I hereby acknowledge that I realize just how unrealistic the "happy" ending to "Equal and Opposite Reaction," was. However, since the realistic ending really doesn't leave room for sequels, I'm still going to play in this unrealistic universe until I run out of inspiration. Thanks to Jedimom for eviscerating my initial draft and giving me some really good suggestions.
Coffee. I never used to drink coffee back in England, but now I can't imagine starting my day without it. I pick up my mug and head out to the living room, where my two charges are lying asleep on the sofa. She's been sleeping with him ever since he got back. She may only be two and a half, but she knows that something's wrong, and she knows that he gets more animated when she's around.
If only she could convince him to walk out those doors. The judge may have sentenced him to stay on the professor's grounds for five years, but Mortimer has chosen the smaller prison of my suite. He hasn't walked out the door once since he got here. Hannah's tried to get him to go outside to play, but he just tells her he isn't feeling well and wants to stay inside. Usually she stays with him, but sometimes I insist she go out and send Logan or one of the kids with her.
If there's one thing he's been adamant about, it's that he not be a bother. He cooks, he cleans, he looks after Hannah. At first, I loved it, but I pretty quickly started feeling redundant. The only problem is, if I stop him from doing something, then he'll do nothing. He'll just sit there and wait for something else to do. He won't read, he won't watch the tele, he won't get on the computer. He'll just...sit.
He won't even take me up on my offer to turn the spare room into a bedroom for him. He just curls up on the sofa every night with Hannah and her Kermit doll and falls asleep there. When I told him that I didn't want his stuff cluttering up the living room, he offered to toss it all out, so one night when he was asleep, I had Logan help me move it all into the spare room and offered it to him as a fait accompli. He took one look at it, sighed, and walked back out. When I asked him point-blank what the problem was, he told me that the only other time he'd had a room of his own had been with Mystique. I told him that still didn't explain why he slept on the sofa, and he just shrugged and mumbled something about needing to keep an eye on the door, then reiterated how he didn't want to be a bother.
I'd really rather he were a bother instead of a worry.
His court-appointed psychologist visits twice weekly, and she tells me that what he's going through is to be expected. I just wish he'd start acting more alive. I talked to Jean and the psychiatrist and asked about antidepressants, but they both vetoed them. "He's not suffering from depression," Jean explained. "He's depressed. One is purely chemical, the other is situational. He just needs time to recover. Drugging him would only prolong that. Give him time. If he stays like this, we'll reconsider it."
At least he lets Hannah help him. I nearly cried myself the first time she caught him crying and brought him her Kermit doll to cheer him up. And when she started taking to wearing an anklet all the time...I don't think I've ever been so angry at her, but Mortimer told me it was okay. I mean, I know she has no idea what it means, but it seems so cruel. She just wants to be like her uncle. I'm not looking forward to the day when she finally learns all that entails.
And poor Mum and Dad. They want to come over to visit, but he keeps saying that he doesn't want to see them right now. He doesn't think he's earned the right to their love. And they keep agreeing not to come until he wants them there, because they think he's mad at them for abandoning him and turning him into a criminal. They feel guilty, he feels guilty; it's a nasty little vicious circle. I hope Margaret makes good on her threat and just arrives unannounced.
Listen to me. It's only been a little over three weeks. I suppose I should be patient. After all, he's got nearly twenty-nine years of shit to overcome.
Hannah stirs, and Mortimer's arm tightens around her. She lifts her head, looks up at him, then looks at me, putting her finger over her lips. I smile and nod. We'll let him sleep. He looks peaceful in his sleep.
I take another sip of my coffee and wait with my daughter for my brother to wake up.
I sent Hannah out with Logan this morning right as I left to teach my English class. It's a beautiful day out. I didn't want her cooped up inside. Besides, if she doesn't get out and run every now and then, she goes berserk in the apartment. It's only natural. She's only two and a half. I'd much rather she burn her energy outdoors, where there's no furniture to break by accident.
When I come back from teaching my class, Mortimer's sitting on the sofa in the same position he was in when I left. "Good afternoon," I say as I dump a stack of papers on my desk.
He looks vaguely startled. "Hey," he says back.
"Did you do anything while I was away?"
I was afraid of that. Mind you, there's no reason why today should be any different from every other day so far. "I was gone for over an hour," I say, hoping that might jolt him out of it. "It's nearly lunchtime."
"Really? Oh." No such luck. He blinks, then says, "Hannah's still out."
"I know. I peeked out a window at the backyard before coming back here."
"I can start making lunch, if you like."
Right, may as well give it another shot. "Actually, why don't you go out there with her? I don't think she'll be hungry for a little bit yet," I say, trying to keep my tone conversational.
"No, I can't," he whispers.
Come on, big brother. Snap out of it. "All the kids are in classes right now. No one would see you."
He stares at the door, brow furrowed, then shakes his head and sighs. "I can't do it."
I sit next to him on the sofa and ask, "Why not?" Maybe this time, he'll actually answer me. I don't know how much longer I can be patient with him without finally breaking down and yelling, and that'll likely make things worse. Please answer me. Please let me help you.
He looks like he's trying to articulate something. His mouth is open, and his brow is furrowed, but nothing's coming out. Finally, he sighs and looks down. "I can't explain."
"Try," I beg, taking his hand. "Please."
He pauses, then says, "They must hate me."
"All of them."
"I don't think they do," I say, giving his hand a squeeze. He seems to be looking intently at our hands. When I let myself notice it, the color contrast is quite shocking. I wonder if that's what's holding his attention, or if it's just a convenient focus.
"They're all sympathetic, Mortimer. They all have at least a basic understanding of how you were raised. They all realize that it must have been difficult to look like a mutant your entire life in a society that hates and fears people like you. And they all know that Magneto started molding you into a murderer when you were a teenager." I put my other hand on the back of his head, and he closes his eyes. "I won't lie. No one's excited you're here except for me and Hannah. But they're all willing to give you a chance."
"I haven't earned it." His voice is barely more than a whisper.
"The judge disagreed."
He opens his mouth to reply, but then the front door to the suite is opened unceremoniously, and Logan's standing there, looking like he's doing his damnedest to swallow his temper. Mortimer looks up and says, "I'll leave you two alone."
"I'm here to talk to you, actually," Logan replies.
Shit. Please don't start a fight. I'm finally getting him to talk. It's times like this when I really wish I were telepathic. I look at Mortimer out of the corner of my eye, and he looks both shocked and a little annoyed. Well, at least Logan's managed to get a reaction out of him. That's something. Please don't blow it for me, Logan. Please.
"Look," Logan says. "Hannah's sitting at the top of that oak tree crying her eyes out because you're not out there with her. Jean's sitting up there with her trying to get her to calm down, but it's not working."
Mortimer goes very, very pale. "I didn't mean..." he whispers.
"I know you're depressed," Logan snaps. "Hell, I would be too in your position. But there's a little girl out there who I really care about, and I can't do a damned thing to make her feel better." He pauses, eyes still intense. I think he's waiting for a reaction from my brother, but he's frozen. "Look," he continues, voice softer. "You know I care about your sister, and I really like your niece. She's a good kid, and she's crazy about you. So either get off your ass and be a better uncle to her, or I'll take your place and do right by her."
My brother looks shell-shocked. I don't think I've ever seen him this pale, and I'm not convinced he's actually breathing. "Classes are in session," I murmur, giving his hand another squeeze. "No one will see you."
He takes a deep breath and says, "Okay."
"Come on," I say, standing up and pulling him up to his feet. Finally. "I'll go with you."
"No, I'll do it myself," he counters quietly. He's still pale, but there's a faint hint of purpose about him. I've missed that so much.
Logan steps back out of his way as he heads for the door. Mortimer stops in the doorway, takes another deep breath, then purposefully heads down the hall. Once Mortimer's gone around a bend, I take Logan's hand and walk across the hall to an empty room with windows facing the back. Logan stands behind me, hands on my shoulders, as we watch my brother run across the back lawn to the tree. He quickly scrambles up it and scoops Hannah into his arms, hugging her tightly. I can hear her shriek of delight all the way from here.
"Thank you," I say.
He kisses my temple and replies, "It was nothing."
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