d i s c l a i m e r: All characters (sans the Corner people) belong
to Marvel Comics and who-ever-made-the-movie.
t h a n k s: To everyone at the Corner, especially River, Lise, Jono,
KG and Mel. Merci beaucoup, people!
d e d i c a t e d _ t o: River and Lise.
s p e c i a l _ n o t e: This starts off the sommat darker part of
"help is bright green"
c h a p t e r _ e i g h t
"It's a fucking storm out there," Rick said dispassionatly and tilted
his head to look at me. He still harbored a resentment towards
everybody else in general for not letting him drive Martha instead.
In my opinion he should be grateful. There _was_ a fucking storm
outside and Martha would probably have been torn into nuts and bolts.
Maybe Rick had realised it as well. He hadn't moaned about leaving
his precious Martha for over two hours now.
We'd been on the road for twelve hours. Mickey driving the first
eight, me the last four. We had originally been heading towards
Canada since that was the nearest border, but Mickey had taken one
look at the road blocks we'd been hearing about on the radio, and
done a sharp u-turn, muttering something about Mexico.
So now we were on the run and headed for Mexico, and I kept getting
flashbacks from 'From Dusk til Dawn' inbetween trying to see the road
for all the hail.
Funny, only three days ago, everything had been normal. I'd even
finally brought the skinny Russian kid (Piotr, it turned out his name
was) to see Declan, Penn and Louise.
Dec, Penn and Louise had all chipped in to buy this enormous atelier
once their careers started getting off the ground. It was right next
to a cafe, which I personally thought was a good thing, since they'd
probably forget to eat otherwise. These people were _artists_.
Declan was slowly becoming the hottest cover illustrator in the
comicbook industry, Penn was the creator of Felidae which seemed to
have become as popular as Pókemon once was and Louise was a comicbook
Piotr and I made our way through a corridor covered with balled up
paper, hoping to run into Penn, who I'd talked to on the phone
earlier. We finally found a yellow door at the end of the corridor
and went through it. We found ourselves standing in the biggest room
I'd ever seen. It was huge, mostly white except from a wall that was
splattered with colours, and empty except from Penn who sat bent over
a huge drawing board.
"Penn?" I said, uncertainly.
Penn jumped in surprise, then looked up and beamed at us. "Alex! Hi!
I didn't expect you so soon."
"I called you four hours ago to say we were coming," I reminded her.
"Oh. Fours hours? Really?" She looked baffeled. "Man, time passes
"...Right." I looked over at Piotr. "Penn, this is Piotr, the kid I
told you about. Piotr, this is Penn d'Henri. If there's anything you
want to ask, she said she'd be happy to answer all your questions."
Introductions over, I stood back and watched.
Piotr inched his way over to the beaming Penn and shyly extended his
arm in a greeting. Penn shook it, then motioned for whatever she was
doing at the drawing board. Piotr bent over to see, and not long
after they were deeply involved in a discussion about the colour red.
I had, to put it mildly, no idea what they were talking about. Bored,
I started wandering around, glancing at half-finished and finished
products laying about. I ended up standing by the window, looking
across the street at Dec and Louise getting caffeinated. I glanced
over at Piotr and Penn who were now talking about computer
colouring. "Anybody mind if I just dip across the street for a coke?"
Piotr and Penn waved their hands at me and continued talking.
I shrugged and left.
I came back half an hour later with Dec and Louise and found Piotr
drawing Penn who took modelling breaks now and again to look
critically at his work.
"No, no. See, if you get it more oval shaped, then the proporsions...
Yeah, like that."
That had been my day three days ago. Thinking back, I realised that I
wouldn't mind being bored out of me skull again, if it meant things
would go back to normal.
I glanced into the mirror and saw Mickey trying to fold his long body
into a comfortable position so he could get some sleep. Approximatly
thirteen hours earlier, Mickey had drove up in front of the Corner in
the van and silently handed me a weird metallic sort of communication
"Uh... Hello?" I said into the thing.
Ororo was waiting in the other end and she was sharp, short and
efficient. "There's been an upheaval in the government and in two
hours they are going to send the police out to fetch all foreign, and
some domestic, mutants. Supposedly the foreigners are going to be put
on a plane back to their home country, but our information suggests
that anyone over gamma status will be sent to secret military
installations. Get your friends and leave. Now."
"But..." I blinked. I was used to travelling and leaving places, but
I usually had a bit more than a moment to do it on. Also, I didn't
really want to leave. I quite liked it here.
"Do you understand? We cannot protect you. You must go. Leave
immidiatelly!" And the communication thingy went dead. I handed it
over to Mickey and saw the hard look on his face.
"...Oh fuck. This is for real, isn't it?"
He nodded. "It's very real." He looked sad for a moment, then turned
all brisk efficiency. "Right. Well, I have room for four in the van."
I looked at the van, then over at Mickey. "Four?"
"I'm already taking Remy, Jackie and Jubilee," he explained. "That
is, Jubilee is here, right?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Cassie is teaching her some weird Finnish card
Making the others believe me, was only something I managed because
they couldn't believe I'd joke about something like this. Then there
was shock, panic and anger.
"I'm going with you," Izzy said with so much conviction and
determination, I knew trying to talk him out of it would be futile.
"We don't have room for--" Mickey started.
"Gally's got a van," Iz said, nodding towards the pacing Galynne who
looked very much like a tiger in a cage. "She can take the rest. You
wouldn't have room anyway."
I looked over at Ellis who was holding Stace, both of them whitefaced
with shock, neither of them talking, and Moric and Montgomery, who
were talking to each other in low voices, and agreed. Ellis would
never leave his girlfriend or his brother and Moric wouldn't leave
his friends either.
In the end, we had thirty minutes to go pack and then regroup at the
Corner. I tossed my laptop in a suitcase, threw some clothes on top,
added some food and a few CDs and headed out. One of the good things
about travelling for five years was that you didn't really get
attached to things. Before I left the apartment I e-mailed Mai Lee
and told her not to worry and that I'd be in touch with her as soon
as I could.
At the corner it was decided that Rick, Izzy, myself and Jana would
go with Mickey, while Galynne would drive herself, Stace, Montgomery,
Ellis, Moric, Cassie and Ron. Cassie and Ron leaving had been
Kallie's idea. Then those who were left could say they thought the
others had headed off somewhere on a hiking trip. As for me, Iz and
Rick, well, no one ever knew where we were, and Jana? Well, wasn't
she at school?
Cassie and Ron didn't object. Apparently they had a sudden longing
I glanced in the mirror again. Izzy was pressed up against the door,
staring blankly out on the hail. Jana had shifted into a kitten and
lay curled up into a ball inbetween Mickey and Iz. In the back,
Jackie had fallen asleep with her head on Remy's shoulder and Remy
and Jubilee were talking quietly to each other. I wondered briefly
why St. John wasn't there instead of Jackie, then had my attention
caught up in trying to stay on the road.
Two hours later, everybody was sleeping but me and Rick. He was busy
rummaging through the cds in the car for the fifth time and I was
still trying to keep us on the road while the storm got worse.
"Rick," I said, frowning. "We're going to have to pull over
somewhere. Help me look for a Holiday Inn or something, would you?"
His head popped up. "If you can tell me how we get the rhinos into
the attic," he said distractedly.
My lips quirked. "You move the table."
"Huh. Yeah, if you moved the table... But what about the body
"I'd forgotten about the body glitter."
"I thought you might have. So we can't move the table." He pointed
ahead. "Look, there's one."
I nodded. "But you realise that if we can't move the table, my whole
line of reasoning falls apart? It was all based on moving the table."
"I know, but would you really want to put deep purple and electric
"I see you point."
"Maybe if we moved the hatrack..." Rick mused.
"You're both fucking insane and I want to know why the hell you're
driving," Izzy's grumpy, sleepfilled voice sounded from the back.
Rick and I looked at each other and laughed.
There was a meow, then a pause, then Jana's voice asking; "I said,
why are we stopping?"
"The storm is this close to blowing us off the road."
I glanced in the mirror and met a red on black stare. I blinked. So
that's why Remy keeps his shades on all the time... "Remy, could you
wake the girls?"
"Yo, Mickey!" Izzy said, throwing an empty milkshake cup at the
sleeping man. "Wake up! We need your money!"
It was decided that Iz and Rick would go and rent the rooms since
they looked the most 'normal' and the others were too young. They
came back out waving three keys.
"I figured the girls could take one room, Mickey and Remy the other
and us three the last," Rick explained, handing out the keys to Jana
and Mickey, while keeping one for himself.
"Uhm," Remy said, looking over at the half-asleep Jackie. "I think
Jake wants to change." He nudged her. "Isn't that so?"
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Right. Change. Sleep with Remy," she said groggily,
blinking her eyes slowly. "No, that didn't come out right..."
"I should hope not." Remy looked like he was fighting very hard not
to start laughing hysterically. "No offence, Jake, but I just don't
like you that way."
"'Course you don't. 'S why you keep staring at my rack," Jackie
retorted, and was starting to come alive. She turned to me. Because,
you see, for some reason, they considered me the boss of this whole
adventure. Whoppedodee and where the heck is Captain Picard when you
need him? "Could I get ten minutes or so to change back to my real
form? I mean, there's not much point in me going around like this
now, is there? Then I can crash with Remy and Mr. Canté and Jubilee
and ... uh... Jana? can get the room to themselves."
I stared at her in puzzlement. "Excuse me. Change?" Then it started
to dawn on me. "You're a shapeshifter."
More pieces fell together. "...You're a _male_ shapeshifter."
This time both Remy and Jackie nodded.
Jubilee looked surprised. "You know, I never suspected. I mean,
you're a bit weird, but I really thought you were a girl."
"Thanks." Jackie frowned. "I think."
Remy snickered. "Told you they didn't suspect anything."
A sudden wind throw made the van shake and I figured it was about
time we got ourselves indoors. I just hoped the van wouldn't fly away
during the night... "C'mon, grab your bags and let's get inside."
There was a wild scramble as everyone tried to get into the back at
the same time.
"Ouch! Hey, watch were you put that elbow, all right?"
"That one's mine!"
"Don't squish Jana-Bat!"
"Bat? Where? Ahh!"
Finally we all got our bags and our arses inside, where we split up
to find our rooms. The motel room had a tiny bathroom (with a shower,
thank god), a big bed and a little kidlet bed, an old tv, a tiny
table and a green textile and dark wood chair. Not exactly the Hilton.
Iz dropped his bag down on the chair, then let himself fall down on
the bed. He lay there spreed eagled and stared at the ceiling. Rick
dropped his bag on the small bed and started rummaging through it,
muttering about needing a shower. I dropped my suitcase on the bed
next to Iz' feet and unzipped it, intending to see if I could find
something to read. I can't sleep without reading anything first. My
brain goes on overdrive otherwise. Though, actually, sex works.
Not an option right now, even if I wasn't exhausted. Rick probably
wouldn't _mind_ exactly, but the idea is just way to weird to deal
I pulled out Diana Wynne Jones latest book and put it on the bedside
table. I then rezipped the suitcase and put it on the floor. Iz
turned his head to look at me now that I wasn't hidden behind the
"You're going to make me sleep in the kiddie bed, aren't you?"
I gave him a bright grin. "Good guess, shorty."
Iz grumbled. "Why is it I like you guys again?"
I bounced on to the bed, then crawled over to sit on him, my knees on
each side of his waist. I grinned down at him. He glared up at me.
Rick started singing in the shower.
"I want a cool rider, a cooool rider, if he's cool enough, he can
burn me through and through, oh oohh ye-ah... If it taaaakes forever,
then I'll waaaait forever, no ordinary guy, no ordinary guy's gonna
My eyebrows hit my hairline and I turned my head to stare at the
bathroom door. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Izzy doing the
same thing. I looked back down at him when the bathroom door didn't
tell me what the heck Rick was yowling about. "And people say _we_
are the weird ones..."
"They don't know what they're talking about obviously."
We looked at each other for a while.
"Why did you come with us?"
Izzy shrugged and looked away. "Just... Oh god, you're going to go
"Thanks," I broke in. And I was indeed going to go sappy on him. He'd
just have to deal. "For coming with us. I know you didn't have to and
it means a lot."
There was a faint flush on his face and he avoided my eyes. "Yeah,
well," he mumbled. "Seemed like a good idea at the time. After twelve
hours in the car with that damn mick, I've changed my mind."
I grinned and bent down so we were forehead to forehead. I caught his
eyes. "I love you, Iz."
Izzy squirmed. "Yeah, back at'cha, sweets. Listen, could you cut the
sappy stuff now? I want to see if we can get something on the telly."
I sighed lightly and rolled off him. For one who claims not to hide
anything and be very in touch with his feelings, he has a curious
adversion to 'sappy stuff'.
I rolled my eyes and got up to fetch the remote.
Izzy beamed at me. "Ta very much, hon."
I dropped back down on the bed and watched Iz zap through channels
while listening to Rick crooning on one of the songs to one of the
boybands he produces. It's not that he likes them, he explained to
us. But they get stuck in his head. And he has to listen to them
because the last time he didn't, something called Digital Getdown
happened. When Rick found out about that, he had a minor
breakdown. ...Can't say I blame him.
Iz wasn't having much luck with his zapping. The storm was disturbing
the connection, so he got mostly snow or picture that kept falling
out. He stopped on a pay per view channel and tilted his head. "Huh."
I blinked at him. "You're going to watch porn?"
He shook his head. "No. It's straight porn and that's even more
boring than gay porn." He considered it. "Well, it's good for a few
laughs, I guess."
I looked at the tv, then back at him. "How can you tell it's straight
"I can just tell. It's a gift."
"You're amazingly talented."
"I know," he said smugly and continued zapping.
"Go back! Go back!" I waved frantically at him.
He flipped back a channel. "What?"
"Look! It's Dead Man on Campus!" I grinned happily.
"Oh god, no," Iz moaned and immidiately changed channel again.
"No, Alex. Absolutely not."
"Hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me," I could hear Rick crooning in
I hid my head against Iz' shoulder. "He's nuts."
"In an adorable sort of way," I amended. "But still nutters."
Suddenly there was a flash of... something. Some sort of secret, but
it was gone before I could really get what it was. "Iz..." I started,
then a dizzy sort of feedback loop started. Emotions, mangled and in
bits and pieces, and images hit me again and again, too fast for me
to understand what I was seeing. I whimpered and pulled away. I
crawled over the bed and got on my feet, standing dizzily.
Oh god. I was going to throw up. Fuck.
I scrambled over to the bathroom. "Rick! Open! Now! C'mon!"
The door was unlocked and Rick looked puzzled at me, holding a towel
in his hands. "Alex? What...?"
I pushed him aside and managed to get to the john before I violently
threw up. As I alternatly spit and cursed Iz, I felt Rick putting a
warm, wet hand on my forehead.
"'Lex, you okay?"
I spit. "Iz is a bastard."
He paused. "Why?"
"He looped me." I spit again, then groggily leaned back on my feet
and looked up at Rick, who was looking thoughtful. I drew a hand over
my mouth and grimaced. I hate throwing up. "I hate him."
Rick patted me absently on my head. "Sure you do. Why did he loop
"Don't know. Couldn't catch it." I pondered about getting in upraised
position again, noticed the room spinning slowly and changed my
mind. "Don't care. He's a bastard."
Rick's lips quirked into a grin. "Uhuh. Here. Wash your face." He
handed me a towel after wetting it in the sink first. I grabbed the
towel gratefully and then noticed that he was standing there all
naked. I've seen Rick naked before. Hell, I've seen _Ron_ naked. But
for some reason, it was affecting me. ...Yeah, okay, I was getting
turned on. Turned on and dizzy. Bad combination.
"Rick. Get dressed. Please?"
Rick looked surprised, then annoyingly knowing. He chuckled and at
least got that damn towel around his waist.
I leaned my head against the wall and tried to get my eyes to focus.
Also. I like Rick, but for godssake...
I sprang up on my feet, immidiately reached a new high of dizziness
and made a hurried crawl over to worship the porselain idol again. I
more sensed than saw Rick rushing out of the bathroom. I spit foul
tasting liquid again.
"What the fuck are you two doing?" Rick.
"Stay out of this!" Mickey.
"Yeah. None of your business," Iz agreed. "This is between me and
that damn mick!"
I thought idly that it was entirely possible that Izzy believed 'that
damn mick' was actually Mickey's name. I stopped spitting, got on my
feet very slowly and made my way over to the door. I looked into the
room. Mickey was standing in the doorway, looking somehow taller than
usual. Iz stood in front of the bed with his hands balled into fists
and Rick stood between them, towel threatening to slide off him
anytime now. Mickey and Iz vaguely reminded me of a Grand danois
being attacked by a terrier. I'll leave you to figure out which was
Rick scowled. "Wonderful rolemodels you are."
"I ain't no fucking rolemodel!" Izzy said, sounding insulted at the
"You got that right," Mickey commented.
"Look who's fucking talking!"
"Mickey, go to bed. Iz, shut the hell up," Rick commanded, rubbing
the bridge of his nose with one hand and grabbing the towel around
his hips with the other.
Mickey finally spotted me and ignored Rick in favour of asking the
question he'd probably come to the room to ask in the first
place. "Alex, when do you want to leave?"
"S-huh?" I said groggily. "Oh. Um. Six hours sound all right?
Provided the bloody storm's quieted down, of course."
Mickey nodded. "Sounds good. I'll tell the girls. Good night." He
left, closing the door very politely behind him.
I turned to stare at Iz, who had dropped down on the bed again and
was pouting. "What the heck was that all about?"
"Iz, I'm going to get dressed, then we're going to talk." Rick made
his way past me again.
Iz groaned and eyed the ceiling.
I looked over at Rick who was shrugging into a blue t-shirt. "Should
I go see what Jana's up to or something?"
Rick pulled the t-shirt over his head and when he reappeared, he gave
me a puzzled look. "Why?"
"Talk with Izzy," I reminded him.
"Oh. That. Nah," he shook his head. "This isn't The Talk. I don't
think he's ready for that one yet. This is a little talk."
"Ah." I nodded, then vowed never to do that again. I was still dizzy
and moving was a Very Bad Thing. Which raised the question: How was I
going to get from the bathroom to the bed? It was, after all, at
least five, maybe six, steps to it. I eyed the bed consideringly.
Maybe if I moved extremly slowly with lots of breaks...?
I made a mental note to kill Izzy later.
Rick brushed past me again, fully dressed this time in a t-shirt and
worn sweats. He got to the bed before stopping and turning to look at
me. He sighed and came back. "Alex. Are you going to sleep in the
I hadn't considered that option. But now that I thought about it, it
sounded like a pretty good idea. Yeah, okay, so the bathroom sort
of... smelled, but I'm sure I could have ignored that for the sake of
six hours sleep. Especially since I'd been on the road for twelve
hours beforehand. "Yes."
Rick rolled his eyes and looked mildly amused. "No. You're not." He
grabbed me by the shoulders and firmly marched me towards the bed. I
sat down on it with a relieved sigh. Soft. Sort of sqeaky, but soft.
Softer than the floor at any rate.
Iz turned his head to look at us, a strange look on his face. He was
about to say something when Rick crawled up on the bed, sat down with
his back against the wall and pulled Iz into a hug. The look on
Izzy's face was priceless. Confusion and warmth and suspicion all in
"It's going to be all right," Rick said firmly. "_We_ are going to be
I almost believed him.