Mort knew his time with her was fast running out. Any second, now, they'd get over debating about preventative measures and get back on to the issue of who currently didn't belong where he currently *was*.
Therefore, he savoured every instant. He bought her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingers, absorbing her scent into his mind.
Warm, clean woman with a hint of lilac.
The lilac was an eternal mystery. Sara didn't use perfume, owing to her spectacular reaction to alcohol. She stayed away from perfumed hygene products as a matter of paranoia. And, owing to the various allergies contained within the mansion, potpourri was out of the question.
Besides, he'd gained covert sniffs and overt sniffs during the weeks when all they had to wash with was water. The lilac was an eternal part of her.
He could get high just sniffing her.
"...beware th' drangletts..."
Pity conversation wasn't an option. There was no hint as to whether she'd even remember any of this, afterwards. "I'll try, luv," he said. He had no idea what the hell 'drangletts' *were*, but he'd ask her about them - and the 'skitterlings' - when she was fully cogniscient. "You do something for me?"
"You try an' remember to look after yourself, okay?"
"I don't want t' see you hurt."
"...o mortimer... wish you were real..."
"I'm 'ere for ya," he soothed, running his fingers gently over the warping patterns in her scales. "For as long as I can stay."


Kurt and Ororo conspired together to drag him out with as much dignity as he could muster... which wasn't a lot, really. He'd lingered over-long and tried valliantly to stay in physical contact with her for as long as humanly possible.
"...th' fish stole m' bicycle..."
"I'll sort 'im out. I gotta go, luv."
"...don' trip on th' woozles..."
"Okay." Ororo was tugging gently on his arm. "I'll... do me best."
Her fingers slipped from his and almost drifted back into their rest position. "...th' carousel unicorns escaped..."
"I love you," he whispered as he lost sight of her. Anxiety spasmed within. The one he felt for was *gone* again. He had to believe, utterly, that she would be waiting for him at the end of the week. He could already feel the old psychoses eating at him. Would they come back? Would they still want him? What could he *do* without someone to guide him along? Where was he, without a living compas-point to steer by?
_Stop that right now, Morty,_ he told himself. _Sara won't want a wrecked man for her birthday._
Her *birthday*.
"I need t' get her present," he blurted. "The party's on in five bleedin' *days*..."
"Tonight," Ororo promised.
"We'll take you wherever you need to go," added Kurt.

Scott volunteered to haul Sara back to her room and be her spotter until she came down. At least, given their similar heights, she was easy to guide-carry along.
Correction. *Relatively* easy to guide-carry along. He knew from her babblings that she was seeing things... and now that she was walking, that meant flinching in random directions in moments of least convenience.
And it was only just *starting* to get homicidally annoying[1].
_Oh for fuck's *sake*..._ "*What*?" he demanded.
"...crawling all over," she muttered. "...infested."
_I need a teep._
A youthful 'voice' entered his head, alongside the image of a purple butterfly. _Can I help?_
_I need to see what Sara's seeing. She's not exactly... communicative, right now,_ he 'told' Betsy[2].
A pause. _You sure you want to do that?_ she 'said'. _Sara's sorta between dreams and waking... make that 'nightmares and waking'._
_I just need to see what to avoid so she doesn't keep yanking away from me._ He had two flights of stairs to combat and by now, the entire school knew what *that* meant. So much so that voluntary bodyguards were turning up whenever she went *near* a flight of stairs, for fear that she'd take a small flight off of them. Again.
_All righty, then. Don't say I didn't warn you. Contact in five... four... three..._
He never 'heard' the rest of the countdown. He was too fixated on the *Things* that were fading into his field of vision.
And he thought *he* was fucked up in the head.
Take one creative genius. Add an active imagination. Filter through the standard childhood fear of the dark and stir with some better-known literary classics. The end result was a positive phantasm of disturbing creatures.
All. *Over*. The freaking. Hallway.
Betsy had tried to help by supplying the images in living colour. Scott was so used to seeing shades of red that - in theory - the real-colour nightmares shouldn't have seemed real.
Instead, it somehow made them more terrifying.
_See what I mean?_ 'said' Betsy. _This is mondo psycho._
Scott, upon seeing a purple weasel-like creature 'swim' in and out of reality, revealling itself to be pythonesque in length, had to agree. There were blobbish creatures - with black-and-white markings, elephantine trunks, and udders - oozing across the corridor through doors that weren't there. There were thousands upon thousands of black scuttling things that somehow gave off the vibe that they were deadly poisonous. There were things that weren't entirely *there*... posessing octopoid, yet dripping tentacles dangling below what he could only assume were their eyes, and bodies that stretched upwards into nothingness.
Betsy helpfully supplied information. The purple weasel-pythons were 'woozles', the blobbish things were 'hefferlumps', the insectoid poison-critters were 'skitterlings' and the creepy half-there nightmares drifting on the air currents were 'drangletts'. And by the way, *DO NOT*, under any circumstances, look into any shadows.
Scott peeked once - and like the ancient mariner; walked on, and no more turned his head[3].
He wasn't going to sleep easily, tonight. That was certain.
And yet he had to pilot Sara through this to a safe haven and keep her out of real danger while she reacted to phantoms.
_They're not really real,_ he reminded himself. _Just focus on keeping Sara away from them and away from danger and we'll both be fine... Yeah, Scooter. Keep fooling yourself. It has to be done, so go do it._
He broke out in a cold sweat before he got to the first staircase.

[1] So annoying that you start contemplating murder.
[2] Yes, Betsy Braddock. AKA Psylocke. I made her movie version teenaged ;)
[3] All I know by heart of the _Ryme of the Ancient Mariner_ is as follows, "Like one who on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread, having once turned round, walks on, and no more turns his head... because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread." I probably got the punctuation wrong, but I love love *love* that quote.


"Okay," Scott drawled, feeling an intense relief to have made it into Sara's room. The various mind-spooks[1] were still scurrying around, but he'd achieved a goal. A safe haven. An environment which, as far as everyone knew, Sara had yet to hurt herself in. The creepyness of some of her 'decorations' was more than enough to creep him out without having to deal with the phantasms from her mind. Some of them, even taken individually, made him wonder about the exact nature of her sanity.
All of them combined, however, made him bloody certain.
Butter-flish - hybrids of butterflies and fish - swam/flew through the mirror and cavorted in the room. They seemed impervious to the machinations of the nightmares.
Who knew? Maybe dreams and nightmares existed seperately in Sara's mind.
Wait. Scratch that. A dranglett just ate one.
_Why the fuck am I even taking notes?_ he wondered. "Heeeere we go," he cooed. "You have some *niiiiiiice* quiet-time here on your bed. And here's a book you can read..."
She fumbled her way completely under a blanket and - like a miracle - the creatures disappeared. There were mere suggestions of them, now... flickering around the edges of Sara's bed.
Scott breathed a sigh of relief and made himself comfortable in her reading corner - a space he shared with Dead Fred and a fake dusty book entitled _Forgotten Lore_.
_It's official. The girl is nuts._ He found a book he could actually enjoy and sent to Betsy, _All right. You can cut off the contact, now._
_You're sure?_ 'said' her astral representation. _Something important might crop up..._
Sara's arm, blending with the scenery, withdrew a snorkel and a flashlight from a drawer and dragged them back under the covers. After a few seconds, the snorkel emerged.
_I think there won't be that much action any time soon._
_If you saaay sooo..._ Betsy singsonged.
_You're not getting me to volunteer to dip into her nightmares, Betsy, so quit trying to set me up._
_Rats._ There was a hint of real-world communication on her side of the link. A vague impression of a small crowd. And a disappointed one at that.
_Are you and some others *up* to something?_
_No..._ she 'said'. _Not yet, anyway._
Just what he needed. An anti-Scott conspiracy. _Tell them the Professor draws the line at mess-making pranks._
Now they were severely disappointed.
_You know she's doing this out of subliminalized stress,_ wheedled Betsy. _She's only going to have more and more spectacular accidents as time goes by. And Mort'll get hurt, too._
A blush infused the purple butterfly. _He's been showing us some cool stuff... and stuff._ Somewhere on the other end of the telepathic 'line', Betsy's hands were wringing. _He's actually kinda cool, you know._
_Get back to your lessons, Betsy,_ he told her. Deal or no deal, he had to do something about Toynbee corrupting the rest of the kids.
"...luuuuke... luuuuuke... i ang you phaaaarrrzhaaaarrr..." said Sara through the snorkel.
Later. *After* Sara resumed operating in normal space.

[1] A term I made up when confronting the Things In The Dark.


"I'm serious," Betsy was telling the attentive crowd. "Nightmares all *over* the freakin' place. Living colour, surround sound... she even had tactile feedback."
In a darkened corner, Mort muttered, "...'kinell..."
"And he *shared* all of that?"
"I tried to tone it down, honest," said Betsy, "but *I* could feel 'em and I was like, *way* out of the projection zone. It was too much all at once. And Mr Summers just gritted his teeth and soldiered right on through them. Sometimes literally."
One of the older kids whistled backwards.
"Darn it, how do you *do* that?" demanded Jamie. "I've been trying for weeks..."
"It's a knack. You'll get it."
"I still say you should have formed a permanent link," said Ray. "He might be redeeming himself, but he's still being a jerk."
"He was born a jerk," dismissed Amy.
"Hey. C'mon," said Mort. "Even jerks get a chance to get better."
Everyone stared at him.
"Are you *serious*?" said Jubes. "He's been the biggest jerk of all to you."
"'E's go' 'is reasons," said Mort. "Di'n't make a good first impression."
"That's not a reason to be a king-sized jerk," said Rogue. "I mean, half of us prob'ly shot at him, right?"
"Accident or design?" asked Ray.
"In your case, probably both," cracked Bobby. "But you're right. We've all done stuff to him in one way or another... Logan took his bike *and* his car... and he still deals with us like we're everyday people."
Jubes had a nasty smirk crawling across her face. "Is anyone else pondering what *I'm* pondering?"
"I think so, Brain, but where are we going to get a bucket of soapy frogs at this hour?"[1]
"Hardy har har..." Jubes glared daggers at the comedian. "*I* was pondering a little... civil disobedience combined with a prank war. What's Sara's phrase, Mort?"
"Kharmic re-alignment," he supplied. "You lot remember to keep it low-key, awrigh'?"
"Okay," said Ray. "First rule of the Scooter Conspiracy - do not talk about the Scooter Conspiracy..."[2]
"...gordon *bennet*..." muttered Mort.

[1] Side fling to both _Pinky and the Brain_ *AND* one of the _Red Dwarf_ books.
[2] _Fight Club_ ^_^ Never seen it though.


"What?" Ray demanded.
"Does the phrase, 'livin' in the same 'ouse as the world's most powerful bleedin' telepath' ring any bloody alarm bells, cocky? It's not bloody talkin' 'bout it that ya gotta worry about." Mort sighed. "Not that it won't be all around the bloody school by tomorrow any-bloody-way..."
"It's okay," said Amy. "The Professor taught us how to do psychic shields."
Mort rubbed at an incipient migrane. "Put it this way, luv. How to you secure your house when the village locksmith turns out t' be the village thief?"
"But the Professor isn't *like* that. He respects our right to privacy."
"Yeh? An' yer all plannin' to use that *against* him?"
That bought on a contemplative, and rather morose, silence. Each and every one of them owed Xavier in their own ways. From his kind and generous heart to his openly understanding mind... and the unique way he had of being a keystone in their new lives. They all knew where they'd be without Professor Xavier, and down which dark and dismal road they'd be if it hadn't been for his guiding hand.
It occurred to Mort that Charles and Sara were woven from the same thread. It's just that Xavier had more readily availlable resources.
"So Scooter gets away with being a dickwad, is that it?" Ray sniped.
"Never said *that*, kid. You want to pull pranks on Summers? Fine. Just be willin' to take whatever the ol' boy decides to dish out. It *is* about justice, right?"
A definitive murmur of assent.
"So let it *be* about justice. You step over the line, you get what you deserve. End of bloody story."
"I notice you never say 'we'," said Ray.
"Me? I'm on bloody parole, mate. I know better than to go *near* any bleedin' lines."
"You can't," said an adult voice, "but *I* can."
Everyone turned in fear.
Logan lit a fresh cigar[1]. "Me an' Slim don't get along. Think he kinda likes it that way..." puff. "Any shit I give him's likely to be part of the scenery."
"You're not gonna rat us out?"
"Me? Fuck no. I'd *love* to see Shades get his." He took another drag. "Besides. I kinda like Tallwater."
"Why? She fails every one of your classes."
"That'll change," said Logan, and dropped that subject with an almost audible clang. "You want to piss Shades off? Scooter's a good start."
"Give it an edge," said Mort. "Like... *mister* Scoo'er. The right balance between respect - an' absolute arse."
Logan gave him an appraising look. "I can see what Tallwater sees in ya."
_Good,_ thought Mort. _Less shit in my fan[2]..._ He grinned.
"But if ya hurt her, I'll cut yer heart out an' feed it to ya. Got it?"
"Gospel, mate," said Mort. "Hell, if I hurt her, I'd cut me own bloody heart out."
"Glad we understand each other." Logan grinned back. "Now. You've known the enemy longer'n any of us. What else shits him off?"

[1] Is it me, or has he always got a stub or half-stogie in the films?
[2] I just made that up and I'm loving it.


"...owie," Sara moaned. "I have the single *worst* case of cotton-mouth. Bleh."
"That's what you get for breathing through a snorkel for half an hour," said Scott. Then reality caught up with him. "You're cogniscient?"
Sara emerged from her cocoon, looking slightly haggard. "I was living in dreamland, wasn't I?"
"Something close to it." He spent a great deal of effort not smirking. "It's okay. I was keeping watch. Made sure you didn't do anything overtly embaressing."
She blushed, despite her under-the--weather pallor. "I didn't say anything... awful, did I?"
"Kid, you barely said anything *intelligable*." He put the book he'd been reading back in its place. "I'll keep your bizarre subconscious to myself. Promise. You okay to walk to the kitchen?"
Sara disentangled herself, putting things away in the manner of a marionette - one manipulated by a complete newb. Watching her stand was an exercise in Zen and the Art of Repeatedly Not Flinching. "Just," she finally announced. "Not all of the controls are responding."
He offered his elbow. "Hopefully a drink and something resembling a solid meal should help." Then he saw what some of the kids had set up.
Kitty was obviously in on part of it. Few others at the school were capable of rigging the old bucket-on-the-door from the *outside* of a room.
"Oh *dear*," Sara sighed.
"Just wait a second." He strode forward and steadied the pail, then jerked open the door. "All right, you little--"
{splatasplatasplatasplutasplat} A positive volley of water balloons soaked him from head to toe. And, to add insult to injury, the pail soaked him when he instinctively flinched to ward them off.
The perpetuators scattered to the four winds, laughing all the way.
"I love my work," he sarcasmed.


"You're absolutely certain you can look after yourself in here?" said Mr Summers for the umpty-umpth time.
"You're dripping on the tiles, sir," she said. "I have a tub of chocolate-fudge ripple Haagen Daas[1], a full can of whipped cream, and all the ungodly toppings I could dream of. And a spoon. Why would I wish to get up?"
"Right. I'll be gone ten minutes, tops." He ducked out, trying not to slip in his own footprints on the way.
Sara smirked. He was such a wet hen, sometimes. Were it not for his prediliction towards judging once and never again, she could get to like him. Now that he was gone, she gave herself a shot of whipped cream the fun way[2] and considered this evening's gastronomic perversion.
Ice cream, layer of Ice Magic[3], ice cream, lime topping, sprinkles, ice cream, a gloop of caramel, some more Ice Magic and then whipped cream in any place that looked bare.
Aaaah. Sugar jag combined with art. Her favourite.
"Y'know, most people just eat the ice cream out of the tub when they're feeling down," said Kitty.
"Most people don't enjoy sugar overloads as much as I do." Sara delicately scooped out a cross-section and savoured it. Oooohhhh yeah. That was the stuff. "And in lieu of drugs, this helps the pain diminish into something less important."
"Yeah, I heard you were pretty high this afternoon." She found a bowl and a spoon and made herself something a lot milder.
"Bless my ideosynchratic bloodstream, yes," said Sara. "I'm never amazed about the rumour mill, though. Just how awful are they making it out to be?"
Kitty looked perplexed. "As bad as it *was*," she said. "You learn not to embellish with telepaths in the house."
Sara considered this around a mouthful of sugar, artificial flavourings, and polyputthekettleon 3[4]. "Now *there* would be a marvellous little gift mother would definitely not have appreciated." She paused to lap fudge from her spoon. "She couldn't cope with the mere knowledge that I'm a mutant... imagine having to cope with the *exact* details of what other people think." Another shot of whipped cream. "You know... I could almost wish it on her."
Kitty gave herself a shot. "Mnu-uh," she said. "Teeping is hell. And not user-friendly, either. Take it from someone who roomed with someone who was a teep."
"This is a true story," prattled Sara. "It happened to a friend of a friend of mine...[5]" she giggled. "The sugar's kicked in, I'm free-associating."
"I love it when that happens," said Kitty. "It's like mental fission. You really need someone to stop you before there's a mushroom cloud."
"I only make mushroom clouds in tanks," said Sara. "Which reminds me of this really fun movie I made once..."
"And this one time? At band camp?[6]" said Kitty.
"Have you heard that one?"
"No, but I recognise the theme." She waved a spoon while she processed a mouthful. "Post-apocalyptic parody in the basement-slash-garage?"
"Well, mother was off on a series of quote-unquote 'sleepovers' with her social circle, so we got some exterior filming in. Junkyards, mostly."
"But of course."
"Dead Fred did a *lot* of cameos. He does drag very well."
Kitty cracked up.
"Of course, I had to make up some dupes for the crowd scenes, but I got my money back on Halloween sales. Someone bought an entire _Rocky Horror_ set for their porch."
"Eeeuuwww," Kitty laughed. "*Sick*!"
"You should have seen what he did with 'Magenta'."
They both fell to cackling like hens. It might have been a bad day, but sugar sped her mind into the Now and laughter boosted the endorphins she needed to forget her aching back. The only thing that could make it perfect would be having Mort with her... _Carpe munus[7], Sara Louise._ And with that thought, she let herself skim from minute to minute, enjoying the good.

[1] Gourmet ice cream people. I'm not sure if I spelled them correctly, alas.
[2] Directly into the mouth. Just saw this in _Joan of Arcadia_ ^_^
[3] Chocolate stuff that sets hard in the cold. Now availlable in mint and orange flavours of chocolate as well as the original.
[4] If you've read Terry Pratchett's _Bromeliad_ series, you know all about Polyputthekettleon ;)
[5] The traditional opening to _Freaky Stories_, an animated series containing urban myths.
[6] I had to throw in a riff to _American Pie_
[7] I *think* it's "Sieze the moment[present]" in Latin. Translation provided by InterTran and all corrections from Latin!nerds eagerly accepted.


December 7.

It was going to be a very, *very* long day. He could tell.
It had already been a long night, owing to the theme song karaoke stomp party one of the kids had decided to throw directly above his room. Just how many people could stand to sing _Star Blazers_ in a row anyhow? He'd had to get up ten times to tell them to keep it down to a dull roar.
Scott lurched into a sitting position, feeling like Dead Fred looked[1]. At least his morning routine allowed him to fumble through his first minutes with his eyes shut. He took a drink from his bedside glass, ridding his mouth of the dry stuff that always seemed to accumulate overnight. Next, shower, shave, and locate some clean clothes.
Thank God for the invention of ensuites.
Five steps *that* way from the corner of his bed, there's the door. Toilet *there*. Hah. Someone had glued the seat to the lid. _Funny, people. *Verrrrry* funny..._ The kids always seemed to forget that he was used to being blind. And managing certain things with little other guidance than sound and feel[2]. Later on in the morning, he'd quietly put things back to normal with the help of some solvent.
He felt his way into the shower and revelled in bodywash and hot water. It always felt good to be *clean*.
And the kids had put something sticky in his shampoo.
He got most of it out, but the stuff thinned and thinned but could not go completely away in the time he allotted himself for the shower.
He had a date to keep.
Swearing under his breath, Scott found a towel and buffed himself into dryness, seeking the drawer where he put his next day's clothes.
_Bonus points, kiddies, for abducting my gear. Too bad for you I only do that for expediency._
The kids got *extra* bonus points for completely emptying his closets and drawers of everything but one clothing option.
The complete traditional get-up. Even the funny little hat, which he decided to forgo.
He found his glasses by an earpiece and put them on.
Something felt *wrong*.
He felt the frames. Awkward projections everywhere. They wouldn't go to *that* extreme, surely...
He opened his eyes for a fraction of a second. No sound of deadly force. No cacaphony of destruction.
Scott breathed out. They'd just changed the frames.
He opened his eyes and checked the mirror.
_Oh. My. Fucking. God..._
His skin looked different. Darker.
They'd either put dye in the body wash or the showerhead. Or both, since the colour was more-or-less even. His hair spiked in all directions, and refused to obey the comb. Apparently, exposure to cooler, dryer air caused the stuff to set like glue. But the sweet smell?
He risked a taste.
They couldn't resist the classics, it seemed.
The glasses didn't go with the lederhosen. They wouldn't have gone with anything, except perhaps a drag queen on a bender. The rhinestones were a cute touch. And the exaggerated sort-of-eyelashy projections that made it just look - euw.
Now he remembered why he thought 'drag queen'... there was some Australian comedian that the History chanel was poring through his life, practically non-stop. They guy's drag act featured glasses like these. He'd never thought it was particularly funny.
He didn't think it was all that hillarious, now.
But - before he could figure out how to get rid of this mess, he had one thing to do.

{knock knock knock}
"Mrrrfff..." Ororo groaned.
"...funf weitere Minuten..."
She yawned, throwing on a shift and extracting herself from Kurt's grip[3]. Which took some serious untangling.
"I got it." She lurched towards the door.
{knock knock knock}
"Yeah yeah yeah. I'm gettin' there." Her jaw cracked with the power of her last yawn, which also forced her to close her eyes. She winced them shut. "This had *better* be good," she said. "Do you know what *time* it is?"
"I won't be long," said Scott. "First things first. What colour am I?"
Ororo opened her eyes to boggle at the man. Then burst out into hysterics.
It took him half an hour to find out he was berry-purple.

[1] Remember the phrase, "You look how I feel"? This is somewhat of a reversal.
[2] I'm not asking, but there *has* to be a way.
[3] So I like Kuroro Movieverse shipperdom. Deal.

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