What Am I Doing? (Part 2 of 4)
Location: Wizard Island Facility, Caffateria
Timeline: March 27th, 2010
Abby went to the fridge and pulled out the container of sushi Alex had left for her, pulled a pair of chopsticks from the jar next to the fridge and went to find a quiet corner to eat in. She found a spot behind one of the chairs where she could lean against the wall and feel the weight of water behind her, pressing into the stone. The feel of that pressure, knowing it was there, was somehow reassuring to her. Though she'd been avoiding the water she still saw the sea, or any deep water for that matter, as a sanctuary. It had saved her from Nexus, kept her from their clutches and eventually brought her here.
Meanwhile, a familiar figure entered barefoot, wearing a sleeveless black t-shirt printed with Jack the Pumpkin King and Sally, from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack held Sally from behind, stitching a heart-shaped hole in her chest with the end of the thread tucked into his chest. The caption read, “Your soulmate is the person who mends your broken heart, by simply giving you, theirs.(1)” The shirt looked lovingly aged and fit snuggly on his frame, as if purchased in youth and filled out over the years.
He wore black cargo pants with many straps and pockets slung low on his hips. Long, flowing black hair still looked damp and creamy pale skin glowed with a blush of health after a thorough scrubbing in the shower. He seemed skinny in his clothes most of the time. It came as a surprise then when he revealed broad shoulders and muscles worthy of an Olympic gymnast. He also struck the eye as much taller than he looked in his music videos. He easily surpassed six feet in height, closer to the half-foot mark. Most striking of all, he wore no makeup. It took a moment to recognize him as the rock star, Kestrel without his trademarked black eyeliner. While undoubtedly handsome with tapered features and fine cheekbones, he conveyed an unassuming air as he made his way to the fridge.
Violet eyes poured over what was available. Bryan ate a heavy, muscle-building breakfast before his morning workout but the nuclear furnace that passed for his gut growled for more fuel to rebuild his damaged and atrophied body. Expelling the fusion reaction back in Atlanta left him in a coma and after waking, he felt uncharacteristically weak. He stuck his head in the fridge and came out with a junk food lover’s cornucopia: a slice of pizza, a chilli dog, and an ice-cold cola. He popped the food in the mini-oven and leaned back against the counter when he noticed his pretty nurse, Abby seated on a pillow on the floor, behind a chair with her back against the wall. His earlier conversation with Jax came to mind. He had promised to talk with Abby and here she sat, though in a peculiar place.
A dry smile spread across his lips. “You might find hiding in one of the laundry dryers is darker and more private than hiding back there.”
It took Abby a second to realize he was talking to her, she didn't see herself as hiding. She blinked twice, once with each set of eyelids as she tried to think of how to explain, "I'm not hiding, at least not intentionally, this is just the best place to feel the water." She looked up over her shoulder and put her hand on the smooth wall that looked like it should have wood and insulation behind it rather than the massive pressure of the volcanic lake.
Violet eyes flicked to the wall and senses born of curiosity swept through solid stone. Bryan scanned the substance of the wall down to its molecules as easy as he breathed but a twinge of sharp pain in his head warned him that his mutant body was still raw and tender after its ordeal. He drew back with a wince and pinched his brow, "I'll take your word for it."
He gestured toward the wall and smiled, "How do you know what's back there? What do you sense?"
"I can feel the pressure," Abby said closing her eyes and breathing in a deep breath through half parted lips, "Winter could control water, I just..." She opened her eyes and shrugged, "feel it. The deeper underwater you go the heavier it is. With this much rock and stuff I can just feel the potential of it, right on the other side. And I find deep water is comforting."
She motioned to the sushi she'd barely touched, "You're welcome to join me. This is just the thinnest point of the wall, or at least I think it is, the water feels closer here."
The mini-oven dinged on cue. Bryan procured his meal and sat crosslegged against the wall next to Abby. He downed half a slice of pizza in one bite, proving without a doubt that he still had the appetite of a teenage boy.
He took a swig of cola and swallowed loudly. "In my old life, heh" he corrected awkwardly, "one of them. Anyway, I had a teammate who was aquatic like you. He suddenly craved seafood, felt the call of the sea, everything like you said just now. He was the only son of wealthy and super-reclusive parents that ruled their own island country. He was royalty like Prince Charles. Real 'high profile' so you can imagine how he felt when his hair turned color from blond to green and blue and his body changed." He turned violet eyes to Abby. "I had hemophilia for the first 16 years of my life and suddenly I exploded when I sneezed."
"I've always liked seafood. And the royal family that raised me consisted of two kings..." Abby furrowed her brow playfully, "which considering their genitailia I suppose is better than two queens. Then again I guess I am technically royalty but my grandfather's people would never accept me because I can breathe air," she shrugged and tried for a smile realizing she'd been rambling. "So one of your lives? Timo's file just said 'multiple incarnations,' but Jax mentioned that you actually lived your life over a couple times and lived through a couple world shifts?" she asked, popping a sashimi roll into her mouth.
“You have two dads, no shit?” The Fae prince smiled. “No wonder you’re so cool around us.” He put some thought to her question and nodded. “This is the fourth incarnation of Earth I’ve seen since I awakened. My life changed each time the universe reset.” He paused to consider how to explain. “It’s like, my family wore the same faces but they led different lives from what I remembered. They were my family but they were strangers. In one life my parents gave me a younger sister and brother. I was originally an only child. I remembered them as if we grew up together. I also remembered my old life where they never existed.” He stared into the distance. “It was like seeing ghosts.”
"Creepy," Abby said honestly, shaking her head, "I live a weird enough life. I don't know if I could handle reliving it four times." She thought for a second then cocked her head to one side, "Which life made you the happiest?"
What was meant to be an easy answer hung in the throat. Bryan’s mouth fell open but no sound came out. “I never gave it much thought. I don’t look back.” he confessed. “I want to say Third Earth. My family was happiest there. The Fae were part of the mortal world. I lived openly as a mutant. Hell, I was fucking rich using my powers to help scientists and governments. This life though, I’m finally getting to live my dream. In every life before, I gave up music to save the world and there is nothing like Jax. I’m never giving him up.” He turned his head with thoughtful regard to Abby. “I can’t drag all of you back to Third Earth so I guess I’m gonna have to drag it here.”
"What about your family as it exists in this world? Are they happy?" Abby cocked her head to one side and scrunched up her nose, "Or does that even make sense?"
“My original family is still around but not on Earth.” Bryan leaned his head back against the wall. “I was born to a mortal runaway in this life. She gave a false name and died in childbirth. She never gave the name of my father and no family came forward to claim her body. I grew up in foster care until I got old enough to run away. The state eventually put me in a facility. I lived there until I turned 15 and awakened. Everyone thought I died in the explosion so I skipped town and lived on the streets until I hit it big with Kestrel.”
"I have a feeling talking to you is going to be more complicated than it would be for most celebrities," Abby said, eating another sushi roll she'd turned on its side and dipped in soy sauce while she spoke.
“How about we talk about you and Jax, then?” Bryan’s lips curled with a knowing smile.
That made Abby smile fall, her playful tone gone, "Is that really why you came over here?" She wondered if this was the dreaded 'stay away from my man' conversation. At work she had learned to keep her face neutral, how to not react when something shocked or upset her, to keep a pleasantly helpful demeanor no matter how dire the news. But she hadn't been in work mode, she'd sunk into the feeling of the water behind her and relaxed far more than was her usual of late.
"Nah, I don't beat around bushes." Bryan sipped his drink. "Jax knows you pretty well but I don't. I thought to find out what the fuss was about."
"What fuss?" Abby asked cautiously, still not at all sure what he was after.
“Jax is into you. He’s deeply into you. Not as deeply into you as he’d like but we’ll get to that.” Bryan bit off half of his remaining slice of pizza with predatory relish and took his time chewing. At last he washed it down and burped. “He’s worried and I’m confused. I saw you here and thought to check on you.”
Abby's cheeks darkened in a subtle blush as she looked down at her plate, "Check on me about what?"
The young faelord gave her a studious look. “Jax is a big flirt and we’re worried he might be pushing too hard. You’ve been through a lot. Last thing we want is for you to feel uncomfortable.”
Abby ran her fingers through her hair, a gesture surprisingly similar to Jax, though her loose springy curls bounced right back to the way they were rather than sticking out in all directions. "Not uncomfortable exactly," she said, setting her food aside and pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them, "I really like Jax. But he's with you, and I'm..." she shrugged, not sure how to make it make sense.
"Laboring under false assumptions." Bryan finished with a warm, knowing smile. "You're right that Jax is with me but he's bisexual. He has an itch I can't scratch but you can. He's looking for no-strings fun but he considers you a good friend. He has never hit on a friend before and so poor baby is worked up about hurting his friendship with you. I'm here to clear things up and give you and Jax permission to play." His eyes glittered with mischief. "That is, if you're interested."
Abby thought about her answer for a full minute before she spoke, "I am interested. More than. There's a chemistry there that I can't deny. But I tried something like that with Ethan and ended up falling hard. He broke something in me and I don't know if it can ever be fixed."
“Ethan is…?” Bryan wondered.
Abby looked up at him from where her chin rested on her knees, "My scum ex that turned me and my friends in and sent Nexus to our door. He freaked when I awakened. I mean I kinda get why he doesn't like... people like us," the way she said it said she understood that the people here were more than just mutants. "It's a long story," she looked down at her hands, "I haven't really talked about it with anyone here, not really."
“Maybe it’s time to start,” Bryan commented. He took another sip from his bottle and then asked before starting work on his chilli dog. “So, you’re afraid history is gonna repeat itself with Jax. Even though, he knows who and what you are.”
"No," Abby said frowning, "I know Jax isn't going to toss me under the Nexus bus. But... caring about someone again... he's a friend, and I know if we cross that line it's going to mean more to me. And since I know that's not what he, or you is looking for, or even me... But you're right, I haven't really talked about it, and it really is time. So I guess we start with the fact that Ethan's deaf, we connected instantly because I was the first 'hearie' that could keep up and sign almost perfectly." She laughed a sad little choke in her voice, "He said I was the first hearing person he'd ever met who could consistently express emotion through their signs. Anyway," she stopped suddenly then and cocked her head to one side, narrowing her eyes, "You sure you want the whole sad story?"
“I’m still here, ain’t I?” A smile warmed his lips. “You sure you wanna talk here, though? It ain’t the most private place.” He gestured to their surroundings to make a point.
Abby shrugged, "From what Timo tells me everything is recorded anyway. And wouldn't you and I sneaking off somewhere private send some serious mixed messages about your gay superstar rep?"
A lazy laugh met her in response. “You don’t know me very well. Come on, let’s take a walk.” He downed the rest of his drink, hopped to his feet, and offered Abby a hand.
Abby considered it for a second before finally reaching up and letting Bryan pull her to her feet. "So where are you taking me then?" she asked, raising one brow.
“Down the rabbit hole, Alice,” The Faelord flashed a grin just this side of wicked. He started walking, still holding Abby’s hand. As they did so the world around them grew hazy and indistinct. Shadows deepened and lights faded as if in a deep fog. Their steps echoed sharply and seemed to bounce off of many walls. Bryan’s eyes began to glow with an unnatural lavender flame. A flame that lit his features from within like a creature of dream. When next he spoke his voice sounded clear, close, private as if they huddled like children inside a closet.
“How far down the hole dare you go?”
"I've come this far haven't I?" Abby said softly, but with confidence.
They walked hand in hand through through the complex, rising from floor to floor until they stepped outside into a small cave. The chill air of winter steamed visibly against the edge of Bryan’s power. Their senses sharpened before the beauty that stretched before them.
They looked out across the still water of Crater Lake. Rays of moonlight pierced overcast clouds and shone against the water like a silvery mirror. In the far distance the silhouette of a great northern forest stretched as far as the eye could see. Bryan drew a coat as if from the shadow of his body and gave it over.
“Here,” he offered. “I can keep us warm but any more and it’ll get uncomfortable for you.”
"Thanks," Abby said, accepting the long leather coat and pulling it on. The leather was soft and supple, lined in a soft lavender fur she couldn't identify. On Bryan it would have been perfectly fitted on her it was comfortably loose, and very necessary, she'd been wearing only yoga pants and a snug jogging tank with tennis shoes.
She moved to the mouth of the cave where there was a small loveseat sat facing out over the water. Through his nano Bryan could see that the mouth of this cave was protected from sight and weather, though not the cold. Abby curled herself into the corner of the couch, wrapping his coat around her. The coat smelled of good quality leather, but under that was the scent of Bryan and Jax. It wasn't one or the other of them, but the combined scent that had lingered in the hospital room while Jax sat vigil at Bryan's bedside. It was each of them and something more and she honestly loved it.
"So I skipped a big part of the story that kinda accelerated my relationship with Ethan," she started, having thought about it as they went, "I never fit in as a child, I was pigeon holed into a no man's land where even the misfits and outcasts kept their distance. I was too white for the black kids, too black for the white kids, my family had too much money for me to hang with the poor kids, but not enough to hang with the rich. I had 2 dads which in and of itself made a lot of people uncomfortable. I was either not enough or too much of something for everyone."
"I got really used to being alone, but it was okay, I wasn't unhappy. That being said when I met Winter and Jared, it was the first time that no one had any expectations from our friendship. So then when her grandparents kidnapped her and tried to get her to marry some guy so they could get a better heir, I had to do something. There's a long story behind it, but I basically found out that they had a long standing rivalry with their neighbors and used that to get her back.
"Ethan was their son and when we met and there was instant chemistry, but I'll admit I went a lot farther a lot faster than I normally would have. I knew sleeping with their son would help ensure the Winchester's support in getting Winter back. I didn't really count on falling for him, but after we got her out and we all flew back to the states we spent almost every minute together. We talked about everything... including why he hates mutants. When he was 13 his best friend awakened and suddenly he could hear. He beat the crap out of Ethan, nearly killed him. So when I awakened even though I saved his life, he just shut down, refused to speak to anyone at all then the next day Nexus showed up and arrested us after they got an 'anonymous tip'."
Abby’s voice carried depth of feeling she did not seem to notice. Oh, but the Fae Prince noticed -- and he listened. Bryan stepped gently around to the front of the seat while Abby talked and sat quietly, not wanting to disturb her. He no longer possessed his power to look into the hearts and dreams of others so Bryan depended on his mortal senses. He treasured sound most for it carried secrets one might hear if only he listened. He heard the ache of loneliness, the sadness of rejection, the resignation that Abby could do nothing about it and the resolve to make the most of her life. In the short time she spoke Bryan came to understand what mystery about her so enchanted Jax. She enchanted him too. If his blood grew hot for the touch of women he might have already fallen under Abby’s simple, unassuming spell. As things stood he sensed a kindred soul.
“Ethan’s fear and pain overwhelmed him,” The young Faelord observed as the reflection from the lake shone in his eyes. “It doesn’t make him any less of an ass but I can understand what happened and why. That makes it harder to hate him.” He breathed a heavy sigh. “The curse of kids that grow up between worlds is that we understand. We see what others can’t or won’t. We can relate and that makes it harder to feel bitter or angry. We just end up feeling sad. Sadness sucks.”
"Sadness I am used to," Abby said glumly, "it's the pain that feels like it's going to burn it's way out of my chest. Every time I move and feel the aches from what they did, every time I change and see the scars that are still healing," her voice grew soft and she looked away from Bryan unable to meet his eyes, "and every time I kiss Jax."
“You can kiss him, you know.” Bryan’s lips curled into a little smile.
Abby leaned her cheek on the arms she'd crossed over her knees, her expression was soft as though she didn't really know how to feel, "But I shouldn't."
The young prince arched an inquisitive eyebrow, “Why not?”
"Because I like him," a tiny smile flitted across her face and was gone, "and now you. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, like I have friends." By the time she finished her voice was a whisper.
“So, act like it,” Bryan teased. “Your friends want to have some down and dirty fun. We’re not looking for love. We’re not gonna bite unless you ask very, very nicely. Try it once. If you don’t like it then stop.”
"And what if I do like it?" Abby asked, still looking at him sideways, "Ethan was the first time I tried for casual sex and I fell hard."
“You might fall off a cliff and die. Do you stop walking?” The dark prince gave Abby a look of level seriousness. “Nobody is forcing you into anything. If you don’t want this then you might better tell Jax and stop sending him mixed signals. It’s driving him crazy. It ain’t fair to him or to me.” He climbed to his feet and once more offered his hand to Abby. “Come by the room when you’re off-shift. We might do movies. Jax might fuck you through the floor. It’s up to you.”
Abby shook her head, smiling and even managing a small laugh as she took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. Her tone turned playfully suspicious, "You know, you make this all seem way too simple."
“I get more souls that way.” Bryan sighed wistfully.
(1) Shirt: https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/t1/547272_158726887668300_415062403_n.jpg