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FIC: The Price of Love 8/?

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  • rimmette@earthlink.net
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30 11:43 PM
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      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
      classes.

      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
      legs afterwards.

      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
      effectively.

      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
      well.

      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
      her decline.

      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
      her away.

      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.

      "Why?"

      "I don't know... She's mine," Venom answered, confusion mingling with
      her pain and guilt.

      "Who?"

      "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
      problem was.

      *****

      TBC.
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