Seven on a Scale From Dead to Breathing
Summary: Scott and Ororo crash the jet. Every emotional wound that Scott has incurred ever is ripped open.
Notes: My first X-Men fic in forever and a day. I wrote Gambit's accent the best I could and I'd love it if you didn't kill me. Set a couple of months after X2. Title © the Dresden Dolls.
The first thing Scott is aware of when he wakes up is the steal drum band that has taken up residence right at the front of his skull. Clearly, he decides, they are also prone to taking very long showers and therefore using up all the water in his body, as his throat is about as lacking in moisture as the Sahara and his tongue holds the consistency of a very dead furry animal. If the cliché hasn't already been stretched a bit past breaking point, he would make some sort of comparison between the sharp pain in his left arm and the lack of driver training undergone by the band's tour bus driver. He wonders, the contents of his thoughts being what it is, why he is in so much pain when the only explanation for his mental state would be some rather excellent drugs. He reaches up carefully with the arm that isn't on fire, feeling for his glasses before opening his eyes.
His surroundings are nothing spectacular; a dusty little bedroom with a scuffed wooden floor, cream walls and a dresser almost certainly courtesy of Ikea. He is lying on a non-descript bed under a white sheet and blue flowered quilt, both of which hold the distinct scent of mothballs.
There is a glass of water on the dresser.
Scott's opinion of his... hosts? kidnappers? goes up exponentially. He sits up. When this action leaves him with nothing more than a slight increase in the throbbing in his temples, he tries standing. Then he tries sitting back down hard on the bed, clutching his head, just for the hell of it. Barring any unseen cameras lurking in the ceiling, there is no one around for whom he has to play fearless leader and he lets himself have a few minutes of good bonding time with the blinding pain in his head, trying to take deep breaths and not throw up. After he's allotted himself as much self-pitying time as he thinks appropriate, he rises again, though this time with much more caution. The pain intensifies, but not nearly to the degree he felt previously, and he walks unsteadily over to the dresser, draining the water in several eager gulps. It doesn't strike him until he's sitting back down on the bed that the conveniently provided drink may have been drugged.
"Shit," he says, though there is little feeling behind it. If his captors are so inclined, he is certain that they wouldn't have allowed him to wake up in the first place and, if so, would not have relied on such unreliable methods to further incapacitate him.
There is one window in the room, covered by a heavy curtain which is currently not letting any light through. The only illumination is provided by an old lamp in the shape of an elephant, which is the only other object on the dresser. So far, he muses, his captors are doing a rather unimpressive job of intimidation. The last thing he can remember is being on what seemed to be an excruciatingly ordinary recruitment trip with Ororo. The prospective student was a girl in Mexico, powers unclear, but with parents that were eager to ship her off somewhere where they wouldn't have to deal with the possible repercussions of their daughters differences. He remembers having some technical difficulties with the jet, but nothing after that.
The door opens. He jumps to his feet, ready to take on whoever is on the other side, but relaxes just as quickly. "Storm!"
The white haired young woman looks just as surprised. "You're awake! Thank the Goddess. How are you feeling?"
He blinks. "My head hurts, and I can't move my left arm. Other than that, I'm spectacular. Where are we?"
She enters the room, closing the door behind herself, refusing to meet his gaze. "Um, New Orleans."
Scott blew out a breath. "And how, exactly, did we end up in New Orleans?"
"How much do you remember?"
He rubs his temples in an effort to dispel the continuous pounding. "I remember losing control of the jet. After that, not much. A lot of being thrown around like some sort of extremely creative and clever metaphor that I'm too groggy to come up with right now, and… I'm curious to learn where you picked up such a fowl mouth."
She blushes a bit at this last, waving it off. "Have you ever been around Logan when he's working on one of the cars?"
Scott nods sagely. "That explains it. What it doesn't explain, is why we're in New Orleans."
She perches on the end of his bed, folding her hands in her lap. Taking the hint, Scott joins her. "We crashed a few miles outside of the city. I called the Professor, but it will take a few days for the others to reach us by car, and we can't just leave the jet lying out where anyone could stumble upon it, so we've got to wait for Logan and Kurt to arrive with trucks—it will have to be dismantled in order for it to fit into the backs of the trucks, and a lot of it destroyed."
He lifts a hand. "Disregarding the fact that I'm going to need therapy later over the state of my jet, I know all of this. That still doesn't explain why we're not in a hotel. And if this is a hotel, I hope we're getting our money back."
"It's actually a safe house," she admits.
She glances anywhere but at his face. "An… organization with which I have ties and in which I have utmost faith."
He frowns. The more she avoids the question, the more worried he becomes. "And that organization would be?"
"New Orleans Thieves Guild."
Scott wonders if he can pretend to fall unconscious again and remain that way until Logan and Kurt arrived, thus making him completely blameless when they have to explain their whereabouts to the Professor. "Thieves Guild. Well. They sound like an absolute model of the upright citizens' club. I applaud you, Storm, on your appropriate choice of lodgings. I'm sure this place has nothing on, say, The Holiday Inn."
"I think I like you better when you're being a role model for the students," she mutters. Scott clenches his teeth.
"Dare I ask why you've got connections with the New Orleans Thieves Guild?" Mentally, he wonders if anyone has ever tried to stamp the Guild with an acronym. He tries to figure out how one would pronounce NOTG, imagining many sounds rather like a frog trying to throw up.
"Not all of us had pristine childhoods, Scott. For some of us, there were no welcoming foster homes, and no Professor Xavier to step in as soon as something went wrong." Her words are reactionary, and he can see the contrite expression on her face as soon as they leave her mouth. This does not stop the stab of pain, or the flash of anger.
"I'm going to pretend the last five seconds didn't happen," he tells her calmly. "I'm also just going to except your connections and attempt to maintain my image of you as a law-abiding tree hugger."
"Tree hugger dat wears leather?" a new voice, laced with a heavy Cajun drawl floats into the room, closely followed by it's owner, a slender man with messy auburn hair sporting a long trench coat and a cocky attitude that practically drips off of him.
"Who the hell are you?" Scott tends to become rather abrupt when in pain and when frustrated and at the moment, he is both. The man in the doorway smirks.
"Remy Lebeau. Pleasure ta meet you, Monsieur Summers." He enters the room, standing beside Ororo, one hand falling casually to rest on her shoulder. "Ah tink livin' at dat school's lowered your standards foh friendship, padnat.
Ororo is giving Scott a death glare. He returns it quite readily, his irritation at his lack of knowledge about their situation growing rapidly. "You'll excuse Scott," she says in her best teacher voice. "He hasn't quite mastered the basics of polite conversation yet."
"You're not the only one that Logan rubs off on," Scott retorts. Remy tilts his head in curiosity.
"Dat the guy who shoots claws outa his hands, non?"
"Yes. And he is no excuse for rudeness on anyone's part but his own."
Scott smirks. "Then I'd think he'd be no excuse for inventive cursing, either."
Ororo stands up, ignoring his last jab. "It was Remy who was kind enough to drive us here from the crash site, Scott. He has been invaluable in helping me deal with everything that has happened."
"So I probably don't want to know how you know him, then?" If he didn't already have a headache the size of the country, he is sure he would feel one coming on.
"Biblically," Remy replies for her, winking. She swats at him and blushes, but doesn't refute the claim.
"We've got a couple of days until Kurt and Logan get here," Ororo tells him. "You dislocated your shoulder in the crash and received a minor concussion. According to Jean, the best thing for you right now is to relax and take a lot of pain killers. We can remain in this house, as long as we don't open the drapes on the West side."
Scott frowns. "Why?"
Remy and Ororo share an uncomfortable glance. "Da femme dat lives on dat side has decided t' become a professional spy in her spare time," Remy explains, finally.
"I don't quite follow,"
Ororo stifles a laugh. "She's a little old woman with a pair of binoculars and a camera."
Scott nods, as if this is very common. "Oh. Of course, a very dangerous threat."
"It's damn weird," Remy mutters. Ororo nods her agreement.
"Are you hungry, Scott?" she asks. Now that he thinks about it, Scott realizes that his stomach feels painfully empty.
"Yeah. And… you said something about painkillers?"
Ororo nods. "Once you've eaten. There's a change of clothes in the top drawer. The kitchen is down the hall to the left when you're done."
Scott watches Remy and Ororo leave, the way his fingertips graze the small of her back, the way she turns her body into his as she slips past him out the door. He does not comment.
By the time he's forced down a bowl of canned tomatoes soup that somehow managed to taste burned yet be ice cold when he actually got to eat it, Scott has decided quite definitively that he does not like Remy Lebeau. It's not that the man has done anything to directly antagonize him –he hasn't—or that he is stunningly good looking and therefore caused the 'jealous guy reaction' –he is, but Scott's really not that sort of guy—but there is just something about his whole attitude that rubs Scott the wrong way. Ororo has made coffee, and every time she gets up to refresh her cup the man's red-on-black eyes trail over her body like she's some sort of pin-up girl brought to life. This wouldn't bother Scott if Ororo didn't return the favour, or if she didn't continuously flirt with the Cajun. They share an easy camaraderie that reminds Scott of his own relationship with Jean. He tells himself that he's not jealous, merely showing concern for one of his close friends. A close friend who is an adult and certainly deserves an adult relationship if she wants to pursue one, his conscious reminds him in a voice that sounds far too much like the Professor.
"I'm impressed that you managed to get through the entire thing," Ororo comments, jerking her head towards his empty soup bowl. Scott shrugs.
"It's amazing what hunger will do."
"I'm amazed dat in all da time ya spend takin' care o' kids, ya still haven' learned t' cook, Stormy." Remy shuffles the cards in the game he and Storm have going.
She actually flips him off, which takes Scott a few minutes to believe, and a few more to accept. "I was never called upon to do any of the cooking. Usually we got the children to help out in the kitchen, and—" She breaks off, glancing down at her cards. Scott knows that by all accounts, it is his responsibility to break the awkward silence.
"You can say her name, Ororo. I promise I'll warn you if I'm about to break into hysterical sobs."
She flinches, almost imperceptible under the goddess façade, but he's known this woman for going on ten years and he can read her better than most. "Jean was the culinary expert," she says, head tilting up in defiance. Scott takes a sip of coffee. The tension in the room is a palpable thing, like sticky sap bogging everyone down.
Scott gets up to rinse his bowl, and slowly conversation begins again behind him, accompanied by the swish and snap of cards. He lets the water run hot over his hands until it is almost too painful, stopping it right before he would have pulled his hands back for fear of blistering. The kitchen smells of coffee and cigarettes and mildew. This is not his life. He leaves the room to find the painkillers in the first aid kit and when he comes back the discussion has degraded into an argument.
"Not sayin' he didn' deserve it, Stormy, jus' dat ya were damn gleeful when it happened."
"My relationship with Forge was over long before Raven left him. I had nothing to do with him after our separation, and I don't see why you would think I may have shown any reaction over the news."
The name Forge rings faint bells in Scott's mind, but no definite connections come to the forefront. Ororo is a very private person, and Scott is a very busy person. This is understandable. It doesn't stop the guilt over his apparent lack of knowledge regarding his friend's love life.
"Ya bought a cake."
Scott stifles his laughter at Ororo's miffed expression, and sits down at the table. Ororo gives him a look that warns imminent doom if he says a single word, then turns back to Remy. "I wasn't gleeful. Merely... appreciative of Karma."
Remy shrugs. Scott snorts into his coffee. "Shadenfruede."
Ororo glares in his direction. Remy walks over to the window, pulling the drapes aside and peaking out. Shaking his head in apparent disgust, he turns back. "Still dere."
"You're not serious?" Scott marvels that one little old lady could be possessed of so much stamina.
"As a heart attack." He walks back over to the table, sprawling in his chair. "Anyway. I believe we were talkin' 'bout Stormy's wicked side?"
Ororo blows out a breath. "I can hardly be blamed that Forge had... questionable tastes."
Remy arches one far-too-perfect eyebrow. Scott wonders if he gets them waxed. "I'm restrainin' myself from makin' da mockin' comment dat statement invites and skip straight ta da part where I ask what was so wrong wit' Raven."
Ororo smiles calmly, waiting until the Cajun has taken a sip of coffee. "She's a terrorist."
To his credit, he doesn't spit the coffee everywhere; which, Scott is sure, had been Ororo's intent. He does choke rather dramatically, and spends a few minutes coughing up a lung before he can form coherent sentences. "Well, if dat don't ruin a relationship, I don' know what does."
Scott is tempted to throw out being drown under hundreds of cubic liters of water as a viable alternative. He doesn't.
It certainly did a good job between Magneto and Professor Xavier," she says casually. Scott wonders how often he's going to have to bight his tongue and pretend every single emotional wound he's ever incurred isn't being ripped open.
"Dat's not what de tabloids say," the other man says wickedly. Ororo sighs.
"The tabloids also say that Britney Speares is pregnant with the alien Messiah."
"So dere's nothing going on between dem?"
Ororo shifts, glances at Scott. He clears his throat. "The divorce was… messy." It had been, too. The Professor may have gotten the house and the students and the 'white knight complex, but Erik had managed to pull normalcy and trust and reliability right from under their feet.
"I was lucky enough to be new to the household at the time," Ororo continues. "Scott and Jean were positively lost the first couple of weeks. The Professor kept trying to pretend like nothing was wrong, but it was easy to tell that he was heartbroken."
Scott wonders if his concussion is a good enough excuse for throwing up. Ororo may as well be describing the events of a couple months previous, the way all the children tried to edge around the fact of Jean's death, the way the adults went through the days acting as if nothing were different. With forced cheer and no subtlety at all, he changes the subject. "Ororo's found someone new."
Remy's eyebrows climbed his forehead, and he very deliberately sets down his cards. Ororo glares at Scott. Outside, there is a faint rumble of thunder. Scott stirs more sugar into his coffee.
"Ya don' tell me anyting no more, 'Roro." The words and the tone are playful. The gaze he levels on her is not. Scott sits back to observe, inching his chair out of Ororo's reach just in case.
"It's nothing serious. He's Catholic. And recovering from a traumatic event."
"What kinda traumatic event?"
Scott gets the rather ominous feeling that his days are numbered. Ororo shuffles the cards. "Trying to kill the president."
"Not of his own free will. He was brainwashed. He's the one I told you about right after the entire Striker incident happened."
"Kurt, yes. The reason I didn't mention a relationship is because I am not even sure if we have one."
"Wow, dat sounds stable and healthy!" Contrary to Scott's predictions of Remy reacting like a jealous lover, he is taking on the role of the older brother. An older brother with a very quick temper, Scott notes, if the set to his shoulders and the anger blazing from his eyes are any indication. So perhaps not entirely brotherly.
"Why you not tell Remy 'bout dis, padnat?" He falls back in his chair, watching her steadily across the table. Scott feels like the observer in a tennis match.
"I wasn't going to tell you until Kurt and I had talked about it, and settled on exactly what we're doing." Her composed tone seems to have a calming effect on him, because he doesn't reply to her words immediately, taking a moment to take his turn in the card game.
"Make sure he don' intend on becomin' a terrorist, eh?"
She smiles slightly, and brushes the hair from her face, crisis averted.
Ororo's cell phone rings. Scott looks at her, a gaze which she returns with a little shrug. "The radio in the jet was fried." He nods, not even bothering to sigh. Normal people, he reminds himself, use cell phones and hide from little old ladies and eat horrible canned soup. He is not used to being normal. Ororo walks out of the kitchen, talking to someone whom he assumes to be the Professor. He watches Remy watch her, and recognizes the expression on the other man's face.
"You've heard the saying about loving something and letting it go, I'm sure," Scott says quietly. The Cajun looks at him, then back at Ororo.
"Sure. But what do ya do if ya love someone who's so scared o' de life ya represent dat she pretends she's not in love wit' ya? What'd ya do den?"
Scott watches Ororo laugh, the way her eyes remain serious even as her lips form a smile. He sees the way she stands, like she is constantly on display, always open to criticism. He does not comment.