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The Cougar

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Summary: Follow Xander as he goes from Sunnydale to Canada where he meets a certain runaway. Can Rogue help him keep his humanity or will he share his father's fate? In a world filled with people who hate and fear him, Xander must decide what he will become.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Xander-CenteredTheLaughingMan + 1 otherFR18545,4741914535,54614 May 0930 Nov 10No

Chapter Two by BrotherBludgeon

Disclaimer: I don't own BTVS, X-Men, or Marvel Comics. They belong to their proper owner, not me. I am not making any money off of this, just amusement.

****



"That sure beats the hell out of my old school," I said to Rogue as I looked at the school, more like mansion, from the window of the cockpit. On the flight here, I had discovered something about myself that I never knew. I hated flying, no, I *loathed* flying. Rogue on the other hand had seemed to enjoy it considerably. Personally, I'm just glad that I didn't throw up during the trip as that would have been embarrassing. Rogue nodded in agreement next to me, her mouth open in shock that this was the school that Storm and Cyclops had bragged about. It certainly seemed to live up to all the hype about it from the outside looking in.

"I'd imagine so. The mansion has been in Professor Xavier's family for many generations before he decided to turn it into a school for other mutants like himself," Storm said proudly as she guided the plane over the ball court which opened up into some kind of hanger. It was about an hour until sunrise and the darkness of night was at its peak, so there were no worries about being seen. "He works here as both the headmaster and as a teacher to the children."

"He was the one who found us and taught us how to control our powers. In the few cases where he couldn't help us, he designed things to help us control them instead," Cyclops told us, touching his visor in example. I guess that Xavier made it for him to block those laser beam things that came from his eyes. "After he taught us, a few of his students like Storm and me stayed behind to help teach others. That’s the main purpose of the school. The second purpose is acting as a first line of defense to prevent people, human or mutant, from starting a war. We also take side missions to save mutants in trouble."

"Like us," Rogue said quietly, earning a smile from both Storm and Cyclops as she did so. I glanced back Logan who was still unconscious and unresponsive. Dad must have gave him one hell of a hit if his healing factor, which was obviously much more developed than my own, didn't have him up and running. It made me wonder, if Dad could do this to someone with much more experience and a highly developed healing factor, then how would I fair against him?

"Yes, like you three," Storm agreed, smiling at Rogue. I am beginning to wonder if Storm is straight, because she was smiling at Rogue way too much to be normal. That thought sent me to a very happy place concerning Rogue, Storm, a nice cave in Canadian wilderness, with them wearing nothing but a bear skin blanket. Ooh, nice thought. A sudden drop brought me back to reality and I grabbed the seat in front of me, shredding the material with my claws which had extended in reflex to my shock. I turned a glare at Storm, who was piloting, only to find her glaring at me in return as she unstrapped herself. "I told you to get back into your seat."

I looked back at my seat and saw Rogue sitting in her seat which was right next to mine, smiling at me innocently. I growled lowly and marched toward the exit ramp, angry and a bit embarrassed that I had been so deep in thought as to not notice someone speaking to me. Being unaware of your surroundings like that spelled death in big red letters in Sunnydale and I should have known better. Being around these BDSM rejects was making me soft. As I neared the bottom of the ramp, I heard Cyclops call out to me. "I hope you know that you're going to be paying for that."

I turned around and marched right back into the plane, determined to kick Cyclops' ass for the mocking comment. Cyclops saw me coming and stood up, his hand going to his visor as I snarled at him. Rogue appeared in front of him suddenly and grabbed my arm, staring into my eyes and shaking her head no. I stopped, noticing Storm doing the same thing to Cyclops as Rogue was to me. I was thinking about pushing Rogue to side, gently of course, and beating the pretty boy until he wasn't so good looking when a voice in my head spoke up. "I would appreciate it if you didn't attack one of my teachers, Mr. Harris."

I looked around in confusion, searching for the owner of the distinguished voice that reminded me freakishly of Captain Picard from Star Trek, but there was no one else in the hanger other than Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, and me. I couldn't smell anyone else currently in the room, but this was a school for mutants so maybe this guy could hide his scent or something. Either way, it was very confusing and I don't like being confused or being made a fool of. "My name is Cougar, come out where I can see you!"

"I'm afraid that I'm not in the hanger at this moment. My Name is Charles Xavier and I would like to speak to you as soon as possible. Storm will show the both of you to my office." As the voice spoke, I saw Rogue looking at me with a worried expression, no doubt worried that she would be turned away from this school. A worry that I silently shared.



****



"I'm well aware of your....appetites, Mr. Harris," Professor Charles Xavier told me bluntly after Storm and Cyclops had left to get ready for their classes while Rogue went to check out her new room and roommate. This guy Xavier was kind of freaking me out to be honest. The most powerful telepath in the world, a man who could turn my brain to sludge as easily as he could scratch his nose if he wanted to. It's very intimidating, even to me. "I also understand that as a very instinctual individual that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to resist your baser impulses and the fact that you try not to harm humans and mutants with your lust is the only reason that you are still inside of my school. It is for this reason that I will allow you to leave and continue your habits upon the undead population off of school grounds.”

My eyebrows shot up into my bangs. The old man knew all my dirty little secrets, I expected that much from the most powerful psychic in the world, but vampires? Demons? Wasn’t I deep in the heart of Mutantland here? I’d seen the news reports about 'the Mutant Problem' while in the bars and truck stops along the way to Canada. It was all about genomes, DNA, and all that other science junk. Now I was hearing that this so called 'Professor' actually believed in magic? Not something that comforted me or that I was expecting. It was kind of hard to believe.

“Belief in the supernatural does not take the place of belief in the scientific.” The chair-bound man continued, answering the question I’d only asked in my own head. “In my younger days, I traveled with a close friend and fellow mutant to seek out others of our kind and do whatever we could to help them. Naturally, we investigated any accounts of people exhibiting super-human abilities. The most common false leads were vampires, with demons and human practitioners of magic popping up every so often. Through their memories, I learned the truths that your Miss Summers and Mr. Giles revealed to you. I also learned that, human as they may appear to be, the undead would show you no mercy, and so deserve none from you. Rest assured that if you lose control around any of the other students or the staff, not only will I personally ensure that you are imprisoned, but you will be spending your incarceration equipped the mental capacity of a toddler. Are we clear?"

"Crystal, but my name isn't Harris. Not anymore," I said, gritting my teeth to fight the urge to rip this man's throat out. I didn't like the fact that he was asserting his dominance over me like this, but I understood that he did this as warning only. Still, he was only asking that I continue doing what I’d been doing already, nothing more, while sweetening the demand with room and board. "It's Cougar now."

"Very well, Mr. Cougar," Xavier said, the aura of silent danger falling away to a much more genial manner. He picked up a piece of paper and handed to me. I glanced down at it, seeing that it was a class schedule and read it quickly. "Classes start in two hours, so I suggest that you get cleaned up a bit. If you wish to keep any of your clothing then put it on the bed and I'll have someone come to wash it, you'll find that the closet is full of new clothing for you to use. Wash day is on Wednesday and a map of the school is in your room. For safety reasons, you'll have the room to yourself."

I nodded silently at him and left to find my room, checking the schedule Xavier had given me and finding directions written on it. It's amazing how fast my world has gone from just me and Rogue living out in the wilderness to us being in a fancy school, but I was still very edgy. It seemed far too good to be true. Warm clothes, food, and a room with a bed to sleep on, this may seem like simple stuff to most people, but to me it was like heaven and probably as close to paradise as I'll ever get in this lifetime or the next. Sleeping in caves and trees was nice and all, however that was something I'd gotten used to, not something that I would prefer to a nice, warm bed.

Naturally everything has its price, you have to sacrifice something to get something else. It was the law of nature that nothing comes without a price and, the better something was, the more you'd have to give up. A bed, clean clothes, a bath, and safety. For that I am going to have to sacrifice my freedom, something I deeply prize, and have to sit in school. School, my mortal enemy and deadliest foe. Sitting in a desk on a beautiful day, surrounded by jerks and teachers, while doing paperwork. Just the thought made a shudder run down my spine. Few things filled me with dread more than school, my father ran close second when compared to the unholy institution.

My room was big, more than enough to fit two people. Sometimes it pays not to play well with others. It did require a few touches of my own, such as the claw marks on the front to let everybody know that this was my room. The bathroom looked new, probably a recent addition. Made sense to me. You try putting fifty teenagers with superpowers in the same house and ask them to share four bathrooms. First time that Storm chick has to wait to wash her hair, suddenly we’re up to our asses in tornado warnings and touchdowns. God forbid if it's that time of the month, it'll be time for Noah to pair 'em up one more time.

The hot bath that I’d been waiting for left me with mixed feelings. Sure I’d forgotten what it felt like to be this warm, not to mention I washed about a pound of highway dust from places that hadn’t seen soap and water for months, but I’d lost a lot of my own masculine scent in the process. It’s hard to feel like a badass when they stock up your shower with lilac body wash, so I promised myself that I’d work up a good sweat once I escaped from the hell that is education. Of course, the idea of working up a sweat only made me think that much harder about how I was gonna get Rogue to go along with keeping our old sleeping arrangements. After sleeping with her next to me for so long, it would feel bizarre without her there. There was also the added benefit of being in the perfect situation to get her used to me, and only me, being around for comfort.

I was reaching for my boxers, the only article of clothing that I am planning to keep besides my dad’s old coat, when I caught a distinctly female scent coming from the crack under the door to my room. My hopes of Rogue coming by to invite me to cut class were dashed when more of the smell came through, unfamiliar and just a little bit more mature. The heady smell of blooming lilies nearly overpowered the cold, clinical smell of disinfectants that made my nose wrinkle sightly. I didn't like doctors, needles, hospitals, or the possibility of something going inside of an exit only hole.

“Um… Cougar?” I heard the woman's pleasant voice call through the door after she’d knocked. Now, I'm not a guy who enjoys company very much, but the fact that this woman smelled attractive and carried a slight scent of Cyclops made me reconsider. If only to piss of the laser eyed pretty boy. “I’m Dr. Jean Grey. I was told that you hurt your shoulder when you were fighting Sabretooth, so I decided to come to make sure there wasn’t any residual damage. May I come in?”

Sabretooth? Heh, I guess me and my old man have something in common, we both chose our real names after big cat's. Hey, wait a se, this women wanted to come in. I thought about it for about five seconds before I put on a fang-filled grin and answered back. “Door’s open!”

“Thanks I… Oh!” The door opened and the good doctor got about two steps in before she spun back to face the wall with a squeak that made my predatory instincts go wild with pleasure. Apparently, she wasn't accustomed to seeing a real man half naked. I guess that means that one eye wasn't measuring up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were…”

“Sorry for what, Doc?” I asked, laughing my ass off on the inside. There I was, standing in the middle of my room wearing nothing but a towel that was hanging dangerously low on my hips. A lot of guys my age are self conscious about their bodies, but not me. I’m not that guy anymore, the one that had nightmares about going to class in his underwear. Maybe it’s ‘cause of all that working out I did that turned me into a walking slab of muscle or maybe, deep down, I’m just an animal. “You asked if you could come in, and I said you could. Besides, you came up here to check me out, right? I figure clothes would just get in the way. That is, unless you're shy, Doc?”

To her credit, she recovered quickly after that first surprise. One deep breath and she turned back to face me, looking completely professional. She was making an effort to look like she couldn’t care less about what she was seeing, but nothing can fool the nose, or, at least she can't. I grinned a little wider when I smelled that quick burst of sweet pheromones as she looked. It was nowhere near as much as Rogue let off when I used to go shirtless, something I did to keep my coat and shirts dry when I went fishing in the rivers, but it was a welcome boost to my ego. It helped that she was gorgeous, her was hair a little darker red than Willow's, and she had a face that’d be at home on a supermodel. Her body, from what little I could see of it under the white lab coat she was wearing, was a little on the slim side but still some of the tastiest eye candy I’d seen since I left California, next to my Rogue of course.

“It was your right shoulder, wasn’t it?” Dr. Grey asked me, all business. I nodded, watching semi-warily as she marched right up to me, not taking her eyes off my upper arm. She ran a mind-blowingly soft hand from the top of my bicep to my collarbone, then down to my pec and back up again as she asked if I was 'feeling tender'. I was feeling something, alright. A woman with some heat in her blood was touching me and, after months of nothing but vampires, I’d completely forgotten how good it felt. I had to bite back a growl when she pulled her hand away and told me she wanted to check my range of motion. Again, I humored her and moved my arm every which way she wanted me to.

“So…” I said, now rolling my shoulder in slow circles. “You don’t look like any school nurse I ever saw before, even for a fancy school like this one. Makes me think that you’re one of those mutant kiddies that grew up here and decided to stick around, which means you got powers, right?”

“You’re right, I did first come here as a student,” she admitted, still focused on the way the muscles tensed and relaxed under my skin. “As for my powers…” The lady Doc looked to the left and seemed to concentrate. I did a double take when I saw the boot I’d thrown in the corner rise up into the air with nothing touching it. “Telekinesis,” Jean continued. “I can move things with my mind. I also have some telepathic abilities, but nowhere near what the Professor’s capable of. That’s actually part of why I came to see you. I was on my way to see if I could do anything for your friend’s injuries when Professor Xavier called me to -”

“What do you mean injuries?” I growled, cutting her off, worry filling my heart as I envisioned Rogue in pain. I grabbed Doctor Grey by the shoulders and shook her roughly. “She was fine last time I saw her, what happened? Is she okay!?”

I was about to charge out of the room, towel be damned, and follow my nose until I found her, but Dr. Grey’s hand on my arm stopped me. My claws started to extend through my fingertips and I glared at the hand keeping me from my girl. I was ready to slash out and ruin her pretty face when she spoke up again.

“I didn’t mean Marie.” The correction calmed me down, even if that name still pissed me off. Marie was a human's name, the name for a girl with loving parents, a suburban house, and a college fund, not my Rogue. My Rogue was an untouchable beauty who didn't bend or brake for anybody, yet with sweetness and innocence that amazed me. As unreachable as the moon, but twice as beautiful and mysterious. “She’s fine, I checked her over after she left the Professor’s office. I'm sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. You obviously care a lot about her.”

“She’s just so…” I searched for the right word to describe my Rogue, and the reason why I needed to be with her. “Rouge’s soft. Sweet, you know… innocent. She thinks she knows ugly ‘cause she’s a mutant, but she’s never seen it and as long as I’m around, she never will.”

Grey looked at me then, like I was one of those trippy Magic Eye posters and there was a picture that’d show up if she stared long enough. Hot as she was, I felt uncomfortably like I was under a microscope and I didn’t like it. I was about to make a crude comment about it when she seemed to decide something. “The Professor told me I shouldn’t try to go through your memories. He said I wouldn’t like what I saw if I did, that your mutation affected your mind and made you do things. When I asked why he let you into the school, he said you had it under control now. It’s because of her, isn’t it?”

A part of me wanted to scratch that smile right off her face, her having the gall to talk to me like she knew a damn thing about me. But I had to ignore that part because, even if I could get away with it before I got blasted by her crazy brain powers, there’s no way I’d ever get to see Rogue again. Which, damn it all, meant I’d just proved that she was right but she didn’t have to be so smug about it. Controlled, huh? Tamed. Well, she'd see just how tame I am if Rogue disappeared or got hurt. I was beginning to fantasize about pulling Doc Grey's perfect teeth out one by one when she spoke again. “Well, I’m satisfied that your shoulder’s back where it’s supposed to be, and you’re obviously not in pain. I think you’re fine to go to class.”

“Whoa, hang on a second.” I said frowning and raising a hand to get her attention as what she said hit me. “You’re saying I could’ve milked this and got out of going to my first day of school? What will it take for you to dislocate it again?”

That got a laugh out of her, but I was deadly serious. Pain will pass, wounds will heal, but school would always suck worse than either of them. She went to the door, then turned back to me when she put her hand on the doorknob. “As I was saying before, I’m going down to see if I can help your friend. I can let you and Marie know when he’s awake and you can visit him after class.”

“Oh, ‘him.’” I rolled my eyes a little when she said it. Logan and me were hardly friends, hell we may just rip each other apart the next time we see one another. It's like this: I'm an Alpha, he is an Alpha, two Alphas can not coexist very peacefully without a compromise being made. A compromise that we haven't had yet. Suddenly, an evil thought entered my head. “‘Him’ isn’t my friend. Really, we’re more like family.”

“Really? You’re that close?” Dr. Grey asked, surprised. I didn't know why she was surprised, but as long as she wasn't being smug again then I was happy, well happy is such a strong word to use. It's more like...not being pissed off. “How long have you known each other?”

“Five, maybe six hours. I can’t really be sure, I don’t know how many time zones we crossed getting here.” It was nice putting her back off balance again. “I didn’t say we were close. I said we were family. He smells like me, enough that we gotta be related. Thought he might be my father at first. Now I think he’s a cousin, an uncle, maybe even my long lost big brother.”

“How do you know he’s not your father?” she asked, curious if a little skeptical at my methods.

“Simple,” I answered, smiling my big and disturbingly toothy smile. The one I normally used when playing with my prey, particularly when they realized that they aren't the big bad, I am. I wasn't about to tell her or anybody else about my dear old dad. Xavier undoubtedly knew but he hadn't told anyone for some reason. It was enough for me to decide against sharing my life's secrets with these idealistic fools, even if I like the way the whole, bloody truth makes ‘em squirm. I know better ways to make a lady squirm, anyhow. “His scent isn't similar enough to my own for that. Parents smell like copy of their children, minus some subtle differences, and his smell just ain't close enough."



** Jean Grey's P.O.V.**


I've always been curious. As far back as I can remember, I have always loved a good mystery. It didn't matter if it was a book, a movie, scientific equation, or a person. If they caught my attention then I was going to find out everything that I possibly could about said mystery. This new student, Cougar, was very mysterious to me. No name other than his mutant handle that he would tell anyone. Not even that pretty girl Rogue knew his real name despite having traveled with him for months, and then the Professor warns me against ever going into his mind. It was all very mysterious and, like I've said, I love a good mystery.

It's always good to start a mystery by reviewing everything that you currently know. Cougar was handsome in a feral way similar to the man down in the lab, but different in that while the man downstairs had a dangerous edge about him, this one just radiated barely restrained violence almost like he was constantly stopping himself from killing someone. I was used to the lust in men's eyes when they looked at me, but this was the first time that it's made me nervous. There was more in Cougar's eyes than simple lust, there was an urge to completely dominate all life around him hidden in his hateful gaze.

No matter how much I didn't want to admit it, I was attracted to the way he prowled around the room, keen eyes watching everything around him, always aware of what was happening. There was something more in my appreciation than just his body, though his body was very well proportioned, it was the way that he acted purely on carnal passion and primal instinct in everything that he did that was the reason. That freedom to do whatever he wanted spoke to something dark inside of me that wanted to be like him. No Mutant Registration Act, no Hippocratic Oath, no duty to the rest of my race, just me and what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. It was wrong, yes, but did I want to do it? You better believe it.

Another piece to this puzzle was Scott. Cougar frightened him. Not in the way of being wary of the new student, but in a primal terror. Scott was terrified of Cougar for some reason. He tried to pretend that he wasn't frightened of the feral mutant, but I knew better. When I tried to find out what it was about Cougar that scared him so bad, Scott would just clam up and refuse to say anything, but his mind couldn't help dwelling on the reason behind his fear and I would see brief flashes occasionally. A young Scott running down a school hall, pure terror griping his heart, a deep feral snarl coming from behind him, warning him that his hunter was getting closer, clawed hands just barely missing him.

That was all that I could get from Scott's mind and it made me feel guilty about my own curiosity. I knew that something traumatic had happened to Scott before I met him, something that had made him wake up screaming bloody murder every now and then. My curiosity was not the only thing I felt guilty about, another was my fascination with Cougar despite having only just met him. A small obsession, but one that could get out of hand if I wasn't careful. He called to the deepest and darkest parts of me, the parts where my depraved sexual fantasies went when I pushed them from my mind, where I put all my hate and rage at the world, a dark place that I tried to pretend didn't exist.

It would be for the best if I stayed away from Cougar. Something just wasn't right about him and he called to the things that aren't right in me, the things that are better left alone. He was bad for the woman, but the animal in me wanted him, it screamed for him, for someone that could understand the animalistic urges, the passion. Cougar was an animal and somehow that scared me more than Magneto ever could because, deep down, I wanted to be him.



**Xander’s P.O.V.**



I stalked down the wide hallways, trying to deal with the itch on my chest without scratching up my brand new shirt. Sure enough, there’d been a closet stuffed with exactly the kinds of clothes I’d have picked out for myself. Thick button-down shirts, dark greens and browns with some black ones mixed in. The pants were mostly black khaki or denim, apart from a few pairs of blue jeans and a couple pairs of army forest camo prints. Variations on a theme: follow me into the woods at night, you don’t see me before I want you to. Plus, I’d be warm. California boy that I am, I used to take warmth for granted. Never gonna make that mistake again.

The map of the place was back in my room. I didn’t need it. Instead, I just walked around ‘til I caught Rouge’s scent. Couldn’t care less what was on my “schedule,” her classes were my classes. Obviously, my first priority was to get her a lot more comfortable with the idea of ditching. After following my nose for about five minutes and walking half the length of a damn football field, I finally found her. Looking through the glass in the doors, I saw the chalkboard and the desks that identified the room as the last place I wanted to be.

She was alone, and she seemed to be a little preoccupied with gawking at her surroundings. Hard to blame her, it was pretty impressive when you got past the school parts. Sure, it was no sunrise over the Canadian Rockies, but it had its good points. The room itself was huge, bigger than the whole Library back in Sunnyhell, with this high, domed roof and a ton of skylights to let in the sun, made you feel like you were in a church. Not that I ever spent a lot of time in churches outside of stocking up on holy water. She was so caught up in what she was looking at, I decided I’d have some fun.

To look at me, all big and bulky wearing heavy combat boots, you don’t typically think “stealth.” You’d be surprised, I didn’t name myself “Cougar” for nothing. Silent as a cat creeping up on a mouse, I pushed open the door and walked in, stopping less than a foot away. Her scent was overpowering now, even after she’d clearly taken a bath. I checked to make sure she was fully decked out, gloves and all. They’d set her up with a black hooded sweatshirt and a red scarf that probably itched worse than any of the stuff I had on. Not that I didn’t appreciate the extra coverage. Rouge and I had come to an understanding out in the wilderness, that I could touch her wherever she was covered. And I had. Frequently. I never let it get out of hand, ‘cause that’s when the claws would come out, but she got used to having me touch her through her clothes. I even got the feeling she was grateful for it most of the time, even for that little bit of contact. I doubted that she’d appreciate this.

“Gotcha!” I snarled and grabbed her around the waist, making her squeal out like a scared little bunny. God, I loved that. The tension in her body relaxed when she craned her neck to see that it was me, just like it always did. Weakly, she slapped at my hands to “punish” me for spooking her, but she didn’t try to get loose. Just leaned back into me as we both listened to her heartbeat slowing back down. “Look at you, bright an early for your first day of school. Did you bring a shiny apple for the teacher?”

“You’re here too,” she muttered, offended that I’d called her a teacher’s pet. I laughed at that, leaving it unsaid that I was only there because she was. She knew I’d follow her into hell if I had to. I didn’t have to say it out loud, I lived it. “I just didn’t want to get in trouble for being late. We could have a good thing here, Cougar. We can’t let anything screw it up for us.”

Not to sound like a big pussy or anything, but it felt kinda good to hear her say “we” and “us” like that. Almost made me believe that, if I had to leave, she might actually go with me. Almost. “Fine, fine… I can take a hint. They don’t mess with me, I won’t mess ‘em up. Just do me a favor and tone down the Li’l Orphan Annie routine a bit, okay? I’m serious, you break into song, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

“I’m not that bad!” Singing’s been a sore spot between us for awhile, and she turned in my arms to glare. Can’t blame me for being a music critic, my ears are just as sensitive as my nose. After a second she quit with the dirty looks, but the smile she put on was worse. She made a big deal of leaning into my chest and sniffing. “Mmm… you smell nice, today. Just like my grandma’s flower garden.”

Before I could do more than bare my teeth and growl a little, Rogue pulled away and blushed like crazy. Standing in the doorway was one of our good Samaritans, specifically the one that didn’t need the sci-fi headgear. Storm looked different out of the black leather fetish getup, more normal provided you ignored the hair. She had on this light gray housecoat thing that was open to show off this tight, white cleavage-baring shirt. Made me wonder if she realized she was in a school filled with hormonal teenage boys… plus one animal in human skin, well two if you counted my metalheaded relative.

“Good morning! I see you’re both eager to get started.” She was cheerful, too cheerful for how early it was. There was a bundle of papers in her arms, and it looked like there was more supplies in the satchel hanging from her shoulder. Either she was the oldest student here, or… “I’ll be teaching you World History for the next few months, as well as a few other things.”

“Are all the adults we’ve met here teachers?” Rogue asked.

“When we agreed to stay behind, we were all full accredited to teach,” she explained, making me wonder exactly how much the old man had to do with making that happen. See, I bet I could walk right into Harvard and walk back out with a PhD if I had a psychic puppet master to back me up. “You’ll probably be taught by each of us at some point, even the Professor. It is a privilege to learn from a man of his experience.”

God, I thought, could she be any more of a groupie? I shuddered to think about what probably went on when that bald bastard had feeling from the waist down and she was the “innocent” schoolgirl. No, much better to go back to fantasizing about her and my Rogue under the bear skin blanket… maybe add that redhead Dr. Grey for some extra spice.

“Why don’t you find a seat and get ready for class to begin, Marie?” she continued, and I swear she stressed the “Marie” just to piss me off. My girl nodded and I was about to follow her when our new teacher put a hand on my shoulder spoke again. “Actually, I thought you and I could talk a bit before things got started. In private.”

I don’t think anybody has to think too hard about where my mind went after that. I let her lead me behind the freestanding chalkboard before I finally said anything. “Sure this is private enough for you, Storm? Walls are pretty thin.” I tapped the blackboard next to us for emphasis.

“This is part of what I wanted to speak with you about.” The lady didn’t look amused, and she sure as shit didn’t look horny. My original prediction wasn’t looking good. “‘Storm’ is a codename. Something I use while I’m on a mission, as I was when we first met. We use these codenames to help keep our identities hidden.”

Right… she did it so she could blend in with all the other thirty-something black chicks with straight, snow-white hair hanging down to their asses.

“In my civilian life, my name is Ororo Monroe.” I’ll never know how I kept myself from laughing right then after she said it. Really, say her name five times fast, sounds like you’re trying to start your car. “In the classroom, ‘Miss Monroe’ is the appropriate way I expect my students to address me.”

“Whatever you say, Teach. Oh, sorry… ‘Miss Monroe.’” I made the emphasis on her name as dirty as I could, mostly to get her mad while technically doing what she asked. After all, funny names aside, this was five minutes of my life I wasn’t gonna get back. “If that’s all you wanted to talk about, I’ll just go and -”

“Actually, that’s not all,” she said, stopping me in my tracks. I was trying hard to control my temper, I really was. Deep breaths, counting to ten, all of that. Anything that’d keep me from decorating the classroom with bits and pieces of this woman. “If I don’t allow my students to refer to me by my codename in class, I certainly won’t call you by yours. Obviously, you can’t expect for me to say ‘Cougar’ if I call on you during a lesson.”

“And why shouldn’t I expect it?” I asked, dangerously. “It’s my name.”

“But not your real name,” the mouthy woman answered. “Here, the students answer to their birth names. It helps to reinforce the idea that we are not defined by our mutations. You’re a unique case, brought in from the wilderness the way you were, so I can’t simply look at your transcripts. So, it is very important that you tell me.”

Something was off about this. After a couple seconds to think it over, it finally clicked. “Why not ask the old man?” I offered, sending out the verbal feelers to see what I could pick up. "He’s been in my head, he knows my name.”

“The Professor does not discuss the private thoughts of his students with anyone,” she explained, but I could tell by the sour tone that she’d asked anyway and got shot down. Professor went up a couple notches in my book. “He said you could be trusted, but you refusing me this simple thing doesn’t inspire a lot of faith in me.”

“So… it’s like that, huh?” That kind of passive-aggressive bullshit was hard enough to take from Willow, and I love Willow. From the Weather Bitch, I was about ready to go all out homicidal. But no… no, I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction, or give the Prof an excuse to liquefy my gray matter. She wants mind games? I’ll give her mind games. “You want to know the name my parents gave me, as opposed to the name I gave myself?”

“Exactly,” Ororo said, smiling like she’d got her way.

“Fine, you can put this on your attendance sheet, Miss Monroe.” With that, I pushed up my sleeve. Holding up my bare forearm, I put out one claw and dragged it across my skin. The flesh cut quick and clean, barely even bleeding at first. Lines, slashes, and curves, easy as writing on a dirty car windshield. When I was done, I showed it off to teacher, like a kindergartner with a pretty picture. I definitely gave new meaning to the term “finger-paint.” That look on her face as she watched me work was not half as satisfying as when she saw the finished product.

MONSTER

“First thing my dad called me after my mutation showed up, last thing mom called me before she kicked me out.” Let her stew in that for a while. My cuts were already healed, the blood now more or less just for show. “Or maybe you meant what they called before they found out what I was. Lots of those, ‘useless,’ ‘waste of space,’ ‘mistake,’ just off the top of my head. Listen lady, I named myself because I had to, because those stinking drunks didn’t deserve the right to name a goldfish. My name’s Cougar. You don’t want to use it, fine with me. It’ll make this class a great place to catch up on my sleep.”

Then I looked her dead in the eye and brought my arm up to lick off the iron-rich liquid. It took a lot of restraint to keep from wiping it on her clean, white shirt, let me tell you. I gave her a great big smile when I was done and made a big show of cleaning the excess blood from my teeth with my tongue. I left her then, thoroughly speechless. As corny and overdramatic as that little act had been, it was worth it when it gave me the last word in an argument with a teacher. Take that, educational system. Cougar: 1, School: 0.

As I was smoothing out my sleeves, I had to bite back a groan as I saw that my little conversation had taken up the little time I had before the start of class. The room was mostly filled up, specifically the back table where Rogue was sitting. She was at one end of a three person desk, with a marginally pretty brunette at the other end and an asian-looking chick in the middle who was actually kinda hot if you ignored the fact that she was wearing all bright yellow clothes. The only available seat was in the front row, about as far from my girl as possible. I thought about taking the chair and dragging it back, but that wasn’t my style.

“Hey,” I said, walking up to a blue-haired guy seated on the end of the row across from Rogue’s. “Did you know somebody wrote the word ‘moron’ on the front of your desk?” As he leaned forward out of his seat to check, I grabbed the chair without breaking stride and set it down between Rouge and canary girl. After a little while, the guy gave up looking for the words that weren’t there and went to sit back down. The resulting thud had everybody but him, the teacher, and Rouge laughing. “Well, I guess now we know that guy’s mutation didn’t come with extra brain power.”

Rouge on my right side looked even more embarrassed, but the 5 foot tall banana on my left thought it was hilarious. “That was classic!” she said, giggling along with the other girl next to her. “I’m Jubilee, this is Kitty.”

“Cougar,” I introduced myself without looking at her, idly buffing my claws on my shirt. I nodded my head to the right. “Rogue.”

“So…” Jubilee started, looking up at me through long eyelashes. I noticed that she had a pair of fashonable mirror sunglasses resting on the top of her head. Wierd. “Are you two like… together?”

I was about to answer yes, but then I decided on something a little more vague.

“What do you think?” I said with a small smirk, giving each of them a sidelong glance. Both girls heard it, but there was a pretty good chance that they both came away with their own interpretation as was my intention. Sure, I knew I was with Rouge, but it never hurts to keep your options open, especially when the chick asking this was hot.

Miss Monroe had apparently recovered enough to start her lecture, but I took some pride in the fact that it wasn’t just her white hair making her look pale. It didn’t comfort me all that much when she started talking about the Roman Empire. She couldn’t even make people getting thrown to lions sound interesting to me, and that’s saying something. I was just about to nod off when this dark haired guy in front of us decided to put on a little show. He took out this lighter and cupped his hand behind him. When he made a spark, this little ball of fire just sat there, floating. Pretty. I took the page of notebook paper, just as blank as it was when Rogue handed it to me, balled it up and threw it at the mini supernova, which flared up and made the boy jump up and yelp, patting down his shirt. Definitely prettier.

When I looked over to see if she was laughing with me, I noticed that Rogue was focused on something else. This guy at the desk next to us had reached over and had his hand on the hardwood surface in front of her. When he pulled it away, there was this fruity little ice sculpture, you could barely even tell what it was. “Marie” on the other hand, seemed to be eating it up. Don’t ask me why. The fire I could understand, we could’ve used somebody with a power like that back in Canada, but ice? You'd think that she would have had enough of that after the first couple times she almost froze to death.

“Welcome to Mutant High,” he said, smiling that Teen Beat cover boy smile. Rogue might’ve been about to answer him back. Before she had the chance, I reached over and stuck a claw straight through the fancy frozen paperweight. I shot him my own smile, full of teeth, as I saluted him with the finger that’d broken his little art project. Anyone want to guess which finger that was?

"Uh… hi. My n-name's Bobby." Bobby, huh? Well, if Bobby kept bothering my Rogue like that, Bobby was gonna lose some weight in the form of most of his skin. Never dropping the smile, I reached over to Boy Scout’s desk, lengthening my claws and carved a little message to let Bobby know of my feeling on the matter and how I didn't like him flirting with Rogue.

The message carved into the desk read: “keep flirting with Rogue and I'll flay you alive, then I'll pour salt over the wounds right before I sever your right to manhood with a rusty spoon.” Well… maybe I didn’t write out all of that, ‘cause it would’ve taken way too long. I summarized it pretty well, though.

Okay, maybe I just wrote “FUCK OFF,” but I think he got the gist. What with the big, bold letters and the fact that I’d gouged them about an inch into the hardwood.

Just as I was enjoying the look of a boy on the verge of losing all bladder control, the familiar scent of Logan filled my nostrils. I sniffed, trying to figure out where he was, which led me to glance backwards. I spotted him standing outside the door and looking into the classroom window. He smirked smugly at me, showing that he was feeling rather happy to see me in a classroom and not him. I glared at him with death in my eyes which only made his smirk grow before he turned away from the window.

"Bobby, are you feeling alright?" Storm's concerned voice asked from across the room, finally taking the time away from boring us all to death to notice Bobby's reaction to the carving, and specifically his sudden change of color. Bobby jumped at the sound of her voice and I had to suppress the snicker that was bubbling up in my chest. He looked like prey, smelled like it too. Bobby glanced at me worriedly. He wasn't stupid enough to rat me out, was he? "Do you need to go see Doctor Grey?"

He was about to play it off with some lie, I could tell. That’s when I got one of my rare flashes of brilliance. While he was still stammering, I waited for him to look over at me like I knew he would. Bad liars always have to look at what they’re lying about, that way they won’t have to look you in the eye. When he finally gave me that sidelong glance, I looked straight at him and nodded “yes.” I showed him my claws under the table for emphasis. That got him talking. “Y-yeah, I think maybe I should, if that’s okay.”

“Of course,” she said, sympathetically. “Can you go by yourself, or do you need someone to -”

“I can help.” My hand was in the air, claws retracted, before she was even done talking. I didn’t even wait for her to respond, I just stood up and walked over to where my classmate was nervously packing up his stuff. I, myself, saved time by not bringing anything to class in the first place. I helped him up to his feet, only a little bit against his will, and slung an arm over his shoulder. “Poor guy might collapse before he makes it halfway through a place this huge. Besides, if the Doc’s anywhere on property, I can find her.”

I tapped my nose and winked. Without waiting for permission, and after throwing Rogue a quick wave goodbye, I walked right out with Frosty in tow. Freedom. I took a great big whiff and let out a deep laugh. My travelling companion didn’t seem to be in the laughing mood, you could tell by the way he was shaking in terror. Which, of course, made me laugh even harder. “Listen, man,” he said, the temperature dropping around us as he started losing his grip on his powers. “I wasn’t gonna do anything with Marie, I swear! I was just trying to be friendly.”

“Relax, Bobby. I can call you Bobby, right?” He didn’t say no, but he didn’t relax, either. I decided to get us moving again, so I started us in the right direction by following a scent I’d committed to memory earlier that day. “You’re getting yourself all worked up because you got it into your head that I feel threatened by you. Which is nuts, ‘cause you’re not a threat. Don’t get me wrong, you had me fooled for a second when you swooped in like Don Juan, but then I saw the real you, the you without any balls, and I feel much better about the whole thing. Besides, now that you got me out of class early, you’re officially my hero.”

“Glad I could help,” he said through gritted teeth. That “no balls” comment was really getting to him, you could actually see the frost starting to form on my sleeve. Not that I cared. It was a thick coat, and I knew, even if he really let loose with those ice powers of his, he wasn’t gonna kill me. Didn’t have it in him. And, once I got better, I’d tear his throat out. I knew it, and he knew it, too. That’s why I didn’t move my arm. Well, I moved it about a minute later when I realized how gay it looked, but that’s beside the point. “Where are you taking me, anyway?”

“To the doctor, just like I said I would,” I answered, turning another corner into a part of the mansion I hadn’t seen yet. Less wood paneling, more polished steel. “That way, they can’t get on my case about cutting class. Why are you complaining, anyway? Have you ever seen Dr. Grey? I know guys who’d take a shotgun blast to the gut just to get some one-on-one time with somebody like her.”

The scent was getting stronger, she was definitely down this hallway. And she wasn’t alone. And look who was trying to work up the nerve to open the door. Oh this was too good.

“Hey there, Shades.” I saw him take a deep breath before turning those red lenses my way. Now that he was out of that BDSM gear, he looked smaller, sorta puny. His hand went up on reflex but, since he didn’t have on that Star Trek visor either, he had to play it off by smoothing back his hair. Yeah, without the uniform, and the jet, and the noble mission to back him up, fearless leader wasn’t so fearless. I could smell it, even more coming off him than Bobby. “We’re here to see Dr. Grey. Is she in?”

“She’ll be out in a second,” he said, shortly. I had to smile, seeing how uncomfortable he was. And I could tell I was only part of the problem. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some things to take care of.”

He couldn’t get away fast enough. If I didn’t have anything better to do, I’d have followed him. Maybe spook him into adding a few new skylights to the old place. Bobby was looking at me like I just wiped my ass with Superman’s cape. Guess he really looked up to Cyclops. Just when I thought I couldn’t respect the kid any less. With one last chuckle, I opened the door.

There she was, standing next to him. He was on a metal slab connected to a some big machine, and he had his shirt off. You could cut the sexual tension with a knife. Guess it must run in the family.

“Cougar!”

“Nice to see you too, Doc,” I said, walking in like I owned the place. The Sunnydale High infirmary had nothing on this place. Most of the equipment looked like it belonged in a major hospital. The rest of it looked like it belonged on a spaceship. “But this ain’t a personal visit. I brought you a patient. Bobby here had to leave class early, said he was feeling sick. You wanna see what you can to for him?”

“Um… well, I guess we can hold off on the tests for a few minutes.” She was flustered, probably had something to do with having both of us in the same room with her at once. Could I really blame her? “Come on, Bobby. Let’s go into the other exam room.”

She threw both of us a look as she walked out. The part of me that wasn’t thinking about her butt was hoping that she didn’t mind meld with the snowman and find out what brought us here. A grunt reminded me I wasn’t alone in the room. This conversation was a long time coming. I wanted some answers, and I didn’t have much time to get ‘em.

“So…” he said, propping himself up on one elbow. “There something I can do for you, bub?”




****

AN: I guess the moral of this story is you never know what happens when you click on that “review” link. I’m a fan of TheLaughingMan, I’ve read his stuff before and reviewed most of the stuff he’s written lately. So, I wasn’t expecting much when I left a review for his latest bit “The Cougar.”

And now I’m a co-author.

Yeah, I don’t really know how it happened, either. But, now that I’m here, I’d like to let you know that we’re going to be going off script a bit for our retelling of the X-Men films. A little more chaos, a bit more mayhem, and one big, humungous pile of WOLVERINE DOESN’T CRY, BRYAN @#^!ING SINGER!!!

I was a fan of this story before I ever had any creative control, so I know how much you want to keep these updates coming. Believe me, folks, I’m right there with you.

Blessed be,
-Brother Bludgeon
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