t h a n k s: To everyone at the Corner, especially River, Lise, Jono, KG and Mel. Merci beaucoup, people! And extra special thanks to Maelstrom for the spellcheck. *huggles*
d e d i c a t e d t o: River and Lise.
c h a p t e r _ o n e
I hate getting involved.
The mere thought makes me break out in cold sweat.
Okay, getting involved romantically speaking, can be fun. But when the involved thing doesn't have anything to do with romance (at least not for me), I start squirming.
I have, on occasion, been known to run into my room and lock the door in order to not get involved.
I'm not kidding.
So you see how this whole working at Xavier's thing was causing me some conflict.
On one hand, I had the job. Which was nice, I got to play with a web page and I got paid. Both very neat things which I fully support.
But then, on the other hand, you had the secrets.
Bundles of them.
I swear, there wasn't a person in that place who didn't have a serious secret or another.
And all of them seemed to be doing their damned best to get me involved.
(No, I'm not pouting! I never pout!)
First there was Kitty who seemed to be spending more time at the computer room than I was. She could make herself intangible and walk through stuff, by the way. Called it 'phasing', I think. Waaaay freakish to look at.
She didn't really have that many secrets (serious ones or otherwise), so most of the time we could bump into each other without me getting the mother of all headaches.
There was one big secret though. She'd seen something she most emphatically thought she shouldn't have.
Not entirely sure what it was exactly. This power-thingy of mine works backwards, for one thing. I get the most recent image first. For another, I get impressions and images and thoughts and it all gets kind of jumbled together.
I have the distinct impression it had something to do with sex, though...
Anyway, except for the fact that she occasionally gave me headaches, she was a big help. She seemed to know everybody, and when I mentioned to her that I'd like some aerial photos of the school, she said "No problem!" and went and fetched a redhead and a blond boy with wings.
I would have liked wings. Why couldn't I have gotten neat white wings instead of a green skin? Huh?
She introduced them as Angelica and Warren.
"Hey," I said.
"Hey," they said.
Warren looked at me with a 'duh' expression on his face and ruffled his feathers. I think he knocked over a speaker.
"Right," I said, blushing and doing my best to ignore it. "So... Take as many photos as you can, from as many angles as possible, okay? I need something to choose from."
Angelica nodded. "Will do. Cameras?"
"Right," I said again. God, I'm turning into Giles. ...Wait, that's not a bad thing. If I turned into Giles, I'd get Ethan. And Ethan is definitely a good thing... That smirk... Those eyes... That nose... Oh, right, the kids. Work now, fantasize later. "I have a couple in my backpack."
Kitty nodded and ducked under the desk to get the cameras. "The DigiCam as well?"
"No, bad quality --" I changed my mind. "Wait. Yes, bring that one too."
She reappeared from under the desk and started handing out the cameras. I have a lot of cameras. Not professional extra-super-doesn't-get-any-better-than-this type cameras, mind, just a bunch of ordinary cameras. I do a lot of small business/school webpages, and for some reason, they like getting their faces plastered online. Bringing the cameras myself saves a lot of work.
Believe me, you have not known frustration until you've looked through 37 different albums and 52 piles of photos in order to find fifteen photos you can work with.
(I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about the Leeman Association's employees private lives, by the way.)
Angelica and Warren grabbed a couple of cameras each and walked out of the window.
I have to admit my jaw dropped at that.
Kitty snickered at me. I made a face at her (Twenty-five, five - doesn't make much difference when it comes to me) and she giggled and went back to her hotmail.
Nice kid, really.
Which of course makes it even more difficult for me to stay the hell uninvolved...
And then there was Logan.
Let me say... Wow. Much, much wow.
Way out of my league, of course, but that has never stopped me from ogling before, and certainly didn't stop me now. First time I saw him without a shirt, Kitty had to whack me over the head in order to get my attention back on the screen.
I have a feeling that girl spends a lot of time laughing at me...
He's walked into the computer room a couple of times, looking for Dr. Grey (who I still haven't seen. Kitty says she's off lecturing or something), or Rogue (I still can't believe people are calling her Rogue. Everytime I say her name I feel like a dork).
One of those times he, naturally, bumped against me.
Shut up. I did not do it on purpose.
Anyway, I was hit with the most unholy mess of secrets I've ever been hit with. Had a pounding headache for days after wards. And I think I ate way more licorice than what's healthy.
Only thing I can remember clearly is the impression of... a lion? A big cat growling? Something like that. Connected to an image of a tall, feral looking guy with blond hair.
Apparently this school does 'weird' very well.
I kept away from Logan after that. I didn't quit ogling, though.
Couldn't get rid of the image of the feral man. Stuck in my head, he did. Reckon I got a crush on him, too.
Never said I was particulary smart in that area.
Two weeks later I saw feral-blond-guy on the news. Let's just say that seeing someone you kind of, sort of, in a way, have a crush on being on the 6 o'clock news, under the heading WANTED! REALLY COLD BLOODED KILLER! ...Well, it's not really all that much fun.
...Which reminds me, why would Logan have a secret about a cold blooded killer?
Yes, I definitely kept away from Logan. That generally wasn't that hard, since he hardly ever was in the computer room and I rarely left it. Now if I'd been wanting to stay away from Pete Wisdom, then I'd have to work at it. The kid seemed to spend an awful lot of time in the computer room considering he had no business being there.
Didn't take me long to figure it out, though. I might be a bit socially challenged, but I'm not that lost.
His eyes followed Kitty's every movement. Covertly of course.
I pointed it out to Kitty, and she blushed, denied it and called him a 'bloody wanker'.
No, not interested in the Brit, she is. Not at all.
I managed to suppress my matchmaking urges for an entire month, because you know, matchmaking qualifies as getting involved and getting involved is icky.
Oh shut up.
Yes, I did end up getting involved.
And I blame that on pretty much anyone other than me.
I stood outside the legendary "Smog", eyeing the door skeptically. Wisdom was bound to be there. I'd picked up that little bit of info in the cantina. You'd be amazed to know what you learn from spending a couple of hours in there, nursing a coke, watching and listening.
The Smog was where you'd find the Brits, the smokers and the punk wannabes. For some, all three qualified.
There was Pete Wisdom, who seemed to be a sort of unofficial leader of the bunch, the purple-haired Liz Braddock, punk-girl Ali Blaire, the grey-skinned Angelo Espinosa, dark-and-broody Evan Starsmore, dark-shades Remy LeBeau and airhead Lance Shot.
(Sidenote: Lance had the fashion sense from hell. He even made me wince and I'm the expert of grabbing-what-ever-is-first-in-the-closet. I've worn some pretty weird combinations... Anyway, Lance = Hell's fashion sense. Shudder.)
They were usually the kind of people I regarded with amused fascination from afar.
Now I was actually considering knocking on the door, and walking inside to give one of them advice on his love-life. Which, considering my usual people skills, would probably suck majorly. I'm bloody insane, I am.
I knocked on the door.
Liz Braddock opened it and stared at me. She's the only Japanese-type person I've met who's able to stare directly into my eyes. "What?"
"Wisdom? Is he here?"
Suspicious look. "What if he is?"
"Could I talk to him?"
"Wait." She closed the door.
I waited. Twiddled my thumps. Counted the tiles in the ceiling. Read the scribblings on the door. Ran through the lyrics to "The One" by Voodoobeats in my head. Took a couple of dance steps.
The door opened and Wisdom's surly face looked out. "What you want?"
"Talk to you. About..." I hesitated, then gave a mental shrug. I come this far, I might as well continue. "About Kitty."
"What about her?"
"Well, I... You want her, right?"
He gave me a look I couldn't interpret. "What's it to you?"
I shrugged. "She's a friend."
"Right." Even I couldn't miss the doubt in his voice.
I glared at him. If I wanted to consider Kitty a friend, who was he to draw that in doubt? I could call her a friend if I wanted to. So there. "Yes, a friend. And I want her to be happy."
"Is this your way of telling me to stay the hell away from her?" He questioned, moving his hand up to take a drag of his smoke.
"Don't worry. Won't touch the kid. Happy? Shoo." He closed the door.
What the hell?
I stood there blinking for a while. What the hell was that guy smoking, anyway?
I pounded on the door until someone tore it up. It was Wisdom. He stared at me.
"You still here?"
"Yeah. Still haven't done what I came here for."
"Look, I told you --"
"Yes, I know. I'll figure out what the hell you were talking about later. Now. Go ask her out. See a movie. Have a burger. Do what ever it is that you do on a date. Preferably today."
He stared at me with a 'you're mental' expression on his face. I get that a lot. Didn't quite see what I'd said to qualify for it this time.
"You don't want her?"
Light bulb above head time. I snickered. "No. And you can believe me on that."
"No, I meant, why should I-- what?"
I grinned at him.
"So you're not...?"
"Nope. And besides, she's way too young for me anyway."
"She's sixteen, I..."
I gave him a disbelieving look. Did he want her, or didn't he? Hadn't it been for the constant gazing at Kitty he did, I'd be willing to swear he didn't. "Go ask her out," I repeated.
I walked away, figuring I've done enough for this time.
A whole week, and no headaches. New record. Woohoo.
I celebrated it with a coke and a pizza slice over at JB's Diner.
The gods were against me, however, and just as I'd finished eating, dark-shades Remy LeBeau and punk-girl Ali Blaire entered.
I sank down in my chair.
They would touch me. I just knew it. This was way to good to last, so one or both of them would touch me and we'd have secret heaven. I grumbled and looked around to see if this place sold licorice.
Surprisingly they both passed me without even noticing me, never mind touching me.
I brightened a bit, figuring that the gods might, possibly be on my side for a change.
Then the blond guy from the subway a month ago entered and I tensed again. I think his name is Sinjin, or something, even though Pretty Blue Eyes called him John. 'Least I think he did. My memory when it comes to combining names and faces leaves a lot to be desired.
He walked past me, headed in the same direction as LeBeau and Blaire. Not touching me. Much rejoicing on my behalf. I was busy promising the gods pretty much anything I could think of, so when a short, dark-haired man dropped down into the chair in front of me, I gave a start of surprise.
"And where were you, babe?"
"Heaven," I replied with a grin. "Izzy, what are you doing here?"
Izzy laughed and wiggled his brows suggestively. "Anyone I know?"
"Is there someone you don't?"
"Point. Now. Tell me. Everything. In detail." Izzy gave me his best 'I'm utterly cute and innocent and you must succumb to me' look.
I laughed. "There's nothing to tell, you berk."
"Uh-huh." Doubting look thrown my way.
"Honest! I was just thanking the gods for small mercies."
Izzy looked surprised. "No headaches for a week again? Man, this is getting to be a habit. Can't have that, now can we?"
I grinned. "No, we certainly can't. Now, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, I'm heading home after a party and I saw you sitting here all by your lonesome, decided to say hi," Izzy grinned at me. "You should've been there. Rick got really, really drunk and sang."
I snickered. "You get it on tape?"
"Of course I did." He looked affronted that I'd even suggest that he wouldn't have caught that priceless moment on tape. Granted, the day Iz goes anywhere without his camera is the day I stop reading fanfiction, so I suppose it was a stupid question.
"What did he sing? 'You're the one that I want'? 'Truly, Madly, Deeply'? 'Falling in love again'?"
Izzy snickered. "Yup."
"All of them, and more," he said with obvious relish. "And I have it on tape. I have Rick crooning 'I caaaan't help falling in looooove with choooo' to Stacy and Kallie on tape."
I gaped at him. "You're kidding?"
Izzy stretched and shook his head in blissful happiness. "Oh no. Have it right here." He patted his backpack. "You wanna see?"
"Don't have to ask me twice!" I jumped up on my feet. I paused and watched Iz stumble slowly onto his feet. "You realise Rick's going to have you murdered for this?"
Izzy grinned. "Oh yeah. Is all worth it too. You'll see."
There's this place close to my apartment called 'Kay's Corner'. It's a weird mix of a writer's workshop, netcafe and a private home. I found it a couple of days after I moved here, and that's where I got to know Izzy.
First time I walked in there, I found Iz and Rick curled up on the couch, Izzy's head in Rick's lap. They were mumbling to each other about Keller and Beecher and all sorts of weird, incomprehensible things.
I gave them a sort of nod and went looking for a computer. Mine hadn't arrived yet, you see.
Izzy and Rick gave me a curious look.
"Who are you?" Izzy asked in the kind of frank manner I've now learned is all Izzy. Never beats around the bush, that one.
"Ian," I said distractedly as I eyed the closest computer eagerly, wondering who to pester for access codes and such. Then I realised what I'd said and winced. "I mean Alex. Call me Alex."
Izzy blinked at me and looked thoughtful. "Hey, you... Nah... But what if you are..."
I gave him a puzzled look. "What?"
"Are you Ian, as in Ian Rose? Does 'Helplessly' mean anything to you?"
Now I blinked at him. "How did you know that?"
Izzy beamed at me. "Ian! C'mere!" He straightened up and spread his arms wide open.
I regarded him skeptically. "Who are you?"
"Who am... Right." Iz grinned. "I'm Izzy."
Obviously, I was supposed to recognize that. I put my brain in gear. Izzy... Izzy... Only Izzy I knew was a guy I'd done some betaing for on a story, but this couldn't possibly be... "Izzy? Epic Izzy?"
Iz grinned brighter and nodded. "Is me!"
I walked over to him and gave him a hug. I'm not really big on touching people, but this was Izzy! You understand, right? (And no, no big secrets there)
Rick looked amused at us. "You two know each other?"
"Yeah, from online," Izzy explained and let me go. He sat back down on the couch, leaned over Rick and grabbed a handful of popcorn. "Betaed story of mine."
"Cool," Rick nodded. He looked up at me. "I'm Rick. Nice to meet you."
And that's how I came to know Rick and Izzy. It seemed to me like everytime I was there, they were there. Either snuggled up together on the couch or seated next to a computer, giving each other evil glares at irregular intervals.
They're the ones who introduced me to the rest of the regulars at the cafe, some of them so much regulars, I still doubt they ever sleep.
There was Kay herself, who was treated like a minor deity among the Cornerians and considered an addiction they didn't want to be without. You should have been there for her birthday party. The Corner was filled to the brink with people carrying stories and storylets for her to read.
Kallie, who stepped in when Kay couldn't be there and I have to this day never experienced her having a bad thing to say to anyone. She's something so rare as an actual nice person.
Stace, who never seemed to move from her spot in front of the computer in the corner and had the tendency to come with the strangest facts and story ideas.
Ron, who's a fellow Viking. Montgomery, Ellis, Moric, Jana, Lin, Cassie and so on, and so on.
They've become my family, away from my family.
Some of them are mutants, some are not. Some are gay, some are bi, some are straight. Some are religious, some aren't. Some are teenagers, some are pushing sixty.
None of this seem to matter in the Corner.
There's a reason I like this place.
I spent the weekend with Izzy, snickering at his tape of Rick making an idiot of himself, watching old horror movies, throwing popcorn at Iz when he suggested watching 'Rocky Horror' for the n'th time, and making love.
I showed up at Xavier's practically beaming.
The first thing that happened was, of course, that dark-shades LeBeau and blond-guy Sinjin-John-something-like-than made their way out of the building, both of them bumping into me in the process. See, I knew this was too good to last.
*Hands sliding over stomach, down. Mouths touching tentatively, hotly. Want you. I want to look into your eyes. Removing dark shades, uncertain. You're beautiful. Surprised, grateful. You are. Closer. Grinding together. Faster. Harder. Love you! No, can't say that. Never. Don't want to lose you.*
I collapsed on the porch.
Nope. Not embarrassing at all. Really.
Did you know that I turn dark green when I blush?
Well, Chatterbox and Pretty Blue Eyes certainly know that now. As well as a young blonde girl, a Native American girl, a Native American boy, a guy with long red hair and a star on his face, a Latino looking guy... Should I go on? Didn't think so.
They brought me to see Dr. Reyes even though I told them repeatedly that I was going to be just fine. When you looked away from that humongous headache of mine, that is.
Dr. Reyes... She might be an excellent doctor, I'm not saying she's not, but she's scary. She has this way of looking at you... I swear, you feel like confessing to pretty much every bad thing you've ever done. She would've made an excellent police detective. One look and here comes the confession.
Anyway, she asked me if me collapsing was related to me being a mutant. I said yes. She asked me if it had happened before. I said yes. She asked if I knew what had caused it. I said yes again. She wondered if I was on any kind of medication. I said a couple of dozen paracets would do. She gave me a quizzical look. I told her paracetamol, pills at that. She said ahhh, gave me a box and pointed towards the computer room.
I happily escaped.
Kitty gave me a worried look when I entered the computer room. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah." I smiled to her. "Just a headache."
"You get an awful lot of headaches," she noted.
I tilted my head in agreement.
"Who caused it this time?"
I looked surprised at her. "What?"
"Oh please. What am I? An idiot?" Kitty rolled her eyes. "Well?"
"LeBeau and Sinjin-John-whatever his name is," I said too surprised to even think about keeping it a secret. Wait a minute... Two of them. Only one secret... 'Course that could mean only one of them had a secret, but it did't feel like that, it had been more like... Like... The same secret? "That can't be it," I said out loud. And when I think about it, it didn't seem backwards either...
Kitty looked puzzled at me. "What can't be what?"
"Most people call him John, by the way."
"Then why Sinjin? I mean, I'm not really seeing the connection here..."
"It's spelled S-T-period-J-O-H-N," she explained.
I gave her a look.
"If you say so..."
"And I do." She grinned at me and waited until I'd opened my coke bottle and taken a sip. "So... You got laid, eh?"
I choked. "Whaaa?"
Her eyes glittered. "I can tell. You're giving off 'I got laid' vibes. Kind of like Mr. Summers do when Dr. Grey's around."
"Kids today," I said when I stopped spluttering. "No shame. No shame at all."
Kitty rolled her eyes. "You deserve it, jenta."
I stared at her in bemusement. "Jenta?" I repeated. Girl? Why's she calling me a girl? An in Norwegian to boot.
"You're trying to tell me you weren't playing matchmaker?"
"No, but what has that got to... Yenta." Of course.
"What I said."
"Yeah, but it's not what I heard."
She looked confused at me.
"So how did your date go? I assume there _was_ a date?"
Kitty beamed at me. "Oh yes! Was so cool! A real restaurant! And I got to beat up people!"
"Pete said I was tough and he kissed me!" She practically bounced in her chair.
I had to smile at the look on her face. She was really making it hard for me to stay uninvolved.
Though... I wasn't sure if I wanted to, anymore.
I felt this weird urge to... To... Try and fix things. Get involved. That sort of thing.
Stuff that usually makes me queasy.
Bad influence. Yeah, that's it. Being here at Xavier's is bad influence. Before you knew it, I'd be a bartender somewhere giving drunk people good advice about their wives/husbands/bosses/dogs/cars/trucks.
I should have made a run for it. Could have saved myself a lot of trouble that way.
But, I'm a total idiot, and I stayed.