What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 23bypsyche_b_mused©
Kelly is physically recovering, but is just beginning a psychological recovery. Because of her highly traumatized state, she may misinterpret the meanings of words and the intentions of others.
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23. ...and Barters
The blue doctor watched Victor walk out the door, then he smiled at Kelly. "I don't need tests to see that you're doing well." He set the clipboard down.
Kelly smiled a little. "The ache in my bones is mostly gone. My head is better. I can barely see the incision on my side. I'm kinda tired, but Victor told me that healing takes energy, so I guess feeling tired is normal."
He nodded. "It is. Could I have a look at the incision?"
"If you'll open the ties on your gown and lay on your side. I'll cover the window and give you a few minutes to arrange your clothing."
Kelly waited until he had the window covered, then she arranged herself so that he could see the long incision. The robe was around her waist like a blanket, protecting her modesty. He knocked a few minutes later, then came in and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. "Let me know if you have any pain." He stretched the skin along the edges of the wound, then applied a little pressure along its length. Kelly groaned as he reached the front of the wound.
"It just feels too tight. Like there are stitches there, but I can see there aren't. Most of the time I don't feel it. Just when I move certain ways."
"There are several layers of tissue that are healing. Your skin is healing faster than the underlying muscle. I can't really say how long it'll take because I'm not completely certain how fast your healing factor works, but I'll recommend that you be careful for another few days." He pulled the gown back down. "I'm going to give you a list of words to remember, and I'll ask you for them later."
"House, pencil, blue, donkey."
Kelly nodded. "Got it."
"You look like you were walking confidently. Any dizziness?" He took off the gloves and started making notes on the clipboard.
"No." Kelly arranged the gown around herself and sat up.
"Trouble finding words?"
"Do you know where you are?"
Kelly wasn't sure how to answer at first. "I thought it was a hospital at first. Victor told me it was a school and he told me the name, but I don't remember it all. His sweatshirt said something about Xavier's school."
He smiled. "Close enough. The day of the week?"
"No one told me what day it was yesterday, but if I had been here eight days then I'll guess that today is Tuesday."
Another small smile. "Yes it is."
"Thinking about those sweats, you wouldn't happen to have a set in my size would you? I feel strange sitting around like this."
He nodded. "I want to get the cheek swab first and then I'll bring you something to change into. What were the words I asked you to remember earlier?"
"House, pencil, blue, donkey." Kelly answered without hesitation.
He nodded and made another note, then he pulled on a fresh pair of gloves. He took a package out of the pocket of his lab coat. "This is just a sterile swab." He opened the package. "I'll have you open your mouth and I'll rub it along the inside of your cheek to pick up a few epithelial cells."
"Straight out of C.S.I., huh?" She smiled a little and opened her mouth.
He laughed while he ran the cotton end of the swab over her left cheek. "Something like that. They look for the presence of certain genes. I'll be able to develop a profile that shows how your genes are functioning." He slid a plastic cover over the cotton tip of the swab. "Alright. I'll get you some clothes and then we can talk more."
Kelly's eyes narrowed. "Talk about what?"
He looked at her for a long moment, as if weighing his options. "The experience you've had-"
"No." Her voice was firm. Tension rippled through her muscles.
He sat down. "Kelly, keeping silent about this-"
"It's none of your business." Kelly's voice rose. She gripped the edge of the robe tightly.
He studied her with a direct gaze. She recognized the look as something that was supposed to inspire uncertainty in a younger person. Kelly had been through too much for that to work. She stared back.
"You're not going to change my mind. I appreciate the fact that without you I would have died. I can't thank you enough for that. If you want to tell me more about how I went from death's doorstep to waking up feeling pretty much okay with a new healing factor, I would love to listen. As to the rest, I don't know you, I don't trust you, and I'm not telling you anything."
He was silent a moment longer, then he got up. "I'll get you some clothes."
Kelly curled up in the chair in front of McCoy's desk. Her chin rested on top of her knee as she listened to his explanation of genes and methyl molecules and histones and other things that she'd never heard of. When she cut through the jargon, the basic concept of genes becoming active or silent depending on experience made some sense to her. It sparked an idea too. She spent the last few minutes of his explanation deciding how to phrase it.
"So, if I had siblings, would they have the same dormant mutant genes?"
She caught the slight narrowing in his eyes. "It's possible, but each sibling would have a unique complement of them. Even within the same family, children have different experiences which activate and silence different genes. Why?"
"If someone gave one of those siblings the same IV I got, would it make him or her sick?"
"It stresses the body in very specific ways and that, in turn, accelerates methylation. A healthy person probably wouldn't notice anything other than the inconvenience of being hooked up to an IV for several days. If the person was already ill, or injured, the risk is slightly increased. No matter the situation, seeing results is highly unusual. Do you ask because of your brother?"
Kelly's fingers bit into her leg. "Who said I have a brother?"
He sat back. "Your stepfather has a fondness for television appearances, and for using his personal tragedies as a rallying cry for the anti-mutant community." For a moment he was silent. "He speaks a great deal about your murder."
Kelly was certain she heard a threat in his voice. It made her stomach clench. She was on her feet and backing away, heart pounding, mind racing with no other thought than self-preservation. "Where's Victor?"
He stood slowly. "Kelly-"
"If Stan finds me again, he'll kill me!" She held onto her arms, trying to keep from trembling.
"And you think Victor won't?"
She stared at him for a moment. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He walked around the desk. "There is a body that's been officially identified as yours. Of course it was a visual identification because there were no teeth, no hands, and the DNA was destroyed by heat. It's either a stunning coincidence or Victor attempted to set the scene."
Kelly met his eyes. "So what if he did?"
Surprise flickered over his face. "Whoever she was, she didn't deserve that."
"And I didn't deserve what Stan put me through. Life is profoundly unfair on so many levels." She could feel the anger constricting her chest, making it hard to breathe.
"That doesn't give him the right to kill an innocent woman-"
"I don't care if it was one woman or a hundred." Her eyes were on his.
"You can't mean that."
One finger tapped angrily against her bicep. "What do you want? You want me to lie and say my heart breaks every time I think about it? That I can't sleep at night because of the guilt? I'm glad to be alive and I intend to stay that way. No matter what."
"What did it buy you?" He was looking down his nose at her.
Kelly dug her nails into her palms. "Time enough for Victor to be there when Stan made his move. Are we done or do you want to try and make me feel guilty awhile longer?"
He leaned back against the desk. "I'm wondering if you're trusting someone who doesn't deserve it."
"Oh, so you want to read back a litany of every terrible thing Victor has ever done." Kelly was shaking now.
"You're a little late. Müller already did that, when he wasn't taking breaks so that his assistants could beat the hell out of me. If you're going to do it again I think I'd like to sit down. My head was kinda foggy but it seems like it took quite awhile."
"You have other options." There was a genuine concern in his eyes.
Kelly felt some of the tension leave her body. "I don't need other options."
"Are you certain of that?"
Kelly looked away. "I see how everyone here looks at him. Nothing I say is going to be enough."
"Tell me something I don't know about him."
Kelly shrugged. There seemed to be too many things to list. "He found my grandparents for me. I hadn't seen them since my mother married Stan. I talked to them just about every day before all this happened. We even spent time in Ohio with them."
"Victor and I. And before you ask, they're still alive and well."
He smiled slightly. "That is something I didn't know."
She looked up at him. "Am I okay? Are we finished?"
"The treatment was very experimental, but you're on the mend."
The phone call to Conlon took no more than five minutes. He found out that the kid's condition hadn't changed all that much. With head injuries and humans, that was probably a good thing. The other mutant could be at the gate in fifteen minutes. Creed told him he'd call when the frail was ready to go.
"She's alright then?"
The question pissed him off. "What the fuck kind of a question is that? You saw that place. You saw the kind of state she was in." Jimmy walked in and lingered across the room. He was doing his best to look like he wasn't paying attention, but Creed didn't buy that.
"She's alive though."
He watched Jimmy. "Fucking lucky for you that she is too."
"You keep telling yourself that. Be ready to leave when I call back." He ended the call. Jimmy looked up. Creed was watching him. "Get an earful, Runt?"
The runt smirked. "Sleep well?"
"You spying on me now?" It pissed him off, but Creed couldn't say that he was surprised.
Jimmy shrugged. "I remember how you were when we shared space on a regular basis-"
"Was that before or after you decided I wasn't worthy of your company?"
Jimmy growled, but went on. "When we shared space, you got pissed off if I so much as breathed too loud."
"What's your point?"
"I was curious."
"You were jealous."
"I have what you don't and whether you admit it or not, it's eating you up inside." Creed grinned. "But it was a damn sight nicer laying next to her than sitting there with you staring at me. Where's the coat I had her wrapped up in when we got here?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"I need to find it and then I need to see your boss."
"He wants to see you too."
Creed started to look around the large room. "Well don't that just make things convenient." He finally found a red plastic bag sealed with tape with "Biohazard" printed on it. Even through the plastic he could still smell the frail's fear and the rotting blood of her captors. The image of her on the floor, bleeding and broken, flashed before his eyes. The low growl was out before he could stop it.
Jimmy appeared by his side. "Look-"
"Shut the fuck up." Goddamn runt felt sorry for him. He could hear it in the smaller man's voice. Creed couldn't meet his eyes. "We goin' to see the old man or not?"
Jimmy didn't move. "It sticks with you. Just like the wars and all the other shit, you can't unsee it and you can't change it."
Creed stepped close to his brother, his eyes clashing with the other man's. "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, and I ain't got time to stand here and listen to you spew your nonsense." A warning growl permeated his statement.
Jimmy's anger flashed, but the other feral stepped away. "You know exactly what I'm talking about; you're just too fucking stubborn to admit it. Come on."
Creed clutched the plastic-covered package and followed his brother across a mostly silent foyer. The runt was right. Just the flash of that image renewed all the anger at himself, all the pain seeing her cringe away from him, the palpable fear of losing her. He shoved all that aside and willed himself to think of anything else.
Jimmy knocked, but Creed didn't wait, he opened the door. The kid the old man was sitting with jumped.
"We'll talk again tomorrow, and I expect that assignment will be complete by then."
The child nodded, but he kept his eyes on Creed. Creed smirked, showing just a hint of fang.
"Do you understand?" The old man prompted.
"Yes." The boy picked up his books and trotted past Creed. The old man waited until the door was closed.
"You could have waited to be acknowledged." He said.
"I could have." Creed sat down. He sliced through the red plastic with one claw. "But I wanted to get this over so we could get outta here. How much?"
Creed felt a flutter against his mind. He growled low and dangerous. "I told you to stay the fuck outta my head."
He nodded. "Forgive me, your question confused me. How much for what?"
"Treatment for the frail." He dug through the gore-stiffened fabric.
"I didn't do this with any expectation of-"
"I don't need your charity and I sure as hell don't wanna owe you anything." He found the hidden compartment in the lining of the coat. He tossed four thick bundles of cash onto the old man's desk. Some of the edges were stained reddish brown. "You tell me how much, take this off the top and tell me where to wire the rest. You'll have it in twenty-four hours."
The old man stared at the cash. Creed thought he saw disgust flicker across his face. He looked away from the stained money. "You're certain that leaving is the best idea for Kelly?"
Creed stared into those cool eyes for a long moment. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"I was just wondering if you've considered her needs when making your plans." Cool, cultured voice. Absolutely controlled, detached and positively maddening.
Creed did his best to suppress the deep growl that rose in his chest. He didn't want to give the old man the satisfaction. He glanced over at Jimmy. His brother looked away. Creed wasn't sure what that meant yet. "Still waiting for you to tell me what that's supposed to mean."
"You know the ordeal she's been through."
"Better than you do."
The old man nodded slightly. "Then you know recovery will be a long process. I'm offering her the ability to recover in safety, to finish her education-"
Creed's claws bit into the leather arms of the chair. "As long as I'm outta the picture."
"A time without distractions would be-"
"I ain't a distraction, I'm her fucking mate! 'F you don't know what that means you can ask Jimmy. Be interesting to see if he remembers."
"I will not allow you or anyone else to use my school as a base of operations for wholesale murder."
"Wholesale?" Creed smirked. "Trust me, ain't nobody gettin' it wholesale from me."
Anger flickered over the old man's face. "Severe trauma like the kind Kelly's been through can play havoc with a young woman's emotional state. She may form intense but unhealthy attachments with-"
"Her captor." Creed finished with a barely concealed growl. "You think she's developed an attachment to me because it's safer for her. She keeps me happy, she stays alive. In the beginning you figure she was just doing it until she could figure a way out. Course as time went on and I didn't kill her, she started to really identify with me, to rely on me for pretty much everything. To believe that I was being good to her when all I was really doing was not hurting her too bad." The old man sat back in his chair. "You ain't the only one who's ever read a psychology textbook."
"Then you should understand the fragile state that Kelly is in." The old man gave a small smile, as if he were making progress.
"So to fix all this shit you want me to leave her where she doesn't want to be with people she doesn't know and doesn't want to be with, but who are pretty fucking invested in keeping her here." Creed watched the old man's eyes narrow slightly. "Who would she be forced to rely on then?"
Jimmy covered a laugh with a cough.
"There's no comparison between the two situations." Controlled anger laced the old man's voice.
"In your opinion. It's gettin' late. You got any other arguments?"
He took a deep breath. "And if she isn't ready to go?"
"Didn't we just go through that?"
"I mean physically. You know how much energy healing takes and you know how serious her internal injuries were. Her bruises and skin has healed. The rest will require time."
He knew alright. The ape had gone down the list and that didn't even include the surgery. Beyond being physically exhausted, Creed knew that the frail needed time to start to process some of it. He'd decided to give her a day of traveling and see how she was. They could hide out for a few days if she needed to get her bearings. "She'll sleep on the way. You decided how much yet?"
As soon as Kelly stepped out of Hank's office, she looked around for Victor. When she didn't see him, panic started to rise in her chest. "Professor Xavier wanted to meet with him." Hank said. "I'm sure he'll still be there when we get there."
Kelly stopped and looked up into his eyes, studying his face. A muscle tensed and relaxed in his jaw. "You think he's gone."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to." Anger at him and fear that he was right wrestled in her chest. She fought to control it. "Where is this office?"
"This way." He led her through the foyer and down another hallway. The place looked more like an opulent manor house than a school. She glanced over at Hank, he was smiling at her. "Quite something, isn't it?"
A smile tugged at Kelly's lips. "I'd hate to have to polish it."
He laughed and turned down another hallway. This one looked more like a school. A very upscale school. A blond girl trotted around another corner. She stopped in the middle of the hall and stared. Kelly looked away.
"Do I look that awful?" She murmured.
"Of course not-"
"Kelly?" The girl was still staring. At the mention of her name Kelly stopped and stared back. There was something familiar about her. "Kelly Demmer?" She walked closer. Kelly stood still.
Hank stepped forward. "You're late for third period, aren't you?"
The shade of her hair, the way she clutched a black and white marbled notebook to her chest. When she shifted it, Kelly could see that the edges of the pages were colored with intricate designs. It triggered the memory. "Cassie?" Kelly moved forward so that she was peeking out around the blue doctor's body.
The girl nodded. She dropped the notebook and ran toward Kelly. Kelly brushed past Hank and met her halfway, catching her in a tight embrace.
Creed walked out of the office with Jimmy and the old man rolling along behind them. "Look, you can take the money or burn it or set up the fucking Victor Creed Scholarship Fund." He grinned a little bit at that thought. "I don't really give a shit. I'm taking my frail and getting the hell outta here."
When he rounded the corner he stopped short. The frail was smiling and chattering with some girl while the ape tried to shoo the stranger away. He had a flash of white-hot fear, then crushed it with anger.
He turned to the old man. "You did this." His growl was low and dangerous, his claws lengthened. Jimmy stepped in front of him, his muscles tense.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Jimmy asked.