Future Pluperfect: Chapter 14


Textual Poaching Alert: Marvel owns everyone, although Social Services would have stripped custody long ago...

At last, a chance at some peace and quiet... well, maybe not peace and quiet, but at least I won't be at the epicenter of whatever happens... Rogue mused to herself as she settled down for her shift with a giant insulated mug of ice-cold Dr. Pepper and a bag of dried fruit.

Monitor duty was normally a bore, even in times of crisis. Bobby and Hank had long ago installed a dedicated video game monitor - one that could not be seen by the video-phone camera used for official communications - and Rogue herself had helped Kitty and Illyana set up the satellite dish, but it was still a challenge to keep from dozing off.

But today, such tedium would be welcome. For today had been anything but normal. Right from the get-go.

It had started at breakfast. One of the few absolute certainties in the Xavier mansion, apart from the annual rebuilding, was that Rogue was down early for breakfast and that Remy was lucky to be seen before lunch. Even if Remy had a Danger Room appointment, he'd have his coffee in the prep room.

But that morning, Rogue had been tucking into her eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast ("Ah'm sure mah partial invulnerability covers blocked arteries, Betsy, and no, Ah don't wanna know what's in that sausage.") when Remy had stumbled into the kitchen.

To everyone else, he looked like death warmed over. But to Rogue, who had carried his broken body to the plane back in Lebanon the other week, he looked fine. Glowing, actually. Any condition that allowed him to walk around on his own two feet was an improvement. Not that she'd be admitting that to anyone. But to herself, when nobody could listen, she could breathe her sigh of relief.

She had nearly choked on that sigh when she realized that the only conceivable place for Remy to sit in the kitchen was right next to her. Even allowing for Gambit's predilection for sitting on countertops, there was nowhere else to go. Alex and Scott, engaged in a none-too-benign sibling rivalry over the crossword puzzle, had the Times spread out over Gambit's usual perch and were probably not inclined to move even had they noticed the press for space. Sam was sitting in front of the toaster with his Cheerios and Ororo was eating her fruit salad leaning against the refrigerator. Betsy, recently liberated from her bed-rest, was sitting next to Mirrin and across from Rogue. With Warren having just left for his office that left one empty chair that nobody else had taken.

Remy had looked around the too-crowded kitchen and muttered something about there being only one kind of socializing one should be doing at this hour of the morning and this wasn't it, but only Wolverine and Rogue seemed to have heard as the former chuckled and the latter blushed. Remy didn't blush, but he did look a little embarrassed when he realized right after the words had left his mouth that he would be sitting next to Rogue.

Rogue had suddenly gotten self-conscious about her food, although she didn't know why. Remy had never seemed bothered by her appetite, never made any crack about her ability to pack food away like a truck driver being unladylike or unattractive in any way. Nevertheless, she chose not to defend her plate against scavengers (today named Logan and Alex) who came swooping in for sausages and bacon, surprising both men.

Marveling at Rogue's newfound generosity, Alex (fresh from needling his brother about getting more of the clues in the puzzle, which had been entitled "Great Minds") had joked that he didn't have to feel envious of Wolverine's healing factor that morning because the fork marks in his hand from previous attempts had not yet healed. That had spawned yet another round of storytelling, something that seemed to happen with increasing frequency as the passage of time (and the current crisis) made the days of Australia and before seem almost halcyon.

Rogue, who normally didn't like such trips down memory lane, decided to get into the act, recalling a not-well-known incident involving Alex's attempts to sunbathe nude. Remy, quietly nursing his coffee and toast next to her, had only made a quiet (but meaningful) noise as Logan mused aloud about Rogue's uncanny ability to catch X-Men in states of undress.

Rogue had been saved from the frying pan and dropped into the fire when Bobby had come into the kitchen to tell her that Joseph was on the phone. That had been a conversation she had been meaning to avoid for a little while longer.

Joseph had been in Chile, evacuating a village that had been classified as a possible target of the Kurioon. He had traveled up and down the Pacific coast in the weeks since he had left the team and had stumbled across almost a dozen sites that looked as if they had been visited by Harvesters but had not been reported. Combine that with the ever-growing tally of known sites and the words 'global holocaust' were seeming more and more appropriate.

The conversation had been brief and it had been bitter. Joseph, obviously under stress from his task and from his recent experiences, had just as obviously been looking for a little more warmth and compassion than he got from Rogue. Rogue, for her part, had known that she was channeling her confusion and guilt over Remy into frustration with Joseph, but really didn't care.

Rogue had told herself that if Joseph couldn't put up with her mood swings, then they had no future together anyway. But she knew then as she knew now that that wasn't it. More likely was that she was trying to drive Joseph away without getting the guilts about it. And she knew she was more than halfway to doing a real good job there.

Joseph had been his usual understanding self when Rogue had cried over the phone to him that first night after Lebanon. It was natural, he had said, for Rogue's feelings of guilt (however justified they might be, Joseph never tread too heavily on that particular ground) to make Remy's current situation all the more painful.

But a few days later, after Rogue had twice opted not to leave Remy's side to speak to Joseph - especially after he had made the effort to find the only publicly accessible vid-phone in all of Peru - he had been less understanding. The crux of Joseph's argument, Rogue had pieced together after the fact, was that while any change in Remy's condition could be immediately ascertainable, he (Joseph) was wandering around all by himself in unknown danger and Rogue just didn't seem that concerned for his well-being. Rogue had figured that she had used most of her super-strength to keep herself from telling Joseph just how right he was.

Instead, Rogue had simply responded that it was his own choice to go off on his own mission (she had called it a "personal crusade", much to his anger) and that there was nothing stopping him from flying back home. And from there, the conversation had degenerated into a screaming match about personal responsibility and self-importance and hadn't ended until Rogue had destroyed the phone by slamming it down on the receiver and had fled the mansion. Bobby had found her by the ravine in a relatively untouched corner of the estate grounds and had let her cry and scream at him for a few hours.

This morning, Joseph's mood hadn't improved by much, even if he had a better grip on his anger. About all they could agree on was that perhaps it would be better if they didn't speak until Joseph returned to Westchester, whenever that was ("If I return." "Oh, stop bein' melodramatic."), and then the two of them would have 'a Talk'. Rogue was not looking forward to that.

***

"Sorry to interrupt your Pac-Man marathon, Rogue," Scott began dryly as he leaned against the doorway. "But we're going to have to use the video console for something slightly more entertaining." He looked around on the console. "Do you know where the contact list is? I don't think we have Genosha on speed dial."

Nathan and Mirrin had predicted a fishing village on the island's south coast as a probable target, so communication with Magneto was unavoidable. Scott had only been half-kidding when he suggested they draw straws to see who would place the call.

"For the first time in recorded history, it's exactly where it's supposed to be," Rogue said, gesturing with her chin towards the corkboard as she rolled up the cord to the video game controller. "Ya want some company?"

"Having someone invulnerable next to me would probably decrease the odds of me jumping out of my skin when Magneto gives me his 'Me Master of Magnetism, You Magnet' look," Scott agreed readily, then flashed a grin after Rogue gave him a raised eyebrow.

For most of the time that she had known the X-Men's field leader, Rogue had been accustomed to Scott as an introverted, pained man. What she would consider his 'happy periods' had come, for the most part, either before she had joined the team or after one of its various schisms. That Scott in fact had a wicked sense of humor and that his shielded eyes only added to his deadpan routine was something she still too often forgot.

"That, and maybe seeing you will keep him on just this side of a homicidal rage," Scott added, trailing off as he realized that in light of her problems with Joseph that wouldn't be such a good thing to bring up.

Scott spread out his notes and loaded the data off the disk Cable had given him onto the computer as Rogue set up the video-phone for the call to Genosha. He wanted to be prepared to mow Magneto down with facts before the man could summon enough bluster to blow him away. "The people of Genosha shouldn't have to suffer the blows of the Kurioon just because Magneto's their ruler," he had argued. Not that anyone had disagreed with him, more that nobody had wanted to deal with Magneto. Well, you talked the talk, now it's time to walk the damned walk, Scott mused to himself. Sometimes, he really wished Storm would put up more of a fight about being his equal as team leader.

"Dried fruit?" Rogue held the bag towards Scott, who took a handful. Rogue had to try not to laugh out loud as she watched Scott eat the mix in type order as he looked over his notes one last time. Especially because he seemed to be doing it unconsciously. First the raisins, then the coconut slivers, then the papaya bits, then the nuts, then the pineapple, and finally the banana chips and dried apple.

"Well, it's now or never," Scott said with a sigh as he wiped his hands on his jeans. "Let's go get accused of impugning the sovereignty of Genosha."

Rogue hit the button to dial and they were soon greeted by the unfriendly face of the Acolyte (neither of them recognized him) who answered the phone at Magneto's palace. After a few minutes of posturing and a couple of threats, they were eventually patched through to Magneto's office.

The conversation was just slightly less acrimonious than had been Rogue's earlier one with Joseph. Rogue herself kept mostly silent, letting Cyclops (and he was Cyke now, the emotionless, fearless X-Man, and not Scott) do most of the talking and shouting and only interrupted when it looked like Magneto might hang up on them.

Magneto, as expected, wanted no help from the X-Men, going so far as to threaten attack on any who might venture within the boundaries of Genosha. Cyclops was brutally honest in his reaction - he didn't care; the X-Men were spread thin enough as it was - but he wanted to make sure that Magneto had at his disposal all of the information required for an adequate defense.

In the end, nobody was happy. After chastising Rogue for attempting to use any lingering affection he had for her in order to bend him to the X-Men's will, Magneto had disconnected before Cyclops could verify that the files on the Kurioon (carefully cleansed by both Mirrin and Cable) he was transferring had come through and were understood.

"AAARRGGHH!" Cyclops howled at the now-blank vid-phone screen. "Were it not for the innocents on that island, I'd be more than happy to let the Kurioon take over the whole bloody thing." After a moment, he stood up with a sigh. "Thank you for your help, Rogue. No matter what he said. I'm going to blow things up in the Danger Room now. Lots of things. Lots of big things."

Rogue managed an understanding laugh as Scott headed out and unrolled the video game controller. But even after several games, Pac-Man was no longer able to distract her from the turmoil lurking just below the surface. Between Remy and Magnus and Joseph... for a girl who couldn't be in a real (as far as she was concerned) relationship, she certainly seemed to be able to get her fill of the crap that went along with such ties.

"This is so not what Ah need," she groaned aloud.

"Yeah it is," a voice from the doorway spoke up. "You're just supposed to grab the power pellet and then turn around and chase the ghosts, not continue to eat the filler dots... Or is something else bothering you and I've just been caught using my Summers Sonar - guaranteed to miss the obvious at fifteen paces - again?"

"Alex," Rogue chuckled despite herself, "You can be such a joy. Especially when you're bein' dense."

"Consider my lineage. If I wasn't a joy when I was being dense, I'd either be no fun at all or else I'd be Cable," the man in question replied blithely. "Or is that redundant?" He moved to sit down. "Wanna talk?"

Rogue sighed. Alex would undoubtedly be a good person to talk to - he was one half impartial observer and one half veteran of the personal problems inherent in dating a teammate. The question was really whether Rogue wanted to talk at all. She had tried to use Bobby as a sounding board, but while Drake was a great listener, Rogue had found that getting it out in the open didn't necessarily clarify things.

"Ah don't even know where to begin," she finally sighed.

"Well, you've got a few more minutes to think about it," Alex replied as his eyes went to the blinking light on the console. "We've got an incoming call from... Genosha."

"Oh Gawd.... Ah can't deal with Magnus again right now. Can you take this? Ah'll make it up to you..."

"No problemo. And no make-up required. I'll send up a flare when the coast is clear," Alex said, waving her away with one hand as the other reached for the button to connect the call. Rogue was clearly distraught and Alex watched her go, too agitated to pay much attention to where she was headed. "X-Men headquarters, Havok here."

"Uh... Hi, Alex. I didn't realize you were back with the team..."

"Lorna," he managed to stutter out in surprise after a long moment. "Uh... It's just temporary. The same people going after your... compatriots... went after me."

"You're all right, obviously," Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris, replied smoothly. If she was either surprised or concerned, she wasn't going to let on.

"Yeah, it's turning out to be just another excuse for my brother to take out his family frustrations... but that's not why you called." Especially since we've spoken precisely twice since you left me for the 'green and pleasant land' that is Genosha... not to mention for Magneto's side.

"No, it isn't," she admitted. "Sco... Cyclops called before. That mysterious army... Kurioon?... is supposed to be visiting here in a while. Cyclops tried to warn Magneto, but he wasn't listening too well and I just want to double check all of the information that you guys sent over."

"Uh, yeah. But I'm probably not the person to talk to about that. Especially since the briefing notes aren't still here," Alex looked around as he spoke. "Let me see if I can't get Cyke... do you want to hang on, or should he call you back?"

"Ah can help," Rogue said from the doorway. "Ah was there for the original call. Hey, Polaris."

"Rogue," the green-haired woman replied by way of greeting.

"Oh, hold on a sec, got another call," Rogue asked Polaris, then hit the Pause-Mute key. "Ah'm so sorry Alex. You were here bailin' me out and... no good deed goes unpunished 'round here."

Alex shrugged a little too casually. "Occupational hazard. Don't worry."

Rogue smirked as she sat down and reconnected the call. "Sorry 'bout that, Polaris. Now whattya need ta know?"

"I'm going to go... it was good seeing you again," Alex kept his voice neutral as he spoke.

"Same here." Lorna nodded, a sad smile on her face.

Alex turned around and left before he could think too long on whether that was Lorna's 'miss-you' look or her 'you sad sack, you still haven't gotten over me, have you?' look...

***

"The knee bone's connected to the shin bone," Kitty Pryde sang to herself as she soldered the circuit board. "The shin bone's connected to the ankle bone..."

As was often the case, Kitty had lost track of time since she had been at her workbench. So she had been quite surprised to hear Moira's voice on the intercom calling her to dinner. She had been even more surprised to hear her stomach growl at the summons - she honestly didn't think it had been that long since lunch.

After two weeks of constant tinkering, Kitty had, with some technical help from Brian and some brute strength from Piotr, broken the Harvester down into parts. Bit by bit, she was replicating the parts that had comprised the processor in an attempt to better understand the future-born technology. Even considering her experience with the Danger Room and its Shi'ar (and who knows what else) contraptions, the Harvester was proving ever the enigmatic puzzle.

After wolfing down Kurt's stew, Kitty rebuffed Pete's offer of a night on the town (translation: a couple of pints down at the pub) in favor of returning to the lab. Something about the schematics of the processor was bothering her. It was as if it was familiar in some fashion, although Kitty had no idea how that might be. And staring blankly at the circuit board under her magnifying glass wasn't helping any.

"Maybe I should have gone with Pete," she told Lockheed, who had followed her downstairs after the meal. The dragon just sniffed his disapproval, however, and Kitty chose to ignore the comment.

Instead, she went over to the empty workbench in the corner and hopped up on it. Settling herself down, she tried to calm her thoughts as she had been once trained to do. That it had been done with evil intentions notwithstanding, being schooled in the ways of the ninja occasionally had its uses. More than occasionally, actually.

Walking back through her memories, Kitty tried to find the place where she had previously encountered a similarly designed technology to the Harvester. It wasn't Widget, although there were other similarities...

BAMF!

With a cloud of sulfur that was quickly dispersed by the exhaust fans, Kurt Wagner appeared in the lab.

"You know, Katchen, if you didn't want to see Wisdom, there were other ways to get rid of him than locking yourself down here," he began, then cut himself off as he watched the young woman sit motionless.

Kitty opened her eyes. "Oh, this has nothing to do with Pete... I was just trying to remember something."

Lockheed meandered over and plopped himself down on Kurt's shoulder. In his tiny paws was an oddly-shaped piece of metal. "Hrmf?"

"You know, Herr Dragon, you should leave Brian's things alone," Kurt scolded. "He might have left that in a position that was important."

While Kitty had been working on the Harvester's brains, so to speak, Braddock, with help from Moira's anatomy books and a few old robot manuals had been playing with the body. The carcass had been laid out on a workbench in Brian's 'half' of the tech lab as if it were being prepared for embalming at a morgue,

Lockheed snorted in derision. Braddock had been at his wit's end over the thing and had not been afraid to let the others know.

"That's it! That's it!!" Kitty hopped off the table and ran over to Kurt and Lockheed. "You've done it, you two!!! That's what I was trying to think of!!"

Kurt could only stare at Kitty as she hugged him fiercely and gave Lockheed a kiss.

"Not that I would in any way like to discourage the displays of affection by lovely, if otherwise spoken for, young women," Kurt finally spoke up. "But..."

"Two words: Dark Bamf," Kitty called over he shoulder as she raced back to her work table.

"Two words I did not necessarily want to hear again," Kurt said and shuddered. Lockheed voiced his agreement. "But how...?"

"After that little accident," Kitty explained over her shoulder as she began to type furiously on her computer, "I spent a lot of time with the computer that monitored the structural integrity of the Danger Room. It shouldn't have allowed a pan-dimensional portal to open up right in the middle of the floor, right?"

"'Little accident', she calls it, Lockheed. A little accident." Kurt and the dragon exchanged disbelieving looks. Of course, it hadn't been Kitty who had been tossed from alternate universe to alternate universe...

"Anyway," Kitty continued, ignoring the matching set of looks, "the circuitry of that computer and the circuitry of this motherboard are reminiscent of each other. I don't know why, especially since I had always assumed that the Danger Room was all Shi'ar, but maybe this can lead me to something. It's a breakthrough, at any rate."

"So shall we celebrate by forcing you to go outside and enjoy the fresh evening air," Kurt suggested, seconded by Lockheed. Both were concerned with just how much time Kitty had been spending in the lab of late.

"It's Scotland, Kurt. I don't think that's either wise or possible," Kitty giggled. "But throw in an ice cream sundae and you've got a deal."

***

"I thought I'd find you here."

"I just needed a little quiet." Alex Summers hadn't bothered looking to see who was coming. They may have not spent much time together over the last twenty years, but he knew his brother's stride by its sound. And as far away from the main house as he was, there were very few people who'd come to find him. "Who'd you get to psi-scan for me?"

"Nobody. You haven't lived here for a while, but I haven't forgotten that you co-opted my favorite hiding spot," Scott replied as he sat down on the hill next to where his brother was lying on his back. He pulled his legs in so that he was sitting Indian-style.

"Since when was this your spot? I never saw you here." Alex had first stumbled across this gently rolling hill - on the other side of a bank of trees a couple of acres from the mansion - way back in the early days of the X-Men. Before Lorna had ever been anything other than the good-natured girl putting up with Bobby Drake's graceless advances.

"I wasn't using it that much by the time you finished college," Scott explained and shrugged, his jacket rustling with the motion. Alex, of course, was in a t-shirt despite the cool night air. Perqs of being your own heater and all... "Besides, I didn't want to get your dander up once I realized where you were hiding out. You were a bit... sensitive about sharing things back then."

"I was a bit sensitive about a lot of things back then," Alex sighed with a nod. "But being the kid brother of a superhero was probably not good on my tender ego."

"Tender ego my ass," Scott snorted. "You had no problems swiping Bobby's girl."

"As Lorna would put it, she was nobody's girl. Least of all Drake's."

"To be blunt as only a Summers can," Scott began after a beat, "Is the fact that Lorna's not yours anymore either why you're out here? You got kinda quiet after that call from Genosha."

"In part," Alex allowed, "but it's more than just her. It's a bad case of déjà vu all over again."

"Huh?"

Alex ran his fingers through his hair before he answered. It wasn't as if he hadn't been pondering this all evening. It was just a matter of getting the words out right the first time. "It's before Dallas all over again. I'm back to the X-Men, Lorna's consorting with the enemy, and we're sitting there pretending nothing is wrong. Except this time I've been dragged back to the mansion instead of coming unannounced, Lorna's not possessed and is doing this of her own volition, and we both know that the sky is about to cave in. Last time, it was just a sneaking suspicion."

"Things turned out all right in the end, though, right?" Scott asked "At least for a while. After Inferno and the mess in Genosha and all that." Although now that he though about it, Scott realized that there was quite a bit of all that.

"I don't think I want to go through all that again," Alex grumbled, echoing his brother's thoughts. "No, I *know* I don't want to go through all that again. Not having to fight Malice-as-Lorna, not ending up as Madelyne's Goblin Prince, not being a Magistrate, not X-Factor... I was serious when I quit the hero business, Scott."

"Well, as soon as we get rid of this Kurioon, you can go back to communing with rocks, or whatever it is you do out there," Scott said as he leaned back on the hillside next to his brother. "It's not like the old days when it was us or no one. We've got more X-Men nowadays than we know what to do with. The good thing - probably the only good thing - about the mansion getting blown up every summer is that we get chances to build bigger living quarters. I'm not going to pull a Xavier on you, 'Lex. I'll keep your phone number off of the emergency call-list."

"'Pull a Xavier'," Alex mused with a chuckle. "I'll hold you to that."

"Although if you change your mind, Jean did say you were looking very much like your old self out in Brazil..." It was a half-hearted statement, though. Scott didn't really expect Alex to change his mind after so many years.

"I just decided that dealing with your son is a lot like dealing with Guido and acted accordingly, that's all."

"I think I should resent that, but I know better."

There was silence, then, with only a few intrepid crickets breaking in with their opinions. Scott took off his glasses and let his optic beams blast as he watched the stars.

"I forget how much I miss seeing the sky at night. I mean, I can see it just fine with my glasses, but... I forget the sky is dark blue, not black. Not that I get that much time to lie around and stare at the sky."

"My brother the workaholic? Nahh," Alex scoffed. "You better cover up, though. We don't want any airliners coming in for a landing on Greymalkin Lane. It's a clear night; those beams of yours are probably visible from cruising altitude."

"Hah, hah," Scott mock-laughed, but closed his eyes and enjoyed the gentle breeze blowing over his face.

Knowing he couldn't be seen, Alex gave Scott a careful look. Even in the dark, without the visor Alex could see his brother's face clearly, see the family resemblance in all of its fullness. And that was heartening in its own fashion. Scott was so different from him in so many ways that occasionally Alex had used to wonder if maybe they weren't related after all, instead wondering whether they just happened to be two mutants from the same orphanage in Nebraska and everyone just decided that the freaks would have to be related. Sinister had been living in the basement, after all. Anything was possible.

But without anything to obscure Scott's features, Alex could see that they shared the same setting of their eyes, the same aspect of their brows... in short, they couldn't have been anything but brothers.

After another few minutes, unaware of his brother's ruminations, Scott put his glasses back on with a sigh.

"So you were okay with Brazil?" Scott asked without turning to look at his brother. He could usually tell when Alex was lying just from his voice and wouldn't need to see Alex's tell-tale nibble on his bottom lip. "I mean, not that I didn't think you could handle it..."

"Oh, sure, you kept me on the sidelines for those missions just because you were overstaffed," Alex said sarcastically, but without any real edge.

"I just wanted to make sure you weren't going to get killed, baby bro. I just wanted to make sure you weren't going to get killed."

After another long silence, Alex chuckled mirthlessly. "It doesn't go away, does it? You survive leading one of the teams once, you're never able to take a back seat again. I was telling people what to do in Brazil, Scott. I, Alex-the-conscientious-objector, was giving orders. I hate giving orders. Almost as much as I hate following them."

"I told you that you were a Summers. Fight as you may, you can't deny your heritage," Scott laughed heartily. "We're born to boss people around. Jean says it complements well with the Summers tendency to hide our feelings to the point of implosion."

"Which explains why we're both naturally armed and Dad's a crack shooter, right? Get our aggressions out and all..."

"Pretty much."

The two lay there quietly for a while, just watching the stars. For both men, the stars made them think of their father and, in turn, of their family.

"Scott, how much do you remember?" Alex turned his head to face his brother.

Scott didn't say anything for a long few minutes. "Not much. I've a lousy long-term memory. Pretty much everything from before I got here is gone..." This wasn't a topic Scott was comfortable discussing. Both because it implied (he felt) a weakness in his leadership abilities and because, quite frankly, it hurt. But leave it up to his little brother to unerringly hone in on the sore spots, even unintentionally.

Alex rolled onto his side. That certainly wasn't the answer he was expecting "It's all gone? But you can identify pictures and stuff like that... You never forgot who I was..."

"It's not amnesia, just a faulty memory. I can remember some things when I'm prompted, but I can't really come up with stuff on my own. If it's real important, I guess I could always get Jean or Charles to find it..."

"Why don't you get them to let you remember some of the good things? Like birthday parties or something," Alex suggested, ignoring for the moment his own loathing of mental manipulation.

"Jean's offered," Scott admitted. "But... there's a reason all that stuff went missing in the first place, you know? Charles gave me articles to read years ago... The memory loss is a kind of coping mechanism. It's not some side effect of the brain damage. It's some wall I built somewhere in my subconscious to keep myself from hurting... keep myself sane, I guess. And if I start messing with it... I don't want any dams bursting."

Alex really didn't know what to say. He'd always suspected Scott was a control freak for a reason, but... this was his brother admitting to being human. Being scared of not being able to hold on, just like everyone else. And that wasn't something he was used to. It happened on occasion, and Alex was grateful, but that didn't make it any less... strange.

"So I could start telling all these stories about how I used to be better than you in everything when we were little and you wouldn't know," Alex mused. He was being silly, of course. He got the distinct impression that just now, Scott didn't want to talk about this any more. Not when there was a mission scheduled for the morning.

"If you're going to make stuff up, it'll have to be a little bit more credible for it to work on me," Scott retorted, gratefully accepting the change in topic for what it was. "I'd remember something like that..."

"I'll work on it."

"You do that."

***


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