MAN IN THE MIRROR

"Iím starting with the man in the mirror
Iím asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make your world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make the ...change"
-- Michael Jackson

==

It was a split second decision. Shoot or donít and I didnít. Might have hit the girl instead of the perp. So the perp dragged her into the building, gun to her head and two cops died trying to get her out. One had two kids and a third on the way. Donít know about the other, but there must have been someone to miss him, too.

Bets tried to link with the girl then, but it didnít work. The girl panicked when she heard a voice in her head, which set off the perp, which...Well. Go figure. Two dead, six more in hospital, because two X-Men walking down the street couldnít mind their own business.

==

After the police had taken our statements and Charles had called and intervened for us, I drove back to Westchester. Bets was curled up in the backseat, wrapping silence around her as a blanket. I thought she might be zoning or sleeping and truth to be told, I was too spent to care. When we were about halfway, she spoke:

ďChris would have taken the shotĒ, she said quietly.

I met her eyes in the rear view mirror. She wasnít yanking my chain, wasnít angling for a fight. She meant exactly what she was saying. That split second had been our window of opportunity and in her fucked-up little mind, I had blown it there and then.

I pulled over. I switched off the engine. While I had no particular desire to live, my death wish was equally abstract; it didnít involve tumbling off the interstate minutes later. Also, we had damaged enough innocent bystanders for one day.

Silk whispered against leather and Bets eeled into the front seat, shedding garment after garment as she climbed into my lap. Her mouth came down hard on mine, lips, teeth and tongue and we fucked until we were both bleeding. Then she got back into the back seat and I got us back on the road.

==

Logan was waiting outside, the HD leaning precariously against the gate. He held out his hand and Bets went to him, just like that. He handed her his helmet, she put it on and hopped onto the bike, locked her arms around his waist and they were gone. Just like that.

Jean was there for me, oh God, Jean was there. I melted into her fierce embrace and let her lead me down to the boathouse. Scott was on the other side, Hank and Bobby in front. I lost it at some point and started to bawl, but Jean never let go of me.

==

I woke up to the sound of Bets rummaging through our closet. Even from across the room, she reeked of booze and acetone. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about her and Logan hitting every bar downtown. She likes to pick fights, he likes to tussle and both of them like the part where you drink until you fall on your face.

ďYouíre awake!Ē she said brightly, enunciating with care. ďAnd itís not even five oíclock. In the morning.Ē

She was still drunk, still high with predatory excitement. Someone elseís blood had spattered her face, as if she had leaned too close to the action, but it didnít seem to bother her. She likes to watch when Logan beats the shit out of some poor bastard.

ďIíll go kick Remy out of bed, ď she informed me. ďAnd then Iíll kick his ass.Ē

She giggled, probably trying for throaty and come-hither-sexy, but it came out as crazed, which was scary and revolting and made me lose what little interest Iíd had in fucking her. Not that interest mattered two seconds later, when she slid into bed with me and came down on me like a whip. Oh, yes. Hell, yes. Lashing and lashing and lashing.

==

I donít know if Bets kicked Remyís ass or not; I know that when they sat down on the front porch steps afterwards, he took her chin in his hand and turned her face to the light. She let him. He spoke softly in the patois and maybe she understood or she picked up his surface thoughts, because she put her head on his shoulder. For a while, neither of them moved. He lit two cigarettes, offered her one. She took it and he put his arm around her while they smoked. Then she crushed out her cigarette, patted him lightly on the arm and got up. He said something, she shook her head no and started looking skyward, looking for me. She knew I was up there. She was showing me what I couldnít have, what Rogue couldnít have either. No craziness in her face now, it was open and relaxed and beautiful, and all for Remy.

==

I caught a thermal updraft and rode it hard. It levelled out at seven thousand feet, at which Remy and Bets became two ants in an enormous anthill. There is nothing like flying to put things in perspective. From the air I can see the earthbound go about their business, acting all important in their two-dimensional, gravity-challenged way. Some people know less about up and down than ants do and why the fuck should I care about someone like that?

==

Danger Room with Scott in the afternoon. Scott doesnít talk a lot, not to me or even to Jean, but he sees things. Itís on his tolerance that Jean hugged me and kissed the top of my head, every chance she got and it was no coincidence that Bobby was taken off guard duty today or that Hank came out of the lab to have lunch with me. Scott knows what I need. He gives it to me before I have to ask.

I wanted simple target practice and after almost a second of hesitation, Scott said yes. I bet Jean had something to say about it. I would be smallminded to resent it; two of my friends were looking out for me, was all. So Scott and I were lying side by side, popping off one shell after another, when Bets walked in.

She wore her battle uniform, looking kink as hell. Scott excused himself hastily. Heís been scared to death of her ever since she hit on him, not that I blame him.

ďInitiate!Ē she yelled at whatever program sheíd slotted. ďSecurities disengage!Ē

The target range faded and became a room. White walls, hardwood floor. I backed away from her warily, removing my shoes and socks. My wings ripped my shirt in the back. She didnít give me time to take to the air; she came for me, hard and fast. No finesse, no control, but she doesnít need it to beat me.

==

Sheís not that strong. Itís more that she knows where to strike and that she hits it every time. Precision is her weapon, arrogance her weakness. She threw me off-balance with a glancing kick, then slammed me into the nearest wall so hard I bounced off it. I almost grayed out, but a neck-popping shake brought me back. Oh, she was mad.

Suddenly, something grew stronger, like a resolution. Among the mass of aches in my back, one single sensation crystallised. It was like the sting of a needle or a knife sliding in between the ribs, only it hurt more and felt better. Neurotoxin flooded my senses. Speeded me. My vision wavered and tunneled. The pain went away. All the pains went away.

She slapped me in the face and I didnít feel it. Her next strike did not paralyse, as it was meant to. Old truths and new leapt out to me with frightening clarity. The early bird gets the worm. You made your bed, now lie in it. Roses are red, violets are blue and before Iím done you will be too.

And in a motion picture so slow the frames are barely changing: Brittle bone cracking under my fist. The heat rising off her skin.The helplessness and fear in her face. She wants this. She enjoys this. A handful of purple hair wrapped around my hand. There is no one to run to here. No Logan to fight out her pain. No Remy to soothe it. Itís just me and her and this time Iím not letting her get away with it.

==

Later, I take her to our room. I wash her clean of blood and stain. I tuck her into bed and tell her a bedtime story my Mama used to tell me when I was an itty bitty boy:

ďOnce upon a time there was a beast. The Princess kissed him and fucked him and tried to call him to heel and guess what? It didnít work.Ē

Iím not at all sure what the story means. Iím not even sure things will be different in the morning, but I have every reason to think they might be.

FIN