Man! challenge in a can Man!





Root Beer Reverie
Victoria P.

Scott stands at the soda machine, money in hand, shoulders slumped.

What should be the best day of his life has turned into one long nightmare. Thirty-six hours of the worst hell he's ever faced, including the months he spent with his eyes taped shut in fear, and the minutes he spent falling from a burning plane with a parachute that didn't open.

They sent him out of the operating room once it was clear that there would be no baby born -- no living one, anyway -- and that they might lose the mother as well.

He attempts to swallow his tears as he tries to decide, diet or regular, soda or juice. So many choices. He can't even pick out a can of soda without weighing all his options.

God, years of putting off pregnancy, years of planning for the perfect time, months of decisions -- bassinets, teddy bear borders, little onesies covered in duck appliqués -- all for nothing.

He grieves now for the lost life, the baby that will never open his eyes, never take a breath, never raise his head at the sound of his father's voice.

He can't even begin to think of what will happen if he loses Jean, too.

He inserts his money into the vending machine and presses a button.

Nothing comes out.

He presses a little harder, vision blurred from the tears and the way they fog his glasses. Still nothing.

He begins pounding on the machine, which makes a hollow sound, mocking him. He's lost his son, and possibly his wife. He will not lose his dollar, too.

He hits it over and over, not even feeling it when his knuckles split, the red of his blood mingling with the red Coke sign, indistinguishable to him from everything else. He can see colors -- shades, really, not hues -- but everything is red and black now.

A large hand on his shoulder brings him back to reality.

He blinks away the tears and lets Logan's presence comfort him. Ororo is at his other side suddenly, clutching his hand as the doctor comes out -- pale blue scrubs stained with blood, so much blood everywhere.

He chokes back a sob, steeling himself for the worst.

The doctor smiles sadly, tiredly.

"Your wife is in recovery, Scott. She lost a lot of blood, but she'll be fine."

He goes limp with relief, only the hard wall of Logan's chest holding him up as he lets the tears flow freely now.

He hears Ororo crying next to him, feels the dampness of Logan's tears in his hair and on his ears as the other man makes no effort to hide his sorrow and relief.

Scott straightens after a long moment, and Ororo hands him the can of root beer that rests in the output tray of the vending machine.

The doctor leads him to his wife and he clutches the can of soda, its cool, metal surface keeping him grounded to the reality that his world has not ended.

Scott Summers. Can of soda. Hollow.

Man! challenge in a can Man!