Between life and death, truth and beauty, who
we are and who we need to be, there lie the karma downs.
There are many people who I need to thank for
their help with this one. Timey, Mitai, and Indiana for betaing,
and who were there when I needed to bounce ideas around or for support.
Nute, for providing essential information on Sam. Bounce, Chris, Lindy,
and Drea for endless encouragement.
Archival is open to anyone who asks, my site:
http://cherryice.topcities.com , and anyone who has prior permission.
University is a juggling act, even at the best
of times. As Sam is about to discover, being a member of the spandex
squad isnt exactly the best of times.
Sometimes, life is just life. Sometimes, its
I dont own Sam, Emma, Bobby, Columbia, the
X-Men, or the danger room. I dont even own a truck, so any attempt
to sue me will only result in the loss of the legal fees paid in an
attempt to get my butt into court. I cant say that if you dont
recognize them, theyre mine; because in one very noticeable
exception that isnt exactly true.
The Karma Downs
It started with a drink in a bar.
No, it started a long time before that. The drink and the bar, they
were just points on a string of events that shaped the way the world
It started when a girl felt the slap of her fathers opinions
on her mind, his hand on her skin. It started when children came into
powers that they couldnt control, when Robert Drake had a grieving
Emma Frost thrown into his mind.
It started when a sister was killed, when an island was dropped,
when a boy realized that he was a man with no way to be who or what
he needed to be.
And it started when Samuel Guthrie came back from Kentucky a changed
Sam stopped at the kitchen entrance, the tiles cold against his
bare feet. Hank looked at him over top of his newspaper and nodded
towards a white envelope sitting on the table.
A letter came for you. From Columbia.
Thank yah, Hank. Sam pulled out a chair and sat down,
watching the envelope warily. His hand hovered over it briefly and
it was all he could do to keep them from darting back to his sides.
Hanks eyes were obscured by reflections off his reading glasses,
but Sam had no doubt he was being watched. He picked up the letter
slowly. It felt so *thin* between his fingers, and as he flipped it
absently, he almost expected it to disappear.
Well, Samuel, are you going to open it, or did you develop
X-Ray vision in the time since your last physical?
Sam looked over to see that Hank had neatly folded the newspaper
up, and was now sitting with his hand paws on it, looking directly
at him. Ah dont know. Ahm pretty hungry, actually.
Maybe Ahll just grab a bite and take a look at it later.
A yawn greeted him at this. You should listen to Hank,
Jean said as she walked into the kitchen, Scott trailing a few steps
behind her. Hes pretty smart.
Scott ran a hand through his hair and dropped into a chair beside
Sam. Waiting to open it isnt going to change what the
letter says. Its just going to draw it out.
Jean sat down in the chair on the other side of him, an apple in
her hand. He looked around, finding himself suddenly fenced in by
his teammates. Youre not going to let me go until Ah open
it, are you?
Hank shook his head. No.
Ah dont have a chance of getting out of this, do Ah?
No again, but you dont really want one.
The envelope was just so thin.
He slid a finger in under the flap, ripped it open and pulled out
the letter before he could talk himself out of it. He read the letter
head, and his name, and the words started to swim before his eyes.
Well? someone asked, and he pulled himself back into
focus. He scanned the letter. Read it again, thoroughly this time,
convinced that he must have read it wrong the first time. Well?
someone else asked, and he felt himself start to smile. The letter
was snatched from his hand, and Jean was hugging him.
He was suddenly aware that someone was clapping him on the back
with a whoop, and he turned to see that Bobby had entered the kitchen
sometime while he was occupied.
You guys knew Ah was applying, didnt you. Howd
you know that?
Hank took off his glasses and set them atop his paper. A good
friend of mine works in admissions, and he called me up when he saw
the Xavier Institute on your application.
Sam smiled briefly, and dropped his eyes.
Bobby laughed. And you didnt really think that something
like this would keep secret? Rumours and stories spread faster than
the flu does around here.
Hank offered Sam his hand, and pulled him into a bear hug when he
took it. I would have written you a letter of recommendation,
you know, he said quietly. I do have some contacts.
Ah know, Hank, and Ah appreciate that. But this is something
Ah needed to be able to do on my own.
Hank patted him on the back with surprising gentleness and released
//Congratulations, Sam,// a cool white voice said, sliding
between the thoughts of those gathered in the kitchen, and Sam felt
himself twitch a little bit. He saw Scotts face darken momentarily,
but freed his mind of all of it. Today, everything was all right.
Bobby sat on the mansion stairs, his legs stretched out in front
of him. The sun beat down upon his upturned face, trying to slide
between his eyelids.
Jean had told him to wear sunscreen. Her voice had thrummed idly
in his head, and shed told him to go inside and put on sunscreen.
He felt the brush against his mind even as cool skin drifted past
his. It wasnt invasive. Somehow, it wasnt. The presence
beside him, the presence in his mind, it was just there. It didnt
speak, didnt prod. He cracked his eyes open, just a little,
taking in the skin exposed to the sun beside him. It was nice view.
He became aware of a chuckle after a time. What? he
asked, and opened his eyes.
You know, Robert, youre getting rather good at that.
If I wasnt so used to people staring at my chest...
Well, you know what they say, Em. Practice makes perfect.
I have to admire your dedication.
Well, its a tough job, but someones got to do
She stood, and he found himself thinking that if she ever got a
burn dressed like that, it would be rather painful. Not to mention
just how strange the lines would be...
I suppose youd prefer that I sunbathed in the nude.
Why, Emma, Im offended. It never crossed my mind.
Yes it did. Its crossed it many, many times, and its
crossing it now.
He smiled and shrugged. He didnt tell her to go inside and
put on sunscreen. She could look after herself.
Do you want to go for a drive? She asked.
Sure, he said, and fell into stride with her as she
headed for the garage. The car was parked out in front of the shed,
and it was sleek and white and even while sitting still gave the impression
of motion. It was a panther crouched to strike and Emma seemed a part
of it even as she slid in. The keys were in the ignition and she peeled
out as he was closing his door.
The mansion gates were standing open and they blew right by them,
the air whipping past his face because the top was down as they turned
off Greymalkin and out onto the highway.
The sun was warm and the wind was cool and he spread his arms above
himself, trying to catch the breezes in his fingers. Emma laughed
and he knew it wasnt at him, it was at the speed and the thrill
and the freedom and the power beneath her fingertips.
She slid sunglasses down from the top of her head to cover her eyes,
her long white hair whipping around her in a cloud.
And they drove and he trusted that she could find their way back,
even if she didnt know where they were going.
Youre different, he said finally.
Different how? she asked, pulling tightly around a turn.
I dont know. Youve just... Changed. You always
do, when youre not around Them.
We all have different faces, Bobby. We all have different
ways that we act. Its conditioned. And what about you?
she asked, taking her eyes off the road for the briefest of seconds.
Youre troubled lately, I know. It has something to do
with the others, as well.
She flicked her eyes back to his again, and they were blue, so blue,
through the blue lenses, the white frames. White held her together.
Why would the others trouble me, Em? Theyre my family.
Theyre our family.
Even families fight. Especially families fight.
I love them.
I know. But...
But sometimes I just feel like...
Theyre smothering you?
Not smothering. I wouldnt go that far.
They treat you like a child.
Yeah, they treat me like a child.
But youre not.
No, Im not. Ive been around as long as anyone,
Em. Ive been through as much as anyone.
Yet they still act as if youre... Less... than them.
No. They dont think that Im less. Not on purpose.
Not on purpose, anyway. Not consciously. But their actions
They just dont see that Ive grown up, Em. They
just dont see, and nothing that I say or do is going to show
They should, you know. See. Noticing the strengths and weakness
of a teammate...
Im not a child, Emma. Not anymore. How could I be, after
everything? How *could* I be?
I know, Bobby. I see. None of us are the same as we were.
Theres too much water under the bridge, and there are too many
bodies in the currents. And if people dont start seeing that...
It could get dangerous.
She looked at him again, eyes heavy-lidded and still so blue, ever
so blue, hair framing in a flying cloud and skin glowing white around
them, and smiled lazily. Were all dangerous people, Bobby.
Its already started.
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