He grabbed two cups from the cupboard, without really thinking about it.
No one questioned him when he did this, no one even raised an eyebrow when Chris would leave one cup untouched in front of the rec. room TV. When they used to, he'd glare at them and then turn away quickly. It was none of their damn business what his reasons were.
Walking to the 'fridge, the young man pulled out the hidden reserves of coke from the back, smirked and turned back to the counter and cups. Pouring the liquid in, he smiled and shook his head, remembering a time when she had shaken up the soda before allowing him to open it. Chris ended up drenched in the sticky drink and she was doubled over in laughter.
Then she ended up running for her life as he decided to turn the ruined soda on her.
Shaking his head, Chris replaced the coke bottle, picked up the glasses and slowly made his way down to the rec. room where he'd spend the next three hours watching a movie. Scanning over the TV guide, the boy then remembered to check the calendar, he sighed deeply.
It was her night to choose the movie.
It was a semi-tradition to switch weeks back and forth. Chris with his 'macho-testosterone driven' movies and her with the 'chick-flicks that can kick behind' movies.
Flipping the appropriate channel, Chris settled in to make fun of the chick-flick of the South, 'Sweet Home Alabama'. It was always fun to poke and insult the lead guy. She had always liked the man's blue eyes. Chris' face soured, she liked Bobby's eyes for the same reason. 'Because they were so beautiful' and all the other things girls gush over about their boyfriends.
Two hours later, Chris picked up his cup and chip bag. Stretching, he looked over at the girl who eyed him from the doorway. "What?" He snapped. "Never seen a guy clean up after himself or something?"
Daisy shook her head slowly. "No, but you forgot a glass." She pointed to the black metal cup now sitting in a ring of water from its own sweat.
Chris grunted and started to leave. "Aren't you going to get it?" Daisy-Mae asked innocently.
Without so much as a glance or glare cast over his shoulder, "No. The lazy bird can get it herself."
"I said no."
Sometimes they still bugged him over her problems. Professor had even expressed a concern for the young man in the months following their most notable mission as the X-Cites. Running his fingers over the banister of the staircase after throwing his mess into the kitchen, Chris didn't look up until he got to the male hall.
There stood her door and, again, the boy smirked. She had kicked a hole through it once, freaked a lot of guys out when the foot suddenly appeared in front of them. They had even taken her door away when she got too moody and depressed, after that, she was moody, depressed, angry and on display.
A shiver ran through the boy's frame remembering just how hard it was to tick her off, but after you did…beware. Not only did the girl have an excellent memory for things or people who had the stupidity to upset her, but also she was very creative in the ways of getting those people back.
He should know. Chris had been on the receiving end of her temper more than once in his short time with her.
Two years were short compared to a lifetime.
Ignoring that, he went to his room and slammed the door shut.
There was no need to look at her door like she wasn't there.
No reason what so ever.
Chris blinked at the ceiling. No, the ceiling wasn't what woke him up. Turning over, the black haired male decided to forget about it, after all, it was only eight in the morning. Closing his eyes once again, there was that same sound.
His eyebrows knit together, trying to block out the offending noise. Then, with a realization, the boy sat straight up in his bed, threw the covers off of his legs and stomped to the door. Flinging it open, he glared at the first person his eyes landed on.
"Good morning, Chris." Jean said in a forced sweet tone.
"What the hell is going on?"
Jean's mask slipped a bit; she briefly glanced down trying to avoid the blue eyes boring into her. His eyes flickered to the cardboard box cradled in her arms. His mood wasn't the best and upon seeing the tip of Oreo bed sheets it plummeted to near homicidal.
"What is going on?" His voice was deadly low, not a true threat to the telepath had it been in any other situation.
"Chris," Jean started. "It—It's time to let her go."
His eyes snapped wide and then quickly lowered into a nasty, pain promised glare. "She's not gone." Why couldn't anyone else believe him? They all thought he was in denial or something. Chris wasn't in denial; they were just delusional. No way would the person he considered his best friend just up and leave or even—no! She was still around, just distracted.
"Chris, it's been four months. She's not coming back. You have to accept that she's—"
"Do not say it!" Chris gave her a firm and steady look. He wasn't going to sit through this lecture yet again. First it was the Professor, then it was Dr. Frese and now suddenly it was Jean. What did they know? Nothing! They knew nothing!
Jean sighed and examined the box in her hands. "Why don't you go and pick something out? Bobby's already taken the doll she used to have all the time, Adam has Lucifer, you can have something as well."
She was going to be livid when she came back to see all her stuff scattered amongst different occupants of the mansion. Well, except for the cat. She acted like she hated that fluffy menace, but sometimes he'd catch her laughing and scratching its stomach. Even then it might have been something different, for all he knew she could have been trying to claw it's tummy open.
"Fine." At least he would try and keep something of hers that she wouldn't pitch a fit about losing. Of course, the girl was prone to fit pitching just as she was prone to making an ass out of herself in front of everyone.
Jean nodded and turned away, box still in her hands. Was he imagining it or was she actually crying?
Walking cautiously into the girl's room, his heart had to do its best not to crack. It was so barren, so lifeless. Her sheets were gone, her closet was bare; they had even taken the computer out of the room. No more posters of odd movies or of anime characters. There was nothing but various picture frames, her cell phone and answering machine.
Taking in the sight, Chris tried not to let everyone else's negative belief take hold of him. He knew she couldn't be gone. She couldn't. That would be giving up and she never gave up. Never. Studying the five pictures that sat near her bed on a small chest of drawers, a ghost of a smile traced his lips.
The first one was of her and Alexis; back-to-back and smiling like guilty cats. This must have been after they had filled the football player's plastic protective cups with itching powder. He would never forget how funny it was to watch the entire football team wiggle and curse uncomfortably at the homecoming game her senior year. It was payback for K'yo using her and Adrian confusing her. That had been a priceless moment.
The next was of Darcy. Chris felt a sharp knife plunge into his heart. He was the one that had to tell her little sister what everyone thought about Kerry. Darcy burst in tears and cried for nearly an hour on his shoulder. He didn't know where she was now, living somewhere with their eccentric Grandmother.
Bobby and she were in the next picture and his face quickly darkened. That moron and she looked happy. She was hugging his shoulder from behind and he was just smiling at that camera. There was nothing worth seeing in that frame. Chris slammed it down on the dresser top.
The second to last was of the entire X-Cite team. Adam, Adrian, Julie, Daisy, him and then her. They all looked annoyed for the most part. Probably had something to do with the fact they were tied together around the waist once again. They had made it a full fifteen feet before promptly falling over on to each other. She had gotten up and started to rant about the stupidity of it all.
The last was of her family, well, her new family. Scott, Jean and herself. Scott's eyebrow was hiked up, Jean had an amused smile, and she had a pair of Scott's ruby quartz glasses on, holding Stitch and giving a victory sign with her fingers. Surely her parents would want this picture!
Leaving the dresser, he noticed something poking out from underneath the bed. Picking it up, his heart froze. It was the chubby angel that he had won for her during the time he had used an image inducer to look like "Jack". She'd been so angry with him. Chris gave a pathetic laugh, for a whole week his name was 'I hate you'.
Yes, he'd take this; she'd never miss it. Glancing around the hallowed room, his eyes landed on her answering machine. It was weird he knew, but he always loved her sassy messages. Something along the lines of 'I'm ignoring you. If you leave a message, it's hard to ignore you. I'll have to try harder. I don't want to try harder, but if you've listened this far, you'll probably leave a message. But don't feel bad if you get ignored, I warned you.'
They had unplugged it a few months ago; the phone would just continue to ring constantly. Tucking it under his arm, Chris looked around the room again and then left.
She'd be so ticked off if she came back and realized her room had been gutted.
When, when she came back. Not if.
She would never give up hope so quickly, and he wouldn't either.
She was too stubborn to leave.
…but not to be left.
And my heart will never know
So I don't fall apart
I fool myself for another day
That you're not really gone
After all this time it's still too hard to let you go
And long as I don't say goodbye
My heart will never know.
Julie braced herself when Bobby walked past her, his emotions pricking her empathy. Anger, happiness, longing, and even a depression pushed far back in the recesses of his heart. Well, she thought with a bitter mind, it was better than having to deal with the romantic emotions he usually had flowing off of him.
The same emotions had radiated from his girlfriend as well. It was cute, if you couldn't feel their stomach churning emotions crash into you all hours of the night and day. Of course there was lust, but never at night, just fleeting flickers during the oddest times from both of them.
But, as far as she could tell and with Julie's experience with couples who were intimately involved, they hadn't ever sealed that deal.
Daisy, her closest thing resembling a friend, was still moping slightly about the whole thing. Crying like a bloody newborn for weeks after it happened.
Not Julie, she couldn't care less about the skin morphing idiot. She had shed a few tears for show at the mock funeral they held and even allowed Daisy to use her as a living tear catcher.
The hard-nosed Black Flame rolled her eyes in memory, watching the rest of the X-Men clear out of the Danger Room with emotions of exhaustion, relief, and disappointment reeking off of their bodies. Charles, Chuck, bald boss was sure to make them think quietly, couldn't he teach them to feel quietly as well?
Of course, Julie remembered, there was a time when her emotions had died. When that damn irritable Mute had shut off her powers. The girl shivered at the memory after she was sure no one was around to see her weakness.
She had turned into a zombie, barely feeling pain, barely able to tell if she was alive. Julie had spent the last five years of her life thriving and cursing on other peoples' emotions, to have it stripped away so quickly left her deaf and mute to those around her.
When her mutant ability switch had been turned back on, Julie couldn't stop absorbing all the emotions from everyone. As much as the troublesome empath hated to admit it, she needed other people's emotions to feel a connection. In some respects, the girl mused, she knew the people more intimately than any telepath could. Where they could only read others minds, she could read their hearts and there was nothing they could do to stop her.
Her ex-leader, who was probably ashes or worm food by now, had given her a healthy dose of anger and then turned it around into pathetic puppy love. Julie grumbled, punched in the code sequence for the program. The taste of that girl's emotions still tainted her tongue in a foul way.
It was a good thing she was gone, Julie never had to put up with her rapidly shifting emotions ever again.
Black Flame could have almost cried in happiness, yet this girl never cried.
Easing into an attack mode, the X-Cite flicked her wrists trying to loosen up the temperamental muscles. One dumb time she'd forgotten to do that and that girl had caught on, cornered her and demanded for her curiosity to be satisfied.
Julie hated her at that moment, and the flames rose now, recalling the sheer audacity that girl had in stripping her of her pride and darkest secret.
At least she hadn't been the first to know. Daisy was technically the first one who got the whole story, but then again, they had both been stupid in their early teens. It was because of this they grew to be something of friends.
They both knew what it was like to lose and be hurt by the world.
That girl didn't have a clue what it was like to lose everything because of a dumb choice.
Julie's body had gone into autopilot as she sailed through the first couple of Danger Room created wankers. This was going to be an easy exercise; the British native had made sure it would be. She only needed the hours on her chart to prove she'd spent time in the Danger Room. Nothing ever said she had to break a sweat while in the room.
Black Flame smirked: life was too easy.
At least it was until her left hand once again crumpled. "Not now," she cursed it, pressing a thumb on her wrist and two fingers on the other side of her hand. Without one of her hands, she'd go down quickly. Growling in frustration, the girl looked through her sunglasses as a new enemy emerged.
This was not the time for her crippled hand to act like a frumpy housewife and do nothing!
Quickly stripping her left hand of the long black glove, the girl winced, noting the dark blue of her veins. Whenever her veins started to look like a smear of blueberry, she needed to see the doctor.
"Quit!" Julie yelled in irritation and the enemy quickly dissolved.
Great, now she'd have to tack on another hour.
"Just remember to take it easy, don't strain yourself." Dr. McCoy said firmly and slowly as if talking to a spoiled three year old with her fingers stuck in her ears. "I'll ask the Professor to excuse you from your sessions for the rest of the week."
"I'm not a weakling. I won't break." Julie ground out the words, cradling her bum hand in her semi-good one.
"I see, well then, I'll ask the Professor and Storm their opinions. You never know when we'll be called into action. Be back in two crinkles of a Twinkie wrapper."
Examining her messed up hands, the girl felt something akin to pain trickle through her iced heart but chose to ignore it. Probably just her stomach becoming ill at the sight of her own hands. It made everyone else sick, why should the owned be any different?
"I guess we both have scars now."
That stupid girl.
It was her own dumb fault for what she did. She just had to be the hero. She just had to be the big girl and stand up for what was right. She just had to have morals and sympathy.
Her leaving was the best thing that could have ever happened to the team!
No one really liked that girl, she was tiresome and boring and bossy and …
"Dumb mistakes are selfish mistakes." Julie remembered her saying right after one of the nastiest events took place, "good mistakes are when you screw up for someone else's benefit."
Something in her heart cracked. That girl had gone out of her way and lost her wings for the sake of her sister. Julie's own sister, Dorothy, wouldn't stick out her neck like that. Hell, her sister wouldn't give her a piece of gum off the bottom of her shoe after she'd walked the streets of London.
Trying to fathom dedication to one's sibling as strong as to lie down and take the beating of the millennium couldn't even begin to be grasped in the girl's mind. And when that stupid girl had woken up, she wasn't mad (Julie should know, she would have felt it) she was only scared and confused. When that girl got her voice back, she would not stop asking about her sister and her mother.
Loone stood in awed disgust about the total lack of self-preservation this girl had. Didn't she realize she had almost died?
Another reason the girl was a moron.
A moron, Julie admitted tracing her finger tips over the numerous deep, round scars on her hands, that she missed.
Maybe missed was a strong word, more like had gotten accustomed to putting up with on a daily basis. Without that girl's sarcasm and emotions, it felt like Julie was walking around the mansion with only one sock on. The cold reality everyone had been slapped with effected her because that girl's leaving had effected all of them.
Not because the whole bloody team had missed her, but, somewhere in the blackest corner of her heart, she missed that girl.
She was everything Julie wished for in her older sister. Bossy, yes, but that was a given. There were things that that girl would do. She could keep her tongue tied and swallowed when pestered about secrets. She would never intentionally hurt any of them unless provoked, stood up for the team when no one else would, and just was the most sacrificing big sister she had ever met.
She had loved her sister that much.
And yet it wasn't that which had sent her away, it was the team's fault. Why the hell did they let her go back in alone? Knowing that the building was going to collapse in on itself at any moment and she wanted to double check for any personnel. They had been so stupid.
Why did they let her go back?
Why didn't they just force her to stay?
Why did she have to go?
Why did it hurt?
Julie shook her head trying to stop what she knew was about to come, trying to stop her non-existent heart from breaking but there are some things that are out of anyone's control, even for an empath.
Though she fought it hard, in the end, she lost.
Her ears strained to hear any movement from the hallway. If she was going to lose this battle it would be better to do it in private. Because if anyone saw what she was about to do she would certainly have to kill later.
A slight tightening of the throat, a burning of the eyes, Julie hadn't done this in such a long time. She never had her time of mourning but there was no one to play to right now. Her mask slipped from her face and landed with an inaudible mental crash on the floor of the med. lab.
Knowing it was futile Julie finally broke down and cried for a friend.
So let me cry by myself
'Cause these tears will help to wash away the pain
I know in time they will dry
But for now please go away and let me cry
Oh yes, he still smiled. What would the point of letting everyone seeing him not smile?
But he couldn't smile all the time. There were times, at night, when he'd walk out of the house grinning, go half way to the cemetery and then let his guard down. His best friends weren't fooled, not at all. But they pretended along with Bobby, because they knew him well enough to know that he'd never let them in before he was ready.
And in the six weeks since her death, he still wasn't ready. Now it was much longer than that and he still wasn't ready. Could he admit that she was dead? Sure! No problem. How could he forget? He had to walk past her room every day to get to his own. Chris was almost clinical about his denial of her death.
Not Bobby. Bobby was too cool to pretend she was going to waltz in through the door again. He wished she would, he'd love to see her for a split second to say he was sorry for the things they'd said to one another. But that split second was never granted and the only place he could feel connected to her was in the cemetery.
Kerry's body wasn't there.
They weren't sure where it was. Chris insisted that there wasn't one to find unless you looked among the living. Bobby just kept smiling.
He smiled and joked the entire trip to the compound where she had been killed. Dr. Frese recommended that all that grieved and had a survival's guilt (such as Chris) go and perform an act of closure.
What he wasn't expecting to find when he stepped off the plane was Bishop standing over the spot they roughly guessed she had been killed.
Chris muttered under his breath as Jean and Scott pushed him forward. Bobby had no problem walking up to the time jumper.
"Hey, Lucas!" The much larger man locked up but turned to acknowledge Iceman. "Didn't think we'd find you out here." Out here was now covered with a grass and wild flowers. The walls that had once stood about twelve feet high crumbled to about two or less feet high.
"I came to pay my respects." Bishop commented coolly, raising his hand again. Bobby's head tipped to the side as a hand held device bleeped when the black man turned it to the left of the death scene.
His eyes narrowed slightly and Bobby felt his smile slip into a frown as his eyebrows wove together for a moment before relaxing.
"It is taking a 3-D take of the landscape."
Bobby's brown eyebrow twitched upward. "Why?"
His heart twisted painfully in his chest at the mention of her name. Most people had avoided saying it around him for a good reason. He could only take so much before breaking after all.
"What about her? Think you know where the body might be?" It was so calculated, so cold to ask such a question as if asking about the clouds.
"No. I have no idea where the body could be." The taller male looked over the shorter man's head, inspecting where the others of the party were located. Turning to see what it was Bishop was looking at, Bobby saw the three he'd come with off in a corner. Chris had his arms crossed and the look of death on his face as Jean seemed be trying to gently tell him something. Scott, as normal, stood in stony silence.
"Then what are you doing out here? Watching the grass grow?"
"No." Bishop was always the talkative sort Bobby mentally, sarcastically thought. "I was investigating."
Bobby's eyebrow rose in question, "Investigating what?"
"A faction that recently broke off of Friends of Humanity," the dark skinned man started. "Apparently, they are not trying to purify the human race, but to find a way to evolve with natural born mutants."
With nothing else to say, the jokester popped off the first thing that came to his mind.
"And you think they were the ones that killed these people?" Generalizing was better than making it subjective, making it personal.
"Perhaps, it didn't fit the mode of operation of the other bases," Bishop insisted, crossing his arms. "It was as if they wanted to be caught. Wanted the X-men to show up considering how quickly the last bases were cleared out."
"Wouldn't their scent have been picked up by Logan? Or some psychic trace by Jean?"
"There was too much debris for him to get a clean scent in the woods though he did scout about a mile in every direction. Blyt's mind was unbreachable since her mutation depended mainly on defense and Jean—it would have been trying to find a handful in a world of billions. If this theory even played out."
"So it could be just another ghost." the man scoffed. "Figures. I wouldn't tell anyone anything. I'd hate for them to have to dig up the empty casket." Bobby rattled off a few more inane things before walking away laughing at one of his own jokes.
The black man watched his companion go before he turned away. Bishop looked off into the distance, eyes narrowing. The future was always able to be rewritten but if things happened anywhere near as to what happened in his future's past, this was only the beginning.