FIC: The Price of Love 8/?
- The Price of Love 8/?
For disclaimers, etc., see part one.
Even though it was only ten in the evening, I was more than ready for
sleep. The administration of a school is a full-time job. Just
because tomorrow is a Saturday doesn't mean I don't have work to do.
After being gone last week with Jean on our lobbying trip, it'd taken
a week just to catch up with the school's business, not to mention my
Jean has told me on more than occasion to focus on the affairs of the
school and turn my classes over to another teacher, but I can't bear
to lose those two hours I have with the students, one-on-one. It
makes me feel connected to them. Of course, it is also very
draining, but the benefits are worth the extra hours and lost sleep.
Speaking of which, I planned to gain back some of those lost hours
tonight. I was already half-way there, propped up comfortably in bed
against a mound of pillows, having spent the past half-hour reading.
Most of my students would probably think that I read Dickens or Lewis
whenever I have a spare moment. Although I do enjoy the classics, my
collection is not nearly so limited. I am currently reading Rowling,
specifically the first Harry Potter book.
It would be impossible not to notice how popular the series had
become with the younger teen and pre-teen students. However, after
several months, I began to notice the books in the hands of even the
junior and senior students. When I casually mentioned that I thought
it was just a children's book, Jubilee corrected me, saying it
was "mega cool" and loaning me a copy.
Now that I'm half way through the Sorcerer's Stone, I understand
completely why the books have become a part of life here. They are
allegorical tales, using magic and witchcraft as a means of
communicating the difficulties faced by newly manifested mutants.
The idea of Harry discovering himself to be different from his family
who summarily rejects and mistreats him and going to a school where
he could be not only accepted but encouraged to seek out his full
potential was so similar to some of my own student's experiences as
to make me wonder whether the author was a mutant herself. It might
be something worth researching. She was already bringing
understanding of the mutant condition to the hearts of the general
population, even if they didn't seem to realize it.
It was something I'd have to do another time, though. I set the book
on the nightstand, discarded my extra pillows, and lifted the
covers. It's easier to shimmy my way down into a prone position
without the covers twisting up around my unmoving legs. When I was
first injured, it was a clumsy process of moving and adjusting over
and over until I was down. Now, with decades of practice, I can do
it with one quick downward shift and then sit up to straighten out my
The last step in my bedtime routine is to fortify my mental
shielding. During the day, when I am awake and alert, I like to keep
my shields lower so I can get a sense of the overall feelings of the
student body. I also like to be able to pick up projected hints from
my students as to how they are so I can advise and guide them more
At night, however, I need more protective shields for the benefit of
both myself and my students. Several of the teenagers who live at
this school and even some of the teachers have occasional
nightmares. If my shields are not strong enough, I will experience
the emotions if not the actual sights and sounds associated with the
dreams. It would be a horrible breach of privacy on my part.
The privacy and self-determination of others has been of paramount
concern to me since about a year after my powers manifested. I first
learned that I was a mutant when I was twelve, waiting for my parents
outside of my headmaster's office. I can't remember the exact
circumstances resulting in the meeting, but I know it was something
bad. I was what my mother called a "spirited boy" and what the
headmaster called a "disruptive troublemaker." Meetings with my
mother had become commonplace, but this was the first time my father
had left his office to attend a meeting. I had to have done
something heinous for him to be present.
I remember the anxious worry I felt, sitting on that hard wooden
chair next to the headmaster's door. My ear was up against the wall,
and I was straining with all my might to catch any word or phrase
that might give me a hint as to how much trouble I was in.
Suddenly, I realized that even though I couldn't hear what they were
saying, I could sense their emotions. Father was furious. Mother
was worried. The headmaster was righteously indignant. Just as I
was coming to understand their emotions, words, phrases, half-
thoughts, and disjointed images filled my head. At first, it was
only the three of them, but soon it expanded until a cacophony of
voices filled my head. It was confusing agony. I couldn't move,
couldn't speak, couldn't even think. I was completely overwhelmed by
the thoughts of those around me.
I had to protect myself, so I tried my best to ignore the voices and
started creating bricks. I stacked them around me, creating floor,
walls, and ceiling entirely out of the sturdiest material my
imagination could provide. As I laid the last brick into place, my
mind became my own again, the overpowering voices suddenly gone,
leaving behind the deafening silence of a mind that was my own again.
I opened my eyes to find myself in a hospital bed. I'd been in a
coma-like state for a month.
Over the next year, I modified my brick fortress, pushing it out away
from my body so it was less like a vertical tomb and more like a
fort. In fact, I started thinking of it like that. The brick
changed to a thick, sturdy wood, and the fort moved up into a tree,
away from the jabbering masses, I added accessories including a
sealed window, a spy glass, and a flag with an X emblem on it.
When I was thirteen, I met Bridget Campbell. She was a stunning
blonde, my age but over two inches taller than me and seemingly so
much more mature. I wanted her to like me so much. I would sit and
stare and her in class, wishing that she would come up and talk to
me. One day, I saw her in the park. I stared at her as usual,
wishing and hoping that she would approach me. Without even
realizing it, I'd trained my imaginary spy glass on her through the
window in my mental fort.
She looked up, saw me, and smiled. She pranced over to me and
immediately began telling me everything I'd ever wanted to hear from
her but never dreamed would be a possibility. Then she bent over and
started kissing me passionately. It was a little too much sensation
for my thirteen year old mind to take in, and I lost whatever
concentration I'd been holding. Bridget immediately backed away from
me putting her hand to her lips with a shocked expression. She ran
away, never to speak to me again, and I realized that I had been
controlling her. I had been making her do the things that I'd
dreamed of for so long.
It wasn't real. It felt wrong, almost dirty, to force my will upon
another person. I vowed that day that I would do everything in my
power to learn how to control my gifts. Now, here I am, a headmaster
of a school of my own. Teaching others how to control their gifts as
I settled into sleep tonight only to be aroused no more than an hour
later by overwhelming emotions, despite my stronger shielding. It
took only a second to realize that no one student's nightmare had
woken me. Something very real and very frightening was occurring
right now. Logan's barely controlled rage and terror for Marie,
Rogue's fear after being attacked and touched again, Jean's
professional concern barely covering frantic worry for her patients,
Scott's confusion and shock at discovering Venom, and Venom, my one
failure, experiencing a mixture of guilt, fear, pain, and joy.
She'd been quiet for eight years, but I should have known her self-
imposed isolation wouldn't last forever. I just hadn't wanted to
face it. I had failed her so horribly.
I'd made her to do too much too quickly. I should have let her move
at her own pace. I should have waited until Henry had finished
formulating the antidote before forcing her to mingle with the other
students, but I didn't.
Henry had been the first of my students, a child shunned by all who
looked upon him, but gifted with an extraordinary mind. Under my
tutelage and encouragement, he'd excelled becoming a medical doctor
as well as a Ph.D. several times over. His death crushed me.
For the first few years after his loss, it was easier to blame the
reclusive woman who had accepted the guilt wholeheartedly than to
take into account the circumstances resulting in his death.
I'm ashamed to say that I hated her. She had not purposefully taken
away a man I'd come to think of as my son, but I'd treated her as if
she had. I'd allowed her to fade into the shadows of the mansion,
becoming a ghost herself.
After several years, my feelings towards her changed as my anger gave
way to understanding, but I felt it was too late. How could I
approach her now after ignoring her for so long? I buried myself in
my work, trying to hide from the knowledge of my failure as she hid
from the residents of the mansion.
Now, she had revealed herself, and from the increasingly worried
thoughts, mixed with unrecognizable medical terminology I was getting
from Jean, her blood was killing someone again.
My mind might be powerful, but no one will ever say that my body is
strong or fast again. It took me time to maneuver out of bed and
into my chair so I could make my way down to the Med Lab. Jean's
thoughts were racing, and I didn't want to disturb her just to have
my curiosity satisfied, so I was forced to wait for my answers.
Still, from the emotions crashing over me in waves, I could surmise
how events were playing out below me.
Rogue's presence had weakened for a moment only to be dramatically
strengthened while Logan faded away from me almost completely. I
could only surmise that he had touched her, allowing her to absorb
his healing abilities, but at what price to him?
It took a maddeningly long time to reach the Med Lab and when I
arrived, no one was in the main area. I could hear voices down the
hall, so I proceeded in that direction.
I found Jean and Scott standing next to a seated Rogue all looking
through the observation window of the first isolation room. Jean
adjusted the speaker, and I could hear Venom's voice for the first
time in eight years, raspy and weak from disuse. She was repeating a
number to herself. "Thirty-four."
The first few weeks after Henry's death, I could feel her dreams.
She'd reverted to sleeping during the day so that she could get her
meals at night while the halls were empty. Even though I pushed her
away from my mind, I couldn't block myself completely off from my
students, so I ended up catching a few stray thoughts. Every time I
heard her, her guilt-ridden mind was repeating a number, "Thirty-two."
I understood what the number meant. When I'd first introduced myself
to her, she'd warned me away saying that she'd killed thirty-one
people and would likely kill more. Upon Henry's death, her number
changed to thirty-two, and now, here in the Med Lab, it sounded like
she'd added two more people to her tally.
Even before I could open my mouth to ask who else besides Logan was
injured, Venom had adjusted her number down to thirty-three, and
Rogue had answered thirty-two.
I moved my chair forward to join them. Jean and Scott turned to
acknowledge my presence, but Rogue's attention was focused completely
on the room before her.
Now that I had moved, I could see Venom crouched in the far corner of
the room. Her eyes were bruised and her nose looked out of joint,
but most striking was her skin-and-bones figure. She'd always been
small in stature, but now her extreme thinness made her seem even
smaller. Pity and guilt flooded though me as I realized my role in
As I watched, Venom shook her head sadly in response to Rogue's
correction and said, "Thirty-three."
Rogue, who had been slumped in her wheelchair and was to all
appearances exhausted, sat up straight, anger blazing in her
eyes. "Look here, you bitch. He's not dying so you can shut your
trap about that number thing right now."
Jean's pager vibrated at her waist and she pulled it up sharply.
"No!" she yelled, turning on her heel and running into the next
quarantine room without saying a word to any of us. I could feel her
rising concern, and when I searched for Logan, his presence was too
faint to keep a fix on.
Rogue was sitting frozen in her chair, her eyes wide and her breaths
coming in short gasps. She started whispering "No," over and over,
each time increasing the volume of the word until she was
yelling. "No! Logan!"
"Scott, get her back to her bed."
"No! Stop! I need to see Logan!" Rogue protested as Scott wheeled
Unable to help Scott or Jean, I remained with Venom.
"Why did you attack Logan?" I asked, confused as to what had caused
her to come out of hiding.
"He attacked me," she answered, starting to pound her head back
against the wall.
"I don't know... She's mine," Venom answered, confusion mingling with
her pain and guilt.
"The girl. She cures mutation. She's the answer to my prayers. She
came here to save me."
"Rogue? Did she tell you that?"
"No, but I heard them talking about it. She's here for me, Xavier.
Just let me touch her and I'll leave. I'll never kill anyone again."
I shook my head. "I can't let you touch her."
"But... she's mine." she answered, clearly not understanding what the