"These back steps are steeper to the ground
The brightest stars are falling down
I'm walking the edge, walking the tightest rope
We can be frank, reality rips on through, rolling like a hurricane."
~Mat Kearney, 'Crashing Down'
Thanks for reviewing: L. , Guest, kitten, Maddie Rose, StoryLover, Rumbleroar'sSlumberingCubs, Guest
Guest: I'm going by the movies here, and this is set after the Silver Surfer (but I haven't seen that, hence the lack of reference in the story), so Johnny is somewhere in his mid-twenties, maybe 26 or so.
A.N. I promise no speedy updates, this is only going up because it was nearly finished when I went on hiatus, and I've had a tiny bit more time lately. Sorry, but come summer, I swear I'll be back properly!
Chapter 6: Inconvenient Necessity
Shaelea shifted around nervously as Reed began almost jumping all over his laboratory, setting up machines, grabbing tools whose names Shaelea didn't even want to hazard a guess at. This sure was going to be a far cry from Senior Chemistry, and she hadn't even taken that, she'd dropped the sciences when she'd gone into Junior year. The rest of them seemed fairly at home in the lab too, and she supposed that most of their apartment really was the lab, but beyond that she remembered that they were all somewhat versed in science. She forgot, and knew that a lot of other people did, that the Fantastic 4 had just started off as scientists and astronauts. Watching Susan and Reed get to work, she was reminded of that fact.
"Pretty neat, huh?"
Shaelea's head whipped around, and almost smacked into Johnny Storm's face, she hadn't felt him come closer to her until he'd spoken almost right next to her ear. Since he showed no sign of going to move back, she took a step away from him. The slight arch of his eyebrows showed that he noticed this little movement, but he made no other comment, and she realised he was still waiting on a reply from her.
"Yeah," she nodded, "I haven't really been in a science lab since I was a Sophomore, and this is way bigger than anything my high school had anyway."
He laughed, "I should think so. This place does take a little getting used to though, just try not to touch anything, it might explode."
"Johnny!" Sue snapped; looking momentarily up from typing some data into a machine to give her brother a glare, before returning to her work.
Shaelea felt her face flush in embarrassment, and didn't even want to look up and see what kind of a smug expression would be on Johnny's face, she made a mental note to wait for a second opinion before she believed anything he ever said again.
She didn't really feel that comfortable around Johnny Storm, she wondered how much of it was just teenage nerves though. He was quite attractive, and she knew that he flirted a lot with almost any girl, and despite everything she did have to admit that his personality had a kind of charm to it. The fact that Shaelea's experience with guys stemmed from one boyfriend in Junior year probably didn't do her any favours in terms of knowing how to act around guys. But none of that was what she thought of when she looked at Johnny. Sure, she did look at him and feel nervous, but that wasn't because she'd started some kind of crush on the guy she'd met only that night.
That was it, why she felt so weird around him. It was because of what had happened at her house, when he had been the only one able to walk into the flames and get her out. She supposed that she was grateful, he had been able to stop her from burning up, even if he'd used…uncommon methods, but he also scared her in a way. He was a reminder of everything that she couldn't control, and how that lack on control had led her to where she was now. Not that his flippant nature helped, maybe if he was a little more serious she could handle him better, but he just didn't seem to even understand exactly how much of her thoughts were revolving around what had happened.
"Shaelea? Would you be able to come over and just lie on the lab table?"
Susan's tone was as light and gentle as the hand she laid on Shaelea's arm, but none the less, the words 'lab table' sent a spike of fear running through her. She felt herself flinch and tense up automatically, her vision was momentarily clouded by broken images of another lab. Different people, wearing masks and talking in hushed voices. Needles stabbing into her. Then the burning, the burning all over, the burning that hadn't stopped. It was all too much, she felt herself breathing coming in gasps, and her heart began to race.
"Hey, hey," someone put an arm around her, "Easy, it's okay, we're not gonna hurt you."
This time, when she looked into Johnny's eyes, the amusement wasn't present, just concern. And she also realised then that she had started shaking, he lightly rubbed her arm. The comforting gesture was gentle, and while she found it slightly disconcerting following his normal behaviour pattern, she didn't shrug off his arm.
"We don't have to do this,' Sue assured quickly, "You should take some time first."
Taking a deep breath, Shaelea screwed her eyes shut and tried furiously to dispel the images that paraded through her mind. That wasn't here, that wasn't now. Here and now were going to fix what had been done there, she just had to get over it. Shaelea tried to find it in herself to start thinking straight again, but control kept slipping just out of reach. Eventually, she thought of her brother. She couldn't let him down, and she knew that he had enough faith in her to think she could get through this.
"Reed, stop," Sue called out, "This isn't the right time. We can-"
"No," Shaelea cut in; opening her eyes and raising her face to meet Susan's eyes, "I want to get this started, the sooner the better, right?"
"She says seconds after shaking in terror…" Johnny murmured softly; probably not intending for her to hear him, so she ignored his comment and shook off the contact with him, stepping away once again.
"Are you sure?" Reed checked; now looking slightly more cautious about proceeding, "If we continue, it might just bring up…things you'd rather not have brought up. It might actually be better for your mental health if we wait."
Shaelea wanted to retort that her mental health was fine, but she didn't really think that any of them would buy it, so she simply said, "Please, I just want to figure out what's wrong with me."
Reed and Susan shared a measuring look, but after a while she gave a heavy sigh.
They all stood there for a moment, with an expecting kind of silence hanging in the room, and Shaelea realised that she hadn't moved a muscle towards the table, despite her assurances. Taking a deep breath, she forced the memories out of her mind, and did her uttermost to focus on an image of her brother. Michael thought that she could do this, he had more faith in her than she had in herself, she didn't want to let him down.
Trying to make it look like she wasn't forcing every step she took, she made her way over to the lightly padded table. A single blink of her eyes, and it transformed into a different one, another blink, and it was back to normal. Shaelea now also tried not to blink.
"Okay, now just lie here," Susan said gently; helping to ease Shaelea back on the table.
She bit her lip, and kept her eyes trained on the ceiling directly above her. She didn't want to look around and see all of the lab equipment, in case in reminded her, and in case her memories made her unable to go through with this.
"Shaelea?" Reed's face appeared within her line of vision, "I'm just going to take a little of your blood, for tests later, is that alright?"
She kept her eyes focused directly on his face, and did her best not to acknowledge the syringe he held in his other hand, "Yes."
Carefully, he wiped an antiseptic swab over the vein in her elbow, and then he must have made some gesture that Shaelea didn't see, because Johnny suddenly started talking.
"You know, I always hated immunisations," he said conversationally, "Don't know why, they just always made me uncomfortable, I don't like being pricked with things."
"He used to try faking sick on immunisation days," Susan added, "And when that didn't work, I think he just skipped school."
There was a prick of pain in her arm, and Shaelea turned to face away from it, joining their conversation to distract herself, "I never liked them either, I'm not sure that many people do."
"And yet, some sadist goes around to primary schools every year," Johnny shook his head and propped himself up on a bench, "Cruel."
"Hey, Johnny," Sue said casually, "Didn't it once take two teachers and the principal to hold you down?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he answered quickly.
Shaelea bit back a laugh, "Three people?"
"My sister lies, she just likes to make me look bad," he replied.
"I think you do that well enough on your own, kid," Ben added.
Shaelea's head had moved automatically upon hearing Reed talk, and she wished that it hadn't. When he said 'all done', he didn't mean that he'd put the syringe down, and it was now full of her blood.
She dropped her eyes quickly, "So, what now?"
"I if I could just hook you up to a thermal measuring device, and then maybe you tell us a little more about what happened. You see, you do have a higher than average temperature, but not as high as it was when you first got here, and not quite as high as Johnny's, except you seem to burn the same way as him, it's possible that this was a one-event flare up, but maybe it's dependant on some kind of triggering. If we-"
"Reed, as much as everyone in the room loves the sound of your voice," Johnny said sarcastically, "Think maybe you could cut a little quicker to the chase?"
"Oh, right," Reed got a hold of himself, "Simply, I want to see if perhaps, because your temperature is now closer to normal, it was a one-time thing."
"What if...what if I do it again?" she asked.
"You won't, if your temperature starts climbing, we'll stop and cool you down," he assured.
"He's not kidding, they got me with an army of fire extinguishers once," Johnny put in dryly.
"I'm sure there was a reason," she said; although to be honest, they could just as easily have simply been annoyed at him.
"He was about to go super-nova in the middle of the lab," Susan moved forwards to help he husband.
"Alright, Shaelea, these won't hurt a bit," Reed was holding up a bunch of gel caps attached to a variety of red cables.
She nodded mutely, but didn't want to really think about being hooked up to anything, "What will they do?"
"Just measure your temperature while we talk, and feed the information back to a sensor," he said; beginning to place them on her.
In the end, she had two on her temple, two on her chest, and one on each arm. Even after Reed said the machine was turned on, all she felt was little patches of cold from the sticking gel, but lying on the table, with a bunch of scientists around and cables coming off of her, she felt a bit like a lab-rat.
"Okay, Shaelea, are you alright with me asking some question about what happened?" Reed inquired.
Not really, was her brain's automatic response, but she stopped it before it came out of her mouth. If she was ever going to get rid of this problem, then she had to just suck it up and get it over with. God, and to think she'd been dreading graduation and university, that seemed so much nicer all of a sudden.
"I don't mind."
He nodded, "So, what exactly happened?"
She took a moment, his question made the memories flare up instantly, but she didn't want to just garble out what had happened. It all wanted to come out in a rush, but that would make no sense to anyone. Trying to calm herself, she focused on here and now, clenching her fists tightly to stop her hands from writhing around.
"A few days ago, when I was walking back from school, someone or some people just grabbed me from behind. I didn't have time to see much, before they hit me in the back of the head. Next time I regained consciousness, I was in this lab, I-" she cut off, her breath coming in quicker gasps now, she screwed her eyes shut. God, she could see it all, she could feel it all over again.
"Reid," Susan's sharp voice held a warning note, "Her temperature-"
"Jesus Christ!" Johnny exclaimed.
Shaelea snapped her eyes open, and saw that she was once again aflame. The gel caps holding the cables to her body had melted, and the soft padding on the table had now caught alight as well. A despairing wail welled up in her throat, would she never stop making a mess of everything?
"Shaelea! Shaelea? Can you, uh, turn it off?" Reed called; he'd had to back away with everyone else.
"I don't know how!" she cried; curling in on herself so as to more minimise the fiery areas.
Right in front of her eyes, she saw another one of those fireballs shoot out from the flames surrounding her, it was going straight for Reed.
She leaned forwards, outstretching her arms as if she could catch it and draw it back, but Johnny beat her. He all but launched himself in front of the fire and his brother-in-law, the blaze hitting him harmlessly. Her mind was in a panicked craze. What if she'd hurt Dr. Richards? What if she completely destroyed his lab and home? Why couldn't she control these powers that she didn't want? A weight pressed down on her, and she found herself looking right up into the face of Johnny Storm.
"In case of more fireballs," he said.
Shaelea didn't get a chance to reply, before a cascade of cold water rained down over the both of them. Spluttering, she wiped water out of her eyes, trying to reorient herself after the sudden change in state. Still, at least the flames were gone.
"You okay?" Johnny inquired; hair dripping off of his short hair.
She nodded, and he got up off her, backing away once more. She realised with a start that she clothes had kind of burnt off, and a flush spread instantly over her face. Susan was at her side in a moment, wrapping a blanket around her shoulders, and helping cover her up.
"Sorry about your clothes," Shaelea said lamely; remembering that the items hadn't even belonged to her in the first place.
"Don't worry," Susan assured, "Are you alright?"
"I...think so," she replied; looking around to survey the damage, she saw Ben standing close by, a now empty large bucket in his rock-hands, "Oh, thank you."
"Don't mention it, kid," he said gruffly.
"Right...well...that was unexpected," Reed ran a hand through his hair, "It seems like your powers are almost triggered by your moods, Susan's were like that at first, anger mostly, but-" a glare from his wife cut him off.
"What if it happens again?" Shaelea asked, "What if I hurt someone the next time?"
"I did have an idea about that..." Reed trailed off, and shared a meaningful glance with his wife.
Understanding dawned in Susan's eyes, "Reed, Reed you can't be serious."
"It's the only way," he argued, "It will keep her safe, and everything else."
"What's this top secret plan?" Johnny inquired; scrubbing a hand through his hair to shake the water out.
"You have to stay close to Shaelea, at almost all times," Reed said.
"What?" Shaelea demanded.
"What!?" Johnny exclaimed.
"You can't be serious, leaving the kid alone with him?" Ben sounded heavily sceptical.
"It's the only way!" he argued again, "With your powers, Johnny, you can help Shaelea control hers if another outburst happens."
"But...baby-sitting...it's not my thing," Johnny complained.
"I'll work on it, I'll try keep myself as calm as possible, I'll walk around with a fire extinguisher," Shaelea almost babbled.
It wasn't that she didn't like Johnny, he seemed like an alright kind of guy, womanising and egotistical behaviour aside. But spending large amounts of time with him? She had the suspicion that she might go slightly mad. Logic screamed that it was the right thing to do, but everyone else in the room, apart from Reed, seemed to be set again logic.
But, inconvenient as it was, keeping her controlled was also a necessity until they figured out more about her powers. Reed eventually won out the argument, and so not only was Shaelea now moving in with a group of strangers, but she was going to be practically glued to one of them. Great.