"Is this really all you have?"
Both my hands were digging into my hips as I tried to look at the man who called himself my father. What a ponce. How could my genetic code have contained bits of that gormless old codger? I hated him. Oh, how I hated him, every time we spoke, every time he was condescending and rude and inconsiderate. Which was every time we spoke. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd heard so much as a backhanded compliment from the bastard, nevermind something outwardly kind.
"All the easier," he grunted, shoving my two or three articles of clothing and my jewelry box into his suitcase. "I packed light, so you won't even need your own luggage."
Now he turned and glared at me. "Don't you take that tone with me, Risty. I've not forgotten how to put you over my knee when necessary."
I let out a weak laugh. "You do that at my age and they'll arrest you for sexual abuse."
"Where did you find all that time to dirty up your mind?" he blustered. "Over here, where schools only teach you how to wear spandex and spend needless amounts of my hard-earned pounds? No, bugger it all, I'm taking you back where you belong, and we'll put this ludicrous chapter behind us."
He pushed open the door and found himself staring down a miffed Rogue.
"Out of my way," my father ordered her.
OH, BOLLOCKS. My instinctive urge to duck and cover was overpowering; this wasn't going to be at all pretty.
"It shouldn't need repeating," he said, voice a dangerous growl. "One side."
"And I shouldn't have to say 'nope' again, but I will if it makes you feel better. Call me crazy, but I got this hunch that Risty wants to stay."
He sneered at her. "Stay and learn proper English the way you have? Thank you, but no thank you. Now then, I said move aside and I meant it!"
My hands curled into fists as I watched him shove my friend aside and stomp out, but what choice did I have? I knew with disheartening certainty that there wasn't a thing I could do to fight this – not without landing myself in a penitentiary.
"No, Rogue," I pleaded in a whisper as we watched him struggling with both of his bags. "Do nothing rash. It's bad enough he's taking me without... without you doing something foolhardy to waylay him and winding up in hot water on my account. So please, for the love of humanity, keep your nose out."
"But I can't lose you!" she choked out.
My lip trembled as I smiled and touched her cheek. "We'll meet again. Count on it."
"Let's get cracking!" my genitor shot over his shoulder. "Flights to book, hotel stays to cancel, all that tripe! Step lively!"
"You really won't even let me say goodbye to my friend?" I burst out, unable to stop myself. "Earnestly, this is how unyielding you are? Wow. You are unparalleled, Father Dearest."
"What friends? They're all nutters who've made pacts with demons, and you're better off without them anyway! Now let's-"
"Maybe she is, but don't you think she deserves a chance to tell us that herself?"
Father blinked at Scott, then peered around at Jean, Kurt, Evan, Kitty, Bobby, Scott, Amara, and... Logan. Christ, even Logan was there. What did they think they were playing at?
"What do you think you're playing at?" my father thundered, as if we were reading from the same script. Urgh, sometimes I hate being forced to admit we aren't so dissimilar. "Out of my way, I'm bound for the elevator!"
"We're not giving Risty up without a fight!" Kitty snapped.
"With all due respect, Sir," Jean began with more tact, "you're making a big mistake. She's found a home here, she has friends here. Taking her away from all that... how can that be what's in her best interests?"
"Forget it," he told them. "I've already given the top banana a piece of my mind, and I've nothing more to say to the riffraff. I'm coming through."
"Not likely," Evan said, creating a bonespike within his hand. But then I saw Scott shake his head slightly, and Evan retracted it. This had to be done with diplomacy, not violence.
"Are you holding me hostage?" he shouted, already worked up into a lather. "I'll contact your armed services about this!"
Dad put down the briefcase and withdrew his cell, but faster than he could follow the chain of events, Kurt had teleported next to him, touched it, and teleported back. He didn't even bother to explain what he'd done, just slipped it into his pocket innocently.
"What- where did- that's impossible!"
"Nothing is impossible, Dr. Wilde," Jean said. "Improbable, maybe. But anything can happen. Anything."
"Enough threats and banter!" Father whirled on Logan. "You there – whoever you are, you look like an authority figure! Can't you teach them a lesson in respecting their elders?"
"Oh, no ya don't," Logan rumbled, arms as folded as they'd been to begin with. "Ain't my problem. Just here t' make sure nobody does nothin' stupid."
"You're all mad as a box of frogs. You'll not get away with this. I am taking my daughter back to the United Kingdom and away from the United States of Dementia, and you will not interfere or I shan't be responsible for my-"
"Shut up, you old creep!" Kitty told him shrilly. "Risty doesn't wanna go with you! Is your head really so far up your ass that you can't tell?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Dr. Wilde, I am a firm believer in a person's right to their own path in life," Scott said adamantly. "If Risty's choice is to go with you, then I'll back off. But if she wants to stay, and you try forcing her against her will... then I can't stand around and watch her be mistreated. She deserves better."
"Risty has no right to choose," he rebutted. "She is not of majority, and as such, under the law, we will make her choices in her stead, because her mother and I have the wisdom of age. She can't tell her back from her front anymore, you lot have got her so befuddled!"
"I wouldn't brag too much about that 'wisdom of age' thing if I were you," Bobby told him with a grimace. "You're being pretty dumb right now."
"This is what your beloved 'Institute' teaches? Petty aspersions and pyrotechnics? No, this isn't what she needs, and I don't want to hear another word about it!"
"We've got plenty more where that came from, Pops," Evan told him.
"Just ask her," Jean pleaded. "Ask. But you're afraid to, because you know what she'll say. You're afraid to hear her choose us over you."
"Her choice is irrelevant." My father was about to reach critical mass, and I knew it. Not that it helped. How would I even go about stopping him? Or them, either? All I could do was stand there and watch the events unfold, fearful of the outcome. "She... is coming... with me. End of story."
"Not until we hear it from her," Scott repeated himself.
"Why do you even wanna take her home?" Kitty flung accusingly. "Because I hear you got a rotten track record in the 'dad' department! You just wanna have her to kick around a little while longer, that's all! How pathetic!"
"I refuse to be slandered by a prepubescent Satanist!" he thundered. "We've tried to take a firm hand with her in the past, but it hasn't been firm enough because she continues to fall in with the wrong crowd! Tell me, has she vandalised any police cars on this side of the pond, or is that scheduled for next Thursday?"
Everyone expressed varying levels of surprise at my father's revelation. Oh joy; thanks, Dad, truly.
"One time," I protested quietly enough that only Rogue probably heard me. Probably.
"Her past doesn't matter here," Scott spoke up first. He excelled at staying focused on the task at hand, that boy. "It's her future we're worried about. All our futures – mutantkind. Mankind."
"Yes, the grand 'mutant' speech your vaunted Professor gave me. You're a bunch of lunatics who've made pacts with Lucifer, and you expect me to buy this bilge about saving the world? You'd have better luck convincing me the moon is made of cheese."
"Isn't it?" Kurt said with a slight smile.
"You come into our home," Evan began with barely-restrained anger, "try kidnapping one of our own, and then you think you can start accusing us of being evil? Take a look in the friggin' mirror, chump!"
"She is not yours! She is mine – my daughter, a member of my family! Your hypnotic hold on her will not keep me from returning her where she belongs!"
"She belongs here!" Kitty argued. My God, she truly was losing it; I could see it in her eyes that it wouldn't be long before she made some horrible, desperate play. "Where she's loved, where she fits in! I can tell you hate her, so quit acting like you're Super Dad and admit that she's better off here! Just admit it, you psycho!"
"Kitty, it's okay," Jean said evenly, hugging Kitty close as she broke down, the bite of rage lacing through every sob. "Calm down, it's gonna be okay."
"No it's not!" Kitty turned back to glare at him, teeth bared even as her fists balled around bunches of Jean's shirt. "What about Rogue, huh? What's she gonna do if you take Risty away? You can't split them up, they're like... like Thelma and Louise!"
"Nice comparison," Bobby hissed. "You do know they die at the end of the movie, right?"
"Oh... uh, wish I had before I said that."
"Not only barking, but heads full of cobwebs," Father remarked. "How pedestrian and American. Risty, you can't honestly want to stay with these layabouts, can you?"
And even after all that, I held my tongue. What they were doing for me was more than touching; it was breathtaking. But I couldn't deceive myself into thinking my father was about to let this go simply because they made a stink. He'd have me spirited away to England by hook or by crook. Why should they put themselves at risk for naught?
"Good girl. Now, ask them to move aside."
"NO!" Kitty screamed, darting at my father. Jean and Bobby tried to hold her back, but she phased through their hands to stand directly in front of him, arms out to her sides and teeth bared. "You're not gonna take her away! She's one of us now!"
"Step back, you insipid – eh?"
It was worth it to see him stagger when he tried pushing her shoulder to the side and his arm passed through her body. Any moment I got to witness my father being wrong-footed filled me up with the warm fuzzies.
"Demonic," he breathed, staring at her in wonderment. "You're all full of darkness."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night," Evan laughed.
"Your daughter has somebody special to her here," Kitty went on as if nothing had occurred after she walked forward. "That's worth hanging onto, isn't it? So ask her for once! Ask her if she's ready to give it up just so she can go to freaking boarding school!"
Most of his anger replaced by terror, he slowly turned to stare at me. Step by plodding step, he approached, until he was only a few feet away. "What's this about, Risty? What is that possessed pipsqueak on about?"
Rogue looked at her feet. For a horrible instant, I thought she was actually going to tell my father the truth. Say it right to his face, that his daughter was running around, chasing skirts instead of well-to-do businessmen. The shock of it might have provoked a coronary – and there were positive and negative aspects of that from my way of thinking. But did I really want it out there, exposed to the entire throng behind him?
"I..." That was all I could get out.
"Not this tart here," he said in disbelief, pointing at Rogue. I could see the wheels turning, taking him back to when he'd walked up to the front steps. "You nick this idea from Jenna? She was about your age when she dabbled in that nonsense. Well, I don't believe it; you'll have to do better th-"
"She what?" I yelped, unable to camouflage my reaction. "Nobody ever told me about this! Since when did Big Sis fancy girls?"
"She doesn't," he told me acidly. "Not after we put the fear of God into her. And we'll do the same for you if we ever hear talk of it again, understand?"
My blood turned to icewater as I struggled to remain upright. Dear Jenna... I'd spent my whole life resenting how 'together' she'd seemed, how successful and ostensibly normal she'd become, and all this time she may have been maligned as badly or worse than I. How precisely had they 'put the fear of God' into my poor, poor sister?
"No, not me," Rogue whispered. "D-don't worry, I'm not... well, I'm just not. I'm nobody."
She lied. She lied to save me further persecution, in front of witnesses. And it hurt worse than dying.
"Fine," he grunted, putting her out of his mind and turning back to me. "Now, enough of this foolishness, and I mean it; they can stamp and shout all they want, but in the end we are going back to England. Final word. Your mother's been ill ever since she saw on the news that these pests are going to the same secondary school you attend, and she's anxious to have you home. Forget about them and their hippy-dippy compound. Let's be off."
He'd just reached the spot where he'd dropped his luggage when I whispered, "No."
"I said 'no', Father."
As he turned to glare at me, I couldn't help but zero in more strongly on the expressions gracing the X-Men's faces. Jean and Kitty bore bleary smiles. Evan nodded in satisfaction as if he'd been waiting impatiently. Kurt and Bobby high-fived. Amara sighed with relief, pounding on her chest to get her heart restarted. Scott, however, remained as tensed and ready for action as ever. Moreso now that I'd admitted I wanted to stay, actually. Focused.
"Would you care to repeat that, young lady?"
"Gladly." Stepping forward, I planted my feet in a wide stance, every muscle in my body clenched as I stared him down. "I've had enough of your badgering and micromanaging. It's time for you to piss off."
"I'll take you with me if I have to drag you kicking and screaming!"
"Ah, ah, ah," Scott spoke up. "Sir, you might wanna keep in mind that I don't make idle threats."
"Then I'll be back with the police!" he counter-threatened. "We'll see what they have to say about imprisoning a minor!"
"But she isn't imprisoned," I barked. "She's staying of her own volition in a foreign exchange program. Won't be long before I graduate, and then perhaps I'll seek a job over here, get m' green card. Maybe I'll even work on this 'hippy-dippy compound' full-time."
"These hippies aren't any peacenik friends," he goaded, incensed, vein throbbing in his forehead. "They're drug-crazed neo-Nazis who're going about causing mayhem and burning down mansions, why would you possibly-"
"They are my friends! Look at them!" With a commanding gesture toward the line of students behind him, I laughed. "Take a good, hard look at my friends, how they're standing up for me! Can't say as I've ever known a stauncher group! But their display pales next to the one you completely overlooked, you nearsighted berk!"
He shook his head, as if trying to dislodge the unwanted information that had been stuck in his ear. "What are you yammering about now?"
"This!" I shouted down at him, grasping Rogue's hand and lifting it upward. Tears began to stain my voice and I couldn't care anymore, I couldn't temper my words with indecisiveness or worry or doubt any longer. "She's my best friend, and everything I've ever needed in human companionship, and for no greater reason than that you've practically soiled yourself over nothing, she says she's 'nothing' so as not to worsen your black mood! Throwing herself on the grenade, trying to keep me out of the line of fire? That's the truest example of friendship I've ever – ever seen, and... and she did it for me!"
"I don't understand, Risty!" he snapped, eyes round as he tried to make sense of my actions. "What... she said she was... for God's sake, talk some sense!"
"How's this for sense?" I shouted. "If you take me away from her, I'll... I'll kill myself!"
Right. So perhaps one or two of you grasp the irony of this juvenile statement, but it's a bit late for a retraction.
"Stuff and nonsense!" he accused, even as I heard a few gasps from the gallery. "You will not kill yourself, you never have done and I doubt you will! Wildes don't suicide!"
"Fine," I admitted. "You're right; that wouldn't make things any better. But I will fight tooth and nail until we are reunited. Whoever gets in my way. Whoever."
"Why? What's so bloody special about this one?"
"Everything you can name." I could feel Rogue cringing beside me, waiting for the hammer blow that would shatter her image, and her anonymity, and everything that was shielding her from harm's way. And I felt terrible... but it was too late. "God, what do I have to say? She's my best mate. Life-mate."
A few of the X-Men who hadn't quite arrived there before I said it gasped, or said "No way!" But over Father's shoulder, I could see two things that filled me with satisfaction: Kitty giving me an over-excited thumbs-up through her tears, and Scott's grim determination, not remotely ruffled by my announcement. It was a booster shot of confidence I needed.
"Load of old tosh," he blustered, but his voice was a lot less self-assured than it had been moments previous. "You make it sound as if you and she- wait..." He shot a brief look back at Kitty, then turned back to me. "You can't be serious. Not with..."
"You can try and split us up if you like, but it'll be a wasted effort; I'll find my way back. I always do."
"Risty..." That was Rogue, and that one word was enough to turn all my rickety, wooden resolve into adamantium.
"Then that takes the biscuit. You are most certainly coming home with us; I'll not have you flushing your life down the toilet over some gutter trash!"
Five seconds passed in silence as I digested that. Just long enough to decide what needed to be done. "Ohhh, NO SIR." Glowering, I stepped toward him and extended my hand, pointing straight at his heart. "No one insults my woman like that. Not even you, Daddy."
All I could see was my hand, but watching it turn gray was enough to suggest the rest of me had followed suit. He watched in abject horror as steam began rising from beneath my shoes, and my eyes doubtless yellowed the way his mustache had from too many pipes of tobacco. My death rattle rose in volume, and the register of my voice dropped, and I swear I heard the clinking of distant chains.
"This is where I belong; with my fellow freaks. Judge not, lest ye be judged – and I am the final judge, jury and executioner. Lazarus is rising while the sun sets on you, you overbearing dictator! BEGONE!"
My empathic wave drilled into him, and he was sweating torrents, jerking to and fro like I had electrocuted him. Maybe I had; for all I knew, that was the next power on the horizon (though I worried it would clash with my other abilities). For an instant, he cowered on the ground, fully convinced he was about to die a horrible, gory death. When a few minutes passed and nothing happened, he peered up at me through two fingers.
Of course I was back to normal by then. Firstly, keeping up the ghastly appearance and shooting off a willy-wave really took it out of me. Secondly, I'd done what I set out to do. Maybe now he'd understand.
"Very well," he growled quietly. "You... you truly have become one of them. I see that, now. You're too steeped in the witchcraft to be rescued. So be it." Standing, he brushed his clothing free of dust and began stomping over to his bags, both Rogue and I keeping pace. "You can complete your studies abroad, and then that's it. You're completely disowned. Don't post anything, don't beg for handouts. Make your own way in this world with your heathen accomplices. You're dead to us."
"More irony," Kurt whispered.
Shoving his hand into the suitcase, he began flinging my precious few belongings through the air and onto the floor of the hallway – it was an utter low, a boorish showing of how little he thought of me. Despite my hatred for him at that moment, my heart broke a touch further when I watched my red lace panties flutter to the ground in unrestricted view of my friends, and then yet more when my jewelry box broke open, spilling the contents everywhere. There would be no going home again.
"Goodbye, Father. Tell Mum the same."
Without looking at me again, he stomped off, shoving his way between Kitty and Amara and into the elevator. And that was the last I saw of him.
••••••••••••••••••X••••••••••••••••••END CH XXIX
POST SCRIPT: So yadda yadda yadda, here's a sequel soundtrack. You knew it was coming, but I thought I'd post the listing right after the chapter where Risty gives a hearty Eff-You to her pater. Pay special attention to how much more... European this mix is, due to it being Risty's.
Evolution Of Friends: Risty's Mix
1. Rabblerouser [KMFDM/MDFMK]2. The Grudge [Tool]3. Days Before You Came [Placebo]4. Fascination Street [Lunasect] (or the original by The Cure if you prefer)5. The Everlasting Gaze [Smashing Pumpkins]6. It's No Good [Depeche Mode]7. Get Down Make Love [Nine Inch Nails]8. Knives Out [Radiohead]9. Freak on a Leash [KoЯn]10. Orestes [A Perfect Circle]11. Leave Me Alone [2wo (Two)]12. It's Enough Now [Mandalay]13. Fade [Staind]14. Parabola [Tool]15. Black-Eyed [Placebo]16. Medication [Garbage]17. I Feel Loved (Danny Tenaglia Labor Of Love Edit) [Depeche Mode]
Enjoy times whee! One more chapter... maybe. :evil grin: