Disclaimer: Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox own the X-Men. What's been done to them is copyright 2000 by Siubhan. This can only be archived with my express permission.

Hearing Violins
by Siubhan

Posted 10/5/00

Oh, Jedimom! What would I do without you? Languish in fanfic hell, clearly. And Red Sith, you are quickly becoming someone I can't do without as well. You both kept this story from wallowing in unbelievability, especially at the end.

Oh, and pathos fans, fear not. The next story's for you.

Oh look. Email from my shrink.

She's been emailing me a lot these past couple weeks. See, she's had a nasty case of the flu (honestly--Mystique gave it to her) and has been emailing me instead of visiting and getting all the kids sick.

Okay, so she's only actually emailed me twice. The rest have been Mystique.

See, there's this daring new mutant group on the scene, lead by the charismatic Elizabeth Blackthorne (okay, Mystique). The media's nearly wetting itself reporting on it. They haven't had a mutant to wag their fingers at for a while now. But Elizabeth isn't repeating the mistakes of her predecessor, Magneto. Her group's doing a lot of property damage, leaving mutant-abusers chained to the front of police stations, stuff like that. No one's getting killed, or even badly hurt. But a lot of people who've been fucking with us are getting their due.

It's fucking brilliant. Public opinion's starting to sway our way. God, I could kiss her.

'Course, I'd rather kiss Shariya.

I smile and run my fingers across my lips. Last night we finally gave up all pretense of watching a movie and just necked on the sofa for hours. We kissed for the first time last week. It was just like a movie. We looked at each other and slowly moved together until our lips met. I could practically hear the violins.

Last night was also another first. Scott's been teaching her to control her lights, and even though she can't switch 'em off yet, she can control what they do. So halfway through the night, she took off the gloves for a few minutes while we kissed. When she's happy, those lights feel really amazing. And from what she tells me, when she gets angry, she can give someone third-degree burns. Luckily, I'm not planning on making her angry.

Oh, we don't just watch movies and snog. We've spent tons of time talking too, sometimes up on the roof, sometimes in the computer room, and sometimes on the sofa instead of watching a movie. She knows all about how much trouble I have reading (although I'm getting faster), I know how she can't help but hoard things (since she's so used to living on the streets). We know how we both hate getting to know new people (me because I'm convinced they'll hate me, her because she never met new people until she ran away so she had no practice). We both know how we each hate the way we look, even though we both think the other person's mental. And we've both swapped stories on how we'd cope as kids (me by creeping around York at night, her by reading anything she could get her hands on to pretend she was somewhere else). In a lot of ways, we're really different, but it feels like we have so much in common.

Oh, and we talk about Elizabeth Blackthorne. Shariya's a huge fan of her. Any time her gang's on the news, we're right there, plastered to the television, soaking it all up. I just might tell her soon. We'll see. I have to make sure I can really trust her first, though. I mean, this is a huge secret. Can't just go giving it away. Not when I'm finally helping the movement again. Don't want to jeopardize that. Or my freedom, for that matter.

Just wish she'd get comfortable around Hannah. She's trying, though. What got her was when Hannah said, in a very grown-up voice, "It's okay if you don't like me. Most people aren't green." God, Shariya looked like she'd just been smacked in the face. Couldn't stop apologizing to Hannah all night. Thing is, I have no idea where Hannah got that. Neither does Agnes. Her first thought was the Unitarians (the court still hasn't decided if I can go to services yet), but that seems out of character for them from what she's told me. My guess is she heard it from one of the kids here.

Right, stop daydreaming and read the damned email.

Ah, this is a good one. The latest senator to jump on the anti-mutant bandwagon is rumored to have a mutant son. She needs me to check and see if the X-Men have any information gathered on that.

I let the air hiss out of my lungs through my clenched teeth. That'll involve going through the files in the professor's office. Lucky for me he's old fashioned enough to make hardcopies of everything. Maybe if I can get Shariya to help out some day, she'll be able to hack in and just grab electronic files. It's not time for that yet, though. Okay, think. One of the new kids, Jamal, has been acting out. I'll go in there to read his DSS report, see if there's anything we missed.

Perfect cover story. And even better, it's true.

Right, the professor's got his physics class right now, then if things go like normal, he'll go outside to watch the kids for a bit. Weather's nice today. Bit nippy, but that shouldn't stop him. He always goes out unless it's raining or there's snow on the ground, and it hasn't snowed yet this year. Five minutes until class ends.

New email. Oh great, a real one from Shapiro. She wants to know what I think about this new mutant group. Screw it, I'll reply later. I've got something important to do.

Look casual. You can do it. I head to the stairs, wait for the sound of the kids heading out, then wait another minute for the hum of the wheelchair motor. Coast is clear. I walk into the professor's office, close the door, pull out Jamal's file, open it up on my lap, then start poking through other drawers. Aha. Found it. Looks like the senator's son's spending a lot of time getting electrolysis. I painstakingly jot down the name of the electrolysist. Is that even a word? That's not enough, though. I need something we can expose. Hang on...he's got spots? Score! They just need to wash the makeup off of him in public. Or just threaten to. Think I'll suggest that. I'd rather not see a kid get humiliated because his dad's a prick. Especially a mutant kid.

I put the file away neatly, stuff my notes in my pocket, and sit and start reading through Jamal's file. Need to be sure I actually come away with some useful info in case I get seen leaving this place.

Right, there's someone trying to sneak up on me. Smooth move, Ororo. Next time, try doing it without the high heels. Face it, you're short just like me. The heels just make you loud and awkward, not tall. And besides, the door hinges are squeaky, you moron. Okay, pretend you don't hear her until she does something blatant, like...yep, there she goes clearing her throat.

I spin around and gasp, "Jesus! You almost gave me a heart attack." Not strictly a lie. After all, she gave me one four years ago. Dunno if I ever told her how badly she fucked me up back on Liberty Island.

"And just what are you doing here?"

"Looking through Jamal Brinkley's intake file," I say, holding it up as evidence.

She crosses her arms and says, "I don't think you're supposed to be snooping in here."

"This is where they keep the files."

"And just why did you close the door?"

"Shit, Ororo, you know I have trouble reading. I was trying to keep the noise down in here so I could concentrate."

She glares, but she knows I've got her. Heh. "I'll be telling the professor about this."

"Go ahead. Knock yourself out," I say, turning back to the file. After a couple of seconds, she leaves, closing the door behind her.

I enjoyed that too much.

Okay, back to Jamal. He's pretty unusual-looking, even for these kids. Instead of two arms and two legs, he's got four arms, a tail, and a really nasty temper. He was okay for a while, though. We were actually starting to get him learning to talk. Four years old, and no one'd bothered to teach him to talk. He understands fine, but it just never occurred to him to talk himself. Everything was going great, and then a couple days ago, he started getting violent. He hadn't been violent before. What the hell changed?

Right, what's his history? Put in foster care from birth. Yeah, sounds familiar. Bounced from family to family every few months. And the last family he was placed with put him in a tight dog collar and leashed him.

Bastards. Good thing I'm under house arrest. If I weren't, I'd've already been tossed in jail for killing some of these assholes. Some people just don't deserve to live. A collar. A fucking collar.

Oh bloody hell.

I drop the file and race back to the school. It's our fault. It started getting really chilly a couple days ago, so we've been putting the kids in turtlenecks. He thinks he's back in the fucking collar. Shit. We did this.

When I get there, Jamal's howling and thrashing, Sarah's trying to calm him down, and the rest of the kids are nowhere in sight. The other staff must've taken them away. Good.

"Jamal, hang on," I say. "I think I know what's wrong. Hold him still, okay?"

"I'll try," Sarah says through gritted teeth.

I rip the fucking collar off his shirt as quickly as I can, and he just starts sobbing. I take him in my arms, and he clings tightly to me, sobbing his heart out. Poor kid. We fucked up. We did this. "I'm sorry," I whisper, cradling the back of his head. "I'm so sorry."

Sarah shoots me a confused look, and I say, "Last family had him on a collar and leash."

Her eyes go wide. "Oh god," she says, covering her mouth with her hand. "Oh god."

"I know."


Dinner time. Jamal's doing okay. Nice thing about kids his age is that they bounce back fast. Everyone knows no more turtlenecks for him. Not until he's old enough to decide to wear them himself. Hannah takes my hand, and we head back to our apartment. "Is Jamal better?" she asks.

"I think so."

"Good. I'm helping teach him how to talk!"

"I know! Sarah told me. That's really great."

"Can we jump up the stairs?"

"You have to hold my hand, okay?"


"Ready? Jump!" She's getting really good at this. She can do twelve steps at a time. Four jumps and we're on our floor.

I sit her down with her trucks, send off my emails to Mystique and Shapiro, then start dinner. Agnes should be done with her tutoring soon. If tonight's like every other night, she'll come home, eat, spend time with Hannah, then head to Logan's. Shariya'll have her lessons with Scott, then show up just as I'm putting Hannah to bed. Heh. I'm grinning again just thinking about it.

I hear the front door open and Logan's voice saying, "Hey squirt."

"Logan!" she squeals.


I pop my head out of the kitchen and see Agnes and Logan in the living room with Hannah. "I...I didn't know you'd be here for dinner," I stammer. "Let me chop up some more vegetables. I think I can make dinner work for four." Shit.

"Oh hey, don't worry about it," Logan says, tucking Hannah under his arm. "I can go eat on my own."

"No, I just didn't know you'd be here. I can make it work." Damn. What the hell's he doing here?

Agnes joins me in the kitchen and makes me sit down with her at the table before I can get more food out of the fridge. "Mortimer, Logan and I will be staying here tonight."

"You will?" Shit. "But Shariya's coming over."

"We know."

Gah! If they're here, then we can't... "Um, you sure you don't want to spend the night with Logan?"

"Mortimer, I've been asking you to baby-sit a lot."

"I don't mind."

"Don't you and Shariya want some time alone?"

"Well, we have time alone when Hannah goes to bed."

"I mean alone."

"Oh. No, that's okay. We don't need that."

She narrows her eyes at me. "You haven't been...on the sofa...when Hannah's in the next room."

"Well yeah... Oh! Wait. No. Not that. I would never do that where Hannah could walk in."

She puts one hand on her chest and says, "You had me scared for a minute there."

I put on my best indignant face and say, "Just what kind of mutant do you think I am?"

She laughs and shoves my arm. "The pain in the arse kind! Look, why don't you go ask Shariya if she'd mind hanging out at her place tonight, okay?"

Whoa, that sobers me up. "But..." Whoa. "But she hasn't invited me."

Agnes grins. "Somehow, I don't think she'll mind." She stands up, kisses me on the forehead, then says, "How about I cook? I don't think I want you around knives right now."

Good point. I think my hands have gone numb. So's most of my brain. God, what if she says no? How the hell do I ask her, anyway? Oh, and birth control. I don't have any of that. Didn't need it with Mystique, never thought I'd need it here.

I hear Hannah and Logan from the next room. Logan. He'd know how to get some.

God, this is embarrassing.

"Be right back," I mumble as I slide out of the kitchen chair and head to the living room.

Logan and Hannah are busy crashing trucks into each other as I come in, but he looks up as I approach. "So, you gonna ask her out?"

"I think so. Um, about that..." Oh man, my face is burning.

"Oh." He nods. "Yeah, I can help you with that. Take over for me. I'll be right back."

Thank god I didn't actually have to say anything.

"Monster trucks!" Hannah yells as she smashes her dumptruck into my firetruck. Okay, I know she got this from one of the kids here.

I try to pay attention to the trucks, but my brain's got other ideas. This was so much easier with Mystique. She just jumped me. Nice and easy. She didn't ask, she didn't set up a date, she didn't tell me to make sure I had condoms, she didn't make me wait a couple of hours between when she asked and when we did it. She just jumped me. The relationship came later. And she took all the initiative. I just happily followed along, doing what she wanted.

Things are different this time.

"Hey! Pay attention!" Hannah yells.

"Sorry, I was thinking," I say, and try not to laugh at her. She looks so damned cute when she puts her hands on her hips and scowls. I give one of her braids a gentle tug and she laughs and shoves my hands away.

"Hey squirt," Logan says as he comes back in the door. "I have to talk to your uncle for a sec."

"But what about monster trucks?"

"You can do it yourself for a minute."

We both duck into my room, and he hands me several foil packets. "This should do ya for tonight. I'll pick up some more next time I'm out."

"Thanks," I say, shoving them into the pocket of my jacket, then buttoning it closed. Last thing I want is them falling out at some awkward moment. I've got enough awkward moments in my life.

"You ever used those?" Logan asks.

"Um, no."

"All right, just in case she hasn't either, you don't unroll it first. You leave it rolled up, then unroll it...down." He's making the okay sign with his fingers, but the motion he's making with them is...ah... Oh boy.

"Got it," I say, and yep, I'm about to die of embarrassment. Here I am, nearly 30, and I'm getting condom lessons from the guy who's basically my brother-in-law.

"Hey." He claps me on the shoulder. "You're gonna do fine. She's crazy about you. Look, why don't you go ask her now? Get it over with."

"Yeah, okay. I'll, um, I'll be back in time for dinner."

Deep breath. Right. She should be out back with Scott doing target practice right now. Yep, I can hear the clang of wood hitting metal. She mostly only can hurt organic material, unless she's really freaked out, and then she can damage just about anything. So they've got a metal wall set up back there, and they line up blocks of wood up for her to aim at. I head across the lawn, trying to be as quiet as I can. Don't want to disturb the lesson. Last thing I wanna do is startle her when she's got the gloves off. She startles easily. Living on the streets'll do that to you, I guess. She survived by being hard to sneak up on.

Scott finishes setting up a fresh row of wood, then stands behind her. She's got her hands clasped together tightly while she waits. I'll just stand back here until they're done with this round before I let them know I'm here. "This time, focus on being destructive only when you're aiming at every other block of wood," Scott says.

"I've never tried that before. I don't know if I can do that," she says.

"Give it your best shot."

Hunh. Wonder if she can pull it off.

She raises her hands, and I really wish I could see her face. There's just something about the way her tongue peeks out of the corner of her mouth when she's concentrating. I shouldn't go around to the side, though. That would be distracting. I hear a sizzle, and the first log explodes into a pile of wood shavings. Second one...well, it doesn't explode as hard. Oh well. Third one goes up pretty hard. Fourth one...she did it! Oh, but the fifth one's unharmed too.

Still, good start.

"Not bad for your first try," Scott says. "The sun's going down, so we'll work on that again tomorrow."

She carefully puts her gloves back on, then turns and sees me, and her whole face lights up. "I didn't know you were here," she says.

"Didn't want to interrupt."

I have no idea what kind of look Scott shoots me. Must drive Jean nuts not being able to see his eyes.

She smiles and heads over towards me, and my knees start turning to jelly. Oh god, here goes. She wraps her arms around my neck, gives me a big kiss, then asks, "So what brings you here?"

Okay brain. This is your cue to start working. "Um, I was wondering if... Well, see, Logan and Agnes are staying in with Hannah tonight and, uh..."

"Wanna come to my place?" she asks with a huge smile.

"I would love to," I sigh, resting my forehead against hers. Oh thank god. That was easy.

"Just give me a little time to clean up," she says, arms reaching into my jacket and wrapping around my back.

This feels so good. I don't wanna leave. But I have to. "Agnes is making dinner. I really should get back," I murmur into her ear, her fur soft against my cheek. "Have you eaten yet?"

"Yeah, I always eat before target practice so my hands don't shake." She sighs, then pulls back. "You shouldn't keep Agnes waiting."

"I'll be there soon." We kiss again, and it's all I can do to stop.


Dinner is a blur. When it's over, I try and make myself as presentable as I can, then head down the hall to her room. My heart's hammering in my throat. Hell, for all I know, she just wants to kiss in private, or maybe just talk or something. I might have been jumping the gun getting condoms. I'd better let her set the pace, just to be safe.

I knock, then try not to fidget while I wait for her to answer the door.

It opens, and she's standing there, smiling shyly, in a pretty blue blouse and jeans. "That's a great color on you," I gush, then mentally slap myself for sounding so stupid. Smooth move, Mortimer.

"I thought I'd try something other than gray for a change," she says. "Come on in."

I walk in, wondering if I should have brought something. Ah shit, too late now. If there's a next time, I'll pick some flowers from out back or something.

I've only ever been in her room one time before, when she was setting it up. It's pretty much the same as it was then: a small table, some chairs, the bed, some drawers, and the washroom.

No sofa.


"So, um..." She shoves her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and stares at one of the walls. "I've just got the bed, really."

"That's fine," I say. God! Could I sound more eager?

She smiles at the floor, shakes her head, then looks back up at me. "Listen to us. How old are we? We're acting like nervous virgins."

Okay, that answers that question. I laugh, suddenly feeling a hell of a lot more relaxed, and say, "Yeah, you're right. Oh, by the way, I'm 29."


"So, we're on your turf. You call the shots," I say.

"I guess it's the bed. Why don't you take your jacket off?"

"Um, sure." I hang the jacket off the back of the closest chair, and suddenly, I'm feeling oddly vulnerable. I'm wearing short sleeves, so there's a lot of green showing, and all the lights are still on, so it's impossible to miss. Wrapping my arms around myself, I cross the room to the bed and sit on the edge.

She sits down a couple feet away from me and asks, "So what's with the coat, anyway? You always have something bulky on."

I shrug. "Just used to being covered up."

"You could cover up without wearing something bulky, though. I mean..." She looks down at my torso, shaking her head incredulously. "Look at you. You're built like a truck."

"Yeah, I know," I say, shifting uncomfortably.

"Hey, I like it! Don't be embarrassed." She reaches one hand out and starts tracing the muscles on my left arm, and I'm practically shivering from her touch. "Do you know the kind of drugs normal people take to get a body like yours?"

"Normal people do some really strange things," I say.

"Well, yeah, you've got me there." She grins again, and I reach out and cup her cheek in my hand, then close the space between our bodies and kiss her. She melts against me, and I hold her as tight as I dare. And then she's pushing me back until we're lying side by side on the bed, legs twined. I can't stop moving my hands across her back and hair. I don't know where I want to touch her most right now.

She rolls me onto my back, then breaks our kiss with a startled expression. "We're really doing this, aren't we?" she asks.

I reach up and stroke the back of my hand across her cheek, and she closes her eyes and leans into it. "Only if you want to."

"I do. Oh, do you have..?"

"Yeah. Um, can we turn down..?"

"Hang on."

She jumps off the bed and turns off all the lights but one small desk lamp. There's no windows in here, so we need a little illumination if we want to see anything. I dive for my jacket, pull a few condoms out and dump them on the bedside table. Shit, I should get my boots off too. The laces are a pain in the ass to undo quickly. Don't fumble, Mortimer. Take your time. There you go. I carefully slip the right one out from under the monitoring anklet, then kick the left one off with a little more force than is probably necessary. The anklet. I've never had sex with that on before.

I guess she sees me looking down at it, because she kicks her own shoes off, climbs back onto the bed, wraps her arms around me, and goes, "I don't care about that."

"I know," I sigh as I pull her in for another kiss, and it's even sweeter than the first time. This time, I know it's really going to happen. She likes me enough to have sex with me. I can't believe there are actually two people in this world who've been willing to do that. I never thought I'd find one, never mind two.

I reach for the buttons on her blouse, murmuring, "Just tell me if I'm going too fast, or if you want me to stop."

"I don't think that's going to happen," she sighs, shivering as I reach my hands inside her open shirt to stroke her. She's just as furry here, although the tips of her nipples are hairless. Just like a cat. I can feel my hands getting coated with fur, but I don't care. Small price to pay. She's actually letting me do this. I can't believe she's letting me do this.

I push the blouse off her shoulders, and she reaches for my t-shirt. It's a little tight--I have a really hard time finding ones that fit well because I'm so broad and short--so I help her pull it over my head. Oh boy. I'm really feeling exposed. Now I'm getting nervous. But she's kissing me again, hands gripping my chest, and I pull her close and feel her soft fur against my skin.

Mystique taught me to go with my strengths, but I'm afraid if I do that, I'll be picking fur off my tongue for months. I try not to laugh at the image. 'Course, it's hard to laugh when a beautiful woman is kissing a trail across your chest. She's bolder than I thought she'd be. I like it. Okay, I can use my hands instead of my tongue. I'm good with my hands. 'Sides, I love the way she feels against my skin. And I love how her body feels now that she's finally filling out. She doesn't look fragile anymore. I'd've been afraid I'd break her if we'd tried this right after she got clean.

And then my hand's on the button of her jeans. And I wait. I mean, this is where we can't turn back. This is where she should stop me if she's having second thoughts. But she whimpers into my mouth and leans into my hand, and I know it's okay to go ahead. So I unbutton her and push her jeans and underwear over her hips, and she kicks them the rest of the way off and onto the floor.

Okay, now I can go with my strengths.

I gently roll her onto her back and run my hands down her body until I reach her legs and ease them apart. She's already making little noises, and I haven't even done anything yet. But this is what I'm good at. She'll be making more noises soon if I do this right. I start by licking lightly at the non-furry bits peeping out down there, but she groans and presses up into my face, her whole body shuddering. She doesn't sound like she's going to last long.

Right, better make it a hell of a ride.

I think I still remember how to do this. The first time I tried it on Mystique, she wrapped her legs around me so hard she nearly suffocated me. There are advantages to having a tongue that can be several places at once. So I put my hands under her bottom, plant my mouth firmly over her clit, and snake my tongue out so it's touching her there and teasing at her opening.

"Oh my god!" she shouts as I slip my tongue in, and then she's just shouting as I feel her clenching around my tongue (weird feeling, by the way, but you get used to it seeing as how the perks are so good). I love being able to do that. It's way better than actually coming myself. I don't think I'll ever forget how she sounds right now.

When I feel her relaxing, I pull out, trying to pick some fur off my tongue as I go, although that's kinda tough considering how much I've already got stuck on my fingers, then lie down next to her and take her in my arms. "My bones feel like they're jelly," she murmurs, tucking her head into the crook of my neck.

I just smile and stroke her back. It feels so good to lie here holding her like this.

"Mmm, your hands feel nice."

"It's the nubs, isn't it?" She's told me that when I run my hands across her fur, it feels like she's getting brushed.

"That's just part of it." She lifts her head, and there's a gleam in her eye. "You still have your pants on."

"I know."

"We have to fix that," she grins.

"That's okay." And I mean it. I'm perfectly happy right now. Okay, I have an erection, but it's not like I haven't had one before and not done anything about it.

"No, I insist," she says, sitting up and reaching for my waistband.

Oh god. Now I'm getting nervous again. What do they call it? Performance anxiety. Yeah. That's it. I'm fine when I'm concentrating on my partner, but when it's my turn, sometimes I choke.

We both work together to get my pants and socks off, and then I'm wearing nothing but my monitoring anklet and my panicked face. But then she kisses me, and as usual, I'm lost. I think I'd do anything if she kissed me. Good thing she's got a conscience. I reach one hand out to where I think the bedside table is and fumble around until I snag a foil-wrapped packet.

"I've got it," she says, taking it from my hand. Oh good, she knows how to use them. She straddles my lap, tossing the wrapper over her shoulder, then carefully unrolls it down my erection. Oh god. That feels...oh god, her other hand's fondling my balls. Oh god.

She lies back, pulling me down with her, wrapping her legs around me, and it's clear what she wants me to do. Carefully bracing my weight on my elbows, I slowly ease into her, and oh god, I'd forgotten how much I missed this. And the whole thought of letting someone into your body just blows my mind. She's letting me into her. Letting me be a part of her. But it just feels wrong doing this without doing anything for her. Wonder if I can reach my hand down...

Shariya grabs my wrist and firmly pulls it back up, then grabs the back of my head and pulls me in for a kiss.

And that's all it takes.

Somehow, I have enough presence of mind to grab her tight and roll onto my back so I don't squash her as I wait for the lights to stop dancing behind my eyes.

"What?" she asks, raising her head up from where she'd had it nestled on my chest.


"You laughed."

"Oh, just thinking how much of a lightweight I am," I say, tightening my arms around her. "I think I lasted all of thirty seconds."

"Oh, and it took me hours to come? Try three seconds!" She's laughing now too. "We're pretty evenly matched in that department. Maybe next time, we'll last longer."

Next time. She said next time.

I am a very happy man right now.



"Hmm?" I gently kiss the top of her head.

"You're not asleep either?"


She nestles in closer, tightening her arm across my chest. "Was it wrong of me to do this so soon after Mystique's death?"

"No, not at all. In fact..." I take a deep breath, then hesitate. "Wait, is this a good place to drop a bombshell?"

She props herself up on one elbow and looks down at me. She looks a little annoyed. Shit. "It is now."

Right. Tell her. She deserves to know. "Mystique's not dead."

"What? But Jean said..."

"She faked her death."

Shariya lets out a huge breath and flops down on the bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. "You're a damned good actor." Shit. The temperature in the room just dropped about twenty degrees.

I'm up on one elbow now, looking down at her and hoping I haven't seriously fucked up. I mean, she deserves to know, but I wasn't sure until tonight that I could trust her with this. But if she trusts me enough to sleep with me, then I should trust her enough to keep this secret. "I wasn't acting," I say. "I didn't know. I swear. I found out later. I haven't told anybody. And you can't tell anyone you know this, okay?"

"No, of course not." She sighs and scrubs her gloved hands across her face. "Because she's in hiding, right? And you're protecting her. What else haven't you told me? And how long were you going to let me feel sorry for you?"

"Hey, I haven't even told my sister!"

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?"

"Shariya, please, hear me out," I beg. "I swear to you, you'll understand when you know the whole story."

She crosses her arms and looks over at me expectantly. "Well? I'm waiting."

"She's Elizabeth Blackthorne."

The look on Shariya's face is priceless. "Get out!"

I grin. "Yeah, that's her. See why I couldn't tell you?"

"Whoa. That's...that is big."

"And that's not all." Shit, I'm about to tell her everything. No secrets. I feel a little woozy. "Look, you really can't tell anyone this."

"I won't."

"I've been feeding her information from the X-Men's files."

"Oh," she whispers, tightening her arms around herself. She just stares at the ceiling for several long moments while my heart thuds wildly against my chest. Oh shit, this is hell of a time for that irregular rhythm to kick in. I scrub my hand across my breastbone, willing it to beat regularly again.

An indignant look suddenly crosses Shariya's face, and I hear sizzling through her gloves. Oh fuck. She glares at me and says, "This wasn't all some elaborate scheme to get me to hack into their computer system for you, was it?"

"No, I swear. If you want to help, I'd love it, but no, it wasn't. Honest."

Say something, Shariya. Please say something.

"Look," I say. "You've got my life in your hands right now, you know that? One word from you, and I'm in jail."

She props herself up on her elbow, looks me in the eye, and says, "Don't you ever keep anything from me again, you hear me? I mean, I understand why you did it, and in this case, you were right to, but I don't deal well with people who are supposed to care about me sneaking around behind my back."

Please, please, please don't turn me away. I just handed you my freedom and the movement. I've got nothing left to give. Please don't make me have thrown them both away for nothing. "I've got no secrets left, Shariya."

She closes her eyes and sighs, "I know," then reaches out and takes me in her arms. "I'm sorry. I'm just..." She sighs again, and I feel her chest heave under my cheek. "I should be more trusting."

"S'okay" I murmur. God, I feel sick.

Her fingers are in my hair now. "No, it's not okay. You just risked your freedom to tell me something. I have no right to be so angry."

"I'm so sorry..."

A finger covers my lips. "No, I'm sorry. I'm going to work on this. I swear. You deserve better."

I feel her chest heave again, then she rolls me onto my back and looks down at me with shining eyes. "You did the right thing, Mortimer. Never let my insecurities stop you from doing the right thing." And then she kisses me.

And somehow, I know it's all going to work out.


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