|Location||Rohan and Sumit's Apartment - Avenue B Apartments|
|Summary||Acceptable danger is a matter of perspective.|
|Some sexual content.|
| This apartment sits in a corner and that is perhaps why it seems a touch larger than the average Mutant Town apartment of its ilk. Some of that extra space appears to have gone to making a kitchen that is larger than the norm for the area and which might, indeed, be almost functional to cook in. It's possible, also, that some of the feeling of (slightly) greater airiness comes from the fact the place is very bare, as if it is occupied by people who do not particularly care about decor, or, for that matter, furniture.
Otherwise than the size, it is an unremarkable apartment. The walls are painted a dreary shade of grey-yellow, there are two bedrooms of roughly equal size, and a narrow bathroom. A L-shaped common area around the kitchen serves as living room/dining room. The distinction between the two would probably be clearer if the occupants believed in furniture.At certain times of day, light spills through the windows and illuminates the whole apartment. It just makes it all the more obvious how shabby and bare it is.
| It is a fall day. The weather is warm and drizzling.|
It's well past dinner time when Rohan's Ears buzz a call. Valerie stands in front of the tall windows that let New York's lights dance in to the living room of her loft, staring out at the grey weather as she taps her fingers idly on the glass.
Rohan has left Open Hands--briefly. With no resolution appearing imminent, he's run home to grab more things--and the cats. He's taking pity on Sumit. He's in the middle of shoving an unhappy towel-wrapped feral cat in a carrier when his Ears buzz. He swears softly to himself, and takes a deep breath before answering. "Hey."
"Heeey, hot stuff," Valerie draws out, her expression curving into a grin that carries easily over the phone lines. She presses her fingers flat against the glass, watching condensation form around the warm print. "You called me like. A billion days ago and didn't call back. What's up?" For a moment, there is no sound but a faint feline hiss in the background. Rohan shuts the door of the carrier firmly, and closes his eyes briefly, savouring the sound of her grin. He exhales sharply. "Sorry," he says finally. "Everything's sort of gone down the shitter since."
In her apartment, Valerie blinks, and she pauses with her hand still splayed against the glass. "Oh," she says, and her tone is difficult to decipher. "Well. That sucks."
Rohan kneels beside the carrier, trying to calm the agitated cat with a soft, wordless murmur, before straightening up. He draws another deep breath. "Thursday evening," he says, "the feds showed up at Open Hands. To more or less put us all in protective custody, sort of."
"What the /fuck/?" Valerie's answer comes in a sudden explosion of words. She pushes back from the glass, nearly stumbling in the haste of her turn. "The feds-- what the /fuck/?"
"It's a long story." Rohan sounds tired. Almost exhausted. "I can explain it. But it's a long story. And--in this case, they're only looking out for us. But the reason they are is really not good."
"Yeah, no shit, Rohan," Valerie answers. She's pacing now, crossing from window to kitchen and back again. Her apartment is larger than most. It makes for good pacing. Her voice is wound tight with tension. "The /feds/ and /protective custody/ is really not fucking good." A beat, and then she near-accuses, "You said you weren't going to get mixed up in shit!" That's totally what he said, right?
That's not /quite/ what he said. He doesn't bother to correct her, though. He's been working on his 'not saying things' skills. Rohan pulls on his jacket as he listens, and then kneels down again to scritch Holly behind the ears. "I don't have much of a choice, sweetheart." He still sounds tired. "I was already in this this shit up to my eyeballs. And I've got to look after the kids. I _have_ to make sure they're all right." He falls silent for a long moment, listening to Holly purr as he plys her with attention. He draws a deep breath, a little unsteady, as if he has come to a decision. "This isn't a story I really want to tell," he says. "But I probably should. I've been staying at Open Hands, but I popped back home to pick up a few things. Can I meet you here or there or somewhere inbetween and I'll try. To explain, I mean."
"Rohan--" Valerie starts, and then she breaks off sharply, letting his name fade into nothingness. No answer, no retort, no sign of what she's thinking. She stops in the middle of her living room, her gaze fixed on the rain-blurred view of the Manhattan skyline behind her windows.
Rohan catches his lower lip with his front teeth and listens to that silence. Holly is purring between his hands, loud enough for his Ears to pick up the rumble. "Valerie," he says in reply, voice caressing the name, rough with his northern accent. "I'm sorry," he says. And then, quiet, "I want to see you."
"Shit," Valerie says, sudden, sharp. She's already stirred to movement again by the time she adds, "Fine, I'm coming over. I'll be there in fifteen." "Good," says Rohan, and there's a touch of relief in his voice. "I'll be here."
When Valerie appears at Rohan's door, she's a little damp and a lot annoyed. It shows in her expression, in the tension of her form, in the over-sharp rap of her knuckles against his door. She's clad in tight pants and a shiny, sleeveless shirt of shimmering gold that suggest this is /not/ the way she'd planned to spend the evening. The jacket she tugged on over it has done little against the drizzling rain, and the curls of her hair have gone a little flat.
Rohan is dressed a good deal more practically, in jeans and a sweater with fraying cuffs (because when was the last time Rohan ever bought clothes new?). He looks tired; his hair is rumpled and he hasn't shaved today. It's not rakish roguish stubble. It's clearly 'I couldn't be bothered' stubble. Still, his face brightens as he sees her. "Lollipop," he says, opening the door wide. "God, you're gorgeous as usual. Come in." His apartment is quiet, with a couple of bags and the cat carrier resting next to the door. Holly, wearing her harness but no leash, winds about his ankles. A steaming cup, smelling of chai and spices, sits on the small dinner table.
Valerie stands still in the doorway for a moment, watching Rohan with a sweeping gaze that takes in every detail with surprising swiftness. Her frown deepens, and there's the faintest furrow of worry in the line that settles between her brows. Eventually she steps forward, already shrugging out of her jacket as her gaze drops to Holly.
Holly decides to engage in equal opportunity annoyance, and moves to wind about Valerie's ankles, too, chirruping and curling her tail. "Taking the cats to Open Hands with me," says Rohan. "Not sure if I'll be back for days, and it's not fair to dump their care on the flatmate. Plenty of room there." He takes Valerie's jacket from her, despite a clear twitch at the rainwater dripping from it. He holds it far away from him, so the water won't touch him. "Want anything to drink?" he offers. He's delaying.
"Yes," Valerie says, seizing swiftly on the offer as she turns away from Rohan. "Something strong." She distracts herself by dropping into a crouch, letting her palm spread for Holly to sniff before she curls her fingers at the cat's ears in gentle scratch.
Rohan takes her at her word, pulling a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard, and pouring a generous glass full for her. He watches her for a moment. Holly is unconcerned by the current state of affairs; she purrs happily for Valerie, her back arching. Rohan offers Valerie the glass. He looks awkward for a moment, looking to the table where he was sitting, and then moving to the couch instead. "There used to be a volunteer at Open Hands named Echo," he says, his voice a little rough. "I don't know if you ever met her."
Valerie lingers on the floor, letting Holly hold her attention for a long time. When she finally looks up to take the glass, it's with an uneasy expression that only grows stronger as Rohan speaks. There's a beat of hesitation as she watches him, and then she shakes her head, fast and tight. Her fingers curve around the glass, but she doesn't stir from her crouch.
Rohan runs his hands through his hair. "She seemed like a sweet young woman," he says, his words coming slowly, as he weighs them. "But she was a psionic who could basically take over other people and control them through the use of water. She had wreaked havoc and escaped the law before. X-Force had a run-in with her. And she came here, volunteering at Open Hands, to try to take revenge on the former members of X-Force. But we caught her and she was sent to jail."
"Fuck," Valerie says, in a tone that will surely be comforting to Rohan as she finishes, "I hate psionics." She finally stirs, but when she does, it's to settle cross-legged on the floor instead of standing to cross to Rohan. She tilts her glass back in a reckless swallow, which she pays for with a stuttering cough that spooks Holly. "So what," she says. "She's back? She's pissed at Open Hands? What?"
Rohan does not comment on this remark, but he cannot help a clear wince at this. He's left his cup on the table, but his hands grip each other tightly, showing white at the knuckles. "She escaped," he says. "The feds are worried she's coming back to seek revenge on Open Hands--fits with past behaviour. So they've got us on lockdown. I...I don't know. The security cam footage I saw in their memories seemed to show her being taken by the same people who took Will and Misty, so...there might be something even worse going on." He arises, awkwardly, and crosses back to the kitchen, reaching for the bottle of whiskey himself. He stares at it. "I left out the worst bits," he says, very quietly. "She nearly killed at least two of the kids. There's...well, she destabilized Luka so much that might have been what sent him falling apart until he--you know." He pours himself a glass of the whiskey. "And me. She took me over. And--well. her other targets forget. She blanks their memories out. But not me. Because of my mutation. I was conscious and helpless all the time she walked me around like a puppet. I remember it. All of it." He doesn't look at her, only at the ripple of amber liquid as his works come in an uneven stream, choked here and there.
Valerie makes a small sound of something like pained realization at Luka's name, and her eyes widen as she stares up at Rohan. If she were a more comforting person, she'd be off the floor now, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him into her. But she's Valerie, and what she does is stare, uncertain and unhappy and quietly, darkly worried - though it's not clear where her concern is directed. She stays still as a statue on the floor, her gaze fixed on Rohan.
Rohan fills the glass nearly to the brim with whiskey, but doesn't drink it. He stares at it, caught in a battle between oblivion and prudence. "It took me a long time to get my head on straight after that," he says, voice low, rough. "Had to leave the city for a bit. Stayed with Lexie's brother, who's a telepath and way wiser than me. Couldn't sleep properly for the longest time. Still can't, some nights. Never happens when you're here, though. I--always sleep better when you're here. I--" He doesn't finish his sentence. Instead he pushes the whiskey away, firmly, determinedly, and turns to cross the room to where Valerie sits on the floor. Crouching down to her level, he, hesitantly, reaches out to touch her shoulder.
"Fucking hell, Rohan," Valerie whispers, her voice hoarse and unsteady. She turns to look at him as he crouches, and when his fingers settle warm against her shoulder, she pushes up into him to catch at his lips in a kiss tinged with frantic desperation. Her hand rises to clutch at his neck, and her nails press crescent moons against his skin.
Rohan seems about to say something, but he's too late; whatever it was turns into a rush of breath, warm against her lips. He reaches for her, pulling her up into her, and kisses her hard, desperate, frantic, seeking some measure of sanity in her lips. When he pulls his mouth away, it's to bury his face into her shoulder, breath coming in harsh gasps, silent. He holds her, tight against him, one hand tangled in her damp curls.
Here, now, with Rohan pressed against her and touch so very easy, Valerie pulls him close. Her cheek presses against his temple, and her arms wrap around him in firm embrace. She doesn't say anything. She doesn't have anything to say.
Rohan just holds her for a long time, taking comfort in the feel of her against him. The familiarity of her; her warmth, her curves, the mingling of scents that means Valerie and no one else. His muscles relax for the first time since the feds banged on the door of Open Hands on Thursday night. Finally, he stirs a little, and admits, voice muffled, "I wasn't going to tell you that originally. I didn't know how."
"Stop," Valerie whispers, shaking her head as her fingers tighten against his neck. "Stop, stop talking, Rohan. Don't think about it. Don't-- just-- shit." She turns her head to press a fierce kiss to his temple, then mutters against it, "/Shit/."
Rohan shifts, moving from his awkward crouch to sit down heavily on the floor, pulling her into his lap. He sighs softly, breath stirring against her shoulder. When he speaks again, it's only to say, "I missed you."
"Bullshit," Valerie says, but she still sounds a little shaken as she settles against him. "I didn't go anywhere, Rocky Road." She stares at his full glass in the distance for a beat before she murmurs, "You can't go back there, Rohan. It's not safe."
"You didn't," agrees Rohan. "Our schedules just didn't align for a bit." There's a breath of shaky humour in his voice. "I'm a memory-altering mutant with no immigration paperwork. Nowhere here is _safe_." He reaches up to brush her hair back from her face, lifting his head to watch her. "I can't run out on the kids, Valerie. I'm not running out on anyone ever again, and--they need me."
"There's safer than /there/," Valerie disagrees with a darkening scowl that sets her features into unattractive disagreement as she meets his gaze. "They have other people. They don't need /you/."
"And if everyone thinks that way," replies Rohan, "then they'll have no one." His hand lingers on her cheek. "This is my unfinished business. And--well, the feds left us a police patrol. Not that I'm entirely happy about that, but it might be the safest place in Mutant Town right now.
"From a psionic who makes people into puppets?" Valerie answers, pulling away from the touch of his hand. She shakes her head hard and puts a measure of distance between them, though she doesn't move from his lap. There's a stretch of hesitating silence before she says, "You could go somewhere she wouldn't know to look for you."
"Only if there's water," replies Rohan, but the pattering of raindrops against the windows make it clear how useless his defence is. He watches her, his hand falling to her hip. "You mean a picture?"
Valerie shakes her head again, her hair shifting loose against her shoulders. "I can't--" she starts, and then breaks off into another beat of silence. It stretches a moment too long before she says, "You could. Come to my place."
Rohan blinks. For a moment, he is too startled to speak. He clears his throat. "Your place? I...always figured you lived with your mom or had decor from the 1970s or something else embarrassing?" he jokes weakly.
Valerie doesn't answer any of this. Her expression flashes annoyed, and then self-conscious, and then floods with stark doubt. She pushes up to stand and settles into a pace that carries her toward Rohan's untouched drink, which she scoops up for another swallow. "You can't fucking stay there," she finally says, again. "It's dangerous."
"I'm sorry," says Rohan quietly. He arises a bit awkwardly, and says, "I just--assumed there was some reason we never went there." He makes his way to the kitchen on legs unsteady from sitting on the floor too long. "But, sweetheart, I have to do this." A pause. He bites his lip. "Is there anything I could do that would help you feel better about this?" he offers, awkwardly.
"I don't want to feel /better/ about this, Rohan!" Valerie retorts in sudden, explosive answer. She spins to face him, her hands flown up in frustration. "I just-- I want you to be /safe/. Fuck what you have to do. Fuck obligations and-- and all that shit."
Rohan opens his mouth. He closes it again, watching her. Something in his face softens. "I'm sorry," he says softly. "I promised you not to take stupid risks. My idea of a 'stupid risk' might differ from yours, being an ex-mercenary and all--but I mean that. But that's about all I can promise. Part of me wants to hide away with you and hold you until this nightmare is over. But--I can't."
Valerie makes a low sound of frustration, and she turns away from him, her hands lifted to rake through her hair. She stands like that for a moment, fingers tangled in her waves, before she turns to move toward him with a few quick steps to catch him in a kiss that speaks her anger and frustration with eloquent wordlessness.
Rohan melts against her, his hands catching at her hips. There's frustration in his kiss, too, frustration that he just can't make her understand, or that they just can't understand each other. But his kiss is hard, fierce with frustration and fear and urgency, and he turns to press her against the kitchen counter.
/This/ is a language Valerie understands. This is a place they always, always agree. She meets his kiss in desperate answer, her hands already sliding down to work his fly open and shove his pants down with fingers that are hot and eager against his skin.
There's a sudden rush of breath at the touch of her eager fingers against his skin. No words now; instead Rohan speaks moans and sighs and catches of breath and searing, desperate kisses. His fingers are at work, tugging down her tight pants over the curves of hip and ass. He presses her closer to the counter, lifting her to rest on the edge of it as he frees her thighs.
Valerie wiggles free of her pants with little encouragement, pulling Rohan toward her to wrap her legs around his hips. "Come here," she demands, low and hot. "I want you.""God, you're hot," Rohan whispers, his voice a bare breath. It might be all he has brain to say. All the darkness outside--unknown dangers, kidnappers and Echo and feds, all the Echo-blessed rain--it's all gone for the moment, and all he knows is her. He presses against her, his teeth finding purchase on her neck as he enters her with a thrust of his hips--and there really is no other world for him but her.