There are times when a broken wrist can open doors you've never noticed, even when you snap it in four places falling off of a barstool when normally you spend most of your time flinging yourself from everything from telephone poles to the Empire State Building with hardly a thought and the usual brimstone "bampf!"
So what if your body fixes itself faster than most? Pain is pain and four broken bones left your right hand flopping uselessly as you stood up, only to fall over backwards at the sudden shock of pain that jolted up your arm and out your right shoulder blade.
Landing in a puddle of spilled beer didn't help much, either.
Which meant you landed on your back, sprained your tail at the root, and bounced your head off the concrete floor as the bones of your left wrist snapped when you tried to catch yourself on the way back down.
Logan, thinking you'd only passed out, grabbed you by the wrists and heaved you across one shoulder to take you back to the Institute to sleep it off only made things worse – your screams had been embarrassing.
Thanks to your unique metabolism, your concussion cleared up by the next evening, you could flex your tail without wanting to pass out, and a lightweight cast or two for a week or so can gain, ah, attention, and maybe a little sympathy, from women, ja?
Such as, a clean pair of pants? Maybe a shower? Nothing too scandalous to admit during Confession, ja?
Rogue was winter training at a remote site.
So was everybody else who didn't have the flu– something about Professor X ordering anyone who didn't have it into the field for the week…...
…except for Logan, hung over and foul tempered at having to waste an entire drinking night in the Institute's emergency room explaining what happened to a frazzled nurse who was handing out flu medication - friendship, it seems, only goes so far.
Anyway after the doctor released you, Logan was busy making up for the loss of drinking time with his own flu prevention program, something you'd already had enough of to last for a while.
The Hulk, who was visiting, was happy to help.
In fact, he volunteered without being asked, hilft!
The Hulk went on his way feeling like he'd done the right thing leaving you feeling like you'd tangled with the barroom floor a second time and your tail with a painful kink in it.
The pants were in shreds.
The less said about boxers, the better.
As to the beer and what it had turned since last night, likewise, ja?
In the end you'd managed a "bamf!" or two and with the help of your prehensile toes, wriggle your way belly-down on the floor into a pair of old sweats and a t-shirt left over from your circus days in Bavaria, stepped-on tail slipped down one leg because trying to thread it through the extra hole in the seat was beyond the both of you.
Eating was another matter. Worse, the pain pills they'd given you at the clinic came in a bottle – short of chewing it open or asking the Hulk's help again, you'd have to ride it out.
The Institute had a cafeteria, bound to be somebody who could help even this late, ja?
At eleven at night the cafeteria only held a student hunched over a book, finger slowly tracing line by line while the cook and the line servers cleaned up for the morning shift.
That was about it. Leftovers and a blonde…
… a blonde? Well, strawberry blonde, intent on whatever it was she was looking at. You didn't remember her, tell the truth they all look alike after a while. Your tail, a barometer of your moods, stirs.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, ja? You can always ask; company, female company, is always welcome. So you approach, only to be blocked by a broad-hipped old woman with a Jamaican accent in a hairnet and gold cross earrings, ach, not Duppy!
"You be leavin' that chile alone!" Duppy glares up at you with golden eyes, slit pupils expanding meaningfully, "I heard about you and that Logan, fallin' off a barstool, that's chile's had enough wit'out the likes of you botherin' her." Her voice, a rare female baritone rumbles up one side of you and down the other – mutants gossip; word had already got out about last night's fight with concrete.
She puts her huge hands on her hips, broad thin-lipped mouth screwed up in disgust, and jerks her head, earrings swinging wildly, in the direction of a table at the other end of the room, "I'll feed you, though you don'ts deserve it, just leave tha' chile alone!"
"Yes ma'am." You say meekly. Duppy is not one to argue with, ruling her kitchen with an iron fist concealed in velvet – the cafeteria is her kingdom and you but an erring vassal.
The strawberry blonde pauses, raises her head, turning it slightly, before going back to her book. What you thought was a fur coat on the floor beside her looks at you from one amber eye between huge paws before going back to sleep.
What's weird is that the dog has earplugs with wires leading down to a battery pack on its collar.
You don't have much time to think about it because Duppy's brought you a tray, not scrapings from the steam table, but fresh. Duppy must think part of you is salvageable after all – she's no strawberry blonde, but there's cake involved, sooooo...
After feeding you pain pills and telling you the cake came last, Duppy keeps up a steady conveyer belt of food from tray to mouth while giving orders to her staff as they finish cleaning up at the end of the shift, the faint scales on the backs of her bare arms and hands glinting in the fluorescent bulbs over head. Nobody's ever figured out exactly what Duppy's powers are, or why she'd even stoop so low as to run a kitchen, but she's been part of Professor X's operation so long, a background figure in a background job, that everybody assumes that she and her fifteen children were somehow there before the mansion at the core of it all had been built.
"Can I help?" Your ears, which had suddenly started itching from the inside out, stop, the strawberry blonde stands over the two of you, face half-hidden by a pair of sunglasses, the dog with earplugs standing protectively behind her halfway to her waist, amber eyes glinting, "Goliath, sit."
Panting, the dog sits, watching you.
"You sho'? Duppy gives you a skeptical look, "Babes, leave this one alone, he's a bad'n."
"I'm bored, I'll be all right."
"Allllll right, if he don' respek yuh, call me, Princess, I'll fix him, gooooood." Duppy gives you the evil eye as she rises, putting the fork down on the table. She tries to help the strawberry blonde sit down, but gets waved off, "Suit yourself, babes!"
Duppy lumbers back into the kitchen, giving you more Evil Eye over her shoulder as she goes. Goliath lies down, eyes flicking back and forth between the two of you.
"Why aren't you with the others, the flu?"
"I had my shot, the right one this time." She gropes at the tray, your ears bubble and itch again, giving you the urge to bang your head on the table. The sensation ends the second her gloved fingers encounter the fork.
She stabs randomly, before catching green beans on the long times. You lean over the table and take a bite. There's something written on her forehead beneath her thick bangs. It's so degrading a word that you feel yourself blush beneath the fuzz that covers most of your body.
Chewing forgotten, you notice more filthy words, obscene, nasty phrases on her neck and cheeks, crudely tattooed in blue.
"You don't like…" she removes a glove, revealing even worse on her bare hand at the end of her long sleeves as she delicately touches your meal, "Green beans, that's what they feel like, unless I'm guessing wrong?"
"Uhhh, no, fine, fine." You allow her to feed you again, barely able to chew, "Fraulein…"
"Beatrice." She adds, "Just, Beatrice." The glove lies beside your plate, forgotten, the back of her fingers spelling out, "WHORE", burn into your eyes, "You know, I used to feed… my little girl… like this…"
"Kurt." Little girl? She looks older than a lot of the teens brought in, there's a slight tremor in her hand…
So you ask, "Could use salt, though, ja?"
"Sorry," You notice her lips part slightly, there's that bubbling itch again, you press one ear to one shoulder and then repeat, a leftover from your concussion? It stops when she picks up the salt at the end of the table, "Say when."
The dark glasses reflect your face back at you in a double image, reminding you that you're a bit odd yourself, though not bad looking… you shake your head, "When… You're blind, aren't you?"
Stupid question, all the signs are there, dumkoph!
"How'd you guess?" Sarcasm drips from her, "Was it the glasses or the dog that gave me away?" She stabs a forkload at you.
"I couldn't think of any other reason why any woman would allow herself to bear such… words on her face and hands." You accept the forkload, expecting a painful jab in the gums by the way her hands are shaking
"Rudy my pimp had that done to me not long after he knocked out my front teeth. He thought it was funny and good for business."
Pimp? But… why? "How could you… How could he…"
"Before Professor X picked me up and had me brought here, I was floating, I didn't care."
"I thought he was some rich kink, so did Rudy– there's a lot of 'em around." She shrugs, making a face halfway through aiming some sort of greasy casserole at your mouth. "The wheelchair, that's what clinched the deal. I was jonesin' for Sugar. Rudy promised all I had to do was do the old bald guy and I could have all I wanted – next thing I knew I was on a helicopter, jonesin' bad and expecting it would all end with me running through some forest with rich crazy and a shotgun behind me while I ricocheted off'a trees like a drunk bat like in the news a few years back - not with a dental plan." She folds in on herself, dropping the fork so that it bounces off the table before landing on the floor. Goliath stands up and leans heavily against her, whining, tail down.
Your own tail trying to escape your sweats makes you squirm; you'd like to touch her, to reassure her, there are a lot of ones like her around, mutants who've fallen through the cracks, deliberately or otherwise, miserable outcasts who'd do anything to be accepted…
(That could have been you, a long time ago in Bavaria.) You look down at your temporarily useless three-fingered hands, embarrassed for the both of you.
She eventually pulls herself together, and your ears go nuts again as she leans down to pick up the fork. You watch her groping hand with it's degrading label, her lips parted. They close on the utensil, and the sensation in your ears stop. "Sorry, that's dirty, let me get another."
Beatrice stands, pauses, tells Goliath to "Sit." And the itching misery resumes.
It's her, she's doing this - the sensation fades as she steadily makes for the rack of utensils by the door. She returns, clean fork in hand, lips parted, throat working, the itching, bubbling in your ears becoming unbearable until she gropes for the chair, and sits down, Goliath once again leans protectively against her.
"So I spent a few miserable months in rehab – cold turkey, beating my head on the walls and breaking every piece of glass in the place with my screams." The fork rests unnoticed in her hands, "…remembering the day they took my little girl away, the day I killed her and thirteen innocent bystanders when I lost control of myself and an entire storefront in downtown New York turned into a billion knives." She puts the fork down before removing the heavy dark glasses and rubbing at the blank place where eyes should have been, only Rudy, or someone, had tattooed Betty Boop eyes there so that it looked like she was coyly looking out the now lightening window that looks out at the Institute's snow covered grounds.
"I hid her the best I could after… after her father abandoned us, saying he couldn't live with such an ugly child… the nubs on her back grew. By the time she was three, they'd fledged out, but I taught her to keep them folded, to hide them – I didn't want her to be teased like I was, my parents nearly bankrupted themselves hiding what I was, voice coaches… teaching me how to control my voice so I didn't hurt anybody after I deafened a little boy on the playground, his ears bled, they say, and the day… we took the bus out of the housing projects to see the Christmas tree and the skaters at Rockefeller like I'd promised – well, her, anyway…"
She pauses, shuddering, "We got there, it was cold, I had her hand - somebody snatched her away from me, knocking me down, I hit my head on the pavement and tried to follow them, I thought it might be Child Welfare taking her away from me because I couldn't take care of her… and then I heard her father's voice telling someone he wanted his money now… I followed as best I could, I heard my baby crying for me and I couldn't find her, and I heard a car door open, somebody hit me, I fell again, I dropped my cane, she wouldn't stop crying for me… that's when I lost control and screamed.
(Head down, you close your eyes resting your face on the backs of your hands, remembering a story about a mother who threw an unwanted child away to save herself…)
Goliath whines, pressing hard against Beatrice, licking her hands.
"I found what was left of her on the sidewalk in a pile of broken glass…"
(A made up memory of falling, falling, falling, the roar of water, a sound you wouldn't have recognized that young… of cold, of being unable to breathe…)
"I'd killed her."
(Of being held, of being safe. Of strangers who did not look like you…)
"I'd killed my baby, my own baby…"
(Of thinking you were safe, to be betrayed, to find yourself in a cage…)
The two of you sit in the silence across from each other over a half-eaten tray.
She continues, you aren't there for her. She's not really there for you, both lost in memories, memories that you've fought with all your faith to forgive.
"I woke up a year later in New Orleans with a bad habit, a pimp named Rudy, and some old, bald guy telling me to get in his limo. Now I'm here."
The clock over the serving line, now empty, buzzes loudly in the silence.
You exhale as your tail after a struggle, finally frees itself, to dangle limply behind you on the floor.
"Did you love her, your baby, ja?"
"Was she a mistake?"
"Her father was the mistake, she wasn't."
Her fingers fondle Goliath's ears, his huge head on her lap – "My only regret is that I never got to see her face…
The sun shines through the window, barely over the horizon. You look out over the snow-covered grounds of the Institute, lost in thought, tail absently twitching.
"Ahhhhh." you murmur to yourself. "Ah. Ah. Ah."
"Good morning, Miss Blau.
The two of you jump, startled.
"I thought I heard you in here. Ready for the doctor to start lasering off those tattoos after the audiologist checks Goliath's ear baffles?" The same nurse who'd taken down your case two nights before in between giving out flu medicine in the emergency room, padded across the gleaming floor on the feet of a wolf, "Good lord! Did you spend the entire night in the cafeteria with him?" She rolls her eyes, professionalism temporarily forgotten. You shrug, showing your fangs in a broad grin, hands resting near the half-empty tray.
"Even with two broken… you never give up, do you?" She helps Beatrice to her feet. Beatrice, face swinging sightlessly back and forth, pushes her away gently.
"I can do this." Beatrice, her face tired beneath its graffiti, makes her way around the table, Goliath sitting at a respectful distance, head cocked, wires harsh against his honey and black fur.
"Thanks for listening to my sob story." You lever yourself up to meet her, temporarily useless hands dangling at your side. She takes off her remaining glove, and with both hands, reaches out and runs them lightly over your face, pausing at the blue fuzz that covers it, lingering on your ears, your hair, before resting on your shoulders, fake Betty Boop eyes now staring with vacant sauciness at the utensil rack by the door. You press the side of your face against the hand that snarls "WHORE" in blue ink, tail winding lightly around the both of you. She stiffens a little, and then relaxes, "Just… thanks."
Beatrice pulls away; aiming herself at the door as the nurse takes out a pair of earplugs from her pocket and hastily shoves them into her ears. Lips moving, throat slightly working, she leaves the cafeteria with Goliath trailing protectively behind her and your ears buzzing as you mentally begin praying the Rosary on her behalf.