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sue, yadda, yadda, yadda.
"Sit still, Marrow! I'll never get this sutured if you keep squirming," said Dr. Cecilia Reyes through clenched teeth as she deftly stitched the former Morlock's arm. Pausing for a moment and studying the young but hardly timid woman over the rim of her glasses, Cecilia added, "I thought a tough sewer rat like you could handle a little pain."
The pink-skinned Marrow glared at the doctor as she seethed, "Don't understand why you're even bothering to stitch me up, Healer. Something's just gonna pop through there in a day or two anyway. Save your energy for the pretty ones. I don't need your help."
Cecilia rolled her eyes as she finished stitching the large gash in Marrow's forearm. The girl's slight healing factor had created a large scab, but the injury was a nasty one. Marrow should count herself lucky that the plasma weapon hadn't singed and torn more than just her skin. Cecilia wondered what kind of opposition the X-Men were battling that had the energy weaponry to cause such injuries. It looked worse than the previous wounds she had treated due to Bastion's Sentinels. She thought no longer on the subject, presuming the brainwashed soldiers had gotten upgrades in armament.
Engrossed in her work, Dr. Reyes barely noticed as Marrow questioned, "So why are you even bothering, huh?" After she was greeted with silence by the stern-faced doctor, Marrow waved her bone-encrusted knuckles in front of Cecilia's face as she said loudly, "I'm right here, Healer."
Cecilia blinked as she looked up at Marrow in annoyance and said, "I heard you the first time."
Squinting her eyes as she turned back to her work, Dr. Reyes said more quietly, "You're my patient. You were injured in a battle. I'm fixing you up. That's how things work."
As Cecilia finished the last of her stitches, Marrow grinned down at her and said, "Must be a fine life, Pretty. We go out and have all the fun and you wait back at home to pick up the pieces and fix the boo-boos. How exciting."
Removing her glasses and rubbing her forehead, Cecilia sighed and said wearily, "It's not like that, Marrow. I have responsibilities. I'm the X-Men's primary physician now. You have no idea how much work..."
As Marrow stood from the examining table and prepared to leave, she raised a hand, interrupting Cecilia's obviously half-hearted explanation. "Guess I just don't get how much skill it takes to do what you do. After all, I'm out saving the world every other day. Keeping these counters clean and your little jars full of cotton swabs must be much more important than that."
Cecilia planted her gloved hands firmly on her hips as she prepared a retort, fully planning on putting Marrow in her place, but all she could manage was a angry glare. She was tired. It was late. Marrow wasn't worth the effort.
As the former Morlock walked out of the med-lab, she stopped for a moment and leered at Cecilia, saying almost casually over her shoulder, "The upworlders used to think my people were weak because they lived in the sewers and hid from the dangerous surface world. But one day those dangers, those monsters came and found them anyway. They had no place to go... so they died there, in the place they once thought was safe. But now? After all the death and pain... I live in the light of the Xavier Sanctuary and I laugh as one of the pretty upworlders hides in the tunnels beneath the house, afraid to look at herself in the mirror. Pathetic."
As the door swished shut behind Marrow and Cecilia stared after her, surrounded by the cold, steel walls of the Mansion's sub-basement, she seethed, "You just go ahead and think what you want, Marrow. Go right ahead."
Cecilia continued muttering to herself as she stripped off her surgical gloves and tossed them angrily in the bio-waste bin. Her jaw tightening as she gritted her teeth, she didn't notice as Hank McCoy emerged from his lab office. Still fuming and slamming shut one cabinet after another, she started, "It's not like I give a flying... Hank!"
Half-blushing, Dr. Reyes tried her best to retain her composure as she slid a drawer closed quietly and said distractedly, "Um sorry about the racket, I didn't mean to..."
Cutting her short, Hank smiled and said, "Fret not, gentle doctor. I know how difficult it is to retain a composed bedside manner when young Sarah is the patient."
Cecilia sighed heavily and rolled her eyes as she collapsed into a chair and groaned, "You have no idea."
Standing next to her chair, Beast grinned as he said patiently, "Oh, I think I can imagine. She does possess quite the barbed tongue. Don't let it weigh too heavily on you."
Dropping her head in her hands, Cecilia closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. "I try. I really do. But just between you and me, McCoy... that chica is more irritating than a boil on the back-side. Plus she is really off in the cabeza if you get my drift."
"I don't believe you are alone in your sentiments. She is the bane of many of our mansion's inhabitants."
Letting her hands fall into her lap, Cecilia looked up at Hank and shook her head. "I dunno. Sometimes I feel like she has it out for me in particular. Like she knows how to push all my buttons."
Beast squinted as he asked in concern, "And which were those tonight?"
Waving her hand casually as she turned her attention to a seam on her lab coat, Cecilia said, "Oh the usual ones."
"Care to elaborate?"
Cecilia sighed deeply and Hank volunteered, "Unless of course you don't feel up to the task?"
Knowing full well that Hank would not let the subject drop easily, Cecilia ventured, "Oh, you know the whole thing about me being a fish out of water now. Not knowing where I belong after Bastion commandeered my life. Same old, same old."
Hank said warmly as he stood behind Cecilia's chair, "But you know that you are welcome here."
Dr. Reyes closed her eyes for a moment as she said, "Yeah. Yeah. This is my home now and I've got to make the most of it. I'm a valued member of the team, yadda, yadda, yadda."
Opening her eyes again and fiddling with the hem of her coat, Cecilia said quietly, "It's a bunch of bull, you know. I'm just a charity case."
Putting his hands firmly on Cecilia's shoulders, Beast interjected, "Now that is not true. Your skill as a surgeon is of utmost importance to the team. We do need you Cecilia."
She relaxed, the irritation of Marrow's visit quickly disappearing from her thoughts as he began to massage away the tension in her shoulders. "You're just trying to make me feel better."
Hank grinned, "But of course I am. It is my chosen duty in life to make you feel as blithe as is humanly possible."
Smiling as Cecilia's demeanor grew more serene, Hank then went one step further as he said, "Besides, life is much more interesting since your serendipitous arrival."
Cecilia raised an eyebrow as her thoughts raced a few weeks back in time and her stomach churned as she remembered the scene in the foyer between herself, Hank and Bobby. After they had both revealed their romantic feels for her, she had been shocked and a little disoriented. But after the initial awkwardness and Cecilia's declaration that she wouldn't pursue a relationship with either of them, she had hoped things would go back to normal. And for the most part they had. But Hank's words were making her wonder. "Oh, is it?"
His face suddenly growing more serious, Hank said, "Yes it is. Very much so. I can't imagine my life here without you, now."
The muscles in her neck tensed up again and she squirmed in her chair as she stammered, "Um... I.. I think I need to be going. It's late. I'm pretty exhausted."
Taking her hint, he removed his hands from her shoulders as he said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
Cecilia stood up quickly, folding her arms over her chest as she said tiredly, "What? You didn't mean to bring up what I thought we said we wouldn't talk about again? Or you didn't mean that the only reason you want me around here at all is because you have romantic feelings for me. Which one was it?"
He stood speechless as she folded her arms and continued, "I'm sorry, Hank. I know there's much more to our relationship than that. It's just after what happened between me and you and Bobby... I... I'm starting to feel certain pressures I've never felt before. I hate to come off sounding selfish. But this is about my place here. Not about how you or anyone else feels about me. I don't want to spend my life being some X-Men groupie. That's not me. Don't put that kind of pressure on me. You'll just drive me away."
They stood a moment in silence, both staring at the floor of the med-lab uncomfortably. Finally, Cecilia said quietly, "What I need right now is a friend."
His eyes still focused on the floor, Hank said, "And you've got one."
Looking at Hank, Cecilia asked, "Really?"
He returned her gaze as he smiled weakly and she knew that she could count on his support from that moment on. "Truly."
"Thank you," she said sincerely as she walked from the room, the door swishing shut behind her.
Once she was safely out of the hall and onto a turbo-lift to the upper levels of the mansion, she finally let her guard down and tears came to her eyes as she said to herself, "Why can't everything just be simple for once? Why does it have to be so complicated?"
Wiping her cheek dry with her hand, she added, "And why am I letting it get to me?"
As the elevator slowed to a stop, its futuristic casing now surrounded by the neoclassical decor of the upper levels, Cecilia composed herself and answered her own questions, "Because you're just human, Cece. Get over yourself."
'Just human, Cece?' She thought to herself. How much easier her life would be if that were the case. She could forget all about X-factors and genetic mutations... the hatred, the fear and the baggage that came along with it. But she knew even if there weren't mutants in the world people would go on hating, go on seeking to destroy what was different than them. No. It would never be easy. And it was time she stopped fooling herself.
With a sigh, she stepped out of the lift and into the elaborate foyer of the mansion, deciding what she really needed at the moment was a large bowl of popcorn and some well-earned mindless moments alone with the television. So she headed for the kitchen, glad everyone was tired out from their recent mission and already asleep.
She walked through the quiet house and into the kitchen, flicking on the light as she entered. She scoured the pantry for snacks, finally finding a package of microwave popcorn. Now she only hoped that Bobby had picked up the microwave he promised earlier in the week. As she walked out of the large pantry, she saw that he had been good on his promise and placed the package in the microwave as she thanked the stars for modern technology.
As the popping of the corn slowed and she retrieved the bag from the microwave, she heard someone behind her. So she said automatically, assuming no one else was awake save she and Hank, "Apology accepted, McCoy."
Then she heard a soft chuckling behind her that she knew wasn't his. She turned around to face Maggott who was leaning against the counter smiling broadly, his two girls draped casually over his thin shoulders. "What did the oke do this time? Ag, wait. Don't tell me. Let me use my imagination."
She rolled her eyes as she shuffled past him and got a bowl from the cabinet and said, "You just keep your dirty mind to yourself. I'm not playing your games."
The young man propped his elbows on the counter and Eenie and Meanie slithered down his back onto the floor as he pouted, "Come on, doll. You're such a hang to play with."
Cecilia's face went deadpan as she retorted, "No. Give it up."
Maggott groaned and dropped his head on the counter, admitting defeat as his girls orbited his feet almost playfully. Smiling and popping a piece of popcorn into her mouth, Cecilia poured her snack happily into a stainless steel bowl. At least she had mastered the art of bullying Maggott. It was definitely a skill that was in her favor. She found now that if she could get past his sarcastic and chauvinistic veneer, the person underneath was very sincere, caring and rather nice to be around.
After a few moments, Maggott raised his head to look at Cecilia and she said to him as she headed to the refrigerator for a soda, "So what is it? What's bothering you?"
Raising an eyebrow, Maggott asked, "How did you know that something was bothering me, hey?"
Shaking her head and pouring her soda into a glass, Cecilia stated, "Well it's not exactly a secret that you don't eat. And your girls haven't tried to munch on my leg... so I'm assuming they aren't hungry either. So what's up?"
He pulled a stool away from the breakfast bar adjacent to the counter and sat down as he started, "They're leaving again tomorrow. Wolverine threw them with a lead today and they're heading back out in the morning."
The X-Men were currently executing a search and recovery mission through many of Bastion's well-hidden research facilities. Cecilia didn't know much except that their main goal was to recover or destroy as much data as they could that had been stolen by Bastion during his occupation of the Xavier School. Second on the agenda, though of no less urgency, was the recovery of Professor Xavier himself. So far, the missions had met with little success though the X-Men had been able to destroy quite a bit of Operation Zero Tolerance's property, actions which while cursory to their tasks and quite unlawful proved to be very therapeutic for the team. At least they felt like they were accomplishing something. Morale was definitely on the upswing.
Cecilia took a sip from her soda before she said, "Yeah. I know. They just came back to lick their wounds and regroup. So what's the problem? Can't stand another day all alone with me while everyone else gets to have all the fun?"
Maggott shook his head and his lock of white hair fell into his eyes. As he tucked it quickly behind his right ear, he said, "That's not it, hey. Tomorrow I'm going with them."
Placing her glass on the counter, Cecilia said quietly, "Oh."
Maggott then smiled as he said, "Ag, I finally get invited to be a team member and all the doll can say is 'oh'? Struesbob, I am so loved."
Punching him playfully on the arm, she said, "No. Congratulations, really. I was just thinking about how much I can get done now that you won't be pestering me all day telling me how bored you are when they are away."
"You know it wasn't like that, doll. I was busting my guava in the Danger Room while you were up here gulping your espressos and reading your medical journals. I worked really hard for this, hey."
"So then what's the problem?"
He smirked timidly and paused before he confessed, "I'm bladdy nervous is what."
Cecilia threw the popcorn she had just picked up back into the bowl as she exclaimed, "Get out! The mighty Maggott? With battle nerves?! Will wonders never cease?"
His eyes grew wide as he whispered anxiously, "Jislaaik! Tone it down. Ag, the whole blooming house mighta heard you!"
She smirked and said mischievously, "Oh, I don't know. Maybe I should wake the whole house and tell everyone individually."
For a brief moment, Maggott's face was awash with terror. Then he realized that she was being sarcastic. Fear then faded into amusement as he said, "Wolverine alone would probably donner your guava all shades of blue."
"Probably. Force-field or not."
Their laughter subsided and Cecilia continued, "But seriously, though. Why are you nervous? You afraid of getting injured or worse?"
He took some time to think before he answered, "But only... that's not it. I think I'm afraid of letting them down."
After munching casually on a few pieces of popcorn, Cecilia said, "Yeah. It is quite a bit to live up to. Especially all this stuff about the Dream and everything. It's got to be daunting fighting for something so huge and so remote."
Swiping a handful of kernels and tossing them down to the girls, Maggott said, "Isit? I think it all boils down to helping people. Making the world a better place to live, hey. You can relate to that, can't you?"
"Helping people? Yeah. I used to do that every day until Bastion and his creeps took that life away from me. And by the way things are looking, hell will freeze over before I land another residency."
He looked seriously at her, furrowing his brow and pausing for a few moments to draw attention to what he said, "You can do that again, struesbob. With some training you could be out there with the rest of us..."
Shaking her head, she interrupted him, "Stop it. Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?"
He folded his arms defiantly over his chest and said, "It's the world that's crazy, Cecilia. Ag, we're just trying to make it a little fairer for the underdogs."
Cecilia sighed heavily and said, "Maggott. You'll do fine. You've got the heart for it. Me. I'm not cut out for it."
He smiled as he studied her intently, saying, "I don't know... you've got some fire yourself. Ag, you'd make a great hero. Plus you'd be a real lekker in spandex."
Rolling her eyes, Cecilia said, "Don't go there... you'll just get hurt."
She watched Maggott grin wickedly and then interjected, "No wait. You'd just enjoy it. I really cannot win with you."
"Jawelnofine. Score one more for Maggott."
Cecilia shook her head at him as he danced briefly in victory around the kitchen. "Okay. Well. I'm going to go watch Conan O'Brian. Either you can come and join me... or go to sleep."
Maggott turned up his nose and said, "I don't see how you can watch that show, doll. That man is so..."
"Face it. You have no taste."
"Sure. That's it."
"Off to bed with you. You'll do great tomorrow. I have faith."
As Cecilia picked up her bowl and prepared to leave the kitchen, Maggott hopped off his stool and walked toward the door, Eenie and Meanie slithering close behind. "Thanks, Cece. That means a lot, hey."
They walked out toward the foyer together and Cecilia shrugged as she said, "No prob. Glad I could help."
As she headed for the rec room, she heard Maggott say from halfway up the stairs, "I still say you'd be bladdy hot in spandex."
And no doubt, if she wasn't so tired and hungry, he would have had a face full of popcorn.
Continued in Part 2.