Logan merely grunted. He'd come prepared, this time, with a handcart and the 'volunteered' services of a few people who needed to be tired out by curfew. This meant Elf, Porcupine, and the kid. At least the kid was a sort of self-made locust swarm of helping hands... even if one random clone seemed to act a little - funny(1).
Tallwater was the obsessive sort of mover who labelled every box.
"All right. One box per move, carry 'em from the bottom, not the handles, and leave the heavy stuff to me. Got it?"
"Yessir!" The assembled group of prankers saluted.
True to form, one of the kid's clones lifted up a blanket. "What's under here?"
"That's Eileen," said Tallwater, still in the middle of her boxes of stuff. "I sort of rescued her from the junkpile."
The clone made a face, but didn't say anything nasty.
It was Logan that did the double-take. "Good God..." he muttered. An L-579... she was still magnificent, even though she was obviously in a very bad way. "How much'd you get 'er for?"
"Well... I sort of found her in a recycling yard. The watchman said if I could make her go and drive her out of the gate, she was mine for free. So... fifteen hours hard labour plus emotional trauma?"
The bicycle afficionado inside him whimpered and bit his fist. Outside, his face was unreadable. "Sweat equity," he muttered. "Huh." He'd had dreams, once, of picking up a bike this rare on sweat equity. Tallwater probably didn't know how much this bike was really worth, to a collector. He laid aside his prejudices, though, and helped wheel the aged moped into a secure corner or the garage. It would keep.
Meantime, he had an assload of books to cart up to Red's room. Tallwater had gotten cute. Each box was labelled; 'books', 'more books', 'still more books', 'even more books' and so on. There was even a 'books 2.0'.
The minute she and Froggy could extract themselves, they did, each picking a box and hauling it like all the others.
One box, he couldn't help noticing, was labelled, 'shelves'. "Chuck's got plenty of shelvin' if you want it, Tallwater."
"I'd rather not waste the resources," she chirped. "Besides, mother--" twitch "would only throw them out after she discovered my absence. They represent quite a bit of scrounging time, after all."
Even more disturbing was the hope chest, on which she'd added the word 'lost' at some time in her past. Chuck's gonna have a hellovatime with this gal.
Sara's cell chirped. Unlisted or restricted number. She hit the talk button. "Sara Louise Adrien."
"WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?" It was Mother in full warpath mode. "How DARE you leave this house without my permission! You wait until your father hears about this! I'm calling the authorities!"
Sara put herself in Vulcan mode. "The authorities will doubtless repeat that I am well within my legal rights to live where I choose, Mother. Rest assured that I am safe and well, and will come to no lingering harm. Barring the unforseen, of course."
"You have no right to speak to me like this! I am your MOTHER!"
"Yes. You are my mother. As for the rest of it... how can you tell that I do not possess recordings of your - diatribes? I'm certain the authorities would love to hear about your regular verbal abuse."
"This is blackmail! After I did everything for you! You ungrateful--"
"I have to go, mother." Sara shed a tear from inside the Vulcan mask. "I'm afraid you're hazardous to my mental health." She hung up and turned the cellular phone off. Only then, did she allow herself to weep.
(1) Someone, somewhere posited the "one clone is retarded" theorem to Jamie's multiplication. I'm going with it.
There was a clearly delineated border between Sara's space and Jean's, even before the piles of Sara's things had completely been moved in. That line was both clearly visible and sacrosanct to Sara. Even in the depths of yet another mood swing, she stayed on her side of the invisible line.
Todd held her close and brushed her hair, adding the occasional kiss to reassure her that at least one person valued her as a human being and would not easily leave. In fact, the only thing that distracted her from her crying jag was that he tucked her hair behind her ears.
On the third such tuck, and her subsequent dragging of her brown locks back over them, she protested. "Don't. Please. They're perpendicular."
"Ain't," he protested. Todd captured a hand and re-tucked some hair behind the closest ear. "I love all of yo'. Even your beautiful," he kissed her earlobe, "parallel," another kiss, high up on the cartilage, "ears." A third kiss, on the little bump of flesh guarding the aural canal, near to her cheekbone.
And at that precise moment, just as she was beginning to bend to his ministrations, Logan leaned in. "No makin' out in the bedrooms. Both of ya."
"Hey. Yo. I might be scum, but I ain't no asshole," Todd shot back.
Sara scrubbed her hair back into place and blushed furiously. "I suppose I'd better get on with these shelves," she murmured, sorting out pieces from the box.
"Lemme help?" asked Todd. "I'm pretty okay with a hex key."
Darn it, now everything sounded sordid. Sara blushed furiously, but gave him a pile of parts that would eventually turn into a bookcase. She constructed a labyrinth of sorts, guarding her bed - made up and resolutely bland, the only provided furniture besides the dresser and a study desk - and emphasising the line. Sealing her off from the view of Jean "I'm perfect" Grey and any lingering wrath.
People like Jean had always abhorred people like Sara. Therefore, Sara reasoned, the best thing to do was to act like they were in seperate, if adjoining, rooms.
Maybe some kind of curtain would aid in that, later. If she needed it.
For all she knew, Jean Grey might actually be a fantastic person. And tonight, she would have a perfect opportunity to get to know her.
Think of it, Sara told herself, as your first sleepover. Only with more accessories.
Chuckie, still in his hamster ball, was roving around the room and sniffing at things.
"Like, hi," a perky freshman Sara vaguely recalled poked her head in. "You must be the girl Jean's like, totally freaking over. Need a hand?"
Chaperone, thought Sara at the exact same time that Todd said, "Logan send you here as a chaperone?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Shyeah. Kinda. But he also kinda gave me the idea that you'd like, like to be set up before dinnertime? And he's like, totally nervy about having one of the Brotherhood over."
"Todd's here at my invitation," Sara never stopped working on her shelving. "And under a flag of truce. Besides, I'm not in the habit of abandoning friends because of anyone else's disproval."
"I'm Kitty," Kitty parked herself near some shelving and began to attach bits to other bits. "Are you and the Toad like, going out?"
Sara pulled back her hood. "Not unless Haloween's come early."
"Omigawd... You're Essel!"
"Sara Louise Adrien, please. Adrian Essel is a fabrication of narrow minds and cloth ears."
"Y'know, the grape vine says you totally--"
"I know," Sara interupted. "Does anyone bother to check the possible veracity of any of those rumours? Most of the ones I've heard are anatomically impossible... even if I was a male."
A moment of supreme confusion. "So you're really..." she trailed off, gesturing vaguely at about boob level, trying to come up with a term.
"Menstruating," suggested Sara. "Yes."
"It's only our androcentric society that makes it an unpleasant thing," said Sara. "In gynocentric cultures, it's a rite of passage. A confirmation of adulthood."
"Euw..." Kitty shuddered. "So not my thing. Do you like, need this many shelves?"
"Wait until you see my assembled collection. Books, media, hamster, luckpieces, PC guardians... and some few trophies."
"You won stuff?"
"Eons ago, it seems. Ancient history, now." Sara righted a bookcase and placed in the last few pieces. Almost done building. Almost time to stock the shelves, as it were. At least she didn't have to hide anything, here.
Kurt watched. He was good at it. There was a steady flow of people, one per quarter-hour on average, from Jean's pity party in the common room to the congregation upstairs. In what used to be Jean's sanctuary. He was never rude enough to say it, but he'd had the lingering suspicion that she used her room as a kind of extra shield. Something to rely on and retreat into when her head hurt or the steady sussuration of minds at work got to be too much.
Curiosity compelled him upstairs. After all, he knew what Jean moaning about something or other looked like, by now. Only Scott, fiercely loyal and in love to the point of stupidity, actually stayed.
There was music. Something in the tone of it made him think of vinyl. Guitars and banjos. A hymn of sorts.
"You've got to - prime the pump, you must have faith and believe. You've got to - give a lot of yourself before you're worthy to receive. Drink all the water you can hold, wash your face, cool your feet. But leave a bottleful for others, thank you kindly, Desert Pete."
And then Bobby's voice. "How do you skip tracks?"
"You don't," said Sara. "It's very technical and requires a delicate touch. So put up with songs you dislike, if you please."
Only Sara could be that polite while telling someone off.
"Is there a fast forward?" Bobby was still clueless about vinyl.
Kurt decided to intercede. "It's from before fast forward was invented. Leave the record alone, ja?"
"How in hell do you know about it?" Bobby enquired.
"Hello? I'm from an isolated whitebread mountain town that just got connected to the internet. Of course I know about it." People were swarming, placing books on Sara's shelves and rearranging the articles of interest, which included the hamster tubing. The hamster in question was barely visible as a set of whiskers inside a miniature kennel. Kurt decided not to bother the poor creature.
"D'ye think Jean'll mind if we hang these in 'er closet?" Rahne gestured with three long garment bags.
"Of course she'd mind," said Rogue. "Just hang 'em on the pole over the dresser. 'S what it's there for."
Todd, Kurt noticed, rarely left a five-pace circle around Sara. Well. If he was in - essentially - enemy territory with a girl he really liked, he'd stick close, too.
The record finished with a minimum of fuss from Bobby, who usurped Sara's computer and queued up every MP3 he could find. He found out that Sara's musical tastes were both ecclectic and strange.
The first song that played was by ELO, which pretty much said it all. The next one, by They Might Be Giants, filled in any blanks for the slow learners. By Paul McCartney's Off The Ground, certain people who knew about Kurt's own Beatlemania were rolling their eyes and groaning under their breath.
Kurt just grooved along and joined the 'lala la lalala's and said nothing.
Several of Sara's books were in a fragile state, owing to multiple re-readings. Kurt treated these with the care that a well-loved book deserves and took note of titles he knew. The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride and the entire Vorkosigan and Discworld series.
Sara was in good company.
Hank had come up with a skin potion to soothe his itches and, as an extra added bonus, it acted like soap without making him ill. And, since Sara had successfully set up all her things, he had less and less real reason to hang around.
Sara sensed this, even though he hadn't said anything.
Maybe it was Logan, hovering around with Scooterboy, making throat clearing noises and obviously glaring from Todd to the door.
Their conversation limped along. Are you going to be okay tomorrow? Yes. Do you need anything? No. And, finally, Guess I'd better call Lance.
"Kitty beat you to it," Scott muttered into his hand.
Sara ignored him. "Don't skip school on my account, darling. That miracle potion of Dr McCoy's should help slough off any dead skin."
"If Pie doesn't steal it."
"Tell him it'll turn his skin green."
He laughed, in spite of the dying-date mood. "Yo, that might actually work... yo' cool at stuff like that."
"It's just elementary psychology, I--"
She blushed. "Thank you."
Lance's jeep pulled up outside the glass doors and, because Lance was the impatient sort who liked his little ducks where he knew they were safe, he started leaning on the horn.
"Patience is a virtue," Sara called. "I-- I'll miss you."
"Miss you too." Now they held both hands, staring into each other's eyes. "I'll try to swing by, y'know. After."
"I'll anticipate every moment."
Beeeep BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! "Goddamn it! Hurry the fuck up!"
Sara sighed. "No sympathy in him."
"Jealous as," Todd soothed. "They don' let him make time wit' his girlfriend."
"Then we'd best make the best of our overtime," she murmured, leaning in.
Todd leaned up into the kiss, savouring the taste of her. The soft warmth of her lips. Her scent. The fact that she was kissing him back. The tactile thrill of her scales. The feathery tickle of her lovely hair...
"Ah, Mr Tolensky."
They broke to boggle at the Professor.
"Gooseberries(1) to the left of us... Gooseberries to the right of us..." muttered Sara.
Hello? I was kissing my girl goodbye, here... Todd tried not to visibly fume. "Yo. 'Sup?"
"Have you thought of obtaining an afternoon job?" said the Professor. I know, he 'said' inside Todd's head, but Mr Alvers was entertaining visions of prybars.
He can fuck himself, Todd 'said' back. Damn, this was tricky. "I tried, keep tryin', yo. Nobody likes th' look o' me."
"How would you like gainful employment in an establisment that is notoriously non-lookist?" He gestured around him to indicate which establishment he was talking about.
"What?" said Scooterboy. "But sir--"
"You ain't serious," warned Logan.
"I doubt if Mr Tolensky has any lingering motive to damage us," breezed the Professor. "Do you?"
He and Sara looked at each other, hope making sparks in their eyes. Sara mouthed his thoughts, "We could see each other..."
"Hell no, yo. I never wanted t' fight in the first place," he said. "'Sides, I keep getting my ass handed to me."
Lance, who had left the jeep and opened the door, gawped. "No bullshit, right? This is a legit thing?"
"As legitimate as you please," said the Professor. "We could draw up a legal contract..."
"Naw, I'd prefer something we can get out of. Y'awna do this, Toad?"
Another look at Sara. "More'n anythin'."
"...fuck..." he moaned. "You have a deal."
Both he and Sara yawped, jumped, and hugged each other in jubilation. At least, until Lance dragged him wholesale into the Jeep.
"You," he announced as they pulled away from the estate, "are entirely pussy-whipped."
"Oh, like you ain't," he shot back.
His reply was the typical finger. Always the automatic response of the slow of mind.
Todd just grinned like a bastard.
(1) Ancient slang term for someone who interrupts and spoils a date. Repeatedly. On purpose.
AN: Today's colour (if it works) is "Sara's scales" aqua. #66CCCC if ya must know. This is what I see as her 'base colour'.