What Lies Beneath
What Lies Beneath

A Montgomery Moment

Rodney stared at the bare patch of plaster on the wall in his dormitory. Sometimes, it was good not to look at anything too exciting while you were thinking. He didn’t want to invite the chance that he might get distracted and have to start all over again. The young mutant was diving deep into the depths of his mind to try and figure out an answer to all of these problems that had seemingly cropped up overnight!

No matter how hard he tried to sort them and act on one issue after the next they all mixed together. Rodney thought that his ideas were sort of like sides on a plate that didn’t have any reason to ever blend and yet, by the middle of his meal he always had a pile of amalgamated muck in the middle. Yes, he was sure that was his mind entirely... a pile of peas and mashed potatoes and chicken when it gets all stringy from cutting into it too much. Also, he was getting hungry.

There was the problem with Peaches. Yes. That seemed like it should get top billing. Rodney stared at that blank spot and tried to focus on it and not the fact that she had cut mental communication with him. She was heading down the same road that got her mixed up with Magpie and that got the both of them sent to Super - Juvie. Prison had been hard for Rodney - it was the first time that he had been alone, without Peaches’ soothing presence in his mind. It used to scare him, and yet, now, it seemed like they spent more time cut off from each other than linked. He was getting used to it and he hated that. Last time he said nothing, he did nothing, he had believed that Peaches’ happiness was the only thing he should have cared about. They were arrested for that mistake, and like a child touching a hot stovetop for the first time he had learned a valuable life lesson. But there he sat, in his dorm room, having watched history unfold itself despite his best efforts and a little Norn-magic to help. Rodney’s efforts had depressingly little effect despite him giving it everything he had. He had given everything to his deception and it lasted all of five minutes once the magic that Loki-girl had put on him had worn off. The Bad Seeds wanted his sister and she wanted to be a part of them. He had even gotten the impression that she was interested in Perseus. Perseus. Please, he wasn’t even in her same league! How could this have happened on his watch?! Rodney dwelled for only a moment on the truth that he was the one that probably solidified her membership into the organization. He had trusted her, thought that she was the only person that would have never lied to him, would have gone to the edges of the earth and beyond to make sure that she was safe and happy - and this is the thanks that he gets? When he asks her to trust him, just like he had trusted her, and leave the Seeds alone, what does he get? Nothing! Rodney balled his fingers into a tight fist. He took a long slow breath and relaxed them one by one. There was no sense in letting anger control him, even if they had promised to always be there for each other. First was family, then friends and then everyone else. That’s how it was supposed to be. Now it was all flubbed up.

Perseus, the snake. Rodney’s lip tightened into dark scowl as he recognized the young man for who he truly was, a deceiver, leading Peaches astray just like Magpie did. A peddler of half truths and false comforts, buying his sister like she was a... she was a... Rodney shut the thought out of his mind and locked it up, somewhere deep and dark to be let free at another time. He and Perseus were going to have words very soon. Oh yes.

Lonnie. Rodney owed his roommate an apology. He had tried to tell Rodney that his sister was lying, and Rodney didn’t believe him. Honestly, he didn’t want to believe him, it hurt too much to think that his sister had been leading him on just like everyone else he’d ever cared about. No, Lonnie had been the only honest one and he repaid that with skepticism.

Wanda had rose with Rodney to Peaches’ defense. He hadn’t given the girl much thought... there just wasn’t enough room for too many at once, but he spared one now. She was probably taking this whole thing hard. Maybe he’d go talk to her, she didn’t seem to like the fact that he took matters into his own hands when his mind got flipped with Peaches’. For that matter neither did Tomiko. Was personal choice more important than keeping Peaches’ safe? Rodney paused, giving that some extra special attention. If a man leaps off a bridge should he not try and catch him? It was his choice that threw him from the bridge, a concerted effort to take one’s own life was a choice wasn’t it? Should he respect his decision and wish him well on all future endeavors? It was his decision after all. No, that seemed off somehow. Standing by, watching while someone destroys their own life would be just as wrong! No. He wasn’t wrong for trying to stop this. The whole crazy school was in the wrong for condoning a damn group of soon-to-be-psychopaths, robbers and murderers.

Murder. Namely, Rodney’s own at the hand of Aces. Pithia, the oracle and apparent girlfriend had warned him about his own death. She told him Aces was going to kill him when there was snow on the ground. That didn’t give him much time to make sure that everything was going to work out fine. Rodney had died before. It was a grain thresher, he’d gotten too close. It all happened so fast that it didn’t even hurt. Peaches said she had freaked out... but then she put him back together, brought him back good as new just like they did when they healed each other. So death wasn’t especially terrifying for Rodney. He had to trust that no matter what was going on between them, that Peaches would bring him back if she were able. He had been good about keeping that particular ability a secret. If that got out, Aces might not be willing to just leave his corpse somewhere convenient.

Of course there was always the chance that Pithia was wrong. That this was all a grand manipulation perpetrated by the Olympians. Rodney knew that the Olympians and the Bad Seeds had business dealings. He remembered the day of the commando attack on the halloween dance. Pithia had done her best to make sure Rodney was far away from the conflict when it had began. They were the same commandos that had been after John Smith on account of the fact that he had no soul. The same commandos that Rodney’s gut instinct told him were in league with the Seeds. So what was the connection between the Olympians and the Seeds and when he found it what did that mean for him.

When Rodney started at the school, he had only wanted to make a few friends and be left alone, so that he could start a quiet life somewhere away from the capes and the lasers and the flying karate chops. He had experienced a superhero ass kicking first hand and he wasn’t really looking forward to getting any more of them. He and Peaches would have completed their education, put their crimes behind them and gone to live a quiet life. Simple. That’s how he liked it. He didn’t like being put in a position like this. Fated to die, sister just aching to get tossed in the slammer for her snake of a boyfriend Perseus, a girlfriend that may or may not betray him at any moment, working long hours monster hunting in the sewers and a class load that keeps getting heavier and heavier because of all the screw ups his ‘combat team’ had managed to pull off in record time!

Rodney tossed himself back into the bed, slumping onto the comfortable mattress with a sigh. His head hurt. Maybe he was an idiot, like John Smith always said. It was just... so hard to concentrate on anything with his head always being a jumble of everything he’d ever seen, read or heard. Rodney had a hard time forgetting anything.

Solutions. Oh, there were a few rattling around in his head. Nothing too promising, but the starts of some ideas that might work. He tried to keep things simple. Just how he liked it. He could ask Peaches to stop. Really ask, like a brother. He could beg her to stop and appeal to the part of her that had put family before all else. Or maybe he could say or do something to Perseus or the other seeds that would make them reject Peaches’ membership. Maybe he could make Peaches more of a liability than anything else... it would cut into his studying and probably his work, but he could just locate Peaches anywhere she went and offer to lead the young-heroes on campus right after the Seeds. When their plans keep ending in a superfight every time they took Peaches with them, it wouldn’t take them long to figure things out. And then there was the other thing. He could simply refuse to touch her. Without physical contact, the Montgomery twins powers had an expiration date. Peaches had gotten better as a thief, but without her powers she certainly didn’t have the chops to stand side by side with the Seeds. Those sounded pretty good... and that was just from a few minutes of thinking. Rodney smirked. Imagine what he could do if he actually put a few hours of effort into it.

The torn Montgomery rolled over onto his side and eyed the neon blue Triceratops that he kept on his bed. It was the only toy that he had kept from his home, it was a gift to him from his mother. She had bought it before he was born and before she died. It stared back at him with dark beaded eyes.

He wasn’t an idiot and he wasn’t a good guy. If it came to it, a hero would have a problem with burning the whole school to the ground to save his kin. They had made that mistake over at juvie, too. But that was before he crushed that asshole’s throat with the side of his lunch tray. That was before Justifier, his old roommate, took the blame for that action to protect Rodney’s chances at getting sent to the school with his sister. No. Rodney didn’t like bullies and he didn’t like labels. Everyone was in the same boat, just trying to survive. The boy didn’t have any problems with you if you didn’t make problems for him. He was only too happy to not get into other people’s business if they just left his family and him out of theirs. That was it, the big secret. Rodney was a survivor. Nothing more, nothing less. Making friends was a big part of surviving life... so too was knowing to keep a few cards up your sleeve for when you really needed them.

No, he wouldn’t ever be a hero. He was just a stupid kid with a troubled sister, a death sentence and a stuffed triceratops.

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