White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

5/January 2003-August 2003

"Alex!"

For a former career superhero, Alex had never been a good morning person. Skrulls could be attacking and he'd still be groggy if he hadn't had his coffee yet. So when he heard his name being called in something close to a terrified voice, about all he was capable of doing was sitting up and blinking dumbly and remembering not to heat up his hands if they were touching the blankets.

"What the hell is this?" Lily was standing in the doorway to their bedroom, holding up her left hand. The diamonds sparkled in the morning sunshine.

Alex smiled crookedly. "Exactly what you think it is?"

"You know, it's customary for the woman to be conscious when she's proposed to," Lily told him. She was trying to sound stern, but her voice sounded choked.

"You were busy," Alex replied, hoping it didn't come out waspishly. He rubbed his hair vigorously, knowing it was already standing on end. "I wasn't sure you could fit it into your schedule."

Lily made a noise and Alex wasn't sure if it was a laugh or a sob. "I've been a royal bitch, haven't I?"

"Will you keep the ring on if I say yes?"

"Yeah," Lily whispered and made the same noise again and Alex still wasn't sure what it was because she was smiling, but it really sounded like a sob.

"So are you going to just stand there all morning?" he asked after it became clear that Lily wasn't going to say anything more.

"Well, I was in the middle of making coffee when I noticed it..."

Alex got out of bed and walked over to Lily. She didn't move, just watched him approach.

He reached for her left hand and got down on one knee. "Just because you get very cranky when you think I'm making decisions for the both of us without consulting you," he explained with a mock-serious expression as he fiddled with the ring, centering it. "Will you marry me?"

"Yes," she breathed.

Up close, Alex could see that Lily was, in fact, crying. Crinkling his features in apprehension, he waited until she met his eyes. "Happy tears, right?" he asked, standing up and not letting go of her hand.

She nodded, biting her lower lip to keep from losing her composure. He reached up with his free hand and wiped away the tears with his thumb before letting his hand drift back to her neck. Dropping her hand, he pulled her close, kissing the lip she had been biting.

She put her arms around him as he pulled back enough to look down into her eyes. She looked up and smiled at him, a tiny sob escaping. "I love you," she whispered. "Even when I'm being a neurotic bitch from hell."

"See, that's what makes you a perfect addition to the clan," Alex explained as he kissed her again, sliding his hands up the back of her t-shirt. "Men in my family are just programmed to fall in love with neurotic bitches from hell. Occasionally, it's been taken a little too literally, but I'm pretty sure you've just got a temporary case. I'll love you even after you're better, though. I'm supposed to be the well-adjusted one, after all."

"Good to know," Lily replied, pulling him closer. "So, about that coffee..."

"Coffee can wait," Alex muttered, picking Lily up around the waist and heading back for the bed.


"So?"

"Professor Summers, you're speaking to Professor almost-a-Summers."

"You passed! I knew you would!"

"Well, at least one of us did."

"You're lucky I'm three thousand miles away or I'd be giving you scathing looks right about now."

"You're lucky you're three thousand miles away or I'd be jumping your bones right about now."

"And why is distance a good thing in that case?"

"Fair skin. You bruise easily."

"I'd rather it be you doing the bruising than some of Nur's minions. Only in my family would saying 'We'll celebrate after your defense unless the Apocalypse comes' be a warning and not a promise."

"Don't worry. Saving the world is more important. If extraordinarily ill-timed."

"I'll tell Nur when I see him."

"Do that."


"So who gets the office?"

"Pardon?" Lily asked as she carried another box from the living room into the kitchen. Today was moving day and several of the X-types were helping out, leaving Lily to the unpacking. Alex having friends with super-strength definitely had its advantages, even if it meant that none of their 'civilian' friends could come over lest they witness the slim southern woman holding one half of a queen-sized brass bed frame under each arm. Rogue had suggested that they bring up the armoires (too big for the elevator) after dark so that she could just fly them up outside instead of having to negotiate the turns of the stairwell. Scott had kept his face perfectly straight when he suggested that the stairs would be a good exercise and it had taken Rogue a few moments to realize that he was kidding.

"You're turning that second bedroom into an office, right?" Bobby Drake asked as he tilted his head to read the writing on the side of the box he was holding. "Bedroom four," he read and stacked the box in the pile of bedroom boxes for the next time Alex emerged from the rear of the apartment.

The place had been a find - Valeri's find, actually. It was a respectably sized apartment on the seventh floor of a twelve-story pre-War on Manhattan's Upper West Side, available for a song by the executor of a will tied up in probate court. Courtesy of a combination of some obscure New York State laws concerning estate sale taxes and a co-op board determined to raise the prestige of its building in light of the next-door neighbor going condo, the place was selling for well below market value because nobody had been able to get past the fussy board. But the future Mr. and Mrs. Summers, armed with "Worthington, Warren K." on their list of references, qualified.

"We're splitting it for now," Lily replied as she opened up the box on the table. They had a pleasantly comfortable eat-in kitchen (in return for having no dining room and no space whatsoever in the living room to create one) and Piotr had already brought up the oak table and accompanying chairs that had been a gift from her father. Lily had been worried that the table would make the kitchen too cramped, but without the extra leaf that didn't seem to be the case. Sit-down dinner parties were still out, however. "It's still an improvement over the place in Jersey. Now we have two different rooms from which to flee each other instead of just the one."

"Yeah, you're ready for married life," Scott chuckled as he walked past carrying a lamp in each hand.

"And it's supposed to be an office," Lily added after smirking at Scott's retreating back. "Or a study at any rate. That's why it's got a wooden door by the bedroom and bathroom and a glass panel door into the living room. The apartment was listed as a 'one bedroom with study'. The agent was most emphatic about that point."

Bobby made an expressive face, but said nothing.

There was a yelp and a loud crash from the bedroom and everyone froze, but the sound of Piotr and Alex laughing loudly immediately relieved the tension.

"Sorry everyone," Piotr said sheepishly as he emerged, dusting off his hands on his jeans. "We had a misunderstanding about the placement of the bed."

"Yeah," Alex chirped from behind him. "On me or not on me."

"On him," Lily said cheerfully and went back into the kitchen to unpack dishes.

Five hours later, the apartment was almost completely set up and Lily was standing in the middle of her living room completely in awe. "I can't even fathom it," she murmured. With a flick of her wrist, Jean had unpacked boxes of plates and floated the piles of books onto their shelves. Heavy furniture had been shifted effortlessly as everyone had his or her own suggestions for the most space-efficient setup of every room and nobody had broken a sweat because Bobby had kept the place cool even with all of the windows open to the New York City summer heat. All that was left was to put sheets on the bed and milk in the refrigerator. And Alex and Rogue were currently taking care of the latter, or at least investigating where the closest place to do so would be.

"Just wait until there's a bit of clutter all around and it'll feel like home," Scott assured her from the couch, where he was slumped artlessly with a beer bottle in one hand.

"And, Alex being Alex," Piotr added from the loveseat, gesturing expansively with his own beer bottle, "That should take about a day and a half."

"Not if I can help it," Lily retorted, sitting down on one of the dining table chairs they had brought into the living room. The living room didn't have much of a view - on to a three-sided airshaft, actually, along with the study and bathroom - but the bedroom had windows facing south and west, which meant downtown and sunsets were easily seen.

"That's what we need," Scott mused thoughtfully. "A mutant who has the ability to overcome the second law of thermodynamics."

Lily nearly fell off her chair laughing and everyone else just looked at each other in confusion. Lily hadn't spent an awful lot of time with Scott apart from everyone else - such is the way of future brothers-in-law who happen to be leaders of the X-Men - but she had managed to pick up on his rather dry sense of humor.

There was a heavy thud on the door and Bobby got up to open it. Alex and Rogue entered laden down with shopping bags. "There's a supermarket up on 96th," Alex reported as he headed into the kitchen. "We didn't check Amsterdam, though, so there could be something closer there."

"It's only four blocks," Lily pointed out. The sudden proximity of everything after three years of Princeton - and even, to be truthful, five years in Cambridge - was very exciting. Being ten minutes door-to-door from work via subway (Alex was that far by foot) was all the more so. Couple that with the whole 'buying your first home' exuberance and Lily wasn't sure she wouldn't be able to fly like Rogue if she really tried.

"I'm still thinking in Princeton terms," Alex replied with a shrug as he dumped a pile of paper on the coffee table in front of Bobby. "Did pick up a few menus, though. In case we want to order out instead of cook. Vietnamese, Chinese, Turkish, a kebab place, Japanese, two pizza places, and Rogue unerringly found the fried chicken place. And that was just between here and the Gristedes."

"Necessities," Rogue explained as she cracked open a beer bottle and tossing one to Alex, who had been reaching for Lily's. "I can smell good fried chicken a block away."

"We'll order out," Jean announced, summoning the pile of menus before Bobby could reach for them. Bobby made a face, but leaned back.


"Orly," Lily whined, flopping back on the couch with a groan. This was not how she wanted to spend her day off from teaching. As if Jean - and Dana, the two times she had been up to Westchester recently - wasn't bad enough.

"What?" Orly asked with frustration. She leaned forward and tapped the open magazine with her index finger. "If you won't do this by yourself, someone else has to force you."

"There's a very good reason I'm not doing this," Lily groused, leaning forward and closing the most recent issues of Modern Brides magazine. "Start with the fact that I've just begun a new job. Go on to the fact that Alex and I haven't so much as set a date. Go on further to the fact that I'm not spending thirteen hundred dollars on a dress I can only wear once. And don't stop until you realize that any wedding that's big enough to involve a thirteen hundred dollar dress will also have to include my mother."

"You're not going to miss out on the wedding of your dreams because of your mother," Orly retorted indignantly.

"This isn't my dream," Lily cried out in exasperation, standing up and storming into the kitchen. "Why does nobody seem to want to accept the fact that I don't want a big wedding with matching bridesmaids and a three-tiered cake? Did you see how stressed Ahn was before her wedding? I don't want that. I don't want to have to think about seating charts and caterers and music and flowers and picking out a song and all that other crap!"

Orly pursed her lips and put her hands on her knees (in recognition of the purchase of air conditioners, Orly had waived her usual rule against wearing her prosthesis in hot weather) and stood up, following Lily into the kitchen with the zombie-like walk of the exhausted. Lily snorted; it was Orly's own fault that she insisted on trying to turn Lily into a proper lady.

"All right," she said with a sigh that hid most of her disappointment. "Fine. Just two questions, then."

"What?" Lily asked suspiciously. Orly had a really annoying habit of springing devastatingly rational reasons on people by couching them as suggestions and innocent questions.

"First, what does Alex want?"

"This is the man who proposed to me in my sleep," Lily snorted. "Simple is fine with him."

Actually, simple was almost a necessity for both of them. It bothered Lily that she couldn't tell Orly, her oldest friend, that Alex was Havok. Orly knew that Alex was a mutant, but it had been decided that 'the rest' of the story should be kept quiet for now. Telling Orly exactly why they couldn't have a big public wedding - even if that was what Lily wanted (and it wasn't) - would have made the entire discussion end quickly.

"Does this have to do with him not wanting to out himself?" Orly asked thoughtfully and Lily smiled to herself. Orly was eventually going to figure out the whole story on her own anyway.

"In part," Lily admitted, putting on the kettle for tea. "But he's really and truly not a big pomp and circumstance kind of guy. He's done the big wedding thing already - he's been the best man for his brother and one of his oldest friends got hitched last year."

If that was what one could call the oaths that Sulven and Logan had made to each other; Logan had taken it very badly when a pregnant Sulven had initially refused to make any sort of promise of commitment and the relief at the oath-taking itself had been disturbingly tangible.

"All right," Orly said, sitting down at the table. "And the second question is really sort of a promise I want you to make me."

"Oh?"

"No drive-through Elvis in Vegas," Orly said. "And don't tell me that's not a possibility. That's Alex to a T and you're just enough of an iconoclast to go along with it."

Lily snorted back a laugh. Alex had mentioned Elvis in the context of getting married. "Umm... Can I just promise that it won't be both of them? If Alex really has his mind set on one or the other, I'm not going to disappoint him."

"You two are lunatics who deserve each other," Orly muttered, turning around in her chair to face forward.

A few hours later, well after Orly had left, the phone rang.

"Hi. I'm on my way out. Do we need anything from Zabars or anything?" Alex had that slightly rushed tone that he always had when he was on the phone. Lily thought it was cute, even if she occasionally had to get him to repeat things.

"No, it's just us," she answered. "Orly wanted to get home before the evening rush. She's got a job interview tomorrow morning. And I got stuff on the way back from running."

"Alright. And we're not good enough for Zabars. I'll see you in ten, then."

Lily had no sooner put down the phone than it rang again. Assuming it was Alex, she answered. "What did you forget?"

"Lily?"

"Scott! I'm sorry. I thought it was Alex," Lily apologized. "What's up?"

"Umm... I'm just calling and checking in... We had an... incident a few hours ago."

Lily furrowed her brow. Scott sounded very shocky. "Is everyone all right? Should I turn on the news or something?"

"It won't be on the news," Scott said in that same distracted voice. "We think it was a dimensional portal..."

"Oh shit," Lily muttered. She and Alex had heard stories about these holes in the space-time continuum opening up for the past year or so. So far, they had been relatively harmless - no lives had been lost, although none of the property that had disappeared into the portals (a parked car, a house, etc.) had ever been returned from wherever - whenever - they had gone. But Scott wouldn't get upset about missing cars or even a missing Blackbird. "Who?"

"Logan, Sulven, Dana, Bishop, Domino, and Nathan," Scott answered.

"Nathan?" Lily repeated, shocked despite knowing that if anything were to happen to any of the X-Men Nathan should probably be anyone's first guess as to the victim. "I'm sorry... about everyone. Do you guys need anything? Do you want us to come up there or do you just want Alex to call when he gets in?"

There was a chance Scott had already called Alex's cell; he kept it on vibrate at work and frequently missed calls because of it.

"I... I don't know," Scott admitted. "I think I just wanted to hear a normal voice or something. Everyone's pretty weirded out, even for us. Sam's inconsolable."

"I'd imagine he would be," Lily replied feelingly. "Was he there when it happened?"

"Yeah," Scott answered with a sigh melting into a mildly hysterical chuckle. "Which is good in a really perverse way because otherwise we'd never know what happened at all. One minute they're arguing in the kitchen about something and the next minute..."

 "This happened at the mansion?"

"Right in the fucking backyard," Scott replied with a hiss of frustration.

"The kids," Lily started, realization dawning. "What's happened with the twins?"

"Nothing so far," Scott answered, relieved. "They were down for a nap when it happened, thankfully. One of them is always attached to Logan when they're awake. They've been fed and are being watched by Bobby right now. We're going to have to figure out what to do with them if we can't get their parents home right away."

"Listen. Alex is going to be home in like five minutes. If you want us to come up there, we can catch the 7:07. Or if you guys want to come down here after things have settled down..."

"Can't leave the troops," Scott sighed. "Even if Jean wasn't with Sam and there weren't the babies to think about, I'm supposed to be keeping everyone else level. Great job I'm doing of it, too."

"I'm sure you're doing a helluva job, Scott. You'd never let anyone down if you could help it."

"Thanks," he said with something approaching disappointment. Lily knew it was with himself and nothing more. If past patterns held true - and Lily knew that Scott was very much like Alex in this regard - then this disenchantment with his own actions would soon morph into impotent rage and Lily sincerely hoped Scott found some time for himself before that happened.

As it was, she could hear shouting in the background. "Why don't you go rally the troops for a little bit, then call back here and take out all your frustration on Alex? We'll come up tomorrow evening or Saturday morning so we can help out."

"Sounds like a plan," Scott said. "Thanks, Lily. Really."

"Hey, I'm almost family. Call whenever you want. We'll be up and then Alex is well trained to answer the phone in his sleep."

Lily hung up the phone and sat down heavily on a kitchen chair. Alex wasn't going to take this well - Logan was a great friend of his. How was she going to explain this? Either to Alex or to herself. She had spent most of the past year-plus since finding out about Alex's 'other life' trying to build up her suspension of disbelief - she had an engineer's mind (a.k.a. a certain lack of imagination as far as magic and the occult went) and it took effort to not dismiss the more outrageous stories out-of-hand simply because they were illogical, sometimes wildly so. And just when she was sure that she was almost getting a handle on things, something new would pop up and she would realize that she really wasn't as prepared to marry into a family of superheroes as she thought she was. A time-space portal. In the backyard. She closed her eyes and shook her head. Best to stop thinking about it now and save any and all freaking out for when Alex got home... which should be any moment.

Almost on cue, she could hear the sound of keys in the lock. Not finding the strength to get up from where she was sitting by the phone, she waited.

"Lil?" Alex called after he opened and closed the door and heard no called greeting.

"In here," she said.

"What's the matter?" Alex asked as he stuck his head into the kitchen doorway, tossing his backpack towards the couch in the living room and coming into the kitchen to sit down on the chair next to hers. "It was a ten block walk; what happened between then and now?"

"Scott called," Lily explained in a quiet voice.

Alex took a deep breath and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. "What happened to whom?" he asked, looking down at the floor as if he were bracing for impact. Lily reached out to card her fingers through his hair and he looked up at her with such an expression that her heart broke.

"A time-space portal opened up in the backyard," Lily began, aiming for dispassionate and knowing she was probably closer to bitter laughter. "Logan, Sulven, Nathan, Domino, Bishop, and Dana got sucked in. Sam saw it happen, apparently."

Alex sighed heavily and dropped his head further and Lily leaned forward to kiss his head. It was a pose of resignation.

"I'm sorry," she said next to his ear, then sat up.

"It doesn't stop," Alex said after a long moment. He looked up at Lily and she saw his eyes were very bright. "This is why I quit - time-space portals don't open in normal people's backyards. And I didn't want to live my life getting sucked into timestreams and having my friends replaced by evil clones... I don't know why I thought it would hurt less being away from it all..."

"They stopped being teammates," Lily replied, reaching out to touch his face. "They didn't stop being friends. Or relatives."

Nodding, Alex sat up and back, reaching for Lily's hand and holding it between his own. "How was Scott taking it? I know Nathan's Nathan and all, but..."

"He's a little unstrung," Lily admitted. "Sam's disconsolate, the twins are going to be wondering where their parents are soon, and everyone expects him to make it all better. As usual. I told him to call and vent when he needed to."

Alex frowned. "He rarely does. Vent. Not need-to-vent, which he often does."

"I think he will this time," Lily replied. "It's not just teammates - it's his son, Zara and Nick's parents, Sam's girlfriend..."

"We're getting older, I think," Alex mused after a long silence. "We're losing the ability to rebound as well as we used to. Elasticity of youth and all that. The 'X-Men always get better' thing stops being a comfort after a while... Shit. The babies..."

"Well, look," Lily tried to rationalize. "You've got the two Askani among the missing, right? If I were going to get lost in time, I'd want Nathan or Sulven there with me. It's not like they all don't have someone important to come back to."

"That's never mattered before," Alex retorted. "Missing Scott didn't bring Jeannie home any faster."

They said nothing more - each lost in their own thoughts - until Alex finally stood up and went to the refrigerator, opening it up and looking around for something to make for dinner. Scott didn't call until after ten - Alex took the call in the bedroom, Lily was reviewing the following day's lesson plan at her desk - and the two brothers spent the better part of an hour talking quietly.

"Piotr's coming in tomorrow," Alex said as Lily came in to the bedroom from the bathroom. "He's been pretty down living at Muir for a while now, so the team being short-handed is just as good an excuse as any."

"Scott didn't ask you?" Lily asked as she climbed into bed.

"No, but I offered," Alex replied, running his hands over his face before getting up off of the bed with a groan. "Scott said that they probably would have been fine even without Piotr helping out and he's pretty determined not to let this disrupt people's lives any more than it already has. Mine included."

"You're his little brother," Lily said, stretching out. "He's allowed to fuss over you."

"I know, I know," Alex muttered with a levity Lily knew he didn't feel as he headed for the bathroom. "I shouldn't complain when I get what I want."

Lily was unsurprised when Alex reached for her after he returned to bed, leaning over her and looking down at her with an expression that was part relief and part remorse - she was familiar with the odd sort of survivor's guilt Alex felt every time something happened to one of his friends or former teammates. Scott had been right when he had said that Alex had never quite forgiven himself for quitting the superhero business. And so Lily had made it her duty to make sure that Alex didn't regret his decision to find his own happiness. Sometimes it was easier than others, but this wasn't one of those times. They made love with a neediness that rarely struck them both, an eagerness to assure the other and reassure themselves that they were there and safe and not going to disappear anytime soon.




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