Disclaimer: I don't own a thing
Title: Born for Bad Luck
"Boys I'm most done travellin', Lord I'm at my journey's end
B'lieve I'm most done travellin', Lord at my journey's end
Well I been lookin' for me a good partner, bad luck is my best friend..."
(Born for Bad Luck song by Brownie McGhee)
Epilogue Chapter 1: One bourbon, One scotch, One beer
"...And then I sit there, gettin' high, mellow
Knocked out, feeling good and by the time
I looked on the wall at the old clock on the wall
By that time, it was ten thirty daddy
I looked down the bar, at the bartender
He said, "Now what do you want Johnny?"
One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer..."
(song One Burbon, One Scotch, On Beer by John Hooker)
John sunk into his seat and twisted the collar of his button up shirt. They'd taken his lighter and forced him into a fucking button up and a pair of khakis. His pants were too high, wrenched upward by his crazy-ass social worker trying to give him the mother of all wedgies. She'd plastered his hair to his head with an entire bottle of gel and half a bottle of hair spray. He could swear his lungs were sticking with each breath of air he took. Somebody was going to pay if he died from toxic fume inhalation. Of course he wouldn't be alive to sue, but he was going to haunt that frizzy headed bitch of a social worker for the rest of her life.
This was the most uncomfortable room he'd ever been in. It was cold, gray, concrete, and the table was plywood covered in woodgrain tacky paper. The chairs were wobbly green plastic, but what could expect when he was sleeping in a room with four other boys. Pissing in their beds, suck up, kiss asses that thought an adopted family was waiting for them. This room was supposed to spark some sort of familial bond. Mostly he wondered when the cops were going to come in and demand information. How were you supposed to feel like connecting when you felt like you were about to be interrogated. John had been in the system for a mere two and a half years, but it was enough for him to figure out the game. Most foster families were okay, but none were good and he was never wanted. Nobody had connected with him in the bonding room. Besides, he'd had a father and a mother, and neither of them had ever done him any good. He could and would live without either for the rest of his life.
John pushed is hand through his overly producted hair. It stuck. He pulled and gave a painful start at his first attempt to mess up the shiny helmet that was currently parading as his head. He utilized his other hand and carefully pushed, twisted, mashed his hair into messy spikes. Because of all the product it stayed where he pulled it. His hands were covered in gunk by the time he was finished. Frowning, he searched the room, but there was nothing to wipe his hands on. Shrugging, he wiped his hands on the leg of his pants. The thigh of the khakis turned dark. He grinned. He'd liked to see them stuff him into those pants again.
Before he could think of anything else to do the door opened, letting a bit of fresh air into the stale room. No windows, a cell block, more than a meeting place. He was supposed to make meaningful family connections not feel like he was supposed to be on an episode of Law and Order. He was waiting for his cup of coffee and the offer of a cigarette before they got down to the grilling.
His social worker walked in first, her forced smile fell when she laid eyes on him and John, breaking his resolve to remain straight-faced if not angry the entire time, grinned back, winking. Her eyes dulled, glazed over hazel, and her mouth hardened. She was near snarling. He showed his teeth unable to resist and leaned back in his chair and propped his boots on the table. She looked like she wanted to shut the door behind her but a man followed, pushing slightly, and walked into the room.
He was smiling. John got rid of his smile, tried for indifferent. The man, dressed in a fucking sweater vest and a pair of khakis, identical to his own, was still smiling. He pushed his sunglasses, thick and dark further up his nose. He made no move to remove them. His hair was perfectly set on the top of his head. He looked over joyed to be there, but most everyone coming to get a new son, somebody to lovingly call them Daddy looked that way, unrealistically happy. It was his self appointed job to crush all fatherly feelings.
It was odd that there was no wife. It was okay. He could adjust and the guy looked like a push over anyway.
"St. John, I've been trying to see you for a while now."
John raised a brow. "Don't call me that." He returned.
"John?" He queried.
"No, St," he amended, annoyed. "I'm not a fu..." The hand flashed across the short expanse of the room to tap the back of his head and non too lightly. "That's abuse," John spat forgetting his new prospective parent. "Want me to report you."
She didn't respond, not in words, but narrowed her eyes, anger glazed still, and nodded slightly toward the man sitting across from him. "Watch you mouth." She warned, this time verbally.
"Saint," he finished despite his interruption.
"What?" The man asked.
"I'm not a saint." John finished. "Do I look like someone who gives out blessings of peace and prosperity."
He doesn't say anything for a moment. Thinking. John doesn't like the thinkers. It makes him believe there is something else the man wants. The silence only lasts a moment. He turns away from John to the social worker.
"Ann, can I talk to him alone?"
That's a new one.
She uncrosses her arms and stands straight eyes hardly leaving John. Her gaze lingers on the man for only a moment before she nods. "Okay, for a bit. Let me warn you he doesn't always behave." She pauses for a moment. "Do you smoke?"
The man shakes his head 'no'.
"Okay," she reconsides, "Just come on out when you're ready."
Sunglasses looks at him again. "My name is Scott Summers."
"Great," John mumbles and picks at the tacky paper on the table intent on pulling it off. A corner folds upward and he peals off a strip.
"I come from a school that takes in people like yourself."
"Unwanted, poor, lost souls who just need a little guidance." John recited. "Let me tell you before hand that it doesn't work. I'm not some poor lost soul. I know exactly what I am."
"Really." Even behind his sunglasses John can see the brow peeking over the rim. He looks amused though he had no real way to tell.
"Did they tell you I'm a mutant." He laughed. "Not messed up or lost, but..." he paused, "evolved. Just a bit better than the average human being."
He chose not to respond to the rant. "Xavier's Institute for Gifted Youngsters..."
"Wait," John snorted hand flying to his mouth as he tried to stifle the laugh, "You think I'm gifted. That's a new one. I've heard disturbed, delinquent, and misguided, and one time," He set his chair to all fours and leaned over the table, "one time I was described as misunderstood, but that didn't last long." He laughed out right, "Gifted, huh, I should have known."
"Professor Xavier is a great man he has brought mutants together, to allow for a normal life." The man, Scott Summer, looked too anxious for a moment. If he was supposed to spin a web of want he was failing. Desperation was nothing but, well, desperate, and John had never responded well to begging.
"Sure, does this little group include therapy as well as prescription medication?"
He ignored the quip. "We know that your mutation it a gift, not a curse, or anything to be ashamed of."
John lost the ability to speak. Sure he said something along the same lines since he'd found out he was a mutant, but it was an entirely different experience to have to spoken back to him. Before it was him against everyone, and this man was offering him something more. It was disconcerting.
"I was an orphan."
"Oh sob for you." John snarled with mock sympathy. Still dwelling on the concept of an Institute full of mutants. The man didn't seem to realize he'd already sparked his interest. He was trying a new angle and in the attempt he was threatening to loose the sliver of interest that had been piqued.
"I was left at the orphanage for a long time after my parents died. My brother," he paused, "I'm not even sure what happened to him."
John tore a strip from the table that didn't thin until somewhere near the middle of the table. A bit pleased he ripped the tacky paper loose and tossed it over his shoulder before starting on another. The man continued to talk hardly deterred by his lack of attentiveness.
"I was offered a chance, a chance to control my gift."
That got his attention. He abandoned his attempt to strip the table and looked up. He met the man's eyes or tried to. He couldn't see past the thick lenses of dark red shade. He didn't say anything but he watched the sweater vest man. For the moment he had his attention. What exactly did he mean by control?
"Nobody knew what to do with me. I couldn't open my eyes without destroying everything I looked at. I kept them bandaged."
"So," John interrupted. "you're not only a member, or a client too." The comment produced a scowl. The next question hung in the air, begged to be asked. He could resist. Not to mention he had never been much for silence. "What can you do?"
Scott paused, sputtered like he'd just asked something incredibly rude, "um, optic blasts, I shoot them from my eyes, uncontrollable."
"Didn't you just say you went there to get control?" John mocked and turned back to the table. "I mean this 'Institute' doesn't sound real appealing if they couldn't help you."
"I might have been able to attain it but there was a car accident. I suffered brain damage and lost the ability to control it." He paused shifted, his eyes darted across the room. "The Professor, and others, they made this glasses for me, allowed me to see, to function as normally as possible."
"As normally as possible," John echoed sarcastically, "That's just great."
"Without his help I wouldn't have been able to..." he trailed off his rant falling short. "They saved my life."
"Defensive and dramatic," John mumbled, "calm down lifetime channel I didn't mean to rile your sensitive hormone levels."
John smirked. "Car accident huh?" He raised his brows. "Were you driving?"
Scott turned back to John. Eyes lost behind the red wall denied you access to his emotions.. "What?"
"The car," John pressed, "were you driving it?"
"No." He answered shortly.
"Huh," John picked a the table again, but his gaze never left his sweater toting visitor. The subject bothered him, and what was it all those therapist had told him? Bottling everything up was a bad thing. He was going to help the man out. "So somebody hit you with the car?"
"No." Mouth tightened, tensing. John kept asking. Maybe the guy would go psycho and he'd be allowed to blow off prospective parents until he reached18. The whole song and dance over all he had to wait for was the ceremonial kick in the ass as he walked out the door..
"Drunk driver, did you sue, did Mum and Daddy get a good settle?"
His hands were gripping the table, white knuckled, veins showing starkly on his pale hands. He bunched, like a cat ready to pounce. His jaw tightened, a muscle ticked, his nostrils flared.
"So, ol' mom and dad didn't make it did they?" John grinned, victory. The man's grip on the table tightened. "Left you in charge of the little one. Screwed that up."
"John," the man's stance never slacked, but his face, that tense jaw relaxed just a bit. "What happened to your parents."
John frowned, derailed a bit by the change in questions. He should have expected it. Questions like that begged to reciprocated.
"Dead." John smiled. "They did the world a favor by blinking out. Yours too?" His own jaw tightened. His fingers lip against the back of his head tightened at the lie. It wasn't quite true. He smirked even though his chest tightened a bit.
"You're father died in a fire?" He ignored the question about his parents. Probably smart. Anger was what he was prepared for
It was in his file. Everyone knew, but he didn't like to talk about it. About how ironic it was that his father would die in a fire, when his son, who could control the crackling flames,could have saved him. Not that his powers had even manifested at the time, or at least. John blinked Scott was talking to him. He'd spaced out.
"What," he asked freighting disinterest.
"Was a bitch," John finished without thought. He didn't want to talk about this anymore. "You a shrink or something? Why are you bringing this shit up?"
He cocked his head to the side. "John you didn't have to be like this."
"Like what?" He had no come back for that. He didn't know exactly what the man was talking about, and he was slowly and obviously losing his edge. He wasn't supposed to be the one on the defensive. Generally perspective parents tried not to piss off their future children, at least not until they had them home and under their rule.
"There are people who care. Professor Charles Xavier took me in when nobody else would. He has made it his lifes work to help others. Others like yourself with gifts they aren't sure how to use."
John set his chair on four legs. "I take care of myself alright. Have been for years and my powers," he shrugged. "I'm doing fine with those."
It was true he was able to call the flames from his lighter to his hand, and even if the flames sometimes got out of control he was usually able to put it out. His skin, gratefully, didn't burn. He was no danger to himself. Others, or so he'd been told, should stay away. Story of his life.
"That may be true." Scott paused. "but this isn't a home. We can give you that."
'Home' what a strange word. It held little to no meaning for him. "You mean somewhere to store my shit without having to pay. I've got that here."
"No, I mean," he was searching for something to say. John was used to that. He usually stunned people into silence. "There are others like you. They've lost their families, we are here to help."
"A prison." John muttered.
"A home." Scott repeated. "You can come and go as you want. We won't force you to stay, but we'll teach you what we can, help you control your powers."
He brooded for a moment, wishing he would just go away, and wishing more that the bitch of a social worker would let him have a smoke. The fact that he was underage didn't seem to bother her as much as what he'd done to her when explaining his powers. She'd freaked. It was her fault the flames jumped so high. He had it under control until she screamed. He'd promised he'd never set her on fire again, beside he only singed her hair a bit. She'd completely over reacted. He would have been able to snuff it out if she'd kept her big gob shut.
"I've just got three more years here before I'm free." John answered.
John wished there was a window. For once he was having trouble making eye contract. Usually he had his visitors looking for an escape route. "I get a hooker and become a man," he spat, "what the fuck does it matter."
Silence was his answer. He hoped he'd hear the door open, shut, and then he could go back to his room.
"We can put you through college."
They'd have to get him through high school first.
"Or you can stay at the mansion."
Stay at the freak institute, fuck no.
"It's your decision. If you want to know more, I'll tell you, but..." He trailed off for a moment before starting again. "The path your on, it only leads one way."
"Oh yeah," John answered finally on familiar territory. His smug indifference returned. "To sleep, cause that's were I'm going after this."
"No. Just somewhere you don't want to be."
"Prison?" He nearly laughed it. How many times had he been told that one.
"You'll be dead John. You think the world is getting more tolerate of us. They're not, not yet. It's possible to bring peace but we have to do everything we can to ensure it. You have to be better than the average."
"Such high expectations." He mocked.
"Oh you're observant."
"Anger is okay. I was angry for a long time, still am sometimes, but there are ways to use it, you know besides burning down building in Harlem."
"They were eye sores, besides nobody ever proved that it was me." He couldn't help the grin that spread across the side of his mouth.
"The buildings just happened to stay put after you were incarcerated."
"Funny how that works." Still unwilling to make eye contact he rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Summers was an interesting guy.
Scott cracked a smile. He actually laughed. "Right."
"What do you mean about this anger thing?" John asked. "You're the first one to tell me it was a good thing."
He glanced at Summers he was grinning. Like they'd just had some hallmark moment. John should have scoffed, but the smile, there was something about it. Something about this whole proposition that was a bit covert. He could do mystery.
"John, if you want to know, you'll have to come with me." He was still smiling, completely self satisfaction.
John didn't smile back. He didn't like being duped. He didn't trust anyone, even mutants like himself, they were just as untrustworthy as everyone else.
"Can I smoke?"
"What time do I have to be in?"
"Ten thirty on school nights eleven thirty on weekends. In rooms by twelve on Friday and Saturday, eleven on weekdays."
"That's worse then prison." He complained.
"Can't leave a prison."
"How about my powers."
"What about them?"
"You gonna make me wear one of those collars?"
Scott looked confused, or as far as he could tell. "What are you talking about?"
"Neutralizes powers. They make we wear it at night, when nobody is watching me."
"Tell them that."
So the collars really were illegal, so all those times he screamed about his rights being violated he'd been right.
"Do I get my own room?"
Scott responded from somewhere far away eyes slightly glazed. "Uh, no, you get a roommate."
"Shit," John frowned. "You're supposed to make this sound good."
"Because I won't look like such a pussy for going if you promise me something worth while."
Scott laughed. "John, shut up and come with me. Get out of his place, and come home."
"Not my home," He answered automatically. "But I'll keep my shit there, for now."
Scott smiled. "Good. We'll set it up, and you won't be wearing that collar anymore. I'll put a stop to that before I leave."
John shifted hand going to his head. His fingers stuck in the goop. He dropped them, limp at his sides they twitched. He felt a little awkward. The meeting hadn't gone how he wanted at all.
"We'll back for you tomorrow." Scott got to his feet. "And John, tone down the cursing."
John smiled. "Don't hold your breath four eyes."
"Oh, thats original," he answered, "try a little harder next time."
"Don't worry," John answered, "I'll have one waiting for you."
Short stretching oblivion rushed over John and he closed his eyes, his head falling back into the sand, warmth from the ever blowing wind and the roar of the raging bonfire soothing him more than the thick burning in the back of his throat. He could hear laughter and singing, the sizzle of wood as it lost what it once was to the licking flames and became nothing more than dull gray ash that blew away with the ocean winds. Never in his life had he had such a good idea, or so he had thought at the time.
They had stopped talking to him, lost in there own worlds and he had forgotten about them, too in tune with the ocean, the heat, the fire. His powers were roaring in his body pushing the fire higher hotter, and John was near shuddering in bliss with the raw power. It was only here he let himself touch it, the scary power, and the overwhelming sense of satisfaction, he never felt complete, not unless he was consumed by the flames and unfortunately it was only in this state that the fear was pushed far enough away that he was able to touch the raw energy without recoiling.
He barely heard the whisper of his own name, and he rolled away from it eyes focusing with an intensity that he shouldn't be able to obtain. The flames jumped and, with a wicked grin on his face, he tried to form a picture in the warring hues of red and orange and right near the center a white flecked with blue. He saw something there, a face, he focused, looking harder eyes blurring. The heat made the still pinked flesh of his scar sear.
"Damn! John back you ass up before you get fried!"
The voice broke his concentration, that was shaky at best, and the tight grip suddenly exerted on his arm dragged him away from the jumping fire and his mind broke contact with the raw power. As usual, apprehension rushed over him, and he felt goosebumps breaking out over his skin. He shivered despite the heat.
"Jackasses tossing shit in the fire, think it's funny to burn someone alive."
The hold on his arm loosened and John jerked away, pissed that he'd been pulled away, pissed more that he missed the burning power of his newly acquired powers. The ache started in his stomach and it heaved with the loss. His eyes crossed, his head swam, and in moments his stomach was empty and his throat was burning with something much more unpleasant than the liquor.
The voice burst into laughter. "Damn, I guess you don't want this beer then." He grabbed John's arm pulling him away from the fire, and inadvertently feeding his nausea.
John narrowed his eyes, it was hard, his head was roaring, and his stomach was threating him. He wished to hell and back that... He stared hard, trying to place the face of his tormentor, long dark hair, mismatched eyes, he swallowed against a wave of sickness, swallowing even when he was sure he should just open his mouth and let it come up again. He hated throwing up.
"Mike, you ass, I was fine until you hauled me up." John wasn't ready for Mike's steadying hand to suddenly disappear. He fell to his knees barely fighting nausea before he continued his fall. He sank backward until he was sprawled, head cradled in the damp but warm sand.
"I should have left ya there," Mike mocked and flopped into the sand beside him. Beer open, it sloshed over his wrist and he cursed, a string of colorful nonsense phrases that left John grinning at the absurdity of them.
John moaned. "I was fine," and he reached for the beer hand grasping when his mouth refused to work.
"If you think I'm gonna waste a good beer on your trashed ass you're crazy. You're just going to puke it all over the beach." Mike grinned and took another sip.
"Shut up Mike,and give me the damn beer before I light you on fire." John threatened though it was empty and Mike had no idea that John could actually do it, "and give me a cigarette I smoked my last."
"Threats don't make me real friendly," Mike countered, but passed the beer over and put the cigarette between his lips and clicked a lighter to life.
John watched the flame dance for a moment almost tempted to make it jump, but he squashed the urge and reached for the outstretched cigarette and the purple bic lighter. He took a swig of the beer and put the cigarette between his lips. The beer washed a little of the taste of bile from his mouth and sloshed his next swig around before spitting it into the sand.
"What did you get me up for anyway?" John groused. His world was still tilting, but it seemed the fire had a little to do with how drunk he felt. Away from it his thoughts, though still decidedly fuzzy, were clearer.
"Just wondering about that little brunette you brought with you."
John froze, frown forming immediately. "Rogue," he questioned keeping his tone light, "what the hell do you want with her."
"Her number," he replied and snatched the beer from John's hand and took a swig. "She was damn hot."
'And damn dangerous,' John thought. "Yeah well you should forget about her."
Mike was silent for a moment, "You with her."
John snorted, that was a complicated question, too complicated for him right now. So he answered the only way he knew how, without really giving an answer. "I live with her and this other guy."
"So she's with this other guy?"
"No." John took a drag and looked over his shoulder at the dying fire. He wanted to be back in front of it.
"She your sister?"
"No," he answered slowly mesmerized by the flames.
"You fucking her?"
John whirled around, too fast for his head, and slumped onto his bent knees his palm pressed between his eyes. The damn asshole was pissing him off, and that sucked he'd liked Mike. He really had.
"It's none of your fucking business," John cursed and opened his mouth as his ears clogged and his stomach suddenly turned violently.
"Shit," Mike apologized more with tone than words. "That's all you had to say, off limits, I got it. There's plenty out there."
John didn't really feel bad for the outburst. From what he knew about Mike he would have kept at it for hours and he really would have killed him then, or put him in the burn unit. John flicked the lighter to life and off again, missing his zippo, but Rogue had taken it when she'd stormed off earlier. His brain was too fuzzy to remember exactly why she'd left.
"That guy you brought here the other night, he the one you live with?"
John nodded and reached for the beer forgiving Mike because he was thirsty. The beer, lukewarm already, was in his hand in seconds and he downed the last of it, knowing despite the way his eyes refused to focus and the way his brain refused to remember that he was going to head back up the beach for more.
"That must suck, the girls were all over him last night, he left with Melissa." Mike sounded a little put out. "I've been after her all summer, and he walks up and says hello and she practically falls in bed with him."
Practically, John wanted to say but he wasn't drunk enough for that, not yet, Remy had been gone all night, Rogue worrying about him and John didn't want to tell her what he knew the Cajun was up to, sweet tits, and long smooth legs.
"Shit." Mike cursed and John turned toward him confused. The man looked broken. What happened?
"You didn't have to be so blunt." He looked miserable, too miserable for a care free beach party.
John realized at that moment that he was too drunk, blurting out things he shouldn't have. He should quit, call Remy or Rogue, and go home.
"You think he's still seeing her?"
"She here?" John asked without really thinking.
Mike shook his head.
"My friend," John rushed, "he here?"
Mike looked like he'd been slapped. "No."
John shrugged and flicked the remains of his cigarette across the beach, "Theres your answer."
John was sure that was Mike's favorite word. "Sucks to hell and back," John agreed.
"Lisa's not here."
John must have dozed off because the beginning of that statement was lost to him. The world was fogging, and strangely he wanted to go for a swim, feel cool water over his roaring skin, dull the heat, calm the burn. He almost got up, forgetting about Mike, until he spoke again.
"Lisa, man, Lisa is always with her, she's not here either! They're probably together."
John bit his lip to keep his thoughts, no longer just his own, from bursting out. It really wasn't likely but if it made Mike feel better, all the better. John had his own problems, the ocean calling, the fire calling at the same time, one stronger than the other, and he wasn't really sure which one was real.
"You want to get more beer?"
John stood swaying; eyes pulled from the ocean and back to the party. He lifted an arm and let out a drunken whoop and charged up the beach. He drowned the rest of the night in beer, until the world faded, but the fire, it burned dancing all night long even when his world was turning black in huge spots. He vaguely remembered sucking on a blond's neck, squeezing her tit and getting a playful slap before things rolled away and the roar of the fire and the call of the ocean left him to the darkness.
It was early. John could barely see the sun rising. He opened his eyes just as it crested the horizon, shining a stream right into his eyes. It was a good thing though, it was good that he was up first. He rolled onto his back breathing slowly.
John jumped almost falling off the bed with the start, his chest tightening, but it was only his mother. She glided into the room smiling, eyes bright blue, shining. She crossed his small room, kneeling by his head. He reached his fingers out brushing them over the purple on her cheek, the black around her eye. He swallowed, close to tears, but he tried not to cry in front of her. He would be strong for her, hold her hand when she cried, but John, John would never let her see how afraid he was.
She took his hand, her fingers, slender and soft engulfed his eight year old tips. She pulled them to her lips kissing them softly. "Johnny," she sniffed near tears, but he had seen her that way a thousand times. "Johnny do you want breakfast?"
They didn't usually have breakfast. His father was always sleeping it off in the living room, blocking him in on weekends unless his snuck out the window, and his Mom always had a shift. Had she lost her job? He hoped not. His father would go crazy.
"Johnny are you listening. I'm making pancakes, real ones from scratch and I bought strawberries." She squeezed his hand softly. "Your father's asleep in his room. Come on."
John grinned and jumped to his feet already quelling the 'whoop' building in his throat. He had never had real pancakes and his Dad hated strawberries. Now that he was awake he could see the batter, the cooking pan on the stove.
He helped her make them, pouring the batter, grinning, laughing quietly as they came out in funny shapes. He made a big one for his Mom. They ate together, smiling and laughing through mouths full of fruit and pancake. The syrup was hot and melted the butter when he poured it on top. He drank three glasses of orange juice, sure he was going to burst with pleasure by the second pancake.
His stomach was bulging slightly, full, he wasn't used to being full. His Mom was smiling, laughing at the joke he'd just told her. She had barely touched her big pancake.
"John, my St. John, you're a good boy."
He smiled, slowly. "I try." He whispered.
"John I'm going to ask you to do something, something quiet and quick, can you do that?"
He nodded, he could see something shining in her eyes, something great, something, he was sure, was going to change his life.
"Go to your room, get your..." She trailed off, eyes flying across the kitchen, falling on their bedroom door.
His father was moving, getting up. He was going to ruin their time. John frowned.
"I, I..." his Mom was still staring at the door her fingers gripping the fork so tightly they turned white.
"What?" He asked, suddenly afraid, more afraid than usual.
She looked at him again. Eyes so happy, so beautiful dulling. He wanted to touch her, hug her, but she was across the table and before he could move to do either she was on her feet.
"I have to go to work, John, Johnny, don't make your Father mad, okay, be quiet."
He nodded, but he knew this. It was the same every day.
She moved toward the door a large bag, one much bigger than her purse clutched in her hands. The bag confused him. He wanted to ask, but his Father stepped into the kitchen. He smelled like beer, rank and over powering. John shrank into his seat.
"What are you still doing here, bitch? It's time for work, get outta here!"
She paused, eyes on John. John didn't understand the look, but he was afraid, too afraid to move. Why did she have such a big bag? What had she wanted him to do?
"I love you, Johnny, St. John, be a good boy."
"Get outta here!"
His father yelled and threw the full glass of orange juice at his Mother. It smashed against the glass door and spilled orange all over the floor, but his Mother was gone, running down the steps. It was then he realized she didn't have her uniform on.
John's Dad grabbed his shoulder, squeezing sharply, "Clean that up!"
He wanted to run out the door, follow his Mom, plead with her, but he was afraid his Father would follow. He watched her car pull away from the curb and into the street. He told himself it was nothing, nothing at all, but she didn't come back that night, or the next day and John was left alone, his father raged, and found a new target to take his drunken rages out on.
A toe nudged his ribs, and John rolled away from the contact vaguely aware of the way his face burned, and his head ached. The toe hit him again, harder. He tried to swat it away, but it was too hard to move and just thinking about it made his head open up. He was sure his brains were all over the beach.
Too loud, he pushed his head into the sand ignoring the way the grit bit into his face. His head, oh his poor head. "Mike," he whispered, "man I can't drink anymore."
The voice was shrill and feminine. He groaned, what was her name, Shirley, Meg, he couldn't remember. "Sugar," he settled, "sorry, what you need?" He reached out. Wasn't she right beside him? There was nothing there, just sand, dirt. He really needed to open his eyes, but the light hurt through his closed lids, he was afraid to open them.
Then there was nothing, no sound, no pushing and he willed himself to sleep. Later his head would stop pounding and he'd be able to get up, but not now. Now, he could barely function. He was nearly asleep, shadows dancing behind his eyes when he felt the first drip, cold like a tear rolling down his cheek, he brushed it away, falling faster into the darkness. He didn't feel the next, but the down pour forced his eyes wide.
He screeched, danced clumsily to his feet, and immediately put his hand to his temple groaning. His eyes were open and he was soaking wet. He shivered despite the sun on his back, glazed eyes focusing on the shadow to his side. He followed it up and frowned, venom settling on his tongue.
"Rogue, you bitch, what was that for?" He moaned after the outburst, regretting it.
Rogue didn't reply her hands clasped around the end of a bucket, fingers white, her face whiter. She really needed to get out, it was the beach for godssake, the summer. She was bundled up like it was the middle of winter, arms hidden in long sleeves.
"You're fired," she burst.
John was confused, and his head was pounding, gods how much did he drink. "What the hell are you babbling about?"
"Fired, John, again! You had work this morning, and," she paused something flashing over her face making her cheeks redden. He would have tried to read her mood, but he was hurting too bad and he was sure he was going to puke. "What were you doing all night, and why in the hell did you call me Sugar?"
"Thought you were someone else," John defended. "I'd never mistake you for anything resembling sugar."
Her mouth tightened, thinning to a straight line, her eyes flashed. "They called me this mornin' ta give me the message. You're out of a job, again, an' we have rent due."
"Get off my case," John burst. He really didn't need this, not now, not when he could hardly stand. "I got money comin' in, a check for this week and last."
"And another week or more where you don' do a thing!" she shouted, and John covered his ears.
"Shut up," he whispered, afraid that raising his voice would bring the vomit. "I'll get a new job alright. Just go the hell away."
She chucked the bucket at him. If he hadn't been so near sick he would have caught it, but it hit him in the side and knocked him to the sand. His eyes rolled his stomach heaved and he couldn't hold it back. The beer rushed up his throat and out his mouth splashing onto the sand, completely clear.
Rogue was next to him in an instant, hands cool and soothing rushing over his suddenly flaming cheeks. She brushed his hair back and he closed his eyes enjoying her touch, even though it was dulled by the cotton gloves covering her slender fingers.
"Ah waited," she whispered. "Ya didn' come home and neither did Remy."
She paused and John couldn't look at her, eyes fixed on the vomit. He waited until he was sure he wasn't going to puke again. He closed his eyes. Her fingers brushed his cheeks.
"Ah know ya'll have got your own lives, ah just..." she trailed off and got to her feet. "Ah'm going home alright. You comin'?"
He wanted to, to sink into his bed, to get off the beach, but he couldn't leave with her, hear her sad lecture, her sick concern. It just made him feel worse. He shook his head. "I'll catch a ride with Mike."
"Right," she backed away, feet scuffing the sand, and John turned to watch her. She never turned once to look at him eyes fixed ahead and John wondered what the hell she stuck around for. He sat there for a moment before forcing himself up again.
The sun was still harsh and he realized why he was so cool in the morning air. It was midday and his back, exposed to the sun, was blistered bright red. He touched his shoulder and cursed when a white spot appeared on the red. He was going to be sleeping on his stomach for a month.
He looked across the beach and was thankful it was private, or surely all of them would have been hauled in the night before, or even this morning, and all he needed was to be bailed out of jail. There were people scattered all over the beach, some entangled with others, all sleeping off a drunk and burning in the sun. He spotted Mike by the burnt out fire his hand draped over a sleeping girl's back.
John rubbed his hand over his face feeling stubble and yawned while pushing his hair down. It stuck straight up, refusing to go any other way. He made his way toward Mike. He nudged his friend with his foot, the way Rogue had done but more gently.
"Mike,"he whispered, "Mike."
His friend rolled away easier, eyes glazed and tired, but not a bit sick. John was suddenly jealous. "Dude, I need a ride home."
Mike grinned, "What about Tracy?"
That was her name, John thought. He hadn't even been close. "She bailed, give me a ride."
Mike rolled over and stood up, "Sure, you wanna stop for pancakes?"
John felt his stomach protest at the thought, "No way in hell."
Mike shrugged, and nudged the sleeping girl. He whispered something in her ear, and she rolled toward him for an instant planting a sloppy kiss on his mouth before drifting back to sleep.
"Over Melissa I see," he commented as they stepped over bodies and headed off the private beach toward the parking lot.
Mike yawned, arms raised over his head. He was red, as red as John, but he didn't seem to care. "Nothing to it, I'll give her a call later."
How easily Mike forgot his drunken sorrow. John slipped into the car arm cast over his eyes as the car sprung to life. He was sure he wouldn't make it a couple of times, but he was home without having to pull over once even though his stomach was protesting and his head was dancing. Maybe a little sleep would put it all right.
"You up for tonight?"
John paused, knowing he should just stay home, but the fire, he could feel it aching inside him begging to get out. He remembered the dancing flames, the face, and swallowed. There was something, something he was supposed to know hidden in the flames. "I'll call you."
"Sure thing." Mike answered and sped away, leaving John standing in front of the house he shared with Remy and Rogue.
There was nothing but ash and bright red embers that blinked in and out of existence. He watched them spark to life on a piece of wood. It looked like the leg to the couch, the old, stripped, ripped, piece of crap they'd had ever since he could remember, probably well over the twelve and a half years he'd been alive. The entire trailer, a place he had loathed, but it had been a place to sleep, sanctuary, was gone except for the couch leg. He'd hated that couch. The ember burst into a flame, it rushed over the couch leg burning white and suddenly it was ash too.
His father, his father had been in the trailer, sleeping off another night of binging. It was hard to comprehend. He should cry, he guessed. His father was dead. Burned to death by what must have been one of his own cigarettes. He should be sad.
His foot toed the edge of the black and gray ash. The debris rested on the toe of his sneaker. His fingers brushed the swollen blue on his cheek, wiped the still running blood from his bleeding nose. He hardly remembered the beating, recent for his nose to still be bleeding, that was causing the bruise and the ache in his ribs. It had to have happened that morning, before he left, before the fire. He didn't remember. His head swam unpleasantly and the burned remains swirled. Defensively, he closed his eyes trying to stop the dizzying spin. It didn't help much and before he could stop it he found himself on his knees retching into the grass.
He didn't remember eating anything, but there was plenty to come up. He retched again as the acidic, rotten smell rushed over him. He gagged. His nose ran, blood and snot running over his lips. He brushed the bile and blood from his mouth. Swallowing heavily, he looked to the wreckage again. He was still dry faced. There was no burst of relief or remorse, just a swimming pool of indifference.
His legs felt like rubber as he pulled them against his chest. He took a shuddering breath. He was alone. The morning air, full of smoke, rushed over him. It was warm, but he shuddered. His father was dead. Goosebumps broke out across his arms. He was alone.
He didn't know how long he sat and watched, but the sirens were what brought him back. They were loud, piercing enough to tear his eyes from the smoldering wreckage. Hands on his shoulders forced him to his feet, but he nearly collapsed his legs were asleep. He didn't feel like he'd stood in years.
"I just found him there."
He knew that voice.
Somebody pried a lip open forcing a light into his eye. He barely blinked against it. They repeated the action on his other eye. Fingers pressed against his throat, but he didn't see anybody, just blurs, just voices.
"I called to him, shook him but he didn't do anything. He just sat there." A sob. "His father, I think his father was in the trailer."
His father, his father was dead.
"He hit me." John whispered hardly aware that he was speaking. Somebody pulled his head around, pressed his bruise, he winced. Something wet wiped at his nose. Was he still bleeding?
"Kid, what happened?" A gruff voice broke through.
"He didn't mean to. I mean my Mom," his eyes were suddenly wet. "My Mom told me he didn't. She was going to take me away. She made me pancakes."
"He was always covered in bruises."
That familiar voice again.
"But I didn't, I mean I never suspected anything."
"You are?" The other voice, the gruffer one, asked.
"Anna Stinson. I live next door."
"She gave me cookies." He whispered his eyes trailing toward the voice. Things were blurring again. He looked away from her. Why was she there? His eyes strayed toward his house and a black haze rushed over him. "Was there a fire?"
John leaned forward slamming the yellow notebook closed. He couldn't help the flush that rushed over his skin at the action. He stashed the book under the cushion of his porch chair coughing a bit; fidgeting to cover the action. His hands dived into his pockets for a cigarette. She hadn't said a word, probably knew what he was doing. Cigarette between his lips and fingers fumbling over his zippo, he said the first thing that came into his head.
"What the fuck do you want. You're always hovering, sneaking around and shit. You're way worse than the Cajun. Damn can't a guy get a moment alone." He hardly took a breath between each sentence and quickly inhaled his finally lit cigarette. The first rush into his lungs was smoke instead of much needed air, and he had to keep the cough from bursting out of his mouth. His cheeks bulged comically, and he was sure he turned even more red. He turned his head to the side to exhale and fought the gag that followed.
"Just saw you sitting out her alone..." She started not at all bothered by his outburst. She never was. He was finding it harder and harder to get her to go away, short of just asking and as direct as he'd always been it just seemed less fun for her to walk away instead of storm away.
The notebook was burning under him. He was sure she could read every page even from it's hidden location, afraid that she didn't need to, that she had already seen it. He looked over his shoulder, eyes falling on her face. She was smirking, leaning, all length and grace against the doorway. The way the girl could fill up a space it was a shame she couldn't be touched. She oozed with the want subconscious or not. She slid away from the door, hair bunching behind her head before falling around her shoulders. The arms crossed over her chest for warmth pushed her breasts upward. A sight anyone could appreciate. No wonder Mike wanted her.
"Can't you take a hint?" John asked, but he scooted to the end of the chair leaving room for her to sit with him. With only a moments hesitation she sat beside him, legs, long, and bare, dangerous, curled underneath her. It was only around them that she bared anything and most of the time it was just her hands. She'd been on shift and she always pulled the stockings off first when she stepped through the door tossing them onto the couch on her way to her room.
She shrugged. "Ah was wonderin' if you'd found them." She said and looked around him eyes on the corner of the notebook. "Which is it?"
John stiffened. She knew more than he'd figured. "The yellow one."
"Ah," she smiled, lazy, too knowing. He turned away. "The beginnings. Ah liked that one, but Ah didn't get much out of it."
"How'd you even know?" John burst, smoke escaping with his words. "I haven't thought about them in years."
"But you did," she answered her fingers going to her hair pulling the snarls out. "It's the first thing Ah saw when Ah touched ya."
How could he argue with that? Glowering, he pulled the book out. He shuffled it into his right hand, the cigarette into his mouth. He let it smoke, held in place with his wet lips against the paper filter. He didn't know what made him do it. Maybe he was idealistic, or just insane, to ever think he'd be a writer, but he had. The yellow book was full of his beginnings, the half formed notions of dreamed up tales, and short stories. It read like excepts from peoples lives. One day, one moment, one tragedy, one meaningless scene, a feeling, an event, all of them part of a whole that he'd never been able to create. How he used to love to get lost in the characters.
He didn't want to talk about it. He changed gears, something he was good at. "So you still pissed at me about the job?"
She shrugged and pulled her hair, already windswept and frizzing into curls around her face, into a ponytail. "No point, it's done." She sighed and turned toward him. She didn't say anything else mostly because it was bothering her. She was still mad.
"You gonna write in it again?" Her eyes were still on the book. Apparently he wasn't as good at misdirection as he thought.
"No." He didn't hesitate on his answer. He didn't want her to think he'd been considering it, had almost started reading when she walked out. He was kinda glad she'd stopped him. It was stupid, and there was no point in dwelling on it, getting lost. He had enough to think about. "Was all shit anyway."
She shook her head, strong denial. John took a drag, ashed over the deck. "It was. It was mostly shit. Just like to hear myself talk, or hear my own thoughts aloud, nothing but a narcissistic tendency. Worse than Remy and his grooming habits."
"It was good, the one about the boy and his father."
He didn't remember that one. Not that it mattered. He shrugged, got to his feet, book between his hands, closed, lost. "I'll go look for something tomorrow." His gaze raced across the beach. The sun was setting over the ocean.
"Ya stayin' home?"
The ocean was calling him again. So that was real. The ocean had a pull and the fire, he had always known that was real. He pulled the lighter out of his pocket and laid it against the notebook. The cover burst into flames and he pushed it over the book, keeping it from the pages for a moment as he watched it's hungry rush over the cover.
"John you idiot!" Rogue rushed at him swatting the book from his hands before he could pull it back. He raised a brow, but her focus was on the burning paper. He let the fire lick over the first page.
"What's your name?"
His grip tightened his eyes widening with each word. Molly clamped her own eyes shut, shutting herself away from his grip his stare, and his voice. She wanted to push him away but her hands were still too weak, and her head was swimming.
It wasn't a question anymore, a demand, his tight fingers started to shake jarring her violently back and forth. Her head ached
The rest of the words were lost in a blaze and then, instant black ash. It started on the second before Rogue was back, a cushion in her hand. She thrust it onto the burning paper. She'd gotten her shoes back. She stopped on the burning mess. John pushed the flames through the cushion. Rogue jumped back hands flying in front of her face as she yelped. All that was left was ash.
"Why?" She asked clearly confused. "Ya loved it."
John shrugged. "Not anymore. I'll be back later. I'm going out."
"With that burn out Mike?" She asked and ducked under his outstretched arm and stepped in front of him. "He's a loser."
John smiled, "And we're all winners here, Roguey?" His voice was anything but soothing, but it was her own fault for brining things up. He needed to get out more than ever. "You forget who your roommates are?"
She didn't cry, no, Rogue didn't cry anymore. She got pissed. Her hand balled into a fist at her side. Her face reddened, her lips thinned, her eyes dilated black consuming the green. He was so close. He stepped toward her pinning her against the pillar. Her anger soared. She hated her personal space invaded, but sometimes he hated her, so he stepped ever closer. Arms still at his sides, chest inches from hers, face further by a few inches.
"You're answer to everything is to be an asshole." She spat. Not backing down, even though he could tell she was uncomfortable with how close he was. She was never one to back down easy and, probably; she knew he would keep his distance as much for her sake as his own safety.
He smiled, tossed his cigarette off the porch. "Rogue."
She was still pissed. "What?"
"Get the fuck out of my way."
She moved faster than he would have thought and the punch hurt. John doubled over cradling his stomach. She stepped past him, around his once blocking stance and headed for the house.
"Ah hope ya get drunk and drown!" She called over her shoulder, the door slamming behind her.
John gasped, coughed, and wondered if he should be worried about internal injuries. He straightened, took a breath and walked down the stairs. He could breathe, no pain. Nothing broken, no damage. It was still early, but if he walked he'd get there just was the sun was setting, fuck staying home.
"You sure got a way wit de ladies." Remy sauntered up the porch coat, recovered and patched, over his shoulder. It greatly contrasted the holey jeans and nearly too snug blue t shirt. His feet were bare, like he'd just come in from a stroll instead of work. He worked days at a near by mechanics and every other night as a bouncer at the bar Rogue waitressed at. Tonight was his night off.
"Screw off," John mumbled.
"A way wit his amies as well," he continued. "You just an all around joy, non?"
"You're a dick."
"What got you in such a good mood?" It was an innocent enough inquiry but John was sure he already knew, or at been listening since the beginning of the conversation. Which meant he knew about the notebooks. That just pissed him off more. Instead of continuing he hopped down the stairs and started across the beach. Remy didn't follow and John was at least thankful for that.
"Mother Fucker!" John screamed. He grabbed hold of the computer chair and slammed it into the desk. The desk crumpled under the onslaught. The chair clanged. Wood splintered, pens carefully tucked into a can scattered, papers flew into the air, the computer hit the floor. He stopped for an instant, dropping the chair as he looked over the lap top, smashed into two pieces, the screen in one spot the key board in another.
"Son of a bitch." He mumbled his fingers were still shaking, he was till angry, but the laptop, that laptop was Bobby's. He dropped to his knees eyes scanning the damage. Could he glue it? The key board crumpled in his fingers. That was unlikely.
"Wow," the voice was surprisingly calm. Then again that was Bobby, he was always calm. "What happened in here?"
John got to his feet. It was too late to hide the evidence of his rage. It was obvious he'd destroyed their room, again. All he could say was at least this time he hadn't burned anything. He told Bobby. He merely raised a brow.
"Um, thanks," he responded, smirking.
John didn't appreciate the smirk or the laughter he was sure was coming. "Just back the fuck out Bobby." He said forcing himself to turn away, afraid that he'd take out his anger on his roommate. He looked out the window eyes searching for something to focus on. There was a large oak tree just outside the window, it's leaves just turning to red and orange were falling at an alarming rate, scattering across the slopping roof, flying through the air. He started to count them. Each swirling leaf had a number, every flying color was caught by his darting eyes.
"You want to get out of here?"
John pulled his eyes from the leaves, stunned out of his anger by the proposal. "What?" A leaf fell, he caught it's decent out of the corner of his eye, 46.
"Out of the mansion. You want to leave."
"We're under house arrest." John responded rather reasonably he thought, considering he was the one that usually started all the trouble. "Remember a little prank involving dye in somebody's shampoo bottle, and," he smiled because it was funny. Two more leaves fell, 48. "the back splash on Summer's khakis after the plastic wrap on the toilet seat."
"Yeah, they never did have any proof that it was us." Bobby countered.
"Except that the head master can read minds." John mumbled. Four more fell, another. What number was he on. "I'm gonna have to learn to block that."
"It would be helpful."
"Were do you want to go." He turned away from the outside world, blinked at the damage of the room. The fact that he'd done it swam over him slowly. He blinked, focused on Bobby. "Shit, I'm sorry."
Bobby shrugged. "Oh well, it's no big deal. Now I don't have to write that paper for Dr. Grey's class."
"Lets just get out. We're figure out where to go later." Bobby answered the asked question.
"Okay." John stepped over the broken chair, the crumbling desk and followed Bobby out of the room. "How are we getting out?"
"Easy, I've found this vent, leads right to the garage."
"How about keys, one eye keeps them locked in his room."
Bobby held up a set of keys. "It helps to know a girl who can walk through walls."
John smiled. "Ah, knew Kitty was good for something."
They walked in silence toward the vent, sneaking around hallways, ducking into a closet one time to avoid Ororo. By time they got to the car John was feeling more like himself. The rage that had consumed him was dissipating quickly. He hardly recognized the feelings that had possessed him earlier.
"So," Bobby started the car. "You have another session with the Professor."
John rolled the window down, stuck his hand out the window and shot the mansion the finger as they rolled out the gate. He tried to be as nonchalant as possible. "Yeah." He lowered his hand and stuck his head out the window. Cool air rushed over his face.
"He is trying to help." Bobby said.
John was silent for a moment. "I'm sure."
"I mean, he just wants us to be able to live in the world like everyone else."
"I know." John picked at his seat belt contemplating whether or not he should put it on. "He just. I don't need him prying. Whatever it is he's trying to get me to remember, I figure, I mean..." He paused and dropped the seat belt, deciding against it. "If it pisses me off so bad to not remember. I mean when I just see the smallest bit of it...." he trailed off. He didn't want to talk about it anymore. "I'm getting better. Did you see that kick ass fireball I made in practice this morning. It was as big as you head," he turned to look at Bobby, "and damn thats pretty impressive."
"Shut up." Bobby groused. "You really should have warned me before you threw it."
"Just testing the ol' reflexes Bob-O."
"Yeah, you set my hair on fire."
John waved his hand in dismissal. "More importantly did you see the way Summer's eyes bugged out of his head when I did that? Priceless."
He wasn't half way to the beach when Remy caught up to him. He had hoped he was going to be left alone and for a moment he wondered why he was being flagged down. He'd left Rogue in a state, and as unsure as they were in what caused her episodes, he wondered if that was the problem.
Tensed and ready for the worst he stopped. Guilt, unaccustomed and quick, rushed over over him. His hands went to his pockets.
"Trouble," he called unable to wait for the lumbering gate of the Cajun. The speed should have told him that there wasn't any trouble.
"Non," Remy reached his side, never hurrying. He stopped a few feet away. "So," he started, "you lost your job."
Great another lecture. He rolled his eyes and spun around. "Seriously, I've had this little talk, and I don't need it from you."
"Dis not about dat." He fell into step beside John. "Dis about another job, one you might be more inclined ta take."
John stopped for a moment. "Thought you were on the straight and narrow."
Remy shrugged, completely unrepentant. "Not exactly."
Poor John he's confused and a little destructive, to himself anyway. I've got this all worked out, about his powers his place, his suppressed memories. Not to mention what's with Rogue's 'episodes' and what's Remy's new line of work about? It comes out in the sequel. Sorry this took so long to get out, but boy it didn't want to written quickly. So I hope you like. Tell me what you think. Rogue and Remy are coming up.
Ghostwriter: Thank you so much for the review
Pyrowhore: Don't know if the ending was anywhere near perfect, but it's were it wanted to end. I'm glad you liked it! Thanks so much for the review. I means a lot to me to know if effected you at least in the way it effected me.
tfobmy18: Thanks so much!
Ragdogtwo: I couldn't leave it there permanently. I mean I promised Romy and there hasn't been nearly enough of that. Thank you!
Hawiichick: Thanks so much. I try to keep things in character. Thanks so much and there will be more Romy in the sequel and in the epilogues. Thanks!
gaea3: I tried to get that Rogue was starting to like Remy, just friends were now, but how long does that last. The epilogues are proving long but fun to write. Hopefully the next won't take as long. Thanks for the review and for reading!
ChamberlinofMusic: Thank you so much! I was trying to create a Rogue that I liked better than the one in movie. I just hated the way the last movie ended. I'm glad that you like her and the relationship between her, John, and Remy. I love them together and can't wait to write more about the three of them.
lovestoread: Thanks so much! I love the three of them together so much. It's hard for me to put them away too, hence the sequel. It means so much to me that you get sappy over the story! Hopefully you like the epilogues.
Wanda W.: Thank you, thank you, for the offer of a beta. I'll definitely take you up on that if you still want to. The story is still in the works though so it might be a while before I send you the story. The Bobby stuff is tied up pretty tight and Logan, I can't leave him out of the story. I love him. They have bonded on an odd level, but I try and make it work. Thanks for reading.
ShadowFax999: Thank you, and thank you for the review!
LadyGambit: Thank you so much. I love all three of the characters a lot. What you said about Rogue is exactly what I was trying to do. I'm glad I've seemed to achieved that balance on some level. You're also right about John, he does have 'the patience of a baby'. Ha, I loved that. Keep reading! Thanks for the feedback!