The Karma Downs
by CherryIce

Chapter Five

Much to Sam’s chagrin, he hadn’t been the only one not hung over. Bobby and Jean were bright eyed. Hank and Logan were bushy-tailed. Emma was... Emma.

Scott appeared suddenly at Sam’s elbow. “Good morning troops,” he called. “Isn’t it a beautiful morning?”

“I don’t quite like the way he’s smiling,” said Emma.

“We’re going to be training one on one today,” Scott said, dropping a folder to the desk. “You can all head out. I’ll call you when it’s your turn.”

Bobby groaned. “It’s going to be one of those, isn’t it?” he muttered as he headed out the door.

“Bobby. Why don’t you go first?” Scott asked.

“Well actually, I’d rather not.”

“I only asked to be polite. Suit up and hit the Danger Room.”

“Fine,” he said curtly as he exited the room. “I’ll be there in ten, oh fearless leader.”

“I don’t understand what’s gotten into him lately,” Scott said, shaking his head.

Emma flicked an imaginary piece of lint off of one of her long gloves. Sam could have sworn he saw her grin at the phrase. She glanced up at him and smiled lazily, and her eyes whispered through heavy lashes.

He told himself that he only got out of there so quickly because he had homework to do.

Sprawled across his bed with his calculus books spread before him, he tried to concentrate. He really did. But Grace’s face kept forcing itself at random onto the pages. He really had to learn when the time was to not do things. No matter what she said, it was him, at least partially, because this was not a good time for it. He should be thanking her, really. Because this wasn’t a good time. He wasn’t sure when a good time would be, but this certainly wasn’t it.

Scott and Jean were falling apart, and as much as that didn’t say anything about him, it certainly said something about the toll their lifestyle took, even when both involved were actually involved with the whole super hero scene. He wasn’t particularly close to either one of them, but they’d been constant. The one reminder that sometimes, things held together, especially with enough super glue.

He was thinking about them like they were all ready done with. Never a good sign.

But, when you thought about it, the odds were just about perfect that the next relationship someone got into would work out. He was taking a class on statistics, and they were well over due for something to work out. So, maybe, Grace...

He gave himself a shake. Face it, that little voice said. You’re falling for her.

Not a good idea. For him, or, by the looks of it, for her.

The com station on his nightstand crackled. “Sam?” Scott’s voice asked.

He rolled over and hit the reply button. “Yeah?”

“Your turn.”

“Ah’ll be right down.” He left his books open on his bed. Maybe he’d actually get something done later.

Fifteen minutes later, he found himself standing alone in the Danger Room. He looked up at Scott, standing in the observation booth. “So you’re not going to tell me who Ah’m up against?”


“But they’ll know that they’re hunting me? As in *me*, in particular.”


“That somehow doesn’t seem very fair...”

Scott smiled, and Sam wasn’t sure that he liked it. “It may not be fair, but it’s much more likely to happen than your going up against half of your team.”

Sam thought about body-swapping, possession, and the Shadow King, and he said nothing. Scott nodded at him, then darkened the glass, leaving him feeling rather isolated. The room was set to a jungle. He took a quick look around, checking for any obvious flashes of blue fur, red hair, or white leather.

His teammates tended to not be best equipped for hiding.

Seeing nothing, he blasted up into the canopy. He’d hoped to get above, where no one could drop back down on him, but the branches were too thick. He crouched on a branch of the first level, making his way back into the cover of leaves. Settling himself where he had a good view, he waited. Somewhere an animal howled, and he felt himself shiver slightly in the muggy air.

He pressed himself farther back into the vines and leaves. His mind slowly wandered as time passed, despite his best efforts to keep it here. He’d been assuming one of the variables, he realized suddenly. In calculus. It had been the same in all the previous question, so he’d assumed it had carried through. Only it hadn’t, so that would change the entire equation.

~Rock-a-bye-babie, in the tree top...~

He started. Jumped a little bit, and looked around for the source. It hadn’t been any voice that he knew. It was vaguely unsettling, sing-songy.

The forest noises had fallen silent, he realized suddenly. Or, in the immortal words of someone else: It was quiet. Too quiet.

He caught a flash of white in the canopy above him as he tried to scramble to his feet. His boot caught on the bark and he staggered. Something incredibly hard knocked into him from the side, and he found himself suddenly hurtling towards the ground. He blasted, trying to adjust, only to find that it wasn’t enough because there were hands fastened firmly to his shoulders.

He looked back frantically, caught a glimpse of diamond. Emma. Good. He hadn’t burnt her. He blasted once more, just before they hit the ground. The smell of burning green was strong. He rolled when he hit the ground, breaking free and trying to get back up into the air, but all he succeeded in doing was sending himself sideways. His arm caught in some vines and he thought he heard a pop. A sudden numbness spread down across his chest and he hit the ground hard.

He shook his head, trying to get his orientation, and there was a thud on either side of his body. A weight settled onto his chest. He blinked, trying to get the world to stop spinning, and Emma snapped into focus.

They’d made a bit of a hole in the canopy and some sunlight filtered down, glittering oddly off her diamond form.

“Urk,” he breathed, and realized that she was the weight on his chest. She had her razor sharp fingers at his throat.

“One kill for me,” she whispered as she leaned forward. “Game over.” She planted a kiss on his forehead, diamond cold against his skin, then stood up. Her hair chimed as she swung it back over her shoulders, and the jungle faded from around them.

She faded back to flesh and blood. Started to say something, then paused. Scott was looking down on them again, the expression on his face rather odd, and Sam felt himself flush.

“Are you all right, Sam?” he called.

“Ah’m fine,” he replied hotly. “Ah can handle myself.”

There was a pause. “That arm looks pretty bad,” he said.

Sam looked over at his arm, lying at a rather odd angle by his side, and the numbness evaporated. “Oh,” he said weakly. “That. Maybe Ah could use a bit of a hand. Especially as mine doesn’t look like it’ll be much use.”

“Now,” Hank said, “this is going to hurt some, I’m afraid.”

His paws were gentle, the fur soft against his skin, and Sam nodded. “Ah’m ready.”

Hank’s paws suddenly tightened and he pushed. There was a sudden blast of pain and Sam felt the world spin. He gritted his teeth and it slowly subsided.

“Now,” Hank said, brushing off his paws, “I want you to go easy on it. Take a couple of aspirin. No training for at least a week, and it would probably be best if you were to wear a sling for a few days. It’s not that bad, no significant tissue damage, but you could very easily make it much worse.”

Sam nodded. He was just glad that it was his left arm. It was bad enough, the way he’d been taken down, but for it to mess with everything else he did would have been a bit too much. He let Hank take the X-Rays, or whatever it was he was doing for his records, then he climbed down off of the table, and gingerly pulled his shirt back over his head. “Thanks,” he said, but Hank was already absorbed in something underneath one of his many microscopes.

He was part way up to his room when he realized that he’d left his street clothes back in the change room. He sighed, turned around, and headed back. He ran the simulation over in his head as he walked. He should have kept his mind there and a closer eye on the canopy above him. He should have been able to correct his trajectory more quickly. He should have realized that there was still someone hanging onto him before he blasted. If it hadn’t been Emma... If it had been someone he could have burned... He should have, he should have, he should have...

He ground to a halt. He should have realized that there were *people* in the change room. Bobby and Emma, to be precise. Talking in fierce whispers. He stood frozen for an instant. Bobby was sitting with his elbows on his knees, his hands in his hair. One of his boots was sitting beside him on the bench, and the other was lying haphazard beneath a large, fresh-looking dent in the lockers. Emma was standing beside him, looking rather queenly.

He backpedalled quickly, but neither of them seemed to have seen him, and Emma didn’t look to have sensed his presence. She had a hand on Bobby’s back, and if Sam hadn’t seen him move, then he would have thought that she was pushing him.

Sam turned quickly and walked away with a vague sense of unease.

After one (disastrous) attempt at cooking lunch, an hour and a half of watching whatever channel whomever happened to be currently in control of the remote flipped the TV to, what seemed like an eternity of doing nothing at all, four or five aspirin, and two or three more failed attempts at his course work, he finally dumped his books back in his bag. He kicked the bag into his closet for good measure. His arm still hurt like a bugger, but moping wasn’t going to do anything about it.

He picked up the phone and dialled Kyle’s number.

“Hello,” a breathy voice answered. “Have you been a baaaad boy?”

“Uh...” Sam stammered.

“I know just what to do with bad boys,” the voice continued, then paused. “Oh, I’m just messing with them!” It called, and Sam recognized it as belonging to Sascha.

He groaned.

“Sam?” She asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s me.”

“It’s Sam!” she called, voice partially muffled. “You want to talk to Kyle?” she asked.

He shrugged, then realized that she couldn’t see him.

He was really going to have to start adjusting to the lack of video links. “You’ll do.”

“I’ll do, huh?” he could hear the grin in her voice. “Kyle’s got a maestro,” she said. “You have a blocker. I always tend to figure that the people who need to block who they are have no good reason to be calling here.”

“What about the people who need to know who it is before they pick up the phone?”

“Best way of screening out telemarketers.”

“Ah,” he replied sagely.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Nothing much.” He paused. “Nothing at all, really. I guess I was just wondering if you guys wanted to do something.”

“Sure,” she said. “If you don’t just mind hanging around. Ange is coming over, actually. Kyle’s making pizza dough, then we’re all putting together our own pizzas. It’s the only way we can all get what we want. You in?”

“Sure,” he said with a grin. “As long as I don’t have to throw my own dough. I had a bit of an accident today.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, Ah’ll be fine. Dislocated my shoulder a bit. It’s starting to feel better.”

“Jesus. How’d you do it?”

“It’s a pretty long story, actually. Long, and embarrassing for me. Suffice it to say that Ah fell out of a tree.”

He could hear her fighting back a laugh, and he really didn’t mind. She covered the receiver partially again and he vaguely hear her call “Yo! Kyle! Throw some more flour in there. Sam’s coming over.”

There was a pause, and Kyle’s voice came over the receiver. “You have any pineapple? Sascha’s a pineapple freak, but I refuse to keep the stuff in my place.”

“Ah’m pretty sure Ah can dig some up,” he said.

“Great,” Kyle said. He paused. “Look, I’ll see you in a bit. I need to get back to my dough.”

“Yeah. See you.” He heard Sascha call good bye at the phone before her boyfriend hung up.

He was pretty sure that there was a can of pineapple somewhere in the cupboards. Ororo had loved the stuff, and with the size of their shelves, there had to be some left. He’d been digging through the kitchen cupboards one-handed for about ten minutes before he found some. “Yes,” he exclaimed, turned, and promptly smacked himself on the cupboard door.

Someone laughed, and he turned to see Bobby leaning against the door from the living room. “Find what you’re looking for?” he asked.

Sam brandished his can proudly. “Sure did.”

Bobby laughed again. “The rest of us are heading down to Harry’s. You want to come?”

“Naw. I’ve got plans. But thanks anyways.”

Bobby raised an eyebrow. He looked a lot calmer than he had before, and Sam noticed that he was wearing pressed slacks, and shoes that definitely weren’t sneakers.

“Plans involving a can of pineapple?” Bobby asked, and there was something in his voice that Sam didn’t like.

“Yep,” Sam said. “Pineapple is very useful.” He found himself pondering the use of a can of it as a projectile weapon. He closed the cupboard door and headed for the exit.

Bobby didn’t move.

“Now,” said Sam, keeping his voice pleasant, “if you’ll excuse me, Ah have someplace Ah need to be.”

Bobby stepped aside, help his arms out grandly. “Be my guest.”

“Thank you,” Sam said, and decided that a can of pineapple wouldn’t make a very good throwing object. Too great a chance of missing.

~{ He’s flushed and her lips are cool. He shivers. She raises her head back up to his and kisses him. She’s iced lemonade on a hot summer’s day. He needs to drink her all down.

The bruises on his body are the only place that he’s not burning. Her fingers dance down his sides, and when they find the sore spots, he hisses.

She pulls back from him at that and frowns. Her fingers curl around the collar of his shirt and she deftly undoes each button and pulls the fabric away from his body. It sticks to his skin. Her eyes flicker at the sight of the rising bruises painted across his skin, and she kisses each one.

Her mind flitters sympathy at him. [This morning?] she asks as she rests her chin against his collar bone. It’s not really a question. He nods anyway.

[You shouldn’t let him treat you like that,] she says, and nuzzles his neck.

[He is team leader,] he replies.

[So?] She pulls away from her ministrations.

[He has the right. In fact, it’s kind of in his job description.]

She sighs. [He doesn’t order Jean like that. Or Hank. He’d have some respect for them.]

His first impulse is to blindly deny it. To tell her that they are all treated equally. He opens his mouth to do it, and she rolls off of him. He realizes that he must have been broadcasting it.

His first impulse was to completely deny it. Scott has so much of a stick up his ass that he’d have a hard time treating someone differently who hadn’t done something to deserve it.


Scott doesn’t treat him the same. He’s been around for as long as their fearless leader, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

[You want me to talk to him?] she asks, hands clasped across her stomach.

//NO// he thinks at her, emphatically. If she has to talk to him for him, then he really does deserve that treatment. [I’ll handle it myself,] he says outloud.

She smiles, and he’s not sure if he likes the look in her eyes.

But she hooks a leg around one of his and pulls herself on top of him, and he soon forgets any reservations that he may have had, and all that’s left is what’s been said.}~

continued >>

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