The Ripple Effect

Chapter 8

Deep Shit

Jean's eyes fluttered open to the relaxed feeling of finally having a good night's sleep after a long stint of being unable to sleep well, if at all. Some light was filtering in from the drawn curtains that hung over her windows, but even that muted light was enough to make her eyes hurt. Squinting through her lashes, Jean laid quietly for a few moments, her green eyes roving over what she could see of her room. Things looked…different somehow. As if things were all shades of gray before and now a little bit of faded color had leeched back into everything. There was this persistent, small little feeling deep down in her gut, barely even noticeable, but if she focused on it, it was like something was telling her that everything would eventually be okay.

It's going to be okay Jean…It's not your fault…I hate seeing you like this…please, stop killing your self like this…I love you Jean…

Whoa… the memory of a dream where Scott had been whispering those things to her and kissing her all over like his lips would heal the cracks in her soul came back strong. Very strong. Strong enough to make her doubt if it really was a dream.

It was a dream...right?

Suddenly she became aware of how her mattress was dipping down a bit behind her back. Almost as if someone was lying in her bed with her. Slowly, Jean turned her head and then her upper body around to see the sleeping profile of Scott. Scott Summers was sleeping on his back in her bed, shirtless at the very least with an arm draped over his eyes and his hair sticking out in odd directions. Had she not been so terrified at the realization that her dream was not a dream, she might have thought that he looked pretty handsome laying like that in the filtered light. Instead, as soon as she realized what, or rather who, was behind her, Jean quickly turned her back on him again.

Oh, great job Jean! Really, that's just awesome. He's the only person who'll still talk to you and what do you do! Fucking seduce him! And after having a freakin' pregnancy scare with Duncan! Aloud, Jean sighed to herself. ...Oh god, I hate myself.

She had to get out of here. She needed space and air and room to think; space, air and a room that did not have Scott in it. Quietly as she could, the redhead sat up in bed with her feet dangling over the edge of the bed. She waited a few seconds, her butt on the edge of her bed, and listened for any signs that she might have woken Scott up. Upon hearing no change in breathing or any other signs that would tell her he might possibly be awake, Jean began to ever so slowly ease herself off of the bed.

The bed creaked and a hand closed around her wrist.

Whirling around, Jean saw Scott, eyes closed and shirtless, leaning over on one arm to allow him the extra reach needed to keep Jean from leaving.

"Don't," was all he said.

"Don't what?"

"Don't leave, don't runaway."

Jean's shoulders dropped, "Scott, I-I'm sorry. I'm so sorry but—"

"If the next word out of your mouth is 'mistake' I will run out of this room, screaming…and naked."

"This is not the time to be making jokes, Scott. God, I just…"she turned away, Scott letting her wrist go and Jean fisted her hands in her hair. "Oh God, I just went and screwed everything up, royally, not only for myself but I managed to drag you into it this time too!"

After a brief pause Scott said, "well, you didn't exactly have to hit me over the head and handcuff my arms and legs to the bed." Scott laid back down on the bed and folded his arms behind his head. Though, if she wanted to do that, it would be fine by me.

A resentful 'I heard that' resonated through his head in response.

Scott had the good grace to look sheepish. "Sorry, but, I mean, look at you."

"Stop it, Scott, this is serious," Jean admonished him, plunking herself down at the foot of her bed, putting her head in her hands. "God, Taryn was right. I really am some kind of man-eating bitch she-devil monster."

There was the sounds of sheets being whipped back from the bed and a brief moment later Scott was seated next to her, boxers and glasses firmly in place. He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her so she could look him in the eyes.

"I never want to hear words like that coming out of your mouth ever again, do you hear me? Never." Jean had the chance to blink and swallow before Scott continued on in a gentler tone of voice. "You were hurting, Jean. A lot. And I think it's a safe bet to say that you still are. Did last night happen under the best of circumstances? No, far from it. But…but I would rather have had last night happen than for you to be in here passed out and alone."

Jean was quiet for a few moments both taken aback at the altruism of Scott's statement and also letting it wash over her and sink in. "Why," she finally asked.

"Why what?"

"Why do you do this? Why are you always there for me, even after all the times I ignored you for Duncan or my soccer friends or other stupid things? Why are you so, so, so…fine about this? Why didn't you get out of here and go back to your own room as soon as you woke up? Why are you here trying to make me feel better even though I ...used you?"

"Because I love you Jean."

Jean rolled her eyes, but Scott didn't take offense at the motion, knowing that it was made more out of frustration from not being able to understand him than anything else.

"Scott," she said seriously, taking his hands into her lap and holding them there. "We've been friends since we were what? 10? 12? years old? Of course you love me, just like I love you and the Professor and Storm and everyone else here."

"No, you're not getting it," Scott took his hands from Jean's and held her hands in his. "It's more than that. I love all of you. I love your mind, who you are as a person, your body, the way you walk into a room and light it up. Everything about you." He paused, knowing that he was really throwing himself out there this time. This was different than all the other times he had made his feelings for her known. He was laying it all on the line; if she still rejected him after this then he was going to have to deal with the fact that it just wasn't meant to be between them.

"When I wake up, you're on my mind. When I go to sleep, you're still there. When something interesting or exciting or cool happens, you're the first person I want to tell. Even if it's just some stupid commercial jingle that I think would make you laugh. I'm still here not only because of our friendship but because it hurts me to see you hurting like this and I would do anything to make it go away. Even if it meant bringing Duncan back and watching you be happy with him instead of me, I would do it. That's how I love you."

There was a long, still moment of silence between them before Jean spoke.

"I…I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything because nothing you say is going to change any of that. Believe me, I've tried."

Jean blinked rapidly a few times and covered her hand with her mouth to muffle the sob that escaped. Tears overflowed and Jean shrunk in on herself causing Scott to draw her close and put his arms around her.

"What is it? What's wrong now?"

"Scott, I can't," she sobbed. "I can't do this right now. It's-It's too much—it's too soon! Duncan just—and now you—"

Realization dawned upon Scott's face, "Oh no. No, no, no," he soothed her, "I'm not asking for anything from you; I would never…"

But what if I want to? Oh dear God what is wrong with me?

Scott didn't think he was supposed to hear that, but he wasn't sure. She was dealing with a lot of stress right now and it could have caused her control to falter for a second. The more baser parts of him, the parts that nature and evolution hadn't updated in about a million or so years, were delighted that Jean had just thought that of him, regardless of whether she meant for him to hear it or not. However, the Scott Summers of the here and now was stronger than the left over bits of caveman and was thusly able to act like he hadn't heard a thing. He may have been able to be swayed of his convictions last night (Jean was a rather good temptress after all) but not on this. Not when she was completely torn over every feeling that entered her heart. If she did decide later that she did want something from him, he would let her come to him. He was used to it by now he supposed, for it was what he had always done when it came to Jean Grey.

So it shouldn't be hard, right?

x.x.x

It would only seem logical that after that night of attempted date-rape and the near death of her best friend, things would get better for Rogue or that she would take it easy for a while.

Not even close.

Instead she sought after oblivion harder than ever before. Paranoia kept her from going to the hospital Risty was at, so the Mississippi native really had no idea if her friend had lived, died or got shipped back home to England. It was just one more thing piled upon a whole host of others that drove Rogue to new levels of self-destructive behavior.

For Rogue though, it wasn't something as academic as slapping on a label of 'self-destructive behavior'. She just needed to make the pain go away. Being sober just genuinely sucked. Who would willingly want to feel like their head was exploding, their nerves set on fire, their muscles turned to molasses, and blinded by any amount of light upon waking up? And then add throwing up, (or, worse that that—dry heaving), for an hour, on top of all of that? Not to mention that all the things she was trying to stave off came back. Her damned curse of a power, the mess she left back at the Institute, Kitty, Kurt, Risty

Remy.

He was the big prize; the giant stuffed animal won at the carnival of fuck-ups. Whenever he started haunting her thoughts, wondering if he had ever woken up, if he had died, if he hated her for leaving, the terrible things she imagined he would say to her….that was the hardest thing to kill. Ecstasy, Ketamine, Wet Sticks, Cocaine, Liquor, Acid, Pot, Beer, Shrooms, Salvia….anything really and the more of it taken, the better. She would just keep taking and ingesting and inhaling and smoking until reality became a pleasant hum of nothingness so loud that she couldn't even hear herself think, couldn't even feel herself feel. A complete and total disconnection from herself and reality. Utter nothingness was what she chased after and it was what she got a lot of the time.

Except for the times she would be stuck in a corner, eyes wide with abject horror and tears streaming down her face. Screams would tear her throat raw because spiders or demons or aliens or death were crawling on the floor, the ceiling, the walls. All of them coming for her, crawling on her, wanting to suck her brains out through her eyes or something equally terrifying.

All of this at least make waking up an adventure. It was a surprise to see if she was inside or outside, on a bed, couch or mysteriously stained floor, with people or completely alone.

Right now Rogue was standing in front of an unfamiliar pizza shop, just having found her way outside from the cheap apartment that was above it. She looked around, squinting in the bright sun, and saw a couple blocks over the looming monolith that was an old high-rise public housing building. Or at least, it had been public housing in the past. Now it was just a mostly empty, ridiculously cheap apartment building that attracted nothing but gangs and drugs. Looking up at it made her head swim and spin and her vision go cross-eyed.

Rogue managed to stumble over to the curb before throwing up. Looked like there was something left in her stomach after all.

She had been to that old high rise once or twice before and even she thought it was a bad place to get a score. It was the headquarters for one of the local gangs so most of it's few residents were armed and incredibly possessive of their territory. They also had no qualms about shooting or maiming someone just because....well, just because really.

Then again, if she didn't get something, an aspirin—anything—soon, she was seriously going to die of this headache that was jack hammering it's way through her brain.

x.x.x

Rogue staggered out of the elevator and straight into the wall directly across from it, hunched over and coughing while trying to suck in great lungfuls of air. The air here was so much better than in the elevator, where she had just spent an agonizing ten minutes trapped with the stench of what was probably human shit, piss and vomit. Not to mention the graffiti that was every slur under the sun, torn ancient upholstery and blood spatter. Compared to that hell hole, the mingling scents of old beer, old weed and piss was like heaven.

She had to admit though, she was a little bit proud of herself. At least she hadn't thrown up again. Just dry heaves.

Once she was able to stop coughing from the horrendous elevator, Rogue righted herself with a grunt and started down the dusty, decrepit hallway. The place might not have been so bad if there if it wasn't for the spray paint, trash and smell. She stopped in front of a door that was marked with a giant marijuana leaf spray painted on it in black. She knocked on the door.

God, Ah hope there isn't some kind of secret knock. Ah'd like not ta get shot at this week.

After not hearing anything come from the other side of the door for a few moments, Rogue said, "Look, Ah just need a hook up. Some four doors? Maybe a Valium? Ah really need it."

Silence.

"Fuuuuuck," Rogue groaned to herself, letting her head fall forward to thunk on the door. She was going to die from this hangover. Slowly she pushed herself away from the door and turned to leave, definitely intending on taking the stairs down.

"Yo, I got what you need."

Rogue turned to see that the door had opened a crack and she could see a sliver of the man inside. He had the stereotypical gangster look going on with a wifebeater and baggy jeans on. While she had been looking him up and down, he did the same to her. Apparently he liked what he saw because he opened the door wider.

"C'mon in."

She followed him inside to see a rather spartan looking room with a mattress in the far right corner and a table to the left. On the table was a host of all different kinds of drugs. Bags of weed, uppers, downers, Ecstasy, ketamine...

...and a massive pile of cocaine.

It had to be at least a whole fucking kilo. That big beautiful pile of white powder was just sitting there, waiting to be divided up and sold on to the streets. All thoughts of headaches and hangovers left Rogue's mind at the sight of it. God, how she wanted to just bury her nose it in and snort it until she couldn't even fucking move.

"What'cha need?"

"Some of the coke", she immediately replied, never taking her eyes off of the cone-shaped pile of white powder sitting on the table.

"How much?"

All of it. "Dime bag?" Rogue patted herself down, not hearing the distinctive crinkle of money stashed somewhere on her person. Shit. Slowly, she looked back up at the dealer.

Ten minutes later, Rogue buried her nose into that pile of cocaine, pulled it into her for all she was worth while the dealer roughly pulled her pants down and thrust into her.

x.x.x

Intensive Care Room 16 was a quiet room. No one ever came by to visit, except for maybe a nurse on her rounds or a doctor with a group of green medical students. Those weren't really visitors though. More like curious minds passing through to gawk under the guise of professional medicine.

Well, there had been that one visitor.

A girl, no older than 17 with a white streak in her hair and looking like she had just seen her own personal hell open up in front of her. She visited the patient in room 16 not long after he had gotten back from emergency surgery. If the now-dead rumors had been correct, a woman from that school for the gifted had come and taken the young lady not long after that.

No one had come to seen him since.

Dr. Cecilia Reyes knew that she shouldn't personally care about this patient more than any other patient in her care. It was just that he was so young with apparently no one in the world to watch over him or even care whether he lived or died or was confined to this room for the rest of his life.

So it started with her eating lunch with him about once a week or so. She would come into the room, turn on the TV if it wasn't already on, and eat her lunch in one of the visitor's chairs. At first she would never speak just in case he was able to hear her. Because really, who would want to involuntarily listen to a complete stranger babble on about their life?

As the patient in room 16 passed into a presumed vegetative state, however, Cecelia began reading to him. She wasn't quite sure what drove her to do it, maybe it was a vain hope to keep what brain functions were left in tact or maybe it was just pity. She started out small; magazines from the hospital's pharmacy or one of those ridiculous religious pamphlets that promised eternal peace on a commune in rural Alabama. It occurred to her after a short while though that as a man of 19 years, he might not care about how some housewife in Minnesota lost 116 lbs in a year or which celebrity had only done 36 hours in jail for nearly killing a person while driving intoxicated for the third time. So she started bringing in novels.

Today they were starting Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut.

Cecelia read, and, as usual, Remy (she learned his name from his chart) was completely unresponsive. She made it about half way through the chapter before her beeper interrupted them, notifying her of the 6 car pile-up from the highway that was headed right for Bayville General's Emergency Room.

…It started with a fluttering in front of his eyes, almost like black and white was flashing repetitively and very quickly in front of his eyes. Remy spent a few moments trying to figure this strange phenomenon out before realized that he was actually seeing for what felt like the first time in a long time. Then he realized that he was realizing and that he was conscious and his eyes opened upon a drab looking room and light that seemed to be coming from some where right over his head. Blinking slowly a few times his eyes roamed around as much as they could. …This wasn't the party…or the park….

Mère sainte de Dieu! He had been shot!

Remy's hands immediately flew to his chest, but his chest told him that nothing had landed there. All he was doing was flexing his fingers and hands in a weirdly lame manner.

What the fuck was going on? Where was he? Why couldn't he move? Why did his eyes hurt?

What the fuck was in his throat?

Immediately Remy began making a wet choking noise, his body re-taking the natural function of breathing and as such, trying to fight the machine that had been inflating his lungs for him for about the past month and a half. He panicked and as a result, his heart rate shot up enough to set off some kind of alarm. Dieu, this was it, he was going to die. He was going to die because of whatever was in his throat. He was so going to haunt whoever's dumb ass put that in there. Seconds later two nurses and a doctor came in, the doctor grabbing his chart and the nurses fussing about with the machines around him. One of their faces loomed over him, a pretty lady with curly brown hair and brown eyes.

"Remy, can you hear me?" she asked in an overly-loud voice.

Remy nodded, wishing he could do so more vigorously and that he could just move his hands to yank out whatever was in his throat that was choking him.

"On the count of three, Remy, I want you to blow as hard as you can, okay? Like you're blowing out a birthday cake that's really far away."

She counted and on three, Remy did as the nurse told him and the most disconcerting and disgusting feeling of something moving up from about his breastbone up into his throat and finally out of his mouth overtook him. He took a raspy, gasping breath before dissolving into a fit of hacking wet coughs that made him realize just how much his throat hurt.

A few moments later they subsided and Remy relaxed into the bed, trying to catch his breath.

"Better?" the nurse asked.

Remy swallowed and was barely able to rasp out a 'merci' at an audible level.

"I'll get you some water to help make the raspiness go away."

Still trying to catch his breath, Remy looked around the room. Hospital. He was in a hospital. But something...something was off...

"Do you know your name?"

Remy's attention focused on the doctor standing at the end of his bed, looking over his chart with great interest. He was balding with thick rimmed glasses and a white lab coat on.

"Remy LeBeau," he replied.

"When is your birthday?"

"August 15th."

"How old are you?"

"Nineteen."

"Amazing..." the doctor mumbled to himself, his pen making scratching noises on the clipboard as he quickly wrote down some notes. "Tell me, how much do you remember of what happened?"

Remy thought for a few moments. "I was at a party....then I was runnin' from the police with Logan...then we was in the park, surrounded..." He couldn't go on as the memory caused a lump to form in his throat. The feeling of the life in his body and bones being slowly replaced by death was an incredibly eerie and dreadful feeling. Rogue's tearful face swam in front of his minds eye and he felt his chest constrict. He would have nightmares about those two things for weeks. He needed to find Rogue, to tell her that he was OK, that he wasn't dead like she thought.

Remy shook himself away from his thoughts. The shock of waking up and the memories of how he wound up here were too much and it was causing his eyes to start to water. He returned his gaze to the doctor at the foot of his bed. He didn't like the look the doctor had about him. He wasn't all that thrilled about being in a hospital, and having a doctor standing at the end of his bed, scribbling furiously with an excited glint in his eye only enhanced his non-thrilledness. Soon as he was able to move properly, he was so out of here.


A/N: Well, it's certainly been awhile, hasn't it? I can say though that in my time away, I've managed to get myself a college degree. And rejected from graduate school. And survived the almost-collapse of the world economy. So perhaps you'll keep these in mind before you start throwing rocks and rotten tomatoes at me for taking so long to update? Please?

I do have to strongly suggest, though, putting this on your Story Alert (or even placing me on your Author Alert list) as the process to re-apply to graduate school begins soon. Like, end of this week soon. Wouldn't want you to lose your place in the story after all.

MW