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Domino Effect

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Evan thinks that it all started the day Quentin broke up with Idie in the gardens.

The breakup wasn’t entirely mutual, though it was welcomed on both parties; it was emotional, though no tears were shed; and it was pained, though unexpectedly, it wasn’t on Idie’s side. Rather, Evan was told by his friend that there was this sudden wash of relief over Idie, the girl going from taut and confused to surprised to relaxed, suddenly flopping back into Krakoa’s specially soft grass with a melodious laugh.

You know, I was planning to break it off with you,” was what Quentin said she said, as she looked up with bright eyes. Quentin paused, looking blankly in front of him before he spoke again. He talked about how Idie’s feelings were always laid out before everyone, always. Her beautiful eyes—as fiery and as icey as the rest of her—had grown dull not too long before the day. Even if Quentin wasn’t a telepath, as he explained, he would have been able to known by the way she would look away when Quentin started being uncharacteristically soft, trying to give her the romance she deserved. And the moment Quentin suggested that it might have been the time to break it off, she just seemed to glow.

There was a minute of silence between the two boys, sitting on a hill not too far from the Jean Grey school. The hill Evan, Quentin, Idie and the rest of them would often find themselves on, reclining or studying or trying to escape the madness that was a school filled with rebellious mutant children. At that moment, however, they were the only ones there. School was in session, with Idie and their other classmates all learning about “trivial shit that doesn’t even prepare us for when humans lob bricks at us when we’re older,” as Quentin had elegantly put it.

Skipping class… the thought never really sat well with Evan. He had been prompted to skip a thousand times before, of course, but he was so self-confident in his studies and so worried about his future, he could never actually force himself to go. But with Quentin’s usual self-confidence and haughtiness momentarily turned to a certain stillness and leniency that Evan thought he could never relate Quentin, the young clone wasn’t exactly sure what he could do.

Quentin was his friend. Evan wasn’t so sure about their relation in the beginnings of what turned out to be their friendship, as he had always treaded lightly, skeptical about what the future Apocalypse and future Phoenix—Evan still thought of their future darkly, much to his own dismay and fears—would be able to accomplish if they were friends. But there they were. Best friends, in the words of their classmates. Inseparable, in the terms of the trio that they and Idie formed and stuck with. Even when Quentin and Idie dated they still made Evan feel welcome, and they’d all be determined to keep their little group despite the breakup. They were all friends.

Evan was determined to keep his friends, even if that meant doing the unthinkable—asking Quentin if he’d like to skip class together. Evan’s stomach didn’t exactly roll when he had suggested it, per se, but whatever the feeling he got, it was overshadowed by the happiness that pulled him forward when Quentin’s tired frown had turned into a surprised smile at the words.
They almost didn’t get past Headmistress Munroe in their escape; they had to literally hide behind potted plants in order to sneak past her, like in one of Evan’s sillier favourite movies (most movies were his favourite movies), and Evan’s heart pounded like they were trying to escape sentinels while Quentin kept cool and collected. Practice makes perfect, Evan supposed. He was just so convinced that they wouldn’t actually make it out the doors—

But they did.

And there they were.

Under the small birch on the hill, overlooking the infamous school, listening to the very concerning but very common sounds of explosions within the wall. They sat, both of them leaning back on the trunk of the tree, Evan somehow coaxing the pink-haired mutant beside him to talk about feelings, of all things. They were all very manly feelings, of course. Manly, mutant-y feelings. About breakups.

“It didn’t really feel fair,” Quentin admitted, his arms crossed and resting on his knees, which were brought to his chest.

“It didn’t—what didn’t?” Evan asked, suddenly brought out of his manly reverie. His blue lips suddenly drew tight. “Idie… not liking you?”

Quentin laughed bitterly, looking over at Evan with a frown. “No, I don’t give a shit about that, like, she can like whoever she wants, I don’t care, it’s whatever, or… oh my god, whatever,” Quentin rambled incessantly, waving his hands around him as if that would get his point across. He stopped though, and decided to throw his hands to the ground instead, where they tugged at the grass beneath his fingers. “It wasn’t fair for her—shit, she was scared to dump me, she had to rehearse what she was going to say, I heard her think about the specific words—”

“You couldn’t have done it for her earlier, if she was so scared?” Evan asked, raking a hand through his thick, curled hair.

Quentin’s face contorted at the words. “God, shut up, I just… I don’t. I didn’t know what to do.” He shrugged. His expression then softened with a sigh, leaning his head back against the tree. “I really liked her. I still do, I guess. Though now I have to learn how to… unlearn… feelings,” he sneered.

“You didn’t want to try to salvage the relationship or anything?”

Quentin’s lips parted to speak, but he slowly blinked and closed his mouth again and looked down for a moment. Evan didn’t dare break the silence.

“That… like I said, that wouldn’t be fair. I wouldn’t do that to her. I can’t—couldn’t. Wouldn’t feel right… I don’t know. Guess I didn’t try hard enough,” Quentin sighed, tilting his head away from Evan. “I feel bad about looking into her head. But I was just… really curious. She has other... romantic interests, I guess you could call it, anyway. Not that I’m surprised.”

Evan stared, surprise painting his face, trying to think of something nice to say. He was never really good with words.

“That’s a good thing to do.” And that was a stupid thing to say. Quentin looked at him weirdly, and before he was able to say anything, Evan spoke up again: “No, I mean. Like. That was a really kind thing for you to do, I think… Putting Idie before yourself. That’s good. It’s practically…” Evan paused, as he couldn’t help but snicker, “it’s heroic.”

Quentin groaned, a hand flying up and splaying across his face in false agony. “Now I feel even worse. I can’t believe you even laughed at me. Since when did you become the jerk?”

Evan laughed more freely now, letting himself do so at the sight at Quentin’s slight smirk that tugged at the corner of his lip despite him obviously trying to keep a straight face. “I wasn’t laughing at you! I was just laughing at… well...”

“At me because you’re a horrible little man,” Quentin said, his tone scornful, but the time he had spent with the telepath let Evan become familiar to Quentin’s odd humour.

They laughed, and Evan was extraordinarily glad to get him to laugh again. Though Quentin wasn’t usually that sort of stupidly happy, it was better than getting no emotion from him at all. Evan felt a swell of pride at that. Their shoulders brushed, and Evan’s breath hitched before spiraling into a last, small fit of giggles.

“Shut up,” Quentin demanded, shaking his head. They smiled at each other, and Quentin’s face turned soft. His blue eyes were stuck on Evan’s red for a few moments before he interrupted himself with a shrug, looking back at the school. “Thanks, jerk,” he said.

And that was it. The day Quentin broke up with Idie in the gardens, the beginning link of a chain of fantastic events occurred: Evan learned that Quentin really knew how to care.

Maybe he should have known long before, but something about the unexpected comfort in Quentin’s look somehow confirmed it.

They both sat back, leaning on the birch, watching the school just as a window exploded and flame erupted from the frame.

It was a beautifully calm day.

Chapter Text

The second link that Evan could think of happened on the day Quentin rushed down the halls, holding his nose with both hands, blood dripping through his fingers and onto the floor.

 

Quentin’s skinny legs carried him far, feet barely touching the floor as he ran away from the heavy stride of the boy chasing after him, yelling foreign profanities that neither Evan nor Idie could understand, as the boys passed them in the common room. The screaming interrupted their studying  for their arctic wasteland survival class.

 

Jia fluttered above, stopping abruptly to land in front of Idie and giggle excitedly. She brushed her skirt and before Idie could ask for an explanation, Jia clapped her crystalline hands together, creating a ting sound.

 

“Kubark’s hunting down Quentin again,” she smiled. Evan and Idie were seated with wide eyes and worried looks—her attitude was a little… concerning to Evan. “I don’t know what Quentin did, but I want to find out! It looks like Kubark already broke Quentin’s nose…”

 

Again?” Idie asked, her eyes wide as well, but with her eyes furrowed annoyedly She pulled herself up out of the plush (and partially scorched) chair she was in and crossed her arms. Idie didn’t stand much taller than Jia, though the shorter girl still jumped and started rapidly beating her wings so she hovered to be eye-to-eye with her. Her smile didn’t falter.

 

“I was following them! I would really like to see where the fight goes.” Jia tilted her head to the side in thought, “should I get Trevor? Do you think this would be a good story for the paper? Hmm…”

 

It was Evan’s turn to stand, and he did so with uncertainty. He was much taller than the two girls, and though his physique might have usually made others look imposing, he tried not to make much of a statement with himself. Instead, he crossed his arms nervously. He coughed slightly, gaining the attention from Jia, who then flew up to reach his height.

 

“Evan! You like movies with explosions and punching, right? You should come with me! I’m sure there will be a lot of punching involved,” her eyelashes fluttered charmingly, mimicking the quick beats of her wings for a second, keeping her smile.

 

Evan frowned. Her disposition definitely scared him. “I’m, err—I’m actually a little worried about the punching, actually,” he explained, “it’s not really something I want to happen in real life... or ever.”

 

Jia huffed, rolling her eyes. She reached down, her crystalline and blue hands taking Evan’s smooth and blue hands, and flew backwards slowly which tugged Evan forward ever slightly.

 

“You can join me anyway! If you're so worried, then come with me so we can watch… and then I suppose you may break them up if you really want to,” she said, punctuating her sentence with a deep nod.

 

“I don’t really want them to fight at all!” Evan said, still letting himself be pulled along. He looked behind him, Idie was just finishing closing their books. “Idie?”

 

She looked up at them and stared, her eyes naturally wide, surrounding her mutant heterochromia in halos of white. Between Quentin’s bright blue, and Evan’s own red, Idie’s blue and orange was almost perfect balance between the two boys. It was almost funny, and though Evan might’ve laughed at the thought, he was more concerned about keeping Quentin from getting punched into mutant paste.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m coming,” Idie said, laying their stuff on a coffee table to retrieve later. With a jump in her step she ran towards Evan and grabbed one of his arms, forcing him to let go of Jia’s hands. Idie pulled Evan more forcibly than Jia, starting to drag him along the hall. “You ready to save Quentin’s ass again?” She asked, looking back at Evan with a bit of a smirk.

 

Evan was worried, sure, but he let himself laugh weakly. “Again, and again, and again,” he smiled, shrugging off Idie’s arm. The two started to run down the hallway, with Jia flying above them.

 

The school often seemed like a maze, impossible to find anything, but to find Quentin they just followed the yelling.

 

Entering the entrance hall of the school, they suddenly forced themselves to skid to a stop. A circle of students blocked their path as they stood crowding and observing what must have been Kubark and Quentin, and Evan didn’t really feel like running into Iara. Evan was sure that the commotion Iara and the others were staring at was of Kubark and Quentin, because if he knew anything, it’d be that one, mutant teenagers apparently really loved fights, as demonstrated by Jia’s enthusiasm; and two, the occasional shrill inclinations of one of the voices beyond the group of students definitely belonged to Quentin. Producing ear-piercing notes while arguing loudly was one of Quentin’s less fantastic talents.

 

Idie, unafraid of the hulking shark in front of them, went up to Iara and took her arm, shaking it gently to grab her attention. Iara shifted and made a space for Idie, still holding her arm, so she could also watch the spectacle unravel. Evan quickly made for the space that Iara made, and he may have accidentally pushed Iara a little bit, along with another student, to see. It was… not one of his finer moments, which Iara would show clearly. Before he could say anything of an apology, he was shoved roughly into the middle of the fray, tripping over himself and landing on his knees not too far in front of Quentin, Headmistress Munroe, Warbird and Kubark. He was only acknowledged slightly by Quentin’s frantic look and Warbird’s eye twitch, and Evan felt wretchedly awkward as he froze there.

 

“Will we have this settled tonight?” Miss Munroe asked sharply, looking between the three.

 

“The Emperor will not stand for his son being battled by a mutant in his own asylum,” Warbird stood fierce in front of Kubark and spoke with a deep voice, unmoved by Storm’s words and protective stance over Quentin.

 

Ah, politics. That was probably why Quentin didn’t attack to defend himself—Evan knew that Quentin was an incredibly talented mutant, he could take care of himself or sure, but maybe subjecting the school to an intergalactic war because of a petty punch wasn’t exactly worth it.

 

Evan had managed to back himself up to sit in the space between in front of Idie, as she stood with Iara, and—determined by the multiple eyes staring at him from on the legs beside him— in front of Trevor as well.

 

“He’s the one who quote-unquote battled me,” Quentin defended shrilly, poking out from behind Storm. His hunched-over stature and squawking voice contrasted deeply against the image of Miss Munroe and Warbird. One hand was still pressed flush against his nose, where blood still seeped from between his fingers.

 

“He mocked me. I defended myself, he ran, and I pursued to bring justice,” Kubark said stoically, otherwise visibly unphased if not for his disapproving frown. His arms were crossed fiercely, holding his own.

 

Evan heard Quentin mutter a Jesus Christ with a shiver at the word ‘justice’, and, well, Evan could understand. He wouldn’t want to be on the other side of Kubark’s fist like Quentin had been.

 

Storm sighed. “If Quentin didn’t strike any blows against the prince…” she tapped her foot in thought, her high heel clicking against the tiled floor. “May we continue this in my office?”

 

Warbird let down her guard slightly, indicated by her slight shifting. Her hands found themselves crossed at her chest. "If we must. I desire that the young prince does not attend. However, I will not leave him in the company of the young mutant,” Warbird stated.

 

Evan suddenly felt compelled to jump to his feet. Scrambling to gain purchase, he managed to stand and move towards the two women and two boys, making his presence known to the four of them. He paused awkwardly as they all turned to stare at him, before he straightened and cleared his throat. “That won’t be a problem, I think, if I can take him to the infirmary,” he suggested meekly.

 

Miss Munroe softened, though Warbird didn’t seem to change her expression whatsoever. However, she nodded. “That is agreeable,” she said to Miss Munroe. “The boy will be taken for healing, and will be watched over by the other, to assure no other assaults are made.”

 

“No other assaults…but— never mind. Thank you, Evan,” the thank you was curt but Evan was sure that his help was well appreciated, so Evan quickly went over and grabbed Quentin’s shoulder, tugging him to take him out of the student-guarded fighting ring that had already started to deplete.

 

He turned his head towards Idie, who hung off of Iara’s arm, her anxious gaze following the two boys. He waved her off, mouthing assuring words at her as he attempted to take one of Quentin’s arms and drape it around his shoulder and then put his own arm around his waist to help him walk, but this was apparently ill-advised: Evan’s attempt at helpfulness was met with the palm of Quentin’s hand pushing Evan by his shoulder away, almost into the crowd.

 

Quentin physically pushed at the crowd to part them, the blood on his hand nauseatingly smearing on a poor kid’s jacket lapels like from some kind of zombie flick as the circle was roughly parted. It likely wasn’t just his physical prowess that parted the kids like the Red Sea, it likely wasn’t much of his strength at all when his physique went in consideration, as Quentin had a look that could ward off even the mightiest of Avengers, Evan thought. He then quickened his pace to catch up to his friend, whose hands had been placed at his nose again. And Red Sea indeed, blood still dripped, though Quentin tipped his head up to try to lessen the flow. Evan put a hand on his shoulder, and his touch wasn’t rejected that time.

 

“Prince shit-for-brains doesn’t know who not to mess with,” Quentin hissed through his teeth

 

“Hm? Oh. Phoenix, right?”

 

“Phoenix,” Quentin agreed. “When I rightfully become a scantily-clad Phoenix host, I’m going to go complete fire-feather-desctructo-bird on his oblivious purple ass. It’ll be crisp alien for breakfast, kids.”

 

Evan pursed his lips for a moment before responding. “Oh my god, that technically wouldn’t be cannibalism, would it?” Evan staggered, eyes going wide.

 

Quentin huffed a small laugh, as loud as he could in that moment. From the way Quentin would flinch as they walked, especially when he jerked suddenly and laughed, Evan understood that the pain was actually a great deal heavier than Quentin led it on to be. “Exactly, ‘Poca-lips. And who knows, it might even taste like chicken. Imagine that.”

 

Evan looked behind them, nobody had entered down the hall and Evan had seen that nobody was in front of them. They were the only ones in the otherwise deserted hallway. They were nervous around being near Quentin, maybe. Maybe scared of being caught by Miss Munroe or Warbird. No prying allowed, lest you be eaten by a flock of bamfs. He turned back to Quentin.

 

“Maybe we’ll have to try it sometime,” he joked in a light voice.

 

When they reached the school’s nurse’s office Quentin had immediately been taken to get a treatment for his injury, Evan trailing like a puppy. However, because of the height difference between the two, it might have been more accurate to compare them to a great dane and a child.

 

Not that Quentin was much of a child. It was hard of even imagining him as a child, if he ever was one. Evan assumed he was, at one point.

 

Maybe?

 

“Shit—! Dammit, that bastard—”

 

“Stop poking the bandage, Quentin,” Evan sighed, his cheek resting in the palm of his hand. He sat in a chair, leaning on a side table, next to Quentin. Quentin had gotten a bandage, and the white of the gauze made the dark bruises on Quentin’s face pop even more. It was a frightening contrast to most, maybe, but bruises weren’t anything special as a mutant, and especially as a mutant student where the school would randomly try to kill you.

 

“Shut up, you don’t understand how humiliating this is,” Quentin argued.

 

Evan’s face contorted, lifting off of his hand to stare directly at Quentin. “Apparently, I’ve never broken my nose before? I never knew,” he said impulsively. The boredom the waiting and the sterile room induced brought out the snark that he knew Quentin would be proud of at any other given time. That time, however, Quentin merely snarled at him, but wrinkling his nose caused him to wince and fall back into his chair, muttering a dozen curses Evan never would have heard his parents say, even if they were real or not.

 

Silence followed Evan’s sudden sailor speech lesson, they both found themselves slouching in the horrible hospital-grade chairs as they waited for the nurse to return. Evan was almost asleep when Quentin interrupted next.

 

“God, if Storm escorted me here, she’d be on my ass about how to live civilly with other races, don’t you think?”

“I—what?” Evan asked, being dragged out of his hazy half-sleep. He barely stifled a yawn.

 

“I’m glad that at least it was you who dragged me to get bandaged, if anyone.”

 

Evan laughed. “I see your point about Miss Munroe, but…” he sucked through his teeth and shrugged, “I’m sure I’m not the most entertaining company.”

 

Quentin waved his hands a few times, dismissing Evan’s words, though he didn’t turn to look at the other. “Iara would call me a dumbass and leave. Jia would ask me a million questions about exactly how a punch to the face felt. I imagine Julian would take every instance he could to passive-aggressively insult me while praising himself…” Quentin tapped his chin in thought. “Lin wouldn’t talk to me. And Trevor? Probably wouldn’t volunteer. If he was forced, he’d try his best to look away from me. keyword being try,” Evan watched Quentin as he rolled his eyes dramatically. “Who else would totally be awful companions for when being dragged to get your nose fixed?”

 

“Kubark?” Evan suggested with a smile. This made Quentin train his eyes on Evan.

 

Quentin snorted with a toothy smirk, before cursing again at the pain. But he still gave a breathy laugh afterwards, shaking his head. “You know, I’m not actually sure what Idie would actually do if she came with me. So… you’re still the best candidate.”

 

“I’m flattered.”

 

“You should be,” Quentin agreed with a nod. “And it all works out, I think. It’s not actually that painful of a thought to spend the day locked up in here with your best friend, right? God forbid I be stuck in a cramped room with one of those other assholes,” he shrugged.

 

Evan froze, stopped by Quentin’s description of him. He forced himself to mutter an agreement with a nod before he tore his gaze away, his face once more falling onto his hand on the table.

 

He didn’t have time to reflect on what the telepath said, however, as the nurse entered suddenly a mere moment after the conversation was cut short by Evan’s inability to articulate himself.

 

Quentin was engaged once more with the nurse, while Evan sat silently.

 

The thought of being Quentin’s closest friend resonated within him.

 

Chapter Text

Evan barely remembered the third great thing in his self-composed great chain of events. He was barely conscious for it.

 

It had all started with arctic wasteland survival class, of course. Likely because the school needed new repairs due to another disaster, everyone was shipped off to fully immerse themselves in a true, frigid wasteland.

 

Evan had a newfound hatred for Canada.

 

Though he had studied, and he had prepared, and he had memorized all the types of edible lichen in the tundra, nothing could have prepared them for the wendigos. Actual, real life wendigos.

 

Evan admittedly didn’t like french class much. M. Beaubier, in Evan’s opinion, was a fantastic man, but… it was most likely the verbs that made Evan struggle as much as he did. Otherwise, he’d happily listen to M. Beaubier lecture on anything. Evan especially remembers his stories (told in french, unfortunately, but that was the nature of french class) about wendigos; the Algonquian beasts that Northstar had battled and told battle recounts about, in the unit where they had learnt phrases that would serve them in fights, like “au secours”, “est-ce c'est une meilleure ideé de seulement me sauve?” and “merde”.

 

Merde was just what Evan thought before he heard the ear-piercing screech and the muscled arm came into focus against the whiteout-blizzard background briefly, just before the creature’s claws raked across his chest through his parka and threw Evan across ice and snow— he felt cold smash into him and warmth blossom on his chest. The cruel chill like glass pierced into his back, his sides, arms and legs. The snow racing across the sky looked like static, and the visuals certainly accompanied what he heard: unfocused and fuzzy static ringing in his head and put him in a hazy state. The dagger-like quality of the tundra’s ubiquitous snow threatened to bury every inch of him on the ground. He was stiff and freezing, except for the stray areas on himself where he felt burning throbs and something thick and hot trickle down his skin.

 

He barely felt his own trembling hand as it moved and reached out, trying to grip the iced ground beneath him, with the quaking of his limbs battling against the thundering of the wendigo’s steps somewhere behind them, heavy and loud and yet still muted by the static that  had erupted in his ears after his head felt like it had cracked like an egg down on the ground.

 

Evan’s head lolled helplessly, the boy unable to keep it up when a small pair of hands had pulled Evan mostly-upright. Evan shifted his feet as much as he could, fur-lined boots clumsily kicking snow as he tried to steady himself. The hands kept a loose hold on him, Evan too distracted by the black bordering the edges of his vision and the pristine white snowflakes trapped in his thick lashes.

 

Discarding a glove with no forethought, he raised his hand tentatively to his nose but smeared it across his face unceremoniously. Feeling the liquid and looking at it confused Evan, as if he were surprised to see himself bleed. The black borders thickened and the flakes on his eyelashes made his lids feel heavier, thus forcing him to shut his eyes heavily and loll his head once more. The loose hands that he had felt couldn’t prevent him from falling to his knees once more, his head dipping in pain, which he finally felt burst all over himself around his body and face after the minute of static shock.

 

He cradled his head in his hands, covering his ears as his hearing came back slowly and the sounds of shouting, roars, powers and weapons clashing against the still-present static became clearer to Evan. The yelling of the person who dragged him up was most evident, as the voice practically screamed in his ears. It left, however, running away to the battle. But the heavy crunches of their footsteps in the snow was replaced with two pairs of footsteps running to him, the sound of snow being crushed under their steps louder and deeper than the steps of the person before them. Two sets of larger, rougher hands gripped Evan, pulling him from the snow like before and securing him upright. They moved forward, and though Evan felt as if he had froze down to his bones, his legs somehow moved along with them, though stiff and sluggish.

 

They tried to run, though it was difficult, and Evan couldn’t even tell how far they got. His hearing would sometimes blank out and when he tried to remember what happened that battle, there were inexplicable gaps that he couldn’t fill in.

 

He heard a constant stream of “merda, merda, merda,” hiss from one side of him, this person’s hands clenching rhythmically which each beat. In his disillusioned state, Evan almost thought that the comparison between their merda and his merde was funny. The voice grew more panicked the few times Evan stumbled, barely caught in time, his whole body trembled and throbbed with harsh pain that flooded him, though all the feeling gave him was the unbearable urge to just sleep. Though somehow, merda still seemed funny.

 

Were Evan slightly more conscious, he may have recognized the loud gasp of “duck!” being yelled from the other side of him, and he may have connected the word with the action of being thrown to the ground harshly, his cheek meeting the snow once more with a thud and his bare hand sinking into the soft and still-powdery snow that culminated during the storm.

 

Evan didn’t see or hear a lot of things.

 

He didn’t hear Iara practically scream “get to the jet, now!”

 

Nor did he hear the exchange that followed.

 

“Who already boarded? Is anyone still out there?” Evan would have understood this as Roxy if he could.

 

“I don’t know—I think so, hard to tell—”

 

“Move the hell over!” Quentin’s words didn’t click in Evan’s mind when he heard them, but Evan did hear them, in a way.

 

Quentin fell to his knees in the snow, having pushed Iara and Roxy away. Hands brushed over Evan’s cheeks, and then held them, and then one hand moved to the back of his head as support and lifted it slightly. The hands were warm—bare, emanating extreme heat compared to the deathly chill of the snow.

 

“Evan? Evan, can you hear me?” The hand on his cheek fidgeted, trembling slightly. Quentin’s thumb would brush his cheeks, clearing the blue skin of falling snow as it fell so constantly that it seemed his thumb had a nervous twitch. “Evan, I need you to stay conscious, holy shit, Evan,” Quentin’s demands turned into breathy whispers, Quentin being close enough that the heat of which dusted over Evan’s skin as well.

 

Evan groaned in response, Quentin’s words being the only thing that was truly clear due to the proximity, and he forced his eyes open slightly. His head throbbed and his eyes burned, he couldn’t see much but he was able to see Quentin’s face hovering above him and even note the details of the boy as he was held.

 

Quentin was painted in warm colours, pink hair and cheeks turned bright red from the cold, and it contrasted so heavily against the white and grey sky that Evan had a difficult time telling that it was real and not some cut-out picture. Quentin’s glasses rested on the top of his head with a curtain of snowflakes covering the lenses, and when Evan noticed this, he subconsciously moved his focus to Quentin’s eyes—even their blue seemed bright and warm compared to the environment. However, they flicked over Evan’s face anxiously, his brows knit tightly as he studied Evan.

 

Evan attempted to speak, but ended up with a garbled phrase trying to confirm that he was okay. He may or may not have been much less than okay. Nevertheless, Quentin’s face softened, and he forced a smile to Evan—pained, fake, but still a smile— as he accepted Evan’s gibberish as a confirmation that he wasn’t dead just yet.

 

“We’re getting the hell out of here,” Quentin said without a flinch as an explosion sounded far behind them, accompanied with a roar, “sounds great, right?”

 

Evan wasn’t pressed for an answer, thankfully. Though he was pressed against Quentin; the hand from his cheek moved to under his legs. The odd, spacey feeling of Quentin’s psionics touched Evan’s skin, and he felt himself being lifted. It must have been a funny picture if the situation weren’t dire, Evan’s gangly limbs must have stuck out awkwardly, Evan’s height compared to Quentin’s being laughably different.

 

Evan didn’t think of the height difference, however, nor did a thought cross his mostly blacked-out mind about how they might have looked. The hand splayed in his curled hair was gripped tightly, almost uncomfortably so, but Evan was forced to press his face into the crook of Quentin’s neck as it served as the most comfortable position.

 

Evan only noticed the warmth.

 

Evan, were he able, would have pressed deeper to increase the contact and amount of heat radiating onto his frozen face. He gripped Quentin loosely, as close as possible, Quentin being his anchor that kept him conscious.

 

Evan somehow recognized when Quentin’s steps hit metal instead of frozen ground. Voices around him bounced around the area metallically, and the air suddenly grew warm. Evan felt himself be set down, but there was no indication that the psionic mutant would let go.

 

Evan felt the vibrations of Quentin’s voice in his throat as he talked deeply, impatiently. Quentin let go of his legs, but his hand found Evan’s bare hand, and Evan registered that Quentin’s grip felt slippery—his hand was still bloody, but Quentin made no move to let go. Quentin was incredibly warm, and Evan didn’t feel like he could handle the loss of contact that felt scalding, but insanely comforting.

 

Evan eventually did black out, his consciousness curtaining on him. He wasn’t prevented from sleep that time. He was lulled into a dreamless night soon after Evan felt the pressure change, the jet lifting from the ground.

 

Though Evan barely remembered what happened and he didn’t learn anything for class from arctic wasteland survival field trip, he did learn and remember one thing vividly: the absolute warmth Quentin emitted was like a furnace against Evan’s skin, and Evan never, ever wanted to let go.

 

Chapter Text

Nothing was bad as being beat up by a Canadian monster, but some things felt like they came close, and for some reason sometimes the bad things were good too.

Evan asked if he was still able to play in the big upcoming game. Before sputtering an apology and a declination, Miss Pryde had actually laughed in his face.

Evan didn’t realize what happened at first. Miss Pryde was completely red in the face from shame, laughing at one of her students, but her answer was simply sorry, but no.

It didn’t come as a surprise, really. Football is football—hard hitting and concussion-inducing, Evan understood that, and adding further injury to his gradually-healing concussion would probably be bad. It was true that he could heal some things himself, as he learned how to control more of his powers, but not everything as complicated as head trauma could be so easily fixed, so he decided that even though he’d be disappointed, he’d stay away from the game. He couldn’t imagine concussion on concussion on concussion-ception, and though he dreaded the thought of being stuck in an injury-filled Inception-like paradox, the thought of meeting a certain Leonardo DiCaprio was… oddly entertaining.

Nevertheless, he was disappointed. Before the Canada events that left Evan in the state that he was in, all there was was talk and talk and talk about the big football reunion game between their school and the Avengers Academy. It was mostly Quentin told Evan about the last one and how fun it was, how they had gone all the way to the west coast to visit their school to play, even though it had ended up more of a party than an actual game.

A couple years later and there they were, trying to ignore the tragedies that had fallen upon both schools, horrendously so, and preparing for when their students came to the Jean Grey School to play once more.

(They didn’t even have a football field before. They had to convince Krakoa to make a space for one with many, many bags of fertilizer.)

Post-Miss Pryde, Evan passed Iara in the halls, almost squeeing in delight with Idie and Jia beside her—it was very atypical of her—she was grinning as she kept herself from bouncing off the walls. Unfortunately, Iara grinning really meant baring her teeth, and it was more scary than endearing. She noticed Evan walking by and grinned (bared her razor-sharp teeth) even more. She took Idie and Jia by their waists and pulled them closer to her, calling out to Evan:

“Hey! Big guy! You ready for today?” She asked loudly, suddenly very amicable.

Evan coughed into his fist. “I, well, actually, I’m not allowed to play,” he explained, far quieter than Iara’s exclamation.

The faces of the three girls fell instantly.

“I guess that make sense,” Idie sighed, resting her hand on Iara’s waist around her. She leaned into the other girl with a pout.

“But we cannot lose! We have a better chance of winning with more players like you!” Jia whined, crossing her arms.

Evan shrugged. “I’m disappointed too. Though I’m sure I wouldn’t actually be the best player,” he said. Technically, Evan hadn’t been part of a football game in all his life. “I think I’d be more of a hinderance, slow the team down.”

“We can win anyway,” Iara boasted, smiling smugly. “It’ll be a bloodbath, a gruesomely awesome bloodbath, but you can cheer us on while we slay our way to the top, okay?” Iara almost looked wicked at this point—blood only riled her up more. It may have been the shark in her, it may not have been. Either way…

“I can do cheerleader,” Evan smiled with a shrug. With the way Idie looked at him, a half-grimace on her face with sad eyes, Evan must have looked pitiful. “Yeah, sorry,” Evan breathed.

“Don’t be sorry,” Idie said, shaking her head. “If you really want to be cheerleader, I have the perfect outfit you can borrow. Short skirt, tiny top…” Idie gave a small laugh.

Evan snorted, raking his hand through corkscrew hair with his shoulders shaking. The coils bounced as he laughed, taken aback by Idie’s suggestion. “I don’t know, I don’t think I could pull it off, not like you.”

Idie smirked, pulling away from Iara and Jia. She stepped closer to Evan. “Maybe not,” she started, her voice quieter than before. “But I can think of a certain someone who might appreciate the sight,” she teased. She had bowed her head slightly, forcing her to look up at the tall mutant through her lashes, shadows falling on her face making her look a more than a little terrifying.

“I—who?”

Idie grinned widely. “Go get ready, tiger,” she said excitedly, returning to her original tone and force.

 

*

 

Evan had left in a state of confusion, only to find himself on the newly-constructed bleachers at the newly-grown fields not too long after—though not in a skirt, unfortunately.

The game was about to start, and Evan was kicked off the field already. He held his head with a sigh, sitting on one of the empty spots on the bleachers, sitting with Martha, whose chain he held. She was very excited, though she didn’t want to play, as she explained.  

He looked at the teams. Iara was obviously on there, as was Jia and Idie… Broo was there apparently, and Roxy stood in the field too, as she had apparently been at the original game. Quentin told him that Warbird had played with them as well. But from the way she screeched and them all, and especially Kubark to fight to the deaths from the bleachers, Evan supposed that she was probably ejected from all future plays. She sat far down the rows from Evan and Martha, but her voice carried throughout the field.

And of course, unmistakably, Quentin stood with the other students that were playing. Evan wouldn’t be able to miss that bright pink anywhere. Evan stared at it and at him for a few seconds longer than anybody else. When he noticed that, however, Evan forced himself to tear his eyes away and look at the other team. Really, it was just a bunch of kids that he didn’t know. He sighed again.

A loud click at his side snapped him from his daze, however. Evan almost flung himself to the side in surprise, only to turn his head to see Trevor crouched low, one knee on the grass, expensive-looking camera in his hands. Trevor’s face wasn’t turned towards him, but the blond gave a sympathetic smile and a nervous chuckle. A few eyes on his cheek were trained on Evan. Evan found it a little unnerving.

“Sorry. I’m really sorry to scare you.” Finally, Trevor turned his head, even though he didn’t have to.

Evan rubbed the back of his neck. “No, it’s fine. Is that just for photography, or..?”

“Well, school paper. Big events need big stories, right?”

Evan blinked. Trevor copied him, a hundred times more. “Right,” Evan answered unsurely.

Without even turning his head, Trevor grinned and snapped another photo. “Oh, man, I’m actually so excited to see how this turns out. Santo promised Rockslide’s revenge—wow. That’s a great article title, I should work with that…”

“So I guess you’re not playing.”

Trevor paused his rambling. “I’m not exactly the strongest or the most useful guy when it comes to football,” he said meekly, turning away. “I’m also kind of afraid of getting hit with the ball. Or seven-foot rock monsters. Sensitive eyes,” he shrugged.

“I get that. I’d be scared of Santo too, even if he was on my team,” Evan admitted. He didn’t talk to Santo much. “And… probably the other kids. I don’t know any of them, except from the couple from that wild New Year’s party…” Evan grimaced.

“Oh, that was fun! I didn’t really talk to a lot of new people, though,” Trevor grinned. He had snapped some great pictures of the Young Avengers for the paper at the party. It was funny, the next generation of X-Men becoming friends with the next generation of Avengers. Trevor shifted his position on the grass and snapped another picture. “Jeanne Foucault is here—she’ll be great, watch out for her. There’s also, um, Julie and Brandon, and… Karolina Dean with Julie? Huh.”

“I kind of recognize those names? I also kind of know Karolina,” Evan commented.

Everyone kind of knows Karolina. I wonder what’s up with that... Oh! It’s about to start.”  Beaubier flew out onto the field. Even sneered. M. Beaubier? The hell did Canadians know about football? Sure, M. Beaubier was charming, handsome, but—God, he lived in Canada, freaking Canada of all places...

Evan involuntarily hunched himself over and looked away as his new internal hatred of Canada seeped into his system. He ignored the start of the game, shaking himself of his silly hatred—though he believed he was in the right for thinking M. Beaubier wasn’t the right man for the job.

Fucking Canada.

For the first bit of the game, Evan wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone what happened. The ball was thrown, Quentin was tackled twice, and couple of points had been won. Evan would have wanted to play, but in all honesty, he was more a simple baseball kind of guy. Baseball reminded him of his uncle Cluster and the farm—it was a bittersweet memory, only interrupted by the cheers in the distance and the clicks of Trevor’s camera.

However, Evan would have been able to recall the more interesting parts. Not shortly after and in rapid succession, Idie accidentally froze one of the opposing boy’s backside, making him yelp; the boy purposely shocked her with electricity, causing her hair to frizz up into a giant poof; Martha got so excited she gave a telepathic jolt of surprise and anxiety so strong it made Evan and Trevor double over; and M. Beaubier’s whistle tore apart Iara, Idie and the guy’s could-have-been brawl.

Trevor tried to snap a picture of the guy, half-laying on the ground, as their pompous guest spat on the ground and walked away with his chest puffed out after being ejected. Evan wasn’t sure if the blond’s pitiful whines meant that he had gotten the shot or not. Idie and Iara hadn’t been ejected, thankfully, though Evan was almost certain Iara would for being as aggressive as she was. She sprang up in Idie’s defense in a flash.

A flood of excitement flooded Evan, as Martha had apparently momentarily lost control of her telepathy in her eagerness to watch the game start back up again. This spurred Evan to sit on the edge of his seat, his heels planted firmly in the grass, watching the pigskin starting to be thrown around again. He noticed that Idie would sometimes distractedly try to tame her hair, combing out the leftover static electricity with her fingers, before running to get the ball again.

He’d probably watch Quentin more if he admittedly wasn’t so boring during the game. Every once in a while when Quentin was in the way of the other players Evan would train his eyes on him but every time Quentin would look like he was bored more than anything. He would step out of the way of runners, and he would hang around the back. This didn’t stop him from getting trampled, of course. He was forcibly brought to his knees on the ground again as the Ava, the White Tiger girl, ran for the football.

For some reason, White Tiger seemed to have really gotten on Quentin’s bad side. While Quentin pushed himself up, Evan watched as the telepath pushed the girl with a strong force of psychic energy.

Quentin basically threw her as she half flew across the field before stumbling into Julie Power, who caught her with ease.

Quentin was immediately ejected, and despite his passive nature for the length of the game, he fumed while he marched towards Evan at the stands.

“I don’t even like football, this was stupid,” Quentin sneered loudly, waving his hands around as he approached.

Evan stood up and clapped him on the shoulder, giving a squeeze. “You took those tackles pretty well, though. You did good in my books, hardly even a broken bone,” Evan joked, smiling.

Quentin pouted. “My legs hurt, my chest hurts, my ass hurts, Jesus, they made me run. ” He looked up at Martha, who had apparently said something to Quentin. “Well, you’ve never been a guy with skinny ankles. Twist one foot and they’d probably have to put me down like a racehorse,” he grumbled.

“I thought you had fun at the game last time,” Evan said, trying to cover a laugh.

“Eugh, I’m sorry, but I’d never admit to that,” Quentin chided. “I don’t feel happiness. There is only eternal doom, Apoca-lips, thought you’d know that.” Quentin lifted the bottom hem of his light sleeveless shirt to his face, wiping it of sweat.

“Omega, look here!” Before Quentin could realize what was happening, Trevor had taken that moment to snap a picture of the boy, of him with sweaty shirt lifted above his abdomen and his expression dazed. Trevor smirked and jogged farther away from the two telepaths and Evan, making his hasty getaway.

Quentin spat on the ground. “Yeah, yeah, eat it up, Eye-sore . You better run. Eugh.” He paused, furrowing his brows. “If it is on the front page of the paper, I’m going to autograph every single copy, Martha,” he sniffed, putting a show of resting his hands on his skinny hips. “I’m going to pop that ball later. They tried throwing me it. They called me… called me, I don’t know, it was like, shit. They called me shit.”

Quentin then crossed his arms, head tilted at the ground as Martha bobbed slightly.

“Scatback?” Quentin asked, looking up at her incredulously. “The hell…” Another pause occurred, before Quentin raised his head and frowned. “Running? I don’t run. But… Jesus, how do you even know this shit? Creepy all-knowing brain.”

[Oh man, I wish I was all-knowing! Then I’d actually have an idea how you people can stand Quentin at all!] Martha’s voice sounded in Evan’s head, her comment startling him.

“Aw. That’s mean,” Evan pouted.

Evan could practically feel Martha’s eye-roll.

He then heard a loud and deep ‘Oh my god!’ resonate from somewhere along their side of the bleachers. Evan’s first instinct was to look on the field to look for anything that might have happened, but it looked like they were playing as normal.

The same voice then laughed slightly. “Kar, look at this! It’s literally Pinky and the Brain !”

Evan was the second to turn his head: he had been preceded by Trevor, the back of his head already turned as he was closer down the rows; he assumed Martha may have followed his movement, he wasn’t really sure; and then Quentin had languidly turned his head back.

One of the students he didn’t know from the other school had decided to stride over.

He wore a confident smile along with wearing notably brand name gym clothes, squared off with expensive-looking Nikes. However, as he got closer, Evan blanched a little as he noticed the scars zig-zagging across his body and splayed on his face, patterns like lightning almost framing his features with a particularly large scar crossing over his eye, bisecting the eyebrow and trailing up to a streak of white in his gelled-up hair.

He walked right up to Quentin, standing a few inches taller, posing with his hands on his hips. He looked between Quentin and Martha, the girl still held in place by Evan, grinning with teeth so white they practically sparkled. Trevor trailed him, now that Quentin’s focus had shifted.

“That’s totally hilarious, actually. Like, you’re totally Pinky, right? And you’re…” He went into a smirk, shrugging broad shoulders in a non-committal gesture. “Probably don’t need to explain myself. But, dude, I totally loved that show when I was a kid, right? My mom knows one of the producers...  Pretty sweet,” he said with a wink.

“Brandon,” Quentin muttered. “Great job out there, Mr. Sharpe-tastic,” he said, his sarcasm almost tangible.

Evan’s brows furrowed. Brandon was the one who zapped Idie. Evan remembered now—this was Striker, and he certainly lived up to his namesake so far. Evan wasn’t sure how he felt about him, since he didn’t actually know him—unlike Quentin, apparently. Evan really didn’t know how to feel about that.

“Hey, Q. Good to see you. Been a while… still rocking the pink. Looks good on you,” Brandon smiled, managing an even brighter look.

“I like the praising. Too bad you literally electrocuted my ex on the field—” Evan’s face fell at the word ex— “so, like, thanks for that?”

Brandon’s face fell as well. “Wait, what? I didn’t know… Girlfriend?”

Quentin rolled his eyes. “Girlfriend,” he parrotted. Evan hadn’t heard Quentin refer to Idie as his girlfriend or even his ex in months. Hearing Quentin say it bothered him, like he was intruding on something.

“I… never knew you had a girlfriend.” Brandon scratched the back of his neck, looking down.

“I mean, it was short lived—sorry,” Trevor commented quietly. When Quentin glared at him, all of his eyes looked away.

Brandon only just noticed the blond near him, unperturbed by all the eyes staring at him. He was probably used to it. Brandon smiled at Trevor, regaining his confident demeanour. He returned to face Quentin, taking a step closer. “I’m sorry to hear that you broke up. I’m especially sorry to have given her a bad hair day,” Brandon glanced over his shoulder, looking at Idie who still played in the game, “I would never actually hurt anyone here. I hope I didn’t offend.”

Quentin shrugged, unfazed by how obvious Brandon was being. It made Evan tense, though, prompting Martha to ask a silent are you okay ? in his head.

Brandon gave a warm look. “I’m glad. You know, I was thinking that maybe Kid Omega and Striker could team up as a duo for an afternoon...sound fun?” He suggested. For some reason, Evan’s stomach fell at the idea of Quentin agreeing to Brandon’s proposition, and he looked at Quentin, expecting the worse.

However, he saw that Quentin only frowned. Quentin frowned a lot, that much was sure, but Evan noticed the subtleties in his expressions that differentiated his lock-up-the-humans frown from his shit-I-literally-don’t-know-what-to-do frown.

Quentin was giving the latter.

Evan stood straight, growing from small and anxious to a large and confident stance. He took a step in front of Quentin, half of him blocking the telepath.

“Do you mind?” Evan asked without thinking. He gritted his teeth, only unclenching his jaw when Martha asked about his well-being again—he had completely forgot that he was even holding her. He felt his face grow hot, but he didn’t break his composition.

Brandon blinked and brought up his hands, stepping back—only to knock into Trevor, who, in retrospect, probably should have seen him coming. They both stumbled slightly, with Brandon ending up having to hold onto Trevor to keep them both from falling. “Hey now, big guy, I’m not trying to cause trouble,” he explained while steadying himself.

Watch the camera it’s so freaking expensive—

“Evan?” Quentin asked from behind. He looked at Evan with wide eyes, and Evan returned the look, just as surprised. Quentin tentatively took Martha’s chain from Evan’s hand, if a fight were to break out, Evan seemed to be the most likely one to cause it. The friction between their hands caused a jerk reaction in Evan, balling his hands into fists. It hadn’t been on purpose, and Evan didn’t mean to be threatening, but Brandon saw the gesture anyway and quickly abandoned Trevor and stepped forward.

“I’m serious! I don’t want to cause any fights or anything!” He said pleadingly, trying his best to put an earnest face. “Can we please, I don’t know, start over? Like, I literally don’t even know you, I don’t want to…” Brandon looked away, wiping a hand over his face. He looked back to Evan, calmer. “I’m tapping out.”

“What?” Evan asked, visibly confused.

Brandon looked back at their audience, Quentin and Trevor—though he forgot about Martha. Brandon then walked closer to Evan, causing Evan to step back a few times, removing them from the group allowing Brandon to talk quieter.

“Hi. My name is Brandon Sharpe, also known as Striker. Avenger, model, charming television personality.” He gently put up his hand, looking at Evan for permission.

Evan took his hand. “I’m… um, Evan. Genesis.” He shook the charming Avenger model’s hand.

Brandon dipped his head. “I’m really sorry. Didn’t mean to break bro code. I didn’t know.”

Evan had no idea what Brandon was saying. “Am I supposed to understand that?”

Brandon shrugged, “if I knew about you two I wouldn’t have flirted with Q. Promise.”

“You two… do you mean—oh.” Evan blinked stupidly. “ Oh .”

Brandon winced. “You’re… not actually together, are you.” Evan’s look was apparently answer enough for him, because he opted to continue. “Hah, you know, you’d be a great actor. I hope I wasn’t the one to force you into a sudden realization of… you know.”

Evan had to stop. He had felt so jealous just then, hadn’t he? In recent weeks he felt different concerning Quentin. But he felt like he knew why. Recently it felt like there was something that was drawing him closer, though he had just been too nervous to ever try overstepping the boundaries…

“No. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Evan took in a breath, looking away. “I already knew.”

Brandon’s shoulders slumped, and he gave the mutant a small, sympathetic smile that could make all the girls swoon if he wanted, Evan was sure. It almost made him want to swoon.

“Yeah. I feel that. Go get him, tiger.”

Brandon’s words stuck with Evan, the nickname reminding him of Idie from earlier. He wondered if the certain someone Idie mentioned might have been…

Evan didn’t swoon at Brandon because he already felt weak. When he had first arrived at the Jean Grey School, all the stares he had received made him feel small. Quentin Quire, the skinny boy who leered at Evan from the top of his glasses, made him feel the smallest. The triumvirate that Evan, Quentin and Idie formed took over a year to develop. It had been through awful school assignments and awful X-Men situations that the three of them, especially Evan and Quentin, learned to talk to each other like normal kids. Finally, with an odd sort of friendship and a very impressive growth spurt, Evan eventually felt like he was strong. But it had turned on its heel, apparently. Now, the sort of weakness Evan felt those years ago returned almost violently, and even without his leers Quentin managed to make Evan feel like all his weight had centered to his chest, squeezed tight, and that his knees wouldn’t be able to support him any more.

It was weird, to say the least. But Evan knew why.

When he looked up from his reverie, Brandon had already turned back. With pride, he triumphantly exclaimed that he wouldn’t die that day. Trevor clapped, possibly as a joke, but Quentin—who had apparently tied Martha to the bleachers—merely looked at him unimpressed.

Evan was maybe a little happy that he wasn’t impressed.

That feeling increased when Quentin looked behind Brandon to Evan, and he looked at him with the hint of a smile.

Evan smiled back.

Ignoring what was left of the football game, they split up and left. Trevor had asked Brandon for a picture, to which Brandon agreed, almost giddy, and pulled him shoulder to shoulder and started walking back to where Brandon was originally. Quentin went over to Evan, and they turned to leave the field all together, giving a final, silent once-over of the space.

Jealousy was bad. Evan knew that, he was taught not to be jealous, to always respect and appreciate what you had, thus part of the warmth in his cheeks came from the prospect of actually feeling jealousy when Brandon Sharpe entered the scene. However, the other part of that warmth had come from the thought of actually being able to feel jealous. Some part of Evan was thrilled that he had something—someone to feel jealous over. Protective may have been a better word…

In reality, the realization was terrifying.

He couldn’t help his growing smile.



Chapter Text

Every second Sunday on Evan’s calendar was marked with a big, green circle surrounding the date, with either a Q , an E or an I excitedly written in the middle. As it just so happened, November 22nd had an E written on it, which Evan traced gently with a single, blue-tinged finger.

A smile grew as the realization hit him: every second Sunday was movie night with Quentin and Idie, and the next time would be his choice.

Movie night was always stupid fun, and if you asked, Evan would say that his picks were the actual best out of him, Quentin and Idie. He never disliked their movies, but… it’s not like they had the updated collector’s edition Star Wars box set or anything, and they certainly didn’t have Ryan Gosling’s complete filmography.

(They likely didn’t care much about Ryan Gosling, but Evan took his victories where he could.)

On the farm, movie night was something of a tradition for Evan and his “parents”—the memories he had of them were very real, whether his Ma and Pa were real or not. He could vividly remember helping settle in Ms. Bessandra, Evan’s favourite bovine, and running in the farmhouse to the television and picking from a wide array of collected VHS tapes. Some parts of his memory were as bright as Technicolor, like his young self and his parents singing along with Dorothy on the yellow brick road. Other parts seemed dusty, blurred, and trying to think of them made his mind feel like the blizzard kind of static that confused his eyes and made his head rush with the oppressive sound whenever Evan turned on the unreachable channels on his parents’ old television set. It felt like that when Evan couldn’t remember if all or if only most of the tapes his family had were gifts from his uncle Cluster.

Evan couldn’t have the farm any more. He couldn’t have Ms. Bessandra, his parents’ old television set with static, and he certainly couldn’t have the old collection of VHS tapes that he had cherished once. However, Evan would definitely try to replicate the feeling of settling in with his Ma and Pa after a long day of work and just relaxing.

It was different at his new residency. It wasn’t so much grooming the cows as it was trying to learn how to survive a wendigo attack (which he still wasn’t over), the physical labour became fighting for his life, and movie nights with Ma and Pa became movie nights with Idie and Quentin—except both pairs were almost too different in their film picks and personalities to contrast and compare. Evan would miss some things at the farm, and he’d love other things at the school… upgrading from VHS to Blu-ray certainly wasn’t that hard.

“Genesis,” Ms. Jones said loudly from the head of the room and giving Evan a startle, “Would you like to pick up where we left off in the reading?”

Evan’s face fell, looking up at her helplessly. His shoulders slumped. “I—ah… where were we?” He winced at his words, looking away from the eyes of the teacher, and every other student in the room.

“Uh-huh,” Ms. Jones hummed, crossing her arms. She shook her head. “Next time you leave your head in the clouds, try not to make it so obvious,” there were chuckles scattered throughout the room. “Mercury? Would you like to pick up the reading?”

Evan’s brows furrowed. “That’s not fair! I’m not the only one not paying attention,” he exclaimed, wincing again at his own words. He gave a broad gesture beside him to Trevor. “Eye-boy’s literally been texting through the whole class.”

“No I haven’t!” Trevor protested, looking at Evan furiously, and quickly opting to hide his phone by sitting on it.

“Eye-boy has been paying attention the whole lecture,” Ms. Jones added.

Evan frowned deeper. “He hasn’t exactly been smiling and giggling at your comments about the Alexander Hamilton was a mutant theory,” Evan sneered. The class erupted in chatter with Ms. Jones looking red as her hair.

“Giggling?” Jia snorted from the other side of the room, covering her hands over her mouth. “All giggling means—”

“Sprite,” Ms. Jones hissed in warning.

“—is that you’re talking to someone you liiike! ” Jia teased mischievously. Her wings started to beat and she floated up from her chair.

“Oh, like you would know!” Trevor huffed, getting up from his chair as well, but not before swiping his phone from his chair.

Jia rolled her eyes, hovering over Cessily’s desk, beside Evan’s. “Uh, duh! You don’t think I can date?” Jia crossed her arms. Evan barely heard Ms. Jones’s angry threats. He was too focused on the drama he’d created.

“I, well—”

“You don’t, do you!

“I never said that, Jia .

“Ugh! That’s it, give me your phone,” Jia demanded, grinning widely. She zoomed over Evan’s desk to Trevor’s and stood on it, looming over him with her hands on her hips. Trevor looked horrified under her gaze and suddenly her smile turned into a frown. “You’re… not still trying to text Iara, are you?”

“What? No! Never!”

“Give me your phone!” Jia demanded and leapt down, landing with a hard thump.

Evan was so concentrated on Jia and Trevor that when a flash of light from the front of the room and the feeling of burning heat touched his cheek he almost jumped out of his seat, hurriedly turning towards their teacher. Ms. Jones had ended up burning the top of her desk and she looked like she was about to burst a vein.

Everyone shut up and sat back down.

“Thank you,” she hissed. Her gaze swept across the room before settling itself back on Evan. “Detention,” she said firmly, narrowing her eyes.

 

*

 

“I was so scared, I literally thought she was going to melt me,” Evan groaned, concluding the story about he got a detention last Friday night.

Idie covered her mouth beside him, trying to keep herself from laughing. She may have failed in trying to conceal her laughter but at least she tried, unlike Quentin who sat beside her, the trio all sitting back on Evan’s bed in his dorm. They were all so preoccupied with Evan recalling his first detention just a few days prior that they didn’t even notice Clint Eastwood’s charming and grizzled maw strolling into Lago in High Plains Drifter, Evan’s movie of choice. The classics were classics, and they needed to be shared.

“I’m impressed,” Quentin smirked. “Making fools of the teachers is one of my more favourite, if not relaxed ways of getting the old d-slip,” he nodded appreciatively, “and I’m sure Angelica didn’t bother checking Eyes’ phone, or giving Trevor a detention for the hell of it, huh?”

“Not at all,” Evan replied with a grimace.

Quentin leaned back onto the wall and grinned. “Ah, pride is a beautiful thing. Makes it so easy to piss people off. Glorious.”

On the small screen that Evan was able to fit in his small room, Clint Eastwood was just sitting down for a shave, Evan watched with anticipation knowing that it’d end with a shootout. In anticipation, he prompted his friends to do the same. However, after the gunfight ended, Evan sat back and pursed his lips.

“Say, I’m a little surprised—no offense—that you didn’t have detention that day,” Evan hummed, eyes sliding over to Quentin.

“Excuse me, I did have detention. I just didn’t go. Obviously,” he snarked, keeping his eyes on the movie, “I’m trying to make a statement here.”

“Oh, of course,” Idie sighed, she too staring at the screen and not bothering to look at either boy.

“You like it,” Quentin commented softly, mouth quirking in a grin.

“Ugh, don’t say that,” Idie groaned, shifting in her seat, also quiet.

“You always did, though,” Quentin muttered, “always so much fun. Adventure after adventure, what happened to that?”

“Watch the movie, Quentin,” Idie replied, in an even softer whisper.

Evan tried to focus his attention on the screen, focusing on Clint Eastwood, not Quentin or Idie. In reality, it was hard not to. Evan couldn’t help but feel a sense of disbelief and even slight inadequacy as the ex couple whispered right beside him. They were exes , Evan had to remind himself. Exes. His best friend and the horrible, annoying, and unreasonable object of his affections… a fact still difficult to admit to himself.

“You know, I don’t think the school has had a western adventure yet,” Quentin ended up interjecting, causing Evan to sigh and lean his head back on the wall. “We could totally do this. Idie, be the leading lady. We can shoot up some ugly humans, I can save you, and it would be a new, exciting adventure .”

“You?” Evan asked, the same time Idie choked and asked “Save me?”

Quentin didn’t look at either of them, instead opting to bow his head slightly with a sneer. “Well, that’s how it’s always happened it, hasn’t it? It was happy. We were happy. I just don’t understand what happened to that, is all,” he said, turning his head towards Idie and away from Evan. Evan stared at him in disbelief.

“We weren’t happy, we were almost always terrified,” Idie chided.

“I didn’t mean ‘we’ as in the class,” Quentin explained quietly, deeply.

“Then I wasn’t happy… not like that. I... didn’t understand, Quentin. Alright?” Idie’s words were careful and quiet. She looked uncomfortable.

“Quentin, come on,” Evan interjected. “Can we not do this? Can we watch a movie?”

Evan looked away before Quentin could turn his head, but he felt the burning glare that Quentin shot him with. The tension in the room was building up, almost palpable at that moment, and Evan really didn’t understand why. Nevertheless, he kept his gaze straight, although he ended up spacing out instead of focusing on the movie. The silence was awkward. The space they sat in felt too tight. Evan brought his knees to his chin and hugged his calves, attempting to make himself smaller. They kept like that. For a while, at least.

“So,” Quentin drawled, audibly bored. His interruption drew sighs from the other two students. “Idie. How’ve you been.”

Idie was either sick of the film being interrupted, or she felt disgust for that particular question; her lips twitched into a sneer and the sharpest of glances was thrown haphazardly at Quentin. Either way, she stayed silent, folding her hands neatly onto her lap.

They both stayed quiet for another minute, Quentin watching her intently. “Happy, I bet,” he continued.

“Stop it,” Idie hissed, whisking her head to face him seriously. Her heterochromatic eyes held a heavy intensity that she didn’t have last time she tried chiding the psychic; her awkwardness and insecurity had turned into protectiveness. Evan understood it perfectly.

He continued to watch his two friends stare down, he understood that he was probably definitely not about to be included, and really… he may not have wanted to be. He saw Quentin’s lips twitch down. “Oh,” he breathed, “Isn’t that interesting.” Idie’s brows suddenly furrowed and she looked at him oddly, shaking her head slightly in confusion. “No, please,” Quentin started again, “Don’t look at me that way. I was just joking. I already knew.” The end of his sentence was dripping with venom as he leaned back, relaxing his arms behind his head. “You’re not exactly an open book, Idie. You’re just—a book. Not a locked diary, or a book with its spine broken and opened permanently, but just a book.”

“What are you…” Idie shook her head more, not understanding. “What are you even talking about?”

“All books can be opened,” Quentin replied simply. He took back one of his arms to tap a single digit at his temple. “Telepath.” He paused for a second, looking at her. “How are Iara and Jia?”

The second-hand offence that Evan had taken about Quentin going around in Idie’s head was overshadowed by the shock of Idie lunging at Quentin, tackling him to the floor with force neither of the boys even knew she had. She grasped at Quentin’s shirt collar and balled her fists, while Quentin yelped and tried scrambling away, only to be pulled back by the girl. She held him up, his glasses askew, and put her furious face and vicious snarl touching with his terrified one.

“What is wrong with you!” She yelled, making him wince.

Evan had lept up, hovering near them, completely unsure of what to do. “Woah, wait a minute—”

“You- you goddamn scraggy little prick,” Idie spat, unheeding to Evan. “You’re really that insecure that you’ll dig around and find… and find—ugh!”

“Sure fuckin’ did, sweetheart,” Quentin managed to snarl back, regaining his mean composure. “Had to find out who made you think someone was better than me.”

“You’re disgusting!” Idie threw him back, letting go of him. His back hit the floor with an unceremonial thump. She backed away and scrambled to her feet, and Evan fell in place beside her. She didn’t protest, and he put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Idie, what’s this about? Are you okay?” Evan was confused, but his concern outweighed his inability to act.

“I’m- I’m fine, Evan, this is nothing, I swear,” Idie said in a wavering voice.

“Bullshit!” Quentin called, getting up as well. “Why are you hiding secrets, man? Can’t be honest? Ashamed?”

“Ashamed?” Evan repeated. “Of… of what?”

“Don’t—”

“She’s only dating Iara and Jia, is all!” Quentin huffed, throwing his arms out dramatically. Evan felt Idie tense under his palm. “Ooooh, your big scary secret is out. And so are you. Oh, shit! The world’s on fire! Hell is people! We can never recover from knowing—”

“How dare you,” Evan spoke up. Quentin shut his mouth and Evan watched him while swallowing thickly, but there was no nervousness. Rather, he was ashamed. And horrified. In disbelief, mostly. “In what world, what universe would you ever, ever, say anything like that, do anything like that?” Evan pulled Idie a little closer when he felt her shoulders shake like those keeping back a sob.

“I’d never be ashamed of it,” Idie stated. “You’re fucked up , Quentin Quire,” she said venomously. She sniffled and then shrugged Evan off, moving towards the door. “I’m done with this, I don’t need this, I don’t…”

She bumped arms with Quentin as she passed him, and he sneered. “What are you, then? Won’t say anything ‘cause you’re too good for the rest of the school and the rest of the world?”

From the side of her eye, Idie glared at him. “How insecure do you have to be to ask if I think I’m too good for you like that?”

Reeling back, Quentin grasped for an edge. “I could- I could tell anyone in the school, you know. It wouldn’t be hard. I could get it in the fucking paper, just force Trevor to do a little work and bingo, everyone knows. I could do that, and you wouldn’t be able to stop me.”

A slight flash of fear sparked on Idie’s face, quickly twisting into disgust. “Yeah, I’m so sure you really would,” she said, trying to brush him off. She still felt the pressure of the threat, though. “You think you could actually get in the paper? And what, say that I cheated on you, way back when? Because I never did!” Idie stated. “I never did, and I never would have, I only ever did anything until after. I don’t care if you tell anyone. I’m not ashamed, and I never was and never will be.” Idie swallowed thickly, taking a breath. “Go get a life, creep,” she concluded. Finally, Idie opened the door and slipped out, calling back inside with a weak “I’ll see you later, Evan.”

Thus, Evan and Quentin were alone. Both flustered and with scowls, Quentin’s from embarrassment and Evan’s from pure shame. Evan knew that Quentin was… complicated, but the way he had acted with Idie was something else. For one, it hurt him. It hurt Evan a lot, how Quenin would literally just literally get into Idie’s head and have no disregard for her privacy… and out her. Evan felt his chest tighten uncomfortably and his throat dry, and he ended up wrapping his arms around himself.

It was the best thing he could do for comfort, the closest thing to how his Ma and Pa would sit close and hug him during the movie nights all those dreamed years ago, though it really wasn’t much.

A silence had formed between Quentin and Evan after Idie left that ended up being a solid minute or two long, though it felt like hours.

Clint Eastwood kept talking in the background, on the television, but it was drowned out by the heavy nothingness surrounding them.

Finally, Evan swallowed thickly, deciding to speak.

“I think, maybe—”

“Fuck,” Quentin interrupted. “Fuck. I… I, fucking... shit,” he hissed, his brows furrowing and his hand coming up to his cheek. “I didn’t… I didn’t think…” he spoke quietly, as if he were alone.

“No,” Evan replied, “No. You didn’t think. And look what happened.”

Quentin turned his head to Evan, looking him up and down. He didn’t look panicked, or scared, offended or angry or sad… Quentin just held a harsh, serious look that was so cold, Evan couldn’t tell what Quentin was thinking underneath. He also couldn’t tell if Quentin was scrutinizing him, or if he had somehow forgotten Evan was even there.

“I didn’t think she’d be unhappy,” he finished.

Evan took a moment to process what he said. “She wouldn’t be happy about being outed?”

Quentin looked to the ground. “About us. I didn’t think she was unhappy. I didn’t think I was being stupid about it, but somehow I- I fucked up. I must have. I must have driven her away, and…”

“And you think this was a good way to address the situation,” Evan accused. “You’re an idiot.”

“I’m an idiot and a monster, but we all knew that,” Quentin grimaced. “This… this wasn’t ideal.”

Evan actually laughed , short and cruel and hopefully loud enough to make Quentin wince. “Not ideal… no, I guess it wouldn’t be.” Evan stared at the television, but didn’t register the image—Marshal Duncan was whipped to death without any reaction from the town, nor Evan.

“I think you should leave, Quentin.”

“Maybe.” Quentin bit his lip. “But maybe, just hear me out, we should work together and—and we could probably, maybe, find a way to fix it with Idie—”

“Both Idie and me, you mean,” Evan interrupted.

Quentin stopped dead for a moment. “What?”

Evan tore away from the television, looking down at Quentin blankly. “I really think you should leave, Quentin.”

Clint Eastwood’s personal Hell was Lago.

Evan’s was his own dorm.