Welcome to Mutant High School
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the copyrighted material contained herein. They are the rightful property of their respective creators and associated companies. I make no profit off of this whatsoever. I write to for my own fun and for the enjoyment of those who like my work.
Outside of 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Evening, Xander’s P.O.V
~Well…we’re here!~ Xander thought as he looked at the front gate of the Institute.
It was definitely a big place and he could see through the metal bars that there were quite a few teens strolling across the grounds along with some adults he presumed were instructors or staff members. While he had sort of expected it, he was still a bit amazed to see so many mutants around with such varying appearances. Not that he was exactly one to point fingers since he didn’t exactly look normal either, thanks to that makeover he received in the burning bar. He still couldn’t remember much between falling through the hole and waking up but he did recall someone saying something to him.
~Welcome back to the land of the living, Sesshomaru.~
That name, Sesshomaru, was also what the demon called him after he’d dealt with the head representative of the demon mobsters. It was obviously a name of some kind, the name of a demon Lord, but it didn’t ring any bells for him and that was odd considering how petrified the demons had been upon seeing him. You’d think that a demon Lord that could inspire that kind of fear would be in all of the big books or that the Scooby gang would have heard something about this guy before. But he’d heard nothing whatsoever about a Lord Sesshomaru and that meant that once he was sure that Laura was okay, he’d call G-man to get some answers. He’d probably have to wait awhile before getting any kind of answers or anything since the name had never come up before but he’d feel a lot better if he had some background info to go with the name. Once he had that, he could decide whether what happened to him was a good thing or a bad thing. Well… being turned into a demon was not one hundred percent good no matter how you looked at it, but at least if this Sesshomaru had a few redeeming qualities, he might be able to bear it if he wound up stuck like this. If this Tai inu youkai of the west turned out to be some sort of supreme evil or just an all around jerk, though, he was definitely going to hate this situation.
It hadn’t taken him long to change into some normal clothes but it had been a close call getting them from his hotel room the night of the fight, considering his noticeable appearance. Fortunately the person at the front desk had bought the idea that he was coming back from some sort of comic book convention and had even complimented him on his ‘costume’. It was only dumb luck that whatever had changed him had also possessed the kindness to make sure his wallet, car keys and hotel room key didn’t go poof in the fire. If those things had gone up in smoke he’d be in something of a jam since he was pretty sure that the hotel staff would have needed some kind of proof of identity before they’d have given him the spare room key. Once he had all of his stuff, though, he’d met up with Laura in a small park nearby, where they came to the decision that it’d be a good idea to relocate for a while, just in case. It had also been decided that relocating together would be to their benefit since it would mean a higher probability of repelling an enemy assault as a team than separately. It didn’t take them long to find a suitable motel with a vacancy and, once they did find it, they stayed inside for the entire two day stretch prior to the call from the Institute to minimize the chances of them being spotted. It had all gone pretty smoothly thanks to the memories he’d inherited from the soldier. She’d been trained in military-like protocols and procedures since she was seven so it was fairly easy for them to set up a watch rotation. So, all in all, things had gone pretty smoothly but like most things he didn’t expect it would last for very long.
This was proven to be correct when a short but hairy guy in blue, black and yellow spandex started walking up to the front gate. It was obvious that he was some kind of superhero but he couldn’t place the outfit. Once the guy got close enough, it was obvious the guy was surprised to see two people present rather than just one like Hairy Dude had probably expected. It made sense since Laura’d smashed her cell phone and, to his knowledge, hadn’t made a single call while they were packing their things. He presumed that this guy was Logan, the guy who called up Laura, and when he thought about it, he could kind of see a family resemblance between the two of them. Logan was giving him the hairy eyeball but it didn’t look like he was either for or against the presence of a newcomer. In the end it didn’t seem to matter since the superhero opened up the gate and then turned around with a silent invitation for the two of them to follow. Looking at Laura, he didn’t have long to wait to find out whether or not she was going to take up invitation so, with a shrug, he took up the rear of their little three-person procession.
He got a lot of looks from some of the other students but that was probably due more to the fact that his now white-silver hair went down to just past his waist rather than the normal short brown. Needless to say there weren’t that many people with hair that long and those that did were all female, so for a guy to have it, well, they probably thought he was either gay or just plain weird. Not that he had a thing against gay people, not at all, he just didn’t want anyone to think he was gay. He was an all around straight guy! Yep! Straight as an arrow! Besides, you’d think that with all the different shapes, sizes and colors mutants came in that his new look would be fairly unremarkable. Still, they looked and it made him hope that he got out of sight as soon as possible since all this sudden attention was not making him feel any better about being here.
Still, he kinda liked the fact that most of the ladies were giving him a good long look.
It was more than he’d ever gotten back in Sunnydale.
Once they were inside the mansion his ears could immediately hear the sounds of people but what he heard the most though was some kind of cocky asshole talking in the nearby living room. He couldn’t quite make out the words just yet due to his inexperience with his new senses but as he, Logan and Laura got closer the words became clearer.
“I know it’s hard to tell with you, but last time I checked, ‘you’ just became a part of ‘them’.” Mr. Asshole said smugly as though he was just naturally better than the person he was talking to.
“What the hell is your problem, Keller?!” came an angry young woman’s voice who obviously had no love for Mr. Asshole.
“Nori, it’s okay…” came a deep male voice that apparently was the target of Mr. Asshole’s verbal assault.
“No, it’s not!” Exclaimed Nori, who obviously wasn’t pleased at all with the topic of conversation.
“It’s okay because David knows that when we’re all up against the wall, he’ll be free and clear,” Keller said with mock politeness in his tone. “Did he tell you about his little phone call with Harvard yet?”
“What?” Ms. Spitfire exclaimed, clearly not having heard about this before now.
“Nori, I—“ David started to say something but didn’t sound like he’d expected to have to come clean like this.
“It’s better this way, Ashida. He doesn’t belong here or with you, not anymore.” Keller said, sounding like it was written in stone.
“And why is that, Julian?” Came an unknown but definitely upset woman’s voice.
Obviously this Julian Keller had just put his foot in it big time.
“Please, tell me. Why is it ‘better’ Julian?” Ms. Offended asked in sharp tones, “Because David is human now? Are humans not worthy of being loved in your eyes?”
“Sofia, it’s not like that.” Julian said stumbling over his words to recover from his verbal screw up.
“You used to call me ‘beautiful’. Am I less so now?” Sofia asked even though it sounded like she already knew the answer.
“I…” Julian said but proved to be unable to come up with anything smart to say.
“Just STOP, Julian. You’re making fools of both of us.” Sofia said before striding away from Keller but closer to Laura and Logan.
It didn’t take him long before the woman entered his line of sight but when he did see her he had to wonder what kind of idiot Keller had to be to piss off someone so beautiful. Even clad in something so basic like jeans and a T-shirt, she was someone who’d fit right in with Queen C’s Cordettes. While not an expert on the whole mutant scenario, he knew that some mutants had something of a swelled head thanks to their powers. Apparently Keller was among those that thought that had mutant powers were somehow better than normal humans. Not enough to make him one of those ‘mutants are the next stage of evolution’ types that wanted to inherit the planet as soon as possible but enough to make him a serious jerk.
“Sofia, wait!” Julian yelled realizing his error.
“We’re not finished yet, Keller!” Nori said, obviously not willing to let the guy go until she’d completely spoken her mind.
“You just picked the worst time to mess with me, little girl.” Keller said with serious ‘tude in his voice.
Feeling a charge in the air, he knew that powers were going to start flying soon and apparently so did Logan since the short superhero moved forward. Deciding to keep the group together, both he and Laura followed the costumed guy into the living room. Inside there was a collection of kids watching something on a HUGE screen TV but the center of everyone’s attention though was some kid floating high in the air while a blue haired girl wearing metal gauntlets looked ready to throw down.
“Am I interrupting something?” Logan asked in a tone that was daring the two quarrelers to say something stupid. “No? Good. This is Laura, my sister, and her friend Xander. She’s a genetic clone created from my DNA and he’s apparently some kind of demon and…You know what? It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, she has my claws and, yes, she could kill you if she wanted. So don’t make her want to. As for Xander, I expect you to treat him with the same respect you would a fellow student. Consider yourselves introduced.”
With that Logan turned and walked away but, before he left the room entirely, he turned his head back to the collective group in the living room.
“For the record, my money’s on Nori.” Logan said, obviously predicting who’d win a fight between Nori and Julian.
Unfortunately, once Logan was out of sight and presumably out of hearing range, the blue haired girl whom he presumed was Nori turned to Julian, looking like she wanted to pick things up where she and Julian left off. An African American teen, possibly David, also noticed this and immediately put a restraining hand on her shoulder in a move to keep a fight from breaking out.
“Let it go. He’s not worth it.” David said, urging caution with his voice.
“Can’t I kill him just a little?” Nori asked, looking like she might shrug off David’s arm.
“You wish, Gloves.” Julian said, obviously recovering his former cockiness despite putting his foot in his mouth with Sofia.
“Come on, guys. I’ve got a better way to blow off steam.” David said heading for the entrance/exit to the living room.
With that David walked off and most of the others followed him, though their reasons might have had less to do with blowing off steam and more to do with getting away from Julian and Nori.
“I’ll see you later, tough guy.” Nori said before leaving the room herself.
“Looking forward to it.” Julian said with his usually ‘I am the greatest’ attitude.
It was then that he noticed that not all of the teens were joining the main group and some of them were apparently Julian’s friends.
“Where are you going, Cess?” Julian asked, sounding mystified as to why one of his own friends was giving him the cold shoulder.
He had no trouble hearing them speak given that both Cess and Julian were heading in his direction but this was something he truly wished he didn’t have to hear.
Arrogant ignorance was definitely not something he had a high tolerance for.
“Julian, I love you, but it’s time for us to grow up.” Cess said before storming off to hook up with the rest of the group.
All the while this was going on, both he and Laura simply observed what was going on since they knew that neither of them had any right to step in. However the combination of the fight with Nori, the screw up with Sofia and his own teammate turning away from him was enough to put Keller in a seriously bad mood.
“What are you looking at, clone?” Julian asked angrily while using the word ‘clone’ like it was some kind of curse word.
This, he decided, could not be permitted to go without some sort of warning.
“Her name is Laura,” he said as coldly as possible. “Prove to everyone you at least have the memory retention to remember that.”
THAT stopped everyone who was in hearing range in their tracks and caused a few to actually turn around to look at him. Obviously they were somewhat surprised to hear someone who’d just arrived speak to this Julian guy like that. He didn’t let it sway him. As far as he was concerned, the arrogant asshole needed someone to take him down a few pegs and if none of them were willing to speak to Keller that way, he would for however long he was allowed to stay.
He would not allow them to get away with mistreating Laura just because she wasn’t born the natural way or because she was raised the way she was. She had no control over either of those things and shouldn’t have been made to suffer because of all that. Sure, she wouldn’t show any surface signs of being upset or sad but, unless he was very much off, he was pretty sure he could ^smell^ the emotions she was feeling. While creepy, it was still a nice ability and something he was already coming up with multiple useful ways he could employ it.
Knowing when he was accidently pissing off a girl he was trying to pick up was just one of them.
The Office of Headmistress Emma Frost, Ten Minutes Later, Emma Frost’s P.O.V
~That man can be so obtusely optimistic at times!~ Emma thought as she looked down at her desk contemplating the discussion she’d just had with Scott, ~If I wasn’t so in love with him, I would do something to change that.~
Regardless of the outcome of the discussion, she was still left with one potential threat as well as one potential asset, assuming that the Harris boy could be persuaded to leave X-23 behind. What thoughts existed on the surface of his mind showed him to be a rather interesting young man and definitely better than one would expect considering his home life. Surviving eighteen years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his drunken parents showed that he has amazing mental resilience and that was always a good thing to have in this troubled world. However, when she had tried to peer deeper into his mind, she’d encountered some resistance but, since she’d had the concerns about Logan’s clone to worry about, she had chosen to cease her inspection of Xander’s mind. Now, though, with the less troublesome method of ridding the Institute of the girl assassin gone, she thought it might be time to try multiple, less potent means of attack. One such means could be finding a way to turn the boy against his former student in supernatural matters, reducing the possible means of protection she’d have to only Logan. While Wolverine might be a valued member of the team he was also an unstable element at times. She was confident that, phrased the right way, she could persuade the majority of the faculty, including Scott, that the Institute simply wasn’t the right place for a weapon like X-23. If even the person she traveled to the Institute with agreed with this statement, then she was certain that the little claw girl’s welcome here would be quickly revoked.
With that in mind she left her office and began to make her way down to the med-lab where Beast was currently giving Xander an examination. From what she had just learned from McCoy’s head, the young man had been one hundred percent human a week ago and was only changed into his present form a little over forty-eight hours ago. At first she thought that the boy had simply been changed by a late-activating x-gene since that was a more reasonable explanation than being turned into a ‘demon Lord’. However, as she continued to eavesdrop on the proceedings, even as she entered the elevator that would take her to the lower levels, it looked as though the boy’s biology was completely non-human. While it was true that some mutants suffered drastic changes to their biology, the presence of the x-gene or some other telling sign of their status as a mutant was always present. If her skimming of Hank’s thoughts were truthful, though, none of his more successful scans positively identified him as a mutant. As she exited the elevator, she watched through McCoy’s eyes as the examination continued revealing that, while the young man’s physiology bore some similarities to an ordinary human’s, there were other things that were a mystery. It was as she entered the med-lab that Hank asked if he could run some tests on the boy’s swords and Xander’s reaction to this was interesting to say the least.
He leapt away from the blue furred former football player and, from what she could tell, placed his right hand on the hilt of one of the sword’s completely on instinct.
Her belief that Xander hadn’t consciously done this was proven to be true when a look of surprise appeared on the face of the golden-eyed boy. A surface scan of his mind also supported the stance that the young man had not been aware of his actions from the moment Hank made the request to arriving at a location ten feet away from where he’d been with a hand on the hilt of a sword. Already his mind was a storm of questions but most of them focused on themes of ‘what have I become’ or ‘what do I do now’.
Fortunately this presented her with a rare opportunity to bring the young man around to her way of thinking.
“I’m sure that this might be quite troubling, Xander, suddenly finding yourself in a body that no longer resembles the one you used to have and possessing instincts that surge forward before you can stop yourself,” she said, falling into her role as a woman of experience. “I assure you that we will do everything we can to restore you to your former self. No resource will be left untapped. Should the worst happen and you are forced to remain as you are now, you are welcome to remain here at the Institute until such time as you fully understand your new self.”
“Thanks.” Was all Xander said in response, though this was likely more to due with the lingering shock of how he’d reacted a few minutes ago than any intended impoliteness towards her.
“Perhaps I can alleviate some of your concerns right now,” she said as she put her next move into effect. “I am a telepath thanks to my status as a mutant. With your permission, I could enter your mind and see if there are any unpleasant surprises in there or simply instincts that need to be brought under control.”
“Are you sure that’s necessary, Emma?” Hank asked, obviously the sort not to go looking for trouble if there was insufficient reason to do so.
“He has already shown that he does possess uncontrollable reactions to certain situations, Hank. What if the next one he exhibits results in him attacking a student?” She asked in return while never letting her eyes leave Xander. “Besides, this will only be a reconnaissance mission. I will inspect his mind to see if I can find the source of these reactions and determine its nature. If it is something that Xander can be trained to repress, then I will go no further with my telepathy. However, if it is something he has little hope of controlling on his own, then a more unconventional method may have to be employed.”
Looking at Xander, she could tell he wasn’t entirely thrilled at the idea of someone rooting around inside his head but, from what she could tell, it was not the result of rumors about her past floating around the Institute but rather the fact that she was a stranger to him. Something she would definitely have to change and perhaps transform into a strong friendship somehow. His features, while somewhat feminine in certain areas, were pleasing to the female eye and the way he punched the ‘demon’ through several walls implied great strength. Considering that superhuman strength might just be the tip of the iceberg with him in terms of what he could do, one might say he’d be quite the catch for any of the female students at the Institute. Perhaps even for Celeste, Phoebe and Mindee. Her girls had not made many ventures into the dating scene, given how terrible it’d gone for them in the past, but based on what she’d seen inside of his mind so far, he’d be an acceptable boyfriend for any one of them. Still, first thing first, she had to get him to trust her if she was going to persuade him to see things from her perspective.
“Do I have your permission?” She asked making in clear both with words and tone of voice that he was the one in control of this situation.
“Sure. Just… try and keep some of the things you see to yourself, okay?” he asked with visible discomfort at what was about to happen.
“Of course. Everything I learn will be protected under doctor-patient confidentiality.” She said while at the same time thinking, ~Of course if I find something that poses a threat to me, this school and it’s students, then some very tough choices will have to be made.~
With that in mind she placed her fingertips on either side of the young man’s head (even though such action wasn’t strictly necessary) and, with finesse born of years of practice, she entered his mind in a more thorough manner than before. It only took a few seconds for the mental landscape to settle around her and, as she looked around, she found what she’d expected to see for the most part. A small Californian town was laid out beneath her feet, confirming what she’d already discovered about Xander through her own efforts. Lowering herself to the ground, she could see that unlike some mental landscapes, this one did have metaphorical people walking about but something seemed a little off. At times these people looked completely human but, when one of them entered a shadow, their eyes turned golden and their foreheads took on caveman characteristics. There were other signs as well, such as a young woman of Incan descent walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street who seemed to emit a cloud of dust every time she breathed outwards. She also felt a sense of… evil about the place that was almost impossible for her to perceive. It didn’t necessarily mean that Xander had some hidden evil within him but rather that he had a dark side to himself that rested just below the surface.
The same could be said for many people so she didn’t concern herself with it too much.
Continuing along the streets, it was only a minute or two before she picked out several oddities that did not mesh with the primary elements of the environment. For the most part the landscape around her was your typical small American town but every once and awhile she would spot some piece of architecture or some object that had a distinctly Oriental nature to it. Japanese, if she wasn’t mistaken. While this could simply mean that this town, most likely Xander’s home town, had the equivalent of a ‘Little Japan’ district, it felt more like these Asian additions were more recently incorporated into the rest. This, she felt, was a sure sign of the unknown mental aspects she had entered the young man’s mind to find and so she focused her efforts on locating the densest concentration of these Oriental attributes. Logically, if she directed her movements towards the areas where these foreign elements were at their highest concentration, she would eventually find the central nexus of it all. Moving at a brisker pace now that she knew what to look for, she traveled blocks in a slightly roundabout pattern before a more direct/straight route took form. It took some time but eventually she found the central point of the foreign elements and was slightly troubled by what she saw.
While the wall surrounding the property was from the current time period and had ‘Sunnydale High School’ written on a sign next to the front gate, the actual structure on the property was definitely ^not^ American in nature. Stretching up into the sky behind the stone wall was what could only be described as a Japanese palace that, if size was any indicator, belonged to a high ranking feudal Lord. She could even see a short and bald troll-like person sweeping up some leaves while muttering about students being a waste of space. Curious, she used her telepathic abilities to lift herself into the air so that she could enter the property for a closer but, just as she was about to cross the border, a barrier shot up, throwing her back to the ground. A strong mental barrier it was, strong enough to repel her, but she was confident that she could breach it without causing Xander any undue harm. Rising back into the air, she prepared to use her powers to create an opening for herself but quickly found herself facing one of the ^coldest^ and most intimidating faces she had ever encountered. Formed from the barrier itself, it looked at her and while she could see some similarities between it and Xander’s own face they were obviously not the same. It looked at her as though she were beneath it, less than it, but at the same time had an air of annoyance that it conveyed to her. Eventually, though, it seemed to reach a decision and spoke.
“You do not belong here. BEGONE!”
With those words she found herself flung high into the air by some invisible force and, before she knew it, she was back in her own body, kneeling on the floor while Xander simply looked at her. He had a look on his face that was eerily reminiscent of the one the barrier had given her but it only lasted for a moment before the boy returned to himself and looked at her in concern.
“Are you alright, Ms. Frost?” he asked, extending a hand to help her get back to her feet.
“Fine, Xander.” She said, despite the fact that she felt a headache coming on. “It would seem that in addition to your physical abilities you have some limited telepathic abilities as well. I believe I managed to find the source of your impulses and, while I do not believe they are beyond your ability to control, I would ask that you avoid situations where you might feel threatened. The foreign elements seem to react strongest in those situations.”
“Not a problem.” Xander said, sounding quite honest. “Contrary to what my friends back home might say, I don’t actually go looking for trouble. It just seems to come and find me most of the time.”
“Well, anyone or anything that happens to come looking for you here Xander will find themselves with quite a bit more trouble than they bargained for.” Hank said, covertly stating that while he stayed at the Institute he’d receive the same level of protection as any other student residing here.
“Thanks, Hank.” Xander said and, with a nod, the young man left presumably to look for X-23.
While her conversation with the young man hadn’t gone entirely according to plan, nor had the inspection of his mind, she had gained valuable knowledge about him. She had discovered that he possessed moderate telepathic abilities or, at the very least, strong mental defenses that could probably handle everything short of an Alpha or Omega-level telepath. She had also learned that the nexus of his recent alterations was at least semi-sentient since she didn’t think he had actually been the one to throw her own of his mind. That made him quite interesting indeed.
Nevertheless, the honest truth was that, despite some concerns, she didn’t believe him to be a serious threat to the school. He would probably need to work with Logan or some of the other X-Team members who had trouble controlling their inner selves, but that wouldn’t be difficult. Now all she had to do was take what she’d learned about his personality and use that information to turn him away from X-23. Once that was done, she could start considering who among the student body would be appropriate for him to associate with and employ a series of well-placed nudges to make it happen. Depending on how things turned out, she might make an attempt at playing matchmaker for him.
~I wonder if Cessily would be interested?~ She thought as she tried to picture how the Hellion team member known as Mercury would react when placed in a romantic situation with Xander.
That Night, The Hallways of the Mansion, Xander’s P.O.V
~I think Frost may have stirred something up in my head earlier today.~ Xander thought as he strolled the halls of the halls of the Institute, ~Sleeping was harder tonight than usual.~
Then again his sleeping habits had undergone a massive change since he’d gained his new form, dropping from his usual nine or ten to just four. It had been a pain in the ass to go to bed the first night and wake up at five in the morning rather than noon like he’d expected after such an eventful night. At first he’d dismissed it as just being a side effect of the change and that after a full day of activity, his sleeping pattern would reset back to the usual.
No such luck.
It happened again the following night and it got him wondering just how long he’d have to wait before getting a full eight hours of sleep. Would he need to work his ass off first? Considering what his new body was apparently capable of so far, it’d probably take quite a bit to completely exhaust it. With a sigh of annoyance at the drawbacks that came with his finally getting powers that could make him a real player fighting alongside his friends, he continued to stroll, if not saunter, the hallways. Hopefully he could find something to keep him occupied until morning and then he could revisit Hank to see if he knew of any way to turn him back to normal. If the scientist couldn’t figure out a solution, he’d inquire of the X-Man knew any sorcerers who could be trusted. After all, for someone who used to be a member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers, it only made sense that he’d know quite a few people from interesting walks of life. There had to be at least one respectable sorcerer in the mix or maybe a reliable witch who could cast a counter spell or something to change him back to normal. It wasn’t that he hated his new form necessarily, but rather that he was concerned about whatever strings might be attached to the gifts. If there was one thing that Giles had drilled into the Scooby gang’s head during research sessions is that magic always came with a price tag attached.
He wanted to return his little ‘gift’ before the time came to pay the bill for it.
He was strolling down the hallway that contained the doors to the female residents of the mansion, kind of hoping that he might catch one of the lovely ladies in their jammies, when a scent drifted by his nose that shoved his usual thoughts aside. It was a scent he’d smelt that night when Laura and he took on those demons. The scent of fear mixed with tears. Going from a casual walk to a speed just below running he headed for the source of the scent with his right hand maintaining a consistent distance to the hilt of his swords. Like it or not it was another impulse that he didn’t have much control over: he could not leave his weapons anywhere. He had to have them on his person at all times and anytime he tried to leave them in his temporary room or in his backpack, he froze at ten meters. As a result, he almost always had them tucked beneath the gold and blue sash that he’d found wrapped around his waist after his transformation. It didn’t exactly go well with the jeans and T-shirt combo he usually wore but it was better then wearing the full Mandarin get up and looking like he belonged in some Japanese cartoon show.
It didn’t take him long to trace the scent back to its source and when he arrived he saw Laura on her knees in the middle of the hallway acting like there was someone in front of her when there wasn’t. Based on the look on her face, whatever she was seeing was pretty traumatic and he wondered what the hell was going on. Looking around and trying to use his newly heightened senses to pick up on a possible clue, it didn’t take him long to pick up a very familiar scent. Narrowing his eyes at such a foul move, he approached the young Ms. Claws and placed a hand on her shoulder both to comfort her as well as get her attention. It worked well since, almost immediately, she looked up at him with sadness in her eyes as well as quite a bit of guilt from what he could both see as well as smell. With his presence announced it was time for this… this bullying to come to an end.
“I know you’re there, Ms. Frost; stop messing with Laura’s head and come out from wherever you’re hiding. NOW.” He said in an icy tone that he usually reserved for those he wanted to pummel but knew he couldn’t without it backfiring.
He could tell almost immediately when the mental mind game was shut down and the sound of approaching booted feet reached his ears a moment later. Then, as his senses had informed him, the White Queen Emma Frost came confidently striding around the corner with a mildly put-out look on her face as though she was annoyed her little scheme had been exposed so soon.
“Why are you doing this?” Laura asked as she got to her feet, an angry look on her face that was somewhat spoiled by the tears still trickling down her cheeks.
~So this might not be the first time Ms. Frost’s been slamming Laura.~ He thought as his anger increased a notch as well as the icy look he conveyed with his eyes.
“You know exactly why I’m doing this,” Emma said crossing her arms in a look of resolve. “You’re a weapon, a cold-blooded killing machine who knows nothing but death and murder. You’re a threat to every life within this school but all that is about to change because, one way or another, you’re leaving.”
“If she goes, ^I^ go Ms. Frost.” He said with a little bit of heat entering into his icy tone of voice, “I thought I might be able to get some help here but, if you’re a shining example of the kind of people that run this place, then I’m going to start looking someplace else.”
This made the older blonde woman pause for a moment and he thought perhaps he had something but then she resumed her ‘end of discussion’ walk down the hallway as though nothing had been said. Obviously the woman was used to getting her own way and didn’t let anything get in her way once she set her mind to something. He’d have to stay extra close to Laura then just to make sure that there were no more efforts to drive the clone/daughter/sister of Logan out of the school.
“Well it looks like neither of us is going to be getting any sort of sleep anytime soon, so howsabout you and I raid the fridge for something to eat?” he asked her with his patent pending lopsided smile.
She nodded and, within a few minutes, the two of them were in the kitchen with him slapping together two sandwiches for them as well as two tall glasses of milk. He didn’t know if roast beef sandwiches were something that Laura liked considering she rarely talked or voice an opinion of her own that wasn’t combat related but he figured it was a good place to start. Five minutes later, though, he could tell she had something on her mind and, judging from the random looks she was directing his way, he apparently had something to do with her train of thought.
“What is it?” he asked, deciding that beating around the bush wouldn’t accomplish anything.
“You told Ms. Frost that you’d leave with me if they succeeded in driving me from the school,” Laura replied, looking at him a bit before tilting her head slightly in curiosity. “Why?”
“Weapons can’t cry. They can’t feel emotions at all. You do feel. You are not a weapon.” He said simply, pointing out the mistakes of Ms. Frost as well as his own position, “You’re a young woman who’s had a shitty life up until recently and has decided she wants to become something better. I figure that’s something worth helping you out with. Besides, I find you interesting.”
It was truth for the most part. With her usually silent nature, he had no idea what was going on inside her head half the time and that gave him plenty of reasons to try and figure her out. Add to that the different sides to herself she occasionally showed and he was definitely interested in getting to know her better.
To this she only nodded and resumed eating her meal.
X-Mansion, Kitchen, Twenty Minutes Later, Laura’s P.O.V
Xander found her interesting.
She supposed it was only logical since, based on interactions with him, she had been the first mutant he’d ever spent an extended period of time with. However his behavior was more… informal towards her than she would have expected for someone gathering detailed intelligence on a potential ally. True, her instructors at The Facility had taught her various behavioral patterns, from emotional cripple to ‘perky’ girl scout, that were to be used to get close to the target. Was that what Xander was doing now? …No, she didn’t think so. While she had noticed some military training in his movements and actions, they did not seem geared towards espionage or undercover work. That left her with an annoying mystery that she could not quite figure out and felt that it must be because her lack of data on what it meant to be ‘a normal teenage girl’. It was one of the flaws that she had found in herself once she had made it to the home of her mother’s sister and, since then, she had done what she could to learn the correct mannerisms and behavioral patterns. Still, it was slow going and even with extensive observation of girls her own age, she never quite got the same reaction they did when she mimicked their actions. It was confounding how, even with perfect mimicry of accepted behavior, she still came off to them as the ‘odd girl’ or the ‘freak’. Xander, on the other hand, didn’t mind it the few times she had made a mistake in his presence and corrected her without any sneering or undue ridicule. He genuinely seemed interested in helping her to become a normal teenage girl.
That fascinated her.
She also took the time she spent together to gather information on his new form and what it was capable of just in case she required the data in the future. She did not currently perceive that she was in danger of him turning on her but, just the same, there were other ways to make someone attack a ‘friend’ or ‘loved one’. The Facility had numerous ways of modifying behavior, from scientific ways to people with unique abilities, and she had no way of knowing which, if any, of them would be effective on Alexander LaVelle Harris. Looking up at him as he finished putting away the milk, she was about to ask him a question when he suddenly turned his head in the direction of the front entrance of the building. She followed him two seconds later when an all too familiar scent reached her nose and this caused her to mark her ‘friend’s’ sense of smell as being more acute than even her own. Blood. There was blood in the air. Before she could even inquire with Xander about what he thought the source might be, he was already running to find the source. This was consistent with the ‘white knight complex’ that he often ridiculed himself for having. When she asked him to elaborate on what a ‘white knight complex’ was, he described it as a strong inner compulsion to perform noble and honorable acts regardless of the potential danger to oneself. If someone was indeed hurt badly enough to produce this strong a scent of blood then it would certainly be enough to trigger Xander’s complex. Following him, they soon found themselves at the front door of the building just as Ms. Frost was opening it and it was then that they discovered the cause of the odor in the air.
Jay Guthrie lay on the doorstep to the mansion, covered in his own blood and, according to her eyesight and analyses, his wings had been removed.
Xander was frozen in shock at the scene but Scott Summers, codename Cyclops, was the first to recover from the sight, quickly bending down and scooping up the injured mutant before heading for the elevator. Ms. Frost took only a single look at both of them before following her current love interest and soon it was only the two of them standing not fifteen feet from the front door. Looking to Harris’ face, she could tell that he was in danger of going into shock due to the bloody scene he’d just been exposed to. It was a bit odd that he should be so affected considering his earlier statements of living in a town where deaths were common and a part of a group that often investigated those incidents. However she surmised that the reason for his shock had to do with the fact that he had never seen a human being so heavily injured but rather had found the bodies long after death had occurred. Whatever the case was, she was concerned that his exposure to this might cause him to do something reckless if he was allowed to slip into shock entirely. She needed to ‘snap him out of it’ somehow and then get him to focus on something else until his mind was more able to process the experience he had just been through. Searching through her mind, she tried to conceive of a method that would be both effective and appropriate considering the current relationship she had with the transformed human. In the end, while her mind had come up with three possibilities, she disregarded the first two since there was a possibility of their meaning being misinterpreted and chose the third.
“Calm yourself, Xander. I can only imagine how disturbing this scene must have been for you but you must move past it,” she said, trying to sound compassionate but only managing to evade sounding coldhearted. “Instead of dwelling on the event itself, force your mind to devise an acceptable way of handling it in a constructive manner. How do you intend to handle this situation?”
For a time he simply stood there, looking at her, but then a look of contemplation crossed his features before determination was the dominant expression on his face. Without a word to her he turned and began to walk briskly for the elevator that had only minutes ago taken Ms. Frost and Mr. Summers. Not knowing what he had planned, she followed him and waited for him to explain to her what precisely he intended to do. However he never spoke, never uttered a word, but rather seemed to be completely focused on whatever method of ‘handling’ Jay Guthrie’s current state his mind had come up with. When the doors opened to the level that the infirmary was on, he exited the elevator car and swiftly proceeded down the hallway to the door to the infirmary. Upon entering the room, she could see that Dr. McCoy was finishing applying fresh bandages to Jay Guthrie’s body as well as connecting the formerly winged mutant to various medical monitoring machines. Xander was halfway to the bed upon which the injured mutant lay before Ms. Frost and Mr. Summers took notice of their arrival.
“Alexander? What are you… ^two^ doing here?” Ms. Frost asked, barely managing to conceal her dislike for the female clone of Wolverine.
“Handling the situation.” Was all Xander said in reply before he grasped the hilt of one of his swords and withdrew the blade from the sheath it resided in.
She could tell that everyone was tense and it would have been a reasonable assumption that all three X-Men were readying themselves to use their powers on Harris should he attempt to do something… questionable.
They should have stopped him immediately.
With speed that reduced the blade to a barely perceivable blur, Xander executed a slash with the katana that released a wave of blue energy at Jay Guthrie and Dr. McCoy. With a flash of light that forced her to close her eyes, she knew that something had happened when she heard the sounds of tearing bandages as well as physical movement. When the light had finally faded to the point where all present could see, they beheld a sight that had all wondering what had happened. She was no exception to this as she could not construct a feasible reason why Jay Guthrie was suddenly completely healed and in possession of crimson wings exactly the same as the ones he used to possess. To her knowledge, while there were mutants with the ability to heal rapidly, no description that she had ever heard matched what she had just seen seconds ago. Turning to Xander, she hoped that he would be forthcoming with an explanation but instead he looked as though he had just arrived in the room. Looking into his eyes, she could see no grasp of what he had just done and a growing fear that likely came from not knowing if he truly was in control of his own body.
“Alexander… how? How did you do that?” Ms. Frost asked, clearly astonished at the feat of healing that the temporary tenant at the school had just performed.
“I… I don’t know,” he replied, looking down at the unsheathed katana in his hand. “I just entered the room, saw Jay laying there a-and… I wanted to help somehow. T-then it was like the sword was calling to me, compelling me to use it and I… I did!”
This troubled her and, judging from the looks on the faces of Ms. Frost and Mr. Summers, she wasn’t the only one not thinking positively about this new development. In the past five minutes, Alexander LaVelle Harris had come under the influence of a weapon in his possession and, while the results were, for the most part, positive, his lack of control was not a good thing. Was it like her and the trigger scent that had been burned into her mind by The Facility? Had he truly been incapable of stopping himself? Unknown. At the very least he lacked sufficient control for the headmaster and headmistress of the Institute to be able to do anything but be concerned. If she were in their position, she would immediately isolate Xander from the rest of the student body and place him under observation until the full extent of this phenomena had been determined. While he had not done anything harmful so far, that did not mean he wouldn’t in the future. With such a potential risk to the teenagers under their charge, it was the only sound decision to make.
“Alexander. Go upstairs and get your costume. Put it on,” Ms. Frost said in a firm tone that made it clear it was a step shy of an order. “In twenty minutes a ‘battle royal’ of sorts is going to be held comprised of all of the students living here still in possession of their mutant abilities. You’re going to be a part of that.”
“WHAT!? You can’t be serious… I… look what I just did!” Xander exclaimed, clearly seeing any course of action that put him in a volatile situation as being insanity.
She would be hard pressed to disagree with him.
“Yes, I did, and, because of that action, Jay now has his wings back.” Frost said increasing the uncompromising tone in her voice, “I know you’re afraid of what else your new state might surprise you with but if this bloody scene with Jay proves anything it’s that someone has declared their intentions to kill everyone here at the Institute. They will be coming, sooner or later, and if you’re intending to stay here past tomorrow you are going to be in the middle of some difficult situations whether you like it or not. Do you wish to find out what lies within you now, under controlled conditions, or later when lives may depend on your choices and actions?”
It was a smart move on Ms. Frost’s part. She might not have known all there was to know about Xander but she knew that he placed greater value on the lives of others than his own. Confronted with the fact that the student body was in danger and that lives would be affected by his choices, there was only one course of action that the former Sunnydale resident would choose.
“I’ll… I’ll be back in ten ready to go.” Xander stated, steeling himself for what was to come and burying his insecurities as deeply as he could.
With that he turned around and left the infirmary and for a moment she wondered what she should do. It was made clear to her before that Ms. Frost didn’t approve of her being admitted as a student at the Institute by Weapon X and Mr. Summers. It was doubtful that she would let a being she considered ‘a weapon’ to participate in the mass battle to occur in twenty minutes.
“What are you waiting around for, Laura?” Asked Mr. Summers with the authority of an instructor. “Get upstairs and get your fighting clothes on. You’re participating in this as well.”
Looking for a moment at Ms. Frost, someone who was obviously not in favor of the headmaster’s actions, before turning and heading for the elevator to the upper floors, Laura left. Her status at the Institute was still tentative but, until she was officially told that she was no longer welcome there by the majority, she would abide by the orders of the mansion’s administrators. Reaching the elevators just as the doors began to close, she slipped in just in time to join Xander as he rode the elevator car to ground level. Looking up at him, she watched as he gave her what was most likely intended to be an encouraging smile and, while she did not feel much in return, she felt more… optimistic about her chances in the fight to come knowing that he would be at her side.
Xander was her friend, after all.
X-Mansion, Sub-Level 4, Danger Room, Twenty-five minutes later, Xander’s P.O.V
I can do this!
It had become something of a mantra for him since he’d entered the Danger Room dressed in the very same outfit he’d worn in the closing minutes of the confrontation with the demon mobsters. Having little else to call it, he decided to name it all his ‘Sesshomaru Suit’, even though he’d just call it his uniform if anyone else asked. It still looked a bit odd on him when he looked at himself in the mirror but, at the same time, he didn’t dislike it enough to throw it off and wear something else. He just hoped that it turned out to be more durable than it looked or it was going to get seriously messed up here and probably him along with it. While Ms. Frost was only now moving to the head of the group to explain everything, he had a pretty good idea what was about to happen. One of the students under her charge had just stumbled back to the mansion in a bloody mess and, since Jay Guthrie hadn’t been on suicide watch the past few weeks (that he knew of at least), it meant one thing: the mutant haters of the world had decided to finish off what remained of the mutant population on their own rather than waiting for some other worldwide occurrence to do it for them. That being the case and given the globe trotting adventures that the X-Men went on, the blonde no doubt intended to draft some of the students to form a team that would defend the mansion in case of attack. While he personally thought that the students should be given more say in the matter, he wasn’t the one in charge of the place.
~I really hope I can get through this without seriously hurting someone.~ He thought as Frost found her speech spot.
“Today everything changes.” Emma said with a tone of an ominous nature, “No more squads. No more field days.”
“What?” Exclaimed one of the Stepford Cuckoos.
“You can’t be serious.” Stated another incredulously at what he presumed she saw in her mentor’s head.
“We won’t do it.” Spoke the final one before all three left the room in a seriously bad mood.
He imagined that if the rest of the students knew the full scope of what the woman in white was planning, they’d have similar reactions and they’d be within their rights to think like that. Most of the mutant teenagers here didn’t come to become X-Men or to fight the good fight. Most of them came to get a grip on their powers and to get an education that they weren’t likely to get anywhere else due to their status as mutants. To be told that they were about to undergo a draft battle to form a fighting team that’d be putting their lives on the line frequently would not go over well.
“You came here to learn to use your powers and find your place in the world. Now we will see what you’ve learned and where your place is,” Frost said with the skill of an experience orator. “There are two possibilities— on the battlefield or on the sidelines. You will decide which. The exercise is simple. Every man for himself. Last students standing will train to be X-Men… the rest do not. Wallflower, Blindfold, Nezhno, Ernst. You are excused.”
“What? Because of my arm? I can still— “ Wallflower, a blonde girl whose ability it was to generate and control pheromones, protested strongly.
“Leave now.” Was all Frost said in return.
Reluctantly the singled out students did leave the room but he could tell that the command did not sit well with Wallflower’s teammates. Still he supposed that it was the safest course of action. While it was true that one disabled arm did not an invalid make, it would be a weak spot that the other students might take advantage of and Ms. Frost probably wanted a level battlefield all around.
“Wait, Miss Frost. What about Kevin? Did you find him yet?” Mercury asked with concern for the current status of her teammate.
“Jay Guthrie is missing as well,” stated Dust, the Muslim girl who could become a being unto sand, as she looked about the room for the teen currently sedated in the infirmary.
“Right now, I suggest you focus on the students around you.” Emma replied making it clear that what was going on right now took precedent over everything else.
Looking about him, he could already see the alliances being formed between the various students, most being those who had been on the same squad prior to the announcement. Some were obviously uneasy or perhaps even opposed to the event about to take place but he didn’t see anyone else leaving or voicing their complaints to Ms. Frost. It both pleased him and worried him that despite the road they were stepping onto and the danger it held these kids were still willing to walk down it. In a way he felt a certain kinship with them because he too had made a similar choice years back when he’d first stumbled upon Buffy and her calling. He had been given a choice between doing the right thing and hiding from the truth that lived in his hometown of Sunnydale.
He chose to do the right thing.
“Begin,” Emma said from her position in the observation booth that was incorporated into the roof of the Danger Room.
Within seconds the battle was joined and he took up a defensive posture close to Laura so he could protect her from assaults from behind. He didn’t dare do anything more for fear of somehow going overboard and seriously hurting one of his fellow combatants. He didn’t have to wait long for his first opponent to surface because Julian Keller, aka Hellion, was making for Laura’s position, completely ignoring everyone else. Deciding it wouldn’t be smart to let someone like that prick, whom apparently had the power of telekinesis, judging by the suddenly flying students that had once been in his way, get the first shot in he moved at what he hoped was only a quarter of his top speed intercept the fool and get a KO blow in immediately. He was forced to act immediately when the arrogant ass took notice of his approach and, with a brief surge of speed, he found himself less than three feet from his chosen adversary. Trying to be as gentle yet potent as possible, he placed his right hand on the man’s chest and then using as much strength as he dared he moved to push the teen off his feet and to the ground. What happened in the eyes of those observing the fight, though, was one second Xander Harris suddenly became a blur of movement the next he reappeared in front of Julian, slamming the other teen to the ground enough to bounce slightly. It was lucky for Hellion that he had had the foresight in those few seconds before impact to use his telekinesis to cushion the impact as much as possible. If he had not, he likely would have been knocked out cold and wake up unable to move due to the mass of bruising up and down his back. As it was, the blow had been sufficient to knock the wind clear out of him and rattle his brain enough that, for at least a minute, a T.K technique would not be possible.
~That should keep Keller off of Laura’s back for the time being.~ He thought as he turned to make his way back to Claw Girl’s side.
However it was then that he noticed something that was most definitely not of the normal and, considering the student codenamed Onyxx was charging his friend’s position, it was very odd. Laura was definitely a ‘the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense’ sort of fighter so the fact that she wasn’t taking the battle to the muscled mutant was a definite sign that something was amiss. It didn’t take him long though to figure out what was most likely going on. While some might think that her immobility might have something to do with one of the students on the battlefield, he had a far more likely suspect in mind. Looking up to the control room hanging from the ceiling and with his enhanced sight he could easily see the smug smile on Emma Frost’s face.
It was this sight that caused him to feel something other than the anxiety he’d been feeling over participating in this battle royal.
He felt anger.
This anger is what caused him to run to Laura’s side, completely ignoring his own concerns about the number and power levels of his new abilities. That was why he didn’t even realize that he’d crossed almost the entire length of the room in the time it usually takes someone to blink once. Before anyone knew it, he was right in Onyxx’s path and it was then that he decided that he should make it clear to all the other students that they would be making a mistake attacking Laura in her current state. Standing directly in the rock muscle mutant’s path, he waited until the last moment before making his statement through a blunt show of force. With a single step he lunged forward and thrust his right palm forward, striking the man in the torso with as much force as he dared to use.
As it turned out, ‘as much force as he dared to use’ was enough to send the rock mutant flying through the air, knocking over students as he went, before slamming into the wall of the room hard enough to leave a dent.
However, instead of gaping at what he’d done or mumbling apology after apology, he simply stood straight up and glared at the students, all of whom were staring at him in surprise. He made it clear with his eyes that anyone who tried to launch an attack on Laura in her present state would have to get past him first. Hopefully they taught self-preservation in this school and that that would keep some of the more I-wanna-suck-up-to-Miss-Frost students at bay. Looking at the rest of the students, he tried to measure the level of their intent to continue assaulting his and Laura’s position. He could tell that most of them already had their mental list of people that they wanted to take down in this battle and, thankfully, the majority of them didn’t have the names Xander Harris and Laura Kinney on those lists. As for those that were considering getting on their knees and kissing Frost’s ass by attacking him and his friend, they were currently reconsidering that course of action. Once he was certain that the people in the room with him were not going to try anything, he decided he’d send a message to the person who was responsible for making him send the message. Looking up to the observation room, he could see that Frost was a mix of put out that her plan hadn’t worked and impressed by his show of power.
~Since you seem to be suffering from a case of blondeness, Frost, I’ll put this as bluntly as possible.~ He thought at her with enough strength that a telepath like her would definitely hear it, ~Keep abusing your authority or your powers like this and I’ll make sure that you’ll be putting your plastic surgeon’s kids through college AND medical school with the bill he gives you. Understand?~
She just looked back at him with a smug smile on her face implying that either she was impressed he had the balls to talk to her like that or she found his threat to be laughable at best.
He’d be sure to change that opinion of him soon enough. If there was one thing he couldn’t stand it was arrogant bitches who thought that their beauty or wealth was a license to walk all over everyone. In Emma Frost’s case, though, he doubted that she’d be cowed with just a few well placed words and remarks like Cordy or her sheep would be. No, with her he’d have to show her just how little her powers would mean if he decided to come after her with his own abilities. He’d have to show her that he would do whatever was necessary to make sure Laura was treated fairly and without prejudice of any kind. Only then would the woman give up her efforts to get the girl who was his friend kicked out of the Institute and start behaving properly.
One way or another they would reach an understanding with one another.
Even if they both wound up in the infirmary.
X-Mansion, Office of Co-Headmaster Emma Frost, Mid-Evening, Emma Frost’s P.O.V
~While not the outcome I would have preferred, it was definitely an eye opener.~ Emma thought as she considered what she would soon say in front of the remaining students, ~Alexander is certainly full of surprises. Speed that almost at Quicksilver’s level and strength to rival Colossus’ power. Impressive.~
More impressive, though, was what he had done to Icarus in the infirmary before she decided to hold the battle royal in the Danger Room. She had just received McCoy’s report and, by all accounts, the winged Guthrie was in the peak of good health with no sign that he had ever been injured, much less had his wings surgically removed. Hank was at a loss to explain what had happened aside from ‘the blinding light from the sword healed him’ and that was not sitting well with the blue biochemist. Unless something important came up, she knew that Beast would be staying in his lab, pouring over his instruments, trying to figure it all out. She herself could not deduce what happened either but considering the fact that the young man had two other swords on his hip and she had a feeling that they had special properties of their own. If they were half as potent as the first one had been, then Xander Harris could well be one of the most powerful people currently living at the X-Mansion at the moment. She wanted to believe that his threat earlier was nothing to worry about but, with so little to go on with regards to his abilities and their limits, it might be wise to be more careful with him. While she had not yet given up her ambition to see X-23 leave, she knew anything further on that side of things would have to be done more covertly. While she knew that she possessed superior experience to the boy, she was not willing to get into a confrontation with him until she had a better grasp of his powers.
Mercury, Dust, Hellion, Elixir, Rockslide, Surge and… X-23.
Those were the names of the seven former students that would be trained to be the next generation of X-Men, appropriately named the New X-Men. While she had not intended to name Surge as team leader, she felt it appropriate to punish Julian for his poor performance in the Danger Room. While all of the others managed to defeat at least one of their opponents, Julian had been kept out of the fight almost until the end and would have been eliminated had he not managed to defeat Quill. If he hadn’t, she would have had no choice but to rank him among the losers. Since he was among the winners, though, he was on the team but his poor performance against Xander could not be allowed to pass unanswered. With luck this would be incentive enough for Julian to improve his skill with his telekinesis so that down the line she could replace Noriko with him without opposition. While not belittling Surge’s skills, such as they were, she didn’t believe that the girl had the inner strength to handle the pressures of leadership. The blue haired girl would likely be quick to curse her position and the dream of X-teams, possibly leading to her own personal views affecting both her judgment as well as the team. Better to have someone she knew would not mind the role of leader and had grown to her liking.
Getting to her feet and preparing to head for the auditorium, she found her thoughts drifting back to Xander and how much of a boon he could be if she could convince him to officially sign on to become a member of the New X-Men. He wouldn’t be leader, of course, but he could make an acceptable second in command with a little time spent learning tactics and strategy with Scott. Yes, that would make him an excellent second in command and the fact that he could smack some sense into Hellion should the dear boy’s ego get the better of him was another bonus. The question became, of course, how to get him to stay. She knew from her scans of his mind that he was only staying here at the mansion until all possibilities for reversing his transformation were exhausted and X-23 was settled in. Whether they cured him or not, if X-23 settled in as he hoped, he would inevitably wish to return to his hometown of Sunnydale to resume his work with the ‘Scooby gang’ defending the Hellmouth. A noble sentiment but his memories of his friends made her believe that they could handle things quite well without him whereas here he could be a real asset. As for the bonds of friendship he had with them, she could promise to make a private jet available for him during the holidays and birthdays so that he could visit them often. She could also offer the assistance of the X-Men if a true crisis popped up that his friends couldn’t handle on their own. Still, even with all that she could offer him in order to get him to stay, it would still be a difficult struggle and, if he did stumble across a way to reverse his condition, she would lose a valuable asset.
~Perhaps what is needed is for me to create a more thorough bond here.~ She thought as her mind began to consider a promising scenario.
Alexander Harris was, after all, a teenager and possessed all the benefits as well as weaknesses that that age came with. Even more so it was her opinion that his transformation had given him certain… primal tendencies that could be used to her advantage. At his age, the allure of an attractive woman and the promise of a potentially ^fulfilling^ relationship might just be strong enough to keep him there when combined with her earlier points. The question then became whom among the young women at the Institute would best suit her needs and be an anchor keeping the Harris boy here at the mansion. Laurie, perhaps? No. There was still the possibility of a relationship between her and Elixir. Better to let that take its course since Joshua was a valuable member of the New X-Men and would need an anchor as well to keep him stable as an asset. Surge? No. She was still attracted to Prodigy despite his depowered state and, while she could force a quick separation by having him leave with the other depowered students, it would create unnecessary friction between her and Noriko. Dust was a possibility but the girl’s chosen religion would prove to be a hindrance since her beliefs would act as a potent obstacle towards the intimate contact that Xander would likely seek. He was an American teenager, after all, and tactile affection was very much a part of romance in the United States. There was that whole ‘want what you cannot have’ allure that might work but it was too unstable for her to risk anything on it. Mercury? A definite possibility since she appeared to be without a significant other at the moment and her mutant powers would lessen Xander’s concern about accidently hurting her. Hisako? Perhaps. While a bit younger than Xander, she was not so young that anyone would find a relationship between the two as odd or unacceptable. Also the power and durability that her psionic armor would make them a formidable combination in battle was another angle to consider aside from possible romance.
~All these possibilities for Alexander and so little time to lay down the groundwork.~ She thought as her mind continued to debate the various candidates.
Finally reaching the auditorium entrance, she realized that she would have to table the idea for the time being since it would likely take her full concentration to survive her speech. There were many who would be against her decision to remove the remaining depowered mutants from the Institute but it was for their own good. It was no secret that as one of the few large concentrations of mutants on Earth, the school was a prime target for the various mutant hate groups that existed. Men like William Stryker were already fanning the flames of hate and urging the prejudiced and bigoted to finish what the Scarlet Witch had started on M-Day. While the X-Men and O.N.E forces would do their best to defend the mutants living at the Institute, it was a strong possibility that the students would be forced to fend for themselves at certain points during the conflict. Those with no powers would be virtually helpless against such an assault and thus it was wiser to remove them from the combat zone entirely. The young teenagers would still rebel against this idea, no doubt swearing that they’d protect those who’d lost their powers, but this would only put those students at greater risk since they would be forced to protect two or more rather than just one. No, sending the depowered students away would be the better course of action and, since they’d be doing it covertly, the odds of their movements being leaked to anti-mutant forces would be minimal.
Pushing the door open, she immediately spotted Alexander standing off in a corner with eyes focused on the stage. She was, for a moment, surprised to find him here since he was neither a mutant nor a student but then deduced that the teenager was likely there to make sure she didn’t try anything with X-23. A wasted effort on his part, though. Scott had made it quite clear after the Danger Room session that he wouldn’t tolerate any more blatant attempts to expel Wolverine’s female clone from the Institute. She had attempted to persuade him once more the dangers of allowing the biological weapon to remain at the Institute but he would not listen. He continued to point out numerous ‘problem children’ that the X-men had taken in over the years and how they had evolved into valued members of the team. She countered by pointing out that the majority of those troublemakers had been raised to be humans and had lived as humans before coming to the X-mansion. X-23 had been bred from birth to be a weapon and knew nothing but ways to kill whatever target was put before her. The artificial being was only just now beginning to make steps towards accepted human behavior but even then what she was learning was being treated as nothing more than mission data. The ^filth^ at the Facility had done their jobs well in creating their little weapon and, even ^if^ she chose to try and help the girl become more human, it was questionable how much she could truly change. In the end, though, she could not budge him an inch and both of them had stormed off in opposite directions to vent their anger.
~I love the man but sometimes he can be painfully incapable of clamping down on his idealism.~ She thought with a slight frown before making her way to the stage, ~Even after his harsh reality call by fusing with Apocalypse he still wants to believe that there is the possibility of redemption in some people.~
He was both infuriating and lovely at the same time.
GOD she loved him!
Morlock Tunnels Exit, Just Outside of Salem Center, A Few Minutes Before Midnight
~I do ^NOT^ like this.~ He thought as he divided his attention between the group of students saying their farewells and the surrounding forest.
His logical mind could understand that with the mansion being the target it was due to the high concentration of mutants there it was a logical move to remove those that couldn’t defend themselves like the depowered mutants. However the Zeppo side of himself remembered all too well what it felt like to have other people make decisions for him ‘for his own good’ and try to push him out of the group. He suspected that the only reason why these students weren’t kicking up more of a fuss was because they didn’t know how to fight back against the almighty Emma Frost, especially when the only person capable of countering her was pretty much her squeeze toy. A small voice inside of him pointed out that that was what love did to people but he still wished that Scott Summers would question the bitch a little more often. Realizing what he’d just thought, he immediately began to look for the all too sneaky vengeance demons who looked for careless statements just like so they could work their mojo. Fortunately, though, it looked like there were none around because otherwise he’d be smacking himself so hard for forgetting one of the most basic rules from Sunnydale. ‘Be careful what you say, ‘cause you don’t know ^what^ might be listening’ wasn’t a sign of paranoia like most people would think it was. Resuming his efforts to help with security while Laura and the others said goodbye to the friends that were shipping out, he hoped that Murphy would take pity on these kids and leave them alone.
It only took a few minutes for all the students to be loaded onto the bus and, once they were, everyone began to make their way back to the entrance/exit to the Morlock tunnels. Only he, Laura, Mercury, Hellion, Elixir, Dust and Rockslide were still out but he wasn’t planning on heading into those reeking tunnels any sooner than he had to. While he had been dealing with an enhanced sense of smell for a while now, those sewer tunnels were a new level of funk for him to deal with and he didn’t like it.
~Still it’d be best to get it over with quickly.~ he thought as he proceeded towards the opening.
He got all of ten feet before he heard it.
A paff sound of displaced air and the sound of a burning fire getting closer and closer.
Turning his head towards the sound, his eyes widened as he spotted the anti-tank missile heading right for the bus and was about halfway there already. He turned away from the entrance/exit of the Morlock tunnels and began to run towards the bus with the intent of intercepting the missile somehow and save the passengers of the bus that were only now comprehending the danger they were in. Pouring all of his power, all of his intent, into his legs, he hoped that he’d had all the speed he need. All he managed to do, though, was leap into the air in an effort to get a clear line of sight right before the rocket impacted on the side of the bus and detonated. He was less than three feet from the bus when it exploded and, as such, was knocked backwards by the force of the blast but, by some random bit of luck, he managed to remain on his feet. This was something he was only peripherally aware of because right then the thing that was at the front of his mind, dominating his thoughts was the fact that the teenagers in the bus were most likely dead or dying. He asked himself how could this happen and who could have done this but he already had an inkling of an answer in his mind.
It couldn’t be super villains because they usually were a little more upfront about things and liked to make a spectacle of themselves in front of everyone. Whoever did this had done it from a long distance away and used the forest as cover so that no one would pick them up before they attacked. That meant normal humans with military grade weaponry and that pretty much meant mutant haters like The Friends of Humanity or some other group with similar ideals and ambitions. People like that had just fired off a missile that had obliterated the bus in a ball of flame and had likely killed or fatally wounded those inside. He didn’t really know those on the bus all that well since he’d only been here for a little while but, looking at them, even with their mutations, he saw his friends back home. In the young women he saw Buffy, Willow and Cordelia. In the young men he could see bits of himself and Oz. All of them at their core were just teenagers as old as him if not younger and despite their powers they had the same dreams as anyone else their age on the planet Earth. Someone didn’t care about that, though. Someone saw them only as nameless, faceless, abominations that had to be eliminated before some paranoid fear became cold hard reality. Someone who cared nothing about the fact that those in the bus weren’t technically mutants anymore and had more in common with baseline humans than anyone else at the mansion.
They didn’t care. THEY DIDN’T CARE ONE ^BIT^!
With that thought in his mind his emotions faded away to be replaced with a quiet chill that dominated his mindscape almost completely to the elimination of almost all else. Most would think he had gone into shock, they’d believe this terrible situation had overwhelmed him, but they would have been wrong. It wasn’t shock that was flowing through his body but rather an icy rage that would make even the most determined of demons second guess doing anything to get that emotion directed at him. The only thing other than that icy rage was the contempt and disgust at the people responsible for this. Only cowards could be responsible for such a dishonorable massacre. If they were truly strong, truly brave, they would have attacked this location head on no matter what might have been in their way. Attacking from a distance, attacking from a hidden location… only spineless filth behaved like that.
With this in mind he decided to channel the rage into what he wanted to do next. “Mercury! Get a hold of yourself.” He said commandingly as he looked at her with cold eyes, “You and Dust use your powers to smother the flames as quickly as possible. Deal with them before they get to the fuel tank.”
“Who died and made you leader?!” Noriko snapped with a mix of anger and surprise.
“No one, unless you waste more time questioning my orders.” He said without a flinch at her words or a decrease in his resolve, “You work with Rockslide, Laura and Hellion to get both the dead and the dying out of that wreckage so Elixir can go to work on those he can save. DO IT!”
To their credit the others only hesitated a few seconds before they went to work following his orders, establishing a level of order to a situation that had become chaotic. While they did this he prepared himself for any follow up attacks that might be incoming. While he doubted those cowards would expose themselves intentionally, there was always the chance that they’d become overconfident due to their successful first strike. If they did come, though, X-men present or not, he’d kill them all. Without hesitation he would end their lives. This filth had attacked a group of defenseless teenagers who were already experiencing the pain of losing not only their powers but also their home and the friends they’d made there. Unforgivable!
It took about fifteen minutes for everyone that had been on the bus to be carried clear but that only made him angrier as he noticed that far too many of them were dead. While none of them, by the grace of God, had any limbs blown off, there was so much blood soaked into their clothes that it was supremely difficult to determine who needed healing the most. Nevertheless he watched Elixir do his best to use his mutant power to heal those he could get his hands on but, at best, he might save half of them. This was ^unacceptable^ to him. Even if only one of these teenagers died he would not accept it!
As if in response to these feelings, one of the swords tucked beneath his golden sash pulsed with power and an echoing pulse went off in his mind. Looking down at it, he realized that the weapon was the same one he’d been compelled to use to restore Jay’s wings and mutant himself to full health. It was then that he realized he had the ability at his side that he could very well save everyone with the power that this katana possessed. Reaching with his right hand, he took hold of the weapon’s hilt and pulled the blade smooth movement that made it look like he’d done it a million times before. Once at the ready he closed his eyes and began to pour all of his desires, all of his intentions, into the sword so that the power unleashed would be as high as he could make it. He didn’t notice the blade seem to get heavier or a blue light begin to come from it that lit up the area like a powerful electric lamp. All of his focus was directed toward what he wanted to do and his refusal to accept the current state of things. It was only when he opened his eyes, locked his gaze on his targets and swung his sword in a wide arc that the focused energy was released washing the light over the victims laid out on the ground before him. It only took a few seconds for the light to vanish and leave only the few remaining flickers or fire from the wreckage of the obliterated bus to light up the area.
The results of his actions spoke for themselves.
However it was not all good from a certain points of view.
While it was true that his slash had pulled off a miracle by not only healing those that had moments ago dying but also restoring those to life that had once been dead, his action had also had a shocking side effect. Those teenagers that had been depowered now found themselves once more among the ranks of mutants in possession of their powers. As they rose from their prone positions on the ground, he could see them receiving shock after shock that they were suddenly all better both medically as well as their powers, but to him he’d deal with any blowback from that later. Right now, with the immediate concern of students dealt with, he had only one goal in mind and that was to take down the team of mutant haters responsible by whatever means necessary. Turning away from the crowd, he sheathed the katana he’d used to heal or revive the former Institute residents and began moving towards where he believed the perpetrators had launched their attack from. While the trail of exhaust from the missile had disappeared for the most part, there was still visible enough to give him an idea of where to look. Add to that what he could recall from memory and he had no doubt that finding those assholes wouldn’t be a problem for him in the least. Stepping forward, he barely registered the arrival of the O.N.E sentinel as it set down on ground with its boot thrusters and lights on full blast illuminating the area. He didn’t care about that, though. Let the tin man and the pilot inside handle clean up here. He had bigger fish to fry.
“HALT! YOU ARE OUTSIDE OF YOUR AUTHORISED ZONE.” The pilot of the sentinel said over the loudspeaker, “STAY WHERE YOU ARE UNTIL O.N.E AGENTS ARRIVE.”
“No,” was all he said before he resumed striding towards his next target.
“STOP!” The pilot repeated as he moved the machine with impressive speed to block his path, “THAT IS AN ORDER.”
“Move.” He commanded, looking up to the head of the machine where he suspected the pilot’s cockpit resided.
“I CANNOT DO THAT. LOOK, I UNDERSTAND HOW YOU FEEL, BUT THIS IS OFFICIAL O.N.E BUSINESS NOW.” Said the pilot with genuine compassion in his voice, “DO NOT ENDANGER YOURSELF BY GOING AFTER THEM ALONE.”
“Fine,” he said as he reached for another of the swords tied to his waist.
With only intentions guiding his movements rather than true skill, he used the katana with the severely worn out hilt to deliver two vertical slashes to the sentinel. So fast were the movements that he doubted that anyone saw more than blurs of movement accompanied by flashes of golden energy but the end result of his movements was something that no one could miss. With explosions around the areas that were cut, both arms of the metal man fell to the ground with a thunderous impact while smaller secondary explosions popped up from the jagged holes in the sides of the machine. With the obstruction removed, he thrust the blade back into its sheath, the grinding of metal against metal the only sign that it was returning to its original shape. Once the blade was fully back in its sheath, he took off running for the location where his prey would be and hoped that his little object lesson would be enough to discourage pursuit by the other sentinels. He also hoped that none of the X-Men followed him either. He knew that as heroes they would object to what he was going to do to those butchers. Heroes didn’t approve of causing pain for pain’s sake or torturing someone for information concerning the future actions of their organization. Heroes didn’t do that sort of thing or condone it.
He had never once considered himself a hero.
A hero was a role model, a shining beacon of hope, someone that could inspire others to better themselves and the world around them while they were at it. That wasn’t him. He was simply a man who’d chosen to fight the battle against the darkness and was doing his best to push it back as far as he possibly could. While he would not allow himself to become as bad as those he fought against, he also wouldn’t allow superhero rules prevent him from doing what must be done. This attack could not be left unanswered. Those responsible would be punished accordingly. He knew that that was what the justice system was there for, handling situations like this, but he didn’t believe it could be trusted to truly deliver what it promised on these bastards. While on the surface they seemed to follow the letter of the law and treat everyone equally, he knew that within the justice system there had to existed those who felt like treating mutants differently. They could not be obvious about it, they would come up with pathetic reasons for the behavior, but they would still not muster the same amount of effort to see justice done for mutants as they would baseline humans. They might even ‘lose’ a vital piece of evidence or raise the burden of proof the prosecution would need to meet in order to convict a mutant hater of his or her crime. He knew this to be the case in his gut and that was enough to justify what he was about to do. Regardless of the fact that the victims from the bus were alive and once again in possession of their mutant powers, the fact that someone was willing to blow up a bus full of defenseless teenagers was enough to warrant what he would soon do.
He would make what was about to happen his statement to all those that would condone killing people just for being different.
You try to kill good people in front of him and it ^will^ cost you.
The Forest North of the Bus Wreckage, Twenty Minutes Later, Mercury’s P.O.V
~Hold on, Xander! We’re coming!~ Mercury aka Cessily Kincaid as she used her liquid metal form to move across the forest floor faster than any pair of legs could.
It had only been twenty minutes since the guy with the white hair vanished into the forest at a speed she could scarcely perceive but, once she had been sure that the sentinel wouldn’t stop her, she had gone after him. That teenager who dressed like some kind of Japanese feudal prince had shown her one shocking thing after another this night but taking on an unknown number of enemies was a stupid move. Even if he could move like lightning, even if he had swords that held great power, there was no telling what he would find at the spot where the rocket was launched. He could wind up hip deep in God knew how many enemies with no back up and only his limited experience to see him through. While it was true that she had never really been in a life or death battle, had not been in anything more strenuous than that battle royal of Frost’s, even she was sure that diving headlong into an unknown situation was stupid. That was why she was going to help him, to add her strength to his in the hopes of at the very least buying time for the big guns to arrive, and she wasn’t the only one who had chosen to aid the young swordsman. To her left Laura was managing to keep within ten feet of her and had her claws out, ready to put them to use the second they arrived at their destination. To her right was Dust, who like her was using her mutant powers to propel herself at a speed much greater than normal legs could match. Together the three of them would do what they could to make sure that this night stayed a no death zone no matter how many people wanted it to be otherwise.
Five minutes later they arrived at the spot where the rocket had most likely been launched from and what they found brought all three to a screeching halt. Scattered around what looked like the remains of a humvee were men and women dressed in black and white robes of some kind but they were not in the best of shape to say the least. There were tears in their clothes, some looked to be done by a sword while others were done with claws given that some of the prone figures had four parallel slashes across their chests. Of all the humans that were in the clearing, only one of them was still in half decent shape and Xander was stalking that one person like a wolf about to rip its prey’s throat out.
“GET AWAY FROM ME! DEMON!!” Screamed the sole conscious human in the clearing as he scrambled backwards on his back to get away from the being advancing towards him.
“No,” was all Xander said as he continued to step casually towards his final opponent.
The tone of his voice chilled her to the bone and, considering her body was made out of liquid metal, it was no easy feat. It was true that she had not spent much time with the guy, preferring to spend time with her friends, since she believed she’d have time later, but from the snippets she’d heard from others it sounded like Xander Harris was an okay guy. Caring, humorous and laid back were some of the words others often used to describe him. However what she saw before her now was the coldest person she’d ever seen and that was an opinion she’d formed only after hearing him speak. He wasn’t an emotional mess like she’d probably be if she were in his shoes and neither did he seem to be enjoying what he was doing to these people. He was just doing what he had set out to do with no emotions getting in his way whatsoever.
~Whatever! I can’t let this go any further.~ She thought as she moved to position herself between the bleeding man on the ground and Xander.
“Stop it Xander! They’re beaten! It’s over.” She said, doing her best not to flinch at the cold eyes she was looking into or look away one little bit.
“Move aside, Mercury. This ^filth^ needs to learn that there are consequences to his actions,” Xander said, stopping for a moment from advancing on his target.
“And what about the consequences to what you’ve done here?” She asked, using his own words to bring this… this slaughter to an end, “Do you honestly think that those O.N.E jerks are just going to let you walk away from this? Yes, they’re here to protect the school and the people who live there but that doesn’t mean they’re going to turn a blind eye to this. You’ve killed over a dozen people! You need to stop, Xander. NOW!”
“They’re not dead,” Xander said without even the slightest change from the glacial tone of voice he’d been using so far.
“He’s right. None of them are dead.” Laura stated from her position over one of the downed humans with two fingers pressed to the man’s throat to feel for a pulse, “They’re incapacitated and will not be a threat to anyone for a time but they are alive.”
Looking over to Sooraya, she was relieved to see her teammate on the Hellions nod once to her, confirming that the woman she was kneeling by was also alive. It felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, knowing that while still in a bit of trouble, the young man before her probably wouldn’t get any jail time out of this mess. In fact, thanks to the lives of the people he saved a half an hour ago, she seriously doubted that any of those pompous O.N.E agents were going to lay a hand on him. After all, what kind of message would they be sending to slap cuffs or an inhibitor collar on someone who just brought the dead back to life, healed the wounded and restored the powers of so many?
Hearing a rustling sound behind her, she turned to see the sole conscious member of the team of humans who’d attacked the bus run off into the forest. She made a move to follow and apprehend the man but a hand came down on her shoulder stopping her. Looking back she was surprised to see that it had been Xander who had stopped her since this move clashed with the ‘kick ass and chew bubblegum’ attitude he’d been sporting. Raising an eyebrow in inquiry she hoped he got the message and explained himself.
“It was never my intention to kill him. He will now be a messenger to his comrades.” Xander said, a little feeling beginning to thaw the icy exterior before her. “He will tell them that their weapons will not work as intended so long as I am around. He will tell them that even with numbers like this, attacking the Institute would be foolish. This will make them think twice and at least buy everyone some time.”
Looking at all the people lying bloody and unconscious in the clearing, she had to admit that if the sole escapee had been witness to his friends being cut down like they were nothing then it would definitely send a strong message to the people behind all this. Whether this would force the bigots to rethink their plans or if it would simply provoke them into attacking all the harder to wipe out the ‘mutie’ scum, she didn’t know. All she knew was that for now everyone was still alive and those that had attacked the school bus had been defeated.
That was enough for her.
Hearing the sounds of people approaching, she turned and could see the X-Man Cannonball, Jay’s older brother Sam Guthrie, coming towards them. A Sentinel was approaching as well, along with Warren Worthington and the rest of the X-Men capable of making it to the clearing the quickest were probably not far behind. Dust, Laura, Xander and she probably had a minute or two before the first arrivals touched down. That fact reminded her of one fact that was increasing her anxiety by quite a bit: she’d left everything she’d been wearing below the waist back at the site of the destroyed bus. At the time she hadn’t thought all that much about it, all that had mattered was getting to Xander before he got his cute butt blown off, but now that all the excitement was over with she had something of a modesty problem on her hands. She was about to make for the trees and then perhaps head back to the site of the rocket explosion when a strip of gold and blue cloth fluttered to the ground at her feet. Recognizing it as belonging to Xander, she turned to him and saw him uncomfortably looking towards her then away while a distinct blush was on his face.
“It’s not exactly a knee length skirt but it should be enough until you can get some of your own clothes.” He said, barely managing to avoid letting a stuttering effect enter his words.
Touched both by his attempt to help her and by his behavior, she bent down to pick up the sash. It was wider than it looked, having been folded twice before being used as a belt, and with a little adjustment from her made for quite the acceptable mini-skirt. It didn’t quite come to her knees but was definitely long enough that she didn’t have to worry about accidently mooning someone if she bent over wearing it.
“Are y’all alright?” Cannonball asked as he touched down in the clearing but anything else he might have said was taken away when he took in the various bloodied forms on the ground.
That was pretty much the same reaction everyone had when they took in the mess that was all that remained of Xander’s one man battle against the people responsible for the attack on the bus. No one even had to look around for very long to determine who was responsible since there was still some blood dripping from the fingertips of Xander’s hands. This caused the Sentinel that had just touched down to shine a spotlight specifically on the white haired teen and raise both palm blasters to point at the feudal prince. Deciding to nip this problem in the bud before the trooper inside of the giant mecha decided to get a little trigger happy, she walked over and stood directly in the guy’s line of fire. While somewhat surprised, she was definitely pleased when she watched both Dust and Laura follow her lead in discouraging the O.N.E soldier from opening fire. While Xander might not be a mutant and therefore not under the jurisdiction of O.N.E, the rest of them were making firing through them to get to Xander a bad move indeed.
“They’re all alive if that’s what you’re wondering,” she stated looking up to where the eyes were on the former mutant hunter/killer machines. “You might want to get some medics and ambulances up here.”
She might not have been able to see the pilot’s face but she didn’t need to in order to tell that the guy or gal was annoyed at being told what to do. Personally, though, she didn’t care since, as far as she was concerned, no one was going to harm the young man who had pulled off three miracles this night and she wasn’t alone in this position. Neither Dust nor Laura looked like they were going to make it easy for the Sentinel pilot if he or she decided to get a little trigger happy. It was no secret that, despite the official promise that the O.N.E agents and Sentinels were there only to observe and protect the mansion residents, no one really trusted them. The X-Men and others who’d been through the mansion over the years had a long history with Sentinels. Hell, anyone who was a mutant was more than familiar with the term since it pretty much equaled government killing machine in their minds. As for the human sized agents walking around the lawn, no one really believed that those soldiers would do their best to protect the mutant residents of the Institute. They’d put enough effort into it to avoid getting in trouble but, if it came down to saving their own skins or that of a students, everyone knew which way the flatscans would go. Therefore they had to look out for each other and do what they could to make the world a little more bearable to live in.
~Still, if Xander’s planning on sticking around for longer than a couple weeks, I might just find the world ^almost^ fair.~ She thought, completely unaware of the small smile that appeared on her face.