I haven't updated this in a while (since freshman year, I now be a junior, good God!), and this chapter might be a little awkward as I get back into it.

The events of the day had calmed my nerves as my thoughts turned to school, as I knew they would. I'd been out for two and a half (going on three) weeks now, and people would be wondering, at least, and maybe still talking, though I hoped sincerely that it had blown over by now. I found Kitty in the bathroom with Rahne, Jubilee, and Jean. Rogue was being held down by Rahne, having her makeup applied by Jean, hair done by Kitty, and Jubilee pondering her outfit.

"Ah, man, girls, you really meant it vhen you said makeover!" I said, smiling at my half-sister as I came around in front of her.

"Kurt, please, get me outta here," Rogue said, earning a glare from Jean as she messed up the lip liner.

"I'm very sorry, Rogue, but . . . you're asking ze wrong person to spring you. Maybe Logan, but he vouldn't touch you viz a zirty nine and a half foot pole at zis point." I said apologetically, but the smile on my face betrayed the fact that I was thoroughly enjoying this cruel and unusual form of torture.

"Brothas are s'posed ta hate this sorta stuff." Rogue muttered.

"But gay brozzers are supposed to love zis sort of stuff. And I subscribe to zat philosophy, to a degree." I amended. "Keety, vhat can I do to help?"

"Hm?" Kitty looked up from Rogue's hair. "Oh . . . you can help Jubie with the outfit."

"Vonderful." I turned to Jubilee.

"I was thinking we could do a pink thing," she started, "and I have the most wonderful pink Oxford shirt, but I think it's too small for her."

"Zen who's Rogue's size? Ve could borrow from zeir closet." I suggested. Jubilee nodded.

"Rogue, honey, what's your size?" she asked sweetly, leaning around me and Jean. If looks could kill, Jubilee would've been six feet under.

"She's about my size, I think." Jean answered, picking out a good shade of lip stick for my half-sister. Jubilee thanked Jean and we 'ported down to Jean's room and started rifling through her wardrobe. Ten minutes later, we ended up with a baby-blue fitted Oxford-style shirt with a light purple camisole underneath, and a lacy white mid-thigh skirt complemented by white ballet shoes (but only God would've known Jean had that stuff, it was so deeply hidden in her closet).

We returned to the bathroom to find Rogue looking oddly un-Gothic, though she had her Death Stare on, fit to commit massacre. Kitty had left her hair down and curled it lightly, and I left so the girls could unceremoniously shove her into the clothes. When she emerged with her very happy entourage, I wouldn't have thought I was looking at Rogue if not for the stripe in her hair. My eyes widened reflexively.

"It's that bad, huh? They wouldn' let me look in a mirra." Rogue said sullenly. I shook my head fervently.

"No, no, it's not zat! You look so . . . human." The girls laughed, and even Rogue cracked a smile. "Logan's going to adore your new style."

"What is it with you an' the Logan jokes on me?" Rogue asked as we frog-marched her forcibly downstairs to the kitchen.

"I svear, zat man zinks he's your and Keety's fazzer." I said in a stereotypically flamboyant way. Kitty looked genuinely surprised, as did Rogue. "Vot? You didn't know? Gosh." Now I was surprised. I'd thought it was totally obvious, the way Logan went easier on the two than anyone else, how he gave them more favors, and didn't yell at them as much.

"Learn something new every day," Jubilee said sagely. Finally, we reached the kitchen and found it abandoned. Where was Logan? Suddenly, a sharp noise caught my hearing, though none of the girls noticed.

"He's back. He voz out on his bike." I stated, pulling Rogue's arm as I started towards the door. Logan entered the mansion with the Polaroid visor of his helmet (completely superfluous, but he still wore it—what a good role model) shading his face, so we couldn't see his expression, but by the way he stopped dead and stood stock-still, it was a look of shell-shocked surprise on his face.

"Five bucks says he asks if it's Rogue." Kitty whispered in my ear. I nodded, but from my other side, Rahne commented,

"No, five on Logan getting concerned that Rogue was dying." I frowned slightly, but nodded. Logan unfroze and took his helmet off, squinting at Rogue even though his vision was perfect.

"Rogue . . . Stripes . . . is that—what the hell happened to you?" he asked. Kitty sighed softly and handed five ones to Rahne. Rogue stood still, eyes following Logan as he walked around her, frowning at her, look becoming one more of horror. "Are you okay? Sick or s'mmat?"

Kitty handed another five to Rahne. I didn't get their style of betting, but it seemed to be working for Rahne, though Kitty didn't look to pleased to be ten dollars down.

"No . . . they attacked me." Rogue glared accusingly at all of us. Logan turned to us, face expressionless.

"Good job, y'all." And he walked away, leaving everyone staring open-mouthed at his retreating form. Then we started laughing, though I could tell Rogue wasn't amused.

"Y'know, what if ah had a date or s'm'thin' t'night, and y'all killed me like this? Y'd ruin mah life!" Rogue said angrily, trying to muster Gothic dignity, but failing, making us laugh harder. Part of me held sympathy for my half-sister's plight, but the majority of me was too busy enjoying it to act on the sympathy. She grumbled something under her breath, turned, and stomped away, though it wasn't as impressive as when she stomped wearing her combat boots (those shook the floor—the ballet shoes made soft little mph mph mph noises as she smashed the stairs. Her feet would hurt later, I could tell).

"Actually . . ." Kitty started, recovering first, "that wouldn't be a bad idea . . . feminize her before a date . . . ?"

"Quick, somevone go find her diary!" I interjected, giggling. Just then, Scott appeared from upstairs, his timing impeccable as usual.

"O-okay . . ." he muttered, eyes wide behind his shades as he observed us, Jean especially, with tears rolling down her cheeks, shoulders shaking. He almost ran back upstairs and I sobered up, brushing my fingers along the cast on my arm and fighting my train of thought as it started to steer down the "school" path, but the Mental Express was a juggernaut, and I was a bug to stop it, unless I distracted myself.

I 'ported up to my room and plopped down in the middle of the room, sitting there and looking vaguely around like a toddler. My room was pretty light, and big, and had a chandelier, French doors out onto a balcony, a wardrobe, a bed, and a dresser. Otherwise barren, and a lovely shade of cat-puke orange. I tilted my head to one side, regarding the room for a second before crawling over to the wardrobe on impulse. I only had a few outfits, so it wasn't hard to pick out a nice look for Monday.

Monday. Enter the school track of the Express, part two. Isn't there a theory that states everything always returns to one subject? Something about Hitler? School was my Hitler, and a harsh master. It governed my time, thoughts, and future ruthlessly, and there was nothing I could do about it, short of dropping completely out of the eyes of society.

I was so tired of feeling like I was trapped—so tired. I needed some form of escape, but I knew none. Well, that was a lie. I did know one, but it was unhealthy, detrimental: Pietro. I really liked him. I loved being around him and missed him when he was gone, though I'd never tell him that. He'd sooner beat me six ways 'till Sunday than have any sort of affectionate contact with me again. The kiss had been an accident, but I would be pushing it to hope for another hair-ruffle.

Discontented, I spent the rest of the day in the rec. room, playing Bioshock 2 with Evan.

XXX

When my alarm went off, I sat bolt upright in bed. I'd been awake for over an hour. I'd sat up all night, tossing and turning restlessly because of a wiggling doubt uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe I'd managed three or four hours of sleep, if I was lucky, but I figured I would crash before lunch. Evan noticed at breakfast.

"Dude, you okay?" he asked. I had figured I looked decent in the mirror this morning, but apparently not. Reactively, I reached up to smooth my hair. "No, not your hair. You're acting weird."

"Oh, yeah," I muttered, "I'm a leetle preoccupied . . ."

"With what?"

"Stuff. Ze normal teenage angst routine. You know," I shrugged, hoping he'd get my drift and drop it. No such chance.

"No, I don't know. 'Sup?"

"I don't vont to go back and see Duncan again. I'm afraid he'll do somezing to me again." I kept quiet about Pietro.

"The admin gave him a real beating. They had this big anti-fighting assembly the day after. Nobody's gonna mess with you. 'Specially after what you did to Duncan. Yeah, he messed you up bad, but you definitely gave him some souvenirs to think about." Evan chuckled.

I sighed and pushed away from the table, leaving the room before Evan could say anything more. That was just what I wanted, to be feared or looked at oddly—well, even more oddly than already. I couldn't lose sight of my confidence, though, so I didn't allow fear into my mind. That's how I found myself sitting in the front seat of Scott's car, Jean relegated to the backseat with "the commoners." I was a war hero to my teammates, and that wasn't really what I wanted, but it was better than "scary mutie freak."

Kitty walked with me through the halls, and we had fifteen minutes before the bell for first period would ring, so we paced through the halls. I was worried about seeing Duncan, so my head was constantly swiveling until Kitty grabbed my earlobe, pulling my head down to hiss in my ear,

"You really need to calm down, elf. Duncan won't do anything to you, there's too many witnesses."

I was about to reply that that fact didn't stop him last time, but I wasn't able to. Kitty let go of my ear suddenly and I stood straight to see Duncan in front of me. He had the remnants of a black eye, a butterfly bandage across his nose, and a wrist in a brace. I did that? Dear Lord.

"Excuse me," I said, looking down at the floor and attempting to move around him. He blocked me.

"We've got some unfinished business, fag." He sneered down at me.

"You really vont me to break your nose again? Because I vill. Maybe I'll make it crooked this time, so zat'll give your girlfriend somezing to gawk at. Add character to your ugly face." I bit out, lips twitching into a snarl, revealing my fangs. He seemed taken aback at my canines but continued.

"I wouldn't be so cocky if I were you. Oh, wait, I forgot—you're a cock lover. Silly me," Duncan put on a falsetto voice and curtseyed like a girl, giving me an evil glare.

"For such a big man, you seem awfully zreatened by ze fact zat I'm not like you. Are you afraid of me?" I asked slyly, baring my fangs again and lashing my tail hard enough so that it made a sharp swishing noise.

"Why the hell would I be afraid of you? I don't care about you, a gay mutie freak. Fuck off, faggot." Duncan shoved into me and stormed down the hall. I felt a growl building in my chest, but choked it down before anybody heard. I looked away from his retreating letterman jacket to see Kitty giving me a cold glare that sent chills down my spine.

"Wow. That was a very impressive performance, Mr Wagner," she said with a slow clap, voice dripping sarcasm, "so have you just completely forgotten what Professor X's mission is, or would you like to join Magneto now? Maybe then you could be with Pietro."

My stomach dropped. Kitty was my best friend, and the only person aside from me and Pietro who knew about our "relationship," and here she was using it against me. I didn't know whether to be furious or apologize profusely on my knees. I opened my mouth a couple of times, ineffectually, then hung my head, jammed my hands into my pockets, and stalked off to go sulk in my first period class. I was so miffed that I didn't even hear Kaylie say "good morning" when I walked in, slouched over to my seat, and glared at the wall for ten minutes. Kaylie shrugged and went back to texting.

xXx

The day passed in a blur, my senses dulled by the "fight" I had with Kitty. Really, the fight was in my head and I was agonizing over nothing, but at dinner Kitty refused to acknowledge my existence, and was it just me, or was the atmosphere unbearable? After the green beans had been passed around a second time, I looked down at my barely-touched plate, feeling sick, and excused myself quietly. I took my stuff into the dark kitchen, and 'ported up to my room.

I looked around at my room and it was stifling, too. My whole body itched and fidgeted. I felt like I was going insane. I had to move, I had to escape my skin. I had to escape my guilt.

I 'ported up to the roof and looked up at the stars above me. They were obscured by clouds and light pollution from Bayville. My body convulsed violently, maniacally, terrifyingly. I found a long, broken wail tearing from my throat raggedly, echoing off the trees, reflecting my misery back at me, amplified. Then the wail formed a word: why.

Why was everything going so wrong? Why couldn't I win? Why did all my friends seem to hate the way I just am? Why was I born this way? Wretched, cursed, disfigured, hated.

I wanted to jump, fly, run, get away from everything that reminded me of something—of where I'd been, who knew me, who I was. I wanted to forget everything and be Locke's tabula rasa, knowing nothing but what experience printed on my putty, infant brain. I didn't know anything, I didn't feel anything, I didn't realize anything.

Until I was falling.

The air was cold and biting and shocked me back to my senses. I was too close to the ground, and it was too eager to meet me. My mind was stunned—how had this happened? I hadn't told it to happen, I hadn't authorized it.

Yet it was.

Then the thought occurred to me: I am going to die.

But I wasn't panicked. No. I was calm. It was a rational thought, and, for a beautiful moment, I understood everything. Things were not bleak. It was not the end of the world. There was always another option. There was always an apology. There was always a future. There was no reason for death.

Yet it was.

Then the thought occurred to me: I do not want to die.

Now I was panicked. Yes. I was frenzied. It was a rational thought, and I felt only terror and understood that death was not for me, but it would happen. It was the end of the world. There was no other option. There was only gravity and concrete. There would be no future. But still, there was no reason for death.

I closed my eyes and tried to welcome God in my final moments so maybe, just perhaps, I could be saved; I could be salvaged from the wreck of sinful suicide.

Yet it was . . . nothing.

xXx

xXx

xXx

xXx

This chapter has been three years in the making, so I hope you all are grateful! Only the last part from Kurt's sulking to suicide are the product of 11th-grade Iris, so you might see a major change in tone and voice. A lot has happened in three years, and I've been particularly philosophical as an old friend of mine attempted suicide just a few days ago. There has been a lot of contemplation of life. There has been no understanding.

So, sorry to leave the chapter on such a bleak note, but for dramatic purposes, nothing beats a cliché, y'know? And, of course, the cliché goes that he will survive. I don't have enough time to be original and defeat the Cliché-Monster, so I'll let it have this one. Just no more hospitals for poor Kurti, he's suffered enough pain. Perhaps his unintentional "suicide" will bring him back to his senses. It had better damn well do it, or I don't know what will.

I know this is dragging on, but bear with me. In light of this being my junior year (famed for its difficulty and sleep deprivation), I will have zero time to work on any sort of fan fiction. This was a file I found on my computer and tacked a couple hundred words onto. Do not expect any more chapters or new stories any time soon. I'm sorry to be so plain, but this is just in case you didn't see the big, bold "INDEFINITE HIATUS" sign on my profile.

Anyways, I hope this chapter finds all my readers in good health; I would not wish anything worse upon you.

Sincerely,

Iris Musicia