I slammed the skillet on one of the stove's burners, dropped a pat of butter into it, and turned the dial to light the fire underneath it. I drummed my fingers angrily as I glared at the butter like it was the cause of everything going weird in my life.
So what if Scott thought I wasn't doing what I needed to do to be able to deal with what happened to me? So what!
I had my own ways of handling things. I didn't chase the Redeemers down (yet). I didn't try to blow something up (on purpose). I didn't try to break into the Brig. I didn't do anything classically stupid or anything! What did I do? I cooked for almost three days straight.
While things were frying, baking, broiling, or whatever I was doing to them, I scrubbed down the dishes to keep the work area clean. There had been a lot of confusion when goulash and pizza ended up on the breakfast menu, but no one really complained.
One of the younger guys tried to be cute and make some offhand remark about how a girl's place was in the kitchen. When I turned around, butcher knife securely in my hand and an annoyed, angry glimmer in my eye, he vanished like a mirage.
The butter popped and sizzled in the skillet finally. I reached over to the package of pork chops, ripped off the thin plastic, and dropped them in one by one.
On top of nearly emptying the freezers, cabinets, and pantries, I had a lovely new tick above my eye. The stupid muscle seemed to twitch every time I thought about Scott or his accusations. Growling, I grabbed a knife and a cutting board, slammed them down on the counter, whirled around to fetch the carrots, found them, and stomped back to the cutting board.
How dare he say I wasn't handling things just because I wasn't acting like I was on Oprah or Dr. Phil and spilling my guts about stuff! Come on, who really wanted to be that uncomfortable? Even if I did tell someone, I sure as hell didn't want their pity.
I started to chop (massacre) the carrots, all the while feeling the rhythmic twitch above my eyebrow.
Dr. Hank popped into the kitchenette every now and then to check the cabinets for coffee. After the third fruitless search, he sighed and decided to go for the tea instead. As he left, I let a wicked smile cross my lips.
I wasn't so stupid to know that all four of the X-Club members practically ran on coffee, and though I felt bad for the other three, I knew Nemesis was suffering from the lack of the hot caffeine.
"Do you think we should go grocery shopping?" I made a quick glance behind me and saw it was Mr. Piotr asking Mr. Kurt. They were standing on the other side of the bar (ya know, the safe side) by the pile of freshly made doughnuts and crab cakes.
"I don't know; wouldn't that be enabling an addiction?" Mr. Kurt replied with humor in his voice.
"Who cares," Anole piped up from the couch, "as long as she keeps making stuff."
"Mmphr mmhmm," another person agreed. Thumping down the cutting board and knife, I wiped my hands on the apron I had tied around my waist and jerked toward the refrigerator.
I muttered darkly under my breath about stupid men and their thinking patterns.
"Hey, Drake, whatdya do to tick her off?" Mr. Logan questioned as I heard him pass by the bar counter. He was probably going for another eggroll, beer, or both.
I peeked around the door and saw Bobby standing in one of the doorways, eyes wide and hands up in surrender.
"I didn't do—wait, why do you think I'm to blame?"
There was a snort as I fished out the last gallon of milk.
"Any woman this hacked off has to be because of a man. Since you're the boyfriend, it makes you suspect number one."
"Oh ha-ha," Bobby replied sarcastically. "I didn't do anything."
"Then what didn't you do?" Mr. Kurt teased.
From the sputtering denial that followed, I could only assume Bobby probably wasn't so sure about his innocence on that question. He hadn't done anything, but the other guys seemed to be having fun poking at him.
The entire conversation stopped cold when I banged the lid down on to its blameless pot. I could almost feel the eyes on me, waiting for an explosion or explanation. I just picked up some of the used dishes, dumped them into the sink, and started to run hot water.
I wasn't going to open my mouth about the Scott thing. The Scott thing would lead to the other thing. The other thing was mine to deal with and no one else's.
I snatched the scrubby and put extra force into scouring a skillet.
"I—have to go—work on the chapel, ja!"
"I think—I need to go see—David," Anole declared and scampered off. The others didn't try to make any lame excuses, only backed out of the room slowly as to not to draw the attention of the ravenous harpy (or me in this case).
Bobby jumped backward onto the counter to sit, grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl, and rubbed it against his shirt idly.
"So, what's going on? Training to be the next Rachel Ray?"
I glanced over at him with an eyebrow raised.
He poked the pile of fried chicken with a finger and smirked as he said, "Or are you trying to cause everyone to have coronaries?"
I turned, a wet, soapy knife in my hand, eyed him coldly, and with the most level voice I could make said, "Now that you are aware of my plans, I'm going to have to kill you."
I stiffly stepped toward him.
"I'm sure you will make a decent pot roast, but I'll have to butcher you before I know for certain."
He rolled his eyes, studied the apple again, and dismissed my 'threat' with his free hand.
"Please, I might have been scared, but I know you enough to know that you wouldn't butcher me."
"Yup, because," he tilted his head to the side to look at me, a smirk on his lips and his eyes and voice full of challenge, "in order to butcher me, you'd have to strip me and look at me naked. Something you can't do." He winked as he added, "Yet."
I felt my face heat up as a very, ahem, interesting image was created in my brain. Twisting back to the sink, I muttered, "Fine, I'll just throw you on the grill or roast you on a spit."
"Did you just come here to tease me?" I finally asked after a few long minutes of silence and the uncomfortable weight of his stare on me as I tried to finish my tasks.
"No, no," he insisted, "I was just going to ask about some things I read."
I gave him a sidelong glance as he looked at his reflection in the apple's now shined red skin.
I flipped the pork chops over, checked on the quiche, and then tipped my head to the side, studying him. He ignored my questioning stare and bit into the apple.
Bobby nodded, swallowed, and then lazily glanced over at me. "Yup."
"Well, you see, this interesting phenomenon happened." He reached into a pocket of his coat and pulled out his phone.
I felt the blood drain from my face.
"When I was answering some of my text messages, I came across some I certainly didn't send." When he glanced up at me, pale and ready to dissolve into a pile of ash, there was a glitter of playfulness in his eyes that kept me rooted to the spot. "And amazingly it is the same day I found you on my bathroom floor. Isn't that interesting?"
Sucking in a breath, my mind dove into the oven with the quiche to disavow any and all knowledge of what I had done. Swallowing, I gave a half-shrug.
"Weird," I replied and felt that muscle above my eye spasm at the high pitch in my voice.
"Listen to this one; This is K, need help, stuck in closet and can't get out, then Chris, that's who all these texts are to is Chris, replies, I never thought you were in the closet, I can help change that." He turned his head to me, and I could tell he was desperately trying to keep a smile from curling the ends of his mouth.
"Interesting," I remarked with anxiety clearly heard in my voice. I eyed the pork chops and then the knife on the cutting board a few inches away from the stove. Briefly, I wondered if I chopped out my tongue and put it in the skillet if it would save me from this embarrassing conversation.
"Then he, the mysterious texter, writes to call me, as in me, Bobby, not me, the mysterious text writer, and get me out of the room so that they can leave." Bobby blinked at me innocently, as if waiting for me to crumple and confess I was the closet cell phone user.
That probably would have been the easiest, wisest thing to do and yet I was not known for being wise or easy.
Wait, that's not what I meant! I mean I wasn't easy, but when it came to doing things the easy way, I usually bypassed that road to make it harder than it had to be.
"Ghosts, it must be ghosts," I said confidently, clearing my throat from the amount of junk that built up in it from the blatant lying I was doing. Okay, so it wasn't lying— more like side-stepping. Pivoting on my heel so my back faced him, my face contorted into a perfect expression of, 'oh snap, I'm caught'.
"Mm," he replied.
Mentally going over what I needed to finish in the kitchen, I winced. Due to the things I had picked out to make and their cooking or prepping time, I was chained to the kitchenette for the next twenty minutes at least.
"A ghost, huh? Well, that would explain why I just had my head chewed on by Scott because of my account being accessed while I was doing a session in the Danger Room."
Did the floor just drop out from under me? No? Well, darn!
Given the short list of options I could think of, I had the chance to either a, come clean or b, run.
With one quick glance over my shoulder, the cocked eyebrow and smirk on Bobby's face made the decision for me. I decided that the food could burn.
I did my best to sprint to the nearest exit, but super speed wasn't something I had and he must have been prepared for a rash escape attempt. He easily caught me; his arms wrapped around my waist and pressed my back as close as possible to his chest. I squeaked and desperately wanted to claw at him, but shredding Bobby's arms wasn't going to get me out of trouble.
"Now don't get me wrong," Bobby teased in a deep voice, close to my ear. "I don't mind you coming into my room, in fact, I would encourage it. However, to breech of protocol under my name is somewhat annoying; especially when Scott finds out and goes into a stiff lecture about how I am too lax with security and whatever else he was spouting."
Seems I wasn't the only one who tuned Scott out.
"And the fact that you had to ask Chris to save you from my oh-so-evil lair—," he trailed off and muttered something under his breath I couldn't quite understand.
"I'm sorry, okay?" I squirmed, trying my best to wiggle my way to freedom.
"Oh? Why would you be sorry for something a poltergeist did?" he teased and I growled/groaned. He was going to be bratty about this.
Biting the inside of my cheek, I decided the best way to get free was to annoy him by silence. Bobby often needed someone else's words to feed his own jokes and kidding nature. If I wasn't talking, he'd get bored or frustrated and let me go.
Somehow, that wasn't what happened.
He never gave an inch on his hold as he maneuvered us so that he was leaning against the counter across from the stove.
The pork chops were sizzling happily. I glowered at them. The snaps and crackles of them frying in the fat sounded like snickers and chuckles to me. Weird, yes, thank you. I left the oven light on so I wouldn't have to constantly disturb the temperature the quiche were baking in and from the looks of it, they weren't ready.
"So," Bobby started, hugging me closer, one arm moving from my waist to around my shoulders so I was flush against his chest, "do you want to tell me exactly why you were in my closet, on my computer, and needing him to rescue you?"
I huffed, jerking my head to the side as if the action would make him disappear. It didn't.
"I can stand here all afternoon," Bobby explained in a bored manner. "Can you keep still that long?"
I paled. I knew I couldn't. The food would burn, my mind would go down some twisted thought paths, and eventually I was going to feel the full bladder drinking several cans of pop would bring.
"Bobeeee," I whined, wriggling around, "this isn't fair."
"Would you like me to text Chris and ask him to spring you from my evil clutches?" Even if he was teasing, there was an obvious edge to his words.
I turned over the situation in my head and sifted through the emotions of panic and humiliation of the previous closet escapade and realized that there was just one thing with which Bobby was having a true issue.
"You're mad about me contacting Chris?" I questioned hesitantly. He snorted in reply. "You are, aren't you?"
I have to say that I was nearly light-headed with giddy reprieve over my sneakier crimes.
"I didn't say that," he grumbled.
Oh, but he did, just not in so many words.
Feeling rather catty, I craned my neck to stare at him the best I could before, with a grin, I poked at his ego a bit more.
"Are you actually jealous?"
I was surprised (and giggling like a school girl on the inside) when I heard Bobby's imitation of a growl. After hearing Wolverine's deep, deadly sounding growls, Bobby's came off more like a purr of a newborn kitten.
"Why would I ever be jealous that my girlfriend is relying on another guy to…"
He could have started singing Christmas carols at that moment and I wouldn't have known. My inner pre-teen started a pillow fight with my heart and both were all grins and screeches of happiness as his words rolled around my head like some hypnotic theme song.
Girlfriend! He actually said that I was his girlfriend.
I twisted around (thank you strength), bounced on to my toes, and kissed him so fast that I caught him in mid-syllable, and for once it was him who was too stunned to respond.
The pork chops only burned a little, but the subject of Chris was completely forgotten—for that day at least.
I had just left the shower, dressed in my uniform (don't ask me why I felt the need to shower before I was to get all sweaty, I just did) and was roughing my hair up with the towel in an attempt to dry it.
Throwing the towel into the hamper, I was on auto-pilot as I made my way to the Danger Room. No one was around, which was strange, but then I just shrugged it off. Either they were invading the local city, on a mission, or someone screwed with my alarm clock and I was running really late.
I frowned at that thought. Sure, I pulled my fair share of petty pranks (it kept one sane and healthy because you had to sometimes break into a full run when you were discovered as the prankster), but resetting the clocks? Not very original.
It wasn't until I was standing outside the Danger Room, ready to punch in my security clearance code that I took myself off of auto-pilot. There was a note tapped over the control pad which read: Do what you have to.
My eyebrows soared up my forehead as I scrutinized the note and then the door. What the heck was I walking into? An image of chickens and clowns dancing around the Danger Room lit up in my mind. I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity and punched in my security code.
The doors hissed opened, allowing me to step through, and then slid shut. My eyes took a second to react to the dim light, and just to be safe, I went black. It was dark like a football field being lit by a single candle on a moonless night and my black form's eyesight in low light was much better.
I walked in a bit further, anticipation had my senses stretched out as far as they possibly could and my muscles tense and ready to fight. Glancing up at the control nest, I found it empty.
Ooookay, I thought to myself, studying the room over again, this is just weird.
I about jumped up the wall when the décor of the room changed drastically. It went from a big, metal room with next to no lighting to a very familiar metal hallway, spotted with several doors, and lit with flickering halogen lights.
"What is this?" I hissed out, ignoring the protest my eyes sent to my brain in the way of a throb. Was this all some kind of sick joke? Whoever was controlling the room set it to the halls of the Redeemers' base in which I had been held.
Growling softly, I flexed my fingers and forced myself to go further down the hall. I was already planning some rather nasty little get-you-backs in my mind when a strange sound caught my attention. Heading toward the noise, I froze as I stood just outside the doorway.
It was the holding chamber.
My heart hammered in my chest, panic shot like lightening through my veins, as my breaths became too quick and shallow. Even as my throat constricted, my eyes grew to take in the sight before me.
The cages were all there but empty, except one.
In my cage, the one I spent the better part of a year losing my humanity in was a Redeemer. He was sitting calmly in the middle of the cage floor with his legs folded under him, dressed in the 'holy' robes of their sect, and his hands folded in prayer.
I wanted to turn and run.
I wanted to rip the cage door open.
I didn't want anything to do with him.
I wanted to drag out, rake my nails across his face, and gut him with my teeth.
Shaking my head, trying to knock the megaphone from the nasty's voice hand in my mind, I found the strength to blink.
The man—the redeemer, a so-called priest, hadn't seen me. I worked to swallow the heavy lump in my tightened throat as I had to realign and center or I was going to pass out from the shallow breaths I was currently panting. I did not want to be weak or vulnerable in the same country as this—this thing in the cage.
I could either continue to freak out or I could—
"Do what you have to."
Was this what the note meant? Was this a test? If it was, then what did they want me to do? Take this guy's hands in mine, look deep into his beady eyes, and tell him I forgive him?
Yeah, no, that wasn't going to happen until senility set in.
His voice and that endearment set my suddenly itching, pinching teeth on edge. My eyes tapered into thin slits and I felt like I was pushed into the back seat of my body.
No, not like a telepath, I knew it wasn't. It was blind, untamed rage.
What was happening flashed through my head like someone set a strobe light in the room. Pictures of my hands, his face, and blood flittered through my mind.
He was on the floor, pinned there by my having straddled him. My fist was pulled back, left hand curled tightly into his robes, keeping him in place and holding him partially off the floor—it was then that I came back to the present.
I blinked, confused, and then snarled. My throat was sore and my ears were ringing from something I couldn't quite remember. Assessing that he wasn't going to go Chuck Norris all of a sudden on me, I darted my eyes around the area. The hologram of the Redeemers base was gone, leaving the bare walls of the Danger Room in its place. Smatterings and small puddles of blood were—everywhere, on wall nearest to us, all over the floor, and even me.
My stomach turned violently when I saw where he had attempted to find purchase in the floor to pull against me if small bloody trails and large streak meant anything.
When I focused on the bruised, bleeding and swelling face of the man under me, I knew it wasn't my blood that coated this place. My memories of only a few moments ago rampaged through my mind like a bull elephant.
I felt lightheaded and I wasn't even sure the guy was still alive until he moaned.
Hate swelled in me again, but I refused to let it override my senses this time. As he weakly turned his head and opened his eyes to me, I realized what had stopped me.
With a quick hit landed to the side of his head, his body went lax a breath before I released my grip. He dropped to the floor, heaving in breaths but alive.
My muscles were still humming with power and my heart was thundering with raw emotion.
I was furiously throwing my fists into the barks of different trees. Going through moves Wolverine taught me and trying to take out my tapped-into rage on the helpless wood. My teeth were locked together as I felt every fiber of my body hum with adrenaline. My mind kept spitting and roaring about what happened earlier.
I didn't understand and that just hacked me off. Well, hacked me off more.
In the Danger Room I noticed that I couldn't shake the pain, fear, and anger.
The hurt, I hurt him, and yet I still felt it. It was still in me, burning and burrowing deeper into my core. I thought if I ever got my hands on one of them, tore into them, and let them experience hell at my hands like I had at theirs, things would equal out. It didn't.
Even though I was scared into a fight-or-flight mindset that ended with me flying toward the guy and fighting him (though he didn't even try to defend himself), he wasn't afraid of me. Even when I watched as one of their trapped mutants tore one of their 'priests' apart. They praised their perverted version of a god and served the bits of flesh as a sacrificial meal and lapped up the blood. No, they would never know fear like I had.
And the anger? Ha! They had no reason to be angry. They were doing what they wanted to and understood why they were doing it.
A deep-chested growl vibrated the air as I pivoted and slammed my foot into the tree, splintering it clear through. It cracked and without much ceremony, smashed into its forest friends before crashing into the ground.
The guy, even though it was a hologram—because he disappeared before I left the room—, didn't feel anything like they made me feel. He didn't know what nightmares his crazy cult caused me and others.
I couldn't make him pay for what he did. I just made him bleed as the fury in me swelled up like a tsunami. Scowling, I slammed my fist into the tree, watching as the grey-brown bark flew in every direction and the softer pale yellow layer cracked and groaned under my strength.
"So you just gonna let them keep beatin' you?" He questioned in an almost disgusted voice.
Slowly pivoting on my heel, fists at my side, and my eyes flaring with rage, I hissed, "I'm not letting them do anything!"
"What's happened, happened. Nothin' you can do to change that." He was up in my face as he lectured me in gruff, stern voice. "You've been tryin' to pretend it didn't happen or some crap like that. I've seen you get pissed off and then ignore that, too. It is not going to go away."
My eyebrow ticked, I had been going into anger overdrive for a few days. It was amazing that I still had enough common sense to know attacking those who were exasperating me even more were not the ones to attack. I wanted to release frustration, not end up in a body cast.
"How?" I snapped. "Say whatever you want, but can you tell me how?"
"Learn to deal with it."
I jerked my face away, staring off to the side. "Yeah, I'm sure they have some self-help book for people like me, 'How to cope after being on a Cannibal's Menu'."
Mr. Logan muttered something about me being a 'stubborn female' and a Summers before he lapsed into silence.
My temper was still burning brightly, but having someone next to me who wouldn't take my crap and had the skills to shove any junk back down my throat helped it ebb quite a bit.
"You weren't born with your powers goin' full force, it just happened one day. It ain't something that is goin' to go away if you ignore it. You might be able to hide it, but it'll always be there. You had to learn to accept that it was part of you. Once you did that, you adjusted to life with your powers. This isn't any different. Accept it happened; it's a part of you. Learn to control that part of you. This ain't any different, kid."
It had been a few days since my 'meeting' with Wolverine. His words kept playing around in my mind, blending in with what Dad had said in his office.
Deal with it.
You won't talk about it…
There was no way I was going to let my skeletons come dancing out for just anyone. Dad had enough on his plate (and I was still upset with him). Emma—yeah, okay, next. All those who were new to me were out of the question because I just didn't know them and they didn't know the old me. That left a handful; even though I shared a house with a lot of the senior members back in Westchester, it didn't mean we were close.
The clear and logical answer was Bobby.
I had been fighting with myself ever since my mind came up with his name. Every time I would open my mouth to say something to him, something beyond the now and the casual, I felt tears sting my eyes. Maybe it was stupid, but that's why I was in his room.
He was taking a shower and unaware of my invasion.
Yes, he had finally labeled us as a couple by calling me his girlfriend, and I didn't want to lose it. The only thing I could be certain of was that he didn't push me away after I told him I wanted him in my life. Would he want someone as messed up as me if—after I told him?
Taking a deep breath, I fisted my hands into his sheets.
I was so anxious, I felt like a virgin who was waiting for her first time.
Okay, so I was a virgin, but it was the only thing I could equate my nerves to being like at that moment.
When the shower shut off, I had to restrain myself from bolting out the door. I bit my lip and remained still.
As the door knob turned on the bathroom door, a slightly unnerving thought dive-bombed into my mind: if he thought no one was in his room—what if he came out—naked?
My face grew unbelievably hot as I jerked my head to other side of the room and clenched my eyes shut.
"Kerry?" Bobby didn't sound mad, only surprised.
My imagination was very colorful as I remembered he often wore the male equivalent to Emma's outfits as his uniform. He was, after all, highly attractive to me. Okay, so he was hot, but that didn't mean I wanted a free peep show.
Swallowing, I croaked out, "A-are you dressed?"
He chuckled softly and said he was.
Shyly, I turned my eyes toward him. He was indeed dressed—enough.
My mouth suddenly became very dry as I took in the sight of him in nothing but dark jeans and a towel. The muscles in his arms flexed under the innocent gesture of running the towel over his hair, and an easy smile made my mind want to forgo the entire conversation I had been planning.
I watched, transfixed, as a droplet of water slowly, teasingly, made its way from the side of his face, tracing the curve of his jaw, and skimmed silently to the hollow of his neck where I thought it was going to stay. It did for a heartbeat, until it decided to venture over his muscled chest down his breastbone, languidly exploring his defined stomach before disappearing in his unbuttoned, partly unzipped jeans.
The jeans were high enough to cover everything that could make me blush, but low enough to know that, well, jeans were all he had on.
Before I could stop it, my tongue darted out of my mouth and licked my suddenly dry lips.
That little action made his eyebrow raise in question, amusement clearly shinning in his eyes.
If I hadn't been sitting, I probably would have been too weak-kneed to stay standing when I was done checking him out.
He put the towel around his neck and slightly tilted his head back before giving me a rather smug smile.
Busted, was what Bobby's body language was screaming at me.
He knew I had been giving him a very appreciative once over like a salivating fan-girl. I opened my mouth but snapped it shut as I found my bare feet suddenly the most interesting thing in the room.
Honestly, where did a man who could turn himself into ice get the nerve to look so hot?
It took a few seconds and another soft laugh before he walked over to the bed and sat next to me. He was so close that when he did sit, the dip in the bed shifted me until I was leaning against his very naked side. Briefly I wondered why I hadn't worn my normal sweatshirt and jeans. No, I had to wear my baggy work out shorts and a simple t-shirt.
The bad, wicked problem was that I wasn't sure if I wanted to be more clothed or less.
My cheeks flared with heat again as that idea brushed my imagination.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, and then faced him. When I opened them, our eyes met and in the next breath, I burst into tears.
It was a long, long night.