“So Doc, what’s the story?” Xander asked.
“It seems Miss Kincaid’s hypothesis was largely accurate,” Dr. McCoy informed him, not looking up from his charts. “When you reverted to, what you consider to be, your ‘normal’ form, your subconscious activated your ability to manipulate your crystal composition, building on your skeleton with greater control than you can consciously manage, in order to regenerate your lost phalanges, thus restoring your physical appearance to what you consider ‘normal’.”
“Except for the fact that my fingers are probably now worth more than my car,” Xander corrected.
“Well, yes,” Hank admitted with a shrug, “But considering the alternative is not having those fingers...”
“Yeah, yeah,” Xander waved him off, “So, Bones, hows Cess?”
“She’s doing fine,” McCoy told him, “Physically at least. Like yourself, the trauma for your shared ordeal is largely psychological in origin, which is not my area of expertise. I’d suggest a session with Emma if you want to discuss it in depth, but, really, any of the senior staff would be willing to offer any support they can.”
“Between all of you, the whole kidnapping and experimentation thing isn’t that odd, huh?”
“I’d recommend going to Wolverine as your first choice,” Hank said without skipping a beat, “Then Colossus, as Logan is not exactly a sympathetic being.”
Xander shook his head lightly, “So have I got the all clear?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, nothing troubling in your system from your time in the Facility’s clutches, nor anything that we can’t explain,” Hank said, “You are free to go.”
“See ya, Bones,” Xander waved as he made for the exit, glad to be free of the infirmary, and began to make his way towards the student lounge for some R&R, maybe find a phone somewhere. He had an urge to hear some Willow-babble.
He almost made it to the phone in the common room when he caught a glimpse of Cessily drifting out into the hall. Xander paused at that, looking after her for a moment before turning back to the phone, and then to look out the window to check the time.
“Willow’s probably asleep anyway,” he muttered, before taking off after the mercurial girl. “Hey, Cess, wait up!”
She stopped in the hall, waiting for him to catch up silently, walking slowly again as he fell into step beside her.
“What’s up?” She asked quietly, still in something of a daze after everything that had happened.
“Nothing,” Xander shrugged, “Just, you know, wanted to talk. I don’t know about you but the whole pod thing didn’t really agree with me.”
Cessily watched the floor ahead of them, and Xander didn’t try to catch her eye, “You too, huh?”
“Yeah,” he gazed idly at his left hand, flexing the crystal digits, “Losing a couple of fingers, not fun.”
“Neither’s being electrocuted,” Cessily agreed, leading him down another corridor.
“And that ‘Predator X’ thing,” he continued, “I can’t even wrap my head around how wrong that was.”
“They tore pieces of from us and used it to create their abomination,” Cessily went on, “I think that means we were raped.”
“At least there weren’t any probes,” Xander snorted derisively, “Now I know how Emma feels.”
“At least you never tried to kill your DNA donor,” she quirked a small smile, “Though the night is young.”
“Nah,” he chuckled, “She’d have Julian throw me into the sun if I tried.”
“...I wish I could say that that’s ridiculous,” Cessily shook her head, “But I guess that’s the life of a mutant these days.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “I guess.”
She stopped as she reached a familiar door, which Xander supposed led to her bedroom.
“Anyway,” Cessily muttered, “I’m gonna...”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “Me too... not with you, though, I mean! Not that I wouldn’t, of course, but-- stop talking, Xander.”
She smiled as he buried his face in his hands.
“Thanks,” she laughed.
“Yeah,” he said through his hands, “Look, if you need to talk, well, I’ll probably need to too.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Cessily bid her farewell, opening the door to enter her room, giving a final wave as she closed it softly.
Facing the wooden surface for half a moment before turning away, Xander cursed himself, “Real smooth, Harris.”
“Hey, Julian,” Xander greeted, entering his own bedroom a few minutes later to the sight of the telekinetic teen, “Where’s Santo?”
“Hanging with Vic and Ben, last I heard,” Julian replied, lying on his bed with his eyes glued to the ceiling. “How’s Cessily?”
“She’ll be fine,” Xander told him, moving to his duffel bag.
A moment of silence passed between them as Xander swiftly pulled himself free of most of his clothes before climbing into his bed.
“Hey, Julian,” Xander muttered, “Thanks. For helping Laura save us.”
“Nothing to it, Frost,” Julian replied quietly, lacking his usual, loftier, tone, “Just trying to keep us from going extinct.”
“Harris,” Xander replied through grit teeth. He was so not taking his ‘mother’s’ name. “And, whatever. Just, thanks for saving us.”
“Yeah,” he muttered, “No problem.”
“Oh, and I talked to Colossus,” Xander smirked, “He’s fine with us using the Fastball Special, but we’d better come up with a new name for it before Logan finds out. Apparently he’s trying to patent it.”
Julian snorted. Somehow he didn’t doubt that.
“I’m thinking, the Fast-Pitch Special,” Xander continued, hands open as he imagined the name up in lights, “But it doesn’t really have the same ring to it.”
“Telekinetic Torpedo?” Julian offered halfheartedly.
“Nah, to specific,” his roommate dismissed, “What about the Cannonball?”
“I think that he’s an X-man.”
“One of the old New Mutant guys at least.”
“Huh,” Xander dismissed it, “Okay, what about the Stiletto?”
“Like... women’s footwear?” Julian asked condescendingly.
“Like the throwing knife, stupid.”
“You really want to use an attack combo that’ll make people think we’re about to hit them with high heels?”
“Hey, you clearly haven’t seen the damage that a pair of heels can do,” Xander said darkly. He could think of dozens of times where Buffy’s impractical choice of footwear had been invaluable to her killing something, much to her displeasure.
Meanwhile, in Scott Summer’s office...
“We’re not having this discussion again, Emma,” the supposed Headmaster of the school said, with a degree of finality.
“She went rogue, Scott,” the telepath replied calmly, “And not for the first time, might I add. And this time her partner wasn’t as indestructible as my own clone.”
“Emma, please,” Hank interjected tiredly, “She only did so to save Cessily and your son. Mr. Keller’s involvement, might I add, was also entirely voluntary, not to mention quite the act of courage.”
“This isn’t a fantasy novel, Hank,” Emma said darkly, “The girl’s actions could have gotten both her and Mr. Keller killed. And who knows what would have happened to them if we hadn’t arrived to stop those ‘Predator X’ monstrosities that were bearing down on them?”
“If Laura and Julian hadn’t arrived when they did, Cessily and Alexander likely would have been fed to those monstrosities before we even got there,” Scott informed her. “What they did may not have been the smartest thing for them to do, and they will be punished for their recklessness, but we are not turning our backs on her.”
“Damn right we ain’t,” Logan growled. “She goes, I go.”
“And wouldn’t that be a loss,” Emma drawled.
“You know it would be, Darlin’.”
“Look,” Kitty interjected, “As much as I’d love to see Wolverine and the White Queen go at it, can we please get back to the matter at hand?”
“Kitty’s right,” Scott agreed, “Two of our students were kidnapped from under our noses. Right now we need to tighten up security and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
“And what do you intend to do, Scott,” Hank sighed, “Lock the gates and stop the children from even so much as going out for a cup of coffee? I think we all know how that will turn out.”
“No,” Scott nodded, “We can’t just expect the students to follow a full lockdown, especially not when the immediate danger has already been put to rest. But we need protocols in case something like this happens again. We need for there to always be a trained X-man with these kids when they’re out in the real world.”
“I’m working on that, darling,” Emma sighed, “But if even four of our more promising students were outflanked like this then I think we can all agree that they’ll need an actual chaperone the next time they decide to go into town.”
“Oh, they’ll love that,” Hank muttered.
“Do you have a better idea?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Kitty told them, “If you shove a chaperone on them they won’t want to go out anyway.”
“Or at least not openly,” Logan corrected, “They’ll still leave the grounds, they’ll just be quieter about it.”
The next morning, Xander called home. Well, not his home, he called Willow’s home and, after an obligatory catchup session with Sheila Rosenberg, finally got to talk to his favorite red haired girl.
“Xander, how are you? Where are you? How’s America? Is it nice? I’ve heard it’s nice?” She gushed, quickly and near incomprehensibly, at speeds that had had Xander questioning her lung capacity for years.
“I’m fine, Wills,” he smiled at the phone, “I’m in New York, Westchester actually. And you heard right, America is very nice. Except for California, that place is full of crazies, and did you know that there’s a Hellmouth there?”
“Xander,” Willow said, a slight pout in her tone, “C’mon, be serious. How’s Westchester?”
“It’s pretty nice,” Xander admitted, “Actually, Will, I called because I wanted to tell you... you remember how I’m adopted?”
“Yeah,” she replied, “Of course I remember. Why?”
“Well, “ he said awkwardly, “I kinda, sorta, maybe, found my mother?”
“What?” Willow squeaked, “Xander, that’s wonderful! That’s fantastic!! That’s amazing!!! That’s-- why don’t you sound happy? Oh no, is she mean? She’s mean, isn’t she? Do you want me to curse her? ‘Cause I’ve been working on this spell that makes hair fall out and I’m pretty sure I could make it work cross country...?”
Xander laughed, “No, nothing like that, but file that little spell away for a later date of retribution.”
“Then, what’s wrong?” Willow asked, “I thought you always wanted to know who your real parents were?”
“I did,” he admitted, “And, I don’t know, Emma’s... nice? I guess? She’s letting me stay with her while I’m in New York at least. Oh, and she’s got kids--”
“Really?” She perked up again, “You’ve got siblings? Are they cute? I bet they’re cute. Oh, I want to meet them! Xander, bring them to Sunnydale right now so that I can see cute little Xander-siblings!”
“Hah,” he laughed, “Yeah, I’ve got sisters. Identical triplets if you’ll believe it, and I so owe Buffy an apology for not believing her about Dawn actually being as evil as she said she was. And they’re not so little, they’re only a few years younger than us.”
Physically at least, Xander added silently.
“Don’t care,” Willow said adamantly, Xander could almost picture her doing the Resolve Face over the phone, “I want to meet your sisters.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening anytime soon, Wills,” he told her, “I’m not letting them anywhere near you until after I get a signed contract ensuring that the tale of the Aquaman underoos will never pass your lips.”
“Oh, come on, Xander! I’ll be good!”
“No,” he said, “Not for a while, at least. I mean, I just met them, and Emma isn’t exactly crazy about me, I don’t think she’d let me take them all the way across the country just to meet you.”
“Well then she’s stupid,” Willow grumbled, “Fine. But I am going to see them one day, Xander Harris, and when I do I promise that the Aquaman underoos will remain shrouded in mystery.”
“Thank you,” he sighed in relief.
“The story of the Flash sneakers, however...”
“Oh, come on!” Xander immediately leapt to his own defense, “I was six!”
“Flash sneakers or Aquaman underoos,” Willow said seriously, Xander could actually hear her smirk on the other end, “Pick one.”
Xander slumped, sighing, “...Flash sneakers. But Aquaman doesn’t get so much as mentioned, capiche?”
“Got it,” she chirped happily, “So, come on, tell me about your mum. And what about your dad? And why’d they give you up?”
“Emma doesn’t know who my father is,” Xander answered truthfully, “And how I ended up in the orphanage... that’s a long story, one that shouldn’t be told over the phone. But, yeah, Emma’s mostly alright, a little psycho maybe, and she’s a teacher.”
“Really? Cool, what does she teach?”
“Of course you’d get excited by that,” Xander deadpanned, “And, uh, I think she teaches ethics.”
“Oh, well, that’s neat,” Willow offered. Xander was fairly certain that she’d been hoping for something more sciency.
“Yeah,” he nodded, “She’s alright, I guess, she just isn’t really all that maternal.”
“That’s too bad, Xander,” she replied mournfully, “But at least now you know?”
“Yeah, and I’m glad,” he told her honestly, “And at least now I’ve got the triplets. Sure, that’s three extra birthday presents I need to get every year, but at least I only have to remember the one date!”
“Which you’ll probably still manage to forget,” Willow joked.
“And I get extra Christmas presents this year,” Xander continued, happily ignoring her jibe, “And Emma’s kind of rich, and I figure I’ve got about 18 years of presents coming to me, so I’m thinking... Ferrari.”
“Heh, good luck with that, Xander.”
“I’ll probably need it,” he smiled, “Anyway Wills, enough about me. How’s Summer on the Hellmouth going for you guys?”
“Oh, it’s been really cool,” Willow chirped, “We found this crypt in the Westfield Cemetery and put up a cage inside for Oz now that the library’s been blown to pieces. And I got to try out this new spell on some demons the other week when Buffy took me patrolling, it was so awesome!”
Willow and Xander continued to talk, sharing stories and anecdotes from their respective vacations, though Xander carefully avoided revealing that he was a mutant or a clone that was currently staying with the X-men. He didn’t want to have that talk over the phone, mostly because, well, just thinking about certain parts of that story made him desperate for Willow-hugs. If he actually had tell it? He’d need witchy huggy powers in a bad way.
Eventually, after promising that she would pass his greetings on to Buffy, Giles, and Oz, Willow had to leave for a patrol with Buffy, and Xander promised to call back in a couple of days and give the red or green light on Willow’s plan to hit Emma with the balding curse.
Xander wandered for a while after that, carefully avoiding his sisters and the X-students as he sought out a bit of privacy, heading outside of the mansion to enjoy the rest of the sprawling estate. Even if the three giant, mutant-killing, robots were looming over him, the fresh air was kind of nice.
He was meandering past the Mansion’s immaculate hedge maze when he heard music. Good music too, an acoustic guitar and what sounded like a choir singing a slow, sad, song.
Xander was drawn to the source of the music without even realizing it, soon finding himself at the base of a tall tree, standing next to the red winged angel who went by the name of Icarus, who was so absorbed in his music that he didn’t even realize he had company.
Xander just stood there for a minute, listening as the boy soon brought his song, one of sadness and loss, to an end."May she ever lie with angels. May she ever lie with angels."
He sang softly, slowly playing out the last few notes as he hummed along.
“Nice song,” Xander commented quietly.
Jay twitched, his head turning to see his one man audience, “Thanks.”
“Sad song,” he noted, in the same tone, leaning silently against the tree the other mutant sat against.
“Yeah,” Jay agreed, and the pair fell into a momentary stillness.
“Who was she?” Xander eventually asked.
“This girl I knew before I came here,” Jay told him sadly, “Julia. She saw me die, but she didn’t know that my powers would heal me. She killed herself before I woke up. She died in my arms.”
“I’m sorry,” Xander offered solemnly, “I know what that feels like.”
“Then I’m sorry too,” Jay replied.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “This girl, Ampata. She was different, like us, and she had to drain the life force of others to keep living. I found her, about to kill my best friend, and I told her to take me instead. I would have been fine with that, y’know, dying to give her a chance at life, but... I’m not sure if it was too late for her or something else, but I like to think that she just couldn’t bring herself to kill me. She crumbled into dust in my hands.”
The pair were silent again for almost a full minute, with the exception of Icarus idly strumming his guitar.
“You’re pretty talented with the music,” Xander told him.
“Thanks,” Jay replied, “Do you play?”
Xander shrugged, “I know my way around a piano, but I haven’t played seriously in years. I’ve got this friend who plays base though, and I filled in a couple of times when his band’s keyboardist flaked on them.”
“We should get Dazzler and start an all mutant band,” Jay smiled, “We’d start a riot at every venue we played.”
“Heh, yeah,” Xander chuckled, imagining the reception they’d get, “I’m pretty sure that Victor’s got a drum set in his room. We could make music for the true outcasts and freaks of society. Just, uh, don’t ask me to sing.”
Jay’s fingers continued to absently strum his guitar as he swiftly promised him that, assuring the other mutant that, between himself and Dazzler, vocals would be well taken care of.
“Yeah,” Xander grinned as his laughter subsided, “So, anyway, how’re you doing with the new wings and all? I mean, it feels weird as hell for me to have just a new set of fingers, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have two whole new limbs.”
Jay’s demeanor shifted noticeably, his strumming faltered as his shoulders slumped, wings twitching uncomfortably.
“They don’t feel any different,” he revealed, his strumming coming to a complete stop, “I just can’t believe I let them get taken in the first place.”
“Hey, you thought you were helping,” Xander reminded him, “It’s not your fault that Stryker was a complete psycho.”
“But if I hadn’t told him,” Jay insisted quietly, “If I hadn’t helped him... all those kids, my friends, would still be alive.”
“C’mon, man,” Xander pushed, “If you hadn’t helped him, Stryker would have gotten the information from somewhere else, and it’s not like you’re the guy who told him to kill everyone with an X-gene and pulled the trigger. It’s not your fault.”
“No, I just put my friends in his cross-hairs.”
“Oh, come on,” Xander sighed, “You made a mistake.”
“A mistake that got people killed,” Jay pointed out morosely.
“Alright, yes, bad,” Xander agreed awkwardly, “But, uh, okay, look, back home I know this old guy called Giles, probably the coolest adult I’ve ever met. He’s all British and uptight and a librarian and everything, completely devoted to learning and teaching and helping people out, y’know?”
Jay arched an eyebrow, but Xander continued onwards, “Anyway, about a year ago me and my friends find out that Giles didn’t always used to be so nice and proper. Back when he was our age, he was, like, this hooligan who wore a leather jacket and everything. And it was completely absurd to us, but we found out that he and his friends used to, uh, shoot up and stuff all the time.”
“And this one time, something goes wrong. One of his friends, some dude called Randall, I think, winds up dead because of what Giles was doing, because of a mistake that he made, you know?”
“...no,” Jay told him, honestly, having barely understood Xander’s tale.
“Argh,” Xander growled in frustration, “Alright, so he made a mistake and got one of his friends killed, so, after that, he cleaned up his act and went on to do great things. He took responsibility for what he did without turning into an angsty broodmeister. Now he tries to stop people from making the same mistakes.”
Jay nodded slightly, sort of understanding what Xander was getting at.
“I mean, you made a bad mistake that got people killed,” he continued, “But you’re sorry, and you’re taking responsibility for it, right?”
Again, Jay nodded.
“Good, so you understand what I’m saying?”
Jay honestly had very little idea of what Xander was saying, but nodded anyway to appease him.
“Great,” Xander smiled with relief, standing straight and motioning for Jay to do the same, “I’ll talk to Nori about getting you on the team. With Elixir still in a coma we need another member, and for some reason it kinda bugs me that Julian’s the only one in our little group that can really fly.”
Jay blinked, wondering when exactly he’d volunteered to become a New X-man, but got to his feet as Xander kept talking, suggesting that they go back to the Mansion and find a piano.
“I’m feeling a little antsy,” Xander explained, “And I think a little music’d be just the thing.”
“Yeah,” Jay agreed. Some music might help him make sense of what had just happened.
“Maybe you can teach me that song you were playing earlier?” Xander went on.
Ordinarily, Jay would have said no. ‘She Lies with Angels’ was extremely personal, he’d only ever played it publicly the one time back in Kentucky, and the idea of another musician playing it almost made him physically ache. But Jay thought back to the beginning of their conversation. Xander understood that pain, he’d been through it himself with that girl, Ampata, and, sure, maybe it wasn’t quite the same, but it was close enough that Jay found himself willing to share his outlet.
Later that afternoon, many mutants of the Xavier Institute found themselves wiping away tears at the beautifully emotive sounds coming from the music room, as ‘She Lies with Angels’ was performed for the first time with a piano accompaniment.
What does everybody think about the Xander's interactions in this chapter?