Everyone pretty much said it at the same time, though I think one or two of them might have used another word. I know it was what Risty and I were saying.
"It's better this way," she assured us shakily, stooping to maneuver a few of her trinkets back into the jewelry box. "I... he always dreaded the biennial calls home, and... now he won't have t-to put up w-with..."
"Risty, it's okay," I soothed, my hand on her back.
"Rogue, I am all alone in this world now," she said starkly, eyes wide and unfocused. "Not a copper to my name. An orphan, for all intents and purposes. I... I've lost everything."
Actually, it was Jean who said that, not me. When Risty and I looked up at her, we were both equally surprised to see every X-Man who'd been watching this shit-show standing around her, all holding out a handful of her spilled barbells, hoops and studs. Dewey-eyed, she raised the box upward and held the fractured lid back, and they all poured the jewelry inside it, and it was like some kind of beautiful friendship ceremony that I think should be practiced all over the planet.
"Cheers, mes amis," she blubbered. "I... oh, I haven't lost anything at all, have I?"
Silently, they began picking up her clothes, the men-folk careful not to come into contact with undergarments. Then we all filed back to our cozy room and put it all away. And nobody spoke the whole time; too much had gone on. On their way out, Scott, Amara, Evan, Bobby and Kurt all patted Risty on the back or squeezed her shoulder, and she smiled at them, touched their hands. From across the hall, we caught sight of Logan nodding with a slight grin before he took off; I knew he thought Lavender did exactly what he'd have done.
"So that happened," Kitty said. She and Jean had hung back, of course. Girl talk.
"It did." Risty rubbed the side of her face, then looked up and asked, "How'd you lot even know what was happening? Did I activate some kind of distress beacon?"
"Rogue did," Jean said with a slight smile. "She ran past me like her clothes were on fire, and I picked up the basic idea that your dad was trying to take you away from us. So I sent out a hasty call to our team, and they showed. I didn't contact Amara, though; she must have been hanging out with one of the others and tagged along."
"Well, she was more than welcome to. This is... words can't express-"
"Then don't," she said with a shake of her head. "It's what we're all about."
"Oh, you guys!" Kitty bubbled as she threw her arms around us, and there was nothing ghostly about her deathgrip that time, I can tell you. "I knew it would all work out, I just knew it!"
"What do you mean?" I asked with a slight laugh.
"Y'know... 'life-mates'? Kind of hard to miss that one, even for me."
"Look," Risty began nervously, "I just said that to goad my father. He was being a curmudgeon to the lot of you and it was time I took him down a peg."
"So you didn't mean it?" she needled.
I couldn't see her face through Kitty's head, but I'm guessing she was squirming. "W-ell... that's neither here nor there."
"And it's none of our business," Jean insisted, pulling Kitty back by the scruff of her neck. No, really, just like she was actually an inquisitive cat. "They've got a lot to discuss, I think. We should probably go."
"Before you do..." Risty grasped both of them by the forearm. "I want to thank you girls from the bottom of my old heart. For everything you've done. Jean for straightening out my cluttered mind and coming to my rescue again not an hour later, and Kitty for... for being Kitty! You're one in a million, luv."
"Ah," she said with a huge smile. "Just doing what I thought was right."
"She's kinda good at that," I echoed. "But yeah, thanks. Both of you."
When Jean felt my eyes burning a hole through her, she shrugged and looked down at her shoes; my unspoken apology for tearing her head off earlier had been accepted. I still made a mental note to do a better job of that later, though.
They left us alone in our room so we could "discuss". Which I wasn't ready to do yet, but it woulda been ten times harder if we put a lid on it until later.
Risty slid her ring up and down her index finger. "So now you've been graced by my father's sunny presence."
"Guess I have."
"Blimey, Rogue, I never wanted you to come face-to-face with my estranged family. I never even wanted you in the same twenty-mile radius."
I gave a small shrug. "Can't say I really enjoyed myself back there, but don't sweat it, alright? I'm just glad you showed him the darker side of Risty so he'd leave you behind."
"Lazarus strikes again."
"Did... did you really graffiti a cop car?"
"Funny enough, I did," she laughed. "You really didn't seem to take it to heart when I said I was an unholy terror a few years back. That wasn't even the worst thing I've done, but it's a prime example."
I laughed, too. "Just wanted my stories straight."
"I'm not proud of it, luv. But if he thought drudging up ancient history might browbeat me into returning home, he was sorely mistaken. I have changed since coming here. He's just too blind to see it."
"He is," I told her earnestly. "Well... maybe I don't know jack about who you were in Tea-And-Crumpet Central, but you've been nothing but good people over here. That's all I care about."
"I've hardly eaten any crumpets in my lifetime," she chided, placing a finger on the end of my nose. "But they're killer with Camembert."
I was too distracted to ask what the hell a Camembert is.
"Overly-fond gesture," she said sheepishly, withdrawing her hand. "Too soon. Sorry."
"It's not," I pleaded. "No really, please don't hold off on that stuff, not because... I m-mean, it's okay."
"After meeting the wretch who sired me, and knowing I'm a delinquent, and that I've still got most of Mystique on hard disk... you still think it's okay?"
"Don't matter none," I insisted.
Then she smiled at me, and I felt like I was burning up all over; it was the kind of smile nobody had ever aimed at me before, one that promised things and hinted at a lot more. Her finger went back to my nose as she stepped closer, until all I could see was two huge eyes rimmed with violet eyeshadow and the very edge of her fingernail. "I love it when you come over all 'country gal'. It's the most adorable thing."
"Aw, shucks, ma'am." That one was on purpose, and we both grinned. Then, before we could do any more pointless thinking or talking, I leaned in and kissed her.
The problem in trying to describe this is that I got nothing to compare it to. Never kissed anybody before that day, and we all know why. It was simple and to the point, no tongues, no heavy breathing, just lips on lips. But to me, it was magical and intense and full of everything I'd hoped it would be, and some other stuff I'd never have expected. And I wanted it to keep going from then 'til Monday.
But I did pull away after a few seconds. A few less than I wanted to, but a few more than I thought I could get away with. Then we giggled for about five minutes. It was funny! Not because it was bad, but because it was so easy that we suddenly knew how ridiculous we'd been to run around avoiding the first one this whole time.
"Well, that's one milestone in the rear-vision," Risty finally was able to chuckle once we'd sorta kinda caught our breath.
"God," I sighed, wiping my eyes tiredly. "This has been the longest frickin' day."
Risty nodded along with me. "Amen to that. Shall we get our eight hours in?"
"Nah, not yet," I grunted as I pushed to my feet. "Now that we actually got to kiss each other before the whole mansion figures out we're, uh, more-than-friends, it's time to face the music out there."
"Skip it," Risty sighed, flopping back onto the cot. "We can barricade the door and deal with repercussions in the morning."
"Come on, lazy bones," I laughed, yanking on her arm so hard she winced. "Up we get."
It wasn't so bad. We ambled through the hallways and grabbed a snack from the kitchen, and a few kids either stared at us like we'd turned into Mister Sinister clones or demanded to know if the rumours were true. It amused us to hedge around it, but we never lied. Of course, our closer friends like Kurt or Evan got straighter answers, and they asked some stupid stuff like "But how does it work?" but mostly they were cool. And, of course, Kitty attacked us with another of her hugs.
The Professor seemed to already know everything that had gone on; I guess from Jean. When I grunted that she had a talkative brain, Risty actually snapped at me. It hadn't really been clear to me until that point just how much she'd helped patch up her mental quilt, which made me feel even worse for how bitchy I'd been toward the redhead outside the bathroom. While Risty and the Prof went over her father's departure, I hunted Jean down and we had a long, antsy conversation. By the end of it, we were hugging and apologizing and pretty much being sappy and gross, and we decided to pick a day and go do something together, just the two of us. It was about time I stopped resenting her over the boy I wouldn't be pining after anymore.
It was so late by that point that the moon was looming large over the Institute grounds. Risty found me out there cooling down from my therapy session with Marvel Girl, and we set off at an easy walk, looping around and discussing all sorts of crud. Then she told me something surprising.
"So how is she?" I asked anxiously.
"Quite well." I was secretly admiring the way her striking features were outlined by the lunar rays. Sorry, too poetically emo? "We... I won't say it wasn't upsetting and that we didn't say a few unkind things, but Jenna genuinely seems to miss me. And when I told her about you, well, I couldn't get her to clam up!"
"Really? Like how?"
"Like the bit that she's been dating women for ages. When our parents caught her at it and gave her their patented stern lecture, she dialed it back until escaping to university, but then all systems were go. In fact, right now she's quite serious about this bird who's a drag king – you know, dresses up like a bloke for stage shows and the like. She's even had her 'round to Mum and Dad's for tea a few times, always in costume, and they wholeheartedly approve of the 'young lad'. It helps immensely that her name is Samantha."
Once I put two and two together, I grinned delightedly. "So when she says, 'Hey, I'm bringing Sam over,' nobody catches on. That's smart."
"It's bloody priceless, that's what it is!" she crowed. "And she... she said she's right proud of me for standing up to him about you and I, that it's something she ought to do herself but she's been putting it off. You know, I won't be surprised if next time I ring her she tells me they're in the hospital after having fainted dead away from shock."
"Sounds like sapphism runs in the family." We both laughed, then fell silent as we walked, enjoying the crisp night air. After a while, I said, "I'm glad you guys are talking again. Sucks that your parents were so up in arms about controlling you that they drove you apart to begin with."
"Que sera sera," she sighed. "But enough about the Wildes for one evening. For that matter, no more talking. I forbid anyone to speak for the remainder of tonight."
The corner of my mouth turned up as I whispered, "I can live with that."
And from that point, when I was hooking my index and middle fingers around the front of her waistband and pulling her toward me, nobody said a word 'til dawn.
Now, don't get all excited. We barely did anything. Why not, you ask? Hmm. When most kids first get their learner's permit, they don't go, "Great! Now that I can drive, I'm goin' through Mexico all the way to Panama." They usually start slow, like doing doughnuts in an empty parking lot. That's the best analogy I can come up with for me and Risty that night: student driving with our feet hovering over the brake pedal.
We didn't even share the cot. Sure, you'd think that'd be even easier with our shiny new relationship status, but we both agreed that was second-night-as-a-couple material. So Risty took the floor, because it was her turn anyway, but I kept leaning over to get one last kiss in before we settled in to sleep. And we talked a lot, and we said stuff that embarrassed each other, and it was all kinds of amazing. That part only lasted about an hour, because no matter how excited and terrified we were, it had already been the longest day in history and we gave in to fatigue.
Nine hours later when I woke up (told you we were tired!), I found her arm around me, and I smiled. Knew she couldn't stay away. But when I craned my neck around to look at her, I was startled to find her eyes pointed at me affectionately.
"Hi," I gurgled, still half-asleep. "Wha... what're you doin'?"
"Watching you sleep."
I made a face. "Seriously? How was it?"
"Picturesque." That got my blood flowing - and quick.
"C-come on, don't be stupid."
"I'm not," she told me, so bluntly I found I couldn't breathe anymore. "To foolishly incriminate myself, this, er... isn't the first time, either."
"Really. Maybe the third or fourth. Something about how you look there, eyes closed, peaceful... it's like a living, breathing painting by the French masters."
I rolled over to face her, vaguely aware of how close our bodies were, how much was touching. "You d-did it before... like, even before yesterday, when we were only... how come?"
She bit her lip for a moment, thinking. "Can't help myself."
Things were entering another time zone of intense. Risty thought I was cute. Sure, why not? I'll tell you why not; I don't agree with her. Nobody but Irene had ever bothered to say as much, so where would I have gotten that impression? And up to that minute, I hadn't been thinking about if we were attracted to each other, or if either of us was sexy. Not really. Because it had all been on a spiritual level, which sounds like some New Age bull but it's true. I liked who she was and what she meant to me, so her looks or what she thought of mine hadn't mattered. Now, she was lying there complimenting me – and laying it on pretty damn thick. Obviously she didn't think I looked like a baboon's backside.
But as soon as I digested that (which was once I remembered that we were more or less an "item" now), I looked at Risty with fresh eyes. My mouth popped open and let out a "WHOA."
"What is it, luv?"
"You are friggin' hot!"
She laughed, loud and clear and unrestrained. "Am I, now? That's bolstering; at least I don't have to worry about being chased by the dog catcher."
"Holy Moses, I-" Suddenly, I knew there was no way I could articulate it to her with so much grace and meaning, not the way she had. I wanted to, I wanted to let her inside my head so she could know how I saw her in that time-delayed instant. Oh, well. Instead, I placed my fingertips on the side of her neck and whispered, "How'd I get so lucky?"
"Lucky? Bad luck, if any."
I shook my head violently, eyes brimming with tears. "Man, I wish I'd just asked you out the first time I saw you. We wasted so much time."
The vein in her neck jumped under my finger; I felt it, and I shivered. "Come again? You... no. You wanted to ask me out, then and there in the gymnasium?"
"Hell no; I thought I was straight! Which makes me a dope. If I hadn't been so oblivious to you being a complete babe, we'd probably have got to the good part sooner."
"Sweetie, this isn't even adjacent to the good part," she uttered, her own hand trailing through my white bangs in that way that makes my every atom tingle. "We're still in the dull, meandering part – and look how lovely that feels!"
A thrill of fear shot through me. "Then... how's the good part going to feel? I might not be able to handle any more!"
Risty proved me right by tracing her fingernail along the inside of my ear, causing me to twitch away from it, breathing hard. "Time will tell, my darling Rogue. But for now, let's get some breakfast, I'm utterly famished."
"Oh, no you don't," I said, the hand I had on her neck sliding around to cup the base of her skull, threading through purple strands. "I'm having breakfast in bed."
"You are?" she breathed, exhilaration colouring her cheeks and sparking in her hazel eyes. "And... whatever will you eat?"
The breakfast involving actual food didn't happen until about an hour later.
And I'm not telling you about THAT, either! Geez, get a life! But hey, I won't deny that a lot of fun was had in our stuffy little room that fine Sunday morn. Maybe once or twice she or I would get carried away and do something that, uh, resulted in more pain than pleasure, but for the most part we set the world on fire. And it burned, and it burned, and burned and burned and burned...
Would it be too much information to tell you that afterward, it was no longer an option for us to skip the showers before we went to breakfast? Figured it would. Oopsie!
Freshly clean and walking on clouds, we danced into the kitchen, where Jean and Scott were trading sections of the newspaper while they pounded down stacks of waffles. Evan and Kitty were leaning against the sink and sipping juice, having just finished and washed their plates and all that. They greeted us a little too warmly, bringing us back to the insanity that had been Saturday with an ungainly thump!
"Nobody died," I reprimanded them in a flat voice. "We're fine. In fact, things are lookin' up from way down here."
"How do you mean?" Scott asked around a bite of bacon.
"With my father out of the picture, I'm now fully committed to Xavier's vision for a snazzier tomorrow," Risty said with no hint of sarcasm whatsoever. "Lazarus is on board a thousand per-cent. They won't be needing me to return home anytime soon, so why trouble myself over it? New York is where I'd rather stay!"
"I get allergic smelling hay!" Mr. McCoy followed up with a chuckle as he walked through the door and straight to the coffee pot. "But oblique references to television programming of yesteryear aside, how is everyone?" After we'd all gave him different versions of "fine", he dripped a little cream into his mug and said, "Oh, by the way, Lazarus, I'm delighted to hear your inauspicious reunion with the Wilde patriarch didn't result in our loss of an X-Man. We dodged that bullet, didn't we?"
"Quite," she said with a sigh. "Though it means being shunned at family picnics."
Beast tutted as he twirled his swizzle stick with a giant blue-furred hand. "If they shun you, then so shall they be the poorer for it. You've proven your worth to this team most consummately, both as an asset on the battlefield and a quick-witted young woman with the, ah, 'soul of a champion' or however one might put it. If all they see is heliotrope hair and mutating DNA, then who needs 'em?"
On that note, he lumbered out, leaving Risty blushing and trying to sink lower in her chair.
"I swear, he gets better and better at saying the right thing without trying," Evan muttered. "It's freaky."
"By the way, Risty," Jean said quietly, "I've been meaning to tell you something. Do you remember playing little league soccer?"
"Somewhat," she said as she reached for an orange from the fruit bowl. I stood and got myself a glass of chocolate milk to... replenish fluids (wink, wink). "Always was rather uncoordinated at footy, but not every young tyke can be a star athlete. What of it?"
"Do you, um, remember winning a trophy?"
Risty's forehead wrinkled. "Uhh... not so much. Why?"
"Well, you did," she said sheepishly. "And I dropped the memory when we were in there, and it broke, and and I'm really, really sorry. But you did win a trophy, I swear."
She let out a little snort. "If that's all I lost in the shuffle, then I'd say we saved most of the noteworthy bits. Thanks for your attention to detail, Mizz Grey."
While Jean was shrugging, Scott said, "Uhh... do I get to know what's going on?"
"No!" they both shouted at him.
"Whatever," he said, holding one hand out to forestall any more hollering while he stood to get rid of his plate.
"Although, I did want to commend our fearless leader for staying abreast of the situation last night," Risty said over her shoulder at him. "'Calm, cool and collected'; we should have it emblazoned in Latin across the rim of your visor."
"Hey, it's my job," he said with a grin as he left. Evan followed him; they were probably off to beat up on some defenseless equipment.
Right when I was arriving at my vacant chair, it suddenly was a lot less vacant. "Dibs on the French Toast!"
"No French Toast today," Kitty laughed at Kurt, the latter of which frowned. "Want some waffles instead?"
"Nein; I had my heart set on gooey, buttery toast," he said dejectedly, then turned to look at the two of us. "Mom, Sis!"
"I'm not above sending this elf back to the North Pole," Risty growled. "Honestly, Mr. Wagner, what are you like?"
"Better cool it with the 'mom' stuff," I warned him. "Touchy subject."
"Alright, I'm sorry," he laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Still... I can't help but feel closer to both of you since finding out ve're all part of the same-"
"What did I just freakin' say? Do you got worms in your ears?"
"Forget it," Risty said, smirking at him. "Would it be an acceptable concession for you to call me sister-in-law instead? That way you can get knotted by those 'ties that bind' without finding a rattlesnake in your jock strap."
Kurt squirmed, hand halfway to a plate of fried eggs. "You... vould do that, vouldn't you? Okay then; I am proud to call you both meine Schwestern – my sisters. As long as you don't hog the bathroom vith your girly preening routines!"
Before either of us could smack him, he'd bamfed away – taking the eggs with him. What a geek! Just goes to show that you can always pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. Sometimes that works out for the best, anyway, I guess.
Right after I plunked back down in my reclaimed chair, Kitty slowly crept up behind us and slid her hands over the backs of our chairs, eyes twinkling with mischief.
"So what?" I grunted.
"How waaas it?"
Jean actually turned away because she was too ashamed to be part of the conversation anymore. Risty glared evenly at Kitty, even while smiling. "Over and over again, you seem to intentionally forget the old adage about curiosity and cats. It's... it's uncanny is what it is."
"Come on, guys!" she hissed urgently, literally dancing from foot to foot in anticipation. "Forget the details, just gimme a general report! You two have been waiting, like, forever for this – there's gotta be a juicy story!"
"You wanna know?" I said with a smile and a wink at Risty. "Exactly what it was like?"
"Yes, yes, yes, now talk already!"
With a blur of speed, we both leaned in and pecked Kitty on either cheek. Her shriek echoed off the walls of the kitchen and down the hallway.
"I didn't mean SHOW me! Ew, lesbian drool, eyuck!"
Now Jean was giggling along with Risty and me, and a few seconds later Kitty couldn't help but join in. She'd earned it, and we got her good.
"Next time you ask," Risty chuckled with a savage grin, "you'll earn yourself a patented Risty Wilde Love Bite. They don't fade for weeks."
And right then and there, as Jean rolled her eyes and tried to laugh into her fist, and Risty made to tickle Kitty to stop her from griping, I decided I had the best friends money could buy - even if one of the friendships had been plagued by an unexpected evolution. Big deal. That didn't make it any less valuable.
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