Mental as Anything
I stink at fight scenes. I think that's partly why this took so long to write, because I just don't write them well. So, you get this. Oops. Okay, and the comics made me mad. Like woah. There may have been table throwing involved. (I haven't picked up a comic in over a year.)
So um...heh...hi, all. Sassy got me again. She made no threats of Gambit removal this time. (Actually, it was more a gentle nudge. And where I expected shunning, she was like 'OHAI!' Seriously, the girl deserves a medal for putting up with my ADD ass.
I had to reread this. The early chapters were hard. So many commas...my brain...
Anyhoo, stuff actually happens this chapter. Hopefully we're progressing toward actual Plot now.
Disclaimer: If I owned this, I would be out of a job due to my inability to keep deadlines. Also, no dumpsters were harmed in the making of this fic. Also, the title to this chapter isn't mine. I was stuck, so I borrowed the title from a Farscape episode.
PS Rereading through, my eye kept twitching whenever I read the name Peter. I have NO clue why I started using it. I apologize for this, and have switched to his actual name. You know. Piotr.
While the shortest distance between two points was a straight line, mathematicians never really planned that fact for every day use. Hank had been stopped numerous times on his way to the kitchen from the elevator, which by all accounts was a straight line, and could have easily made it there by now had he crawled through the window and scaled over the roof.
Sometimes, maintaining one's dignity was quite the bothersome venture.
His latest obstacle came in the form of a young girl adorned in pigtails and pink. Her chosen companion, a tattered stuffed platypus that had seen more love than most children on the premises, dangled from her hand by strands of thread and stuffing.
"Good evening, Amelia. I may be mistaken in the matter, but I do believe that this is your designated nap time," he said.
Her eyes were deceptively large. It was a common trait for children her ages, and Hank theorized it was due to a couple millenia of genetic evolution to give adolescents the appearance of naive innocence. In a word, even with her lower lip trembling, the child looked "cute."
"I had a bad dream," Amelia said. She pulled her platypus tight, tucking her chin against what remained of the matted fur, never once moving her eyes from him.
Nightmares, something that perhaps all of them shared. Still, it was unusual that one so young be affected by the horrors many of them faced on a daily basis. Granted, a child's mind knew more than many adults believed.
"What was it about?" he asked as he knelt in front of her.
"Dr. Doof had Perry in a trap," Amelia said as she held up her platypus. "And he couldn't get out."
"Ah, the perilous plight of your semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action," Hank said as he bit bag a smile. He had not seen much of the show, most of it in passing. However, to his chagrin, the theme song of the world's most bizarre mammalian secret agent would weave it's way through the strings of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. A most troublesome occurrence when trying to focus on work. "However, it is clear to me that he is in fine fighting shape. Although I am not one to argue the extremities a dream can take our mind to."
She only stared up at him. Hank sighed and picked her up. "Why, sometimes if I partake in a banana or twelve before my own bedtime, I have the utmost aberrant dreams."
"Really?" she asked.
"Oh yes. The one that comes to memory is a terrible one. It involved my staring at at the equipment in my laboratory with no idea how any of it worked."
"That's scary?" Amelia asked.
"Oh yes, very," Hank said. "After all, what use is a scientist if he has no idea what it is that he does?"
He entered the room she shared with two other little girls, both deep asleep. From the way she was breathing and her head resting against his shoulder, Hank could tell that Amelia was either asleep or very close to it. Her hand absently petted his furred shoulder. She heaved a great sigh and mumbled something about kitties, and he knew she was gone from the waking world.
As gently as he could, he laid her on the bed and tucked the covers up just below her chin. She shifted fitfully until he placed her platypus securely in her arms.
"Sleep well," he said in a quiet voice. "For 'nothing happens unless first a dream.'"
Finally, he was somehow able to make it to the kitchen. He was not out of tea just yet, however the nature of his work called for something stronger. He resisted it when he could, though even he could not deny the pleasure that came at times in the form of coffee.
To his delight, Ms. Pryde was already in the kitchen, huddled at the end of the table with the young Mr. Rasputin. Their voices were quiet though Hank could tell their discussion most likely involved the young artist's current curriculum. Furthering his pleasure, Hank noted that the carafe held the precious substance his sleep deprived brain longed for.
As he poured a mug, forgoing any additional flavorings, he studied the pair. So rapt were they that they hardly seemed to notice his presence. "'Let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them.' Victor Hugo, Les Misérables."
The pair jerked in their seats, more noticeable in the young Ms. Pryde. "Dr. McCoy, we didn't hear you come in."
"As I observed," Hank said, hiding his amusement behind the rim of his mug. "I would have kept my silence, however I was actually on my way to see you after leaving here."
Kitty perked up. "Did the decryption finish?"
Setting his mug on the table, Hank traced his claw over the swirl in the faux wooden design. "Yes. However, it is the contents of the files that urged me to seek you out and ask if perhaps we could not find someone else to sort through them."
Her eyes became void of emotion as she stared at him. "Are you saying it's beyond me?"
Hank sighed. He knew he was on a precarious precipice at this point. He chose his words carefully. "Of course not. I am fully aware of your abilities and have the utmost faith that you would be able to perform this task with little to no error on your part."
Her shoulders relaxed. "Then why would you suggest someone else do this? It's my baby, Hank."
He could not deny her statement. Kitty had been the one to catch the errant data in the facility, and only her lower rank on the seniority totem pole had prevented her from going on the mission.
"From what I could extrapolate from a cursory glance of the information gathered, the data contains that which could settle in an unsavory fashion on your young shoulders."
"Dr. McCoy, are you trying to protect me?" Kitty asked. "I appreciate it, I do. But if I always run from something that could be scary, when would I learn anything? And we all know that I am the only one here, aside from perhaps yourself, who has even a hope of understanding a fraction of what is in those files."
He mentally mapped the course of this argument, eying it as he would the most likely course of a chess game. Going in, he knew it would be nearly pointless, but now he could only see one or two scenarios where she would concede his point, and even those invariably ended with her working on the data anyway.
"I concede your point," he said at last. Then he held up a finger. "However, should you feel any form of discomfort in this, I do request that you seek assistance."
Ms. Pryde's lips quirked up in a corner as she clasped her companion on the shoulder. "In that case, I volunteer Petey here to assist me."
Mr. Rasputin, who had been up until that point studying a passage in his text, looked up. "Huh?"
Despite his better judgment, Hank found himself smiling in return. He just hoped that this would not be one instance that he regretted for years to come.
Their feet slapped against the dry cement.
Remy glanced behind them, maintaining a vigil on their surroundings as they tried to out maneuver their pursuers. "Never a dull moment, eh?"
Rogue kept pace with him, stride for stride, even managing to keep up with his quick turns and sharp detours. Only once had she faltered, and the swift way she corrected her faltering steps impressed him.
"Keeps me on my toes," she agreed as her breathes came in short pants.
It had happened suddenly. One minute they were laughing at something stupid just outside their hotel after dropping off a couple armloads of bags. The next, his senses burst at the sensation of being observed, followed quickly by the descent of unknown pursuers. He only had to say a small sentence to Rogue before they both took off.
Now, he could catch a glimpse of human shapes hurtling toward them. No matter how many turns they took or how many times they made a false change in direction, they could not shake those behind them.
Though he did not know them personally, he had a good idea as to who sent them. He turned to watch Rogue, her determined to not only keep up with him but to also reach the end of the next alley and preferably be free, and knew that there was one outcome of this trek that he would prefer.
Okay, the only plausible outcome he would prefer.
"Think it be best if we split up," he said between pants.
Her answering bark of laughter resigned him to the fact that it would not be so easy. "Strength in numbers, Swamp Rat."
He knew from varying differences in size and shape and breathing patterns that at least five figures were following them. Perhaps more. He also knew that he was their likely target. Rogue, despite her belonging to an organization that should be known to most would be of little interest to whoever it was that were chasing them.
And he would be damned if she got hurt because of someone's interest in him.
An intersection was fast approaching. If he were going to do this, it would be then. He would lose her in the confusion and hopefully meet up with her at the end of it. Worse case scenario, he'd be seeing her the next time he broke out of prison. Or wherever he wound up.
Normally, one card would be more than enough. He had grabbed a couple packs in the casino's gift shop, feeling bereft without the familiar cards on his person. Now, however, he had no time to sift through them one by one, let alone open the package.
Pulling out a pack, he shifted it in his hand as the familiar surge coursed through his fingers. He hoped his stasis had not affected his ability to charge objects just so.
The intersection came. Before he could throw the package, two words escaped without his conscious thought. "Sorry, Chére."
The last he saw of her was the confusion in her eyes before he threw the pack between them and he escaped in the resulting explosion.
Up a fire escape and across two rooftops, he was certain he had lost her. However, he could still sense the presence of his pursuers. Or at least three of them. That left two for Rogue. Not the odds for her he had hoped for, but better than nothing.
Waiting until he was sure they were on his trail again, he dropped to the alley below. A loose pipe dangled from rusted bolts on the wall. Not exactly his weapon of choice but it would do in a pinch.
With a sharp tug, the pipe came free with a groan and a crash. He gave an experimental twirl. While it lacked the length he desired, it would suit his needs.
Michaels knew his duty. There was a certain order of procedure he was to follow in instances such as this. However, as his finger hovered over the dial pad, he realized that this was no ordinary report. He did not know who he could trust.
Morgan had fallen asleep on his bed. Her own room was adjoined to his, and her being there this late also was not within normal parameters. However, she still suffered night terrors from their stint over seas, and he knew that a familiar presence was what usually calmed her. She had few friends in the unit, most of her colleagues having been promoted to Sergeant and beyond years ago, so when he could he allowed these moments of hers. Besides, he did not have the heart to wake her. If nothing else, he would just sleep in her room that night.
With a sigh, he clutched the phone in one hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. He had known, going into the military, that he would face things he would never dream as a civilian. But this? This went beyond a pledge and a signed piece of paper. Still, it was his duty. Squaring his shoulders, he dialed the number to his Commanding Officer.
She answered on the second ring, distracted and for some reason still in office. "Colonel Jones."
"Ma'am, it's Sergeant Michaels."
"Sergeant," she said in that tone that he knew meant she was filling out paperwork. "Anything to report?"
Michaels filled his lungs. Then, in as steady a voice as he could muster, filled his Commanding Officer in. He told her of the outdated technology they found. He described the mess the building was in. And then, at the last, and with careful wording, described what they wished they had never seen.
He could feel her pen hovering over a page as the silence laid thick between them. "And Morgan? What had she seen?"
There was an edge in her voice that made Michaels glad he had chosen his words carefully. "Nothing. She was in the next room. I told her there was nothing important in there."
"And she let it go?"
"Yes, Ma'am." Growing up, he had always felt an extra sense in him mingled with a protectiveness over his friends. For some reason, he felt it was important to call on it now and hide Morgan's involvement.
"You always did have a way with that girl," Colonel Jones remarked. Her voice shifted, and though there was an edge to it now, she was trying to affect an aura of normalcy.
Still he bristled. No one, even those who worked alongside her in those early days when she was still fresh and new, gave the Specialist any credit. "Ma'am."
"You requested her for this detail. May I ask why?"
He gritted his teeth. "I've worked with her in the past. She always works well with me. Ma'am."
"Very well, Michaels. You are not to tell her what you found in there. And you're to forget about it. I will deal with this."
Their connected terminated on her end as he suspected it would. He replaced the receiver on the cradle and looked down at Morgan. There was no indication of a nightmare on her face.
In another life, they could have been friends. They were, to a degree. More so. He'd trust her with his life. Still, there were some luxuries that their lives as military personnel just could not allow them.
Sighing again, he pulled the blanket higher over her and entered her own room. It was the inverse of his own, yet he had slept in so many different places that it did not phase him.
Still, as he laid on the stiff mattress, it took him longer than normal to fall asleep. His dreams were not pleasant.
The men had been trained well, their movements reeking of countless government dollars hard at work. They were a unit, a team, moving as one. Rogue, though mildly concerned, felt very little actual fear. After all, she had the one form of training that neither of these men had the advantage of utilizing.
She had been taught to fight by Logan.
They cornered her in an alley with no exits easily accessible.
As one, the small team lunged, wolves after a prey. What they had yet to realize was that Rogue was not defenseless, but in sheep's clothing herself.
There were two of them. It was likely they had trained together over the years until two became the fluidity of one. They were larger than her, knuckled cracking as fingers flexed. Still, she had faced far worse in the Danger Room simulations.
Squaring her shoulders, she stood with her back to the dead end and faced down her enemies as Logan had taught her. She observed and gathered all data she could. This one favored his left leg while the other listed to the right. Nothing escaped her notice.
As they moved in, she wondered if she had any residual powers to call on. Her last Danger Room session had been ages ago, and the last person she had absorbed had been Remy. His powers were gone from her. Still, she felt his cocksure attitude and drew on that strength.
"Two of you against little ol' me?" she asked. "I'm rightly touched."
Her taunt was met by a calm silence just before they attacked. She blocked their blows and deflected punches, returning them with force. Still, as they converged down on her, something tickled in the back of her brain.
The next time they ran a simulation in the Danger Room, she would be sure to include scenarios where the aggressors attacked at once.
A sharp knee impacted her side as a meaty fist connected with her jaw. As stars flooded her vision, she realized that perhaps she was not as prepared as she had believed.
Brief flash of Gambit's fight
There was a distance between them. Remy noted the obvious respect they had for his ability, but wondered if they realized that he was better suited for distance attacks.
Beefy stood a couple feet behind his comrades. Big Nose had a nasty grin that would put an inmate to shame, whereas Stick gazed at him with a stoic face. Despite being the smallest, Remy knew he would have to give this last man more space than the others. There was an aura about him that spoke of an underlying strength.
"Now, what can I do for you?" he asked, twirling his pipe idly in one hand. "Surely not directions. I'm a tourist."
"You know why we're here, Mr. LeBeau," Stick said. His voice was cold and even. "Though I doubt you'll agree to it, I give you this opportunity to surrender."
Remy shrugged. "Sorry, boys. Made a promise to m'self. I ain't goin' back."
Stick shrugged. On that cue, Big Nose and Beefy came at him. They were fast for humans, but to Remy's eye they were slow and lumbering.
The pipe was awkward in his hand. A little thicker than he was used to, slightly lighter and definitely more hollow. Still, it made a satisfying sound as it crunched against Beefy's arm. The big man grunted in pain, and though he had to have a fracture at the very least, kept his advance.
"Been eatin' your Wheeties, eh?" Remy said. He slid a fresh pack of cards from his pocket and flicked the plastic sheets at his foes. They stepped back, but when no explosion greeted them, they continued forward. Remy grinned as he charged his next couple. They weren't enough to kill or even seriously injure but they had bite.
Rogue's lungs burned with every breath. If she had no cracked ribs after this she would be surprised.
Her opponents were not unscathed. She fought hard, but they did not fight fair.
Her mind was enveloped in a thick haze. Her temples throbbed as blood screamed in her ears.
Still she kept on. She would fight until she won, or blacked out, or at the rate this was going, both.
Rogue sharply shook her head. This was no time for someone elses memories to come to the surface.
Sit down little girl before you get us both killed.
A swift kick to the gut sent her flying. She crashed into a dumpster and the metal screeched in protest.
"What do you want?" Rogue asked. She ignored the responses made by her attackers as the voice grew strength in her mind.
Fighting was like dancing. His partners would lead, and he would follow. Their attacks were met by his deflection. His advance was met by their retreat. It was a long waltz and adrenaline still coursed through his veins when his opponents staggered back in exhaustion.
"Doubt you'll agree, but what say you surrender," Remy said. Stick growled up at him, his cold eyes blazing. "Take that as a no."
It was not long before he was leaving the alley, his enemies trussed tight to the ladder of a fire escape.
Without glancing back, he slithered through alleys and scaled roof tops. There was a feel in the air to his left, and he sensed that would be where he would find Rogue.
"This could wait," Piotr said.
Kitty swallowed when she allowed herself to look away from the screen. "Not for long."
"It has been years already. A few more days will not hurt."
"That's just it," she snapped. "This has been going on for years and no one knows about it. If we just sit around and do nothing, then what good are we?"
"There was no suggestion of doing nothing," Piotr said. "Only a break. Then we will look at it a different way."
Finally Kitty nodded. Standing, she stretched out the kinks that had worked their way deep into her muscles. It was an odd pairing for this assignment, her and Piotr. She had expected him to bail early in the work but he had stayed by her. While his area of expertise generally did not involve computers, he would sometimes point out something that she overlooked. As an artist, he saw patterns and pictures where all she saw was data.
"I suppose I will allow us a moment to eat," she said with a grin. After what she read, the idea of anything resembling food made her nauseous. However, she knew that without, her reserves would deplete and she would be as useful as an uncharged laptop in a power outage.
She found some salad behind the ham. It was left over from the previous night. Though not exactly high cuisine, she figured her lack of appetite did not call for something that would normally taste good.
Piotr was quiet as they prepared their plates of food. She knew, even before he spoke, what he would say. "Have you given thought to Dr. McCoy's suggestion?"
"No," she snapped. Then she sighed. "I'll get through it."
"Then why bring it up?"
"Just because you can does not mean you have to."
For awhile, there was silence between them as they ate. Well, he ate. She mostly picked through her lettuce with her fork. "I just don't know what to do with it."
"Any of it. All of it." Kitty flung her fork down and leaned back in her chair, hands running through her hair. "I mean, how am I supposed to present this information? All of it? Some of it? A list of highlights, ranging from gross atrocities to only-sort-of-evil?"
He chewed. Then swallowed. Then only answered when he was certain she was done talking. "I think it all needs to be known. The way of presentation will show itself."
He was so infuriating. How could he be so calm? "Aren't you the one who wanted me to stop doing this?"
"I did not say that," he said. He shrugged as he looked at her. "You will do this and I will help."
She wanted to be mad at him but it was hard to argue with someone who refused to rise to the bait. So instead, she felt a warm glow. "I like this 'we' thing you seem to have going on here."
When he grinned, she was glad she did not swoon. "So do I."
The physical fight was over before Rogue could blink. Her assailants laid in a crumpled heap where they were thrown.
However, the battle in her mind was still raging.
Pathetic. Weak. The voice was not her own, the scathing tone colored with the cold bitterness of an angry Yankee dialect.
"You're not supposed to be here," Rogue muttered, thick tongued and slow.
Yet I am, little girl. And who's fault is that? Her voice was too loud, too angry, and the throbbing in Rogue's temple increased. You stole everything from me. You made my parents mourn for yet another child!
Images of a blonde boy, all smiles and good looks, fluttered with the bitter taste of remorse. Brief snippets of a life not hers pinged the synapses of her mind. Normally the woman was a silent predator, waiting for that one moment of weakness to strike. She had found her opportunity, and now Carol Danvers wanted to reclaim what was hers. Except Rogue had no idea how to return it.
I was a soldier. I fought wars long before you giggled incessantly over boys and experimented with horrendous shades of lipstick. The trouble with having someone inside her head was that Rogue was not the only one with access to memories. All you did was let yourself be taken and took the coward's way out.
"I did it so this wouldn't happen!" No matter how tight she squeezed her eyes shut, or how hard she clamped her hands over her ears, nothing could block the mental tirade.
And you failed. You panicked when it came back, and because of that, look what happened.
A raw scream tore through her throat at the barrage Carol sent through her. Needing an outlet, a way to torture something – anything – along with her, fists pounded hard into the cracked concrete beneath her. Chips and sediment flew unnoticed around the young girl as the throbbing in her temple increased.
"Get out! Why now? Why here? What do you want?"
I want my life back!
"So do I!"
A battle of two minds, neither willing to give up control, ensued in the dimly lit alley way. Rogue would have preferred the bliss of unconsciousness, Carol the freedom to stretch her limbs. Neither would budge.
Rogue threw herself against the brick wall. She felt it crack beneath her strength, something that was not her own but stolen in a moment of fear. She felt nothing as she lunged toward the other wall.
The pounding of heavy boots against solid ground barely registered in the minds of both women. "Chére? That you?"
The unexpected presence dropped her to her knees. Her arms could not tightly around herself to contain what was struggling free, and she snapped at Carol's lurid description of just what she could do to this pathetically underpowered mutant. Lips curled over her teeth as she tried to mentally shove Gambit away. "You leave him alone."
The snarl in her voice, laced with hate and venom, faltered the Cajun born man in his steps. He continued forward, though, with just enough caution that Carol barely regarded him as stupid. "Been lookin' for you." He looked at the still unconscious men. At least, Rogue hoped that's all they were.
"Remy. Go away. Now." Against her will, she had become to feel safe around him. Comfortable. With a bitter woman throwing herself through Rogue's synapses, that was a feeling she could not afford. "I'll catch up with you, just leave."
"Unwanted squatter on the premises?" He was far too close, far too complacent in the knowledge that she would not hurt him.
Rogue would not if she could help it. Carol, however, was another matter entirely. Faster than Rogue believe she was capable of, Carol snapped her hand forward.
Remy was faster. With a tilt of his body, he shifted to one side and caught the flying fist in a grip, using her momentum against her. Body twisting, her wrist was behind her back in a hold that would have been painful had Carol's powers not been in use.
Carol laughed with a mix of mirth and spite. "You think this can stop me? Look around you, silly boy. You can't stop me with your fancy little card tricks."
"This body ain't yours, p'tite. Maybe you should just give it back, yeah?" His two fingers covered in soft leather stroked faintly along her jugular.
"She stole me! The same is going to happen to you. Or did you think your pretty little ass would become immune? I have news for you, Sugar. You stay around too long, you'll end up just like me."
His grip loosened, and that tiny movement hurt Rogue for reasons she would not look into. Then he was looking her in the eye, and Rogue knew he was not searching for Carol, but for her.
"Désolé." It was the only warning he gave her, and she did not even know it was that until his next move. She expected it to be an agreement with Carol's words, as though knowing that she would one day do to him what she had done to the woman fighting for control.
I wouldn't, she wanted to say, to offer him the reassurance that he was safe from her. Even if she had control, she would be unable to get those words out, because though she wanted to believe them she knew that one day she may slip.
Then his lips were on hers, harsh and hungry. It paled the other experiences she had which were always timid and unsure. It was not Carol who responded as the new persona washed through her in wisps of black and red. They pushed at the northerner, wrapping around her as they tried to pull her back and away to where she had been before.
Then she was shoved away, and the last thing she saw before blackness engulfed her was a glowing ace of spades. The shock of both the passionate contact and the violent explosion sent Carol reeling back far into Rogue's subconscious.
I found this on my hard drive earlier today. Some bits were written already and most was laid out in a very coarse outline, but I had to write most of it. If any of it is inconsistent style wise, that's why.
Also, speaking of Farscape, my fiance is suggesting I do an X-Men/Farscape crossover. Oh dear!
And speaking of. I will hopefully be continuing this. I've finished with school for the most part and need a distraction. My fiance lives in Australia, and I...do not.