October 19, 2006: I can't believe I haven't posted a chapter for this story since August! My apologies for the delay. Thanks for the reminder, Mari!
The same disclaimers apply as before but I will reiterate that this story hasn't been Betaed so any errors are my own darned fault. Any characters you don't recognize are mine. This is just for fun, folks.
My thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and review this story. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. :)
Finally, here is Part Two of Chapter Eight.
Smashing Through the Looking Glass
Chapter Eight: Part Two
I pause, listening in the dark. This is a space for sports equipment out-of-season, so 'closet' is more like 'small storeroom'. Whatever. By the light coming under the door, I can see the beginning of the stand for the hockey sticks.
"Russell?" I click on the flashlight as I say his name and sweep the beam around the room until I find him.
I'm stunned by what I see.
Russell is sitting on the floor, leaning against the far wall. He looks exhausted and is sporting two black eyes. I move the light down his left arm and sure enough, his hand is missing. No blood, though. There's movement under him: Jack? A figure is tied at the hands and feet with what looks like our badminton net. The rest of the netting is wrapped around his body, so he's cocooned in green mesh. A piece of material has been stuffed in his mouth to keep him silent. Jack's head turns to look at me and jet black eyes make me shiver. Instinct kicks in: not Jack.
"What's going on?" I'm pleased by how calm I sound. I haven't moved any further.
"I'm sitting on this demon until he let's Jack go," Russell says matter-of-factly. "Good thing I'm already dead, or I would be."
He shrugs. "This has happened before, but we had proper restraints. Mr. Braddock is an extremely organized bloke." He follows my gaze. "Don't look into his eyes, Kitty, or listen to anything he says. We have to make him let Jack go." Russell leans closer to the handsome face. "You hear me, eh? Let. Jack. Go." The black eyes burn with hate.
"So, this isn't Jack?" I take a few steps towards them, getting a closer look at the man Russell has pinned. I can see clearly now that it isn't right; that someone else is masking the young man I met earlier that day. He's even more breathtaking than I remember from the barbeque. Something stirs in my stomach, like butterflies of panic. I squelch them down.
"No. It isn't. He's very strong and persuasive. He tried to kill me, but of course, he forgot it didn't matter with me, didn't you, dear?" The demon hollers hoarsely through the cloth, no doubt trying to say something rude and unpleasant. Russell cups a hand to his ear. "What's that? Couldn't make you out, mate."
"Maybe you shouldn't antagonize him." The black eyes return to me and I fight the urge to rush over and prostrate myself before him if only he'll touch me. I back up a few steps and unlock the door. "Just Sam," I say, opening it a crack.
"Can you bring me my hand, please?" Russell asks, as if requesting another scone. Sam puts his hand on Russell's hand and tugs it off Liz's wrist. Another moment I never thought I'd witness in real life.
"Sure," Sam says, staring at the fingers that proceed to drum on his palm. He comes inside and I close the door on the remaining startled faces. He turns on his flashlight and between the two of us, we can see much better.
I take a deep breath. "The short form? Jack's possessed by a demon that tried to kill Russell - again - and Russell won't free Jack's body until the demon leaves."
"Not bad, Kitty," Russell says. "Are you good at summaries for essays, too?"
"Yes, but that's a topic for another time, I think."
"Uh -" Sam holds out Russell's hand, eyeing the demon-Jack and not sure what to do next.
"Just toss it, mate. I don't want to give this thing any advantage so I'm not moving."
"Uh, alright." Sam tosses the hand, like he would a ball to a child. Russell raises his arm and the hand joins at the wrist as if drawn there by an invisible power.
"This is surreal," I say.
"Tell me about it." Russell checks his wrist, as if to confirm that the join is secure. "It takes some getting used to, you know?"
"Ah can just imagine." Sam moves to demon-Jack's head and crouches down. "So, how do we get the demon to leave Jack?"
"They were still figuring that one out when we came here." Russell hesitates. "I think Professor Xavier was going to keep him from using Jack with the help of someone named Cerebro. I don't know how, though."
"When did this… possession happen?"
"Just before all hell broke loose, Kitty. I noticed Jack wasn't in his bed, so I checked the halls and found him in the process of… changing. He said Cerebro was down here and that he'd help him. Once the demon took over, I had to try to contain him and this was the nearest place with restraints, such as they are."
The demon howls at this moment and arches his back, trying to buck Russell from him. Sam places a forearm across Jack's chest and flattens him firmly to the floor.
"Ah don't know who you are or what your name is, son, but you better cooperate or Ah'll get Wanda to exorcise you. It won't be pleasant." Sam can sound surprisingly menacing when he has to. We both know that Wanda isn't that type of witch, but the demon doesn't.
"Brilliant!" Russell beams. His eyes are looking worse but his spirits are high. "I even have the demon's name. That'll help with the spell." The black eyes that were Jack's look furtively around, finally settling on me.
I feel a heat burning inside me. I wonder what this demon can do. He's so beautiful, so sleek and muscular, and he wants to touch me…
"Kitty, don't look -"
The voice is distant as the demon's eyes and the promises there swallow me…
"Get out of my mind!"
He screams then falls abruptly silent. The closet doors bang open and three concerned people rush in. Light from the hall makes the scene more real.
"What the hell -"
Amazingly, Jubilee falls silent. I reach over and caress Jack's face. He's unconscious and his body is limp and covered with sweat.
"Um, what did you do?" Russell asks tentatively.
"I told him to get out of my mind," I say, my voice cracking.
"We 'eard that part. Are you a witch?"
I shake my head.
"'Cause the demon's gone. I can tell. Can you?"
"Yeah." At least Sam is able to speak. I just nod my head vaguely. I feel like one of those bobble dolls, like you see in the back of cars and at sports events. My head just might fall off if I don't find something to ground me soon.
"Will someone please tell us what's going on?"
"In a minute, Jubes. Let's get Jack free of this net."
Russell stands, with help from Sam, and works at the knots. I remove the cloth from Jack's mouth. It matches Russell's shirt, which explains where it came from; I note one of his sleeves is shorter than the other. We roll Jack carefully across the floor until he's free of the badminton net. Despite his injuries - he did say he'd be dead if he weren't already - Russell lifts his friend with ease into a fireman's carry over his right shoulder.
"Okay, people. Back up, please." They do. Russell looks even worse in the hall light. Peter looks like he is going to offer to carry Jack, but Russell's expression brooks no argument. We head towards the elevator.
"So the hand was to get help," I say quietly.
"Yeah. I flung it down the hall when he overpowered me, and then I, um, died for a bit." He glances at me and my look of confusion. "I'm always dead, but things still function like, um, normal, as it were, until I suffer a major trauma." He gestures with his head towards Jack's unconscious form. "He, er, smothered me - well, the demon did, of course, not Jack - and it took a minute or two for my system to, um, get back on line." I'm trying to follow what he's saying. I know I understand the words but the implications are hitting me hard. "I woke up to find the demon chewing at the knots I'd started. Good thing I'm stronger than I look." Russell gives me a watery smile and adjusts his hold. "Jack won't feel very good when he wakes up."
"I bet," I manage, trying to keep the conversation from becoming too depressing and not wanting to make Russell feel any worse about his 'ability', what happened with Jack or the nightmare of the Übel attack. "So, aside from being very strong and persuasive, what type of demon is this, anyway?"
Russell doesn't say anything.
"Do you know why it chooses Jack?" Sam tries.
Russell hesitates. "Sorta."
We reach the elevator. "Look, Russell." Sam's tone stops the young man but he avoids looking at any of us. "Ah don't want to put you on the spot, but we have to ask some questions. There's a lotta stuff goin' on right now and we need to know what we're dealin' with here. We need to know if Jack might be able to help us get the X-Men back."
Sam hasn't discussed anything with me, but he understood what I was saying in the office. Mr. Summers must've shared some of the study conversation that didn't involve just Dr. Grey. Figures it would be Sam he'd confide in. They are two completely different people except for one thing they share: leadership. It radiates like a protective fortress from Mr. Summers. It shines like a beacon from Sam.
"It's been with his family since the sixteenth century," Russell blurts. "The demon," he clarifies. "It doesn't usually manifest itself like this." Then something registers with him and he finally looks up. "What's happened to the X-Men?"
"They've been taken," Sam says.
Peter crosses his arms, looking grim. "By force."
"By those freaky things," Jubilee adds, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
Liz shudders. "To some other place."
"Through the looking glass." Russell stares at me, adjusting his hold on Jack again. "Yes, we know Jack can travel through mirrors. We're hoping if he can open this one, we'll be able to get to this place and bring the X-Men home."
"Not that we've talked it out or have a plan yet or anythin'," Sam says, sighing heavily. "But we can't leave them there."
Jubilee snorts. "As if."
"We won't let them down." Peter looks so confident right now. I hope he's right.
The kitchen is very full, especially considering it's almost four o'clock in the morning. There are twenty-three of us in here, after all. Good thing Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters is a mansion; the square footage of my parent's house would fit in this kitchen.
Everyone is more appropriately dressed now, though Ray insisted he continue to wear his Spiderman pajamas. His sneakers blink red when he walks. I watch him as he pours another glass of milk and crosses from the 'fridge to the main table. He sits beside Dave, who has added a jacket and shoes to his basketball outfit. The older boy looks down at Ray and helps him get settled in his chair. His dreadlocked head bends down so he can whisper something. They share a smile. I get that warm feeling again, like I've witnessed a moment in life that shouldn't be as rare as it is, and I cherish it's simplicity.
"Heads up!" Jubilee places the first batch of pancakes on the table and the kids make them disappear very quickly. Everyone has only one, to start. It was decided that was a fair way to handle feeding so many at once. Someone laughs at the breakfast station and a stool scrapes the floor. Kale is balancing a fork on his upper lip, much to the delight of Frankie and Iz. What a normal thing for a kid to do.
Sam and Dani are tag-team cooking. Right now, he's doing the flipping while she's making the batter. Sarah and Karina are there, too, helping with the prep work by mixing the dry ingredients in another bowl. Karina has flour on her nose. Rahne is wearing oven mitts. She's been placing the pancakes on a platter as they're ready and putting them in the oven until a batch is done. She's smiling. I try not to think of how she must feel after biting into the flesh of those creatures. At least she isn't one of those werewolves that are controlled by the phases of the moon. Being able to change at will must come in handy.
In the TV corner, Blink is changing channels, using the movement of his eyes as the remote, as is his preference. Alison, Pietro and Wanda are with him. They're part of the second sitting, as it were. Wanda is tired but other than a few scrapes, she came through the attack unscathed. She has no memory of how she left her room. None of the kids who were in the clearing do. My guess is the Übels entered the mansion through the mirror and grabbed whatever humans they thought were of sufficient quantity to get the attention of the adults. Dani and Brightwind were flying in from the lake to return to the stables when she witnessed the Übels crossing the back garden. Human and horse did what they could to stop the creatures, but it didn't take her long to realize they needed help and she'd bolted for the mansion. She told me leaving the kids is one of the hardest things she's ever done.
I know exactly what she's talking about.
The pancakes go very quickly. Sitting at the table along with Dave and Ray are Julie, Liz, Harley, Roberto, Xi-an, Peter, Amara and Jamie - only one of him. And me. I'm eating, too. The pancake is delicious; I'm starving again. I have a sweatshirt on but my legs are cold. I remembered about my jeans and they're spinning in the dryer as I sit here, stoking the furnace, but they aren't drying fast enough. Maybe if I eat more I'll feel warmer…
"Okay, you pigs, here's your second pancake." Jubilee puts another platter down and takes the old one away. I resist the urge to eat them all. I shudder when I realize that I could eat them all - and want more. I chew on my pancake, making it last as long as possible, adding more syrup until it drowns.
Five of us aren't in the kitchen right now. Kurt is with Angie in the infirmary, 'cause she's still not feeling well. Keisha is with him. She hasn't elaborated on the problem but wants to be there to help. So far, Sam and Dani have chosen not to push her. Angie has a fever and can't tell us anything. Jack and Russell are also in the infirmary. Jack was unconscious when I last saw him, and securely strapped to the table. Russell wouldn't say anything else about him or the demon, other than to provide the demon's name: 'Jax'. He isn't in the best shape to answer lots of questions. His injuries caused some alarm when we left the elevator and understandably so.
Keisha had said: "Not again." To which Russell had chuckled and said: "'Fraid so. But Jack's fine and I'm fine, too, thanks for asking, luv."
The young soul-targeter had pressed her lips together and remained silent, much to the astonishment of some of the kids, who proceeded to fuss over the two injured boys. I have no idea what's going on, but I intend to find out.
Russell says he'll be fine in a few hours. In the meanwhile, he's enduring ice packs and salves and strict orders to rest. Guess he'll be part of the third shift for pancakes with the other four down there.
It figures Mr. Braddock and Dr. McTaggert would turn to Professor Xavier for assistance, figures that the eight new students wouldn't have abilities that would be a walk in the park. They wouldn't have to be here, otherwise. I sigh, and the syrup misses my mouth for a second, dribbling down my chin. I open my eyes. Somehow, the bottle of maple syrup is being held above me. I'm shocked to see I'm holding the bottle and from the looks of how much is left, I've been pouring it down my throat for at least a minute. I tilt the bottle abruptly and some of the golden liquid lands on my empty plate. It's very quiet in here. Batter is sizzling in the pan. I take my napkin and wipe my chin before looking around the table.
I don't blame them for staring. Only Blink is still watching the television as the others in the corner have twisted around to see what's going on. I don't have to look at the counter and stove to know that activity has halted there, too.
"Excuse me," I murmur, standing and placing my napkin carefully on my plate. "I have to check on my jeans." Peter stands but I wave at him. "I'm okay. I'll be back to help with the dishes." I flee the kitchen and don't stop running until I reach the laundry room.
All the machines are quiet. I remove my socks and sneakers, retrieve my jeans and take off my sleeping shorts, deciding if anyone came in, it isn't as if I'm naked: I'm still wearing underwear. I pull my jeans on, even though they're a bit warm, do up the zip and the snap. I pull my sweatshirt down, which reminds me of 'The Picard Maneuver' from Star Trek: Next Generation, and wonder how I'm going to return to the kitchen after what I just did with the syrup. I roll my shorts into a tight ball and push them into one of my front pockets, looking out the window at the still, calm garden. It's dark outside and it's mercifully quiet in here. I put on my socks and shoes.
Maybe I'll just sit in the laundry room for a while and read one of the teen magazines piled on the shelves. I glance at the top cover of one: 'You can have miracle skin in just five days!' Yeah, right. 'Hottest Bachelors! See our Scream Chart!' That sounds gripping. 'Orlando Bloom! Elijah Wood!' another cover declares. 'Learn more about these hot actors!' Ugh. Don't make me barf. Xavier's has guys hotter than those two will ever be. I stare out the window and think of them all: Peter, Sam, Mr. Summers, Logan, Kurt, Jack, and Russell. All very different and all appealing in their own way. I'm not drooling over them, but I'm not dead. I can look and appreciate. Some of the younger ones, like Pietro, Harley and Roberto, are cute and will, no doubt, get cuter as they flourish. Much to the delight of the girl contingent.
I am sixteen, going on seventeen…
I turn seventeen in November. It occurs to me that if we succeed in crossing through the looking glass, and if we find the X-Men, and if they're alive - I try not to think too hard about that one - we still have to get back to our world, intact.
I might not see my seventeenth birthday. It isn't just super heroes who deal with this feeling. People in emergency services know it, like the fire fighters and police who entered the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, knowing their lives were on the line. The third Fate steps in and snips the thread. We fight the good fight, but the bad guys sometimes win. In this case, we don't even know who the bad guys are yet.
"Hey." I acknowledge Kurt's presence with a nod but don't turn around.
"Are you alright?"
"Just having a mortality moment."
"We are all allowed to have those," he says, moving into the room and perching to sit cross-legged on one of the dryers. "We have to remember that nothing is certain. Only God knows what will happen."
Yeah, you would say that, I say - in my mind. I know he's pretty religious -Catholic, I think - and that he believes that God is looking out for him, has a reason why he is the way he is, and that's cool. As a Jew, I have a concept of what it's like to be different. Millennia of persecution huddles behind me like a hushed shadow. I try not to dwell on it, but I guess my contemplation of not seeing my next birthday brings it all out. I'm assuming a lot here. I'm assuming we're going to try to access this world through the mirror in Mr. Summers' office. I'm assuming that we aren't gonna call the Avengers or the Fantastic Four to take care of the rescue for us while we sit, safe and secure, and wait. I'm assuming I'll even be one of those who go through, if we go at all, and not left behind to take care of the kids. Someone has to stay behind.
"I want to see seventeen," I say aloud. "But I want to be part of the rescue. It's a risk, but there it is." I look at Kurt. He isn't thrashing me over the head with his beliefs, for which I'm very grateful. He's been good about that, not forcing anyone to listen, not preaching, but if people ask a question, he'll discuss it with them. It's cool.
I glance at him. His gold eyes regard me with understanding. "You're scared."
He chuckles. "I would be concerned if you weren't scared. But take a deep breath, Kätchen. No decisions have been made. Don't worry about what has yet to happen."
I turn to him then and lean against a dryer, hugging myself. "I just wonder if this is what it feels like, that moment when you know you're going into danger and might not come out." I swallow. "That… that everything that hasn't been done will never get done. Everything from the crossword puzzle you started that morning to the children you'll never have. The stuff you never quite got around to, the guy you should've apologized to when you took the last copy of that DVD you could've waited for and should've let him have." That one suddenly irks me. I sigh. "The e-mails from friends you didn't respond to, the really nice guy at school who you never told how much you like him. The first kiss you never experienced 'cause you were waiting for the right person." I actually don't blush when I say that last bit. I'm being honest with both of us. "Everyday stuff that will be left undone, unsaid." I sigh and look at my shoes. Why am I telling him all this? "You're really easy to talk to, you know that?"
"You are not the first one to mention this, but it's been a while." He smiles.
Teleporter, not a demon, teleporter, not a demon…
"How did you know I was in here?"
Kurt taps the tiny headset attached to his right ear. "Sam called me and asked if I could see if you were alright."
"I think I'm just tired, and I wish Dr. Grey would stop… I don't know, popping in and out and making me do and say things I have no control over. Not that I haven't appreciated her help," I amend, just in case. "But it's disorienting. If I'm not officially crazy right now, I will be before this is over."
"The office is still secure, I assume?"
I nod. "The force field pods we set up across the door and broken window should stop them from accessing the rest of the mansion if they come through the mirror again. At the very least, the alarm will sound and… we'll know."
"How are the patients?"
"Jack is still unconscious. Russell assures me that this is normal and Keisha won't disagree but really…" He shakes his head. "I am missing something between them. There's an undercurrent of which I am ignorant. Russell's physical injuries are healing rapidly. His spiritual ones? I will not guess." He sighs. "I am worried about Angie, primarily because I don't know what is happening to her and the only one who seems to know for certain is Keisha. She says it isn't her place to tell me. No doubt the Professor knows, but we can't ask him at the moment."
"No, that would be kinda hard," I say, frustrated. "What with him and all the X-Men -" I stop; nearly choke.
"Not all the X-Men have been taken."
He blinks. "What?"
"Not all the X-Men have been taken. The roster the Übels were working from included Dr. McCoy, who hasn't been around much until recently but he used to live here." My arms fall to my sides. Why didn't I see this before?
Kurt unfolds from the dryer and slides to the floor. "What are you saying, Kitty?"
"That's why the Übels were still searching the mansion. They were looking for one more X-Man."
I look in the window across from me, and focus on her reflection in the glass, pale and incomparable.
"Jean," I say softly. "They were looking for Jean."
To Be Continued…