Saving Cain: Chapter 9

Alex woke up to the clatter of a metal pan hitting the hard floor.

"Sorry about that," the Beast said from across the clinic. "I am normally the epitome of grace."

Alex was too groggy to give much in the way of a response.

"Shall I summon the bellhop for your breakfast?" the Beast asked. "It's Sunday, so there are pancakes and some strange variety of healthy sausage (if you can accept such an oxymoron) in addition to the usual choices of sugary cereals."

It had been three days since his failed suicide attempt and Alex could almost manage to sit up without too much pain. "Pancakes?" he croaked.

"Oh, don't worry," the Beast chuckled, no doubt registering the skepticism on Alex's face. Some of the X-Men cooked better than others. "Your brother made them. They're edible. The sausages aren't half-bad, either. I think they're turkey."

Alex nodded and the Beast went over to the phone. "One breakfast for our guest, please."

A few minutes later, Bobby came in with a tray. "I'm supposed to ask if you want any part of the newspaper," he said as he set the tray down. "But Piotr said to give you the Post," he went on, waving the newspaper, "but I was in the middle of an article, so can I finish it while you eat?"

Alex nodded as he surveyed the tray. "I've worked my way up to getting a fork and knife?" he asked. Up until then, most of his meals had been edible with a spoon, so that had been all he had been given.

"Eating pancakes with your fingers is not only awkward and messy, but also somewhat lacking in grace," the Beast replied from his workbench on the other side of the clinic. "Right, Bobby?"

"I was just mopping up the syrup," Bobby sighed and rolled his eyes.

Alex ate quietly. Bobby finished reading his baseball article quickly and left the newspaper for him, heading upstairs to do whatever it was he did in his spare time. The Beast continued working, his back to Alex, and kept to himself except for the occasional murmur and exhortation.

"Do you want more coffee?" Alex called over to him after he was done eating. "They sent down a thermos."

"No thanks," the Beast replied, looking up and over his shoulder at Alex. "Your brother made that as well and if I have any more than my usual six ounces, I won't sleep until next week."

Alex poured himself a cup from the small thermos and went back to his paper, comfortable in having made the minimum required attempt at social interaction. In the time that he had been bedridden in the clinic, Alex had come to understand how things worked. The more civil he was, the more he was left alone. It was only when he was cranky and surly - which still happened, more than Alex would probably care to admit - that the Professor would come for a visit. Especially when he was cranky and surly in Scott's direction.

Scott would occasionally show up at non-mealtimes, sometimes with the pretense of bringing him something but oftentimes not. He'd ask how Alex was feeling, whether he needed something, or if there was anything he wanted and he'd be completely unfazed by Alex's more hostile responses. After a while, baiting Scott proved neither productive nor especially amusing, so Alex tended toward monosyllabic answers and pointedly ignoring any attempts at friendly bantering.

No matter how ill behaved Alex was, however, Scott would still bring him books. Alex had initially thought that Scott was merely ferrying Xavier's picks, but once the Professor had looked with curiosity at some of the books piles on the table and commented on the esotericism of Scott's choices. Since then, Alex had decided that Scott was probably in charge of the fiction selections and while it galled him to a certain extent to be forced to follow his brother's tastes in reading material, there wasn't a whole lot else to do if he didn't want to just read the philosophy that the Professor seemed to favor.

Right now, however, he was reading a history of the Soviet Union that he had asked for Piotr to bring to him. In general, a visit from Piotr was both his greatest nightmare as well as the high point of his day. Piotr only tended to show up after Alex had mouthed off at Scott and Alex knew that Piotr wasn't going to move on to any other topic of conversation until Alex had admitted that yes, he had been an ass. Piotr did not accept bullshit, something that he normally would have appreciated had he not been the one dealing it out. Whatever argument he put up for why he should be allowed to be hostile (or truculent or ill-mannered in any other way), Piotr would demolish it in neat fashion. It was a game and yet it wasn't - Alex understood that the whole point was to make him look at himself. And he wasn't sure he was ready for that yet.

"I do believe the proper response is 'Eureka!'," the Beast exclaimed from his bench. Alex looked up from his book, but didn't say anything.

"Are you not the least bit curious?" Alex was asked. "I just may have figured out how to keep your rather explosive personality in check."

"So long as it's not a lobotomy," Alex replied, putting down the book. "What is it, a lead suit?"

"Yes and no," the Beast replied, holding up a piece of cloth. "I think we may be able to keep the threads small enough to keep it from looking like you're dressed in tin foil." He shook the cloth, which moved like cloth and not aluminum wrap. "This works rather well when put through the X-Ray machine. And we've already done some tests for other types of radiation... This could be it, Alex," he said excitedly. "This could be it."

Alex didn't know whether to get his hopes up. He didn't know whether he should get his hopes up. He had had nothing but time to think about his future - starting with how long he wanted it to last. And while he didn't think that any more attempts to end his life were on the immediate horizon, Alex couldn't help but wonder what sort of future would be possible with the past he had left behind.

"Of course we'll have to get a whole outfit done," the Beast said, jumping up from his seat and walking toward Alex. "And run a test with that. Send Scott around for a day and see if he gets sick or something."

"Scott absorbs radiation?" Alex had been told that Scott converted energy, but had not thought any deeper into the matter. Radiation did seem to make sense, though. Especially in light of the fact that Scott had not been hurt by his own blast, just by the fall.

"Solar radiation," the Beast confirmed. "I don't know if you absorb other kinds, which is why I tested for a wide range. If it works, we'll have to run a few tests. See if it works with short sleeves or shorts or whether you'll need to wear pants and long sleeves until you learn to control it."

"Control it? Who says I can learn to control it?" Alex asked, incredulous.

"I think it's a reasonable expectation, Alex," Xavier said as the door swished open and closed behind him and Scott.

"Scott can't."

"I have brain damage," Scott replied. "That's where the damage is, in the control over my optic blasts."

"Oh," Alex said. He had been looking for signs of impairment in his admittedly self-limited interaction with his brother. Looking, were he honest with himself, for some manifestation of the damage that his foster family had cited as the reason why they couldn't take him, too.

"There is a whole world out there that you have yet to be exposed to, Alex," Xavier said, all gentle encouragement. "Controlling your power is only one part of that world."

"How long until you get an outfit ready?" Scott asked Xavier.

"By the end of the week, perhaps," Xavier replied.

"So I'm stuck down here until then?" Alex asked. "Or even later, until you know if it works..."

"I don't see why that has to be the case," Xavier answered. "Your injuries have healed sufficiently that you no longer need to be monitored closely. We've prepared a room for you."

"Even considering..."

"You'll have to keep the windows closed," the Beast replied. "The lead coating on the windows and all, but so long as you don't lick the windows or the walls, you should be okay. I'll go up and ready things there."

"We'll keep a monitor nearby," Scott offered. "If it gets too loud, we'll send you back down here."

The Beast took a box full of various monitors and miscellany and left the room.

"But first let's get you checked out of here," the Professor spoke up as he, too, turned to leave. "Scott, if you would..."

Scott nodded and went to the counter to pick up a pair of latex gloves as the door swished closed behind the Professor. Alex could have sworn he snapped them on his wrists intentionally.

"What are you doing?" Alex asked with great concern as Scott approached.

"Free Willy," Scott replied with a frown. "The catheter doesn't go upstairs with you."

"You don't know what you're doing!" Alex cried out, slapping at Scott's hands as they reached for the blanket. "Stay away from me! I can do it."

"I know what I'm doing and I don't like knowing what I'm doing," Scott sighed. "We've got a telepath in the house, remember? Or I could get Jean to do it. She's the one who put it in, after all."

"She did?" Alex asked, horrified.

"Yup," Scott answered. "So, me or her? You're conscious this time. You'll hear her running commentary."

"Do it," Alex sighed.

An hour later, Alex was sitting in his new bedroom. New prison, to be truthful, but Alex was too happy to be among non-sterile furnishings to care much at the moment.

Four hours later, the bloom was off the rose. The special heavy curtains were drawn and the windows closed, the door shut and the fireplace blocked off... Alex knew it wouldn't be very long before he went stir crazy. If he wasn't already. It was one thing to be stuck in a hospital bed, unable to move without upsetting tubes and IV lines and without incredible pain. It was another to be stuck wandering around (albeit slowly and in short bursts) in a room where contact with the outside world was so ostentatiously blocked off.

Alex was disappointed in himself. Five-plus years in a school with no real windows (the building had been designed to resemble an armory) and he was all jittery because the ones in his room were behind heavy curtains. The Friends of Humanity had cultivated a soldier-like society, if for no other reason but discipline. And here one of their once-brightest lights was losing his cool before the tongs and hot coals had even been brought out.

Dinner was brought a few hours later by Storm, who looked positively spooked by being in the room. Alex wasn't sure if it was the room itself or just the fact that Alex was no longer tied to the bed and thus free to move (and possibly to attack).

Storm told him that Scott and Jean were downtown keeping an eye on a ruckus caused by the Friends of Humanity. "It's about you, actually," she said. "They think the police are dragging their feet."

"Are they?" Alex asked, feeling a little less touched than he otherwise might have upon finding out that the FoH was going after the cops (the FoH had strong support from them otherwise) on his behalf.

"I don't think they can avoid it," Storm replied with a casual shrug. "Their leads are all based on faulty information."

"You planted evidence?" Alex had read the few news stories that concerned his disappearance. The police weren't sure if he was alive or dead, although the discovery of blood-soaked clothing in a van near his school had tended toward the latter conclusion. His foster family was acutely distressed, but not quite at the level of tear-stained appeals on television for the safe return of their little boy.

"Amazing what you can do with a telepath," Storm said with a catlike grin. "A hundred witnesses, all reporting the same thing. Too bad it's the wrong thing..."

"You people would be great as bank robbers," Alex said with a frown.

"I knocked over a bank once," Storm replied thoughtfully. "It was too much trouble for the reward. The money's difficult to move, too."

"So you do grand larceny as well as kidnapping? What multitalented mutants we have here."

"Oh, as if you don't have a few assault-and-battery charges that should have been laid on had the victims been able to speak afterwards," Storm replied easily, although Alex didn't miss the menace underneath the words. "At least Piotr stuck to working over criminals. You specialized in the innocent."

"And I'm in my own ring of hell because of it," Alex agreed, absorbing the information about Piotr. Interesting. "I don't know which ring that would be, though. Perhaps that's what I should get Scott to fetch me next."

"I don't know why Xavier's putting all this effort into saving your soulless sorry ass," Storm said as she turned to leave. "Scott's brother or not, you're a shitty person and realizing that you are what you hate hasn't changed that one bit."