Chapter 1: M Day and the Purifiers
Josh Foley was never good with grief. His recurring depression didn't help. And what's worse was that, right now, he didn't deserve to grieve! DJ and Laurie - they were his fault. He could've - should've - saved them, but he didn't. He was too weak. Too pathetic.
So, why should he have the right to mourn? He should be apologizing. He should be helping his friends, because it was his fault they were all so broken now.
"What is wrong with me?" He growled, tugging at his hair as he sat in the dark room alone, his earphones shutting him off from the world.
The music pounding loudly in his ears helped to numb his thoughts a little. Breathing heavily, he scanned his body for something he could fuck with. He'd just found out he could use his powers offensively, so why not use them on himself?
But then he stopped. This song... Julian had put it on his phone as a joke, back when they were friends (which felt like a lifetime ago now). It wasn't funny. Especially not now.
"Stop..." He moaned, still unable to move. Still paralyzed by guilt. Still broken by grief. But, of course, it wouldn't stop.
"No!" He screamed, tearing the wire from the earphone jack, which only succeeded in having his phone play the song aloud.
Crying heavily now, he stood from the bed and threw his phone across the room, his anger shocking him into harsh, irrational movements. Still, it bounced from the wall to the ground, unbroken and, still loudly playing the song.
"Stop!" He yelled, collapsing to his knees and sobbing into his hands. "Please... Stop..."
"Foley!" Josh looked up when he heard Julian's voice from the other side of the thick wooden door. "What's going on in there?!"
"No..." Josh gasped as the song continued, falling forwards onto his hands and knees.
"If you don't open this door in ten seconds, I'm tearing it off its hinges!" Julian yelled, slamming his fist against the wood.
Josh shook his head as he pushed it against the floor and choked on a sob.
"Elixir!" Julian only just managed to mask the panic in his voice. "I'm coming in, okay?"
There was a soft green glow, before a heavy crash sounded out into the room and the door flew open.
"Josh?" Julian rushed in and dropped to the floor beside Josh. "Josh! What's going on?"
"It won't stop!" Josh sobbed through gritted teeth. "It just won't stop!"
"What-" Julian stopped when he heard the music echoing from the other side of the room. "Damn it, Foley!" He hissed, his eyes adopting the familiar green haze as he telekinetically smashed Josh's phone against the wall, essentially destroying it. "What were you doing, putting yourself through this?"
"I- I didn't want- I-" Josh cried, the silence making him hauntingly aware of his own sobs.
"Hey... Hey, it's okay." Julian hugged Josh to his body, shaking his head a little. "It's gonna be okay."
"Why couldn't I save them, Julian?" Josh sobbed into Julian's chest.
"Josh," Julian sighed, pulling Josh closer. "Don't."
"I'm a healer... I'm supposed to fix things..." The pain was evident in Josh's tone, despite his voice being muffled by Julian's shirt. "Laurie..."
"No." Julian warned. "No, don't do this to yourself. Seriously, don't."
"No, I won't let you take the blame for this!" Julian growled, before sighing sadly. "I'm gonna stay with you tonight. I can't leave you alone like this."
"Bu- but you don't- We don't-" Josh stuttered, gold eyes blinking up at Julian.
"Yeah, I know, I know. I'm just the rich asshole that never cared about you." Julian teased. "But I'm trying to do the nice thing for once. So, shut up and deal."
"Thanks, but I- I can l-look after mys-self." Josh stuttered through his sobs, calmer now.
"Sure," Julian whispered, though he had no intention of leaving Josh alone.
"I just don't get it..." Josh breathed, his words barely audible.
"Stryker's a bastard. What's to get?" Julian murmured, stroking Josh's hair.
"What's to get is why I couldn't save DJ... Or Laurie..." Josh took a deep, shaky breath and buried his face in Julian's shirt again.
"I'm talking to you as Josh, now. Not Elixir, not the healer - just normal, average Joshua Foley." Julian began calmly.
"But I'm not norm-"
"Josh, stop." He sighed heavily. "What I'm trying to say is that no matter who we are, we all blame ourselves for what happened to them. I could've stopped it as much as you."
"I don't care!" Josh snapped suddenly, pushing Julian back. Julian opened his mouth to request an explanation, to ask what he said that was so wrong, but Josh quickly continued. "Don't try to act like you understand this! Sure, we all could've stopped the attacks! Sure, we could've noticed! Sure, we fucking missed out on doing either! As much as that hurts, that's not the problem here! Why can't you see that, you dumb fuck?!"
Julian stared at Josh in disbelief, stunned into total silence. "I just-"
"No! Don't! Stop trying to fix this! You can't fix this! I could've saved them! I should've saved them!" Josh yelled, tears streaming down his cheeks, but no sobs breaking his speech like before. "What the fuck is wrong with me?! Why couldn't I just touch them and fix them?!"
"Please, don't..." Julian begged, reaching for Josh's hand.
"Don't blame myself? It's not my fault? It doesn't matter how often you say it, it doesn't make it true!" Josh stumbled to his feet. "Just get out! Leave me alone!"
"No." Julian replied calmly, standing slowly. He couldn't hide the fact that even he was surprised by how collected he'd managed to remain. "No, I'm not going to do that."
"Go! For fuck sake, Hellion! Why won't you let me grieve?!" Josh's shouts began to weaken a little again.
"Because you're not grieving! You're drowning in guilt and I won't let you do that!" Julian argued suddenly.
"Get away from me!" Josh yelled, shoving Julian back, careful not to touch his skin.
"No." Julian stepped forwards again.
"You selfish prick! You have no idea what I'm going through!" Josh countered Julian's movement with a step back, knocking into the bed.
"I lost people too. We lost Brian, remember? He was like my best friend." Julian breathed, a lump in his throat, as he pulled Josh to his chest and turned his face away to mask the tears in his eyes.
"No! No! Get off me! You don't understand!" Josh's shouts became close to begs now as he pounded his fists on Julian's chest.
"Please, don't. Please. I can't lose you too." Julian whispered, although the words could barely be heard past Josh's protests.
"I yelled at her..." Josh broke down again now, falling into Julian's arms. "When they found us, I was arguing with her. She died thinking I hated her!"
"No, she didn't. She knew you cared. We all knew what she meant to you. She knew, Josh. She knew." Julian closed his eyes as the first few tears now fell down his cheeks.
"Why couldn't I fix her?" Josh rushed the words on a shaky exhale.
"You know she was too far gone. There was nothing anyone could do. It was all too quick." Julian whispered, dropping his forehead to Josh's softly.
"It hurts..." Josh spoke quietly, his voice wavering with tears.
"I know, Foley. I know." Julian nodded, taking a deep breath. "Can I hug you properly now?"
Josh bit his lip and gave a subtle nod, to which Julian wrapped his arms around the healer's shoulders gently. At this point, Josh began to sob hysterically again.
"Don't go." He begged.
"Of course not. I'll be here for as long as you need me." Julian promised, stroking Josh's hair.
"Julian!" Cessily appeared in the doorway, a panicked expression in her features. "Are you okay? I heard some-"
Julian shot her a sharp glare and mouthed the word 'go', flicking his head pointedly. Nodding quickly, she closed the door, ensuring no one else would make her mistake, and left promptly.
"Julian..." Josh took a deep breath and stood up straight to be level with the telekinetic again.
"I'm here." Julian whispered, looking into Josh's eyes.
"Am I a disaster?" Josh asked quietly.
"No." Julian's reply was strong and immediate. "Definitely not.
"But I couldn't-"
"Don't say it." Julian cut in with a warning tone. "Don't relive that again."
Josh simply nodded silently, closing his eyes for a moment.
"I need..." Josh trailed off quickly, as if he couldn't find the words.
"Yeah?" Julian pushed, stroking Josh's hair from his forehead.
"I want- I was thinking-" Josh released a heavy, shaky sigh.
"What?" Julian breathed, desperately wanting to help.
"Julian..." Josh whispered, looking into the other boy's eyes again. "Kiss me."
"What?" Julian frowned but didn't pull back.
"I'm so alone. I need someone. Now." Josh blushed through the explanation. "Please."
"I can't take advantage of you like that." Julian shook his head slowly.
"We're both hurting. You're not taking advantage. I asked you - I'm asking you - to spend the night with me." Josh pleaded, the tears now stopped for a moment. "Please. I need you."
"I can't let myself use you." Julian gasped. "Please, don't make me."
"You're not. I want this. I really need your body, Julian." Josh shook his head slowly. "I need you here, now."
Before Julian could manage to convince himself he didn't desperately want this, he was kissing Josh softly. Josh, who moaned into the contact sweetly, leaned more onto Julian's body.
"More..." He begged in a desperate whisper.
Julian kissed him again, deeper now, and pushed the hoodie from his golden arms. Josh was wary to put his hands on Julian's skin at first, but after the initial touch, he was soon pulling needily at Julian's shirt.
"Josh... You don't want this... You're just upset..." Julian panted between now passionate kisses.
"Please..." Josh whimpered, quickly removing his own shirt and tossing it aside. "I know you find me attractive. The increase in your heart rate and specific areas of high concentrations of blood in your body when I do certain things tell me that."
"I do, but this is just... I want you, not a crying, grieving equivalent." Julian objected.
"Don't leave me, Julian. I just need to feel your body. Please!" Josh begged again, pushing up Julian's shirt.
Julian, yet again, gave into Josh's pleading, pulling his shirt off smoothly and kissing Josh again.
Moaning, Josh pulled Julian down onto the bed with him as he fell back and began to tug hungrily at Julian's pants.
"Elixir..." Julian moaned, pushing Josh's perfect, blonde hair from his eyes. "I don't want you to hate me for this tomorrow."
"I always hate you, Hellion." Josh whispered, his tone far too serious.
"I like you, Josh." Julian confessed with a blush. "I don't want to fuck anything up."
"Why don't you stop talking and fuck me up?" Josh growled in response, causing Julian to raise an eyebrow in confusion.
Josh sighed, seeming to hide his emotions with exasperation. "Hellion, I need you right now." He looked up into Julian's eyes, exposing his vulnerability for a moment. "Please."
"I'm here." Julian weakly replied, nodding slightly. Leaning down, he kissed Josh slowly. "Just... Tell me the truth, Josh."
"I don't want to be alone." Josh breathed shakily against Julian's lips.
"You don't have to be." Julian whispered, before kissing Josh again. "I'm not leaving you."
"Show me I'm worth something." Josh begged, his voice wavering a little. Pulling back the smallest amount, Julian noted the tears that lined Josh's eyes.
"You're worth so much, Elixir." Julian promised, dropping his forehead to Josh's. "And that's why we can't do this. You're more than this. I'll stay. I'll be here all night. I won't let you be alone. But I'm not going to sleep with you - you're more to me than that."
Josh didn't say anything. Instead, simply nodding, before releasing a quiet sob.
"You have to be strong, Foley. Please. Because I don't think I can do this without you." Julian admitted quietly. "You're the one who can cope with stuff. If you can't handle this, what are the rest of us supposed to do?"
"Julian... I'm scared." Josh spoke almost inaudibly now. "How could I have let them go? It should've been me... Laurie... Jay... The other kids... They didn't do anything wrong... I- I should've- Why didn't Stryker kill me instead?"
"No. No, Josh, you can't say that." Julian stated firmly, weaving his fingers through Josh's hair. "You're not a bad person. Yeah, you were stupid, you made bad choices. But none of us deserve what they did to us. And you... You can't think that your death would've affected us any less than the others'."
"No one here wants me." Josh replied with surprising firmness. "I'm a mess."
"I want you, Josh." Julian promised, before kissing Josh again. Long, soft and slow. He just needed a way to show Elixir how important he was, and words weren't as easy.
"No." Josh murmured into the kiss.
"Yes." Julian corrected. "And Nori, and David, and Cess, and Sooraya, and Vic, and Megan, and Ruth. Fuck, even Santo. We all need you."
"No," Julian cut in. "You can't argue it. We can't lose you, Foley. Ever. I can't lose you."
"I can't lose you either, Julian." Josh's words were disrupted by another sob, as he screwed his eyes shut.
Julian smiled the smallest amount, shaking his head. "You won't. You really think this school is gonna be able to get rid of me? No way. I’m a stubborn fuck. I'm here for the long haul, 'Lixir."
Josh let out a huff of breath, a tiny smile tugging at his lips, before he looked up at Julian, connecting their eyes again. "Stay. Please. I'm scared."
Julian nodded slowly. "Me too."
"I won't let them hurt you, Julian." Josh promised, near silently. Julian frowned slightly at this, how Josh could go from breaking down to totally protective so quickly, but he wasn't complaining - this was good, he concluded.
"I won't let anyone hurt you." Josh added quietly, closing his eyes.
"Okay." Julian whispered softly, moving to lie beside Josh, draping his arm over Josh's chest.
"Promise you'll be here when I wake up?" There was a plea in Josh's mumbled words.
Julian paused for a moment before answering.
Chapter 2: The Legacy Virus
Follows the story of X-Force Vol 3 #18? I think...
It's explained that Julian used his telekinesis to channel Surge's electricity into the sky to save everyone around them. But it's never shown from Julian, Josh and Nori's perspective, so I thought it would be cool to have fun with.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everything hurts, everything burns. It's aching. Everywhere. But Julian doesn't really have time to think about that right now. Because, honestly, he knows he's dying. And he's well aware that when he does die - which will be pretty damn soon - he'll be taking everyone here with him.
There have always been classes at Xavier's on this stuff - sort of 'Attending This School is a Fast Passage to Death, So Here's How to Do it Without Hurting Anyone Else' classes.
He knows he needs to get away, but in a highly populated city like this, is that even fucking possible?!
Men are grabbing him, holding him down, because he caused a scene by telekinetically throwing them off Nori and breaking his handcuffs.
They refer to him as 'scum', 'filth', 'mutie', leading Julian to quickly surmise what's happening here - FOH, or something similar. Really, he's a little flattered to be powerful enough to attract their attention. But only a little.
Minutes of fighting and snarling and breaking bones have passed and he's outside the truck with more men than he cares to count. Nori's still inside, he thinks, but cannot be certain. His head just won’t work properly.
But now there's a 'snikt' and the familiar noise immediately calms Julian the smallest amount. That is, until he sees the decapitated bodies and severed limbs fall around him. Not so calming.
"Elixir!" Wolverine's low, husky growl yells out, a little wavered by his exertion. "Here! Now!"
And now Julian is really confused because people are dying; his head feels like it's gonna implode; Nori's sparking like a fucking plasma ball, and - on top of that - Logan just yelled out Josh's name. But Josh hasn't really been around recently. Josh can't be here. Josh isn't-
"Julian!" He's barely turned in time before Josh's lips are crashing to his own. "Thank fuck..."
"Foley!" Logan snarls mid-decapitation-number-twenty-three. "Borrowed time!"
"Okay, Keller, I want you to relax your body, focus your mind on nothing but me." Josh orders deceivingly calmly, because Julian can feel him shaking.
They're on the ground now, kneeling, and Josh's hands are on Julian's wrists. Everything's hazy. Julian doesn't understand. What's happening? Why does he hurt? What? But of all the questions, one takes priority.
"Josh... How'd..." He gasps, pain lurching up his spine suddenly. "How'd you get here?"
"Long..." Josh moans once and his grip on Julian's wrists tightens for a moment. It's clear he's fixing Julian of something. "Long story... Just... Hang... On..."
"Josh... My head..." Julian groans lowly, because it feels like his telekinesis is tearing away at the inside of his mind.
"It's... It's working..." Josh breathes, moving closer to Julian and pushing their foreheads together, obviously wanting to touch as much of his skin as possible.
"Shut up." He cuts off Julian's question sharply. It may be working, but obviously not to a level that satisfies him. Julian shuts up.
And now the pain is dulling, seeping slowly from his mind. It doesn't hurt anymore. He doesn't feel like this is the end now. Josh is fixing him.
"C'mon..." Josh moans through gritted teeth, before his eyes snap open. "Yes!"
"What?" Julian eyes him suspiciously for a moment. The pain is gone, replaced only by a slight fatigue.
"Legacy Virus... Infected... Fixed you..." Josh pants, falling back onto his ass heavily. "Save Nori..."
"Fuck..." Julian whispers shakily. "Fuck, you... You cured me of... Of the Legacy Virus?"
Josh nods tiredly, before closing his eyes and tipping his head back, obviously exhausted.
"Shit, I love you." Julian grins, pulling Josh into his arms for a deep, passionate kiss that lasts for all of two seconds, because they have shit to do. He pulls back and slaps Josh across the face, hard, once. "Wake up, fuckface. You need to save the world."
Josh gasps, and snaps back to the situation. "Oh, fuck!" He hisses, noting Nori's dangerous sparking and yells out for Wolverine.
Something's happening with Angel, but Julian is too concerned with how exhausted Josh is to notice. This isn't good. He can't take this. He just can't. How is he going to save Nori if-
"You ready for this, Foley?" Wolverine's stern tone interrupts Julian's thoughts, and Josh looks up wearily from the ground.
"I... I think so..." He murmurs, but its total bullshit, Julian can tell. Josh can't do this; he can't exert his powers any more than he already has. No. He's not going to be able to save Nori!
Julian falls back, stumbling away a little, the force of Noriko's electricity sending him backward. He can't see anything past the sharp, blue cracks of light, but he can just about hear Josh's voice over the snapping of the electric. Josh is promising Nori that everything will be okay. Julian isn't so sure.
And now he can feel himself running back to them. He has to help. There has to be a way.
"Josh!" He screams, reaching out for the other boy, Nori's voltage crackling around him.
"It doesn't... Doesn't make... Sense..." Josh moans, collapsing into Julian's arms. "I fixed... Her... Why- Why isn't... She stopping?"
"Fuck, shit, fuck, fuck." Julian hisses, looking around desperately for some way to stop this. Left. Right. Down. Up. Then it hits him - up. That's it. "Goddamnit, I hope this works."
"Julian... I..." Josh slumps more of his body weight onto Julian, whilst the telekinetic focuses his mind and prepares himself. "I love... You... Too..."
"Shut up, Foley!" Julian yells, thrusting his arms upward (and in turn, dropping Josh's now-unconscious body to the ground), and sending out a huge wave of telekinesis. It aches. Blood drips steadily from his nose after only a couple of seconds. But he has to hold on. He can't lose anyone else. And Josh loves him. Josh Foley loves him. He can do this. Because Josh is a real life, actual superhero. If Josh thinks Julian is worthy of being loved by him, then Julian must surely be capable of channelling a little electricity.
The heat and brightness is fading now. He's done it! Julian Keller has saved the day! He's fixed it! But now isn't the time for celebrating, because he thinks... No, he's sure... Yep. He's going to... He is currently passing out.
There are at least three choruses of beeps, entirely out of time with each other, and it's really annoying. But it alerts Julian to the fact that, hey! He's awake!
He moans, pushing up onto his elbows and blinking his eyes open. It's bright here. Clinical. Is he in a hospital? No. The med lab. Definitely. It must be. Oh yeah, it is. Because in stumbles the giant blue fur ball that is Hank McCoy.
"Ahh, Mr Keller, you're awake." Dr McCoy announces cheerfully. "Good. Can you tell me what you remember?"
"Me and Surge woke up in this truck together... I couldn't get my TK working properly... Everything hurt... And then, Wolverine was there... And-" his eyes widen suddenly at the emersion of the memory. "Oh my god, Elixir! He saved my life! Where is he? He collapsed after fixing Nori- he- I couldn't- Is he okay?"
"Calm down, Julian. Mr Foley is recovering slowly, as you were." Dr McCoy reassures Julian, stepping to the side to reveal a bed to the left of Julian's own, where Josh's lies peacefully.
"Shit, Foley..." Julian tugs the heart monitor leads from his chest and jumps from his bed, grabbing for Josh's hand. "Why aren't you awake yet? Wake up!"
"His biology is a little more complex than ours, Julian." Dr McCoy relays calmly, placing a reassuring hand-slash-paw on Julian's shoulder. "He'll wake up when his body and mutation are both sure he's ready."
"So, he's okay?" Julian blinks up at Dr McCoy and squeezes Josh's hand gently.
"He will be. This is the healthiest thing for him right now - rest." The fur all promises, calming Julian a little. "Which - coincidentally - is also the best thing for you. Back to bed, now."
Julian nods and retreats back into his bed, as commanded.
Julian doesn't sleep in the three point five hours he is left alone, instead, thinking intently about Elixir, whom he can't seem to take his eyes off.
Before Josh went AWOL, he and Julian had been regularly seeking comfort in each other - both physically and emotionally. It was something neither of them were very proud of, whilst being too addicted to, to stop. The amount of times Julian had found himself in Josh's room after a rough day, staring at the floor and mumbling the words 'you wanna, like, y'know, make out, or something' were far closer to countless than he cared to admit. That being said, the occasions where Julian would open his bedroom door to have an energetic Elixir pounce on him and attack his lips, were far more frequent.
"So, I heard Wolverine telling Beast that Josh kissed you?" Nori's voice from the end of Julian's bed startled him. "Y'know, before I blew up."
"Ummm..." Meh. What the hell? Nori wasn't going to gossip about this. "Yeah, he did."
"Is that something you expected, or..?" Nori pushed, tilting her head a little in curiosity.
"Honestly? Yeah, kinda." Julian sighs. He isn't sure why he's sighing. It just feels like a good time to sigh.
"Like, 'I suspected Josh was a huge homo for ages' expected, or 'he's my boyfriend' expected?" Noriko sat on the end on Julian's bed and looked back at him, blushing slightly.
"Like, 'we made out a few times and he is very fond of my biology' expected." Julian answers smoothly with a small shrug.
"Do you like him?" Nori asks, exaggerating the third word like some kind of dorky school kid.
"I don't know. I guess." Julian sighs again, with more reason this time. This situation deserves a sigh. He looks to the comatose boy in the bed beside him and smiles slightly. "It's weird and messed up and I don't know how I feel."
"Well, he's still one of my best friends and you're still a jerk. So, if you dare hurt him, I'll-"
"Josh!" Alani's horrified squeal breaks through Nori's words as she runs into the room.
"Yeah, he's right there, calm the fuck down." Nori rolls her eyes and flicks a hand lazily in the direction of the next bed.
"Josh?" Alani is at Elixir's side in a moment, gripping his hand tightly. "Wake up! Please!"
"Ugh, lovesick girlfriends make my head ache." Nori huffs, safe in the knowledge that Alani will be far too concerned with Josh to hear her. But then she frowns a little and looks down at Julian sympathetically. "Oh..."
Julian doesn't reply. He doesn't need to. That 'oh' communicated everything that needed to be said. Josh and Alani were serious now; Alani talked about him a lot when they went out as a group and had made that clear. They were obviously happy together. Why did Julian need to ruin that?
That first kiss earlier was just... It meant very little; just that Josh was relieved he'd got there before Julian exploded. And the 'I love you'... Well, Josh was tired, he wasn't thinking straight (ha! Julian notes to use this pun on Vic later). And even if he wasn’t exhausted, they were both certain they were about to die. That makes people do stupid stuff.
"I don't care." Julian lies, crossing his arms over his chest and closing his eyes. "You don't have to look at me like my dog just died."
"Julian, don't be such a hard ass." Nori sighs, leaning forwards and placing a hand on his arm.
"I don't care." He reinforces, trying to ignore Alani's whining to Josh beside them. "No big deal."
"I'm gonna go back to sleep." He surmises, rolling onto his right side, facing away from Josh. "Later, Nori."
"Later, idiot." Nori sighs again, and stands from the bed. There’s no harshness to the words, more accurately sympathy. "McCoy says he's gonna call me, so I'll be here when Josh wakes up."
"Okay." Julian mumbles into the pillow. I won't.
I do actually like Loa, despite making her seem super annoying in this. Sorryyyyyyy.
Chapter 3: Necrosha - The Death of Kevin Ford
Chapter set at Kevin's funeral. Man, this hurt.
Shadows aren't that bad, Josh notes as he leans back against the thick tree trunk near the edge of the Institute's memorial garden. Right now, they're helping him hide from the other students. He wears a large, black hooded jacket and black jeans - his inky black skin completely his onyx-toned appearance. It's dusk and the shadows are long and heavy, masking him perfectly.
He doesn't get it. Who would have a sunset funeral? Sunsets are romantic. Not for things like this.
He shouldn't be here. He should go. Is there some sort of murderer etiquette that says they shouldn't attend the funerals of their victims? He needs to leave now, before someone sees. He needs to get back to Genosha. He has to find a way to revert back to his gold form. Coming here was a mistake. This was all a mistake.
He turns to leave when the next speech begins, but the voice freezes him to the spot. Julian. Releasing a shaky breath, he looks back over his shoulder.
Julian stands at the podium in front of the gathered students, propped up on the makeshift stage that's only really erected for funerals and award ceremonies. He holds a small piece of paper in his hands, which shake violently with his emotions. Even from here - off to the far side of the stage, hidden in the trees - Josh can see the green haze that's taken the telekinetic boy's eyes.
"Kevin Ford is-" Julian winces a little and corrects himself. "Kevin was a real hero. He was the epitome of what the Xavier Institute teaches. He came here terrified of his gift, but he still kept saying how much he wanted to power through - become an X-Man. And man, to a shitty kid like me, that was really freaking inspiring! I'm not gonna bullshit here and tell you that his gift was easy for him - it wasn't. But he still... He..."
Josh watches intently as Julian chokes on his words. It's hurts more than anything because it's all his fault. He took Kevin away. He did this to Julian. It's all him.
Julian looks to the ground and shakes his head. Tears are rising in his eyes, the green of his aura reflecting in the liquid and bringing out the blue in his eyes. Josh can't see that from here, but he knows better than anyone what Julian Keller looks like when he cries.
"I'm sorry- I-I just can't..." Julian drops the paper from his fingertips and hastily leaves the stage area. Emma reaches for him, but he raises a hand to cut her off. "Please. Don't. I need- I just need to be alone."
He storms past Josh (causing the biokinetic teen to push back against the trunk more) and into the trees. Josh follows him silently, wary of being caught.
Reaching a small clearing, Julian yells out suddenly and collapses to his knees, sobbing. He's hysterical, and Josh stumbles backwards in surprise at this. Slowly, he moves forward, kneeling carefully beside Julian and drawing him into his arms, careful not to touch any of Julian’s skin to his own. He expects to be pushed away. But the weak Hellion simply turns and sobs into Josh's chest. It's clear he has no idea who's embracing him, he just needs comfort now. And he's too scared to admit that.
"It's okay, Keller. You can cry. It's just me. No one else is here." Josh whispers, before he's shoved away roughly.
"J-Josh..." Julian pushes the tears from his cheeks and stares at Josh in disbelief. "You! You left again!"
"What? No!" Josh argues, shaking his head desperately. Still, he notes that Julian's first reaction wasn't horror and disgust at his black skin like he'd expected.
"It's been three months, Josh! Three whole months!" Julian stands and steps backwards, as if Josh is some sort of vicious animal.
"Yeah, well, two of those months were spent comatose, thanks." Josh argues, not wanting to appear as someone who would ever desert their friends. Not wanting to appear like Kevin. "A coma that I went into because of saving your ass from the Legacy Virus!"
"I didn't need your help; I could've handled it on my own!" Julian snaps, but Josh can tell even he knows that's bullshit.
"No, you would've died painfully and taken the rest of the people at the United Nations with you!" Josh hisses bluntly, wary of raising his voice, not wanting to disturb Kevin's funeral. It was his fault it was happening; he should at least be respectful. "And I wasn't gonna let that happen!"
"Why? Because you 'love' me?" Julian retorted with sarcastic laughter.
"Yes, actually!" Josh answers before he even has time to think about it. "Well... Y'know... I did say..."
"Wow." Julian releases an amused huff of disbelief. "Really, Josh. Wow. You're fucking charming, you know that?"
"I'm sorry..." Josh draws back, shaking his head. "Shit. I- I shouldn't be here- I have to go! I can't-"
"You're gonna run away again?" Julian laughs maliciously, pushing tears from his cheeks with the sleeves of his blazer. "Desert us again? This'll be - what? - the third time?"
"Julian, look at me!" Josh hisses, because it doesn't make sense to him that Julian hasn't immediately sent him away for his skin tone.
"I am." Julian replies simply, but there's a tone in the word that breaks Josh's heart. He actually sounds hurt by this situation - by Josh leaving again.
"I can't stay here like this." Josh whispers, pulling back more.
"So, what? You don't look like an Oscar anymore? Yeah, maybe this means you've been doing - and can only continue to do - bad things with your powers, but nobody here would care. Kevin wasn't like you. He didn't have a choice! Your powers can be good or bad. His were just bad. Be fucking thankful, Foley. Because y'know where not having a choice gets you?" He takes a deep breath and throws an arm out towards the ceremony he'd recently ran out on, that could still be heard in the distance. "It gets you a hole in the ground in some mud patch around the back of this shitty school."
"Julian, please don't-"
"Don't you dare tell me I don't understand this!" Julian snaps suddenly. "I know who you are! I know what you are! And I know how scared you were of winding up like this! But still, I don't care! I don't care what you did to get you like this! I don't care that you are like this! I just care about you! Black or gold, I don't give a shit! But I lost Brian, and now Kevin. And I'm running out of people who I give a damn about, but you're at the top of that list! I'm not losing you again!"
"Yes, you are." Josh summons enough strength into the words to make them sound vaguely threatening.
"I thought you loved me!" Julian calls when Josh turns away. Josh stops and sighs heavily, closing his eyes. Julian just doesn't get it. "You told me you loved me..."
"I know better than most of those kids that love only fucks you over when you're here." Josh replies bluntly, attempting to get Julian to see. "The last guy I fought with told me he was going to kill you! You and everyone else I love! I can't let that happen! You can't die because of me..."
Julian grabs Josh's hoodie and tugs him closer, before gritting his teeth and growling lowly, "I don't care."
"Don't touch me, J. You'll regret it." Josh sighs, the words less of a threat and more a warning out of compassion.
"I don't care." Julian repeats, softer now.
"Please, don't... I can't control it..." Josh closes his eyes. He's shaking. He can't hurt Julian. Not Julian. No. Oh god.
"I..." Julian whispers, leaning in. Josh can't find the compulsion to pull back, despite how much he needs to. "Don't..." Julian flicks his eyes up to Josh's. Blue to gold. "Care..." And now he's kissing Josh and telekinetically holding him in place. Josh is scared. He's focusing so hard on ensuring he doesn't lose control of his black abilities.
"Relax, Foley." Julian whispers against Josh's lips.
"I can't." Josh breathes shakily, refusing to open his eyes.
"You can't hurt me. I swear. I won't let you." Julian promises, kissing Josh again. "When we lost Laurie, you told me you needed me, my body. Well, now I need you. I can't deal with losing Kevin alone."
"I don't care..." Josh notes that this must slowly be transitioning into Julian's favourite phrase and - whilst his mind is in this pointless fact - he's returned to kissing the other boy.
"Keller..." He whispers into the kiss. "I can't do this..."
Julian seems insulted when he pulls back suddenly. "Why not?"
"Kevin... His... I..." Josh isn't even sure where to begin. He's just certain he doesn't have enough strength to tell Julian the truth. "Kevin's death was-"
"Don't." Julian cuts in, silencing Josh's words. "I came out here to get away from what happened to Kevin, and you... You just have to bring it up!"
"I have to get out of here." Josh states, heart racing again as he stumbles back again. "I can't be here."
"Fine!" Julian hisses, glaring over at Elixir. "Leave! Be a fucking coward! That's what you've been all along!"
"I need to go..." Josh rambles, his thoughts far from stable. It's been like this ever since Kevin's death.
"C'mon, Foley!" Julian snaps, stepping closer. Josh backs away. "If you're so fucking desperate to go, then go! If you think you can man up and stick around to help me through this, then kiss me!"
Josh isn't certain what he's doing, or how he got here, but it takes him all of 0.5 seconds to pull Julian to his chest and kiss him deeply. They're both grieving and they both have a fuck ton of issues. This could really fix them both, just for tonight.
"Foley..." Julian moans a little, before deepening the kiss.
Josh relaxes into the contact, feeling the insane sparks between them, caused by their on-again-off-again friction. The friction excites them both, and Elixir is experienced at utilizing this. He groans a little and pulls Julian tighter to his chest. "My name is Josh, fucktard."
Josh yawns and flutters his eyes open. He can feel Julian sleeping easily beside him. He enjoys this. The simplicity, the warmth, Julian. This is what he needs. But he can't have it. This isn't right. He doesn't deserve this. He's a killer. Julian doesn't need him.
He rolls over and watches Julian closely. Everything the telekinetic does fascinates him. He wants to kiss him awake and whisper 'hey' with a loving smile, ask him how he slept, whisper 'I love you', lay in bed together all day. Y'know, like they do in the movies. But life isn't like the movies. And Josh can't stay here.
Still, he can't force himself to leave either. So he just stares and listens to Julian's body.
"Hellion..." He whispers, stroking Julian's hair. The other boy stirs slightly, but doesn't wake. He always has been a heavy sleeper. "I can't admit this to you directly, but... You mean more than anything to me. I can't let you get hurt because of me. I love you. But I- I'm the reason Kevin died. And I can't let that happen to you."
"'Lix..." Julian moans burying his sleepy expression in the pillow.
"Shhh..." Josh whispers as Julian settles again. "It's okay. I'm gonna keep you safe."
He slips from the bed without waking Julian (which is difficult considering how insanely small the Xavier School beds are) and retrieves his hoodie and jeans from around the room, pulling them on quickly.
"Mm... Josh?" Josh freezes at the sound of his name in Julian's sleepy voice.
"Umm... Hi?" Josh blushes, glancing back to the bed, where Julian sits up shakily, the duvet falling around his hips.
"Come back to bed..." Julian murmurs, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"When did you wake up?" Josh asks quietly, unsure of what else to say.
"When I felt you weren't here, I guess." Julian yawns, blinking up at Josh sweetly. "Thanks... For last night, I mean. It helped."
"Okay." Josh replies conspicuously. He has to leave, now. Or he'll never get away from this room.
"Josh, come back to bed. I have no lessons today. We can just spend the day making out and eating junk food in bed." Julian offers (Josh notes this as strangely out of character for the blue eyed boy - he's being so... Sweet?), and pushes the duvet down his body a little more.
"J, I- I'll be right back, yeah?" Josh smiles reassuringly, glancing towards the door. "I'm just getting some breakfast."
"Okay." Julian drops heavily back into bed. "Make me some toast while you're there."
"Sure." Josh sighs and leaves the room quickly. It's okay. He's out. He can go now.
He takes a breath and falls against the wall beside Julian's door, closing his eyes. He really doesn't want to leave again, but, seriously, what other choice does he have? He can't hurt Julian again.
"Josh!" Julian pushes out of the door suddenly, falling out into the corridor in just his underwear (which - despite the situation - makes Josh laugh a little).
"What?" Josh forces a convincing smile and kisses Julian slowly.
"I forgot to tell you I love you." Julian whispers with a desperately loving expression.
"Seriously?" Josh chuckles, stroking Julian's hair slowly.
"Nahh, I just wanted to make sure you remembered that I don't like the shitty, grainy health bread you eat." Julian smirks, kissing Josh lightly. "It tastes like cardboard."
"I love you too." Josh looks into Julian's eyes as he says the words.
"Dude, you can't pull off 'romantic', you know that?" Julian teases, punching Josh lightly in the abdomen.
"Shut up and go back to bed." Josh orders with a small smile.
"Fine, fine. Later, loser." Julian grins, kissing Josh sweetly, before lowering his voice a little. "Seriously, though. I really do care about you."
"I know." Josh replies weakly, allowing his eyes to close again. The world really does hate him. "Go back to bed."
"I'm going." Julian laughs, kissing Josh once again, before heading back into his room.
Moaning, Josh slams his fist into the wall beside him. It seems like the world is telling him not to leave. But the world is wrong.
There is only one way Julian Keller will be safe.
Away from Josh Foley.
Chapter 4: After Effects of Second Coming and Necrosha
**THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MENTIONS OF DEPRESSION AND ABLEISM**
Focuses on Josh returning to the JGS recently (about this time last year (2014) in continuity), and finding out about what happened to Julian during Second Coming... I might rewrite it, because it's not what I wanted from this chapter, but whatever.
This is not what I originally had planned, but I needed a reason for Josh to return to the school. And this worked. Josh's body means more than his soul to him, and so - for someone to mess with that - it would really screw him up.
I don't want to go back. No. Not really. I'm fine teaching yoga to over-friendly, under-sexed middle-aged women five days a week (honestly, the number of times I've been groped in the name of Zen, yoga and recuperation is alarmingly high). But right now, as I'm mid-way through my last class this week, I'm thinking that maybe I should check in on the school. I don't want to but I kinda need to. For them. Not me. For... Julian. Oh fuck, I haven't seen him in so long. And then it dawns on me - I don't even know if he's still alive. If I wasn't fucking gold, my face would be totally pale right now. Or maybe green; because I think I'm gonna throw up. No, no. I can't think about that. I just can't. No. He's fine. There's no way he'd get hurt. Nope. Plus, they have Angel still. He can heal people. They're all fine.
"Josh?" One of the women speaks up, pushing my thoughts away. No. I don't need to think about that right now. "Sensei?"
"Seriously, ladies, yoga is not Japanese..." I sigh, because I have no idea when they started calling me that, but it's like they're purposely trying to turn my class into some fucked up Hentai movie. I shudder at the thought.
"Sorry, you just seemed a little distracted." One of the most dedicated women notes (I think her name's Sandra, I can't really remember - I just call them all 'miss', it makes them feel young). "Me and Karen were wondering if there was something on your mind?"
"Nothing important." I offer them a reassuring smile. "Are we all in the Staff position now? Okay, good. Now, on the exhale, we're going flex our feet and lean forwards over our thighs, and maintain this position for five breaths, okay?"
I watch with a sigh as the class move into the Paschimottanasana pose (commonly known as the 'Seated Forward Bend', but - bitch, please - I'm a Yogi, it would be an insult to my profession if I didn't know the terminology). Of course, I'm doing it too, but I've been doing this routine every day for so long that my body kinda moves into the positions automatically. Plus, I'm so flexible that I barely feel it.
"Feel your spine stretching on your inhale, then push forwards more on the exhale." I relay routinely. Fuck, I swear these words are gonna be engraved on my tombstone. I know my mind should be on my art and not whatever other bullshit I'm thinking of right now, but I just can't help getting distracted today. Just one of those days.
"Is it your girlfriend?" Another woman asks as she completes the pose and returns to the Staff position.
"Huh?" I blink at her blankly for a moment, mindlessly drawing circles on the yoga mat with my fingertip.
"Is that who you've been thinking about so much today?" She explains her question and, seriously, this comes up every damn week with the Friday group.
"You know you're the only women in my life, girls." I reply with a flirty smile and a wink, because there's a direct correlation between how much I flirt with them, and how much I get tipped.
"But you're such a charmer!" One of the other women giggles. "You must get so much attention!"
"Not as much as you would think." I note, tilting my head a little at the thought. She's right, if I actually bothered to leave the house for leisure purposes, I would get a lot of attention - I'm fucking gorgeous. But y'know, my apartment is perfectly lovely. "Okay, next we're onto the Janu Sirsasana - the 'Head to Knee Pose' - you guys remember that one? Sole of your foot to your opposite thigh, lean forwards to touch your toes, hold for five breaths, switch legs and repeat. Yeah?"
"Josh?" I-think-her-name-is-Sandra calls from her mat at the back of the group.
I stand and walk smoothly around to her, addressing the other women as I do. "Good job, ladies. Remember to stretch out your spine."
As I approach her, I watch her eyes flick over my body and note that - yes, now is definitely the time to start wearing a shirt and looser fitting pants, because this is just getting creepy! I kneel in front of her slowly and lower my voice. "What's up?"
"I know I can get a little more from this position, but I just can't seem to reach. I was wondering if you could help?" She flutters her eyelashes up at me and jeez, woman, you're forty three and married, not a freaking teenager!
"Sure, that's what I'm here for." I smile sweetly, and move around behind her, placing my hands on her back as she leans forwards easily. I'm calling bullshit, because there's no way she needed my help with this. Ugh... I swear this bunch get creepier and creepier every day.
So, take one terribly gorgeous, mutant teenager who happens to have a charmingly good hold over his own body, add in seven sexually frustrated cougars and an art form known to provoke sexual tension and you get this situation. Fuck, my life is like one of Julian Keller's sex dreams. I shudder at the thought. Ew.
Sighing, I pull back and stand slowly, relaying the typical words of encouragement as I move back to the front of the class.
"Okay, girls. Times up." Thank god. "You're getting really great at this! I'm loving your improvement!" They suck. I swear, some can't even sit up straight without complaining. "Same time next week. See you then, guys."
I kneel down and begin to roll up the mats, as the women filter out, offering me flirty goodbyes as they do. I carry a few of the mats over to the corner of the room and stack them carefully. I know people find it weird that I teach in my apartment, but I have a great apartment, so why not? Plus, I can't afford a real studio, but that's by the by.
"Josh?" Oh, dear lord, save me.
"Uh huh?" I smile, standing and turning back to I'm-sure-her-name-is-Sandra.
"I was wondering if you were planning on starting one-on-one sessions soon? You did mention it a few months ago." She leans against the wall with her hand on her hip. Jeez, this is cringey!
"Yeah... Yeah, I'm considering it. It depends if I can find a way to make it financially viable, I guess." I shrug, which is pretty much my way of saying 'yeah, I want to, but you're a fucking creep and I don't want be alone with you'.
"I can help with that..." She replies sweetly and I'm pretty sure she's staring at my lips.
"Are you sure your husband would be okay with you wasting all your money on me?" I laugh awkwardly and step back a little.
"Oh, please!" She smirks, rolling her eyes. "My husband wastes all our money on his twenty three year old girlfriend!"
"Oh... That's- Ummm... I'm sorry..." I'm blushing now, because what the fuck am I supposed to say to that?!
"Don't be." She steps closer to me, if that's even fucking possible. "It means that I get to have a little fun too..."
"That's cool..." I reply kindly, returning my attention to retrieving the rest of the yoga mats from around the room.
"How old are you, Josh?" She calls over to me, her voice firm.
"Umm... I just turned eighteen last month." I answer quietly, noting thankfully that she hasn't moved away from the wall.
"And you still don't have a girlfriend? That's terrible." She sighs, feigning sympathy.
"I'm fine, really. I don't need a girlfriend." I promise, looking up to her and forcing a smile.
"You're right. You don't need a girl. You need a woman." She purrs, causing me to clumsily drop the mats I was holding.
"N-no, I'm fine on my own." I stutter, collecting the mats up again.
"So, your mutation..." She starts, changing the subject. "The girls say you can make the human body do whatever you want it to?"
"Well, I'm not that great. I can heal things, that's all." I explain quickly, dumping the mats beside her.
"Is it true you can heighten the senses?" She asks suddenly, taking my wrist.
"Ummm... I guess." I mumble, looking away.
"Are you a virgin, Josh?" She whispers, pulling me closer.
"Urr- Ummm- Miss, this isn’t really something I’m comfortable-"
"Of course you're not." She cuts in, pushing her body against mine. "I bet the girls were all over you in school..."
"I- I need to do- I have to get back to-"
"Still, I'm sure there's a lot I can teach you..." She breathes.
"I'm sorry if you thought that- that I was leading you on or... Or something, I- I-" my words are all over the place because I have no fucking idea what I'm doing! I need to get out but I'm totally frozen. I can't move. Is it okay to be freaking terrified of someone physically weaker than you?
"Leading me on? Oh, sweetie. You said those words, not me. That's a terrible naughty thing to do, isn't it?" Oh fuck. Oh shit. Oh god. She's touching me. She's grabbing me... There. I think I'm gonna be sick. How do I move? I've forgotten how to move!
"I- I think you need to go." I attempt to speak as firmly as possible, though my body still shakes.
"Why? You got some more helpless women to tease and torture?" She smirks salaciously, before stepping back, a caring smile returning. "Think about my proposal, Joshua. I'll make it worth it."
She flicks a fifty dollar bill in front of my eyes, before tucking it into the waistband of my yoga pants, causing me to choke on an inaudible whimper.
"See you next week, sweetie." She kisses my cheek and it causes me to wince, before she finally leaves. I'm shaking when I fall against the wall, sliding down it slowly. I bury my face in my hands and shake my head. No, no, no. That did not just happen. I need to leave. I need to get out of here. I can't do this, I just can't. I grab for my cell desperately, which balances atop the table beside me and scroll quickly through the names. I need someone. I can't- I need-
I lift the phone to my ear shakily, the dialling tone calming me.
"Josh?" The soft feminine voice answers almost immediately.
"Nori..." I release a single sob. "I need your help."
"It's more like the original than I expected." I note calmly as we enter the gates to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.
"Yeah, that's what Logan wanted." Nori smiles at me and I can just see the sympathy in it. It makes me feel ill.
"I like it." I lie. I didn't want to be reminded of Xavier's this much. "Is David studying here?"
"No, he joined an Avengers team recently, though." Nori informs me, snorting a little. "We're going on a date this Friday. I can tell him you said hi if you want?"
"That would be cool." I smile slightly, because I've missed them. Nori's excitement; David's maturity and ways of magically fixing everything in my head, and of course their insane on-off relationship. "Avengers, though? Seriously?"
"Yeah! Y'know Magneto's grandkids? The twins? He's working with them right now!" Nori explains quickly and, honestly, she seems a little in awe of it all. It's sweet.
"What about the Hellions?" I ask quietly, but part of me is scared of the answer.
"Cess is doing really well, she's one of my best friends! Umm... Santo's being Santo... Julian's... Urrr..." She blushes, and I can feel her heart rate pick up, though I'm not sure why.
"Julian?" I push, because this is fucking important, thanks.
"Something happened, but I think- Well, if it was anyone else, I'd tell you myself, but Julian... I think it would be better coming from him..." She looks away and it worries me a little. Well, if he's gonna tell me, that means he's okay... Right?
"Have you... Ummm... Did you hear about Kevin?" She asks lowly, and I cringe a little at the thought.
"Yeah..." I reply simply.
"Yeah..." She repeats, before taking a breath to regain her composure. "Umm... Anyway... Urrr... I was... I was gonna tell you about the new students!"
"Oh, yeah?" I force a smile, pulling my mind from what really happened to Kevin.
"Yeah! So, loads of new kids have been manifesting recently! It's great! So, there's them, and the other newbies too..." She explains happily, before pointing towards a small group of students settled under a tree in the yard. "You see those guys? D'you know Hope Summers? Mutant Messiah, etc?"
"I know of her, yeah." I almost died rescuing her in the goddamn future. Yup. I know her.
"Those kids over there are her team. Or were, at least. The cute guy is Gabriel, he's a time manipulator. And totally one of the only kids in this school that can run faster than me..." I notice she adds the last sentence begrudgingly.
"Why does he look about twenty five?" I ask, frowning a little. "And is that Megan with them?"
"It's part of his powers. I dunno." Nori shrugs, obviously not wanting to get into it. "And yeah, she and Gabriel dated for a bit, I think. She was on the team with them. They're all super close."
"As close as we were?" I ask on impulse.
"No way." Nori replies with a soft smile. "Oh! And you see that kid over there?" She flicks her head in the direction of a boy with terrible fashion sense and offensively pink hair that I vaguely recognize.
"Yeah?" I note randomly that he and Nori would be cool together. Reversing colour stereotypes one bottle of hair dye at a time.
"Remember when we started at Xavier's and people were talking about that kid who was on drugs and started that huge ass riot?" She prompts, looking up at me expectantly.
"That's him?" Seriously? I was expecting something more threatening...
"Oh yeah. Quentin Quire. Total asshole. Avoid at all costs." She advises, rolling her eyes. "That girl he's with used to be on Hope's team too, but she ditched them for him. I don't get why."
"And the other guy with them?" I can hear my own curiosity in my tone. "He kinda looks a little like-"
"That's Evan." She cuts in quickly. "He's really cool. Don't mention the Apocalypse thing. He's not really into that."
"Oh... Okay." I frown slightly and attempt to process all this new information. "Does anyone know I'm here?"
"I told Cess. And the teachers, obviously." She replies quickly, leading me inside.
"So, Julian doesn't know?" I don't want to be this obvious, but I can't help it. This is important.
"No. He doesn't." She stops walking suddenly and pushes her metal hand to my chest. "Did you ever speak to him after the Legacy Virus thing?"
"No." I lie - she doesn't need to know about Kevin's funeral. "I was down for a long time. He wasn't there when I woke up. Why?"
"No reason." She shrugs it off and continues down the corridor. I follow closely. "I just thought he had something to say to you, that's all. Maybe he changed his mind."
"Maybe..." I agree, though I'm left wondering what he wanted. He didn't really say much at Kevin's funeral. Well, not much I didn't know anyway.
"Okay, this is your room until you decide if you wanna stay or not." She pushes a door open and leads me into a bedroom that's hauntingly similar to the ones back at Xavier's. "You should be staying in the guest rooms, but I talked to Logan about it and he put you in this sector with me and the other kids we used to go to school with. He says it's important that we stay this close. So, me and Cess are next to you, Santo and Julian are across the hall-"
"They still share?" I laugh slightly despite myself. Some things never change.
"Yeah. They're inseparable - as always." She rolls her eyes and smirks a little at the thought. "The Rockslide and Hellion dream team will never disband, I swear."
"Is Laura here?" I question suddenly, because I haven't seen her since Selene and she still means a lot to me.
"No... She's at Avengers Academy, I think. We haven't seen her in ages." She sighs, looking to the ground for a moment. "Although David said she's at Cyclops' secret school..."
"I miss her." I admit.
"You never seemed that close at school..." Nori notes with a frown.
"We were..." I insist, trying not to think about the X-Force.
"Anyway," Nori forces a smile and hands me a piece of paper. "Here's a map, if you need it. I'll leave you to get settled in, I guess."
"Thanks." I think my smile is genuine, though I can't be sure, because I've faked it so much recently. "I guess I'll see you at lunch, yeah?"
"Definitely!" She grins, before speeding from the room. "See you later, Josh!"
Okay. This was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. Because around 0.8 seconds ago I happened to open the door from this room at the exact moment Julian Keller was leaving his bedroom across the hall. And now we're just staring. I don't think he has any more of an idea what to say than I do. What do I say? 'Oh, hi, Hellion! Sorry, I ran out on you last time we had sex, but I had just killed your best friend! It's okay now though, because I got sexually assaulted by a middle-aged woman and decided to crash at your school instead of man-ing up like I should've'. Fuck. He's still staring. At least I'm gold this time, I guess.
"Fuck this." He snarls and retreats back into his room, quickly slamming the door with his telekinesis. Or trying to at least, because I promptly lurch forward and push it open again.
"Julian, wait!" I plead, pushing into his room.
"Why are you here, Foley?" He demands, avoiding my eyes. I shrug slightly. It's a good question. Why am I here? "Don't bullshit me, Elixir! Why did you come back?"
"Something happened at home that made me realize I need you guys, I guess." I blush. That's probably the simplest explanation.
"Something happened?" Julian shakes his head and laughed in disbelief. "You're un-fucking-believable, you know that?!"
"Julian..." I take a slow step towards him. "What happened to your biology?"
"What?" He steps back to counter me, because he just doesn't get it. There's something wrong! There's something really, really wrong! His body is screaming! It's hurting! Fuck! What happened to him?! I need to touch him! I need to diagnose, because from here, it feels like his body is... Mourning?
"What's wrong with you? Who hurt you?" I demand. I can tell from his expression that I'm confusing him. I get it. But this is important and I'm panicking too much to explain it rationally. "Julian, there's something wrong with your body and I can't tell what it is!"
"Oh..." A small, vicious smirk takes his lips. He's enjoying this. This pain must be from a while ago. Because if he was feeling it like I am, he wouldn't be smirking. "That's what's got you like this."
"What?" I can barely hear my own voice. I need to know that he's okay!
"So, something happened?" He steps up to me, snarling. "Well, something happened here too. Something happened that you could've fucking fixed! But you were off living your own daydream! So, something fucking happened that has changed my goddamn life and all because you were too much of a coward to stick around!"
"No! Julian! I-" my protest are cut off when he pushes me back against the wall, pinning me telekinetically.
"You wanna see what you did to me?!" He growls, pushing up to me. "Take a fucking look!"
He raises his arms between us and I don't see it at first. But then-
"You're hands... They're metal?" I stare at him blankly.
"No, you idiot! They're not fucking there! I have no hands! My hands were burnt off! Yeah! I'm a double amputee now! How fucking perfect to complete the Keller look?!" I'm not listening to him as much as I should be, because amputation doesn't fit with the symptoms I was feeling when I came here. This isn't what I was expecting. There's something else. Something he doesn't even understand. Oh god. Please no. Oh fuck. I need to fix him! I can't fix that!
"What's wrong, baby?" Julian hisses sarcastically. "Don't you want me anymore? Don't you want the disgusting, crippled freak?!"
"You know I don't think that! You know I love you!" I yell, because he'll never understand. "I left because I love you!"
"Bullshit!" He snaps suddenly, startling me. "'I left to protect you'. Fuck off, Foley! Real life isn't like an angsty movie. That lie doesn't fly here!"
"It's true! You're not safe with me!" Oh, fuck. I wanna cry. I can't... I just can't do this!
"I'm not safe without you!" He yells, before we fall into a heavy silence, staring again.
"I can't let myself hurt you..." I whisper, and damn it, the lump in my throat is back. "I hurt Kevin... I can't hurt you..."
"Why do you think you're gonna hurt me?" Because I am. "You won't." I will. "You can't." I can. "You're a good person, Josh." I'm a monster.
"I'm so sorry." I take his prosthetics in my hands and kiss them in turn. "I'm so, so sorry."
"Why did you have to go?" He stares up into my eyes - pleading. But I don't have an answer for that - not an easy one, at least.
"Because I'm the bad guy, Julian. I hurt people. You just care for me too much to see it." I breathe slowly, before risking kissing him, he doesn't pull back. So, I push a little more. Because sex always has been our way of dealing with things. And right now, there are a lot of things to deal with. My hands are in his hair, pulling him in, and his prosthetics are on my waist, cool and hard. It's strange. I miss his hands. I loved his hands.
"Who did this to you?" I pant between kisses, drawing my fingertips up -what's left of - his forearms. "I'll kill them."
"Josh-" he moans, shaking his head. "Please- Don't talk about it. I can't think about it."
And then it hits me, heavily. Like a metaphorical ton of bricks. Because I was right earlier, when I felt his symptoms. What I didn't want- What I can't fix-
Julian Keller is depressed.
"Fuck, Julian... No..." I shake my head slowly, tears filling my eyes. I want to push them away, but I can't. I can't move. "You... You're..."
"What?" He stares at me again and I can see the blankness in his eyes. And now I'm noticing everything he's done since I got here. Everything was pointing to this but I was too hopeful to see it... I was ignorant, but I see it now.
"You're depressed..." I can barely say the words out loud.
"It seems I'm not the only one." He states firmly, trailing fingertips over the inky spots on my wrists, causing me to pull back immediately.
"Don't touch that." I order sharply. The idiot. How can he think that's safe?
"I thought I made it clear last time that I don't care." He sounds hurt, upset. I did this. I did all of this. This is all my fault. And it's not physical. So... So, I can't fix it. It makes no sense. Why can't I fix it? I hate this. Psychology. Mental health. Broken minds. Telepaths! I need a telepath! I need to fix him. I need to make him better. I need-
"Josh, you're scaring me." He states calmly, and it occurs to me that I've been mumbling all of this out loud.
"I can't fix you." I confess quietly, dropping my head. I'm ashamed. I deserve to be.
"You are fixing me." He promises. But it's a lie. It's such a lie. "By coming home, you helped me."
"No. You're wrong. I'll make it worse. I can't- I have- I have to leave now." This isn't safe. Not for him. Not for me. I have to go back to my apartment. Alone. I have to grow up. I have to face the real world. I have to be an adult. I have to fix myself. I have to stay away. I have to stop breaking him. I'm breaking him. He's broken. It's my fault. I fucked up. I'm going now. I'm leaving. Good. I need to leave.
"I have to-" I'm shaking my head. My body doesn't seem to work at anything but getting me out. My body knows best. I'm going.
"Josh! Don't you fucking dare!" Julian yells, but doesn't stop me. I don't stop me either. I just leave. Nori can mail me my stuff. I'll be fine. "You're a coward!"
He's right. But I'm being brave now. I'm leaving him. I'm leaving what I love. I'm letting him fix himself. Because my name is Joshua Foley. Codename: Elixir. And I have this strange ability - more than my mutation - to destroy everything that's good for me. And my mind seeks out ways to ensure that everything I love goes wrong. But I won't let that happen to Julian. No.
Because Julian Keller is beautiful.
And I love him more than I love my own biology.
I'VE HAD THIS ALMOST ENTIRELY WRITTEN SINCE ANXM #40 CAME OUT ASDFGHJK
Feels so nice to finally post it.
It's badly written.
It's Josh's funeral.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
No. I drop the phone. My gauntlets fall with it. Then me; I collapse to my knees. No, she's wrong. She has to be wrong! That's not how this works! That can't happen! No! I'm crying, but I can only hear myself choking on sobs distantly. As if I'm out of my own body. I may as well be. Because none of this is real. None. It can't be. No way.
"Julian." Laura's voice echoes out from the phone quietly, but loud enough that she pulls my attention back. Maybe she's lying. Or this is all some disgusting joke. It has to be! This isn't real! It just isn't possible!
Still, I retrieve the phone shakily using my telekinesis, abandoning my gauntlets for a minute and taking a breath for composure. What was it Josh said he learnt from Zen - breathe in for two counts, out for four? Or was it the other way around?
"Julian, are you okay?" Laura asks carefully, but there's pain in her tone. No. No!
"You're lying! Please, tell me you're lying!" I beg through a sob.
"I am sorry." Is all she replies with. But still I don't believe it. This isn't right. This just isn't right! He can't be- I can't lose him! No!
"How do you know?" I question quietly, trying to finding a loop hole. She doesn't reply for a moment and that angers me. "How, X?!"
"Because I was there. He sacrificed himself for me... For us..." No. He wouldn't- He couldn't- My perfect, selfish Reaver could never be so heroic. No! My Reaver boy is all for himself. He's always been that way! Always!
"Us?" I push. Who did this to him? Because I know he wouldn't do it to himself! He always wanted to be accepted, maybe-
"Myself, Mystique, Daken, Sabreto-"
"Bullshit!" I yell, because no that is not fucking okay! He wouldn't do that! He wouldn't! "You're trying to tell me Josh died for a bunch of disgusting, manipulative, fucked up-"
"Julian!" Laura snaps down the phone, as if scolding a child. Not out of shock. Purely to shut me up. It works. But I've never seen her get this passionate about anything before... "Elixir was my friend too. I called you to see if maybe you could help me to understand my feelings about this situation - help me to grieve. I chose you, as you are emotionally the closest person to me whom was also close to Elixir. My current team do not understand, as they do not know him. He and Warren never met, so I cannot discuss this with him. But I thought you could help me. And - most importantly - I thought that you would like to know sooner than others. The alternative, being you and the New X-Men hearing this news with the rest of the Jean Grey School student body."
"Why?" I'm sobbing freely now, fallen back against the wall, my hands far in front of me - disconnected - and my cell held telekinetically to my ear. It hurts. It hurts so bad. I drop my head back against the wall. "Why didn't you save him, X?"
There's silence for a moment then, "We did not understand what was happening. We were... Scared."
"Scared?!" I snarl, my anger and frustration returning in a moment. "You're trying to tell me that a pack of fucking villains were too frightened to save him?!"
"No- I- You do not understand- it all happened so quickly- I-"
"No! I don't believe this! Any of it! I'm calling bullshit! He's still alive! He's still teaching those stupid, fucking yoga classes up in Queens, and this is just a sick joke!" I can't stop yelling, sobbing, screaming. It doesn't make sense. He was here, like, five weeks ago! He can't be- I don't believe that he seriously-
"Julian, I am sorry. But Elixir is... Is... Gone." Her voice is quiet, but still the words hurt to hear. "I think that you should tell the other New X-Men. We have informed his family. His brothers have agreed to attend a funeral at the Jean Grey School. His parents have not."
"I love him, Laura." I whisper, because maybe telling someone that will fix the pain a little. It doesn't.
"We all did, Hellion." She replies calmly, her tone dropping with sympathy.
"No." I growl firmly. She doesn't get it! She doesn't see what it's like to love someone! Not like this. "No, I love him! I fell in love with him! He left and it destroyed me! And now you're saying he's gone and- and-"
"You loved Elixir... Romantically?"
"Yes, romantically! I fucking fell for that asshole!"
"Julian... I do not understand..."
"Of course you don't understand! You're just-" I stop myself. No. No, that's not right. I can't hurt her because I'm fucked up. "No one understands."
"I do not know what to tell you, Hellion... I will be at the funeral... Goodbye." And then she hangs up. And what am I supposed to do now?! If I tell them, I'm admitting that X is right, but if I don't... I have to. I can't keep them in the dark about this.
There's a crash and some low laughter, before I look up to see Santo (who immediately stops laughing).
"Woah, dude. What happened to you?" There is little sympathy in his voice yet. I like that. "Someone put hair removal creme in your shampoo bottle again?"
"Santo..." I telekinetically slam my cell against the wall beside me, shattering it. Anger is better than sobbing. "I need you to find Cess and Nori. And Sooraya. And David. And Megan. And Victor, and Ruth. And Alani. I need to talk to them... It's- it's about Josh."
"How are you feeling?" Nori appears in the mirror behind me, looking over my shoulder and into my eyes.
"Fine." I lie. How can I be fine? I should be kicking Josh's stupid, gold ass now, not... Burying him.
"Liar." Nori notes easily. Fuck her. "I might not be able to read your body like Josh could, but I've known you since you were fifteen. I can tell when you're putting on a face."
"Can we not talk about this now?" I warn, because I think I'm gonna cry anyway.
"No one is gonna expect you to be careless about this." She whispers, placing her gauntlet-shielded hand on my shoulder. I ignore the gesture, continuing to straighten my tie.
"But they are. Because none of them know! Do they? You and Laura are the only one who know!" I hiss, turning back to her, trying to mask the hurt in my expression. I'm strong. I don't cry. This isn't going to be like Kevin's funeral again. I'm older now. Stronger. I can do this.
"You seriously think you two were that sneaky? Everyone knew!" She laughs a little at the memory and it causes me to frown, because hell no, they didn't. "Don't you think it was a little suspicious that you two would argue or something bad would happen, and that night you'd tell Santo you were sleeping in one of the spare rooms? And your damn glances over the breakfast table were terrible!" She giggles, rolling her eyes. "Didn't you find it strange that I didn't react when you told me?"
"So, you all just... Knew?" I stare at her blankly through the mirror.
"We all knew you were... Umm... Fooling around, I guess. But Cess was actually the one to figure out you were in love with him. After he left the first time."
"Oh." What else can I say, really? My best friend knew I was in love with Josh before I did.
"So, people will understand if you get upset. You don't have to-" three heavy knocks interrupt her words, before the door is opened.
"Oh, Julian, you big idiot." Cessily exclaims when she sees me, immediately pulling me to her chest. I sigh and close my eyes.
"What?" I reply bluntly, not hugging her back.
"Santo told me you didn't want to do a speech anymore..." Cess sighs, refusing to let me go.
"I don't see the point." I pull back and look down into her eyes. "I tried to write something, and I just- What can I say, Cess? What can I say that would even come close to explaining how shit this whole situation is?"
"That's not what funerals are about. Funerals are about celebration. Saying 'hell yeah, this guy's life was awesome'." She whispers and I can't help looking to Nori to see whose side she's on here.
"You might regret it if you don't say something." She adds to Cess' point with a shrug, sitting cross legged on Santo's bed.
"But how can we possibly celebrate now? Josh had a fucking awful life, and now he's gone. That's nothing to celebrate." I step back from Cessily and look away because, fuck, I swear everything is making me want to cry today. It must be, like, hayfever or something.
"No one is gonna force you to say something. But we just think maybe it would benefit you if you did..." I'm pretty sure if Cess could blush, she would right now. She's getting strangely bashful about the situation. "I know after Kevin's, you probably don't want to do anything like that again, but-"
"Don't you have to meet Roxy?" I cut in, because I don't think I can't handle thinking about Kevin's funeral (and what happened after it) right now. I turn to Nori to let her know she's not exempt from this. "Or David?"
"Yeah, sure." Nori stands with a fake, reassuring smile, taking Cessily's hand. "Come on, Cess. Let's go."
"Julian." Cess stops and stands firm, looking up at me. Pleading. "You're so brave."
"Go... Please..." I sigh, and I can see my reflection out of the corner of my eye. My aura is showing. I don't like being so easily exposed. People know I'm upset because I glow freaking green.
"If you change your mind about not doing the speech, Ms Munroe will understand." Cess kisses my cheek before letting Nori pull her from the room.
I changed my mind. I don't know why. But what Nori said really hit me. I don't wanna regret this. I can't. So I'm doing it.
Although, right now, as I walk through the crowd to the podium, I begin to want to change my mind right back. Because they're talking. Whispering. They're all saying shit that I already know. They're talking about how 'Julian used to date Josh before he left the school'. Nori wasn't kidding. Everyone knows. Even the students who never met Josh. Why are they here?! This is a funeral, not some social gathering. Stupid fucking school.
And they must be whispering fucking loud enough, because when I pass Josh's brothers - the only members of his vile family that bothered to come - one asks the other who I am, to which the second quietly replies, "The boyfriend, I think."
Boyfriend. Ha! Bullshit. He wasn't my boyfriend. No way. We were friends. I cared about him, but we weren't... Really...
I stand behind the podium, resting my hands on it, and close my eyes, because this is far too familiar. I can't stop my mind going back to Kevin's funeral. Thinking about everything Josh said then. Everything he wanted.
I stare at the paper that lies on the podium. My hasty, telekinetic writing of the shittest speech in existence. I didn't plan it well. I just wanted to say something. Something that signified us - him. Now I know. I screw the paper up and toss it aside, before looking down at my hands for a moment, the way my aura reflects in the shiny metal.
"So, I had a speech planned, okay?" Fuck, I think I'm gonna throw up. "Some bullshit memory from the training squads that I wrote out quickly before I got here. I can't even remember what it was right now."
Cessily is looking to Nori with a concerned expression. Sit the fuck down, girls. I know what I'm doing.
"But none of that really matters, does it? Because memories... Memories can only do so much. People say when you write speeches, you're supposed to write from the heart. Well, I can tell you that if I listened to my heart, I wouldn't even be here. I'd be chasing down the fuckers that did this to him! But- But I'm listening to my head. I'm listening to Josh. Because he of all people could tell you that life isn't about good guys and bad guys. He thought he was a bad guy. He came to Kevin Ford's funeral and hid in the freaking shadows because he was so ashamed to show his black skin - because he thought that made him a bad guy. But he wasn't! He really wasn't! He killed Stryker because he had to. That doesn't make him evil."
I don't know what I'm saying - I'm ranting. But I just want to talk about him.
"Josh Foley was the most selfless, beautiful guy I've ever met. No one really ever saw it. Because he was either running, or hiding behind some, stupid, arrogant facade, but he didn't give a shit about himself! He thought he was born to save his friends, and then he lost so many. That broke him, but he still worked to save the day. Every day. Do you know how freaking strong you have to be to save a whole school of kids just days after your girlfriend is shot through the head in your arms? Josh does.... Did."
I look over the other attendees. A sea of black and gold. I told Cess to ban pure black outfits. He would've hated that. Black was an issue for him. She suggested everyone wear at least one gold piece. It's nice. He would like this. I think.
"The meaning of this whole thing is to celebrate his life, right? What's the point? He was ditched by his own family, lost almost everyone he cared about, struggled against too much self-hatred and died at eighteen. There's nothing to celebrate. Josh died when he was just eighteen years old... There is nothing to celebrate here. Life is unfair, the world is a shithole, and Joshua Foley should not be dead!" I'm panting and I can feel my powers flaring through my body. "I need a drink." I hiss, before I head for the trees. This is bullshit! Josh can't be dead.
"Julian!" Laura follows me into the woods.
"What?!" I yell. I can feel my telekinesis bubbling under my skin.
"I understand you are upset, but this is not-"
"Upset?! I'm not upset! I'm fucking furious!" I hear the branches around us snap and crack and I know I'm losing control.
"Calm down! Right now!" She orders, almost snarling at me. It takes me by surprise. "I am upset too! I am angry! Josh was one of the very few people I would classify as a friend and now he is gone! But this is not about us! This is not about our emotions! This is about Josh!"
We stare at each other in silence for a moment, before I find myself falling onto her, hugging her shoulders.
"How am I supposed to do this without him, X?" I sob, burying my face in her hair.
"I understand it is difficult, but we will survive this, Julian. That is what we do."
"But I loved him so much..."
"Y'know," I take a breath and pull back, looking into her familiar green eyes. "The last time I saw him, I called him a coward... I didn't mean it... But that's how he thought I saw him, wasn't it?"
"No, I believe that he understood that you cared for him." She replies almost robotically, as if the response is programmed.
"I couldn't let him think that, X! That's disgusting! He was so brave..." I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. "He was the only one who made everything okay! He made me forget all the bad stuff! And he kept me sane... How am I supposed to hold back all the shit in my head, knowing he'll never be here with me ever again?"
"We will help you, Julian." She reassures, though we both know that's bullshit. I only need Josh.
"He's gone, Laura. I have nothing. I need more than help to get over that, to be honest." I don't wanna stand. I don't wanna feel. I just want to collapse in the grass and lay there in silence for a few days. I look down at the ground with this thought... The greenery does look inviting... "I loved him so fucking much, Laura..." I'm sobbing again and fuck, that's not strong. Or brave. Or masculine. But it's true. "So, so much."
"I don't know why you got an invite, really." I mumble, watching the reflections of the room in my gauntlets. Josh's brother - I don't know his name, I don't care - has been attempting to talk to me for the past half an hour. The other, younger brother is talking to Laura. He actually looks upset. He must only be a year or two older than us. But this brother looks about twenty three and is looking far too nonchalant for the situation.
"He was my brother, kid." He states, emphasizing his apparent relationship to my Josh. Ha! Some brother.
"Your family disowned him! Because of his freaking DNA!" I hiss, capping my volume, so as to not disturb the others. "And don't you dare patronize me!"
"Listen, I still loved and cared for my baby brother, even when he went all mutie. But this family doesn't-"
"'Went all mutie'?!" This fucker better be joking right now. "Your brother was the most spectacular mutant I ever met! Do you have any idea how many lives he's saved?"
"Oh no, of course you don't. Because you didn't bother to keep in contact with him!" I'm practically growling at him, but he had no right to treat Josh as he did, and I've been waiting for three years to say this. "Josh was amazing! And you just- Just-"
"I know my brother was special, okay? But you have to see that his... Situation was difficult for us." He speaks calmly and it makes me wanna punch him in the face. Really hard. Telekinetically forcing a lump of metal into a guy's face would really help me get over this a little.
"Situation?! And you really think it was easy for Josh? For us, even? Josh's transition from Reaver to the boy that I-" fell in love with? You sure you wanna admit that to this fucker, Keller? "That I became so close to... That transition was hard for all of us to be a part of, especially Josh! Do you have any idea what he went through?"
"I understand that-"
"No. That's just it. You don't." I'm not gonna let him talk. It's all just bullshit and lies about the boy I love and that's not fucking okay. "You don't understand anything!"
"Listen, Julian." He sighs pointedly and steps up to me and I swear I'm gonna-
"Is there an issue, boys?" Nori holds an oh-so-slightly sparking hand up between us, her voice firm but quiet. "Not here."
"Nori, I was just-"
"No." She warns, narrowing her eyes at me. What did I do?! "Not. Here."
"Kid, you may have been screwing my brother, but we-"
"I wasn't 'screwing' him. I was- I was-"
"In love with him? Precious! You fucking faggot!"
"That's it!" I snap, my telekinesis flaring.
"Julian!" Nori hisses, stepping between us and grabbing my shoulders. "Control! Now!"
"And you," she turns to Josh's brother. "Leave. You do not come to this school and personally attack the students. Especially not now!"
"You can't throw me out of my own brother's funeral!" He draws back, obviously insulted, and it provokes the first genuine smile I've had all day, even if it is malicious. "You can't force me to leave."
"Oh, yeah?" I raise my eyebrows, and flare my TK a bit, my eyes and hands taking a strong green glow now. "Fucking try me. Call me a faggot again and I'll send you straight through that window."
"You ruined my brother." He snarls at me, eyes flicking out to scan the room, which is now focused on us. "He was a good kid before he met you! I remember that letter he sent us when he moved here... It was all 'Julian this, Julian that' - that's when you started, wasn't it? You got your fucking claws into him and turned him into some sort dirty queer!"
"Get out!" It's not me that yells the words, sending shocked silence over the room. I want to. But she gets there first. Nori. Electricity sparks from the corners of her eyes and her shoulders rise and fall heavily with each breath. "You dare! You fucking dare say those things! Julian saved your brother's life in more ways than an asshole like you will ever see!" She flings a now-strongly sparking gauntlet in my direction. "You should be thanking this boy! He made Josh happier than any of us thought possible! Which is something your family definitely couldn't do! So, fuck off! Get out! And don't even think of coming back here ever again! Because next time, I won't stop Julian from beating the shit out of you. And I'm sure he won't stop himself stopping your heart, if you have one."
He doesn't say another word. Instead, he makes strong eye contact with Josh's other brother, before turning to leave in silence.
The younger brother looks up to my eyes as he passes me and whispers, "I'm really sorry" before following his brother from the room.
After a moment or so of silence, Nori splutters into a wave of sobs, falling against my chest. I stroke her hair, staring straight ahead, in a daze. Still, none of this feels real. I close my eyes and everyone is focused on me as I wrap my arms around her gently, her electricity dying down.
"It's okay, Nori. We're gonna be okay. It's okay." I whisper, though my heart's not really in it, mainly because I don't believe it. But it's the best I can do to comfort her right now.
"I miss him so much..." She mumbles into my shirt. It's the first time I've ever seen her like this. It's strange. I'm unsure. I don't know how to make it better. I just want to help.
"Me too." I settle for. Because it's true.
I look around the room now, the eyes that stare back at me. Cess, David, Santo, Laura, Sooraya, Alani. None of them look good.
And it makes me realize something.
Sentinels, Purifiers, Predator X, Bastion, all that bullshit. That's not even the hard part about being here.
The hardest part of being here is allowing yourself to care so much for someone you know will inevitably be taken from you.
And this time, I'm not sure we're going to get through it.
Tears streak his cheeks, but she holds his hand so tight that he feels a little better. But only a little. The boy he loves is right there, in pain. And the healer just wants to fix. Fix himself. Fix Julian. Fix this situation. But this is the only way, really.
"C'mon." She whispers, stroking her thumb over his hand in a comforting gesture. "Tabby's got the car ready around the back."
He swallows around the lump in his throat and watches his best friend cry. His best friend that absolutely never, under any circumstances, cried. She's crying because of him. Because he's gone. But he's not. He's right here! She just can’t know that. One day, maybe. But not now.
"Xi'an, I don't think I can do it. I can't leave them." His breath shakes though the words. "Julian-"
"Will be okay. But we need to find a safe place. Once we're sure we can stay on Utopia, you can come back for him. But we need to know it's safe first." She holds a promise in her voice, and he trusts her. It doesn't make this any easier though. He sighs, leaning against the building he hides himself behind, watching his lover wistfully.
He nods, and closes his eyes.
"I know how much you love him, Josh. But we wanna keep him safe. Him, and Nori. And Cess, Santo, Megan... Everyone. We want to look after them." Her words cause him to nod again, and she once again gives his hand a gentle squeeze. "You ready?"
dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn