REPOST: Night of the Dead Living: Ensemble 1/3
- Since Yahoo is making me miserable and Part 1 is lost in the ether somewhere... (of course, as soon as I send this, it'll show up. Grr... need vodka tonic now...) I'm reposting it.
Sorry if you get it multiple times.
Title: Night of the Dead Living
Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@...]
Summary: "It was too damn hot to sleep."
Rating: PG - language
Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.
Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool; ask - I'll say yes.
Feedback: Hit me, baby, one more time.
Notes: Thanks to Jen, Melissa Pete, Dot, and Meg. If this seems at all familiar, it's because I've ripped off two of my favorite episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street to produce it. *g* "Night of the Dead Living" [the transcript of which can be found here: http://www.windowseat.org/homicide/scripts/103nightofdeadliving.html along with a bunch of other H:LotS transcripts] and "Stakeout." Mostly NotDL, but there's a teeny little bit of Stakeout thrown in. NotDL was written by Frank Pugliese.
Night of the Dead Living
A lone candle burned in the darkness of the security control room.
The door opened, and one very smug-looking Wolverine entered.
He'd found the one room in the mansion where the air conditioning still worked.
Well, not really. It just had an oscillating fan to move around all the hot air, giving the illusion of coolness.
He closed the door quietly and sat down in one the leather armchair nearest the fan, sighing. It wasn't *that* much cooler than the rest of the house, but it was still better than the sauna his room had become. At least the control room had a fan. He pointed it at himself, feeling the sweat begin to dry. And the air coming out of the vents wasn't *hot*. It amazed him that they'd somehow managed to turn the *heat* on in the dead of August, and none of them could figure out how to turn it off. The guy from Con Ed wasn't coming until sometime in the morning, and it was too damn hot to sleep.
If he didn't think Cyke would blow a hole in him, he'd be walking around naked. His boxer shorts -- his one concession to modesty in a house full of kids -- stuck to his thighs, making him very uncomfortable, especially in the leather seat.
But it was still marginally less hot than his bedroom. He glanced cursorily over the monitors, but saw nothing to alarm him.
He briefly thought of putting the candle out -- it only added heat to the room -- but then realized it smelled nice and lemony, and was actually kind of peaceful.
Ororo, Hank and the Professor were at a conference in Washington, attempting to persuade people that "separate but equal" hadn't worked in the school system before, and it sure as hell wouldn't work with mutants.
Logan wondered idly if an emergency trip to DC in the Blackbird to pick up the weather witch would be feasible. And if he could convince Rogue to go with him. Maybe a change in the weather would help his cause with her, he thought, only half-jokingly.
He was dozing lightly, enjoying the cool air on his heated skin, when the door was thrown open.
He cracked open an eye to see Scott stomp in. He raised an eyebrow and Scott grunted in reply.
"I've been here. I just had to take a leak," Scott answered.
Logan rolled his eyes, but changed the subject. He didn't want to know about Scooter's bladder control problems.
"Why do you light that candle every night? Especially when it's so goddamn hot?"
"I don't. I thought you did."
"It's not me."
"Huh. Can't you sniff out who it is?"
Logan shrugged. "If the candle was looking to kill one of us, I'd be all over it. But now? It smells lemony and like everyone who's ever been in here."
It was Scott's turn to shrug. He flopped down into the other chair; Logan couldn't ever recall seeing Scott flop before. He walked around like he was the one with an adamantium skeleton, and a big metal stick up his butt.
After a long silence, Scott said, "I thought you could fix anything. Why the hell can't you fix the air conditioning?"
Logan growled softly. "Don't lay this on me, One-Eye. I'm not the one with the fancy engineering degree."
More silence, not unfriendly, but not really comfortable, either.
"Rogue's thinking about leaving the team," Scott said abruptly.
Logan's hands tightened on the arms of his chair. This was the first he'd heard of it.
Of course, since their big blow-out the other night over her current choice of companionship, they hadn't spoken much. He speculated about how long it would be until he had to pick up the pieces for her again. All her relationships had ended badly, save the one with Bobby back when they were seniors in high school, and he was sure this one would be no different. It pissed him off that, time and again, she chose these losers who were no good for her, rather than himself, the one right under her nose, who'd never intentionally hurt her and, in fact, had nearly died to save her.
Not that he would ever bring that up, or begrudge her the use of his healing factor. The way he could heal her if she got hurt was one of the rare things that made being a mutant bearable.
Thinking of the way their mutations meshed, he felt the sweat drip down his back as he recalled the long sleeved shirt and jeans she'd been wearing earlier, and the way her perspiration beaded on her upper lip. Torn between offering to lick it off and throwing her in the pool, he'd stomped away, trying to get his feelings under control, trying to forget that the current coldness between them was partially his fault.
He wondered again if a break in the weather was the way to her heart.
He tried to keep his voice level. "Is that so?"
Scott glanced at him. "Yeah. Dwight wants her to go back to Mississippi with him."
Scott raised an eyebrow. "Sorry. I figured you knew."
Logan retracted the claws, relishing the sting. Most people didn't realize they hurt just as much going in as they did coming out. He sighed. "Nah. We haven't spoken since--"
Scott nodded. Everyone in the house had heard the fight. Logan and Rogue were many things, but subtle and quiet had never been part of their repertoire.
More silence, a little friendlier this time. Seven years of being in life-or-death situations together, as well as Jean's unwavering devotion to her fianc� -- now husband -- had dissipated much of the tension between the two men. Neither would ever admit it, but in addition to a grudging but mutual respect, they actually kind of liked each other.
Logan was dozing, open-eyed this time, staring unseeingly at the monitors in front of him, when Scott blurted, "Do you think I'm romantic?"
Logan blinked. He looked around, then turned back to Scott. "Well, for a first date, this *is* kind of lame," he drawled, winning a reluctant chuckle.
"Jean says I'm not romantic anymore."
Logan waited for the stab of triumph he usually felt over his rival's shortcomings. Instead, he felt a surprising sympathy. "Women like all that romantic shit. Flowers for no reason. Holding hands." This should have made him more uncomfortable than he was, but he just wanted Jean to be happy, and she'd chosen Scott. Therefore, it was his job to make sure Scott made her happy. "You love her, right?" He already knew the answer. Scott would walk through fire for any of them -- he'd learned that the hard way -- but his feelings for Jean transcended even that.
"More than anything."
He swiveled the chair to face Scott. "Do you tell her a lot?"
"She's a telepath. How could she not know?"
Logan shook his head in disgust. "Christ, I don't know how you ever got her to go out with you in the first place. You made a commitment, Scooter. Love, honor and cherish. That means you've gotta tell her every day -- every hour, even. Women -- they're not like us. They need to hear it. A lot."
Scott sighed. "I think she wants a baby. We've been talking about it."
This time, Logan rolled his eyes in addition to shaking his head. "I can't believe the dumb shit that comes out of your mouth sometimes. For a smart guy, you're real stupid, you know that? This isn't about babies or anything like that." Logan paused. He was sure that when Scott thought about it later, he would be just as stunned as Logan was that they were even having this conversation. "You just need to pay attention to her. *Love* her. Show her she's still the whole world, like she was when you first got together. Stop spending every waking moment with the jet or the kids or Chuck." His voice held an intensity that made Scott look up sharply, and he knew he'd given himself away, that he wasn't just talking about Jean and Scott anymore.
"I guess I have been a little -- inattentive lately. And then, Betsy--"
Logan grinned. "She's a handful, that one."
"No. I -- I kinda got my eye on someone else." Someone who was currently not speaking to him; someone who was dating the biggest horse's ass this side of the Rockies. <And that includes Sabretooth,> he thought darkly.
"She's young, Logan. You've got to let her spread her wings a little. She'll come around. She loves you, you know."
Logan shrugged. He wanted to be annoyed that Scott was sticking his nose in where it didn't belong, but he *had* invited it, sort of. And it was reassuring to hear that Rogue did have feelings for him. Since it seemed like she had dated almost every available male in Westchester County, he couldn't tell.
"I mean, I know she's not, she's not a--" He paused, fumbling, unwilling to say it out loud.
"Virgin," Scott supplied.
Logan growled. "Yeah, that. I mean, I bought her the condoms for her first time with the Popsicle. I told him he better be good to her." He ran a hand through his sweat-dampened hair. "I hated him. I made his training a living hell. But he's one of us. He respected her. This, this piece of shit she's dating now--" he exhaled explosively. He shook his head. "I thought, I figured, after she graduated from college, that I could show her. I mean, I wasn't looking to jump her bones when she was seventeen, you know? Then she got older and I realized how I felt. But she-- she stopped wearing the dog tags. She stopped just hanging around and started paying attention to all those jerks who came sniffing around."
"She grew up."
"Yeah." Logan closed his eyes. "Yeah," he said again, this time more firmly. "She did. I wasn't ready for how I'd, you know, feel about that."
Over the years, he'd tried to figure out just what he'd been thinking the last time they'd touched, that night on the Statue of Liberty, and why she didn't know how he felt about her.
It never occurred to him that the thoughts and feelings she'd pulled from him hadn't changed and grown along with the ones currently in his head and in his heart. It hurt more than he'd thought possible that she kept choosing other men when he was right there, waiting.
"You were used to being the most important thing in her life."
"And now you're not."
"No shit, Sherlock."
"Why don't you just *tell* her how you feel? You just said--"
"It doesn't work like that."
"Do as I say, not as I do?" Scott challenged.
Logan opened his mouth to say something when a movement on one of the monitors caught his eye.
"Shit." He jumped up. "You see that?"
Scott nodded grimly. "Let's go."
"You stay here. I'll check it out." He bared his teeth in a ferocious grin. "I could use the distraction."
"All right, but be careful." Scott tossed him a small walkie-talkie. "Call if you need help."
Logan slid silently out of the room, his teeth gleaming white in the darkness.
Scott concentrated on the monitors. All the public rooms in the mansion were equipped with cameras, as were the elevators, the lab and the Danger Room.
He saw Rogue and Jean sitting in the kitchen, and wondered what they were discussing so animatedly.
Rogue smiled tiredly at Jean. "Couldn't sleep either?" Jean shook her head. "It's too damn hot, and for *me* to say that..." she trailed off, laughing. Most of the time, Rogue didn't mind being covered from head to toe -- she was frequently cold. Even eight years in Yankee territory hadn't hardened her to temperatures below fifty.
"It's not the heat --"
"Don't even go there."
Jean laughed. "Sorry. I'm not really up for deep conversation right now."
"It's all right. I've had my share of deep conversation for the month." She slumped over, resting her head against the relatively cool surface of the table.
"You got to take some of those clothes off, petite," Remy said, entering the room. He was wearing nothing but a pair of cut-off jean shorts, his long hair tied back with a leather thong.
Rogue turned her face toward him, keeping one cheek pressed to the Formica, and raised an eyebrow. "There's a recipe for good times, sugar -- me taking off my clothes while everyone else is running around half-naked."
He shrugged, impervious to her sarcasm, and went to the refrigerator. Pulling out a bottle of beer and pressing it to his forehead, he said, "I'm gonna call Stormy now."
"It's after one," Jean pointed out.
"Merde. Is that too late to call? When did it get so late?"
"When you spent the evening fleecing Johnny and Jubes at poker," Rogue replied.
"Remy don't fleece no one, chere," he said. "He just that good at cards." He bowed with a flourish, making both Jean and Rogue laugh.
"So why don't you ever play with me and Logan?" Rogue asked.
"This thief got no wish to be skewered for winning every hand."
"Especially when you're winning with an ace tucked up your sleeve," Rogue said wryly.
Remy looked offended. "I don't cheat, chere."
"If you say so, Remy."
"I do." He leaned against the counter, popped open the beer, and took a long drink. "You don't think I should call Ororo?" he asked, sounding like a little boy who's lost his best friend. They had just begun dating seriously, and he was still insecure about her feelings for him, though he rarely let it show.
"You know how she is when you wake her up," Jean said, shaking her head.
"But I miss her."
"Then call her," Jean replied.
"But I don't want to make her more angry."
Jean looked surprised. "What makes you think she's angry?"
"She didn't call."
"Maybe she was waiting for you to call," Rogue pointed out.
"Merde," he repeated, sighing.
The teakettle whistled and Rogue got up, filling her mug with hot water. She dipped the tea bag in and the scent of raspberry floated through the kitchen. "Tea?"
Remy shook his head 'no' and Jean rolled her eyes. "Are you insane?" she asked.
Rogue shrugged. "So I've been told. Quite recently, too." She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice.
"I'm gonna go call Stormy," Remy said, backing out of the kitchen before he got involved in another discussion of Rogue's twisted love life.
~Don't leave me,~ Jean pleaded with him telepathically, but he ignored her. She couldn't take another round of Rogue-angst. The girl had the worst taste in men Jean had ever encountered. She'd had a headache for a week, since the night Logan and Rogue had fought over it. The two projected so strongly that even if the air conditioning *were* working, Jean didn't believe she'd be able to sleep.
They'd had a running joke at the mansion that Rogue and Logan would be joined at the hip once he realized she wasn't a little girl anymore, but it hadn't happened. Jean didn't understand how the girl - woman, now -- could be so dense.
Anyone with eyes could see that Logan was desperately in love with her, and she with him, yet she continued to date, and get hurt by, a string of losers. The only decent relationship she'd had was that first high school fling with Bobby, which they'd all known would end once Logan returned from Canada, anyway. Things hadn't turned out quite as they'd expected. Rogue's relationship with Bobby had ended -- amicably, even -- but she and Logan had yet to get together, much to everyone's, including Logan's, surprise.
The two women sat in silence for a moment, and Jean felt a faint surge of hope that Rogue wasn't going to bring up the current situation with her boyfriend and Logan.
"Dwight left last night."
Jean's hope was now dead as the humid August air that hung in the kitchen. "That's too bad," Jean lied tiredly.
"No it's not. Y'all hated him, and he knew it."
"We didn't *hate* him, Rogue." Another lie. "We just felt he wasn't good enough for you." Finally, the truth.
Rogue snorted. "He wanted me to go to Mississippi with him."
"Scott sucks at keeping secrets."
"He's married to a telepath," Jean replied lightly, hoping to change the subject. "He doesn't have much choice sometimes."
"What's that like?"
Rogue blushed. "Always being in each other's heads. I mean, I know what it's like to have the -- to have people in here," she tapped her temple, "but it's only ever a one-way thing. They never get any of me when I touch them."
Jean considered the woman before her. "I don't think that's true, Rogue. You certainly left an impression on Logan."
Rogue's lips twisted into a grimace. "That's one way of putting it."
"No, seriously, does he always have to be so noble? So concerned? So fucking *obligated*?" Her voice rose shrilly I mean, shouldn't this have ended when I turned eighteen? Or twenty-one? Why is it still going on? What gives him the right to interfere with my life?" She pulled her hair -- sweaty and lank -- off her forehead and into a ponytail. "It's too damn hot for this drama. I'm sorry."
Jean laid a hand on her arm -- fully covered by the long sleeved button-down pajama top Rogue wore over a white tank top, just as her legs were covered in a pair of navy blue, light cotton pajama pants. Just looking at her made Jean sweat. "He loves you, Rogue. He just wants what's best for you. It hurts him to see you unhappy."
Rogue snorted. "Yeah, right. If that were true then--"
She broke off as the door slammed open, revealing the object of their discussion, carrying a wire cage like the ones used to house the rats in the lab.
Inside the cage was a squalling baby.
Logan had a pained, helpless look on his face. He put the cage down on the table and said, "It's crying."
"We noticed," Rogue said dryly. She looked from Logan to Jean, who was now standing. "Well, you've got to pick it up and see what's wrong."
"Not me," Logan said, backing away, hands raised. "I don't do babies."
Jean moved toward the refrigerator. "I'll get some milk."
"I can't believe you guys are afraid of a little baby," Rogue said, rising wearily.
"Maybe it's a wild baby," Logan said with a smirk.
"Yeah," Jean offered, grinning. "It *is* in a cage."
Rogue sighed loudly. "Fine." She opened the cage and took the baby in her arms, careful not to bring it too close to her face. "You're a big boy, aren't you, yes?" she crooned, settling him on her hip and unwrapping some of the blankets in which he was swaddled. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Logan bent to pick it up as Rogue gasped.
"What? What is it?" He was at her side immediately.
"He's a mutant," she whispered. "Look at him."
Logan let out a long, low whistle. Jean joined them, container of soy milk in hand.
"Bet he's got excellent night vision," Logan commented.
Jean smacked him lightly. "That's what you're thinking about?"
"I'm just saying -- cat's eyes and all..." Then he noticed that container she'd handed him. "Soy milk?" he asked scornfully.
"He's not even a year old," Jean began.
"So he can't have cow's milk," Rogue finished. "And I doubt we have any formula on hand."
Jean laughed and began searching the cabinets for a baby bottle.
Logan read the note in his hand. "'Please take care of my baby. I can't anymore. His name is Sean.'" He looked at the two women, a half-grin on his face. "I guess we got a new student, eh?"
The baby's eyes were catlike, with golden brown irises and vertical pupils. His face was covered with a light golden down, though his features were human. As Rogue unwrapped him, it became clear that not only his face, but his entire body was covered in light golden fur.
When she freed his hands, he immediately reached up and grabbed at the white streak in her hair, which had come loose from her ponytail. She jerked her head back and the baby started crying again.
Logan whispered, "Hey, hey, it's all right. It's all right." Rogue wasn't sure if he was trying to calm her or the baby. "He's got fur," he said.
"Yeah," Rogue replied softly.
"That means you can touch him."
"Yeah," she repeated.
Logan stared at Rogue, who cradled the baby carefully, but with less tension in her shoulders than just a few moments before. The look in his eyes took Jean's breath away -- it was full of love and hunger and pain.
"We need to keep him cool," Jean said, breaking silence that stretched, heavy and pregnant with unspoken longing, between Logan and Rogue. "Logan, go get Bobby. Rogue, change him. There are diapers in the cage. If he's not dirty, feed him. Here's some milk," she took the container out of Logan's loose grasp and thrust it at the younger woman. "Keep looking for a bottle. I know there's at least one hanging around from the last time my sister visited. I'm going to find some sort of cradle. We can't keep him in a cage."
"Yes, ma'am," Rogue said, snapping out of her reverie, and breaking Logan's rapt contemplation of her.
And with the force of her will, and possibly a telekinetic nudge, Jean dragged Logan away from the kitchen.
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