The Karma Downs
by CherryIce

Chapter Four

Bobby looked up as Sam stuck his head in through his door.

“Hello,” he said absently, tugging at the hem of his wife beater.

“Hey,” Bobby said, flipping his book closed and dropping it to his bed. The hardcover made a nice, satisfying snap. “You okay?”

“Ah’m fine. Why do you ask?”

Bobby looked at him again. Sam usually wore an abstracted, vaguely happy expression. At the moment, he was trying to look abstracted and vaguely happy. It would have worked, except that in comparison, this expression just looked fake. “No particular reason,” he said. “Just wondered why you were here.”

“Oh. Right.” He paused. “Ah don’t suppose you have any nice clothes? Not real fancy or anything. Just... nice.”

“I might,” he said as he rose, padding across the carpet in his bare feet to his closet. He pulled a short sleeved, button up shirt from a hanger and tossed it to Sam. “That do?” he asked.

Sam nodded and slipped it on, peered at himself in the mirror. He’d definitely spent more time on his hair, Bobby noted. And he was wearing good shoes.

“Sam’s got a girlfriend?” Bobby asked, grinning.

Sam’s hands paused in adjusting the collar. “No,” he said shortly, and ran his hand through his hair again.

“Sam’s got a boyfriend, then?” Bobby asked, stepping back to observe his teammate.


“Pet goat?”


He grinned.

“Ah have a friend who happens to be a girl. Or she could be a friend, anyways,” Sam said. “Honestly, Ah like her. Ah do. But things are complicated enough, with school and the X-Men. Even just keeping friends is hard, because Ah have to keep track of what it is about me that Ah’ve told them that’s real.” He paused. “Bobby?” he asked, peering into the still open closet.


“Can Ah ask you something?”

“You already have.”

“Can Ah ask you something else?”

“Go ahead.”

Sam shook his head a bit. “You been shopping lately?”

“A little while ago. Why?”

“Oh. No reason. It’s nothing.”

Sam shook his head a bit. “It was just wrong, somehow. He’s been dressing a bit differently, but it didn’t really hit me until Ah saw his closet. It looked like some one who didn’t really know him took him shopping and dressed him up.”

“You have someone in mind, I take it,” Angela said. They were sitting at a table at the back of the Cuppa, the warmth of other voices wrapping easily around them.

“Kind of.”

She raised one dark eyebrow at him.

“There’s this woman...”

“Trust a woman to corrupt a man,” she said. “Men do tend to do just as much corrupting, you know.”

“I’ve known her for awhile. Never well, but I’ve had dealings with her for years. She’s... She’s not good for him.”

“So she’s more experienced? Let me guess. She’s successful, knows what she wants, and doesn’t take bull from anyone.”

“Well...” Sam said, and as Angela nodded he felt himself blush a bit. “She plays with people! And every time you think that she’s changed, she turns around and destroys any trust you’ve managed to place in her.”

“Sam,” she sighed. “You did say that you’ve never gotten to know her very well.”

“And Ah don’t want to.”

“Fine. That’s your prerogative. Look, I don’t know either of them, so I can’t really give you advice, but I’d say get to really know her before you go around deciding if she’s the type for your friend.”

“Besides,” he muttered, half under his breath. “Ah don’t seem to have any trouble wearing the clothes Ah think that she picked out.”

“Do you even know she picked them out?” she asked. “Maybe he just wanted a change.”

“Ah don’t know if she’d take him shopping.” He plucked moodily at the buttons on his shirt. “It wouldn’t be so bad if she did. Ah just wonder... Maybe he went shopping himself, for her. Ah don’t like that thought.”

“It’s a nice shirt, though,” Angela said. “What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing, really. Ah just felt like looking nice today.”

He was greeted with a raised eyebrow “This doesn’t have anything to do with a certain blonde tidbit named Grace, by any chance?”

Sam sighed. “No. You’re not the first person I’ve had to say that to, either. Why does everyone think that...”

“Is that her over there?” she asked, pointing.

“Very funny, Angela. I’m not going to fall for that one.”

“No, it’s definitely her.”

Sam sipped his drink and continued to gaze at her steadily. “I’m not going to look. You can give it up now.”

“Fine,” Angela said with a shrug. “Your loss.”

“Really, aren’t you a bit old for this game?”

Angela fought back a grin.

Sam paused. “She’s standing right behind me, isn’t she?”

“Hey, you guys mind if I join you?”

Sam sighed and scooted his chair over. Grace pulled a chair from the table beside them, and dropped down.

It was going to be one of those nights.

“What’s up?” Grace asked, and Sam found himself wondering why, since he’d decided it wasn’t even an option, he found himself fighting the impulse to adjust his shirt. And his hair. And his...

He realized that everyone was looking at him expectantly. Question, he thought. “Three hundred forty-seven?” he squeaked. Oooh. Smooth. Mental smack.

They laughed, but it was an easy laugh, and he felt himself joining in.

“Well,” Grace said. “Three hundred forty seven certainly is a large number, so it could be up...”

He blushed a bit. “Sorry. Wasn’t paying proper attention.”

“What’s up?” She asked.

He’d heard her ask that, too. “Nothing much,” he said. “There’s a chemistry course I’m taking that’s kind of interesting. Actual lab work and all.”

She nodded. “Chemistry’s okay. I always liked chaos theory better, though. Something fascinating about the way that nothing’s really random. Everything, every encounter, can be traced back to a series of unrelated, seemingly innocuous events. A butterfly flapping its wings in Malaysia can cause a tornado in Kansas.”

“Kinda like...” he started. Stopped. Kinda like how the people that attacked the team had their own reasons? Not necessarily ones that made much sense to them, and certainly not ones that they, as the defensive party, were sympathetic to, but reasons all the same. People rarely just got up in the morning and thought ‘Hmm. it’s been awhile since I went after the X-Men,’ despite popular opinion. “Kinda like your dropping your watch in a cab?” he groped. “So the cabbie’s late and doesn’t pick up the next person in time. That person misses their job interview, and loses the opening because of it. Then, ten years down the road, they end up mugging your sister for her pocket change,” he finished weakly.

Angela blinked. Grace patted him on the shoulder. “Something like that,” she said.

Angela checked her watch. “You guys want to catch a movie?” she asked.

“Sure,” Grace said, and Sam found himself agreeing very quickly.

“Sascha and Kyle’s hasn’t started yet,” Angela said, smiling innocently. “If, perhaps, some popcorn happened to get thrown at them from the back of the theatre, we wouldn’t know anything about, would we?”

Sam looked down at his barely touched drink. “Ah’m good to drive,” he said.

“Me too,” Angela said as she finished off her coke. “I’ll drive if you want, Sam.”

“Nah,” he replied. “I should head back out to Westchester after it’s over. I have some stuff to do in the morning.” Saturday training. Always fun. Even more fun if you happened to be hung over. Although, if you happened to be the only one who *wasn’t* hung over...

“I’ll drive anyway, then. I can take Grace home after,” she said with a nod of her head.

“Sounds like a plan.”

Grace snagged Sam’s drink with a grin. “I’ll look after this for you.”

“We should grab some tickets,” Angela said, looking at her watch again. “How about I head down and buy them? You guys follow when you’re ready.”

Sam nodded. “Fine by me.” He paused and turned to Grace. “Do yah know the way to the theatre?”

“In my sleep,” she told him over top of what had previously been his drink.

Angela gathered up her jacket and headed out the door. “What movie are we going to see anyway?” Grace asked, taking a drink.

“Ah... Ah’m not really sure,” Sam said. “Angela knows which one.” He paused. “Ah hope.”

“Spiderman’s still there?” she asked.

“Ah think so. It seems like something Sascha and Kyle would pick. Why? You want to see?”

“I like super hero movies,” Grace said. “Just a slice of the life.”

“Ready to go?” Sam asked. He wasn’t quite ready to get into a discussion on spandex squads.

She nodded, drained the glass. “Let’s.”

It was windy outside, and his truck was parked down the block, so he dropped his jean jacket over her thin red shirt. “Thanks,” she said, and shrugged into it gratefully. It was dark out, and as they drove they passed through the pools provided by the streetlights, flickering between night and light. He saw her face come in and out of shadow out of the corner of his eyes, disappearing even as they talked. “Turn left here,” she said finally, and they swung around onto a crowded street.

“No parking,” he observed.

“Keep going. There’s usually some just down the street.”

He found a spot eventually, pulling in just in front of a man in an SUV who leaned on his horn. When that didn’t work, he gave them a true New York salute before continuing along his way.

Grace giggled. “Horns sure do move vehicles,” she gasped. “I mean, all that beeping. Enough to clear any parking spot.”

“And that finger sure did scare me,” Sam laughed. “Ah felt like vacating right away, just so that it wouldn’t get me.”

She laughed again, raising her hands to hide her smile. He reached out, pulled them down. “Yah don’t have to hide when you’re laughing,” he said. Her face stilled, and he thought that her eyes were a bit overbright. A gust of wind made its way through the crack at the top of the window, carrying the smell of popcorn and yellow light. Strands of her hair rose up, electric, dancing, and he leaned forward and kissed her.

She kissed him back, at first. Leaned into him and kissed him hard. Like an automatic reflex, a knee-jerk reaction, but then she pulled back, pulled away. She braced her hands on the dashboard and hung her head.

“Ah’m sorry,” Sam said, giving himself a mental kick. “Ah shouldn’t have done that.”

She shook her head.

“Ah really am sorry,” Sam said. “Ah just misread it, is all.”

She shook her head again, and turned to look at him. “You didn’t misread me, Sam. That’s part of the problem.”

“Ah don’t understand.”

“Look, just... I can’t do this. Not now. Not with someone as nice as you.”

He nodded.

“You still don’t understand.”

“It’s okay. You don’t need to explain it if yah don’t want to. This isn’t a good time for me, either.”

She shook her head again, trying to deny something, trying to shake it off. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Come on,” Sam said, getting out of the truck. “Let’s go see that movie. Throwing popcorn at Kyle and Sascha will make it all better.”

~{ [Relax] she says, the words almost lost as she presses her lips to his stomach.

What you’re doing isn’t exactly conducive to relaxation, he wants to say, but then maybe she’d stop.

Soft laughter in his head at that. //You want me to stop?// she asks, teeth grazing his skin.

The rush of his thoughts must confirm his negative before he can put together an actual response, because the laughter tinkles through his head again, and she continues her ministrations.

Telepathy is a wonderful thing, he thinks. One of those uses that he’d never considered before. One lots of people didn’t consider. You can still talk with your mouth busy.

He’s not going to let his thoughts get sidetracked, but she pushes at them a bit, curious as to where they lead.

//I told you before// she tells him when she’s found the source. //I see. I notice. You’ll just have to show them. They’ll have to see that you’re something more.//

//How?// he wonders. Her hands move down, deftly unbuckling his belt. Her mouth follows.

//Show me first// she tells him. [Show me all you are,] she says, whispering the words against his skin. }~

continued >>

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