Takes One to Know One

Chapter 7

The cool air of the evening had not been solely responsible for the shivering of Logan’s passenger behind him as the bike blurred past streets and avenues. He could hear Todd’s uneven breathing over the hum of the motorcycle and wondered if the kid was really going to go through with his suggestion. Logan wondered if it was fair to make him.

The kid had only just received two manifestations in less than twenty-four hours - he couldn’t be perfectly adjusted to either of them yet. But Todd had insisted back at the Institute and Logan had not tried to undermine his determination.

Of all the Brotherhood, Logan had not expected Todd to be the first to volunteer doing something like this, even though he knew Todd wasn‘t doing it for the sake of being right. He was doing it for Elf, to repay a debt. Logan wasn‘t any less impressed by that fact.

Of course, Todd had voiced his idea in the relative safety of the Institute. He seemed to be rethinking it as Logan parked on the side-street next to Amanda Sefton’s house. Todd swallowed and woodenly climbed off the bike. The kid looked paler than normal, the white skin sharply contrasting with his markings. Logan was definitely going to advise him to sleep as soon as they got home.

“Alright?” he asked Todd, who hesitated a moment before nodding.

“Still doin’ it,” he muttered and let go of the seat, walking to the front door. Logan watched, silently wishing him luck.

* * *

Margali was the one who opened the door and the moment she did, Todd felt all the spit in his mouth dry up from fright. Not for the first time that night, his mind raced in a endless circle of panic. What was he doing? What if they called the police on him? Would Logan get him out of here?

“. . . can I help you?” Mrs. Sefton asked, neutrally. She knew who Todd was. He knew that she knew, but he stood up a little straighter and met her eyes.

“Y-Yeah. Uh . . .” Brilliantly spoken, he sneered at himself after an awkward pause followed the two words. “My name’s Todd Tolensky. An’ I‘m . . .”

And I’m doing this for Wagner, right? Not ‘cause I like him or anything, but ‘cause I owe his sorry ass. So jus’ do it already!

Another deep breath. “I just came over to apologize, kay? And to explain stuff. Like for instance, how you shouldn’t be angry at fuzzbu-- I mean, Wagner. Kurt Wagner.”

“I know who you mean,” Margali said patiently. Todd bit his lips against a swear word, knowing it probably wasn’t a good idea right now, as frustrated with himself as he was.

“Ain’t none of this situation is his fault. It’s mine,” the boy said. He felt like he was going to explode from stress. At the moment, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing. He wished he could stop sweating.

Margali appeared to reach a decision. “Why don’t you come inside? Then we can all talk this over together.” She held the door open for Todd and it seemed as though he was walking through thick mud as hard as his body tried to obey his base instinct - which was to run, screaming wildly, all the way back to the Institute.

Sheer stubbornness and the knowledge that he’d never live it down forced Todd to comply, and once again, he was in the Sefton’s living room. It was reconstructed and cleaned up long since the last time, but he couldn’t help but notice that the chandelier had not been replaced and the piano had a cover over it.

Something squirmed in his gut. Guilt? Possibly. Margali offered him a place to sit while she got her husband and daughter, but Todd was far too nervous to take it right away. Amanda came out with her mother, eyes red and puffy, sitting down with a glare in every direction but his. Mr. Sefton followed and the sight of him very nearly required Todd to sit down - whether there was a chair behind him or not. He put a hand on the back of the armchair nearby to steady himself.

This had been a horrible and stupid idea. It was hard and it was terrifying, two things that Todd had spent most of his life avoiding. He wished absurdly that he’d asked Logan to come in here with him, just to have someone there who was on his side.

Todd watched them sit, pale eyes flicking from Margali to her husband to Amanda, who finally turned the full force of her glower onto him. He looked at Margali again, she seemed the safest to focus on.

“I . . . uh . . . so, I know it all happened a few months ago,” he struggled to get out. You owe this to Gecko-boy, he reminded himself again and gleaned a small kernel of courage from it. “But I wanted to say first that I didn’t . . . I wasn’t trying to destroy your house.”

“Well, you sure did a good job at it,” Amanda retorted. Margali shushed her.

“Was there a reason you targeted our house for such a fight?” she asked. Todd shook his head. He noticed she had a hand on her husband’s knee and trembled. Was it cautionary - lest the man get up and try to hit him?

“No, not really. I was just after his watch. The holowatch that makes him look human?”

“He is human,” Amanda snapped hotly and Todd felt every fiber in his body flinch - both at her tone and at his own poor choice of words.

“I know that,” he said weakly. Unlike you, she may as well have added. Todd was again made painfully aware of the spots on his face and hands. “That’s not what I meant. I was after the watch because . . . There was this girl I was trying to look . . . passable for. And at the time I kinda sorta hated Wagner. I figured I wasn’t screwing him over too bad if he was here. I dunno, I figured if you liked him the way he was, then your parents wouldn’t have that big of a cow either.”

“Well, after you destroyed our living room, I was never supposed to see him again,” Amanda said coldly.

“H-Hey, like I said, I wasn’t going for that! I just wanted to jump in through the window, snatch it away and leave peacefully. I wasn’t expecting him to panic and fight me!” Todd protested.

“Kurt did panic - he was terrified of showing his true self to my parents!”

Margali tried shushing her again, but Mr. Sefton stopped her. Some things were just beyond being polite about and Amanda needed to get hers out in the open rather than keep it bottled up.

Todd opened his mouth to argue his point, but stopped. He wasn’t here to ask their forgiveness for himself. He sighed. “You’re right. I did wrong. I was only thinkin’ of getting what I came here for. And he was only defending himself from the reaction he feared from yo parents. So you shouldn’t be angry with him,” Todd muttered. “Be mad at me, but not both of us.”

Mr. Sefton spoke up finally, and the sound of his voice made Todd quake again. He covered for it by leaning against the side of the armchair and acting casual.

“Kurt claimed that you weren’t his friend and that what happened that night would never happen again if we gave him another chance. But here you are, speaking for him.” Sefton raised an eyebrow. “What changed?”

It was an unexpected question. Todd bit his lip, wondering if there was an answer that Mr. Sefton wanted to hear, but he couldn’t think of anything. He gave up and decided to tell the truth.

“I didn’t like Wagner. I don’t know why, we always had so many things in common - but I jus’ couldn’t stand him, y’know? He had everything I didn’t. Friends, parents, a nice place to live, a . . . well, a holowatch that made everything easy. He could make himself look like anyone he wanted to and he didn’t get beat up, hardly ever.” Todd felt like he was rambling, but Mr. Sefton had a strange look of understanding on his face.

“It just didn’t seem fair, did it? So that’s why you didn’t think twice about possibly making a mess out of his night?” the man asked.

Todd nodded, miserable. “I guess I didn’t care any more about wreckin’ his life than your living room. But besides all that . . . he helped me anyway. I still couldn’t impress Wanda -” he paused at a twinge of pain that saying her name caused him, “But things went real bad when she was kidnapped later that day.”

Margali gasped. “What?!”

“No - don’t worry. She’s okay now. It was . . . It’s complicated, but the bottom line is, Kurt helped me get her home. I needed him to teleport us to where she was being held,” Todd said, carefully not mentioning that the kidnapper was Wanda’s own father and the man he’d been working for previously. Already he suspected he’d said far too much, judging by the dark frown on Mr. Sefton‘s face. He attempted to switch tactics.

“There’s somethin’ you gotta know about Fuzzy, even as mad as he was at me, he still agreed to help me rescue her. And when I couldn’t talk earlier today, he was there for me again. He’s a better guy than I gave him credit for. We ain’t best friends or nothin’, but this is twice now that I caused you guys to turn your backs on him. He don’t deserve that, yo.”

Margali had stood up, going to look at Todd’s markings. He pulled back a little, but let her examine him. “These mutations that have been on the news . . . I didn’t know they just kept happening. Is it painful? Is Kurt going to change more as well?”

The concern in her voice was like nothing Todd was used to. He simply stared at her, at a loss, before shaking his head. “No . . . not him. Just me right now.”

Mrs. Sefton looked at him, seeming to make up her mind. She turned to face her daughter. “Amanda, I believe we should give Kurt another chance. All of us.” Margali gave her husband a meaningful glance. He sighed and nodded, relenting.

“Your mother’s right, Amanda. Though I’d still rather move, especially in the light of this kidnapping business-” (Todd winced visibly at that) “I’ll wait until you and Kurt have a chance to talk things out. Maybe we have been too hasty,” Mr. Sefton admitted.

Amanda frowned, not looking up from her hands. “I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Why not?” Todd burst out, before either of her parents could. “You really that mad at him?”

“No . . . well, yes. But it’s just . . . lately, I’m beginning to think that I could be anyone. So long as he h-has a girlfriend,” she started. Her lip trembled and she covered her eyes, starting to cry. Awkwardly, Mr. Sefton put an arm around Amanda’s shoulders and Margali went to sit next to her.

Todd was watching her with a mixture of confusion and frustration. “Yo, what the flaming fff--?” He wisely abandoned the swear word at an arched eyebrow from Margali and cleared his throat. “Hey listen - you got it all wrong! Fuzzy’s crazy about you! I still got flippin’ scars from the time he pounded me into the rug ‘cause I messed up your house-date and everything!

“He goes on about you all the time - I’ve seen you at school and you guys are so cozy together it’s disgustin’! People look at you and go ’awww’ and they get this real moronic look on their faces, like they’re watching freakin’ kittens and bunnies fall asleep together in a bowl full of heart shaped candies! Shame on you both, by the way, for droppin’ everyone’s IQ with your sappy googly-eyes.Blech!” Todd ended his rant with a horrible face.

Amanda had gone from crying to laughing through her tears. She wiped them away. “Really? You’re not just saying that?”

“Lady, I wouldn’t torture myself like that for kicks! Don’t you ever require me to say anything that mushy again. This is twice now I had to stop a girl from cryin‘ over nothing,” he added indignantly. Jamie’s words came back to haunt him, because Amanda only giggled again.

“Sorry,” she said, gratefully taking the Kleenex that her mother handed her. “I guess maybe I have been a little stupid.”

Todd opened his mouth to say something scathing, but decided it would be best not to push his luck. He shrugged instead. Amanda’s next words lifted his hopes.

“I’ll call him tonight. Hopefully he’ll still talk to me.”

“I’ll kick his sorry butt if he doesn’t.” Todd meant it; what he’d been through tonight meant that Kurt in no way got to whine and hide in a corner instead of forgiving his girl - who was perfectly willing to forgive him. God knew what he’d do to get a chance like this with Wanda.

His features saddened for a moment, but he quickly replaced it with a look of boredom and he made the mistake of looking at the chandelier that was no longer there. Guilt gnawed at him again. What was happening to him lately?

“Uh, so . . . I don’t have any money, but if I did I . . . I’d give you some,” he said awkwardly. Mr. Sefton shook his head, looking vaguely ashamed.

“Our insurance covered most of it. What’s important is that you came to apologize. That took a lot of courage and . . . I must apologize myself for my behavior toward you earlier.” Mr. Sefton got up from the couch and it took every inch of Todd’s self control not to cower down and cover his face with his arms. He stared blankly at the man’s offered hand before hesitantly shaking it.

Mr. Sefton made no mention of his slight shaking or clammy skin, but his expression was a little concerned. Todd was still a little unnerved when Amanda got up next and actually hugged him. He was sure he let out a squeak.

“I think you really are a good friend to Kurt At least right now,” she said. “And that’s something he needs. Thank you for coming to talk to us. For talking some sense into me.”

“Eh . . .” Todd looked down, feeling warm and uncomfortable at the same time. “Just ‘cause I can’t be with my girl don’t mean he don’t get to be with his,” he said lightly, or tried to. He’d meant it to be a casual sort of joke, but the words seemed to gang up and punch a hole through his gut. Todd managed a forced smile. “Well, guess I better go an’ let you all get to bed or eat dinner or whatever.”

The Seftons saw him to the door and pleasantly wished him goodnight. Logan had pulled around, able to hear the door opening from the side of the house where he’d been waiting with the bike. Fuckin’-ay, my chariot has arrived, yo, Todd thought gratefully. He felt dizzy and heartsick and he wanted nothing more than to go to bed.

Logan waited for him to climb up behind and took off once the boy was secure. He felt a light pressure in the middle of his back, as though Todd was hiding his face there. The boy’s breathing was too quick and shallow to indicate that he was dozing off - which would be a danger on the road. Light tremors occasionally shook his body.

It had been a long awful day and Todd was finally feeling all of its effects at once. Logan wisely said nothing, keeping a vigilant silence on the way home.

* * *

When the phone rang the first two times, Kurt had ignored it. He didn’t stir from the covers he’d curled under, not until Jean’s voice informed him that he really, really wanted to take this call. And it turned out she was right.

He stared at the phone in his hand yet again, wondering if this was all some kind of twisted dream and he was going to wake up any second now. Feeling light-headed he got up and went to stand on the balcony of his room.

Amanda had forgiven him, and of course he had forgiven her. She’d even apologized for trying to jump on him earlier, which he really did appreciate, and had told him that she wasn’t going to pressure him on that front anymore. That it was sweet he wanted to treat her as a lady and she should have valued that above all else. The phone call had taken maybe about thirty minutes - both were tired and stressed out and they had tomorrow to talk all day if they wanted.

What Kurt couldn’t really get his mind around was that it was because of Tolensky that Amanda had called to make up with him. She had sworn it was the truth. Though Todd had been jumpy and nervous around her father (not that Kurt blamed him; he still resented Mr. Sefton a bit for that morning - even after hearing how the man apologized to Todd), he’d impressed the older man considerably. Enough to be willing to give Kurt another chance.

He let the night air cool him down. Summer heat with fur was unbearable, but tonight seemed to be one of the miraculously nicer July ones. He breathed out in relief and then spotted Logan’s bike pulling around into the back driveway. With a passenger.

Kurt smiled and ported down to meet them.

* * *

Todd had gotten off the moment Logan slowed the bike down, almost before it had stopped moving. He snatched a towel and rubbed at his face. “Sweating like crazy,” he said by way of explanation. “That was nuts.”

Logan caught the lie, but accepted it without question. Todd’s voice was deceptively even. “Gettin’ late. Think I’ll be turnin’ in. How ‘bout you?” Logan asked casually.

“Yeah, sure. Been a long day.” That was certainly an understatement. Todd stretched, glancing at Logan who was calmly taking off his leather jacket. “Thanks for the ride.” And for stayin’ there in case the shit hit the fan.

“You did good, Flycatcher. Don’t think I need to tell you how important that was to Elf.”

“Eh,” Todd shrugged, unused to praise. Easier to ignore it for now. “Hopefully it’ll all work out and they won’t all move to Alaska or something.”

“Maybe you should ask Elf,” Logan said wryly. “He’ll have the latest news.”

“I . . . I gotta get to sleep. He’s probably -”

“Right behind ya,” Wolverine grinned. Todd glanced over his shoulder, wondering how he hadn’t even noticed the sudden stench of brimstone and sulfur. Obviously he needed sleep. He was having messed up thoughts and he was walking a thin wire between his emotions.

“Hey, dawg - did she call ya already--ooof!” Todd was suddenly the recipient of a bear hug. A fuzzy blue bear-hug that not only lifted him off his feet but spun around a few times. Todd went limp, squeezing his eyes shut as the world nonsensically tilted for a few moments.

“If I ralph all over you, it’s your own damn fault, yo,” he mumbled, pressing his forehead against Kurt’s shoulder without realizing he was doing it.

“Vas?” Kurt broke off his excited rambling and pulled back, studying Todd. All his joy was forgotten as he looked the frog-boy over. Todd was bearing spots - pale skin setting them off vividly. His eyes were a pale yellow and dilated and he leaned into Kurt’s grip on his thin shoulders as if too tired to support his weight.

He’d had another manifestation after Kurt had left him? Had Todd woken up to this? Had he been through it alone? Kurt found himself about to ask whether Todd was alright but realized what a stupid question it was. All this, and he’d still gone to the Seftons to apologize. For him.

Kurt felt like an idiot. “I’m . . . I’m sorry. I should have noticed sooner you weren’t feeling well. Wouldn‘t have babbled so much at you.” Another twinge of guilt; Todd hadn’t needed to hear how happily he was reunited with Amanda right now either.

Todd shook his head then seemed to regret it. “Don’t - Don’t worry ‘bout it. You babbled mostly in German, so . . . s’cuse me, I gotta go lay down.” The dizziness was slightly getting worse. He hoped he didn’t have any more dreams tonight, about frogs or otherwise. He’d settle for some nice boring darkness.

Kurt didn’t offer to walk him to his room; he simply was there, a hand on Todd’s shoulder if he started to stumble too far in one direction. It was at least half-past nine - students who were still up were either in the Rec room or in their own. Nobody was roaming the hallway - at least not the one on this level.

When they reached his door, Todd wearily looked up at Kurt. His skin looked more palely jaundiced than usual in the hall’s light. “Well, this is where I get off.”

“Goodnight. I’ll tell Scott not to bother you if you’re feeling unwell tomorrow morning.”

Todd smirked. “Nah. Send him over. That way I can get up to answer the door, puke all over him and then go straight back to bed. Might earn me back some points with Lance an’ the others.”

Kurt shook his head, laughing softly. Todd was just the same as always; ‘disrespectful’ was synonymous with his name. Though the look on Scott’s face would be priceless. He frowned as he noticed Todd still slightly swaying in the doorway, blinking owlishly.

“I’m gonna try and talk to them tomorrow. Logan . . . he said it’d be a good idea. M’gonna try it. But not Wanda. Not yet.”

“Todd . . . You’re really tired. You should go to sleep, alright?” Kurt said gently, holding him still by the shoulders again.

“’Kay . . .” Todd made no move to go inside. He looked up at Kurt and for the briefest of moments, Kurt could see how terrified and lost Todd truly felt. It was there in his eyes, and then gone as quickly as it had come. Todd was working quickly to mask it, though there was a tremble in his voice still. “G’night, Fuzzy. See ya in the ‘morrow,” he muttered and walked through his door, shutting it between himself and Kurt before the latter could say anything.

He put his blue hand on the door, swallowing. Inside there was silence. Should he have gone inside and talked to Todd? The boy seemed to want to be alone, but still . . .

Professor, he called. But the man seemed to know what was going on already.

It’s alright, Kurt. He needs some time to himself. What’s important is that he knows he can approach you when he needs to.

The words didn’t do much to reassure him, although they clarified that Todd wanted to be left alone. Kurt drew his hand away from the door and walked quietly to the end of the hall, porting to his room.

* * *

He had fallen asleep the moment his head hit the pillow, and dreams had come yet again - however desperately unwanted they were. Heavy boots in a field of dead grass - uneven sliding of moss-covered rocks beneath his feet - a watery blackness surrounding him, then looking down to see the jagged-toothed open mouth of a giant monster hurtling up to close around him.

Todd bolted upwards, shrieking hoarsely. His voice didn’t carry far; his throat was parched and dry. The boy drew his legs up to his chest, shaking hard and trying to work up spit to swallow. He waited for the images to go away but the room was as dark as the inside of his eyelids and they lingered. Thirsty, alone, exhausted and yet too afraid to sleep, he got out of bed and climbed down until his feet touched the floor.

His hand groped along the wall until he found a light switch and he hesitated, suddenly too terrified to flip it on. What if something new had developed while he slept? It seemed to be happening between a matter of hours and he had no idea what time it was. Todd felt for the doorknob and couldn’t quite find it in his panic. He sunk down to wait for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and suddenly they stung.

Todd’s whole chest seemed to seize up and he couldn’t swallow and as hard as he fought it, the first of many deep sobs began to rack his body. He’d tried so hard to be brave. He’d had lapses today, true, but he’d managed to mostly hide the evidence. Now there was nobody around to suck it up for. Nobody around at all to see his weakness.

Still, even when alone, Todd could not remember a time when he’d cried like this. Maybe it had something to do with how exhausted he was. Maybe he was finally crying over Wanda. He hoped so. Let this be the last time he ever cried like this - over anything. Even in a dark room by himself, it was humiliating.

Todd pressed his mouth against his arm as he curled down, hoping to stifle the noises he was making - too many were tinged with hysteria. At length, he calmed and though he felt thirstier than ever, he felt as though less pressure was pent up in his chest. Slowly, Todd uncurled and opened the door, walking out into a dark hallway. He still had no idea what time it was.

He wandered until he came to a bathroom and started to enter, wanting water. Todd stopped himself, seeing the glint of a mirror. No. He did not want any mirrors right now - he could deal with it in the morning. The boy kept on walking until he found the kitchen. For the first time, he realized the refrigerator was one of those fancy ones that had the ice and water right in the door. Todd filled up a glass and drank it empty.

The simple cool water was like a balm to his throat. He splashed his face with it, then got another glass and downed it. Todd put the glass in the sink and then was drawn by the sight of apples, plums and oranges in a bowl on the counter. He snatched up a black plum and bit into it, pulling open the fridge. It had been a day without end - as far as he was concerned it was still ongoing. Todd couldn’t remember eating since breakfast and he was starving.

He liberated some string cheese, a box of left over Chinese fried rice, a pork bun, and some grapes. The food barely even made it to the table before he’d tucked it away. Todd leaned back when it was all gone, feeling calmer if not better. He wanted to sleep. It was two in the morning, as the microwave crowed, and no way in fuck was he going to stay up until dawn to commence The Day from Hell, Part II.

Todd didn’t want to fall asleep here, though the moonlight playing through the kitchen window and leaving patterns on the table through his water glass was playing against his motivation to get up. His full stomach wasn’t helping matters either. Todd forced his eyes open and made himself get up, throwing away the carton and trash from his meal.

He paused on the way to his room, feeling the childish need to wake someone else. Just to have them there. In the past, this rare occasion would have involved Fred or Lance. But right now he wasn’t sure if it was cool with them. And it was two in the morning. Summers would be making his rounds at five, knowing him.

Running a hand through his hair, Todd changed direction and soon the carpet beneath his bare feet became grass. He turned to get his bearings as he walked backwards, angled few yards to the left and then jumped, landing neatly on a balcony. It was a July night, not particularly hot, but not too cool either. Todd was perfectly alright with sleeping under the stars, as long as he was near someone. Strange that someone apparently had to be Wagner, but he was the only one who Todd really trusted right now. So he’d sleep up here, then be gone when the sun rose. There’d be no reason for Kurt to be on his balcony at the butt crack of dawn, he’d be too busy trying to wake himself up for the Danger Room drills. Which Todd would apparently be avoiding again.

He sighed as he settled down on the cool concrete floor, pillowing his head on his arm. Up here, the moon cast only the harmless shadows of a chair and small table with a potted aloe on top of it. Todd let his eyes drift closed, able to hear the faint snores of Kurt beyond the curtained doors. Thus reassured, he was soon snoring away himself.


Chapter 6 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Todd/Kurt ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 8



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