Takes One to Know One

Chapter 3

The sunlight seemed to have a force of its own, raising his eyelids before he was prepared to do so himself. Once the ceiling came into focus, everything else did and Todd groaned, reaching for the blankets near his ankles to pull over his head.

There were none to be found and he looked about irritably for the missing covers, only to discover they’d fallen to the floor. Todd, disoriented, gripped the headboard as he realized the floor was a lot further down than it should be. He sat up, scrubbing the gunk from his eyes and blinking further into consciousness.

There was a hammer in his bed. Todd didn’t know why there was a hammer in his bed, nor did he want to, until he happened to glimpse at the half-assed curtains he’d nailed up last night over the window. They had drooped in the middle enough to let the sun through after all.

Exasperated, he pushed himself to the edge of the bed and rebounded off the next piece of furniture to the ground. His body was sore and he felt like he hadn’t closed his eyes for more than a few minutes. The weird dream hadn‘t helped.

Todd didn’t care much for dreams - not unless they involved pleasant material to use later. There’d been no tantalizing images of Wanda, but rather a corpse’s bloated hand in water. He made a face and tried to think on what else there might have been, but the only things he could recall were glimpses of a hand and other parts of the body, mostly obscured by reeds. Voices had been conversing about it, in a language Todd had never before heard. It was creepy and unsettling and he hoped he’d forget it by the end of the day.

For now, all he wanted was breakfast and then to figure out how to make peace between himself and Wanda. If he could. He’d thought about it all night while working despite his best efforts not to.

He knew she was disgusted by him - if he hadn’t always known, he definitely would have been sure of it yesterday. The fucking curtains were going to be easier to fix than that.

Todd shook his head, and forced the thoughts down. Breakfast first, he told himself. Not so much because he was hungry, but because he needed the delay. Despite his resolve, it took an awfully long time for him to get dressed and open the door.

* * *

Logan folded the newspaper in half with a snap and resumed reading the cover story on the last page. His method of dealing with mornings was simple - to pretend they didn’t exist. In his mind, it was afternoon on a Sunday and if anyone thought to correct him on this fact, they found themselves very apologetic that they were right.

He reached for his coffee and glowered over the rim, just in time to catch Todd in the crosshairs as he entered the kitchen. Todd gave him a hunted glance and took refuge next to the toaster, out of Logan’s peripheral vision.

“S’up, dawg?” the boy greeted nervously and promptly attacked the loaf next to the kitchen sink.

“Nnngh. Where were you this mornin‘, stinkboy?” Logan queried. “Missed one hell of a drill.”

“Eh?” Todd asked blankly, searching the fridge for jam. “What drill?”

“Well. That answers that,” Wolverine said simply, and drank more coffee.

Todd found a carton of milk in his quest and opened the top, about to liberate a swig. It never reached his lips for the television above the cabinet had settled on an image.

A bloated hand, wind-swept reeds, and the blur of a face. Todd dropped the milk and made a strangled noise. The screen cut back to a blonde anchorwoman, reporting the discovery of a teenaged male found shot to death in a pond near the neighborhood playground, obvious victim of gang-warfare.

Todd’s heart was pounding in his chest. Half a minute passed and Logan was suddenly behind him, and he startled badly.

“Sit down,” the man ordered, quietly. Todd felt himself steered to a chair and plopped down. Logan walked away then returned with a glass of milk, which he pressed into Todd’s hand. Todd stared at it blankly as the older man n sat down across from him.

“Knew the guy?” the Wolverine rumbled, surprisingly gentle.

The television had been turned off and its sudden silence rang in Todd’s ears. Todd shook his head, jerkily. The young man hadn’t been familiar, but the similarities between the hand on the screen and in his dream were too much alike to be comfortable. He still felt Logan’s eyes on him, intent with concern. Todd forced himself to drink the milk, feeling embarrassed and oddly, a little warm. Mystique wouldn‘t have noticed anything but the puddle of milk on the floor.

“Nnh,” he muttered. “Just a stupid dream.” He felt lame, and even lamer when Logan snorted, leaning back.

“Don’t tell me you’re dreamin’ about stuff before it happens, kid. We got enough telepaths in this house as it is.”

“I - I know,” Todd muttered. He glanced up and was surprised to find no hint of derision on Logan’s face. If anything, the man still looked concerned.

“You need to talk about anything, you come to me.” It wasn’t an offer so much as an command. Despite the gruff tone, Todd could see the man meant it. He nodded, trying to look calmer than he felt.

“S’cool, yo. It’s nothin’.”

Logan raised an eyebrow at that, but said no more on the subject.

* * *

With the morning half pissed away already, it was inevitable that Todd live up to the fact that he had nothing . Chocolates were out of his reach as they were guarded jealously by every Institute female, so Todd’s hope of snitching one from each box were dashed. Trying to pick flowers from the garden had not gone well, and in any case - Todd thought, as he was fleeing from a very vexed-looking weather witch - they might remind Wanda about the glass rose he’d broken.

The only thing he’d be bringing to Wanda’s door was an apology and a hopeful grin and he knew it wouldn’t be enough, but it was better than hiding. It was better than not trying to fix things at all. Todd stared down the hallway to the door of her room. He still remembered yesterday and it hurt. His feet didn’t seem to want to go at first, but Todd breathed in and stubbornly made them.

He’d scarcely passed the thundering tumult of snores from the room that belonged to Freddy (and himself, though not any longer) when a flash of white and blue zipped in front of him and focused into the Biggest Known Pain in the Universe.

“Sowherethefuckwereyoulastnight?” Pietro asked, hands going to his hips. The speedster looked rumpled and irritated, as though someone had forced him to get up before sunrise and long before he had time to fix his hair - two cardinal sins in one day. Todd blinked, startled. Lance came out of the room, attempting to defeat a very bad case of bed hair.

“Um . . .”

“Yeah, Todd, where were you?” Lance more yawned than articulated, looking less pissy and more like he wanted to flop over and go back to bed. He covered his mouth with the back of his hand while Todd squirmed in misery.

“I wasn’t able to sleep. So I just hung out.”

“Really? Cause I searched just about all the rooms you’d have access to. And you look just a bit too well-rested to not have slept, doesn’t he, Lance?”

“Yeah, well you didn’t search all the rooms and maybe I did catch a few winks. What’s the deal?” Todd asked and immediately regretted it as Pietro went nose-to-nose with him. Apparently someone had also forced Pietro out of bed before he’d brushed his teeth.

Not that Todd was one to complain of hygiene, but still . . .

“The deal is that you weren’t there when Summers knocked on our doors at five freakin‘ thirty in the morning!” Pietro yelled, shoving him with enough force to make Todd fall back.

“Yo, what the hell - I’m in trouble cause Summers is a jerk?! How’s that fair?” Todd protested, getting back to his feet. Sleepy grumbles came from Fred’s room - Dukes apparently had been smart enough to just go back to sleep rather than nurse grievances.

“Exactly! Not fair, Toad! Since because you were absent, Summers was even more of a smug asshole than he had to be! He denied me coffee. COFFEE! I am sensing a definite lack of concern from you about this,” Pietro retorted, tapping his foot in an agitated blur.

“Why that inconceivable prick,“ Todd dripped with sarcasm. He raised his hands, helplessly. “So what the hell do you want me to do about it now, yo?”

“A little loyalty would be nice!” Pietro snapped.

“And you could tell us where you were,” Lance added. “You found a place to crash where Summers couldn’t find you. So let us in on it.”

Todd scowled in annoyance. He hadn’t forgotten the little conversation he’d overheard the previous afternoon. “Why should I? You should be glad I ain’t stinkin’ the place up for you. What’s it matter to you where I sleep?”

Pietro’s ire seemed to disappear at once. He leaned against the wall, folding his arms. “Ohhhh. I get it. You just wanted your own room, that it? Didn’t wanna share with Freddy anymore, and his own special little stink bombs? Aww, and he was real worried bout you last night, too. Tsk. Shame on you.”

With a squirm in his gut, Todd knew that was how Pietro was going to spin the tale to Freddy. If Dukes believed it, Todd would have to deal with the big guy’s anger. And even if Freddy saw through Pietro being an outright jerk, his feelings would still be hurt.

Pietro was manipulating him and Todd hated how easily he could do it. Shoulders tense, Todd glared at the ground. “Fine,” he muttered in resignation. “I found a room that was empty, an’ -”

“Hey, um, Toad?”

The voice stopped him cold, unexpectedly saving him. Todd looked over Pietro’s shoulder at Wanda and opened his mouth. He shut it just as quickly, realizing he had nothing to say.

And why should he? spoke the little voice Todd had tried so hard to ignore. He swallowed hard, as everything he’d attempted to push down to a manageable level of pain rose up to choke him.

It don’t matter. You shouldn’t want to smack the girl you love about the head, Todd thought, frantically. He repeated it to himself like a mantra as she approached.

“Todd, I mean. Look, what I said yesterday . . .”

Barely even human -- Todd flinched, and tried to squash it down. He opened his mouth again and tried to stammer out an apology. It was okay. Really. He was used to it. He loved her. He was sorry.

“I’m sorry. I know you didn‘t do it on purpose, and --”

What the hell makes you think I could ever love you?! Todd shuddered, clenching his fists. He bowed his head and couldn‘t even look up, even when Wanda touched his arm.

“I had no right to say those things to you.”

What could you ever offer me? There's fucking nothing you could give me that I want! Todd was backing up, shoulders knotted with so much tension that they hurt. She'd meant it. She was sorry she'd said it, but she'd meant it.

“Todd, please.” Her fingers brushed against his face. Todd surprised himself more than anyone when he jerked away, as if her touch burned.

“Stop!” He nearly shouted, baring his teeth. “Stop apologizing.” Fuck. This was going wrong. He had something to say. He needed to say it. Todd grit his teeth, and something in his chest contracted painfully and it was then his control slipped. “You’re fucking wrong! I . . . I am human, you bitch!” His voice wavered, making him sound more like a wounded animal than anything else.

Pietro’s lower jaw could have made it to China.

Todd’s heart was pounding. The hell was wrong with him? He hadn’t wanted to say that at all. He loved her, and if he loved her he wasn’t supposed to talk to her like this. Unable to look at Wanda, breath hitching, Todd dodged past her fingers and ignored his name when it was called. Beyond those two efforts, nobody stopped him.


Chapter 2 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Todd/Kurt ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 4



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