"You are too good, Katya," Peter murmured, a feeble attempt to buy himself more time.
Peter gulped and hastily moved his king over. Kitty smirked as she slid her rook into place.
"Check," she repeated.
"You are too good, Katya," Peter murmured, a feeble attempt to buy himself more time.
"Are you going to make your move yet?" Kitty teased.
Peter blushed crimson and clutched his king with his enormous fingers. Truthfully, Kitty could have ended the game six turns back if she had felt like it, but she really enjoyed toying with the Russian boy. It didn't hurt that he was utterly adorable, especially when he blushed.
Logan walked past the two teens and headed for the couch. He slouched back into the leather cushions and kicked his feet up on the coffee table. All he needed now was a beer in one hand and a pretty girl on his arm and he'd be one happy man.
Rogue plopped down next to him. "Hi." She grinned.
Logan smiled inwardly at the fleeting fantasy that the pretty girl had an ice cold beer for him. No such luck, but it could have been worse.
"Hey," he greeted.
Bobby squeezed onto the couch, dividing Logan from Rogue. The boy sported a pair of black silk gloves to match Rogue's white ones. Logan shook his head and grabbed the television remote from the coffee table.
The everyday din of the school seemed to grate at the mutant with exceptional hearing's sanity. From Kitty's incessant "Checks," to the stupid things Bobby was whispering for Rogue's ears alone to Rachel standing in the doorway, silent save for controlled breaths. A normal person could just ignore it, but Logan had never been normal. The noise the television offered could at least dull the sounds of life.
Smell was just as horrible. Beer would help that. But the professor didn't want Logan to drink in front of the students. A bad example for young impressionable minds. Those kids weren't as innocent as Xavier would like to pretend. The amount of lustful pheromones that penetrated Logan's nostrils was enough to make the man want to puke and that was only Kitty. If he concentrated enough on the odors that Bobby was emitting he was certain that he would dice the teen into a million pieces.
The television screen faded into a photo montage of smiling pictures of a politician with dyed brown hair and polished teeth. Graydon Creed surrounded by puppies, Graydon Creed with a child on his lap, Graydon Creed with the elderly, Graydon Creed being Graydon Creed. Inspirational music played in the background while a bland narrator spoke about what kind of leader American needed: Graydon Creed.
"Just what America needs." Bobby rolled his eyes.
"When is the election going to take place?" Rachel asked.
Rogue lazily turned around to peer over the back of the couch. Kitty set her knight down on the chessboard and flashed Peter a smile before she looked up at Rachel. Peter's face drooped when he looked at his king's pathetic position.
"It's still a little while away," Kitty said. "Do you plan on voting?"
"What's a little while?" Rachel asked.
"Why? Do you still need to register?" Kitty wondered.
"I just need a date," Rachel insisted.
"Why are you so interested in the election?" Logan asked.
"It's important." Rachel shrugged.
"What's so important about it?" Logan wanted to know.
Kitty opened her mouth, but Peter quickly put his hand on her arm and silenced her.
Rachel shook her head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she muttered.
"I've been known to believe some crazy things," Logan retorted.
"This is a little too crazy, even for you," Rachel replied.
"Try me," Logan dared.
"Logan, why don't you cut it out?" Bobby cut in hesitantly.
Logan spared a moment to raise his eyebrows in Bobby's direction. Bobby swallowed hard and retreated back to Rogue's arm.
"Well?" Logan asked.
"It's not that big of a deal," Rachel said. She wrapped her arms tightly around her boney ribs.
"Then you wouldn't mind explaining things, would you?" Logan's eyes were narrowed. The Wolverine had cornered its prey.
"I don't need to explain anything." Rachel glowered at him.
"Knock it off!" Rogue demanded.
"You know, it doesn't matter." Rachel tucked her hands behind her back, then thought better of it and pulled them in front of her. "I was going to go take a walk anyway."
The redhead turned around and slipped out the door. Logan turned back to the television as if nothing had happened. Bobby looked as though he wanted to say something until Rogue shook her head.
Kitty's voice echoed through the rec. room as she moved her queen. "Checkmate."
Peter sighed and looked over at Logan. "Shouldn't someone go after her?" he asked. "To see if she is not upset?"
"No," Logan said. "If she's upset she's not going to want to see anyone in this room."
Rachel dashed through the corridors of the school. Her memory seemed hazy anymore, but if she could trust it then she just needed to take a right, another right, then a left.
There was a door alright, but knowing her luck it probably led to a janitor's closet. Rachel turned the handle and leaned against the door with all her weight. The door creaked and she was greeted with a gust of wind from the outside air.
The assorted flowers and plant life had seen better days. Since Ororo had taken a leave of absence from the school much of the gardening had been neglected. But the rich canvas of greens, reds, yellows and purples was still much better than what Rachel was accustomed to. Her world had been painted in blacks and grays.
Rachel stepped cautiously into the courtyard; her fingers grazed the petals of a nearby lily. Soft, like velvet. She would have to remember that sensation.
It was too perfect at Xavier's mansion. And safe, she reminded herself. But it wouldn't always be that way. Rachel plucked the lily from the soil. If her hair had been longer, she would have adorned it with the flower. She tugged at the fluff of bangs on the top of her head. Those bastards had shaved her. More hygienic.
And Logan wanted to know what she was hiding. Rachel supposed she could have told the man, she could have told everyone. But what would have been the point in that? It was bad enough that she would wake drenched in cold sweat from nightmares, that the mere thought of a leash made her want to curl up into a ball and wail like a helpless babe. She had enough fear in her heart for them all; she didn't need to share that with anyone else.
So she meandered through the courtyard and hoped that she would find the strength in her somewhere to do what she needed. That's when Rachel noticed him, or sensed him rather. Hunched over on a marble bench lost in thought, Scott Summers looked horrible.
His face was slack and unshaven, his hair unkempt. The pale yellow sweater he wore looked as though it had been slept in. Rachel edged closer to him.
Mr. Summers? she called out telepathically.
Scott's head snapped to attention. His eyes behind their ruby quartz prison darted around looking for the intruder.
"Over here." Rachel waved. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Scott nodded. "It's just that you used your mind to talk to me."
"I was trying not to startle you," Rachel said. She rolled the stem of the lily back and forth between her hands. "Do you not like psychic communication?"
"No. I just, well..." Scott sighed. "There was really only one person that I ever had conversations like that with."
"Oh." She tried to smile. "Mind if I sit?"
"No. Not at all." Scott moved over on the bench and made room for her.
Rachel gingerly sat down. "You don't look so hot," she said.
"It's Hank's fault," Scott replied. "He decided I needed to drink myself to death."
"Did it work?" Rachel asked.
"Not really," Scott admitted. "But I do know now that Twinkies don't taste as good coming up."
"Gross." Rachel stuck out her tongue, the dainty metal stud reflected the afternoon light.
"Yeah." Scott nodded. "I'm sorry. You really didn't need to hear that."
"It's alright," Rachel replied. "What are you doing out here?"
Scott didn't answer.
Not one to be discouraged, Rachel shrugged and offered the lily to Scott. He stared blankly, but didn't refuse the flower. The stem had been bent, a casualty of the passage from Rachel's hand to his. She cocked her head to one side and studied the man quietly.
Scott finally blinked and bent forward with the flower. He set the lily delicately on a smooth stone plaque in the ground in front of the bench. Rachel bit her lip. The plaque hadn't been around long enough to be worn from the elements and the lettering was still bold and crisp. Beloved friend, beloved daughter. Jean Grey 1965-2003.
"Do you come here often?" Rachel whispered.
"Every day," Scott replied.
"It doesn't make anything better, does it?" Rachel murmured. Her head sunk down into her shoulders and she averted her eyes.
"I won't forget her," Scott promised. "I don't care what anybody else does. I won't forget her."
"You wish it was you, don't you?" Rachel asked. She kept her face rigidly straight ahead of her.
"Do you even have to ask that?" Scott grabbed the edge of the bench tight enough to drain the color from his knuckles.
"It's not fair." Rachel sighed. "You'd give your life for theirs, anything just to see them again. But you can't, because they were stupid and died protecting you. And now all you can think about is how it's your fault, you weren't fast enough, smart enough, strong enough, brave enough, lucky enough."
A single tear escaped her eye. A precious thing, blood red through his glasses.
"And now you're the last one left. All alone," Rachel finished.
"You too?" Scott whispered hoarsely.
"It's scary," she said.
Scott drew Rachel's face over to him with a gentle hand. With the heel of his palm he smeared the tears that cut across her face.
"Thanks." Rachel offered a small smile.
They sat frozen for a moment. Her wide eyed, tear streaked face entranced by his solemn expression, his true intentions concealed by his ruby quartz glasses.
"You know, we never even found a body," Scott said.
"His name was Franklin," Rachel replied.
"She was my life." With a rough hand Scott grabbed the collar of Rachel's shirt and pulled her mouth to his. An act of thoughtlessness and desperation, stubble grated against the pink flesh of her chin. Rachel quickly flattened her hands against his chest and tore herself from his lips.
Scott sat dazed, while Rachel pawed haplessly at her open mouth.
"I'm sorry," Scott stammered. "I just thought that-"
"I'm not Jean," Rachel interrupted almost frantically. "I can't make the pain go away."
Scott glanced over at the plaque. His lips pulled back in what first appeared to be a grimace, a flash of angry teeth, but it became very clear that it was a repressed sob. His chest ached, his eyes felt like fire.
His Adam's apple bobbed painfully as he took a deep breath. "I miss her so much."
Rachel shook her head and led Scott into the safety of her arms. She cupped his head against her chest as grief overwhelmed him. Rachel rocked him gently, a mother soothing her child. Her soft humming was lost in his sobs.