THE WIND 4
Please Read the Warning
and Notes at the beginning of Part
In sleep, I have dreams, and in dreams, I have Jean. She touches me: strong fingers across the muscles of my belly, thumb running up my sternum, along my collarbone, my jaw, then she grips my bare shoulders as she moves above me, and I, inside her. She speaks to me with her voice and with her mind and with her body. She enfolds me.
Waking is the nightmare. Cliched perhaps, but true. I have become fond of that in-between time when I am no longer asleep, but not yet awake a bridge of sighs where I can grasp the tendrils of my dreams, wrap myself in them like her hair falling in a curtain around my face as we make love. It hides our laughter. It hides our kisses. The time inside that curtain such a tiny percentage of my life has come to define my whole world. Out of focus, and outside time.
So on that bridge between waking and sleep, there is no pain. Until I become aware of the now. Until I feel the empty place inside my head.
Until I remember.
I woke in a bed, and for just an instant, I panicked. But it wasn't that bed. And I wasn't face down.
I will never be able to sleep on my stomach again.
I heard beeping from an IV monitor, cracked my eyelids a little. White ceiling. I didn't have all the colors that I'd once known as a boy, but I had more without the glasses. I saw greys and whites instead of pinks, and shades of dun, too. Blue was grey, yellow was almost white, green was brown-grey. Red, as always, was red. The strangest part was how well I could see in the dark without rose quartz to blind me. Hank had been right, all those years ago. I did have the vision of a cat. I wondered if my pupils were slit, too? Since I hadn't seen my own eyes since my mutation had manifested, I wouldn't know.
Stupid thing to wonder, but just now my brain didn't seem to want to function quite right. That should have worried me, but it didn't. I couldn't gather enough coherent thought to worry.
I knew where I was, however: one of the little rooms off the main lab where Jean had set up real hospital beds. Exam beds weren't suitable for long-term patients, especially those not comatose. Might roll off and break an arm, which didn't look good on the insurance claim.
She always did tell me that I had a sick sense of humor.
Stretching fingers, I gripped the sheets. Clean. They were clean. So was I. Cleaner, anyway. Physically, I felt very light, and light-headed, too. Drugs. A lot of drugs.
I heard another body shift when I moved my hand. I wasn't alone.
Fuck. Couldn't they leave me alone? My head was empty now, only myself in there. I was all the company I need.
Logan. At least it was only Logan. I still didn't much like the son of a bitch, but we'd gone way past anything so simple as like or dislike. I didn't much like my own brother, either, but I'd die for Alex. He's my brother.
"You want some water?" Logan's voice again. "Hank said you'd be thirsty."
I nodded and he moved into my field of vision. He'd shaved and cleaned himself up. He looked normal. Holding a water bottle, he angled the straw into my mouth. I drank. It tasted flat, a bit metallic, but it got rid of the cotton stuffing my throat. "He said you should take as much as you can. He's pumping you full of IV fluids, too. I didn't follow all the reasons why. He said something about raising your potassium. Hell, I didn't know the body had potassium."
"Potassium, Dextrose, electrolytes. I lost a lot of blood." Live with a doctor, you learn a few things.
"He's trying to avoid giving you a transfusion," Logan went on. "Said you got a rare blood type. Figures you'd be ornery that way, eh?."
"The universal doner, but not the universal recipient," I whispered, pushing away the straw. I couldn't drink any more; too much effort. "Negative Rh, too. Jean had some of my blood stored, if he needs it. Everyone always wants my blood. The Red Cross loves me. They call if I forget to go donate. I guess even mutant blood works in an emergency."
He glared at me with those eyes. They say as much as his words ever do. I notice people's eyes. I always did, even before my own were hidden behind red.
"You'd be surprised," I told him, half laughing for no good reason. It wasn't funny. "People seem to think they can catch it from me. Being a mutant."
"They can go to hell, then."
"Some would probably make that choice if asked first."
He shook his head, pulled up a chair to sit down closer to the bed. I turned a little to see him as I took stock of my body. Or tried. The lightweight feeling made it difficult. I wasn't in pain. Or rather, I was, but I was also so high, I just didn't give a damn. "What am I on? Demerol?"
"Something like that." We stared at each other a moment, then he said, "I talked to the professor, told him who had us. And what we knew."
"Where is he? I'd have thought he'd be here."
"He wanted to come. So did Ro. Hell, I think half the school would be down here if Hank'd let 'em in. I'll call Xavier if you want to see him."
He started to get up but I shook my head, so hard it made me dizzy. "I don't want to see anyone! Including you."
It was cruel, but I just didn't care. I didn't want anyone there.
I expected some smart-ass remark, but he only studied my face a moment, then got up. "Okay. I'll leave you alone for a while. I'll be in the outer lab; call me if you want me. I can hear you."
And he left. Just like that. Imagine. Logan doing something that I'd asked.
Not fair, Scott. He'd done a lot of things that I'd asked, and some that I hadn't asked, but had needed.
For long minutes, I just breathed, tried not to think much. Demerol made that easy. I considered going back to sleep, but didn't really want to. It was too hard to wake each time. If I could go back to sleep and stay there, I wouldn't hesitate.
I shifted a bit, to see if my body still worked right. Things hurt in an unspecified way. I found it more comfortable to lay on my side, but had to be careful of the IV in my hand, not catch it under me and yank it out. I'd always been such a good patient. Of course, it helped if the inspiration was getting your doctor to smile at you.
Dammit. Every thought. Everything. Everything came back to Jean. I tried to cry, but couldn't even do that. The drugs. They took away pain. All kinds of pain. But right then, I wanted my pain. Strange. To want pain, but I did. The pain was what I had left and I clutched it to me, my phantom lover in her place. Everything my captors had done to me in that cell had, in a twisted way, helped. They'd made me hurt in my body as much as I hurt in my heart. How they'd done that It had just given me another reason to kill them. Death and pain incarnate. I was the Rider on the Pale Horse. I'd brought their apocalypse.
I must have fallen asleep again, despite not wanting to. The second time I woke, I was still alone, still lying on my side. My head felt clearer now and I was more aware of my surroundings. The only light came from behind my bed. Flourescent white shining up on the ceiling, casting long shadows. But such an empty room, lonely in the corners. Cold air on my arms, too; I pulled them under the thermal blanket and listened to the IV monitor, watched the lights blink upward in a repetitive pattern. Green, yellow, red; green, yellow, red. Hypnotic. I couldn't see the colors beyond red always goddamn red but knew that's what they were. My body ached worse, but I didn't want additional drugs. Drugs got in the way of my mind, and I needed my mind.
I was very weak: a thrice wrung-out rag. All the strength I'd had to escape my prison was gone and I couldn't even imagine from where it had come. It was an effort just to raise my arm and look at it. Hank had bandaged the burns. I didn't want to see them anyway; they disgusted me, on many levels. I reached down to touch my side where I'd been shot. Christ, that had hurt. It was still sore, but bearable, and wrapped, too.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to focus on anything lower, where most of the pain centered. I'd survived by pretending that my body ended at the waist, or that I didn't have a physical body at all. Instead, I'd constructed a body of anger, lived and breathed in that. But I had to face it; I wouldn't be a coward. Let my body be a puzzle to solve; I was good at that. Tactics. Strategy. Observe the box. Think outside the lines. Cut the Gordion Knot. Fucking analyze, Summers. Think, think, think. I could think myself out of feeling. Amputated at the neck.
I was torn bad. But I'd known that already. None of the muscles worked right down there any more. And the ache throbbed. 'A pain in the ass' took on whole new meaning. I could feel the scratch of stitches on swollen skin if I moved a leg. Stiff soreness. Moving released a faint odor of witch hazel from the gauze padding between my legs. I started to touch myself, but drew back the hand. I just didn't want to know. There was no pressure in my bowels, no need to take a shit. Apparently I'd been given an enema, cleaned out. God knows, I hadn't been able to pass in the usual way. Cyclops, Leader of the X-Men had been thoroughly and literally fucked up.
Next, I became aware of the catheter. I'd never had one of those. Weird sensation, but and quite suddenly I wanted it OUT. I was so overwhelmed by the desire to get it out that I almost ripped it free with my own hands, except all those instincts little boys have drilled into them to take care with select parts of the anatomy kept me from doing so. So I lay there and fought for control. I'm so good at control. Even half-drugged. But it wasn't coming. I was invaded. Shame burns like bullets and stops thought. For a moment, I couldn't even breathe; then I started hyperventilating.
Logan heard me gasping. Damn his ears. He came in from where he must have been waiting right outside the door. Half lifting me in his arms, he wrapped me up close to his body. That, too, was shameful, but I'd gotten used to it. It was bearable because he never said anything. Or not much. Now, he said only, "Breathe, kid. In. Now out. In. Now out. In. Now out." A quiet litany. He was stroking my hair, like I was a child. "You'll be fine in a minute."
Eventually I was. But he continued to hold me. My own father had never held me like that.
Chin up, Scott. Keep a stiff upper lip, Scott. Grin and bear it, Scott. Make me proud. Never let them see you sweat. Never let them see you hurt. Never bow your head. And never, never let them see you cry.
Jean had seen me cry. Jean had gotten in under the shell and behind the glasses. I'd trusted her, handed her my heart and she'd taken care of it like it was something precious to her. Like I was something precious.
The professor had seen me cry, too. In relief. The first time I'd put on my glasses and hadn't been blind any more.
But they were the only ones. Until this had happened, as if getting fucked had unmanned me. I'd blubbered on the plane on the way back from Maryland, and now here I was, crying in Logan's arms. He said nothing no reproaches, no recriminations, no jokes, no insults just held me, shifted me a little when my weight started to put his arm to sleep. When I finally ran out of tears, he said, "You want more water?"
"A little, yes."
I felt him reach for it, but kept my eyes shut. He put the straw to my mouth and I drank again, a few swallows, pushed it away and he removed it. After a moment, I said, "Will you get this damn catheter out of me? I don't want anything in me."
"I'll get Hank "
"I don't want Hank!"
"I don't know what I'm doing, Scott. I could hurt you."
"It's not complicated. It's a tube. You pull it out." My voice was starting to go high. I hated it when it did that, as if I were still some prepubescent kid.
"It's a little more complicated than that. I saw Hank put it in. I'll get him."
"I don't want him touching me!"
Why it was all right for Logan to do so and not Hank, I couldn't have said.
"Scott, I can't. I'm sorry. If you don't want Hank, we'll have to leave it in."
It was too much, to have to choose between two things I couldn't bear. I almost started screaming in frustration, but focused instead on struggling free. I didn't want held down. He was holding me down. I was going to lose it.
He released me, laid me on the sheets and knelt by the bed, a hand still on my arm. "Hey, kid, relax. Breathe. Close your eyes and breathe, okay? Close 'em." I did what he said. "Keep them shut. I'll be right back."
I heard him move off, out into the lab. I heard them talking out there. I hadn't realized Hank was present, but should have. He'd heard me say that I didn't want him touching me. But I just didn't care. They came in, weight of their footfall and a creaking as Logan knelt by the bed again. It rocked a bit from his grip on the rail. He laid a palm on my forehead. "Keep your eyes closed." I nodded a little. To Hank, he said, "Get the damn thing out. I don't care if he has to wet the bed to go. I'll change it. Just get it out of him before he climbs the goddamn walls."
I could recognize Hank by his musky smell. I squeezed my eyes tight. Logan had slid the palm of his hand down so that it covered my eyelids, like blindfolding a spooked horse. The top sheets were moved, and then I felt other hands on my penis. I flinched. Hard.
"Easy," Logan said. "It'll be over in a minute." He gave me his free hand to hold.
Hank is very gentle. And there's no fur on his palms. They feel like anyone else's, except larger. He spoke as he worked. "We must deflate the ball that is inside your bladder, Scott. That's what keeps a Foley catheter in place. And that is why it cannot just be yanked out. We take the water out with a syringe, like this. Slow and easy. And now, I'll slide the tube out. It'll feel a little strange, but it won't hurt. Don't jerk or try to pull away from me. Slow and easy, too, just like this. Slow and easy . . . ."
It didn't hurt, but it felt damn weird, like pissing without pissing. I was clenching Logan's hand so hard, I could feel the metal in his bones.
"There. It's gone. I've put a plastic urinal by the bed, Scott. Use that if you need to go, and you'll probably feel like you need to frequently at first, even though your bladder is empty. It's a normal reaction. Please don't try to get out of bed. You are far too weak."
"Who else knows?" I asked; my eyes still shut behind Logan's hand. "Besides you two? Who else knows what they did to me?" Neither answered immediately. I could just picture them exchanging a glance. "Tell me, dammit!"
"Xavier," Logan said. "He was there when Hank cut the coveralls off you to get at the bullet wound."
"You were bleeding, Scott," Hank said quietly. "I had to see where all the blood was coming from. We fixed you up."
So. Charles knew that his favored field commander, his best little soldier, had been utterly vanquished. Once, Roman officers who'd lost a battle as badly as I had were sent a sword. The unspoken command was for them to fall on it.
Give me a sword and I'd comply, Professor. I failed. They took me by surprise, like a fool. I'd lost Jean. Then I'd lost control of myself. I'd finally escaped that place only because Logan the living weapon had gotten me out. Let Logan lead the X-Men. He'd earned it. I wanted no part of it any more. I was done with black leather and red visors and saving a humanity who only wanted to kill me and mine for something we didn't choose.
"Who else knows?" I asked. "Ororo?" Another long silence that gave me my answer without words. "Fuck," I muttered. "You may as well tell the whole damn school."
"No one else needs to know, Scott." Hank. "And Ro certainly wouldn't tell them. You know that. But she was there when Logan debriefed the professor."
"I didn't give her details, kid, and she didn't ask for them. It wasn't a gossip session. But if the shoe had been on the other foot, if it had been Ro, wouldn't you have wanted to know?"
Annoyed because he had a point, I pushed his hand away from my face and opened my eyes, glared at them both. I wanted to say, It's different for me. But why so? Did I assume that being male meant I had more pride? Jean would've kicked my ass for even thinking it. But I did think it. If a woman is raped in a situation like this, people don't blame her. They assume it. It's what happens to women in war.
And god, god. Jean. For the first time, it occurred to me that it might have been a good thing they hadn't taken Jean. Better me than her. Far better me.
But they hadn't raped Logan. Which just brought me back around to why. What kind of signals did I send out to people? Did they take me for a woman? Did they take me for weak?
Jean would've kicked my ass for that juxtaposition, too. But it didn't change the guilt I felt. I had no illusions that I could have stopped it physically. Not one man against four. But why me? How had I brought it about? What had I done that had made them think to rape me?
As if reading my mind, Logan said, "No one blames you, kid. No one."
"The professor blames himself," Hank added.
"He didn't lose the damn battle. And none of you got a dick up your ass. Multiple times."
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Charles sent you in ill prepared," Hank said finally. "You didn't expect to face what you did. He trusted them, and we trusted him. All of us. We are all equally guilty, and equally innocent."
"I should have been more prepared!"
Hank shook his head. "You have always tried to shoulder too much responsibility, Cyclops."
"Don't call me that, dammit. Never call me that again." I tried to sit up but Logan wouldn't let me, held me down. It didn't take much. "Cyclops was an idiot, in case you've forgotten. Odysseus duped him. I lived up to the name."
"Because you didn't expect grenade launchers and M-16s?" Logan asked. "We went in after renegade mutants, Cyclops. They don't have those kinds of weapons. Why on earth should you have been prepared for that?"
"Because I can't get complacent! I can't assume that I'll know what I'll face. If I do, people die. People did die. It was my error. I lost Jean. I killed her. My stupid mistake killed her!"
The words broke me. It was the first time I'd said that aloud. I'd thought it plenty, but this was the first time I'd said it aloud. I was sobbing all over again.
"Kid, no - "
"Shut up, Logan! You weren't there! You don't know what happened!"
"So what did happen?" Logan asked. His voice was perfectly calm, not accusatory.
Six days we'd spent cooped up together yet we'd never talked about that initial confrontation which had landed us in our prison in the first place. I just hadn't been able to.
Now, I swallowed and bit the fleshy part of my hand until I quit crying. Then I said, "We were scanning the area as we moved up the tunnel; I had the left side, Jean had the right. We'd almost reached the three hundred feet that I'd said we should go, but there was another, smaller access tunnel just beyond. It was cordoned off with plastic sheeting, dark behind, but Jean said she thought she saw movement, then closed her eyes to see if she could sense anything.
"I was looking right at the tunnel. I didn't look up. I should've kept scanning the whole damn time. But I assumed that I knew where the attack would come from. There was a grating above. They dropped down on us out of it. They were almost too close for me to shoot. I'd had the visor prepped for the distance to the tunnel access, and wasn't ready for a target that close. So I missed. They didn't."
My voice cracked on the last word.
"My mistake killed her," I whispered, because I couldn't get sound past the cold explosion in my chest. "They opened fire at less than a foot away and cut her in half."
Logan laid his hand on my head again. "It wasn't your finger on the trigger. Let blame fall on the right shoulders, kid. And they ain't yours. Jeannie didn't blame you."
"How would you know?"
"Because she told me to get you out. To take care of you for her. Hell of a job I did."
Numbness spread in my belly like the fingers of an opening hand. "How did she tell you that?"
"Logan - " Hank warned at the same time Logan replied: "In my head."
In his head.
So. There at the end, she'd spoken to Logan. Not to me.
I lifted myself up on my arms to pull away from him. I had to get away from him.
She'd spoken to him.
"Scott - "
"Calm down. It's not what you think, kid."
"Scott!" from Hank. "You're going to reopen your wounds."
"Good! I hope I do! And don't fucking tell me to fucking calm down! What was she doing in your head, Logan? Why you? Why'd she talk to you?" I screamed the last and tried to slug him.
He just grabbed my wrist. "Whoa. Stop it! And she tried, kid. She tried to reach you, but you wouldn't listen. You were too frantic, trying to save her when she was past saving. She wasn't talking to me like you think. The last thing she said to me was about you."
"So it's all my fault? She talked to you because I wouldn't listen?"
Then the truth of that struck bottom. And I remembered. Remembered what I'd tried to forget. Jean in my head, screaming at me to go away. Screaming that she was as good as dead. I hadn't wanted to hear. So I'd blocked her out. She'd been dying and I'd blocked her out to die alone.
Everything in me was breaking. My heart, my soul, my mind. I ripped free of Logan's grip and struck out because I couldn't take the pain inside. I hit the railing, Logan, the IV monitor, Hank . . . . I think I was yelling, but I was too far past myself to be aware of what I was doing besides that insane need to hit and hurt and hurt myself.
I have no clear memory of what happened next. I know that Logan got
me pinned and Hank sedated me, but I know that only because I was told
later. I do remember falling down into black. And the dreams, when they
came, were no longer good. Now I saw only Jean's ripped body, saw only
her blood on my own hands. Red. It's the only color I still have.
I don't know how long I was unconscious. A while. I woke drugged out of my mind once more, too fuzzy in the head to feel anger or panic or anything much. I needed to pee, as Hank had said I would, but was too out of it to try. Fortunately my bladder was empty, whatever it seemed, or I'd have made a mess of my sheets. I slid in and out of awareness, but finally surfaced enough to make out parts of a hushed conversation between Logan, the professor, and Hank. ". . . . should be . . . . at all times." Hank's voice.
"You think . . . suicidal?" Logan.
"I think he is still in psychic shock." The professor. Even soft, his voice carries so well I could hear his complete sentences. "In crisis, the mind shuts down so that we hear and remember only what the psyche is able to handle. With time, we become able to assemble the whole truth. That is happening now for Scott. He is back in a safe place, and so he is remembering. But even so, he may not recall precisely what occurred."
I dragged my eyes open. They were just outside my door. "I remember fine," I said, and had the satisfaction of seeing all three jump. "I remember exactly what happened. If there's one thing I can do, it's remember space and movement." The words were coming out slurred and slow. The last time I'd been this muddled, I'd split five pitchers of green beer with EJ on a bar tour on Saint Patrick's day. That had been funny. This wasn't. "I remember everything, Professor. Every fucking thing. And what I remember most is that I shut out my lover when she needed me. I shut her out when she was dying."
Saying that knowing that should've hurt like hell, but I felt nothing. Which made me angry-not-angry. Drug-induced apathy killed both my anger and my hurt. All I had was the not-feeling. It was worse, in a way, than being handcuffed and bent over that damn bed. Just another way of fucking with my head.
"Get me off the pain-killers, Hank," I said. "I feel like shit. I can't even talk right."
Hank came in to turn down the IV as the professor motored his chair right up to the edge of my bed. We looked each other in the eye for the first time really and truly in the eye, with no red quartz between. He seemed old, and tired, the skin under his eyes bruised. I doubted he'd slept. A million things were written on his face, but guilt foremost among them. I didn't feel sorry for him though. I wanted to make him hurt as badly as I couldn't. "Are you proud of me now, Professor? I screwed up. I got your protégé telepath killed."
"It was a mistake, Scott. And I don't blame you. I wish you'd quit blaming yourself."
I rolled away, put my back to him. "I blame me. You should, too."
"Scott - "
"Go the fuck away."
"Son - "
"I'm not your son! I was never your son. Go away."
The wheelchair retreated. I listened to the sound of it fade back,
feet behind it. I closed my eyes and returned to sleep.
The next time I woke, I was alone. So. They were learning. But I could tell that they'd been working on me while I was out. The bandage around my middle had been changed at least once and it felt like they'd done something to my ass again which made me feel . . . I don't know what. Shame was getting old, but it didn't go away just for wishing it. I didn't want touched. Not by Hank, not by anyone, not even to heal me. Why couldn't they just shut the door, turn out the light, and let me die? Why live when I hurt so much inside?
I wasn't angry any more. A combination of drugs, apathy, and exhaustion. It takes energy to be angry and I had none to sustain it. I laid quiet for a long while and breathed, listened to the sound of the air conditioning, the IV, and kept my eyes shut hoping I might go back to sleep. But I needed to take a leak too badly now. With the catheter gone and they wisely hadn't put that back in my bladder had to be emptied in the old fashioned way. The plastic urinal was still on the bed stand, but that brought back bad memories of the pail in my cell. I refused to use it.
I sat up. Very slowly. Just a few movements at a time. Roll onto my side. Legs over the edge of the bed. Lever up on both arms to balance on my hip. I couldn't put weight on my ass, hadn't for over a week and had gotten used to propping myself on one hip or the other. At least I no longer felt like I was about to tear in half. My arms shook, just holding my body up. But oddly, I felt a little better for being upright.
With great caution, I gripped the bed rail and dropped down onto my feet. I knew better than to trust my knees to hold me up. Luckily, these rooms were quite small. Unluckily, the bathroom was still a good four or five steps away, and nothing in between. I wasn't going to crawl. I wasn't an animal. I took deep breaths, waiting for the vertigo to pass. Then, hanging on to the IV pole, I walked. I'm not sure how, but I did. Five steps, until my hand could grip the jamb.
And then, of course, I promptly collapsed.
I made a lot of noise coming down, too, since my legs went out from under me and knocked over a chair with a crash. It's amazing I didn't tear out the IV.
"What on earth are you doing!"
I looked up. Ororo. Gaping at me from the main doorway. Of course they wouldn't leave me unguarded. "Your turn to watch the rabid dog?" I snarled, flipping myself over onto my back to conceal the open rear of that stupid hospital gown. Those things are dehumanizing. "I mauled everyone else, so they left you to muzzle me? Thought a woman's touch might do the trick?"
Ro has a splendid exasperated look. And she's far less complacent than people think. She came in the door to get one arm under my back and lever me up, let me hang on to her. She's also stronger than people think. Stronger in a lot of ways. "You can be a real bastard sometimes, Scott. What were you trying to do? Re-open all your wounds?"
"Just go to the bathroom."
She pointed to the urinal by the bedside.
"No way. I'm not using that goddamn thing."
"You are the most stubborn man alive worse than Logan, by far."
She knew just where to kidney punch me, too. But she got me and my IV the rest of the way into the bathroom where I could lean into the sink.
And see my face in the mirror above.
Ten years. I hadn't seen my own eyes for ten years. Or nine years and a few-odd months. It's impossible to explain what that's like.
"They're still blue."
How stupid. But it was the first thought out of my mouth. Actually, they were silver-grey to my sight now, but I knew what color they'd once been. Sky blue. I'd been vain of my eyes.
"Of course they are blue," Ro said. "Did you think they would change to brown? You may be full of shit sometimes, but I have never noticed that changing anyone else's eye color."
I grinned. Ro's sense of humor is as quirky, and as well-hidden, as my own. "I thought they might have turned red."
"Nothing so exciting. Just boring blue."
"Gee, thanks for the compliment."
Her lips tipped up slightly. "You are vain enough, peacock."
"Right. Get out of here. Let me go to the bathroom."
"I can't. You will fall over again."
"I'm not - "
"Shut up, Scott. You have nothing which I have not seen before. Or did you forget a certain card game during a blizzard eight years ago? I doubt that you have changed so much."
God. That card game. We'd all been underage and as drunk as skunks, and Ororo had bested us at strip poker. "You cheated."
"Of course I did. I was the only girl. You did not know how to cheat. Frank was too honest to cheat. And Warren too pampered. I was none of those things. I was also not interested in giving three teenaged boys a free show." The tip of the lips again. Then she sobered and the dark eyes turned serious. "Scott, please. You need me to help support you, but credit me with some manners. I won't peek."
And she didn't. She helped me to the toilet, then stared at the wall while I took care of it. But I stopped at the sink again to wash my hands and look in the mirror one more before I went back to bed. Past the shock of the eyes was the shock of the rest of it. Bruises on my left cheek and temple, my right forehead, the right side of my chin. I could see finger marks on my neck from where they'd held my face into the mattress while they'd fucked me. "I need to shave and shower. And brush my teeth."
"You may shave and shower later. As for your teeth, Logan brought your bag down. There is a toothbrush in it. If you promise me that you will not attempt to move, I shall fetch it."
She went out and came back in seconds with the bag, fished out the toothbrush and toothpaste. I brushed my teeth. It's amazing how much difference such a small matter makes. And Ororo was probably the best thing for me just then; she was the one who'd bully me instead of pity me.
When I was done, she got me back to the bed, though I was so weak, I almost overbalanced us both. Just getting to the bathroom had taken all the energy I'd had, so I collapsed in a heap on the sheets. She had to lift my legs up and get the blanket over me, untangle the IV line. So much for modesty. I'd probably be embarrassed later, but just at the moment, I was too far gone to care. I fell asleep immediately.
When I woke for the fourth time, lying on my side, she was still there, sitting in the chair by the bed, head back against wall, eyes closed. Maybe she was meditating, maybe just dozing. Her white hair spread out around her like a cloud. "Hey," I said.
Her chin came down. "Please do not tell me that you want a repeat of the bathroom adventure."
I smiled almost against my will. "No. Not now. How long has it been? I mean, how long since we got back to the mansion?"
"You don't know?"
"I've been on drugs, Ro. Still am. My head isn't entirely clear even now. I've lost all sense of time. Tell Hank to turn the drug drip off."
"It has been two days. And you need the drugs, Scott. You would be in severe pain, otherwise."
I rolled onto my back. "Better the pain."
"I do not think so."
"It's not your body. Tell him to turn the drugs off."
"I will tell him. If you wish to be stubborn and stupid, I suppose that is your business."
"You don't know."
"No, I do not know exactly what you are feeling. But I recognize sense, and you are not displaying any."
"Why should I? Who cares?"
Deep sighing gust. "Self pity does not become you."
She didn't reply. I stared at the ceiling, tried to harness my thoughts into some order. I really needed to get control of my head.
Two days. Plus the twelve or so we'd spent in our prison. Two weeks, all together. Two weeks since I'd touched Jean, since I'd spoken to her, since I'd felt her presence.
Our mental link hadn't meant that I'd known what she was thinking all the time. In fact, I rarely had. It had taken concentration on her part, either for her to read my mind or for her to project her thoughts into mine. I wouldn't have wanted her to know all my thoughts anyway. Sharing minds sounds romantic in theory, but in practice turns out embarrassing. We need our privacy. We imagine things we don't really want, or make passing observations that we'd rather not share with others. My link with Jean had been a matter of psychic presence. Like holding her hand. In fact, after she'd put it between us, we'd stopped needing to touch so much. Sometimes I think that's why she did it she was tired of me hanging on her. I'm physical that way, at least in private.
So after the link, she'd always been there. I'd wake up, and that was my first awareness in the morning. Jean. She could be in the bed next to me, in the shower, down in the dining room, or even down in the lab. It didn't matter. She was there, in my head.
Now she wasn't. But I kept feeling as if she were, I kept reaching for her with that part of my mind. But it never connected. This must be what an amputee experiences, reaching with a non-existent arm. Ghost sensation.
"Did her parents bury her?" I asked now into the room's silence. Burial wasn't what Jean had wanted, but it's what her parents would have done, if I hadn't been there to enforce her wishes.
Ororo didn't answer immediately, then said, "The body hasn't been recovered, Scott."
Her words fell off of me, like water from oil. I couldn't speak.
"We looked," Ro went on after a minute. "We looked for all of you in fact. The professor with Cerebro, Hank and I on foot. The professor could not feel you, but because we could find no bodies, either, we held out hope that you were merely being held."
"Right on two accounts."
"I am sorry," she said, soft. I turned finally to look at her. Real pain. Jean had been her friend, too, after a fashion the only two adult women here, though they weren't much alike otherwise. Ro was closer to me than to Jean by virtue of our age and shared experiences. Jean had never been a student with us in the same way.
"Do her parents know she's dead?" I asked.
"The professor talked to them. The morning after. He called and spoke to her father. They knew she was missing; they were prepared."
I turned back to stare at the ceiling. Grey, grey . . . . Grey ceiling. Grey life without Jean Grey. "They must hate me."
"No. They do not."
I ignored her. "They never approved of me in the first place, wanted Warren Worthington the Third. Somebody else with money and membership at the country club."
She didn't reply to that.
"Do they have the memorial all planned?"
"They are waiting for you. They have been waiting for you to recover."
I laughed. It was painful from the bullet wound in my side, the stitches in my ass, and the hole in my heart. "They'll be waiting a long time then." Another lengthy silence. The sound of both of our breathing in the room. I wished I could go back to sleep but I was thoroughly awake now. "Tell me what else's happened. Did they put out APBs on Logan and me?"
"No. Though the professor has insisted that both of you stay in the lower levels, should it become necessary to hide you. But so far, there has been no attempt to locate you, no warrant for your arrest." A pause. "You did a great deal of damage, Scott. They are currently attributing it to terrorists. Exploding an entire building was not the smartest tactical decision that you have ever made. They cannot ignore it now."
"I don't care. As long as I blew them all to hell, I'm happy."
"One hundred and twenty-seven died in the initial blast. Another seven have died since, of burns. Thirty-one remain in critical condition. Is that what you truly wanted?"
She was trying to make me feel guilty. Trouble was, the numbers made me happy. "Yes, Ro. It's what I wanted. I'd make the count higher if I could. And if I find out who sold us out, I'll make it higher by at least one."
I heard her rise, move so that her face entered my field of vision. "That does not sound like the Scott Summers whom I know and respect."
I met her dark gaze. "The Scott Summers you know died two weeks ago. He just hasn't had the good grace to lie down yet."