- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Disturbing Imagery
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
- Challenge Response
- Episode Related
- Established Relationship
They escape the confines of the Inner Circle’s sanctum with barely any resistance. Once the core members flee from them, like rats a sinking vessel, they were allowed to leave unmolested. There were no other sighting of Shaw, Emma Frost nor Wyngarde. Vanished, then, into the wild of New York City streets. Back into the shadows whence they came. Ororo did not care. Her heart only for the precious being held gently in Beast’s arms and of the missing sister that might be lost to them. Perhaps forever.
They too, use the city’s vastness to their benefit. The large, jaded crowds do not spare them first, nor second glance. Occupied as they were with their own lives. None of them stand, not in a city with such a colorful populace. They were seen no differently than any man or woman in expensive business suits or some bizarre ensemble.
The taxis were warier. Many passing them, stopping then leaving in a fright as they saw their potential passengers. But with the persistence and diligence of Gambit, they were able to find an elderly man willing to take them the long trek to Westchester. The vehicle thankfully large enough to accommodate their numbers and girth.
“Still say we should have hot-wired that van.” Logan muttered in a petulant tone. Ororo choose to ignore him. It had been a long night and her temper was too frayed for such conversations. “Wouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg.”
It was to their great benefit, she supposed, that Gambit had pilfered ten thousands dollars in stacks of hundred dollar bills from their previous hosts, among other valuables. She held her peace as it facilitated their escape, but she would be having words with him at a later time. When the sense of urgency had faded and their world no longer balanced on a razor’s edge.
The man, an elderly jewish man with a heavy Brooklyn accent, held a lively conversation with Gambit, who sat in the front with him. They spoke of art, of all things and some local markets that held inexplicably expensive fungus.
She was grateful to him for entertaining their driver, for it allowed her to focus on more important matters. On the seat farthest from the front, Scott laid across Henry’s lap, wrapped tightly in his arms.
He no longer moaned from a deep rooted pain, though his pallor had not improved. He shivered and shook in almost uncontrollable jerks. Shock, Henry had said, a stolen afghan wrapped tightly around Scott’s limp body. That along with the shared body heat mitigated the worst of it, though Scott had not regained consciousness since his collapse. That, more than his constant shaking concerned her.
They all had training in the basics of first aid. She knew the dangers of shock and prolonged unconsciousness. She knew nothing of psychic injuries despite living in close proximity of two telepaths of considerable strength. Of having fought her own mental battles with the Shadow King. Could a psychic injury cause permanent bodily trauma? Brain damage?
The night was calm, the streets nearly deserted. Traffic was light leaving the city for once. A mild breeze pushed colorful leaves in their path. Autumn had long settled New York state and the official start of winter was only a few weeks away. Ororo could feel the change in seasons coming like a slow, crawling tidal wave.
The professor waited for them at the top of the front steps to the manor. Gambit tipped generously as the man concluded a rant on New Jersey drivers. He drove off, having left them a dozen business cards to be distributed among their people.
Logan shook his head, amused despite himself. “That guy’s nuts.” Though Ororo saw him tuck one of the business cards in his uniform no doubt to be used at a later date.
Henry walked towards the professor, Scott cradled protectively in his arms. It was easy to forget, as reserved as Scott was in his personal relationships, how close he and Henry truly were. As two of the remaining members of the original X-Men, Scott and Henry were as close as brothers.
“Professor, has there been word on Jean?” Ororo asked as she and the rest of the X-Men marched up the steps of the mansion and to the professor’s side.
“No,” The professor turned to lead them inside. Face pained, eyes constantly shifting towards Scott, his pallor even more sickly in the manor’s piercing lighting. “Even with cerebro helping me, I could not detect Jean’s presence. It is, unfortunately, quite possible that Jean may not remain within the confines earth, or quite possibly our solar system.”
Well-known halls and rooms now felt foreign. Unfamiliar in their familiarity, as though they had been gone months upon months and not mere hours. Half a night even. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. The feeling similar to that night, years ago now. When they went into a government facility for the sake of their people and left without two dear friends.
In the infirmary, Henry gently lowered Scott onto one of the beds. He attached a pulse sensor, began an I.V. catheter and swiftly replaced his uniform with a hospital gown. Ororo retrieved one of the warmer blankets, a pair of thermal socks.
The professor positioned himself at the head of the bed, hand gripping Scott’s arm tightly. “Scott.” He said in a pained whisper which they all pretended not to have heard. There was no privacy to be given. The urgency of their circumstances would not allow for it. Not even for Scott’s modesty though with a team such as theirs, it was inevitable such accommodations could not always be given.
“What happened?” The professor asked as he ran a gentle hand through Scott’s hair.
“For what we were able to learn from the Inner Circle themselves, professor, their telepath, Emma Frost and illusionist, Wyngarde used their powers to manipulate and weaken Jean’s mind.” Henry ran several scans on Scott. “You were correct in your assessment of the Phoenix, professor. Once Jean’s mind was weaken enough, it seemed to thrive on the darker side of human nature. She took great pleasure in the fear and pain she brought. When Scott attempted to reach Jean through their psychic link, his mental image was destroyed though I do not believe Jean nor Phoenix had a direct hand in the attack.”
“She seemed to thrive on dark emotions, professor.” Ororo added. She wrapped the blanket around Scott, mindful of the pulse scanner and I.V. line. “Attacking us with hardly any restraint.”
“She certainly tried to off Cyke, non.” Gambit dropped the bed adjoining Scott, rifling cards in his hands almost compulsively. “If not for Logan Cyke be as crispy as Rogue’s fried chicken.”
“Seems to me like Jeannie isn’t playing with a full deck.” Logan inserted as he drank water from a bottle. Crushing it in the end. “Nearly took Cyke out.”
Ororo breathed in carefully. Focused on Scott, taking his hand in hers. His hand was still unbearably cold though he no longer shook quite so uncontrollably. Mere mild tremors that came with less frequency as time went on. She was hopeful that they would still altogether and he would finally awaken.
She could still not believe it. None of it. Her sister, so changed, willing, elated even, to cause true harm to Scott, to them all. It was, perhaps, fortunate that Jubilee was visiting with her parents. She could not wish her to deal with such horrifying circumstances.
The professor rubbed at his temples while holding onto Scott. As though he wished to remind himself that they had not lost him. Ororo gripped his shoulder but could offer no words of comfort. Of them all, it was Jean and Scott that were like his own children. That he loved as a daughter and son. She could not imagine his pain at learning one had caused such harm to the other.
“It sure didn’t sound like Jean.” Rogue said quietly. “She was about destroying and killing people.”
“Gambit thinkin’ Jean no longer in driver’s seat.”
Suddenly Scott moaned, a terrible shiver running throughout his body. “Is there nothing that can be done?” She looked first to Henry then to the professor.
The professor laid his hand on Scott’s forehead. “Psychic trauma it s very delicate injury,” He closed his eyes in concentrating. Ororo stepped away to give him room. She stood next to Logan and Rogue, who like her, had kept their distance to allow Henry and the professor to attend to Scott.
“Sure wish I’d had knocked that Wyngarde fellow through a wall or two.” Rogue mumbled, hands clenched as if she could imagine doing just that.
“You and me both.”
The minutes stretched and moved at a slow crawl. Time, it seemed, was a contradictory mistress, moving as a slow crawl when they wished it to go faster and as fast as squall when they wished it to hold still. Eternity was locked in those minutes. So much rode upon the professor’s mental probe.
After a moment, the professor opened his eyes, rubbed at his temples quite persistently.
“I fear his mind is at an influx. Attempting to repair itself while simultaneously shut itself down.” He shook his head. A weariness settling into the line of his shoulders. “I have placed blocks to help facilitate the healing process, but it is the psychic rapport with Jean that is causing the most damage.” Henry handed him a cup of a green, bitter smelling tea. “Jean’s weaken mind continues to seek shelter in Scott’s own mind.”
“But in Scott’s current debilitated state he could no sooner provide that safe haven than sprout wings and fly.” Henry gave them cups of hot coffee. How he managed to obtained them while simultaneously taking care of Scott and contributing to this most important analysis.
“Can’t you just cut it off?” Logan asked. It was easy to disregard Logan’s revolving animosity towards Scott as lack of care. He was a complicated man that could threatened one moment then place himself in danger for that person’s sake.
“It is quite impossible, I’m afraid. Both because of the Phoenix’s immense power and of Scott delicate state.” Gambit threw a card past them to land neatly in the garbage can on the other side of the room. They all ignored his juvenile behavior from long practice. “I could do so much more harm if I attempted it.”
Scott settled for a moment. Breath easing, the terrible pallor retreating. Then, just as suddenly his body arched in a truly alarming manner. Mouth open and a piercing scream reverberating throughout the infirmary.
“What’s happening!” Scott’s body jerked violently, throwing off the blanket and ripping off the I.V. line while the heart monitor screeched.
“It’s Jean. She is reaching out to Scott through their rapport.” Henry, Rogue, Logan and Gambit threw themselves on Scott. He fought them. As weaken as he was, he managed to shove Gambit to the ground. Rogue wrapped her arms around his torso to stop him from sliding off the bed. Ororo stood on the sidelines, unable to provide even the more minimal of aid.
“Scott, hear me. Focus on my voice.” The professor shouted as he gripped his head in his hands. “Scott!” And Scott stilled, chest heaving and heart beating a terrible staccato into the sudden silence.
Henry immediate reattached an I.V. catheter. Rogue ran a shaky hand over Scott’s sweaty forehead. Logan lifted it the blanked from the floor and tucked it around Scott with a gentleness one would not think him capable of.
Ororo helped Gambit to his feet. Her heart still beat a furious beat in her chest. She did not think any of them could take much more of this.
“Was what dat?” Gambit rubbed at the purpling bruise on his cheek. “Gambit no like all this buffoonery!”
“Yeah well, take a number and get in line, Gumbo. The rest of us ain’t exactly all warm and fuzzy about it either.” Logan kicked a panel in a fit of frustration. She could not even blame him.
“Professor, is Scott okay?” Rogue’s question drew their attention once again to the professor and consequently to Scott. His pallor had worsened yet somehow he seemed calmer. As if true unconsciousness had finally befallen him when before it only dangled it’s promise relief.
He gentled a hand over his forehead as Rogue had done. Closed his eyes. A moment later, he opened them, grim. “Scott’s mind has held against this latest assault. Though I sense the Phoenix’s control over Jean’s mind is nearly absolute. While the sliver of Jean’s mind that still remains still seeks Scott’s protection, it appears the Phoenix too seeks Scott’s mind. I cannot phantom for what purpose.” A chill ran up her spine. The professor turned to them, aged as if twenty years had passed in the span of a few minutes. “Though I can say with certainty that regardless of the Phoenix’s new found interest in Scott, she is returned to earth. We must be ready to face her.”
Ororo did not feel cold or warmth temperatures the way ordinary humans nor mutants did. Her connection with the elements afforded her some protection from such trivialities. Tonight she felt a deep seated cold settle into the very core of her being.
When the others left to rest, to monitor, to prepare, Ororo stayed behind with the professor. Their future uncertain as the fate of two dear friends balanced on a razor’s edge. Together they listened to constant beeping of the heart’s monitor. They sat and waited, for what, she could not say. For hope, perhaps. For the impossible to happen, for Jean to return to them whole and unharmed by her ordeal. For Scott to wake, restored.
She sat by the professor as they held vigil. Swallowed back a rising fear that before the day was done, their loses would be beyond imagining.