The Karma Downs
by CherryIce

Chapter Six

“I loooove rock and roll,” Kyle almost managed to sing as he draped an arm around Sam’s shoulder.

“Put another dime in the jukebox baby!” Sascha called from underneath Kyle’s other arm. She had one arm threaded through Angela’s, and none of them were looking all that stable. Someone stumbled, almost bringing down the entire chain, and Sam reached frantically for Grace. She laughed and steadied him.

He was suddenly rather aware that he had an arm wrapped around her waist, but she didn’t seem to notice. She looked over at him and smiled, and he thought that maybe she had noticed after all. Her eyes were a little wild, but she didn’t pull away.

Thunder threatened, lightning illuminating the night sky, throwing everything into sharp relief.

Sascha screeched as the first of the rain hit her, breaking the last of the formerly beautiful day. They started to run, heads down against the gusts. The lightning came again, and Sam felt as if he’d been struck. There was electricity running through his veins instead of blood, and a steady pulse in the back of his head. They scrambled under the awning in front of the Cuppa, and stumbled through the door, the wind blowing it shut as thunder shook the building.

“Eddie!” Sascha hooted, leaning over the bar and planting a kiss on the man standing behind it. “Great to see you’re feeling better. Haven’t seen you around in ages.”

Sam removed his arm from around Grace’s waist. Or he tried to. His arm had other ideas. “So. You’re Eddie,” he said, breaking free. Eddie Falco should have born more than a passing resemblance to his brother. They had the same dark hair, strong noses, and straight backs, but they wore their features differently. “Ah’ve been coming here for more than a month and a half, and Ah haven’t met you yet. Ah was starting to think you were a spectre.”

Eddie held his arms out from his sides, turned in a circle. “Flesh and blood,” he said with a grin, holding his hand out for Sam to shake. His grip was firm and warm. “Edwardo Falco,” he said. “You can call me Eddie. Ed, though, will have me going for your eyes.”

“Pleased tah meet you,” Sam said, sliding onto a stool. “Sam Guthrie.”

“Kentucky?” Eddie asked. Sam nodded. Eddie pursed his lips. “Let me guess. Blue Mountain?”

“Well, actually... Yeah.” Sam blinked.

“I’m an expert on accents,” Eddie said conspiratorially, leaning in close. “Comes of listening to the life stories of so many drunken travellers.”


Kyle slapped him on the back. “Don’t worry. I told him. He was sick and bored, and needed a bit of gossip to keep going.”

Sam nodded again. “Okay,” was all he said.

“Eddie,” Angela asked. “The gentlemen and the lady have never yet had a grasshopper.”

“What?” Eddie gasped, and Sam thought that his shock was only half pretend.

“We were waiting for you to get better. No one makes them like you do.”

Eddie just shook his head and set about behind the bar, throwing liquids from various bottles seemingly at random into a pair of tall glasses.

Sam eyed his suspiciously as it slid to a stop before him. “Isn’t it a bit... Pink?” he finally asked. “Grasshoppers, green...”

“My own special mix,” Eddie said.

“Drink it up, or you’re going to hurt his feelings,” Angela said. Eddie looked at him with wounded eyes.

Beside him, Grace shrugged and downed hers. “Decent,” she said.

He didn’t think that he’d ever seen anyone without a healing factor that instantly negated alcohol take a drink that fast.

He drained his too. This wasn’t the first time that Grace had shown that she’d been around the block a few more times than he had, and he didn’t want her to think that he was just some kid. He finished it, eyes watering. “Pretty good,” he coughed. Sascha laughed, and Eddie reached over and patted his back.

He glanced over to see Grace looking at Eddie with an odd expression in her eyes. The flash of familiarity surfaced again, and he could almost grasp it. It danced with the lightning in his blood, and he was on the verge of seizing it when there was another drink deposited in front of him, and his mind derailed. Another grasshopper. Eddie smiled at him warmly. “On the house,” he said. “Try to taste this one.”

Glasses slammed down in unison. “Six!” Sascha called as Sam stared across the table at them. They were doing straight tequila shots. Sascha and Kyle, and it wasn’t the first that they’d had to drink tonight. Angela raised her eyebrow at him over her Coke. ‘They can do this forever,’ the look seemed to say. Sascha waved her hand in the air and Eddie wandered on over to the booth they’d moved to a few hours previous.

“Another round,” she asked him, and he shook his head.

“That’s enough of the tequila for now,” he said.

Kyle snorted at him.

“Oh, come off it. You know as well as I do, little brother, that when you wake up hung over in the morning, you’re going to blame me for not cutting you off sooner.”

“What about me?” Sascha asked hopefully.

Eddie patted her shoulder, rested his hand on Sam’s arm for a second. “All I said was no more tequila. If you can walk to the bar, I’ll give you a beer. Sam and Grace still seem good, though, and I’m not going to cut someone off of pop.”

Sam hummed a slight negative as Eddie walked away. He hadn’t had as much to drink that night as any either Kyle or Sascha, but he was still on his way. They’d come out tonight in part to celebrate his official return to the land of the sound of body (Although, as Sascha had so kindly pointed out, he still had a long way to return to the sound of mind.) He may not have training to look forward to in the morning, but he was just getting used enough to not being in pain that he thought it wise to avoid a hangover.

Grace was playing pool up on the top level, laughing and tossing her hair. It sat like gold across her dark shirt. Her partner was a man. Tall, dark, and handsome, looking suave and mysterious. He placed a hand on her arm.

“Sam my man, you’re growling,” Sascha said.

Angela followed his gaze, and winced in sympathy. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said.

“It is nothing,” Sam said. “She’s just a friend. She can play pool with whomever she wants.”

Kyle shook his head.

“De-nile ain’t just a river in Egypt, y’know,” Sascha said, taking a pull off of a beer that seemed to have materialised out of thin air.

“Sascha, you know that you’re full of it when you’re drunk, right?” he asked.

“Sam, you know that you’re full of it even when you’re not wasted, right?” Kyle asked with a raised eyebrow. “You have it bad. You can tell yourself whatever you need to to convince yourself otherwise, but it’s true. You. Have it bad. For Grace.”

“And if I do?” he asked. “So what? It’s not like it’d make *any* difference in the way that she felt.”

Angela shook her head and started to speak, but fell silent.

“What?” Sam asked. “What?”

She hesitated, took another sip of her drink. “Just... I’ve known a lot of girls who’ve been where Grace has. Few of them make it to where she is now.”

Sam stared into the bottom of his as of yet unidentified drink. “Ah don’t quite understand.”

She shook her head. “No, you can’t. You’re a guy. But that’s something else entirely. You just... You have to be a bit understanding. You have to give her a bit of space.”

“She’s talked to you?” he finally asked.

Sascha shook her head. “No. She hasn’t talked to any of us, and if she could, then that would mean that it wasn’t as bad.”

“Now, that Ah kind of understand.” Actually, he kind of thought he understood it all. He finished his drink, and thought of Scott and Jean, pretending so hard, so damn hard that everything was all right, until they couldn’t even ask for help any more. Thought of Emma and what it must have been for her, especially as a telepath, to be the only survivor of Genosha, to lose students again and again. He drained the last of the concoction before him and thought that at the very least, he could identify a goodly dose of ameretto.

Tall, dark, and suave stalked past him and out the door of the bar. The thunder and lightning had long since subsided, but it was still raining. Sascha elbowed him in the ribs.

“Hey!” he squawked.

“Go talk to her,” she said, motioning up towards the pool table with her chin.

“But you just said to give her space!”

“Sam,” Angela said, “we said to give her a bit of space. Not avoid her.”

“Ah’m not avoiding her,” he muttered.

“Sam,” Kyle finally chimed in. “Get your ass up there.”

He sighed. Stood and pushed his chair in, glaring at each of them just a little. There was a hand on his back suddenly and he turned to see its owner. Eddie smiled at him. “Going somewhere?” he asked.

“Just gonna go see Grace,” he said distractedly, not really noticing the look on Eddie’s face, and not having the time or the energy to figure out why Kyle and Sascha were suddenly giggling.

Grace was the only one upstairs, save for a small group of men surrounding the foozeball table. It was getting late. The radio seemed curiously loud, cocooning them in country laments.

“Hey,” she said, picking up the bills scattered across the pool table. There was a cue lying on the floor, and he couldn’t help but think that it looked like an awful lot of money scattered across the felt. She pocketed it casually, like it was something that happened all the time. “Yes?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yah scammed that guy,” he said. It just slipped out, and he kicked himself.

Her eyebrow was still raised but her eyes had taken on a slightly dangerous glint. “Your point being?” she asked.

“Yah shouldn’t,” he said. And he kicked himself again, because he certainly hadn’t meant to spit that out.

“And why not?” she asked.

“It’s wrong,” was all he could come up with at that point. Oh, score one for him. Ever so witty and convincing.

“Sam, you are in no position to judge me.”

“Ah’m not! Ah’m just...”

“Just what? Pointing out where we differ in a way that makes it seem like your preconceptions are the ultimate be-all, end-all?”

“Grace... Ah didn’t mean... It just kinda slipped out.”

“You don’t have a high horse to stand on, Sam.”

He didn’t, did he? He was lying to his friends about his very lifestyle, about who and what he was.

“I mean, you’ve been leading poor Eddie on all night. Either that, or you’ve been leading me on.”

That stopped him dead. He’d been about to apologize, ask forgiveness, but he stopped, and all that came out was “beg your pardon?”

“Eddie?” She asked sarcastically. “You know, the bartender. He’s been flirting with you all night.”

“What... He has not!”

She just looked at him.

“He has not!”

“Sam, he’s checking out your ass right now.”

Sam turned around, scanning the bar. Eddie was back at a booth, and he smiled up at him. Sam smiled weakly, waved, and turned back to Grace. She took one look at his face and started to laugh.

“You’ve got to be one of the most oblivious people I know, Sam,” she gasped. “You really had no idea, did you?”

He shook his head. Her laughter was infectious, and he felt it start to bubble up inside of himself, bringing back the lightning in his veins. He tried to blame it on the alcohol. He leaned back against the pool table beside her.

“I do a pretty good cute act, Sam,” she said. “I do. I can be the little defenseless girl, the innocent child. I’m good at her, Sam. I am. And anyone who’d take advantage of her deserves to lose a bit of money or get taken down a few notches.”

He nodded. It made some odd sort of sense.

“It may not be the code you live by, but it’s just as valid,” she said, and her voice was quiet. He rubbed her back, and he thought that he caught a glimpse of a smile on her lips before her hair curtained her face. It was something that he was starting to get. Every point of view had something going for it if you took the time.

Her back was warm beneath his hand, the lightning was singing through his blood again, and the rain whispered against the walls. She stiffened suddenly, pulled away from him and headed down the stairs. He followed her, because he didn’t know what else to do. She didn’t stop for her jacket, just hit the doors and vanished out into the night as he trailed at her heels.

The wind whipped rain at him, obscuring his vision and chilling him to the core, and he thought for a second that he’d lost her. He wiped the rain from his face and he saw her. She was standing in the middle of the deserted street, arms out. There was water bubbling and rushing in the gutters, and the wind whipped her hair around her in a twisting nimbus.

He approached her slowly, cautiously, not sure if she even knew that he was there. Her eyes were fixed blindly on the roiling sky. “Ah do something wrong?” he asked, just trying to bring her back from where ever her mind had wandered. She didn’t respond at first, then slowly she shook her head and laughed. It was a bitter sound, and it fit right in with the wind.

“No,” she said. “You didn’t do anything wrong. That’s part of the problem.”

“Oh,” he said.

“You know I was jealous tonight, Sam? I was jealous.”

The idea normally would have given him a bit of thrill, but at the moment he was just concerned for Grace.

“Do you know what that means?” she asked, and she turned the full intensity of her eyes on him. “It wasn’t the propertorial kind of jealous, either. It just honest, intense jealousy, and... And... I don’t let myself get close enough to be jealous. I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair. It’s not. It isn’t fair to you, Sam.”

“It seems to me that what wouldn’t be fair to me would be to not give me that chance. Ah like you, Grace.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“So give me that chance!”

“Sam, if you knew me, then you wouldn’t like me.”

“Grace...” he said, struggling for words, trying to find something to fill the spaces between the wind. “Look, to really know you would take a lifetime. And even then, I wouldn't know all the details. I’ve known you, what? A month? That’s plenty of time to know sometimes. I know *who* you are. I may not know what you are, where you’ve been, or where you come from, but I know who you are, and that’s all that really matters.” He stood there, shivering in the rain, trying to punch his words through.

She laughed, a wild, fierce sound that sang with thunder. She twisted away from him and spun in the rain, face lifted to catch the drops. She stopped with a final gasping laugh, stood still as a statue. “This is me,” she said finally, between the raindrops. “In this moment, in this one single moment, this is me. Just me.”

Cautiously he lay a hand on her arm, hovering over her like a bird in flight before he dropped his hand to her skin. He more than half expected her to bolt. She laughed once more, and it was bitter. “Just me,” she whispered, turning her face up to him and searching his eyes for something. Her gaze cut right through him, sliced him open to his very core as she searched for something, anything.

She must have found it because she leaned in towards him cautiously, as if expecting to have to pull back at any second. She rested her head lightly on his shoulder, and he put his arms loosely around her. Her skin was almost feverish hot to the touch.

“There are a lot of things that you can’t know about me,” she said, her voice muffled by his shoulder. “There are a lot of things that even I don’t know, Sam, that I don’t quite remember. I’m not whole. I’m not complete. I’m just trying to find...”

“Shh,” he said. “It’s okay. We all have our own secrets.”

They stood there in the rain and the wind until a car tore through the night, spraying water into the air and forcing them inside, laughing.

“Okay, you hold him up and I’ll pick the lock.”

Funny how ‘real’ life mirrored that of the spandex squad, Sam thought, as he held a semiconscious Kyle upright. Grace crouched in front of the apartment door and pulled something from her hair. A few seconds later the door swung open and she hauled them inside.

“Where’d you learn to do that?” he gasped.

“When I was little, I kept forgetting my house key,” she said as she turned on the lights and came back to help hoist Kyle up. The man was no feather weight, and he was just conscious enough that he was making everything harder for them. “Dad was always at work, and even when mom was there, she couldn’t always be counted on to get the door open.”

Sam kicked the door closed behind them. They’d dragged Kyle back to his place only to find that Sascha had taken his keys earlier in the evening. She hadn’t been in the best of shape either, so Angela had landed the task of taking her back to her place.

Sam wasn’t exactly in shape for driving either, so he was taking up Kyle’s offer of a place to crash whenever he needed one. He’d actually been taking it up rather often lately.

They dumped Kyle on his bed, then Sam began peeling off his shoes and socks.

“You got him?” Grace asked.

“This is nothing,” he said with a grin, and she shut the door behind herself. Usually when he had to take care of someone who had passed out, he had to be constantly on guard against the possibility of getting a stomach full of adamantium, or of suddenly realizing that his hands hand been blown off.

Grace was sprawled across the couch when he came out, flipping channels on the television. “Nothing on,” she said as she wrinkled her nose. “Unless you want to watch Miss Cleo dupe the unsuspecting.”

Sam snorted, took the remote and turned off the television. “She’s not even a telepath,” he said.

Grace looked at him oddly.

“So!” he said quickly. “Nothing on tv, but we have movies.”

“What’ve we got?” she asked with some curiosity, then paused. “I really shouldn’t. It’s getting pretty late.”

“Action movies, romance movies, comedies...” he said almost desperately. “And Disney movies. Lots and lots of Disney movies. Sascha loves them.”

She grinned at him, and it was an unassuming, complete smile. “I’ve never actually seen one,” she said.

He stopped. “You’ve never seen a Disney movie?” he asked incredulously.

She shook her head.


She grinned at him. “Well, I certainly haven’t seen one since you asked last.”

“Sit,” he said. “I’ll make popcorn. We have to remedy this.” He paused. “Not even Snow White?”

She shook her head. “Nope.”

So he made a big bowl of popcorn, and poured both of them glasses of Coke. They’d both had enough alcohol for the night. Popping a cassette at random into the VCR he settled down beside her.

She hogged the popcorn.

He moved it from between them after awhile.

“Hey!” she cried.

“Ah made it. Ah’d like some too,” he said.

“Put the popcorn back.”

“You want the popcorn?”


“You really want the popcorn?” he asked. She grinned and bared her teeth.

“Yes. Popcorn.”

“Here yah go,” he said, and emptied it over her head.

She sat with her mouth wide open for a second, and it gave him time to skitter out of arm’s reach.

“You’re going to pay for that,” she said, stalking him across the room.

“Yah said yah wanted the popcorn...”

She snarled at him. Something in her eyes didn’t bode well for him. “To eat, Sam. Not to wear. It doesn’t accessorise well with what I’ve got on.”

“Be careful or you’ll wake Kyle,” he said desperately. The movie played on in the background.

“Sam, Apocalypse himself wouldn’t wake Kyle right now.”

“Oh,” he squeaked, dodging as she lunged. She missed, but she turned and threw herself at him again.

The air rushed out of his lungs as her weight carried him to the carpet. “You’re gonna pay for that,” she grunted as they rolled about the living room. His clothes were still somewhat damp, he realized. He also came to the sudden realisation that Grace had wrestled him to a stop and was now sitting on him, pinning him to the ground.

He couldn’t help it. He froze.

She did, too. He could see the beginning of something building in her eyes, and he didn’t move except to breath. Slowly, ever so slowly, she leaned forward, and her breath was cool against his flushed skin. Strands of her hair danced across his skin, and he couldn’t hear anything outside of his heartbeat and breath and the steady thrumming in his head. She ran her fingers hesitantly through his hair, tangled them in as she kissed his forehead, the curve of his cheek, his jaw, the corner of his mouth.

Pulling back, she just looked at him, her face hovering so close that he could feel the warmth from her skin. “Sam?” she asked, her eyes bright. He couldn’t tell if it was a question or a plea or an apology.

Then her eyes swallowed him and it didn’t matter because he was kissing her.


continued >>

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