Title: Higher Learning
Author: Katt Solano
Characters: Scott, Remy, Marie (in that order)
Category: humour, slight pathos (to borrow Min's term)
Archive: whoever else has the other Prodigals stories (LeBeau Library, Down-Home Charm, Heart of a Hero... I think that covers it) Anyone else, please ask.
Summary: There is a class in Xavier's School for Gifter Youngsters that is without an instructor. It is a very special class ... and a very special instructor. Bring your own dishrag.
Disclaimer: X-Men don't belong to me no matter how hard I wish and how many stars I manage to shoot down. They belong to Marvel. The universe that they inhabit at this moment don't be long to me no matter how hard I wish and how many stars I manage to shoot down. They belong to Bryan Singer.
Further Hoopla: Oodles of thanks to Joe for reading it over in the proper accents and laughing in the proper places. Feedback, as you all know, is craved; lots of feedback results in spontaneous applause and a spont on a super-duper, nifty keen-o ultra-kewl and lovely pedestal.
"You want Remy to teach what?"
It was only because I knew to the last cent how much it cost to get an authentic Persian carpet cleaned that I managed to keep from spewing a mouthful of the tea all over the floor. The professor's tea was left over from his Oxford days; strong and dark enough to cut through an oil spill.
In general, Charles Xavier has a very dry sense of humour. That could have been the main reason I trusted him the first time he bailed me out of the streets. But his jokes can be so wry I can't tell at times when he's joking.
"Teach sex education," repeated my mentor in his completely serious British accent.
I think that Americans have this knee jerk reaction to British accents -- we instantly assume that whatever the speaker is saying is true. Look at all the scientific or historical documentary shows on TV. The narrators almost always have British accents. The Professor could face a national audience in one of his sharp suits and that seriously earnest face of his and tell them that the sky was falling and I can guarantee some hundred million citizens would start making underground shelters. Maybe that was why his accent got thicker whenever he was trying to be persuasive.
"He is almost of an age with most of our older students," Charles continued. "Not only will the children feel more at ease with him, they might take his advice more seriously. It will not seem so much like preaching as it does advice from a trusted friend."
I started to shake my head. "I'm sorry, Professor, but Remy ... for God's sake he's a walking advertisement for promiscuity!" I all but yelled out. "Having him teach sex ed is like having Logan teach methods of preventing physical violence!"
A smile flickered on Charles' lips. My spirits rose. Maybe he was just kidding after all. "All the same, it's a sound idea." Over my groan of disbelief, he added, "Just run the idea by him. I have a feeling he won't be opposed to it."
I came out of Charles' office feeling a bit like I'd just left an episode of Saved By the Bell done à la Twilight Zone. That hadn't happened since I first met Hank McCoy. My feet moved automatically, leading me to the kitchen where I'd left Jean. We were supposed to meet there for brunch before Charles called me in for that little bomb. I'd decided as soon as I realised where I was headed that I would test run the idea with her.
"He wants Remy to teach what?"
Pleased to have my incredulity seconded, a few seconds flipped by before I grabbed a dishrag to clean up the juice that Jean had spewed all over the kitchen counter. Her sandwich was mutilated due to the fact that when she spewed said apple juice, her hand convulsively squeezed the BLT on rye. When I finally did finish cleaning up the mess, I turned to find the love of my life staring up at the ceiling.
"Uh, Jean, what are you doing?"
"I'm counting back the days to make sure it's not Winter Prank Week."
I let out a chuckle. "That was pretty much my reaction, too." I aimed, made the shot and took two points for getting the soiled rag into the sink. "So, what do you think? Really. Don't be shy."
Leaning forward to brace her elbows against the marble (no Formica for the Xavier mansion), Jean rested her head on her hands and tapped her fingers against her chin. "It's actually quite sound."
I threw my hands up in the air. "It must be some weird telepathically induced form of insanity."
"No, really, Scott, look at it this way." She took one of my hands in hers and started to stroke the fleshy part between the second and third fingers. "Can you imagine anyone else teaching it?"
It took several tries for sound to come out of my mouth. "Well, you're a medical doctor. You've got to have some sort of ... training in this type of ... thing."
Her smile got bigger. "Well, I do but the kids would never really feel comfortable talking to me."
"Oh, come on, Jean--" I started to argue but she held up her hand to end my complaint.
"Not only," she said, "am I at least fifteen years older than the oldest of the kids but I'm also your fiancée. I'm the housemother by default. Not that I resent it," she hurried to correct, "but you must agree we have certain roles that we have to play for the sake of the kids as well as ourselves."
"But, Jean..." I hoped I wasn't starting to sound whiny. "How about Ororo?"
Now she laughed at me outright. "Darling, I don't know if you've noticed but for all that 'Ro dresses like a super model, she's as prudish as the Professor when it comes to talking about sexuality. Next candidate?"
"Hank?" We both knew I was pulling at straws so she didn't even bother to shake her head.
Still, I had to have one last go. "Moira?"
Letting out another chuckle, Jean dropped her gaze down to the counter top. She lifted my hand close to her lips but didn't quite kiss it. "You're so opposed to having Remy teach sex ed that you're proposing pulling Moira out of Scotland where she's needed in her own school? I thought you liked Remy!"
"I do!" I protested. "I just don't like the idea of him teaching sex ed! I mean ... shit, Remy teaching sex ed? When most of my students are halfway in love with him? All that's going to happen is that they'll take his advice as ways to get in a ... doing a..." my mind vainly searched for a euphemism that wouldn't scar me too permanently -- "hop into the horizontal polka with him. And don't even get me started on Remy's attitude on sex. Did you know--"
"While we're at it," she said, "why won't you teach it?"
That stopped me stupid. A slow flush went from my neck and up until it burned my entire face. "I'm too busy," I managed to blurt out, "I've got two senior classes and two junior ones, the school's administration to worry about, not to mention heading the covert missions and--"
"Scott, you're getting hysterical!"
"So are you," I countered glumly. And she was. Although in her case, she was going absolutely nuts with laughter. If it weren't for the fact that I was holding her hands, she'd be rolling all over the floor.
When Jean finally settled down -- and, man, that took some time considering she kept bursting into giggles every few seconds -- she started speaking in to me in a tone similar to the one she had with her patients.
"Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves anyway. Who says he'll accept the position?" She snorted. "Horizontal polka?"
"Xavier wants me to teach what?"
It was a good thing Scott had a box of tissues handy 'cause I just went and spewed water all over his office floor. I hoped that kind of carpet didn't cost too much to get cleaned.
"He -- we all thought that you were the best qualified to teach the children sexual education," he said without crackin' a smile.
"You also all decided to get up in fetish clothes an' fight de whole world; don' mean it's a good idea." I'd refused to sit down when I first came in but now, my knees just went and demanded that I drop straight onto the chair behind me. I swept back the bangs that fell in my eyes as I did so. "Now, come on, is t'day de traditional prank day an' no one decided t'go an' tell me?"
I thought I heard him mumble, "I wish," but in a louder voice, he said, "This is for real, Remy. Everyone in the mansion has a duty. For the students, it's to learn to control their mutant power; for us adults, it's to help them train and provide a surrogate family for those--"
"Yeah, yeah, mon ami," I waved away the words, "I read de brochure when I first signed up for a room. You gotta admit, I kinda expected to be de car washer or pool cleaner or somethin' o' de sort. Sex ed--" my face twisted into a grimace, "-- for a bunch of teeny-boppers seems to Remy like much too much of a high price, neh?"
An interesting expression came over Scott's face, an expression that I liked to believe God made up for Scott for times like these when he was talking to me. It was made all the more precious when he wore his glasses 'cause I could get every itty-bitty detail. The outer ends of his eyebrows fell just the smallest bit, his nostrils flared, his glasses went brighter, a vein in his right temple beat out a Dixie tune and his lower jaw dropped the smallest bit as he took in a deep -- dare I even hope? -- ragged breath.
Scott straightened in his chair and started on his spiel. "Look, Remy, I wasn't for this either when the professor first proposed it but after seriously thinking it over, I've begun to see his point."
"Y'mean you started t'fall into de delusion?"
He ignored my comment. He does that a lot. "The kids consider you one of them but with a lot more respect. For most of them, especially the runaways, their experiences were your experiences not that long ago--"
"An' mebbe dis here Cajun prefer to keep it dat way, hein?" My hands was starting to bunch up the sheets. I had to force myself to let go in case I accidentally charged them up. "What you want me to tell dem dat hustlin' y'ass will give you scabies, de clap an' a few scars if y'lucky? Or mebbe you want dem t'learn de best way t' fleece a john wit'out getting' y'face carved up 'cause dat'll be y'best feature? Mais sho', Scotty boy! Remy be more dan glad t'--"
"I first got gonorrhoea when I was eight," Scott interrupted, "When I lived with my last foster parents, I hid my pills from them because I was scared they'd give me back when they found out I had an STD. The medical room downstairs has an entire closet full of penicillin, poison lotions, tetracycline, and ceftriazone, just to name a few, and in the ten years I've lived here, there've been at least that many teen pregnancies."
His voice lowered. "Most of these kids aren't giggling innocents whispering about 'doing it' during recess, Remy. We can't be the kind of school that we want to be if all we take care of is their physical well-being. It's easy enough to give them antibiotics to get rid of a rash. It's something else altogether to make the mansion feel like a home. Whether you like it or not, Remy," now he grinned, "you're their really cool older brother."
"Who's gonna talk to dem about sex," I added in deadpan.
"Who's going to talk to them about sex," he agreed a little too cheerfully. "They'll listen to you."
"Fantastic," I muttered.
Scott was already in fearless leader mode. He stood up to go through his filing cabinets, pulling out a half-dozen files as he went through. It didn't take too long; the man organized paper clips and pencils according to size. "In reality, all the hard work is in the lecture. We've got a basic year lesson plan and a few research materials leftover from when we used to do monthly talks."
He put the files into front of me. I never realized what nauseating colours file folders come in. Why do people make them that sickly lookin' yellow and green anyway? Sure couldn't be to get some sort of enthusiasm for the job. You know, p'raps the main reason people hate filing is 'cause of the colours they make the damn file folders.
"Here's a few things you can look over."
"Not a problem." I think p'raps he got my sarcasm and just ignored it again. "That should just get you started. If you look at the lesson plans, you'll see that we want full interaction -- things like question boxes, research projects, and group activities would be best for you since we want a really informal, round-table kind of atmosphere."
He rifled through a drawer in his desk and took out a flat rectangular box, the type that held either a bracelet and earring set or a couple of those overrated pens that those corporate types like giving their employees-of-the-month. Somehow, I didn't think he went shopping for diamonds in Tiffany's for my sake.
"The classes should be separated in age groups," he continued after placing the pen box on top of the files, "and then into guys and girls for the younger kids. You wouldn't have problems with teaching co-ed classes for our seniors, would you?"
I looked at him, up from where I was sittin' to where he was standin' with his hands in the pockets of his fine chinos, his dress shirt ironed into perfect creases down to where they're supposed to be tucked in, his damned hair combed in a prep school part and his shiny, white, all-American smile all but sparklin' and I realized that I was talkin' to a truly sick individual who got his kicks out of cruel and unusual torture.
"The swamp rat's teaching what?"
Root beer, when snorted up and spewed out of your nose, was really painful and really disgusting. Jubilee apparently thought the same thing. Her face was curled up into a purse-string look as she handed me a wad of facial tissues from her pocket. I coughed, wiped up my chin and took another drink just to settle my nerves.
"It doesn't sound like a prank that Bobby would make. Are you sure you heard that right?" I asked her.
"Of course," said Jubilee, "I got it from Dani after she talked to Allerdyce and Proudstar who heard it from Sam when he was listening in on Wanda in English class saying that she made Pietro rat about what he heard when he was running by the teachers' lounge last Thursday after third period where Miz Munroe and Dr. McCoy were talking about what the Professor and Mr. Summers could've had a meeting about the day before. So it's gotta be true."
The Mutant High grapevine. Faster than any Internet connection yet invented. And just as foolproof.
It was just what I needed after getting technical D's in my last three trig quizzes and a "suggestion" to rewrite my history paper. Visions of having to sit through an entire hour with that skank talking about sex made me want to vomit. He'd probably start recounting the notches on his bedpost in Dolby digital imaging and surround sound.
"I guess he'd know a lot about it," I said, "Especially considering he's probably gotten every single VD at least once."
"Rogue!" Jubilee made her utterly-totally-grossed-out face again. "That was, like, totally what I didn't need to envision!"
"Imagine what I feel like!" I exclaimed. "I'm allergic to the jerk!"
"Mais sho' dat's a shame, p'tite."
We both jumped. Jubes squealed. I turned around, my face red as a rotten tomato. The devil himself was about as close to our personal space as he could get without getting slapped by a statutory rape suit, grinning down at me pleased as punch.
"Hope it ain't too serious," he said.
I smiled back at him. "I'm afraid it's fatal. I might have to drop the class altogether for the sake of my health."
He shook his head. "I'm sorry t'hear that, p'tite. Especially since the penalty for missin' this class is a twenty-minute presentation on a topic of my choosin'."
"Wha-at?!" I almost felt like throwing down my books. "We never had to do that before!"
He shrugged, shifting the neckline on his ratty hippie shirt wider. "New curriculum, new teacher, new rules, ma 'ti souri."
I sputtered for a few seconds. The whole idea behind the classes here, the professor told me, was to help us get a GED for when we left. The classes were pretty loosely structured and the teaching methods weren't exactly traditional. The professor said what he wanted to do was the breed a love of learning in us and to see that we were givin' it everything no matter what
"That ain't fair."
"Se vie la, cheri," he said with another one of his annoying shrugs. "Pa fou arretay sur fay ke t'pa se chanjay." [That's life, darling. Don't dwell on things that you can't change.]
"Mais on peut protester contre des injustices font par un tyrant incompetent," I shot back. [But one can protest against injustices done by an incompetent tyrant.]
"To pale franse komme en parfay p'tite american ignorant." [You speak French like a perfect little American ignorant.]
"Vous ne parlez pas français du tout." [You don't speak French at all.]*
"Whoa!" Jubes got in between us, holding out her hands in a "time out" signal. "Waaay too late for anything more complicated than English. Everyone just chill it, 'kay?"
Once again, the swamp rat did something completely cheesy. He took Jubilee's hand and bowed over it, saying "Your words, chere, are as good as an angel's. If you say it, it must be done."
Everyone seemed to have the same basic incredulity as me when we all walked into the classroom. Classroom was even pushing the definition of the word. One of the smaller reading rooms had been rearranged, the couches all pushed in a circle with a projector and a screen at opposite walls. The swamp rat went straight for the place in front of the window.
"Everyone gone and become shy all of a sudden?" he asked, one smarmy eyebrow going up. "Sit down an' we can get started on all of y'questions."
Bobby spoke up as soon as he flopped into his seat. "Is this for real, Remy, or are you still trying to outdo the prank I did last month?"
Solemnly, the swamp rat held a hand over his heart. "This class is a true as it gets, mon ami. Once a week, you ten are gon' come here and we gon' talk about t'ings you too shy t' talk about, t'ings you exaggerate about, an' t'ings you look up on de Internet at three in de mornin'. Eh, speakin' o' which..."
He turned around to root behind his seat. Jubilee nudged my arm and pointed at his rear. There was a big rip where a back pocket used to be, showing a patch of shiny black material. A couple of seats away from me, Kitty's eyes almost crossed and even Tabitha, who was due to deliver her kid by spring, was smiling in appreciation. Sometimes, I think I'm the only sane girl left in this building.
He came up with a decoupage box and placed it on the coffee table, tapping it smartly. "Mersi to y'all who put a question in de question box."
"This'll be great!" Allerdyce was saying, "we had something like this in my old school and we got to ask all sorts of things." He stopped and I thought he started to look a bit wary. "Y'know, people can get real, real sick."
"Damn," I said, "must've been downright kinky if you're getting' disturbed by it."
"Never underestimate the things that girls can come up with," he granted.
"In any case," the swamp rat, obviously starting to get an idea of how inadequate he was for the job, hurried to get the conversation back in order, "first thing on this here lesson plan says we gotta open up the floor for any questions you might have about de class." He looked up. "Any takers?"
I was surprised to see that Dani was the first to talk. She usually stayed quiet and absorbed stuff before speaking up. "Is this just another run down about condoms and AIDS?"
"It would've been if I was the type t'follow Summers' lesson plan exactly," replied Swampy. "but I t'ink we only need one or two classes 'bout wrappin' de bacon, hein? Especially after we go through the diseases section. The rest o' the stuff..." He shrugged -- dang, I hate that shrug! "I'll keep it a surprise."
The rest of the class was basically like that -- the usual icebreakers and things. Everyone moaned and groaned when it was time for icebreakers after the monthly break but for some bizarre reason, everyone was all getting into this one. Not that we really needed it considering we all knew each other for at least six months -- the exception being Tabbi who just came last month. But no, everyone was getting' real happy about playin' Dr. Quack Quack and promising to put in more questions for next class and soon, thank God almighty, it was all over.
God actually ain't that good.
"Hey, mud pie."
"I've got a tutorial!" I called back, not slowing my pace even though Jubes froze in her tracks.
"So I'll write you a hall pass," he said. A hand came down on my shoulder. I jumped around to face the swamp rat, glaring.
"Don' yuh know enough to keep yoah hands t' yoahself 'round me?" Dang! My accent always goes through the roof when I'm mad.
He was still grinning when he put both hands up in peace fashion. "Maybe I should start all o' my conversations with 'Sorry, Miz Rogue, ma'am' every time I come up to you. Always ends that way anyway." Then, completely over my head, he said to Jubilee, "Hey, chere, I talk to you later, hein? Same time, same place?"
"You got it, sweet cheeks!" Jubes winked and fluttered her fingers at him as she sashayed right on down the hall. Jeez! Why'd she have to wiggle her hips that much? She looked like she was trying out for a hula competition.
"Come on," Swampy said, "I talk with you in my office."
I let my scepticism show. "You got an office? What's it got in it, signed porn posters and subscriptions to Rednecks Quarterly?"
He stopped so abruptly, I smacked into his arm. When he turned around, his face looked ... well, it was the first time I ever seen him looking mad at me.
"Look, mud pie." He pointed one long, kinda grimy finger at my nose. "I don't like you any more than you like me but I promised Summers I'd do my best on dis here job an' I mean t'keep my promise to de boy, hein? Even if it means puttin' up with spoiled uppity Mississippi debutantes who throw temper tantrums just 'cause they can't be homecoming queen no more."
OOOOOOOOOOH! That ignorant, self-conceited--
"Listen up, yuh good-fer-nothin', smelly jerk! You got no right to talk t' me like that especially--" Oh, now I was getting' my blood boiling good! "--especially since yuh ain't better than a paedophilic mooch, relyin' on your not-so-great charms and doubtful good looks to breeze right on through life."
"Mais, I ain't de one usin' my powers t'get people pityin' me!"
"At least, Ah ain't usin' a man's good will tuh support mah bad habits!"
"You don' like my habits, mebbe you should talk a long walk off a short pier. An' I know just de pier, hein?"
"Oh, puh-lease, can yuh just get any hokier with that damn stupid accent?"
"Who has a stupid accent? An' an even stupider hair-do?"
"'Least Ah wash mah hair more than once a month."
"Which is a damn sight more dan you wash yo' mouth."
"Ah wouldn't talk, tar breath."
"Vampiric skunk!" He bared his teeth.
"Romance novel cover model!" I glared right on back with all the power than both mind-Logan and mind-Erik could give me.
He let out a sound that was -- mind-Logan put in -- a pretty damn good growl. His hands went up, fingers clawed in like he wanted to tear something to pieces.
"Summabitch!" he roared, jerking his hands from the vicinity of my neck to the air above his head. Now, he looked like he wanted to tear his hair out.
I was suddenly aware that we had an audience. And a more rapt audience I hadn't seen since the last episode of transvestite incestuous affairs on Jerry Springer. Remy must've sensed it too, 'cause next minute, he yanked my hand and pulled me up the staircase muttering something about Mr. Summers owing him big and replacing "Chromedome's" head wax with essence of poison ivy.
I let him drag me just so we could argue in his office -- wherever that was -- without an audience tape recording it and giving it to the professor. But after we passed the fourth floor where most of the dorms were still empty, I started to pull back.
"Where're you takin' me?"
"To de roof," he replied. "So I can freakin' well push you off."
"Like hell!" I started to struggle.
He smacked the top of my head. I was so shocked I froze.
"What was that for?" I demanded, using my free hand to rub the place where he'd hit me.
"Chere, if you knew how many times I've wanted to hit you --- That there is de only place I can spank you without getting' more hurt in de process."
By this time, we'd gotten to the fifth floor, the storage floor. There was a small door that led out into the roof and we were heading that way. For the first time, I thought maybe he was serious about throwing me out of the roof. I started to hold my place again.
"I don't know where you got your instruction manual but corporal punishment ain't in any curriculum."
Remy turned fully around to face me. "Chere, please, that was last period. I'm tired, you're tired an' everyone's probably just outside that there door with their ears pressed against it, waitin' for us to put on World War IX. You got papers t'finish, I got classes t'teach an' pretty soon, we ain't gonna have any more time for any o' this so let's just get on up to de roof where no one can here us killin' each other an' let dat serve for de rest of de month, hein?"
So that's how we ended up in the roof just under a gable where the fliers probably wouldn't catch sight of us.
"Welcome to my office."
I was on the verge of saying something smart but decided that the quicker he could say his piece, the quicker I could get away from him. "Nice view."
"I like t'think so. Seat?" He patted a spot right next to him. Since it was the closest to the door, I planted my rear down on it.
Instead of answering me right away, he took out cigarette and lit it, taking a couple of light drags before turning to me again.
"Read up on your power. All instructors got to," he added as soon as my mouth opened. "Should probably know on de record that you ain't gonna get an excuse for missin' de classes an' de assignments just 'cause of them."
"I wasn't gonna try to," I lied.
He ignored me. He does that sometimes. "One day, you gonna get a hold of your powers an' I guarantee you gonna need this class more dan anyone."
"And what is that supposed to mean, swamp rat?"
He looked away. "Just exactly what it sounds like, mudpie. You think I don't see those boys sniffin' 'round you all de time? All you gotta do is bat them big brown eyes of yours an' they all but trip on their own shoelaces to do your bidding."
This time, I looked away, too. "You don't understand. The professor said he can't ever cure me. I can't ever touch anyone because of this dang gift."
He snorted. "Oh, listen to yourself! I keep expectin' violins t'start up any second now."
"Look you at me." He held out his hands. "Got my powers when I was thirteen. For a whole year, I couldn't touch anythin' with my hands. Soon as I did, it blew up."
I took a closer look at those hands. They were real callused at the palms but with fingers that looked almost as smooth as a baby's. His nails were too short, bitten to the quick like mine.
"How'd you stop it?" I asked.
He shrugged. Have I mentioned how much I hate his shrugs? "I just ... did. Like pullin' a muscle in my brain. An' lemme tell you, there was a lotta stuff blowin' up in N'Awleans before I could figure out which muscle I was supposed to push. But that ain't the point, chere! Dieu! You tryin' t'change de subject!"
"I'm gonna be lookin' out for you, y'got it, p'tite?" He stood up, dusting his pants off. "Don't think I'm gonna be like the other teachers 'round here, pullin' their punches too keep your ego intact."
"I might not be teachin' anythin' you can test right here an' now but I guarantee they gonna be worth a lot more in de real than what Pansy-Ass Summers teaches, hein?"
"Mr. Summers doesn't--"
"So next class you'd best be listenin'."
"Yessir, Mr. Lebeau, sir!" I saluted without bothering to take the snarl off my face.
"Byen." He waved grandly. "You can go."
"Why. thank you, sir." I would have curtsied if I thought I wouldn't fall.
And to think, I had another twenty weeks of him like this. Sex Ed with Mr. Remy Lebeau. I might just have to take up smoking.
1) I've forgotten which comic book it was that said Rogue spoke French, but she does. I'm sure there are at least half a dozen fan-sites out there that'll give you the exact issue. Besides, "Marie" is a French name. Maybe it'll be her major.
2) Those who've had any great exposure to French may have realised that Remy "spoke" a different type of French than Rogue. I'm taking into account the fact that Remy grew up Cajun and would speak Cajun French whish has different intonations & spellings than traditional Parisian French. I would call it a dialect -- like the difference between Norman French, Parisien French, and Quebecois French. I've put it in 'cause (a) it was fun to research and (b) if I was going to accent Remy & Rogue's English, it wouldn't be fair not to accent their French. Rogue's French, BTW, is textbook Parisien.
3) Is Scott really that anal? Perhaps. On the other hand, some people might just call him organized.
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