Jean let out a painful gasp and grabbed her own belly in a pantomime of what had occurred below. Scott and Storm’s attention was immediately focused on her. Her eyes wide, she uttered a single word.
The Southern X-Man winched at the psychic scream in her head. ‘Jeez, Jean…Ah ain’t deaf!’
‘Sorry…’ She thought meekly. ‘But something’s happened to Kurt…I think he’s been injured…I got a flash of intense pain…then nothing…’
‘Where is he?’
‘Down there in the basement with you…’
‘Can you get a bead on him?’ Rogue asked. ‘This basement’s huge!’
‘Sorry, Rogue…’ Jean sighed. ‘I can’t get a glimmer from him…’
‘Okay…okay…Ah’m sure Ah can…’
She stopped so suddenly, Jean was sure she’d found something. She gave her a few moments, but when she failed to reply, she gave her a mental nudge.
‘Oh mah Gawd…’ Was all the reply she got.
“PROFSSOR! HANK!” Rogue yelled as she kicked the door off its hinges in her urgency. “We got an emergency here!”
Hank rounded the corner, Rachel still snuggled in his arms, quickly turning the little girl’s head away when he saw what Rogue was cradling in hers.
Kurt was as limp as a rag doll. A blanket was wrapped tightly about his waist as a makeshift bandage, but he could smell the blood, as easily as he was able to see the dark stain seeping across the blanket’s surface.
“Unca Kurt?” Rachel whispered, trying to peek around Hank’s massive hand.
“Get him to the infirmary, Rogue.” Hank said. “I’ll be there as soon as I get Rachel back to bed…” It really wasn’t something the little girl should have to see.
“But…Unca Kurt…” She protested.
“Will be just fine…” Hank assured her.
Rogue was pacing back and forth outside the mansion’s well-equipped infirmary. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been in there, she had no idea of the condition of her brother.
It still felt a little weird to think of Kurt as her brother. But he was, as far as they could tell, the biological child of the woman that she called ‘Momma’. Though Kurt himself had never known the nurturing side of Raven Darkholme, the blue-skinned mutant terrorist had always been good to her.
“Auntie Rogue…?” A little voice queried.
Rogue turned to find Rachel gazing up at her, still clinging to her bamf doll, as if keeping it close would somehow maintain the real thing’s link with the mortal world. Rogue sat down, letting the little girl snuggle up beside her, being careful not to let her get close to any exposed skin. She stroked her hair, trying to comfort them both. Rachel yawned, snuggling her bamf.
As she looked down at the little girl, Rogue couldn’t help wonder where the rest of the team was…
The day dawn bright and clear, but nobody seemed to notice. Most of the X-Men had been up all night. It had taken a while for them to escape the Hellfire Club after Rogue and Kurt’s abrupt exit. All hell had broken loose and they had had to fight their way out. They had suffered a few minor cuts and bruises, but they had been very much returned in kind.
Rachel was now snuggled up between her parents watching with wide eyes as Bobby made tiny figurines out of ice to entertain her. Ororo was gazing out the window at the newly risen sun, taking what comfort she could in the beauty of nature. Warren was absently preening his feathers. Kitty hugged her knees to her chest and just looked generally miserable. Rogue was absorbed in the wall panelling.
They looked up as one when Hank finally emerged from the infirmary. He looked exhausted, and they didn’t want to think about the stains on the front of his surgical smock. He didn’t seem overly optimistic, but he didn’t look like he was struggling to find a way to deliver bad news either.
“He’s stable…” Hank informed them. “But still critical. He SHOULD be okay…the next few days are crucial. He was actually pretty lucky…”
“Lucky?” Jean echoed incredulously.
“There’s a pretty decent fracture in his skull, and a hairline fracture in his left clavicle…my guess is he was hanging upside down and landed on his shoulder and cracked his head when he fell…the impact causing the damage…” He slammed his shoulder with his hand to demonstrate, then knocked his head with his fist.
“And how is that lucky?” Scott asked.
“Judging by the angle and location of the cut…if he’d been on the ground and the right way up…it would have been straight across his throat.” He slashed across his own with a finger.
Unaware of the night’s occurrences, Wanda had relented and agreed to go shopping with Greer. Now that she had confessed, and almost acted upon, her interest in Kurt, Greer had insisted that she purchase a few new items to speed things along. Wanda had argued that it wasn’t necessary, but had gone along with it because she knew Greer just loved to shop.
“Oooohhh…” Greer beamed as she bounced across the street to peruse the window of an antique jewellery store. Wanda sighed, hefted the multitude of bags, and followed her.
There were some truly beautiful items. Brooches, necklaces, rings. Greer began to giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Wanda asked her. The tiger-woman pointed out a ring, set with rubies and sapphires of various sizes. The two types of gems appeared to twist around each other, merging together within the golden setting. Wanda arched a brow and glanced at her friend, obviously confused.
Greer rolled her eyes. “Rubies and sapphires…” Wanda still frowned. “Red and blue…intertwined…” She lowered her voice to a hushed whisper. Wanda’s eyes widened as she caught on to Greer’s wavelength.
“You have a one track mind.” Wanda informed her.
Wanda was surprised to find Hank waiting for her when they returned home several hours later.
“Hank!” She beamed. “It’s good to see you! What are you doing here?” She hugged him warmly, pulling back when she felt the tension in his body. She frowned as she looked into his face, growing worried when he wouldn’t meet her eye.
“What is it?” She asked, not entirely certain she wanted to know.
“Wanda…” Hank said softly, finally raising his head. “There are certain thing you just should hear over the phone…”
Hank filled her in on the details as he drove her out to Westchester. She barely heard him. She couldn’t believe it was happening. Just last night they had all but silently agreed to take their relationship to the next level. And now…
Now he had a fractured skull and a broken clavicle as a result of someone trying to cut him in half.
Hank had to pull her out of the car and all but drag her into the mansion. She was so deep in shock she wasn’t even aware of the world around her.
Kitty arched a brow as she watched the pair pass. It didn’t take her near genius IQ to figure out where they were going.
“What is SHE doing here?” She growled as soon as they were out of earshot.
“She IS kinda his girlfriend, Kitty.” Rogue pointed out.
“Hmph!” Kitty folded her arms pointedly across her chest.
Rogue smiled slightly. “He’s mah brother, short stuff…” Rogue said. “Ah’m the one that s’posed to think no one’s good enough for ‘im.”
“So you approve of her?” Kitty questioned.
“What’s not to approve?” Rogue countered. “She’s in the same line’a work… she don’t give a toss about his looks…and never did…and she makes him happy…”
“How do you know that?” Kitty asked. “He ever actually say that to you?”
“Ah ain’t his confidant, Kit…” Rogue admitted. “That’s more your and Logan’s bag…but ya just gotta look at ‘im lately…he weren’t even like this when he was with Amanda…”
Kitty frowned. “I guess…but…I dunno…something about her irks me…”
“Such as…?” Rogue prodded.
“I just said don’t know!” Kitty said firmly. “Maybe it’s that she’s Magneto’s daughter…”
“And Kurt’s the son of Mystique…” Rogue pointed out. “Ah’d call that some major common ground.”
“Fine.” Kitty allowed. “Then, maybe it’s because she’s an Avenger…that she’s not one of us…”
“She’s a mutant, gal…” Rogue countered again. “Ah reckon that makes her ONE OF US…”
“She’s older than him.” Kitty pointed out.
“Only two and a half years…” Rogue chuckled. “It ain’t like she’s robbin’ the cradle or nothin’…’sides…Amanda was older than him too…”
“Well…” Kitty was running out of arguments. “Maybe it’s because…well…because…”
“Because you’d rather see him with SOMEONE else?” Rogue suggested with a smirk.
Kitty stared at her, both stunned and annoyed. Was that really the reason? Was she jealous of Wanda? Kurt was one of the greatest guys she’d ever met. He’d always been there for her. When Peter had dumped her…and again when he died.
But for the past six months, ever since he’d started going out with Wanda, he never seemed to have time for her anymore. She knew there was nothing REALLY going on with them, that they weren’t physically involved. They liked the same things, they shared a common origin, they just liked spending time together.
But she had seen the way Wanda looked when Hank walked her past. She looked numb, as if a part of her had died. Kitty had felt the same way when Peter had told her he didn’t love her anymore. She had looked the same way when she’d lost him…
And a part of her knew, whichever way it went, she’d lost her fuzzy elf forever…
Wanda gazed at Kurt’s peaceful face, trying to ignore the wires and tubes that marred his fur, trying to block out the machines that hummed, beeped or pinged around him. She sat down on the chair Hank placed beside the bed and took hold of Kurt’s soft hand. She brought it to her cheek, finding a small amount of comfort in the warm brush of velvet against her skin. She did it all without taking her eyes off his face.
“It’s all my fault…” She whispered.
“How do you figure that?” Hank arched a brow.
“If he hadn’t been out with me…he would have been here…he would have gone out with the rest of the team…he would have been in costume…it would have protected him…”
“I doubt his choice of attire would have made much of a difference.” Hank put a hand on her shoulder, not at all surprised when she didn’t look up at him. “Wanda…you can’t blame yourself for this…”
“Then who can I blame?” She demanded, turning on him angrily.
“Me…” A third voice said quietly from the doorway.
The pair turned to see Logan standing their, guilt, regret, shame and sorrow all fighting for dominance on his face.
“I was the one on stand-by last night…” He said as he walked towards them. “If I hadn’t been…incommunicado…I would have been the one there…” He looked down at the inert body of his best friend. “I knew he was out with you…that it was his night off…” He sighed heavily.
“No Darlin’…this is all MY fault…”
Wanda wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there. Her back ached, her backside was numb, she was exhausted, hungry, and, she had little doubt, somewhat stinky. Except for the one thing she couldn’t do where she was, she never left his side.
Hank brought her food, but she hardly touched it. He told her to get some sleep, but she didn’t hear him. She’d cried her eyes out more than once, and through it all, Kurt just lay there, not responding to anything.
Hank would check on him, trying not to let Wanda see his frown. But she knew the big blue mutant was worried about his fellow furry X-Man. He had a pager on his belt hooked into the monitoring system, so that he’d know as soon as there was any change in Kurt’s condition, one way or the other.
“Don’t worry, Darlin’…” Logan assured her. “Kid’s a lot tougher than his elfin appearance would have ya believe…”
She looked at him with red-rimmed eyes, obviously not believing a word of it.
“Trust me, Wanda…” He said earnestly. “He ain’t goin’ anywhere.” He smiled as he gently tipped her chin up. “He’s got too much to live for. You think he wouldn’t be doin’ the exact same thing if the situation were reversed?”
“But he doesn’t know how I really feel…” She said. “I didn’t know how I really felt until…”
“Believe me, girl…he knows…” Logan’s smile was genuine. “Kid’s a hopeless romantic…I figure he knew where things were going with you two…he told me he wasn’t gonna make a move until he knew you were ready for it…”
She looked at him, a little startled. Greer had said almost the exact same thing.
“Don’t give up on him, Darlin’…” Logan said as he turned to give her some privacy. “He’s never given up on anyone in his life…”
His brow creased at the annoying sound off to his left. His nose crinkled at the antiseptic smell that burned his nostrils. He heard the rustle of fabric as his tail snaked from beneath him where it had been pinned rather uncomfortably. He began to systematically flex muscles, relieved to find everything still seemed to be working.
Then he opened his eyes, just a crack to begin with. His memory hadn’t been impaired. He knew what had happened. The thick bandaging he could feel around his midsection was testament to that. He didn’t, however, know how long he’d been out. Whenever he closed his eyes for an extended period they tended to adjust to the darkness. Opening them quickly in a bright room would leave him practically blind for several minutes.
But he found the room to be relatively dark. He knew it was safe to take in his surroundings with all his physical senses. His spatial awareness had already told him he was in Westchester, more specifically in the mansion. His senses of smell and hearing, and his common logic, had identified the infirmary. Logic also dictated that it was unlikely that he’d be alone.
He cast his eyes to the right and was not particularly surprised to find Wanda dozing there. She didn’t look too comfortable, and there were dark rings under her eyes, but she still brought a smile to his face. He reached out with a rather unsteady hand and gently brushed her cheek.
She awoke with a start, her weary eyes instantly falling on him.
“You look like you could use some sleep…” He said, his voice a little hoarse.
“KURT!” She threw her arms around him, hugging him as best she could considering the tubes and wires, and the fear of aggravating his injuries. He could feel her body shake as she wept with relief.
“Ssshhh…” He soothed, stroking her hair.
She laughed through her tears. “I should be comforting you…” She whispered into his neck.
“I’m the one that scared the living daylights out of everyone…” Kurt pointed out.
She pulled back, stroking his cheek gently as she gazed deeply into his golden eyes. He smiled at her, so invitingly. Smiling back, she leaned in and gently kissed him. She had intended it be quick, just a sweet taste, a promise for later, when he was stronger.
But Kurt’s response was far more intense than she’d expected, than she thought he would have even been capable of. Not that she was complaining…
Hank snatched the pager from his waist, frowning as he read its display. “Kurt’s heart rate just shot up…” He headed quickly for the door, only to be stopped in his tracks by an invisible force. He glared at Jean, the obvious source.
She just smiled at him. “He’s fine…”
“Jean…” Hank began to protest.
“Trust me…” Her smile deepened. “He’s FINE!”
She had thought it was just something that they put in romance novels, but Wanda could actually feel her knees go weak. Kurt’s kiss was everything she thought it would be. Tender, gentle, sweet…but, at the same time full of fire and passion. Not to mention a little dangerous as she felt fangs graze her lip. His soft hands gripped her shoulders with a surprising amount of strength for someone who’d been comatose for the past three days. Not that she wanted him to let go…
They parted, reluctantly, only when they ran short of breath, but continued to hold each other.
“You know…” He said. “This could put a serious damper on our friendship…”
Wanda considered this for a moment. “I guess we’ll just have to be lovers then…”
“If we must…” Kurt sighed in mock resignation. They both began chuckling until Kurt winced and clutched his injured abdomen.
“Oh…poor baby…” Wanda sympathised as she began to rub his belly. She rested her cheek against his, smiling as he began to purr.