The Stronger

Summary: Mutants are almost universally hated and feared. But sometimes love is stronger than fear

Fandom: X-Men

Pairings: Assorted OC/OC pairings

Warnings: Slash, bad language, violence

Disclaimer: If you recognise it, it ain't mine. If you don't recognise it, on the other hand, it's all mine and I'll kill you if you try to steal it

Chapter 5 – The Rumour

When you've just woken up in the morning, there is nothing better than the warm, sleepy contentment you feel when you're just awake enough to know you're still mostly asleep. And when you've just woken up in the morning, there is nothing worse than someone whipping the covers off of you and yelling; 'Wake up - time for school!' at the top of their voice.

I moaned in protest, curling up instinctively in a manner reminiscent of a hedgehog and burying my face in the pillow. Blinding sunlight flooded the room as the curtains were ripped open and David's arms tightened around my waist as he muttered obscenities, cursing life the universe and everything by the sound of it.

"Watch your damn mouth," Jen's voice came from somewhere behind the painfully bright beam of light streaming in through the partially open window. The bed creaked as David rolled over, grumbling under his breath; "Breakfast's gonna be on the table in twenty minutes, and I'm tossing it out the window if you ain't showered and dressed by then." She left the room, not bothering to close the door behind her. There was a warm weight pressing on me, which I assumed was David – I finally managed to open my eyes.

"Morning, dear," he said with a grin. He was leaning on my chest, chin resting comfortably on his crossed arms.

"Don't mind me," I said irritably.

"You were always such a morning person," he replied vaguely. He rolled off of the bed and staggered across the room to the door; "I'm going for a shower – try and find your school shit." I winced at the thought…my stuff was scattered all over the place, already haphazardly packed. School stuff…probably in the school bag, yes? Yeah, that makes sense. David had disappeared – I could hear running water from the bathroom. A delicious smell was wafting in from the kitchen, and my mouth started watering. I smelled bacon. Mmm…bacon, a la Homer Simpson.

I couldn't find the sack with my clothes in it. Well the jeans I'd worn yesterday were still okay, and David wouldn't mind if I stole…um, if I borrowed some of his stuff. Hell, we've done that so often we're not really sure who most of our stuff belongs to any more.

The sound of running water stopped, and I went through to see if the shower was free. I knocked on the door; "David? You done?"

"Yeah, come on in," he called through. I opened the door and walked in. And stopped dead.

"Um…" I said, not particularly capable of coherent speech. David looked up at me quizzically, and damn it's going to take me a long time to get that particular image out of my head. There he was, wearing only a rather inadequate towel wrapped loosely around his waist, water trickling down his lean, lithe body over tanned skin…

Okay, focus Andrew, focus. It'll give the game away if you start drooling, even if he does look absolutely gorgeous and half-naked and… No! Bad Andrew! Stop thinking dirty thoughts! He's your best friend. You should not be thinking that way about your best friend, no matter how unbelievably sexy your best friend happens to be… Oh, goddamnit.

I am fighting a losing battle against my hormones.

"You okay?" David asked, giving me a rather bemused look. I'm just lucky that he doesn't function particularly well first thing in the morning. Unfortunately the downside to this is that he doesn't pick up on the 'please god will you put on some damn clothes!' vibe I'm trying to give off. Instead he comes closer, looking up at me with those incredibly blue eyes. I trample on the little voice at the back of my mind that's yelling 'kiss him! What's the worst that could happen?' and manage a nervous smile.

"I'm fine," I lied blatantly.

"Hmm…" he sounded less than convinced, and I almost cringed away as he raised a hand to gently touch the bruise on my cheek much as Jen had the night before. Actually, it was sometimes scary how alike the two of them were. Most guys would freak out if you told them they were so like their mom, but Jen's just cool. I shivered at the touch and closed my eyes in an attempt to control myself…ah cruel fate, how you love to mock me. I'm standing here with the hottest guy I've ever met half naked, so close I can feel his breath on my face, and I can't do shit about it.

"I'd better go get dressed," David said unexpectedly, and I breathed a soft sigh of relief as he left the room. I hadn't realised just how hard it would be to live with him without doing something we'd both regret.

I closed the door again and shed my clothes as I stepped into the shower. My back was aching where I'd hit the floor the night before, and the hot water felt good. Afterwards I wrapped a towel around my waist and went to find some clothes, feeling rather more positive about life in general. As I was pulling my jeans on, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. I felt a now-familiar surge of panic – I'd forgotten about that.

"What's wrong?" David asked. I turned to face him with a little sound of desperation.

"I can't go out looking like this!" I said, gesturing at my hair and eyes. He bit his lip thoughtfully.

"People have learned to deal with some pretty weird shit from us," he said, "So what we'll do is we'll cut your hair back to how long it was before and just tell everyone you dyed it again. And as for the eyes…I don't know; could you maybe just wear sunglasses or something?"

"Won't they make me take them off?"

"We could…" he looked at the ceiling for inspiration, and, having found no help there, stared blankly out of the window; "Um…fake a doctor's note? Say you've got something wrong with your eyes and bright light would hurt them?"

"David…" I stared at him for a moment; "You're a genius."

"Yep, I know," he replied placidly. I threw a sock at him.

It was almost like normal.

Breakfast was everything I'd hoped for and more…the bacon, the sausages, the fried eggs…oh; it was heaven on a plate. We explained our idea to Jen, and she obligingly hacked my hair back with kitchen scissors. I considered my reflection in the mirror thoughtfully – with the sunglasses on, I could about pass for normal. David put a fake signature on the 'doctor's note' with a flourish and neatly folded it into an envelope as I came back through to the kitchen carrying my bag.

"You'd better go," Jen said, glancing at the clock; "Got everything you need?"

"Yeah, I think so," David replied. He shoved a crumpled wad of physics notes into his bottomless pockets and grinned at me; "Let's go, dear."

The walk to school seemed to pass impossibly quickly, and by the time we were in sight of the school, with other students swarming all around us, I was getting incredibly jumpy. People kept looking at us sideways and whispering to each other behind their hands. I was staring to feel like my secret was emblazoned in flashing neon letters across my forehead.

"Everyone's looking at us weird," I muttered to David.

"Everyone always looks at us weird," he pointed out; "That's the fun thing about being us."

I looked at him dubiously, but he just smiled. I began to relax a little. He was right – I was just being paranoid. People have been throwing us funny looks and gossiping about us since forever. If you believe all of the rumours, I'm a schizophrenic transvestite who was in an asylum for self-harming, and David is an arsonist, male prostitute, and going out with any of twenty different people – me being one of them.

Like he said – that's the fun thing about being us.

I was just starting to relax – bloody universe lulling me into a false sense of security – when Melissa ran up to us and shrieked; "OhmygodAndrewwhatthehellhappenedtoyouIsweartogoditwasn'tmewhotoldhim!" We stared at her blankly for quite some time until she impatiently repeated what she had said. The blank looks didn't subside at all, and she apparently felt obliged to explain: "Everyone's saying that your dad beat you up and threw you out. I didn't think it was true, but those bruises…Andrew, what happened to you?"

"Er…I…that is…"

Rumour is a fascinating thing. It seems sometimes to exist independently of people. I for one haven't the vaguest idea of what I'm going to tell everyone. If only we'd had the foresight to work out a plan – I feel bad that I'll probably have to lie to my closest friends. The thing is; I don't know how they'd react. It's not like coming out – I'd be hard pressed to name a single one of my friends who's entirely straight. But this is different…what the hell am I going to say?

"And there's another thing. You know Friday night?"

"Friday night…?"

"The party, Andy."

"Oh…oh yeah…" It's hard to believe that the party was only three days ago. So much has happened since then that it feels like months have passed. "So what's this about the party then…?"

"Well, y'know how you and David kissed-"

"Wait, we did what?" David demanded. Melissa looked at him, nonplussed. Then she began to giggle.

"You don't remember, do you? Well, you were pretty drunk I guess…anyway, we were playing spin the bottle and you two kissed. I didn't notice at the time, but apparently someone took a picture. And a video. And boys, you would not believe how fast it's done the rounds on MySpace. And I was wondering…are the two rumours at all connected…?"

I was lost for words, and just gaped at her. But David wore the expression which I've come to recognise as the one that means he's thinking very fast. He flashed a charming smile at Melissa; "Would you excuse us?" Without waiting for a reply he grabbed me in an iron grip and dragged me behind the building. There's a little hollow where the gym block joins the art classrooms, and it's generally used for couples to make out away from prying eyes, or people to smoke. At this early time – probably the earliest we've ever been in school – it's deserted.

"This could work to our advantage," said David, who had recovered remarkably fast from being told he had kissed me while drunk. I shot him a sceptical look.

"How?"

"This is what we're going to do," he continued calmly as if he hadn't heard me; "At break, we're going to walk down to the middle school and talk to Karen – we have to get our story straight."

"What story?"

"Patience, dear, I was getting to that. What we're going to tell everyone is that your dad walked in on Karen while she was looking at that video of us on MySpace. He freaked out big time, there was a fight and he threw you out. Okay? That'll cover why you're not at home any more. I don't think you're parents would contradict us – they wouldn't want to admit to…the real reason."

"And how will we explain the video?" I asked, spotting the hole in his plan. He gave me a funny look.

"We were drunk, it was spin the bottle. Even to the most inbred red-neck there's obviously nothing more to it than that."

I bit my lip. I know he didn't mean it like that, I know he's just trying to reassure me, but the words still hurt. Because I so desperately want there to be more to it than that. I don't want it to be a drunken mistake we never speak of again. He notices my unhappiness, but – once again – spectacularly misinterprets it. Slinging a companionable arm around my shoulders, he said reassuringly; "Don't worry, it's the perfect cover. Your secret's safe."

Your secret's safe. I'm so confused right now. He of course meant that my mutant-secret is safe. I on the other hand am more worried about my crush-on-David secret (Yes, I know my priorities are messed-up). Part of me wants to bury that secret deep in my heart and never ever let anyone find out about it, but another part wants to scream it to the skies and face his reaction for better or worse – at least I'd know.

My, I'm a veritable cornucopia of angst today. I shake my head to clear it as David steers me back out into the sunlight – I'll need all my concentration to keep up our current deception…

Uh, yes…finally an update. And just to warn you, updates will not be frequent. I'm taking my big, important, determine-whether-or-not-I-can-go-to-university exams in…five months and counting. Ergo: a massive mountain of homework is being dumped on me by all teachers. As such I will only be updating this (And the other six or so fics I'm working on) in between my attempts at the Sisyphean task of doing all this work. All the time with those bloody exams hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles (Yes, I'm in a Greek Mythology mood) Anyway, please don't harass me for updates. I need straight A's and sadly my fics must suffer for me to get them…until June anyway. Then come the summer holidays when I can write 24/7 ::wink:: I promise I'll make it up to you then