Hard to believe that only twenty-four hours had passed since the X-Men and SHIELD joined forces to get them out of that hellhole of an island. Freshly bathed-- oh, showers, sweet, sweet, heavenly showers!-- Alex struggled into his anti-radiation suit. Back in the cave, they all thought that he couldn't turn his power back on when in reality, it had been on all along. He'd been leaking radiation all over the place but couldn't concentrate it to one point. Xavier thought that was part of the reason why Scott didn't go septic right away; the heat from the plasma he'd been generating staved off most of the bacteria.
To keep the radiation levels around him low, especially in the school, Xavier scrounged up the anti-radiation suit. Alex had no idea where the damn suit came from. Xavier had a lot of things in the school but somehow he doubted Surviving Chernobyl 101 was an acceptable high school course. Then again, this was Charles Xavier. He probably had the damn thing lying around in the attic. There was nothing he could do about his head but Alex wore the suit, cloth boots and gloves under all his clothes. Good thing New York was going through a cold snap this autumn.
Properly attired, Alex popped into the kitchen for something to eat. There was a whole pot of coffee on the perc and a pasta-something baking in the oven. He loved this place so damn much. He loved the kitchen most of all with its industrial stove, double oven and over-sized fridge.
The kitchen's other occupants this afternoon were Adam, Gav, Jubilee, Piotr and, of course, Mrs. Rasputin who bustled around in uncharacteristic silence. She was probably trying to listen in on the conversation. Piotr had his right wrist in a tensor bandage which made his sandwich eating a lot clumsier. Gav sat beside Adam; the two held hands with casual familiarity.
"So if that General Fury guy was pissed off at the X-Men, how did you get him to throw his commandos in for the rescue?" Adam asked.
Alex hooked a chair and joined the table, also wanting to hear the conversation.
"It was mainly Bobby's doing," said Piotr. "I heard the professor, Storm and Beast arguing with Fury on tele-conference. Bobby went in, shut the door and thirty minutes later, Storm came out telling us we had SHIELD's full support."
"Don't look at me," said Jubilee when everyone did just that. "I have no idea what he said either. We were still trainees before we went AWOL; it's not like we had any kind of leverage. We totally couldn't've zoned into your tracking signal without their hardware though."
"How's he feeling now anyway?" asked Alex.
"Still a couple minor temperature issues but as long as he doesn't accidentally freeze all the plumbing again, we should be all right."
Piotr threw down his sandwich. "Thanks for reminding me. I have to work on that."
"And we gotta go back to the hospital and relieve Remy for Scott-watch," said Alex. "Soon as you're finished, kiddo."
"I totally understand why Remy hates hospitals," said Adam. "The image of Scott on that bed with all that wiring is tattooed inside my eyelids now."
"He's going to be fine," Jubilee blurted out. "He's Cyclops. He can't not be fine."
After the seventeenth decade of the rosary, his prayers slipped out faster if not easier. The borrowed rosary slid between his thumb and index finger, the oils from his sweat eliciting perfume from the pressed-rose petal beads. Remy had the sense that God wanted his teeth to fall out before He answered the prayers of someone like him.
Scott gone septic, said the doctors, not a surprise considering the circumstances. They found numerous, precise punctures all over his organs and minute cuts on some of his glands. He had one machine to help his failed lungs, one machine to feed him, one machine to give him blood, one to help his failed kidneys, one to kill all the bacteria in his system, and one to keep him asleep and unaware of it all. The amount of antibiotics they plugged into his system would have cured the whole of Medieval Europe from the bubonic plague. The hospital released Remy from his room last night after a hell of a lot of charming and pleading and on the condition that he stayed in Scott's room. Remy had no problem with that.
"Hey, Remy." Rogue tapped his shoulder. Remy quickly palmed the rosary; he couldn't quite admit to this type of desperation yet.
She placed his little bentwood box on the Scott's bed then placed Remy's hands on top of it. Her gloves caught on the rough hairs on his arms. Reflexively, he leaned his head towards her, his forehead brushing the silk band spanning her shirt just under her breasts. She combed her gloved hands through his hair, making Remy keenly conscious of the last time he'd taken a proper shower. But when he would have pulled away, Rogue curled down and over him so that her hair curtained the rest of the hospital room away.
"Hey, Remy," she whispered.
Suddenly Remy couldn't breathe. It was like an allergy attack except this time, he also needed to throw up. He grabbed his closest grounding point: Rogue stood firm as he hooked his fingers through her belt loops and gulped air into lungs that refused to work properly. He mashed his face in her belly because paradoxically that made it easier to breathe. Someone in the room was gulping, making the most pathetic noises as they choked on air.
His knees smacked against linoleum but Remy barely registered it. He needed so goddamned badly. This place was too stiff, too white, too sterile, too much of everything he hated but Scott was here and he just... Yanking on her jeans, he rubbed his face back and forth on her stomach until the friction burned his nose and chin. He... just... needed...
He was rocking; Rogue rocked him, her small, soft body somehow sheltering him from the stiff and white and sterile.
"He went back," Remy muttered into her ribs.
She shifted her cheek from the top of his head. "Hmm?"
"Scott. Went back to get me epinephrine. I was allergic to the tranqs, was choking, and he went back in to get me some goddamn epinephrine. That's why we got caught. That's how Essex got his hands on him. Fuck. Fuck!"
Rogue curled closer around him so that he could feel her breath on his cheek.
"I'm always such a shit to him. I don't even know why. I always..." He twisted his fingers through her hair.
"You love him," said Rogue.
Remy swallowed, saying nothing so she tipped his chin up to look into his eyes.
"You love him," she repeated.
"Of course." The silk of her shirt trapped the confession between the cloth and her ivory-smooth skin so that no one else could know he'd even spoken.
Within the hour, Alex and Adam were at the hospital. Adam become uncharacteristically quiet as soon as they entered the front doors a reaction that Alex understood all too well. He wished he had something he could say that would stop the suffocating terror that threatened to make him puke. All those machines--
As they reached Scott's room, Alex saw that Remy wasn't alone in there. He had his head buried in Rogue's stomach and he was--
Was he... crying?
Adam yanked Alex back into the common area before he could step into the room.
"Did you see that?" Alex asked. "Did you see Remy?"
"Yeah," said Adam. "Let's give them a few minutes. I hear the cafeteria's not bad. I'm starving."
"Unbelievable," said Alex, shaking his head. "After everything that just happened and all that... the cave... y'know... stuff..." He coughed. "After all of that, he doesn't crack. We all cracked but he doesn't until now? In front of her?"
"What does that tell you about her?"
Alex reared back. "First you use big words, now you're Yoda. Do we have to start beating you again to turn you back to normal?"
Smiling serenely, Adam said, "I'll explain everything when you're older."
Throwing one last glance over his shoulder, Alex let out a thoughtful sound. "Remy. In love. That's more Twilight Zone than anything else around here."
"Nothing's more Twilight Zone than your suit."
"How long will you tease me about the suit?" asked Alex.
"Forever," Adam said. "Even when you don't need it any more, I will take great joy in mocking you. Especially since I know what you have to do to take a leak."
Alex bared his teeth. "When I'm done with you, you're going to wish you stayed in that lab."
"You and what army, Rubber Boy?"
Alex dove for Adam who slammed his elbow into Alex's back. It took four security guards to separate them. They got kicked out of the hospital, of course. It was good to be home.
Scott awoke to his goggles' familiar wash of yellow-red. A snort from his left drew his attention. Scott turned to see Remy, his form folded in a seemingly impossible position in order to fit into a sorry excuse for a chair. How he could do that with a cast on both right limbs was beyond Scott's imagination. Remy had to be boneless, like they always assumed. Scott smiled, ignoring his chapped lips.
Remy's eyes snapped open. "Scotty. Scott!" He leapt out of the chair. "Do you need anything? A nurse? Water? More drip? You should get more drip. Let me get a nurse."
A smiled wobbled onto Remy's lips. "Last time you said that, you almost got dead."
"I mean it this time."
"Good." He curled and straightened his fingers, a nervous reaction, Scott thought so he waited for him to speak. "I stole your car," Remy blurted out. "The model in your office that your mom got you. I stole it but it's just in my box. I have this box. Rogue's taking care of it and I always put them back after a while but I just like to keep it there sometimes. Before that, it was the tie you wore for the prom and one of your books."
"Uh, Lord of the Rings."
Scott closed his eyes. "At least you finally willingly read a fiction book."
The bed creaked as Remy leaned against it. "Only parts. And the ending."
"You should read it all. It's a good book." He grinned. "I was reading that when Dad brought you home."
He quieted again so Scott opened his eyes. He didn't have the strength to reach up and grab Remy's shirt yet, so he settled for talking loudly. "Remember that first sort of birthday dinner you had with us when you ate so much you puked?"
"How could I forget."
"I was so mad at you," Scott confessed.
Hurt flashed through Remy's face. "It... it was a fucking lot of food that I never tried before and--"
"Let me finish. I was mad at you because I thought you were supposed to replace my mom. I didn't want her replaced; I wanted her back. I don't know where I got that stupid idea in the first place because I'm glad he brought you home." When Remy rolled his eyes, Scott said, "I mean it. I've never regretted having you around."
"Not even when I made out with your girlfriend in high school?"
"Painful, but no. Not even then." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about Jean. It wasn't... It wasn't that I didn't think you'd care; I knew you would. That's the problem."
Remy's brows arched. Scott knew he understood but wanted him to elaborate. Fair enough.
"I couldn't let you guys see me like that. I was... God, I was wrecked and it was like... not exactly like Dad but there were times when... and I just couldn't let you boys..." Great, he'd lost coherence. "You're right, you know; I did screw you boys over. I messed up badly then and now."
Pointing a finger at Scott's nose, Remy said, "Shut the fuck up. You were ten or eleven and you were already taking care of me and Alex so don't you pull any of this 'I messed up' bullshit because it's not true. We wouldn't have survived past junior high without you. I'm the one who had to keep pushing it. I don't even know why." His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. "You... Dad brought me home but he wasn't... I mean, you were really... fuck! This was easier in the cave when I didn't have to look you in the eye."
Smiling, Scott turned his hand palm up, hoping Remy would get the message. He'd never been one for hugging or touching, not as much as Remy but this situation warranted it. Remy slipped his hand into Scott's and squeezed.
"Hank used to compare us to the four elements: earth, fire, water and air," Scott said. "They're different from each other and sometimes their properties clash but they can work together and make... pretty damn near everything. But just one of them can't do it all. I know I need to buy a filter between my mouth and my brain but I'm never, ever going to leave you boys by yourselves to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world."
Remy took a shaky, calming breath. "You're going to make me have an allergic attack again."
"Of course I am. Summers' are allergic to outward shows of affection."
"Except for sex."
"Except for sex. Verbal communication is terminal."
Remy's light-heartedness dropped away. "Don't even joke about that."
"Right. Sorry." A thought occurred to Scott, belatedly perhaps. "Speaking of sex, did you use a condom when you slept with Rogue?"
Remy slapped his face into his hand. "You're determined to give me a sex talk, aren't you?"
"Maybe." Then he changed his mind. "Promise me you'll take care of her."
"'Course I will, Scotty. Just like you take care of us."
His abdomen twinged; the painkillers were fading. Scott knew he should rest but Remy was here. They were talking instead of yelling. "When do you go back?" he asked.
Remy jumped off the bed. "Are you tired? Do you need me to go? I can go."
"No." Scott pressed Remy's hand on the mattress, not as firmly as he would have liked but enough to get the point across. "Talk to me. Tell me... Tell me what a Left is."
"You want me to talk about the Guilds," Remy said slowly. "Are you going to use it as blackmail?"
Frustrated, Scott said, "I want to know about you, you skinny little--"
"Hey! I was teasing." He heard Remy ease back down on the hospital chair from hell. "I tell you about the Guilds, you tell me about what the hell that Bavarian Hamster Incident is all about."
"Deal. You first."
"Hey, that's not fair! Guild hierarchy ain't as interesting as a Bavarian hamster."
Scott started to argue but, seeing the openness in Remy's grin, began the story. "Hank had this hamster that he kept in the breakfast nook..."
When Rogue picked Remy up from the hospital, he asked her to bring him around to the boathouse. The area was abandoned for the year. Remy limped down the leaf-strewn dock, grimacing at the clumsy thunk of his footbrace on the wooden boards. At the end, he sat down; Rogue mimicked the action a second later.
"How're you feeling, Peaches?" he asked.
"I'm dealing," Rogue said. "I kind of feel like I got the flu but the healing factor should take care of that soon. It's just getting warmed up is all; that's why it took so long to kick in."
"You shouldn't've gone to Genosha. You just woke up--"
"Hey, my partner was in trouble. Wild horses couldn't've kept me away." She took his uninjured hand and sandwiched it between her own. "I'm sorry I scared you."
"You're sorry?" Remy kissed her gloved fingers. "Sweetheart, it wasn't your fault. If anything, it was mine. I shouldn't've let you stay the night with some experimental techie-toy around your neck. I definitely shouldn't've slept... um, not slept just... made love with you that night."
Rogue placed a hand on her hip and cocked her to one side. "If that's your version of blowing me off after a one-night stand, you've got another think coming, Swamp Rat. I don't let just any guy cry all over me."
In reply, Remy patted the space between his legs. Contemplatively watching his expression, Rogue accepted the invitation but kept stiff instead of leaning back into his chest. Remy sighed. "I said not that night. I needed my partner for the job; she wasn't because I didn't have control."
"So, I'm your partner? That's it?"
Remy kept his face carefully blank. "Depends. You sleep with me to get back at Drake?"
"No!" She chewed her lip, eyes downcast and sighed. "Maybe sort of. But I wouldn't've slept with just anyone; I really liked you. Like you."
Every organ in Remy's abdomen did a little flip.
"But Bobby was my boyfriend and he was gone and I thought..." Still not meeting his eyes, she turned the question around on him. "Did you sleep with me to annoy Mr. Summers?"
Remy fiddled with the outside seam of her pants. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing, Stripes. I don't know what you and me are. All I know is I need you beside me."
Finally, Rogue leaned back, stroking his thighs. Her hands travelled closer and closer between his legs. Not that he didn't appreciate it but... "Hold on. Not with... Scott's still..."
Rogue pulled away and inward, fiddling self-consciously with her gloves. "I'm sorry, I just... I thought I..."
Immediately, he pulled her back. "Peaches, I just recovered from seeing you up and about when I last left you in a coma. I feel like I traded Scott for you--"
"Which is bullshit," said Rogue.
Remy chuckled. "Sorry. I try to drown the emo in sex but I got this bum leg. So, what the hell are we gonna do with this, sweetheart?"
To his pleasure, her tension eased once again. "I don't know, Remy. I guess we'll have to see which way the wind blows."
He kissed the crown of her head then blew at some wispy brown and white strands that tickled his cheek.
Two and a half weeks after the rescue from Genosha, Scott returned to Xavier's School. The students and the staff pulled out all the stops for the welcome home party and Scott acted properly surprised when Storm rolled his wheelchair through the front doors and into a streamer-filled foyer. He'd've rather gone straight upstairs to sleep but he knew the kids needed to see him out of bed and interacting to assuage their fears.
Even Warren hauled himself out of the medlab. Whatever drug the Genoshan guards stuck him reacted badly to his mutation; his wings wouldn't stop moulting and his bones were apparently thickening. He flew by plane to Muir Island Academy at the end of the week, where they had more equipment and personnel to deal with it. Gav and Bobby shook off the effects much quicker leaving Hank to hypothesise that the drug was likely geared towards energy-converting mutations not physical ones. Alex chatted with him about it; he was the only one who could follow Hank when he got into those topics.
In another two weeks, he graduated from wheelchair to cane thus putting an end to all the "Professor S" jokes. He and Remy had cane duels at odd times of the day, usually with groans of pain interspersed between laughter. Adam crawled into his room less often but Scott always heard when he bunked on the floor and kept an ear out for his nightmares. A few times, Adam woke him up from his dreams; maybe the kid actually stayed over for his sake.
By Thanksgiving Day, the school was as normal as the school could be.
"Remy, kindly detach yourself from Rogue's hip and pass me a couple more garlic bulbs from the pantry," said Scott.
"We got enough garlic in there to ward off Dracula's second coming," said Remy. He stayed right where he was, on a barstool with his legs crossed around Rogue's waist watching him work. She was at least helping him make dinner. Her boysenberry pie cooled on a rack on the counter.
"Alex likes roasted garlic. I'm sure we're going to burn the first few tries so it's good to have spares."
"I'll get it, Mr. Summers." Rogue tried to extricate herself from Remy's embrace but just then, Bobby and Adam walked into the kitchen wielding plastic bags of groceries. As had become his habit when Bobby was in the room, Remy flaunted his relationship with Rogue. Leaning to press his body flush against hers, he nuzzled her scarf-covered neck, eliciting a giggle. It was immature and vindictive and pure Remy. Scott arched his eyebrow at him. Remy shrugged and backed off as soon as Bobby left.
"We wiped the bakery," said Adam. "There is officially no more pumpernickel bread in all of Salem. Remind me again why we're spoiling Alex stupid?"
"Because Alex's power spike has had him quarantined in the Danger Room for the past twenty days," said Scott.
"You have your boyfriend at least," Remy said. "Poor Alex just has digital pixels and his right hand. Don't know how he'd explain that to his surfer girl."
"He could wear the suit Forge made," said Adam.
"It's two inches thick and weighs twenty pounds without the helmet. Would you want to be seen in it?"
Scott slid a loaf of bread in the last box. "That's it. Let's go downstairs."
"Merry Christmas!" Adam called out as the Danger Room doors slid open.
"Bah, humbug," Alex said, not looking up from his reading. Today, he was in a bay with obvious striations in the cliff faces. A crisp wind blew into Scott's face. It was nice. Refreshing. "It's too early for Christmas. Take your cheer to the nearest mall, damn you."
"We come with food," said Remy. "I think we might even try to cook a turkey."
"As long as Scott doesn't cook it," said Adam.
"Hey, it's defrosted this time," Scott said. "And it was just that one time. No one gets the turkey done right the first time."
"I did," said Remy.
"You profited from my mistakes." Pitching his voice louder, he addressed the computer. "Close current program. Upload 002-001."
The cliffs, the ocean and the brilliantly green knolls dissolved into pixels which came together again as the formal dining area in Xavier's. It had been renovated into the rec room for a while now but the program brought back the long, stately table with matching carved chairs and crystal wall scones. Candelabra and flower arrangements crowded at the head of the table, closest to the kitchen.
"We better be eating real food," Alex said.
"The Danger Room can produce heat," said Scott. "The problem is going to be timing it properly." He disappeared into the kitchen muttering about hours per pound, leaving Alex defenceless against Remy and Adam.
"So, how do you masturbate?" asked Adam.
Alex flipped him the finger.
"No really. And you must really stink under that."
"Scott! Permission to kill little twerp on a holiday without repercussions!" Alex yelled to the kitchen door.
"Permission granted," Scott replied.
Remy side-stepped the pair doing their best to wrench each others' heads off. "Don't mind me. I'm just here for Rogue's pie. And the stuffing. Damn, Mrs. Rasputin makes a mean stuffing. And the yams. You'd think considering they gave us all the other food pre-cooked, they'd also cook our turkey."
"The professor said something about team-building and family-bonding." Scott stepped over Adam who sat on Alex's back, grinding his nose in the undoubtedly heirloom area rug.
"Eat carpet! Eat it!"
"Your skinny ass is digging into my kidneys."
"Admit defeat! Eat the goddamn carpet!"
"I can't eat anything through my helmet, you complete and utter donkey dick!"
Scott handed Remy a pile of plates and set to arranging the silverware himself.
"The professor wants us to bond by having a sleepover? Are we twelve?"
"At least fourteen," said Scott.
"We did all the bonding we need to. We bled all over each other; if that's not bonding nothing is."
"The professor frowns on therapeutic violence."
Howling in victory, Alex threw Adam over his head, slamming him on the table top. Remy rescued all four of the glasses from the floor; Scott caught the basket of dinner rolls.
"I can't imagine why," said Remy. He passed the yams across the table.
"How's your throwing arm?" asked Scott.
Wiggling the fingers on his undamaged left hand, Remy said, "Good as it's ever been. My jerk-off arm, though." Morosely, he patted the tensor bandage that remained around his wrist.
With a snort of laughter, Scott flicked three peas at Remy's face. He caught one in his mouth and two in his hand then spat the pea out of his mouth, cracking with charged energy. Scott zapped it with an optic blast.
"Scott," said Alex who had reversed his previous position and was now sitting on Adam. "Remind this infant that I'm not only bigger and badder but I'm a fucking walking nuclear warhead while he can't even muster up a sunburn until someone gets a paper cut."
"At least I can get some," Adam shot back. "You have to lie all alone and dream of Lorna while you grind your--"
"I am going to re-arrange your face. Next time Gav sleeps over, he's going to find your head blocking his way up your--"
Scott put his hands on his hips. "Adam, you know very well that the school doesn't allow sexual congress in the dormitories."
Alex laughed maniacally while Adam, gaping with betrayal, wailed, "Scott!"
Remy lifted an eyebrow. "Sexual congress? Here I thought only your clothes were stuck in the fifties."
"That goes for you, too, Remy."
"When was the last time you caught me having sexual congress in the dormitories?"
"Not until she graduates."
Remy just grinned his "eat shit" grin.
The stove timer beeped, announcing the gravy's readiness. Remy detached Adam's fist from Alex's solar plexus while Scott checked the stuffing, the turkey and the boysenberry pie respectively.
"How're you doing with your powers?" Scott asked Alex.
He made a face. "Suckily. The professor hasn't found that mental off-switch because of all the energy zapping around my body. I never knew there could be a down side to being a psychic blackhole."
"Damn, should've gone to school here and taken advantage of that," said Remy.
Adam accepted a bowl of greens and scooped a generous pile out on his plate. "How come I'm not a psychic blackhole?"
"You're the runt," said Alex.
Adam eyed the cranberry sauce pointedly.
"If anyone throws anything that stains, they're cleaning the boys' bathroom with a toothbrush," said Scott.
His youngest brother shrugged. "What about that stuff Essex said about us being Omegas and having half a dozen powers?"
Remy caught Scott's eye and shook his head minutely. In response, Scott kept his expression straight. "I think he was blowing things out of his ass. None of you are that special."
His three brothers looked at each other then, in a co-ordinated assault that he'd take pride in at any other time, they doused him with cranberry sauce.
A blob of sauce hung, shivering, on Scott's glasses. He pretended to glare at them. "I bet you think this was worth it."
"You have no idea," said Remy, massaging cranberry sauce into Scott's scalp.
Xavier's voice came through the speakers. "I'm sorry to interrupt but I've had a call from Emma Frost of Washington Academy. She found--" His voice faded uncertainly. "She said she found Jean just off the Port of Anacortes. Alive."
A knife clattered to the floor. Scott belatedly realised that it was his. He should wipe that quickly before the stain set on the antique rug; but no, this was all fake, he didn't have to clean anything up. What a relief.
Remy spoke, his words strong. "Be right out, professor. Thanks for the heads up."
Without being told, Adam and Alex started putting everything away. Remy stayed seated, reaching to his right to lay a hand on Scott's shoulder. Scott looked at the hand, then stared beyond it to Alex and Adam who were still quietly stacking dishes. He turned so his entire body around to address them all. They stopped and faced him; Remy straightened out of his slouch. Inexplicably, the lump in his throat melted away to half its size.
"Guys," he said, "I'm going to need your help with this."
His brothers beamed.