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Catch and Release

Posted on Tue Jun 4th, 2024 @ 11:05pm by Kennedy Kelly & Bobby Drake

Mission: Episode 4: The Savage ConneXion
Location: Savage Land
Timeline: September 9, 1990

Kennedy leaned back against the massive trunk of the tree she had climbed so she could observe the Savage Land from a safe and elevated position. It had taken her almost an hour to climb the tree with only her own strength to assist her but Kennedy had wanted to be alone while she finally allowed herself a moment to process all emotions she had been running from. Opening a drinking gourd full of some sort of Aerian beverage, Kennedy sighed deeply and made herself comfortable. Despite her hatred for this god awful place she had to admit that from this serene vantage point the endless jungle and its permanent state of twilight was actually kind of pretty.

Bobby had finished doing a circuit around the rounded summits of Skull Mountain as part of his hourly watch. No army had presented itself yet, so they could rest easily for now. He was about to return to the bunker when he saw Kennedy up a tree.

“Hey…” Bobby said as he cut a circle of ice around the treetop. His revolutions were fast enough that Kennedy would've had difficulty tracking him. “You stuck or something?”

“No, I came up here on purpose.” Kennedy looked back out at the horizon for a moment. “Just forcing myself to think about the things I don’t really want to think about.” Bobby knew more than most when it came to her internal struggles, he had a pretty good idea about what she had been running from.

“I brought this weird drink. Do you want to sit and drink it with me?” She showed him the gourd that she had carried up. Kennedy unstopped it and took a sniff. “Oh my god, it smells like garbage water!”

Her disgust put a mild smirk on Bobby's face. “Here…” After brushing his palm against the gourd, it chilled in Kennedy's hands. “Cold garbage water is usually better than warm.” He grabbed a branch next to Kennedy and settled in. “You try it first though.”

“Thanks.” She smiled at the gourd rather than at Bobby before she took a sip. Kennedy practically choked on the liquid as she removed the gourd from her lips.

“Ugh! Eww.” Her nose scrunched up like a rabbit. “It’s like… fermented juice. Gross. Here, try it.” Kennedy offered the drink to Bobby.

Bobby shrugged and took a swig. While he scrunched his nose, he managed to swallow the pungent swill without too much effort.

“I've had worse,” he admitted. “I heard about this prison hooch made in a toilet tank with apple cores and orange peels inside a trash bag. This tastes exactly how I imagined that would.” He laughed and took another sip. “Yep. To a tee.”

“That also sounds disgusting. I’ll take champagne please and thank you.” Kennedy leaned further back against the tree. She had exchanged her uniform for native attire to better combat the heat. Looking out at the jungle below them, she let out a sigh. “I hate it here, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this sort of stuff.”

“Lorna felt the same way.” Bobby turned pensive, even a touch depressed. “Always liked the fancy stuff, hated everything she thought was gross…” Pulling himself out from that swath of recollections, he said, “Give yourself half a chance out here. I'll bet you'd surprise yourself.”

His eyes ran down her exposed golden legs for a moment, but then he sighed and stared off at the perpetually twilight sun.

“Do you miss her?” Kennedy dared to ask. There was a touch of regret and sadness in his voice that was too obvious to ignore. “You and Lorna went to school together, right?”

“Yeah…” Bobby said in answer to both. “Green hair as wild as her. Heart of gold. Rad but refined taste in stuff…not just movies and music but art and all that.” He bit his lip as the reverie turned bittersweet. “We dated a bit. She never made fun of me. Not once. Everything I did…she said I always made her laugh.” His eyes glistened, so he wiped them with the back of his hand. “But I couldn't make her happy. Not like Alex. So that was that.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you guys dated.” Kennedy stiffened a little from the revelation. Things were complicated between her and Bobby. She wasn’t really sure what he wanted from her and if she was honest with herself, she didn’t know what she wanted from him either. But the idea of rescuing his ex-girlfriend, who made him so forlorn at just the thought of her, made Kennedy feel… weird.

“But Alex is gone too, right?” These names were nothing to Kennedy but they were Bobby’s family. “With everything that happened between Aurora and Cyclops… I dunno, maybe things will be different between you two.” She shrugged with the remark, attempting to make it seem like she didn’t care what his response would be.

“Fucking Cyclops…” Bobby spat off the branch. “He really did a number on everything, didn't he? Not that I was much better.” He crossed his arms in a huff. “Just goes to show everyone leaves in the end.”

Cold silence filled the space between them. “I'll tell you a secret. I don't really feel like an X-Man. Not since I've been back. Maybe not even before…everything.” He snatched the gourd and took another sip. “It's not so bad on the third swallow.”

“Does that mean that you don’t want to be here anymore?” Kennedy tried to fill in the missing sentences between the statements he made. “Living at Xavier’s means you’re either a student or an X-Men, right? If you left, where would you go?”

“I don't know what I want,” Bobby said. “Maybe that's the problem. Just chasing after everything I'm supposed to want but never really asking myself if I want any of it. Where would I go? No idea. Don't even know if going anywhere is the answer.” He huffed again. “All I know is my friend's stuck down here and I gotta try to save her. Answers can wait until after that.”

“Yeah, sure.” Kennedy nodded her head in agreement. “I guess I’m just taking it day by day too.” She suddenly felt sad over the revelation, her whole life had been planned and now it was nothing.

Kennedy finally took a second sip from the gourd, making the choice to forget about tomorrow and focus on today. “We’ll all find Lorna together, okay?”

“Thanks…” Bobby said. “No one else seems to care, not even the people who knew her. Connor, Iris, Shanna, Ka-Zar… they all have other things to worry about.”

Though his tone was calm, his body language was anything but. Bobby looked completely out of sorts. “There are lots of people hurting right now. It's stupid to focus on just one person. Selfish even maybe. I should be a big damn hero and focus on the bigger picture just like everyone else.”

“If she’s important to you then it’s okay to put her first,” Kennedy said with another shrug. Part of this conversation hurt her heart, before they had come here she had shared some of her personal wants and fears with him. In a moment of shared vulnerability he had confided in her too and had then kissed her. It felt like Bobby had forgotten all of that. “Isn’t that what love is?”

“I don’t know what love is,” Bobby shot back. Were they arguing? It was hard to tell from the sound of it. “She doesn’t love me. I don’t… I don’t know. I just know she needs help. If Zaladane is using her to bring a shit storm down on the rest of the planet, then rescuing her is part of the mission.” He snorted with contempt. “Doesn’t matter what Shanna thinks.”

Kennedy furrowed her brow at that last comment. His conversations with Shanna were unknown to her. “What does Shanna think?”

“Oh, nothing.” Bobby realized he was all over the place in his words. “She just tried saying that maybe Lorna is helping Zaladane of her free will. I think that's bullshit but Shanna wouldn't take it back.” He was clearly not in a good place about the suggestion.

“If you don’t think she is, then she isn’t. Shanna doesn’t know her like you do. She’s probably just trying to be prepared for anything.” Kennedy took another sip of the horrible drink before finally looking at Bobby rather than the horizon. “You’ve known her for years which means you’re the expert around here on what she would and wouldn’t do. Lorna probably just needs help.”

“Yeah…you're probably right.” Bobby sounded unconvinced which was odd given how forceful he had been the moment before. “We help her, she's back, we all go home as one big, happy team.”

Was that sarcasm in his voice? It was hard to tell that too, especially when he took the gourd from Kennedy and started chugging it. Juice ran down his chin onto his chest. When he finished, he handed it back. “Nope, not bad at all.”

Kennedy examined the empty drinking vessel Bobby had given back to her. “Thanks.” She grumbled more to herself than to him.

“What’s your damage today?” Kennedy’s patience was starting to wear thin with Bobby and his mixed signals. She had come up here to think and invited him in the hopes that they could continue with what they had started back at the mansion. Instead, Bobby was moody and ignorant to everything that was right in front of his face.

“You don’t want to be an X-Man but you won’t leave the mansion. You know Lorna is a good person but you still doubt her character. You want to rescue her because she’s important to you but you’re unhappy with the end result.” Kennedy huffed and bristled as she thought about how ridiculous he was being. “You’re still in love with her but she doesn’t love you back, just admit it.”

Bobby scowled at her. “She was my first love, sure. You don't forget that. All the songs say so. I'm not sorry for that and I won't ever be.” He snorted in growing frustration. “What's my damage? Heh. What's my damage? I'll tell you what my damage is, sweetheart. I was born!” An angry sneer crept over his wry smirk. “Never recovered, maybe never will. Mystery solved!”

“Why are you being like this?” Kennedy pleaded with him despite the building irritation in her voice. “I thought there was something else between us but you’re acting like a dick. Or is that just another trait that you can’t help?”

“No… Seems I can’t!” Bobby realized he was talking entirely too loud but he couldn’t help that either. “I’m somebody’s dick or somebody’s clown or somebody’s whatever! If you don’t like it, then get in line!” He folded his arms over his chest again. “I’m right at the front.”

“I don’t know what you want from me, Bobby. One minute you’re sweet and considerate, the next you’re standoffish and rude. I can’t tell if you like me or if you hate me.” Kennedy folded her arms across her chest too, both of them taking defensive stances against one another. “Am I just one more thing you can’t figure out?”

Bobby looked away from her in shame. “I don’t know what you want from me either. We’re just talking and you’re all mad. What do you want? I don’t have anything to offer you but what you’re looking at. Guess we both know how far that gets us, don’t we?”

“My father was murdered… I watched his brains get blown out on national television.” There was a retching sound of pain in her voice. “He hated me before he died and I can’t help but think that if he had embraced me, if he had changed his hateful ways because of me, then he would be alive today.”

Kennedy had trapped herself in the world of ‘what if’ as she came to terms with her father’s death. Despite her attempts to push herself to the brink of exhaustion, those intrusive thoughts still appeared in her mind causing her to dwell on everything that could have happened rather than what did happen.

“I can’t help but hate him for it and then I feel bad for hating him because he loved me at one point in time. Then I think about being banished to that school and painted as crazy in order to save face and I’m upset all over again.”

She sighed heavily as the weight of her cyclical thoughts were voiced out loud.

“I want to forget about all of that. I want to move forward and find a new life for myself. I want friends and connections. I want to feel loved, not abandoned. I reached out to you, Bobby, because I thought you wanted the same for yourself.”

The stone-faced scowl on Bobby’s face scrunched into anger and pain as Kennedy poured her heart out to him. His eyes started to water at being called out like she’d just done. “I can’t…” he said in a whimper that was a near squeak. The look on his face plainly showed Kennedy had hit the nail right on the head. “I just can’t!”

“I told you I can’t fix you” Kennedy’s own voice cracked from the weight of her words. “I can barely hold my own broken pieces together. You wanted me to promise you I wouldn’t leave, that I would stay. But it’s so hard when you keep pushing me away, it hurts… I’m tired of being hurt.”

“I'm here, aren't I?!” Bobby yelled. “How am I pushing you away when I'm the only one up this tree with you?!” He flung the empty gourd into the sky. “You know, I don't need this. I'm outtie.”

He fell out of the treetop and back into ice form. The ice sled carried him away without looking back.

Kennedy watched him disappear into the lush jungle canopy leaving her alone in the treetop. For someone who was so afraid of people leaving, Bobby did an awful lot of running. She wanted to tell him that being present wasn’t just about being physically in front of someone but he didn’t want to hear it. Instead, he left with so many things left unsaid between them.

Wiping away a few stray tears from her cheeks, Kennedy decided she would let Bobby go. Despite the heartbreaking sadness she saw inside of him and that same desire to be loved, she knew she wasn’t the person who could give him what he needed. She would let him run to whatever temporary comfort he wanted because it obviously wasn’t with her.


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