Pushing Harder

by Ratmist



Standard Disclaimer: Marvel characters and universe appear here in a work of nonprofit.

Notes: Sequel to 'Flying Horses', and within the 'Bones' continuity. I'm so frustrated, never gonna finish Bones, I'm so blocked. More of my stories are on my site, http://ratmist.tripod.com/  which has had a partial facelift. That is, half of the face is up and the other half is down. *shrug*

Rating: Strong PG13 or R for words, themes.

Dedicated: To Braddock.

(continued from previous story 'Flying Horses')

She got as far as the kitchen before being tackled by one of the family dogs, Prudie, who was convinced Sarah was a walking bone. Sarah glared and growled as best as she could, but finally she lost her patience and just shoved the big mutt away. She wanted to leave, now, and she knew if she went through the side door of the kitchen in the huge house, she might be able to get away before anyone noticed.

She resolutely ignored the framed Guthrie family photographs and portraits along every nook and corridor along her way; she kept her eyes straight forward, not wanting to see an accusing glare in the Sams decorating her hasty retreat. Her heavy Xavier-issued combat boots pounded into the coffee brown carpet, and she knew if she looked down, she could see the footprints of two generations of Guthries worn into the thick fabric. She passed a shiny mirror, and she wondered if Sam had ever stared at himself in the mirror and wondered the same things about himself that she felt whenever she caught her reflection.

She didn't have time for her reflection today, and she listened to the pounding of her feet on the carpet instead, taking her away from a large insecurity lodged deeply in her throat.

So focused on avoiding everything in site, Sarah ran smack into Paige Guthrie, who was on her way out from the kitchen with a large number of dishes and silverware for the family dining table. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion at the single army duffel bag Sarah carried neatly on one muscled arm. Sarah rolled her eyes in impatience, but her rough pink skin was reddened from anger and embarrassment. Paige's chin came up, defiant to the soft scent of fear Marrow detected from the shorter teenager. Her shirt had spots of water and oil flecked upon it, and a quick sniff and glance informed Sarah that Paige had spent her Sunday cooking and cleaning. She smelled oddly like fish, lemon cleaner and blueberries.

"I thought you were stayin the night," Paige said, startled. Sarah glared, and Paige reddened as well.

Great, thought Sarah, now we look like a couple of wives. All I need is an apron and I'd be barefoot and pregnant in that kitchen.

"Well, ya can't leave until we've got dinner done, now," Paige said in a rush, "and I mean, I made more than enough fer everyone, n'that includes you."

Sarah looked at the only other Guthrie she'd known, whose first few missions within Generation X, the younger team following the stupid Dream, had lead Paige to Marrow, Gene Nation, and more than a few grisly murder scenes. Sarah keenly felt the idiocy of their new situation; this time was just as much a battleground, it seemed, and Sarah felt herself slipping into her old role out of habit.

She stared at the young blonde in front of her, taking in slowly her cornflower blue eyes and perfectly formed, concealed cheek bones. The stubborn jawline of the Guthrie family was prominent, and Sarah thought she was looking at a younger and female version of Sam. That wasn't true or fair in any other sense but the physical, but Sarah really didn't care. She was still busy thinking about how she could get away before Sam came through back inside for the family's Sunday dinner, and staring at a female Sam was only heightening her urge to run. She was not part of this family, she had already made a fool of herself, and how the hell could she ever break bread with these perfectly formed people? Two children out of six, already following a Dream designed to save the world for the pretty ones.

"Can't, gotta catch the train to New York," she said sourly, and bullied her way past Paige, who moved quickly to avoid collision with the large bag on Sarah's bulky right arm.

"But you gotta get to town first, and without a car it'll take forever. If you wait, Sam can drive you--"

"No! And since when do I need to ride a fucking tractor to get anywhere?" Sarah turned around and spit angry words at the smaller girl, whose only crime was to look enough like her brother to warrant a tirade of backlash anger from Sarah.

"Or maybe I can go on the back of that overfed pet cow? Or maybe Prudie? Course, I'd have to wait until she stopped chewin' on me like a goddamned leech," she spit. Paige's face recoiled, and Sarah remembered the little green child-Morlock whom Frost had hurt that day, to save Generation X from Gene Nation. She also remembered how Sam looked outside, as she pushed him away and resoundly walked away from him. She recalled how Leech and Artie would have nothing to do with her, despite their Morlock heritage, and she told herself she didn't care.

Jesus, Sarah thought as she stared at a face so like Sam's, does this entire family have to know how to drop their faces just so and gain so much pity by their wide blue eyes? The thought angered her, and she didn't understand why. She just needed to get the hell out of that house before Sam came in and started analyzing and asking, prodding and cajoling.

"Thanks but no thanks, pretty one, I can walk," Sarah snarled, and almost immediately regretted her words. She knew she had hurt Paige's feelings, but Paige's face had steeled and her jaw clenched in a manner, again, so like her older brother's.

"Ex-cuse me," she gritted, and turned to continue setting the table.

Only then did Sarah realize the delicious smell of the kitchen. Since becoming an X-man, it had become her favorite dish: fried breaded catfish and hushpuppies. Sam must have tipped Paige off, because she doubted such a large haul of catfish was a coincidence. On the large counter was a huge plate heaped with the fish, and on another was a few pieces of sliced bread. Fried tomatoes and a large salad filled their separate bowls, and her stomach rumbled insistently. After all, hadn't Paige made this for her as well? Surely she could take scraps from the table. She had stolen food from some of the finest restaurants in New York; surely it wasn't guilt she felt when she made her decision. She took enough to make a large fish and fried tomato sandwich, and just as quickly exited the kitchen.

If the girl *had* cooked for her, the least she could do was eat her share, she justified. She left everything else alone, although her mouth watered at the thought of the homemade cornbread hushpuppies and the freshly baking blueberry pies in the black iron oven.


She was nearly sleeping on the last train to New York when a man sat beside her, and she simply scooted closer to the window to make room. Her mind drowsy with fatigue, the only concern which floated to the forefront of her mind was to leave lots of room between her and whoever had sat with her. She had learned that sometimes her bones would touch others despite the Shi'ar image inducer which concealed them, so she kept as large a personal space as possible at all times while out of the Mansion. That, and she hated being around so many normal people, who would undoubtedly kill her if they knew who she was, and what she was. She had never seen so many lucky people until she left the Tunnels, so many thousands of people that just worried about a pimple, or frizzy hair, or bad breath and hygiene on the packed subways and trains. At least they didn't have to worry about crazed bones that liked to find ways to poke into their pretty perfect flesh.

The train had several stops before reaching New York, and Sarah found herself making up stories in her mind for the people she saw around her.

That guy with the red nose beats his wife, she thought viciously, and that woman with the miniskirt fucks her boss, probably over the corporate meeting table. She reminded herself of every evil thing concerning the non-mutant side of humanity that she had ever heard on Sam's picture machine, every guest she could remember on that horrible talk-show, and began applying her thoughts. Until she landed on a woman bouncing a child on her knees.

The kid couldn't have been more than a year old, and she squealed loudly as her mother ended a softly sung rymn with a gentle tickling. Sarah glanced at the other passengers around her carriage, and found most were either asleep or bored. A few gave agitated glances to the mother, hoping in vain that she would silence her child, but the woman was too engrossed at watching her child's absolutely silly joy. She switched lyrics and sang the song about life and a boat, again and again, and her child never seemed to tire of it.

"And if you see a croc-co-dile," she crooned, "don't forget to scream." And with that last part, the kid would scream its tiny brown head off.

That lady likes her child, she thought, and then didn't feel like making more stories in her mind. She stared out the greasy window and didn't see anything until the train finally arrived at Central Station.


The Guthrie family was extremely quiet for a few moments as the prayer for the meal was said solemnly by Ana Guthrie, the smallest of the girls. Then the usual ruckus for food began, with each child fussing over portions and grumbling about the extra helpings of vegetables Sam or Paige would put on their siblings' plates.

Sam raised an eyebrow at Paige for a moment, who was still furious at Marrow and her cruel words. If there was one topic that riled Paige under her skin, it was her farm background. She was proud of her family, the hardships they had endured, and the old farm would always be warmer than any other home she would ever know. Marrow, as usual, had cut to the deepest part of a person's soul, and ripped it open.

She didn't know whether to thank Marrow for reminding her of the very reasons she loved her home, or to rip a new form from under her itchy skin and give her a reason to fear physical appearances. She mused in her head what horrendous forms she could take, and didn't realize Sam had been asking her a few questions until he reached over, tapped her temple with a finger and said loudly, "Hell-o? Are you in there?"

The smaller children giggled and a few decided to do it to each other, and soon the large table was in chaos. The children, aged four through fourteen, inflicted various amounts of irritation upon each other with the impunity of youth, but when food began to be thrown, a cardinal rule of the family had been broken.

Grace Louise Guthrie called the table to order once again, angry. Shouting as she did, Sam's mother began coughing continuously, and both Paige and Sam shot up immediately to tend to her. Her pale blonde hair shimmered in the dining room light as she struggled to regain her breath, and when the fit was over, every one of her children stared at her with mixed expressions.

Sam was concerned as always, and she allowed his brown calloused fingers to gently rub her sore back. He always kept his comments to himself, not wanting to upset her any further.

Paige had run into the kitchen for a moment to get the medicine, and she handed her mother the thick coating syrup with shaking fingers. Her blue eyes were impossibly huge against her pale face, and she could not hide her fear for her mother from herself or the family.

The children glanced at each other and down at their food, each looking incredibly sweet and cuddly in their guilty visages. Grace laughed a bit, softly, and asked that everyone continue eating without worrying themselves over her.

The rest of the meal passed in quiet chatter or near silence.


"I wish your friend had stayed, Sam," Grace said quietly, as her son helped her into the large four-poster bed. Her lungs, once strong and clean, were ridden with phlegm and sometimes blood. Her price for smoking Marlboro Reds for over forty years, but she had to admit that she still missed her cigarettes.

Shaking his head, Sam simply went through the routine of tucking his mother into bed in the exact pattern he had learned from her, when he was a child. He fluffed her pillow first, as he said, "Just when I think I understand her, she comes at me with this... stuff! And I end up feeling like a fool, because I don't know her at all."

She sat on the side of the bed, waiting patiently for him. He helped her scoot closer to the nightstand, and automatically handed her a pale pink Kleenex from the box. She coughed heavily into the tissue, then blew her nose. Sam continued to speak as he automatically and immediately disposed of the used Kleenex, checking first for any blood in the fluids collected there.

"We were talking, and I think I made her mad somehow, but she won't let me in, and I don't know what to do anymore." Satisfied there was no blood tonight, and slightly relieved, he watched her slip into her bed, on the far right side of the mattress. After all these years, she still shared her mattress with her husband, and could not take the whole bed for herself at night. He leaned far over his mother to gather the thick quilt over her chest.

"Just listen to her, and she'll let you know what she wants," Grace said quietly. "You have to understand she isn't going to be like any of the other girls you've ever known. Not even Tabitha, and that girl had a lot of pain inside too." She stopped to catch her breath, and reached over to take her son's hand.

"She's on an edge, and she's looking to resolve it somehow," she said earnestly, trying to reach through his mind. "Don't be her crutch, and don't be her savior. Just be her friend, because that's what she needs more than anything, son."

He looked down at her then, noting again just how beautiful his mother was. Thin, pale curls shone brightly in the lamplight, and he leaned over and placed his palm to check the temperature of her forehead one last time for the evening.

He kissed the crown of her head, the way she had done every night when he was a child, and nodded once. "So no romance?" he teased her gently.

His mother chuckled, and smiled. "Not unless you think you're big enough for it," she replied saucily, a big grin splitting her face. The familiar gap between her front teeth made him smile, and he felt as though their roles weren't entirely reversed.

"Now go on, because Paige is gonna wanna talk to you tonight too." She shifted in the bed a bit, and motioned for him to turn off the lamp.

He turned it off, and quietly left his mother alone in the darkness.


When Sarah arrived at the mansion near the mid-morning of the next day, the house was bustling with activity. Generation X had come to stay for a while, which had allowed for Paige to run home and spend time with her family. She wove her way through the lesser used corridors of the house, wanting to avoid as many of the GenX'ers as possible, especially the blonde mind witch.

She finally reached the basement levels, blessedly cool and quiet, and she sighed. This was the only part of the house that felt like home; the unoppressive damp and moldy qualities of her cellar-like room would never be the Tunnels, but it was close enough to make her relax a bit.

She walked into her room, and quickly dumped her bag onto the bare concrete floor. She kicked the door shut, then leaned over and quickly unlaced her tight combat boots. Those were flung near the bag as well, and she allowed her toes to stretch revel in the cool, if dusty, concrete beneath her. A sigh escaped her lips, and she fumbled around her pockets for the box of matches she kept around for her cigarettes. Upon lighting a match, she made a march around her room.

Starting from the right of the doorframe, she lit her candles. Every few feet or so, a large beeswax candle would be found and lighted, and with each candle, Sarah felt comforted. She reached the padded futon mattress Xavier had given her when she demanded that the basement cellar become her room, and she quickly found her beloved blanket among the bed linens. Taking a deep breath of its scent, she felt her heart crack a little.

Home. It was impossible to understand how she missed what she defined to be 'home', but in her mind, she wondered if who she might have been had she grown up like Sam, or Paige. She wondered what the soft touch of a parent's love would've felt like, and then little mundane things like mutually stealing clothes from each other or covering for little misdemeanors like sneaking out. She sighed, and let her mind wander within the safety of her candles.

It was exhausting, but necessary. As her mind wandered, she strength returned. She would never know these values of a prettypretty Upworlder's home, but she had still survived. She had learned how to survive early, and that gave her an edge. She would walk the edge for the rest of her life, but she would never be alone. The memories, from the hunger to the surprising laughter, the fear and loneliness, to the genuine friendship of the Morlocks.... these were her companions. She swayed for a few minutes, clinging to the blanket in her arms, closing her eyes and remembering her own family and the unconditional love they had given each other. She said her silent prayers, asking for forgiveness, and asking that they think of her every now and again as she still prowled their world.


She was napping when she heard a knock on her door. Sleep filled eyes were instantly alert, and although she paused to yawn a moment and light the industrial-sized candle by her mattress. She managed to give a decently gruff call, "Whatcha want?"

"It's me," was the reply, and Sarah felt a burst of adrenaline. It was Sam.

"It's open."

He gently opened the door and peered in, and in his bashfulness, it was apparent that he was expecting something far more hostile or provocative behind the door marked with angry words. He was greeted with a sleepy Marrow who had sat up in her futon mattress, her hair in messy clumps around her head, a few bones poking out in just as various directions around her body. He scooted in, and shut the door firmly.

"We need to talk," he began, and she just looked at him. She had said all she wanted to say the day before, and she was too tired to rehash it.

"I'm sorry," he said, "if I somehow offended you to make you run off like that."

She felt shame at his words, realizing his apology was not only unnecessary, but sincere nonetheless. He was such a humble young man, and it in turn humbled her, if only for a few moments. She blushed, partially in shame and partially in pleasure.

"Yeah, I'm sorry too," she interrupted, "about Paige and her dinner and whatever."

"So the fish was to your satisfaction?" he teased lightly, and she flashed an impetuous grin.

"Close enough to Rogue's version," she replied. "I guess it's something all Southern floozies are taught?" Her small smile teased him back, and he snorted lightly in the softly lit darkness.

She looked down for a moment, and he asked if he could sit for a moment. She shrugged concomitantly, but scooted over to make room on her mattress. As he sat down, the light cast uneven shadows beyond her bed and in a far corner of the room, and his eyes narrowed as he tried to discern what lay in that corner.

Before she could stop him, and to be honest, she wasn't sure if she wanted to stop him, he had made his way over to the polished and heavily carved skeleton. She carefully slid behind him, not wanting to see his face but desperately craving his opinion on her work. Perhaps, all along, this was why she had created the bones. It wasn't a childish plea for attention or a wounded victim's cry for help; it was somewhere in between, the single gray space in her world of simple black and whites.

Sam picked up one of the bones, and in the back of his mind, the anatomy class Beast had given the New Mutants classified the oddly shaped bone as a left clavicle. Light and delicate, it was so narrow it defied any intense carvings. Still, he could make out the tracings of a map of sorts on its side, and Marrow's voice jolted him from his unprocessing mind.

"It was the way we would go to get medicine," she said quietly. "Me, Gravesend and Sweetbreath. We had to have Gravesend because he was my best friend, and could smell out anything else valuable along the way, and the sewers along here," she reached over to place an index on a part of the bonemap, "smelled so badly we couldn't go without Sweetbreath."

"Probably a gas leak," he replied absently, and placed the clavicle where he found it. He picked up part of a left hand, the third metatarsal. This bone was thicker and much sturdier than the clavicle, and it had eyes all around the south end. The rest of the bone was shaped to represent a candle, and he finally understood all those shopping trips for candles even when he knew she hadn't completely exhausted her last supply. He shifted to ask her a direct question.

"Do the candles represent them?" he asked. She nodded once.

"Do you miss them?" was his second question. She nodded again, and a small tear plopped onto her messy shirt.

"I miss my father," was the last statement. She then closed the gap between them. She had to stop the words, because if she didn't, she thought she was going to break apart inside. She wasn't ready to feel the sorrow overwhelm her. She sought to cover it as she pulled him into her bed, covering her. She had never needed touch as she needed it right now, in a desperate grab for normalcy. This man was not touching her because he was using her; he was holding her and running hands through her greasy hair because she demanded it. She held him because her heart demanded that she should, and the honesty of their movements shocked her. Was this what he had planned when he came to speak with her?

As he kissed her cheeks, tasting the tears she would not admit, he felt a strange emotion fill him. He was so deeply content, and as her hands sifted through to hold his mouth against her lips, he felt a spring of joy fill him. He could trust her, he knew. She would maybe learn to trust him, someday, and together, they would bring her skeleton to the light of day. He knew he would learn to see her confidence echo far above in the upworld, the beauty of the emotions she showed to him right now. His lips found the sweet pulse point below her jaw line, and he was finally able to return her kiss.

He did not understand why it was happening like this, in the most unintentional way. He had genuinely expected a fight when he came in, but seeing her rumpled and lying so close to the metaphor of her dead family, he had felt his heart cave. How many times had he felt his Grady Guthrie's hand guiding him when he had helped his mother clean the house, or changed the diapers of his youngest brother, born mere months after his father's untimely death. How many times had he wanted to leave his bed unmade, only to hear the soft baritone of his father remind him that his mother didn't have the strength to make up every bed in the house including his own. How many days had he wondered if his father would be proud of him now, despite the wrinkled bed he left when emergencies pulled him from his sleep, and the declining family farm he had discarded arguably in favor of the rest of the earth.

He pulled away from her, needing to tell her something. She looked expectantly at him, waiting patiently for the explanation he was giving for stopping the caresses they had both wanted for a while. Her hands curled into his chest, stealing up for moments to touch his jaw or chin.

"When he died, he was in the middle of carving a headboard for him and my Mama's bed," he said as he smoothed the scarred lines on her forehead and cheeks. He couldn't believe the casual and simple tone of his voice.

"I had to finish it, and you can tell right where he left off and I started. I wasn't as good a carpenter as him."

He looked at her then, trying to communicate the rest of his sorrow without the words, and she nodded once fiercely. She knew grief, and she knew the odd places it would take a person's heart. It took her into a realm of darkness within her heart, but for Sam, it had led him to the coal mines of Kentucky. She kissed his beautiful mouth again, but not because she wanted to stop the words. It was her way of urging him to continue speaking.

"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said quietly, as he rested his forehead against hers. He felt her pull away, and dared to opened his eyes.


"Because I know you just want a friend, and I feel like I'm going to disappoint you."

Her brow furrowed for a moment, and he lost track of what he was saying because the scarred patterns of her skin had moved so precisely as to form the cracks of her frown, and he was fascinated. It was beautiful. She struggled for the precise words she needed.

"I don't want a friend," she said wretchedly, "I just want you."

He kissed her forehead, and watched again in fascination as the cracks eventually smoothed and laid down again.

"We'll see," he replied. He gathered the prickly Morlock into his arms, ignoring as a bone or two would press against his soft flesh, smiling as Sarah didn't think once to apologize for her irrepressible mutancy in such close quarters.

They spent the rest of the candle holding each other and talking, sometimes nuzzling and other times comforting each other, beneath the beloved Blanket and ceiling blackened by soot. The cellar grew warm as they grew more confident in their stories, each aware of the small bond between them healing and pulsing. She felt safe, nurtured, like she was floating in a case of warm fluids. She was bone, wrapped in his flesh; he was enveloping, leaning upon the strength she had slipped in through him. Each were strong alone, in their own genuine ways, but each spent their candle time strengthening the other, an exercise neither had ever before tried, in an evening of imperfect honesty but gentle, genuine friendship. ---

tbc ?

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