned his head to look at her, and she at him.
For a second they stood staring at one another. Her apology was intangible. His accepting wasn't heard. Then he turned away, and she walked through the door, both feeling a little more hollow for it.
"You can't just be their friend, Scotty." Jean had taken another ibuprophen and with everyone out of the house, her headache had receded into a quiet buzz in her temples. She'd seen her husband sitting next to the checkers set and drinking a coffee and decided to spend her time with him and apologize for her previous hostility.
To her surprise, that wasn't what was bothering him. She should have known him that well, but surprises did make life more balanced.
"I know, Jean. They've listened to me barking orders too long for that." He smiled weakly.
She nodded. "They don't think we understand what they're talking about most of the time." And she had to admit, her experiences were much different than what they faced. She dealt with rebirth while Lorna dealt with stale love. She feared galactic forces while Remy feared the cold. She knew life and death like the back of her hand. They were just trying to find their way through love and affection and anger and solitude.
And somehow, those issues of life and death were only background noises.
Scott killed his coffee. "Do you think they ever get jealous of what we have?"
"Maybe. Probably. We got lucky." She said. The idea unnerved her. It made her feel inhuman, above the others.
"Yeah. We got lucky." He got up. "Want more coffee? I made a whole pot. It's supposed to be good for headaches."
"It's fortunate I have a cell phone, ja?" Kurt pulled it out of his pocket with his tail. Hank smiled ruefully. The car sat stubbornly on the side of the road, refusing to move.
Kurt clumsily dialed the cell phone and put it to his ear. Making a face, he dialed again. "Mein freund, what does it mean by 'no service'?"
"It means we're not as fortunate as we thought." Hank smiled in spite of himself.
"We could hitchhike." Kurt shrugged. "Or hope we find a telepath."
Hank nodded and grinned. "Ah, yes, my kingdom for a telepath. Let us hope the image inducer batteries don't run out."
Remy smiled as he caught Rogue on the couch sleeping with a Harlequin novel hanging limply from her hand. "Looks like I'm catchin' you doin' all sorts of indulgent things today."
"'M not asleep." She mumbled.
He sat down next to her and ran his hand through the end of her curled hair. She shifted uneasily. Touch was forbidden – always would be, as far as she knew, and he was tempting her.
But they were nothing if not people who mistook touch for passion, so she stayed on the couch and let him caress the auburn locks. She didn't want to interrupt the routine with her mouth.
Yet, "We need to talk," just slipped through her lips.
Remy looked as if ice water had begun trickling down his spine, and he recoiled his hand. "'Dis about the weather?"
She nodded, fully awake now. She didn't trust her mouth to speak for her.
Remy sighed. "Chere, you're worryin' too much. I'm fine."
Rogue shook her head. "No, you're not. Ah ain't blind, Remy, and ah know last time I tried to force you it all ended for the worst, but…" She trailed off from words to a whisper to silence.
Remy's eyebrows pursed. "Ya don't need to worry about me."
She bit her lip. "That ain't true. Remy, ah know it's been like this every year but ah dunno, ah think you're getting' worse-"
"Worse?" He interjected angrily. "What, I got a sickness now, Rogue?"
"No, ah meant-"
"Stop worryin' about me!" He said fiercely, getting up quickly from the couch. "I'm fine!"
"Ah never said you weren't, ah just-"
But he left the room and the slamming door cut her off.
Your fault, the door seemed to bark. And it was, and she was lost as to how to correct things.
So she rolled over and buried her face in the couch cushion, and though she bit her lip, she did not cry.
Hank and Kurt were surprised to see Jean so eager to see them. After they'd stood by the side of the road for almost an hour, alternating between checking their watches and inducer batteries, some Good Samaritan had given their car battery a jump. Upon entering the mansion, Jean had ambushed both of them.
"Thank God you're here, if I have to watch one more person sulk I'm going to lose my goddamn mind." She gave them each a quick hug "What took you so long, anyway?"
Kurt hung up the car keys on the rack. "Something when wrong with the car and we had to wait for someone to help."
Jean pursed her lips. "Couldn't you have called us?"
"Don't think we didn't try." Hank smiled, revealing the lower tips of his fangs. "Kurt's phone was out of service range."
"Well, it doesn't matter much now. How was church?" She asked, digging for any conversation that wasn't moody. Those suffering stares and furrowed brows exhausted her.
"I found it most satisfying." Hank said, then pointed to the half-empty pot of coffee. "Do you mind?"
Jean laughed. "Henry, if I drank that entire thing I'd be bouncing off the walls. Here, Kurt, you have some too."
"Danke, fraulein." Kurt accepted gratefully, licking his lips. "The church was as beautiful as always; I was once again in the eyes of God. It is a most remarkable feeling. How have things been here?"
Jean rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation. "Scott's moody, Lorna's sulking, Bobby's…somewhere, Remy's under a pile of blankets with the remote control, and Rogue's sulking and sleeping."
"She sulks while she sleeps now?" Kurt mused and smiled.
Jean chuckled slightly and drank some of the coffee herself. "If it weren't for you two I'd lose my mind. Heaven forbid anybody be happy in this house."
Lorna Dane was surprised how enraptured one could become with game shows. Remy, having seemingly smothered his entire body under a quilt, had one hand poking out and had changed channels to Jeopardy. Lorna had just passed by and stopped when a question about anthropology had caught her ear.
Soon, she was absorbed in it. Remy occasionally offered a muffled correction when the answers she gave were wrong.
"The Parthenon?" She guessed, in response to 'The most famous Greek temple devoted to Athena'.
"'What is' de Parthenon," came from beneath the covers.
Lorna snorted. "Fine, what is the Parthenon."
Remy's head emerged from the quilt, unruly hair pressed to his face. "But by now, I woulda gotten the points."
"Would not." She shot back. She turned her attention back to the screen, but didn't know the next question. "Should we keep score?"
Remy grinned. "Get something to write on. We'll start after de next commercial break."
She grabbed a pen and a pack of Post-It notes. After the show had ended, Lorna tallied the points. To her surprise, Remy had won, though it was only by a slight amount.
"You wouldn't have gotten half your points if they hadn't had that Cajun Food section."
"Doesn't matter, chere, looks like I still won."
"We'll see how you fare on Wheel of Fortune." She smiled sadistically.
Remy grinned back. "Dat a challenge?"
And so they went on healing each other, just by laughing and smiling and teasing each other, finding comfort in the notion that the other was covering up for an equal amount of misery, for the moment.
"I sure hope Sean was joking about arming the kids with flamethrowers." Scott said, looking slightly shaken as he walked into the room. "At least, that's what I think he said."
Jean sighed. "You still think you have to run everything or it'll all blow up by tomorrow?"
Scott smiled weakly. "Well, the Professor's gone, and if I don't hold down the fort-"
"You'll have a nervous breakdown, I know." Jean interrupted, motioning for him to sit.
"That's not what I was about to say." He muttered peevishly, though he did sit down.
Jean gently massaged between his neck and shoulder. "It doesn't make it any less true. Haven't you ever taken a vacation before?"
"Yeah, you know I have. That feels good."
The door closed quietly behind Bobby as he entered. Scott and Jean looked up.
Jean stopped massaging Scott. "Where've you been, Bobby?"
"Outside." He said simply, before he turned and walked out into the hall and out of sight.
"He's not taking this whole Lorna business well." Scott said softly.
"No, he's not. But let them sort it out for themselves." Jean went back to massaging Scott's shoulders. "You don't have to control everything. I swear someday you'll take over the world, just to keep it safe."
Scott smiled and kissed her cheek.
"My oh my, Hank McCoy's actually outta his lab for once." Rogue said smoothly. "An' cleanin' house, no less."
'I'm merely sorting through the videotapes. It seems quite a few are mislabeled. And actually, I haven't been in my lab the entire day." Hank said casually, stripping a tag off a tape.
Rogue sat down next to him. "Mind if Ah help ya?" She asked. She needed a distraction.
"I'd be grateful for any assistance, yes." He smiled.
She picked up an old recording of a soap opera she'd followed religiously years ago. "Oh, and before Ah forget! I clipped out a newspaper article for ya – it had somethin' about Trish – it's on the fridge now."
He started slightly. "Oh. Oh, yes, uh, thank you. Help me with this tape, would you?"
Rogue saw him fidget, but she didn't say anything. It was not her business, and she had no right intruding. She shouldn't have even torn out the clipping.
And yet, she was only trying to be helpful. At least Hank appreciated that. Unlike others she knew.
Bobby's prediction about dinner proved to be correct. He pulled out a pre-made lasagna from the oven and sat at the table, fork readied, preparing to eat it all.
"Are you going to eat that all?" He heard from the doorway, and the light caught a strand of green hair, telling him it was her.
"I was planning on it." He said sullenly, mood suddenly dampened. "Want some?"
She shook her head and her face emerged into light. Pink lips, curved eyelashes, slightly arched eyebrows – they were all so distant, as if he were looking at a statue carved from marble. Perfect, but lacking humanity.
He didn't let her see that he had even noticed her walking in. Instead, he chewed a bite of lasagna, focusing instead on the taste of cheese and sauce.
She sighed and sat on the table, scuffed boots clicking against the wooden leg. "Bobby, we can't keep up like this. You can't just cut me out…"
"…Right?" She asked, searching for some hope. "Can't we still be friends? I don't see what's so damn hard about that."
He chewed again.
The hard part was that friendship is a game of equal reciprocation. Whatever one gives is matched evenly. Love wasn't like that. Lorna was unable to give because she had nothing left.
"I can cut you out if I want." He said. He was beyond caring if it hurt.
She hung her head. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I dragged you down with me."
He couldn't shake the feeling that she'd used him.
Bobby got another bite of lasagna, but didn't eat it. He just looked at it on his fork. "Yeah, we got all that out last night."
She ground her front teeth against her lip. "If that's what you want." She said as she left, feeling as if all her good cheer had been sucked from her body like poison from a wound.
He put the lasagna in his mouth. Damn. He hated how his ex lived two doors down the hall.
Life quieted down at about ten thirty. Hank had once again retreated to his lab, though he hadn't mentioned to anyone his stop at the fridge first. His guise was that he was gathering Twinkies for a long night's work, and even if anyone had been there, they probably would have missed the way his hand deftly grabbed the clipping.
So he returned to his lab, and after reading the article, he calmly tore the clipping in two and let both halves flutter to the bottom of his wastebasket. Some things were, some things were not. There was no use obsessing over them.
The computer keys were cold but with his fur, he did not feel them. He typed so fast he didn't even notice the gentle hum of the monitor. When his work was through, he crawled into his bed and slept, alone but fairly content.
Remy was still on the couch he had been on earlier, though from the plates, spoons and forks surrounding him, he'd been up at least once to grab food. He wasn't sure why he'd decided to sleep on the couch. Maybe he was afraid of Rogue. Maybe he was just afraid of apologizing to her. He didn't feel as if he had anything to apologize for, but it didn't rid him of a decidedly guilty feeling.
It scared him, slightly. He didn't feel as if he was in control anymore. Driven by fear and regret, he was locking himself away, and it wasn't even his own choice.
Tomorrow he'd venture outside. Tomorrow.
Jean was simply thinking about how people slowed down as winter came over them stronger. She was awake, not desperate for sleep, just thinking.
Scott breathed lightly beside her. She wasn't alone, she wasn't curled up in the dark like Rogue, in as few covers as she could bear as if to prove something. She wasn't tearing herself to pieces in the emptiness of her room like Lorna. She wasn't sleeping on the couch or reading old pirate novels for a sense of comfort. She was simply there, with her husband breathing right by her side.
She was lucky. She knew she was lucky. She shouldn't feel guilty for being lucky. And she didn't.