Title: Portraits in a Gallery: Bizarro World
That morning Logan had already embarked upon giving Marie a little tour of his own. He began with the areas that were most important to him or frequently-used by him – the danger room, the rec room (good for watching hockey games), and the grounds. He was pleased that she seemed impressed by it all, that she seemed to like it. He'd been serious last night when he'd said he wouldn't live apart from her, and this bade well for having her spend at least some time with him living here.
They were circling back around to the mansion after exploring the far reaches of Xavier's property when Logan sighted Jean, headed straight for them. At first, he was confused – if there was a mission on or some kind of trouble afoot, wouldn't Chuck have contacted him on the brain phone? But then, he caught her scent on the wind. It carried hints of frustration and irritation. He wasn't surprised. She'd never been able to make peace with anyone very well, and their conversation last night probably would've left her feeling like she'd 'lost' – something she'd never been able to cope with gracefully. He should've guessed that she'd be itching for a fight. Well, Logan thought, she's not gonna find it here. There was no way he wanted Marie to be caught in the middle of that.
Preemptively, he hailed Jean. "We're headed back to the house. Didya need somethin' right now?"
"You didn't come to breakfast," Jean non-answered. "The Professor would've liked to meet your…..guest." The way she twisted the last word confirmed Logan's assessment of her emotional state. Topping the snide remark off with a harsh but quick glare at Marie didn't help anyone's mood – it pissed off Logan, it rankled with Marie, and Marie's unchanged, unaffected outward demeanor made Jean all the more frustrated.
"I'll swing by now if he's in."
"He's waiting to meet Mr. McCoy momentarily." She came to a halt a few feet from them and crossed her arms over her chest. "He was running late this morning. I expect that from a guest but not from one of my teammates. You should've been there to meet the Professor, Logan."
"I told him we'd see him at breakfast if we made it outta bed in time. We didn't." Logan couldn't stop himself from putting a dash of innuendo in there, even though he knew it would worsen the already tense atmosphere. This had been one of the constant sticking points in his relationship with Jean – she expected him to do as she wished, and took every 'I'll make it if I can' or 'I'll try to meet up with you' as some kind of iron-clad commitment. Logan was actually quite a literal person – if he said he'd try or he'd do something if he could, that's exactly what he meant. He doubted that Chuck was really upset at all – he understood Logan fairly well. Better than his own ex-girlfriend, apparently.
Jean, however, didn't take the bait – she had a different tactic in mind. "How's your cat?" she asked, directing the question to Marie with flashing eyes and a sharp tone.
"He's doing very well, thank you." She answered with a smile, in a pointedly sweet tone, one designed to inflict a little irritation of her own. "Hank really did a great job with him."
"Yes, well, I treat people, not pets." Marie didn't snipe back. She only gave Jean an expectant look, as though she was waiting for the next barb. Jean decided to give it to her. "In any case, the Professor would like to meet you. He assesses all incoming students and guests, to screen for anyone potentially dangerous or – well, inappropriate to mansion life. I'm sure you'll have no problems – nothing to hide from the world's most powerful telepath, right?" Marie did blanche at that, and Jean's lips slithered into a smile. "Just a joke, dear. I'm a telepath too, after all."
Marie's eyes grew sharp, but before she could get out a response, Logan stepped in. Putting one hand at the small of Marie's back and directing quite a look of his own at Jean, he said, "Marie's welcome here. Nobody's gonna be pokin' around in her business. That's how it is, and I think you should just get usedta seein' her around. As long as I got a place here, so does she. If Chuck wantsta 'assess' her with an eye toward kickin' her out, he can tell me that his own damn self. In fact, I'll be sure to ask him when I do see him." Jean frowned, but didn't say anything. "I know you came out here to see whatcha could stir up, and I know you're probably still mad about the conversation we had last night. Dunno why – you should be glad to be rid of me to hear you tell it, but – "
"I am glad to be rid of you, Logan," Jean interrupted. "And I've had enough of *this* conversation." She turned on her heel, stomping back to the mansion. Logan let out a low growl, then turned toward Marie to check on her expression.
"You OK, darlin'?"
"Oh, yeah. Just fine. She's, ah, she's very unpleasant."
When Logan didn't seem inclined to do anything more than grunt and let the residual frustration roll off of him in waves, Marie asked, "How did you wind up dating her in the first place? I mean, I'm guessing she couldn't have been like that all the time."
"Nah, she pretty much was," Logan allowed. "Less often, fewer outbursts, but that temper and disposition was always there." Marie gave him a questioning look, but he wasn't sure he had any more of an explanation to give her. "I guess I just wanted her, you know, to sleep with."
Marie considered that for a moment while Logan mentally scrambled to think of something to say to make that sound slightly less crass. "But – did you ever really sleep with her? I don't mean sex – I mean sleep, like we do, you know, close together?"
"Nah," Logan replied. "She slept in her bed and I slept in mine." When that answer seemed to please Marie, he added, "Darlin', I've never done anythin' with anybody like I do it with you." That pleased her a lot. Her eyes sparkled and her expression turned mischievous.
"I like sleeping with you, but, um, just so you know – I'd like the sex part too."
"Anytime you're ready," Logan blurted out. "I mean – no rush." Marie giggled at that, and they resumed their progress back toward the mansion.
Kitty was having a much less turbulent tour with Hank – well, that is until she managed to bring him to the mansion garage, where Scott was working beneath his beloved MiniCooper. For a moment, she thought about turning Hank right around and simply making a run for it – they'd been having such a pleasant time that she didn't want anything to ruin it for him – but then she realized that that would appear odd and, that if Hank was going to stick around, he'd witness the breakup aftermath between her and Scott eventually. Taking a deep breath, she strode into the garage with her head held high.
"This is where we work on the mansion cars, obviously," she began, watching as Scott slowly slid himself out from underneath the small car at the sound of her voice. "There's a pool of several cars that we're allowed to use – all owned by the Professor, of course, and maintained by Scott, who you, ah, probably met yesterday."
"Indeed," Hank confirmed, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. Finally clear of the car, Scott rose to his feet and nodded his greetings to Hank.
"So, ah, that's the garage. We should probably be getting back upstairs now. We're due at the Professor's office in a few minutes." Kitty tried for a smile at Scott.
"I can find my own way if you like," Hank offered politely. He wouldn't mind a few more moments in Kitty's company – no, not at all – but he was sure she would like to spend a bit of time with her boyfriend instead of him.
Kitty gave him a confused look. "No, I'll take you."
"Really," Hank assured, "It is quite all right. I am sure you and Scott have not seen much of each other lately. I do not wish to interrupt your time together." Hank's tone was gentlemanly, cordial, but his eyes were sad. Neither Scott not Kitty caught that, though – they were both busy gaping at one another.
"We, ah – we don't need time together," Kitty finally stammered out. "Why would we need time together?"
"Logan informed me that you two are dating," Hank explained. His smile faded when he saw both of their faces fall.
"We were," Scott supplied. "We broke up while Logan was gone. We – " Scott stopped himself right there. The least he could do would be to let Kitty tell the story her way, in her own time. "We broke up," he finished.
Hank glanced to Kitty, who was now giving him an embarrassed shrug. "I am so sorry," Hank apologized. "Please forgive any distress I may have caused." Scott knew the words were for Kitty, but he nodded his thanks and went back to work on the car.
"It's no problem, Hank," Kitty assured, purposefully brightening her expression. No need to drag nice, sweet Hank into the trauma that had been her relationship with Scott. Better to just gloss over it and move on. "Should we head upstairs, then?"
"Yes, of course." Hank was still mentally struggling to find a way to make up for his faux pas, but as they neared the garage doorway, a clambering, metal noise diverted his attention. He turned around to see the jack that had been holding up the MiniCooper now in seveal large pieces beside the car, and Scott's legs flailing from beneath it. "Oh dear!"
Kitty turned and gasped, but Hank was already moving. Bounding across the garage on all fours to get there as quickly as possible, he quickly straightened and stood erect when he reached the car. Taking only a split-second to assess the situation, he firmly grasped the frame of the small car with both hands and raised it up off of Scott. Kitty's eyes widened even further at that – the car was small, but it still had to weigh well over a thousand pounds – but she finally moved to action, running toward them and intending to move a moaning Scott out from underneath the car. However, before she could get there, Hank began pivoting the car on its rear wheels and bumper, moving it away from the prone figure beneath it. With a loud grunt, he dropped the car once it had fully cleared Scott's body.
"Scott!" Kitty cried, as she knelt down at his side. "Are you hurt?!"
He answered in a moan, and Hank gently moved Kitty aside just a bit so that he could examine Scott. "The woman, Jean, the doctor – get her." It didn't look horrible – the worst case scenario that had flashed through Hank's mind was that the man's spine could've been crushed and he could be paralyzed, but those legs were still moving a bit and so were his arms. The situation wasn't great, though, either – Scott wasn't breathing normally, and Hank's initial guess was that his ribs had been broken and that at least one and perhaps both lungs were seconds away from complete collapse. "We need a ventilator and a – is there a trauma room here?"
"Yes," Kitty nodded, "In the basement. There's a medlab, there's – "
"We must get him there. Right now." Kitty nodded grimly and then closed her eyes in concentration for a moment. Hank was about to repeat his urgent instructions, but he suddenly realized she must be telepathically reaching out to the Professor to get the requested help.
"Help's on the way." She reached down to grasp Scott's hand. "I told them we need a ventilator and what you said about a trauma room and – "
She was interrupted by a soft 'bamff' and a sulphury smell. Hank nearly swallowed his tongue when, out of nowhere, a fuzzy, demon-like thing appeared right beside him. It was every bit as blue as he was, and, on top of all that, it had a tail. A long one with a point on the end. Hank could do nothing but gape.
"Kurt, we have to hurry," Kitty pled.
"Ja." He gathered Scott gently into his arms and with another puff of smoke, they were both gone.
"What – what – what – "
"Kurt Wagner. Nightcrawler. Teleportation," Kitty supplied. "Come on, we have to go!" she tugged on Hank's sleeve to get him up and moving.
"But – but – " He just couldn't get over her nonchalance at something even more unusual than him.
"Hank, let's go!" Finally, his brain kicked into gear and he followed her at a dead run toward the medlab.
Summoned by the Professor, Jean rushed toward the medlab, her anger at Logan totally forgotten as consuming worries about Scott took their place. Please, God, let me be able to help him, she chanted over and over in her mind. When she hit the lower level hallway leading to the medlab, she caught a whiff of Kurt's distinctive sulphury scent and ran even faster, realizing that Scott was already there and waiting for her help.
It was like this for her when any of her teammates was injured. The truth was that she hated seeing people in pain, even those she might be angry with, even those that she might inflict a little emotional pain on herself. There was just something about physical pain that prompted a strongly empathy in her, and she wasn't sure why. Charles had told her once that telepaths had to be careful that they did not become inured to their own emotional pain as a result of constantly sensing others', but Jean considered it a non-issue. Ever since Charles had taught her to strengthen her shields, she'd safeguarded herself against those unintentional projections very well. Literally nothing unpleasant got through – at least not when she was concentrating, focusing, which was most of the time. But physical pain – she wished she could make her shields work as well against the feelings that stirred inside her.
But even if she hadn't ever found a way to blunt the intensity of her internal reaction to seeing someone hurt, she'd done an excellent job of controlling her outward reaction. She'd learned to keep calm, cool, and collected, and not to let her worries or sympathy show through. Now, however , as she came through the medlab doors to find a blue-ish, wheezing Scott, her composure wavered. She froze – just for a few moments, but it was noticeable. Kitty, who was holding Scott's hand while Hank was opening the man's shirt and gingerly feeling for breaks in his ribs, jolted Jean to action.
"He was working on the car, the MiniCooper, when the jack collapsed," she explained. "It fell on him from his hips to his head – it didn't break the visor, thank God. Kurt teleported him here, and we've tried to move him as little as possible."
Jean nodded, and joined Hank at Scott's side. "Broken ribs?" Jean inquired as she hurriedly tugged on some latex gloves.
"Yes. At least three on the left and five on the right. No readily apparent neurological damage. No observable head trauma. Right lung seems to be collapsed. Left lung could be damaged, but I cannot – "
"I'll take it from here," Jean interrupted, pulling out drawers and gathering equipment. "Can someone get the ventilator?"
"Coming," Kurt answered from the far end of the room. As he quickly wheeled the equipment toward them, Jean spared Kitty a glance.
"You need to leave," she said firmly, but gently. "He'll be OK, but I'm going to have to open him up. We need to work on him. You need to go."
Kitty's eyes welled up with tears, but she gave Scott's hand a squeeze then did as Jean asked. If she had reservations about the woman's character, she had none about Jean's abilities as a doctor. She knew she'd saved the life of just about everyone on the main team at one time or another. And judging by her initial reaction to seeing Scott hurt, she would be especially zealous in caring for him. Kitty didn't blame her – she knew well you couldn't just turn off feelings for someone like a faucet. Whatever residual affection Jean had for Scott could only help both of them get through this now.
"I can assist if you like," Hank offered. Jean spied him for a moment, then nodded.
"Grab a mask and gown – and gloves. I'll tube him then we'll head into the OR. Kurt will help with anesthesia. Have you ever done this before, Mr. McCoy?"
"Please call me Hank," he answered tightly, already moving toward the surgical garments in the next room, "and, no, I have not done this before. But I have read all about – "
"OK," Jean answered tersely, not diverting her attention from her work on Scott for a second, "Then just do exactly as I tell you. Exactly, Hank."
"Exactly," he replied, then began dressing for surgery.
Five hours later, an anxiously waiting Kitty finally saw Hank emerge from the medlab. She cringed at the sight of blood on his surgical gown, but when he smiled at her a little, she thought it couldn't be all bad.
"I am sorry to have taken so long. Scott will be all right. Jean – she really did quite a marvelous job on him. She is a very talented surgeon. He will be out for the next few hours, and he will take a few weeks to recover, but he will be all right."
"Oh, Hank," Kitty sobbed, throwing herself at him for a hug, unmindful of the blood. "Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for saving his life back there."
More than a little overwhelmed, it took Hank a second to hug her back and even longer to come up with a reply. "I daresay we all saved his life. Your – your quick thinking in contacting the Professor, and Kurt – Kurt's immediate action in bringing him to the medlab both played a pivotal role in – in his, ah, life save – in his life, ah – in the saving of his life." Hank inwardly cursed himself for being so affected by her nearness and gratitude. But before he could get anything more coherent out, he heard someone clear their throat and disengaged from Kitty to see the Professor in the hall behind them.
"I have heard the good news," he said, smiling. "And I must say that I quite agree with Kitty – thank you for saving Scott's life."
"I, ah……..it was not really me that – "
"It was totally him," Kitty countered, addressing the Professor. "Hank was amazing – he lifted the whole car up." Her naked admiration choked Hank up, preventing any argument. "It was amazing," Kitty repeated, smiling up at Hank.
"I am very glad you were with us when it happened," the Professor picked up. "It seems your intelligence is not your only asset."
"The mutation did affect my strength and agility as well," Hank said softly, remembering with some shame the way he'd loped across the garage to get to Scott. He wondered what Kitty thought of that – he must've looked so animal, so bestial doing that.
"What wonderful gifts," Xavier replied. "And how very fortunate for us that you have them." Hank looked to Kitty, who was giving him another beaming smile. Frankly, it was all a little much – never before had his 'gifts' received such a positive reaction. It was almost as though this was some kind of weird bizarro world where, instead of beatings and hatred, his mutation garnered smiles from beautiful women and the gratitude of powerful men. Perhaps Xavier sensed his discomfiture; he gave Hank a nod, and concluded, "Well, I suppose that our tour will keep until tomorrow. After all that has happened, I am sure you are eager for some rest. I shall see you in the morning. And, once again, thank you, Hank."
Hank just stood there in the hallway, still a little dumbstruck by it all. Kitty gave his arm a gentle squeeze. "I'm going to go in and see him, if it's OK." Hank nodded. "I'll catch up with you later. Thanks, Hank."
"You are quite welcome," he managed, before Kitty turned to go. He couldn't help but be warmed by her words and her open appreciation of his help. Even if he knew that the feelings she still obviously carried for Scott motivated it in large part, he still found himself holding this moment close to his heart, wanting to fix it in his memory to savor. He watched her disappear behind the medlab doors, then headed off to get cleaned up.
Jean lingered over Scott, watching his body breathe in and out with comparative ease. She sighed, relieved that he'd pulled through so well. He'd always been strong, always had a good 'constitution,' as one of her old med school professors would've called it. Jean remembered how annoyed she used to get that he never got sick – never seemed to get the seasonal colds, the flu, or even the stomach bugs that seemed to hit everyone else. He'd always pamper her when she came down with something, get right up close and personal with her germs, but he'd never get sick. It *was* irritating, she thought, with a bit of a smile on her lips, but it was one of the things about him that she was certainly thankful for now.
Her mind drifted back to how he'd looked when they brought him in – laboring to breathe, unconscious, one big bruise from shoulders to pelvis. He'd take a while to heal, maybe weeks, maybe months, but he would be fine, and she reminded herself of that, tearing her mind away from the desperate state he'd been in just hours ago. And it was a good thing that he would recover – all during the surgery, the last words that Jean had exchanged with him kept coming back to her. They'd been sharp words, and a twinge of remorse at the way she'd been that night in the kitchen and the way she'd been on the mission struck her. It suddenly occurred to her, almost like an epiphany, that she'd been unfair to him; she'd said those things because Logan had riled her up. Scott didn't deserve to be on the receiving end of her ire at Logan.
With a sigh, she leaned back in the chair and thought back through their relationship. Had she ever done that before to him? To her chagrin, several other examples immediately sprang to mind. Sad green eyes peered down at his visor. She had a strong urge to apologize, and right now, but he wouldn't hear her – he was still at least a half our away from coming out of the anesthesia. Frowning, she leaned a little closer to him and spoke anyway.
"I didn't mean to," she said, in a smaller and softer voice than Scott had ever heard from her in all his waking hours. "I'm – I'm sorry." She leaned back, finished. Elaborate explanations weren't needed; Scott couldn't hear them now anyway, and what was important was that she'd told him she was sorry. Jean reached out to hold his hand, turning it over several times in her own. When he woke, she'd try to apologize again, with a little more of an explanation, but for now she was content to silently watch over him, having made what amends she could for the moment.