"Iz, for chrissake, get out of the van! We have to get inside, and you're--"
"That's it, lad, I'm going to just pick him up."
"You can't pick him up! You'll make a scene. Iz, please, now is *not* the time."
I wish I could see enough to find out where Rick was right now. I could *hear* Alex--hell, everyone could hear Alex-- and I know the rest of the kids were in the motel. Mickey had sent them to our rooms. I guess Rick went to babysit the brats.
"Alex, lower your voice! Someone'll hear ya."
Mickey has all the answers, doesn't he.
A low voice from the side spoke up. "I'll stay with him. You go in before one of those kids does something dangerous or stupid or both."
Blessed savior, Rick. Now, if they'd only shut the van doors, I could take the blanket off me.....
See, I've learned something. You want to have a breakdown, you have to do it right. You have to be very still, and you have to be totally serious, and any half-assed attempt will count as crying wolf.
I don't move.
Rick settles himself on one of the seats as best he can, shuffling around and muttering about the temperature. A quick look proves that fucking Mickey took the keys with him, and he mutters a bit more. I keep the blanket over me, knees curled up to my chest, and suddenly start to feel very, very uncomfortable. Plus, it's stiffling under here.
I wonder. Can I get away with peeking out, just enough to get some fresh air?
Finally, my lungs make the decision on their own, and I move enough blanket to breath normally. Into a dark van, I say softly, "I'm sorry, Rick."
He shrugs lightly. "Whatever."
I wish we could turn the radio on.
It's not that I don't want Rick around right now. Of anyone, he's the best suited for this job. My mind snaps, like clockwork, once or twice a year, and he's already seen it happen, so he's the logical choice for a shepherd. Not only that, but I-- want, him around.
I shuffle around a little, sit up a bit, keep the blanket hugged close. "Why are you here?"
Rick looks at me, and I don't think I even hear the answer. All of a sudden, this whole thing is far too self-indulgent, and I need to shape up, get going, get ready, get out of here. I need to try and push the boundaries of my safe-zone away from these few feet and this one person.
I stretch a leg out, experimentally, wait for the crashing paranoia to force me to pull it back in again. Find that I can relax it, a little bit.... let the other leg down, but that's too much, too soon-- and I pull both my knees back to my chest.
He's not watching me too closely. It's probably a good thing. Drama queens love audiences, and that's ALL I need right now, someone fuelling this attack.
But that's why I love rick. I know he won't do that.
Damnit. The blanket's too hot.
Rick's reading a book.
I'm just sitting here, trying not to be scared to death.
You ask me why I liked Remy LeBeau, and to be honest, I'd tell you 'there's no rhyme or reason to the universe to life, the music in the spheres, or the explanations of the ingredients in cereal packets'.
But really, I like him because he's in hiding. And not particularly about the gay thing.
And he can laugh at himself, an important trait, and he's got a shape-changing best friend, and he *is* in hiding for the gay thing-- and he tries to be so old, and is so young. He makes me feel old. He reminds me that, when I was his age, I wasn't anything like him. And I think, everyone needs people like that.
Hell, I'm nothing like him, still. He *tries* to be old. I don't even bother doing that, anymore. I'm a twenty-something year-old boy-- thank you, Fight Club-- and sometimes it feels like that's never going to change.
We're sitting in the back of a van, running for our-- for Alex's and Rick's-- lives, and there's one hell of a storm out there, and I don't have any of my good CDs, and none of my credit cards are going to be any good to us because I maxed them out, hoping that Alex's new laptop would be shipped by his birthday, and Rick's DVD player-- I've got no money, and normally, I'm the one that can splash money around--
We're in trouble, and I just hope the school gave us enough money to last a little longer than just tonight. Not that I think very highly of them in the first place.
They sent that big Irish git to us with marching orders. If I were going to run a covert mutant operation thingy, I'd have spies in the government that would hear about these kinds of things quicker than 'two hours from now, this will happen'.
"Turn down the radio, Alex."
"People are trying to sleep."
I say it quietly, eying a lightly snoring Remy. The bags under his eyes suggest that he was up far too early today. I've been to the school a few times. Most of their students are younger than him and Jubilee, and I wonder for a minute, how they got out of the Mansion without outside help.
Well, of course they'd have outside help.
I mutter, "I've always wanted to see Mexico."
They just didn't see fit to use that outside help for anyone but their own. Nice going, guys. Can you spare some change for some mutants down on their luck? Can you hide a guy, when he's down and out?
Rick is asleep in my lap, and I stroke that stupid little blue streak. My god, I think-- they might die.
They're all asleep now, and I can't help wondering what I'm going to do when they wake up again.
I can't sleep, of course. I can't sleep most days, unless I'm on a plane or travelling, so in the middle of the night, in a strange hotel room, with paper thin walls and Mickey's godawful snoring on the other side of a door that's propped open in case we have to make a run for it in the middle of the night, sleep is bound to be impossible. I even got the cot so that I didn't have to share a bed, and I still can't sleep.
On one side of us, Mickey grunts, and rolls over; I hear a soft swearword in French, and grin. I guess I'm not the only one who can't sleep.
Giving up on sleep, I get out of bed, and grab a roomkey.
I meet Remy in the darkened hallway, and gesture towards the little lobby area of the hotel. There's a night manager reading some kind of romance novel. She smiles at us, but says nothing as we make our way to the free coffee counter and the couch in the area by the door. We get a cup of coffee that has to be older and more stewed even than the pots I've found in my office after a weekend out of town-- and then we sit down.
I don't want to drink the swill; it's just something to do. "Why are y'up, m'soiur?"
"Jeez. Iz, please." I wink at him. "Otherwise I feel like you're a maitre'd, or I'm a sugar-daddy." I shake my head, stare disgusted at my coffee, before putting it down. "Either way, not a good sign."
"Oui." He places his cup beside mine, and wrinkles his nose. "Fair 'nough. Why are y'up, Iz?"
"I don't know. I've never had an easy time getting to sleep, y'know. Can't sleep with other people in the room unless it's from exhaustion, can't usually sleep in the same bed as someone unless the sex is *really* good--" He holds up his hands, and I grin, stop with that train. "Why are *you* up?"
Remy looked down the hall where our rooms were. We were on the first level, right by the door; right by the lobby counter, as well. It meant that we could hear any action going on, but we also didn't have very much time to get away if someone were to come looking for us. He said finally, "Those rooms ain't really safe."
"That's true. But-- you can go back to bed, Remy--"
He froze, suddenly, and I followed his eyes-- hidden behind his sunglasses, and I was suddenly incredibly thankful that they were. A policeman, in uniform, walked through the doors and went up to the clerk. She beamed when he came in, standing up to greet him warmly. He hissed, "Y'think he's here f'us?"
I tried to think, to reason, over the fear that had rooted me to my seat. I whispered back, "Why would he be?"
Remy stayed motionless. "Because we've got several of th' X-kin with us, Iz."
I vowed, suddenly and surprisingly, that if Anything happened to Alex and Rick just because we had these bloody kids and that bloody git Mickey with us, I'd personally rip of Xavier's head, right after I went on a month-long boozer. "Should we wake everyone?"
He said softly, "Not quite yet. See? He's talkin' to th'lady... they're makin' eyes at each other. And--" The cop pulled a flower from out of a bag he was carrying, and presented it to the woman. "My guess is that he's come t'visit a ladyfriend while on duty, homme. No problem."
As the cop turned our way, I smiled nervously, and Remy said softer, "P'raps we'd best get back t'the rooms, just t'be safe."
Outside his door, Remy said, "Get some sleep, Iz."
I touched his shoulder, and nodded. "You too, honey."
He grinned, and then went inside, shut, and locked the door. I did the same. When I got inside, Rick and Alex were still sleeping. I stood over the bed for a minute, staring down at the two of them, until Rick muttered sleepily, "Get the fuck to bed, freak."
I whispered to him, "Sorry."
He rolled over. I went and laid down, and stared at the ceiling some more, until Mickey started snoring. Rolling my eyes, I put the pillow firmly over my head... and couldn't stop listening for footsteps.
Around five, after tossing and dozing for probably three hours, at most, I groaned and got up. The faintest light was showing out the window, and I decided to get out of the room, sit in the lobby some more. Maybe make up a plan for if things went-- badly.
It's morbid, but the thought crossed my mind that I should write out a will, too.
Grabbed my yellow legal pad and a pen, and wandered into the lobby with a yawn. Right. I could do a will. 'I, Iz blah blah of sound mind, blah-- do, upon death, bequeath all my posessions and assets to Rick Oliver. If he is unable to accept, please appoint as legal receiver, Alex Olsen. If he is unable to accept, please contact Kallie and Lin, c/o KJ's Corner, blah blah, the address--' I chuckled. 'If they are unable or unwiling to respond or fufill this obligation, for whatever reason, please contact the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and inform them of these wishes, and request that they accept guardianship until such time as another, more suitable executor can be found (ie: Lin, or Kallie, etc.)' I laughed again, a little chuckle, as my pen flew across the page in a stilted script. 'If none are found, and if Xavier's is uncertain what to do, just toss the damned stuff out.'
I signed it, folded it, and put it in my pocket. Mailing it to my sister in Oregon would only take a few minutes, with the help of the clerk at the front desk, and soon I was sitting on the couch again, feeling a lot better about the future. Whatever happened, it was covered.
I had to make a list of people I had to call, next. Work. Lin. I should probably apologize to Trish herself, though, with her contacts with Dr. McCoy, she'd already know what was happening. In fact, Trish herself might be missing, and I might get a break. Hmm... something to consider.
Before I called Lin, I had to make a list of things I really wanted to keep from my apartment. That didn't take long, and as I looked at the pitiful list, I felt a sense of loss. So little that was mine.
I looked at my watch. Almost six. I could afford to call Lin at almost six. It'll make up for the time she-- well-- okay, so she'd never done anything to me, but hey. Circumstances. I went out to the callbox in the parking lot, and dug around in my wallet until I found my calling card. Punched the number in, and thanked god that Lin's was one of the few that I remembered.
"Listen, Lin-- don't ask where we are--"
"IZ! Jesus, man, you guys scared us. I get to the Corner, and they tell me that you all left, just up and left, man! What the hell happened?"
I watched a car drive past, and felt raindrops the size of bullets pound on the glass booth. I was already drenched just from running out to it, and miserably cold. "You seen the news."
She sounded less sleepy. "Yeah. Scary stuff."
"Yeah, well. That happened."
"You guys okay?"
I shivered, my teeth chattering from being drenched. "Yeah. It's miserable weather. All present and accounted for. --I was wondering if you could do something for me, though?"
All traces of annoyance and sleep were gone from her voice. "Sure. What?"
I was a little embarassed. "Well, when we left, I didn't have time to go home-- it would have taken at least two hours to drive, and we only had thirty minutes. So all I've got is some of my shit from the Corner."
She whistled. "I can ship it, but I'll need an address--"
"No," I interrupted. "I don't need that yet. I've got about a hundred bucks cash-- I can pick up some more clothes tomorrow. Thrift places'll have enough. But, I need you to go through my stuff."
"Like, I need you to pack up a trunk, maybe a couple of boxes, and get rid of the rest of it." I took a breath. "You can keep it if you want, or sell it, whatever-- just, clear my place out, and tell the landlord I'm gone?"
I could hear her shock. "You want me to move you out of your place?"
"Listen. Say we come back in a month. You'll have done me a favor, and gotten rid of a lot of my shit. I know you'll keep the stereo and stuff because mine's better than yours."
"Iz, I can't--"
I saw another car drive past us, and eyed my watch. Impatient, I cut her off again. "I don't have a lot more time. Listen, I wouldn't ask, but you've got the key to my place, and I need someone who the landlord knows. Tell her--" I faltered. "Tell her, whatever, just, y'know."
"Okay," she finally agreed. "What do you need me to keep?"
I rattled off a list, which was mostly clothing and the odd memento that I still felt some attachment to after all these years. "Don't let anyone get their hands on my comic boxes, my tapes, or my CDs, okay? That's all I ask."
She replied, "Course, man. You think I'd let those outta my sight?"
"I should probably go, Lin. We have to get going. Alex is--"
She chuckled. "Hey, I get it." Softer, she added, "This is all so surreal."
"Tell me about it. I'll wire you the money for the movers sometime soon... you can cover it, right?"
She snorted. "I'll get some of the Corner folk to do it. Kallie's beside herself worrying. That note that Alex left was rather jumbled. And Jana's parents came by twice yesterday, worried sick, wondering whether we'd heard anything." Again, softer, "They'll be glad for something to do."
"Hey. If you don't hear from us in, like, a week, I've got a set of spare keys to Rick and Alex's places as well... they're on the mantle in a jar."
She replied, quietly, "Yeah, okay. I know, man. I'll make sure it gets done."
I said goodbye, and hung up the phone, eyes stinging. I might not ever see her again... and I realized, all over again, that we might never see New York again. This was it.
But Alex and Rick were worth it. I couldn't let them go.
One of my crew ended up answering the phone, and just about dropped the phone when she heard my voice. "IZZY!"
"SHH, Margo! Keep your VOICE DOWN."
She sounded way too excited just to be hearing from me. "Where are you?! Your cellphone and your housephone aren't answering. Everyone's talking about it. Weren't you dating a Finnish mutant or something? Is he going home now?"
I sighed. Right. Margo. Speak in as few words as possible, and try to ignore everything she says. "Margo. Find Tilby. I have to talk to her."
"She's busy. There's a lot of news, naturally, since this whole thing started. Aren't you coming to work today? There's so much to do... danger pay, maybe, even. It's so exciting--"
"MARGO. Get Trish. Now."
She was taken aback. "--okay."
A minute or two passed, in which I watched the freeway entrance, and the van, and the gas station attendant. Finally, "Hello?"
"Trish. It's Iz Wesson..."
She barked, "You're late for work."
I grimaced, and said carefully, "I'm not going to be coming into work today--"
"I can't give every camera guy with marital problems a break, Iz! If you don't come into work today, we might have to write you up."
There was the slam of a door in the earpiece, and a great reduction in background hum, then her tone immediately softened. "Iz, where are you?"
"Nevermind. I wanted to let you know that I might not be in for a while. Or ever. You know."
"It's that guy you've brought around before, isn't it? I remember him. The Norweigian guy."
"If you think you can weasel some time off by exploiting a real news story--"
"--you can forget about it, because I'll fire you right here, right now--"
I let her go off on me for another few minutes, before I finally said wearily, "Trish. I called to let you know that, and to ask if there was any news-- real news, not good news-- about what they're doing to the mutant expats here."
She sounded grouchy still. "Same as on TV. Visas revoked, deportation. They're calling it something else, of course, but that's what it amounts to. Deportation."
I swallowed. "So, the rumors that they're detaining mutants aren't true?"
Trish paused. "I didn't say that. Real news, hard news, is deportation."
I swallowed again, and shivered. "Trish. I need to know. What's the word?"
"Though we've had our professional differences, Iz, you know I wouldn't grudge you-- but still, you know that I can't--"
"PLEASE, Trish..." Very softly, I added, "You met Alex."
She sighed. "It's very possible. Military sources haven't confirmed, but... they did call me and warned me to get any of my mutant friends out of harm's way. Major cities. That kind of thing. If possible--" she sighed again, "--out of the country."
"Right then." My voice shook. "I probably won't be in to work for some time."
She clicked her tongue. "If you need more... there are border guards along all the Canadian crossings. The thing is, Mexico hasn't been tagged yet. And if you want into Canada now, they're not preventing American immigration right now. It's an open door, ask questions later policy. If you can get to an airport in Mexico City."
"Who said I was--"
"I won't ask where you're going if you don't tell me. And Iz," she said quietly, "Good luck. Hope he's worth it."
"Now, hang up before someone finds out I'm talking to you. I'll clean out your desk."
"Someone will come by the station and pick up my stuff." I rubbed my eyes, and tried to think of anything else that I might get out of Trish Tilby, news anchor extraordinaire. "Is there *anything* else you can tell me?"
She sounded grim. "Call me again in a few weeks, and I'll let you know. Right now, just stay out of sight. Police aren't involved yet anywhere else but New York City, so you should be okay." There was a funny tone in her voice. "The school was raided already. Badly."
"Not that I know of. Call me again."
"Thanks, Trish. Good luck to you, too."
I hung up again, and wondered if anything would be the same ever again.