thelittleone: (melody guthrie: regrettably normal)
« a faint and faraway sound » ([personal profile] thelittleone) wrote in [community profile] otherearth6262006-09-24 10:07 am
Entry tags:

"Mama taught y’better than that!"

Written by: Noelle Pico
Beta readers: Nathan Pico & Kam Martinez


Xavier School for Gifted Children, Graymalkin Lane, Westchester, New York. 7:37 pm.

The sounds of silverware clinking against china faded into the background as he moved out of the dining area and into the hallway that would open up to the main lobby of what everyone in the grounds referred to as the X-Mansion. He passed an open doorway and noted two kids playing chess on the floor, engrossed in the game and nothing else.

While dinner itself had been great, given the company of his teammates and that of the Corsairs, he wasn’t in the mood for company anymore. If what they’d been told earlier was correct, they’d all slept right through the day and that meant that he’d just lost valuable time for the paper he’d had to submit by Friday morning. So without further ado, he’d finished his meal, set aside his plate, washed it clean and bid goodnight to the others, exiting the area with a half-hearted wave.

Jay Guthrie, known as Icarus to his peers and teachers, made his way up the flight of stairs that led to the hallway of the dorm rooms thinking that he’d do just about anything to get rid of the dread that had settled in the pit of his stomach. The moment he’d sat down at an empty seat in the dining table beside his Japanese teammate, he found that Ms. Munroe, his squad supervisor had actually been waiting in the other doorway.

He’d been treated to the abridged version of the X-Men Gold Team leader’s lecture while she’d brought out the food that had been set aside for their particular group, and when Ms. Munroe finally decided to let it drop—at least for tonight—he, Roberto and Noriko had traded glances (Sooraya had already eaten and had opted to get a move on her own homework) suspecting that they’d be given the full version in the morning, when they were all back in fine, fighting form again. Not good. Very not good.

He wanted to escape it, at least, for awhile, by coming up with an impressive enough paper that would wow his teachers. At the very least, if he was to endure the reiteration of why they’d so brilliantly disappointed the woman they all but revered in that way that kids idolize heroes, he’d have the small satisfaction of knowing that he could mail his mother a three-page paper with a big, fat, red A on the upper, right-hand corner.

He turned the knob to his room and smiled at the fact that the lights had been turned off by some considerate soul. He had no roommate yet, not since Melody had been scuttled off to bunk with someone closer to her age. There were only a number of students in the school after all, given that Professor Xavier’s door-to-door campaign didn’t always turn up parents who were willing to hand over their kids to a man who professed to have their best interests at heart.

He flicked on the light switch and caught sight of the small folded, paper card with a heart drawn in crayon that lay on his study desk; beside it was his cellphone, “3 Voice Messages Received” in black across the screen.

Josh, get well soon. Melody’s cursive handwriting read, purple pen against white bond paper. She’d drawn a border to make it look pretty, and Jay traced a thumb over the words: Love, Melody. Characteristic of her to do something so thoughtful, so grade school, that it touched him straight to the core.

Flipping his phone open he clicked the buttons and lifted it to his ear, his eyes turning dark as the voice of another one of his many sisters spoke through the speaker:

Jay, Sam called me. He said you were asleep when he dropped by the mansion. What happened? Ring me as soon as you get this. Alright?

The second message was no better. His sister’s voice was a little more panicked, though calm resided in it still; other voices echoed in the back, but the message was the same. She’d begun to use the name he’d specifically told them he’d discarded for a new nickname.

Josh, aren’t you awake yet? Look, I’m sorry if I’m being bothersome. It’s just that the extent of your injuries just hit me. Call me as soon as you get my messages. Sam’s in one of his classes and won’t be able to come by the mansion, but I’m meeting him at the Vespucci Diner across from M.I. for dinner. Call, okay? You’re worrying me.

The worst was the third, wherein Paige had apparently let her worry catch up to her, thus bringing her to a point wherein she no longer cared that her Kentucky accent cut through her words, loud and clear.

Dammit Joshua Guthrie, are you purposely ignoring mah phone calls, boy? Don’t do this t’ your elders! Mama taught y’better than that! ’s bad enough y’ve been all sullen, actin’ like the world owes y’ more than it can give, refusin’ to treat us like the fam’ly we are. Ah won’t have it y’hear me? You call me right now!

He had the urge to fling the compact piece of technology at the wall. Where did Paige get off by yelling at him like he was the type to ignore important phone calls? His jaw clenched and his fingers squeezed tight around the phone, as if doing so could make the phone bleed the words out onto the floor beneath him. He exhaled deeply and dialed her number from memory, his fingers heavy on the keys.

Paige’s phone rang once, twice—until her voice came through, stating his name clear enough, despite the apparent sounds in the background—the Vespucci Diner, if he wasn’t mistaken.

“There!” He bellowed right back, holding the mouthpiece directly over his lips. “I called already! Are you happy now?!” A series of sputtered protests came his way, and something that sounded vaguely like silverware clattered as what was probably his sister’s fist collided with the table.

Don’t you raise your voice at me, Jay Guthrie—

“Ah’ll raise my voice if ah want, Paige.” He paced, his face hot, his tone indignant. “For your information, big sister,” he stressed, resentment coming through. “Ah didn’t call you back immediately because ah just got up an hour ago—was sent up by Professor Summers—who was none-too-pleased, though ah won’t explain why, seein’ as you know already,” he gulped in a breath, “and had to endure th’ shortened-version of Ms. Munroe’s lecture while trying to swallow down dinner!” He breathed in again as his wings twitched a little, spread and shook themselves to smooth his ruffled feathers. (*)

His sister was silent on the other end of the line and for a moment he felt just the tiniest speck of guilt that he’d yelled at her. This was Paige after all, the oldest of his female siblings, and the only one of the two eldest Guthries who treated him as though he was capable of taking care of himself.

I’ve been worried.” There were other voices in the back, female ones, by the sound of them. “I’m sorry, okay. You know that I get paranoid when I don’t get word right away.”

Jay reached up and scratched the back of his neck. This wasn’t the way he expected to spend his Thursday evening. Yelling at his siblings wasn’t a pastime.

It’s just that I didn’t know what to tell mom, alright?

He frowned, scowling at the ground. “Why? Does she know already?” He snapped unintentionally. “Not that I’m surprised really, considering that it’s exactly something that Sam would do—”

Jay—don’t.” She cut him off, the crackle of static making her words choppy. “What?” Jay hissed right back, “He’s already done it, hasn’t he?” Leave it to his brother to play police when it came to his coming and goings. “He’s told momma, hasn’t he?”

She sounded frustrated on the other end. He could already imagine her running her fingers through her long hair, her cheeks puffing up as she blew air into them like a pufferfish. “No, he hasn’t.” Paige snapped back, her own temper running on a short fuse. “Josh, you have to stop this. He was worried sick about you, y’know?

“Yeah,” he snorted. “Sure.” He hung up.

The urge to throw the phone came again, and this time, he gave in, hurling it across the room and onto his bed. His breath caught in his throat, as if his heart had jumped straight up from his chest, but when the phone bounced on the mattress, safe and sound, he exhaled a sigh of relief. He might have been pissed enough to do the impulsive, but he didn’t really want a busted phone on his conscience.

With a sigh he set his hands on his hips, weighing the option of a shower with that of his paper. The decision was easy, and he expelled another sigh, shrugging his shirt off as he turned to open the bathroom door.

The sidewalk outside The Vespucci Diner, Manhattan, New York. 7:51 pm.

“Looks like Jay finally called.” Tabitha Smith remarked softly to his right, and he looked up, his eyes flicking to the window of the diner where his younger sister and two of her batch mates were seated: his fellow X-Man Jubilee and one Monet St. Croix, or M, as she was more commonly known to those who she knew from back at Xavier’s.

He shook his head slightly, the cold coating his cheeks as they stood outside of the Vespucci Diner in the mid-November eve. Traffic was slow at this particular hour, and college kids, their age or younger, headed to and fro across the pedestrian crossing.

“Must be bad.” He heard her say, though his attention was turned elsewhere as his hand reached into the inside pocket of his jacket to fish out the pack of cigarettes that he kept in store. He slipped one stick out apart from the rest and set it between his lips as his other hand fumbled for the lighter in his back pocket. “Paige looks like she’s turning purple.”

“Paige’ll handle him fine,” he murmured softly in reply. Across from him, Doug Ramsey, who was looking rather preppy with his collar sticking out of the neck of his ESU sweater, sputtered a little, eyes growing wide as if some alien life form had suddenly decided to climb onto his friend’s face. “The hell, Sam,” and when Sam Guthrie looked up, his cigarette still unlit thanks to the momentary distraction, Doug was already looking to Tabitha, the question apparent in his eyes, “when’d he start smoking?”

The blonde X-Man codenamed Meltdown threw her former batch mate and longtime friend a look, a look of bemusement on her face. “He’s been doing it since last year, Doug.” She expelled a breath, the cold outlining the tendrils clearly. “Leave him alone.”

Doug turned from her to Sam again, one brow lifted. “Aw c’mon, Doug,” Sam mumbled, his lips balancing the stick between words so that it didn’t fall to waste on the concrete floor. “Ah only do it when ah’m stressed, and this warrants as stressed.” He lit the stick, the motion quick and practiced before he slipped the lighter back in his pocket. He was used to November cold in New York, but tonight seemed particularly chilly. There wasn’t any snow yet, though he was of the mind to think that the first fall might happen soon enough. “B’sides,” he spoke, taking the now lit cigarette stick between his fingers and out of his mouth. “Ah bought the pack two weeks ago,” he shrugged and expelled the smoke, before licking his lips briefly, moistening chapped skin. “Ah’ve barely dented it.” He threw Doug a weak smile as he showed his friend the pack, still very much full.

But all Doug did was throw him a wry smile before he shook his head, “Fine then. They’re your lungs.” There was a momentary pause, as Doug seemed to let it go. And then: “Does your mom know?”

It was Sam’s turn to sputter this time, one hand lifting to rub the back of his neck. “Aw shoot, Doug. Shut up already, alrigh’?” He heard Tabitha laugh and Doug grinned at him, obviously enjoying the opportunity of making fun while he tucked his chilled hands into his sweater pockets. The wind picked up and wound itself about them, before moving onto the next block.

They stood there a moment, the laughter dissipating into the night air, enjoying the silence in each other’s company in a way that they’d rarely been able to before. It had been awhile since they’d seen each other. Graduating from the mansion up in Westchester had sent them in different directions, but that was okay since ESU and M.I. kept them all in the same area for the better part of the last couple of years. They’d made it a point to hang out just as much as they had back in their earlier days as batch one of Gen-X, but now, in their senior years of college, pressing school matters had taken the driver’s seat and they couldn’t very well ignore them. Hanging with friends was well and good, but graduating came first.

Two in their ranks had already moved onto the world beyond the four walls of school. Now Doug was juggling his double-major with every intention of stacking as many awards as he could manage, Sam was dealing with his thesis, fully aware of the expectations that Ms. Moira MacTaggert had of him, while Tabitha’s immediate concern was finishing off her internship at an ad firm downtown.

They were adults in the eyes of the world and those of their mentors, now possibly peers. For tonight though, they hoped they could just be kids again.

It was Doug who broke the silence, the weak laugh that passed through his lips enough to let Sam and Tabby focus on him. “I got a call from Rhane.” He smiled almost wanly, his thoughts turning to the girl who carried with her the moniker of Wolfsbane. “Jamie’s on a new case. She wouldn’t tell what though.”

Jamie Madrox, also known as Multiple Man, was the oldest of their once-small group of friends. He was currently heading a group called X-Factor Investigations, and though it was hard to believe that the years of their youth were now past them, if Jamie could grow up, that meant they wouldn’t be far behind. At the though of Jamie as a responsible adult, the computer science and management major had to smile. Doug shrugged half-heartedly. “She asked how everyone was. Said she’d try to drop by sometime, if Major Duplicate actually gives her a day off.”

“He’d better.” Tabitha interjected as she tugged the fingers of her gloves snugly over her hand. She missed Rhane as much as these boys, if not more. They (and one Danielle Moonstar, current guidance counselor up at Charles Xavier’s school) were all that was left of the first four Gen-X girls.

Generation-X. That’s what they’d been, once upon a history. The second batch of kids to go through high school in the safe and secure environment of the house in Graymalkin Lane. Funny how time passes y’ by so fast. Sam thought, his eyes focused on the scuffed toes of his bulldogs. They were all grown up now: him, Tabby, Doug, Rhane, Dani and Jamie. All grown and the masters of their destinies, the caretaker of their lives.

He inhaled, the taste of his cigarette laced with mint. At the mention of Rhane, he couldn’t help but think about how she’d probably bite his head off (figuratively speaking, of course) when she found out that he’d picked up the habit. She could hear her now, in his head, her thick Scots’ accent coming through. Ye stop smoking that foul thing, Samuel. Ye cannae imagine wha’ sort o’ damage that’d be doing to ye’self. It’s not healthy, boyo.

It had been a classmate of his that had gotten him into smoking. It had been harmless really, the kind of thing a teen tries just for kicks. And while a fabricated Rhane scolded him in his head, he still held fast to the truth that he prided himself in the control that only allowed one stick every so often and never more than that. Lifting the cigarette out of his mouth, he licked his lips again, the action just as much a habit as the smoking itself. When he finished with the drag, he let his hand hang at his side again, tapping the ash onto the sidewalk. “Ah miss Rach.” He murmured into the night, breaking the silence that had accumulated in their presence.

His eyes fell to his shoes and a loose page of newspaper blown by wind latched itself about his leg. The headline was garbled in his inattention, and he kicked it loose with a little bit more force than he would have liked.

He’d been thinking a lot lately, lost in memories both new and old. When he’d met Tabitha in M.I.’s study hall earlier that afternoon, she’d teased him that he looked like he’d been brooding again. As her observation rang true, he didn’t say otherwise.

He’d reached the X-Mansion at around seven in the morning. Storm had called him via his comm-link, and she hadn’t sounded any better than him given the early hour and the lack of sleep. She’d filled him in, and had told him that things were under control, at the moment at least, though she’d felt it her responsibility as his younger brother’s squad supervisor to inform him of the previous night’s events. Remy had met him in the basement hallway and had accompanied him to the infirmary. The Cajun hadn’t had anything to do yet, so the Professor had requested him to join Jean in watching over the kids.

He could still feel the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach; the one that had settled there as soon as he’d seen his baby brother lying asleep in one of the infirmary cots. After getting most of the information from Jean, Remy had gone with him back upstairs, assuming the role of the older and more experienced friend who was always ready to listen. At the time, Sam couldn’t help but feel the old gnawing need to do something—something rash. Something that could make him confidently feel that he was once more in control of his life.

But Remy had walked with him until he’d asked to be left alone, and he’d wandered the grounds, the feeling having passed him by. (*)

It wasn’t that he hadn’t brushed by some life-threatening situation before, he had. Dozens of times. He’d faced death and loss, and had accepted these as a fact of the world as he knew it. He’d lost his father. They, as Gen-X, had lost Rachel. There had been rivals who had become acquaintances and sometimes friends. But having seen his brother—his own flesh and blood, helpless against the white sheets of that white room, he couldn’t help but feel frustrated. He wasn’t ready to stand by while one of his kin barely got away with his life—not over teenaged quarrels that resulted in haywire Danger Room simulations that sent kids in over their heads against a hardlight copy of Omega Red.

Stupid, stupid boy.

“Hey,” he snapped out of his thoughts and looked up to see both Doug and Tabby watching him with concern. “You’ll get frown lines.” Her hand was on his shoulder, while Doug had stepped a little closer, making their little circle tighter. Tabitha threw him a smile and a wink, a trademark on her part as her hand patted him gently on the cheek. They’d been together until about a year and a half ago, their relationship dating back to when they were still studying under Charles Xavier himself, and while they’d stayed friends after the break-up, he worried sometimes that he’d let her down by asking them to let their relationship end.

“C’mon,” she nodded to the direction of the diner. “Looks like your baby sister’s done with her phone call. I’d say it’s safe to go in now.”

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