Flotsam

14

"What do you think?"
Sam considered her attire. "It isn't pink."
It was, in fact, a rather nice shade of purple[1]. A colour 'ladies' were never supposed to wear. It was casual enough for a birthday party, and far, *far* removed from Jaquelline's usual power suit style.
"Is it *enough*?" she said, considering her own reflection. "I want to make enough of a visual impression to let her really *know* I've changed. I don't think I should wear my hair up. It's too... old-me."
"You could always dye it green," he said.
Jaquelline startled. "*Sam*..."
He laughed. "You're right. It wouldn't 'go'."
She turned back to her reflection. "Now *vermillion*..."
"Darling, we're not aiming to scare the other mundanes, now."
"Is that what they call us?"
"Terms vary. 'Flatscan' is the nasty one. 'Norms' is mostly-acceptable. Sara came up with 'mundanes' for the literary implications."
"Oh yes. Those Xanth books..." Jaquelline fiddled with her hair, trying varying ways of holding parts of it. "Now I've left the old shell behind, I... I want to *read* them. See what my own Mommy-dearest had against them."
"Pagan imagery is my best guess," said Sam. He snuck up behind her and slid her into his arms. "Wave a centaur at some people and they just go nuts." Her scent drew him into her neck, where he kissed her.
Jaquelline froze. "You haven't kissed me like that since..."
"A long time ago," he said. "I thought you needed breathing space and..." he sighed, looking at her via the mirror. "I inched away because I couldn't stand seeing you and Sara fight."
"I missed you," she said.
"Missed you too."
Jaquelline wriggled free enough to secure a tissue and daubed at her eyes. "We made so many mistakes. How could she forgive us?"
Sam pondered that question, staring into infinity until he found it. "Gradually, I would think."
"Step at a time, eh?"
"Baby steps," Sam agreed. "And we can't control the path."

The scooter-trolley, as it turned out, was for the "light and small stuff". The rest of it - intimidatingly large boxes, all - wound up as numbers on her list.
People who worked here knew Tallwater, and greeted her no matter what colour she was now. But then, according to *her*, she'd been shopping here with *makeup* tests on.
It took a subjective eternity to wind through the catacomb-esque shelves and wind up at a checkout, where Tallwater ordered the boxes by number and introduced Logan as the truckdriver.
"Little early for halloween plans," joked a young man of obviously mixed descent. He was the sort of guy who teenaged girls would hurl themselves at or write tons of angsty poetry over, since he bore all the best elements from both asian and african stock. But the body-speak was... off. "Or is there a movie in the works?"
"Neither," said Tallwater. "This is me. One hundred percent."
"Wow. When you go in for a makeover, you go in for a *makeover*, honey."
Click.
No wonder his body language was off. The guy was almost flamingly gay.
"Logan? This is Steve. We help each other out."
"Lots and lots," supplied Steve. "Wow. Zero to homophobic in less than twenty seconds. Relax, sweetie. I'm not into bears or furries."
Tallwater laughed. "Don't be nasty, Stephen. The poor man has enough issues."
"Aaaaawww..." Steve pouted. "I can't play?"
"Claws back in, cat-boy. C'mon. Got a world-class workout for you out back."
"Oh, that reminds me, the whole family's coming to the party. I can't stop them."
"Yike. Good thing I allowed for that."
Logan boggled as he followed. "You throwin' a party or a concert?"
"Knowing me, possibly both. Steve here's the youngest of ten."
"Most of them twins," supplied Steve. "And lots of them as fecund as Mom."
"Steve swears he 'went gay' for environmental reasons."
"TMI, Tallwater," Logan growled. "Can we get on with this?"
"What? Can't us social outcasts gossip amongst ourselves any more?"
"Tallwater..."
"I know, I know. Quit giving you ulcers."

[1] There's a list going around in email that starts, "When I am old, I shall wear purple" and continues on through a lot of things that would embarress someone who cares what other people think. I read that and ponder - why wait until you're old?

~

Rogue and Bobby were sharing a companionable dinner[1] in the kitchen when Logan stalked in. In a different universe, smoke would have been manifesting from his ears.
They paused what they were doing to watch in amazement, wince, and try to *forget* what he just did with singular determination.
"Wow," said Sara. "That's the first time I've seen someone sink an entire bottle of Maalox..."
"What did you *do* to him?" Rogue accused.
"Do? I just went shopping. Introduced him to some friends... *I* didn't happen to him, I swear. It was Steve. *He* happened to him."
"Wait. Is this the Steve that was Carmen Miranda last Halloween?"
"Yes. And that reminds me, Robert. We have unfinished business." Sara made a stern 'come hither' gesture. It brooked no opposition.
Bobby shrugged and abandoned his meal. "What?"
{Slap!} "Making light of a man's bereavement is crossing the line, Robert Barnabus[2] Drake. Cross it again and you will invoke my ingenuity."
Bobby touched the stinging memory of her slap. "...gotcha..."
Rogue was slackjawed as Sara left the room. "How the hell did she find out your full name?"
"How the hell did she find out about Inflatable Ingrid?" said Bobby.

Sara insinuated herself into the couch and joined the intro music. Most people in the room were used to her singing... even if she was currently singing like David Bowie.
"You're still scary when you do that," said Kurt.
"Pot, kettle, black," said Sara. "Can I help it if I love every inch of this movie? Well. Except for the cut'n'paste happy ending. Feh."
"Don't throw popcorn at the hecklers?" Avery begged. "That sorta thing tends to escalate."
"And waste good popcorn? Nay, sirrah, I shall throw the unpopped hulls if they get too injurious."
"One, two, three, four. I declare a popcorn war."
"Pleeeeeaaaaaase don't blow up another TV?"
"Exploding TV's, he remembers. Last Wednesday's five dollars? Oy..."
"Shaddup, shaddup, shaddup... it's starting."
"Give me the child."
"Why? I can help get you a new one. Hur, hur, hur..."
"Keep it PG," warned Kurt.

[1] It's occurred to me that Xavier's would *have* to make sure the kids don't just snack out perpetually. By telepathic compulsion, if necessary. The kids would have the option of eating at the cafeteria or taking their meal somewhere - cosier...
[2] Made up the middle name.

~

December 10.

Word had gone around that Sara had a morning job. Now, there were groups of kids clustered around radios and listening intently to see if they could hear her.
Mort was suckered in, too. Just the hint of the idea of hearing her voice made him stick to the radio as if his life depended on it.
Only the true nerds amongst them actually knew who was who amongst the voices.
Scott read the news of the day. A group calling themselves the Funny Pages play-acted the comics. Music provided an interlude...
And then some kiddies' show called _Cap'n Dogbiscuit_ turned rooms of kids into anguished wailers.
"Relax," said Kitty. "The Voices come in and guest on this show. There's a passing chance we might still hear her."
"Besides, producing a radio play based on a novel's like making a movie. Only with less props," said Rahne. "We probably won't hear her work on *that* job for a bit of a while."
"And you know this because...?" prompted Jubes.
"Sara talked my ears off. Did you know that the Cap'n on this show's the same dude who Narrates for the Voices?"
"Good *grief*..." said Mort. "They sound nuthin' alike."
"Ah. *There* you are, my good man," said an overstuffed voice. It instantly conjured the picture of a woman with plenty of rounded edges and a penchant for expensive tastes.
"Sara..." breathed Mort.
"What? Where?" said the Cap'n.
The plot device for the following week - such as it was - was introduced in a mixture of exposition and jocular banter. Including fat jokes that really should have been put out to pasture.
"How can you tell that's Sara?" boggled Evan. "It doesn't sound anything like her."
"Voice-body mismatch?" suggested Kitty. "Who's the last person you'd think of as playing Lady Calamity?"
"Okay..."
"An' I cheat," said Mort. "Heard 'er doin' that voice for a flashtoon ages back."
"I say we all put on pirate patches and wait for Scooter," said Amy. "When he comes in, we're all, 'AAAARRR, Cap'n'..."
"Well... he *is* one of the swabbies..."
"So's anybody with a coffee cup and free time at the station," said Kitty.
"Aaaaanyway... we could still have a lot of fun with this, y'know?"
"Like, instead of 'yes sir', we say, 'Ar'?"
"Not constantly," said Mort. "Break it up with 'Aye's an' the odd 'hoo-ah' - just to get 'im off-balance."
The kids stared at him in appreciation.
"How do you know so much about annoyin' people?" said Rogue.
"Luv, I used t' do it every day by breathin'."

~

"Well, *fudge*," said Sara. She knew this ceiling only too well. And the smell of the mats.
Logan sighed. "C'mon, Tallwater... we both know you're holding back. Ya gotta learn this stuff and be able to *use* it."
Sara untangled herself from the mat. "I don't like hurting my friends... and I'm not that strong, anyway."
"You remember the lifting tests?" said Callisto.
"Yes?"
"You were hauling up forty pounds with one hand like you did it every day. Ambidexterously. With a little rep-work, we can have you bench-pressing the equivalent of a fully-grown, fit male in about... three months?"
"Probably less," said Logan, not meeting Callisto's eyes. "Kid's got a regenerative factor. Muscles'd respond faster."
Sara heard her neck crack with the force of the first tic. "I'm--" tic "I'm not--" tic "I'm not that strong..."
"Mantra, kiddo," said Callisto. "Take it easy."
Sara rattled the words through, letting her body do what it wanted while she focussed on the syllables. They worked to release the bad things inside her head. Safely. Without any kind of collateral damage.
"Defensive moves," noted Logan. "The whole range."
"You've seen her permanent record. You blame her?"
Sara, trapped in the throes of her own defusing, was incapable of telling them she could still hear what was going on. It was so darn frustrating she had to cry.
"Not her. Others that did this to 'er. Shitheads that probably don't remember an' don't care about th' damage done."
"Pity the world doesn't let you shred someone for being a shithead," said Callisto.
"*Yeah*."
If she even thought of trying to talk, the seizure would get worse. Darn it. Darn it to heck. Only the words were keeping her on her feet. And even then, not steadily. Both Logan and Callisto were keeping close in case she fell. Ignoring their personal business to play guardian for her. She could 'see' them. Sense them flinching to catch her even as they spoke.
The 'image' her mind saw from her skin was distorted and blurred, and Sara didn't have a clue how she *knew* which blur was which... but she did, and that should be enough.
Sara lurched the wrong way, toppled, and was caught by the both of them. _Some unlikely cupid, I... have to throw a fit to get them to touch hands._
Logan was the one with the gentle touch to her eyes, ridding them of the stinging water than now pooled there. Callisto, the deft touch at various pressure points that eased discomfort and lessened the more violent jerkings.
Both hovered like a mother hen.
At last, the seizure dwindled. Sara caught her breath and steadied the last vestiges of nervous tremula. "I can hear every word you say when I'm 'under', you know." She opened her eyes. Hello, familliar ceiling. "There simply *has* to be a better way to arrange things."

~

"You're right. We need a better tack."
"Training tree?" suggested Logan. "Gets all the moves drilled an' no resemblance to a human."
Sara pulled herself into a sitting position. "That *might* work, except I develop relationships with inanimate objects."
"True, but inanimate objects don't feel pain." Callisto lead her to one of them. "And you could name it after someone you have an intense desire to hit..."
"Piggy Stiye..." murmured Sara. "Oh, yes."
"Shorthand..." warned Logan.
"Complete and utter creep. James Cameron 'Piggy' Stiye. Did horrendous things to my psyche in my freshman year at high school. Practically ruined a perfectly nice dress... etcetera. Suffice to say if we met in the street I'd cheerfully kick his gonads up his windpipe."
"Good," grinned Callisto. "Now watch how to beat the living snot out of 'Piggy', here..."

"I don't fucking *BELIEVE* this!"
Mort held ice against his swollen ankle. "Given the way we've been goin'? Why not?"
"There *is* more than enough empirical evidence, Mr Summers," said Sara. She was holding her arm extremely still while Hank delicately plucked sharp shreds of wood out of it.
"You injured yourselves at *exactly*... the same... *TIME*. Under *GUARD*! How is this freaking *POSSIBLE*?"
"In an infinite universe, all things are possible," quoted Sara. It didn't help that she quoted from an ancient television adaptation of _Journey to the West[1]_... or in the voice of the narrator. She returned to her normal voice. "I don't know about Mortimer, but I'm all a-flutter over the upcoming party. The finish line's in sight on the deal... and apparently I'm stronger than I think I am."
"They're gonna have to build those things out of fuckin' vibranium," said Mort. "Did just the same thing to meself the other day."
"Yes, but you *are* stronger than you look," said Sara. "Every time I see you, you're packing on definition, if not bulk."
Scott headed off the conversation before it could get derailed. "Back on the *subject*?" he said. "If I didn't have eye-witnesses, I *swear* you two were pulling this shit on purpose."
"You know, I *could* plausibly pratfall into something breakable and--"
"Don't?" Mort begged. "Every time I hear about you comin' in here, I nearly shit meself sideways. Knowin' you're hurt? An' not bein' able to see you? It ties me guts up."
"We'll kiss and make it better on my birthday," Sara's fingers clutched at air. An abortive attempt to hold his hand. "And I'll be sitting quietly, tomorrow. Just to make sure I don't do anything to myself."
"Long as you're safe," said Mort. All the tension drained out of him nonetheless.

[1] English title, _Monkey!_ now availlable on DVD. Look it up. Much fun.

~

"Betsy's volunteered to be my intermediary in the kitchens... which is going to prove interesting on the remote how-to's. Everybody has the recipes, the ingredients, the Professor's delineated the party borders..."
"Luv?"
"Hmn?"
"You're babbling."
"I'm nervous," Sara smiled. Then winced as another fragment of wood came from her hand. "Our whole future's up in the air..." tic tic tic "Oh *fudge*... Doctor?"
"Finishing up," Hank wound gauze over the pad over her wound. "Beware swelling, irritation and pain when moving."
"Ashair elam ithenne onu..." Sara whispered, staring with ferocity at Hank's winding. She nodded, but all her effort was going towards keeping one hand still.
Scott, hovering in the background, wanted to look away. This was his fault, in a way. Therefore, he had to observe.
Mort twitched to hold Sara, then made himself cling to the table. His skin grew slick with healing goo and his face twisted in sympathy to her pain.
Twenty-four more hours of this?
_Fuck that,_ Scott thought. "Okay. *Fine*. You win."
Sara, freed from her obligations to her doctor, was deep into degaussing.
"You *woh*?" said Mort.
"You *WIN*. The only time you two aren't in some kind of trouble is when you're together to look out for each other. Between the seizures, the accidents, the *pranks*... There was less chaos when I was just worried about you getting into Cerebro!"
"An' you were wrong on that one, weren't ya?" Mort grinned.
"Don't rub it in," said Scott.
"So what now? I go back into that little cell?"
"H'naurgh..." said Sara, flailing vaguely towards him.
Hank caught her before she could fall. "Focus on the words," he advised.
"No, you stay. You've proven yourself... she's proven - in need of a keeper. And I *know* I made a monumental mistake with this deal. You win. You can be together. With a chaperone."
"Thankyou, Mister Summers," tic "but so close to the finish line?" tic "We could have made it one more day. Easy."
"Sara?"
"*I* want to prove this. I want to... complete the deal. Paid for in full as it were."
Mort looked askance at her. "The doc give you any new pain meds, darlin'?"
"I'm quite sure I'm sane, darling. I just-- I want to finish this."
"*Why*?" chorused all the men present.
Tic. "I've been removed from every educational facility I've ever walked into..." tic "In the process, many things were left undone. Just let me finish this one, very personal challenge? I want to do this. Please?"
"One more day without ya?"
"That which does not kill us, darling. I... I need to prove this to myself."
Mort stared at her. "I love ya to bits but... yer fuckin' *nuts*, luv."
"I know. I'm working on getting better."
"One last hug?" pleaded Mort.

~

Sara, when deep in thought, looked to be more than slightly idiotic. Her tongue pushed out between her teeth, lying lax on the verge of dominating her lower lip. Her brows drew down and her eyes unfocussed. The occasional tic made it through the extreme relaxation that overtook her body, but they were tired things. Made dull from the exhertion of making an impact on her, they came out in almost lazy bursts.
"No," said Sara, surfacing back into herself. The tics gave up and went away. "No last hugs. No farewell kisses."
"But--"
"Mortimer... if we need each other so desperately as to not be able to *survive*... perhaps we should examine our relationship. Intensely. If we can't be apart - how is being together going to work?"
Mort was stricken. "I... I don't get it."
"Every being needs time alone. Personal space. Even symbiotes do their own thing[1] sometimes. If we can't cope with being apart for a little while - how can we expect to take on life challenges where we'll *have* to be apart? How can we divide and conquer?"
Mort looked at his hands. They ached to hold her, yes, but-- was he looking at things logically? *Could* he look at things logically? He wanted to be with her, to soak in every atom of the Sara experience, to love her and... and then what? Be hand in hand with her forever? *Everywhere*? Even when one of them had to shit? Or when their needs took them - however briefly - on seperate paths? Or when they needed to perform seperate tasks in order to achieve a common goal?
Mort blinked. He'd never thought more than a few days in advance on his own. He never planned any future for himself, since whatever he wanted in the world got taken away. He just did what he was told and remained a good toad.
Sara contemplated her entire life as easily as she contemplated a new book - but with less saliva[2]. Any new change in the Now spun possibilities and changed long-term plans with nary a shrug... but she *saw* it.
It was dizzying to view that focus for the first time.
"Awrigh'," he said. "One more day. I don't like it, but... it's gotta be done, yeh?"
"Precisely," Sara smiled. "And if you'd just agreed without any kind of battle... that would have been an entirely different danger sign."
"I'm still reservin' all gropin' rights once we're free an' clear."
Sara laughed. "My *darling* Mortimer... I wouldn't have it any other way." She blew him a kiss. "Look after yourself?"
He threw a Scout's salute. "Do me best. You do it too."
"On my honour."
Scott watched her leave with complete confusion. "What the fuck just happened?" he begged.
Mort laughed at him. "Happens all the time around her," he breezed. "You get used to it."

[1] Sara's talking about macro-symbiotes. Not microscopic ones like mitochondria.
[2] Sara Louise - extreme bibliophile ^_^

~

"You get used to it," Bobby quoted.
"Yep," said Mort. He continued finessing the grubby gears and widgets with an air of complete relaxation. He was at home with machines. Machines were good to him. Mostly.
"Are either of y'all clinically *insane*?" said Rogue. "You won. That should be it. Happily ever after an' all that."
"Look at it this way, sweet'eart... We got nuthin' to worry about, now; so it's all down to proving we can exist as individuals, innit? Life'd be soddin' awkward if we 'ad t' be joined at the blimmin' hip."
"But--"
"Think about it, ducks. Y' can't do *everythin'* hand-in-hand."
"But what do we do now?" said Bobby. "The whole reason behind the Scooter conspiracy is *over*."
"Think up yer own diversions, then," said Mort. "Have some *fun*."
"Y'all learn t' dance, yet?" said Rogue.
Mort pulled himself out of the machinery so he could glare at her. "You'll find out on the twelfth, won't ya?"

Sniff.
Sniff, sniff, snifffffff....
Sara, in a comfortable tangle with a good book, said, "I see the one about the lilac has gone around."
"Um."
"Next time, dear, try to be more subtle." Sara bookmarked her page with her finger to tilt her head in order to face the sniffer. "Or ask. I don't mind if people ask."
"Yeah, right," said Jamie. "Hi, I heard you smell like lilacs, can I have a sniff?" He snorted and rolled his eyes. "There'd either be a bloody pulp or a crowd scene by the time it was over."
"Possibly with most people, but I'm my own rule book." Sara held out her free arm. "Go nuts."
Gingerly, as if afraid she'd explode, he took her hand and a whiff. "*Whoah*... it *is* true. How'd you do it?"
"The complicated explanation is that my bodily secretions are a little more tricky than everyday sweat. There's a lot more oil, for example, in order to keep the skin supple and flexible. The faint scent of lilac is a serendipitous byproduct. Or so Dr McCoy thinks."
"That's weird," said Jamie.
"Then define 'normal'."

~

"Is too."
"Is not."
"Is too."
"Is not infinity."
"Is *so* too," argued Jamie. "She let me have a sniff."
"*EEEEUWWW*! You sniffed a *girl*?"
"Well, I kinda *had* to. Think about it, doofus."
"You're the doofus, doofus."
"Well, *you're* a doofus times infinity."
"Oh yeah?"
"*Yeah*!"
"*Yeah*?"
Kurt interrupted before the argument between Jamie and Leech could escalate. "Kinder... kinder... indoor voices, ne? What's going on?"
"Leech says I'm lying 'bout Sara smelling like lilacs just 'cause he doesn't have a nose and he can't smell."
"Can *too*!"
"Nuh-uh."
"Yah-huh."
"Nuh-uh."
"Yah-huh."
"Nuh-uh."
"Yah-huh."
"Nuh-uh."
"Yah-huh."
_Ah, such civilized debate..._ Kurt rolled his eyes as he gently discouraged them from shoving. "There's another way to solve this," he said. "Leech? Would you believe someone else?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"'Cause how come *I* can't smell it?"
"You don't have a nose?" suggested Jamie.
"I do *too*! It's just... really small."
_And I volunteered to help here because...?_ "Some people just can't smell things," said Kurt. "Others *can*, it doesn't mean that some people don't smell *anything*. All right?"
"But what if he *is* lying to me?" said Leech.
"Am *not*..." protested Jamie.
Kurt decided to head that one off at the pass. "Then you have to take it as a matter of faith. Just because *you* cannot sense something, it does not mean that it's not there."
Leech pouted. He'd only been recently 'welcomed' to the Institute - read, dumped on the doorstep by authorities - and was still largely suspicious of anything he couldn't verify by himself. "...don' like being fibbed to," he muttered.
"Well," said Kurt. "If it helps any... I only have other people's word about the lilacs, myself. If we're being lied to, we're in the same boat, ja?"
"...guess."
"And since *I* don't feel bad - why should *you* feel bad?"
The logic evaded him and he shrugged. "Dunno."
"Sehr gut," Kurt gave him a brotherly embrace. "Now. Why don't you two go find something you can both enjoy, ja?"

~

"Mort might object."
Sara surfaced from the depths of her book. "Hmmm?" She looked up. Oh. Kurt. "Hi. 'Sup?"
"Did you think about what would happen if he heard you're letting people sniff you?" teased the big blue elf.
Sara grinned. "One, I have complete faith in Mortimer," she bookmarked her place with her finger again. "Two, I thought the best way to deal with rampant curiosity is to sate it. Three... the boy is *ten*. I'd think he'd lack the *wiring* to make the situation suspicious, anyway. And four - people are going to sniff, regardless. I might as well let them borrow my hand and get it done with."
Kurt frowned as if he were dealing with complicated math. She'd been getting that expression a lot. "Some people... don't always think of such things as harmless, fraulein..."
Sara blinked. "Oh, poot. I completely forgot about the Jerry Springer angle."
"Uh... Was?"
"The original salacious talk show. Every other week, there was at least one show featuring a stripper and her husband who wanted her to quit. Random lovers optional. I didn't think sniffing was a big deal... but the strippers had the same POV on the stripping. Although... mine's just 'I smell like lilacs, deal with it'... Mortimer might be upset."
"I'm sorry," said Kurt. "I'm not following, much..."
"I get that a lot. Could you do me a favour and get to Mortimer before the rumour mill does? Explain I thought it was harmless? Don't - don't wound him?"
"But of course." {Bamf!}
Sara sighed and bit her lip. What if she'd just done exactly the wrong thing?

~

{Bamf!}
Mort coughed and gagged. "Ugh. Could ya not fuckin' do that upwind? ...auchkthpt..."
"Etschuldigung... but I thought it would be better to get to you before the rumour mill did."
He torqued the last bolt and wheeled himself out from under the car. "Eh? Who's Sara happened to, this time?"
"Nein, it's about the smell of lilacs."
Mort glared at him. "Drop the other soddin' boot, then."
Kurt dropped into a crouch. "Sara's let one of the boys sniff her. Jamie. He's *ten*."
Mort threw his head back - a bad idea when he was lying on a dolly[1] - and wailed, "It's not fuckin' *fair*!" He rubbed the back of his head. "Calm down, Morty... look at it all logical-like. Y' get t' sniff 'er day after tomorrow. An' all the other tomorrows you can get. So fuck 'em. Fuck 'em right in their ears. Who cares, righ'?"
"Mort?" Kurt said.
Mort opened his eyes. Blue-boy was looking confused. "'S awrigh'. We do this, sometimes," he soothed. "Got a long 'istory of bein' fucked over th' bad way." He steadied himself and managed to sit up. "We're not completely fractured. No' yet. Sara's been... *good*... at keepin' us together. I can keep us distracted... I can keep us busy... but *Sara*..." He sighed. _God, this is dangerous..._ But he had to say it to *someone* or he'd fucking explode. "She's got this... *way*. Every little crack just - heals."

Kurt blinked. _The way I've been attracting confessions, I may as well be a priest...[2]_ He'd heard of people 'cracking up' and of others 'going to pieces'... but he'd never thought he'd witness someone on the verge of doing both at once.
"You've been hiding this for a very long time," he said. Nothing more than a statement of fact. A simple observation.
"You *think*?" Mort slapped a paranoid hand over his mouth as his last, squawked word echoed a little in the otherwise empty room. He let the hand peel away from his face. "I *can't* let this out. You think stick-in-the-arse Scooter's gonna even let her within spit o' me if he knew?" panic now filled his eyes. "I can't stand thinkin' o' her hurtin' 'erself 'cause of some bugger-arsed, stupid-fuck thing we let slip an'--"
"Mort," Kurt whispered.
The sound of his name worked.
"It's all right. I'm good at keeping secrets."
Panic eased into vague worry. "It's not... dangerous, is it? When you know? When you can feel it happening?"
"Your being aware is a good thing," said Kurt. "You should know when it gets dangerous. For you - or for anyone you love. And you know what you need to do to protect them."
"...so scared of hurtin' 'er..."
"And she sent me down here because she was scared of hurting *you*. That says something, ne?"
"Yeh. We're both fuckin' nuts." He laughed. A sound so close to sobs that it hurt to hear it. "Out of everyone else... out of all th' people who could've been better for 'er... she goes an' picks on me. *Why*?"
Kurt smiled at the echo of his own logic in Mort's words. "I've found that it's best not to ask. Just enjoy it."
"Lie back an' think of England, eh?"
"Or of how lucky you are... and how grateful... and how you could never take such a wonderful miracle for granted." A more devious smirk. "The ladies are completely into such things."
A raised eyebrow. "An' you know everythin' about this... why?"
Kurt tried and failed to look innocent. "Let's just say I never really got my official room..."

[1] What *is* the technical name for those wheelie-boards that mechanics use?
[2] Side-fling to the worst possible decision in comic history *EVER*.

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