CHOICES

BY MADRIPOOR ROSE

Disclaimer: The X-Men are the property of Marvel Entertainment, no copyright infringement intended.

Author's Note: Another short piece written for the livejournal xmenflashfic community, since deleted. (Also an attempt to explain a pointless sight gag)

He counted the money again, and it still added up to a little over three thousand dollars. Piotr bit down on his bottom lip, and counted a third time.

Mister Summers had been his counselor, and he'd had a talk with him about responsibility and the dangers of having too much of it, explaining that it was very practical of Piotr to hold a part-time job and send money home, but he should also be thinking of himself. He was still a teenager. It was important to his sense of self-worth to be a little selfish, once in a while.

Mister Summers made him promise to take the next sum of money that came his way and spend it on something frivolous, buy something merely because he wanted it, not because he needed it, not because it was useful. He'd agreed easily enough, expecting his next paycheck from Gaia's Garden Nursery in Salem Center could be blown easily enough on pizza and a movie.

He'd forgotten about the Art Club fair at the library. He'd won the grand prize, and some lady from Bridgeport had bought all five canvasses he'd had on display.

Every instinct he had told him to put half the money in his bank account and send half home to his parents.

But he had promised Mister Summers, and now Mister Summers was dead.

Piotr tried to tell himself that it was a silly promise. Americans were so wasteful, it was normal to them, and his frugal habits did seem odd to teachers who were used to seeing teenagers let spending money fall through their fingers like grass seed in the wind. Throwing money away on whatever shiny toy caught their eye.

And things were different now. Mister Summers was dead, the Professor was dead…who knew what would happen to the school? He should save the money in case he needed to fly home, or find an apartment, save it against the future.

Yet the fact remained. He had promised Mister Summers that he would do this, and it was the last promise to the man that he would ever be able to keep.

Once he had decided to practice being spontaneous, Piotr found it amazingly difficult. New clothes? He didn't need any, or want any. The difficulty of finding things in his size limited his options. A new bike? He didn't have enough, and the used motorcycle he already owned was in good running order.

Books? He wasn't much of a reader, and he had the use of the school library and the public one in town.

Music? He didn't care for music, particularly. Other than classical composers they had studied, he couldn't name a musician.

He supposed the money could be put back into art supplies, but he wasn't sure if that would violate the vague guidelines against buying anything useful.

There was one thing he did want, that slowly dawned on him as he stepped into a squabble between two of the younger students who were shoving each other in the hall. It was a disagreement over the sign-up sheet for the TV in the Common Room, and two programs scheduled on the same night.

His own TV.

He could check out movies from the library and watch them in peace. There were a couple of miniseries about Russian history he'd like to watch without comments from the peanut gallery complaining about how boring it was, or making bad jokes about his great-grandfather.

If he had a TV in his bedroom, with a DVD player, maybe he could…it was an opening…he could casually pick up a season of one of the sci-fi shows Kitty liked, and invite her to join him. He'd have something he could talk to her about, instead of feeling like a big stupid ox, too tongue-tied to speak.

Mind made up, he carefully put the bills into his wallet, and headed for the garage. While he was signing out one of the school cars, Rogue walked in, with a bag over her shoulder, and stopped.

"Oh. Peter. Y'going into town? Can you give me a ride to the train station?"

"But of course."

They rode in silence until they were well off school property, Rogue putting on the radio and determinedly fiddling with the buttons, changing stations constantly.

"The cure?" he asked quietly.

"I…ain't entirely made up my mind. But yeah, I'm going to the clinic to see."

"Did Bobby…?" he began, darkly, but Rogue laughed.

"Lord, poor Bobby! I know you're everybody's big brother, Pete, but don't pound on him none over me. This is about more than being able to make out with my boyfriend or not. I'm sick of being afraid to touch and sick of other people's sins in my head. And whether I take the cure or not is my choice. Not his."

Piotr suddenly felt small and foolish over his struggle to decide how to waste some money while Rogue was making this decision. "They say it's permanent, Rogue. I know your mutation has been a burden, but don't rush into something you might regret."

"I won't. I want to talk to some people at the clinic first. Then I'll choose." She was quiet for a moment, "so what are you going into town for?" She asked brightly, obviously trying to change the subject.

He found himself telling her about Mister Summers, and the TV…and his plan to use the TV to lure Kitty into his bedroom.

That cheered Rogue up immensely, and she conspired with him, suggesting TV shows and movies, anything with dragons, Star Wars, until they reached the Salem Center train station and he let her out.

A few minutes at the Chronic Electronic big-box store in the strip mall on the north side of town and he was on his way back to the school with his new entertainment center.

He unpacked the TV in the garage, by the recycling center, putting the cardboard box and Styrofoam packing into the appropriate bins, then hefted the set, carrying it to his room. He'd come back for the stand later.

Bobby stopped him in the hall, coming out of Rogue's bedroom. "Hey Pete, you seen Rogue?"

"She took off a little while ago," he said uncomfortably.

"Okay, thanks," Bobby muttered distractedly, and went down the hall. Piotr made his way to his own room, and started setting things up.

If he told Bobby that Rogue was looking into the cure, he might go after her and try to talk her out of it. And Rogue was right. It was her choice to make.

The End