A Different Perspective
Laura woke at precisely 0700, a habit that Xander had informed her was one that she would do well to break, rising to the sight of her roommate, Sooraya, better known as the mutant ‘Dust’, already having donned her niqāb, just in time to wordlessly join her in her morning prayers.
Objectively she was unsure why she did so. She did not have faith, after all. She believed only in what she could see, hear, smell, and feel, for that was all she could be certain of. But Sooraya believed in a higher being, and the idea of such a deity, one that could offer forgiveness, even to one such as her, was... comforting.
She had committed atrocities in her life, after all, and to be forgiven of those deeds, and to be accepted as a person, rather than as a weapon or a clone, was all she desired.
To be fair, there were those around her that did offer such things... to a point.
Logan offered understanding, he treated her as an equal, as a person, as a daughter almost... but he held her accountable for her crimes, just as he held himself accountable for his own. She appreciated his understanding, but he did not offer her forgiveness.
Xander offered forgiveness, to an extent. He forgave her for the crimes committed whilst under the control of the Facility which had birthed her. The crimes she committed in the interest of survival after her escape-- murder, theft, prostitution-- he accepted. He understood that each had been necessary at the time, but Xander did not believe that crimes of necessity required forgiveness. He had a rocket launcher stashed in the trunk of his car, that had somehow yet managed to escape detection, and blood on his hands that proved that.
Laura needed forgiveness regardless, forgiveness that Xander could not provide.
Sooraya did not offer forgiveness. Sooraya did not believe that she had the right to judge her necessary of forgiveness. Instead she told her that, as long as Laura was truly repentant for the crimes she had committed, Allah would forgive her and accept her, entirely and wholeheartedly, and that she had no right to do anything less.
As she made her way down to the cafeteria, Sooraya beside her, Laura decided that, even if her faith was not strong, that was why she prayed.
Tray in hand, Laura sought out Xander amongst the students of the cafeteria. Sooraya did not eat in the presence of males, as it required her to reveal her face, and so had taken her own food back to their shared room to eat in solitude.
As she scanned the room, Laura noted Noriko and David sitting together, her ears easily picking up the hushed whispers as they argued. This was not a surprise to her. Ever since David had been shot, only to insist that he join the New X-men in training, Nori had been attempting to dissuade him. The fact that he had already proven that his training in martial arts was more accomplished than that of every member of the team, bar Laura herself, and had proven his tactical gifts to be far superior did not help make Noriko’s point.
Laura found her other friend sitting alone with Jay. Aside from saving his life, she had not interacted with the winged mutant in the recent days, though she knew that Xander had spent the past afternoon in his company. Others, she had noted, were hesitant to approach him, much in the same way that many were hesitant to approach Mr. Summers and Ms. Frost. They blamed him for the deaths of their friends, just as they blamed the senior staff for sending them away and making them vulnerable.
Laura was aware that Jay was at fault, but knew that his actions were performed out of ignorance rather than malice. Ignorance that had since been corrected. She saw no reason why he would be so easily led a second time.
She also knew that Sooraya’s heart rate spiked in the boy’s presence, and that she trusted him wholeheartedly, if perhaps foolishly.
“Hey, Laura,” Xander greeted cheerfully as she took the empty seat beside him, “Great news. I talked to Nori and Mr. Summers last night, guess who the newest New X-man is?”
Given the way that Xander had affectionately bumped shoulders with a sheepish Jay as he had spoke, Laura felt confident in guessing that it was Jay.
“Give the lady a prize,” he smiled, as Laura began to dig into her food, wondering what other surprises awaited her on that day.
Julian walked into the cafeteria sleepily. Honestly, if the stupid Mansion didn’t refuse to serve breakfast after 8am, he wouldn’t be here, but he and the others on the Junior X-squad had a training session later on and he knew from experience that using telekinesis on an empty stomach was not a pleasant way to go about one’s day.
He frowned imperceptibly as he entered the near empty room, reminded of the loss that was M-Day. Reminded of one teammate, dead, another, missing, and his girlfriend, gone without so much as a goodbye.
He shook his head clear before the funk could settle.
As he made to get himself some food, he noticed Xander and Laura eating with Jay off in a far corner, and found himself unsure of what to make of that.
He liked Xander well enough, the guy was powerful, Frost’s clone too, and he’d managed to befriend Santo in about three seconds flat. And he didn’t snore, that was always a plus, though he’d kept him up half the night with his tossing and turning.
He, maybe not liked, but certainly respected Laura. The clone of Wolverine lived up to the reputation, in a much hotter body of course, and, as he watched Cessily slink over to their table, he noted that she cared enough about people to go into what was basically her own personal Hell just to bring them out. He could imagine himself liking her if he got a chance to talk to her outside of missions and training.
Jay... he didn’t really know how to react to Jay. When he’d first shown up, Julian had wanted the flyer on his side, mostly because of his older siblings’ relationships with the senior X-men. As time went on, however, and Jay had chosen David and Nori’s team over his own, Julian had pretty much ignored him, which wasn’t hard considering the fact that the guy actually seemed to prefer to stay out of the students’ semi-regular conflicts.
After what he’d done to Stryker, however, after Brian had been killed because of his ignorance, his stupidity...
Julian turned away, moving purposefully to sit with Ben and Victor today.
“Relax, Nori,” David sighed, adjusting his glasses with one hand as he held the other placatingly to his girlfriend, “I’m not stupid. I’m not going to get myself killed.”
“But you know that you could,” Nori retorted, “And it’s one thing for you to stay here at the Mansion, but joining the team?”
“I’m no more fragile then I was before I lost my powers,” he argued pointedly.
“I know,” she accepted, “But it’s not the same. Before, you always knew when and how someone was going to attack you. That’s a pretty big advantage to lose!"
“Which is why I’ve been training with Professor Logan,” he reminded her, calmly continuing his meal, “Even since before I lost my powers. While he wore the anti-telepathy helmet. You know that I’m one of the best martial artists in the school.”
Nori groaned in frustration. Her boyfriend should not be allowed to use logic against her when she was concerned for his safety. She was certain that there was a rule against it, somewhere.
“And it’s not like I haven’t fought people with super powers before,” he pointed out, “And I never had any physical enhancements to begin with either. Plus, Mr. Worthington can always just give me another dose of his blood and I'll be all healed up again.”
“Fine,” she said abruptly, holding gloved hands up in surrender, “But you’ll be wearing kevlar, even in training sessions, you’ll hide behind Xander and Santo if we ever actually get a mission, and if you ever get shot again I am going to kill you, find a way to wake Josh up, make him heal you, kill you again, heal you again, and then I’ll lock you in the Danger Room until you realise that, for once, I’m being the smart one in this relationship.”
David failed to subdue his grin, “Thank you.”
Nori reluctantly allowed herself a smile, a small one mind you, one that had nothing to do with how at this moment her boyfriend looked like a puppy that had just been given an Tyrannosaur’s femur. She was smiling because of something entirely unrelated.
“At least now I’ll have someone to help me with this whole ‘leader’ thing,” she admitted with a sigh, “We’ve only had three training sessions and I already miss just zapping things and looking hot.”
“Which you do so well,” David agreed, sagely nodding his head.
“Yeah?” Nori smiled, “Well you’re crap at the zapping part, but at least you’re not too bad to look at.”
David smirked, “I think that might just be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said.”
Nori immediately shoved him.
Cessily watched as David and Nori’s argument dissipated into a cheerful conversation/flirting session with only mild glee. Things had been rough on the pair of them with David’s recent power loss and injuries, and to see them approaching normalcy again was comforting for her.
She turned back to Xander and Jay, who were currently debating the pros and cons of turkey bacon, as it seemed Jay disliked to eat anything with wings and Xander was horrified at what the other boy was missing out on.
It surprised her to see Xander so animated and cheerful. After their shared experience at the Facility she herself had been quiet, subdued, due largely to an immense lack of sleep, but Xander looked like he’d gotten more than his eight hours last night.
A flash of light directed her attention to his fingers, semi-translucent crystals that somehow retained the malleability of human flesh, and she wondered exactly how it was that he could walk around with those reminders all day and still act as if nothing had happened.
It worried her.
Cessily didn’t eat much that morning, not that that was an uncommon occurrence as her mercurial form somehow managed to get by without requiring sustenance, but, rather than following Laura or heading off with Julian or Xander to prepare for their training session, she instead made her way to Ms. Pryde’s office.
An hour later, Xander was torn from Jay and Laura’s only mildly disturbing discussion of some of the gorier injuries that their powers had allowed them to recover from by Cessily, who told him only that Ms. Pryde wished to speak to him.
Xander was hesitant, he’d heard that there was a serious hatred between ‘Shadowcat’ and his DNA source, but followed the mercurial mutant regardless.
He was led outside, where Cessily pointed Ms. Pryde out, showing him where she was sitting on a bench that lay beneath the shade of a small grove behind the Mansion.
“You coming?” Xander asked with a jerk of his head.
Cessily smiled softly, telling him no, before slinking away before Xander could try to procrastinate.
“Mr. Frost,” Ms. Pryde smiled genuinely, as he approached, “I’m glad that you came.”
Xander hid his wince, responding jovially, “Harris, please. ‘Xander Frost’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. And while you’re at it, just ‘Xander’ is fine, Ms. Pryde.”
“Only if you call me ‘Kitty’,” she told him, gesturing for him to take a seat.
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” he replied, lowering himself to the bench, before asking, “So, what brings you out here?”
“Xander,” her tone turned slightly more serious, “I’ve just had a rather lengthy discussion with Cessily. She seemed... concerned with how you don’t seem to be reacting to the trauma of the past few days.”
“No trauma,” Xander immediately told her, “It was tough and it was scary, and I may have wet myself at some point, but... it’s done. No point dwelling on it.”
Kitty frowned, “Some people might say that that isn’t a very healthy way of dealing with things.”
“And I, thankfully, am not one of them,” he replied with a grin, standing as he made to leave, “So, if you’ll excuse me, maybe you can use your counseling powers on someone who needs it.”
Kitty watched silently as Xander walk away, seemingly cheerful as he moved out of earshot.
“Right,” she sighed, wondering why she'd agreed to be the school's councillor in the first place, “Because you don’t need it. Nice one, Pryde.”
Xander was less than three steps into the Mansion before the triplets swarmed him.
“Not right now, girls,” he said, stifling a yawn, “I need a nap.”
“Haven’t been sleeping?” One of them asked.
Xander denied it, telling the girls that Santo had dragged him into joining him and several others for an all night campout thing.
“That’s not all though,” Phoebe pointed out to her sisters, speaking only for Xander’s sake.
“You reek of exhaustion,” Irma told him calmly.
“It’s unpleasant,” Celeste informed him.
Xander narrowed his eyes, “I thought you guys couldn’t read my mind.”
“We don’t have to,” Phoebe shrugged, “We’ve read the minds of many.”
“And observed them as we did so,” Irma told him.
“You’re not as good as disguising your expressions as you think,” Celeste finished condescendingly.
“Plus,” Phoebe added, “We’ve been in your shoes.”
“We know how you feel from experience,” Irma continued.
“It is a new feeling for us,” Celeste concluded, “To do so without reading your thoughts.”
“Goody,” Xander sighed, “You’re growing as people. What are you talking about?”
All three raised their left eyebrows in unison, “We are clones also, bred for the purposes of war.”
Xander quirked his own eyebrow in response.
“We’ve seen how you were treated at the Facility in the minds of others,” Phoebe said, almost softly.
“It was reminiscent of how we were... contained by Weapon X,” Irma said through a shudder, which her sisters imitated.
“It is...” Celeste struggled to complete, “Inhumane.”
“We may not have been born from a mother and father as the rest of humanity,” the Cuckoos continued, “But we have learned in our freedom, that not even we deserve to be treated as less than human for the way we came into this world.”
The girls watched as Xander’s face turned... tired. His usually cheerful smile drawn into a tense expression as his eyes darted around the foyer they stood in, thankfully finding it empty, before his eyes settled on his crystalline fingers.
“I wasn’t...” he said quietly, flexing the digits, “I just-- I felt, in the pod, like...”
“Like you were less,” they finished for him. He nodded reluctantly. “But you are not. We
“More than that,” he revealed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he contemplated his memories, “I’m having flashbacks. Nightmares. From before the orphanage. I’m remembering things that I really wish I wasn’t. Not big things, just... things like needles, electrodes attached to my skull, shocks... and living in a pod.”
The girls nodded, well understanding the intricacies of the mind, “Repressed memories coming to bear. We cannot help you to control them.”
“It’s not fun.”
“We wouldn’t know,” Phoebe admitted.
“We have never experienced them ourselves,” Irma explained.
“Mr. Logan has,” Celeste revealed.
Xander cracked a small grin, “Maybe I should talk to him about it.”
The Cuckoos shared a look and more, eyes flashing as they spoke telepathically.
“He is gruff,” Phoebe stated.
“But Ms. Pryde and others have seen him to be almost...” Irma continued.
“Sentimental,” Celeste finished.
Xander’s grin widened at the idea, shaking his head as the image of Logan being emotional and affectionate to anyone floated through his mind.
“You spend much time making others feel good for themselves,” Phoebe went on.
“To distract yourself from your own troubles,” Irma noted.
All three stared hard at him as Celeste finished verbalizing their thoughts, “But you need to help yourself at the moment.”
As they continued to stare him down, Xander was reminded firmly of Willow, and decided that maybe having sisters wasn’t as bad as Buffy and Dawn made it out to be.
“Now, go get some sleep,” Phoebe ordered.
“Julian’s mind is screaming at you for costing him his with your nightmares,” Irma continued.
“So take a nap before your training session with Dr. McCoy, or we’ll be forced to do something unpleasant,” Celeste finished.
Xander withdrew his previous thoughts. Sisters were evil.
He stifled a yawn. Okay, maybe they weren’t so
Xander was well used to late nights, the result of many late night ‘study sessions’ with the Scoobies, and his sleeping patterns had always been subject to change as a result. At noon, Xander was able to lay himself down for a siesta at his sisters’ urging. Despite this, however, he awoke after just over half an hour in a cold sweat.
Talking to the Cuckoos may have helped him, but he knew he’d be dealing with a few more sleepless nights in the near future.
He pulled himself from his sheets, noting that he’d need to be in the Danger Room soon to meet with the others.
Moving to his drawers, Xander tiredly drew his white and blue uniform, donning it before he left the room.
He grinned cheerfully when he came across Sooraya and Laura, as well as Jay, within moments, all of them prepared for the upcoming training session.
“Nice uniform,” he commented, noting Jay’s state of dress, a yellow and white X-uniform.
Jay smiled, “From before M-day.”
“How did you sleep?” Laura asked Xander bluntly, to his frustration. Couldn’t he hide anything from anyone anymore?
“Terribly,” he admitted, though his tone did not reflect so, “But I’ll be peachy with a side of keen in a day or two.”
“I know some meditation techniques that may help?” She offered.
“I’d appreciate that,” he told her, rubbing his eyes before trying to force them open. “Anyway, Jay, how you feeling about training?”
The winged mutant shrugged, “We’ll find out when we get there.”
When the Team had congregated in Danger Room, Dr. McCoy met them to give them their orders, looking out over the assembled mutants as he told them that today would be spent undergoing a task so dangerous, so brutal, that Logan himself could not bear to observe.
“During this challenge,” he explained, “You will be permitted to utilize any abilities at your disposal to emerge victorious.”
“You will be playing...” he paused for effect, “Mutant Dodgeball.”
“Now,” the blue furred mutant grinned cheekily at his students’ stupefied expressions, “Prodigy and Surge will serve as team captains. Select your comrades for this endeavor and we may begin.”
David gave Nori first choice, and the game was soon underway, with Sooraya volunteering to sit out to ensure even teams of four.
Santo was amongst the first to fall, his size making him one of Nori’s strongest allies, but one that was far too easily hit.
Jay was next. An able flyer and talented at evasion, he was struck down by a determined Julian, who had targeted him, partially because David ordered him to, allowing their team to be the only ones to retain the advantage of the skies, but mostly because, well, Julian wasn’t so easy to forgive.
Julian himself was, ironically, the next to fall. Distracted by ensuring that Jay was hit, he failed to protect himself from Laura’s own assault.
Xander tried and failed to hit Laura, whose form flitted easily around his strikes, but her returning volley was caught by Cessily, who had extended her limbs to aid her teammate.
Cessily was then struck by an attack of Nori’s, aiding Laura by charging one of the rubber balls of death with enough electricity that, once hitting the metallic being, delivered a shock that prevented her from shapeshifting her way around the strike.
Xander was the next one out, struck by Nori as he and David’s combined assault sent Laura out of the game, with David himself being hit by his own girlfriend only a moment later.
Dr. McCoy watched the carnage with a somewhat morbid fascination. Certainly, he was an intellectual, a man of culture and wisdom... but Logan had been a terrible influence on him.
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