X-Men: Re-Evolution (116992 words) by Overlord_Mordax, VickytheSnake
Chapters: 51/?
Fandom: X-Men – All Media Types, X-Men Evolution
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Toad (X-Men)/Original Character(s), Bobby Drake/Original Character(s)
Characters: Toad (X-Men), Bobby Drake, Kitty Pryde, Original Mutant Character(s) (X-Men), Lance Alvers, Ensemble
Additional Tags: Queer Themes, POV Queer Character, Transgender themes, canon typical social justice themes, Large Cast, POV Multiple

2020s era ‘reboot’ of X-men: Evolution. It initiates its own continuity but keeps many of the themes, situations, and characters from the original show.
Teenage mutants struggle with identity, social pressure, romance, politics and ultimately survival as they find themselves increasingly divided on ideological grounds. Can the students of the Xavier Institute and the newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants find common ground and work together for the future of their kind, or is it an endeavor doomed from the start?

Centers around Todd Tolansky, Bobby Drake, and twin mutant OCs on opposite sides. Todd/OC. Twins Morgan and Greg find themselves in conflict when they arrive for their first day at Giles Corey Memorial High School. Sent to NY from their home in Maine after rumors began to circulate about the pair’s oddities.

Read it here

X-Men: Re-Evolution
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/29517858.

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
F/M, M/M, Other
X-Men – All Media Types, X-Men Evolution
Toad (X-Men)/Original Character(s), Bobby Drake/Original Character(s)
Toad (X-Men), Bobby Drake, Kitty Pryde, Original Mutant Character(s) (X-Men), Lance Alvers, Ensemble
Additional Tags:
Queer Themes, POV Queer Character, Transgender themes, canon typical social justice themes, Large Cast, POV Multiple
Published: 2021-02-17 Updated: 2021-11-15 Words: 116,992 Chapters: 51/?

X-Men: Re-Evolution


2020s era ‘reboot’ of X-men: Evolution. It initiates its own continuity but keeps many of the themes, situations, and characters from the original show.
Teenage mutants struggle with identity, social pressure, romance, politics and ultimately survival as they find themselves increasingly divided on ideological grounds. Can the students of the Xavier Institute and the newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants find common ground and work together for the future of their kind, or is it an endeavor doomed from the start?

Centers around Todd Tolansky, Bobby Drake, and twin mutant OCs on opposite sides. Todd/OC. Twins Morgan and Greg find themselves in conflict when they arrive for their first day at Giles Corey Memorial High School. Sent to NY from their home in Maine after rumors began to circulate about the pair’s oddities.


S01E01: The Shadow over New Salem: Twins Morgan and Greg find themselves in conflict when they arrive for their first day at Giles Corey Memorial High School. Sent to NY from their home in Maine after rumors began to circulate about the pair’s oddities, goth girl Morgan wants to be free to express herself, while her brother Greg is concerned with making the best possible first impression. Tensions escalate when rumors start to fly despite Greg’s best efforts, and when the twins make friends with opposing social groups at school. Greg encounters motormouth Bobby Drake and the surprisingly sporty Kitty Pryde, while Morgan’s path crosses with the school punks, Todd Tolansky, Lance Alvers, and their friends.

s01e01: The Shadow Over New Salem

Morgan stepped out of the bathroom, still steaming from her shower, to find that someone had laid out clothes for her on her bed. The cute outfit was one she had worn a lot– though not in the last six months. There was a cute pink top with a lace ruff, a white, hip-length sweater throw, black, knee length pleated skirt with pink lace up the side, and a pair of white pantyhose.

The offending party had at least restrained themselves from picking out her underwear, it seemed.

This time, at least ,’ Morgan thought with a bitter frown on her face.

There was a moment of hesitation, a moment of frustrated rebellion, that told her to just wear what she damn well pleased anyway and damn the inevitable screaming match that would come.

But there was another part of her that knew that’d be a bad idea. At least… a bad way to start the day.

Morgan, with her long dark hair parted around sharply pointed ears and her pale, pale, slightly purple tinged skin still damp from the long and relaxing shower, walked over to the dresser to grab some underthings, and pull a few more suitable clothes that she could change into later in the day.

As she walked her way back to the bed, she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

She was, and always had been, quite tall and angular. With a sharp featured face, high cheekbones, long lashes and a charming smile– a smile which turned quite sharp indeed once her fangs grew in. Her shoulders, perhaps, were a little wide. Her hips narrower than she’d like– and there were plenty of other parts of her anatomy that her mind tried to needle her about; especially in the irritated and self-conscious state that someone’s choice in clothes brought out.

With a soft ‘tch’ between her pointed teeth, she walked back to the bed and got dressed for the day in the outfit she wished she could have left back in Red Oak, Maine.

As she was brooding, there came a soft, almost hesitant knock on the door– surprisingly soft really, given the usual thunderous approach..

“Hey, sis, you almost ready? I made eggs.” The voice was as hesitant as the knock.

That too, was surprising. Her brother usually left all the cooking to her. He was probably trying to appease her for the clothes thing.

Morgan didn’t say a word as she tugged on the pantyhose, and wriggled into the old skirt. She thought she’d gotten rid of the thing back when they were packing. It was clear that ‘ someone ’ noticed she’d ‘forgotten’ it.

With a heavy sigh, she slipped into the throw sweater that had been laid out for her, and grabbed a large school bag from the corner. Opening it, she began throwing in the clothes she’d grabbed from her closet. The fishnet stockings and shirt A few spiked armbands and a choker, some chains on clips,.and some other pieces with a lot more black and red to it than the outfit she was wearing now.

Zipping up her bag, she sighed, and called, “Yeah, yeah. I’m done.”

The door opened gently and a young man stood in the frame. He was Morgan’s twin– literally. He had the same sharp featured face and high cheekbones, same long lashes and soft smile. However, the shoulders that seemed wide on her seemed a bit narrow on him though he was quite muscular despite their shared slenderness. The only real contrast between them besides the muscle was that where her complexion had a cast of dusky violet his had an ever-so-slightly metallic sheen of silvery gold. He was wearing a gym t-shirt, jeans, and gold and black letterman-style jacket from their old school, as usual. The only thing that seemed to change on  him day-to-day was the specifics of the shirt he wore. As usual, he had his hair pulled up in a ponytail, with just enough down in front to hide his ears.

He looked her over significantly, and once he was obviously satisfied with her outfit, he tried to pretend that he hadn’t.

“Morning. You look good.”

“You certainly made sure of that.” She made no attempt to disguise the irritation in her voice as she shouldered past him into the upstairs hall. “You made eggs, Greg? Usually I do the cooking.”

Greg grimaced as she brushed by him, turning to follow.

“Well, yeah, but, I figured you’d want, you know, longer to get ready today,” he grumbled slightly. ” Girls always take longer to get dressed…” he chuckled lamely and waved her to follow, closing her door behind them. “C’mon, it;ll get cold.”

Morgan rolled her eyes as she passed him again, her bag dangling over her shoulder “I’m doing my hair after we eat. I’ll just do my makeup at school”

All the better to match my other outfit, anyway ,’ she thought, glancing at him over her shoulder.

“Are you sure? You don’t want to have it set when you walk in?” he asked with a note of concern. He made his way leading her through down the hall of the new house. Though the bulk of the moving had been finished, there were boxes still stacked here and there in the hall. “I mean, first impressions and all that?”

“First impressions.” Morgan murmured “of course.”

She looked down at herself, and the outfit she’d had chosen for her with a frown. “It’s all about the first impression, isn’t it?”

Greg strode into the kitchen, where a couple of plates of fried eggs and toast were waiting, along with large glasses of orange juice and milk. One  plate had double the food the other did.

“I mean, you want to make a good first impression right?” Greg said. “After mom went to all the trouble of moving us out here and starting us at a new school? after– last time.”

Morgan glanced at the plates, before sitting down before the smaller plate with a grimace that showed the points of her fangs.

“That wasn’t my fault.It…” She looked away. “They shouldn’t have pushed me like that.”

Greg grabbed a large jar from the counter before he sat down, and brought it to the table, scowling. “Morgan, I didn’t say it was your fault. Let’s– lets just not assign blame and just roll with the fresh start, okay?

There was a pleading edge to Greg’s usual rough tone, as he took two heaping spoonfuls out of the jar marked ‘Pro-tein’ and mixed them into his milk.

Morgan leaned on the table with a frown “You really think it’s a fresh start, huh?”

Their mother had certainly tried to make it one. Morgan supposed that with their father long out of the picture, and her on constant business trips anyway, it didn’t really matter where they lived. Mom wouldn’t be there 90% of the time anyway. Moving the two of them hundreds of miles from Maine to New York was easy. For her, anyway.

She grabbed her glass of orange juice a little too roughly, and sipped it as some tried to spill off the edge.

“All that’s happened is we were shipped off as far away as Mom could manage because the whole town thinks we’re freaks. This place isn’t gonna be any different, Greg, no matter how many of my old outfits you set out on my bed.” She snorted softly “…they don’t even suit my complexion anymore, anyway.”

“Your complexion is fine ,” he insisted, gritting his teeth. “And the whole point is the people here *don’t* think we’re freaks. We can *fix* this Morgan, if you don’t deliberately try to dive bomb the whole thing.

Morgan stared at him, as he shoveled eggs into his mouth between sentences.

“I’m purple, Greg. White and pale pink make me look washed out.” She leaned on her hand, poking at the yolk of an egg with a frown, “…and there’s nothing to fix. And even if there was,I don’t see why getting me to dress up like I used to is going to do anything. You know that’s not me… not anymore.”

Greg looked away, and chugged his protein milk. “Morgan, come on, why are you trying to start a fight over this?”

“Because I don’t get it, Greg,” Morgan told him with a frown. “…I don’t get why my first impression at a new school has to be someone I’m not.”

She speared the yolk with her fork, frowning deeply “…the whole reason things went so south back home is because nobody wanted to accept the real me.”

“That was different , Morgan,” Greg insisted. “Here nobody knows…. nobody knows how identical we are, you know? Don’t you want a chance for people to just think we’re both normal?”

“…we’re not normal, Greg. You know that, we both know that.”

“But if we play our cards right, nobody else has to know that,” he insisted, his fingers tensing into a fist. ” Please , Morgan, all I want is this one day to make a good impression and not have everybody around us immediately think we’re freaks, okay? Please ?”

The tension in his voice was obvious, and he looked at her with piercing, almost desperate gaze.

Morgan met his stare with a smoldering glare for a moment “….”

Her lips quirked into a snarl for a moment before she looked down at her eggs with a sharp sigh; “….One day to make sure I don’t ruin your big high school debut, huh? Fine. Whatever.”

“Morgan, it’s not like tha–” he started to snap and then stopped himself, sagging in the chair, and looking at the floor. “Look… whatever. Do what you want. I’m gonna finish getting ready and head out. Be ready in 15 minutes.”

He quickly finished his eggs, leaving the toast, and stood up.

“You got it, Greg.” Morgan murmured, finishing her own plate without much enthusiasm. “Let’s get ready for a great first day at Giles Corey Memorial High.”


The ride to school was awkward and quiet in Greg’s car– a nice yellow two-door with black racing stripes that their Mom had gotten him for his 16th birthday. Usually he enjoyed driving, but today Greg had a harder time. He couldn’t help glancing over at Morgan as they drove up to the school, wishing he could think of something to say.

Every time I open my mouth I dig the hole I’ve gotten myself in with her a little fucking deeper .’ He shook his head. It just wasn’t worth it.

At least the car turned a few heads when he pulled into the parking lot.

He took a deep breath as he shouldered his bag, and partially opened the door.

“Mom says it’s all set with admin. We’ve got homeroom first period but I think we’re in different rooms.”

Morgan glanced at him, her hair now brushed down around her ears, draped over her shoulders. She still hadn’t put on her makeup. Greg hoped it wouldn’t hurt her chances with the girls here.

“Okay.” She shouldered her own bag as she pushed the door open and slipped out. “Guess I’ll see you at home then. Good luck with your first impression, bro.”

With a wan attempt at a smile, she stepped out of the car and sauntered her way towards the front door.

Greg watched her go for a long moment, and then closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

“Please, just let this be one good day.”

Physical Education

Surprisingly, the twins  ran into each other a lot sooner than the end of the day, sooner than either of them expected or hoped. It happened as students assembled in the gym for phys ed class. As Greg filed in with a gaggle of other chatty guys, it was becoming increasingly obvious to Morgan, who had gotten there a minute earlier, that this was supposed to be a boys gym period.

Morgan tensed, her bag slung over her shoulder as she stood awkwardly by the bleachers. She’d yet to change into her actual outfit for today, having planned to do so after phys ed, and she knew that she looked increasingly and distressingly out of place among the crowd of young men.

Her fingers tightened on her bag’s strap, as she nervously took a step forward and tried to corner the gym teacher, stammering, “S-so hey… uh, is this a co-ed gym class or what?”

The gym teacher, a heavyset man with greying hair and a red cap,  frowned and looked at his clipboard. “It isn’t supposed to be. What’s your name?”

“M-Morgan Connelly.” She said , her eyes flicking around to the crowd.

She watched as Greg walked over to them, having suddenly noticed his sister’s presence, his body language stiff, and aggressive.

“Hey. What’s going on here?” he demanded..

As Greg stalked over, too many eyes for her comfort turned their way. Her jaw tensed, and she gripped her bag. “…Maybe I’d better go.”

“Not so fast,” the coach said, holding up a hand. “Your name’s on my list.”

“It’s a mistake!” Greg hissed.

In the crowd, one of the boys whispered to his friend, before the two of them broke out in a quiet snicker.

Around them, more whispers began to ripple through the knot of boys as Morgan visibly shrunk back.

“Greg!” she hissed through her teeth “Don’t yell at the man!” She glanced at the coach with a half smile, hiding her teeth. “It…I… ah, should probably talk to the principal. it’s pretty obvious that I don’t …belong…here..”

“Not so sure about that, now that I got a good look,.” a blond boy ‘fake-whispered’ to his friend. A giggle went up from a few of the others.

In the crowd, a ratty looking and slouchy boy gave the blond a sidelong grimace, his gaze flicking between the gossiper (who was being joined by other whispers now), and the scene. He rolled his eyes.

Greg’s fists clenched, and Morgan watched with increasing dismay as dark mist started to rise from around them. “Get out of here, Morgan. Go talk to the principal. I’ll *handle* this.”

Morgan’s eyes widened. “Oh fuck.” she whispered under her. Not this again. “Greg…I…I…”

She backed up, first towards the group, then averting and moving towards the door. “Don’t get carried away.”

While Greg’s increasingly heated confrontation took center stage, Morgan used the diversion to flee the scene.


Greg could feel the anger and frustration prickling just beneath his skin as he puffed his chest at the out-of-shape peon of a gym coach.

“Well?” he demanded, too irritated to think about how his scowl might show his fangs.

The coach grimaced, flipping through the pages. “I see a ‘Morgan Connelly’ assigned to Locker 38b, and on the class roster, son. No need to get heated, I’m just going by what it says.”

“Well your roster is obviously wrong, sir ,” Greg snapped. “As you see, my sister must have been put in class with me by mistake.” The mist around his hands was starting to get more and more visible.

“Aren’t they twins?” “They look identical to me.” “I thought twins could only be…. you know.”

From the back of the group a young man with wavy brown hair looked increasingly concerned. He jogged forward with a deliberate half smile on his face and grabbed Greg’s shoulder, giving him a sly little wink before glancing at the teacher.

“hey uh, Coach? Sorry to step in , but I got a bit of news. Student Council President wanted to give ya a message from the principal. Says it’s somethin’ about a mixup in the class roster.”

Greg prickled as he was touched, but his shoulders relaxed a moment later, and the mist vanished. “See? A mistake .”

This didn’t entirely stop the whispering, but it did diminish it somewhat.

The boy grinned wider and nodded his head affirmatively. “Yeah, sorry I didn’t come by earlier Coach but I got held up back in Chemistry” He snapped his fingers, pointing a pair of finger guns at the teacher. “We cool?”

“Yes. I suppose so.” The Coach looked at the list with a shake of his head. “You boys go change and do a few laps around the gym while I see your president to make sure about this. And if I see anybody slacking off, it’s dodgeball all week.”

There was a quick murmur of worried agreement and annoyance through the crowd, who dispersed toward the locker room to start to change.

Greg looked up to find Morgan, and seeing that she had slipped away he glanced at the boy who had intervened instead.

He was a fairly slight young man, with wavy brown hair cut in a short and sporty style and a cocky little grin on his face. He had a kind of boyish handsomeness to his features, and warm brown eyes currently crinkled with the grin plastered on his face.

“Hey man.” He put his hands on his hips “Feeling a little more chill, or do I gotta lay down some more of the ol’ Bobby Drake charm?”

Greg grimaced, and looked away, seeing that the coach had gone.

“I’m…. chill enough,” he grumbled. “I can’t believe this bullshit.”

Bobby pulled out his cell phone, sending a quick text with a nod of his head.

“Yeah, people can really suck–especially when they bump up against something they don’t understand. But don’t worry. I’ve got the Student Council Prez workin’ on a solution for you now. ”

“The *solution * is to put her in the girls class where she * belongs*,” he growled. Then his voice softened. “But…. thanks for your help, I guess…”

Greg moved toward the changing room and Bobby trotted along to follow him

He held his hands up “Hey, hey, that’s exactly what I meant, man. Ororo’s gonna make sure the paperwork and everything goes nice and smooth. Dunno why the mix up happened, but she’ll sure fix it come hell or highwater.”

He looked like he was biting back another comment. Maybe a quip. He kept talking. Greg was starting to get the impression that it might be difficult to stop him. “Anyway. Glad I could help. I’m no stranger to the kinda bullshit those guys were up to so I thought maybe I could , you know…do my part to mellow things out.”

Greg looked back over his shoulder. “Huh, you sound like a real social bomb defusal unit,” he grunted.

“What can I say? I got a way of helpin’ people keep a cool head.” He mimed those finger guns at Greg. “I’m a real people person.”

“Yeah? and how’s that work out for you, Bobby?”

They strode into the boys locker room, where Greg gave the stink eye to anyone who looked like they were even thinking of talking about his sister. He hated the way the room quieted a little as he came in. He found his assigned locker, threw down his bag heavily and started to get out his things.

“Eh, I got my good days, got my bad days. Haven’t gotten my nose punched in for like, what? a few weeks now? And counting.” Bobby slid in next to him, and began opening a locker. “Looks like we’re locker buddies, huh?”

Greg glanced at him, and then away, starting to get changed. “Guess so.”

Bobby began to strip as well, shrugging off his leather jacket and wriggling out of his t-shirt . For such a small man, he was rather toned with muscle. A runner maybe? He had little to no body hair, and a quite pale, almost icy complexion. As he tossed the shirt to the side, a scar or two were visible here and there on his torso. Greg couldn’t help but notice all of it.

Must be more to this guy than meets the eye ’, he thought to himself.

“Anyway, yeah. It works out alright, except when it doesn’t. Then it backfires real bad. Just ask my ex.” He beamed at Greg. “So you’re new in town, aintcha?”

“Yeah we just moved here,” he nodded. He paused for a moment. “It’s Greg, by the way. Greg Connolly.”

“Nice to meetcha, Greggy.” Bobby offered his hand with a grin Greg noticed as he did so that the other boy’s eyes flicked over his own toned, and slightly shimmering body quickly in return. “Welcome to New Salem. Believe it or not, it’s a real friendly place. You’ll fit in just fine.”

“Yeah… I hope so,” he sighed. He shook Bobby’s hand, awkwardly, as he noticed Bobby notice him. Then he moved to put on his shirt.

Bobby turned a little pink, but masked it by pulling on his gym shirt which for some reason had a little cartoon of the Snow Miser from the old christmas special on it.

“Hey, trust me. You’ll be fine.” Bobby winked, as he shimmied into his gym shorts. “Hell, you can even consider me your first friend if ya want.”

“Sure, why not,” Greg sighed. His own shirt was just a plain black tank top, one of many he owned for the purpose.

“Hell yeah.” Bobby offered him a fist bump, which Greg returned slightly exasperated. “Hey, we should hang out later. Like, maybe you should talk to Ororo later about your sis…and we can work something out huh? Maybe get a soda? Chill?”

“Sure, sounds cool,” he nodded. He wasn’t about to turn down any friends on the first day. Bobby seemed normal enough anyway, even if he was a motor mouth. Greg tied his sneakers, and stood up to stretch. “Who’s Ororo?”

“Student Council Prez.” Bobby explained as he tied his sneakers on, and tossed his clothes into the locker. “She’s a good friend of mine. We live in the same, like, boarding house.”

Boarding house?’ Greg wondered to himself. But instead of asking he said, “My last school didn’t really do student government.”

“No? Huh, sounds kind of shitty. Student Council’s done a lot to help us out, you know? And with Ororo at the helm, we’re in good hands. She’s got a real way about her, ya know?” He winked “as long as you ain’t on her bad side at least.”

“I’ll try not to get on it then.” He nodded. “Think you could help me out with that Mr. Charming?”

Bobby ran his hand through his wavy hair, and flashed his bright smile. “Yeah. I think I might just be able to manage that for ya, Greg. Don’t worry. I’ll put in a good word.”

“Thanks, Bobby. You seem like a pretty chill guy.”

“Trust me dude, I’m the chillest guy you’ll ever meet.” he promised, winking at Greg with a sly air. “So hey. Where’d you and your sis come from? ”

Greg shrugged, jogging with Bobby back into the gym. “Up in Maine.”

Bobby kept good pace with him as they headed out with the other boys. “Maine, huh? I know a dude from Canada. They’re like, pretty much the same, right?”

Greg smirked a little, as his mood finally started to lighten. “Oh yeah, definitely. One difference though.”

“What’s that, Greggy?” Bobby raised his eyebrow

“People from Maine are less polite,” he chuckled, kind of wishing the kid would stop calling him ‘Greggy’. ‘ But fuck it, at least I made a friend. Bobby seems pretty nice.

Bobby laughed. “The guy I know ain’t that polite neither. Maybe he’s actually from Maine, who knows. I’m gonna ask him next time he puts me through the wringer.”

Greg raised an eyebrow at the phrasing, but didn’t ask. “You find out, you tell me, yeah? Maybe he’s my long lost brother.”

“I’ll let you know.” Bobby smirked; “But uh, if you *are* his brother then we’re all in trouble.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Dunno, how much do you think you’d take after him? ‘Cause he’s built like a bear and hairy as one to boot, and does not appreciate my attempts at humor. Like a feral fuckin’ wolverine with a teaching licence.”

Greg’s eyebrows went higher and higher as Bobby spoke wondering just who this guy was to Bobby, until he got to the bit about the teaching license, where he let out a breath and smirked.

“Ahhh, does he teach here, or is he like, your personal trainer? I noticed you’re a little built.”

“You know what?” Bobby punched his shoulder as they jogged “why don’t you ask Ororo about that one when you see her? She’ll fill ya in.”

“Well now I’m curious.”

Win Friends and Influence People

Morgan had used the opportunity of the gym fiasco to change her clothes, and she stepped out of the girl’s bathroom in a very different outfit than she’d stepped in.

She adjusted the fishnets on her hand with a sigh of relief. She was feeling much more comfortable now that she was in something her own style. She wore a plaid skirt that dared the administration to say it was too short, along with the combat boots she’d hidden in her bag as best she could. Over the skirt, the silver chains she’d brought were clipped in place of a belt and around her neck she’d hung her inverted cross necklace along with a few more silver loops of chain. The necklaces were draped over a crimson shirt bearing a logo of a bloodied straight razor and the name of the band ‘ Jacknife’s Bitches ‘. She wore a fishnet shirt under it, covering her arms, up to her hands, where her thumb hooked into the build in armsocks, and down her otherwise exposed stomach. She’d thrown on a couple of spiked bracelets, and a ring choker around her slender throat as well.

She’d finally done her makeup, too, dark, dramatic lipstick to highlight her lips, and sharp eyeliner and crimson shadow.

She sighed with relief as she made her way towards her locker to dump the offending morning’s outfit where she wouldn’t have to deal with it until much later in the day.

There was a wolf whistle from behind her, and she froze as she felt someone put a hand on her rear.

“Damn, dollface, you dirty-up pretty nice.” The voice, which had the sharp, flat edge of one of NY’s lower districts, belonged to the lanky and disheveled figure she’d noticed earlier in gym class. That was especially odd, given that the period was several minutes from being over.

Morgan yelped in surprise at the sudden touch and a darkening, rather than a reddening, spread across her cheeks and nose as she flushed and shot the boy a haughty look.

The kid had large, pale greenish-yellow eyes half-hidden under the slightly greasy looking dishwater blond bangs of a choppy chin length haircut and a toothy grin that would have been too wide on a face any less cherubic. He was tall, but slouched, and wearing a plain t-shirt over a long sleeve one that didn’t quite come to his wrists, which bore matching spiked wristbands, along with a spiked collar around his neck. His stone washed jeans were blown out at the knees, and he was wearing a pair of old looking converse shoes. His complexion, like hers, was just a little *off*, his in the direction of sallow or greenish, with blotchy freckles over his nose.

He walked past her like it was nothing, adn gave her a lazy, two fingered salute, along with the ‘compliment’.

“Well, someone’s at least got taste.” she drawled, glancing at him as he sauntered on past “Even if he’s lacking a sense of–personal space.”

He looked back over his shoulder at her and leaned on a nearby locker. “I donno, doll, I have the *sense* that space between us could get pretty personal, if you know what I mean,” he said, grinning even wider.

Morgan felt a flutter of embarrassment at the suggestion, but it was a little flattering. It amused her more than anything, and she opened her mouth to answer his suggestive quip.

“Hey!” A familiar hollar cut through the conversation, halting any reply Morgan might have given.

It was Greg’s voice.

Morgan stiffened, and for a moment the shadows near her seemed to flicker and dance as she glanced over her shoulder with an expression of dread

.”Damn it,” she whispered under her breath.

Greg and some brown haired kid were coming shoulder to shoulder around the corner, along with a couple more of the people she’d noticed in gym class.

The scruffy kid also stiffened at the sound of Greg’s voice. “Uh-oh. Looks like big bro’s got a glass case policy on the princess.”

The boy with Greg grinned broadly. “Hey! Toad, what’s hoppin’? Skipping out on doing laps to flirt with the new girl huh? wild.”

Morgan’s face darkened with a flush as she leaned over and mimed, as subtle as she could, to the scruffy kid– Toad?– that probably *wasn’t* his nam to get running.

For a moment Toad looked torn; but Greg was laser focused on him, not even noticing Morgan’s outfit yet, and he made a move to get out of there.

“Yeah, I’ll just let ya have some time to chill with the new boyfriend, ice man.” He clicked his tongue and made a double shooting gesture at the three of them, before scrambling down the hall in a way that really did have an almost hopping quality to it. “Later!”

Bobby turned a bright pink, and his eyes flicked to the side, perhaps hoping nobody else heard that comment. If Greg had, he didn’t say anything about it.

“Hey! get back here!” he shouted after Toad.

“Haha, wow, what a card huh?” Bobby laughed nervously. “Toad’s a real funny guy.”

Morgan slowly started inching along the wall….before she too made a break for it, hoping against hope that her brother hadn’t noticed her attire.

“A real comedian,” Greg growled. “Morgan! are you alr–”

He stopped mid sentence as her hope dissolved. He’d definitely seen it.

Morgan stumbled, tripping on one of the laces of her shoes. “Just dandy, bro!” She gave him a hasty salute as she caught her footing. “Anyway, late for class! Bye~”

Greg looked for a moment as if he was going to come after her, his face contorted with anger, and black mist starting to simmer off the top of his head. Thankfully, he didn’t move to follow her, instead shouting, “I’ll talk to you * later !*”

Morgan flashed him a smile that for the briefest of moments, showed her fangs, before she vanished into the hallway.


Bobby pat Greg on the shoulder again as they watched his sister retreat down the hall and vanish. “Hey man, don’t worry about it. Todd was probably just saying hi.”

“You heard what he said,” Greg snapped, cooling off enough for the mist to dissipate. He cracked his knuckles, trying not to think about what else the creep might have said to his sister. “Who was that kid?”

“He was uh, flirting with her a bit, right?” Bobby rubbed his neck awkwardly. “He’s Todd Tolansky. Toad. We ain’t in the same social circles but he’s an alright guy when he ain’t causin’ trouble. Don’t think he likes me much, though.”

“Toad huh? He sure looks like one,” Greg snorted, opening his locker with a yank. “What kind of social circle is *he* in?”

“You should see his long jump game. I tried to get the guy to join track before but uh, he’s not interested.” Bobby stuck his hands in his pockets, and continued. “He hangs around with m…m..” he glanced off to the side, “one of my old friends, who uh, isn’t really on speaking terms with me at the moment…and some other kids in school. ”

“Great.” Greg set his jaw and shouldered his bag angrily, almost tearing it at the seam. “Whatever. I’ll deal with… that… later. Come on, I don’t wanna be late.”

Bobby shrugged his shoulders with an easy smile, and nodded “Yeah. Let’s head out huh? Bell’s about to ring.”


Kitty Pryde slammed her locker shut, only to find someone standing behind it waiting for her while she got her books for theater class.

He was tall and slim, though a bit wide in the chest and shoulders, and had an easy smile on his sharp, long nosed face. He had brown eyes, and clear, milky skin, and a trace of red fuzz over his upper lip. He was dressed a little more dramatically than most, in tight black jeans and high black boots, with a blue and gold hip length jacket, beneath which his ruffled shirt looked like it belonged either to a pirate, or to the ladies section at target.

“Hey, looks like we have class together, hmmm?” the redhead smiled roguishly.

Kitty sighed as she closed her locker, hugging her theater book to her chest as she glanced sidelong at Dorian. It had been practically the whole summer since she’d seen him.

Tossing her loosely curling brown hair over her shoulder, she nodded “Like, I guess we do huh? Kinda a trip down memory lane, huh? We used to have all kinds of classes together–.back at the Institute.”

Kitty flashed him a very pointed look.

Dorian looked a little pained, and put his hand to his chest. “Kitty, darling, you cut me to the quick. I’ve been trying to give Bobby that *space* he wanted; you understand?”

“it’s a big mansion, Dorian.” she huffed. “People are asking about you, you know!”

“And I have a *big* wound on my heart, Kitty!” he draped himself over the locker melodramatically. “I could come back though…. if…..”

“Gawd.” Kitty rolled her eyes. “You know, Dorian. You’re soooo lucky that Theater class is next. You big ham.”

“Maybe they’ll actually appreciate me in that class, hmm?”

“Plenty of people appreciate you, oh Pirate of Penzance.” Kitty pointed her finger at him. “You just really hurt Bobby with that whole mess!”

“I know, I know…” he agreed, slumping down on the locker. “We both hurt each other terribly, and I want to make it up to him! but damn it, Kitty, he won’t talk to me.”

“I mean, you did out the poor guy in front of the entire class.” Kitty said with a pouting frown. At least it had ‘only’ been about their relationship, and not about Bobby being a mutant, but that was small consolation. “He’s had kind of a rough time since then…can you blame him? He needs time.”

“How much time, Kitty?” he half wailed. “I’m dying in anguish. I’m a lost soul! Can’t *you* get him to talk to me? you could talk sense into anyone!”

“You know. I’m, like, starting to remember why they call you Banshee, Dorian.” Kitty huffed, watching his theatrics with a huff of breath. “You sure do a lot of moaning.”

He clasped his hand over his heart. “I’m wounded. Can’t you help a man with his heart on his sleeve?”

“That’s a pretty terrible place to keep your heart, oh bard.” Kitty said with a hand on her hip. “You should put it back in your chest where it belongs.”

“I can’t, Kitty! Bobby has *ripped it out*!”

Kitty pressed her hand to her face with a quiet sigh. “Dorian. Gawd, it’s one breakup. Do you know how many break ups I’ve had?? like, 5 or something!”

“Please, Kitty I’m begging you,” he insisted, leaning in quite close to her, demolishing anything like personal space. “Tell Bobby just to talk to me.”

Kitty pressed up against the lockers, her lips twisting into a pouting frown. “hey, hey, Dorian! Back off, okay? Like, I’m not gonna make Bobby do anything he doesn’t wanna do! You broke his heart too, you know! He’ll talk to you when he’s ready!”

Dorian grabbed Kitty’s shirt dramatically, sagging toward his knees. “Kitty, I–”

“Hey, creep, the lady said to back the fuck off,” a voice Kitty didn’t recognize snapped.

Marching up to them as he came around the corner was a tall and somewhat effeminate young man, with a slim, muscular frame, dressed in workout gear and a letterman jacket from some other school.


Greg had been on his way to shop class when he came upon yet another scene in the hallway. Some brown haired girl was being menaced at her locker by a guy, and damned if he was going to let that happen on his watch, especially after that shit with his sister.

Hackles raised, he stalked up to them.

Somehow, the girl slipped out of the red head’s grip despite his hold on her shirt, and she slid to the side with a sigh. “Look, Dorian..”

The red head, Dorian, looked over at Greg with a snide expression. “Do yourself a favor, friend and don’t involve yourself in another man’s heartbreak.” He sighed and held up his hands. “Kitty– I’ll see you in class.”

Dorian straightened his shirt, and stalked off down the hall.

“Wow what a drama queen,” Greg muttered, watching him go for a moment, before he turned his attention back on the girl. “Are you, uh, alright? Kitty, was it?”

Kitty, who had also been Dorian go, a slight frown on her face, looked up at Greg.  “I’m fine…I could have handled it but..” Her frown dissolved into a little smile.  “thank you for breaking it up before it got ugly. Dorian’s always been…well. LIke…you know….Hyperbolic.”

She tucked a curly lock of hair over her ear and nodded, realizing he’d asked her name. “That’s right! Kitty Pryde! And you’re a new face, I don’t think I’ve seen *you* before.”

Greg smiled and gave her a thumbs up. “It’s my first day. Greg Connelly. My sister and I just moved to town.”

“Ooooh! It’s always real groovy when someone new rolls into town!” Kitty beamed. “You and a sister huh?”

“Yeah, Morgan, my twin.” He nodded, fussing a bit with the hair over his ears, and hoping that Kitty didn’t notice anything amiss with them.

“Oh * wow *” Kitty clapped her hands together. “I hope I get to meet her too!” She looked Greg over somewhat appraisingly, a slight smile on her face “you know, you look pretty strong.”

“I bet you two will get along,” he said hopefully, and preened a little bit, figuring that she was checking him out. “And, yeah, I work out.”

“I can tell! Have you ever thought about, like, taking up martial arts?”

“Morgan and I actually took a couple of years of karate when we were kids, but I haven’t really touched it since then,” he admitted, a little surprised by the turn in the conversation. “Why do you ask?”

“Wellll.” Kitty twirled a lock of hair around her finger with a ditzy little smile on her face, “believe it or not, I’m pretty good, you know? And I’m part of the school’s mixed martial arts club on top of some outside training with my trainers… and if you wanted to join I’d love to see you there. Maybe we could go toe to toe sometime.”

Greg actually cracked a smile–and his knuckles. Finally, something up his alley. “This school actually has a martial arts club? Yeah, I’d love to come. Just say the where and when and you;ve got me there.”

“Yeah we do! You’ll love it! Just come on by after school today, out behind the football fields. We’re using the outdoor ring today.” Kitty grinned, giving him a wink. “Just don’t hold back. We’ve got some tough customers in the club.”

“I’ll make sure to remember that,” he nodded, a smile warming away his earlier scowl.. “I better get to class– but I’ll see you in the ring.”

Kitty gave him a little salute, “See you in the ring, big guy.”

She winked, before scampering off with her theater book to class.


Theater class was a ring of fiberglass chairs set up under a spotlight on the stage of the auditorium, behind the heavy red curtain. Morgan was there, as well as Kitty, Dorian, a girl with an eyepatch, a nervous looking boy with short, curly black hair and a soft face, and a few other students.

The teacher for the class was a whip-thin man with brushed back black hair, greying at the temples, and coal black eyes. He was wearing a red vest, and he had an old, upside down silk hat in his hands.

Kitty sat with her hands on her lap, grinning broadly as she kept her eyes on the teacher, while Morgan sat with bemused yet restrained excitement.

She leaned on her hand, grinning at the distinctive teacher in anticipation of the coming lesson…after all, theater was always a favorite class of hers.

The athletic girl in the eyepatch however didn’t look very excited to be there. She leaned on her hand , her grey eye half closed and a small frown on her freckled face. She hadn’t even taken off the heavy leather jacket, even under the sweltering stagelight.

Dorian looked a little listless in his seat, leaning on his knees, and tapping his booted feet, but he looked up curiously when their teacher started to introduce himself.

“Good Afternoon, class, I’m Mr. Zazlowski, and I’ll be your portal into the world of theatre for this year,” the man purred.

The girl in the eyepatch glanced up and gave the teacher a half wave. “Hey.”

Kitty nodded, a wide smile on her face, “Oh I just can’t wait, Mr. Zazlowski!”

Morgan smiled as well, though taking care to hide her fangs as she leaned upon her hand. “This ought to be a blast.”

“I’m pleased that you’re all so enthusiastic!” he declared. “I hope you’ll be excited for what I have planned for the year– a plan I’ll reveal to you after our first warm up exercise.”

He handed the hat to Morgan. “If you’d be so good as to pick a number out of my hat, and then pass it to the person on your right.”

Morgan raised her eyebrow, but reached into the hat and pulled out a number before passing it along. The hat traveled around the circle with each of the students taking a number, as Morgan unfolded a little slip of paper with the number ‘3’ written on it.

Once it had gone around the full circle Mr. Zazlowski took the now- empty hat back from Dorian who offered it to him with a flourish, and he put it on top of his head.

“Excellent! Now please pair up with the person who has the same number you do. I’ll be handing out a short scene for each of you to rehearse with your partner for the next 15 minutes, and then you’ll be performing them in front of the class.”

Morgan held up her slip of paper. “Well I’m # 3, so whichever poor bas– ah, poor soul’s got the same number had better step forward now.” she purred “or forever hold your peace.”

Kitty excitedly glanced at her own number; “oooh, I hope I get to team up with Kurt again!”

Mukuro simply turned her number around with an apathetic shrug of her shoulders.

The curly haired boy looked at his paper, and gave Kitty an apologetic smile, before standing. “Sorry, Kitty, it looks like I’m going to have to disappoint you this time.” He showed the 3 on his paper, and shuffled over toward Morgan while the others figured out their configurations.

Kitty sighed, pouting a little bit as she leaned back into her chair. “Awww…well..”

She watched as the eyepatched girl walked towards the girl with glasses, planting her foot on the chair next to her and leaning in with a thin smile “Looks like it’s you and me, specs.”

That left Kitty glancing at the last available possibility. “…Oh…”

Dorian turned his number around and showed it off like a letter-card on Wheel of Fortune and he was Vanna White.

Kitty pursed her lips, and stomped over to slip into the chair next to him.

Morgan, meanwhile, glanced over at the boy next to her in curiosity. “Kurt, huh?”

The curly haired kid nodded, and gave her an awkward wave and a smile. “Kurt. Kurt Wagner. Nice to meet you.”

Kurt had a strong, but not incomprehensibly thick, German accent, and pronounced his last name with a *vah* sound at the beginning.

Morgan flashed him a thin smile, before purring, “Nice to meet you, Kurt. I’m Morgan Connelly. I just moved into town this weekend.”

“It’s a pleasure,” he said, bobbing his head politely. “Ah, looks like we’ll be partners. Hope you don’t mind…”

“Not at all.” Morgan leaned on her hand. “As long as you give it your all, I think we’ll do just fine together.”

“Give it my all, huh?” He rubbed the back of his head. Morgan was getting the idea that he seemed like a pretty shy and soft spoken kid, which wasn’t ideal. “I’m afraid I’m not sure I have much of a stage presence, but I’ll do my best.”

“No?” Morgan purred, flicking the inverted cross on her necklace between her fingers idly. “Maybe I can help with that.”

Kurt’s glance flicked down to her jewelry and his smile grew even more apologetic, even a little uncomfortable. “Ah…. maybe… we can give it a try anyway.”

Mr. Zazlowski came to them as he was handing out scripts, and offered them each a paper. “Getting to know your new brother and sister in the stage?”

“Sure are, Mr. Zaz.” Morgan nodded, taking care not to let her hair fall out of place as she took the paper from him. “I’m hoping to help Kurt here get some confidence on the stage.”

The teacher elbowed Morgan’s arm in a friendly and gregarious way. “That’s the spirit, Ms. Connelly. With enough confidence you can take on the world.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready for the *world*,” Kurt admitted timidly.

“And why not, when it’s there for the taking?” She put her hand to her chest. “after all, in the words of the bard…. all the world’s a stage .”

Zazlowski clapped and pointed. “That’s the attitude I want to see! Now, you two, get rehearsing! Your public awaits!”


The first pair up to present their scene was the eyepatch girl and the glasses girl, whose names Morgan learned were Mukuro, and Darcy respectively. They, like the rest of the class it seemed,  had been given the classic Romeo and Juliet balcony scene to work with.

Mukuro stood upon the stage, having finally discarded the leather jacket. Her arms, strong with firm muscle and lightly tanned skin, were bathed in the stage lights as she held one hand up and said in an apathetic monotone.

“Romeo. Romeo. Where are you at, Romeo.”

Darcy, with her arms crossed, looked just as bored to be there when she answered.

The scene wasn’t exactly a hit.

“Well, the two of you definitely need to work on your energy, ladies,” Zazlowski said as they finished their read. “But we’ve got all year for that. Kurt, Morgan. You’re up next.”

Mukuro shrugged, before snatching her jacket off the stage and slinging it over her shoulder as she slunk back to her seat.

Morgan hopped up, and grabbed Kurt’s hand. Practically dragging him onto the stage, she stood before the crowd.

A moment passed with her pale skin bathed in the light of the stage, before she turned to Kurt with an expression of aching longing. Her fingers curled over her chest as she began to recite in a passionate voice.

“‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself.”

Kurt seemed a little intimidated by the intensity of her passion, but he tried to put some of it into his wobbling answer. “I take thee at thy word; call me but love….”

He stumbled and hesitated.

In the audience, Darcy snorted and grinned at Mukuro. “Call me butt-love, eh, eh?”

Mukuro, stern faced for most of the class, actually cracked a smile and smothered a snicker with her hand.

Kitty grimaced and pressed her hand to her face with a quiet, “oh Kurt….”

Morgan stared at her scene partner, waving her hand “but love….come on Kurt, Don’t choke on stage…”

Kurt tried to restart the line several times, but his shoulders sunk. “Oh man, I think i need the theatrical version of the Heimlich maneuver…”

Morgan sighed, her hand dropping before she turned to the crowd.

“Alas , Romeo, sweet Romeo had had too much to drink at the grand gala. With his words muddled by drink, and his words of love dead in his throat.He did not win the heart of the Lady Capulet that night. No bodies lay in the streets of fair Verona, as the tragedy need not come to pass.”

Mr. Zazlowski chuckled. “Improv will be later in the year, but good start.”

The two of them quickly left the presentation area, and when they took their seats, Kurt smiled at Morgan nervously. “Sorry, I really blew it for you, I know.”

Morgan winked at him, flipping the cross between her fingers again. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got all year to turn you into a thespian.”

He chuckled nervously and looked at the ground. “Right, well, I guess I’m clay in your hands….”

“Mm hmm.” Morgan said with an amused smile. “you’re in good hands, too. I’ve been doing theater for a few years now, on top of cheer squad.”

Morgan looked up with a grin to watch Dorian and Kitty hop onto the stage..

Kitty glanced at Dorian nervously before they began their scene. “Okay, are you ready, Dorian? Just like we practiced.”

He waved dismissively, and they ran through it. Aside from Dorian’s Star Trek tier overacting, their scene went off without a hitch. The only one to have done so, so far.

“Bravo, I see we have some chemistry here,” Zazlowski declared, congratulating the pair.. “And now; if you’re ready, I can tell you about our big project.”

Kitty flipped her ponytail over her shoulder, grinning as she hopped back into her seat “I’m ready!”

Morgan crossed her legs with a nod “me too, Mr. Zaz.”

Mukuro just shrugged. “Whatever.”

He tented his fingers and grinned broadly. “We’ll be presenting a full play to the entire school. The Crucible.


As Morgan ducked out of theatre class, she heard a pair of booted footsteps hurrying to catch up behind her before she disappeared down the hall.


Waving to her as she turned to look was the red haired kid, Dorian, from theater class.

Morgan slowed, a smirk crossing her face as she let him catch up to her.

“Hey there, Captain Kidd.”

Dorian gave a flourishing little bow as he caught up, and smiled broadly at her. “I wanted to compliment you on your performance in class– and in the face of such adversity, too.”

Morgan flipped her hair over her shoulder, grinning widely…for a moment forgetting to hide her fangs. “Why thank you — Dorian, was it?

“Dorian indeed, and Morgan, I believe? You have a charming smile,” he winked, grinning at her a bit slyly..

Morgan’s smile took a downtick as it returned to hiding her teeth, but she nodded her head at the compliment.

“That’s me. Morgan Connelly. It was hard going with Kurt, but I’ll make an actor of him yet. You were pretty good yourself. Kinda wish I lucked out with you as my partner instead, we’d make one hell of a team.”

He sighed dramatically at the suggestion. “It is a bit of a shame we didn’t get partnered, especially with Kitty and I on the outs. Maybe Mr. Zazlowski will shake things up next time, hmm?”

She shrugged her bag onto her shoulder as it started to slip. “We can hope so. Kurt seems like a nice kid, just, you know. Not a lotta stage presence at the moment. Like he’s not comfortable in his own skin up there. “She glanced at him “You and little miss prep know one another, huh?”

“Aye, and your adorable yet retiring scene partner as well,” he agreed. “We all used to live together– technically I suppose we still do.”

“Huh. Really?” Morgan cocked her head with surprise at the idea. She walked alongside him, the chains from her skirt jingling with each step. “Must be pretty awkward to be on the outs with her then.”

“Quite, unfortunately.” He sighed again, straightening his jacket as they walked together. “I’ve been steering well clear of that lot for the sake of my own mental health.”

“Good for you . That’s what I tried to do when things got sour for me back home, too. Hopefully you have somewhere to stay, you know, since it sounds like you aren’t really…staying there anymore?”

“Haven’t had to sleep outside yet,” he promised, smiling wanly. “If I were to come close, I suppose I’d have to weigh going back versus the all-night lecture.”

Morgan grimaced at the thought. “Fuck, I’m no stranger to the ‘all night lecture’. Depending on who it’s from, I’d say maybe a night of camping might be the better option.”

“A girl after my own heart.” He pressed his hand to his chest.

Morgan mimed the gesture, her fingers delicately placed above her breast. “Kindred spirits, once towns away, now trapped within the same walls of public education. Alas!” She broke off the overly dramatic speech and continued. “Well. You seem like a cool guy. If it ever comes down to it, I can try to convince my brother to let you crash on the couch for a night.”

She paused, and her eyes flicked to the side; “probably won’t *agree* to it, but I can try.”

“Alas indeed, but you’re very kind. I take it your brother isn’t as delightfully free spirited as yourself?”

“Somehow, despite being twins I inherited all the fun in the family. Greg’s got a stick so far up his ass he’s practically a scarecrow.” She snorted derisively, thinking of her brother’s stiff demeanor. “I love him to death, but he…we don’t see eye to eye on things anymore.”

Dorian put a hand on her shoulder and nodded gravely. “Growing apart from friends and family, it seems we both understand that all too well.”

Morgan nodded back, sighing softly. “Yeah. Seems like we’re both all too familiar with that kind of hurt.” She frowned “it’d be one thing if he understood. But he doesn’t. He’s too wrapped up in his obsession with appearances, and who he wants us to be.”

Dorian’s expression darkened. “You don’t say. Now that’s an attitude shared by far too many people. Keeping up appearances for a fantasy instead of letting people see who you really are.”

Morgan’s eyes narrowed as she glared down the hall with a hum of agreement. “People in our old town were all too obsessed with appearances. Greg especially.” She grit her teeth. ” ‘Morgan, don’t ruin this for me. I just want things to be *nooormal* for once. You can’t go around looking like some kind of punk, here, wear this sweater and spend time with *respectable people*’ ” she mocked in a slightly deeper voice.

Dorian groaned. “Now where have I heard that kind of boring drivel before. Ah, right,” he shook his head. “What a pity your brother ascribes to it– If you ever need a sympathetic ear, however, I’m sure you can find me around.”

“I’d be delighted, Dorian.” She lightly punched his shoulder. “Same goes for you, huh? You have something on your mind, why not come to me? I could use the friend and company, given how new this place is.”

“It would truly be my pleasure, Ms. Morgan. Free-thinkers like us ought to stick together.”


Good Cheer

As Greg strolled into shop class, he found that the teacher had already decided to assign partners to working stations around the room.

Looks like I won’t have any say over who I’m spending the class with’ . He sighed to himself, and gave Bobby in the corner a little wave as he looked around for where he’d been assigned.

Bobby shot him a pair of finger guns. It seemed to be his favorite gesture.

Greg had been assigned in the back of the class, to the desk by the window. A young man was there, leaning on his fingerless-gloved hand. Greg looked him over casually as he sidled up to the desk. He was tall, broad shouldered, and dressed in a pair of ripped jeans and a brown jean vest over a black band tee. His neck length brown hair fell around his pensive face as he stared out the window at the sunny day outside, looking listless and bored.

“Hey. I’m Greg.” He pointed to the desk, where there was a tented 3.5 card with his name on it.

The boy glanced over at him with a low huff of breath, and pointed to his own card. “Name’s Lance.” After a moment, he turned from the window and looked Greg over. “Looks like we’re gonna be partners for the year, huh?”

“Looks like,” he nodded, and rubbed the back of his neck. “You a shop class kinda guy?”

“I’m pretty good with my hands, yeah,” he said with a slight laugh. “Building birdhouses can’t be that hard. Not like you need a degree in structural engineering or whatever”

“Good point. I’m pretty sure this class isn’t going to be *quite* that advanced. Uh, I hope anyway.”

“Not much of a shop guy yourself huh?” Lance asked. He glanced at Greg’s tank top briefly before looking out the window again. “You look like you’d rather be at gym”

“Kinda, yeah,” he admitted, flexing his arms subtly– or at least as subtly as he could. “My last school didn’t really do shop class. But I’m down to give it a shot.”

Lance snorted through his nose. “Thought so.” He stretched out, bringing his arms up to stretch out his back “Maybe we’ll get lucky and get to work with an engine or something.”

“That’d be pretty cool, honestly. Wouldn’t know anymore about it than building a birdhouse to start with but supposedly that’s the point of school I guess.”

” ‘Supposedly’. Trust me, anything useful I learned didn’t come from frickin GC High.”

Just as the bell rang for class to start, Greg glanced up to see the kid Bobby had called Toad shuffle into the classroom, and take his place…. next to Bobby.

“Oh wonderful,” Greg grumbled.

Lance too had gleaned up to watch Todd take a seat, but unlike Greg he didn’t look particularly annoyed. He gave the kid a half wave, before turning back to Greg.

“You alright?”

Greg noticed the little wave– and the kid’s enthusiastic wave back– and his mouth wrinkled. He shrugged. “Just caught that guy creeping on my sister earlier. Is he a friend of yours?”

“Ain’t surprised. Todd can be kind of a creep sometimes.” Lance snorted. “But yeah. I guess. We hang out.”

“Guess everybody needs a friend,” Greg shrugged. Wonderful.

“Todd’s a good guy.” Lance said with a shrug, “More than some other chumps in this dump, at least.”

“Oh yeah? I’m uh, still trying to get the lay of the land around here, so to speak,” he admitted cautiously. “any advice?”

Lance leaned on his hand, “New in town, huh? Well, first thing…don’t let the rumor mill get to you. People around here like to latch onto things and try getting under your skin, you know? Especially the guys on the football team and their lackeys.” He shot a dirty look at a young man with short black hair dressed in the school’s letterman jacket. “People like Todd and I get a bad rap from idiots like that. But what ya hear ain’t exactly always the truth.”

Great, either this guy’s a jock hater or the school team is a bunch of jerks. Either way, I’m not exactly thrilled.

“Yeah, I guess I’ve already seen how fast the rumor mill works around here,” Greg grumbled, thinking of the incident in the gym earlier.

“Already huh?” Lance offered his gloved hand. “Welcome to the frickin club.”

Greg took his hand a little hesitantly. He wasn’t sure he liked the vibe off of this guy, but he didn’t want to be making enemies with his class partner on the first day, either.. “Can’t say I’m ecstatic about it, but thanks.”

“Yeah, it ain’t exactly an esteemed club or nothin’.”

“Honestly, wasn’t much different back in Maine. Guess you can’t escape gossip.” Greg crossed his arms once he had his hand back, growing at the memory.

“Maine, huh?” Lance raised his eyebrow. “What kinda rep did you have back there?”

“Mostly for going after anybody who talked shit about my sister,” he admitted.

“Your sister huh? The one Todd hit on?” Lance shifted to face him, a half smile on his face “kind of the protective type, aintcha?”

“I’m assuming you don’t have a sister.” Greg felt himself becoming increasingly displeased with Lance’s tone.

Lance snorted, leaning on his hand “I hardly even have a frickin’ dad, no. I don’t got a sister.”

“Guess we’ve got the dad thing in common,” Greg grumped, gazing up at the ceiling.

“Sorry I’m late, class,” their teacher said, as she swooped into the room. “Let’s get started, shall we?”


After school Morgan followed the signs for Cheerleading tryouts back to the gym. There’d been a big to-do when she’d joined the team at her last school, hopefully there wouldn’t be as much of an… issue …. Here. She could only hope, given the trouble she’d already had earlier with the locker. Had that even been sorted out yet?

With her jaw set and her resolve steeled, remembering her conversation with Dorian. She stepped out into the gymnasium with all the confidence she could muster. She clawed her way onto the cheer team before, even if those backbiting bitches turned on her * again * once she…changed…But fuck it, shed she’d do it again here.

When Morgan stepped inside she found there were a * lot * of cheer hopefuls, standing in clumps or sitting on the bleachers, all of them in their gym clothes, waiting for their turn to make an attempt. Morgan had already changed into her black , midriff baring gym shirt and shorts, not wanting to risk more locker trouble. The proceedings were being run, it seemed, by a severe looking woman in a sharp suit, and a much smaller woman in a skirt she was ordering around..

One of the girls on the bleachers waved Morgan over as she came in. She waved back with a brief expression of surprise as she walked over and took a seat next to the girl


The bespectacled brunette was in a green tank top and a pair of khaki shorts, her hair pulled back high on her head in a scrunchy. She realized as she sat down beside her that she’d seen her once already today.

“Hey! Morgan, right? Theatre class?” she pointed to her with a grin.

“That’s right.” Morgan winked, crossing her incredibly pale legs as she leaned back on the bleacher behind her. “Darcy, right?”

“Got it in one! looks like we both aced this whole ‘short term memory’ thing.”

Morgan snickered “Congrats to us, huh? Maybe we’ll ace this bullshit too.” She gestured out at the sea of hopefuls and leaned on her hand. “You’re trying out for the cheer team too, huh?”

“I needed something that looks good on a transcript and community service requires a car,” Darcy nodded. How practical.  “What about you? I wouldn’t have thought that cheerleading would be your deal. Really bucking the whole spooky girl stereotype.”

“What can I say, “I’m nothing if not full of surprises. Besides. Maybe I’m planning on turning the cheer team into my dark coven or something. Like this was some kind of cheesy B Movie.” She wiggled her fingers at the girls currently trying out. “Cheerleaders from Hell 2: *Three Cheers to Die*”

“I think I saw that on skinemax,” Darcy nodded. “Does that mean you’re going to teach me some witchcraft if I get on the team?”

Morgan grinned but was careful to hide her teeth. “That’s right. And we’ll go , like, sacrifice a jock or two too.”

“Oh shit we’re getting hard core here, I think I need to get a permission slip from my mom for sacrificing anything bigger than a goat.”

“Come on , Darcy, live on the wild side. “What’s life without disobeying a mom or two? or a little casual dark sacrifice?”

“I’ll take it under advisement, but no promises,” Darcy nodded. She paused. “Unless it can help my chances for Vasser in which case hand me the ceremonial knife.”

“I hear it looks real good on a resume.” Morgan drawled with amusement.. “Right there under community service: ‘dark witch’ . Instant scholarship.”

“Well shit, the things they don’t teach you in those college application classes.”

“Blatant witch erasure. That’s what it is.” Morgan smirked. “Good luck with the tryouts, though. Here’s hoping we both get on the squad.”

“Here’s hoping, witchy lady.” Darcy raised her hand for a high five which Morgan accepted enthusiastically.

Behind them, the severe woman watched the last tryout with a sharp frown. “Ugh. Very… * nice *… young lady. But I’m afraid you’re not quite what the team is looking for.” She turned to shoot her smoldering glance Morgan’s way “Miss Connelly, you’re next.”

Morgan grinned, and slipped to her feet. “Looks like it’s my time to shine, Darcy. Wish me luck.”

“Break a leg! except, like, not really. You know what I mean.” She gave her a thumbs up.

Unfortunately, some of the girls hanging around the gym didn’t look as enthusiastic about Morgan taking the floor as Darcy did. She heard someone scoff.

Morgan glanced over at them as she passed with a dark scowl, her fingers curling by her sides. If they wanted to scoff, she’d just do even *better* to shut them up.

The woman in charge checked her watch, before looking at Morgan. She was a tall, severe woman in her 40s with narrowed amber eyes behind rectangular frames. Her grey streaked black hair was pulled into a bun. She was, for her part, the very model of a strict principal. Like she came out of a box labeled ‘Stock Teacher: Strict’.

“Take the floor, Miss Connelly. Don’t dilly dally and waste my time.”

Someone switched on some canned music for Morgan, and she was allowed to present a bit of freeform routine with the rest of the crowd watching, some more dubious than others.

Morgan took a deep breath as the music switched on. She prepared herself, remembering all she learned in the Red Oak Cheersquad as she let the music move her.

Despite her usual sardonic nature, she poured every damn ounce of cheer and enthusiasm into her routine, moving along with the music in rhythmic time with broad gestured and appealing twists and shakes of her slender body. She’d always been flexible and quick on her feet, and she poured every bit of sex appeal and attention-grabbing command into her cheering in the hopes of pumping up the audience, and making a good impression on the principal.

It had to be obvious to everyone there how talented Morgan was; she even managed to silence most of the whisperers. Though not all, as became clear when the music cut out, and it one suddenly all too easy to hear conversation.

–“was good, but, he shouldn’t even *be here*.”

Morgan stopped, her head snapping towards the sound of the voice.

He shouldn’t even be here . The words played in her head as a familiar anger bubbled up inside her. Morgan’s gaze found the girl who’d been speaking– her mouth suddenly a hard line. She at least had the social understanding to look embarrassed– but only at having been caught. She and her two blond friends had equally snide and disgusted looks on their early-nose-job faces.

From beside her, she heard an approving ‘hmm’ from the woman watching tryouts, and for a moment was ready for the worst. If  that on ewas siding against her she was done for.

“Now that’s what I was hoping to see. That kind of enthusiasm is exactly what we need in this year’s cheer team.” There was a sound of pen on paper as the small woman beside her made a note on a clipboard. “You’ve got a good chance of making captain, young lady. Return to the bleachers.”

With a jolt of surprise,Morgan headed back to her seat. She glowered at the girls as she settled back beside Darcy, her expression softening as she tore her eyes away from them and glanced at the bespectacled girl.

“Hey, wow, you didn’t need that luck I wished you at all,” Darcy said.

“I used to be on the cheer squad back home, believe it or not, ” she explained with a half smile. “But I needed all the luck I could get.”

“Principal Darkholme seemed to like you,” Darcy shrugged. “Which is actually kinda spooky cause she doesn’t like anybody.”

“She doesn’t seem the type.” Morgan smirked. So that was the Principal… “She puts the dude from the breakfast club to shame on sheer authoritarian severity, doesn’t she?… “but if I impressed her, I must have done a good job.”

“Dude, you like, blew it out of the water. We’re all going to look like a bunch of nerds compared to you.” Darcy grinned. “I mean I *am* a nerd so like, fair play. But still. You did great. Looking forward to serving under you, captain.”

Darcy gave her a mock salute and Morgan saluted her in return, grinning wider.

“Looking forward to your service. Go knock their socks off, soldier.” She winked. “Let’s show these bitches and their cheap dye jobs what for.”

“Skinemax cheer coven, here I come,” Darcy declared, hopping up as the name ‘Darcy Lewis’ was called.

“I’m wishing you luck, Darcy!” She purred “enjoy!”

She settled into her seat and waited to watch.

Thicker Skin

“I have a ride waiting, but we should totally freak out over the results when they post them on the board in the morning. We can either break out the confetti or go into half-mourning,” Darcy rambled as they headed to their lockers after the trials.

Morgan ran her hand through her hair with an amused grin. “I’ll pack an extra veil, you know. Just in case.” She winked at her. “Let’s meet up first thing, huh?”

“Perfect, catcha then, captain .” Darcy flashed her mock salute, and jogged off down the hallway.

“Catch you then.” Morgan waved her off with an amused little grin, before she shouldered her own bag “Guess I’ll head on out…”

She checked her phone as she started walking.

“Hey, M organ ,” a bitchy voice snapped from behind her. “Headed home already?”

Morgan stopped, turning slowly to look over her shoulder with narrowed eyes. “Yeah, actually. See, some of us have lives, you know?”

It was the girl that Morgan had caught talking about her in cheer trials girl, and her two lackies. The bitch smiled like a snake.

“Awww, that’s too bad. We were thinking we could hang out, you know? Maybe give you some fashion advice.”

Morgan put her hand on her hip, turning to lean against the wall as she kept her eyes on them. “That so? Didn’t know the Abercrombie and Bitch Gang had an opening.” She smirked, flipping her inverted cross between her fingers. “Believe it or not, I’m *pretty* savvy with fashion.”

The bitch crossed her arms, her eyes hard. “Well then, maybe we can give you some *other* advice, right girls?”

Her friend giggled, covering her mouth with her manicured fingers. “Oh I think we can, Becky. I think it’s advice he *really* needs.”

Morgan’s eye twitched, and she crossed her arms

“Do you three have a point between you? Because I’m about to fuck off. After all, I don’t have any time for girls who aren’t even going to make cheer team.”

“You want the point, miss Connelly?”  Becky snorted. “Here it is. Know where you aren’t wanted. The cheer team doesn’t need * freaks * like you on it. Got that?”

Morgan’s eyes darkened further, her jaw setting stiffly  as a soft hiss left her lips. “Is that so? I’m a freak, am I?”

In the waning light of the afternoon, the school’s hallway was home to plenty of shadows. The outlines of windows and trees danced in the darkness around them, a stretched reflection in the light of the lowering sun.

Angry tears beaded at the edge of Morgan’s eyes as she took a step forward. “Why don’t you just piss off?”

There was the sudden sound of a locker shutting hard a little further down the hall, and a warm, but slightly ominous voice, with a russian accent, cut through the scene..

“I imagine you ladies are late for something, is that not so?”

A large silhouette stood in the light of the school’s doorway.

Becky made a face, shrinking back toward her friends as they were no longer alone in the hall. “Hiiii, Peter.”

At that, the shadows all seemed to release at once. The shadowy branches of the trees which had started to crawl along the ground in stretching silhouettes now looked like normal shadows once more. For a brief moment they almost seemed to shudder, before snapping back.

But Morgan, who’s eyes were dark and furious, slowly untensed as she glanced at the doorway.

“Uhm…” One of other girls said “i don’t thiiink we’re late for anything…”

Becky eyed the shadows nervously, before she snorted. “Whatever, come on, girls, only nerds stay this long after school.” She strode forward, past Peter, and out the door.

Morgan hissed through her teeth before stamping her foot. “Go get another dye job, you ugly bitch!” she shouted after her and her friends left the door.

The broad young man sighed and strode forward toward Morgan, and spoke soothingly. “They cackle like crows, do they not? But you should pay them no mind.”

“they called me a freak,” Morgan muttered, leaning on the wall as she looked over at the big young man. “We were shipped out here to escape that kind of thing, and here it is happening again. And I didn’t even *do* anything.”

Peter had a strong face, and soft dark hair cut short but not cropped too close. He had a warm, somber face, and gentle eyes. He was dressed plainly, in a pair of jeans, t-shirt and unzipped hoodie. He carried a heavy backpack easily in one arm. He offered her his free hand.

“People control their fear of what they don’t understand through petty attacks. Especially people who are… immature. I’m sure you’re no more freak than I, Miss Connelly.”

Morgan took his hand, tears leaking from her eyes as she took a deep breath, her fingers tightening against his palm.

“…immature or not, they don’t have to take it out on me. I’m *tired* of them always taking it out on me. In Maine…here. It’ll never stop.” Her eyes narrowed, and in a voice that dripped with bitterness and hurt she whispered half to herself, “…if we were back in Maine, i could have *really* given them something to fear.”

Peter squeezed her hand gently, and glanced at the shadows. “Ah…yes. Miss Morgan, why don’t we find somewhere quiet and chat, yes? I will buy you a soda.”

Morgan sniffed, and wiped her eyes with her other hand. “Yeah that…that sounds nice. Thanks…Peter, was it? that’s what that…girl..called you.”

“That’s right, Peter. Well, technically it’s Piotr, Piotr Rasputin, but you can only ask so much in terms of pronunciation,” he explained with a smile. He put his hand on her shoulder, and started to lead her down the hall.

Morgan followed him with a weak smile “Piotr, huh?” she repeated, taking a moment to make sure she got the pronunciation right. “I’m Morgan Connelly…nice to meet you.”

She pressed her free hand to her head, trying to ward off the impending ache of stress. “….Sorry about getting all emotional. It’s just…a lot. I”ve been dealing with this kind of shit for years, I should have a thicker skin.”

Piotr chuckled softly. “Even the thickest skin can not always protect the heart. But it’s no bad thing to have a soft one.” he pushed open the door of an empty student lounge; there were chairs and vending machines inside.

Morgan smiled at him wanly, “You should transfer to our theater class. You’ve got a real way with poetry, Piotr.” She walked over to the vending machine with a sigh “but I guess I see what you mean..”

“I took theatre last year I’m afraid, but thank you.” He handed her his student ID. “Please, get whatever you like.”

Morgan put it into the machine with a thankful smile. “you want anything, big guy?”

“Why not. Thank you. ”

Morgan put the card through the machine, buying them a couple of drinks. She handed one to him before taking a seat with a sigh. “Thanks again. It’s a real nice gesture, you didn’t have to buy me anything.”

“It’s nothing, really,” he said, taking the drink and sitting down gingerly in the chair beside her. “I am hoping that we can be friends.”

“Friends, huh?” Morgan asked, staring at the top of her soda with the trace of a smile for a moment before she popped it  open and took a sip. “You’d want to be friends with a ‘spooky freak’ like me? …might be nice. You seem like a nice guy.”

“It is my fondest ambition to be considered a good man, though I often fall terribly short of it,” he confided. “But I don’t find you ‘spooky’, I suppose because I am a bit odd myself.”

Morgan looked him over again with a quirk of her eyebrow as she sipped her shoulder.

“Is that so?”

“You’re not alone here, Morgan,” he told her gently, but firmly. “I assure you.”

Morgan was quiet for a moment , but when she finally spoke it was quiet and a little pained.

“…You don’t really know how odd I really am, Piotr. No matter what Greg says, I’m not like other people. There’s a reason we were run out of town, and it’s got nothing to do with why those girls are mocking me. Not i n totality anyway.”

Piotr shook his head. “I believe that I understand more than you think, though perhaps it must be shown, not spoken of. May I do something which you may find alarming, and which I must ask you not to speak of?”

Morgan leaned on her hand, not certain where he was going with this. But there was no sense saying no. What was he gonna do, flash her? “I’m a girl who keeps her secrets,” she purred, “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.”

The young man merely nodded, missing, or at least ignoring, the subtext. He reached out his muscular arm, and pulled the hoodie back from it, showing pale flesh, up to his elbow.

And then something happened. The sinew in his arm tensed, and a silvery light bloomed at his fingertips, spreading down his arm to the crook over it, and where it passed, Piotr’s arm seemed to have been covered by, or converted to, silvery metal plates, like a suit of armor.

“Holy shit.” Morgan whispered. She reached over and touched it, placing her hand on his wrist “holy shi t”

Piotr smiled softly as she touched him, not flinching away. The metal was warm, like body heat.

“A most curious condition, yes?”

“Real curious.” Morgan breathed quietly. “You can turn yourself into a literal knight in shining armor with an ability like that, eh? The girls must love you.”

“Regrettably I have not found this to be the case, as of yet.” He took his arm back gingerly, and it shifted back to pink flesh, the plates seeming to fuse away into normal skin. He pulled his sleeve down.

“Tragic.” Morgan told him, with an air of amazement still in her voice. “Maybe you’ll have more luck soon.”

She brushed her hand through her hair, tucking it over a very much pointed ear and grinned wide enough to show her fangs “I did promise to show you mine, so…don’t tell anyone what I show you, huh? If my brother finds out I’m ‘misbehaving’ he’ll have a fit.”

“You have my word,” Piotr nodded. “Though I believe I saw some of it in the hall, already, unless I am much mistaken.”

“….” Morgan flushed, her cheeks darkening as she shrugged her shoulders. Not stealthy, it seemed. She was as bad as Greg. “…It may have started acting up out there, yeah. I…try to control it, but..”

She reached her hand out towards the shadow cast by the vending machine. It crawled along the ground like slithering snakes, until it rose **up**, and curled into her waiting hand like wisps of smoke. The animate shadow first formed a skeletal hand as she concentrated, before it twisted and flowed into the form of a single rose, which she offered to him.

“Go on. Take it.”

Piotr looked at the object in mild surprise, his eyebrows raised, but he did as he was told, and accepted the flower. He held it up to his face and turned it over in his fingers.It was the perfect form of a rose, but all made in the same matte black, as if plucked from its own shadow.


Morgan wryly grinned her fang-toothed smile. “People back home called me a monster. A witch. A demon. You know, all those fun things.” She gestured to the rose. “But whatever I am, the shadows are mine to control.”

He shook his head and smiled softly at her.

“You are no monster, Morgan, this I know. As I said to you, there are more of us than you think. My mentor, a man named Charles Xavier, calls us mutants. An evolution of mankind.”

Morgan twisted her hand, letting the shadow slither over it as she turned her eyes downward in thought. She smiled wryly.

“…an evolution of mankind, huh?…mutants. I guess in my heart I always knew me and Greg weren’t the only–the only ones out there who weren’t human…” She glanced at him. “but as far as I knew, it was just the two of us back home in Red Oak…” she hesitated a moment before asking “is your ‘mentor’…one of us too?”

“He is,” Piotr nodded, “a gifted man in many senses of the word. He is a teacher and a guide to many of us who fall outside the human norm. He runs an institute, a sort of boarding school, where we can be ourselves, and he can help us learn to understand our own gifts.”

“Huh.” Morgan dissipated the shadow, which returned to normal behind her; though it did seem to flicker between shapes now and again as she looked into her drink. She smiled sadly. “A boarding school where we can be ourselves huh?…where we don’t have to hide…where we can learn. That sounds too good to be true.”

“It may sound that way, but I assure you it’s very real. And the ‘too good to be true’ feeling may wear off when I tell you it does mean extra classes to attend, and dorms.”

Morgan laughed.

“Tch. Ah, there’s the downside. More school and a roommate.” She wiped her eyes, which seemed to keep watering despite her best efforts. “My brother, Greg. He keeps telling me he wants things to be ‘normal’. Like…that we should force ourselves to fit in. That I should dress the right way and act the right way…but we aren’t normal. Especially since the change…mutation, I guess.”

“It’s understandable to want to fit in, to bury what makes you different, when you have no way to express that difference without rejection, even fear,” Piotr nodded. “Perhaps you and your brother could come to visit our institute for an afternoon. I know you would find it welcoming, and I am certain that Professor Xavier would be happy to meet you.”

Morgan leaned back in her chair with a half smile. “Yeah. You know what? maybe…I’ll bring that up to him tonight. See if he’d like to tour the place with me. No harm in meeting the guy and looking around…”

“No harm at all,” he agreed. “I will look forward to your visit. Perhaps if you like, there, I can show you my full ‘suit of armor’.”

“You know what, Piotr? I’m looking forward to that.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, “and maybe I can show you my teleportation bullshit, too.”

“I would be honored to see,” he said with a smile. He raised his drink to her. “But I am afraid I must be going. One of those ‘extra classes’ I mentioned calls me.”

Morgan raised her can to him with a slim smile “See you around, Piotr.”

She stood and had one of the shadows reach over and lift her bag for her. Snatching it out of the tendril , she threw it over her shoulder. “Enjoy those after school lessons. I’d better get home before my brother blows a gasket.”

With a quick text to her brother reading ‘ Meet you at home ‘, she headed out the door.

New Friends

Greg had his gym clothes on again when found the martial arts club practicing out on what seemed to technically be the soccer pitch. He looked the assembled students over with a glance, and gave a wave to Kitty, who was doing her stretches.

Kitty stretched out her arms, as she worked on limbering up. She was in a bright pink t-shirt with a pair of matching gym shorts and had a wide smile on her face as she saw him.

“Greg!!! Oh GOOD ! I’m so glad you actually came on by!” she chirped. “You’re thinking of joining?”

There were a number of students on the field, young men and women alike, some of them stretching and two of them already sparring in the makeshift ring. One of the girls in the ring had short and wavy honey-blond hair. She was tall, muscular, and had a rather nasty scar across one exposed shoulder that looked like it nearly bisected her arm.

She circled her opponent with her fists up, her freckled face beaming in excitement as she waited for them to make the first move.

“Don’t see why I wouldn’t join. More fun to get a social workout, right? I can do reps any time.”

Greg smiled broadly, watching the pair ‘in the ring’ for a moment as he answered. As he watched, he saw the girl’s opponent rush forward…only to have her arm grabbed and for her to be flipped down *hard* on the map by the blond haired girl.

Kitty bobbed her head, and finished stretching her arms. “You’re right about that, Greg!Like, a social workout keeps you going, because you always have someone to push you to do better.”

“Right? Wanting to be the best is great motivation.So, you said this is mixed martial arts, right? Do you have a specific style?”

“I do aikido, mostly.” Kitty explained with a bob of her head. “But I also know a few other martial arts…some general street fighting techniques I learned from Mr. Logan…” She counted on her fingers “A bit of Judo….some Special Forces CQC…”

Greg whistled, impressed by the sheer volume of techniques she was apparently familiar with. Was she really serious? “Damn that’s a hell of a resume, Kitty.” He grinned, just a littel awkwardly. “I guess I know who I want giving me pointers.”

“Yep! Like, don’t worry. I’ll make sure not to be too punishing if you ask me for lessons.” She winked playfully.

“I really hope we get the chance to, like, spar a bit you know? Usually the only one who can keep up with me is Lacey, and that’s ’cause she’s pretty darn tough.”

“Lacey huh? Which one’s she?” he asked, looking the fighting pair over.

Kitty pointed over at the ring, where the tall girl had landed a solid punch to the other girl’s gut, and knocked her down into the mat, pinning her for the win.

“That’s Lacey Thorne. She’s done the local circuit before, you know, like… semi-pro MMA?”

Greg crossed his arms, feeling more intimidated by the second.. “Damn, uh, I feel a little out of my league all of a sudden, in terms of training, anyway.”

Kitty lightly punched his shoulder. “Well that’s what the club’s all about, you know! training, exercise and a little light competition.”

He grinned, summoning back his enthusiasm. Red Oak had never had a club like this. They had never even had a boxing team. “You know what, you’re right. And I’m excited for the opportunity.”

And definitely not worried these girls are going to absolutely kick my ass despite the 100 lbs I have on them .

Kitty punched her palm with a wink. “So, you know, let’s get you into the ring!”


The hardest part about being in the ring with Lacey, as the two of them struggled against one another, Greg discovered, was keeping himself in check while he got his ass beat. Lacey Thorne was a powerhouse of a girl. She hit hard, and she hit precisely , like she knew the exact places to strike someone to bring them to their knees for the pin. She’d started the match simply trying to flip him and knock the wind out of him, but he’d landed a few solid blows on her. Enough to make her really start fighting– which was about when the sound thrashing began.

As the match wore on he was fighting down the rising tension in his body more than he was fighting Lacey herself. He prayed to whoever was listening that no one noticed anything amiss, and the moment he felt that he couldn’t hold back any longer– he folded under his opponent with grace.

Once he’d conceded she finished the pin, and stood, offering her hand with a wide and genial smile.

In a voice that held just a trace of scratchy damage to it, the first thing she’d said was, “Thanks for the fight! You really gave me a workout there.”

Greg rubbed his shoulder with an embarrassed grin, taking her hand to haul himself to his feet. “Yeah? Glad to hear it, Lacey.”

Lacey stretched once she let go of him, rubbing her left shoulder– the scarred one– for a moment as she grinned back at him.

“I actually had to break out my finishers. Ya know, Greg, you might just have a talent for this kind of thing. Especially with a bit of training.”

He rolled his shoulders, getting the kinks out. “I’d love to give it a shot. Like I told Kitty, I haven’t exactly touched martial arts for years.”

“You used to, huh? What style?” Lacey asked curiously.

“Karate. Mom signed me and my sister up when I asked when we were 10, but I think she just was trying to get us out of the house.”

“I’ve been there.” Lacey laughed pleasantly, running her hand through her hair “…I wanted to play football when I was a kid but–people don’t take kindly to a girl trying out for the team, so I kind of fell into MMA, and found a place I enjoyed. But before that? I drove my mom crazy hanging around home all day.”

Greg chuckled. “I guess that’s something moms have in common huh? but, I’m glad you found something that you enjoyed.”

Lacey combed her fingers through her short and wavy hair with a smile, putting the strands a bit back in place after their tussle.

“Thanks. Hopefully you’ll find you enjoy it too. You hit hard, i’d *love* to see what you can do by the end of the year.” She leaned a little closer. “Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to take me down.”

“I’ll be damned pleased if I can just get you to a stand still, honestly,” he admitted with bemusement. “I’ll be working hard to get there.”

Lacey held up her fist for a fistbump, which he happily returned.

“I’ll look forward to it,” She promised, and then she smiled slightly, cocking her head. “Hey, what kinda stuff do you like doing outside of school?” She asked the question as she pulled out a tube of lipstick, working to paint her lips a vibrant red. “Maybe we can hang out sometime.’

. “Hey, yeah, I’d love to. You can help me figure out what there is to do around here.”

“There’s a ton if you know where to look.” She assured him. “There’s actually a teen dance club around here. Called Calamity.”

He raised his eyebrow. ‘Teen dance club’ was not something that sounded real to him. It sounded more like something in a tv drama. “Seriously? Man, New York really does have everything.”

“Yeah, seriously! It’s pretty cool. Kitty and I have gone a few times together.”

“I’d love to check it out,” he nodded eagerly. Dancing wasn’t exactly his thing, but it sounded like a cool place to hang out and meet people. “Sounds pretty cool, honestly. We didn’t have anything like that in Maine. Most of the kids hung out at school, or by the 7-11.”

“Wow!” Lacey giggled, putting away her tube of lipstick. “You guys were *real* rural, weren’t you?”

Greg nodded, and shrugged his shoulders in admission. “Honestly yeah. I’m gonna need to get used to this whole living in a city thing. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Well, I’ve been living here my whole life, so I’m real pleased to show you around.”

“I’ll take you up on that, Lacey. Consider me your new pal who’s trying not to be such a farm boy.”

“You got it, Buff-Luke-Skywalker .” She punched his shoulder.

As the two of them were chattering, a voice called out from out on the edge of the field; “Greg Connelly, might I have a word with you?”

“Oh, shit,” Lacey whistled, “Looks like Miss Prez wants a word with you, Farm Boy.”

Greg looked up quickly and oriented on the voice, trying not to be nervous about it. “Shit, yeah Bobby mentioned that might happen. Alright, I’ll catcha later, Lacey. Tell Kitty where I ran off to if she asks, will you?” He smiled at Lacy, and parted with a wave before he jogged off toward the voice.

Waiting for him at the edge of the field stood a striking young woman. Dressed in a long navy blue coat and stormcloud grey blouse, she stood  with crossed arms and a small smile. Stark white hair–.unusual on someone her age– fell around her shoulders, parted only by a dark grey headband keeping it out of her face. As Greg came close, it was clear she was quite tall. Taller than him.

She tilted her head to meet his eyes, and gestured towards the school. “I was hoping I might be able to speak to you, Greg Connolly.”

She paused for a moment glancing out at the field (and at Lacey who Greg saw blew her a flirty kiss), then back at Greg.

“In private,” she added.

Greg frowned a little, the nervousness returning, but he nodded. “Sure…. whatever you want, I guess. Miss? Madam?….”

He realized he was at a loss at how to address a student council president.

“Madam?” The young woman chuckled pleasantly, shaking her head “Please, I’m not your teacher. You can call me Ororo, your peer.”

She turned and began walking towards the school

“Got it, Ororo,” he said, gamely, smiling and brushing some hair out of his face–careful of his ears– as he followed after her. “Like I told Bobby, we didn’t really do student government out in Red Oak.”

She glanced over her shoulder with the trace of a smile, “Then I hope your teachers didn’t prove to be tyrants.”

Ororo led him into the hall, where he briefly saw a tall girl with an eyepatch slam her locker shut and walk not towards the school’s exit, but towards the vocational classrooms with an expression of utter apathy. The student council president gave her a brief look before waving for Greg to follow her down towards the administrative offices.

Greg glanced at the girl with the eyepatch, and then hurried after Ororo, his mouth drawn tightly. “Tyrants? Never really thought about it… maybe they kinda were…”

“Then it sounds like you could have used a student council. Some doubt what we do for the student body.but it is our intention to act as a buffer between the faculty and the students and make certain their voices are heard by Principal Darkholme and the others.” As she came to a small office she opened it with a key. “Come. Have a seat.”

Greg nodded, and shuffled into the office with her, looking around curiously. It was a small office…with enough room for a single table in the center with a ring of chairs, a small cooler, and a blackboard with various items of the day.

( -The Lunchroom Issue: No, we will not replace the vending machines with ice cream makers, stop submitting this for debate

-Harassment and Rumor-mongering: Campaign against bullying

-Investigation into locker break-ins and subsequent false allegations)

“Thanks. So… they actually let you do that?” he asked as he read over the chalkboard. “Argue for the students. Does it ever work?”

“It has in the past, and it will continue to do so as long as I am president,” Orororeplied firmly. She gestured to the cooler. “Would you like a drink? We do not have much, but I would like you to be comfortable for this discussion.”

“Uh, sure, thanks,” he nodded, glancing away from the blackboard for a moment, and pulling out a chair to sit down. “Quite the agenda. Would be great if you could really do something about the bullying.”

Bending down to retrieve two bottles of water from the cooler she passed one to him and then she sat opposite him and folded her hands. She sighed and met his eyes. “It would be. It’s a difficult problem to face, of course. People so often fear what they don’t understand. And some react to that fear…poorly, lashing out at those around them who they perceive as different, harming them with words and action.”

Ororo paused briefly and gestured at the board. “The gossip mill and harassment many students face everyday is one facet of this problem that we seek to stop…as well as letting those affected know they are not alone.”

Gre smiled slightly ruefully and twisted the top off his water, taking a sip of it, then he sighed, too. “Not alone… yeah I guess. Easy to feel like you are when it seems like people are just trying to take you out at the knees at the first chance. Bobby told you about this locker bullshit, right?”

“He did. Yes. It seems it was an administrative oversight…” There seemed for a moment like there was more she was going to say, or wanted to say before she shook her head and continued. “Rest assured, your sister is now assigned to the proper gym class and a locker in the women’s locker room. I am truly sorry for the trouble she’s faced, and I plan on taking it up with the administrator responsible.”

Her fingers tensed together, folded on the table before her. “And if your sister faces any bullying or harassment due to this incident, I hope she will feel comfortable coming to me. I will make certain she is helped.”

Greg nodded, his jaw set. As he listened. The girl seemed sincere, that much was certain. But he doubted there was really anything she could do now that the genie was out of the bottle.

“Yeah, thanks,” he said, roughly. “Just wish we could have avoided the whole fucking–sorry– mess. We were supposed to get a fresh start here without….” he trailed off, sighing.

“I wish you could have as well.” Ororo agreed looking up to meet his eyes with her steady gaze. “It was unfair to you and your sister. Terribly so. I understand the desire for a fresh start. While things perhaps may not have gone to plan, you two should know that you are not alone here.”

She gestured toward him with an open palm as she spoke.

“Yeah? Heh, thanks,” he mumbled, not sure what more to do with the offering of acceptance. “I’m sure that’ll be some comfort to Morgan. You guys have like, an LGBT club or something?”

“We do. If she wishes to join, I’ll put in a word with the club advisor.” She paused significantly, not breaking eye contact, “but I’m afraid I mean something else.”

Greg felt his whole body tense, his fingers going stiff around his water. “Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

Ororo picked up her previously untouched bottle, not yet opening it as she spoke.

“You and your sister are gifted, are you not? From trusted friends of mine I have heard reports of dark mist and crawling shadows.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Greg lied, stiffly. His worst fear was coming true right in front of him. It was only the second day of class and they’d already been found out.

“Can I show you something? I ask that you keep it secret…as a sign of trust.” Ororo looked deep into his eyes.

Greg’s jaw remained tight, and he swallowed, his eyes flicking to the table and back up to Ororo, the conflict written with painful honesty on his face.

“Sure, go for it, I guess,” he decided, roughly.

Ororo nodded her head, before she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

When she opened them the bright blue of her irises gave way to a solid white, giving her eyes a strange and ethereal glow. She held her hands up, whispering softly under her breath. For a moment, the only thing that happened was a slight chill in the room…then a cold breeze…

And then there was the gathering storm cloud above her head– inside the student council room . Snow began to drift down from above her, landing in increasingly heavy flakes upon the water bottle she held aloft, and the table.

Greg only felt himself holding his breath when he let it go in order to gasp, and it came out in a puff of warm fog. “Wha–” he looked around the room in wonder and surprise.

Ororo twisted her hand, and the cloud began to turn and roil, lightning flashing through it’s darkening shape. And after a moment, she waved  and dismissed it–but the snow on the table and bottle…which had some flecks of ice in it now..remained.

“There are some who call me Storm,” she said, the glow in her eyes dying down. “Others who’ve called me a goddess. But you can call me Ororo…someone who understands. A mutant, like you.”

She offered him her hand, as she reminded him of what she’d said a moment before. “You aren’t alone.”

Greg shivered, and it was only partially from the sudden cold. For a moment, he was still, stiff, and unsure.

And then he took her hand.

“I… guess not… holy shit.”

She took his hand in hers, giving it a squeeze as she continued.

“There are more of us than you think. Closer than you’d expect. My teacher, Professor Xavier, calls us mutants. A new step in the evolution of humankind.”

It was a lot to take in. Greg wasn’t sure where to start.

“Yeah? Professor Xavier? Does he uh, teach here?”

“No. But he heads the Xavier Institute here in town. It is a private academy and boarding house for people like us. He provides a safe haven where one does not have to hide, and can train themselves and learn to control their gifts.”

“Seriously? Don’t people…. notice?”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s a large compound, set away from the city and protected. We have all the room we need and the outside world simply sees us as a school for gifted youngsters.”

He rubbed the back of his neck as his hand eased slowly out of hers, “Sounds a little too good to be true.”

“People often say that.” Ororo chuckled. “And when they train with Logan, they often regret thinking so. We have extra lessons, training sessions…roommates.”

“Training sessions?” Greg asked with curiosity.

“To help us better understand and utilize our gifts,” she explained. “We have several teachers, all of whom are gifted as we are, who offer training seminars. Combat, control , endurance…piloting…”

“Seriously?” he asked, leaning forward. This was sounding better and better. If they had a way to train this… whatever it was… the same way he’d train any other muscle… that was something he didn’t want to pass up. “How many people are there? Do you let anybody who…. uh….”

“We have quite a few students currently,” she answered, though avoiding the exact number. “And..yes…we are open to all mutants in need.”

“Damn, uh,” he looked down at the table. “Sounds, uh, sounds pretty nice, I have to admit, Ororo.”

“Why don’t you and your sister come by soon for a tour? You can meet the professor and decide for yourself if you wish to attend.”She met his eyes with an enigmatic smile. “You may even see a few familiar faces.”

“Familiar faces, huh?” Greg smiled slightly for the first time since he’d entered the room. “Alright. Just say where and when, and we’ll be there.”

Fence Sitting

Morgan was heading out of school to catch the bus, after her long conversation with Piotr. There had been no point in changing her clothes, after all, Greg had already seen her. She made her way toward the bus shelter at the edge of campus, and heard an odd rattling sound as she approached– and someone humming.

She stopped walking, too curious about the noise to worry about the bus, which didn’t seem to have arrived yet, anyway..

Idly, she fussed with her inverted cross necklace with a cock of her head, looking around to find the source of the noise. “Hmm?”

In a sheltered corner, she saw the boy from the hallway earlier who had grabbed her. He had a can of spray paint in one hand, and a pair of large, old headphones around his shoulders. She watched as he hummed to himself and hissed spray paint across the large fence behind the bus shelter area, dancing a rather goofy but strangely graceful dance as he worked.

The graffiti read “Normies Fuck Off” and he was working on a large pair hands with spiked bracelets, showing double middle fingers.

He paused, looking at it for a moment, and then suddenly leapt up into the air. Like * really * up in the air. Morgan saw him land on his feet at the top of the 10 foot high fence, squat down, and lean over with fantastic balance, to work on the detail of the fingers from a better angle.

Her eyes widened as she watched the boy’s–.frankly impossible– vertical leap. A smile crawled across her face as she flipped the cross in her fingers.

Looks like Toad wasn’t just a nasty nickname ’, she mused, before sauntering towards the fence, clapping her hands. She grinned, showing her fangs as she did so.

“Looks great from down here, but I think you missed a spot.”

She glanced over the fence, and saw a bit where his shadow crossed over the edge, pooling against its side and a bit on the top.

With a wicked grin, she stepped into the fence’s shadow with a sudden flare of shadowy smoke. It curled around her, as if embracing her from the pool of shadows on the ground and in a moment she was gone.

And in the next second smoke poured from the boy’s shadow as her hand reached out, grabbed the lip of the fence, and hauled the rest of her body out and next to him, balanced precariously on the edge beside him as the shadowy smoke started to dissipate.

“Want a hand?”

Toad startled visibly as she appeared next to him, and had to grapple not to drop the spray can– but despite that, he didn’t come within any danger of falling off the narrow fence.

He turned to her with a grin that matched hers. “Whoa, girl, looks like you ain’t just a pretty face, huh?”

“I’m the whole package, leapfrog.” She smirked, brushing her hair away from her pointed ear to show it off rather than hide it.”I could say the same about you. I saw that little hop of yours.”

He whistled, looking her over with that same almost too wide, toothy smile. “Damn, guess the cat’s outta the bag, huh. You some kinda sexy teleporting elf chick?”

“You didn’t seem keen on hiding it all that much,” she shrugged. “I saw you from the doorway.”

Morgan let one leg dangle, swaying against the fence as she wiggled her fingers, casting a shadow of her own against the fence below.

Only the shadow didn’t move in time with her, it turned it’s head and seemed to laugh out of time with her movements.

“As for being an elf– I prefer to think more like vampire,” she continued, smiling to show him her fangs. “And I can do more than just teleport.”

“Vampire, huh? Cool, cool, I love it.” He leaned down to spray the fence again, talking while half-hanging upside down. “As for hidin’ it. What are people gonna do if they find out? Try to beat my ass? Tch, I’m there already, yo.”

“Yeah I know. My brother tried to kick it earlier, after you grabbed my ass,” Morgan drawled. Her foot dangled as she leaned over to watch him paint. “Folks back home nearly started a witch hunt when they found out about us. Greg’s terrified of it happening again. But…I don’t give a fuck what they think, though…why *should* we hide it. You’ve got the right idea leapfrog.”

“Well, hey, thanks for the compliment, dollface, don’t get too many of those around here,” He swung himself up by his legs and leaned in toward her. “Your brother ain’t gonna be happy if he sees you ’round me, I’m guessin, yo. He uh…. he ain’t around right now, right?” He looked suspiciously around the area.

“He’s probably off sucking down protein powder and telling people about his lifting routine. You’re safe.” She grinned “for now. He’d go ballistic if he saw us talking, though.”

A darkness that wasn’t the shadows clouded her face for a moment, and she frowned before quickly trying to salvage a smile, looking down and into his eyes, and changing the subject.

“Anyway. I may have a compliment or two for you, sure. Love the tag art you’re doing for one thing. Looks great.”

He puffed up his chest a bit. “Not my best work, but like, it gets the point across. Probably oughta get outta here before Miss Prez or somebody comes by though, yo.”

“Something tells me they aren’t art appreciators like I am,” Morgan agreed. “Race you down, leapfrog?”

“Ooooh, you’re on, vampira!” Toad immediately threw himself off the fence toward the ground.

At the same time, Morgan attempted to slip into his shadow, only to miss as he lept away too fast. She tipped forward , and tumbled off the fence with a hissed “* fuck !*”

From below, she attempted to form a net of tendrils to catch herself.

“Whoa! Look out below!” As the tendrils twisted to life on the ground, Toad leapt to intercept, catching Morgan before they could fully form– and well before she hit the ground.

Morgan landed heavily in his arms, a sharp gasp escaping her lips as the two of them collided midair. Her arms reflexively wrapped around his shoulders to hold on tight. The shadows below retreated, slithering back into their familiar old shapes as she started to relax.

“…well.” she breathed, “that wasn’t my finest moment.”

“Mighta been mine, princess,” Toad grinned, making no move to put her down.

Morgan clung to him,catching her breath as she tilted her head to look at him with an amused smirk.

“Mmm, I bet it is, leapfrog.” She managed to pull one of her arms away to tuck a stray strand of her mussed hair over her ear. “You know, I’m *usually* a lot more graceful than that.”

At this distance, his blotchy green freckles stood out more prominently on his sallow face, and his eyes were slightly luminous.

“Oh I know, took a peek at ya from the balcony at that cheer tryout,” he admitted rather shamelessly. “You got the moves, yo. Was thinkin’ about tryin’ out myself, but I had a bad hair day.” He winked.

“Oh, you were watching, hm?” She smirked at him, and dragged the goof out. “Too bad you didn’t. I’d have loved a man with your skills on the team. And I can’t say it wouldn’t be amusing to see you in the uniform, though we would have to do something about the hair.”

Her face had started to darken with a blush, her strange almost dusky purple skin deepening across her nose and cheeks and up the edges of her pointed ears. He was still holding her. “Thinking of putting me down? Or have you gotten used to carrying me about already?”

“Eh, I could carry you all day, but you prolly got places to be or some shit, and all that.” Toad admitted, before he gently put her down, with a slightly nervous chuckle. “Oh, I donno if I introduced myself yet– don’t think Bobby yellin’ down the hall counts. So hey, Todd Tolansky, at your service, miss vampire.”

“Todd, hm?” She repeated, finding her footing and rising tall once more. She brushed her hair over her pointed ears again, and smiled as if the whole ‘falling’ thing never happened, looking down at him with half lidded eyes.

“Todd Tolansky. it’s a pleasure,” she said with a fang-filled smile “I’m Morgan Connelly, and currently the only thing I have to do is get home to be yelled at by my brother.”

Todd tossed the can of spray paint in his bag and hefted it onto one shoulder, shoving his hands in his pocket. “Damn man, uh, no offense but your bro seems like a piece of work. Like a total gorilla.”

“You aren’t wrong about that.” she murmured with a soft huff of breath.

He shook his head, and then it snapped up and he was grinning at her again. “You wanna ditch? Me and some pals are gonna hang out.”

Glancing down at Todd she cocked her head with a growing trace of a genuine smile “…you’re inviting me to hang out?”

“Sure am, Morg!I mean, I get it if you got other places to be an’ all that.” Some of the confidence drained out of his voice as he made excuses for her.

Morgan briefly glanced at the bus stop, her brow furrowed in thought, before her eyes snapped back to Todd , and the smile turned into a grin, the decision made. “Fuck it! Count me in, Toddy.”

She winked “I’ll help you guys paint the town red.”

Todd blinked and straightened up. “Shit, for real? Hell yeah! Let’s get goin then, yo!”

Hanging with Bros

Todd led Morgan to the by-now mostly empty back parking lot of the school, where there was a small knot of people chatting idly and hanging around what looked like an old military vehicle.

“Hey hey, guys! hope we got room for one more, cause look who brought the new girl!”

Todd waved at the bunch, one of whom Morgan recognized as Dorian from her theater class.

Morgan grinned excitedly and waved “hey! Dorian, I didn’t expect to see you here!”

One of the others, a tall girl in an old and faded leather jacket and a black eye patch over one eye looked Morgan over before glancing at Todd.

“Who’s the new girl?” She asked, her voice even and just a hair above monotone.

Dorian waved to Morgan. “I didn’t expect to see you either; and now I’m feeling a hair embarrassed for not inviting you myself. Callisto, dear, this is Morgan. She’s in our theatre class. Morgan, meet Callisto.”

“I remember you from theater too, actually.” Morgan grinned, pointing at Callisto. “Though you seemed so bored out of your skull that I wouldn’t be surprised you don’t remember.”

Callisto stared at her a moment before she snapped her fingers. “Ah, yeah. The dramatic one.” She nodded approvingly “Cool. Welcome aboard.”

The last, the tall and broad shouldered guy in the brown jean vest glanced up from where he was checking the oil and snickered. “Shit, Todd managed to get a cute girl to come hang out? Check the sky, are pigs flying?”

“Haven’t seen any yet,” Todd grinned, tugging at his shirt pridefully. “Must just be my winnin’ personality finally paying off.”

“Doubt it, Todd.” The boy in the brown vest grinned.He flashed Morgan a thumbs up “I’m Lance. Todd’s old friend.”

Morgan brushed her hair over her ears, careful not to expose them…just in case. “Good to meet all of you. This should be fun .”

Todd noticed Morgan hide her ear and elbowed her gently. “Hey, never mind that, Morg, you’re among friends if ya get my drift.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow and looked Morgan over again. “Hmmm?”

Callisto glanced at her significantly, before closing her visible eye with a nod. “Yeah.”

Morgan’s eyes widened, and then she grinned widely again,brushing her hair away from her ear. “Well isn’t that convenient. Good bunch of friends you have here, Toddy.”

Lance gestured to the car. “Wanna hop in? We can chat about it on the way.”

Todd opened the door for her. “Your chariot awaits, Vampirella.”

“My chariot, hm?” She purred, slipping into the car. “Thanks, Leapfrog.”

Callisto raised her eyebrow, but slipped into the driver’s seat at the same moment Lance was attempting to, forcing him to take shotgun with a muttered “god DAMN it.”

Dorian chuckled at the exhcange, climbing into the back seat behind Lance, and patting him on the shoulder. “Better luck next time.”

Lance glanced over his shoulder. “I swear man, it’s like she thinks it’s her car.”

And they were off, Callisto tearing down the streets of the New York suburb.

“So you’re all..ah..” Morgan thought for a minute, “what was it Piotr said…Mutants too, huh?”

Lance nodded to Morgan. “Yeah, believe it or not, yeah. Even if most of us don’t have anything as obvious as Todd and that tongue of his.”

“Tongue?” Morgan raised her eyebrow.

Todd pouted performatively, crossing his arms. “Aw, man, Lance, you spoiled the surprise!”

Dorian snickered. “I * hope * you weren’t planning on * too * much of a surprise. What a rude thing to suggest to a lady.”

Todd flushed a bit green at the suggestion and snapped, “Ya got a dirty mind, pirate boy!”

Morgan felt her own cheeks flush as well, covering her mouth as she started laughing. “It’d be one hell of a surprise, I’ll give him that.”

Callisto peered back at them in the rearview mirror, her single visible grey eye locking on Todd in the backseat. “Protection.” was all she said.

Todd made a noise a little like drowning, and sank half way into his seat. “Aw man I’m bein’ ganged up on…”

Dorian snorted with amusement and flashed Morgan a grin. “Since he seems too shy to tell you himself, I’ll break the news that our friend Toad here has a tongue very reminiscent of his namesake.”

“Well isn’t that something.” Morgan purred. “Bet it makes you real popular with the ladies, leapfrog.”

“You’d think.” Lance snickered

In the front seat, Callisto smirked. “In the interest of saving Todd from melting into a puddle, I will admit my mutation. I have enhanced senses. And a mind for tactics.”

“That’s it?” Morgan blinked in surprise at the lackluster confession.

“Eh. More or less.” Callisto smiled enigmatically.

“Our dear callisto is a delightful mystery, as all women are, I’m told,” Dorian explained. “I wouldn’t really know about that. As for myself, I have the most *amazing* voice.”

“Yeah amazingly destructive,” Toad snorted, shooting a grateful glance to Callisto in the rearview mirror.

Callisto blinked at him. Maybe it was a wink. Hard to tell with the eyepatch.

“Yeah, the guy howls like a fucking banshee and brings the literal house down.” Lance smirked.

“You’re one to talk.” Callisto countered. “Mr. Richter scale.”

Morgan simply looked both fascinated and amused, her lips parted in a wide smile.

“Yeah between Dorian and Lance they could really bring down the house,” Todd nodded. “And I mean the whole house.”

“And we’d get an applause, too,” Dorian purred. “At least, I’d say we should .”

“Somehow I don’t think the audience would give us a standing ovation,” Lance snorted. “Unless it was with pitchforks and torches instead of flowers.”

Callisto glanced at them, and then back at the road with a nod.

Morgan leaned on her hand, overwhelmed and pleased to be in such relaxed company. “Oh I wish I could see you in action. All of you!”

She put her hand on her chest, “my mutation is…”

“That you drink blood?” Callisto asked, glancing at her in the mirror.

“N-no.” Morgan flushed, glancing off to the side. *As much as I’ve had the urge to…no. I manipulate shadows…with a bit of stepping through them as a method of teleportation.”

“Ya got a wicked pair of fangs though,” Todd pointed out. “Saw ’em myself!”

“Ah yes, the lovely smile I saw earlier,” Dorian teased.

Morgan’s smile recovered, and she brushed her finger over her lips thoughtfully. “Maybe I should give it a try sometime.” she mused “if I can find the right…victim.”

She caught Todd giving her a nervously interested glance as she spoke.

“Maybe you ought to.” Dorian replied, nodding. “Even so, teleportation is a tremendously useful gift,”

“It is. I used to use it to get to class on time until Greg found out and had a fit.”She chuckled , leaning on her hand with a fang-filled smile.

Lance froze in the passenger seat as he heard Morgan mention Greg. “…oh. Fuck.”

“Problem, Lance?” Dorian asked with some confusion, cocking his head.

Todd sat up, snickering. “Sounds like he’s met the 40-tonne-gorilla. Uh, no offense, Morg.”

“The dude’s my shop partner. He kept going on about his muscles.” He glanced over his shoulder at Morgan. “And about how he had a rep for protecting his sis. He also * really * doesn’t like you, Toad.”

“Yeah trust me, I noticed, bro,” Todd nodded, grimacing.

“Great. Just peachy.” Morgan grumbled, her expression a similar one of displeasure. “He’s probably gonna try to chase off any friend I make who doesn’t fit his preppy good girl ideal of me. Again .”

Callisto looked almost thoughtful for a moment.

“Is this often a problem for you, Morgan?” Dorian asked. “Sounds a touch over protective to me.”

“*Sounds* like he’s gonna try to rip my arms off and beat me to death with ’em,” Todd snorted.

“Trust me, it’s more than a touch.” Morgan agreed with frustration. “He sets out my damned clothes and has a fit if I wanna wear my *own* style. He chases off any friend I make who’s not Greg-approved. He tells me not to do this, not to do that. He probably will rip Todd’s arms off and beat him to death with them if he had half the chance. It’s a big problem.”

“Don’t worry, Todd.” Callisto said dryly “I’ll stop him at at least one arm. We can probably replace it pretty easy.”

“Yeah, well, as much as I like the sound of a sick robot arm, sounds like it’d be less hassle to replace the bro instead, yo,” Todd snorted.

“He really lays out your clothes?” Dorian asked. “Isn’t that a bit….”

“Creepy,” Todd interjected. “The word you lookin for is creepy.”

“Yeah it’s not exactly ‘normal sibling behavior.’ ” she muttered, crossing her arms. “I turned into B-movie’s monster of the week, and even I think it’s a little on the ‘unsettling’ side.”

She dropped her head into her arms with a quiet groan “I know he’s just trying to protect me, but it’s not like all this shit’s stopped anyone from attacking me.”

Lance hissed through his teeth, glancing back at the backseat again. “People suck like that…but your brother’s taken it to a fuckin level. the guy’s gotta buzz off, from the sound of it.”

“Yeeeeah,” Todd nodded. “I mean the shit those dickwads were sayin’ in the gym was yikes bullshit, but it was the coach your bro was about to break the teeth of.”

“What’s this about attacks, and dickwads?” Dorian raised an eyebrow.

Morgan tensed as the locker incident came up and shrugged her shoulders.

“I ah. The school made a mistake and assigned me to the wrong gym class.” She rubbed her neck, “and a lot of the people who were there started talking about me because of it. I got some from some of the other girls trying out for cheer squad too. But Todd’s right…it wasn’t the kids talking shit about me he was threatening…just the coach. He had the wrong target. I’m …pretty sure it was just a clerical error because of…some stuff.”

Morgan braced herself for a bad reaction from the others in the car as they put two and two together.

But it never came.

“The cheer squad hopefuls too? Hm…” Callisto frowned slightly. She was thoughtful a moment before she said, “sorry, Morgan.”

Lance punched his hand. “You need anyone’s nose broken in, you can ask us. The rumor mill’s no friend of ours.”

“Indeed,” Dorian tapped his chin. “You wouldn’t happen to have caught any of the *names* of these wretches, would you?”

Todd, meanwhile, pressed his luck, patting Morgan in a consoling way on the shoulder.It  paid off, she didn’t deck him in the face *or* call him a creep. Instead she gave him a thankful smile, brushing the hair out of her face with a nod. She was feeling welcome again, maybe more so than before.

“None of the guys at gym, but….Becky I think was the ringleader of the Abercrombie and Bitch gang who tried to start shit with me.” She snarled, I nearly pummeled them with their own twiggy shadows.”

“That’s the spirit.” Callisto smiled in the mirror.

“Yo, I woulda paid money to see that,” Todd agreed.

“If that was Becky Vernon, and I *suspect* it was, she’ll have had two lackies with her, a blond and a brunette, am I right?” Dorian asked.

“Becky Vernon huh?” Lance rolled his eyes. “I tried hitting on her once in fifth grade and she said ‘wouldn’t touch some low class punk’ before insinuating I just wanted to steal her wallet and gettin’ Gary Quill to try bashing my head in.”

Todd snickered. “Joke was on her, I was the one that stole the wallet AND you broke Quill’s nose.”

“Yeah. You caused me a heap of trouble that day, Toad. But it was worth it.” Lance smirked at the memory.

“She *seems* the type to pull that sort of stunt.” Morgan snorted. “that’s right. There were three of ’em. Becky, blondie and the brunette.”

Callisto had pulled down a sidestreet, towards a liquor store.

“Oh is that so?” Dorian tented his fingers. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity , and it’s right in our neighborhood.”

“Is it the liquor store?” Callisto asked dryly. “Because I hope you have your orders ready. We’re almost there.”

Morgan glanced at Dorian with a wide grin “…really? what kind of opportunity?”

Dorian tapped his nose with a sly look.

“*I* know where Becky and her girls are going to be right now. Callisto, dear, a detour if you would. Club Calamity.”

Todd perked up. “Shit, we’re goin to Calamity?”

“You always know where to find the worst company, Dorian.” Callisto shook her head. She turned away from the liquor store and down another street.

“Oh * hell * yeah.” Lance grinned and leaned over to punch Dorian on the shoulder. “You rock, dude.”

Dorian gave Lance a little bow, in his seat.

“What the hell’s Calamity?” Morgan asked, cocking her head .

“Calamity’s a dance club, yo,” Todd piped up. “But like, for kids!”

“The term is ‘all ages club’, Toad dear,” Dorian corrected.

“For kids!” Todd insisted with a grin.

Morgan giggled into her hand.

“Oh you guys are * funny *.” She smirked and waved her hand. “Why don’t we get down to this *kidz bop club* and scope it out.”

“It really is cooler than Todd’s makin it sound.” Lance said, almost desperately

“It’s a seedy dance club with a strictly BYOB policy.” Callisto murmured “so it can market itself to teens.’

“Gotta get a percentage of those trust fund allowance dollars, am I right?” Todd snickered.

“They *do* host excellent live bands,” Dorian shrugged “I’m rather hoping to play there sometime. And Callisto’s right, it’s very enjoyably seedy.”

Morgan snickered softly, before nodding her head.

“It sounds like fun, honestly.” she paused. “You play, Dorian?”

Callisto pulled off to the side of the road, parking near a large building decorated in deep red neon reading * CALAMITY *. It appeared to be an old, renovated cathedral, with it’s stained glass replaced with murals of dancing, musical notes, and fire.

“A little,” Dorian beamed, “I also sing.”

Todd hopped out of the car, right over Morgan, and pulled the door open for her.

Morgan bowed her head with a sly smile “what a gentleman.” She purred, and slipped out onto the street. “and I’d like to hear you sing sometime, Dorian.”

Calamity shut the car off and locked it. “Careful what you wish for, Morgan.”

“Trust me, if Todd’s a gentleman, I’m the king of fucking France.” Lance snorted.

Todd pouted at him. “Aw, c’mon…”

“Oh I’m *sure* a performance can be arranged,” Dorian purred.”Hold on a moment though, we should come up with a plan before we approach the bitch squad- don’t you think?”

“I could formulate something, I suppose…” Callisto nodded, closing her eyes.

But Morgan put her hand on Callisto’s shoulder, and grinned

“…No…no I have a *perfect* plan.” She turned to the others “how would you like to give those airheaded harpies the *scare of a lifetime?*”

Party Time

“Oh my gawd can you *believe* they let anyone play here these days?” Becky leaned her back on the bar, watching the band on stage with performative boredom and annoyance.

“Things have really gone downhill.” The brunette in the short skirt crossed her legs as she sipped the ‘virgin cocktail’ she’d slipped a little vodka into when the security guard wasn’t looking. She huffed “They’re probably resorted to , like, *below* the bottom of the barrel, Becky”

“Yeah these guys suck ,” the blond, Brittany, snorted. “What a drag right?”

“At least it looks like they’re going back to the DJ,” Becky sniffed. “Good cause I was half tempted to get out of here.”

The music ended, and the noise in the club lowered to a dull murmur. It was a monday afternoon, not their prime hour.

“Awww…you were, Becky?” Lindsey, the brunette, pouted, sipping her drink “I mean, I’m just starting to get a buzz and we haven’t even met anyone *fun* yet! I’m sure it’ll liven up….they can’t suck *all* night.”

“I guess,” Becky pouted. “Ugh I need more to drink.”

Somewhere in the small crowd, the trio heard a voice.

“*Oh my god, is that Crush Caller’s van in the alley? Are they gonna play a set?”*

Brittany perked up. “Did you hear that? Crush Caller is here? They’re like, the hottest .”

Lindsey was halfway through pouring more single shots of vodka into her drink when she perked up as well.

“oh WOW!! We’ve gotta see if we can get an autograph! I’ve wanted one forever !”

Becky straightened up.

“Girls we can *not* pass up this opportunity. Alright follow me.” She took a last swallow of her drink, and headed toward the emergency exit that Calamity always kept propped open because they didn’t technically allow smoking inside any more.

“Oh my gawd, I wanna be the first to see them!”

Lindsey eagerly followed her, bouncing unsteadily on her heels for a moment as she first stood, before she got her stride and hurried a little faster than Becky.

“No way, Lindsey, do *not* ruin this for me.”

Becky pushed her slightly to get back in front. She shoved the door open and the three of them piled into the alleyway. None of them noticed the door jam suddenly vanished, plucked out of view by something like a long rope or tendril.

The door clicked shut behind them, as the dark alleyway loomed.

“Like…Becky.” Lindsey pouted “I don’t see any van back here…”

“Ugh!!! What did I just step in? Like, my heel is stuck!” Brittany squeaked from behind them..

“What the hell?” Becky frowned as she noticed her shoes were stuck too. “Oh my god what is this gross shit? These heels are new.”

Lindsey went to turn around, only to stumble over into Becky with a yelp as her foot ALSO became stuck.

At the mouth of the alley a loud crunch sounded through the alley as two dumpsters blocked the alleyway off from the street, a single pale blue light gleaming from the darkness before vanishing in a blink.

“I…I dunno!” Lindsey squealed while hanging on Becky’s arm.

A low pitched hum seemed to cut through the alley too, and bricks started exploding behind the three girls.

“Was that a gunshot?” Brittany shrieked as Becky looked around frantically.

There was a soft “hng” of a voice…before the ground began shaking under their feet…adding to the exploding bricks in terms of sheer chaos…and before the three girls…the shadows began to dance.

They twisted and rose into hellish, demonic shapes. Teeth and claws and reaching fingers that crawled through the alleyway towards them.

Up on the next door’s fire escape, hidden in the shadows, a group of silhouettes were enjoying themselves immensely. One of the silhouettes, despite how hard she was concentrating, couldn’t help but grin in wicked delight as the girls started to scream.

The three girls screamed as they were assaulted by strange and terrifying occurrences from all sides.

“The alley’s haunted!!” Brittany shrieked.

Unfortunately, another, deeper voice joined them from the mouth of the alley, from just beyond the dumpsters.

“Hey, what’s going on back there?”

The gangly shadow shaded his eyes and squinted past the blockage.

“Oh, oh shit yo. Its the *cops*.”

“W-w-what??” The taller, broader shadow hissed. “Aw FUCK”

The tremors grew worse…and worse…bricks began caving down from Calamity’s ancient architecture, cracking as a fissure crackled through the earth below.

Morgan, her eyes wide, stumbled back, only for her to lose control of the shadows and send several of the tendrils smacking into the girls like high-tension wires, knocking Lindsey over with a crack of her ankle and a sharp cry. Brittany and Becky were likewise knocked like a couple of dolls, hitting the wall and tumbling into a heap on the ground as bits of brick continued to rain down.

“AHHH! Oh…oh gawd I thought I was just drunk!.Is this…is this…”

The blue glow of an eye came from the alley again as a shape bathed in the dark shadow came running up the fire escape, scrambling towards the mischiefmakers.

“The cops are trying to bust through the barricade,” Callisto said plainly “we don’t have a lot of time.”

The hum stopped, and dorian grimaced. “I’d recommend we make a *quick* exit.”

“Yeah no shit!” Todd hissed.

“Oh my god, I think we killed them.” Morgan whispered in horror.

“what was that?” Callisto asked, pulling a trio of throwing knives from under her coat. “Did you say kill them?”

“Killed them?” Todd yelped. “Shit, yo, I can’t go away for murder!! Aw fuck this is a nightmare, yo we gotta get out of here.”

Dorian looked over at the three girls, who were stirring, and he set his jaw.

“No murder. They’re fine. Come on, before the barricade breaks.” He started hurrying down the fire escape, his boots rattling it as cops shouted, and the dumpsters shook,

Morgan hissed softly, as she grabbed the closest people to her–Todd and Callisto–and in a puff of swirling shadow, teleported them down to the furthest shadows of the alleyway, waiting for the others

“Fuck. fuck…we may have to bust through that fence, it’s a dead end…” She muttered, looking up at the only exit to the alley that wasn’t swarming with cops…which was blocked by a 8 foot tall barbed wire fence.

Lance grit his teeth. “I’m not goin’ away. We’re getting out of here.”

Callisto blinked, looking up at the fire escape and then at the fence with an impressed ‘hmm.’. She pointed to the fence. “Dorian. Blast a hole in the fence for us.”

“Cover your ears,” he said, and gave them all an instant to comply before he * shrieked *. The sound pierced the air, but was surprisingly directed, despite its volume. Morgan could swear she could see the air vibrate for an instant as the redhead’s voice punched a huge hole straight through the fence.

“Holy fuck”. Morgan slapped her hands over her ears at the last instant.

Once the hole was punched, Lance sent one last *massive* tremor down the alleyway with a loud grunt and a stomp of his foot to slow the pursuing cops. “Remind me not to tease that voice of yours for like, another week or so, Dorian.”

Callisto slipped out into the alley as the group of them booked it out into the street, Morgan cursing quietly under her breath as she ran from the scene of chaos behind her.

As they passed out into the sunny street , the red and blue lights of cop cars flashed to their left, reflecting off a single black limousine that was parked by the pawn shop nearby. Callisto, glancing at it for only a moment, turned and ran towards their parking space a little bit away.

Todd still had a hold of Morgan, and had grabbed Lace’s wrist as well as soon as he was done with the makeshift earthquake, pulling both of them back toward the car.

“Are they following us?” Todd asked, not wanting to look back.

“Not yet,” Dorian said breathlessly, peeking over his shoulder. “Thanks to dear Lance.”

Lance went to jump across the hood and into the driver’s seat, only for Callisto to leap over the door and land carefully behind the wheel first.

“God DAMN it, even in a *chase* she gets the drop on me!” Lance cursed as he once again got into the passenger seat.

Morgan opted not to leap into the seat, but instead grabbed Todd and Dorian, and teleported them into the pooled shadows on the floor of the truck, pushing them into the seats and slipping between them

“* Gun it *,” she said breathlessly “before they see us.”

Callisto nodded, and turned the truck on, pulling away swiftly, but as unobtrusively as she could.

Todd jammed himself against Morgan, a panicked look on his face.

“Oh man, oh man the pigs are gonna follow us, I *know* it, yo. ”

“Calm down , Toad,” Dorian hissed, “do *try* to keep a level head about you.” Despite the bravado, he was a little pale himself.

However, it became increasingly obvious as Callisto pulled into traffic, that they were getting away scot free . There weren’t any cop cars anywhere near them, nor did they hear the sound of sirens.

Lance looked tense, glancing over his shoulder every now and again as Callisto calmly took a left turn to get further from the club.

“Don’t worry. Nobody saw our faces. And nobody’s following the car,” she whispered.

Morgan looked as pale as a ghost–even more pale than she did before, her eyes wide as she sunk into her seat, against both Dorian and Todd.

“For serious?” Todd asked, scooting up enough to look around, but not enough to disentangle himself from Morgan’s side completely. “….Holy shit. We’re good. We’re actually fucking out.”

Morgan, however, dropped her head into her hands as the adrenaline rush wore off, and she started to realize that she’d probably made a complete mess of the situation, and a fool of herself for creating it.

“…I’ve really done it now.” she murmured softly “I make a few friends and then I almost get us all fucking arrested.”

Lance barely heard her, taking a deep breath. “…we escaped.. we did it…that…that was…”

“That was fucking sicknasty yo!” Todd declared in delight; he put his feet up on the back of the front seat.

“Hilarious.” Dorian nodded. “An all time great.”

Lance grinned, and punched the dashboard with a loud laugh as he recovered.  “MAN, that was great! did you see their f aces ?”

“I did.” Callisto was smiling in the rearview. “…I also saw them crumple when those bricks hit them. They looked terrified.”

Morgan was still a moment, before she looked up in surprise.

“You guys aren’t mad at me?”

“You have to be joking,” Dorian snorted.

“Mad at ya? why would we be mad at ya?” Todd asked in astonishment. “That was fun as shit, yo! right guys? Aw man, I can’t believe we got away with it, yo!”

Morgan’s face slowly lit up into a full on smile, her eyes sparkling as she bared her fangs in a loud and excited laugh.

“I thought you’d be FURIOUS for almost getting you caught!” she laughed, hugging herself with a grin. “But fuck, you’re right, we actually *DID IT*. They’ll be having nightmares about us for years!!!”

Callisto nodded “it was exciting. I had fun.”

Lance grinned, and kicked his own feet up on the dash, pushing Toad’s out of the way with his hand as he leaned his head back.

“Of course we got away with it.” he said. “We weren’t stupid. We held it together just fine. Nobody messes with us and gets away with it, right?”

Todd made a ‘tch’ noise as his feet were pushed away, and crossed them instead. “Hell yeah! yo you hear blondie? * alley’s haunted, eeek! *”

“Perhaps the visit will make her rethink her choices– if any of them have the brainpower for it,” Dorian drawled with a smug look on his face.

“Alley’s haunted.” Morgan snickered. She brushed her hair out of her face with a broad smile before nodding. “I doubt they * do * but maybe the knocks on the head did them some good.”

She kicked back, leaning with her arms spread out against the headrests of the back seat.

“If the knock on the head didn’t do it, the broken ankle might.” Lance smirked “Did you hear it? Lindsey the Lush went *down*.”

“Almost a shame the drunk are more likely to survive an injury,” Dorian remarked cattily.

“Man their whole *crew* went down! Good luck with them crutches, bitches,” Todd snickered.

“They sure as hell won’t be making cheer team anymore.” Morgan said with a wicked smirk “If I didn’t already have the captain position in the bag I sure do now”

Callisto nodded in the mirror. “I liked the part where she thought there were gunshots.”

“I’d wager she’s never heard the real thing,” Dorian mused, his arms crossed. “Oh no, a loud noise.”

“Spooky.” Callisto smirked “I don’t think she’d like a real gunshot.”

Todd grinned, and looked at Morgan.

“Hey, hey, so like, you’re gonna be hangin with us from now on, right, Morg?”

Callisto glanced at Morgan in the mirror “I hope you do. You fit in just fine.”

Morgan grinned wider, patting both Dorian and Todd on the shoulders.

“You’re *damn right* I am. You guys are *stuck with me*”

“Well shit, this calls for a damned celebration!” Todd grinned, *definitely* leaning a bit into Morgan’s touch.

“I quite agree,” Dorian nodded firmly. “Maybe a little late in the evening to start following Lindsey’s example, but I wouldn’t say no to a milkshake or something.”

“The diner it is.” Callisto said “I’m buying.” She took a turn past an old drugstore, and towards the center of the city.

Morgan leaned back in the seat. “A celebration to new friends and one *hell* of a victory.”


Greg was sitting listlessly in the living room with his phone in his hand, the digits ‘9-1’ on the screen. he kept going to push the last button and hesitating. A thousand worsening scenarios had played in his mind as he waited for his sister to return.

“God damn it, Morgan, where *are* you?” he growled. “If you’re hurt….”

He jolted up at the sound of a car in the driveway, and bolted out of the house.

An old military jeep had pulled into his driveway, parking with a slight lurch. Behind the wheel was a young woman in an eyepatch and leather jacket, who leaned over to say something to the other party in the car–Morgan , who was grinning from ear to ear as she whispered something back. Wide enough to show her fangs, and her hair, even as she quickly tried to brush it, had parted around her ears.

As the door slammed open, she looked up with a sharp gasp, and hopped out of the car. “H-hey Greg.”

Greg’s feeling of worry quickly started to shift into one of anger, and his expression matched it..

“Well I’m glad to see you’re not dead!” he rasped. “Where the hell have you been? Who’s she?”

The girl with the eyepatch leaned on the door, looking at him with a cool expression, her grey eye half lidded. “I’m a friend of hers.”

“My phone died while I was out, Greg. Sorry to worry you.” Morgan grimaced and she crossed her arms. “I just went out with some new friends…this is Callisto.”

“Callisto, right,” he grunted, glaring at the eyepatch girl for only a moment before he returned his attention to his sister. “You know the last text you sent me said you’d be right home? Where the hell have you been?”

“I said i’d *meet* you at home. Not that I’d *be* right home! And I didn’t expect to be invited out, that’s all! Stop getting so upset! you *wanted* me to make friends, didn’t you??”

Callisto glanced at him with a slight frown “Hey, look. Lay off the girl, man.”

Greg turned Callisto, and pointed at her.

“How about you stay out of what isn’t your business?” he snapped.

Morgan stomped her foot.

“Don’t you fucking snap at her, Greg! and stop *yelling*!! We were just hanging out, we got fucking *Milkshakes* for fuck’s sake.”

Callisto leaned on the jeep door “Became my business the moment she became friends with the guys and I.”

“*The guys* huh? and what guys would those be?” Greg grimaced, and snarled, glaring at both of them. Leave it to Morgan to get in with the punks and then do something irresponbsible like this. He doubted that her phone had actually died.

Morgan’s eyes hardened

“Greg,” she warned, “don’t do this.”

Callisto met his eyes with an impassive expression “What’s it matter to you? They’re her friends, not yours.”

“It matters because I’m her brother!” he snapped. He felt like he was taking crazy pills; did no one get why he was upset? “Morgan’s already getting shit at school, I don’t want her to get any more, got it?”

“Greg, stop it! She’s my friend, okay? The whole lot of them have treated me just fine ! Let me * have this *.”

Callisto leaned halfway over the door of the jeep. “Listen. Greg. I know you’re a little overprotective, but I am going to ask you nicely to drop the tone with me.”

“Overprotective, right,” he rasped, glaring up at Morgan. Just one day. He’d just wanted to go one day without everything at school getting fucked up. And she was already going who knows where, and badmouthing him to everyone for giving a shit. “Just what the hell have you been saying about me?”

“Just that every time I make friends, you pull shit like this Greg,” Morgan muttered.

Callisto leaned on her arm with the barest trace of a grin, and it wasn’t a friendly one, to Greg’s eye. “Don’t you have clothes you need to lay out? Do you really have time to waste out here yelling at me?”

“That;s it! this is over,” Greg snarled. “Get in the house, Morgan we’re gonna have a fucking talk!”

Callisto leaned back in the seat of the jeep, and gave Morgan a glance.

“Hey, just know that if things get rough you can come stay with me for a bit.” she offered “I don’t have much, just a tent, but it’s open if things get bad here.”

Morgan smiled at her thankfully, before glancing at Greg. “….Thanks Callisto. But I should probably let my brother get this out of his system.”

“Understood.” She gave Morgan a little salute. “Don’t put up with his shit if you don’t have to.”

Greg looked back and forth between Morgan and Callisto as the conversation went on without him. His brain ground to a halt at the sheer audacity. “Hold the fuck on, you live in a *Tent*?”

“….yeah. Why?” Callisto glanced over at him.

Morgan bit her lip, leaning on the jeep as she glanced at Callisto. It was obvious that she wanted to be anywhere other than here. Probably she’d rather be sleeping in this girl’s tent. Greg felt himself getting more and more worked up as she stayed silent. He tried to force it down.

Greg seethed there for a moment, as the anger bubbled up inside him, until he finally threw his hands up.

“Whatever!! Come on, Morgan.” He snatched at her wrist roughly to try to drag her inside.

Morgan stumbled, dragged a foot before she tried to yank her hand away with a grimace as he squeezed her wrist.

“Ow! Greg, *stop that*”

Greg was taken completely off guard when the quiet girl in the jeep remained still only a moment before she leaped over the door, and landed deftly on her feet. Not missing a beat, she ran forward and grabbed Greg roughly by the shoulder.

“You’re hurting her.” Her single eye narrowed on him.

Greg jolted as he was grabbed and let go of Morgan, turning on Callisto and snarling.

“You do NOT wanna touch me right now!” A fine shimmer of dark mist was rising from his body, thick enough that even he could see it. He grabbed for her collar. “So get your hands off and get back in your car.”

Callisto met his eyes with a casual frown, seemingly unperturbed.

“No. I think you should treat your sister with a little more respect.” She glanced at the mist, as a pale blue light began to shine in her eyes. “I would let go of me if I were you.”

Morgan stumbled a bit away from the two, glancing nervously at the conflict.

Greg sucked in a breath and let go of Callisto suddenly, shoving her hard against the car; but she stepped gracefully back into the jeep, rolling enough with the movement that she only suffered a glancing blow.

The blue glow in her eye intensified as she suddenly grabbed Greg’s arm and with strength that was surprising even for her muscular form she yanked him up at the same time she opened the jeep’s door and kicked it, sending the heavy metal panel slamming into his sternum as she yanked him towards it. Greg’s strength and aestheticism saved him from serious injury, but not from pain, and he hissed in a breath as the shock went through him.

“I warned you,” she said quietly, in a monotone. “You aren’t the only mutant in town.”

“Starting to wish I was!”

With a growl he  leapt back at her, throwing a punch as his fist was engulfed in darkness.

Callisto watched the punch come, dodging at the last minute. His shadowy fist passed her face, rustling the hair hanging over her eyepatch as she grabbed his arm, and yanked him forward to drive her elbow into his gut. She was * fast *…and * very strong *. Greg was suddenly aware that he was even more outmatched than he had been at the club earlier that day.

He choked as the elbow met his powerful abs, and he reeled, trying to grab and grapple her with his shadow-smoking hands.The girl’s eye was blazing that strange pale blue as she danced away from his fists.

“You really should quit.” she murmured.

“Greg!” Morgan yelled from the sidelines. “*Stop* trying to hurt my * FRIEND *”

Of course Morgan was on her side. Why had there been any doubt?

Greg growled and made one last attempt to kick Callisto’s legs out from under her but Callisto ducked down, grabbing his foot and lifting it to send him sprawling onto his back. She leapt, catlike on top of him and pinned him to the ground, her free hand pulling a short dagger from under her jacket.

She pointed it at his chest, her single eye hard.

“…..stop. This fight is pointless. You’ve lost. Just don’t go hurting your sister again. That’s not how a sibling is supposed to act.”

Greg’s pale eyes were blazing darkly, as he seethed his chest rising and falling with every hissed breath. He let himself go limp, and looked away, scowling. Beaten.

Morgan hissed softly through her teeth, running her hand through her hair “….fuck. This is a mess,” she murmured.

Callisto stood, sheathing her knife under her jacket and offering him a hand up “Good.”

Greg looked at her hand, and didn’t take it, rolling to his feet on his own. He glared at her one last time, and then sulkily stomped toward the house.


Morgan felt a heaviness in her chest as she watched her brother stalk away into the house after the fight. Callisto also watched him go for a moment before she shook her head, and gave Morgan a wave goodbye.

“Sorry about that, Morgan.” She gave her a ghost of a smile “…I’ll see you at school.”

Morgan smiled awkwardly and painedly back, nodding at her.

“See you then, Callisto…” She gave her a salute, before running after Greg inside, not sure what kind of a state he’d be in.

Greg was standing with his back to her, gazing dully and distantly at the stairs to the second floor. She could see the darkness shimmering and coming off him in waves.

Morgan nervously stepped forward, the shadows in the hall twitching in response to her unspoken anxiety as one reached up to close the door behind her.

She came near, and hesitantly patted her brother’s shoulder.

“Hey, Greg?”

He flinched as she touched him, and didn’t look at her.

“…. are you trying to punish me, Morgan?”

Morgan tensed, the shadows all twisting to pool at her feet as her fingers tensed on his shoulder.

“What are you talking about, Greg? you attacked her first…you’re the one who pushed her..”

“That’s not what I mean.” He had his head down, chin almost in his chest.

“then what do you mean, Greg?” Morgan asked, perhaps a little colder than she meant to. Her hand dropped off his shoulder. “I didn’t make waves for you at school, I behaved *just fine*. “The only one who started trouble was you, and that was with my friend when she was just giving me a ride home.”

“A ride home you apparently spent badmouthing me the whole time,” he snapped. “Forget it. I’m going to bed.”

Morgan crossed her arms.

“Tch! All I did was tell the truth, Greg. About how ever since our mutations you’ve been trying to treat me like someone I’m not. Throw me in a preppy dress, only let me talk to people you approve of– it’s * stifling * Greg!” She turned away from him, and stared at the wall. “If you want to go mope in your room all night, fine . Be like that. But it won’t change anything.”

“No, it won’t. But I guess I can’t change your mind about anything anyway.” His voice was dull, and beaten. He paused, and then told her, “We have an invitation for tomorrow night.”

Morgan’s lip quirked in irritation, but the shadows finally unraveled and slithered back into their familiar shapes

“….is that so.” She looked away and said, “Maybe I already have plans.”

You’ll want to meet– you know what? maybe I’m wrong. You probably don’t even care.”

Morgan turned to look at him again briefly, before turning and, glaring towards the door.

“You’re right, Greg. I don’t care.” she sneered with a sharp barb of sarcasm. “Because obviously the only thing I care about is making your life hard, right? To punish you and ruin your chances to be like the–the ‘normal humans’.”

She heard his voice more clearly as he finally turned to look at her, despite her own averted gaze.. “You think that’s what I want, Morgan? I care about fitting in because you showed me what happens when people think you’re different.”

Morgan’s frown deepened. “That’s right, Greg. I *know* what happens when people think you’re different. And you know what? All the pink miniskirts and ‘right friends’ in the world won’t change how people treat me.”

“Are you sure about that, Morgan? Nobody thinks Clark Kent’s Superman, you know,” he said. He shook his head. “Look, take it or leave it, but I met some people at school who said there’s somebody who can help us. A place where we can just be ourselves.”

Morgan finally turned to meet his eyes.

“…” She looked downcast and said, “I was going to tell you the same thing.”

“…What, seriously?” She heard the confusion in his voice. “Oh… cool, I guess…”

“yeah, Piotr…he told some girls who tried bullying me about…being trans…to leave me alone. And I guess he noticed the shadows, because he took me aside and told me I wasn’t alone at school. Invited me to see some Institute.” She crossed her arms “…I was excited to tell you, but then you went and punched Callisto.”

Greg grimaced, and looked away.

“Look, I’m sorry about that… I let my temper get away with me again.”

Morgan frowned.

“You did. …Greg. You *always* let your temper get away from you. Callisto’s not a bad person…none of my new friends are…and the best part is…” She smiled thinly. “They’re all mutants, Like us. All of them.”

“Are they from the institute?” Greg asked, some of the color draining from his face. “Shit, and I made a complete ass of myself…. again.”

“Oh, no. I don’t think so anyway.” Morgan rubbed the back of her neck. “Or rather, I think Dorian *was* but he’s been avoiding it lately because of a bad breakup. Callisto, Lance and Todd aren’t part of it, I don’t think..”

Greg closed his eyes.

“Lance and Todd? Great. Great.” He hissed a breath and then took a deep one. “The little creep didn’t put his hands on you, did he?”

“Todd’s a perfect gentleman.” Morgan flipped her hair over her shoulder, flushing a little at the suggestion. “Don’t go trying to insult him when you haven’t even met him. We spent all afternoon together and he’s *fun*. He caught me when I fell, you know. Saved me from getting hurt with his *superhuman leap*”

“Great.” Greg pinched the bridge of his nose. “Wait… what were you doing that made you fall?”

Morgan shrugged her shoulders. “You know. this and that.’

“God damn it, Morgan. Sounds like I was right worrying you were hurt!”

She took a step back, defensively, worrying the fight was going to start all over again.

“I just fell off a fence,” she muttered “I was trying to get a good look at something.”

Greg flinched when he saw her step back away from him.

“Alright fine! I don’t want to have another argument, geez,” he grumped. “I just worry about you! you’re my sister. And you’re kind of all I’ve got.”

“And you’re my brother.” Morgan asserted. “…We have each other, Greg…but it’s not like I tried to get hurt…and Todd caught me before I even got a bruise.”

“Well, at least he’s good for *something* I guess.” Greg snorted with displeasure. “Look… that girl who drove you home, what was her name? Callista?”

“Callisto.” Morgan corrected, crossing her arms.

“Callisto,” he nodded. “Do you have her number?”

Morgan raised her eyebrow. “…Yes? Why? I got everyone’s numbers.”

He made a face and looked away.

“Could you text her and tell her I apologize for starting shit with her?”

Morgan nodded, and pulled out her phone with a half smile. Thank goodness he was being at least a LITTLE reasonable.

“…thanks, Greg.” She typed a little message before hitting send. “Maybe you could tell her at school, too.”

“Yeah, I’ll try….” He sighed heavily and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Good.” Morgan said , leaning on the wall. “Feeling a little less …you know…sulky now?”

“I mean, I still feel like shit,” he admitted, “But I guess…”

She walked past him to the stairs, punching his shoulder as she passed.

“Come on, let’s just call it a day, alright?”

He smiled slightly and punched her back.

“Yeah. Heh. Another big day tomorrow.”

“That’s right. And you’d better make a friend or two.” She stuck out her tongue. “You have to keep up with me, after all.”

“Oh trust me, I know.”

Looking Ahead

Chapter Notes

Callisto had dropped Lance and Todd off together, a block or two from where they each lived. Strange cars in the driveway wouldn’t be welcome–probably at either of their places.

As they walked, Todd had a goofy grin on his face. Lance walked beside him, his hands jammed in his pockets as he whistled a little tune.

“That sure went well, didn’t it? I mean, we got one over on Bitchy Becky and her lackies…caused some damage. Ditched the cops.”

“Yeah, man that was sick, yo! that was like some vigilante justice and that shit,” Todd agreed excitedly.

“Sure fuckin was. We’re practically heroes.” He looked up at the sky “Morgan didn’t have a half bad plan, neither. Sure, it went kinda tits up at the end, but…”

“I mean, who woulda seen the cops comin’ yo?” Todd shook his head. “Man! Morgan’s the whole fuckin’ package, huh? brains *and* beauty.”

Lance glanced at Todd out of the corner of his eye and saw him as he smiled dreamily.

“Oh hell no, man. I know that face. ”

Todd flushed, his freckles standing out a brighter shade.

“Man, nah, what face, yo?”

“That big dumb smile you get when you’ve got a big dumb crush.” Lance snorted. “The one that makes you look like a dweeb.”

Todd stuck his tongue out at him– about 8 inches of it. “Yeah, well, maybe I *do* got a crush! I mean, she’s worth it, yo. Did you *see* her? You got eyes, right?”

Lance dodged backwards to avoid any possibility of being touched by Todd’s tongue.

“I got eyes alright. And my eyes are tellin’ me she’s way out of your league, man.”

Todd rubbed the back of his neck, and looked at the sky, still smiling.

“Yeah, I mean, I ain’t *that* dumb, she’s a 10 and I’m like, a negetive 32 or somethin. But like– I touched her butt in the hallway and she didn’t even hit me!”

Lance raised his eyebrows. “I mean , If I were her I woulda hit ya.”

“Yeah no shit, that’s why I don’t go grabbin your butt, bro,” he snorted. “I mean, like, for other reasons too, but that one’s on the list yo! –and-and anyway I like, caught her when she fell off the fence we were taggin, and she waited *ages* to tell me to put her down. Well, felt like ages, anyway, ya know?”

“Uh huh.” Lance stuck his hands in his vest pockets again. “I dunno man, I wouldn’t get your hopes up.”

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and tapped one out, offering Todd the pack.

“Even if she was, by some fucking wild ass stretch of the imagination, remotely into you. Like, if pigs started flying and Satan himself appeared and said he was gonna be living on the straight and narrow, you’d still have to deal with her psychopath of a brother breaking your twiggy legs in two when he finds out.’

Todd took a cigarette out of the pack, looking pensive. Lance put it away and flicked his lighter, lighting his cigarette before he handed the lighter to his buddy

“I mean, when ya right, ya right, but like….. it might be worth it.”

“Might be.. who knows. Maybe she’s into stringy dorks, you lucky guy.” He smirked “go for it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Todd lit up and grinned broadly. “Oh you warned me, yo, no doubt about that. But yolo and that shit, right? This Toad’s gonna put the moves on the hot vampire.”

“Yeah, you really go and rock her world, buddy.” Lance snickered. He punched his shoulder as he took a drag. “maybe she’ll kiss you and you’ll turn into a prince.”

“Hey ya never know,” Todd grinned.”I’ve seen chicks on twitter horny for Killer Croc from Batman and shit. I can’t strike out every time, yo.”

“Let it never be said that you aren’t one persistent little bastard, Toad.” Lance shook his head.

“That’s me, yo! Be a pal for me and collect my teeth when Morgan or her 1000 pound gorilla knocks me out.”

“You got it.” Lance snorted. “You want ’em in a necklace or a bracelet?”


Principal Darkholme’s office was cast in low light, the shades drawn and casting ominous shadows upon the desk of Principal Darkholme.

There was a soft knock on the door. “Ma’am?”

The principal was sitting, straight backed and poised in her chair, her hands folded before her as she narrowed her eyes towards the door. “Come in.”

A very small woman with short black hair, and a slightly dusky complexion walked into the office with an arm full of file folders.

“I have the files you wanted me to pull, ma’am.”

“Ah, yes. Thank you Maryanne.” She tapped her claw-like fingernail on her desk , instructing her to place it down. “Your work is very much appreciated.”

“Happy to help, Ms. Darkholme,” she nodded, bobbing her head low and setting down the stack of folders. “Though, I’m not *sure* all these kids are cheerleading material.”

Ms. Darkholme spread the files out on the table. Five students stood before her, represented by the printed backgrounds and records of grades, achievements and disciplinary action. The top file bore the name ‘Todd Tolansky’ on the edge of it, and the one below it, Morgan Connelly. Lance Alvers and Mukuro Isono were also visible.

A sharp smile crossed the principal’s face…

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, Maryanne. I’m certain each and every one of these children have hidden potential. Potential we can certainly use in the coming season.”

“I’ll bow to your wisdom on that, ma’am,” the secretary said, smiling back. “Is there anything else I can take care of for you?”

Principal Darkholme shook her head once, pushing her glasses up so that the glare shielded her eyes.

“No. That should be all for today. Tomorrow is a new day, Maryanne.” She tented her fingers, smiling thinly. “And we have *much* work to do.”



Chapter End Notes

A/N: Thank you to those of you who have stuck around for the whole first episode! We really hope that you’re enjoying the story, and especially enjoying the new faces along with the familiar. 🙂 It’s very nostalgic to be writing X-Men fic again, I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been…

Episode 2: In the Blood will be starting to go up immediately in the next couple of days. We will be posting all episodes (at least of season one X_x) in the same fic so that they are easy for readers to keep track of.

Art associated with episode one is linked below:


Comments, kudos, faves and follows are all appreciated. <3

Next Time, on X-Men: Re-Evolution: Morgan and Greg go on their tour of the Xavier institute, but they aren’t the only ones there to see the mansion. Some guests are invited, and some are not! Intruder alert!!

s01e02: In the Blood

Chapter Summary

Episode 2: In the Blood: Despite Morgan feeling mysteriously ill, she and Greg go on their tour of the Xavier institute, but they aren’t the only ones there to see the mansion. Some guests are invited, and some are not! Intruder alert!!

Morgan awoke from a deep slumber feeling stiff and groggy. The previous day had been… eventful, to say the least, but she hadn’t expected to feel this wiped out from it. She didn’t get up right away, instead opting to cover her eyes with the back of her arm as she grumbled her displeasure to the empty room.

Briefly, she contemplated skipping school and sleeping in, but she’d made a promise to Darcy to check out the listings for cheer yesterday–plus, there were the guys. She really hoped to run into them again to talk about yesterday some more.

With a soft groan, she flopped over to her side and slowly slid out of bed.

“Maybe the calamity at Calamity took more out of me than I thought,” she murmured softly. It certainly seemed like it might have. She felt a deep, kind of bone weariness, and she was oddly hungry, despite being slightly sick to her stomach.

There were no clothes laid out in her room today. If Greg was planning to pull something like that again, at least he hadn’t done it while she was sleeping.

He probably won’t’ , she thought to herself as she drifted over to her dresser and began tossing clothes on the bed. ‘ The cat’s out of the bag, after all. If I’m lucky he won’t mention anything about my goth clothes for a few weeks or so.

Moving around, unfortunately, made everything worse. That queasy, unpleasant stomach sickness, the ache in her limbs and the exhaustion that pounded behind her eyes all flared uncomfortably as she tried to start her day

“Fuck…I feel like ass.”

She heard the sound of the shower hissing from the other room. Seemed like Greg was busy with his own business this morning, for the moment anyway. And unlike yesterday, he was probably going to expect breakfast waiting for hi.

Morgan pressed her hand to her head with a low groan, vowing to have an extra cup of coffee today to try and help her shake this exhaustion. She dressed as quickly as she could in a black skirt draped in more silvery chains, striped black and red leggings and matching armsocks, a black and body hugging t-shirt with a pair of bloody fangs in a crimson smile, and a short red leather jacket.

She grinned at herself in the mirror, touching up her makeup the same as yesterday, before she draped the inverted cross around her neck.

She might feel like ass, but that didn’t mean she had  to look like it.

While she was dressing there was a beep on her phone, which was laying on her dresser.

She took another moment to comb her hair, tucking it over her ears with a smile. She made sure it was fully free of tangles before she finally scooped up the phone and took a peek at the notification.

There was a text message from a very recent addition to her contact list. Todd.

**Had a great time last night. See you in school?**

A smile crossed her face as she scanned the message.

“I think I’ve caught *someone’s* eye.” She walked out the door as she typed.

**It was a real blast ;). We should meet up**

Morgan nearly thumped into her brother as he was coming out of the bathroom, towel around his waist.

“Oh! Uh… sorry,” Greg mumbled, stepping back a pace.

Morgan yelped, fumbling with her phone as she came to a sudden stop, only for the jerking movement to send her head spinning again. She pressed her hand to her head , and flashed her brother a tense smile.

“…Hey. G’morning, Greg.”

“Whoa, you okay?” He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder  to steady her, looking at her with concern.

“Just a little dizzy. I think I slept kind of badly last night, but I’m fine.” She straightened up under his hand, and gestured towards the kitchen, shoving her phone into her pocket before he could see it and start wondering who she was talking to. “I’m gonna go cook us some breakfast, alright?”

He gently took his hand off her, and rubbed his jaw, nodding.

“Thanks. I’ll be down as soon as I’m dressed, alright?”

Morgan nodded, before carefully making her way down the stairs.

“Take your time. What do you want, eggs again? Bacon?”

“Oh man I’d love some bacon,” he called after her. “I’m kinda starving.”

“Yeah, me too,” she agreed. “Maybe a bit of protein this morning will do us some good.”

Slipping into the kitchen, Morgan got to work. Flicking the oven on, she got the eggs and uncooked bacon from the fridge, and started up the coffee pot for herself. It was the sort of routine that was familiar to her. Ever since she was a kid. Mom was hardly home, and it had eventually fallen on her to make sure the two of them were fed and ready for the start of the day.

Greg could cook, a bit..a little…but Morgan had developed a quiet love for it as she got older, taking it upon herself to prepare breakfast and dinner most nights when they were younger.

As the pan heated and the coffee brewed, she checked her phone again.

It seemed that she had- there was another text that she hadn’t heard beep. Thank goodness Greg hadn’t heard it either.

“Guess i must have made a good impression on him.” she mused

**You name it, I’ll be there** It was followed by a little frog emoji.

“He’s really committed to the aesthetic too. Kinda cute.” Morgan snickered.

She tossed a few strips of bacon into the pan, and let them sizzle before texting back.

**How about lunch? I’d say before class, but I have to check the results of the cheer tryouts with Darcy.**

She thought a moment before she sent a follow up.

**looking forward to it, Leapfrog** She sent him a little bat emoji in return.

The reply was almost instantaneous. **Yo hell yeah. See ya there, vampirella.**

Morgan heard Greg’s heavy footsteps coming down the stairs.

“Smells good, Morgan.”

Morgan once more shoved her phone into her pocket and quickly cracked some eggs into the pan to cook with the bacon.

“Doesn’t it?”

In truth, thinking of eating just made her feel sick to her stomach, not to mention the smell of the bacon. But today was a big day..so she was determined to push through.

“Figured we could use a little meat this morning.”

“Yeah definitely,” he nodded. He paused, and smiled at her a little wanly. “Hey, thanks for making breakfast…. sorry… again.”

“You’re welcome, you know I never mind a little cooking.” Morgan brushed her hair over her shoulder “…and it’s…fine. I appreciate the apology. I’m sorry I didn’t text you sooner, but my phone died and things got busy.”

“Just, tell me you plugged it in last night, then,” he said, getting down some plates for them and setting the table. It was obvious that he was trying his hardest not to be argumentative this morning.

“Yeah. It’s all charged up, Greg.” Morgan said, flipping the bacon and watching it sizzle. “…Greg. Can I ask you to do something?”

Morgan could hear the beat of hesitation before he answered.

“…Yeah. Of course. What’s up?”

“…I got the sense you don’t think highly of most of my new friends.” She said, starting to shuffle bacon and eggs onto his plate. “But please don’t give them a hard time for hanging out with me. I’ve made other friends too, Darcy…another girl who tried out for cheer squad…but the guys have been real nice to me so far. I don’t want you chasing them off, okay?”

Greg took a breath, as if gathering himself and sighed it out in a long puff.

“Morgan…. I’m not trying to get in the way of you hanging out with friends. Just… just be careful, alright? And… I’m glad you made some other friends too.”

“I know how to be careful, Greg.” She passed him a plate laden with eggs and bacon, before dishing herself a much smaller plate…but with a bit more bacon than egg.

“But they’re not as bad as you think.” She got out the juice and milk…and Greg’s protein powder, before she set them all down and took a seat opposite him. By way of changing the topic slightly, she continued, “Darcy’s pretty fun, though. I’m hoping we both make the squad.”

“When will you hear the results?” he asked, staring at his milk as he stirred the powder into it. The spoon made a noise like a bell in the glass that arced right through Morgan’s headache.

Morgan leaned heavily on the table, pouring herself a glass of orange juice with a shrug.

“This morning. Darcy suggesting bringing my veils just in case.” She paused, and ran her hand through her hair. “…Greg…Can you get me some coffee? I forgot to pour myself a cup.”

“Oh… sure,” Greg nodded, and pursed his lips, looking her over as he stood. “Are you sure you’re okay? You’re looking kind of under the weather.”

“I’m just tired, Greg.” she muttered, grabbing her juice and taking a long sip “Tryouts were rough, and then that big dumb fight took the rest out of me.”

He sighed and put her coffee next to her on the table.

“Yeah I’m not feeling so hot either to be honest. Let’s just try to get through the day. We’ve uh, got that thing tonight. Ororo texted me to confirm.” He paused. “She’s the student council president.”

Morgan grabbed her coffee with perhaps a bit too much excitement, lucky she didn’t knock it over as she took a long sip.

“Yeah, I remember…the uh…tour of the Institute, right? ” She leaned on her hand. “Student Council president’s one of us, huh? A mutant. I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, sitting back down to finish his breakfast. “She seems pretty passionate.”

“Maybe I’ll get to meet her on the grand tour.” She grinned a little painfully, still leaning on the table “Piotr was alright too. Real big, quiet guy. Turns his skin into metal.”

That got Greg’s attention.

“He does *what* now?”

“His skin turns into these metal plates.” Morgan gestured to her arm. “Like it was some kinda suit of armor.”

“Damn, now *that* is built. Not gonna lie I’m kinda jealous.” Her brother whistled.

Morgan snorted, sipping her coffee with something approaching amusement.

“Yeah, I thought you’d say that.”

“Hey just cause you’re not into it….” He snorted, his nose wrinkling. But then he shook his head. “Anyway, Ororo like, can make it snow inside. I think she might control the weather or something. It was… kinda wow.”

Morgan raised her eyebrows.

“…She can control the weather, like, inside ?…Huh, now I’m kinda jealous. that sounds intense.” She brushed her hair over her ear with a broad smile. “Did I mention that the guys are mutants too? like, Dorian’s got this killer voice that can shatter brick and Todd’s supposedly got this amazing tongue and like, a 10 foot vertical leap.”

Greg made a noise as Morgan laid the description on him, somewhere between a snort and a choke.


Morgan nodded as she nibbled a piece of bacon, totally missing his discomfort.

“it’s cooler than it sounds in action.” She tapped her finger on the table “Lance can cause earthquakes…and Callisto apparently has some kind of ‘super tactics’ or something. I think there’s more to it but she’s real tight lipped about it.”

“I…. really don’t know what to say to any of that, Morgan,” he drawled. “Dorian…. is he a redhead?”

“Yeah, he’s in my theater class,” Morgan nodded.”The one who dresses like a pirate.”

“Yeahhh,” Greg groaned, his lips pursing. “I ran into him yesterday, actually.” He didn’t sound pleased about it.

Morgan finally looked up from her breakfast with a downturn of her lips

“…What? you don’t like him or something?”

“I don’t want to badmouth your new friend, Morgan, but he was harassing a girl over some breakup I guess. He got really in her face,” he said, shaking his head. It was clear from his tone he was really trying to avoid coming across as pissed about it.

“You mean that preppy girl, Kitty right? They used to live in the same dor….” She paused “….hm. hmmm .”

Greg raised an eyebrow.

Hmm what?”

Morgan chewed her lip.

“They used to live in the same dorm, I’m just wondering if it was *that* dorm. You know. The one we’re touring tonight.”

“Oh. ….oh. Ohhhh .” Greg frowned as understanding dawned and he looked at his plate. “Well then.”

“Yeah. Anyway. He’s just upset about his breakup.” Morgan shook her head. “Like, he shouldn’t harass her, ya know? But he probably didn’t mean anything by it beyond being kind of a drama queen.”

Greg snorted again.

“Yeah, he seemed like a drama queen. Just be careful with him, you know? He seemed like the kind of guy to uh…. you know…. start shit.”

Morgan made a face but smothered any possible snarky reply with a sip of coffee.

Greg seemed to fumble for something to say.

“Kitty invited me to MMA club,” he declared finally.

“MMA, huh?” Morgan looked up at him. “Wouldn’t have expected it from seeing her. But I bet you’re real excited. It seems like your kind of thing.”

He nodded, picking up his plate, and offering to take hers as well.

“Yeah. Kinda got my ass kicked in the first sesh, but….”

“Well it’s been a while since we did karate.” Morgan handed him her half finished plate, a small smirk of amusement on her face at the thought of Greg getting taken to task. “And these kids have probably been training for a while now.”

“Yeah, exactly…” He looked at her plate as he picked it up. “You sure you’re finished?”

“Yeah. I’ll be honest, it’s not sitting well with me.” She stood from the table, slowly, so she didn’t have another dizzy spell. “I’ll just grab something at lunch after i shake it off.”

“Take care of yourself, okay, sis?” he urged, giving her a little smile. He scraped the rest of her plate into the trash.

“You too, bro.” She said, grabbing her bag. “Try not to get creamed in MMA again.” she teased with a smirk “…meet you at the car.”

Working it Out

To say Greg was pleased when he ran into Callisto in the gym during free hour wasn’t exactly right, but he *had* promised to apologize and he intended to follow through on that. He gave her an awkward wave as he approached.

Callisto was by one of the punching bags, laying into it with heavy punches that nearly took it off it’s chain, and kicks that threatened to punch a hole in the thick fabric. She was fast and hit hard . facts which he had already gotten a firsthand lesson in last night.

She glanced up, the faint trace of a blue glow in her eye as she noticed him, and waved back at him.

“Hey.” She pat her chest as she paused in her workout. “Ribs okay? I was worried I hurt you.”

Greg prickled, as his pride rose to take the comment as an insult, but he fought it down taking a breath.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Cool.” She nodded and leaned against the punching bag’s pole, looking him over for a moment, before gently closing her visible eye. “So what’s up?”

He shook his head, and looked away, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I just….” ‘ Why is this so hard for you? Just swallow your pride and apologize’, he urged himself. He took another breath. “I wanted to apologize. About last night.”

Callisto smiled slightly, and nodded her head.

“Thanks.” She crossed her arms. “Sorry too. I could have backed off, but your sister seemed unhappy.”

“Yeah.” Greg sighed heavily, his posture stiff through the uncomfortable conversation.. “We’re… okay now. We talked.”

Callisto opened her eye again to glance at him.

“That’s good.” She glanced off to the side. “…Look, I know what it’s like to have a sister you care about.”

“you do huh?”

“Yeah.” Callisto nodded firmly, but didn’t offer any more explanation.

“…right. Well, uh, thanks,” he mumbled, not sure why that thread of conversation had died. “Anyway, like I said. Sorry for starting shit.”

“No problem. Sorry for letting it go so far.” She paused a moment before she added. “Maybe we can fight again some time, in a different kind of context.”

“Yeah… I’d be up for it,” he nodded. “Didn’t see you at the MMA club…”

Callisto shook her head.

“I train independently. The club seems fine enough, but I’d rather not risk hurting some human.” She tapped her temple and her eye glowed the faintest trace of blue. “Just in case.”

“Ah, right.” Despite the little reminder of the blow to his ego he agreed, “Probably a good idea.”

“But I noticed you’re not quite human yourself. Like your sister and those shadows of hers.” Callisto gave him a sidelong glance as she turned back to the punching bag.

Greg grimaced and looked around to check if anyone was listening– thankfully there was no one nearby.

“Keep it down,” he murmured. “But it’s true…”

Callisto started punching the bag again.

“I can tell. When you get angry, you smoke.”  She punched it harder, and the chains groaned in protest “…there are some of us who can’t hide it as well as you or I, you know.”

“If you’re noticing it I don’t think I’m hiding it very well,” he grumbled,feeling himself start to flush. This was not the conversation he wanted to be having at all. This girl really knew how to go for his soft bits. He wondered if she was doing it on purpose. .

“Maybe not,” she agreed with a half laugh. “…You may want to work on your control some.”

“Yeah, I’m… working on it,” he admitted, some of his irritation leaking into his tone.

“I can help. I’ve had years of experience practicing fine control. If you ever want advice.” She punched the bag again, and her fist tore right through the fabric, blowing a hole in it as the sand poured to the ground, her eye a vivid blue.

“What do you mean though? About others?” Greg and his pride ignored the offer, instead he thought of  Ororo, who seemed to hide things just fine. He grimaced at the busted training bag.

“…I mean the Morlocks. They live in the sewers under town.” She shook her fist out, looking at the ruined punching bag. “They’re like us, but their mutations are often more severe. Physical mutations or dangerous gifts.”

“That’s something that can happen?” Greg felt his stomach churn at the very thought. He was starting to realize he didn’t know much about what was happening to him and his sister at all.

“Yeah.” Callisto nodded, looking back at him. “Morgan, Todd and yourself may be slightly odd shades…and my eye may glow, but there’re people down there who’ve changed so completely. Grown scales from head to foot, have wings on their backs…can melt through solid matter with a touch of their hand. All sorts of people.”

“Fucking hell,” Greg breathed, feeling his jaw tighten. What if something like that happened to him? Or to Morgan? “That’s…. not great.”

Callisto shrugged her shoulders.

“What isn’t great is the way people treat them. Forcing them to live down there in the dark. I’m up here…so I can maybe do something to help. Bring food to the table, so to speak.”

. “Jesus…..” He grimaced, feeling uncomfortable and exposed. He paused. “Look… we probably shouldn’t be talking about this in here…”

Callisto shrugged.

“Nobody’s here. But I understand, it’d be awkward if someone walked in. Truce? Now that we’ve both said sorry?”

She offered her hand to him and he took it, albeit a little awkwardly, but without real hesitation. Callisto, despite their differences seemed… okay…. For the most partl.

“Yeah… truce. I’m not looking to make enemies or anything.”

“Good. Because it looks like your sister and I are going to be hanging out.”  She briefly looked almost amused. “At least if Todd has anything to say.”

“Ugh, are you serious?” Greg scoffed before he could stop himself.

Callisto cocked her head, looking at him blandly.


Greg made a low, frustrated noise.

“Am I the only one who thinks he’s a creep?”

“I wasn’t aware you’ve met him.” Callisto said. “He’s kind of a goblin, but he’s our goblin.”

Greg shook his head.

“That’s…. great. Heh… alright.  So. I’m gonna like, do some reps before I kill the whole period complaining, yeah?”

“enjoy.” Callisto said, saluting him before turning to grab a faded old military jacket off the ground

“See you around, Gregory.”

“It’s actually just Greg,” he offered lamely, giving her a wave. “But yeah, see you around.”

“Oh.” She nodded “Well, you can call me Mukuro.”

She waved once more as she walked out, coat slung over her shoulder

One In A Million

Todd was waiting outside the lunchroom for Morgan, checking his phone, in case she’d texted him. The phone was an older model from a couple of years prior, and not even a major brand.

No messages.

“Aw man, Toad, she’s totally gonna ditch you, yo,” he mumbled to himself, slouching a little more down against the doorframe as other students came in past him, a few of them giving him dirty looks.

One broad, brown haired boy in a letterman jacket shoved him as he passed, a grin on his face

“Hey, frogface, quit stinking up the doorway huh? Some of us are trying to have an appetite.”

Todd shrunk back, but sneered at him.

“Hey its a free country, yo!” he snapped back. He dropped his voice to mumble, “meathead.”

The jock turned, and grabbed Todd by the scruff of his shirt, slamming him into the doorjam with a snarl.

“What was that, you little pest?”

“Hey!” Came a sharp and recently familiar voice. “Put him down, jackass.”

The voice short-circuited Todd’s fight or flight instinct for a moment, as he looked over to find the source of it. The most dangerous of all emotions welled in him. Hope.


His hope bore surprising fruit– as he did indeed see Morgan standing there, her hand on her hip and a scowl on her face as she glared up at the jock.

“Seriously. Put him down.”

The jock glared at her for a moment. His fingers tightened on Todd’s shirt before he let go and dropped him.

“yes * sir *” he sneered at Morgan. “Whatever you say * sir *”

Morgan’s jaw set, and her eyes narrowed on the jock. For a moment, she looked like she might actually rush the guy, something Todd was a bit tempted to do as well, but instead she grabbed Todd’s hand and stormed into the lunchroom.

He was practically dragged into the lunchroom, a little too flabbergasted by the situation to any more than stumble along with her until they were a ways away. Finally his brain slammed back into gear.

“H-hey! hol’ up yo! He can’t talk that way to you!”

Morgan turned, looking down at Todd with a tired smile.

“…no, he can’t. But he’s not worth the fight.” Todd couldn’t help but notice how exhausted and pale she looked.

“I could kick his teeth in for ya!” he blustered, with more bravado than sense. It was probably true honestly, but the question was what would happen after that.

Morgan squeezed his wrist gently.

“Why don’t we plan to give him the * special treatment * some other time. Just like with you know who yesterday….and we can enjoy our lunch. Sorry I ran a little late.”

“You got it, dollface, he better consider himself on notice, yo. And like, no worry about it, it’s chill.” He smoothed his hair back, trying to give the impression that he * hadn’t * been nervous she wouldn’t show up.

She finally let go of his arm, and despite the stare that some people were giving them, she leaned a little closer to him to his surprise.

“I’m a little surprised you waited for me.” she purred.

“Eh I figured you were just busy or somethin’,” he lied, waving a hand nonchalantly. Though he tried to play it cool, the awkward chuckle probably gave away his nerves. He leaned in a little closer to her.

She grinned a little wider, briefly flashing her fangs.

“I just had to make a quick… deteor.” Morgan’s slight pause, and her tired frown seemed to indicate there might be more behind that detour, but Todd didn’t get a chance to ask. She leaned in a little closer…and poked his nose. “Let’s buy a soda or something and chat, huh?”

Todd blinked, and grinned, delighted at the gesture, and the rare physical contact. From a girl, no less.

“Yo, anything you say, babe. I know a few places we could slip off a little quieter than the lunch room too if ya want.”

“Why don’t you lead the way, leapfrog.” She straightened up with an amused smirk. “You’re the expert here. I’m just the new kid.”

He straightened up a bit in response too, and offered her his arm. Like a gentleman.

“You got it, doll!”

Morgan glanced at his arm with a soft ‘hmmm’…before she took it with a wink.

“Well aren’t you welcoming.”

Todd had felt his resolve waver in her moment of hesitation, but his grin renewed all the brighter when she actually took his arm.

“Hey *some* of us around here know how to treat a lady, yo.”

He led her through the lunch room toward the vending machines in the far hall, near the disused senior lockers. He wasn’t sure if he was pleased or annoyed by the fact that they were getting noticed by a few people, but either way it made something tighten in his stomach.

Morgan hugged his arm, putting her card in the machine.

“want something, Leapfrog?” she asked with a half smile “I’ll buy.”

Todd noticed as she glanced over her shoulder, her cheeks darkening as she also likely realized just how many eyes were on them. He was glad that they’d gotten at least a little past the watchful eyes of their peers, and could have a little privacy.

“Yo, I won’t say no if ya sure,” he agreed. “But I got ya next time. I’ll have what you’re havin.”

She bought them each a cola, and handed him the bottle with a wink. “how about we find that privacy, huh?”

“Follow me, babe, the Toad knows all the secrets around here, yo.”

He grinned, leading her a little ways down the senior hall, and into a disused alcove, where there was a set of back-stairs. Alongside the concrete stairway was a dim space, half-hidden by a large shelf, that seemed to have at one point been used for storage.

Morgan followed him, twisting the cap off her soda as she went.


Morgan frowned briefly as she played with the cap of her soda. She still wasn’t feeling all that up to eating, not with the queasy feeling in her stomach. Maybe the carbonation would help her feel a little better. She glanced into the alcove, cocking her head.

“Huh, you weren’t lying, leapfrog. You do know all the nooks and crannies.”

“Toldja, yo,” he nodded, pleased, and hopped up to sit on top of a disused desk that was sitting in the little area. There were a couple of these, and a couple of chairs besides. “I’m a handy guy to have around.”

Morgan slipped into one of the chairs nearby and took a sip of her soda.

“I’m starting to notice that, Todd.” She leaned against the back of the chair with a smirk. Let’s see if I can get a rise out of him.. . “Even if you’re a little **handsy** too.”

Todd, who had just taken a sip of his soda, made a slightly choked noise and laughed awkwardly.

“Guess they have a life of their own sometimes, yo.”

Morgan pulled one of the spare desks over for her to lean on.

“Is that so? Part of your mutation or just a personal quirk? the sentient wandering hands I mean.”

Todd’s brain seemed to be warring violently over smooth quips versus the general awkwardness of actually having a girl talk to him who wasn’t looking for another guy to literally throw him in an actual trash can. She watched his face journey from embarrassed, to hopeful, and back again.

“I mean, uh, who can say, really, yo. Mystery of life.”

She snickered into her soda. Despite his awkwardness, she was enjoying herself.

He’s kind of cute ’, she mused to herself. ‘In that dorky ‘thinks he’s funny’ kind of way. Guess he’s got me laughing, at least.’ 

“May be worth some study sometime,” she purred, glancing at him through lidded eyes.

“Well uh, normally I ain’t much of a studyin’ guy but I’d make an exception for you, vampirella.” He fidgeted awkwardly on the desk, the backs of his heels bumping the legs of it repeatedly as he grinned. “S-so, hey uh, last night huh? That was a blast, yo.”

“Literally, in some ways.I can’t believe we pulled it off,”  she said with a growing grin. She brushed her hand through her hai.r “Those bastards got what was coming to them, if you ask me. Maybe now they’ll think twice before bullying someone for being different.”

“Yeah maybe we knocked some fuckin sense into ’em yo! Oh oh oh! did ya see it was on the news? Like, they didn’t mention us obviously or nothin’ yo.”

“I *didn’t*” Morgan  leaned towards him with a grin. “We got a late start, so we kind of rushed out this morning. It was on the *news*?? what’d they say?”

Morgan could see a creeping flush blooming on Todd’s face as she leaned in closer to him.

“Yo they was all like ‘three girls rushed to the hospital after night club incident’ and somethin about how they thought it was like, uh, structural damage or somethin’. Oh an; they totally got busted for bein’ drunk.”

“Structural damage.Certainly after Dorian and Lance were done with it, at least.” Her leg swayed, her spiked heel scuffing the ground as she smiled. ‘I didn’t want to hurt them, just scare them a little. but it sounds like they’re more or less okay. And they **were** horrible’. “Busted for being drunk too, huh? “I bet they sounded wasted with all their whining about ‘haunted alleys’ and ‘ghosts’.”

“Yeah, right, yo? Bet they figured they were looney tunes, like pink elephants and shit.” Todd snickered. “Oh, hey hey hey, you get on the cheer team yo?”

In fact, Morgan hadn’t been able to check yet, because there’d been a delay in the list being posted. It was supposed to be up by the end of the day from what she’d heard.

“I’m not quite sure yet.” Morgan mused “I went to check the list and there’s some delay, I guess. They said it’ll be up later. I hope I got on, though.”

“Yo got my fingers crossed for ya!” he grinned, demonstrating the gesture with his large hands.  “But like, an’ don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m kinda surprised ya into cheerleadin’ with your style an’ all.”

Morgan crossed her legs, leaning back in her chair. She felt like Todd had had more to say, but whatever the comment was, he had bitten it back.

“Surprised a goth’s trying out for cheer squad? What can I say. I’m a complicated girl.” She considered leaving it at that for a moment, but continued. “I was on the cheer team before I got the courage to start dressing this way…I’d joined partially because I wanted a sport to keep me in shape and partially as a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to people who didn’t want me there. And somewhere along the line I realized I actually enjoyed it.”

She brushed her hair over her ear with a smile, hoping she didn’t seem too awkward.

“Hey, yo, that’s great, ya know?” Todd nodded. “Just a shame ya gotta deal with some of the other cheerleaders, yo.”

“A damned shame. The ones back home..hm…some of them weren’t great. But I bore the trial with grace.”  She winked at him. “I’m hoping both Darcy and I get on the team here, because then there’ll be at least two cool cheerleaders around.”

“Darcy Lewis huh? Yeah she’s alright. Calls me a ‘goblin rogue’ sometimes but like, whatever, yo.”

“I see her point.” Morgan said with a teasing grin, baring her fangs at him in amusement.  “We vibe pretty well so far though. She seems cool, and definitely way better company than the Wicked Bitches of GC High.”

“Yeah, yeah she’s just afraid of my sneak attack damage, yo. And you ain’t wrong about that. Good luck with that shit both of ya.”

“Sneak attack damage, hm? I’ll have to up my passive perception then.” She gave him a lazy salute and turned the conversation away from the dangerous levels of nerdom that it had entered.  “Thanks, hopefully we both get a spot. …Maybe you can come watch us sometime. You know, out on the field. And we can hang out after practice.”

She sipped her soda thoughtfully, and looked at his reaction over the top of the bottle as he sat up at attention with surprise.

“Shit, yo, for real? I am all about that!” He grinned broadly. “Hey, we could hang after school today too if ya wanted.”

Morgan rubbed her neck, frustrated that she had to disappoint him for the day.

“Oof, sorry Toddy. No can do tonight. I’ve got a *prior engagement*. We got an invitation to tour that Institute nearby and Greg’s accepted for us for tonight.”

“Aw, that’s too bad, but I guess–” he paused. “Wait, the Xavier Institute or whatever, yo?”

“Yeah, ingot an invite yesterday from Piotr” she leaned back in her chair, skirt riding a little up her thigh. “My brother got one from the student council president, too.”

He folded his arms, looking a bit thoughtful, though she noticed his eyes wandering to her legs. “Damn, they invited me a while back but I was kinda like, nah….”

“They did, huh?” Morgan perked up, fixing her skirt after a moment. “Too bad, it sounded kinda neat. Would be nice to have a place to like..be ourselves.”

Todd scratched his chin for a moment, biting his lip. He seemed to be considering something.

“Yeah, I like, never liked the vibe they were puttin down, yo, but if you’re gonna check it out, might be worth a look.”

Morgan’s eyes lit up as a somewhat mischievous thought occurred to her.

“Maybe we can take the tour together! It’ll be better than it just being me and Greg, that way.”

“Yo you think? I would be wicked into that, yo.” Todd brightened up as well.

“It means you get to spend time with me.” Morgan pointed her soda at him with a sly smile. “Which I’ve noticed you’re pretty keen on doing.”

She watched him light up with a flush at the suggestion and he coughed.

“Well, I mean, who wouldn’t yo? New girl in town needs someone to show her the ropes, right? I’m a charitable kinda guy.”

“Uh huh” she said, crossing her arms “you’re a real altruistic guy, Toddy”

“That’s me, yo. I’m like, a hero, didn’t you know?” he grinned hopefully at her.

“A hero, huh?” Her smirk of amusement turned into a more genuine little smile. “Yeah, I’ll buy that after you saved my neck yesterday.”

“Hope you don’t forget it, doll!” He topped to his feet on the desk, and then down to the floor, straightening up out of a crouch. “But uh, I better go find Bobby or Miss Prez or somebody if I wanna get in on your tour later, yo.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t forget.” Morgan offered her hand to him. “Help a girl up?”

“With pleasure, yo!” Todd took her hand, helping her to stand, with a doofy little flourish with his free arm.

Morgan stood with an easy grace, her cool fingers on his as she rose to her feet and winked.

“Thanks, leapfrog.” She let go, and poked his shoulder “be seeing you.”


As Morgan left, Todd watched her go for a long moment, before he headed out himself.

‘She’s prolly just teasing me hardcore, but like, maybe maybe maybe…. maybe I got a shot here. One in a million…’

A Solemn Institution

The rest of the day wore on slowly for Morgan. Classes at Giles Corey High were larger and louder than in Red Oak, but otherwise much the same tedium. Finally, at the end of the day she was free to meet up with Darcy at the bulletin board to check the cheer results.

Shouldering her bag, Morgan approached the board with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

Her lips tightened as she leaned in to read the printout nestled among other mundane announcements. There weren’t too many other students craning their necks at the moment, it seemed she was either one of the first or last to get there.

“We better get in. I forgot my veils.”

As Morgan’s eyes scanned the list they found her name right at the top, with a star next to it. She found her new friend’s name a little down the list, and just in time for the voice to pipe up behind her, “Are we in?”

“Holy shit.” Morgan grinned, hiding her mouth with her hand as she turned to face Darcy. “We’re in!! And I made Captain!!”

Darcy’s mouth dropped open. “Holy shit! New girl makes good!! Congrats, Spooky!”

Morgan’s face darkened in a blush, and she punched Darcy’s shoulder.

“Thanks , Darcy. Congrats to you ,too. You did *great*”

Darcy punched her shoulder back, her expression of surprise turning into one of delight.

“Not as good as you, but I’ll take it! Squee!”

Morgan clapped her hands together with an excited squeal of her own.

“You know what this means, right??”

“I need to amazon a ritual knife asap?”

Morgan snickered softly. It seemed Darcy wasn’t about to let up on the witches goof.

“Yep. And maybe a bucket of fake blood, you know. For ambiance.”

“I love that we’re going vegan for this coven, very earth conscious.”

“What can I say,” Morgan drawled. “You just can’t find many good sacrificial lambs nowadays. I blame the ozone layer.”

“What a shame. It’s like they all got sacrificed or something.” She pushed up her glasses, smirking. “–but seriously. Stoked to be on the team with you.”

Morgan laughed, brushing her hair out of her face.

“You know…me too.” She grinned. “I think the two of us are gonna knock their socks off, Darcy. The rest of the team and the whole damn school.”

“Heck yeah we are. I’m sure you can whip the rest of this team into shape. you *do* have a whip, right?”

“I might have one tucked away for just such an occasion.”

“Knew I could count on you, cap,” Darcy nodded. “So, we’re celebrating right? Milkshakes? Ooo, bet you haven’t been to the orange julius here, yet.”

“You’re damned right we’re celebrating.” Morgan nodded. She paused a moment before she asked, “…what’s an orange julius?”

Darcy’s mouth dropped open in surprise for the second time in the last few minutes.

“Oh no, this is absolute *emergency*,” Darcy declared. “That’s it, get your stuff. We’re heading out to fix this.”

Morgan felt a surge of hype; *incredibly* into the idea.

“It’s a plan, to cel…e..” With a low groan, she facepalmed as she remembered that it wasn’t going to work. Not if she wanted to appease her brother– and keep her plan with Todd,  “Damn it, sorry Darcy. Think we can get a rain check and maybe celebrate tomorrow? I’ve got some tour I have to do after school today. Something for my brother.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound like fun plans, so I’m not offended,” Darcy promised with wry humor. “Not ideal, but I can roll with it. We’ll do lunch. Or well, probably closer to dinner, technically.

“It’s a plan.” Morgan gave her a fist bump. “Pencil it in: Celebratory After school Orange julius and ritual sacrifice with the squad”

Darcy pulled out her phone and tapped a message. “Consider it penciled Like, seriously, I put it in my calendar!”

Morgan pointed at her as she headed towards the door.

“And don’t forget the ritual knife. It’s gonna be *majorly* important for the first practice session.”

“…oh my god, we need a knife?” An almost ghostly pale girl with hip length silky blond hair gasped from nearby. “I don’t think I *have* one!”  The girl rushed off, in a bit of a hurry..presumably to take steps to fix that.

Darcy watched her go. “Well. That’s gonna either be a meme or a murder. Stay tuned next week to find out which one.”

Morgan made a ‘box’ with her fingers, as if it were a tv screen

“Be sure to tune into our after-episode discussion hour, GCHS Or Bust , only on Fox.”

“Ew, Fox.”

“What other station would air this trash?” Morgan snickered.

Darcy appeared to think about it, “Eh, probably the CW. –so when’s your tour thing? Should I let you head to the jungle cruise?”

“It’s pretty much right after school, so I’m gonna have to head out.” Morgan fussed with her hair. “Looking forward to tomorrow, though. See you later, Darcy!”


“Aha! You thought you could escape from me, eh, Callisto?” Dorian demanded with a wide grin, as he threw himself at her from practically halfway across the parking lot.

Callisto turned, twisting her body to catch him with one hand, and pull him into a scoop.

“Why Dorian. I didn’t think you cared.” She said in a quiet monotone.

He threw an arm around her shoulders. “Frankly, my dear, I * do * give a damn.”

Callisto looked down at him, nodding firmly.

“My heart melts. Or something. I didn’t think I was your type.”

“The heart wants what the heart wants, Callisto, dear.” He chuckled and gave her a teasing wink. “I * was * hoping you might have a gaping, irishman-shaped hole in your afternoon.”

Callisto gently set him down, shaking her head.

“Sorry. Hole’s already filled. I have something I have to take care of.”

She pointed down towards a nearby manhole in the street.

“You know how it is.”

Dorian followed her gaze.

“Ahh, yes, a pity but I quite understand. Duty calls.”

“Duty calls.” She clapped him on the back “Maybe tomorrow, huh?”

“You have but to ask,” he promised and clapped her in return. “In the meantime I’ll find some other way to waste away my long evening.”

Callisto gave him a salute, heading towards the cluster of shops opposite the school.

“Godspeed, soldier.”


Greg pulled into view of the sprawling gated estate, glancing from it to his GPS.

“Well, I’m pretty sure that this is the right place.”

Morgan, who had been  strangely both quiet * and * in a good mood the whole way, leaned out the window to get a better look as they approached the front gate of the mansion “Hot damn it’s big.”

“Right? It’s like a college campus,” Greg boggled. “I wasn’t expecting * this *.”

Before them loomed Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. WIth it’s high windows and columned entrance, it was more like a duel-winged manor house than a school, and the perfectly landscaped lawn, with it’s sparkling blue pond and meticulous topiary didn’t do much to dissuade that initial impression. And behind it, despite the school hiding most of it from view, they could see the grounds stretch on and on towards the woods behind.

Morgan whistled.

“…neither was I…this is nuts, Greg…”

“Hot damn. Hell of a first impression, huh?” Greg murmured as he pulled up to the gate.

Morgan nodded, leaning back into her seat.

“It’s kind of intimidating, honestly.”

“I would have dressed up if I’d known. Kinda like it though.”

Actually, Greg had dressed up. For Greg, anyway. He was in a leather jacket instead of his letterman, and had a nicer pair of jeans on than usual. Morgan had kept the same outfit from school, though she freshened up her makeup in the rearview mirror before they pulled out of the parking lot.

But now she was wishing she’d done something a bit more…dramatic.

Greg took a deep breath as he turned the car off. He looked up at the grounds again, and at the tall gate that separated them from them.

“Big gate they have there.”

“Yeahhh. Wonder what they’re trying to keep out, eh?” she joked; or at least half joked.  “…Why don’t we go ring the bell?”

He nodded, and hopped out of the car, adjusting his jacket self consciously. He waited for Morgan to follow him, and strode up to the gate, his own thoughts echoing his sister’s question.

Morgan followed him, her hands folded behind her as she glanced up at the iron fence. “Think they had second thoughts about letting us in?”

“More like I think there’s an intercom,” he said. He looked for one to push.

By the edge of the gate there was a top of the line intercom with a call button and a little screen.

“Maybe…maybe.’ Morgan glanced over her shoulder, looking briefly hopeful before she glanced back. “Wanna hit the button?”

“I’ll chance it, yeah,” he said dryly. He pressed the button. “Uh…. hello?”

There was a brief moment before the screen flickered on. On the other end was a smiling woman of indeterminate age, perhaps in her 20’s. Blond hair cascaded over her shoulders, and around her soft featured face. She had on dramatic makeup, with bright blue eyeshadow and liner done up like an 80’s glam queen , inlaid with sparkling glitter that made her eyes really ‘pop’. They could see her from the shoulders up, and could make out that she was wearing a white leather jacket with a large yellow diamond ‘starburst’ shape on her breast.

“Hey there! Looks like the Professor was right about some new arrivals! Greg and Morgan, right?”

“That’s us,” Greg nodded, staring at the image of the woman with bemusement She seemed vaguely familiar, despite her rather astonishing outfit. “This is, uh, the institute, right?”

“That’s right,” the woman chirped, winking at him over the camera. “I’ll get the gate open and meet you out front. I’m your tour guide for today!”

She snapped her fingers, and up twirled a few sparkling and pulsing rainbow-colored lights, which swirled in the air before vanishing.

“Hold tight, alright?”

“Yeah, sure, we’ll sit tight. Uh, thanks, ma’am.” Greg nodded dumbly.

The line clicked off– and immediately the gate slowly began to open in towards the school.

Morgan whistled.

“Pretty lady, wasn’t she? Loved that makeup. She looked like she stepped right out of a 80’s glam cover or something”

“Yeah like, right out of a music video and everything,” he agreed, trying to place where he’d seen her before. ‘ Kind of clashes with the decor around here ’, he thought, but wouldn’t say it aloud just in case the intercom was still active.

“Actually,” Morgan mused, “she kinda looked a little familiar…”

As the gates opened, the same woman came hurrying out the front door of the school, dressed in a white and blue trimmed leather jacket with rhinestones and that starburst icon on it’s breast, and a pair of flared bell bottom pants in matching white and blue. She waved to them excitedly.

Greg’s gaze was arrested by the bell bottoms. That was… a choice, certainly. He yanked his view back up and waved back at her.

“Hey, uh, thanks for having us.”

The woman waved back, and put her hands on her hips with a grin.

“I’m Ali, Alison Blaire!” She put her hand on her chest “I was one of Professor Xavier’s students a while back, but now I’m on staff as a teacher.”

Morgan suddenly snapped her fingers and pointed.

“Oh! I know you! you’re Dazzler ! ” she gushed suddenly “I remember when you were huge . Our mom bought, like, a bunch of your CD’s!”

Greg blinked as the image snapped into his mind too. “Oh no way. Dazzler? THE dazzler?”

Greg only remembered her as a kind of dorky face on his mom’s abandoned stack of weird and retro looking cds. And she HAD to be older than she looked.

Dazzler fluffed out her hair, beaming from ear to ear.

“That’s right. the one and only sparkling superstar, Dazzler!”  She winked, and pointed at them with a long, painted nail. “And if you two decide you want to stay …. your teacher!”

“in uh, what?” Morgan asked “music theory?”

“I had no idea you were…. uh… you know,” Greg admitted, more than a bit awkwardly.

“A mutant?” Alison said with a warm smile. “No, most people didn’t…even if I was more open than most about the powers I have. Iit’s a wonder what ‘trade secrets’ can explain away.”

“Well shit…that explains those pyrotechnics, I guess.” Morgan mused. “That’s neat. Our mom would have been pumped to meet you, Ms. Blaire.”

“She’s not dead,” Greg added hastily at Morgans dire phrasing. Just not…. here.”

Alison put her hand over her heart.

“Oh good, for a moment there I was worried about you two!”  She shook her head. “Well. I’m certain if you decide to join us she’ll get the chance to meet me soon– at a parent teacher conference.’

“So..I’m taking away from this that there’s going to be a lot of extra classes?” Morgan asked

“I mean they did kinda call it a school, Morgan, ” Greg chuckled.

“Well…yeah….” Morgan huffed, pouting at him “I got that, but…”

Alison gently pat each of them on the shoulder.

“There’s a few extra lessons, sure.” Her smile had a playful edge. “But they’re sure not the sorts of things they’ll teach you at GCHS.”

Dazzler looked over her shoulder, “We were waiting for one more…but…”

“Oh, one more?” Greg cocked his head. Ororo hadn’t mentioned that anyone else was going to be coming. “Someone’s a no-show?”

Dazzler pulled out a tablet , glancing at it with a purse of her lips as the gates started to close “Yes…a student that we’ve been trying to convince to give us a shot for some time now…”

Morgan rubbed the back of her neck.

“Wow, what a coincidence…maybe we should, you know…wait for them?”

“I mean, I don’t wanna be rude but we can’t wait around *all* day and waste Miss Dazzler’s time,” Greg shrugged. As far as he was concerned he couldn’t wait for the tour to start.

“Eeehh….” Morgan glanced over her shoulder. “I guess we shouldn’t…but..it seems rude.”

“We can always send another teacher to give him a tour of his own if he shows up!” Allison chirped. “Come on, kiddos. It’s showtime!”

Running Late

Todd scrambled and hopped his way up the path to the institute, glad at least that his altered constitution meant that he wasn’t winded, despite having had to run all the way from the bus stop at the bottom of the hill, more than a mile away.

He was, unfortunately, running late, and muttering to himself as he hurried.

“Aw, man stupid bus yo,” he grumbled. “I’m late an’ I don’t even got a slice of toast, yo.”

Now Morgan’s gonna think I ditched her .’

He was running pretty late by now, even with his impressive speed and stamina, and by the time he got close enough to the mansion he could see Greg’s gaudy car parked outside the already closed gate. Beyond it, heading towards the mansion, he could see three figures.

He was already running out of time.

You are totally bombing this, Toad, get in there!

He pulled on his energy reserves and stopped bothering to even try to run normally. After all, there wasn’t anyone around to see him anyway. Instead, he allowed his long legs to carry him as far as they could in single jumps toward the Institute.

Using his long legs and leaping strides, he started gaining ground on the group ahead. There was just one problem.

The fence. It stood tall before him and he’d have to waste *who knows* how much time with the call box.

Problem? What problem? You got an invite.

“No time for formalities!” he decided, and squatted down, before leaping high over the fence.

He sailed effortlessly over it, and touched down with a small plume of dust on the other side. Morgan and Greg weren’t too far away now, only by the front door–but that thought was quickly interrupted by the sudden blare of an alarm behind him.

From the bushes beside him came a sudden hiss and a whir.

“Hey, yo, wait I’m–” he stopped mid shout, when some sense picked up the sudden movement, and he threw himself out of the way with a yelp. He jumped just in time to miss the rapid fire blast of white hot light that seared the ground where he’d stood moments before.

More whirring filled the air as more turrets erupted from behind bushes and inside the fence…and he felt a prickle on the back of his neck as a sharp thwip sound came from a nearby tree.

Toad screamed.


Greg looked up as they walked toward the manor.

“Did you hear something?”

Morgan turned with a look of surprise.

“That sounds like…I don’t know, some kind of star wars so…”She froze as she heard a familiar voice scream, just in time to watch as a froggish figure leapt away from a trio of buzzsaws that erupted from the ground and sailed towards him, lasers blasting all around him. “What the– oh NO!! Todd!!”

Alison spun, her eyes wide.

“The security system ???”  She ran forward, humming loudly under her breath as she gathered enough vibration to channel it through her hands. A sudden rainbow blast of light soared from her fingertips, pulsing every color of the rainbow as it cut a line through several of the turrets, blowing them up and stopping them from auto targeting back on the boy.

“He could have used the intercom! Seriously!” She hit a button on the pad. “Scott, Jean. anyone” She called into it “disable security!”

Greg watched her go, not sure what the hell was going on.

“Wait– did you say Todd?” he demanded, but *most* of his attention was on Dazzler.

Meanwhile, they could see a lanky figure dodging around in an acrobatic panic.

Dazzler directed the laser beam with one hand as she booted up–yes, that seemed to be her hit CD, blasting out of a small pair of speakers that had been stylishly hooked to her belt. As she hummed along, the music somehow turned into a sea of dazzling lights around her. They flashed, flared, and slammed into various home defense weapons with concussive force, as she dipped down and grabbed the dodging figure in one arm, and used her other hand to deflect a series of electric barbs fired from behind the fountain.

There was a yelp from the figure, who it now became obvious absolutely was Todd, as he was scooped up.


Morgan stared for a moment, before she ran forward to try and help.

Greg merely watched in awe as she moved around the yard deftly. Okay, he had to go back in time and tell his younger self. Mom was right. Dazzler was cool.

Just as suddenly as the chaos began–and just as Morgan got to the scene–it ended. The guns that hadn’t been decimated by Dazzler receded into the ground, the blades vanished,the shock probes returned to their slots…

And Dazzler set the boy down with a sigh.

“Next time , young man, I want you to ring the doorbell. Understood?”

Morgan stumbled, looking a little dizzy as she came to a stop “Todd, you okay??”

Todd in fact looked kind of ill, and he shook his head to get a hold of himself.

“Never better,” he gulped, eyes wide and bleary. “Who sent the navy after me, yo?”

“It’s the defense system.” Dazzler explained, running her hand through her hair. “But nothing we can do about it now–welcome to the tour of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, Todd Tolansky.”

Morgan leaned over to pat his shoulder, holding it for a moment in a way that used him as a crutch as her head spun.

“You nearly lost your *head*, leapfrog.”

Todd tried, unsuccessfully, to straighten his hair. A few locks at the bottom seem to have been signed.

“Yeah, you know I kinda noticed, yo,” he grimaced. “Hell of a security system, yo.”

Greg finally jogged his way over, looking…. not pleased.

“Yeah, I’ll say.” Morgan murmured, finally letting go and straightening up. “like, kind of a bit much for a school, right?”

Dazzler twirled a lock of her hair with a weak smile.

“…well, yes and no. We take great pride in the safety of our students.”

“Yeah you got em locked up like fort Knox,” Todd grumbled. “Uh… anyway like, sorry I’m late you.” He eyed Greg nervously, who had yet to say anything.

Morgan grinned at Todd, ignoring her brother for now.

“I’m really glad you made it, even if it nearly killed you.” She offered him a highfive, which he returned with dizziness but enthusiasm. “Let’s get a tour of Xavier’s Murder Mansion!”

Alison laughed, clapping her hands together “wow! Don’t call it that, please!”

Todd snickered. “Ya prefer the Homicide House?”

“Nope.” Alison shook her head with a radiant grin, little flecks of light flashing around her “Not that either, please! Just call it the Institute, or the School for Gifted Youngsters, or heck. Xavie’s Home for Rad Teens, even. Just not that!”

“Whatever you say, yo,” he shrugged, still nervously eying Greg who was ominously silent.

“So… is this everyone then?” Greg asked finally, in a heavy tone.

Morgan glanced at Greg with a nervous smile, before looking back at Todd.

Alison bobbed her head in the affirmative.

“That’s everyone! I hope, I’m reeeally * hoping we don’t have anyone else triggering the security system.” She gave Toad a rather pointed smile.

Toad put his hands up.

“Hey, yo, if I’d know ya’ll were milspec up here I woulda rang the doorbell, lady.”

“It’s polite to do it anyway,” Greg grumbled.

Morgan grinned, baring her fangs openly.

“Well the important thing was nobody was hurt, so…who cares! We’ve got a tour to get to.”

Alison smiled more warmly, and clasped her hands together.

“Alright everyone, follow me!”

A holographic arrow appeared, and pointed towards the backyard


The security system being shut off hadn’t been an expected outcome. But it was a useful one for the figure in the gasmask.

The figure– perched atop the fence in the shadows of a grove of trees– watched through a darkened glass visor for only the briefest of moments as flashes of laser fire and plumes of smoke erupted near the front courtyard of the Xavier Institute. Whatever triggered it, it was a welcome distraction.

They leapt– an androgynous sillouette clad in a sleek grey sneaking suit– and landed within the walls of the Institute, slipping behind a tree to avoid one of the cameras not engaged with the fight up front. They flexed their fingers, and reached into a pouch for a trio of daggers wrapped in fine wire. They threw one, striking the camera and sending sparks down its chassis and through its wire, and around them, with a series of shatters and pops, its brethren on the same power-network went down.

With a soft and satisfied sound, the figure sunk low to the ground. With eyes trained on the mansion they slipped into the shadows of the school’s grove.

Mr. Logan

Dazzler started the tour with the grounds, showing them the full sized basketball court, Greenhouse, etc. As they neared what seemed to be the entrance they heard a pair of voices and the sound of a scuffle which got Greg’s attention.

Dazzler was gesturing dramatically to the basketball court and the track beyond, and then over to the greenhouse.

“And up here you can see our extensive activity field. From the athletic to the academic, we have a whole slew of after school diversions and training exercises.I like the stables, myself!” She put her hand to her ear, and smiled. “And what’s that I hear? Sounds like someone’s down by the ring! Why don’t we take a look?”

While Morgan liked Dazzler quite a bit by now,  having been a fan of her music and seen her moves mere moments ago, she had to admit her tour guide persona here reminded her of nothing so much as a very enthusiastic Disneyland tour guide.

She glanced towards the sound, and saw a brief flash of moving bodies by some bushes, and a glint of something metal in the air.


Todd looked similarly skeptical, slouching along with the group with his hands in his pockets.

“Ring? Like, fighting ring?” Greg, cocked his head and asked as they moved into view.

Two fighters were circling one another; one of them was Kitty Pryde from school, the other was unfamiliar. He was a quite short man, but exceptionally burly, and shirtless, all could see his absolute briarpatch of chest hair. He had short, black hair, and a rough, ready expression, his fists tensed as he circled, barefoot and only in a pair of martial arts pants. He looked a little like someone had miniaturized a lumberjack.

Kitty circled him, dressed in a yellow tank top and athletic shorts, her curly hair tied back behind her head in a ponytail, her hands raised in a defensive position as she paced around the man at a distance, judging the right time to strike.

She seemed to judge the right time, tensing for only a moment before she leapt at the man, and…almost as if it were magic, used the sudden rush to phase through him, and out the other side, where she kicked him solidly in the back.

“YAH!!! Who’s the one who has to watch their back more now, Mr. Logan?”  she quipped with a grin.

“Don’t get cocky, kid,” Logan grunted, turning toward her with more swiftness than his stocky body belied.

“Holy shit, is Kitty fightin’ a bear?” Todd snickered with a wry grin as they watched.

Morgan too snickered into her hand along with him.

“Looks like it. Guess Miss Prep has more to her than I thought.”

Kitty swung a punch for Logan, trying to put him off balance as he turned, a confident lookon her face.

And then Dazzler called out to them.

“Helloooo~~ Logan, as fun as it is to watch you romp about without a shirt,  why don’t you come say hello to our latest hopefuls hmm?” She flashed a bright smile at Kitty. “Sorry to interrupt the match, but I’m certain the two of you will get right back into your groove~”

The interruption was enough for Logan to grab the upper hand- literally- as he caught her fist as he punched at her, and used her momentum to flip her to the ground.

“Don’t worry, Dazz, we’re done,” Logan growled. He reached his hand down to Kitty. “Good match, kiddo.”

Kitty hit the ground with a sharp breath.

Morgan nudged Nat and whispered, “I thought cats always land on their feet.”

Todd grinned wryly and elbowed Morgan back. “Don’t look like it, yo.”

“Aw man….Geeze, I was so close, too.” She took his hand, slowly getting back to her feet with a grimacing smile. “Thanks, sir. I’ll beat you next time!”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that,” Logan smiled at Kitty and turned to the group, looking them over.

“You’re one tough coach, Logan.” Dazzler put her hand on her cheek with a bright smile, nodding. She gestured to the assembled group. “Allow me to introduce Greg, Morgan and Todd. Three hopeful additions to our student body~”

“Huh. Welcome to the Institute, kids.” His rough gaze swept over the assembled.

“Hey! Kitty! so this is the guy you were telling me about, huh?” Greg strode forward boldly with a wave.

Kitty brushed a lock of hair over her ear that’d come loose as she hit the ground. She gasped, and hurried over.

“Oh wow ! Greg! Like, I heard there was gonna be a tour today but I didn’t know it was going to be you! This is so exciting, I  didn’t know you were a mutant too!” She gestured over to her teacher with a proud grin. “but yeah! That’s Logan! He’s one of the ones who taught me how to fight.”

Greg smiled broadly. “I can tell. Sorry I didn’t see the whole match. Was I dreaming or did you go *through* him?”

Morgan brushed her hand through her hair, glancing at the short, broad man in curiosity and suspicion.

While Kitty and Greg were chatting, Logan sidled up to the others and looked them over. In fact, he subtly gave them a sniff.

“So, you two are gettin the grand tour, eh?”

“That’s right, sir. I got an invitation from Piotr, who said it was a good place for, you know, people like us.” Morgan stood up a bit straighter, taking a slight step back at the sniff.

“Pete’s a good guy,” Logan nodded. “Enjoyin’ the tour so far?”

“I almost got killed,” Todd explained, possibly as a point of pride.

“Yeah, your uh, deathtrap security system nearly fried him and turned him into des cuisses de grenouille , but other than that it’s been a blast. Saw a bit of you fighting Pryde, you seem like a pretty tough customer.”

“One of the toughest around,” he admitted with a smirk. He glanced at Todd and then at Morgan. “ You , I know, but you must be new around here, yeah, kid?”

Morgan nodded, brushing her hair away from her pointed ears and giving the man her biggest fang-toothed smile.

“That’s right. Greg and I just moved into town last week and we’re already found out. Either we *suck* at hiding our mutations, or you guys are just that canny.”

“Probably a little of both, kid,” he growled. “Not a lot of mutants around the professor don’t sniff out.”

“Wow, creepy.” Morgan said with a half smile , folding her arms. “at least when you put it like that.”

“yeah, uh, kinda ominous, right?” Todd chuckled.

“Huh,” Lorgan shrugged.


Greg, meanwhile, was engaged in a conversation with Kitty.

“So was I dreaming, or did I see you go right through him?”

“You sure did. I have a trick or two up my sleeve. Wanna see?” Kitty put her hand on her hip, winking playfully at Greg.

“Absolutely!” Greg nodded enthusiastically, eager to see just what someone else had to deal with, or it seemed, work with. “If you wanna show off.”

She looked from left to right, seeking out a target, before she grabbed his wrist and started running towards the nearby stables, an excited grin on her face.

“Like, don’t blink, okay? This is gonna be cool!”

“My eyes are peeled!” he promised as he ran off with her, not knowing what to expect.

She made for the wall of the stable, not slowing down as she pulled him towards what was clearly a tall, solid wooden dead end.

“Uuuuuhhh….” Greg was increasingly dubious as they barreled toward the wall, but…. ‘ Kitty take the wheel I guess ’.

Kitty gripped his wrist firmly as she took a deep breath– and at top speed , she passed right through the wall like it was nothing, phasing through it with a soft glow around her outline, and somehow, despite him being in tow, he was pulled through with her, briefly seeing the wall from the * inside * before they passed into the stable and through a (suddenly spooked)  horse and a stable door to the alley between stables.

Greg felt the kind of thrill in the pit of his stomach normally reserved for rollercoaster drops, and took a deep breath as they passed *out* of any solid matter.

“Holy *shit!*”

Kitty grinned back at him, halfway to giggling.

“Neat, huh?” She put her hands on her hips again, winking. “Now that I’ve got the hang of it it’s pretty neat. I can pass through basically anything, ya know?”

“Damn,” He rubbed the back of his neck, “That has to be…. useful? Kinda?”

“It’s come in handy,” she told him. “Like…once I had to sneak back into school because I forgot my textbook and all the doors were locked.”

“And you just walked right in, huh?”

“Uh huh, in and out and nobody even saw me,” she said proudly “it’s also helped me out in my sparring matches with Mr. Logan, ya know?”

“I’m surprised he can even touch you. Uh. Literally.”

“Well….he’s real good…and I don’t have perfect control yet and the last thing I want to do is slip through the ground and fall into the earth!”

That suggestion brought Greg up short.

“Is…. that a thing that could happen?”

Kitty’s smile faltered somewhat as well, and she shrugged her shoulders.

“Yeah. I mean. I can pass through the earth if I want to…and when I first started …manifesting a mutation…I would wake up to find I’d fallen all the way through my house, or slip from the second floor to the first in school.”

“Oh uh, damn. Glad you’ve got more control on it now?” he offered a bit lamely. It was dawning on Greg that he actually had no idea what drawbacks his own abilities might have. The thought was more than a little unnerving.

“Yeah–yeah Professor Xavier and the other teachers helped a lot when it came to learning to control my gifts, you know?” She rubbed the back of her neck. “..Maybe they can help you and your sister too?”

“Maybe,” he nodded. “Though uh, truth be told, I’m not actually sure what we need help *with*.”

“Honestly?you probably have to learn that. Because almost every ability I’ve seen people manifest has some kind of downside… you know?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I’m not really sure I’ve even seen the up side yet though.”

Kitty patted his shoulder.

“There is one, Greg. Trust me…back when I first discovered I was a Mutant I was pretty devastated, and…”

The doors to the stable flew open, and Dazzler poked her head in with a wave of her hands.

“Hate to break up the moment, kiddos, but I’d be one hell of a bad tour guide if I lost one of my guided! Mind coming back?”

Greg jolted at the sudden intrusion.

“Oh, right! Sorry, Kitty here was just giving me a demonstration.”

“Sorry Ms. Blaire! I was just showing off a little for Greg,” she explained. “He wanted to see me phase.”

“Can’t blame you there.” Dazzler laughed, the sound turning into little flashing strings that curled around her head like a halo. “But there’s plenty of mansion to see, he can’t spend * all * day in the stables.”

“Lead the way, Miss Dazzler.” Greg nodded.

Dazzler headed out into the sunlight once more, petting a horse’s nose as she passed with a happy hum under her breath.

Kitty waved Greg off “i’ll see you around, okay? I’d *love* it if you decided to stay! It’s a great place!”

Greg waved back and gave her a thumbs up. He was *already* thinking about staying

“So that was Logan, and I see you already know Ms. Pryde.”

“Yeah, Kitty invited me to MMA. I didn’t know she’d be here.” He caught sight of Morgan and Todd waiting for them. Speaking of not knowing someone would be here…

Morgan was excitedly chatting up Todd, and she punched him playfully on the shoulder as she said something that made her snicker.

Greg rolled his eyes as he saw Morgan so chatty with Todd. ‘ She is definitely trying to spite me or something.

Logan was still nearby, and Kitty phased back through the wall, heading back to the training area behind them.

“Where you bringing ’em next, Dazz?” Logan grunted to Dazzler.

“I’m thinking of showing them the dorms.” Dazzler fussed with a lock of her hair  and she nudged him playfully. “Sometimes kids get one look at the luxury accommodations and wanna join up right then and there.”

“Ahhh, the dorms,” Lorgan snorted. “Yeah, wouldn’t surprise me none.”

“how about you? About done working out for the day  ,or can I look forward to catching you in the break room?”

“Actually, I was just about to ask the kid to go another round,” he growled. “What do you say, Kitty– up for it?”

“Ooooh, why don’t we stay and watch.” Dazzler said, clapping her hands together “you’ll learn something, for sure if we do!”

Kitty pumped her fist with a nod of her head “This time I’m gonna win, sir. Like, just you wait and see!”

While Dazzler, Logan and Kitty were chatting, Greg approached his sister and her….friend.

Morgan snickered into her hand, and looked up at Greg as he approached, cutting off whatever she was about to say to Todd.

“Oh, hey bro.”

Greg raised his hand.


“Me and Todd were just talking about how apparently this Xavier guy can like, find mutants wherever they are or something.”

“Find mutants huh? That’s useful,” Greg murmured, before he switched his attention back to Kitty, seeing her and Logan heading back into the ring. “Good luck!”

“Yo more brawlin’?” Todd grumbled slightly. He elbowed Morgan. “I got $5 on the big guy.”

Morgan nudged him back.

“Then I’m going out on a limb and putting $5 on The Intangible Girl.”

Kitty saluted the others, before taking a deep breath before settling into a fighting position.

“Ready?” Logan growled, as he assumed his own stance, low, and tense.

Kitty nodded, and clenched her fists “Ready, Mr. Wolverine… II won’t get cocky *this* time.”

“Good….. Go!”

As the beefy little man shouted, he lunged forward at her quickly– more quickly than she could account for her, attempting to catch her in a grapple. Kitty gasped, and attempted to turn herself intangible at the last moment to try phasing through him as she moved to dance back and away from his grip.

“Woah!! no fair!”

Logan, however, was too fast for her, his weight sent her tumbling to the ground, catching her knee against an errant stone before she could fully phase through it.

Kitty Pryde cried out as the stone tore through her sweatpants and carved a little gash through her knee, blood starting to leak from the wound to stain the fabric of her pants.

“owww….” She phased away from his arms, and jumped to her feet, bringing her fists up again “That won’t stop me, sir!”

Logan didn’t miss a beat in the fight either, and the two of them kept going, as the blood trickled down Kitty’s leg, starting to stain her pants.

Despite the frantic action of the fight, Morgan’s eyes were drawn right towards the rip in Kitty’s knee, and the crimson stain that was spreading over her kneecap, her pupils contracting as she took a deep, shaky breath.

Something about it made Morgan’s head spin and that exhaustion grow threefold inside her. With a soft murmur of discontent, Morgan stumbled back, trying to shake it off with a physical shake of her head.

“Cool fight.” She said “but uh…I’d…like to see the dorms.”

“Hey, you okay, Morg?”

“You alright Morgan?”

Todd and Greg looked at Morgan– then at one another– then back to her, as the two of them accidentally spoke in unison.

Alison Blaire glanced at Morgan with a look of concern.

“Not real great with blood, huh?” She offered her hand “it’s okay. Not everyone is.”

Morgan clenched her teeth together, and looked down.

“…I just slept bad last night. Sorry.”  she looked up “i’m not trying to drag down the tour.”

“If you’re sure you’re alright. Maybe we should get inside, yeah.” Greg frowned, worrying about what might be up with her. Kitty’s words about drawbacks rang in his head.

“I’m positive,” Morgan promised, a bit quickly. “Don’t worry about it.”

Still, she took Alison’s hand, and the woman smile as she tugged them towards the building

“Good luck, Logan!” Dazzler called over her shoulder. “Try not to lose to a student!”

“I’m not gonna–oof!” Logan was hit by the speeding teenager, as the quartet walked away.


Morgan shook her head again as they entered the back door of the sprawling mansion complex, hoping to chase off the weird, dizzy feeling that had been getting all too pervasive over the last few hours. As a distraction from the sensation, she gave herself a moment to take in the mansion. From the high walls, ornate vases and busts, and beautiful paintings hanging along the white painted walls, it obvious that this was a high class establishment. If the art didn’t give it away, the foyer with the glittering chandelier and double staircase spiraling up to a wide and red carpeted hall certainly did.

‘Mom isn’t poor by any stretch of the imagination…honestly we’ve always been well off…but this…’ , She walked with Todd and Greg, her hands in her pockets. ‘ This is some next level opulence. These people really live like this? It’s like living in a museum.’

Dazzler gleefully pointed out different art pieces and paintings as they walked through the halls. It seemed they’d all been donated, some by students of the academy, and some found during expeditions around the world, or given as gifts for aid. She puffed up, proud as they passed a rhinestone studded jumpsuit, with a massively high collar, pointing to it with a grin.

“My own contribution!”sShe cooed. “My stage outfit from my days as Dazzler, Disco Queen!”

“Wow, damn, you look good for you age, yo, ma’am,” Todd said, apparently quite earnestly.

Dazzler pursed her lips.

“i’m not that old! Do I * look * old?”” she said with a note of frustrated anger in her voice.She put her hands on her hips.  “I was the disco queen of the 2000s !”

Morgan leaned over to whisper to Todd. Maybe she could help salvage the situation.

“There was , like, a brief return to disco in like…2007 or so, and Dazzler was a huge deal then. The Teen Queen of Disco’s Return, or some shit like that. My mom’s a huge fan.”

Todd put his hands up in defense.

“Whoa, whoa, yo, like I said ya * didn’t * look old! You say disco, I thought, man this lady’s like my grandma’s age–if I had a grandma anyway. 2000s totally makes more sense. Musta missed that trend.”

Greg snorted. “Living under a rock, maybe?”

“That’s right. you must have!” Dazzler beamed.

“I’ve done other genres too…Pop…glam rock…indie rock….” she counted on her fingers. “My one rap album…but the Disco years were good to me.”

Morgan snickered “under a rock? Not everyone’s as big a fan as mom, Greg. Mom’s just..like, a megafan. She had t-shirts.”

Todd scratched his ear. “Bet she’d be stoked to see this then, yo,” he gestured to the outfit. “man these are some fancy digs though.”

“She probably wound,” Greg admitted in a mutter.

“I’ll take a picture for her.” Morgan said, snapping one with her phone.

Dazzler clapped her hands together

“If you want to see fancy digs, why don’t I show you the dorm rooms! they’re dorms…so you’ll have a roommate, but there’s plenty of space! Come along, everyone!” She started up the stairs

The four of them followed her up the sweeping staircase, which looked quite a lot like something out of a disney princess movie. The upstairs hall was long, and full of more of the slightly ostentatious decorations, in between the numerous doors down either side of the hall.

“How many people are here, anyway?” Greg asked.

“24 students, currently. Though, some of them are quite young,” Dazzler chirped, sashaying down the hall with the expectation of being followed. “But a few of them around your age, like young Kitty Pryde.”

Morgan trailed after her, her eyes sweeping from side to side at the decor.

“That’s not a bad spread of students…all of them mutants?”

“That’s right!” the woman said, glancing back with a broad smile.

“Ever get anybody who was like, makin shit up, yo?” Todd asked curiously.

“Once or twice.” Dazzler chuckled “which is why we have the tour. We try to screen people before the tour of course…but sometimes, if we aren’t sure, we’ll use the time spent touring the grounds to judge the applicant’s character, so to speak.”

“What so its like a t–ack!”

Todd was cut off as one of the doors clicked open and a figure walked out, nearly barreling right into him.

“Ah!” the answering yelp was from a soft, warm voice– but it was coming out of an unusual figure wrapped in a towel. They were covered in blue fur all over.

Morgan’s attention was instantly caught by the sudden appearance and near crash, and she looked the figure over with a curious smile.

“Well hey there. Didn’t interrupt your shower, did we?”

“Oh, Kurt!” Dazzler put her hand to her mouth “didn’t you hear about the tour? I thought Scottie was supposed to tell you…”

The figure scrambled backwards most of the way into the room. The touring party could see a spade-tipped tail twitching nervously behind him. But despite that, and the odd complexion, Morgan felt like she recognized him. And when she heard the name, it clicked.

“Nobody told me!” he insisted softly from his hiding space. “Sorry…”

Todd tried to peek in the room.

“Yooo, what up we’re tourin’ your place. Sorry ’bout that.”

Dazzler smiled tiredly , holding up her hands “I’m going to have a word with those two a little later for not spreading the word, tsk tsk.”

“Hey give ’em some space,” Greg grumped, moving to yank Todd back.


“Hold on! Kurt Wagner!!” Morgan grinned, and pushed her brother and Todd out of the way. She flashed her fangs at him. “Holy shit, it’s you ! It’s me, Morgan, your theater partner! What a *look*. I love it!”

“Thank you,” Kurt said quietly, sounding flustered.. “Um… hold on, give me a moment, please….”

He shut the door for a moment, practically on Morgan, as Todd looked at her in surprise..

“Wait wait wait, like, Kurt from school?”

“Yeah! that Kurt.” Morgan nodded. She leaned near the door, grinning from ear to ear. “It took a minute, but I recognized the voice.”

“Huh, I never knew he was a fuzzy blue elf,” Todd grinned. “Who woulda thunk.”

The door opened again and Kurt was standing there, dressed now– and not blue either. In fact he looked the same as they saw him in school.

“Um. Hi.”

“Hey. Nice to meet you. Sorry again?” Greg sounded apologetic as he nodded to him.

Morgan blinked and looked him over from head to toe, talking over her brother.

“Holy hell, are you a shapeshifter, Kurt?” She grinned, baring her fangs again, hoping he’d notice them. “It’s a shame we’ve got to hide our mutations , because that’d be one hell of a skill on the stage.”

“Ah, honestly I’d rather keep it off the stage, I’m afraid,” he murmured. Kurt chuckled uncomfortably. “And I’m no shapeshifter….”

“Yo then how do you pull that trick?” Todd asked.

“Hey, maybe he doesn’t want us prying guys,” Greg urged in a warning tone.

Morgan flicked her hair off her shoulder with a quiet huff–but after a brief and quiet moment she nodded with a sheepish smile.

“Yeah, you you’re right…sorry. I didn’t mean to get in your business, Kurt. It’s just, you know, kinda neat to see that more people than I thought are like us. Didn’t mean to pry too much.”

“No, no, its okay. Uh, Miss Allison, should I show them, or?” Kurt smiled a little painedly.

“There’s a high chance that they may become your future classmates here at the Institute.” Alison smiled. “It’s up to you, but there’s certainly no harm in it.”

“…I have to admit you have my curiosity.” Morgan raised her eyebrow

“Well then… no harm in it,” he repeated. He held up his wrist, and showed what looked like an ordinary smart watch. “It’s technological.”

He pushed the button on it, and his image seemed to blur for a moment, returning to the (now clothed) furry blue visage.

“Holy shit you’re jem and the holograms.” Todd blinked, his grin widening again.

“He *is* Jem and the Holograms!” Morgan gasped “it’s a hologram emitter or something? That’s *insane*. I didn’t know we had the tech to pull that sort of thing!”

“Impressive little gadget isn’t it?” Dazzler preened, and fluffed her hair with a prideful smile on her face. “You know, I helped develop it alongside a friend of mine. It’s based, somewhat, off my own ability to project holographic light, but applied to a person’s form.”

“It’s real impressive. “Morgan mused. “I spent a whole class with Kurt and didn’t notice a thing.”

“Yooo I spent an entire year with him and I didn’t notice either. That shit is *tight*,” Todd declared. He reached toward Kurt. “…can I try it on?”

Kurt bit his lip and smiled embarrassedly, turning the illusion back on, and stepping a pace backward.

“Um, no, sorry, its delicate….”

Todd made a face at the rejection, but didn’t push the issue further.

“Hey, no worry, right?” Greg said firmly, moving to interpose himself between Todd and Kurt.. “Thanks for showing it to us.”

Morgan shrugged her shoulders.

“Yeah. Thanks , Kurt. It was one hell of a demonstration.” She crossed her arms. “Who knows, maybe we’ll be schoolmates here at Xavier’s School For Extra Learning– and also mutants. We can hang out and practice our theater routine.”

Kurt laughed awkwardly. “Still trying to improve my acting? well, maybe….”

“I have to if I want a passing grade.” She purred “And if I want any chance of outdoing Kitty and Dorian  to get a good part in the big play, I’ve got to make sure we *bring down the house* up there on stage.”

“R-right,” Kurt nodded. “Um, I’ll try not to bring your grades down.”

Morgan put her hand on her hip.

“And try to have fun with it too. That’s like, half of improving right there, you know? enjoying yourself. I’ll watch your back out there on the stage. Mutants like us gotta stick together, right?”

“Yeah, solidarity, yo!” Todd piped up.

“Ah, yes,” Kurt smiled and nodded, leaning nervously against the wall.. “Solidarity.”

“Exactly. Solidarity.” Morgan grinned widely, putting a hand on her narrow hip. “I will admit, though, I’m a little jealous of that tail.”

“Jealous huh?” Kurt looked surprised, and embarrassed. “Um, that’s kind of you to say…”

“Gettin the sense you ain’t as jazzed about it, yo?” Todd asked, cocking his head.

Morgan rubbed her neck. ’I don’t feel this awkward with the others. I keep feeling like I’m making misstep after misstep here so far…not like last night.. ’ She could feel her mood start to take a dip downward.

“Heh….yeah. Me too.” She glanced off to the side.”Anyway.. It’s good to see you, Kurt….”

“Yes, ah, you too. So um, you’re thinking of enrolling, huh?”

“Have a recommendation for us?” Greg asked with a soothing smile. He’d interposed himself between Kurt and the rest of the group again.

“Well, ah, for me, it’s been wonderful, you know? Everyone here is very kind, and I have learned a lot.”

“Yeah, it seems like a real great place,” Morgan murmured, leaning on the hallway wall near Todd. “Seems like the teachers have a lot to teach, and all that.”

Todd leaned a bit toward her and shot her a sympathetic glance.

“Yeah really educational and all that, yo. Cool, cool.” He didn’t sound impressed, and his gaze kept flicking back to Kurt’s smartwatch.

“It is. Its a great place. Ah, if you’re at all interested you should really think about staying.” Kurt smiled, and glanced at Greg.

“Well I’m practically sold already,” Greg declared, “but I *do* want to see the rest of the tour. And I get the feeling we interrupted you, so..”

“Ah, yes, I should probably finish drying my hair,” Kurt admitted with a shy smile. “There’s… a lot of it.”

“Must be hell on the conditioner budget,” Morgan said with a halfhearted smile. She gave him a lazy salute. “See you around, Kurt. How about you show us an empty room, Razzle Dazzle?”

Alison beamed, listening to Greg for a moment.

“Oh good ! if you weren’t sold already, just wait till you see those rooms! Come on, follow me!” she clapped her hands again and sauntered down the hall.

Greg followed her doggedly, waving for the others to follow, but Todd took a moment, peeling himself off the wall and shrugged to Morgan.

“Yo some vibe, huh?”

“Yeah.” Morgan muttered as she and Todd followed Greg…at enough of a distance that they could whisper a bit. She rubbed her arm and sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t…i don’t know. I don’t think I’m making a great impression so far….maybe if I was wearing some brighter clothes or…acting a little bubblier, I dunno. Probably not even then.”

“I donno, yo, don’t seem like you’re doin’ anything wrong to me. This place is just kinda…… ” he looked like he was hesitating. Morgan glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, urging him to go on with a wave of her hand.He glanced at the hall and back to Morgan, making sure no one would hear, before admitting.  “…bougie. Like… kinda bougie as hell.”

“It’s…” Morgan muttered, “it’s *way* bougie….We grew up in an ancestral manor and even I’m sitting here thinking it’s a bit much.”

“Damn, yo,” he shook his head. “Feels like the kinda place they’d make me go in the back door.”

“Yeah,  I can’t blame you there.” Morgan agreed in a low voice. “…It’s…a lot. And the people seem nice, but I’m not getting the vibe that I’m…I don’t know..”

He leaned in toward her.

“Too much fun for these guys?” he suggested with a smile.

Morgan flushed, her cheeks darkening as she snickered under her breath, tucking her chin into her shoulders.

“…Yeah, exactly.”

“Guess we see where it goes, yo. I ain’t signed no contract yet, right?” He shrugged.

“Damn right.” Morgan murmured. “Even if Greg looks like he’s already got his hand on the pen.”


Dazzler showed off one of the empty rooms. It was even larger than Morgan’s at home, either in Red Oak, or the new house. It was big enough that dividing it between two people wasn’t likely to be any great hardship. Hell, it was basically set up as two seperate bedrooms, one on either side of the room, with a shared middle area with table and chairs. It was clear that having people double up wasn’t a question of space, but rather some kind of team-building thing.

Morgan took it in. It was–a lot. They were opulent, but kind of cozy, and plenty spacious. But she could only hope that if she joined up she’d get a decent roommate, or the whole thing would turn into the living space equivalent of the get-along shirt.

There was also the looming question of how or if roommates would be decided along gender –or rather, sex– lines, come to think of it.Morgan tensed  by the doorframe, her jaw tightening as the question she’d been avoiding came to mind.  How would they be decided along gender lines…

They’d probably stick me with a guy… ’ she thought despondently. ‘ Or with a girl who’d hate me once she found out.  Or just with Greg. Is it too much to ask for a fucking room of your own?’


Logan handed Kitty a bottle of water, as the two of them finished the latest round of their practice.Kitty took the bottle with a thankful bob of her head, and took a long sip.

“Think I’ll be able to beat you someday, sir?” she asked with a playful wink as she finished a long gulp of water.. “If I ever get that timing down, I mean.”

“Gettin’ better, kiddo,” he grunted with approval. “But you still gotta work on your timing. How’s that knee looking?”

She brushed her hand over her ripped pants.

“It’s alright. A little torn up, but it’s not deep. I’ll go down to the infirmary in a bit to get it disinfected.”

“You oughta, looks like it bled a lot,” he agreed, tipping back a long drink of his own water. “As for if you’ll ever beat me….. not on your life, kid.” He winked at her playfully.

Kitty pursed her lips

“You say that now, Logan, but you’re like…only getting older. Someday the student’s totally going to surpass the master.” She stretched out her knee with a little wince. “After I clean this up, of course. Gawd it stings.”

“Gettin’ older. Eh.” He snorted, and waved a hand. “Come on, let’s get you to that–”

Logan paused, and frowned, sniffing the air.

Kitty cocked her head , and tilted her head to the side with a puzzled look as she watched him.

“Are you okay, sir?”

He held up his hand to silence her, and then sniffed again. His frown deepened.

“Somebody’s on the compound.”

“Well yeah, Mr. Logan.” Kitty said, looking at him with confusion. “There’s a bunch of people on the compound, it’s a school. And there’s a tour going on.”

She stuck out her tongue, but he wasn’t paying attention to her. His jaw tightened, and so did his knuckles.

“Somebody who’s *not* supposed to be here. I got a good whiff of all those kids. And none of em was wearin’ leather an’ rubber.”

“Leather and rubber? Are you sure it’s a person you smell, sir?” Kitty asked carefully. “I mean, like, why would someone be sneaking into school dressed like that? Don’t you think you’re being a little…I don’t know…paranoid?”

“Paranoid?” He grunted. “I’ll tell you why someone would smell like leather and rubber– sneaking suit .”

He sniffed the air again and took a few paces forward, trying to orient on the smell.

Kitty laughed.

“Sneaking suit?? What is this? like, Metal Gear Solid??” She put her hands on her hips. “Why would anyone even try sneaking in here, anyway? We’ve got pretty ironclad defenses, don’t we? I know Magneto’s been quiet lately, so maybe it’s just, you know, gotten you all tense or something?”

He pointed at her aggressively.

“Sneaking suits have been infiltration gear since the CIA standardized them in the 60s. Hardly been updated either. I * know * that smell. And I * ain’t * paranoid, kid. I don’t know who’s behind it or why they’re sneakin around….. but I intend to find out.”

A trio of shining metal claws popped from the knuckles of each hand as he tensed them suddenly, making a soft, sharp sound.

“O-okay.” Kitty squeaked as the claws slid out. “I’ll uhm, hobble may way over to the infirmary! Have fun, sir!”

“If you see the prof– tell him I’m on a hunt ,”

Kitty watched as he sniffed the air one more time, then he off.


Kitty ran her hand through her hair with a soft sigh.

“Some guys do the weirdest things when they’re bored…”


While Morgan was brooding on the practicalities of sharing a dorm, Dazzler led them into the kitchen and lounge area. There a radio was playing classic rock oldies on low, and a couple of people were washing and drying dishes.

One of their number was a tall, broad shouldered man with chestnut brown hair close cut in a simple style around his ears, his chiseled face covered by a pair of red-tinted sunglasses that he wore despite being inside in the middle of the day.  He wore a brown blazer with a red and black X on the shoulders, and a pair of old acid washed jeans. He was currently scrubbing at a plate while taking to the woman beside him…it seemed he was discussing a lesson plan.

“I know they aren’t fans of physics, but I think we can probably convince them if you show them how it can *specifically* be used to help them control their abilities.” he was saying, as he put the dish to the side. “Even Bobby might listen.”

“We’ll just have to make sure we get them excited about it,” the other figure agreed. She was a tall, willowy redhead, wearing a green sweater and hip hugging khaki capris as she dryed dishes.

Wow, looks like we found the life of the party ,’ Morgan thought despondently. ‘ More teachers, I’d bet.’

“You know, I was thinking about that, Jean and–”

“Hellooooooo Scottie, Jean, darling,” Dazzler cooed as she drifted into the room and put her arm around each of their shoulders. “Missed me?”

“Oh, ah, hi, Allison,” the redhead– Jean, turned slightly, and smiled. “Come to help us with the dishes?”

“Oh you know I’d be delighted to spend time with the two of you,” she cooed. “No matter the task , but alas…I’m leading a tour group. Mind saying hello to our three newest hopefuls?”

‘Scottie’, the man in the blazer and shades glanced over his shoulder “…well damn, looks like we lost track of time”

Morgan rubbed her arm, feeling a little awkward, and not just due to the obvious flirtation happening. She glanced sidelong at Greg to try and gauge his reaction.

Greg still looked interested, if not outright excited to be there. He gave a little wave.

“Don’t get tour groups very often?” Greg asked.

“Fewer and further between than we’d like.” Scott told them, grabbing a towel to dry off his hands. “The institute’s not as big as we’d like yet, but we have a few students. We had a few alumni a few years ago in the same class as Jean and I too, but they’ve graduated and gone off on pursuits of their own…science, charity, development and the like… But we’re always looking for new students.”

Dazzler beamed, her arm still around the both of them.

“Things have been looking up the last few years though! isn’t that *exciting?* Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is the place to be ”.

“It is. Like Scott said, we’re looking to expand,” Jean explained with a smile. “And you three are thinking of joining us?”

“Ororo invited us.” Greg nodded.


Todd leaned on the doorway for a minute, listening boredly, and then went over and surreptitiously peaked in the fridge while everyone was talking.

He was caught immediately.

“Looking for a soda, kid?” Scott asked, glancing his way through red tinted glasses.

Todd grinned back at Scott and shrugged. “S’a tour, right, yo? I wanna see how ya’ll feed your peeps.”

“Well we got a deep freezer and a temperature controlled pantry if you want to find the good stuff.” He walked over, and gestured. “We keep the drinks and some snacks in the fridge here, though. Feel free to  grab a drink.”

“Hey thanks, yo,” Todd grinned and snatched one, looking over. “Either you want somethin’?”

He turned back to where Greg and Morgan had been chatting with Jean and Dazzler.


Morgan smiled, nodding along with Greg as he explained how they’d been introduced to the Institute by others at school.

“Piotr too,” she said. “Lots of people uh, thought we might be a good fit, I guess.”

“And so far I’d say you absolutely could be!” Dazzler clapped her hands together excitedly. “Don’t they just look like student body material, Jean? I know I’d love to teach them!”

“You’re never short on enthusiasm, are you, Allison?” Jean chuckled. “But I happen to agree with you. I think they’d all fit in great here.”

“In my line of work, Enthusiasm is what gets you anywhere .” She winked, and looked up at Greg “Jean here’s one of the professor’s favorite former students, you know.”

Morgan raised her eyebrow in curiosity.

“huh, yeah?”

From across the room, by the refrigerator Todd called out– “Either you want somethin’?”

Greg waved a hand, not even looking up at him.

“I’m fine. …. thanks.” he looked over at Jean. “Former student huh? How long have you guys been here? Like, the school. And you specifically I guess.”

“I’ll take one!” Morgan held up a hand.

“The school’s been here a while,” Scott walked back over, explaining,”The first students started about 10 years ago, but before that…Professor Xavier was studying the science behind mutation, and doing what he could to help those of us he found. Jean and I , we went to school here about five years ago now. And while I wouldn’t say we were the Professor’s *favorite students*”

“He’d be lying.” Dazzler laughed, waving her hand.”because yeah, they were.”

Jean laughed. “Oh come on, it wasn’t quite like that…. Well… maybe a little.”

“Is that why you stayed here to teach?” Greg asked.

“That’s right.” Scott chuckled.

Scott continued to talk as Todd looked like he was about to toss the soda to Morgan, but thought better of it, and walked it over instead.

“Cheers, yo.”

Morgan grabbed the soda and raised it to Todd with a half smile.

“Cheers. You’re just in time to hear about Scott and Jean’s old school days.”

“Oh boy,” Todd murmured with a smirk, cracking his soda.

Scott kept talking.

“Couldn’t bring myself to leave the place at the end of my lessons, you know? I got my car here. I got my friends. I got a purpose. I wanted to help give that to a whole new generation of kids like us who needed that kind of helping hand.”

“Sounds like you really found a place to belong,” Greg said, looking pensive.

“That’s exactly in,” Jean agreed. “The Institute is our place to belong. And maybe it can be for you too.”

Scott nodded, leaning back on the soapy counter.

“Exactly. A place to belong is exactly the kind of thing people like us need, you know? The world can be really hard for Mutants.”

“Yeah. Trust me, I know.” Morgan murmured, as she caught up with the conversation.  “They practically broke out the torches and pitchforks back home when people found out.”

“Yeah… unfortunately it got ugly….” Greg nodded and sighed.. “Partly my fault I guess, but…. well, now we’re here.”

“You did shoot shadows at people while screaming at them, Greg.” Morgan muttered, unable to keep a bit of the accusation out of her voice. “And I may have …lost control a bit too.”

Scott hissed through his teeth, grimacing at the description of the incident.

“Yeah, that…unfortunately will draw some negative attention, especially when people are already looking for a reason to hate us.” He gestured towards them. “But one of the main things we teach here is hot to hone and control your abilities…so accidents like that don’t happen.”

Greg rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Yeah, I guess I kinda need that,” he admitted. “Its not, uh, like I could really look up a guide online.”

“I mean, I seen vids like that shit yo,” Todd piped up between sips of soda.”But mostly they seem pretty much like bullshit fake meditation stuff.”

“Well, meditation IS one strategy to help develop a clear and controlled mind,” Jean pointed out with a smile. “But it’s certainly not the *only* one, or the best in every circumstance.”

Morgan took a long sip of her own drink, almost as thoughtful as her brother.

“I guess I can see the appeal. But I tend to prefer doing something active to solve my problems.”

“There’s always working out.” Scott suggested with a chuckle. “We have good training fields…and a facility a little further in. And if that isn’t your thing, we have a vehicle bay. I used to relax by working on Scarlet.”

“Scarlet’s his favorite car in the vehicle bay.” Dazzler stage-whispered to them. “He’s a little very fond of it.”

“Vehicle bay?” Greg grinned. “And you work on the cars there? That’s pretty cool.”

“Looks like you found a car buddy, Scott,” Jean said.

“It’s about time.” Scott agreed. “Now I really hope you join up. I could show you around the bay sometime.”

Morgan glanced at Todd out of the corner of her eye, sipping her soda. He returned her glance with a little shrug and stared off into space.. This was clearly not the conversation for him. Morgan looked up at Scott.

“Careful, keep it up and the smile might get stuck on Greg’s face. My bro isn’t used to smiling so long,” she teased dryly.

“What? I smile!” he insisted, snorting. “I’m smiling now!… “It just sounds cool…”

“Well, I’m glad you think so!” Jean said. “Hey, Scott, why don’t you help me with these last couple dishes and then you * can * show them the bay? As long as Allison doesn’t mind.”

“Oh not at all~” Alison cooed. “It’s not *that* much of a deteor.”

Scott flashed her a thumbs up, his shades glinting under the kitchen lamp.

“Why not. I could show them the good stuff.”

“We’d love that!” Greg declared. So much for the rest of them skipping out on it.

“Alright, then, Scott let’s finish up before–whoops!” a soapy glass slipped out of Jean’s hand suddenly and smashed on the sink.

“Oh geeze!! Watch out, Ms. Grey!”  Morgan jumped, fumbling her soda at the sudden and sharp sound. Todd carefully caught it before it dropped fully out of her hands.

“Crap, Jean, let me help you with that okay?” Scott winced, moving toward her.

“Whoops,” Jeanrepeated with a little ouch. “Well that’s a lesson in being more careful there. It’s okay, Scott, it’s just a scratch.”

Bright red blood welled up out of her palm. The copper smell was suddenly heavy in Morgan’s nose.

Morgan’s fingers went limp around the bottle, that Todd was offering back to her. She sucked  in short and shallow breaths of that omnipresent copper smell. Even with the scent of soap, soda and Dazzler’s strong perfume in the air…all she could smell was the blood.

Her vision pulsed, blackening at the edges as she tunnel visioned on the flowing red blood on Jean’s palm. She felt weak, bone-tired…and she staggered back only for her legs to give, sending her falling in a near faint backwards.

Greg wasn’t close enough– or aware enough of what was happening, until it was too late, to catch her. Todd however fumbled with the soda and dropped *it* on the floor, just in time to catch Morgan as she fell.


Morgan slumped in his arms, taking a few deep breaths despite the way her head spun

“…..guh…saving me again, huh Leapfrog?” she murmured dizzilly, her eyes fluttering and half closed. “…I don’t’ feel so good.”

“Yo… uh….. I don’t think she’s okay,” Todd said, looking up at the others, his eyes wide.


Up in the complex network of vents in the School for Gifted Youngsters a figure in grey camo  lurked in the shadows behind a small blower, lying prone and careful as they crawled delicately towards the illuminated slats to get a view of the room inside.The room was a large laboratory and medical office, where a couple of women were chatting. One of them was a slim and tall blond in a white pantsuit, seated sideways in a rolling chair. The other was Ororo.

“Three of them in the tour group hm? That’s unusually large.”

“They’re a set of twins.” Ororo was musing, leaning by a currently spinning centrifuge. “Both of them mutants. The other is a boy we’ve invited in the past. He had declined…but something seems to have changed his mind.”

“Huh,” Emma frowned. “One of the ones from the local high school? Well, whatever it was, it’s probably a good thing, given…..”

“yes..” Ororo said, brushing a lock of pale white hair over her ear with a pensive frown on her face. “…given the Hellfire club’s recent activities…”

The figure in the vents had already hit record on the microphone in their suit, and unhooked a small camera from their belt to aim down into the lab.

“Yes….” Emma agreed with a frown. “The way they’ve stepped up their recruitment is becoming a problem.”

“I don’t know how they’re finding young mutants before the professor,” Ororo said with concern, her brow knitting as she thought it through. “…but the implications of all this will certainly keep me up at night. …I have to wonder why they need so many of us.”

The centrifuge stopped beside her, and she ducked down to check the contents before looking back at Emma.

“Speaking from experience, I doubt its for anything we’ll look forward to,” Emma mused. “Though it may technically count as a party.”

“…..I was worried that you may say that.”  She shook her head and sighed, her tousled mane of pale hair cascading over her shoulders. “…we just have to step up our recruitment efforts and protect as many people as we can from their reach.”

The figure in the vent waited until they were looking away and then slowly attempted to inch closer to the slats, aiming a small pen-like object at the metal. Once they were sure they weren’t looking, they activated it and a small red light began cutting through the metal at a steady and persistent pace.

“Yes, we’ll–” Emma paused, and turned. “Hmmmm….”

The figure turned the device off as soon as Emma turned, and pressed low in the vent– quiet as a mouse as they gazed at Emma through impassive lenses. Emma looked slowly across the room, and seemed, for a moment, to be zeroing in on the figure.

That was the exact moment the door flew open and snapped her concentration.


“You can help her to one of the cots, Greg,” Jean instructed, striding into the room ahead of the group. Todd was following Greg as closely as he dared, as Greg half-carried Morgan to the cot.

The figure took one last parting snapshot of Emma Frost’s face in profile, and crept backwards into the shadows. Dazzler rushed into the room behind them, a nervous smile on her face.

“Hey there, Emma darling, same it’s not a peppier introduction but ah, here’s our tour group!”

“What has happened here?” Ororo’s hand covered her mouth, and she looked at the  nearly unconscious girl being hurried into the lab with sympathy.

“One of our guests is feeling faint,” Jean explained. “Morgan…”

“Sorry,” Morgan murmured, shielding her eyes from the light “I’ve felt like shi–I’ve felt terrible all morning, but I didn’t want to get in the way of Greg’s big tour.”

She tried to sit up  more in Greg’s arms, but the spinning in her head made her feel ill again, and she swallowed down a sting of bile.

“Put her down on the cot. ” Ororo said gently. “Ms. Frost will take a look at her”

Greg gently eased her down on the cot, and carefully put the pillow under her head.

“Yeah…. ” he turned to Emma. “Are you a doctor?”

“I’ve studied medicine,” she shrugged. “Allow me.”

She stepped toward Morgan.

“She’s capable.” Ororo promised quietly, glancing at Greg. “Is this the first time you’ve seen her like this?”

Morgan stirred on the cot, and looked over at Emma with half closed eyes.

“…who’re you?”

“My name is Emma Frost,” she explained. “I’m a teacher at this school, and I’m going to shine a light in your eyes.”

She did so, watching her pupils. Morgan did her best to keep her eyes open, following the light.

“At least you warned me; thanks, teach.”

“My pleasure,” she said, snapping the little light off. “Well, no concussion. When was the last time you ate?”

She leaned in and pressed her fingers to Morgan’s neck to check her pulse.

“I had a soda…and a bit for breakfast. But I’ve been feeling kind of sick to my stomach all day…like , even if I was hungry, everything just makes me feel like I’m gonna be sick.”

“Hmmm… you might be a little anemic,” Emma suggested. “Ororo, can you get some juice?”

Ororo stood, and nodded firmly.

“I would be happy to.” without another word she drifted out the door and towards the kitchen.

Emma turned back to Morgan.

“You don’t have a history of diabetes do you?”

“No she doesn’t,” Greg answered for her.

“I asked Morgan, dear,” Emma said, firmly.

Morgan laughed weakly.  She gave Emma a thankful smile at cutting in over Greg.

“Anemic, huh? Oh boy.” She reached up to pinch between her eyes, taking a deep breath. “Not that I know of…but uh, my body chemistry’s probably gotten all kinds of fucked up since …you know…I mutated.”

“Yes, that’s unsurprising,” Emma nodded. “I would suspect that your body is now not getting enough of some chemical that it needs. Honestly, I’d recommend a full blood panel. It can be done here, of course.”

“Damn, yo,” Todd muttered. “Whole in-house hospital.”

Emma looked over her shoulder at Todd.

“It’s sometimes necessary. Hospitals are not always able to provide the kind of care that one of us needs.”

“Not only that.” Dazzler cut in, leaning on one of the counters. “For some of us, hospitals aren’t even an option. So… we try to provide the right kinda care for the job.”  She gestured to the room.

Morgan pressed her hand to her head, nodding slowly.

“…Full blood panel, huh? maybe…might..not be a bad idea , I guess. I just wonder why it took so long to hit…I haven’t really changed how I’ve been eating.”

“You moved, recently, isn’t that correct?” Emma asked. “It could be related to something as subtle as a change in schedule or environment. Or perhaps you’ve been exerting yourself more often?”

Emma’s icy blue gaze seemed to stare straight through Morgan as she leveled the last suggestion. Morgan shrank back from the stare.

She can’t possibly know about that, right? ’ she thought, a nervous smile crossing her face as yesterday’s incident at Calamity flashed through her mind . ‘ I wish she’d stop staring at me like that, it’s giving me chills.’

“Not really,” she lied with a shake of her head, brushing her hair over her ear, “…maybe a little bit , like when I showed Piotr and when I fell off a fence but…”

“Mmm,” Emma nodded  without any particular agreement or challenge in her tone. “In any case, I’m going to give you a multivitamin when Ororo gets back, and we’ll see if that helps. How are you feeling now?”

“I guess a little better.” Morgan muttered, finally averting her eyes away from the woman’s icy stare. ‘She seems like a cool lady…can’t shake the feeling that she sees right through me, though…’ She continued, aloud, “Like, I think I could stand if I tried.”

Dazzler  walked over to her and clapped her hands together.

“Oh goodie…do you think you can finish the tour or would you like an escort home?”

Greg gave Morgan a concerned look.

“We can go home if you’re not feeling well, Morgan…”

“I’m fine…I am.” Morgan insisted. She sat up, and attempted to fix her hair. “I’m not ruining this for you…or for me, I’m gonna push on.”

Ororo came back into the room with a glass of orange juice in her hand.

“Here, drink this.” she said as she handed the glass to Morgan. “It should help you. But you really should eat something soon.”

Emma turned and fetched a jar from a nearby shelf and proffered her a large capsule.

“And take this.”

“Yo, you *sure* you okay, Morg? No shame in callin it early….”Todd frowned, seeming almost as concerned as Greg.

Morgan took the capsule, and placed it on her tongue. With a nod of affirmation, she sipped orange juice to swallow the multivitamin before finishing off the rest of the glass.

“No,” she declared, flashing them a fanged smile. “I’m alright. I’m gonna push on, alright? It’ll be okay.”

Jean, who had been watching with worry from the edge of the room, smiled.

“Have fun, but remember to take it easy– Scott, don’t make them run laps around the vehicle bay or anything like that.”

“I’ll make sure she has a permission slip to skip gym today,” Scott promised with a smirk. “Don’t worry. We’ll take it easy.”

Dazzler sighed with relief.

“Oh good… but we’ll keep an eye on her, Scott, alright?”

“Thanks everyone. Sorry to put a damper on the tour. You have a lovely facility.” Morgan shifted to try and stand, holding her hand up for someone to help her.

Todd looked like he might have been about to take her hand– before her brother swooped in and did so first.

“Easy does it, sis,” Greg said, helping her to stand up.

“I’m pleased it meets your standards, Miss Morgan,” Emma said. “Enjoy the rest of your tour. All of you.”

Morgan nodded slowly, standing with the help of her brother.

“Thanks bro, I appreciate it.” She dusted herself off, and stretched, “And thanks to you too, Miss Frost. Hoping to get to know you better sometime. You seem like a pretty interesting lady.”

“Pretty and interesting.” Dazzler piped up. “You’re right on both counts.”

“Flatterer,” Emma purred. “In any case, I won’t keep you any longer.

Meet Scarlet

Scott led the three students back down to the first floor and down a sloping hallway toward a round metal door with a cross marking etched into it.

“Yo, that’s fancy,” Todd observed, raising his eyebrows as they approached.

He was at the back of the group at this point, as Greg stayed cautiously near his sister. Morgan walked moving a little slower and more cautiously now that she nearly passed out. Still, she was feeling a little better, and was confident that she could make it to the end of the tour. She followed Scott as they made their way through the hall, before she asked.

“So is that the vehicle bay?”

“That’s right,” Scott nodded. “The facility may look fairly old from the outside, but we’re state of the art…from the doors to the lab.”

“It’s impressive,” Greg said, hovering near his Morgan– probably in case he needed to catch her. It was obvious he wasn’t going to let Todd be the one to do that again. “Kinda sci-fi.”

As they approached the door, it hissed open and rolled aside into the wall.

“I mean kinda more than kinda , yo,” Todd shrugged, watching as the door vanished, allowing them entry.

“Just wait till you see the jet.” Scott brushed his hand through the short locks of his hair with a wide smile. “She’s our pride and joy.”

“A jet ?” Morgan said incredulously

Scott glanced over at her with a nod , and walked into the room while waving for them to follow. As Morgan stepped into the room, it became clear just how sprawling this part of the complex was. It was a large, open room of grey steel and metal floors with a number of designated parking areas inside. Alongside each parking spot was a diagnostic computer, and in the back corner Morgan could see a workshop that held the various tools needed for car repair.

There were a lot of cars. From a bright red convertible sports car to something that looked like an armored APC with 8 wheels and a reinforced windshield–they had cars of every shape and size– and far to one side there was a large door in the back marked “X-Jet”.

“Damn, yo, is that an armored car?” Todd demanded, looking around stunned.

“This shit is downright paramilitary.” Morgan murmured as she stared at the APC. Right across from it was what looked like a four person jeep with reinforced tires. Some feet were sticking out from under it.

Greg’s smile broadened and he glanced at Scott.

“Oh wow. You weren’t kidding. This is a hell of a set up.”

“Isn’t it?” Scott said proudly “we’ve been building up the fleet for a while now…adding to it with innovations as time goes on.”

He pointed to Todd “Right on the money, kiddo. Armored car. We’ve also got one that’s designed to drive through magma, if need be , with heat resistant plating.”

Todd whistled at the description. “Yo that’s some schoolbus ya got, Scottie.”

Greg finally left Morgan’s side– with a glance to make sure she was okay– and wandered around the bay a little bit, looking at the cars. “It’s a hell of a collection is what it is.”

He nearly tripped over the feet that were sticking out. “Oh! Sorry, uh….”

The pair of feet resolved itself to be none other than Bobby Drake, as he pushed himself out from under the car. He was wearing a white tank top, stained here and there with grease, and had a wrench in his hand as he looked up with a surprised gasp

“Well *hot damn*” he grinned “Greggy!”

“Bobby! You’re here too, huh? Should have figured,” he chuckled slightly, tearing his eyes away from Bobby’s chest.

A few paces away, Scott was still talking to, or more accurately at, Todd and Morgan. He hadn’t noticed that Greg had nearly landed on top of Bobby.

“You’d be surprised how often that sort of thing comes in handy.” Scott said “I can show you around if you’d like. Why don’t you come see Scarlet with me?”

“…the…convertible?” Morgan asked.

“Scarlet?” Todd asked. “Oh right ya named your car.”

“That’s right.” Scott said, walking to the convertible and placing his hand on the hood with a proud smile “I’ve been working on her since high school. She’s got…” he began launching into a long explanation of the various upgrades he gave to Scarlet , as Morgan looked on with an increasingly bored expression.

Greg was having a more engaging conversation, meanwhile.

Bobby had grinned broadly, wiping some grease off his face with a rag as he sat up, and answered Greg’s question.

“Yep, Been here a year or so now. I’m glad Ororo convinced you to come on by though! I knew she’d be interested in talkin’ to you.”

“Guess you were right.That means you must have seen me uh…. yeah.  Well hey, its nice to see you.”

“Yeah, I saw you smokin’ in the hall.” Bobby grinned. “or something like that.” He offered his hand to Greg with a wink “help a guy up?”

‘I really need to get better at this whole stealth thing…’ Greg bemoaned internally.He leaned down and grabbed Bobby’s hand, helping pull him up.

“No prob. Sorry for interrupting your car time.”

“Hey don’t worry about it. I got time for you, man. I’m real glad to see you he..” As Greg helped him to his feet, he suddenly winced, and his free hand went to his stomach as he made a sharp sound of pain. “Fuck.”

Greg looked at where Bobby was holding himself. Blood was starting to stain his tanktop

“Dammit. shouldn’t have twisted like that,”  Bobby muttered to himself as he pressed tight on the wound.

“Hey, are you okay, man?” His eyes widened at the red tinged his tank top. This close, Greg could smell it, and he felt a sudden wave of vertigo.

Bobby nodded, hissing through his teeth as he stemmed it with the cloth of the tank top.

“There’s a first aid kit on the wall. You uh, wanna grab that for me?” he murmured. “It’s not…it’s not as bad as it looks. Just tore a stitch a little open. Heh.”

Greg swallowed, and mastered the dizzy spell. “Yeah, I got it,” he said, going for it.”

Across the garage, Todd was fighting the urge to lean on Scott’s car as he droned on about it.

“And that’s why I installed the new exhaust system. Ever since then the acceleration’s been great, ” Scott explained. At length..

Morgan’s dull haze through the droning car lecture was broken as she smelled the sudden coppery scent of blood from across the room. Her head spun as she took a dizzy step away from the car and tried to fight it down.

“R-real cool man. Real cool” she said in a wobbly voice.

Todd, who had been fussing with the burnt ends of his hair instead of listening to Scott, noticed Morgan wobble immediately and put a hand on her back.

“Yo, uh, you wanna like, take a seat?”

She nodded slowly.

“Yeah uh, that might be for the best.” She eased gently down and sat on the hood of Scott’s car.

“I just waxed that…”  Scott winced. But his teacher’s instincts and compassion won out over his love for his car, and he stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder. “Feeling dizzy again, Miss Connelly?”

“Yeah , I am,” she murmured. “Probably still ‘anemic’ or whatever.”

Todd, lingering near Scott mumbled, “you know you supposed to like it when a pretty girl sits on ya car, right, yo?”

“She’s a prospective student…and it was a fresh wax.” Scott said, running his hand through his hair “…but you have a point. Regardless, rest a moment, Miss Connelly. Take deep breaths.”

Morgan took a few deep breaths, nodding as she glanced over in the direction of the smell of blood, and saw Bobby.

“…I think that kid’s hurt..”

Bobby was clutching his stomach, grimacing quietly to himself as Greg came back with the first aid kit. He glanced up and gave him a thankful grin.

Todd too, turned to look.

“Oh yeah, shit I think he’s bleedin’ yo. How the hell that happen?”

Morgan swallowed “He’s bleeding a lot.”

“Well..” Scott said “It’s like this…”  As he began explaining , Greg managed to get the kit opened much to Bobby’s relief.

Greg had returned with the first aid kit, hastily opening it.

Bobby took out some gauze and began stemming the flow of blood.

“Sorry about that , man. I was downed at practice in the Danger Room and I got…you know, nicked pretty bad. It was healing up alright, but I wasn’t supposed to make any sudden moves.”

“Danger room, huh?” Greg asked, helping him with the gauze as he struggled with the smell of the blood.. “Is that like, a training room?”

“Yeah, we got a AR/physical hybrid training area to run through different scenarios and stuff to help us …like…train and learn to use our powers in a fairly safe way. Just, you know, I wasn’t careful and I made a dumb move and bam,next thing I know I’m knocked across the room with a little wound on my side.’

“That;s intense, man,” he said, fighting down a little more dizziness as he helped with the wound. ‘ I guess that’s where the scars came from ’, he thought to himself.

Bobby pulled up his shirt, and sure enough, there was a long cut from his side, curling towards his stomach, near his abdominal muscles.

He began wrapping bandages over himself to hold the gauze in place “yeah it’s pretty intense, but worth it. I’m just glad I had my ice on, you know? Blocked a lotta the impact.”

From across the carport they heard Morgan shout.


Todd blinked at Scott, and kind of squinted at him.

“So uh, you’re tellin me you have a room. That’s just… full of * danger * Like… intentionally?”

Scott held his hands up.

“it’s the nickname for the room, kid. It’s not full of danger ,” He paused. “It’s perfectly safe. But nobody wants to train in the Safety Room.”

“I mean, it’s perfectly safe, sure sure sure, but Bobby over there’s got a fucking gash in his side.” Morgan huffed. “Doesn’t seem that safe to me.”

“Yeah, an’ Dazzler didn’t want us to call it the Murder Mansion,” Todd snorted. “Not sure about *that*, yo.”

Morgan laughed weakly.

“I’m just..you know…why do you guys even need something like that?”

The teacher rubbed the back of his neck.

“Because we need to learn how to control our abilities…and not just that, we need to know how to defend ourselves. This world isn’t kind to mutants like us, you two must know that as much as anyone.”

“…” Morgan looked away with a slight nod.

“I thought so.” Scott continued. “…It may seem excessive, but it’s true. From people persecuting us to other mutants with unpredictable power or malevolent intent…it’s important that we learn to deal with that sort of thing. And the Danger Room does just that. It helps push us to do our best and learn how to survive in a world that often feels to be against us. At least until peace can be achieved.”

“Guess that explains why everybody who goes here has killer abs, yo,” Todd observed with a shrug..

Morgan grimaced from atop the car.

“…I see the point for it I guess, but damn.”

Todd nodded. “yeah, uh, didn’t expect that shit, yo,” he chuckled. “Though that AR thing sounds cool as hell.”

“Sure does.” Morgan agreed, still looking pretty dubious about the whole thing. “Wild.”

From across the garage, Greg called to them.

“Hey, Scott, do we get to see the Danger Room?”

“Sure thing!” Scott called back. “It’s part of the tour. We’ll take you there after your sister’s dizzy spell passes.”

Bobby flashed a thumbs up to Greg.

“Enjoy. Maybe you’ll get a demonstration.” He lowered his shirt over his killer abs and punched Greg on the shoulder. “Maybe we can train up in there sometime dude.”

“I’d love that,” Greg nodded to Bobby. “You all good for now?”

“I’m all good, man. I hope you enjoy the tour and join up. I’d * love * to hang with you more.

Greg returned the a thumbs up.

“Hey, its a plan.” He lowered his voice a little. “Between you and me, I’m pretty sold.”

“Oh man,” Bobby whispered back, tossing a bottle of painkillers in his hand. “Yeah? that’s awesome! We’d love to have you and your sis around.”

“I donno if she’s as convinced as I am, but I’m sure she’ll come around,” he said. “But yeah, this place seems awesome. Even if you might pick up a few scrapes here and there.”

“Eh, it’s worth it.” Bobby leaned on the jeep behind him. “A few scrapes vs having a place to be…people who understand…and the training we need to like, not be a danger to ourselves and others?  Scales tip towards the Xavier School for me, at least.”

“That’s definitely the way I’m seeing it,” Greg agreed. “Plus, everyone here seems pretty cool.”

“Gotta agree with you there.” Bobby said. He winced a little reaching for a waterbottle he’d left on the car. “The teachers are real great. and all us students are pretty solid friends. Mostly. there’s one guy but I dunno if he’s coming back.”

“Yeah?” he cocked his head. “I might have heard something about that.”

“Yeah. Dorian. We were pretty close uh..friends..” Bobby murmured. “…but we had a fight and we haven’t seen him all summer.”

“That really sucks,” Greg said consolingly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Maybe he’ll come back I guess? But uh, yeah, you can pretty much count on me being here.”

“Nice.” Bobby’s frown turned into a smile, as he gulped down some pills. “Now uh, maybe you should hurry on, your sister’s started to look kinda frustrated.”

Indeed, Morgan was quiet, her arms crossed as she looked down at the floor.

Greg made a face.

“Damn I thought we were waiting on * her *. Alright. See ya later!” Greg jogged over to the others. “Ready to go?”

Morgan looked up at him. To her credit, he knew Morgan’s moods. What Bobby read as frustrated was something else. Morgan was deep in thought and on the edge of moody. Something was probably bothering her. Still, she nodded.

“Yeah. My dizzy spell’s pretty much stopped. Let’s go.” She slipped gently off the car to her feet.

Scott took a moment to quietly try buffing the spot out with a nearby rag.

“I’ll meet you guys out there, alright?”


A few minutes later, there was another pair of footsteps in the vehicle bay. Logan quietly sniffed the air.

“You pop a stitch again, Bobby?” he growled.

Bobby looked up from where he was pinning the rest of his bandages and nodded.

“Yeah. Sure did sir. Smelt it a mile away , didn’t you?”

“Blood’s almost always the top note,” he agreed. “Take better care of yourself kid. — who else was in here just now?”

“You know I try, Mr. Logan. “I just got careless. Twisted wrong when a friend helped me up.” He stuck his hands in his pockets “…But uh, it was Scott and the tour group. Morgan and Greg and Toadie.”

“Uhuh. And you didn’t see anyone else?” he sniffed again, pacing around the garage.

Bobby looked around, frowning.

“I mean, I was under a car most of it, so no? Is..uh…there someone else taking the tour today, sir?”

“Not officially,” he growled. “That’s why I’m sniffing ’em out.”

Bobby’s eyes widened.

“You…you think someone’s gone and snuck into the mansion? What…like …a break in or some kinda spy kids bullshit?”

Logan grunted and paused.

“Pretty much, yeah. But the movie’s gonna go up to an R rating when I find ’em.”

“Uhhhhhh.” Bobby rubbed the back of his neck. “Well shit. i’ll get the mop and bucket.”

From the shadows of the arching rooftop, a figure took the last of several snapshots of the vehicle bay. They paused, briefly upon hearing the exchange–before they started sneaking back towards the vent system.


There was a fancy lock on the door to the danger-room. It seemed it needed a recognized palm-print to enter.  When Scott put his hand on it, a robotic voice spoke.

“Training Session currently in progress. Session will terminate in approximately 5 minute and 25 seconds.”

“Looks like someone’s busy in there. Why don’t we go up to the observation room to watch, and *then* we’ll tour the inside?” Scott said “Might be fun to see , huh?”

“You know what” Morgan said “yeah, why the fuck not.”

“Sweet.” Greg grinned excitedly. “Lead the way, Scott.”

“Yo, I am pretty curious…,” Todd admitted. ‘Probably safer to see it second hand, to’ , he thought, as he shared a glance with Morgan.

Morgan gave Todd a weak smile in silent agreement, before they followed Scott into a nearby door that led to an elevator.

Stepping inside, the doors closed behind the group and brought them up and into a large circular room with bay windows all along the front curve, as well as several computer banks.

And below, through the windows, there was a scene of chaos. It looked like a burned out city, crushed cars and broken buildings littering the streets of what was once a bustling metropolis–in theory. Fire hydrants lay snapped, water spraying in the air, even gas lines ruptured, spraying flame as sparks from wires caught the escaping gas…

And in the center of it all, a man covered in steel plates faced down a  man in a great, billowing red and purple cape, dressed from head to toe in metal armor and a knightlike helm that cast his face in shadow. His hands raised, and steel girders raised alongside him, floating in thin air before with a flick of his hand, they shot towards the figure Morgan knew as Piotr at with deadly speed and accuracy.

“Hot damn, yo,” Todd exclaimed, hopping into one of the chairs in front of the control panel and windows. “That’s in a room ? That’s like some next level shit.”

“You’re not wrong,” Greg mumbled, watching. “Looks like a movie.”

Morgan stared out the window, leaning on the console bank with a look of quiet, shocked wonder

“Holy fuck…this…this is insane. I didn’t think there even *was* this kind of tech…” She paused. “who…who’s he fighting?”

“That’s Magneto,” Scott explained. “Or…a projection of him by the room, with the room’s physical mechanics giving him physical feedback. It’s a wonder of technology isn’t it?”

“Man yo, imagine using this shit for Pokemon GO,” Todd said with a note of awe.

“Who’s Magneto?” Greg asked, his gaze fixed on the action. “Some boss character for the sim?”

The girders slammed on either side of Piotr down below, and twisted inwards in the attempt to crush him.

“Maybe I’d actually play Pokemon GO if it was like this …” Morgan muttered “…but yeah..who’s Magneto?”

Scott grimaced as he pushed his glasses up firmly on his face.

“…Magneto’s …an old friend of the Professor’s. They used to work together in the past, but…things…changed. He’s a mutant too, but he doesn’t believe that humans and mutants can ever find peace and common ground.”

“Yo, if he a friend I’d hate to see an enemy. He usually throwin’ around girders or is that a uh- embellishment?” Todd asked with a grimace.

They watched as Piotr took his metallic form just long enough to rip one of the girders in half, throw it at Magneto, and change back.Magneto stopped the girder with a wave of his hand, and lifted three of the cars in the attempt to catch Piotr in a pincer.

Scott nodded.

“That’s something he can do, yeah.Trust me. It’s not fun to face off against. He’s…one of the most powerful mutants we know, aside from the Professor.” He glanced off to the side “…and Jean.”

“So you’ve like, had fights like this, is what I’m hearin’,” Todd mumbled, watching as the battle played out below.

“We have.” Scott said, shaking his head “a few times. But it’s not something the students have to deal with typically.”

“Sounds like a tough customer,” Greg mused. “ButJean, huh? The one we met earlier? What’s she do?”

He glanced over at Greg.

“Jean’s a telepath, just like the Professor. They’re both incredibly powerful, too. Mind reading, telepathy, telekinesis, bubbles of force protection…they’re real versatile.”

“Wow, uh, remind me not to piss Mom Jeans off.” Morgan said absentmindedly, her brow furrowing as she watched the fight.

“Yeeeah,” Todd agreed, nodding at Morgan as he fidgeted in the chair.

The simulated Magneto had Piotr pinned under a girder, as the robotic voice announced:  “Simulation complete.”

Morgan watched as the AR simulation flickered to a halt almost instantly, the machinery shut down. Magneto vanished, as did the city, leaving a large dome of a room filled with jutting hexagons that slowly began retreating back into their proper place, floors and texture dropping away until it was just a big empty room once more.

“Huh.” Morgan whispered. “You guys really do train for war, huh?”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Scott answered. “We train to defend ourselves in case the worst should happen.”

“It’s intense,” Greg agreed. “But it seems like kind of a practical concern….”

“Practical, yeah.” Todd looked a little pale.

Morgan ran her hand through her hair, looking out at the Danger Room, shut down and safe now.

“Is this Magneto guy really that bad?” she asked. “that you gotta like…have combat scenarios specifically about fighting him?”

“I mean, if he was friends with the Professor I’d imagine he’s in the program because his capabilities are a known quantity, if nothing else?” Greg shrugged, looking at Scott for confirmation.

Scott nodded to him.

“That’s one factor, yeah. We know his capabilities well enough that we can properly replicate them in a scenario. We’ve got programs of ourselves in there too, for the same reason.”

“Hm. Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”

Morgan still had that look, the one Greg knew well. That quiet, pensive frown from the vehicle bay.

Greg nodded to Scott, but frowned a little, catching Morgan’s eye. He shook it off.

“Ever go head to head with yourself?” he asked, thinking of the possibility. “Sounds like an interesting work out.”

“I have, actually ” Scott nodded, looking amused.”It’s…got a bit of cognitive dissonance to it, but it is one hell of a workout.”

Morgan leaned on the console, murmuring softly to herself…too softly for anyone else to really hear.

Down below, the danger room door finally opened.

“Oh, let’s go down and see Piotr, huh?” Scott gestured “Come on.”

Greg was out the door practically before Scott was, motioning for the others to follow.

Todd lingered, glancing at Morgan.

“Ya’lright, Morg?”

Morgan shook her head.

“I don’t know. I’m just getting a weird vibe.” she whispered. She looked out at the danger room below with a frown. “…like, everyone’s nice and all…but they’ve got all these paramilitary vehicles…a jet I guess, too…and like, this training room. And…Magneto, whoever he is…I…what’s he done to get put into their situations as some kind of ultra-powered villain? I……I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Todd glanced at the door where Scott and Greg had already left the room. He put his hand on Morgan’s shoulder.

“Yo, I’m hearin’ ya. Its all pretty uh, shady for a school, ya know?” he murmured. “Like some navy seal shit, yo.”

“Yeah.” Morgan murmured. “It feels like some navy seal shit…which is one thing, but hiding it behind some school for gifted kids is kinda ..I dunno. Real sus.”

“Definitely not poggers, yo,” he agreed with a long nod. “We prolly better catch up tho…”

Morgan nodded, and started for the elevator.

“Before Greg has a fit and thinks you’re making out with me.” she drawled with a shake of her head.  “…anyway, it might all be fine…maybe they’ve got a real good mission or like…goal, but I dunno so far.”

She hit the button, and let the elevator come up for them, before stepping in with Todd, and hitting down.

Greg was worriedly standing by the elevator when they arrived downstairs.

“I was just about to come back up for you. You didn’t have another dizzy spell, did you?”

Morgan held her hands up.

“No, no. I just wanted to take another look at the danger room. That’s all, Greg. I’m fine….right Todd?”

Todd gave the thumbs up to Greg. “Yeah, its all good, yo.”

Scott was talking to Piotr, nearby “so I was thinking you could show them around the inside a little with me.”

Greg gave a not too trusting look to Morgan and Todd, but nodded at Scott when he spoke.

“Yeah, lets see it. I’d love to.”

Scott put his hand on the pad.

“Not * too * much to see when it’s not active, but I figured you might want to see the space. Come on in! I’ll give you the tour, such as it is”

Piotr gave them a wave on his way out.

“I see that you did come for a tour, Morgan,” he smiled.

“yeah. I’m taking a peek around.” She smiled. “It’s good to see you again, big guy. Impressive showing in the Death Zone.”

“Danger Room,” Scott corrected as he stepped inside.

“The guillotine garage!” Todd piped up, heading inside after Scott and Greg.

“I see.”Piotr chuckled. “Well, please, enjoy the tour. I am going to go take a much needed shower.”

“Enjoy, Piotr!” Morgan laughed into her hand. “See you at school, alright?”

She sauntered into the danger room to look around.

“So, as you can see.” Scott began, gesturing around the room, “it’s made up of small ‘hex’s’ which combine to form platforms and shapes that then get an AR overlay to give them the appearance of different locations and threats. There’s a number of other mechanics that deploy during simulations to continue the immersive atmosphere.”


A while after Piotr’s footsteps faded from the hall, and the group entered the danger room, the lone figure clad in a grey-camo sneaking suit dropped from the ventilation system on the wall.

With a flick of their wrist, another knife sunk into the camera that was keeping an eye on the hallway and sent another shock through it’s system that would fry its mechanics, as well as any cameras connected to the same cable network. On nimble feet they ran down the hall, pulling a small device from their pack and setting it on a circular door at the far end that was locked via a retinal scanner.

Stepping back and covering their eyes with their arm, they activated it. A small pop sounded through the air as the chemicals within combined and began to superheat, melting through the lock’s mechanism in the center of the door, forcing it open.

They glanced over their shoulder–it was all clear so far.

The figure– hand on their hip holster– slipped their way into the mansion’s mainframe and looked around.

The room they stepped into was small; perhaps large enough to hold around a half dozen people if they didn’t mind packing in like sardines.  One wall was taken up by a large monitor and the control bank beneath it; a rolling chair sitting in front of it. The room seemed to be made of the same white hexagons as the danger room.

“Hm.” The figure’s voice was muffled through the gasmask. “…This shouldn’t prove difficult.”

They slipped into the chair and unwound a small wire from a boxy part of their glove before they plugged it into the console. Hitting enter they started to crack into the system.

The monitor scrolled through various files as the little machine began to access the data. Images of students at the school came up, and then other, unfamiliar mutants with details about their locations and abilities. One was a kid with short black hair with bangs, wearing a yellow hoodie and making a face at the camera.

With a little click, they began downloading the information into the storage unit in their suit. First the profiles of unfamiliar mutants…Once those were finished it was on to schematics.

“This will come in handy. Mission 1 accomplished. Now for Cerebro.”

The device was having trouble coming up with the right files. Encrypted? It came up with the schematic for the danger room.

“Looks like you can control it from here, too. Useful.”

They began downloading the schematics for the danger room.

“…I may need to grab the whole harddrive if I can’t crack that encryption…Let the lab take care of it.”

–There was the sudden sound of tearing metal. They froze, and looked over their shoulder.

There was a long gash in the door, and another one joined it, tearing it open as if with metal claws. A pissed off man grimaced from the now-open doorway.

“Tch. ..Troublesome.”

“End of the line, bub,” Wolverine warned.

“I was worried I would have to deal with you,” the figure in the mask murmured, pressing a button to retract the wire back into their glove. “You’re quite the bloodhound.”

“You were right to be worried,” he growled, leaping at her, claws out.

They were still for only a moment–enough for the man to be mid-leap before they suddenly leapt to the side and pulled a long knife from a sheath behind their holster, letting him sail into the computer bank. There was a glow from behind the lenses of their mask.

“The safest course of action is to let me leave. I do not wish to kill you.”

Logan thumped against the chair, which slammed itself against the computer bank. He righted himself, ready to attack.

“You ain’t leavin’, bub. Not til Professor X’s had a few words.”

He leapt off the chair toward them.

The figure pulled a pistol from their holster, holding the knife right under it as they backed towards the door.

“I’m not in a talking mood.”

They fired–one of the shots hitting Logan–but the other hit one of the wires connecting a monitor to the wall, blasting through it and sending it falling down towards the man. Explosive tipped rounds.They dodged to the side, and kicked the chair into his leg at nearly the same moment that the monitor dropped.

The bullet that slammed into Logan’s shoulder and burst, spattering the room with blood as part of his arm was torn from its socket. Logan howled, more with fury than from the pain, and he leapt like a wildman, landing behind the infiltrator, and whirling around. The half-torn arm was already starting to heal, flesh and sinew crawling together over adamantium coated bones.

The infiltrator looked at him with a nod of respect as they backed towards the monitor.

“Hardly a blink after a wound like that. And you still keep coming for me. I salute you, soldier,” they said in a muffled and digitized voice. Saluting with one hand…they reached back to type quickly on the keyboard behind them. “But I’m afraid I can’t come home empty handed.”

With a hit of the enter key, the system announced:

“Activating Danger Room Simulation: Logan’s Run.”

The figure slammed their knife down into the console, stabbing through several wires which began to short out, rendering the system useless.

“Up to you, Wolverine. Let me go, or let those people die.” They aimed the gun at him. “You don’t have a lot of time to decide.”

“Damn it!” Wolverine growled. He rushed toward them. “You just made the wrong move!”

Moving more swiftly than the figure could account for, Logan shredded the gun like a plastic party favor, and he brought his claws up, severing the hose on the gasmask, and cutting partially into the mask itself.

There was a sharp hiss of depressurizing air, and a feminine shout as blood coated wolverine’s claw.


The infiltrator staggered back–but instead of falling they used the console as a springboard to launch back at him and stab the jagged remains of their own gun into his chest, before dropping and sliding through his legs. With a sharp hiss of breath, the infiltrator sprinted into the hallway, towards the vents once more, dropping a series of small remote detonation mines behind her that exploded, and filled the area with a blinding light and smoke.

Wolverine growled– a sound more animal than man– and raced out of the room.


“Still hard to believe it’s this small from what we were seeing in the observation deck,” Greg said, shaking his head as Scott finished his explanation.

“It’s all part of the system. It reshapes itself as the program runs, giving the illusion of more space and depth than there really is.” Scott continued, gesturing to the nubs on the wall.

Even Morgan had to admit–it was really cool.

Scott was about to continue, opening his mouth–when suddenly the door slammed shut behind them.

A siren ran, and a voice echoed through the Danger Room.

“Initiating program: Logan’s Run.”

The teacher froze; his lips forming a sharp frown as he looked up at the command center–just as it started to disappear from view under the AR holograms. It was empty. All around them the world turned into some sort of complex of metal walls and whirring traps.

Morgan paled as she saw buzzsaws deploy from the walls, and a giant spinning, bladed object rise between her brother and herself.

“What’s Logan’s Run??” Greg heard her ask, before he lost sight of her.

Greg looked to Scott to answer, drawing a breath of surprise, before the group was parted by more rising walls– and the bladed saw whirred straight towards Scott and Greg.

Scott hissed, and looked straight at the bladed saw before whipping off his sunglasses. There was a flash of red as a massive, pulsing energy beam shot from his eyes, and blasted the saw into pieces

“It’s Logan’s personal training program!” He tipped his glasses back down to stop the beams “it’s very dangerous. Meant to test his reflexes and healing factor–which we don’t have. Someone has to shut this down NOW Get behind me and stay close.”

“Shit! What about my sister?” He demanded, getting behind Scott quickly, as black mist started to billow off him.

Scott glanced over at the wall separating them.

“…we’ll have to find our way over there.” he said flatly. “Until then she has to hold her own. At least until then…or until the program stops.”

There was a click, and several men in combat gear appeared, coming into view in one of the narrow halls as a grid of lasers clicked on around them. The men aimed rifles wordlessly at Scott and Greg, preparing to fire.

“Then let’s stop it!” Greg growled.

The darkness around him was like the opposite of a candle, and he threw a ball of it at the soldiers. It burst like a firebolt as it hit– but a large metal pincer was descending toward them as well.

The soldiers were consumed by the dark fire, and as they were, Scott whipped his head up and ripped off his glasses to blast another bright red beam. it hit the pincer with massive concussive force, tearing it from it’s arm, and leaving the metal smoldering and shattered.

“I’m trying to call Jean, or the Professor. I hope they hear us in time.”

“They’d better!” Greg yelled, the black smoke coming off him in waves as he fought down panic. He threw a bolt of shadow against the wall, hoping to destroy it and get to Morgan, but it was of no avail.

There was a rumbling sound, and a spiked ball started rolling toward them.

“I’ve always hated Logan’s training program.” Scott muttered as he flipped his glasses up and tried to blast the ball enough to slow it down. “Can those bolts of yours destroy that thing?”

“I’m about to find out!” he yelled, hurling a pair of them at the thing. They didn’t destroy it– but they did throw off its momentum, sending it spinning and pinging off the wall. Meanwhile, beneath the rolling smoke of shadow, Greg’s form was shifting and changing, as he became larger, and his skin darker and shinier.

“Looks like you’ve got more up your sleeve than just flinging shadows. Good. We’re going to need it.” Scott spun, as a pinging sound alerted him to the sudden barrage of electrified whips that shot out from the walls, whizzing towards the pair of them. He blasted down, holding his glasses up, severing one side of them–but the other was still headed straight for them.

Greg hurled another shadowbolt at the whip, but didn’t do enough damage to stop it, and it collided with his chest. He yelled as electricity slammed through his body, throwing him backwards. It hurt like hell, and Greg felt his whole body convulse all at once, and something happened to his body.

With a sound like a parachute opening, a pair of shimmering midnight colored featherless wings burst from his back, as his body took on the same black shimmer and more that doubled in size and muscle, black horns bursting from his head amid lengthened hair. A thick, ropey black tail with a spade-point the size of an actual shovel whipped from behind him, and his legs snapped and reshaped into a digitigrade posture, ending in fierce black claws that matched the ones that had replaced his hands. His eyes burned bright white and his mouth was full of fangs.

Acting purely on instinct the great black gargoyle that had replaced Greg grabbed the still electrified whip, bellowing a shout, and he yanked it from the wall, slamming it against a pair of oncoming blades.

The blade flung backwards, and Scott was briefly taken aback by the boy’s transformation–but it was only for a moment. It was then that a pair of great spinning grinders flew out of the walls, and began to close in on them. Scott turned, blasting one with his eyebeams

“Keep it up, Greg. You’re doing great. Don’t stop until the program does!”

Greg briefly looked at his clawed hands, white eyes wide with surprise, but then he got moving.

“Yeah!” he growled, too busy with staying alive to do more than react. He hurled a shadowbolt at the mechanism of the spinning girder to destroy it, and then grabbed the still whirling girder as it went erratic.


Too far from Morgan to grab her with his hand, Todd reflexively grabbed her by the wrist with his tongue instead, yanking her hard out of the way of an oncoming saw blade.

“Its on!” he screamed as he grabbed her with his arm once she was close, and threw them both to the floor to dodge another blade, eyes wide. “Yo who the hell turned it on!!”

Morgan hit the floor scrambling into him as the sawblade whirred too close to her foot for comfort.

“If this is some kind of joke or h-hazing ritual.. I’ll literally *MURDER* whoever did it,” she hissed.

A spotlight shined on the two of them as shadowy soldiers appeared and opened fire upon them. Morgan’s eyes flared, her lips parted in a fang-baring snarl as the shadows under Todd and her feet suddenly jumped up around her into a protective shield, absorbing the bullets and stopping their momentum before they hit the pair.

“Gah…” She hissed, the shadow dropping just in time for her to see the soldiers reloading. She concentrated and in a whisp of shadowy smoke, the two of them teleported behind the soldiers. Morgan threw a spike of darkness into the back of one of them.

“wW just have to survive…until someone gets a little *sense*!!”

“Yo good advice, we’ll try your plan!” Toad leapt at the suddenly-appeared soldiers, landing heavily on the shoulders of one and tearing the gun out of his hands with his tongue before hurling it in the face of another, and leaping off, throwing both of the attackers to the ground.

Behind them there was the creaking sound of bending metal.

Morgan hissed as the shadows in the room all twisted into her hand, forming a large and double bladed axe made from sharpened metal. She gripped it as if it weighed nothing at all and spun to meet the sound.

“You’re real impressive in a fight, Toddy,” she breathed “Let’s tear this place apart.”

“Sugar *they’re* goin’ down, yo.” Feeling a thrill of exhilaration, Toad grinned. He snapped up a busted pipe with his tongue and grabbed it, spinning it in his hands, before slamming it down on an armed drone that was buzzing toward them. A number more started to circle in approach.

Morgan swung the axe, rending three of the soldiers in two as the axe trailed shadow like a vapor behind it. Waving her hand, the axe came apart, and the pieces of shadow all flung towards opposite walls.


As they all exploded outward as sharpened spikes, impaling several soldiers, and a drone. Toad flattened himself on the ground to escape the shrapnel, and rolled, whipping out the makeshift staff to knock several of the soldiers out by their ankles.

“Nice moves, Morg!!”

He hopped up, and landed on top of a drone, crushing it on the floor beneath him. There was a great grinding from all around them, and the ceiling began to slowly descend, at the same time that two robotic soldiers charged their way from either end of the rapidly shrinking hallway.

“You too, Todd. But let’s not get comfy yet.”

Morgan raised the shadow to form a shield above them to try and stop the ceiling, as she pulled more–as much as she could in from the walls and below their feet to form the shadowy shape of a whirling orb of bladed edges. As she began to sweat, her eyes glowing a bright white as she manipulated the thing to * move *– one of the things she’d always had to pour so much of her energy into, she attempted to rend the robot pieces.


“Aw shit, yo!” Todd yelped, not sure what to do about the oncoming ceiling.

Looking for some kind of mechanism to stop it he super-ball-rushed one of the soldiers knocking it to the ground with a kick, and grabbing the arm of the other, trying to slam it into the wall. Unfortunately, the second soldier’s arm turned into a blade and Todd yelped in pain as the blade bit into his hand.  He let go– and bouncing a pace away he swung the pipe. He knocked the machine’s head clean off, but not before catching another glancing cut between his neck and his shoulder blade.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the hall Morgan’s shadow ball of death slammed into the robot, as it’s blades began spinning and swirling erratically to shred it into pieces like a mobile meat grinder.

Morgan staggered, and pushed her shield up to try pushing back against the ceiling, but the shadows began to drift away–and she found herself staggering back.

“Todd.” she said “Is there a vent anywhere? I can hold this back, maybe we can break into one and…y-you know, slip out, or at least to another part of the simulation.”

“I’m lookin’ doll!” he shouted, panic rising as the headless soldier exploded at his feet.

Blood oozing down his neck, he spotted a vent in the ceiling, large enough for them to get through. With a snap of his tongue he yanked the grate off and hurled it at the last of the drones.

“Got it! C’mon!!”

Morgan nodded, and kept the shield up just long enough to grab him, and teleport them both into the shadows of the grate, letting the ceiling smash down behind them as she breathed deeply .

She smelt the blood, and she felt a sting of wooziness, but she fought it down.

“…..I …I…I dunno how much longer we can hold out…” She dragged him behind her as she crawled, and peeked out the slats of another vent. “..this area looks clear. Come on.”

She kicked it, and dropped into a more open section of the simulation–though this one looked like some sort of observation chamber.

All around them were ceiling mounted sentry guns.


Todd had time for a weak, “ aw hell, ” of realization, before he spat a sticky glob of slime at the targeting cameras of a pair of the guns, sending them into disarray.

“Up we go!” He grabbed Morgan by the waist, and hopped back into the vertical vent shaft they’d come down, holding them up inside it with the strength of his legs braced on the sides. Below, the sound of the mis-firing guns filled the room– hopefully taking out the other turrets. Pinned close and tightly to Todd, the coppery smell of blood filled Morgan’s nose.

Morgan nuzzled close to him, taking deep breaths–breathing it in. After exerting herself, she felt so weak…so *tired*…but the smell of blood was overpowering…intoxicating. She found herself leaning closer and closer to him, until she was resting her head against his shoulder with her lips just a bare fraction of an inch away from his skin. Her breath was warm, shuddering against his skin, as her eyes glowed a strange and inhuman white.

“Todd…Leapfrog,” she whispered “I ….I..”

“Hey, hey stay with me, s’gonna be alright,” he urged. The feeling of her hot breath on his neck sent a shiver up his spine even in the terrifying circumstance. Once the sound of the guns stopped, he eased the tension in his legs, and held her tightly, slowly dropping both of them down into the, at least-temporarily- empty room below.

“I’m tired,” she breathed. “I’m hungry.” Her fingers tightened on his shoulder as she drew herself closer to him, her lips making soft contact with the nape of his neck, just over the wound “and all I can smell is your blood….”

Her eyes half closed– She couldn’t stop herself…she couldn’t hold back…not anymore.

A dark impulse she’d had a few times the last few months finally snapped within her and she couldn’t stop herself from indulging it. It was pure instinct.

Her eyes glowed a brilliant white as the shadows wrapped around him and held him close–and Morgan wrapped her lips around  the already open wound on Todd’s neck, piercing the flesh with her fangs just enough for a steady stream of blood to come forth. She bit hard, hungrily , as she began to drink his blood, the coppery taste thick, delicious and unlike any food she had ever experienced. There were no thoughts at that moment. Only the hunger that had been held back too long.

Todd made a strangled noise of surprise and pain at the sudden sensation of Morgan’s mouth on his wounded neck, and would have jolted if it weren’t for the shadows holding him in place.

“Ah! Y-yo Morg what the…ahh…. ahhhh…. oh shit yo…” He swooned as his blood flowed into her mouth, his heart pumping it out, beat by beat. He probably could have done more to resist, but is was a pretty girl with her mouth on him.

Morgan’s fingers wound up through his hair, before she grabbed and tilted his head to the side to give herself a better angle.

She drank…and drank…each beat of his heart giving her more and more of his blood. It was like nothing else. Blissful, delicious, intoxicating and shockingly, strangely, she was starting to feel better . The spinning in her head, the weakness, it was all fading away, leaving her feeling stronger and healthier than ever.

Her fingers dug into his shoulder as she cuddled closer, not sure when to stop–not sure when too much was too much. It was all so new to her. She simply let her instincts carry her along.

Leaning close to Morgan’s body as she drew the blood from him, Todd woozily thought that this definitely wasn’t so bad. He wondered idly if it was going to kill him.

* Neither * of them noticed when the walls came down and the simulation shut off.

“Is everyone alright?” someone asked.

And then a voice bellowed: “MORGAN???”

It was that voice that finally broke Morgan out of her instincts. With a lick of her cool tongue, she pulled her mouth from Todd’s neck with a sudden and sharp gasp,  glancing towards the sound of voices. Her eyes were still glowing white, as a trail of blood leaked down from ruby-stained lips, and down the edge of her chin.

“I…I…” she glanced at Todd ,shaking him.  “Todd! Todd are you okay?”

“Mmmm? ehhhhh?” Todd lolled in her arms with a goofy grin on his face. “Mmm fine gorgeous…..”

An eight foot tall, gargoylesque figure stomped toward the pair them, tail lashing.

“What the hell are you doing?” he growled. It could only be Greg.

That seemed to break Todd’s spell– slightly, and he stumbled to stand. “Whoa, whassat??”

Morgan turned, her eyes bright and blazing as she stared at the figure. She hardly gave a thought to her brother’s sudden change in appearance.

“SURVIVING!” She shouted at the gargoyle. “No thanks to THIS PLACE and it’s DEATH ROOM.” She grit her teeth, interposing herself between the monster and Todd. “This is *none of your business!*”

She held her arms outstretched, starting to hover on trailing wisps of darkness, blood still shining on her face.

“Yo, issat Greg?” a woozy Todd asked. “Cool wingspan, yo!”

“Shut up!” Greg snapped at Todd as he stomped forward. “Morgan, I was worried about you! and you were– were making out!!”

Morgan snarled, baring her teeth.

“I said it wasn’t any of your * business * GREG.” she snapped. “Don’t you care yell at my FRIEND, and don’t you DARE MAKE ASSUMPTIONS !”

She waved her hand, and shadows began rising from the ground around them, up to where she hovered…forming a number of grasping, reaching hands.

“He *saved my life* from a situation YOU put us in!” The shadows animated, gesturing with her as she shouted, their clawed fingers sweeping the air “so back off, Greg! or *else*”

“Yeah! don’t you yell at her, yo!” Todd agreed with bleary determination, pointing a finger at him as he stood dizzily behind her.

Greg fowled, his wings raising behind him.

I put you in ?!” he demanded. “What the hell are you blaming Me for?” His tail lashed as he stomped closer to her, the two of them now practically eye to eye.

“You’re the one who wanted to take this tour…who wanted to see this stupid Paramilitary Death Room, Greg. Todd and I were fighting just to survive, and we barely made it! He. Saved. My. *life*. And then I *drank his blood* because there’s something *wrong with me* and you’re blaming *HIM?*”

The hands snapped out around her, grabbing Greg in their shadowy claws as Morgan leaned into sneer in his demonic face, her eyes blazing just as bright as his.

“Morgan you are freaking the hell out !!” Greg growled, grabbing her back with his claws. “Get a fucking grip on yourself! Drinking blood! Jesus!!”

A brief, furious anger flashed through her features as the shadows primed to attack around her.

“LOOK AT ME! and LOOK AT YOURSELF, GREG!”  She raised her hands. “We’re not n ormal humans like you want to pretend to be. And this place is–

“A place of learning. Not a battleground.”

The sound of metal wheels on the danger room floor rang through the air as a figure came into view.

“May I ask that the two of you settle down so we can talk?” The speaker was an older man, seated in a silver wheelchair bearing an X on each wheel. He wore a simple blue and white suit, and had a head long since gone bald. He had a warm, gentle smile on his face, his fine eyebrows arched high at the scene around him.

Striding behind the man in the wheelchair was Logan, his shirt torn apart, and looking pissed, and wary.

Greg stiffened mid-growl, and took a single pace backward.

As the fight went out of him the shadow swirling around him suddenly billowed as if hit by a gust of wind, and his body changed back to its human form, half dropping to his knees.

“God damn it,” he growled, catching his breath.

The shadows behind Morgan briefly formed a set of arachnoid limbs as she hovered over both the man and the wheelchair and her brother before they too vanished into a fading mist. She lowered herself delicately to the ground, and dismissed the shadows with a wave of her hand allowing them to return to their natural configuration.

“There’s no fight,” she said, her face still covered in drying blood. “Not anymore.”

She backed a few steps towards Todd, and offered him a hand. He took it, not in any kind of position to refuse even if he had wanted to– which he very much didn’t.

“Good.” The man said with a bow of his head. “I am sorry that my introduction isn’t under better circumstances, but my name is Professor Charles Xavier. I am headmaster of this school for gifted youngsters–young people with gifts–like yourselves.”

Greg swallowed and caught his breath, shaking his hair slightly and standing again.

“Professor Xavier. Uh… sorry about…. whatever happened here,” he grumbled. Inwardly he was cringing. This was just like the incident that had happened at school in Maine.

“It’s quite alright.” The professor waved his hand. “What happened was not your fault. As much as you fear it may be the case…it is *not* like that incident that happened back in Redoak Maine..rather this situation was the fault of a saboteur.”

Morgan glared at the man.

“Why wasn’t there some kind of failsafe? a shut off? we nearly died in there, old man.”

“I understand your anger,” the professor said in an even, and. gentle tone. “But I witnessed your gifts as we worked to deactivate the Danger Room. You are all quite talented…with extraordinary abilities, if you only learned to control them.”

Greg bristled with surprise.

“How do you know about–”

A recovering Todd cut him off as he went to speak at the same time.

“Yo, I’d say we were more control than your zany killer death room, prof!”

Logan leveled a finger at Todd.

“Watch your tone, bub.”

“I’m a telepath.” Xavier answered, closing his eyes. “Your fears were quite loud, young man…but rest assured, nobody blames you for what happened.”

Morgan bristled.

“You READ HIS MIND? Without *asking*?” She shot Logan a look. “YOU watch your tone, *BUB*. Todd has a *damned good point*”

“Yeah!!” Todd nodded– and then he paused too. He was having trouble keeping up. “Wait, yo, you read his mind??”

Logan growled as Morgan snapped at him.

Greg meanwhile, sputtered, looking overwhelmed.

“Morgan, you are freaking out !” he repeated.

“Please, young lady…I ask that you calm yourself. Or can I help calm you..?.” Professor X held up his hands. “The school is here to help children like yourselves learn to understand their gifts so we may work towards mutual prosperity and understanding…among *all* people.”

Morgan pressed her hands to her head

“*no shit* I’m freaking out, Greg! how could you not be freaking out!. We nearly died ! This school’s a paramilitary nightmare, there was a fucking saboteur .  And now some telepath is reading our minds? Between that and you being a prick to Todd– who’s *innocent* in this whole mess– I’m *done!* I can’t stand this anymore ! ”

“It was an *accident*, Morgan!” Greg snapped. “Come on, don’t DO this! Look I’m sorry I yelled I was just fucking surprised after I was trying to get to you to rescue you!”

“Yeah, uh, Morg didn’t exactly need that rescue,” Todd mumbled as his head started to clear.. “And like, prof said saboteur which is like, the opposite of a fuckin accident.”

He looked up at Morgan, rubbing the wound on his neck.

“You want an escort outta here? cause I ain’t exactly feelin the vibe, yo.”

“Fuck you, Greg.” Her eyes narrowed at her brother. “You started shit with me and then threw a fit when I fought back. I’m done being the ‘little’ sister you think you can push around. I’m your damned twin, and I won’t let you yell at me or my friends anymore.”

She grabbed Todd’s hand, pointedly, before she stomped towards the exit, actually shouldering her way past Logan as she did.

“You can take this ‘special school’, I don’t care. But it’ll be without me.”

The professor sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“…” He looked over his shoulder. “Miss Connelly.”

“No!” She hissed as the door opened in front of her. “No. We’re going to find our *own* way to figure ourselves out.”

Todd allowed himself to be hauled, and gave a slightly sassy wave as they stomped their way out the door.

“Morgan!” Greg called, and moved to go after her.

“No.” The professor wheeled towards him, putting his hand on Greg’s shoulder with a pensive, saddened expression on his face “Let her go. She’s not ready… You can’t force her emotions, or her point of view–but the time may come that she’ll return and we will welcome her with open arms then.”

The doors slammed behind Morgan, and she vanished from view.

Greg flinched as the professor touched him, and he looked desperately at the shut door.

“Sir, she’s my sister, I can’t just—” he let out a pained breath and sagged heavily, as if deflated. “Damn it…. every time I try to talk to her she just gets mad at me anyway….”

Aftermath 1

Emma Frost had let the two of them out of the front gate without a word, and Todd leaned toward her as they walked in the dusk light, the sun having just set.

Morgan put her arm around him, half supporting him in case her… feeding …had left him weak.

She’d met Emma Frost’s eyes just before she left, but only for a moment. As the gate slammed behind her, she felt hot, angry tears well up in her eyes as she walked down the street.

“…Why did I go there, Todd?” she muttered angrily “I should have known I wouldn’t have fit in. That I wouldn’t belong there. The whole thing was a big, terrible nightmare of a mess.’

Still a little woozy indeed, Todd didn’t pass up the chance to lean on her with her arm around him.

“Hey, hey hey yo,” he shook his head and then regretted it when he felt dizzy. “It was a nightmare but it like, weren’t your fault, yo. Tryin’ new things is good and that shit. But like, I mean, I wouldn’t exactly wanna fit in with that bunch either, ya know?”

“Yeah…” Morgan laughed weakly , looking at Greg’s car as they passed it before turning her eyes to the long road ahead. “Trying new things is…it’s worthwhile.”

She attempted to wipe the drying blood from her face with her free arm. “and it sounded so good on paper. But…It wasn’t somewhere either of us belonged. They weren’t…our crowd. Not like the others …not like last night.”

“Yo I had way more fun last night with you and the guys,” Todd agreed, as they walked down the road toward the bus stop. “But like, uh, I mean, yo, it wasn’t all bad today. You *were* pretty damn badass in there.”

Morgan flushed, her cheeks darkening as she glanced over at him.

“You weren’t half bad yourself, leapfrog. you watched my back. I watched yours. And we did pretty good in their fucking Death Room.” She pat his shoulder, hesitating for a moment. ‘ Do I mention the blood thing? ’ she wondered. ‘He probably thinks it’s awkward. Like an invasion of space. I can’t believe I actually did that…’

“Yeah, we make a pretty good team, yo…. I uh, probably need a bandaid at some point though. Some fangs you got there.”

“Y-yeah, we sure do,” Morgan murmured, looking over at his neck.. “…but ah…yeah, we should probably get you patched up, huh? I…guess I do. Sorry about that, Toddy. I just sort of…lost control.”

She smiled weakly. “On the upside, I uh…feel a lot better. I don’t feel dizzy at all anymore. Or sick.”

“Hey, yo, that’s great, right?” he said, still smiling back. He rubbed his neck again. “You don’t gotta apologize, yo, I was just a little caught off guard. Shoulda guessed tho, I mean you did say you were like a vampire.”

Morgan licked her fingers, before brushing them over the wound on his neck. She’d read once that a vampire’s spit could seal wounds. Maybe…her mutation could do the same thing. If not, there was always shadow magic…and the sun * was * setting.

Morgan turned a little darker as she flushed deeper.

“…I did huh. Maybe I really do need blood to survive…maybe I just…pushed myself too far last night and needed to…” She waved her hand. “you know…feed. On you…….It was amazing, though. Like, the best thing I’ve ever tasted kind of amazing.”

Todd shivered as she touched his neck, and he leaned into her fingers.

“Damn, yo, it was that good huh? Wasn’t too bad from my end, neither.”

Morgan pulled her fingers away and–nope. The wounds were still bleeding. She licked her fingers with a sigh, tasting his blood once more before she manifested a patch of darkness from a streetlamp’s shadow, and pressed it to his neck, making an impromptu, solid bandage.

“It was really good,” she murmured. “It felt good for you too, huh? g-good.”

“Yeah, uh… y-yeah,” he chuckled, embarrassedly, not meeting her gaze. “If you ever like, needed to do it again sometime, I wouldn’t like, get mad or nothin,”

Morgan smiled at him, showing her still bloodied fangs

“…It’s a plan, Todd.” She punched his shoulde.r “consider yourself my first blood donor.” She looked over her shoulder at the mansion as it started to fade from sight. “…..Greg was so enamored with that place.”

Todd looked back over his shoulder too.

“Yeah he was kinda sallivatin’ over it the whole time, wasn’t he?”

“He sure was.” Morgan nodded, frowning. “He seemed to really think they could help us and it’d be a place we both could fit in. But it’s pretty clear that it’s only his place. Not mine. ….plus, I’m not so sure about it. I don’t trust anything that touts itself as a school for children and * clearly * trains them for war. It’s backhanded. Like they’re preparing to use them.”

“Yeeeeah, uh, also I didn’t wanna ask while there was so much arguin’ goin on but did you say that guy read your *mind*?”

“…Yeah. Or at least read Greg’s mind….and kind of half threatened to like ‘help me calm down’ if I kept being angry.” Her gaze darkened further.  “….I don’t like people poking around inside my head without permission.”

“Yeeeah, uh, that shit is not right yo,” he agreed, shaking his head. “Don’t nobody belong up there but you, ya know? But man, seriously, there was a lot lof military shit there. And the said there was kids younger than us around?”

“Agreed.” Morgan said with a frown. “On both counts. Because yeah, they said that…”

“Man yo I always got a weird vibe off them guys,” he shook his head. “Like some of ’em alright ya know? but whenever the institute comes up it’s like, uhhh, children of the corn, yo.”

“yeah…Like Piotr seemed really nice, and the other kids all seem like decent people. And even some of the teachers,” she murmured. “But as a whole…it seems…sketchy.”

“Sketch as hell, yo,” he nodded, as they reached the bus shelter at the bottom of the hill. “Hard to get over nearly gettin’ blasted on my way in.”

“Yeah.” Morgan snorted “That was bullshit, Toddy. I’m sorry.”

“Weren’t your fault, doll,” he said, shaking his head. He hopped up on the bench under the shelter and patted the spot next to him.

Morgan settled in next to him, leaning her head back against the glass of the bus shelter’s wall.

“What a day…I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.”

“Talkin’ to your bro about it?”

“He’s going to try to convince me to join them, then get *upset* when I tell him off. I know it.” She muttered. “but  I’m not going to bow to what he wants.”

“Hey, good for you, doll,” he nodded. “Ya shouldn’t have to do whatever he wants just cause he turns into a big monster man when he gets upset.”

Morgan snorted softly.

“That’s the first time I saw him do that, actually… before it was just the smoke…shadow…whatever trailing off him and those exploding balls of shadow.”

“Yo okay but like, also metaphorically ,” Todd clarified. “Cause I’ve been sensin’ some uh, anger issues , since our first run in yesterday yo.”

Morgan winced, nodding slowly.

“…Yeah he’s got some problems with anger. Even before our mutations. He’s always been aggressive, overprotective…and explosive with his anger.” She looked up at the roof of the bus shelter. “He never directed it at me…but he’s chased off friends of mine he didn’t like before. Or threatened people who he thought were ‘bothering’ me.”

“Shit, yo that sucks. Guess that explains why I’m in the line of fire.”

“You’re exactly the type of guy he doesn’t want hanging around me.” Morgan muttered . “A ‘punk who’ll only hurt my reputation.’.” Her fingers clenched on her lap. “A ‘creep’, he says.”

“I mean, I am kinda a punk, yo,” he shrugged.

“Well, not that he’s ever noticed but so am I,” Morgan countered. “And I deserve the chance to– to determine for myself what kind of company I want to keep. ”

“Yeeeah, I was gonna ask if he was like, ya know blind given your personal style, yo. …So… whatcha gonna do about him?”

Morgan crossed her arms.

“He can go and stay with ‘Xavier’s School For Gifted Dorks’. I’m taking the house, and I’m going to tell him * no * every single time he tries to bully me into attending with him. I’m going to live my life exactly the way I want to.”

“Good! You stick to your guns, doll! You gonna have any problems with your parents stickin their nose in that shit?”

“Not a single one” Morgan brushed her hair over her ears, not even bothering to hide them right now.  “Mom’s hardly ever home, you know? She’s off working her big important job somewhere and usually just wires us the money we need when we need it. It’s been that way since we were like, 6. And the babysitters kind of stopped showing up around , like, 12…13..”

“Damn yo, so you got the place to yourself huh?” He bit his lip, pausing. “Hey listen, yo, I know ya said he don’t get violent with you or nothin’, but if he comes back an’ you’d feel better with some backup, you got me an’ the guys number. Most of us don’t got nowhere to be even if it’s like, 2 am or some shit.”

“you got it, Todd…You guys are cool. If he tries to start anything, I’ll give you a call, alright? Mostly I think he’ll just show up for his stuff, and try to needle me to come with him.”

She gave him a fistbump,, which he returned with a smile.

“Here’s hopin, yo. An’ hey– upside– he clears out, you can like, throw a party or somethin.”

“Maybe I will.” Morgan smirked. “and you and all the guys are invited.”

Aftermath 2

Chapter Notes

Greg didn’t like letting his sister leave without going after her, but he had to admit, chasing her down whenever they had a fight just didn’t work.

It always seemed that whenever he did, she’d just get more upset. So perhaps the Professor was right when he told her that she needed a little space.

After the chaos of the Danger Room, there had been a bit more discussion, a bit about the incident, his enrollment, and his sister–but Professor Xavier had told him that the Danger Room was no place for a serious discussion. He’d offered Greg the chance to take a moment to breath, asking only that when he was ready he meet him in his office to finalize the whole thing.

Greg was happy enough to go along with it, despite not quite knowing how much a few deep breaths were going to help his current state.. After the professor had departed, he shot Scott an apologetic, and slightly exhausted smile.

Scott smiled back, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sorry things went so wrong, Greg, but I’m glad you’re thinking of staying with us anyway.” He hesitated before he said, “and I’m sorry about your sister. I know how important family can be.”

Greg nodded fidgeting a bit uncomfortably himself.

“Yeah? Glad it’s not just me. Heh.. Morgan and I have been on the outs lately. this…. didn’t help.”

Scott pat his shoulder.

“It’s certainly not. Trust me.” He shook his head “…hey, maybe with time she’ll come around and the two of you can work it out. Until then..You’ve got a home here, if you want it. Xavier can sort out all the details when you talk.”

“Yeah, that…. sounds great” he nodded. “Should I go see him now or what?”

He followed Scott as they walked out of the danger room.

“Might not be a bad idea. Then we could get a room ready for you.”  He thought for a moment “by the way. That was one heck of an ability back there. I’d love to see what you can do with it when you’ve got more control.”

“Me too,” he admitted pausing. “That was the uh, first time * that * happened to me. I… wasn’t sure I was going to change back.”

“Wish I could say that wasn’t a possibility,” Scott said, “but sometimes that’s the way these gifts of ours go. Looks like you got lucky, Greg. It seems to be like a switch, on and off. You just need to learn how to trigger it.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, scratching his chin and thinking of the claws he’d had not too long ago. “Guess I did get lucky. …alright, I’ll go see the professor. I want to get this started.”

“I’ll take you to his office, Greg, come on.” He waved over his shoulder as he made his way down the hall and finally away from the Danger Room.

“Thanks, Scott,” he said, hurrying along with him at a half jog. “Hey uh, you were pretty cool in there by the way. You saved my ass.”

Scott laughed, tapping his glasses.

“Glad my eyes could come in handy, kid.” He shook his head. “I wasn’t about to let a new student get hurt. Even if most of you didn’t join, It’s my job to protect you all when things go wrong.”

“I appreciate it. That you weren’t just looking after your own ass.”

“No way,” he said with a grin under his reflective shades. “You and I were a team in there, and we did pretty good.”

“You know what? I won’t argue. But I will try to do better next time.”

“Good. Team building’s an important exercise here at the school. Learning to work together’s always been an important skill to learn–how to cover one another’s backs. Even Wolverine had to learn *that* lesson. Even if he griped about it the whole damn time.”

He led Greg out into the grand foyeur once more. While Morgan and Nat were nowhere to be found, there were children chatting as they descended the stairs. One boy was demonstrating something to his friend, his hair sticking up as a series of spikes pricked out from his skin, only to retract once he was done using them for emphasis.

His friend laughed, the lights flickering strangely as he passed, as if their electrical charge was siphoned off for the briefest of moments.

Scott waved to them as he passed, before leading Greg towards an oak door to the left.

“Through here.”

Greg’s gaze briefly followed the other two kids as they displayed their powers, but then he looked back where Scott directed, and nodded.

“Got it. Thanks….again.”

“No problem, Greg. I’m looking forward to teaching you. And for someone to talk cars with who doesn’t pretend to fall asleep halfway through.” He put his hand on the door. “Ready?”

Greg nodded, his shoulder’s tense.


As Scott pressed the door open, Greg stepped inside and looked around the impressive office.It was stately–with plush chairs sitting before a large oak desk. A large bay window, it’s curtains open to give a stunning view of the fields and garden of the backyard, sat behind the Professor, who sat framed in the dimming light of day.

A whiteboard with several diagrams was off to the side,it’s concepts all seeming to stem around ‘mutation’ and ‘genetics’– likely left out after a lesson. A chessboard, one side holding metal pieces, the other white painted wood, sat frozen in a game in one corner, framed by walls of books that made up much of the wallspace, save for a mantled fireplace on the left wall.

Scott waved gently inside.

“Professor. Greg’s here.”

“Come in Mr. Connelly,” the Professor said warmly. “And have a seat.”

Scott nodded and headed out of the room.

Greg stepped past the threshold and through the stately office, admiring it a little. Like the rest of the mansion, it gave off a reserved and intelligent air that didn’t exactly make Greg feel at home so much as it put him at ease. This, he felt, was the office of someone who knew what the hell they were doing.

“Thank you, uh, professor,” he mumbled, sitting down in a plush chair near the professor.

“You are quite welcome.”

“I hope you don’t mind; I’d like to hear your thoughts on my School–aside from of course, the unfortunate accident in the Danger Room.”

Greg shifted nervously in the chair, feeling a little like he’d been dragged in front of the principal… which wasn’t *really* untrue.

“My thoughts…” he said, as he tried to gather them. “I mean, it seems really… cool? Like everybody I met here seemed really happy to be here…”

“I’m pleased,” Xavier said. “We try to foster an atmosphere of comfort, trust, and security in these walls. It’s a place for us to be ourselves…to learn. To understand. And I always hope that the atmosphere helps uplift the students in my care.”

“Yeah, it has a uh, good vibe,” he smiled slightly, “if you don’t mind the term, sir.”

I’ve heard the children say there’s a ‘good vibe’ here at my Institute.”  the old man said with a sly smile. “Some going as far as to call it ‘groovy’.”

“Yeah uh, I bet they have, sir…” Greg bit back a chuckle.

“You can laugh. I won’t mind.” He tented his fingers on the desk. “What’s important is you genuinely seem to like it here. And due to that, I would like to offer you the formal invitation to stay here with us at my school for gifted youngsters like yourself; to learn with us and work towards a peaceful future where we no longer need to hide away. Where we’re all free to be ourselves…be it a shadowcaster, a telepath, or covered in fur.”

Greg smiled a little– he’d been kind of worried that after the mess earlier, the professor might have second thoughts about letting him stay here.

“I really appreciate it, sir. I want to stay here… I’ll admit… I’m worried about my sister though.”

“Yes…” He said with a nod. “I understand your concerns.”

“She’s my twin, but, she’s been so distant lately.”

“I imagine that must be very distressing for you,” the Professor said with sympathy. “Growing apart from someone you were close to is a pain many of our students understand all too well. But it’s very possible your sister simply needs a little space. Some time to sort her own thoughts out. Perhaps one day you will find yourselves reaching a new understanding.”

“I hope so,” Greg said, closing his eyes for a moment. “She’s kinda been all I had. Our mom… isn’t exactly in the picture a lot. If I lost Morgan, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“Your mother is often absent from your life? yes…I think I understand, Mr. Connelly.” he tapped his fingertips together. “Your sister, while she is distant now…I doubt you’ll truly lose her. It’s a difficult time for the both of you, coming into your own with abilities you did not understand…and to do so without someone to turn to is especially difficult.”

“It feels pretty difficult,” he admitted. “I’m sure it’s hard for her too. I just wish….. sorry I shouldn’t be rambling about my sister.”

“No, no it’s very clear she’s important to you. And I have the highest hopes that the two of you will find your common ground once you’ve both had the chance to grow.” The Professor smiled over his tented hands. “Which brings me to something I noticed.”

He looked up from staring at his hands, “Yes, sir?”

“Your sister…I was told that she had been feeling ill.”

“Yes sir, she was having dizzy spells all day. Ms. Frost said it might be anemia, or something related…”

“And how about yourself? Have you been having similar feelings?”

He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Yeah, a little bit, actually. while we were in the vehicle bay.”

“Was it in the presence of blood?” He asked pointedly.

Greg’s brow furrowed.

“Blood? No I… wait, yeah it was…. actually. Bobby popped his stitch.”

“Mm…and when your sister had episodes today?”

His brow furrowed further as he thought of it.

“Well, she said she wasn’t feeling well this morning…. but… when she fainted, that was when Jean cut her hand.”

“mmm.” The Professor looked deep in thought for a moment. “Yes, that seems to track with my theory. And…pardon the intrusion, but Scott told me over the telepathic link of what happened after we shut down the danger room. How you found her drinking that boy’s blood.”

Greg took a long breath at the thought, and grimaced.

“Yeah, I don’t know what the hell was up with that.”:

“It’s possible that all this is related.” Xavier said, leaning on the table After all…she is suffering from anemia . Or was. She seemed healthy even around blood, during your little spat.”

Greg turned that over in his mind.

“Like, she’s like a vampire, or something?”

“In a manner of speaking….I think , and this is something I would like to confirm using the lab, that the both of you– as twins and mutants– require blood as a sort of ‘energy source’ to power your abilities. Your sister likely exerted herself quite badly without ever having refilled her reserves, thus leading to her condition.”

“Damn. Uh, sorry, sir,” he mumbled. “You think that’s the case? You’re going to run some kind of test or something?”

“I think it may be. And I’d like to take a blood sample or two…and have you safely consume some blood if you ever feel the urge to record it’s effects.”  The Professor leaned on his desk “But, why do you apologize, Mr. Connelly?”

“For cursing?” he hesitated.

“Ah.” the Professor laughed. “Don’t do it in front of the young students, please. But I suppose we can forgive it here.”

“I’ll try to restrain myself, sir,” he chuckled with a bit of good natured embarrassment.

“Good.” The Professor nodded. “…But yes. I do think that’s how both your mutations function, which means we will need a safe and consensual supply of blood for you if you’re to begin training. t wouldn’t do for you to faint all around the mansion. Not when there’s plenty else you could be enjoying yourself with.”

“Yeah, definitely. I’d like to avoid that,” he agreed. He rubbed his neck thoughtfully. “You really think I need to drink blood? That’s kinda… not great right?”

“The X-gene produces a great number of wonderful, unique mutations.” The professor explained with a gentle smile. “Some require an exchange. Kinetic energy, for example–in the case of one of my beloved students who’s gone off abroad on her own adventures, it requires the life force of others. With her gift, she could touch you and draw off enough of your very essence and use it to replicate your abilities perfectly. But it came with a cost. Too long of a touch, and she would render the host comatose. A bit more, and she could kill them outright. Simple skin contact was the trigger. But does that make her ‘bad’? does that make her mutation any less wonderous?”

The Professor looked Greg in the eyes. “there’s always a way to utilize your gift with control, caution, and respect. You may need to drink blood– but it won’t make anyone think any less of you here. It’s simply another part of who you are. We will simply just have to draw the blood from an ethical source. Blood drives. Blood banks. The like.”

“An ethical source… yeah,” he nodded, a bit stunned by the immediate depth of Professor Xavier’s understanding and compassion. He felt a slight lump grow in his throat. “Yeah…. thank you, professor…”

The Professor offered his hand.

“You’re very welcome…and thank *you* Greg. May I officially welcome you to my school?”

Greg took the professor’s hand, and nodded.

“Yeah, I uh, I’d like that. Thank you. I… feel really welcome.”

“Then there’s a home here for you in my academy. I’ll have Scott arrange a room for you, and you can join us for dinner.”


A long black limo pulled to a halt in front of a dark alley, and the door opened. A hand beckoned.

The figure in her grey sneaking suit– blood drying on the gas mask– finally slipped from the shadows and into the limo proper. She sat herself down, folding her hands on her lap with a nod “Prime mission was a failure, but there was partial success.”

“Understood.” A black-nailed hand reached from the shadow, and brushed its thumb against the gash in the gas mask. “A wound?”

“I encountered the Wolverine.” they explained, blood coming away on the other figure’s thumb. “He interrupted my download, but I was able to fight him off without more than a glancing blow. He was not able to track my movements, due to the diversion I left behind. No real damage. It may scar, however.”

“How…. unfortunate.” The figure wiped the blood between their two fingers, looking at it. “Hm.”

“Very. He’s a skilled combatant however, and a worthy soldier, however. It took all my skill simply to retreat” she almost seemed excited, there was a slight uplift in inflection in her otherwise deadpan voice. “May I take my mask off?”

“Of course. It’ll need to be replaced.”

Unclasping her mask, the figure removed it from her face, taking a moment to shake out her hair.

Placing it by her side, she leveled piercing cool,  eyes at the figure across from her. Her neck length black hair fell, mussed , around her stern expression.

“…I understand. It’s unfortunate, I’ll need another knife as well.” Mukuro Isono–Callisto– said quietly. ” I had to leave it behind in my flight.”

Chapter End Notes

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of episode 2! Hope you’re enjoying the story as much as we are.

Episodes 3, 4 and 5 are already written and just need to be edited. Unfortunately I screwed my hand up pretty badly and need to take a break from using the computer for a bit, so don’t expect the next chapter for about a week…

But expect it after that!

Episode Three-Lines in the Sand
…Enter, The Brotherhood!

s01e03: Lines in the Sand

Bobby was surprised, coming back from his morning run, to find that the door to his room was half open and there was the sound of movement inside.

For a moment he wondered if maybe Dorian had come back, and his back tensed, immediately on alert at the thought. There was a mixture of excitement and trepidation at the prospect, after all…he’d been gone for a while now. Everyone at school missed him…and at the end of the day, even Bobby was getting worried about him…

Fixing a smile on his face he pushed the door open and sauntered inside. No matter who it was, he’d be sure to greet them with a grin.

“Hey, what’s all the hubbub, huh?” he chirped.

“Ah, good morning, Bobby,” Piotr said. The tall and broad young russian man was holding a large cardboard box and Bobby quickly noticed that all of Dorian’s things seemed to have been packed away in it, and in more boxes. That was a surprise. More than Dorian himself would have been, even. “I apologize for entering your room without permission.”

Bobby walked over and sat on the edge of his bed, looking up at Piotr with a wave of his hand

The room was starting to look increasingly bare now that Dorian’s things were being put away. Still, half of it had personality. Bobby’s personality. There were the half-painted D&D figurines on the desk framed by his action movie posters. His sticker covered laptop set up near a small pile of comics that really should have been put on the nearby bookshelf-his small box of personal sports equipment-and numerous pictures of him with his friends on a corkboard (which lately had a few obvious blank spots for photos he’d shoved in the desk drawer).

“Nah, man. It’s all good. Not like I got anything to hide. But uh, what’s goin’ on? Little early for spring cleaning, ain’t it?”

“The professor asked me to put Dorian’s things in storage,” he explained, holding the large box under one arm and gesturing to the room. “I suspect he thinks you’ve had the room to yourself long enough.”

Piotr chuckled lightly.

“Haha.” Bobby laughed without much enthusiasm and rubbed his arm. “So he ain’t coming back, huh? guess he’s decided to fly the coop for good.”

“We still haven’t heard anything,” Piotr explained, shaking his head. “But the professor says that should he return the situation will be worked out then.”

“Ah… Well hey, cool, cool.” He winked at Piotr, making an effort to seem more cheerful.. “Gonna move in with me then, big guy? Thought you already had a roomie.”

“Indeed I do, as much as I am certain we would be excellent roommates. No, the professor says that our newest student will be moving in with you.”

“Oh, hell yeah! Greggy?” Bobby grinned from ear to ear, without effort this time.. “I mean, he ain’t no Piotr, but he’ll be a blast to room with.”

“I’m sure the professor will be glad you are pleased,” Peter smiled. “If you see him, could you make certain he’s aware of the situation?”

“yeah, I’ll let him know. For sure.” He leaned back on the bed “Can’t believe it’s been so long since Dorian left though, huh Petey?”

“It has been nearly two months now, I believe,” he agreed, stacking a box by the door, and moving another.

Bobby hopped up, suddenly aware of all the work Piotr was doing.

“Lemme help ya with that.” He moved to grab a box, peeking inside with a slightly weaker smile. “Hey, Petey…do you think I like, drove him off?”

Piotr’s brow knit slightly.

“Drove him off? I am not certain what you mean.”

“I dunno.” Bobby muttered, carrying the box towards the door. “Nevermind, Petey. Don’t worry about it.”

Piotr sighed and set down his box with the others.

“Bobby, I do not think that you should blame yourself for Dorian’s behavior.”

“I mean, I don’t! not..like, typically or nothin’.” Bobby said, looking away. “Just every now and then.”

He put the box down with the rest.

Piotr put a hand on Bobby’s shoulder.

“I understand. It is not easy to have such a falling out. But to my mind, you did not do anything wrong, my friend.”

“Thank’s Petey.” Bobby turned to look at Piotr over his shoulder, giving him a little smile “I appreciate it, you know?”

The big young man gave him a thumbs up.

“Please, don’t be afraid to share your troubles with me, yes?”

“Same goes for you, big guy.” Bobby punched his arm “Despite these noodly arms, I can hold my fair share of weighty troubles.”

“Your arms are hardly noodles, Bobby. Some of us merely have an unfair advantage. Still, I take your meaning. I will not hesitate to share my troubles with you.”

Bobby chuckled, brushing a lock of his hair over his ear with a nod.

“good man. and thanks. If anything comes up, I’ll let you know.”


After moving Dorian’s things out of his room, Bobby had a training scheduled outside with some of the students, including Greg.

Bobby had taken to the track, like many of the other students, and took off jogging at a casual pace-just enough to catch up to Greg as he flashed him a lopsided smile.

“Hey there, Greggy. Want a little company from the Iceman?” He shot the fingerguns Greg’s way with a wink.

“Wouldn’t turn you out in the cold I guess.” Greg chuckled, jogging at a fairly easy pace for now.

“Awww…” Bobby grinned, keeping pace with him. “You’re gonna melt my frozen heart, man.”

“I’ll get a mop,” he snorted. “So,, what’s up?”

“Well, I heard you’re gonna be getting an official room posting soon.” Bobby told him with a grin. “Any idea who your roomie’s gonna be?”

“Heard a rumor it might be a certain ‘chill guy’.”

Bobby grinned from ear to ear.

“You’d be right about that, man!” He punched his shoulder mid run. “We’re gonna be roomies. They uh…they’re moving Dorian’s stuff out now.” There was a slight falter to his smile.

“Oh, yeah? Didn’t realize it was still here. …Oh shit… I’m gonna have to get *my* stuff…”

“Yeah, you should probably do that before, like, I start moving my stuff into your side of the room.” Bobby joked. “I can help you move in if ya want.’

“Wouldn’t say no to that. Helping I mean. Keep your stuff on your own side,” he told him good naturedly.

“you got it, big guy.” Bobby chuckled “I’ll help haul your stuff in later today, then. Got a lot?”

“Sounds great,” he nodded. “Now I just gotta get it from the new house. …”

Morgan will probably be there…’

“Yeah, maybe after training? I’d offer to help, but I gotta help get Dorian’s stuff into Storage, ya know?” Bobby mused. “So I’ll just catch you when you’re back.”

“Yeah no worry,” he nodded. “I… should probably go alone anyway. Morgan’s not gonna be happy.”

“Oof…she uh…she’s still pissed about the other day, huh? You didn’t…like…talk about it at school or nothin’?”

Greg made a face, and unconsciously started to jog a little faster.

“No, not really we’ve… I think she’s been trying to avoid me, so I kinda did too.”

Bobby picked up the pace to keep up with him, his hair falling in his face as he nodded.

“…Shit. sounds like the tour really uh, didn’t sit well with her…a shame.”

“Yeah,” Greg sighed. “It was kind of a nightmare. … I’m gonna ask her to come when I see her… but… I donno how well that’ll go over.”

“Hey, it’s been a few days…maybe she cooled off.” Bobby offered. “And like. you’ve seen what we’re like here…maybe you can convince her? like…by telling her what we’re really like.”

“I’m hoping I can,” he nodded. “I don’t like the thought of her all alone in that big house, you know?”

“Yeah. that’s gotta be real lonely.” Bobby said with a small smile “Alienating, ya know?”

“Yeah…I know I wouldn’t like it.”

“I hope you manage to…like, fix things with her, man.” Bobby said. “Like, it sucks when things leave off on a bad note with family. Trust me, I know.”

“Yeah?” Greg cocked his head. “Sorry to hear that. Heh… you’ll probably know how it went one way or another when I get back.”

“I’ll keep an ear out, man. And if there’s anything I can do, lemme know alright?” Bobby smiled genuinely at Greg “and don’t worry about it, I’m alright. I got a home here, ya know?”

Greg nodded. “Yeah. I’m hoping Morgan and me will have one too.”

Morning at Home

It was the start of another boring, lonely day at the Connelly household. Morgan had spent the morning cooking a meal for one (some ham and eggs with a glass of orange juice and plenty of coffee) and trying to further understand the limits of her abilities. With Greg off at Xavier’s School For Gifted Nerds , she’d hoped to get the chance to hang out with Todd and the gang but each of them seemed busy the last few days, unable to hang out much outside of school–so she had to find some way to fill her time. And horror reruns and video games could only get you so far.

Without her brother around she’d had plenty of room to set up a little target practice in the backyard and had spent the last few hours teleporting, manifesting objects and throwing bolts of darkness around the shadowed expanse of their backyard.

She now knew that eventually she’d have to recharge with the drinking of blood–but that was a problem for another time. For now she had the training, and some time to herself.

She’d just finished one such training session, and had taken some time to change into a casual, punkish outfit of ripped jean pants , her choker and her Jacknife’s Bitches shirt and inverted cross, and was at a bit of a loss for what to do now.

“Of course my first Saturday is the day nobody’s around to hang out…even Darcy was busy..” she murmured to herself as she combed out her hair.

But soon enough, from in the quiet of the house, she heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway.

“…What?” Morgan frowned, as she walked downstairs tossing the comb behind her and onto her bed before she made her way to the door.

“…That better be the guys. I’m not in the mood to see Mom right now.”

Unfortunately it wasn’t the guys or even her mother. Greg’s black and yellow sedan parked in the drive and she heard the engine turn off. The door opened, and sure enough, Greg stepped out, pushing his long ponytail over his shoulder and fussing with his jacket as he came toward the door.

“Son of a bitch,” she whispered as she turned and headed towards the living room. It was a big house, maybe he’d miss her.


Morgan was halfway into the living room when the door creaked open, and she knew she wasn’t far enough way to slip out the back door.

She looked over her shoulder

“Hey Greg. Come to get your stuff or did they kick you out?”

“Oh great we skip the hi how are you and just go straight to the bitching?” Greg grumped. His shoulders sank.

Morgan leaned on the doorframe with a half smile.

“I was just teasing you a bit, Greg. Lighten up.” She brushed her hair over her pointed ear and nodded. “But uh…hi. How’s ..you know…the school treating you?”

His smile recovered a bit but his posture said he was still hurt.

“It’s great, honestly,” he said, shutting the door behind him. “Miss you, though.”

“Yeah.” Morgan  rubbed her neck. “But I can’t imagine it’s too tough. You got all those people there, ya know?”

“Well, sure,” he admitted. “And they’re great. But none of them are my sister.”

“There’s only one of me, bro.I’m perfectly myself in every way,”  Morgan murmured. She leaned her head against the doorframe, and looked up at the ceiling. “Look. I’m glad to see you’re doing well and all, and it’s nice to see you…” Her eyes closed , as she refused to meet his gaze. “but I’m still real mad about how you treated Todd and I yesterday.”

He took a deep breath and let it out.

“Look… I know you didn’t want to hear it the other day, but I am sorry I yelled.”

Morgan kept her eyes closed.

“You should be. You disrespected me, Greg. You were treating me like a kid, when I’m just as capable of making my own decisions as you are.” She cracked her eyes open just enough to look at him. “I appreciate the apology, even if it doesn’t cover the whole sorry mess…but let me ask you this…would you apologize to Todd?”

He rubbed his arm with the flat of his palm, frowning.

“Yeah, sure, I’ll apologize to him if it means that much to you. I guess it wasn’t his fault anyway.”

“It wasn’t his fault at all.” Morgan grumbled “…I was the one who bit him. And just because he enjoyed it doesn’t mean you should blame and harass him for it.”

Greg made a slightly choked sound.

“He enjoyed–” He put his hands up, cutting himself off. “Look, let’s just… move on from that.  I don’t know if you’ve figured it out yet, but according to Professor Xavier we’re going to need to drink blood, apparently, so… I’m not holding it against you.”

“Yeah.I kinda figured that one out when I bit into my classmate’s neck,” she said with a cross of her arms. “….I’ll find a way to get the blood I need. I’m sure I can find a doner, if nothing else. But I’m glad you won’t hold it against me”

“Morgan….” Greg groaned with a tired edge in his voice. “Look, if you come with me, the professor said he can get blood for us, like, ethically. It won’t be a big deal.”

“….” Morgan frowned slightly “…of course he can. ‘ethically’ sourced blood’s on tap down at the Murder Mansion, huh?”

“Its not a murder mansion, Morgan. Geez… I know you’re mad at me but come on, don’t sabotage yourself just for that.” Her brother pushed his hair out of his face with frustration.

“I’m not sabotaging myself, Greg. A **saboteur** did that when they set the paramilitary training facility to ‘Kill All Teenagers.” She was quiet for a moment, her brow furrowed before she walked past her brother to sit on the stairs. “I don’t like the vibe the place gave me. The mind reading professor, the secrets… and the feeling that I didn’t belong there. It’s not the place for me. Even if they have ethical blood.”

“Morgan, come on, won’t you even give them a chance?” he pleaded, with a growing edge of annoyance that he fought to keep out of his voice. “I swear, the ‘vibe’ will grow on you.”

Morgan shot him an irritated look.

“I gave them a chance. And they nearly killed me. Not to mention that weird old bastard read our minds without even asking first.”Her arms crossed “I’m sure the vibe would ‘grow on me’ yeah, maybe if they gave me a little ‘nudge’ if you catch my drift.”

“Morgan he’s not like that,” Greg insisted, the edge of annoyance growing flat out to obvious irritation. “I’ve talked to him! He’s trying to help people. People like us!”

“Is that so? he’s trying to help people like us huh?” She leaned forward. “Then why’s he got training programs based entirely around taking down people like us, huh?”

“Morgan you are deliberately taking shit badly because you don’t want to admit you’re wrong! but whatever fine! you want to stay here alone go ahead! Because you know what? I did come here to get my stuff. I hoped I was going to bring you too, but I guess not.”

He threw his hands down and stomped toward the stairs.

Morgan stood from her spot on the staircase and interposed herself between him and the stairs .

“Don’t know when to admit i’m wrong?? That’s not even out of context! that’s literally the case! There’s a literal simulation! ” She gestured to herself. “I’m not the only one who gets a weird  feeling off them, either! Todd thinks the whole thing’s sketchy as hell too!”

“Yeah?” he snapped, trying to duck under her arm. “Todd thinks it’s sketchy huh? Well I think he’s fucking sketchy so we’re even!”

Morgan glared at Greg, her eyes narrowing.

“He’s not sketchy, he’s my friend. Don’t be a dick just because you never liked anyone in any circles but your own.” She lowered her arm to block him from passing. “I guess you’re just gonna have to go back without me .”

“Okay, I will,” he grunted, grimacing. “How come I’m supposed to give your friends the benefit of the doubt but not the other way around, huh? Now let me upstairs.”

Morgan frowned and she tilted her nose up.

“Your friends seem fine. Piotr seemed cool…and like, they all seemed nice. But it’s the school that I have a problem with. And you don’t see me slinging insults at them like you do with all my friends.” Finally she raised her arm, letting him pass. “Whatever.”

He shook his head, and walked past her.

“Whatever, Morgan. Look, I’m sick of trying to tell you what to do. You want to do your own thing? Have at it. You’ll know where to find me when you want to.”

He stomped up the stairs.

“GOOD!” Morgan shouted up the stairs “because i’m DONE being who everyone else wants me to be! From here on out I AM gonna do my own thing!”

Hissing softly under her breath she watched him until he vanished into his room.

All of a sudden, she was feeling like smashing a few targets all over again. As Greg packed, she stomped her way back into the backyard.

Recruitment Drive part 1

Despite it being a beautiful Saturday morning Principal Darkholme was in her office at school.. There was important paperwork piled on her desk, and her… immediate supervisor … was seated across from her, looking at the file folders

“Some interesting selections here,” he mused.

The Principal tapped her fingers together, her eyes flicking to the pages on the desk before her from behind the sheen of her glasses.

“I had thought you might approve,” she purred. “I’ve had my eye on each of them, save for the Connelly girl, for a while now.”

“Yes, the Connelly girl. You mentioned a brother?”

“Yes, her twin brother.” The principal leaned forward, her fingers tapping together. “While he was an interesting prospect at first, I recall seeing him getting rather friendly with a number of Charles Xavier’s students. I worry he may have already been swayed. Especially as I’ve heard talk about his admittance to that sorry excuse for a ‘school’.”

“I see. Best to establish the situation with her first then, and proceed from there.” He handed her back half of the folders. “Let’s not delay any further.”


A stranger lingered on the corner of an otherwise quiet and unassuming street, as the sound of people shouting set the nearby dogs off barking.

The ground under the stranger’s feet shook, as the houses’ lights flickered in concert with the shouting voices. A number of shouted words and phrases could be heard, though the context was lost in the squabble of voices and rumbling of the earth.

An older voice screamed: “Deadbeat punk” , “Freak” , and “regret ever taking you in”, while a younger, angrier voice shouted back sharp retorts that culminated in the front door slamming open.

The young man with his long brown hair and jean jacket stomped his way out of the house, and into the jeep parked crookedly on the driveway, shouting back over his shoulder.

“At least I’m not trying to be something I’m not, you old bastard!” As he started up the car, he flipped the house off with a scowl. “Maybe I won’t come back this time.”

The car screamed out of the driveway, and began roaring down the street..and the tremors in the earth finally stopped.

The stranger watched the car go with interest– and then moved to follow.

A short drive later, Lance found himself down near the docks, in the dirty, hazy area of the nearly abandoned warehouse district.

Lance was angry. His foster father had laid into him again of course . Just like always, the argument started criticizing his friends, his outfit, his ‘attitude’ before launching into the real problem the bastard had with him.

And that was exactly the thing he was going to use to vent his frustrations. His mutation. Ever since he discovered what he could do, the old man’s treatment had gotten worse and worse.

“A freak, huh?” Lance snarled, gripping his hands tight as he stomped one foot on the ground, throwing his fists out towards one of the old warehouses. The ground began to shake, violently, a crack jutting from his foot, out to the warehouse as it started to shake.

“Keep mocking me, old man, see what happens!” He hissed at the building as a number of already broken windows cracked and shattered in the quake.

A shadow slipped into view nearby, the figure’s feet not brushing the shaking ground.

“I doubt that he would like what he saw,” a sonorous voice declared. “I do, however.”

Lance’s hands pulled away, and he stumbled a few feet backwards as the rumbling stopped.

“W-what?” He turned to face the shadow, raising his fists “Look, I dunno who you are, but I’m not in the mood right now for someone to start shit with me, alright?”

“That is the last thing that I have come here to do, my young friend.”

The man he turned to face was standing around a foot off the ground. The figure was a rather handsome man, of indeterminate age. Somewhere beyond forty, but difficult to tell beyond that- with piercing blue eyes and a lock of white hair visible. He was in a handsomely fitted maroon business suit and matching hip length jacket, with a purple tie. It would have been ostentatious, but fashionable, if it weren’t accessorized by the odd helmet that the man was also wearing.

Lance stared at the man with an incredulous frown, crossing his arms firmly over his chest.

“…and who are you supposed to be? A Knight of the Conference Table?”

The man snorted, and descended to the ground, raising his hands briefly, before walking towards Lance.

“Not the most inaccurate accusation leveled against me I suppose. But no. My name is Magneto.”

Lance tensed slightly as he approached, but made an effort to stand his ground in front of the stranger. He raised an eyebrow

“Magneto huh? Is that how you were floating? magnetic propulsion or whatever?”

“It is,” he nodded. He tapped his shoe on the ground and Lance heard a subtle ‘clink’ noise. “Much as you have mastery over a certain element of the earth.”

“….” Lance glanced off to the side “Guess it’s pretty obvious when you see me doin’ it, huh? Yeah. I can start earthquakes, I’ve been able to for years.”

“An admirable talent,” Magneto agreed. “And quite useful, in the right circumstances. What have you done with it thus far?”

“You think so?” Lance asked, looking down at his hands. “So far it’s only been real good for a few things. Used it to steal some stuff in middle school, I guess…’cause Todd and I needed it to get by. I used it the other day to get back at some kids from school who were harassing the new girl, too.”

“Noble enough causes,” the older man mused, “If somewhat… petty. Perhaps you’d be interested in a somewhat grander cause?”

“Grander cause, huh?” Lance looked the man over “Now you sound like that guy who tried convincing Todd to join that weird school of his. How grand of a cause are we talkin’?”

“Hm,” he snorted. “Charles Xavier and I differ quite irreconcilably in the matter of our philosophy. If you found what you heard of him lacking, perhaps you’ll be more interested in my perspective. I’m here to extend you the opportunity to truely fight for the betterment of our kind. Of mutant kind.”

“…For the betterment of mutants, huh? Yeah… yeah I can vibe with that. Someone’s gotta do it, after all, and the humans sure fuckin’ ain’t.” Lance stuck his hands in his pockets, looking Magneto in the eyes with the very start of a grin. “Alright, old man. you’ve got my attention.”

Magneto’s lip quirked to be called ‘old man’ but it was unclear if it was displeasure or wry amusement.

“I’m pleased to hear it,” he said, crossing his arms. “I’m putting together a team that will be able to respond to human threats against our race, as well as to… anticipate and counter them preemptively. Make no mistake, this is not an invitation for… pacifists .”

Lance laughed , waving one hand towards the broken windows of the warehouse and the shattered asphalt between them.

“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve never run from a fight that mattered. If it needs doing, I do it .” He met Magneto’s eyes. “What you’re saying is you’re gettin’ a group together to fight back against the humans who’ve been trying to put us down, right? People like my foster dad. Or fucking politicians. The cops. all those bastards, right? Some kinda… rebellion?”

“Young man, that is exactly what I’m saying. Interested in joining the team?”

Magneto extended a gloved hand to him. Lance grabbed it without hesitation.

“You’re damn right I am, sir.” he declared with a broad grin “I’ll shake down any bastard who even tries getting in our way.”


Dorian had been at Calamity since it had opened at noon. He didn’t really have anywhere else to be at the moment, and he was hoping to eventually find somewhere to spend the night. For the moment, though, he was just dancing. His coat tied around his waist, moving to the sound of the DJ’s music.

It was one of those Saturdays at Calamity. It wasn’t late enough that the real party had started, but it wasn’t early enough that it was dead . It was mostly a sea of people just like him…people with nowhere else to be and not much else to do. People there were just looking for a good time.

The DJ’s beats were playing, Susan–the owner of Calamity, was washing cups behind the counter and reading some romance novel on her tablet crowd small enough she didn’t need to spend every moment taking orders.. So far, though, Dorian had yet to find a lead on his living situation tonight.

At least he was having a good time. But still, he scanned the crowd for interesting– and especially handsome– faces that might welcome a dance partner or someone to chat them up.

His eyes fell on a young man dancing nearby. He was dressed in a deep blue and white tank top and fishnet shirt with his skinny jeans clinging to his narrow hips. He was a handsome young man, with crimson–likely dyed– hair done up in a short, wavy style that fell partially over one of his bright and golden eyes. He was lithe, catlike, and wore a sly smile on his face as he danced a little closer to where Dorian was standing.

Dorian’s smile widened as his gaze fell on the young man, and he made certain that their eyes met as he danced closer, looking for signs of interest. The boy made eye contact with him, his smile growing a little wider as his moves took him within a few feet of Dorian. There was definite interest in his eyes, if that smile was anything to go by.

It was he who spoke up over the DJ first. He had a nice voice, kind of breathy…husky even, with a slight purr to it.

“Don’t think I’ve seen you here before, stranger.”

“I was just thinking the same of you,” Dorian purred, moving close enough that the two were nearly up against one another. “A mistake we should correct at once.”

The young man danced with him, not shying away in the least as they moved to the DJ’s music together.

“You read my mind, brother.” he winked playfully. “You come here often? You’re a pretty good dancer.”

“More often lately. I’m surprised I haven;t seen you here. I know i wouldn’t have overlooked you.”

“Guess we just missed one another. Not surprised, given I’ve got a few haunts besides this one.”

“Well now you have me curious,” Dorian smirked. “I do love a mystery.”

“Then you’ll love me.” the boy purred. “I’ve been told I’ve got kind of a mystique about me.”

“How about we get a drink and you can introduce me to more of this mystique of yours,” Doian offered. “And maybe you can find a little of mine too.”

“Why don’t we.” The boy offered his hand with a smirk “I know a nice spot tucked away where we can have a little privacy too.”

“Delightful. Lead on, handsome.”

Two sodas and a brief chat with Susan later, and the mysterious boy had led Dorian to a round table on the second floor of the club. It appeared to be set up where the confessionals once stood, and even had a curtain that one could pull closed for a bit of privacy and to shut out the light and noise.

The boy drew the curtain shut with a smile.

“I hope you don’t mind.”

“Quite the contrary.” Dorian slid into his seat gracefully and leaned his chin on his hand. “You’re a well connected man it seems.”

“You’ve got no idea.” The boy settled into the seat opposite Dorian, looking into his eyes with his bright and golden stare. “But maybe you’ll get to find out.”

“Color me intrigued. You can call me Dorian, by the by.”

“A charming name for a charming man… You can call me…Mystique.” He leaned on his hand.

“Well, hmmm, I can’t get you for false advertising can I? Maybe I ought to try introducing myself as Prince Charming some time.”

Mystique pressed his hand to his mouth, glancing off to the side briefly. He may have been chuckling softly–or maybe he was just a little flustered, given how he caught Dorian’s eyes and seemed to flush.

“Maybe you should. It’d suit you.”

“Then feel free to call me Charming as often as you like, Mystique.” He raised his glass to him.

“I may very well do just that, Charming .” He raised his soda to him in return. “You know…I can tell just by looking at you that you’re a very special man.”

“Oh you can tell already hmm? I haven’t even had a chance to strut my stuff yet.” Dorian smirked over his glass.

“Have you ever wanted the chance to?” Mystique brushed his finger over the rim of his cup, looking at him with those smoldering eyes. “Have the chance to really strut your stuff?”

Dorian leaned down on his hands, watching Mystique with his own amber gaze.

“I can’t say the idea hasn’t crossed my mind. Color me even more curious, dear.”

“What if I told you I wasn’t being entirely truthful with you.” He offered with a mysterious smile. “and admitted that I have seen you before…and I’ve seen what that lovely voice of yours can do.”

Dorian raised his eyebrows, his lips quirking in amusement.

“Oh is that so? I have been known to carry a tune.”

“How impressive. I like a man with perfect pitch.” He leaned on his hands , and half closed his eyes “it’s a shame that you’re forced to hide it by people who simply don’t understand.”

Dorian’s smile grew, as did his curiosity. He leaned forward slightly.

“I’m sensing that you may be a man of peculiar talent yourself. Or are you simply an admirer?”

“Why don’t I drop the masquerade for you and lay my cards on the table–so to speak.”

“I’d be delighted to peruse your hand, dear.”

He chuckled, and in a moment, there was a strange ripple through his form.

Tanned skin gave way to deep blue, his form shifting strangely in his vision until the handsome young man was no longer sitting opposite him–rather, a woman with crimson hair, long and flowing as it parted around a small skull charm worn on her forehead. Her skin had a strange quality to it, aside from the striking blue hue, but it was difficult to tell exactly what it was in the dim light.

She tented her fingers again, smiling with ruby painted lips, her golden eyes still meeting his.

“I am Mystique–and I’m here to offer you a place where you can do some real good for your own kind.”

Dorian looked her over with a fascinated gaze– an altogether different kind of fascination than he’d been eyeing her with a moment previously.

“Not exactly the reveal I was expecting, my dear, but striking nonetheless.” He stroked the fluff of mustache on his upper lip. “As for your offer I am quite intrigued.”

“I’ve got another trick up my sleeve I expect you’ll find even more surprising, Mr. Conner…but there will be time for that later. For now…” Her smile turned just the slightest bit sharp. “Now, I expect you’ve already gotten quite a few lectures from that eggheaded fool Professor Xavier on the topic of Mutants and mutation so I’ll spare you the grand introduction and cut right to the chase.”

Dorian snorted– an almost choked sound of amusement.

“Ah I see you’ve met the man. Do go on.”

“Unfortunately. We’re well acquainted. And have been for years.” She tented her fingers again. “Professor Xavier…no matter his intentions, preaches about unity and peace with the humans while refusing to address the very real problems so many of his own species face in the name of bowing to mankind . We, as Homo Superior, are feared and hated by the humans around us. Persecuted and hunted even now for gifts we were simply born with.”

“So I have unfortunately noticed,” he agreed. “Not exactly all sunshine and roses for us, mores the pity.”

Dorian drummed his fingers thoughtfully on his chin as he listened, watching her. He’d initially entered the booth with nothing more than an evening hookup in mind, but this was– intriguing. Not necessarily more so, but in a different way. He had to admit, he hadn’t been especially fond of the professor lately.

“But why should we have to bow to humanity and it’s prejudices?” Mystique asked. “Especially now, as in the shadows they’re already hard at work planning ways to destroy us?”

“You know it’s a very similar argument that preceded my exit from the institute,” he mused.

“Is that so?” she frowned “Why am I not surprised, given all I know of the man.”

“Indeed. I’ve been growing less fond by the day of hiding and bowing to prejudice.”

“Magneto and I are fighting for a world where we no longer need to hide or bow to those who believe in only their own power and the status quo.” She smirked, and offered her hand with a proud purr to her voice. “We’re forming a Brotherhood of Mutants. A group that will fight for mutant liberation, no matter who tries to stop us.”

Dorian’s jaw tightened slightly, and he hesitated, his hand partially raised, but not taking hers yet.

“Magneto, hmm? I was under the impression that he worked alone.”

“His right hand wears many faces,” she said with a sly smile. “I should know. they’re all mine.”

Mystique paid and shook her head before continuing.

“…he’s been fighting for our cause a long time now, but the time has finally come…the mutant population is on the rise and the humans are looking to contain the threat they seem to see us as. It’s high time we unite as one against it, don’t you think?”

Dorian hesitated a moment longer as he considered. His friends at the institute would certainly consider this a betrayal. But did he really have friends at the institute any more? It didn’t feel like it. After all, hadn’t they let him on his own all summer after the fight? They hadn’t exactly been banging down the door-he-didn’t-have to get him back. And what did they really do for mutant rights in any case?

Dorian’s fingers twitched, and he took Mystique’s hand.

“High time, Mystique, dear. I think you’re onto something.”

Child Services

Todd had been in his room since getting home from school the night before. Next exactly locked in, but no one was trying hard to get him out either. Dinner hadn’t been a consideration, nor breakfast. It was looking like lunch was out of the question too.

He lay on his back on the lumpy mattress on the floor, hands behind his head as he stared at the ceiling, watching a large beetle crawl from one crack to another. His stomach growled.

He stared at the bug for another moment, and then rolled violently over onto his stomach, pulling his pillow over his head.

“Man this * sucks * yo,” he grumbled.

He hadn’t heard Martha, his foster mom all morning, or the TV, which was usually blaring loudly by now. Maybe she was still asleep. Maybe she wouldn’t notice if he grabbed something out of the kitchen.

As quietly as he could, Todd opened his door, and tiptoed downstairs.

* Don’t wake mommy *, he thought to himself. * Not that she IS .*

He glanced carefully at the large armchair in the living room as he passed it, half crouched. He couldn’t see her. Just a stack of pizza boxes and beer cans.

Creeping into the kitchen– dishes piled high and mouldering in the sink– Todd passed up the fridge, which was unlikely to do anything for his stomach but make him nauseous.

He had his hand on a can of spaghettios that was thankfully still in date when he thought *Maybe she ain’t here. I could get outta the house. Lance and Morgan both texted they wanted to hang…*

The thought was interrupted by a voice as shrill as it was cigarette raspy. “Todd?! If that’s you creepin’ around in the kitchen I swear to christ you’re gonna regret it!”

Todd winced and crouched down. So much for not there. Maybe she wouldn’t come and check and he could just…. Wait her out. He held perfectly still.

That didn’t stop the looming shadow in the doorway.

The woman’s small eyes narrowed on him.

“I thought I told you I didn’t wanna see your face downstairs, rat,” she sneered. “After all I do for you, the least you owe me is a little obedience!”

“Y-yeah, but–” he started to sweat. Shoulda just stayed in his room.

Should have gone out the fucking window. Callisto and Dorian had the right idea.

Despite the situation, and the way the woman was gearing up for another verbal assault…it seemed fate may have been somewhat on his side. Because before another word came out the woman’s mouth, the doorbell rang once…followed by three hard, clinical knocks.

An official sort of knock.

The woman scowled at Todd, and looked torn. She pointed at him. “Get up to your room. If I hear a single sound you’re going to regret being born.”

Yeah, I like I don’t already .

“You got it, ma’am,” he half-whimpered, and legged it for the stairs as she stomped to the door. Despite the warning– he stayed in the shadow at the top of the stairs, watching as she yanked the door open.

Outside the door stood a woman with auburn hair pinned in a professional bun behind her head. Her keen eyes narrowed as she took in the woman in the doorway, as she smoothed out her suit with a slim smile.

“Good evening, ma’am.” She said in a voice that dripped with professionalism and danger. “My name is Katherine Lawrence, Child Protective Services.”

She pulled a badge out from her breast pocket, and held it out for her to see “Might I have a word?”

“Why, of course, Ms. Lawrence.”

The woman smiled her widest smile, and moved to step outside with the woman and close the door subtly behind her.

Ms. Lawrence’s hand shot out…and stopped the door from closing with a thin smile.

“Inside, if you don’t mind.”

“O-oh, but it’s such a nice day outside….”

Ms. Lawrence looked at her clipboard briefly and made the most nerve wracking of “hmmm” sounds.

“I’ve heard reports, Ms. Smith. And I think I’d like to have a word with young Todd. in private.”

“I’ll… go get him,” she nodded, “Ms. Lawrence.”

“Good.” Ms. Lawrence tapped her fingers on her clipboard “And do hurry it up, Ms. Smith.”


Martha smiled and edged into the house, sweating.

Todd heard her coming and scrambled to his room– she’d know he hadn’t been in it, but– well, it wouldn’t matter now. He was gonna get his ass beat when the juvie lady was gone anyway.

When she pulled open his door, he was sitting on the bed smiling like an angel with his hands folded in his lap.

“You say one filthy lie about me mistreating you, you nasty little creature, and you’re out on the street. Even my saintly patience can only take so much of you .”

Todd swallowed hard.

“Yes ma’am, wouldn’t tell a lie, yo, I ain’t no wooden boy,” he muttered nervously, slipping past her, and down the stairs.

He found Ms. Lawrence still standing outside the door, her hand on her clipboard and an enigmatic smile on her face.

“Mind taking a little walk with me, Young man? Somewhere…quiet?”

“Anything you say, ma’am,” he murmured. “Don’t gotta put yourself out on my account, yo.”

He shoved his hands in his pockets as he headed out the door.

Ms. Lawrence led him towards a car parked in the driveway, pointing with a thin smile.

“Get in.” She got into the driver’s seat herself, and had a tone that didn’t brook any argument “we have a lot to talk about.”

Todd blinked, at the car and at the lady.

“Uuuuuuuh…. y-you sure?” He glanced back at the house. “Don’t think Martha’s gonna like that much.”

“You’ll find that I care very little about what an insignificant peon like Martha would like.”  The woman started up the car.”I’m far more interested in talking to you, Todd Tolansky.”

Todd looked back at the house one more time– and hopped into the car, buckling his seatbelt.

“Peon, huh? … yeah.”

Ms. Lawrence smirked as she pulled out of the driveway.

“What has she contributed to anything? To a cause…to a community? As far as I’ve been able to tell, Todd, the only thing she’s done is mistreat the boy she was supposed to care for.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. “A boy who’s far more special than she could ever hope to be.”

“Yo I mean, I ain’t one to turn down a compliment or nothin, lady, but uh,” he paused, and his mouth wrinkled. “If this is about a letter to hogwarts ya missed eleven by a good few years.”

The woman’s mouth formed a thin line as she gave him an incredulous look with her dark eyes.

“Not quite hogwarts, no. ”

Todd stared at her from the corner of his eyes while looking straight ahead.

“Yo that ain’t quite a no, neither,” he said. He frowned. “Are you really from CPS?”

“I’ve protected a few children in the past.” She pulled down a side street. “You look hungry. Why don’t we grab a bite and talk .”

“…..alright,” he said, a little suspicious of the good will, but not suspicious enough to pass up a meal. “But like, no roofies, got it? I got an allergy to em, yo.”

He chuckled slightly playing it off as a joke.

“Most people do.” She pulled into the drive-thru of the local burger chain, and tapped her nails on the steering wheel. “Unless they’ve got extrodinary constitutions.”

“…good point yo,” he shrugged, casually checking if the car’s child lock was engaged.

It was not. She pulled up to the speaker and gestured.

“Go. Get anything you want.”

“…. your funeral, lady,” he grinned nervously, and leaning halfway over her, he shouted out an order for a large meal, extra fries and a large shake. He paused, looking to her one more time nervously. The other shoe was definitely going to drop.

I ain’t pretty enough to be trafficked. Slave labor maybe?

The woman added to the order.

One black coffee.

And a small fry.

She glanced at Todd.

“I’d prefer we save the funerals for the distant future.”

“You know funny you should say, me too, yo.” He settled back in his seat, biting his lip.

She pulled the car through the drive through, before paying at the window without another word. She purchased the food–she collected it and dropped it on Todd’s lap, putting the coffee in the cupholder before she drove off to a quiet and secluded spot by the river, parking at the otherwise empty overlook.

She glanced at Todd with a look of amusement.

“You seem a little frightened. Maybe a more familiar face would help?”

He looked at her with half a burger stuffed into his mouth.


“Swallow,” she instructed dryly. “I don’t think anyone would like it if you choked to death out of surprise.”

He swallowed obediently, holding the rest of the burger by the half-peeled wrapper in one hand.


what the hell have you gotten yourself into, Toad?

The woman closed her eyes–and for a moment her skin seemed to ripple in the afternoon light. Blue flecks bloomed on her skin, only to fade into a soft pale–the suit reshaped into a starched pantsuit in black and grey, and her face took on the pinched and sharp-featured features of…

Principal Darkholme


Todd stared at her for a long moment, then looked at the burger, then back to her.

“One, I said no roofies. Two– ain’t it supposed to be your day off?”

His brain had basically ground to a halt. It was furiously attempting to reboot.

“Consider this an extracurricular,” she drawled, before looking at him “Todd. I know what you are. You’re a mutant. Just like me. Homo Superior. And I’d like to speak with you about something very important.”

“Well, uh, you bought me lunch, so I’m definitely listenin’,” he admitted, taking a moment to wolf down some fries.

“You looked like you needed it.” She said, her eyes hard as she stared out at the river for a moment.

“Didn’t know you were a mutant, ma’am. That’s cool, yo.”

She picked up her coffee…and the same strange effect happened once more. Only this time–the woman sitting next to him had striking deep blue skin that held a strange and inhuman texture, and crimson hair that  hung in a long bob around her face, a small skull charm decorating her forehead as she watched the water with pure golden eyes.

“I have to keep myself hidden from the humans,” she said with a note of old bitterness  “something I’m certain you understand well, Tolansky.”

He looked her over with his eyebrows raising.

“Yeah, I sure do… damn tho, that’s like, a good look for you, yo. Shame nobody appreciates it.”

“You have taste, Todd.Humans have a habit of failing to appreciate wonderful things and s.eeking to drag them down to their level instead.”  She closed her eyes as she sipped her coffee

She lowered the coffee cup “How do you feel about the state of things as they are, Todd? Between humans and mutants.”

He scratched the back of his head, and shrugged.

“I mean its obvious its pretty shit yo. Humans ain’t even got they own shit together you know? Like ya said.”

“And yet they seek to push their will on us.” She frowned sharply “and expect us to roll over and allow them to do whatever they wish…and why?”

She turned to look at him “because they think they’re the pinnacle of evolution. And people like Charles Xavier and his gaggle of ‘students’ are all too ready to help enforce that false sense of status quo while people like us suffer.”

Leaning on the wheel, she looked him in the eyes “Have you ever wanted to do something about it, Todd?”

“Uh, yeah?” he nodded. “Not much I can do though without the whole pitchforks and torches thing comin up. or the institute kids comin’ to kick my ass, yo. Not to say I ain’t cool as hell but like…”

He trailed off, biting his lip. He wasn’t sure what she was suggesting, so he shoved more fries in his mouth.

Magneto , is a dear, old friend of mine. We’ve worked together a number of years now. With the number of mutants growing, and the humans growing more concerned…more volatile as time goes on, we came to a decision. We are looking to create a Brotherhood of mutants, like you, to fight for and protect our kind .” She put a hand out and patted his shoulder “and from the Institute, should they decide to meddle. Because you’ve seen the inside, haven’t you? I don’t have to tell you what they’re capable of in there.”

He made a face, crumpling up the burger wrapper and rolling it in between his hands.

“Yeah, I seen it alright yo. They got flowerpots and busts of Shakespeare and also like, some kinda death room,” he mumbled. “This Brotherhood thing…. you’re not like…. askin’ me to join, are ya?” he asked warily.

“That’s exactly what I’m doing, Todd.” Principal Darkholme said, looking at him seriously “I’m asking if you want to be a part of something great. Something that will protect your fellow mutants from threats both looming and current.”

She offered her hand

“I want you in our Brotherhood, Tolansky. But joining means standing against the world and it’s obsession with the status quo and fighting for a better future.” She met his eyes “WIll you join us?”

Todd didn’t have to think about it.

“Count me in, yo! I won’t let you down!”

“Wonderful.” The principal smiled, as she grasped his hand “then you may call me… Mystique.”


It was hard to believe that outside the hustle and bustle of New Salem’s city center that there could be peace and quiet only a mile or two outside of town. It was a popular destination for all sorts–lovers for picnics, joggers for trails–and in the case of one camouflage print tent, a place to sleep out in the elements.

Callisto sat outside her tent, surrounded by trees and the smell of chemical agents reacting inside the folded military-issue MRE ration packet she’d balance precariously on a large rock. With an impassive expression she watched as the internally generating heat began to puff the plastic of the bag, steam escaping from the small hole she’d left to vent it out at the top.

She brushed her hair over her ear, taking a moment to adjust her eyepatch.

“Another quiet day. Maybe I’ll go into town and hunt down the guys.”

The quiet was disturbed, unfortunately, by the sound of heavy footfalls nearby.

“She said it was near here, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t see it. Think she was messing around?”

“No. she seemed fucking pissed, Bob, I don’t think she was messing around.”

Callisto’s lips quirked into a sharp frown, and her hand went behind her back to her sheathed knife.

Trouble , she thought with a sting of annoyance. I knew that jogger was going to be trouble.

The bushes parted and a pair of park rangers came into view. One was a somewhat portly middle-aged man, and the other was a gawky young guywho could hardly be out of his teenage years. Both were wearing ‘cop-lite’ style park ranger uniforms, and the fat one was holding a flashlight despite it being the middle of the day.

“What did I tell you, Bob,” the young one said, waving his hand at Callisto and the tent.

Bob pointed his flashlight at her.

“You can’t be here. This park doesn’t do camping.”

Callisto raised her hands in the air.

“is this really worth your time, sir?” She looked at him with her single grey eye. “Why harass a girl down on her luck when there’s bears to keep out of picnic baskets?”

The younger one blinked.

“Huh? there aren’t any bears in this park.”

Bob pressed a hand to his face.

“Don’t you have any culture, Ryan?” he snorted. He leveled the flashlight at her again. “Look miss, I can take a joke as well as the next guy, but this is unacceptable.”

“I don’t have anywhere else to go. I was just spending the night. I’ll move on in the morning, is that acceptable? I am not bothering anyone.” She gestured to her MRE “I’m not even using a fire.”

He sighed.

“It’s a hazard to have people overnighting here. And if anybody found out I let you stay it’d be my job. So no. You can’t. Pack it up. I’m sure the Youth Shelter has beds.”

Callisto closed her eye.

“How cruel.” She stood in a smooth motion “Can I at least finish my meal?”

The man looked like he was going to protest, when there was a horrible crashing noise from nearby. The trees rustled and birds took flight.Callisto turned her head to face the sound.

“Looks like there are bears here. Wild.”

There was another horrible crashing sound– and a sound like metal tearing.

“We… should probably check that out, sir,” Ryan said.

“God damn it,” Bob growled. He practically grabbed Ryan and the two of them stomped off through the bush. Callisto heard Bob on his radio. “We have a situation…”

“Guess I’ll have to pack it up and find another spot to camp,”  she muttered miserably. She looked down at her steaming MRE. “…and even the Menu 17: Pizza isn’t going to cheer me up.”

“It was certainly impolite of them to interrupt your meal,” a low voice said, disapprovingly. A tall, broad shouldered figure moved out of the shadow of the trees, coming slightly into view.

Callisto turned, tilting her head to the side with a pensive frown on her face.

“I’m almost used to it by now.”

“Hhmm. I apologize for doing the same,” he said, coming and sitting down on a log across from her. “They should be busy for a while however.”

“Did you make a big metal bear, Magneto, sir?” Callisto asked dryly, as she sat opposite him with a half smile.

He chuckled dryly.

“Nothing quite so dramatic I’m afraid. Why bother when they’re not even looking. No, I merely made a bit of a mess in their parking lot.”

“I’m sure I’ll see it on my way out.” She leaned on her hand and looked up at Magneto. “While I look for another place to set up shop tonight. Irritating…this is a surprise, however. Can I interest you in half my pizza?”

“A generous offer, Callisto,” he admitted, holding up a hand. “But no, thank you. As for finding another place for this evening, I have another option for you.”

Callisto raised her eyebrow.

“another option?” She reached down to pick up the MRE, and opened it up enough for it to vent the rest of it’s steam into the air.

“Indeed,” he agreed, watching the steam rise from the plastic bag. “I’m not certain how much our mutual contact has shared with you, but the time has come for the next phase of activity to be set in motion.”

“I’ve gotten a bit of news on the subject,” she admitted “but anything you can tell me is appreciated.”

Callisto brushed her hair away from her face, where a long cut became visible from where it was hiding behind her straight black hair, right across her cheek.

“You have me in your service as per the agreement.”

“So I was told,” he nodded, frowning slightly. “However, for this project I would like you to participate because you wish to, not out of duty to your employer.”

Callisto cocked her head again.

“Oh? why’s that, sir?”

“Because as much as I value your skills, Callisto, this is a question of ideals.” He paused. “There is a war coming. And I am not a man who believes in the usefulness of conscripts.”

Callisto patted the pistol she always kept nearby.

“I’ve been ready for a war my whole life, Magneto, but I understand.” She looked pensive as she continued. “A soldier who believes in fighting for the same cause as you can be trusted more than a hired gun.”

“Much more,” he agreed. “And I require that bond of trust for my new Brotherhood of mutants. Mutants who believe in the cause they are fighting for. That unity with humans is a naive dream, and seeking it will only allow liberty to slip through our fingers.”

Callisto put her MRE aside, and leaned on her hands

“Will you give me the full pitch? I do agree that humans and mutants will likely never gain true unity, sir.”

“The full pitch, hmm,” he drew his lips tightly in something that was almost a smile. “Unlike Charles I don’t have any pamphlets printed, but yes, I can give you ‘the pitch’.”

“Good. I prefer a straightforward conversation.” Callisto said with a wry smile “…I get enough pamphlets and curated speeches back with my employers.”

“I expect you do,” he agreed. He rested his hands on his knees. “Callisto, there is a geneocide coming. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but perhaps today or tomorrow indeed. You know as well as I that many of our number already live in fear and hiding, and as our numbers grow, so will that number. And it will grow so far that the humans will no longer allow us to merely hide. No there will be simply nothing left but for them to attempt to control and finally to destroy us in their fear, their pride, and their jealousy.”

Callisto’s lips drew a hard line as she listened. After a moment, she nodded.

“I know, sir.”She rested both hands on her lap, folding her fingers together. She looked off into the woods “Part of my mutation allows me to rapidly understand a situation. For tactical reasoning. But part of that is simple observation, and it doesn’t take hyper awareness to see the way things are starting to go. The humans will dig us out of hiding and destroy us for daring to be out in the open. That kind of destructive jealousy and fear is human nature.”

She was quiet a moment before she said: “I don’t like it any more than you do.”

“Then I hope that you will join me, Callisto, of your own will, and work with me, and the rest of your mutant brothers to not merely throw off the shackles with which humanity will attempt to bind us, but to destroy those shackles, and the mold that created them.”

Callisto closed her eye, before nodding and offering her hand.

“Of my own free will.” she said “I’d like to see a world like that with my own eye , sir.” She smiled thinly “I hope my employers will agree….but you have me, at least. I’ll join.”

Magneto extended his hand to her.

“And I am pleased to have you. Welcome to the brotherhood, Callisto.”

“Thank you, Magneto sir.” Callisto shook his hand firmly “You won’t regret it.”

Recruitment Drive 2

In his gargoylesque form, at least, Greg had enough mental energy to spare as he was hit squarely across the chest with a flying steel beam, to wonder if this was really what it felt like to get hit across the chest with a flying steel beam. On the one hand, it hurt like a bitch, and he might have cracked a rib. On the other hand, despite being currently pinned by the curving beam to the wall of the danger room, he was still up and conscious, looking for an escape.

“Heads up!” Bobby Drake yelled as he made his way past a flying taxi towards Greg. He was currently covered head to toe in a sheet of ice as a sort of protective armor as he skated across a path of ice formed of the spraying water from a broken hydrant.

He jumped up, and coated the inside of the beam with ice, careful not to get too much on Greg

“Try, like, slipping out man!”

“I’m working on it,” Greg growled as his chest suddenly burned with cold.

“Ugh.” Kitty ran forward, dodging a hail of nails as she leapt through the walls of a construction site towards Greg “Come on, Iceman! You could have given him frostbite or something, you know?”

She leapt up, and grabbed the edge of the beam, hoisting herself up onto the beam, where she grabbed Greg’s arm and phased the two of them to the ground.

He took a breath as Kitty grabbed him, and let it out as they phased back up.


Kitty smiled at Greg “no problem, that’s what X-men do…like, we help eachother when the chips are down, you kn–”

Another nearby car exploded into the air as the hovering figure waved his hand. She was struck with the force of the exploding car, slammed by the flying door mid sentence before she could turn intangible.

“Shit!” Bobby ran over and jumped to catch her out of the air, using steps formed of ice for extra propulsion in his interception.

He caught her–but the two of them were hit by a steel grate that twisted and squeezed around them like a heavy blanket, binding them tight as they hit the ground with a dull clang of metal on concrete.

Greg was standing just far enough away from the two that he was missed by the grate. He wheeled, growling and flared his wings, diving toward the toppling pair, to grab the grate and wrench it open with his black claws.

The grate began to tear, and Bobby began to wriggle free.

Kitty, grimacing as she concentrated, went intangible and slipped out.

But unfortunately they all took too much time in getting free. Above them, Magneto had approached.

“This ends here.” he intoned, and with a gesture, cracked the construction site’s support beams, sending the entire building crashing down towards them.

The scene froze, the bricks , mortar and re-bar suspended mere feet from them as the scenario began to flicker. Professor X’s voice called from the danger room’s speakers.

“Well done, my students. While there is much room for improvement, I applaud you for your teamwork.”

“Yeah, but we failed again.” Bobby muttered under his breath.

Greg slumped, looking with frustration at the rubble, and the image of Magneto hanging in the air before they flickered and vanished.

“Damn it,” he growled.

Kitty sighed, rubbing the side of her head with a grimace.

“I mean , you know that winning this one isn’t that easy,  right? It’s more about, like, what we do during the fight and not how we finish it. Like an endurance test or something.” She paused “we did really take a beating, though.”

“You can say that again.” Bobby let his ice shielding drop, leaning against the wall. “Oh uh, hey, Greg. Sorry about the ice-burns, man.” he grinned sheepishly “I was trying to help.”

Greg rubbed his chest, where it was sore, and still slightly cold.

“No worry,” he grumbled. “With the bruises I got from that beam, I probably should put ice on it anyway. Kitty’s right, we took a hell of a beating…”

He grimaced as he touched his chest. It hurt like a bitch– maybe he had cracked a rib. As he winced at the pain, his sister’s words echoed in his head. Why were they training against this guy at all. He didn’t want to question his new friends but…

“but we survived! for like–” Kitty grinned as she checked the athletic watch on her wrist, “–geeze, 7 minutes. That’s a new record for us.”

Bobby nudged Greg.

“you alright man? Need to see Emma in the infirmary?”

“Probably,” he said, making a face as he admitted it. “I might have cracked a rib.”

“You might have.” Bobby ran his hand through his hair ‘but it’s probably just bruised. You had your shadows up, right?”

“Yeah… I guess I’m just… thinking about something my sister said.”

“Your sister huh? was it uh…when you went to try and get her?”

He nodded, rubbing his chest again.

“Yeah….  though I guess she said it when we were touring too. Like, she doesn’t get why we’re training against this Magneto guy. And I’ll be honest I am all for training and honing skills, but I guess… I don’t quite get it either? Like, the specifics of it,” he mumbled. “I felt pretty stupid when I couldn’t give her a good answer.”

He glanced up at the control tower where he knew the professor had been watching them.

“Ah.” Bobby said, looking up towards the control room as well. “Yeah, I bet it felt kinda shitty not to be able to give a straight answer…but uh… the Prof can explain it better than I can.”

Kitty patted Greg’s shoulder.

“It’s for a good reason, Greg. Why don’t you ask the Professor yourself? You’re probably going to be fighting alongside us so like, you deserve to get the whole story.”

“He’s not gonna be like, annoyed about me asking, will he?”

“Of course not!” Kitty promised. “He wasn’t annoyed about me asking when I first joined up!”

Bobby nodded.

“The professor’s a real good guy, you know? When I showed up, I was always askin’ him all kinds of questions and he always answered them.”

“Alright, I’ll go talk to him then, and meet up with you guys after, yeah?”

Bobby saluted him with a wink “you got it, shadowboy! See you after. I’m gonna go get changed.”

“Me too; and like, give myself a little TLC after that hit.” Kitty smiled at Greg. “Hey, don’t worry. Everything’ll be just fine.”


With a little wave, Greg jogged out of the danger room. He was sure he too was in desperate need of a shower but– well, the professor could just deal with the fact that he smelled like he’d taken a girder to the chest, while he explained why he’d just taken a girder to the chest.

He found the professor waiting for him in the danger room’s control center, his hands folded on his lap.

“I sensed you wanted to speak to me, Greg. Please.” He gestured to one of the command chairs “have a seat.”

Greg sat down obediently, his lips wrinkling a little perturbed. Still not used to someone who could read his mind.

“Thanks, professor. Sorry to bother you.”

“It’s not a bother at all.” The professor tented his fingers with a smile. “Talk with me, Greg. I always have time for my students.”

Greg rubbed the back of his head thoughtfully. Of course now he had to gather his thoughts instead of the professor just knowing what was on his mind.

If the professor knew, he was keeping quiet. Perhaps he was showing respect by letting Greg pick his words instead of simply just reading them from the mind itself.

“Well… I went to get my stuff this morning, sir. To move in with Bobby like you wanted. And I saw my sister…”:

“Did things go as you hoped?”

Greg shook his head, feeling a bitter sting as he thought about it.

“Not at all. We got into another fight. It involved me trying to get her to come here…”

The Professor nodded his head, frowning

“…after the other night, I expect she still holds a great many doubts about us.” He closed his eyes, and listened.

“Yeah… a great many,” he sighed in agreement. Hesitantly, he admitted. “One of them kind of stuck with me, professor…”

“And what doubt was that, Greg?” The professor asked without judgement. “It seems to be weighing on you.”

Greg rubbed his jaw, staring at the floor..

“She keeps bringing up the danger room, sir. She wanted to know what its for, and why you train to fight Magneto. To flight like, other people like us, I guess. And it bothers me that I didn’t have a good answer for her…”

“Yes…I understand it must have been quite alarming. We had shown it during the tour as a demonstration of the sort of training facilities we had at our disposal, as part of our ability to work with all sorts of mutant abilities. But it seems to have frightened her terribly.” The man tented his fingers “If it’s an answer you seek, though, I’m afraid there is one. Would you mind an impromptu lesson?”

“Not if you don’t mind giving it, sir.”

“Not in the least.” He looked out at the danger room. “The answer is…we are training. Not just to fight Magneto…but to fight numerous other threats. Greg…have you heard my students mention ‘the X-men’?”

“I think I heard it in passing, yeah. But nobody really mentioned what it was…” He frowned, thinking about it.

“A select number of my students are part of a team.” The professor explained. “A team of extraordinary young men and women who’ve learned to hone their powers in defense of not just mutantkind…but all mankind. A strike force to help protect the fragile hope of unity between our kind, and defend the innocent. Those are my X men. A few of your teachers were members…as are a few of your classmates as well.”

Greg raised his eyebrows as he listened. It wasn’t exactly what he’d expected to hear, but he wasn’t exactly sure what he HAD expected.

“A strike force?” he asked. “That makes sense why you’re training but, I don’t really understand… what do we have to fight against?”

The professor sighed, looking distantly into the danger room.

“Against a great many threats, Greg. We protect mutants from misguided humans lashing out against what they don’t understand…just as much as we protect both human and mutant from the aims of those like Magneto…the man you saw in the sim.” He frowned “Magneto was once a… a dear, dear friend of mine. We worked together to try and understand the X-gene, and our mutations, and to find those like ourselves.”

“If he used to be a friend? what happened? why’s he someone to fight?”

“Magneto…. Erik. We suffer from a…difference of opinion on the topic of mutants and humanity.” A saddened look crossed his face. “While I believe in the ideal of a future where we all can accept and understand one another–human and mutant, and choose to work towards that future while protecting those in need…Erik sees it as impossible. He’s taken a stance of Mutant superiority. He and those he’s taken under his wing lash out at humanity, committing acts of terrorism and violence, causing others to fear us all the more.”

Xavier rested his head in his hand, his brow furrowed as he continued.

“Shattering that potential for peace in shortsighted fury. We’ve quarreled quite a few times in the past…and I teach my X-men how to face him to prepare them for the likelihood that one day he will return..and we’ll be opponents once more.”

Slowly it dawned on Greg how serious the situation was.

“Damn….” Greg sighed. “He just won’t even try to get along, huh?”

“I’ve tried, in the past.” The man looked into his hands, pensive, “but each time he refuses to listen to reason. And I have to choose…my friend, or the good of so many innocent people.” He looked up at Greg “Do you understand, now, the reason for our training sessions?”

“I do, professor. And I know what I’ll tell my sister when I talk to her again.” He nodded, his expression grave.  …I wonder if she’ll listen. 

“Indeed.” The Professor said with a nod. “Perhaps then she’ll be willing to listen …though this brings me to another topic, though it is related.”

He looked up from his reflection.

“Yes, sir?”

“You’ve proven yourself rather capable, and I have high hopes for your potential.” He looked Greg in the eyes “I think  given the chance, you would do well in my X-men. Would you care to join them?”

Greg was a little taken aback.

“You think I’m good enough, sir?”

“I’ve seen you train these last few days, and I watched you in the danger room. Between your athleticism, abilities, and the quick rapport you’ve developed with my other students, I think you would do well as one of their number.”

“I’m flattered, professor,” he admitted, slowly. “And honored, too. If you think I’m right for the team, I don’t want to let you down.”

“I don’t imagine you will.” He gave Greg a small smile. “The next time a mission is needed, I’ll have you join them in the field. In the meantime, I ask that you train with them and continue to work on your bonds and teamwork together.”

“Absolutely, professor,” he nodded, feeling a swell of pride in his chest that the professor saw potential in him. “I’ll be doing my absolute best.”

“I have faith in you, young man.” He tapped his temple. “And I look forward to watching you grow. Now… “you must be tired after that training session–you should relax. And perhaps get used to your new accommodations.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, with a little smile. “I’m gonna do exactly that, sir.”

And take a shower.


It’s been said that the atmosphere of a house could reflect the moods of the occupants, which perhaps explained the rather dark and heavy aura that had settled around the Connelly household since Greg grabbed his things and left.

After the initial slamming of doors and stomping about, Morgan had retreated outside to train. In the shadows of the trees that ringed their new property, she smashed targets, shaped shadows, and teleported high into branches before throwing spikes of dark mist at bullseye markers she had, in her anger, absolutely been picturing as Greg’s growling face.

But once the fight left her, and the frustration set in–all that was left to do was to let the mood fester. She’d slipped back inside, taken a shower to try and cool her head (it didn’t work), and checked her messages in the vain hope that one of her friends might suddenly be available to hang out (they weren’t).

It all added up to a dark mood that reflected in the unlit rooms of the too-large house, and the heavy shadows cast by the shifting light of the sun through the drapes on the windows. A dark mood that Morgan was currently stewing in while curled up in a blanket on her couch, an old Nintendo 64 controller in her hand as she played through the first level of Gex , glaring daggers at the screen as it did little to lighten her mood.

Maybe it was because she had allowed herself to get absorbed in the old game, but this time, she didn’t hear the sound of a car engine preceding the knock on the front door.

She jolted, fumbling the controller in such a way that Gex the damned Gecko went stumbling his way off a cliff as she cursed under her breath

Great , looks like Greg’s back to try to drag me to the Homicide House again”

She stood, flipping her damp hair off her shoulder as she drifted like a furious stormcloud towards the front door, the shadows of the darkened house pulled behind her like eager, grasping hands as they pooled and twisted in her frustration.

With a sharp hiss, and a bare of her fangs, she threw the door open.

“I thought I told you to go running back to that bullshit school and to leave me alone!”

The broad-shouldered figure looming in the doorway was absolutely not Greg . Not unless Greg had recently purchased a maroon suit and a matching knightly helmet, which was technically possible but seemed unlikely.

“Forgive me for the intrusion,” the man’s sonorous voice intoned.

Morgan yelped, and at once all the shadows that had gathered behind her scattered like rodents into the corners of the foyer.

After a stunned moment, she had the good sense to close her mouth a bit to hide her fangs. She flushed, a dark crawl across her face and raised an arm defensively

“…who are you? I..I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.”

“No apology necessary, Ms. Connelly, I recognize that I do come unannounced.”

Recognize…. actually…. now that she looked at him, despite the suit, he looked oddly familiar. Especially the weird helmet. Morgan froze, her eyes widening slightly in sudden recognition

“..hold on…” She looked him over, her eyes lingering on his helmet. “I…know you…or at least I’ve seen you before.”

“Is that so?” he mused. “Hmm. May I ask you if I might come in?”

She hesitated a moment, her lips tight over her fangs–but her curiosity won out as she stepped out of the way and let him come inside.

“Alright, sure.”

It’s not like I’m helpless. If he tried anything…well..this house is full of shadows.

“Come on in, Mr Magneto.” She waved her hand for him to step inside.

“So you have heard that name,” he mused, stepping past the threshold. “I wondered. Yes. I am known as Magneto. And what would you like me to call you, Ms. Connelly?”

“I’ll tell you more about that once you settle in. Can I get you some coffee?” She asked as she led him into the kitchen. She thought for a moment as she opened the fridge. “As for names…I guess you can call me Morgan. If you want.”

“Coffee would be lovely,” he agreed, following her into the kitchen, and sitting down at the table. “Thank you for your hospitality, Morgan.”

Morgan smiled over her shoulder, still hiding her fangs,

“Hey, what can I say. Back home might have been a dreary backwater, but they sure took the time to teach us a little basic hospitality.” She poured him a cup of coffee from the still hot coffee machine, and poured one for herself as well. “I…saw you before, though. Yeah. When my brother dragged me on that tour of Xavier’s school.”

“Somehow I doubt that it was a portrait by the fireplace.”.

“Nope. Not by a long shot. …They were running some simulation where they had to fight you in a broken city.” She grimaced and she paused, looking back at the helmeted man again “….in their Death Room, or whatever they called it. How do you take your coffee?”

“Black is just fine, thank you,” he nodded, stroking his chin. “Ah yes, Charles’ ‘Danger Room’. Hmmph. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Morgan placed the coffee in front of him, before slipping into the chair opposite him and glancing at him in quiet curiosity.

“That so? Because I thought it was kind of fucked up. You’re …you know.” Her voice dropped, despite it being her own house “one of us, right? So why the hell is he training some small army to try and take you out ?”

Magneto gazed briefly into the dark cup of coffee like a mirror, thoughtful, and took a sip.

“Because my friend Charles has designated me as a threat. He has decided that protecting his people, mutants like us,–protecting his friends even– is not as worthwhile a goal as protecting the human race from us.”

The older man’s magnanimous expression slowly turned into a sneer.

Morgan’s fingers tensed against her coffee cup.

“…what’s to stop him from designating any one of us a threat.” she murmured quietly. “…the human race doesn’t need protection from us. Not by a long shot.”

“Quite the opposite in my opinion,” he agreed. “They have numbers, and power on their side, and the will to use them. And not all of our kind are so lucky as to have the gifts to defend themselves.”

Morgan grit her teeth.

“…Greg and I have the power needed to protect ourselves…and even we were practically run out of town as fucking monsters in their eyes. If we were more helpless…” Shadows milled by her feet, brushing like smoke around her feet “I can only imagine what would have happened.”

“Something that has unfortunately happened to many mutants before you. Some of them live in hiding, in the shadows and the sewers. The ones who were lucky enough to escape.” He sipped his coffee, his expression intense and reflective.

Morgan bit her lip

“I’ve heard about them. …Callisto talked about them the other day. People whose mutations force them to hide from humans who’d destroy them.” Her fingers tensed . She hadn’t taken a single sip of her coffee. “…the thought of it pisses me off so much, Magneto. They shouldn’t have to hide just because some…some worthless bigots hate them for being born.”

“On that, you and I are very much in agreement, Morgan. Let me ask you– are you interested in the opportunity to do something about it?”

Morgan brushed her hair over her pointed ear, exposing it.

“Of course I am…” The shadows reached up , forming thin and spindly fingers that worked to keep her hair out of her face as she finally sipped her coffee with a pensive look. “I just dunno what I could do.”

“On your own?” he shrugged. “Likely little, as any of us. But perhaps as a member of a group, dedicated to the cause.”

Morgan met his eyes with a look of surprise.

“…you’re looking to recruit me. To some kinda…mutant rebellion?”

“To be frank with you, Morgan, that’s exactly what I’m looking to do.”

She placed her hand on her chest, looking somewhere between unsure and proud.

“And you think I’ve got what it takes to be a part of that? you …think I could actually help?”

“I believe that you could,” he nodded, firmly. “I have not had the opportunity to observe you myself, but my associate tells me that you have both remarkable talent, and remarkable spirit.”

Morgan’s face tinted just the slightest shade darker as she flushed, her smile growing a little wider.

“No sense in doing something if you ain’t gonna commit 100%, right?” She met Magneto’s eyes. “…if you think I have the talent needed to help my fellow mutants…then I’m in.”

A hand formed of pure shadow formed from under her chair, reaching up on a wispy, inhuman arm to extend it’s dark and spindly fingers towards Magneto for a shake

“I’ll stand with you if it means helping my own people. Even if it makes me an enemy of my brother’s new school. Something’s gotta be done…and I want to be a part of it.”

Magneto reached out and took her shadowhand with no hesitation, shaking it firmly with his own gloved hand.The cold, but remarkably solid hand curled around his and shook it firmly as Morgan sipped her coffee with a firm nod.

“We will surely be privileged to have you,” he declared. “It is a pity that your brother was so easily swayed by Xavier, but perhaps he will understand our cause in time. You wouldn’t hesitate to work against him, it seems?”

“…Greg and I don’t see eye to eye anymore. I …I love him, Magneto, sir. he’s my brother. But he’s always been so focused on fitting in and pretending that we’re just like anyone else.” She  looked down into her coffee. “The professor and his people offered him a place to fit in. to conform.” she glanced up at him “but even if I have to stand against him, when the dust settles he’ll see that I made the right choice.”

“Standing against someone for whom you care deeply is something with which I am quite familiar, I’m afraid.” He squeezed her hand briefly, before he withdrew it. “It is never easy, but sometimes, it is what must be done.”

“I understand that,” Morgan murmured softly. She looked up at Magneto with a frown. “Are things going to get worse for us? Mutants, I mean.”

He frowned, and took another sip of his coffee.

“History , and human nature, teaches us that it will. Unless by action we are able to change its course.”

Morgan grimaced , looking down into her coffee again.

“Back home, in Red Oak, it was a small town…really cut off from the outside, you know? I mean, we’d heard news reports of…of unexplained events and strange abilities on the news from time to time, yeah, but…” She ran her hand through her hair. “Greg and I didn’t even know there was a word for what we were besides what the people in town called us once we changed. Demon. Monster. Things like that. I wasn’t a stranger by that point of people hating you for something you couldn’t control, but our mutations made everything worse in their eyes. Now that we’re in the city, I know there’s more of us…and I know that we’re Mutants…but I’m starting to see that things are like that all over. People looking at us with fear and forcing us to hide and conform to their unfair expectations. And it makes me so angry to think about all of our people who are being hurt because of it.”

“I share your anger. Value it. Anger is a useful tool in the fight for survival.” He looked distantly off at the kitchen wall. “I too once lived in the countryside, Miss Morgan. It is easy to be comfortable there, until the moment they decide that you do not belong. Cities, on the other hand. Cities bring so many people together. It sounds as though you have already met people worth being angry for.”

Morgan nodded slowly, the anger still burning in her eyes as she stared into her coffee

“You’re right about cities, sir. And about me having met people worth being angry for. And I’m sure every day I’ll meet more.” She gripped her coffee cup tightly, her shadowy hands resting on her shoulders “…I didn’t tell Greg the other reason I didn’t like the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. I didn’t think he’d get it, ’cause he seemed so happy there.”

“And that reason– will you tell it to me?” he asked, looking back at her with a steely and intense, yet compassionate gaze.

“It was the way everyone there talked about their mutant abilities, or their goals” She snorted softly. “Like they valued trying to fit in and put themselves on leashes for the humans instead of embracing who they are . A performative display to calm the humans and their fragile egos down. Learning to ‘control’ themselves. for ‘peace’. As if the humans would show that kind of compassion in return. Why should we make all the concessions? And then we see that they’ve got training sims to fight people like you, sir. Meaning they’re 100% willing to enforce it.”

“Ah yes. My good friend Charles is very keen to tutor his flock on how to perform normality , and many are keen to learn it. To keep their heads down and act and speak as expected of them by human society. Something I am not surprised that you have a low tolerance for, my dear. To me, it is a disgusting suggestion to be expected to lower and disguise oneself to avoid *upsetting* those in power with your true nature.”

Morgan hissed through her pointed teeth.

“It’s absolutely disgusting. I hate it . I’ve lived with it my whole life.” She laughed bitterly, meeting his eyes again with a dark and shadowed fury in her eyes. “Before my mutation, it was performing a specific form of femininity even if everyone already knew I…I..I was different… Keep your head down, dress the right way. Be the person their bias towards stereotype expects you to be or they may hurt you . And now with mutation…it’s exactly the same. That’s what Charles Xavier wants us to do and I d espise it. It’s Greg’s bullshit, amplified by 100.”

“No surprise then, that your brother was taken in by my friend’s promises,” Magneto said. “But I will not tell you to do what they expect, Miss Morgan, nor to hide an ounce of who you are.  And if they seek to do you harm, then we will strike back.”

There was a soft beep, and a buzz from somewhere on Magneto’s person, and he frowned slightly at the inopportune timing.

Morgan opened her mouth to respond, only to freeze at the sound of the beep

“Sounds like you’re a busy guy.”  She brushed her fingers through her hair.

He snorted, and slipped a phone out of his breast pocket.

“Forgive me,” he nodded. He typed a very quick message, and slipped the phone away again. “It seems our ranks grow.”

“More people joined you too, huh?” She smiled slightly, leaning on her hand “looks like your movement’s picking up speed. As I said before…consider me on board too.”

“Of course,” he agreed. “And I should tell you that I believe you are already familiar with the rest of our recruits”

“The guys?” Morgan’s lips quirked into a wide and fang-bearing grin. “Todd and Callisto and the crew? For real??”

“You have keen insight,” he said, his lips quirking slightly. “Indeed. It seems all of them were as eager to step up as you were.”

“They’re the only other mutants I know who aren’t part of Charlie’s Repression Squad. It was a lucky guess.” Morgan chuckled. Some of the anger that clouded her expression lifting at the thought of her friends. “I can’t blame them…as we talked about, something needed to be done…and working with them will be great .”

“I have great hopes for you as a team,” he agreed. “Now it is merely the fine details which must be smoothed, before the true work can begin.”

He finished his coffee and set down the cup. Morgan stood, and picked up the cup to put it in the sink.

“The fine details, huh? Consider me excited.”

“I’m delighted by your enthusiasm,” he agreed. He continued, musing, “The chief concern will be a suitable base of operations, which will likely double as living quarters for most of your new brothers…”

Morgan perked up, her fingers touching her lips as they quirked into a smile.

“You’re looking for a base huh?” She hesitated a moment, unsure as she wrestled with herself over what she was about to suggest. But as her eyes drifted towards the stairs…and by extension, Greg’s room, her hesitation hardened into a resolve. “I happen to know a place, sir. It’s sizable, it’s pretty much empty, and it’s remote enough that nobody would bother us.”

Magneto leveled his gaze at her, with a slight cock of his head.

“Do go on.”

Morgan  gestured out at the large house around them

“Greg isn’t coming home anytime soon. And my mother’s never been the…hm, affectionate type. So it’s just me, all alone, in this big and empty house.”She leaned against the counter “and if it means giving a home to my friends…ones I know need places to stay, and doing something important for our combined cause…then I’m happy offering it to the Brotherhood as a base.”

He seemed to consider the idea.

“A generous offer. I cannot guarantee that such a course of action won’t lead to possible damage to your home. Does that concern you?”

Morgan shrugged her shoulders

“Damage can be repaired, Magneto. But …I know some of my friends really need a place to go, you know?  It’d be worth it to me, at least.”

“Then let it be done,” he agreed. “I trust that you can manage extending the invitations? I have other tasks which must be prepared for.”

“You got it, Magneto.” Morgan gave him a lazy salute. “I’ll shoot a text to the gang, and have them meet up here. Sound good?”

“Indeed,” he smiled. “And much as I might be pleased to linger over another cup of coffee, I will depart for the moment. My colleague Mystique, who spoke to some of the others, may check in on you later.”

“Mystique? Love the name.” Morgan said as she put both their coffee cups in the sink “anyway, there’ll be plenty of time for lingering over coffee later. I’m sure I’ll see you after I get the crew settled in.”

“Of that, you can be certain.” He stood, and came near to offer her his hand again. “Welcome to the Brotherhood of Mutants.”


Dorian fought down the slightly awkward nervousness that plagued him as he strode through the halls of Institute for the first time in more than a month, toward his room. He tried to avoid attention– for once– though he was sure that the professor knew he was there.

He pushed the door to his former room open.

It opened to a view of a room in flux. Half of it was near bare… his half …with his things missing from the walls and dressers. Every trace of the mark he’d left here packed away in brown boxes by the door. In its place, bags of someone elses ‘ things were piled in the corner by the standard issue bed.

And in the center of it, holding a box of Dorian’s things with a stunned and speechless expression was Bobby Drake.

“D-Dorian? you’re back?”

Dorian’s expression of shock matched Bobby’s as he stared at the room.

“Did you throw out my things ?”

Bobby nearly dropped the box–in fact, it fell out of his hands, with a fumbling gesture he encased it in protective ice, freezing it in midair.

“W-what?” He frowned “n-no way , man. We’re just putting it in storage…b-because nobody knew if you were coming back.”

Some of the stunned betrayal left Dorian’s voice– leaving room for the bitterness.

“Ah. Storage. Of course. Wouldn’t want to w aste space. ,” he growned. “I see you’re getting a new roommate.”

“Don’t be like that, Dorian.” Bobby ran his hand through his short hair, and stepped away from the frozen box. He put his hands on his hips. “You know the policy. Hard to room with someone for team building exercises when the guy ain’t even there you know? So of course the Prof’s moving the new guy in. When you come back, I’m sure he’ll give ya another room.”

Dorian looked away with his frown deepening.

“He won’t have to worry about that then. –Do you know where they put my things? I’m here to get them.”

“Some of it’s in the storage room.” Bobby’s frown deepened in return “…and some of it’s by the door. Want me to get a teacher to help ya out? …You aren’t coming back, are you? Like. at all.”

“I’ll get it myself,” he said firmly. “And you’re not exactly begging me to stay, are you?”

He grabbed one of the boxes by the door.

“Dorian. I…” Bobby looked away. He took a nervous step forward, “That’s not it at all, you know? it’s just…It’s…it’s complicated. Come on…if you’re already here, why don’t you talk to Ororo, or Kitty, or hell..even the Professor? you don’t have run away just because things got… rough..between us.”

“I don’t want to talk to them!” Dorian scowled, his nails digging slightly into the cardboard box. “In case you’ve forgotten, when things got ‘rough’ between us everyone decided I was some kind of monster for wanting to be able to hold your hand on team movie night.”

“It…it’s not that.” Bobby bristled. He looked away. “Yeah, look, I wanted to hold your hand too, you know…b-but I…I was scared, you know? I wasn’t ready to fuckin’ be out in the open like that. And..and people got mad at you because you didn’t respect that and just threw me onto the hot seat, man.”

“Threw you into the hot seat,” he snapped. “as if it was something to be ashamed of! As if Jean doesn’t spend the entire evening in Scott’s lap .” He snorted at the absolute indignity.

“W-well yeah but…everyone already knows about those two, and…and… you know? ” Bobby muttered , turning pink as he flushed. Slowly, ice began to creep over his skin, forming a protective layer between him and the world. A second skin, of sorts.   “I was trying to take things slow,, Dorian, and that wasn’t good enough for you. You know the kind of shit I went through back at my parent’s place! You know how bad I was hurt and you didn’t even ask me, you just went outed me to everyone !.”

“I shouldn’t have to ask if it’s okay to show affection in my relationship! No one here would have batted an eye if you hadn’t freaked out about it!” he snapped. “But clearly we have * different priorities * and that’s why we broke up.”

The room had started to turn cold around Bobby, as he gestured towards Dorian with an ice-covered hand. Tears had beaded in his eyes, but like everything else on him, they were soon covered by the crawl of ice.

“I freaked out because you didn’t warn me! I didn’t know anyone’d be fine with it, Dorian. How the hell was I supposed to know? I wanted affection too, but fucking forgive me for being afraid of what might happen if everyone knew I was gay ! Not everyone’s as open fucking minded as they turned out to be. Fuck

“I just can’t believe that you would–”

Dorian’s replay was cut off as Greg’s shadow loomed behind him in the doorway.

“Hey. Is there an issue here?”

“N-no.” Bobby tensed, and some of the ice crinkled and cracked on the floor under him. He shook off the ice, working to defrost it by taking a few deep breaths. “Dorian was just getting his things.”

“Really?” Greg snorted roughly, glaring at Dorian. “Cause it looked like he was making a scene. You need help with those boxes, pal?”

“I’m fine ,” Dorian hissed, scooping the other box into his arms despite difficulty. “Have fun with your new roommate.”

He shouldered past Greg roughly and stomped down the hall.

“Yeah. I will.” Bobby muttered , looking away “Good luck out there, Dorian.”

He walked over to his bed, and laid flat out on his sheets with a low groan “what a fucking mess.”

Greg shuffled into the room after glaring at Dorian’s back to make sure he left.

“Man, what is that guy’s problem ?” he demanded, a little awkwardly. “every time I see him he’s hassling someone.”

“it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s mine, I dunno. It’s all ’cause of that fight we had.” He looked over “…you didn’t hear much, didja?”

Greg rubbed his neck, not wanting to lie, but… he heard… enough.

“A little,” he admitted. “Sorry.”

“Great.” Bobby covered his head with his pillow as the ice finally receded from him in its entirety. “Welcome to the exclusive club of ‘people who know Bobby Drake likes men’, Greggy. Sorry, fresh out of fuckin’ t-shirts.”

Greg looked away, sitting down on his own new bed.

“Heh, yeah don’t worry about it. Sounds like you don’t exactly wanna broadcast it anyway.”

Bobby burrowed his face in the pillow, muttering an inaudible reply.

“Sorry,” Greg repeated. “I don’t blame you, anyway. People can be shitheads right?… sounds like it was a nasty falling out.” He got up, and started getting out some of his stuff

Bobby tensed on the bed.

“It…sucked. I get why he did it, you know? it ain’t like I didn’t want to be close to him…but people…I’ve…” He started to sniff, and smothered it with the pillow “the whole thing sucked. It still sucks.”

Greg grimaced as he heard him sniffling.

“Y-yeah… I… don’t really have a lot of experience with relationships,” he admitted in a mumble. “But it sounds awful.”

“Yeah. Yeah. It…is. I cared a lot about him ya know? I…I still do, at least as a friend if nothin’ else. But it fuckin’ hurt when he just up and told everyone without even askin me first.”

“Yeah… betrayal of trust, right?” he said, putting clothes away in drawers.

“Yeah, that’s…that’s what it was.” Bobby rolled over onto his back to look at the ceiling. “And of course he went and ran the fuck away…like, we couldn’t find him all summer and now that school’s started again he’s downright mad at us.”

“Threw a tantrum and then didn’t wanna communicate? Yeah… no matter who you’re dating you can do better than that, Bobby.”

“Heh.” Bobby grinned at him weakly “you think so, huh?”

“Yeah, seriously. He seems really immature. I wouldn’t date somebody who treated me that way…” Greg paused in his unpacking to look over and nod.

“I mean, we ain’t dating anymore.” Bobby murmured “Sounds like he’s moving on if he found a place to stay, too. So…you know, whatever.”

“Exactly,” Greg nodded, staring at the dresser. “Move on and live your best life and that stuff.”

“My best life, huh?” He closed his eyes “yeah. Maybe I’ll like, find a way to move on too. I dunno.”

“I mean, you gotta move on one way or another, right?” he shrugged. “You don’t have to like, date asap or anything though. Live the bachelor life for a while….”

“The bachelor life. Yeah, i’ve uh, I’ve been doin’ that all summer, man. Trust me, I get it. Got more important things on my mind right now anyway. Like, you know. New roomie. Classes here…school.”

“Yeah, plenty of that.” he nodded. “Heh, sorry if the new roommate thing is a little awkward or anything.”

Bobby sat straight up

“It’s awkward? Fuck, uh…shit. Can I like, get you a soda or somethin’ will that help?” He ran his hand through his hair “no wait shit, stop it Bobby, you’re just making it more awkward.”

“Oh no, i mean, like, awkward for you,” he mumbled awkwardly, holding up his hands. “Like, going from rooming with uh… with you know , to just some guy.”

Bobby sighed, trying to smooth out his flippy hair.

“Man, don’t worry about that …like. Yeah, it was nice while it lasted, but it got real awkward when we like, argued or whatever.”

“You know, I bet,” he sighed, and changed the subject a bit. “I know from experience living with someone you’re fighting with sucks.”

“Your sis, right?” Bobby asked, leaning on the edge of his bed to watch him unpack.

“Yeah. We even got in a fight when I went to pick up my stuff. Last time, I guess.”

“Last time, at least until she can like…grow up a little I guess. ” Bobby grinned “ah well, you’re one of us now man. You don’t gotta deal with that no more. Maybe it’ll help, like, give you guys the space to work things out!”

“I sure hope that’s what it means,” he nodded. “Maybe a little distance can do everybody some good.”


All of the newly christened ‘Brotherhood’ showed up at Morgan’s house roughly at the same time.  Several of them were driven in by a stern faced woman that Morgan recognized– surprisingly– as principal Darkholme. She, Todd, Lance, Dorian, and Callisto were ushered into the foyer.

Morgan was a little surprised to see the principal, but it was one of those rare nice surprises to have someone with that kind of authority on their side. She put a smile on her face as she gestured towards her home behind her with a wink.

“Hey guys. Welcome home. my house is your house as long as the Brotherhood stands, just…you know. Try not to make a mess.”

Callisto gave Morgan a salute as she stepped inside.

“Understood. I’ll try to keep things in order.” She paused a moment and looked around “This place beats a tent in the woods, though.”

“I’d fuckin say,” Lance said as he turned in a circle. “I didn’t know you were loaded, shadow girl.”

Principal Darkholme, the moment they all entered the foyer, shapeshifted back into her blue-skinned form, brushing her hair over her shoulder with a glance around.

“Yes, this will suit us well as a base of operations. Relatively secluded for the area, too. We’ll have the privacy we need to train you all.”

“oh man ” Morgan startled slightly at the sudden change, but a smile grew wider on her face.

“Didn’t know our principal was such a charming shade of blue? Nor I until this morning.” Dorian smirked.

Todd, meanwhile, was looking around with a wide grin, along with Lance.

“Damn, yeah Lance is right, Morg, this place fancy yo. Beats my old place too,” he nodded at Callisto.

“I didn’t” Morgan said, “but I admit I think it’s lovely ” She said with genuine excitement.

“Flattery will get you everywhere, kid.” Mystique crossed her arms. “And now that you stand with us you can call me Mystique.”

Morgan grinned.

“You got it, ma’am.” She glanced back at Todd and Lance with an almost timid bent to her smile. “I mean…yeah. My mom’s pretty rich. She’s a lawyer or something, I dunno. The benefit is we’ve had some pretty nice accommodations.”

“I’d fuckin’ say.” Lance chuckled, crossing his arms  “You could fit like, at least two of my place in here. Maybe a third if it’s got a basement.”

“How much property do you have out back, Morgan?” Callisto asked “in case I want to camp?”

“ah, a few acres? Mom said a chunk of the woodland back there’s ours, on top of the back yard.”  Morgan mused

“Even a big back yard. Yo your ma got us covered ,” Todd nodded appreciatively. “Yo uh, she ain’t gonna show up by surprise is she?”

Morgan laughed, leaning on the banister of their stairs with a smile that didn’t seem exactly happy

“Yeah, no . that’s never gonna happen.” She shrugged her shoulders gently “Mom’s pretty much always out. and when she does drop by, it’s only for a few minutes and with a warning….once every few months. if that.”

Dorian smiled.

“Well then we’ll know when to clear out, I suppose. And Morgan, thank you for the invitation.” He gave a sweeping bow.

“it’s a generous donation to our cause, young lady. I’ll remember it.” Mystique nodded.

The young woman flushed, but nodded her head in response.

“Yeah. You’re welcome guys. I know most of you needed a place to go, and I’m just happy to do what I can, you know?  I’ll help you all move in and get settled.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Lance rolled his shoulders “ I don’t got too much so movin in shouldn’t be an issue.”

Callisto thought for a moment  before she simply said “beds.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that situation?” Todd scratched his head. “Us there a room you want us to crash in?”

“There’s a few rooms we don’t use.” Morgan said, gesturing upstairs “My mom’s empty ass office, for one thing. Her bedroom..”

“i’ll be taking that.” Mystique started up the stairs.

“Okay, not her bedroom, given that’s been taken.” Morgan continued. She tapped her finger on her lip  “We can convert part of the finished basement into a room, too. And there’s a large storage room that’s basically just another bedroom too… I’d like to keep my room, and…Greg’s room is off limits. He’d go apeshit if someone went in there and he found out. But other than that, wherever’s good. We should all have room for our own bedrooms if we plan it right.”

“More than fair of you to ask, Morgan dear, and beyond generous of you to extend your hospitality,” Dorian told her.” Why don’t you give us a few pointers, and we can get things set up?”


Dorian was helping Lance to clean things out and move boxes in the finished basement. Lucky for the both of them, there wasn’t much there to clean out. It was a really nice finished basement, with hardwood floors and a carpet. They hadn’t moved much into it, so the whole thing was rather sparse–with plenty of room aside from a small storage area for them to set up.

“Not the Saturday I thought I’d be having, how about you, Lance dear?” Dorian asked, as he stacked a box into a closet.

“Nah, it sure ain’t.” Lance said, picking up a box and carrying it over to the closet. “But it beats what I was planning on doing.”

“I could probably say the same,” Dorian agreed. “Surprisingly, spending the day at Calamity every weekend gets a little stale after a while.”

“You know, I’m not exactly surprised. There’s only so much lame techno a guy can take before things get dull as shit.” He put the box down by Dorian “I usually only go when they got a good band playing.”

“Probably what I’ll stick to in the future, now that I’ve got somewhere to be,” he agreed, taking the box Lance had put down and stacking it neatly in the closet. “It sounds like we’ll have more interesting things to do in any case.”

“Yeah.” Lance said with a smirk ” …we get to make a difference. Shake things up for the people who think they can push us around.”

“I’m looking forward to it. A change of pace for me from all the old endless training to support the ungrateful.” Dorian leaned against the doorframe thoughtfully.

Lance picked up a box, and glanced inside with a little ‘hm’ before he put it inside the closet.

“Yeah, you were with Xavier’s dorks, right? They really teach you that shit?”

“Oh they certainly do,” he agreed, scooping up another box himself. “Peace this, and unity that.”

“Man.” Lance snorted derisively “Peace and Unity ain’t gonna magically appear . Humans gotta want it to, and if  most are anything like my foster dad, they don’t . So fuck that.”

“Yes I can’t say I’ve seen love and understanding work miracles on any kind of bigotry,” he snorted. “With limited exceptions, of course. I’m guessing your foster father was not one of those.”

“Nah.” Lance said with a frown “not by a fucking longshot. Think we’re ‘unnatural’. The idiot.”

Unnatural ,” Dorian snorted. “I do wonder why they love that word so much. My own parents weren’t afraid to levy it at me, either. And that was before I manifested as a mutant.”

Lance grimaced, rubbing his neck.

“Yeah…I ain’t surprised they’re like that . ” He made a sharp **Tch.** sound between his teeth “Man, you like who you like. It’s as natural as anything else. And these mutations of ours are fuckin’ nature at work too. Intolerant bastards.”

“That they are,” he nodded with a snort. “Well, perhaps now we can show them a thing or two, hmm?” He set the last box in the closet, and closed it, looking at the now cleared out room. “That didn’t take as long as I thought.”

“Yeah, for a big house they didn’t have a lot down here.” Lance cracked his knuckles “Guess now we start fillin’ it up with our crap, huh?”

“I suppose we can.  Have you given a thought to how you’ll set yourself up?”

“I dunno.” Lance shrugged “I was thinkin of maybe taking the basement, you know? Keeping close to the ground. Better than bein’ stuck suspended on the second floor, you know what I mean?”

“Staying in touch with the earth hmm? Not a bad choice.” Dorian paused. “You know this is the largest of the available spaces. I’m tempted to ask if you’d mind being roommates.”

Lance raised his eyebrow.

“It’s a big house, dude. You sure you wanna room with me?”

“It is a big house,” he agreed, pressing a hand to his chest. “I haven’t exactly spent a lot of time rooming on own– what if I get lonely ?”

“What, you need someone to hold your hand in the big scary vampire’s mansion?” The broad shouldered young man stared at Dorian with a trace of incredulous amusement.

“I might need somebody to hold my hand,” he nodded deeply, a huge smirk on his face. “But I suppose if you’d prefer Callisto or Toad to claim the other half of the room, who am I to stop you?”

“…hm.” Lance raised his eyebrow “Yeah, no, Callisto’d dropkick me the moment I started snoring. Hard pass. Plus, pretty sure she’d like her privacy.”

“She has been sleeping alone in the woods. She might mistake you for a bear,” he teased. “Should I tell your bestie you’d like him to move in with you then?”

Lance crossed his arms.

“Yeah, sounds great. I know the guy. It’ll be fuckin 4 am and he’ll be hopping around the damned room like he’s had five cups of coffee. Guy has more energy than a thermonuclear plant.”

Dorian snickered.

“Not excited to be awoken by frog song? Well then….”

“Yeah, I think I’m gonna pass on Kermit’s rendition of ‘it ain’t easy being green’.” Lance drawled.

“Then shall I get my boxes, or are you going to exile me to the couch?”

“…” Lance pressed his hand to his face with a low groan “ fine roomie. You win. Just promise me you don’t like, blow a hole in the wall when you snore.”

“Me? Snore ? What a thing to suggest.” He pressed a hand to his chest at the indignity.

“Man, being quiet ain’t exactly your thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if you snored.”

“Then I ought to worry you’ll shake the floor any time you have a nightmare,” he countered with a smirk, wagging a finger. “So I suppose our problems as roommates remain to be seen.”

“Uh huh.” Lance said with a wry expresion”Guess we’ll just have to make it work…or I can kick your ass to the living room couch.”

“Exiled in shame and ignominy. I’ll try not to disappoint you so gravely, Lance dear.”

“Calm down there , Lord Byron.” Lance punched his shoulder. ” We still need to set the room up before we start worrying about that.”

Dorian chuckled and punched him back.

“We do indeed,” he paused. “I managed to get my things from the institute. Do we need to plan some kind of raid to get a hold of yours?”

“We might need to.” He frowned “though the old man’s probably off at work this time of day–we might be able to get in and out before he notices.”

“Well then, lets go while we’ve still got time. We’re burning daylight, hmm?”

The door to the basement opened and in a sudden puff of shadowed smoke, Morgan appeared in the landing, rising from the shadows with a wave.

“Hey guys. Figure out which of you is gonna take the basement?”

“Yeah. Kinda.” Lance startled slightly at her sudden appearance, but nodded

Dorian  gave her a little salute after he smoothed his shirt.

“We’ve decided to share it, in point of fact.”

“…I mean, there’s plenty of space if you guys want separate rooms, you know.” Morgan cocked her head, her dark hair falling over one eye.

“Dorian’s scared to be alone or something.” Lance shrugged  “Probably a prep school thing.”

Dorian, funnily enough, agreed.

“Another irritating holdover of my regrettable ubringing, I’m afraid it must be.”

“Well, alright. I’ll make sure two beds get shipped down here, along with some furniture. Frees up space for us to start altering other rooms for different purposes too.” Morgan  fluffed out her hair  as an amused little smile came to her face

“I suppose it does,” Dorian agreed. “I’m still shocked your mother didn’t put you and your brother in some two bedroom condo, to be frank.”

“Yeah, same.” Morgan agreed. “…that’s what I expected she’d do, anyway. We had an ancestral home back in Red Oak, but I really thought we’d just be getting an apartment here….guess she wanted to try buying our happiness again.”

Lance leaned on the wall.

“Probably. Sounds like the type…but hey. works out great for us, right? The Brotherhood.”

“It certainly does,” Dorian nodded, leaning near him. “I do wonder where we’d all have opened up if you hadn’t been able to open your home to the new family, hmm?”

“Dunno…Magneto was saying he was looking into some places, but didn’t seem to have a good idea. Maybe we woulda been stuck living in a warehouse or some shit.”  Morgan mused “…but i’m glad I could help, you know?”

“Trust me, it’s a damn big help. I know…most of us don’t have anywhere to go…or would rather not go back to the places we do have.” Lance frowned

“Exactly that,” Dorian agreed. “I don’t think anyone here is displeased by the change. It’ll be nice to have somewhere to put my things again. In fact, we were just about to go on a little heist for Lance’s.”

“A heist, huh?” Morgan crossed her arms with a grin “sounds like fun. You guys need any help?”

“Nah” Lance grinned “We should be alright, eh, Dorian?”

“Indeed,” Dorian grinned back. “The offer is appreciated but even if someone’s home, I think between the two of us, it can be handled.”

“Sounds good to me.” Morgan winked “I’ll help the others get settled in then. Call us if you need backup, alright?”

“Promise, dear,” Dorian nodded. He put his hand on Lance’s shoulder. “”Let’s get moving. Pardon the pun.”

“If I knew you’d be making puns the whole time, I woulda thought twice about not rooming with Toad.” Lance rolled his eyes and  gave Morgan a wave. “Later, Carmilla.”


After Greg had finished getting his things set up in the room he’d decided that maybe what Bobby needed was a little space– And he kind of needed to clear his own head too. He wound up in the kitchen, fishing in the refrigerator for a snack, when Kitty walked in.

Really walked right in.

Kitty had slipped right through the wall next to the fridge, her hand passing into it just long enough to grab an ice cold soda from the freezer and phase it out of the fridge itself, passing through Greg in the process.

Greg jolted backwards as Kitty walked straight into him– and out the other side. She cracked the soda open with a soft sound of surprise.

“Oh, Greg! Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to like, go right through you like that! Oops!”

“Whoa! talk about no personal space,” he chuckled, and rubbed the back of his neck. “No worry…”

He grabbed the yogurt he’d been reaching for and backed away from the fridge.

“I didn’t mean to.” she said as she sipped her soda. “I thought you and Bobby would still be pretty busy moving in!” She tilted her head, her hair falling in half-curled rings over the side of her face “how’s that going so far?”

Greg made a slight face, popping the top of his yogurt and sitting down at the table.

“Well, its going ,” he admitted. “It was going better before his ex…. roomie…. showed up and flipped his shit.”

Kitty froze, her soda raised to her lips.

“Hold on… Dorian was here?? and they had another fight?” She winced “…geeze…that’s bad. That’s really, really bad. I wish I’d known…I could have run damage control, you know?”

“Yeah,” Greg made a face, scooping yogurt into his mouth pensively with a spoon. “Might have been good. Best I could do was scare him off. Again. Feel like every time I run into that guy it’s trouble.”

“Yeah…” Kitty sighed, looking into the bottle “I mean, Dorian’s a good guy, you know? He’s just…upset. And he did something thoughtless because of it.”

“He seems more than just upset to me,” he grumbled. “But what the fuck exactly happened? I only overheard a little, and like, I feel weird grilling Bobby over it.”

Kitty tensed visibly and glanced away.

“I don’t know how much I should say…” She admitted. After a moment of hesitation she asked “…do…do you know what the fight was about? in..general?”

“Uhhhh…” he flushed a bit and looked at his yogurt instead of Kitty. “They were… dating and he was a huge asshole to Bobby?”

Kitty bit her lip. “Alright, so…I guess I wouldn’t be throwing Bobby under the bus in telling you the rest…given that you already heard.” She sighed “…it’s complicated. But like, for a long time Bobby and Dorian were dating in secret, you know? Most people didn’t know the two of them were together, and barely anyone knew Bobby , you know, liked boys.”

“Yeah. I mean, not really anybody’s business if he doesn’t want it to be, right?” he mumbled.He rubbed his jaw and still looked down.. “So they were quiet about it.”

“Yeah.” Kitty sipped her soda and there was a moment of silence before she continued.

“but I mean…after a while Dorian really wanted to be more open, probably because we’re a pretty accepting group, you know? And romance in the dorms isn’t exactly frowned upon.” She leaned on the counter with a sad frown “But I think Bobby was still scared, because ah…he’s confided some rough stuff about his home life to me. I won’t go into detail out of respect to him, but it…I can see why he was hesitant, you know?”

“Yeah I get it,” he agreed, leaning on the table. Can’t really blame him, at all. I wouldn’t…. yeah . “So they had a fight about it? Dorian couldn’t take no for an answer?”

“Y-yeah. It was movie night, and w-well..” Her brow furrowed as she frowned deeper “…Dorian went to put his arm around Bobby, to cuddle in during the picture and…Bobby got nervous and rejected it. And I guess it was sort of the culmination of a lot of stuff ’cause Dorian just stormed out, and the two of them got into a huge fight in the other room.”

She sighed. “…everyone could hear it. So…everyone found out. ”

Greg grimaced and smothered his discomfort with another spoonful of yogurt, frowning for a moment. “Well. That sucks. I can see why Bobby’s upset.”

“Yeah. I …I can understand wanting to be close to your partner, you know? I can see where Dorian’s coming from, but…there was a lack of communication and it hurt them both.”

“Yeah, seems like kind of a no brainer to talk about that kinda thing,” he shrugged.

“Yeah, I have to agree. But like, feelings can be difficult to deal with. I super don’t approve of him doing that to Bobby…but that doesn’t mean i don’t worry about him out there. We don’t even know where he’s staying.”

Greg shrugged again. “If he told Bobby about it I didn’t hear, but he must have found a place cause he was taking his stuff.”

“Huh…so he’s not coming back, I guess.” Kitty sighed “Maybe he’s going back to the UK…”

“The UK huh? Wondered about that accent.” Greg made a face. “Do you think Bobby’s going to be really busted up about it? How long were they….” He trailed off.

“9 months or so? almost 10, but that’s when the whole mess happened. He’ll um, probably be a bit busted about it, but I think he’s healing? He should be okay soon…”

“Oh damn… that’s a long time,” Greg said, making a face.

“yeah, it was a pretty significant breakup.” She sighed, and then suddenly shifted posture, putting on a smile. “Hey! maybe you can help distract him or something? Like, as a roommate…help him like, keep his mind off Dorian and all that?”

Greg choked slightly. “Distract him? Like, like what?”

“like…train with him, or like…hang out? you know…like a new friend?” Kitty cocked her head. She raised her eyebrow “what’d you think I meant?”

“Nothing,” he insisted, rubbing the back of his neck. He felt a flush rising on his cheeks. “Sorry, I’m just…. not really good with people, I guess.”

“Well..I mean, you’re in the right place to get better at it!” She grinned “we’ve got people all over.”

“Y-yeah,” he nodded. “I’m gonna try, for sure.”

“Good…and you’ll like, talk to Bobby? He probably doesn’t wanna be alone right now…”

“You think? I was thinking he might need some space but you know him better than me.”

“He’ll probably take a bit of time for some space.” She said “but then he’ll be right back looking to distract himself. He’s got a hard time, like, sitting still, you know?”

“Yeah, he seems the type,” Greg nodded. “I’ll try to like, make sure he doesn’t spend too much time in his own head I guess… donno how much good I’ll do, but I’ll try.”

“Anything you can do would be nice, Greg… it’ll be nice to have a new friend in the house…for all of us.”

“Good. Good, cause I wanna be a friend. Yeah.” he smiled a little awkwardly.

“Yeah…I bet it’s been pretty lonely being the new guy in town, too.” Kitty said with a compassionate smile.

“Everybody’s been welcoming, which is nice.”

Kitty grinned “good. because I was worried after hearing a bit about what happened at the end of that tour, you know?”

“With my sister?” he frowned.

“Yeah…” She sighed “and the sabotage…”

“Yeah,” he sighed along with her. “Well, I wasn’t about to hold sabotage against you guys….”

“We really appreciate it…that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, you know? …not never…but not often.”

“Yeah. Professor Xavier told me a little about it this morning when I talked to him after the danger room.”

“Did he give you the X-men pitch?” She asked, grinning wider now. “I’m one of them, you know.”

“He did. and he asked me to join the team. So I guess that makes us teammates.”

“Oh!!” Kitty beamed “yeah it does!” She raised her soda to him in salute. “I mean, it does if you decide to actually join up, at least.”

He raised his yogurt goofily in a returning gesture. “I already told the professor I was in.”

“Heck yeah! So far it’s only been like…small things. The occasional troublemaker…some minor crime….recruitment and rescue…but maybe sometime soon we’ll get a big mission.”

“I’ll try to be ready,” he promised with a smile. “Can I ask who else is on the team?”

“Well…Bobby is. And Ororo and Piotr…me…Kurt..”

“Sounds like mostly everyone I’ve been getting along with,” he said with a little smile.

“You’ll fit right into the X-men, Greg. …you’re part of the team already, if you ask me.”

Greg’s smile widened. “You really think so?”

“Yeah! We’ve done some sims together and we all really like hanging out with you around the school! You pretty much fit right in!”

“That;s nice to hear. I uh, haven’t really had a place I fit in before.” He rubbed his shoulder thoughtfully, his mind drawn back to all the rough incidents in Red Oak.

“you didn’t huh?” She smiled that sympathetic smile again, brushing her hair over her ear “…a lot of people here can relate to that.”

“Seems like it,” he nodded, meeting her gaze.. “Guess I’m in good company.”

“You are.” Kitty leaned over to lightly punch his arm “Welcome to the X-men, Greg! You should pick  out a codename soon!”

“A code name?” he asked, punching her back lightly.

“Yeah, for when you’re in the field!” She chuckled, ..and his fist went right through her.

She winked “i’m Shadowcat . I tried a few , but I think that’s my favorite.”

“Sounds very metal gear,” he chuckled. “Huh. A codename. I’ll think on it.”

“Yeah! You should, because if you don’t think of a good one you’ll get teased about it forever.” She joked “like poor Bobby.”

“What’s Bobby’s?” he asked curiously.

“Guess.” She laughed into her hand. “Just take a guess and I’ll tell you how close you are.”

He rubbed his chin. “Aw man, I’m terrible at this game. Mr. Freeze?”

“Close.” She closed her eyes “Iceman.”

Greg groaned. “Nice, man. Did he pick that himself or uh, fail to pick one?”

“He got to his first in-field mission, forgot to pick one and had to pick it at the last minute.” She said with a  wink “And now it’s stuck.”

“Yeeeah, alright I’m definitely going to give it some serious thought,” he shook his head. “Any suggestions?”

“Hmm…you have those cool shadow powers, right? where do you turn into the big shadow demon man?” She tapped her chin “Demonspawn? no..too long..”

“I mean, it’s the same length as Shadowcat,” he pointed out. “But you might be right.”

She furrowed her brow, tapping her finger against her chin in thought

“Shade? Nocturne? Reaper?”

“Huh…. Nocturne’s not too bad….” he nodded. “Yeah…. maybe….”

“Just be sure to have one ready soon…or you’ll wind up like.. Devilman or something.” she grinned “avoid Bobby’s fate, Greg.” She finished her soda and tossed it in the trash with a wiggle of her fingers

Avoooiiid ittt.. .” She said in as spooky a voice as she could manage as she walked, backwards, through the wall.


“Man, yo, there a lot of boxes in this house,” Todd said, shoving another one aside. He frowned, looking up at Callisto, who had been helping him get the office clear. “You think it’d be okay if I got a glass of water?”

“Probably. Want me to come with you?”Callisto glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as she hauled another three boxes –all stacked on top of one another–towards a growing pile of what was pretty much just unused office equipment. “Water quality’s probably pretty nice here. Good well water. Filters in the pipes. That kind of thing.”

“Yo, you think so?” he asked, cocking his head thoughtfully. “Yeah, I could kinda use a break…”

“Yeah. It’s a nice house. Newer end of things too,” she murmured. “if you want a break, let’s take one.” She dropped the boxes, and slapped his shoulder. “Come on, Toad. Break time.”

He grinned and gave her a thumbs up as he was slapped.

“Break time yo!” He hopped out of the room and back down the stairs toward the kitchen. “Man this house like some steven king shit. Think it’s haunted?”

“Maybe. Ask Morgan if there’s any corpses sealed in the walls” Callisto mused, heading downstairs with him. “Maybe it’s more Poe than King.”

“Oh good point yo. Better watch out for like, swinging blades and pits.” Todd poked his head into the kitchen nervously. The room was empty, and quite clean. The only thing out of place were the two coffee cups on the drying rack and not much else. A tidy, comfortable little kitchen with some coffee still heating in the pot.

Callisto walked in.

“..I bet it’s all real well stocked.” She paused. “the kitchen. Not the torture room. Though maybe that too, if she’s got one.”

“I mean, gotta keep it stocked if you’re gonna have one right,” Todd mumbled, lingering in the doorway of the kitchen, hesitant. He hated the way his heart seized up on the threshold. “Damn, its clean in here.”

“Yeah. First time I’ve seen a clean kitchen in a while. Or any kitchen,” she admitted, peeking in the fridge. “Want something to eat, Todd?”

Todd leaned inward to look, still not quite entering. “Yo, we probably shouldn’t poach without permission….”

“You don’t think so?” Callisto asked, looking over her shoulder She ran her hand through her hair “…hm..”

“I donno, I mean Morgan’s cool. I don’t want her to lose her shit cause we ate her fries or something,” he mumbled, looking at the floor.

“I don’t think she’d get upset …she invited us into her home, after all. She’s been welcoming. But if it makes you feel better we can ask.” She tilted her head. “Or I can break out an MRE.”

Todd shifted back and forth on his feet.

“Yo you really love those MREs, huh?” he chuckled nervously. “Nah I mean, she did invite us… it’s probably fine… I can like, get her back if it ain’t, right?”

“Of course you can.” Callisto agreed. “I get being nervous about it though.”

She opened the freezer, looking through it, talking as she did.

“…MREs are an acquired taste. They’re portable, easy to heat and eat. And after a while you find the good ones and start to enjoy them. I used to eat them all the time when I was with the morlocks… military surplus stores sell them for fairly cheap.”

“That’s pretty cool, yo,” he bobbed his head, and finally entered the kitchen with a breath, coming up behind Callisto and ducking under her to look through the fridge. “I mostly eat like… canned food.”

The fridge was pretty well stocked but certainly hadn’t been ‘filled’ yet. But there were a number of things inside. Eggs (a lot of them), some bacon and ham, ground beef, vegetables. Milk, Juice staples really, without anything too fancy or exotic..

Callisto pulled out a pack of pizza pockets from the freezer and looked them over.

“Canned food, huh?” She asked.

“Yeah. You know yo, spaghettios, beefaroni, those little mac n’ cheese tubs. That kinda shit. Looks like Morg and her bro like actually cook shit ,” Todd gazed at the fridge contents with some reverence.

Callisto smiled thinly at him with a nod.

“Things you don’t need to heat up. Straight from the can sort of meals. I get it.” She opened pantry. “They have more here. Pasta and everything. Guess Morgan must know how to cook. Neat.”

“Damn, yo. Guess she can cook any time she wants without somebody breathin’ down her neck,” he murmured, thinking darkly of his foster mother. Former foster mother, he reminded himself. “Want me to throw these pockets in the microwave?”

Callisto held them out to him, giving a curious, but significant look of empathy.

“Please.” She leaned on the counter after handing them off. “Yeah..and she’s got proper electricity instead of just a fire, or self heating packets.”

“Yeah,” Todd nodded, and he gave her a shy smile, taking the hotpockets and sticking them in the microwave. “Sucks when you don’t got electric. I been there every now and again.”.

She leaned on the counter as she watched the microwave start up.

“There’s not a lot in the way of ‘power’ down in the sewers. Most of the light comes from the same fires they use to cook… and if there’s no fire, it’s cold dumpster food eaten by the light filtering in from the grates above.” She shrugged her shoulders ‘…I’m used to it. It’s why I like MREs.”

He shrugged too. “Yo, thought about goin’ down there myself once or twice. When Martha was on a fuckin tear. But I knew I was lucky to have a roof over my head… barely, you know?”

She reached over and grabbed his shoulder. Todd was surprised by the sudden gesture, but he didn’t flinch, too much at least.

“Sorry you had to deal with it too, Toad …sometimes a difficult roof is better than none…but you would have been welcome with the Morlocks…they’re…” She looked down at the microwave as it turned with her single eye “they’re good people.”

Todd gave her a thumbs up, and broke contact as he quickly turned the microwave off the second before it was about to beep.

“Heard good things. But yo. Here we are. In a clean kitchen. Eatin hot pockets. Ow!” he burned his hand as he tried to grab the thing. “Uuuh, got a plate?”

Callisto’s hand shot out and grabbed his.

“Careful.” She turned it over and looked his fingertips over with a pensive frown. “We should run that under cold water. It’s sanitary here, so we can probably avoid blistering….there’s plates up there. Run your hand in the water, I’ll plate us the pockets.”

“Uuuuh, yes ma’am,” he nodded, grimacing embaressedly. “Sure it’d be fine though….” he headed over to the sink and ran his hand under water.

“Best to be careful. In the streets, even a wound like that could get infected and turn into something deadly.” She plated the hot pockets carefully, and placed them on the table. “Water or soda?”

“I could go for a soda,” he said. “Kinda funny, but I don’t usually get like, infections when I get scraped up.”

Callisto set out two sodas on the table, and shut the fridge.

“Maybe it’s part of your mutation. That’s useful.” She chuckled softly, brushing her finger over the long scratch over her face “I usually just avoid getting hurt. Usually.”

“I mean that’s the best way to go if ya can manage it yo,” he grinned and came over to the table.

“Your feast awaits, Toad.” She gestured to it with a sweeping motion before she  took a seat, and cracked open her lemon/lime soda. “I have to agree, though.”

Todd sat crosselgged in the kitchen chair and saluted her with his soda as he cracked it.

“bout which, yo?”

“Avoiding being hurt is the best defense against infection.” She said with a half smile. She paused a moment before she said “I’m glad you have a place to go now, Todd.”

“Hey you too, right?” he smiled, digging into the hot pocket. “No idea how long Morg’ll put up with us stayin here but it;;ll be cool while it lasts.”

“yeah.” Callisto smiled, brushing her hair away from her eyepatch.  “It’ll be nice to have a roof for a bit. ..Hopefully it’ll be as long as the brotherhood stays together. We could use a base of operations.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “Yo… think it’ll last? You know, as a group?”

“It could.” Callisto said, closing her eye. “…on one hand, we could find we don’t work well together as a combat unit and we could dissolve. On another, we could die. But…if neither of those happen, yes. I think it could last. Probably for a while….maybe until our goals are realized.”

“That’d be a hell of a thing, huh?” he said, a smile spreading over his face.. “we did work pretty good together the other day.”

“Didn’t we?” Callisto took a bite of her hot pocket. Unfortunately, most of the filling came out the other side and fell to her plate. She sighed. “Even if things went a little too far, we still executed the plan pretty well.”

“And when things got a little crazy we handled it alright, yo. Uh you want a fork for that?” He chuckles as the filling fell on her plate.

“Yeah, a fork might be nice. I forgot how easy these things fell apart”

“They stay together better if ya hold em like a cup,” he laughed, hopping up and rummaging through the drawers to find the silverware drawer. “Not that one…. not that one…”

She watched him, and nodded. “You’re right, though…we kept our cool and escaped the police with little trouble. I’d call that a successful operation.”

He looked over his shoulder. “Think we’ll have to tangle with the cops again?”

It took a few tries, but he eventually found a drawer filled with fairly high quality silverware.

“Probably.” Callisto said “the authorities don’t like it when we assert ourselves.”

“Shit they got all the good stuff,” he murmured, looking at the fork in the light for a minute. He hopped back over to Callisto and presented it to her. “Guess we gonna be outlaws, yo.”

Callisto took the fork and turned it over in her hands with a soft ‘huh’ .

“Being an outlaw isn’t so bad,” she said quietly “it can help you survive when you’ve got nothing else.”

“Nah, yo,” he grinned, sitting back down. “I was just thinkin outlaws are cool as hell, right?”

“Aren’t they?” Callisto sipped her soda before meeting his eye “Freedom fighters…revolutionaries and all those sorts are all considered outlaws, as much as the cowboys in film are.”

“Right?” he grinned wider. “Like, you think about it, Luke Skywalker is totally a terrorist yo.”

Callisto nodded sagely.

“that’s right. A terrorist with a sword fighting a corrupt system. A classic set up. Plenty of fairy tale and fantasy protagonists do the same.” She leaned on the table Iif you look at it a certain way, we’re almost heroes.”

“I mean, I’d say we are, right, yo? Heroes fightin for mutant kind? even if we ain’t got cool laser swords….. yet.”

“I can work on that….though it may take some time.” She smiled thinly “I think we are, though…yes. Heroes of Mutantkind. Even if some may not see us that way.”

“Yeah I ain’t expectin’ universal acclaim,” he shrugged. “Everybody know’s Superman’s boring.”

“But everyone loves a hero with flaws. One who has to fight the system as well as the bad guys. A relatable hero.”

Yo, right? So like, we’ll be a hero to the people who get it.”

“Mutants like us. The Morlocks too. People who need us the most.” She smiled slightly, poking at the remains of her hot pocket with her fork. “…it’ll feel nice to be seen that way for once.”

“Yeah, kinda new for both of us, yo.”

Callisto nodded, and raised her soda to him

“It is…but I think we’ll take to it pretty well.”

“We’ll show everybody not to underestimate us.”

“Damn right.” Callisto nodded, right before there was a soft knock on the doorframe.

“Hey guys.” Morgan said as she slid into the kitchen “I see you found the food! There’s more in the pantry if you’re ever hungry, and Mom’s got a chest freezer there too for like, meat and stuff.”

Todd jolted, and quickly sputtered “Yo, sorry about grabbin it without askin first, Morg.”

Morgan grinned, baring her fangs in a jovial smile as she came over and lightly slapped him on the back before taking an empty seat at the table.

“Hey, we’re a brotherhood now right? Don’t worry about it. My kitchen’s your kitchen. If I really didn’t want anyone eating something special of mine, I’d like…” She shrugged her shoulders “write my name on it.”

Callisto gave her a thumbs up. “got it. Names for special items.”

Todd’s worried expression slowly changed to a grin, and he felt his heart rate go down. “For serious? Aw man, cool yo. Got it! won’t touch nothin with ya name on it!”

“Same goes for you guys.” She said , winking at Todd, who flushed as she did.  “you get something you want special, put your name on it too alright? “and yeah..for serious. Also, if you guys want something for dinner, let me know. I’m a decent cook so…I’ll do what I can.”

“MRE Pizza, maybe.” Callisto said “Magneto interrupted my meal earlier.”

“I…can’t make that.” Morgan replied, blinking at her, mystified by the response..

“I mean, you don’t gotta cook for us or nothin’,” Todd shrugged. “I’m sure we can manage…. unless like ya LIKE cookin’ yo. Wouldn’t stop ya.”

Morgan flashed a bright smile, crossing her arms over her narrow chest.

“Man. I practically grew up cooking…for my brother and myself, mostly. When it’s not an expected ‘obligation’ hanging over my head, it’s fun. I’d be happy to cook for you guys. Just like, not every night.”

“Well shit, yo, that’d be cool, right?” he beamed over at Callisto. “I can’t cook for shit but we could like i dunndo do dishes or somethin.”

Callisto nodded. “It sounds cool to me. I can learn to help. Or do the dishes, either way. Most cooking I do is over a fire.”

Morgan clapped her hands together “Awesome, though. That’d be a big help, you know? If we’re all going to live together, we might as well have fun with it, right? We’ve got the supplies.”

“Yo, you right, Morg, this whole thing could be a blast.”

“It will be a blast” Morgan said confidently “trust me, it’ll be great!”

She laughed, quieter than before,  fingertips curling inwards atop the table as she clenched her hands in loose fists “It’d only been a few days I guess, but the house was really starting to feel lonely being so empty. So this’ll be fun. ”


Not that he had been complaining before, but now that Greg understood the true purpose of the institute and the X-men, the large amount of the weekend dedicated to physical training made a lot of sense. He and several of the other students stood around a chalked-out ring in the grass in the acreage behind the school. Logan, or as he had found out he was also called, Wolverine, stood supervising martial arts with a whistle around his neck.

“Alright Bobby, Greg, you’re up.”

Bobby grinned, already seeming to be in better spirits, and cracked his knuckles. “Is this an ice-on kinda brawl or no, Wolvie?” He asked his teacher as he swaggered into the ring.

Greg too looked to Logan; curious what the answer would be.

“No powers for the first sixty seconds,” Wolverine growled. “That changes when I blow the whistle. We’ll see how well you can switch on the fly. Got it, both of you?”

Greg hesitated slightly, but nodded. “Got it.” He still wasn’t used to using his powers, much less activating them mid combat, but well, he’d just have to learn on the fly.

Bobby grinned wider, the more experienced boy seemingly lacking any of Greg’s concern, and he winked..

“Better hope you pin me to the mat within the minute, big guy.” He raised his fists.  “once I get my ice on, I’m unstoppable.”

Greg couldn’t help feeling a little awkward sizing him up as they got in the ring, especially at the pinning suggestion.  He shoved down an inappropriate thought and snorted.

“Unstoppable huh? Guess we’ll see about that.”

“Good luck, mein fruend , Greg,” Kurt called from the sidelines where he and the other students were standing. He gave them both thumbs up. “Bobby is a slippery customer.”

“Just like an icecube on a linoleum floor, pal!” Bobby shot fingerguns at Kurt with a wink. “Hope you’re all ready to see me kick some ass.” He was too distracted showboating to notice that the fight was supposed to have started.

Kitty groaned, pressing her hand to her face “Bobby… Pay attention .”

Unfortunately for Bobby, Kitty didn’t get his attention until Greg had already basically slammed into him.

Ororo chuckled into her hand as she watched.  “tsk. Well. It’s an important lesson for Bobby to learn, isn’t it? To keep your eyes on your opponent and not your audience.”

Wolverine, watching, snorted, as he watched both the fight and his stop watch.

Bobby yelped, stumbling as he attempted to get his footing under the larger boy’s tackle. His hands grabbed for Greg’s shoulders, attempting to twist and throw him using Greg’s own momentum to break free.

Greg was big, and solid, but his first attempt at a grapple wasn’t as tight as it could be. Greg felt Bobby’s hands connect with his shoulders, body against body, and Greg found himself stumbling under his own weight.  He shifted, managing to catch himself, and he grabbed Bobby– pulling both of them to the ground.

Bobby fell atop him, hitting both the ground and Greg’s solid chest with a thump and a soft grunt of pain. “Gah…that’s gonna smart in the morning. If only I could put some ice on it. Hah. hah. ow.”

“Seriously?” Greg demanded, almost laughing. He was trying to pay attention to the fight, since he didn’t want to embarrass himself. But he was worrying it wasn’t to be, as he found himself with Bobby practically on top of him, and not much to do besides try to get him underneath. Greg flushed. Since he was the stronger of the pair, he  managed to get Bobby into a hold that rolled the boy nearly onto his back, attempting to pin him.

Bobby’s smile grew a little mischievous.

“Trying to get me on my back? And you didn’t even buy me dinner man. Hate to have cold feet but propriety says I gotta slip out of this one. sorry bud.” he tensed, just enough to get his knees up enough to push Greg, at the same time he twisted his body to roll out of the way.

Greg half choked at the suggestion and it was enough to knock him off balance allowing Bobby to slip away, as he stuttered, red.

Wolverine snorted. “You just gonna sit there, kid?”

That, at least kicked his brain back into gear, and he lunged after Bobby again, his face scarlet.

Bobby was a little flushed himself–from the situation or the exertion, it was hard to tell “You look like you’re getting worked up , dude. Maybe, you know, you ought to ground yourself.”

Bobby paced, dodging to the side as Greg stumbled for him, extending a foot to trip him mid run But, unfortunately for Bobby it was directly into him that Greg stumbled practically headbutting him in the chest by near accident. The two of them went tumbling again and Greg tried to take charge of the pin this time. Come on Greg you can do this, don’t lose your cool just cause he’s…

Bobby hit the ground hard, his arms wrapping around Greg in a vain attempt to reverse the pin. It was his turn to flush brightly as he attempted to squirm out of the hold.

“Hah…shit uh, lost count. Has it been a minute yet? Mind loosening the hold while I check my watch?”

“Ha ha,” Greg grunted, intent on holding him down. As they were wrestling, Logan tweeted his whistle– the minute was up.

“Whoop!” Bobby grinned, and the air between them suddenly became VERY cold. Bobby was soon coated in a sheen of ice, which he used to slip out from Greg’s grip with an ear to ear, frozen grin.

“Sorry buddy, I think it’s time to cool off for both of us huh? Gonna put this whole thing on ice. ” He mimed finger guns at him  from where he was skating backwards “I’ve only got enough puns for another minute, so I hope you can finish fast.”

“You could chill with the puns,” Greg grumbled. At least the sudden cold helped him concentrate on something other than Bobby’s abs. He sprang up, and black mist began to pour from him, as he tossed a shadow bolt at Bobby.

Bobby yelped, dodging to the side–but the grazing bolt tore his workout shirt enough that ignoring Bobby’s frozen abs soon became an everyone problem.

Kitty shook her head, “Puns aren’t the thing you should be concentrating on, guys.”

“You’re right.” Bobby said, before he iced up the entire space between Greg and himself. He grinned, holding his hands out. “Care for a dance? I think we really got a chance for nationals if we work on our ice skating routine.”

Greg started to slip and slide on the ice, waving his arms.

“Damn it!!” He growled, and the mist poured off him in a waft, as his body grew larger and darker. A moment later Greg found himself in his gargoylesque form, digging his clawlike feet into the ice for purchase.

“Oh.” Bobby said , covered in ice. “Fuck.”

Greg bellowed  out a roar and leapt into the air, tackling Bobby beneath him to the ice, as he grabbed his leg with his thick tail.

“Uhhhhhh.” Bobby glanced over his shoulder “Wolverine, sir, any last minute bear fighting techniques?” he managed to wheeze out as his leg was grabbed and his body was pinned.

“Better figure it out, kid,” Wolverine smirked.

Ice began to creep from Bobby, up onto Greg’s shadow form, attempting to Freeze him solid enough for Bobby to break out. With  the ice creeping over his body, Greg had to let Bobby go long enough to smash it off of himself before it froze him solid.

Bobby leapt up, and with a sudden crackle of ice, launched himself into a full on kick to Greg’s chest. As he staggered the great shadow gargoyle , he raised his hands and formed a curling loop of ice right behind Greg. One which ended in a jump outside of the ring

“Ever think of taking up the luge  Greggy?” He cooed.

“What?” Greg blinked.

Bobby blasted Greg’s feet with enough ice to cover his claws, and ran into him at full speed.

With a wink of his ice-covered eye, he body checked Greg onto the slippery loop of ice “Enjoy the flight, Greggy. Thank you for flying Air-Bobby. have an ‘Ice’ Day.”


The force was enough to send Greg flying over the improvised ice ramp. He opened his wings to catch himself– but not before he’d gone past the chalk line.

Wolverine tweeted the whistle. “That’s it.”

Bobby pumped his fist, slowly defrosting…and as the support of the ice around his legs faded, he staggered with a wobbly grin.

“Gotcha, big guy!” He brushed his hands through his wavy brown hair, stretching out.

His shirt was in tatters, he was bruised here and there…but he was standing. “Good fight.”

Greg looked away as he righted himself, and a trace of his flush was visible despite the shadow wafting over him. “Yeah. You too.”

“Alright kids, time to go over that,” Wolverine growled.


After the lesson, where Greg found himself avoiding Bobby’s gaze as much as possible, it seemed he couldn’t shake him as they headed to the showers.

Bobby walked just a little in front of him, having thankfully gotten a track jacket after losing the shirt entirely during practice, a broad smile on his face as he headed to the showers.

“Man. that was great wasn’t it? what a fight!”

“Glad you had fun,” Greg grumbled, letting him walk in front of him. “Hope I was… a decent opponent.”

Bobby glanced at him over his shoulder

“you didn’t have fun? You were a great opponent man…you nearly had my number a few times, you know? If I didn’t get lucky wriggling out from under you, you’d have beaten me in the first like, fifteen seconds.”

“Sure… I had fun,” he mumbled awkwardly. “Guess Kurt was right. You’re pretty uh, slippery.”

“Yeah, man.” He winked, “Takes a lot to keep me still, you know?”

Greg strolled into the shower room with Bobby and chuckled, again, slightly pained. “Yeah? I’ll have to figure it out I guess.”

Bobby stepped into the room, and stripped out of the track jacket without a second thought. “You’re welcome to try. It’s the key to beating the Iceman in the ring.”

“Right.” Greg turned away as Bobby stripped, and trying to put some lockers between his line of sight. “I’d give you tips for me but you’ve already got the hang of it.”

“I do huh?” Bobby chuckled. “what, you like my quips that much huh?”

“They’re certainly distracting,” he admitted flatly as he stripped behind the wall.

Bobby stripped down, and wrapped a towel around himself with a chuckle.

“That’s the point, I guess. People keep telling me there’s no strategic value in it, but I keep pointing them to the comics. A distracting line can be a lifesaver.”

“Its certainly a tactic ” he admitted, staring at the wall. He quickly pulled himself into one of the shower stalls.

Bobby jogged over and leapt into one a mere divider away to keep chatting. “It got you, didn’t it?”

The sound of water started behind the stall.

Greg’s mouth flattened. He could see Bobby’s feet below the divider. He turned the water on too.

“Already said it did, didn’t I?”

Bobby’s feet shifted behind the shower. There were a few scars on his feet too..small, glancing cuts, mostly.

“Uh huh. Though when you went full shadowman, you nearly took me out anyway. Certainly got my damned shirt.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” he snickered “ain’t the first time I fought with no shirt on.”

Greg nearly choked again. Is he doing this on purpose or can I just not get my mind out of the gutter?

“Seriously, man?”

“I mean, yeah.” Bobby said, soap swirling with the water  by his feet. There, noticeably, was no steam from his shower. And the splashed flecks were cold as ice. “Back when I first joined up, I used to just…ice up all the time, you know? Didn’t need much of a uniform when you’re covered in solid ice. I just threw on some boots and boxers, coated myself in opaque ice and boom. instant ice man. I uh…stopped that.”

“No shit,” Greg gurgled. “Man… I have so many fucking questions.”

“Oh?” Bobby asked with a curious voice. “What kinda questions?”

Greg stood under the heat of his own shower, and stared up at the ceiling away from it. “First off– what the fuck made that seem like a good idea in the first place? Second, what made you stop? And third, does heat like, hurt you or something?”

“Okay, starting from the bottom.” Bobby said. “no, heat doesn’t hurt me. I can get as hot as I need to and it doesn’t hurt . Like, I just prefer things to be a little cold when I can. And too much heat’ll melt my ice and take me out of a fight. Back to the top, though. It seemed like a good idea because the boss man used to have these races for us when he pulled a summons. FIrst to get there wins. And I was like ‘well shit, if I get there first I’ll show everyone up’. And he happened to call when I was in my boxers and the rest is history.”

The grimace was audible in his voice as he continued. “as for why I stopped, Professor Grey slammed me into a wall with the force of a tractor trailer when she was having her little…’phoenix’ incident, and shattered me right out of my ice armor.” He paused “you ever have those dreams about being at school in front of everyone in your underwear? Imagine that during a big, serious combat encounter with your crazed, possessed friend and teacher.”

Greg listened quietly, letting the shower water run over him.

“Wow…. I can’t decide if I’m sorry I asked or not,” Greg said, a little hollowly as he imagined the scenario.

“Man it was the most humiliating moment of my life. Ever since then? full uniform. No matter what.’

“Yeah I don’t blame you there. And uh, glad heat doesn’t hurt you. That’d… be shitty.”

“Yeah it’d make all kinds of shit suck.” Bobby said “chilling by the fireplace, settling in under a blanket for movie night. …” He coughed ‘all kinds of stuff. It’d make life real hard.”

“Y-yeah sure would,” Greg mumbled awkwardly. He has to be doing this on purpose. Is he flirting? Is it bad if I can’t tell if he’s flirting?   “heh, So. congrats.”

He turned off his shower and darted for his towel.

Bobby’s shower stopped a moment later. “Thanks man.” He paused “how about you? does uh..the light hurt?”

The shower stall opened. There was a brief moment where the two were both out snatching their towels. Greg caught a glimpse of Bobby, and turned scarlet as he turned away, wrapping his towel around himself.

“Nah, not really,” he mumbled in answer. “not more than usual I don’t think…”

“Huh. Kinda like me and heat then.” He wrapped the towel around his narrow hips, and punched Greg on the shoulder “That’s good, Vlad. You don’t gotta sacrifice your tan just ’cause you got fangs.”

“Please don’t call me Vlad,” Greg sighed, and awkwardly punched Bobby back, maybe a little too hard. “Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be tanning any time soon.”

Bobby wobbled on his feet. “Be careful there, budd , don’t bruise the merchandise.” He stuck out his tongue. “Yeah, maybe it’s for the best. You look pretty good as it is.”

Greg felt himself flushing. “You compliment every guy you shower with?” He regretted it as soon as it was out of his mouth.

“Only the cute ones.” Bobby blurted, before he too looked like he instantly regretted it. “heyyy uh, i got……a thing to do– i’m gonna skate.”

Bobby suddenly iced himself up using the leftover dew from the shower..looking for all the world like a featureless man of ice once more. “Later, man.” Shooting a pair of fingerguns, he literally skated out of the room backwards on a rapidly melting path of ice.

“This is a disaster.” Greg was left sputtering in the shower room, holding his red face in his hands.


Dorian held up the screwdriver in one hand, and the doorknob in the other.

“Never fear, Morgan. I’m certain this will help prevent any disasters.” He winked at her, and went to work installing the lock on Greg’s bedroom door.

“I really appreciate it, Dorian.” Morgan leaned against the wall as she watched him work. “My brother’s probably never gonna come back here, but if things ever do improve with him and he finds out I let you guys in his room, he’d lose his mind.”

“A man’s home IS his castle,” Dorian nodded in agreement, on his knees beside the door, carefully screwing in the lock. “All the same though, your brother does seem to have a bit of a temper.”

“Tell me about it. Between you and me, Dorian, it’s because he’s about as repressed as a Puritan at Woodstock.”

“Dear me I thought i smelled a whiff of Mr. Tumnus on him,” Dorian snorted. “So far in the closet he’s taking candy from witches?”

Morgan choked, and then broke out in a peal of laughter. “I meant like generally uptight, but you absolutely aren’t wrong about that either.”

“Whoops, there’s my bias showing,” he admitted. Dorian chuckled. “Still, the one informs the other, in my experience.”

“I mean…Greg and I are twins, you know? We know one another like nobody else does. And I’ve always been frustrated with his tendency to worry so much over me while he goes around making himself miserable with his own lack of self-reflection.” She shrugged “it always ends with him having a hair trigger temper and me miserable too.”

“I suppose it’s hard not to be an angry mess when you’re busy not allowing yourself to have any fun,” he shrugged. “The real shame is that he splashes it all over you.”

“Is it sad to say I’m almost used to it,” she muttered. “For years i just let it happen and did everything I could to smooth things over.”

“A shame, but I understand wanting to keep the peace. Not something I’ve ever been skilled with, but I don’t have any siblings. For some reason that always surprises people.” Dorian chuckled lightly.

Morgan raised her eyebrow with a cock of her head “Really? No lie, I can tell you’re an only child just by watching you act on stage, Banshee.”

“Oh now that almost sounds like flattery. But I appreciate the eye for my manner over just my gorgeous hair and accent.”

“From a drama queen like me, it’s the highest flattery. Cherish it.” She shook her head and smiled very thinly. “Sounds like you meet too many people who only look at the surface with eyes clouded by their own preconceptions. A very human thing to do, sadly.”

“Very human indeed,” he agreed. He stood up as he finished the lock, and tried turning the knob. “Hmm, seems alright.”

“Great. Now I don’t gotta worry about people trying to pull a Goldilocks with Greg’s protein powder and weight set.”

“A genuine possibility when it comes to Callisto– and a terrifying theoretical when it comes to Toad,” Dorian snickered. “Is fitness your brother’s only hobby? He seemed very keen on making certain everyone noticed.”

Morgan crossed her arms.

“He likes to make it seem like his only hobby…we used to do things together, you know? Before he got obsessed with keeping in shape.” A shadow crossed her face as she sighed “Movies. Games. all sorts of things that ground to a halt after I started transitioning and he became Mr. Overprotective.”

“Ahhh, is that when it started,” Dorian’s face clouded with a frown.

Morgan sank against the wall with a soft sigh. “…he used to goof around with me more. Sports in the backyard, helping me rehearse my lines for theater. Working on little projects…” She glowered down at her crossed arms “and then he decided he had to play Dad instead of Brother, and everything went downhill.”

“May I ask a rude and invasive question?”

Morgan cocked her head.

“You don’t seem like the kinda guy who’d hold back a little rudeness, so go for it.” she half teased.

“You’re right, I wouldn’t. So what I want to know is, do you think his behavior is because he’s a misogynist who feels the need to protect a sister but not a brother– or because he’s deeply insecure that he might also prefer to be wearing dresses?”

Morgan hissed softly through her pointed teeth. Slowly, she nodded a bit at Dorian

“Yeah uh.” She rubbed the back of her neck “I always thought Greg would benefit from like…reading some of the resources I did when I was figuring myself out. Not…just…for my deal but…you know. General queer resources.” She sunk until she was sitting on the floor with a shrug of her shoulders “I don’t think he’s a misogynist. I know my brother, and that’s not…what he’s like , even at his worst.”

Dorian knelt down and sat beside her on the hallway floor.

“I wondered,” he nodded. He put a hand on her shoulder. “It sounds like he’s locked up in self doubt and, as you said, repression, of one form or another Terrible shame.”

“I thought maybe I could get through to him eventually.” Morgan muttered, leaning against his hand. “But so far he’s just doubled down on the macho schtick and his utter adherence to like…stereotypes.Now he’s gone off to join the Repression Brigade and I’ll probably rarely see him.”

“You’ll see him at school, certainly,” Dorian offered cautiously.. “And I’m certain we can corner him for you if need be.”

Morgan shook her head

“No.I love my bro and all…but we both need space to cool off. And…we’ve got responsibilities now as a Brotherhood, right?” She smiled at him “…who knows, maybe once we make a better, more tolerant world, he won’t feel like he has to fit some bullshit cookie cutter mold.”

Dorian smiled back.

“Very mature, Morgan dear. More mature than I, I’m afraid. I’d probably have fistfought him over it. But I hope that you’re right.”

Morgan snorted softly, leaning  her head on the doorframe.

“If I thought it’d do any good, I’d have fistfought him too. But he’d just get upset…spend all night in his room regretting it. Just like any time we fight.”

He patted her again. “Sibling strife seems just as unpleasant as any other.”

“You’re lucky to avoid it, Dorian.II’d rather get in an argument with a stranger any day.” She tucked a lock of raven hair over her ear. “Anyway, sorry for being a drag, Hamlet. I’ll buck up soon.”

“You’re no drag,” he replied, shaking his head. “A welcome break from stewing on my own troubles, and I’d be happy to lend an ear any time.”

“You’re  a real cool guy. Anyone ever tell you that, Dorian?”

“Not so often that I’m going to turn down the praise. You’re cool too, I hope you know.”

“Seems we’ve both got a bit of familiarity with the sin of vanity, because same. Thanks.” She smiled widely “but…yeah. It’s gonna be cool sharing a space with you guys.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he promised with a smile. “Not not just because it’s a stable place to stay– which– thank you very much for.”

She rubbed her neck self conscious at the thanks.

“Hey, no problem. I know most of you didn’t have anywhere to go, so when Magneto mentioned a base of operations, I saw my chance to do a little good for my Mutant Brothers, you know what I mean?” She lightly punched his shoulder. “And for my friends. No more couch surfing or camping for you dorks. You get to live in my mom’s manor, rent free.”

He punched her back. “You’re almost too kind, Morgan. Don’t hesitate to find interesting ways to make our lives a living hell in return.”

“Oh trust me.” Morgan drawled. “Before long you’ll find I’ve got all kinds of torments up my sleeves. I take long showers, for one thing.”

“We’ll have to start a competition. See who can use up the hot water first.”

“Ohhh don’t test me there, Dorian.” She smirked , showing her fangs “One thing Greg and I share? a fierce competitive instinct.”

“Oh is that so? Something you and I share as well then. You’re on, Morgan.”

The Iceman Talketh

The mansion was large enough that it had not one, but several, rec rooms, filled with games, comfortable furniture etc.  In the one Bobby happened to enter, his teacher Emma Frost was draped across a couch, painting her nails while the radio in the room played low classical music.

Ms. Frost has always been Miss High Class, hasn’t she? Forget The Beatles, she’s got Mozart. He tried not to disturb her as he picked his way into the room..

He’d just been looking for a quiet place to think and wait out the awkward situation he put himself in the middle of. He certainly didn’t want to bother the woman while she did her nails. So he opted to head towards one of the bookshelves to find a book to pretend to read while he got lost in his own head.

After a moment, Emma glanced over, and then back at her nails.

“Would you like to talk about it?”

“Gah!!”  Bobby fumbled the book in his hands (The Snow Queen , it turned out, was the book he’d randomly grabbed), and nearly dropped it on his foot.

Shit. Telepath, that’s right.

“I don’t wanna bother you, ma’am. Not if you’re busy kicking back..”

“Bobby if you’re upset enough to pretend to read an upside down book, I’m curious enough to listen.”

Bobby looked down at his book as his heart sank. Yeah. He was holding it upside down.

“Man, don’t I feel like a sitcom stereotype right now.”

She sat up a little, finally looking at him instead of her nails.

“I assure you I’ll keep the humorous anecdote to myself.”

“You got it, ma’am.” He gave her a weak thumbs up, before he flopped into one of the chairs. “I just feel like I really botched something, you know? Made something way more awkward than it had to be, ’cause I’m an idiot.”

“It’s certainly possible,” Emma agreed with a shrug. “Why don’t you tell me what happened.”

“I called my new roommate cute in the shower room.” he muttered “after he walked in on me and Dorian having another big stupid fight over the bullshit over the summer.”

She leaned back on the arm of the couch and put down her bottle of nail polish on the side table.

“Alright. And your fear is….?”

“That he isn’t gonna wanna hang out with me anymore? He uh…seemed kinda surprised..maybe even like, put off by it when I said it.” He rubbed the back of his neck “I dunno. I just don’t wanna make things weird between me and my roomie. He’s a cool guy, you know?”

“Ah,” she crossed her arms. “And you’re concerned that your attraction is unwanted, and therefore will cause a rift between the two of you.”

Bobby stiffened, about to protest.

“I didn’t say anythin’ about att….att….” Dammit, cool moves there Iceman, you’re about as easy to read as this fuckin’ book . He spun the book on his finger with a low grumble to himself. “Yeah. I guess that’s basically it…yeah.”

She sighed and blew on her nails briefly before looking at him.

“In my experience, Bobby, expressions of attraction are almost never actually unwanted– especially when they’re from people who look as good as you or I.” Emma smirked. “That said if you’re having a ongoing…. problem with your roommates, I can find out if Kitty and Ororo are interested in switching with the two of you.”

Bobby sunk into his chair “…ongoin’ problem with my roommates. Hooboy, ma’am you sure got a way with words.”  he muttered. “N-nah, it’s alright. Kitty and Ororo are great and all, but I don’t …think …there’ll be like…any kinda conflict. I’m just embarrassed, you know?”

“I suppose that’s fair. At your age this sort of thing is embarrassing, I suppose. It gets easier with experience.”

Bobby looked at her with a wry smile.

“Easy to say coming from the ex-White Queen of the world’s most powerful social club. You’ve got charisma for days.”

“Charisma is as much a developed skill as anything else is. Would you like me to build it into your lesson plan?”

“Oh boy” Bobby chuckled, “…Why not. With the whole roommate debacle, and the shit with Dorian, I could use it. Watch out world , here comes Bobby, Charismatic superstar.”

“Just so you know, I *am* serious,” she purred. “So count on that, superstar.”

Bobby blinked, but shrugged his shoulders with a warm grin.

“Well, I mean if you really mean it, I could really use it. Maybe I won’t put my foot in my mouth as often, huh?”

“That would be a blessing for everyone, wouldn’t it? You especially.”

Bobby leaned back with a jovial smile.

“Yeahhh. Maybe it’d help smooth things out…you know…with…” He hesitated a moment before He shrugged and settled on: “people.”

“Yes. With… people,” she agreed, smirking a bit on the significant pause. “Now I wonder if I should open this class to other students…”

“Hey, as much as I’d like private lessons with the Emma Frost , I ain’t the only one who needs a crash course in charm round here.” He snickered. “Get Logan into it.”

“Now there’s a student who might be unteachable.”

“Vut I’d pay hundreds to watch you try” Bobby grinned

“Noted. I’ll send out invitations. “But was there any more you wanted to talk about privately?”

Bobby hesitated again before he asked; “do you think I…reacted badly to the whole Dorian thing?”

Emma considered, putting her fingers together.

“I mean this is the least judgmental way possible, Bobby. I think everyone reacted badly to it.”

“No…I get it,” Bobby muttered as he sank deeper into his chair, “Sometimes I wonder if..you know, Dorian was right about my hiding part of who I am..”

“The difference between concealment and mere privacy is one of context, don’t you think?”

“I …guess so.” Bobby rubbed his neck. “But i didn’t know how the others here woulda reacted, you know?”

“You didn’t,” she agreed. “You were acting to protect yourself. But would you agree your risk assessment was, let’s say off , in this case?”

He hesitated, looking down on his lap. “Maybe, yeah…I mean…once everyone found out , hardly anyone said anything nasty about it. But…back home in Mass…”

“People were considerably more mean spirited?” she leaned on her hand.

“Yeah. You can say that,” Bobby murmured. “I didn’t want that kinda thing to happen here, too. Not when I finally found another home.”

“Bobby, darling, I understand the sentiment. But you are an idiot.”

Bobby made a quiet, keening noise. “Uuggghhh…..” His head dropped into his hands. “Say it louder for the people in the back, why dontcha.”

Emma crossed her arms.

“Very well. You;re an idiot, Bobby Drake. Did you really think that Professor Xavier, bleeding heart extraordinaire, would let any kind of bigotry between his students stand? I’m surprised he doesn’t swoop in with tissues right now for me calling you stupid.”

Bobby laughed weakly. “…He wouldn’t. I know he wouldn’t. He’s…he’s a real good guy. I know that. He’d come on in the moment it started and give the rest the lecture of a lifetime until they saw there was nothin’ to make fun of.” His foot scuffed the floor. “And maybe I am stupid. Scratch that. I’m absolutely stupid. But I was scared. I lost lots of people back home. Friends. My parents.” he tensed at the mention “lots of people.”

“Like I said, I do understand that. And make no mistake, I also think Dorian was in the wrong to push you. Especially publicly. But that’s what happened.”

Bobby took a deep breath, trying to still the nervous jittering of his leg. “Yeah. and now he’s gone. Guess he found somewhere else to stay, too…or maybe he’s heading home. I dunno. But he sure ain’t coming back. Way to go, me.”

Emma sighed. “Do you regret the breakup, Bobby? I think I know the answer to that, but I want to hear it from you.”

“I regret it a lot.” Bobby muttered. “I mean…our relationship was one thing… but I still feel real bad for driving a friend away.”

“Of course,” Emma nodded. “But if it brings you comfort, I don’t think you’ve missed your chance to repair this friendship.”

“You don’t think so, huh?” Bobby sat up, looking at her with wide eyes.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I try not to pry into the minds of others, but our friend Dorian’s thoughts are very loud. And while he was here today I didn’t get the sense that he was going very far.”

“Yeah that sounds like Dorian.Real loud.” Bobby chuckled weakly. He leaned on his hand, biting his lip. “If he’s not going too far…I dunno. Maybe I’ll try talking to him again soon. Not as an ex-boyfriend but like, you know…as his old buddy.”

“Good. In my experience, lovers come and go. But everyone could use a friend.”

Bobby nodded quietly. “…Yeah. You’re right about that, ma’am.” He flashed her a nervous smile “You know you’re a real font of wisdom, ma’am.”

“I know, terribly disappointing isn’t it? Nothing makes me feel like I’m getting old more than sounding like I know what I’m doing.”

“That’s what growin’ up’s all about huh?” He brushed his fingers through his hair. “I dread the day I start making any sense.’

“Fear it, Bobby, it’ll come for you when you least expect it,” she smirked. “Now, my nails need another coat.”

Oh my god they were roommates

The room Todd had claimed for his bedroom was one of the smaller ones on the second floor. He squatted next to the large ikea box– one of many that Mystique had showed up with about an hour before– taking pieces of bed frame out of it.

It wasn’t long before someone knocked lightly on the door to the bedroom.

“Need a hand? or a dozen?” Morgan’s voice snickered as a few shadows gathered  around the box and took the shape of grasping hands in silhouette on the ground.

Todd jolted and tried not to swallow the allen wrench he’d been holding in his mouth while his hands were occupied. “Yo, Morg! uh, wouldn’t say nah!”

Morgan plopped down beside him with a grin, and reached over to pluck the wrench from his mouth.

“Don’t die on me, Toddy.” She winked at him. “I’d have to add you to the skeletons in our closets. oooOooooO.”

He set down the piece of metal he was holding and rubbed his chin. “Spooky, yo. Uh, you got a lot of em? Cause you got a lotta closets.”

She bared her fangs in a smile, her eyes crinkling with amusement.

“We had to leave most of ’em back in Red Oak when we moved. Not enough boxes. I’ve got to start a new collection.”

“Well damn. I’ll try not to be the first one, yo.”

“You’d get pride of place, if you were,” she teased, snapping her teeth. “Really though, you want some help getting this thing uhhh.” She looked down at it’s scattered pieces, and angles. “less like a bed of nails?”

“I mean, prolly ain’t gonna sleep on it like this, yo. But I can just like, sleep on the mattress on the floor….”

“Tch.Not while I’m around, Toddy.”  Morgan shook her head and her smirk morphed into a look of more warmth “Like, if you’re gonna be living in my house…the least I can do is make sure you’re all comfortable, right?”

“I mean, mattress on the floor ain’t the worst or nothin, yo. But thanks.” He smiled shyly at her. “Like, for ya know… havin’ us over?” Didn’t think the first time I was at a girl’s house I’d be movin’ in…

“Ain’t the worst, no. But it ain’t the best either.” She settled against the wall, and picked up two pieces with a puzzled frown. “I can’t sleep comfortably in my bed knowing you guys are, like, sleeping on the floor. Not when It’s easy to fix.”

“Well hey we put this shit together and it’ll be all good right?” he nodded. “I’m pretty good at puzzles and shit. Shouldn’t be hard.”

“Exactly. Let’s puzzle this out, Toad. Can’t be that hard, can it?” She peeked at the instructions with a snort. “It’d be nice if they…like, said anything, but hey. I’m a solid ‘B’ student, we can do this.”

“I donno, its kinda easier with no words,” he shrugged. The two of them started carefully piecing the bed frame together.

“Really?” Morgan cocked her head, slotting a piece together as she scooted closer to Todd to get a good view. “Then I guess you’re in charge, leapfrog.”

“See ya just gotta match em up with the picture instead of tryin to figure out if ya got the one they describin’. Here, hand me that wrench again.”

She passed him the wrench, leaning briefly against his shoulder “True enough, but so many of them practically look the same.”

He looked over her shoulder. “You think so,, yo? Then I got this.” He fussed with the parts and a few minutes later they had an almost fully assembled bed frame.

“Holy shit.” Morgan said, clearly impressed. “You know, if it were just me…It’d be misaligned, like three times over.”

“Nah, I’m sure you woulda done fine,” he smiled. “Prolly wouldna’ mattered if that bit was on backwards anyway.” He rubbed his hands together. “Now we just gotta put the mattress on, yeah?”

Morgan stood, and with a wave of her hand the shadows formed a sharp knife that cut through a thick package off to their right, peeling the plastic away so a mattress could begin to unfurl and puff it’s way up.

“Gotta give it a minute, but yeah.” She looked Todd over with a half smile. “I’m glad you guys wanna stay here.”

“I mean, we’d be fuckin stupid to turn down the offer, right?” he grinned, watching the mattress uncurl and expand. “I can’t believe ya want… us around.”

Shadow hands…none of them solid enough to do much more than mime the shape on the wall behind her…waved around as she spoke, gesticulating along with her real hands as she responded.

“Of course I want you guys around, you know? This place is way too quiet by myself.”

Todd glanced at the hands on the wall.

“Damn yo, that shadow shit so cool,” he mumbled. “But yeah? Too quiet huh?”

Morgan flushed, “I’ll admit, it’s hard to stop them from…doing that, you know? But I’m finally in good company, so fuck it.” She smiled at Todd for a moment, before she shrugged “…I mean. Yeah. Especially with Greg gone. it’s a big house and I don’t use most of it..”

“You mom must be rich as balls to jus’ buy this place for two kids,” he said, shaking his head.

For a moment,  Morgan looked a bit self conscious leaning there with her arms crossed and a slightly awkward smile across her face.

“Yeah uh, she’s always been pretty loaded, I guess. We had a big house back in Red Oak too, ancestral and all that.” She shrugged her shoulders, and Todd could see how uncomfortable she was. “She’s a lawyer or something, so I guess I’m not exactly surprised.”

He cocked his head, his hair tumbling half over his face in the exaggerated gesture. “Yo, you don’t like, know what she does?”

“I mean, no?” Morgan held her hands up, her shadow turning away with an exaggerated huff. “I’d ask her but uh, she doesn’t exactly answer text messages often, either.”

“Yo, damn,” Todd said quietly. “Guess neither our parents give a shit. Sorry, Morg.”

“You too, huh?” Morgan murmured in sympathy  as one of the shadow hands slithered along the ground to reach up and solidly pat his shoulder. “It’s alright, Toddy. ” she forced a smile. “I’m pretty much used to it, so it’s kinda whatever. So who cares what she’s doing…it pays our bills. our bills , now.”

She hesitated a moment before she said: “And…hey. Our parents may not give a shit, but now we’ve got like, a little community here don’t we?”

Todd leaned a little into the shadow hand, despite being surprised by it. He patted the hand with his own, like one might pat a small animal.

“Yeah! we sure do. An’ everybody here way cooler than like, a bunch of shitty parents, so like, whatever, right yo?” he smiled at her.

“So hey, can you like, feel that?” he asked as he poked the shadow hand.

Morgan shook her head. “Not as such. A little bit, though. I can feel you putting pressure on it , with a bit of tactile feedback. If I concentrate a little more I can feel more from it, though. If I try hard enough, they’re basically just extensions of myself.”

“Yo that’s wild,” he said, glad to have changed from the depressing subject.  “You got a pretty great roll on the ol’ mutant lottery, babe.”

He picked up the now flat mattress and dumped it on the bed frame.

He flushed a bit as he realized babe probably shouldn’t have slipped out of his mouth.

Morgan was about to answer when a  dark flush crossed her face that she tried to hide behind a smug grin.

“You’re right about that, hon .” she purred. “Though you got a pretty good roll yourself. Love the legs. And the tongue ain’t half bad either.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, flushing even hotter. Okay she was definitely messing with him.

“Yeah, its pretty sweet yo. Could be worse, ya know? It ain’t levelin a city block or nothin but it’s got its points.”

Demonstrating, he hopped from the floor to the corner of the ceiling and braced himself there, grinning down at her.

Mogan’s hand went to her mouth “on now that’s really sick, Toad.” She walked over, and the shadows crawled up the walls to start poking at his hands, feet and sides. “Think of all the places you could sneak into with moves like that!”

“Already sneaked into a few, yo I– h-hey! That tickles c’mon!”

Morgan raised her eyebrow, her shadow on the wall behind her snickering even as she kept a straight face.

“What? this?” the spindly fingertips of the shadow poked his side again.

He struggled to keep himself braced against the wall as she poked him. “Hey c’mon no fair, yo!” he laughed trying not to squirm.

She walked under him, the trace of a grin on her slender face. “hmmm. I don’t know where fairness comes into it, Toddy.” She tutted her tongue. “Maybe I was hoping to repay the favor and catch you this time.’

“Yo shit you couldna just said?” he chuckled, and let himself drop. If she didn’t catch him he’d just fall on the bed anyway.

Morgan, with the assistance of the small sea of shadowy hands, deftly caught him in her arms with only a slight stagger. As she caught him she discovered how surprisingly light and wiry he was.

“Gotcha. And now I know a weakness of yours.” She grinned down at him as she lightly dropped him on the bed.  “You’re ticklish.”

He landed on the bed as she dropped him and bounced, crossing his arms and sticking his green tongue out her.

“Yo most people kinda ticklish ya know?” he insisted, still flushed.

“Hm.” She said with a smug little grin upon her face. “Well, that’s good to know, because I’ve never been. But there…the debt’s been repaid. Ball’s in your court, Leapfrog.”

He sprang up on all fours, feet planted on the bed and grinned at her. “You sayin you ain’t ticklish, huh, vampirella?”

“I’m not.” She drawled. “I’ve got nerves as dead as my soul.”

He raised his hands and wiggled his fingers at her. “Yeah, we boutsta see ‘bout that.”

Morgan raised her arms, a smirk crossing her face. “Try and see what happens, Mr. Toad.”

“Ah-HEM” Came a familiar authoritative voice.  Mystique came into view, long since discarded her principal disguise, and glanced between them with golden eyes “If the two of you are quite finished….doing …whatever it is you’re doing here…there’s plenty more to do in preparing the house…and preparing yourselves .”

Morgan flushed a deep , dark purple, and crossed her arms with a sheepish smile. “Yes ma’am.”

Todd slumped down into his butt on the bed and gave the woman a hasty salute, also flushed. “Sorry ‘bout that! we as just uh– we’ll get back to work.”

Morgan nodded her head. “plenty more beds to get set up and all that…”

“Hm. Well.” Mystique pointed between them. “It can wait until after you meet with Magneto. The Brotherhood’s to have its first official meeting. Right. Now.”

Family Meeting

Magneto was waiting for them in what at their old house in Red Oak their mother had refered to while they were moving as the ‘parlor’. If Dorian had wanted his own room, they probably would have set him up there, but it hadn’t been on her list of suggestions due to actually being half-set up already. For one thing there was an enormously heavy table sitting in the middle of it, with large bookshelves against the walls and an old globe shoved out of the way.

Morgan strolled into the room, arms loosely crossed on her chest as she passed the bust of some old nobleman her mom insisted they take with them, and took a seat in one of the chairs ringing the large table.

“Good place for a meeting” She said with a nod towards Magneto.

Magneto had commandeered the table for their meeting, sitting in an armchair at the head of it, his fingers tented as they assembled. He nodded back to her.

Mystique stood at Magneto’s right side, a sly smile on her face as she placed a large box on the floor.

Lance arrived next, tossing a wrench in his hand and catching it before he saluted Magneto and Mystique with the same hand.

“God damn, Morg. This room looks like something you’d see in Downton Abbey or some shit.”

Dorian had strolled in with Lance and stopped as he looked at the bust. “I’m sorry, Morgan, is that the Marquise De Sade?”

“Marky who?” Todd asked, hopping in and planting himself in a chair next to Morgan.

She turned to face him with an incredulous look. He had finally solved the mystery she’d been lazily trying to solve for years. “Holy shit, THAT’S the Marquise De Sade?”

She peered at the bust. “I thought he’d look cooler than that. Why’s my mom got a bust of the Marquise De Sade???”

Callisto walked into the room, glanced at the commotion, sitting down with a shrug. “You may not want the answer to that question, Morgan.”

Dorian laughed up his sleeve, seating himself toward the end of the table. “Rather a boring looking fellow isn’t he? Well, I suppose he’s more interesting than the busts of Shakespeare all over the mansion.”

Magneto looked around and, seeing that they were all here now, raised his hand for silence.The group fell silent, and Morgan looked at their leader with a growing excitement. This was their first meeting as the Brotherhood of Mutants.

The first meeting that would set the tone for their ongoing fight for their fellow Mutants.

Magneto’s heavy gaze fell on each of the assembled.

“My brotherhood. Mystique tells me that you are adjusting well. I apologize for cutting short your time for settling in, but there is work to be done. I trust that all of you are up to your first challenge.”

Mystique smiled thinly. “There’ll be plenty of time to set up beds and mingle afterwards . This will be a chance to prove yourselves.”

Morgan blinked in surprise, but nodded firmly “…our first challenge already. I’m ready for it.”

Punching his fist into his palm, Lance spoke next “Hope it’s something good, boss man.  I’d really like to make an impact with this one.”

“Yeah, we up to whatever, lay it on us, yo!” Todd grinned.

Magneto nodded.

“Something good. Hmm. Well, it is a situation where action is urgently needed. There is a certain laboratory not far from here which is making progress on a drug intended to wipe the mutant race from the face of the earth.”

The reaction was instant. It rolled through the group like a wave.

Morgan physically recoiled, a look of disgust on her face as she hissed between pointed teeth. “They’re making WHAT?? To wipe us out ?”

Lance’s hands clenched by his side, the faintest rumble running through the earth two floors down in the basement. “Damn it. Those bastards…”

Callisto was quiet, though her single eye narrowed in silent anger.  Her shoulders tensed as she nodded firmly to Magneto.

“Disgusting,” Dorian sneered.

Todd had a look of horror on his face. “Yo holy shit.”

Magneto let the reaction roll through the assembled for a moment, before he raised his hand and spoke again.

“I’m glad that you all understand the gravity of the situation. Such a thing, a mutant ‘cure’ can not be allowed to stand. To that end, the five of you will infiltrate this laboratory and destroy any and all progress being made on this abomination.”

Morgan scoffed, her jaw set. “Cure my ass.” she spat “they’re talking about genocide and they call us monsters?” She gripped the table. “When we’re done with the place, there won’t even be a drawing board to go back to.”

Lance grit his teeth with a low growl “damn right. We allowed to level the place? Because I really wanna send a fucking message with this shit.”

Callisto looked at the table with a quiet mutter. “A mutant cure. To think they’ve been working on something like this in secret.”

Magneto waved a hand again.

“Reduce it to rubble if you like, but make certain that all of the computers are destroyed first. Mystique will be providing you with a virus that will be able to delete the back ups.”

“It’s a tricky little virus.” Mystique purred “and it’ll do the job. Just like I hope all of you can too.” She crossed her arms “Cause as much damage as you can, and get those computers offline…and we won’t have to worry about that damnable ‘cure’ for quite some time. Hopefully forever.”

“Yo sick, sounds like it’s all figured out,” Toad grinned.

Callisto nodded , saluting Mystique and Magneto firmly. “Yes sir. Yes ma’am. We’ll take out the computer system and anything else in our way.”

Morgan smirked. “….Nice…sounds like we’re gonna be going in at least semi-prepared. That’s better than last time, eh?”

“Much better,” Dorian agreed with a smirk.

“Preparation will be vital for every mission,” Magneto nodded. “I want you to get used to it. To that end, Mystique and I have also obtained clothing and gear for you to use. It is not yet time to completely discard your civilian identities, which means that I want expect you to protect them.  Charles’ little army has uniforms, but we will be making do for now.”

“Oh my god.” Morgan snorted “they have uniforms ?? how dorky can you get ?”

Dorian smirked. “You have no idea. Wait until you see them.”

“Shit yo, they that bad?” Todd asked.

“Worse,” Dorian agreed.

Magneto snorted.

“Aesthetics aside, I have more instructions. You will not wear any part of your active gear with your civilian attire, nor during any civilian activities. Likewise, do not wear any part of your civilian attire during operations. Yes, that means undergarments, yes, there are undergarments for you to wear.”

Morgan’s fingers went to the inverted cross necklace around her neck, but she nodded slowly. “…alright. No jewelry…Keeping a firm separation between active gear and civilian identity attire…to keep anyone from getting wise, I guess.”

Lance raised his hand. “Gramps, sir. Why the fuck do we gotta wear pre-approved underwear and not like, just some boxers from the big box store?”

Mystique bristled. “Firstly, don’t call Magneto ‘gramps’. It’s disrespectful.”

“And inaccurate,” Magneto drawled. “As for your question. Would wearing your own underthings likely be safe, yes. However brands, fibers and tags could in theory be used to narrow down the location of you and your teammates.  The true reason is as Morgan said. To keep a firm separation between active and civilian attire,  and civilian and active mindset. Furthermore don’t wear any loose or dangling jewelry, and for heaven’s sake don’t even think of bringing your smartphone.”

Callisto nodded. “A smartphone can be used to track your location, no matter the precautions you take,” she whispered softly. “You’ll want to stick to two way radios where possible, or other forms of communication, until we can get something properly encrypted.”

“Imagine.” Lance said with a shake of his head. “Bein’ found out and busted because of your underwear. Fuck. But I get it. Firm separation. Sure.”

Morgan looked thoughtful as she took it all in, but she finally asked “If we’re keeping a firm separation of like, our civilian lives and the Brotherhood….we probably shouldn’t go around calling one another by name, right? People can use that against us.”

“Yeah, we oughta like, have code names,” Todd agreed. “Like 007.”

“Astute thinking,” Magneto agreed. “Though rather than code name I prefer the phrase nomme de guerre

“War name?” Dorian mused. “That does have a nice ring to it.”

“War name, huh?” Morgan leaned on the table with a half smile. “I do like that.”

Callisto…Mukuro Isono…raised her hand. “I will be Callisto.”

Lance furrowed his brow “I dunno…Quakester? No. Hate that. That’s real bad.”

“Yo Quakester sounds like you boutsta open a retro speedrunning channel,” Todd snickered.

“I suppose I already have mine,” Dorian considered. “No reason to stop using Banshee.”

“Fuck you Toad.” Lance muttered , crossing his arms in mild irritation “I’d like to see you come up with a better one.”

Morgan meanwhile, was pacing back and forth “…Shadow…Shadow…Carmilla? Countess? Shadowcat?”

“Shadowcat’s taken, dear,” Dorian murmured to her.

Todd snickered again and leaned on his chin. “I dunno yo. Uhhh, Richter? Nah that sounds like a dumbass. Fuck that.”

Lance winced. “Ugh, yeah, no. Fuck no. I’m gonna go with…I dunno, Avalanche?” He grinned “Yeah, Avalanche. I can bring down whatever’s in my way.”

Todd chuckled at Avalanche. “yeah and once ya get going ya don’t stop yo.”

Morgan cursed softly. “Damn, it’s a good one…” She flipped her cross in her fingers “Midnight? Shade?” She leaned on the table with her brow furrowed in thought. “Umbra?”

Dorian smiled. “Umbra has a nice sound to it. It’s not likely to be mistaken for anything either.”

“You’re right.” Morgan said with a growing grin “…Umbra does have a nice ring to it. And it certainly suits me, doesn’t it? Banshee’s a good one for you, too. That scream of yours is like an omen of death for our enemies.”

Avalanche meanwhile, smirked at Todd. “I’m gonna take that as a compliment, Todd. How about you? Gonna stick with Toad or should I start callin’ you Kermit or Slippy or something?”

Callisto looked up from where she was sitting “Kermit is likely to be copyrighted. They’ll probably try to find you and take you to court.”

“I’d like to see ’em try,” Todd snorted. “Yo I mean I’d come up with somethin’ cooler, but Toad’s pretty on the money I guess.”

Avalanche grinned, “Then I’m gonna call ya Toad, pal.”

Umbra was the first to walk to the table with a wide grin “Toad’s cute.” she purred over her shoulder, before glancing at the box that Mystique put on the table. “…and now that we’ve got our Brotherhood identities…why don’t we look the part?”

Magneto stood. “Excellent. Dress and arm yourselves, my Brotherhood. You leave in an hour.”

Once Magneto had departed, the newly minted Brotherhood were left alone with Mystique and the boxes of tactical gear. Most of it seemed to be military surplus or civilian paramilitary, likely purchased or stolen from some guard supply. There was even some sports equipment, like knee and elbow pads.

Callisto had been one of the first into the box of materials. She picked and chose like a woman who knew exactly what all this was and what she wanted as she arranged an outfit on the table.

A Gas mask in black with twin breathing filters, a heavy leather black leather jacket and urban camoflage tactical pants, some kevlar body armor scrubbed of identifying markings and an ammo belt. She’d left the room with her approved undergarments, and returned dressed from head to toe in the striking black number, her breath making soft hissing sounds as she breathed through the mask and adjusted the ammo belt on her shoulder.Strung on her hip holsters was a pouch full of deadly looking throwing knives, a deadly looking trench knife, and a semi-automatic pistol.

“It’s scrubbed of identification as well.” She said, as if that explained how she got it.

She paused and dumped a black sneaking suit on the table “I think I grabbed this by mistake. So someone else can use it.”

“Damn yo, Callisto out here lookin like a straight assassin,” Toad grinned, leaning up from halfway inside one of the large boxes, a pair of gloves in hand.

“Maybe I found my future calling.” Callisto drawled quietly

Toad was the next to leave, and return dressed. He came back in a royal air force style bomber jacket, over a tactical vest and a pair of camo pants and steel toed boots, with motorcycle gloves and a camo bandana tied around his forehead, under the large welding goggles he wore.

“You look good. Like you’re part of some quirky resistance gang in an action flick. The jacket’s cool,” Callisto said, returning his compliment.

Lance…Avalanche punched Toad’s shoulder as he came back “well fuck me. You actually look like a badass, Toad. Never thought I’d see the day.”

Lance gathered a number of items and slipping out of the room. When he entered the room a few moments later, it was with the swish of a long brown duster, and the scuff of heavy brown combat boots on the parlor floor.

Lance dressed in a dark brown bandanna tied across his forehead , contrasting with the vivid red hankerchief he wore around his neck, just under the dark brown duster and resting over the desert camo flak jacket he wore. Fingerless gloves in dark brown covered his hands, and a belt held a few handy items…from a flashlight to a small loop of rope.

He grinned, and ran his hand through his hair.  “I look pretty sick, don’t I? Figure I’ll pull the bandanna up when we’re in action so nobody sees my face. Thought about the riot helmet but ehhhh..nah.”

“Careful you don’t spoil that handsome head then,” Dorian teased. “Striking as your attire is. But let’s see if I can match it.”

When Dorian returned it was clear he wasn’t going to let go of his flair for the dramatic. He had grabbed another of the long brown dusters like Lance was wearing, but offset his with motorcycle style black pants, and a tightfitting black shirt with belt of pouches across it. He wore calf-high boots and long gloves, and a brilliant green scarf around his neck to obscure his lower face. He was obscuring the rest of it with a couple of items no one was quite sure where they’d come from however– a broad brimmed hat, and a black domino mask.

“Not bad for a last minute Zorro,” he declared as he returned.

Umbra clapped with an ear to ear grin. “Bravo, Banshee. You look like a modern day robin hood. ” she smirked “or a batman villain. Real nice.”

Callisto cocked her head. “The hat.” She paused a moment before she finished “I like it. It’ll draw attention, though.”

“Then we’ll keep him outta the stealth team.” Umbra purred “he wouldn’t do any good there anyway with his powers. Let him catch the eye, and flaunt our cause to the enemy.” She grabbed a number of things off the table…including the sneaking suit, and slipped out of the room. She was gone for…a fair bit of time before she finally returned.

Like Dorian, she wasn’t about to let herself be outmatched in terms of sheer drama. Umbra drifted into the room, surrounded by the black miasma of the hall’s shadows that spilled onto the walls around her in a shadowplay of grasping hands and jagged teeth.

She wore a Callisto’s sneaking suit, the stark black outfit hugged the curves of her body , interposed here and there by the hard pockets and inbuilt pouches that she’d taken the time to fill with possible necessities. Around the curve of her hip, she wore two belts, one  golden ‘utility’ style belt clipped with small packs and another slung around her hips to break up the monochrome of the sneaking suit. Around her neck, hiding more of her skin from view was a striking red scarf, that tucked way under the long black Soviet Era military coat she wore unbuttoned and open around her shoulders.

She grinned , baring her fangs, as she stared at the group through the crimson tinted lenses of what looked to be some sort of tactical goggles…possibly taken from the upper half of a modern gasmask. And in the center of the glossy black mask, she’d burned the dark image of an inverted cross in the forehead.

“Well?” she purred. “how do I look, boys?”

Toad looked like if he stared any harder his eyes might fall out of his head. “Damn yo.”

Banshee gave a little clap. “Well, comrades, I’d say we’re dressed for the ball. Now we just have to make certain we don’t all turn into pumpkins.”

Breaking and Entering

It had been an anxious, but quiet, ride in the back of an unmarked van as Mystique drove them to their destination. She dropped them off on a lonely roadside under the moonless sky, at the side of a wide stretch of woods. A short hike through the darkness and the brush, and they came out on a low ridge, within sight of their target.

The low concrete complex was surrounded by a tall wire fence, and the road leading up to it bore the sign ‘Worthington Labs’.

Worthington Labs. Morgan thought as she let the shadows rise around them…enough to cloak the small group  in darkness and hide them from view.

I’ve heard the name before…Worthington. Some big corporate giant. I think Mom mentioned them once or twice too… She let out an audible hiss between her teeth and now they’re developing some **cure** for us…like we’re a disease they need to **eradicate**

Kneeling at the edge of the ridge, her anger bubbled and boiled under her skin. Disgusting…and I’m sure it only becomes more vile the deeper we dig.

She glanced at the others– Callisto was screwing together a small rifle, her single eye half closed as she looked out at the facility. The dull blue glow in her eye spoke to the tactical planning going on inside her head.

Lance was jittery; he kept shifting from foot to foot, ready to rush on in at the signal but all too worked up to stay still. She could understand the excitement.

Toad was squatted down nearby, also looking a little jittery as he watched the lab. He was fussing with a short metal pole he’d brought along, a little longer than a crowbar.

“Yo…doesn’t look real heavily guarded.”

“Or brightly lit,” Banshee nodded. “Which is good for us.”

Indeed, there was a guard shack by the road in, beside the gate, lit with only one spotlight. They could see two figures moving around inside.

“Think we should take out the guards in the shack?” Morgan whispered. “So they don’t get in the way of our escape?”

Callisto looked thoughtful. “We don’t know their rotation pattern. It’s risky.”

“The alternative being to simply sneak by them, I imagine?” Banshee considered.

“Yeah.” Callisto nodded “But that’s opening up the possibility of them proving to be an issue when we make our retreat.”

“Maybe we can persuade them to take an early break, I dunno.” Lance punched his fist.

“Yeeeeah I don’t think so,” Toad murmured. “In security ya got two types. Grandpas and psychos. And these don’t’ look like grandpas to me. What if we take em out and grab one of their radios? Prolly get a heads up on shift switch that way.”

Callisto nodded after a moment. “…good idea.”

Umbra flashed a smile. “Avalanche, Toad, why don’t you two do the honors. Then we’ll find a way through that fence and split up.”

Toad stood, rolling the pipe on his arm, and nodded.

“Got it, yo. C’mon bro lets get this shit done.”

He hopped down the ridge toward the shack, staying in the shadows as well as he could. Avalanche followed him, sliding down the ledge as quietly as he could before ducking into a roll and hurrying to catch up with Toad in the darkness around the fence. He reached behind him, grabbing a nightstick he’d found in the gear earlier in one hand.

They snuck up around the side of the guard station far from the road, keeping low. There was no door from this side, but there was a large window. Inside the small room, one guard was sitting on a chair drinking coffee and looking at his phone, the other was standing at the road-side window, keeping watch.

Avalanche gestured to the window with the nightstick as he hunkered down low to the dirt; it was dark and his duster would do well to camouflage him as long as he stuck to the right terrain. He pulled down his bandanna enough to stick his tongue out, towards the guard with the coffee, and give Toad a significant look.

Toad gave him a thumbs up and whipped his tongue through the open window, grabbing the man’s coffee cup.

The guard had enough time to be startled and confused, but not enough time to react as another motion whipped the ceramic mug and smashed it hard against his head. As he staggered dazed, his partner started to turn toward him in confusion.

The crash of the coffee cup against the man’s face sent him sprawling back, hitting the wall of the shack before going limp.

Unfortunately, it was enough to draw the other man’s attention. As the guard spun around, Avalanche grinned.

“Exactly what I wanted you to do, Toad.” He held his hands out, and trembled for a moment with a soft ugh , his eyes rolling back over his bandanna.

The guard opened his mouth to shout–before a sudden localized earthquake cracked open the ground beneath his feet. His foot slipped into the widening crack, and snapped as he was put off balance.

Avalanche leapt over the divider and slammed his nightstick into his head as the tremors died down, knocking the man out and sending him sprawling back atop his likewise unconscious buddy.

Toad hopped in the booth alongside Avalanche and snapped up one of the guards’ radios.

“Damn yo, we ruthless,” he grinned, pushing the unconscious body of the guard.  He snapped up the man’s flashlight as well, and waved his arm out the window, flicking the light in the direction of the rest of their posse quickly on and off twice.

Upon on the ridge, Morgan saw the light flicker.

Looks like they did the trick. Nicely done, guys. Umbra grinned under her mask, before she concentrated her power. With a billow of near-liquid shadow, Morgan slipped into the darkness behind the treeline, and stepped out of the shadow of the guard shack with a wicked smirk

“Step one, finished.” she purred.

Callisto slipped down the hill, and aimed her rifle as she slid.

She counted to three, and pulled the trigger. There was a sudden pop of muffled , compressed air, and a needle whizzed past Toad’s head and slammed into the control center behind him, wedging into a switch and pinning it on the ‘off’ end.

The guard shack’s spotlight went out.

Toad jumped as the projectile whizzed past his ear. “Yo, you guys be straight creepin,” he hissed. “Nice shot though.”

Banshee too, hurried after Callisto, a bit useless for the moment while they were still in stealth mode.

Umbra lightly punched his shoulder “I’m Umbra,” she purred. “Skulking about’s my thing.”

Callisto hooked the rifle on her back. “I timed the shot perfectly, Toad. Sorry. I didn’t have the chance to warn you.”

“S’allgood ladies,” Toad said, waving a hand.

Avalanche glanced towards the front door. “We busting in the front, or a window?’

“I’m all for busting in,” Banshee said as he joined them in the small area. “If anyone’s in there to know something’s wrong they’ll likely know shortly in any case.”

“We want to control the situation however,” Callisto advised, leaning on the wall. “The problem being if we alert them too early they may call the cops before we find the mainframes.”

“Shit,” Umbra muttered “that’s a good point.”

Avalanche looked up at the building. “So uh, I ain’t exactly Mr. Tactics, but…what if we split up. Few of us go looking for the mainframes, the rest of us run distraction and keep people too occupied to call for help?”

Banshee nodded. “I believe we discussed the possibility of two teams on the way here. Why don’t we call in that contingency.”

“Yo, sounds fine with me,” Toad grinned.

“Two teams then.” Avalanche grinned. “Perfect.”

Callisto raised her hand. “Instead of running distraction, why doesn’t one team go to the computer’s server room, and the other team trashes the lab?”

Toad scratched his head. “Huh, I mean, whoever’s trashin’ the lab gonna be pretty distractin’ anyway right?”

“Exactly.” Callisto nodded. “A natural distraction while the other team brings down their system.”

Morgan glanced into the darkened area outside the guard shack…and to the building beyond. “…then let’s roll, before they notice we knocked the light out.”


A short, sharp shriek from Banshee, inaudible to anyone outside the immediate area, was all it took to disintegrate the pane of glass between his team and back entry to the western wing of worthington labs.

Callisto had covered her ears as he screamed, nodding once the glass vibrated itself into nothingness. “Good job.”

She leapt inside, taking stock of the immediate surroundings as her hand went to one of her throwing knives.

Avalanche shook his head. “Remind me not to get on your bad side, Banshee,” he smirked. “It’d just take a whisper in the ear to blow a guy’s brains out.”

“From sweet nothings to sweet nothingness in a second flat,” he purred back, leaping up onto the windowsill. He offered Avalanche a hand up.

Avalanche took his hand, and hefted himself up into the window with a grunt of effort “Like I said, remind me not to get on your bad side.”

Callisto was quiet, but as the two of them hopped in, she crooked her finger, and pointed down the well lit hall. “I hear voices that direction,” she whispered

Avalanche and Banshee heard them too as soon as they were inside. Two of them, not particularly trying to be quiet, approached from the dark hallway, along with footsteps.

“I’m telling you, it probably just burnt out, Dave.”

“We just changed the bulb last week, Carl,” the other countered. “Mr. Worthington stationed us here because the work the lab boys are doing is important. We can’t take chances.”

Callisto turned her finger to the side, where there was a supply closet as she mouthed ‘ambush’.

Avalanche nodded, and grabbed the supply closet’s door, pulling it open and waving for them to get inside.

Banshee slid into the closet gracefully, as the footsteps grew closer.

“What– you’re thinking Benepharm sent some corporate espionage goons?”

Callisto slipped in behind him, readying a throwing knife in one hand as she pressed against a mop.

Avalanche half closed the door behind them, ducking in with it only open a crack as he waited until they came a little closer.

“Damn right I do.” Dave continued with a sharp snort. “Think about it, Benepharm, Mr. Worthington, they’re all trying to crack that genetic puzzle and be the first to announce to the world they’ve got a cure for the freakin’ muties. Whoever manages is gonna make a killing. Why wouldn’t they send spies?”

Carl, an overweight man in his thirties with a large, ugly mustache, came into view with his partner, nearing the closet. “Good fucking point, Dave. Heh, I kinda hope someone did break in. I’m bored as shit. Giving some spies a beating would be a nice workout.”

Dave, a scrawny and gangly looking man with a five o’clock shadow and a scar crossing one thick eyebrow, stopped short when he saw the open window. “What the hell?”

Avalanche grinned, just as Carl walked in front of the door…and slammed it outwards into the man.

“Fuck!” Carl hissed, reeling back as the door slammed against him. Surprisingly agile, his hand went to his belt.

Banshee leapt out of the closet –it was difficult to keep him in one for long– and directed a concussive scream at the other guard.

Dave was hit full force by the concussive waves. Doubling over with a shout, he slammed into what little remained of the window and toppled outside in a dull thud.

Callisto flicked her wrist, her eye glowing a faint blue as the knife slammed hard into Carl’s hand, striking it with enough force to pin it to the wall. “Stay still.”

Carl made a choking noise– the door had broken his nose, and the knife had probably broken his hand. Despite that, he still tried to fight Callisto.

Callisto pulled her pistol from her holster, and aimed it at his head. “Is it time to go loud?” she asked impassively.

“Not yet.” Lance grinned, and raised the nightstick. “Lights out, normie.” With a swing, he struck the man in the face with his nightstick.

The second slam to the face in the span of a minute sent Carl sprawling. The lights were very much out, and with minimal noise too.

“No muss, no fuss,” Dorian said, approvingly.

Lance shook the blood off his nightstick with a grin “means we get to have even more fun once we get to the security station and really cut loose. Don’t gotta worry about legions of brainless , piece of shit security guards.”

“He called us muties,” Callisto muttered softly, as she kicked the man squarely in the stomach.

“Not going to aim lower down?” Banshee murmured. “A pity. But we shouldn’t linger.”

“It’d sully my boots.” She turned to walk down the hall with Avalanche in tow. “Now come on. We have work to do.”

Smash Lab

Morgan and Todd had made it into the building without incident; creeping through the dark and abandoned halls. As they wound their way following signs for the laboratories, they spotted at the end of the hall a heavily locked door with a technical panel next to it, and a camera in the top corner of the ceiling sweeping slowly back and forth.

Morgan kept them in the shadows as they crept through the hallways, dodging cameras and guards every step of the way.

Looks like whenever you need something done quietly, Todd and I are the team to get,’ she thought with amusement as she glanced at her partner in crime. She leaned over to whisper to him.

“Toad. Think you can work out that panel? I’ll get the camera.”

Toad grinned, the lenses of his goggles glinting in the low light, and nodded. He stayed in her lengthened shadows as he moved toward the panel. Meanwhile the camera’s little red light blink-blink-blinked steadily, as it swept back across the hall.

Morgan formed a little disk of darkness, and sent it slithering over the wall. It rose, connected by a thread, all the way over the surface of the camera, where it came to a rest over the lens, obscuring it in thick darkness.

“Camera out of commission for the moment.”

Toad cracked his knuckles, examining the panel, and making a face. He motioned for her to come closer.

Umbra walked towards him, not bothering to hide herself in the shadows while she kept the disk over the camera. They were pretty much in the clear until a guard came to check.

She leaned in over his shoulder, her hair brushing him as she took a look herself.


He pointed to the panel. “Needs a hand print,” he murmured. “So I got two ideas.”

“Tch, that’s irritating. ‘Course it does.” She looked at Toad with a cock of her head. “I’m listening.”

He leaned close to her ear, and held up a finger.

“Plan B, we find some asshole and his hand and drag em over here yo,” he explained. “Plan A? How thin an’ hard can you make those shadows? If you can slip em in the crack of the door, ya could force the door mechanism open. Can do the same thing with a credit card on a regular door yo.”

Umbra’s lips formed a wide smile as she looked at the door and the narrow space where it brushed against the door jam.

“Now that’s an interesting question. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?”

She held out her hand as the shadows twisted and flowed like water into her grasp. She concentrated, her mouth a hard line as she formed and solidified them as thin as she could and as sturdy as she could manage into the shape of a small rectangle. She turned it over in her fingers when she was done…a glossy rectangle of darkness, solidified and razor sharp at the edges.

“Think this’ll do the trick? No telling if it’s hard enough yet, but I tried.”

“Let’s find out, yo,” he grinned, and motioned to the slim crack between the door and the wall. “That thing looks fitta kill a man though, so no loss either way.”

Umbra smirked. “I’ll let you keep it when we’re done. As a souvenir while it lasts.”

She bent down, slipped the card between the crack of the door, and slid it in search of the mechanism. “Come on…I’ve never done this before, but the principal’s easy enough, isn’t it?”

“Should be, yo,” he agreed, keeping a lookout while she worked. The little card met resistance about half way down. If she could wedge the card between the internal bar and the doorframe, they’d be golden.

She twisted her hand, enough to try to get the sharpened edge of the card into that golden space, her eyes narrowed as she braced herself on the door.

“Come on…” She muttered, jimmying it around as best she could. “Before I get irritated and just fill the space with shadows and blow it open.”

“That would totally work though,” Toad agreed. But there was no need. Something popped internally in the door in response to the finagling, and it hissed open wide enough to push aside as strong but delicate servos broke.

Umbra grinned wickedly as she handed the little card of darkness to Toad. “It’d work, but it’d be loud.”

She stepped to the side as the door hissed open, and peeked around inside the lab. “This way we have all the time we need to see just how far along this ‘so-called cure’ of theirs is.”

“Yo hell yeah,” he gave her a thumbs up, slipping past the door with her. The lab area was a long hallway with several doors on either side, reminiscent of the back halls of a hospital.

She put her hand on his shoulder, and gestured to the first of the doors on the left.

“Let’s clear the hall, door by door. Left then right. We see anything …horrible–we destroy it. Maybe keep a piece of evidence or two for Magneto.”

Toad nodded.

“Got it. Wonder if we’ll see anything real jacked,” he murmured. He pushed the door to the first lab open. After the heavy security door, the doors inside just swung open easily, not even latched.

There was a large centrifuge in the room, and a cart full of blood samples as well as microscopes and other equipment. Hanging on the wall were x-rays of what it was quickly apparent were mutant skeletons. One of them, the most prominent one, showed a large pair of wings.

“….” Morgan walked forward and took in the room with a sharp frown “they’ve been studying us so they can destroy us. Not even to understand but to…to wipe us out.”

She hissed through her teeth ” ‘cure’ us. God damn.”

She picked up one of the blood samples and turned it over in her hand.

Todd grabbed the x rays off the wall and rolled them up, jamming them into his bag. “Fuckin a. This some eugenics shit.”

The sample was labeled with a long number string and a date stamp and QR code. The blood inside it oozed gently as she rolled it in her hand.

Morgan slipped it and a few others into the hard pockets of her sneaking suit before she took a step back . “It is, and it’s fucking disgusting..”

She glanced at Todd “Not much they can do without samples. Let’s raze this room and move to the next one.”

Toad grinned and flourished his stick. “Smash time?”

The shadow’s flowed into Morgan’s hand, shifting into the form of a glossy black baseball bat covered in protruding shadowed spikes.

“Smash time, Toad. Let’s set them back to square minus 50.”

The time for stealth had passed, and the two of them got busy painting the lab red. Toad swept the blood samples to the ground, smashing them with a satisfying sound of breaking glass.

Morgan swung the bat, twisting the shadows on the wall into a sweeping arc that slammed into the centrifuge with all the force she could manage, toppling it and destroying thousands upon thousands of dollars of machinery as she laid into it with heavy, furious swings.

“No more machines.” Umbra hissed “no more samples. no more ‘cure’. ” She grinned under her mask. “And still more rooms to clear out.”

Between them, they were quickly reducing the room to shambles, nearly everything of value destroyed. Of course, that meant that over the noise of their assault they didn’t hear the footsteps as they approached. Instead, Morgan only noticed the scientist watching horrified from the doorway when she chanced to turn her head toward it.

The curve of her mask’s crimson eyes caught the light, casting them in a bright gleam as her gaze fell upon the scientist.

“Toad.” Morgan threw her hand out, casting a number of thin tendrils of liquid darkness out to wrap around the woman’s arms and legs, yanking her into the room as the last of them slammed the door behind her. “We have company.”

The woman, a close-cropped blond with a sharp, no nonsense face, had been just about to move as the tendrils grabbed her. She screamed, and fought to grab something from her coat.

“Well shit, yo!” Toad snapped, pausing in his mayhem, and leaping toward Morgan’s new prisoner. “Let’s shut her up!”

The tendrils tightened at once, their tips forming into sleek, obsidian blades.

“I’d stifle the scream, lady. “The blades pressed against her labcoat, just shy of starting to cut through it. “I don’t have the finest control yet, and I’d hate to make a mess.I hear you’re working on a cure. I think it’s safe to say the project’s gonna be inconclusive, dontcha think?”

She stared the woman in the eyes, holding her still enough for Toad’s leap to connect. The threat of the blades held her still enough, and Toad’s blow connected, knocking her into the wall, and knocking her senseless. She went limp in Morgan’s tendrils.

Morgan dropped her, letting the animated shadows return their natural, 2-dimensional forms in the corners of the room. She walked over and reached into the woman’s coat to find what she’d been reaching for .

“You’re lucky we’ve got better things to do.” She snarled at the unconscious woman.

As Umbra reached into the unconscious woman’s coat she found what her hand had been seeking. It was a pistol.

“Shit yo, egghead was packin heat.”

She tucked the gun into the sneaking suit’s belt with a frown. “Hopefully all the nerds here aren’t armed.”

She waved for him to follow. “Come on Toad. Let’s check the next room.”

Call to Action

Greg had been of all things, working on some mundane homework when he’d felt the strange sensation that he wasn’t alone in his mind, immediately followed by the unmissable voice of Professor Xavier, ringing between his ears, telling him to go to the vehicle bay.

He jerked up from where he was hunched over his desk in the room he now shared.

“What the hell?”

Nearby, Bobby was playing on a handheld video game system while reclined on his bed when he suddenly froze up too with a muffled noise. “Aw shit…looks like there’s trouble in the neighborhood.” He hopped up, and jogged for his dresser.

Greg blinked and found himself standing. “Was that the Professor just now? In my head?” he stared at Bobby.

“Woah, you got the summons too?” He flashed a broad smile. “Well shit. Welcome to the X-men, dude.” He pulled out a blue and yellow spandex suit, and held it up “The professor summons us mentally, ya know? It’s faster than a phone call. More secure too.”

“Guess so,” Greg said. He paused looking at Bobby’s suit. “Is that the uniform?”

“Sure is.” Bobby stretched it between his hands. “Real trendy, ain’t it? It’s made of some kinda special material that adapts to whatever your powers throw at it, so you shouldn’t have too much issue with your shadows.” He pulled the divider over his bed and started stripping down to get dressed, only a silhouette as he did. “Check your drawer, Prof probably already left one for ya.”

Greg hurried to the dresser and pulled the top drawer open.

“Huh…. so he did.” He pulled out the strange, slightly filmy material, and despite his hesitation– casting a look at Bobby– he hurried to get dressed as well.

He could see the silhouette of Bobby’s slim and athletic form as he pulled his legs into the uniform, and slipped on a pair of boots, stretching out in profile before he placed his hand on the edge of the curtain “you ready,  man?”

Greg tugged a little at the collar of what seemed to be an athletic men’s leotard, mostly in red with golden highlights.  There was a large X on the back of it. There were matching boots as well. “Ready as I’ll ever be, I think.”

Bobby threw the curtain back, and posed with his hands on his hips and a wide grin crossing his face. His uniform bore the same large black X, this one across his chest, as well as yellow borders on the X and down it’s sides…but most of the uniform was a deep ice blue.

And it was pretty much suction cupped to his abs. There was form fitting, then there was this.

“Yeah, you get used to the fit after a while, you know? But it made me feel like I was in the fucking circus for a while.” He ran his hand through his hair. “If we’re gonna get on your way, I’ll get my Ice on.”

“Y-yeah, lets go,” he muttered, wondering if his own uniform fit the same way. He had the stinging suspicion that it did.

Bobby glanced at him as he passed, and then walked double time out the door. “Come on, if we’re the last ones there, they’ll never let us live it down. Kitty especially.”

As he walked, he grew increasingly covered in a thick layer of ice that covered every bit of his exposed body in a sheen of crystal blue.

“I wouldn’t want that to happen,” Greg agreed, kicking up to a jog. He was aware of every bit of his own body as he moved– and aware of Bobby’s strange one. “How do you move like that?”

Bobby glanced at him, the ice only making the faintest crinkling crack as he moved. “What, all iced up?” He grinned , his features cast in almost living ice “How do you move when you turn Mr. Hellfire and Brimstone?”

“With my muscles?” he said, giving Bobby a confused look. “Whereas you look like you’re in a solid block of ice.”

“Well yeah, man.” Bobby raised his hands “But like, ice is my element . I can shape and move it all I like, so coating myself in a shell of it’s just like creating my own animate suit of armor or an extension of my own skin.”

He mimed fingerguns at Greg, and shot a few little puffs of crystalized ice that fluttered like snowflakes “Cool, huh?”

Greg snorted at the little ice bursts and nodded. “Yeah, pretty cool honestly.”

They weren’t the last ones to the vehicle bay, but they weren’t the first either, Xavier was there, as well as Scott and Colossus.

Scott had his arms crossed, wearing a striking deep blue uniform that covered him head to toe, with high yellow boots and a red and black X on each shoulder. Over his eyes, where his sunglasses usually sat, was a deep crimson and yellow visor with a knob on either side.

“Looks like it’s time for your first mission, Greg.” he nodded to him. “Remember. Take it easy out there. Depending on the threat, the danger room could seem like child’s play.”

Bobby punched Greg on the shoulder with his ice covered fist “don’t worry. I’ll make sure the new guy doesn’t get iced on his first big fracas.”

How many ice puns does this guy have? Greg groaned internally. He punched him back. “Thanks But don’t forget to watch your own ass.”

Peter, who was wearing a leotard similar to Greg’s, and was already in his metallic form, looked to the professor and scott. “But what is the call we are heeding today?”

Kitty and Kurt were the last two in.

Kitty came slipping through the wall in a full body yellow and black catsuit, her long yellow gloves flared out at their base. The golden shoulders of her catsuit tapered down in a yellow stripe to the belt that bisected the uniform, emblazoned with a big black and red X.

Her long, curly brown hair was tied back in a ponytail as she gave them a grinning salute “Hey , didn’t keep you too long, did we?”

“You sure did, Kitty,” Iceman grinned. “What, were you taking a catnap?”

“I was studying, which I’d bet you weren’t doing, you big dork,” she stuck out her tongue at Bobby.

I was studying,” Kurt murmured quietly with a small smile. He was absent his human disguise now, and looked at once comical and somehow intimidating in his own red and black uniform.

Greg shook his head, feeling nerves for the first time as they were all gathered. The team– the team he was a part of– what were they assembled for exactly? He wondered if it was Magneto, like their training.

Bobby crossed his arms. “Hey, C’s get degrees Kitty. Not everyone’s got to be on the honor roll.”

“Hm.” Kitty raised her hand “are we waiting on Jean and Ororo, sir?”

“No.” The Professor shook his head. “The two of them are on a very important reconnaissance mission for me tonight, and cannot attend.” He tented his fingers “and this came up most suddenly, and requires are immediate attention.”

Scott  nodded solemnly. “The professor’s told me that Cerebro, our mutant tracking machine, has picked up enough mutant activity to trigger it’s alert mode. There’s someone…or someones…out there making a rather public display of power.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” Greg hazarded.

“Probably,” Kurt murmured.

“Potentially.” The professor said with a frown. “It warrants investigation…be it a newly manifested mutant struggling to control their power, or someone using their gifts for a more nefarious purpose, we need to assess the situation.”

“Hell.” Scott agreed ‘it could just be another ‘Dazzler’ situation. In which case we stay, watch the show , and come home.”

Greg cocked his head. “You ran into her at a concert I’m guessing?”

“That’s the story I have heard,” Kurt nodded.

“She was using her powers publicly in her tours of America’s malls for years, enhancing her stage presence with her powers. Utterly harmless, if…dangerously out in the open.” Scott said.

“Yeah…at the end of the day we just don’t know what the spike was caused by. Which is why we like, go and check it out! And if it’s a mutant in trouble, we help them out! that’s what the X-men do!”

“And if they’re a villain.” Bobby punched his palm “We kick their ass!”

“Violence is a regrettable last resort,” the Professor chided “…and time is of the essence.  The activity is centered around a remote laboratory belonging to the Worthington family. You’ll be taking the XTV for this foray, given that the lab is not far from our current location.”

“We should get moving then,” Kurt nodded.

Greg cocked his head, looking to Scott. “The XTV huh?”

Scott nodded, and gestured to the large armored car he’d seen on his first day “The Xtreme Terrain Vehicle.” He paused , and rubbed the back of his neck “it’s an ATV. The Professor just wanted it to have an X in the name for, you know.”

“The brand!” Bobby piped up.

“Not the Brand, Bobby.” Kitty groaned as she phased into the vehicle, opening the door for the rest of them from the inside. “It’s because it’s important to keep things, you know, on theme.”

“The Brand.” Bobby snickered as he slipped into the vehicle.

“Remember, my X-men.” The Professor said, “While dangers await you…there is nothing you cannot do together…and I’ll be with you, always.” He tapped his head. “And will help as I am needed.”

With those encouraging words the X-men were on their way, strapped into surprisingly comfortable seats in the back of the ‘XTV’

They’d been driving for several minutes when Greg made a realization and cursed softly under his breath.

Kitty cocked her head as she looked over at Greg.

“You alright, Greg? Worried about your first big mission or something?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Um, actually I realized I hadn’t settled on that code name yet.”

Peter looked back from the passenger’s seat. “That is not such a large trouble, is it?”

“Oh!” Kitty gasped “that’s right! Did you have any, like, possibilities?” She grinned “you can always just let us pick for you!”

“Don’t.” Bobby whispered. “That’s how you get a terrible code name. Just the worst.”

Scott drove the XTV, glancing in the rearview. “Mine’s Cyclops, if that helps.”

“Shadowcat!” Kitty grinned.

“Iceman.” Bobby sighed, sinking into his seat.

“Nightcrawler,” Kurt offered.

“And I am called Colossus,” Peter nodded with a smile.

“I mean, all of those sound pretty cool,” Greg admitted. “Though I guess Nightcrawler’s kind of odd.”

“It does sound better in German,” Kurt admitted. “I think perhaps it loses something in this tongue.”

“Translation does that.” Kitty agreed “But it’s kind of cute, though.” She winked “it suits you, Kurt!”

Bobby thought for a moment. “Want me to think of one for you, dude?”

Greg stroked his chin. “Kitty– that is, Shadowcat– had a couple of ideas earlier. They weren’t terrible…”

Scott nodded in the mirror “Shadowcat’s always had a way with  names.”

“I can suggest more, if you want,” Kitty preened, brushing her hand through her hair with a wide smile.

“I don’t know,” he said, rubbing his jaw. “Do you guys think Duskfall sounds too dumb?”

“It does not sound dumb to me, mein freund,” Kurt offered.

“It has an operatic sort of drama to it.” Kitty grinned widely “I love it.”

“It makes you sound like a Batman villain.” Bobby grinned “or like, a sick anti-hero.”

Greg made a face. “Does it sound too villainous?” he worried.

“Isn’t it a time of day?” Colossus mused. “I don’t think that a time of day can be particularly villainous.”

“Bobby’s just being an idiot.” Kitty reached over to give him a light shove. “Duskfall’s not villainous at all! it’s elegant

Bobby winked “go for it, dude. Duskfall’s good. I’m just teasing a bit.”

“Lets… go with that then,” he nodded. “Here’s to making important choices on the spur of the moment.”

“Cheers,” Bobby grinned. “I’d break out the drinks for a toast, but the XTV’s only got energy drinks  at the moment.”

“And who’s the one who stocked it last, Bobby?” Kitty asked with a soft huff of breath.

“This guy.” Bobby pointed two thumbs at himself. “What can I say?  I like cracking open a cold one to revitalize after a mission.”

“Guess we’ll find out what we’ve got to revitalize from,” Greg– Duskfall– mused.


As the XTV drove up the winding road toward Worthington laboratories, they discovered that the entrance was shrouded in darkness.

“Hm…” Scott said as he parked by the guard shack. “All the data on this facility we’ve been able to gather said they have staff on site 24 hours. You’d think they’d leave the lights on.”

KItty tensed. “Unless something’s wrong…like, I’m gonna go and take a look at the guard shack. See if we can get in contact with anyone.” She unbuckled and smiled at the others “From here on…codenames only.”

Shadowcat winked, and jumped through the wall of the XTV, towards the shack.

Greg– Duskfall– half-stood in the vehicle and peered out the window, watching Kitty vanish into the shack.

As Shadowcat looked around inside she found obvious signs of a struggle, and a pair of men in guard uniforms collapsed on the floor. It wasn’t immediately apparent whether or not they were breathing.

Shadowcat tensed, and bent down to examine the two men. While she saw signs of life–the rise and fall of their chests–they were just unconscious.

And bloodied.

One had clearly broken his nose, blood dripped down his face, while the other guard had drying blood trickling down from under his hairline. She stifled a noise of surprise, jolting back and taking stock of the room.

She took in the fissure through the ground, where the man’s leg was caught, the shattered remains of a coffee cup and coffee stains on the ground,and slim, needlelike dart jutting out from the control panel nearby.

She grabbed it and pulled it free, which finally allowed the switch to become operable. She flicked it on, and the perimeter lights flashed,bathing the XTV in the light of a halogen lamp.

With a wince, Shadowcat slid through the wall and back to the XTV.

“It’s bad. We have two guards in there with possible concussions, knocked out, and evidence of some kind of attack.” She held up the needle. “This was taking out their perimeter lights…”

“Shit.” Bobby whispered. “Guess it ain’t gonna be much of a social call, huh?”

“I think not, Iceman,” Colossus nodded. “It seems the professor was right to send us.”

Duskfall frowned. “Sounds like some spy stuff going on.”

“Spies breaking and entering into some dude’s fancy lab with mutant powers ain’t gonna look good on our collective resumes if people find out,” Iceman muttered.

“We don’t know what their motives are,” Cyclops reminded them as he opened the door. “Let’s split up into teams and get to the bottom of this.”

Shadowcat nodded firmly. “Got it, Cyclops. ”

“Good. Now–.”

Cyclops was only halfway through his sentence when the lab in front of them was suddenly rocked by an explosion. Windows shattered all down the halls as the center of the lab blew open at the top, one of the rooms inside wafting smoke and fire into the air as the last tremors of the earth died down.

Cyclops grimaced.”No time. Split into two groups. One group takes the right, the other the left. Find whoever’s doing this and stop them before they seriously hurt anyone.”

Duskfall nodded. ” Got it.” He vaulted out of the car, mist briefly covering his body before revealing his gargoyle form. He was pleased to see that the uniform Xavier had provided had stretched.

Colossus waved toward the left of the building. “Iceman, Nightcrawler, with me.”

Iceman saluted the others, and leapt out of the car “you got it, big guy. ”

He cast an ice bridge in front of him, as he skated towards the building behind Colossus.

Cyclops took off at a run towards the building, with Shadowcat tapping Duskfall’s arm for him to follow as she made haste with him.

“This is, like, a whole mess–whoever’s doing this doesn’t seem to care much about keeping quiet if they’re blowing stuff up in there,” Shadowcat murmured.

“They sure don’t,” Duskfall agreed. “Do you see this a lot? Other mutants attacking some place?” His tail lashed out behind him as he ran with the other two.

“Sometimes, yeah.” Shadowcat sighed as she phased right through the security divider that Cyclops cleared with a leap.

“I hear it used to be a lot more common when Magneto was active and around, but…sometimes it’s something as simple as someone trying to get revenge on someone who hurt them or lashing out because they’re like…really scared.”

Cyclops nodded, frowning deeply. “But sometimes it’s for other reasons. Greed. Misguided ideals. Sometimes the Hellfire Club uses mutants in it’s manipulations, too.”

Duskfall leapt the divider as well, his wings flapping once to give him extra distance and slow his descent. “Hellfire club?” he murmured. “Sounds spooky. But whatever. Just point me at the bad guys and I got this.” He cracked the knuckles on his clawed hands.

“You’ll get a lesson on them soon enough. They’ve been trouble lately–it’s possible that this is their doing as well.” He turned his visor towards one of the broken windows. “We’ll make entry there. Duskfall, stick close. It’s your first mission and I don’t want you doing anything too risky. Shadowcat, you’re on rescue duty.”

Shadowcat saluted him.. “you got it, Cyclops!  “I’ll start by that explosion!”

Duskfall imitated the salute, and watched Shadowcat go as she leapt through the wall, before hurrying to stay with Cyclops.  He felt his heart beating heavily in his chest. z Don’t screw this one up –Duskfall–, they might decide to kick you out of their club.

Cyclops  vaulted through the broken window, careful not to hit the glass shards left behind. Duskfall followed, just as carefully.

“It’s moments like this that I’m a little jealous of Shadowcat’s abilities,” Cyclops said.

“You know I can’t blame you there. She gets good use out of it.” He looked around, scanning the hall and listening for signs of trouble.

Cyclops nodded.  “She’s learned well, Duskfall. But we’ve all got our strengths.”

He paused and looked down the hall. It was dark, quiet…all the lights had been smashed, leaving a trail of broken glass through the building. Nothing seemed out of place aside from how absolutely quiet it was save for the crackling of fire deeper within.

“Yeah….Like laser blasts or….” Duskfall gestured to himself as he trailed off. And then he frowned, scanning the hall.. “Follow the broken glass?”

He wasn’t exactly sherlock holmes, but it seemed reasonable enough to him

“You’ve got the right idea.” Cyclops waved for him to follow. “Stick close, Duskfall, and be ready for an ambush.”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” He did as he was told, sticking just behind Cyclops as they followed the trail. Small bits of broken glass crunched slightly under their boots.

They came to a T crossing in the hall. While all the lights in the immediate area had been smashed, the trail of glass led to the right, deeper into the building.

Raising a hand to Duskfall, Cyclops turned on a small flashlight attached to his visor and scanned the hall. He froze when the pool of light fell upon one of the doorways. It was open, the security camera blinking as it’s lens was covered in a strange pool of darkness, and further down the hall–there was destruction.

Slashing gouges in the walls, broken doors…the sleeve of a lab coat catching the light as the arm it was connected to lay half out one of the first doors in the hall…

“Come on.” Cyclops waved for him to follow. “We need to see if  they’re alright.”

Duskfall’s frown deepened into a grimace and he nodded, following Cyclops. “What kind of asshole trashes a bunch of scientists?”

“Someone with a grudge, from the look of the damage.” Cyclops looked inside the room, and his frown deepened. “…or someone who wanted to destroy whatever it is they’re researching.”

The room itself was absolutely trashed–a centrifuge lay in a shattered, crushed heap on the floor, blood splattered everywhere with twinkling glass remains, papers torn from the walls, and the body of a scientist on the ground.

He bent down to check the pulse of the scientist, his fingers on her neck. “She’s alive. But she’s unconscious too. Signs of a struggle.”

“Fucking hell,” Duskfall breathed, “They tore this place to shit. This isn’t her blood is it? There’s a lot.” The smell of it was heavy and heady in his nostrils.

“No. She’s not bleeding that bad,” Cyclops replied. “Another impact injury and some cuts on her arms, but nothing that’ll spread this much blood around.”

He set the woman down gently. “I’ll send a thought to Xavier to get Shadowcat here to take her to safety, for now…we should follow the trail. There’s others in danger if this aggressor is so intent on destruction.”

Duskfall nodded, his tail lashing behind him. “Let’s catch up to whoever this is before they manage to kill somebody.” He lunged out of the room, and now noticed a smudge of a bloody footprint headed down the hall. “If they haven’t already.”

Cyclops waved for him to follow as he hurried down the hallway side by side with the newest X-man.

Open, broken doors lined the hallway around them…in each one a similar scene of destruction. Science smashed upon the ground, torn to pieces…lost.

Caught in the Fray

The other team–Iceman, Nightcrawler, and Colossus– followed a similar trail of destruction, and found themselves heading toward the lab’s server room.

Here and there security cameras had been destroyed. Some with thin, needle like knives that still jutted from their casings, others that seemed to have been blasted into scrap. And everywhere they looked there were signs of destruction. Cracked floors and small fissures, places where the stability of the hall had started to crumble as if in the wake of a natural disaster…

“What a mess. Someone better call up the janitor, huh?” Iceman quipped as he peeked into a break room–which held a number of felled guards. “Oof…heh…sleeping on the job. Not cool guys..”

Colossus frowned mightily. ”

‘Not cool’ indeed. This is not some simple prank it would seem,” he murmured. “Careful, we may be approaching whoever is responsible for this mess.”

Nightcrawler nodded, staying quiet as he carefully slunk through the destruction. “Hopefully these people will be alright….”

“They look like they’re breathing, ut we won’t know for sure until they get medical attention. And we sure can’t call the paramedics when there’s someone trying to–”

The ground suddenly rumbled under their feet, and threatened to knock them all over. The source was from deeper in the facility, but the damage extended all the way out here, as doorframes cracked and the ground shifted. Iceman braced himself on the wall.

“–shake the place apart.”

Colossus was already moving as soon as the shaking started, and motioned for them to follow. “Come, we cannot let this continue.”

Nightcrawler teleported ahead, landing briefly on the wall. “An earthquake…. why does that seem familiar….”

Iceman frowned, skating on ice to keep up with Colossus’ charge.  “It does, doesn’t it? This whole thing’s giving me a bad feeling, Nightcrawler.”

“You are not the only one, mein freund .”

They headed deeper into the building, past a door who’s panel had been shot to oblivion with that same dart gun from outside.

Colossus pushed the remains of the door open; as they sprinted forward it was clear they were nearing their target. The shaking was getting worse.

The sound of gunfire erupted from one of the rooms at the far end of the hall, muzzle flashes illuminating the darkness briefly before with a sudden crash and cry of pain–they stopped.

Murmured voices came from a room at the far end of the hallway–a room from which an eerie green glow was spilling into the darkness.

The tremors finally died down for a moment, to the great relief of the groaning building.

“Hurry up, we need to get the virus uploaded. We ain’t got much time before help comes.” One voice was saying

The other, hushed and quiet, responded. “It’s almost done. Those guards put up a fight, though. Are they incapacitated?”

“Napping like a couple of rather bloodied babies,” another voice purred in response.

A familiar voice.

Nightcrawler looked at Iceman. “It cannot be.”

Iceman froze, his eyes going wide. “…no. It can’t.. What the hell’s he doing here??”

Ignoring all reason, all ‘careful sense of duty’, Iceman rushed into the room, freezing the  door frame around him as he slammed the door aside.


In the room, huddled over the computer bank, a woman in an a heavy black leather jacket and gasmask glanced over her shoulder with one visible eye and a soft hiss.

The computer bank above her began to glitch out, alarms blaring as the virus did it’s work and began it’s insidious spread through the computer’s entire system. “We have company.” she whispered in a voice masked by the hiss of her gasmask.

Her fingers reached into her coat, and retrieved a trio of throwing knives from her pouch.

Another figure, in his long brown duster, turned with a growl from behind his scarlet bandanna, and thrust his hands out with a grunt of effort. The doorway began to shake as the entire room was wracked by the fearsome power of an earthquake.

But for Bobby at least, the rest of the scene barely registered, as he caught the flash of brilliant red hair under a wide brimmed hat. The third figure in the room,  turning toward him.

“Damn it!” the figure hissed; and it was unmistakable the voice of the Iceman’s former teammate, and ex-boyfriend. He didn’t sound happy to see him. “It’s time to go, Callisto, if your digital poison’s all set.”

“it’s set. There’s no coming back for it now.” She stood, suddenly, and tossed some of her knives into the fray. “Split up. They’re weaker apart.”

The other boy gestured to one of the walls, as the earthquakes began in earnest once more. The wall split with the earth as the ground grumbled around them…giving them enough room to fan out into the building through the hole the destruction left behind. “GO, Banshee, Callisto. I’ll hold ’em off!”

Bobby–Iceman–cast an arc of ice from his body to catch the knives before they could hit his teammates, as his gaze focused on Dorian alone, betrayal in his voice as he asked “what are you doing here , man? Is …is this what…what you left the X-men for??”

Banshee didn’t answer the question. Instead he let out a shocking scream that exploded the wall ceiling above Bobby, and turned to run, taking the opposite direction from Callisto. It gave him a head start on Iceman, but not much of one.

Callisto dropped something–some device of putty and steel– into her hand, and attached it to the console behind her. Her eye locked on Colossus as she typed something into the small command panel. “You will be my target.”

Once she was done, she braced herself on the console, and launched herself directly into the man with a sharp check of her shoulder, driving him through the wall, and into the hallway beyond.

Bobby, hardly paying attention to anything but Dorian, skated after him on a trail of Ice, leaping through the hole and away.

Avalanche, his jaw set, looked at Nightcrawler with a shrug. “Looks like it’s you and me, man. ” He snorted. “where’s the rest of the blue man group?”

“Very funny!” Nightcrawler scoffed, watching the others exit and eyeing his new opponent warily.. “But I am more concerned with what YOU are doing here. I am sure that I know you!”

“Funny ,I think I’d remember a distinctive guy like you.” He paced to the side, his hands raised into tight fists “You’re one of us, ain’t you? A mutant?”

“Mutant I am,” he agreed, teleporting so that he suddenly dropped onto Avalanche’s shoulders. “But one of ‘you’ I am not so sure. Why attack this lab?”

Avalanche yelped, stumbling back as he reached up to grab the man with both hands, attempting to throw him to the ground. “Don’t even think about it, small fry. We got our reasons, and trust me. They’re way better than whatever reason you nerds got for trying to get in our way.”

“Perhaps you try to explain, ja?” he asked, turning Avalanche’s throw into a pirouetting flip. “As you can see I am all ears.”

He landed gracefully– and teleported above him for a second attempt.

This time, Avalanche was ready. He reached up with a snarl and grabbed Nightcrawler by the leg, before slamming him down into the ground. His eyes, set under dark brown hair and a crimson bandanna, rolled back as he extended his other hand to the ground below. The earth began a devastating rumble below Nightcrawler’s back, the ground splitting open as his opponent danced back.

“Easier said than done when some god damned Wizrobe motherfucker keeps teleporting around trying to kick your ass.” he spat. “This lab is bad shit and it’s gotta go . Permanently.”

Nightcrawler huffed as he was thrown to the ground, the shock of it stunning him for a moment– long enough to fall into the ground as it opened up– but not long enough to be swallowed. There was a sulphurous puff of smoke, and he appeared again, this time behind his attacker.

Avalanche coughed into his hand at the sudden gust of brimstone, waving his hand to clear it away.

“I am afraid I can not allow you to do that, Mr. Tremors.”

“Damn it…” He froze at the sound of Nightcrawler’s voice, and turned–just a hair too late “the name’s AVALANCHE, hellboy. And don’t you forget it!”

“Avalanche it is then,” Nightcrawler agreed– just before he swept Avalanche’s feet out from under him with a kick.


Colossus charged after the figure in the gasmask, his feet hitting the concrete floor with a thunderous metallic sound.

“I must ask you not to flee.”

The woman before him was quick and nimble. After charging him through the wall, she’d used his body as a stepping stone, vaulting off him and into the hallway beyond.

She’d landed, deftly, in a crouch before him with a harsh blue glow behind her only visible eye, and rose with her firearm drawn and centered at the large man.

“I cannot allow the x-men to interfere with our operation. I’m sure you understand.”

“I do not,” Colossus grunted. “But if you know who the x-men are, then I find it likely we must be enemies. I cannot allow you to leave. Please surrender.”

He eyed the firearm without any particular fear.

“Sorry, comrade.” She said as she pulled the trigger, firing a shot at his chest. “Surrender is never an option.”

Unfortunately for her, the metal armor that shielded Colossus’ strange body turned the needle she fired aside like it was a nerf dart. There was a ‘pink!’ sound, as it bounced off his chest.

He looked down, and then he started to walk toward her. “No, I suppose not.”

Callisto danced backwards.

“Metal skin is a useful mutation.” she said almost casually, through the hisses of her gasmask “It’ll make you an interesting opponent.”

She pulled a knife from her sheath with her other hand  as her eye began to glow. “but remember, x-man. Everyone has a weakness.”

“You may call me Colossus,” he said, lowering his posture, ready to meet her attack. “And you will not discover my weakness today.”

He rushed at her.

As he did, she leapt.

Her body twisted midair so her feet met the wall, which she nimbly used as a springboard to bring her into the air above him as he rushed like a charging bull. With a soft huff of breath that may have been a laugh, she grabbed his shoulder and used it to pull herself tight against his back, the knife stabbing down towards his chest, the flat of it aimed squarely at where one of the interlocking metal plates met the other.

“I’m Callisto.” She said in his ear. “oOf the Brotherhood of Mutants.”

The knife’s tip found purchase between the plates– just barely– enough to show that it would be possible, but not without significant effort. Colossus twisted his body, and let his shoulder slam against the wall, trying to knock her off.

“Brotherhood– the family that raids together then?” he snorted, ane reached to grab for her.

She was pinned between the wall and his body for a moment, expelling a soft breath of exertion and pain. But her eye didn’t show any trace of fear.

“The family that protects our own.” She raised her knife and plunged it down, not into him but into the structure of the wall behind her. She made no move to dodge his grasp as she began to drag the knife through the wall, carving a long path through the metal surface.

He grabbed her by the shoulders in his two large, metal hands, pulling her upwards. “Ha, got you, Ms. Callisto!”

“Other way around, Colossus.”.

She kicked backwards into the panel, enough that the metal next to her hand dented in along the cut she’d made with her knife. Enough for her to fit her gloved fingers through the gaps and grab a bundle of electrical wires.

Her eye glowed blue as she pulled them from the wall with superhuman strength, and brought the ends of the sparking , live wires in contact with his all-metal body. “Sorry. I’m sure you understand the things we do for duty.”

The electricity arced through Colossus body and he jerked and twitched at the sudden and terrible assault.


Banshee raced into the hall, looking for an exit.

He was followed by the sound of ice…crackling and crinkling as it began filling the hall behind him as Iceman gained more and more ground with the use of his powers.

“Dorian, come on… stop . We can talk about this!”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Bobby!” he snapped. He screeched and blew a large hole in the wall– but it only led to another office.

Bobby finally caught up with him the moment he stopped to check for an exit, and leapt into him in a bodily tackle.

“NO, there absolutely is !” he hissed as he attempted to pin Dorian down. “What the hell do you think you’re doing ??. You’re going to HURT SOMEONE!”

Banshee went down under Bobby’s tackle, and he rolled with him across the icy ground, trying to get the top of the pin. “You wouldn’t understand!”

“I wouldn’t understand??” Bobby’s frost covered form stayed up, crinkling against the ground as the two of them rolled into the empty office. He unfortunately, came out on the bottom of the pin. “Bullshit, Dorian! Bull shit! I was just worrying about you ! Everyone’s worrying about you! and it turns out, what, you’ve run off to go blow up buildings?”

Dorian shoved him hard into the ground as he came out on top of the pin.

“You wouldn’t understand because you have no idea what it means to stand up for your beliefs!”

Bobby grunted, the ice on his back starting to crack as he slammed down into the ground

“I…I’m trying! But this isn’t standing up for your beliefs, man…” He reached up to grab Dorian’s shoulder, the air growing colder and colder around him as ice began to freeze along the curve of the joint. “You’re hurting people , Dorian, and if that’s the way you wanna play it, the X-men’ll stop you.”

Dorian’s mouth fell open, perhaps in shock, as Bobby used his powers directly against him.  He moved to wrench his arm away, a look of anger and hurt in his eyes.

“You have no idea who the people here are hurting! Or do you? Maybe you don’t care!” Dorian screamed, and Bobby’s head rang as the iced up floor beneath him shattered.

Bobby reeled, his head striking the ground with a sharp crack as he recoiled away from the sonic screech…the ice shattered and it was all he could do to slip away as his broken armor began to fall away from his face.

Tears were in his eyes as he took several deep breaths, rising to his feet.

“I didn’t say that.” his voice quivered, “but that’s the thing with you, isn’t it? you always take everything I say the worst possible way!”

He raised a shaking hand up, aimed at Dorian.

“These people..I don’t know them. But I know you, Banshee. Whatever they’re researching here isn’t the point. The point is you can’t just run off and play–vigilante! That’s not what the X-men do . If they’re up to some bad shit, they’ll be stopped the right way ., Not by blowing them to smithereens!”

“That’s not what the x-men do?” Dorian demanded. “That’s sure what you’re doing now!” He stumbled to his feet, flinging himself away from Bobby’s aim.

Bobby held back the ice blast, instead working to form a long staff of ice. “We came to check up on what was happening, Dorian, and you and your psycho friends are the ones who started setting off fireworks. I saw the path of destruction you guys left behind.”

Psycho friends ,” he hissed. “You’re not even going to ask why, are you! And you say I assume the worst!  Well if you want to see destruction I can provide you know!” He backed into the hole in the wall he’d made, into the empty office.

Bobby held his hands up, following him into the office with a sharp frown on his face

“Then why huh? What could they possibly be doing that’s bad enough to do this?” He held his hands out, to the side. “Look, you don’t have to do this, Dorian. We just want to take you in to see the Prof…the bigger the mess you make here, the more damage you’re gonna do to how they see us . The humans will see this and only double down on what they think of us. We just want to stop whatever’s happening here before too much damage is done…we can figure out the rest at the Institute.”

“Open your eyes, Bobby! Humans are already trying to get rid of us! Right here! They’re coming up with ways to wipe us out! And I won’t let that happen!”

Dorian leapt over a desk and sent it flying across the floor toward Bobby with a concussive scream.

Bobby quickly lowered his hands, gesturing up to make a wall of ice. It rose just in time to catch the desk and send it crashing up into the ceiling.

“Right here, huh?” Bobby frowned, hesitating, “…the Professor wouldn’t let that happen. And he’d take care of it in a way that didn’t involve tearing the place down. W-whatever this place is doing, it could be stopped another way.”

“Oh yes, some other way,” Dorian hissed. “They were working on a *cure* for mutants here. Just like they wanted to *cure* our *sexual dysfunction*, Bobby! if that doesn’t make you angry then I don’t know what will!”

Dorian turned his head and screamed, knocking out another wall, this time to the outside.

Bobby froze, he’d been bringing his hand around to point towards Dorian, hoping to freeze his feet enough to take him down. But that was enough to give him pause instead.

The tears he’d been fighting welled up in his eyes , a tremor in his hand as it slowly lowered once more.

“…that’s…that’s …”

That’s what we’re here to stop, Bobby. Maybe you’re the one who ought to rethink what side he’s on.” Dorian paused at the threshold of the opening he’d created, and reached out his hand.

Bobby looked away, the ice crawling over his body to obscure his features in a placid, emotionless mask of ice.

Still, it was obvious how his shoulders shook as he wrestled with himself and his own horror.

His hand twitched by his side, raising just a little as he took a step towards Dorian–and it was in that moment that Kitty phased through the wall, stumbling backwards with a badly wounded scientist in her arms, her eyes wide and panicked.

“Things are real bad out there, Icem–…” The scientist slipped through her fingers as she caught sight of Dorian framed by the light of the moon  “ DORIAN ??”

Dorian grimaced. “Bye, Kitty.” He glanced at Bobby. “Maybe next time, then.”

He turned, coat billowing in the night wind, and moved to flee.

Twin vs. Twin

Duskfall and Cyclops burst through the doors of the last lab in the hall. Whoever had done this had to be here, or else they were too late.

They burst into a large, open area–one with a purpose that was immediately and evidently clear. Seats sat in a wide circle around an inset room below. A room that , mere hours ago, contained top of the line medical instruments and complex machinery.

A room that was very much an operating theater, with a large screen overhead showing glitching, flickering images of graphs and x-ray readings of bone structure.

But now those medical instruments were smashed, strewn over the ground–destroyed –the start of small fires spreading from their sparking  and torn wires, stopped only by the lack of fuel on the cold and dispassionate metal ground.

Down below were three figures; one young man in goggles and a bomber jacket, one terrified scientist being held against the wall by living shadows that reached from the flat surface of the ground to entangle his feet–and the woman in the long black military coat and night vision goggles, holding her hand out as a small ball of rotating , churning blades. Blades made of that same animate, almost liquid shadow that slowly moved towards the man.

“And where are you keeping your ‘guinea pigs’, old man,” she was hissing. “I think it’s safe to say you won’t have much need for them now that your lab’s in shambles.”

Cyclops stopped short, and raised his hand to his visor. “No. This ends HERE. ” His fingers pushed the knob on the edge of his visor, tightening the beam as he lifted his shields and blasted the shadow ball out of the air with a thin beam of white-hot kinetic force.

Duskfall stopped up short behind him, the anger and nervous tension in him suddenly lurching into confusion and horror. If the living shadows didn’t give it away, the voice did. A voice he’d known for years. He’d know it anywhere. It was near to his own.

“Morgan??” he blurted out in horror.

The figure in the bomber jacket turned, flourishing a metal rod. “Aw shit it’s the buzzkill squad!”

Morgan looked over her shoulder, and it was indeed his sister. With her long black hair and pointed ears all hidden behind that dark mask with the luminous red eyes. Her lips pull into a snarl that bared the points of her teeth as she grabbed the scientist and held him in front of her, the long coat brushing her ankles as she turned towards them .

“Greg??” she demanded, hissing between her teeth as she manifested a long, thin blade from her own shadow, and held it to the man’s throat. “What the hell are you doing here??”

Cyclops frowned under his visor “Kids, I ask you to stand down . This doesn’t have to turn into a fight but we aren’t going to let you hurt these people.” He glanced at Greg with with a grimace , before looking back. “it’s not too late to stop this, Mor–”

“STOP.” She pointed the knife at him with a frown “…it’s Umbra . And if you knew what was happening here, you’d thank us for what we’re doing. So butt out!”

“Yo, you heard the lady,” the one in the bomber jacket said. It was increasingly obvious that it had to be Todd and Greg felt the anger bubbling up from beneath the confusion. Todd pointed his staff at them. “You right yo, don’t have to be a fight, jus’ walk on back outta here.”

“Not fucking happening,” Greg growled. Half hunched, his wings spreading he rushed forward to the edge of the seating area, about to drop down to the room below.

Umbra hurled the blade so that it struck the operating lamp casting most of the room in it’s harsh glow. As it flickered and died, the room was left illuminated by the flickering, broken screen and the lights from various broken displays.

Instantly, she had a lot more to work with. She waved her hand, and a reaching hand of darkness wrapped around his leg from the pit below, pulling him back towards the seats with a sharp jerk.

“I’m telling you Greg. For once in your life, let me handle this my way .” She gestured to Toad. “Toad. Take care of Mr. Space Eyes. I’ll reason with my brother.” Morgan wrapped the scientist in a choke hold and dragged him back with her.

Cyclops hissed as the light went out, but it didn’t deter him from trying to fire another shot at Morgan, over the man’s shoulder; unfortunately she ducked behind the scientist, and let the blast send him crashing into the operating table with a sharp cry of surprise.

He went limp, breathing, but very much unconscious.

“Got it, Umbra!” Toad called. Bending down, he launched himself upward in a single leap and landed on the edge of the observation deck. “Yo! Scotty, that you, right? Killer shades!”

“…” Cyclops danced backwards and away from Toad, putting his hand on his visor once more. “Todd Tolansky, right? From the tour. Mind telling me what this fiasco is all about?”

“Just your every day, average super-activism,” Toad grinned, tense and ready to move. “Beat up some assholes. Home in time for a midnight snack.”

He leapt up toward the corner of the room, ready possibly to dive bomb Cyclops.

“Forgive me if I don’t think that’s my idea of a good time.” Cyclops retorted, before firing a sharp, medium intensity blast at Todd. “I think the Professor’s going to want a word with you.”

Toad dropped from his perch before Cyclops’ blast could hit him, though small bits of debris showered the back of his jacket. He bounced off the wall, and came at the X-man with a flying kick. “Sorry, Scotty, don’t really fit in my schedule.”

Cyclops couldn’t dodge in time, but he did have the reflex training to compensate. He was struck in the chest, but as he fell, he used the opportunity to grab Todd’s leg and bring him down with him. “I think your schedule blew wide open the moment you decided to break and enter and put people’s lives at risk!”

“Whoa!” Behind his goggles Todd’s eyes went wide as he came down with Cyclops. He rolled with him on the floor, fighting to squirm his way back up.

He felt Cyclops’s hand clench down on his face as they rolled, and the older man used the leverage to slam Toad’s head down and leap away, firing a concussive blast towards him in an effort to knock him out.

“Sorry kid. You’re outmatched. Maybe if you’d stayed with us you could have learned a thing or two”

Unfortunately for Cyclops, even dazed, Toad fought dirty. He rolled just enough to avoid the blast taking him out, and his tongue whipped out, grabbing Scott’s visor and pulling it away from his face.

“Ehhh, learn this, bro!”

“GAHH!!” Scott tried to close his eyes in desperation, but it was too late. Bright, unbridled red light flashed from his eyes, forming a massive…destructive beam that began cutting through the building as he fell back. It carved a massive arc through the ceiling, shaking the building to its core as debris rained around him. It was only a moment…a moment where he’d lost control before he could slam his eyes shut and hold his hand tight over his clenched tight eyelids, but a moment was enough for the damage to be done.

He groped blindly with his free hand, hissing through grit teeth. “You don’t know what you’re doing, Todd…Give those  back, now .”

Toad snickered, leaping up and away, bracing himself in the top corner of the alcove that hadn’t yet been smashed to pieces.  He grabbed the now slightly sticky visor in his hand. “Yo whatcha gonna do if I don’t?”

“You don’t want to know, Todd.” He crawled slowly towards his voice, feeling  out the ground before him as he did “you do not want to know what my eyes are capable of. Trust me on that.”


Greg leapt down into the operating theatre, opening his wings to let himself slow and glide right to where his sister was.


“Umbra, Greg.” Morgan backed away from him as liquid shadow slithered and pooled around her feet. “Right now–it’s Umbra.”

“Fine, Umbra ,” he snarled. “Then Duskfall wants to know what the hell you’re doing here!” Balls of shadowy energy gathered in his hands.

Morgan raised her hands, tendrils of darkness raising with them into a defensive perimeter around her as she met his eyes with her red tinted goggles.

“I’m fighting for our kind, Duskfall.” she declared. “For our survival. I see you went and joined Xavier’s little paramilitary gang.”

“You’re the one in a gang!” he hissed. “I should have known this would happen!” He grabbed at the tendrils in front of her, wrenching them apart as they wriggled in his claws.

“I didn’t join a gang, Duskfall.” She hissed “I joined a cause . Unlike you, I can see the writing on the wall! Xavier wants us to play nice with the humans…but they’ll never play nice with us! have you seen this place?” Morgan twisted her hand, and the tendrils he held suddenly sprouted small thorns of darkness, as she slipped into the shadows below her feet with a small puff of smoke

And behind him, shadows leaked from the shadow by the far wall, as she stepped out with the baseball bat reforming in her hand.

Duskfall hissed and let go of the tendrils as the thorns bit into his flesh. He turned just in time to see her approach, and his tail lashed to smash the bat out of her hand.

“Have I seen this place what ? I’ve seen it smashed to pieces!”

“Which is exactly what it deserves.” Umbra met the tail with her baseball bat, which bent at the impact and turned into a twisting , shadowy tendril that pinned his tail in it’s grip as she gave it a sharp tug towards her.

“Greg.” She hissed, going for a grapple. “Let me show you what they want to do to us!”

He was tugged into her, and his enlarged form half-crashed into hers. He twisted to try to get a grip on her.

Morgan vanished once more, slipping from his grip into the darkness with those familiar wisps of smoke. She appeared on the balcony above, as the shadows below twisted and churned into a mass below her, tangled in her own shadow cast by the flickering screen.

“You can’t hold me, Greg. You never could,” she said with a sharp smile under her mask “If you want to play traitor and help the X-men protect literal eugenicists who tried to shoot us and want to use some ‘cure’ to wipe us off the planet, fine.”

She put her hand to her chest, staring down at him. “But I’m going to work with Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants, and we’re going to make a better world for our kind. You can be a part of it, or you can help maintain Xavier’s charade of peace. It’s up to you.”

“Magneto?? seriously ??” he growled. “Fine. This has gone far enough, Morgan! You’re some kind of terrorist now? I’ll treat you like one.”  He leapt into the wall, and dug his claws in, starting to climb up after her in bounds, his claws tearing chunks out of the wall.

Morgan glared at him for a moment, before she flicked her wrist. Bolts of semi-hardened shadow flew through the air from her fingertips, peppering him  as she jumped back and into the seats.

“Terroris. You call me a terrorist while people like Worthington are cutting us apart to force us to be like them or kill us in the process. We’re protecting mutantkind, you idiot. ”

“You’re acting out! Like always!” He batted the bolts away with his tail and wings, and leapt across toward her.  On the other side of the observation deck, Toad and Cyclops were still fighting.

Umbra waved her hand, and in a wave, the shadows from under the chairs all leapt up and slammed into Greg ‘s side full force, in an unshaped mass of darkness.

“Acting out?! Any time I do anything , it’s ACTING OUT to you!” she shouted, before bringing another wave of darkness slamming into him from the floor. “Trust me, X-man, this isn’t acting out. This is finding a purpose and fighting for it. I am not going to stand by and twiddle my thumbs while the humans destroy us out of blind fear and hatred. I’m done running from them. Not like you! So stop pretending to be my dad and open your eyes for once!”

Duskfall was buffeted by the slamming shadows, his anger only rising as they slammed into him. With a sudden flap of his wings he rose into the air away from them, and threw a bolt of darkness down at Umbra’s feet where it exploded in a shower of dark fire while he howled with rage.

“I can’t believe you!” he snarled.

Umbra shielded herself , and retreated into the shadow where she vanished, reappearing closer to Todd, who’d disarmed Scott during his own scuffle, she’d winced at the sudden blast of red light and tearing of the ceiling…

“I can’t believe you !” She pulled out a paper and held it up towards him, her jaw set. “If you saw the things we saw in here, Greg…if you understood the depths of human hatred instead of ALWAYS looking for someone to follow–you’d see that I’m doing this for us. All of us. The Brotherhood is for Mutants. Remember that.”

Greg dived through the air toward her, grabbing at the paper, just as Toad grabbed Morgan’s wrist with his tongue, and pulled her both away from Greg and away from the sudden shower of debris from the ceiling that nearly brought her brother down.

Morgan put her arm around Todd as he grabbed her, glaring at Greg through the lenses of her goggles as the paper Greg leapt for fell free of her grasp and onto the ground below.

It was at that moment that the intercom came on, and a cold familiar voice reverberated through the facility.

“I’ve set an explosive in the sever room. You all have 3 minutes to leave before this whole facility goes up in smoke.”

Morgan glanced up, and grinned, before turning back to Greg with a salute.

“If you ever wanna choose the right side, Duskfall , you know who to call. Till then… Goodbye, brother.” She glanced at Toad “come on, Toad, let’s book it.”

Cyclops leapt up suddenly, shielding his eyes with one arm, as he tried to plow into Toad to knock his visor out of his hands.

Toad leapt away from Cyclops along with Morgan– tossing the visor back into his chest as a parting shot.

“Later Scotty! No hard feelings!”

Blow this popsicle stand

Greg hissed. “God fucking damn it!” he scooped up the paper that Morgan had forced on him, and moved to make sure Cyclops was alright. “This is a disaster!”

Cyclops grabbed the visor, and clipped it onto his face with a low growl. “You can say that again. We have to regroup–disarm that bomb. There’s still people trapped in this building.”

Duskfall scooped up the unconscious body of the scientist that Morgan had been threatening when they came in. “Lets work fast then! Damn it.”

Cyclops nodded, and ran for the door I’m sorry, Duskfall.” he said as they moved “It’s–hard…when someone you care about stands opposed to you.”

“It’s not important now. I’ll worry about it when she’s not trying to blow me to bits.” He dashed along with Cyclops, holding the scientist in a fireman carry.

Cyclops nodded, making his way down the hall. “I’m sending a relay to the professor–he’ll tell the others to meet us at the server room, though I’m sure they already have the idea.”

As they ran, a sharp whistle drew their attention.

“Hey, guys.” Shadowcat called, waving from inside the wall “Come on, I have a shortcut!”

“Glad to see you!” Duskfall nodded, hurrying toward her. “Can you believe this?!”

Shadowcat shook her head “I can’t…it’s…it’s worse than I thought. Dorian’s with them too, whoever they are.” She offered her hands. “come on guys. I’ll phase you through.”

“My sister too,” he growled. “I bet its their whole crew.”

She grabbed tight to both him and Cyclops and phased them all through the wall and into a wide office area.

“….your sister? oh no..Duskfall..” She bit her lip “..it…it’ll be okay. We’ll talk about it after…once we save everyone.”

“Yeah, we’ll worry about that after we get this bomb thing sorted out,” he agreed. “Provided we don’t get blown to hell.”

“Trust me, we won’t.” She rushed them through the office. “The long way’s a bunch of connecting corridors…but this way should take us right there. Iceman’s not doing well, but…but he’ll hold in there, I know he will. Like, we’re all real strong, even when things get hard.”

“Can’t blame him,” Greg growled as they rushed for the server room.  At least he didn’t have time to brood, with the situation the way it was.

Cyclops shook his head “We’ll work it out. Keep your head on the mission you two… everything else can be dealt with later.”

“Y-yes sir” Shadowcat agreed, and phased them through another wall…just past two massive holes in both the wall to the outside, and the hall.

They spilled out into the hallway, where the others were already waiting, some more banged up than others.

Colossus, like Greg, had a pair of uniformed men over his shoulders– but he looked much worse for wear. There was singing on his metallic hide.

“We do not have long,” he said with a frown. “And I fear it is my fault.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Nightcrawler said. “But… what do we do?”

Iceman, in the corner, stood over a small pile of scientists they’d managed to gather with a despondent look in his eyes. He’d long since defrosted and looked like a man who’d taken a beating despite being physically fine.

Shadowcat took a deep breath. “Okay, so like…we gotta defuse a bomb. Which I remember we went over in the danger room like, a month ago.”

“I can help with that.” Cyclops said with a firm nod. “If we defuse the bomb we can call the paramedics and flee– let them help the wounded.”

“Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, help me get the civilians out of here,” Colossus said, taking Greg’s rescuee from him as well.

“I’ll get you out if you can’t defuse it,” Nightcrawler promised.  He grabbed hold of Colossus and got ready to start teleporting people out.

Shadowcat nodded, grabbing one of the wounded women and phasing her out of the wall and to the safety of teh outside grass.

“Great, so where’s the bomb?” Duskfall looked, starting to feel the nerves in his stomach as the seconds counted down.

Cyclops nodded “Duskfall, Iceman, with me.”

Iceman looked up, dazed…tired…but nodded as he hurried into the server room.

Duskfall put a hand on Iceman to steady him.

“Come on man, we can do this,” he said, hurrying along with Cyclops.

Iceman followed him, nodding firmly “y-yeah. Gotta keep your head on the mission, right?” He grinned weakly. “Let’s save some lives.”

Cyclops stopped, standing before the computer banks that all read **ERROR** in flashing red.

The bomb was immediately obvious–a mass of clay-like putty with wires jammed inside and a mechanism with a small screen bearing numbers–

and it was counting down.

“Do either of you know how to defuse that?” Duskfall asked quickly. Shit it looks just like in a movie.

Cyclops frowned. “It’s…not the type of explosive I’ve been trained on. But i can try.”

“you’ll have to try fast, man.” Iceman said.”It’s uh..got barely a minute left on the clock.”

“Forget it,” Duskfall said, thinking fast. “It’s not attached to anything right? ice it up, blast the roof and I’ll fly it the hell out of here!”

“It’s kinda stuck to the console but…” Iceman grinned “you’re right, we can absolutely get it loose with a bit of the ol’ jack frost treatment.”

He held his hands out, and blasted the device with his power, quickly covering it with a thick layer of ice.

Duskfall watched as Iceman coated the thing in a thick ball of frost. “Too much to hope that that’d just stop it by itself,” he said, grabbing it. “Cyclops?” he nodded at the ceiling.

Cyclops nodded “I like the way you think, Duskfall”

He turned his head up, and blasted a hole through the ceiling with a high powered eyebeam “Go. Before the counter runs out.”

“Oh I’m going,” Duskfall promised, already leaping upward.

His huge bat wings beat the air, propelling him up and through the hold that Cyclops had blown. He was all too aware of the massive ‘hot potato’ in his arms, ready to explode any moment, the seconds ticking down in his mind. He got as high as he could, waiting until there were only a few seconds left, and he hurled the bomb as hard as he could; he folded his wings, starting to drop to the ground.

As he fell he could feel the heat of the explosion at his back as the bomb went off, the soundwave cracking through the sky with a bone-shaking **BOOM** that hit him midair and sent him hurtling towards the ground.

But before he was even in danger of hitting, he felt himself hit something cold at an angle that **didn’t** shatter his bones into powder, and felt his body sliding down a curving track.

“I got ya man. Don’t worry.” It was Iceman. Bobby.

Duskfall gasped as he slid down the curved ice, his mind blank for the moment– all relief and reflexes. He dug his claws in the ice to slow himself.

“Thanks!” he gasped out.

He felt a cool arm wrap around him, as the two of them–through Bobby’s powers and Greg’s claws–slowed to a stop on the ice bridge.

“Smart thinking, man.” He said warmly. “You really saved some lives today.”

Greg grinned, dazedly, leaning into Bobby, and gave a slightly dizzy thumbs up. “Oh…. good.”

He felt a wave of dizzy exhaustion wash over him.

“hey…hey hang in there, buddy.” Bobby said, holding him tight as he lowered them to the ground. “Shadowcat, Cyke…guys, think you can help get Greg on the XTV? He’s lookin’ pretty wiped.”


Thanks to Callisto’s diversion, the Brotherhood had managed to escape from the Lab and meet up at the prearranged point, where Mystique had been waiting with the same unmarked van they’d been dropped off in. It was a tense ride, but soon they were back at the house. Mystique had instructed all of them to get out of their operating attire and anyone who needed medical attention to meet her in the kitchen.

Morgan hadn’t suffered much in the way of blows. Not physically anyway… Physically , she’d dodged all of her brother’s blows. So she left the kitchen to those who’d gotten banged up which included a very angry Lance.

A dark cloud hung over her the whole ride back. A weight of anger, frustration, and sadness clung in her chest and soured her mood despite their clear victory over both the scientists and the X-men.

Without a word, as soon as they got back to her house, she marched up to her bedroom and let the door shut hard behind her as she fought back angry tears.

“I can’t believe him!”

Todd, who hadn’t been too banged up either, was headed to his own room when he heard the door slam and Morgan’s frustrated scream.  He grimaced, and hesitated by her door. He took a breath, and gave it a soft knock.

“Yo uh…. you okay there, Morg?”

Morgan’s tears were flowing down her face, and she took a moment to try wiping them away “i..I’m..I’m..”

Fine? of course you aren’t. You’re pissed off…frustrated…your own brother didn’t even listen to what you had to say. ..

“No. I’m not.” she admitted as she sunk onto her bed, her head dropping in her hands.

“You uh…. want a shoulder in there? I got a pair you could use.”

Morgan wiped her eyes with her palms. She sniffled quietly as she weighed the options.

She didn’t want to seem weak…not when she just joined the group. But…

“Y-yeah, Leapfrog, Just don’t tell anyone, alright?”

The door opened softly and he slipped inside, not yet having switched out of his outfit. He sat down next to her. “My lips are sealed.”

Morgan hadn’t changed out of her own outfit either, though she had her mask pushed up into her hair. The bed creaked softly as he sat on it, but she didn’t move from resting her head in her hands.

“thanks. I…I just didn’t expect to actually fight him on our first outing.”

“Yeah, nah, I didn’t xactly expect to run into ’em first night either,” he nodded. “S’gotta be shitty, your bro fightin ya.”

“It..was.” Morgan murmured. She raised her head from her hands, black eyeliner leaking down her face as she took a deep , shaking breath before resting her head on his shoulder.

“He just got so angry and turned it into something all about him Like the only reason I did this was to make him upset”

“Yo don’t like, take this the wrong way, but he seems a lil self obsessed,” he murmured. He hesitantly put a hand on her back.

“He’s always been a little self obsessed.” Morgan hissed, leaning into him. The physical contact was nice…comforting to have as a reminder that she wasn’t alone.

“It’s always been don’t ruin this for me or, ‘you’re just acting out to spite me’, no matter what I do. No matter my reasons. I tried” She sniffed “I tried to explain to him why I was doing this. I tried to show him what they were doing to us, and he still just thought…thought I was ‘acting out’ .”

“Yeah, I mean, I don’ know him real well but like, that kinda tracks far as I’ve seen,” he murmured, letting her lean close. “But ya know, that’s like, a him thing yo. It ain’t a problem with you.”

“It’s not.” she murmured into his shoulder. “But it still hurts alot. To know he’ll fight me , even try to hurt me, without even trying to understand why. All the while thinking i’m just some brat with no reason for the things I do.”

“Yeah, I getcha,” he nodded. “Ya want him to understand where ya coming from but he’s just bein pigheaded about it. And then turnin’ it around and makin ya the badguy.”

“He called me a terrorist …said I joined up with you guys to spite him.” She leaned on Todd’s shoulder, sniffing softly “He doesn’t understand…even if I showed him all the evidence in the world of what the humans want to do with us…he won’t understand.”

Todd slid his hand from her back to her shoulder cautiously and nodded, patting her gently. “He don’t wanna understand. Which fuckin sucks.”

“It does.” She murmured, not flinching away. In fact..she welcomed the contact, taking soft and steadying breaths. “it sucks a lot.”

“I…thought my brother could be smarter than that. At least enough to see the writing on the wall when he walks into an operating theater displaying science intended to destroy us. But no. He just accuses me of being a bad sister and threatens me while calling me a terrorist.”

“Yeah well, I mean, I guess you can’t show somebody what they don’t wanna see,” he snorted. “Acceptin you were right would mean he picked the wrong side. Which, ya know, he did.”

“He did.” She rested her hand on his arm as she took another deep breath. “…He did. If there’s really a war coming…he’s on the wrong side of history.”

She wiped her tears on his shoulder again. “I don’t regret the choices I made, Todd. But I am pissed that he belittled me like that.”

“Well uh, I mean I do got some good news for ya,” he offered with a little smile. “Looked to me like you were kickin’ his ass. An’ you’ll prolly get to do it again.”

Morgan laughed, a very quiet, delighted little laugh.

“I was, wasn’t I? he just kept trying to grab me, but I’ve got a little more finesse than that.” She looked up at Todd with a smile, her face still streaked with her dark makeup “next time, i’ll teach him a real lesson.”

“Damn right, Morg,” he grinned. With his free hand, he reached up, and wiped her streaked makeup away with his thumb. “We’ll teach  your bro and the rest of ‘em why they wrong about us. Even if we gotta do it the physical way. Maybe that’s more fun anyway.”

Morgan managed a warm smile, nodding her head, as the makeup was brushed and smudged off her cheeks.

“Yeah , you know what…you’re right.” She lightly punched his shoulder “we’ll show ’em all…and have damn fun doing it.”

She paused a moment, shoulder to shoulder with him, looking quietly in thought.

“Yo we sure will,” he agreed, sitting there with her. He sat quietly with her for a moment, before asking. “Got anythin’ else on ya mind?”

“Yeah. a few things.” She admitted, curling her legs up onto the bed. “One’s that you’re pretty good company when a girl needs a pick me up.” She stuck out her tongue. “I’m surprised. But I’m feeling better already. So..thanks. For talking with me.”

He flushed a little, and put his hands in his lap. “Yeah? ‘m glad, yo. You sounded hella depressed when I came in. Ya can like, talk ta me whenever ya know…. Not like it’ll be hard to find me, right?”

She reached over,and put her hand on his with a nod. “yeah. I…I was. But you helped a bit, so thanks.” She smiled, showing the tips of her fangs “we live in the same place, so I’ll make sure to hunt you down whenever, huh?” Her smile faltered after a moment. “…the other thing is just… the stuff we saw in there… it’s haunting me.”

He tried to keep his fingers from twitching nervously as she touched him, her cool palm on the top of his warm hand. He bit his lip as she brought up the lab.

“Yo that was some fucked up shit,” he nodded. “nightmare stuff.”

Her fingers tightened on his as she continued, the whole thing giving her already cool body chills .

“They were experimenting on people, right? That was pretty clear…all to…to ‘cure’ something that’s a part of us. Something that isn’t a disease at all.” She murmured “I be they wouldn’t even care if it killed us.”

“I mean, places like that ain’t exactly gentle on regular humans when it suits em,” he shrugged, his fingers tightening agianst hers. “So you prolly not wrong. Wonder who those mutants were they was experimentin on…”

“I dunno.” Morgan murmured. “maybe Magneto or Mystique have some idea…or maybe they’re out of our reach.”

“Maybe…” he nodded. “But like, yo, one way or another I think we helped em by shuttin that place down.”

“Yeah, we sure did.” Morgan brushed her hair over her ear “…we did the right thing. That place’ll never hurt them again, we can hope.”

“They’ll think twice about it that’s for fuckin’ sure.”

Her fingers tightened on his hand “And if they try again…we won’t be so merciful.” She glanced at him “..Thank again Toddy.” she let go of his hand, and returned her own to her lap. “Even my idiot brother won’t shake my resolve now. Not that I’ve seen we’re right in what we’re doing.”

“Good,” he nodded, his own hands fidgeting again. “Cause like, wouldn’t wanna lose ya to the opposition. Not that I think that’s a possibility, yo.”

“I wouldn’t want that either.” she murmured back, looking around her room. Her large bed, her dark curtains and posters of different movie monsters, ghosts, and vampires. Her wardrobe and vanity…

Anywhere but at him at the moment. Not for any reason.

Absolutely not because she was feeling a bit flushed.

“Like, for you. It’d suck if you ran off with the X-Babies.” she chuckled darkly “Lucky us, doesn’t seem to be in the cards for either of us.”

“Yeah nah, I don’t think they’d want me anyway,” he snorted. “But I see enough of their shit. Ain’t for me. You uh, got a cool room, by the way, yo.”

“Yeah I uh, was going for one of those ‘boudoir of the vampire queen’ type aesthetics.” she murmured “I have some bed curtains I haven’t set up yet on top of some of my other stuff.”

“Damn yo that’s aesthetic as hell,” he nodded. “Suits ya, too.” He rubbed his neck, almost unconsciously. The place he’d been wounded in the danger room was still healing.

Morgan leaned over, glancing down at his neck “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? I got lucky with my mutation.”

She hesitated. “Hey, uh, how’s your neck?”

He froze self consciously and moved his hand. “Uh, s’alright, yo. Healin up I guess?” he flushed a bit. “Only been a couple days– Long couple days.”

“Long couple of days.” She agreed. “Sorry I can’t…you know…heal it right up. I’ll have to uh, find a doner again soon..i …wiped myself out wrecking that lab.”

“You know I bet,” he nodded. “Damn uh…. well, like….” he hesitated, and looked away rubbing his neck again. “I wouldn’t mind uh, donatin; again, yo. If ya need it.”

“That so?” Morgan said with a slight grin “…you think you’re up for it? Don’t wanna drain you dry. Just, you know..top off my own reserves a little.”

He laughed nervously. “Yo like, I mean I would hope you weren’t gonna fuckin straight merc me, but other than that, sure. go to town. I’ll drink some OJ after.”

Morgan rubbed her own neck, smiling sheepishly “Mind if I take a little sip now? I’ll help you bandage up…we uh, could say you got hit during the fight or something if you didn’t want anyone to know.”

Todd shrugged, fidgetting a little again, and nodded. “Sure, uh, whatever you want, yo. I don’t really care but like, you might not want people to know, so. It’ll be our lil secret.”

Morgan’s fingers rested over the wound she’d left a few days ago. “I don’t care, people probably already know…and if anyone’s gonna understand the different needs Mutants have to survive it’s these guys.” She leaned in close “so , hold still and I hope I don’t hurt you…too much.”

He gave another little nervous laugh, and held stock still, flushing deep red. The blood was already pumping, that was for sure. “G-got it, Morg!”

Morgan pulled the bandage off his neck, trying to still the beat of her own heart as her face flushed a dark purplish-black.

She handed him the bandage, and leaned in to reopen the wound.

He took the used band aid, the red wound standing out on his pale, greenish neck. He was practically holding his breath. Its gonna hurt, sure, but…. she puttin her mouth on ya.

Morgan pressed her lips to his neck, and with a slight puncture of her not-quite fangs, opened the wound again enough for her to begin drinking his blood once more.

Todd drew a breath, making a small involuntary noise as the sharp pain of her bite gave way to the strange pressure of her lips on him as his blood flowed into her mouth. He felt his skin prickle as a thrill of sensation ran through him, and his body tensed, his nails digging into his thighs.

Morgan drank deeply from him, one hand holding him by his shoulder, and the other clenched on her sheets as she watched him through lidded eyes. It was, as it was before, an intoxicating feeling. The taste of it, the warmth of his blood, the feeling …but she didn’t want to overdo it.

Todd felt his head swim, a little dizzy as he lost the blood. It didn’t feel bad, but it sure felt weird. He felt himself go a little bit limp against her.

Once he started to look a little…well…more than a little out of it, she finally broke contact with his neck, and manifested a strip of darkness to seal the wound like a bandage.

Shivering slightly from the rush of strength and energy, she pat his shoulder, licking the blood from her smudged lips.

“Thanks , Toddy.”

He shivered, and rubbed the bandaged wound gently, taking a breath. “N-no prob. Any time, yo.”

Morgan winked, bumping his shoulder playfully “Anytime that it won’t kill you, at least.”

He bumped her shoulder in return. “Yeah… sounds good.”

A Long Day

Like the Brotherhood, the X-men too returned to their base– after they could be sure that someone would arrive to take care of the wounded.

The mood was, to put it lightly, not one of high spirits. The reactions ranged from Bobby’s unusual silence, to Scott’s frustration, and even anger, at failing to do more. The atmosphere clearly made Kurt nervous, and Peter seemed to echo Scott’s frustration and anger. Greg, for his part, only had a lid of nausea and vertigo on his own anger.

The XTV parked, and the X-men filed into the parking area with the heavy aura of defeat.

Kitty sighed, hugging herself as she walked towards the door. “Come on guys…it wasn’t that bad…we, uh, we stopped the bomb, right?”

“Whatever.” Bobby murmured under his breath. “…the place was still trashed. And we clearly lost.”

Scott ran his hand through his hair, his jaw set. “Next time we’ll just have to do better.”

“Next time,” Peter rumbled. “Yes, I am concerned that there will be one.”

“Probably,” Greg echoed, staring at the floor..

“This…very likely won’t be the last we hear of this ‘Brotherhood of Mutants.” Scott frowned deeply. “…damn it.  He looked down at his hands. “If i hadn’t lost my visor…”

“We still would have gotten our butts kicked.” Kitty pointed out. “I mean, I was all over that place trying to, like, rescue people. It was a mess when we got there…and they had the element of surprise on us. We were outplayed, you know? It’s…”

“They had Dorian.” Bobby groaned. “and others. and –and they…” he closed his eyes with a soft sigh. “It doesn’t matter. We failed.” He crossed his arms, and looked away.

“My sister too,” Greg said, dazedly. “She said Magneto–

“That Magneto had returned?” Came the familiar voice of Professor Xavier as he wheeled into the vehicle bay.

“Yes, sir,” Scott said. “And he’s formed a Brotherhood. One we’ve failed to stop. They’ve got some of our own with them. And Greg’s sister.”

Greg nodded, gritting his teeth. “Morgan seemed very…. passionate… about the whole thing.”

“Erik has…always had a way with words.” Professor X said, his eyes lowering. “A way of swaying those he meets to his side with grand ideals and promises. But all too often those promises lead down the path of strife and violence..and away from the possibility of peace.”

“Promises, huh?” Bobby muttered “…it’s my fault. I wasn’t able to stop Dorian…he…” He laughed weakly. “He knew my weakness…and he told me…me that…that the lab was…was…”

“Guys..” Kitty bit her lip “come on, it…wasn’t so bad”.

“You all did a wonderful job.” The Professor stated firmly. “Kitty is correct. Pay attention, because she speaks the truth.”

“The lot of you saved a good many lives today. You stopped the assault…you stopped the bomb they had set, and you rescued the wounded. You faced down family and friends in a conflict of ideals…and walked away. You may not have stopped them…or convinced them back to our cause…but you tried and survived. Victories like that…they will take time., But for now, I’m proud of you…my X-men.”

Greg rubbed the back of his neck, the words managing to lift his spirits just a little bit. He gave Bobby a shy smile.

“You are right of course, professor,” Peter nodded gravely.

Bobby smiled weakly, glancing sidelong at Greg with a nod. “I get it…we did good, and it ain’t the end of the fight. It’s just like… one skirmish. not the battle.”

“You are, Prof!” Kitty pumped her fist “we’re doing good! what’s important are the lives of the people we saved!”

“…” Scott chuckled, running his hand through his hair “and you say Magneto has a way with words, Prof X… thanks.”

“It did suck pretty hard,” Kurt admitted. “But we saved everyone, right? What were they even in there for? Avalanche did not say.”

Greg reached into his suit and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper. “Morgan had this….”

He offered it to the professor

The professor smiled at them, before he began reading the paper. Slowly…his smile fell from his face “…ah. I believe I see why Magneto sent his Brotherhood to Worthington Labs.”

Kurt cocked his head. “And why was it, professor?”

“It seems that Mr. Worthington seeks to develop a cure for the X-gene and its effects. As if our mutations were diseases.” He sighed. “Fear of the unknown manifested in wayward science, as we’ve seen so many times before If the lab were still standing I would have tried to have a talk with him… To try to change his mind with my own words, but the Brotherhood’s aggression means there’s little chance of him trusting us now.”

“Damn it,” Greg growled. “Of course.”

Bobby looked away “…it reminds me of…” He stopped talking, shivering with a pained grimace. “Never mind. Thank you Prof.” He saluted the Professor and walked past him and into the hall.

Kitty bit her nail, looking troubled , sad..worried for everyone around her. “Oh…oh no.”

Scott rested his hand on his visor with a quiet sigh “I…I’m going to turn in for the night, Professor.”

“Of course, Scott.” The professor looked between the remaining mutants before him “…I hope you’ll remember the good you did today. All of you. Take it with you, and rest.”

Greg watched Bobby go with concern. “Y-yeah. Thanks for giving me a shot tonight, Professor. But I gotta….” he sagged and then straightened up. “Yeah.”

“You’ll do well, Greg. Duskfall. You did well tonight. I look forward to watching you improve.”


After their wounds were tended and their gear put away, Magneto had returned. And in Morgan’s–in the Brotherhood’s– backyard, he had started a roaring bonfire and assembled them all around it. He tossed a folder from the stack of stolen documents into it.

“You did well tonight,” he told them. “You have proven your dedication to our cause.”

Morgan’s spirits were raised by her time with Todd–the blood and pep talk had set her spirit alight like the fire that now roared before her, and she had a wide grin as she watched the papers burning in the pit of flame.

We did our best, Magneto. That place deserved to burn.”

Lance sipped a soda, smirking as he leaned on one of the chairs. “it’s only a shame we didn’t get to bring the whole thing down before the X-dorks showed up.”

Callisto was back in her casual outfit, the eyepatch still over her face as she tipped an energy drink back and forth on a log beside her with her finger. “We took their samples. Their data. They won’t come back from it.”

Mystique stood beside Magneto with a catlike smile “You’ve all done well. It’s like Callisto said. Their data is in shambles. Their samples are gone. Their scientists are scared. This ‘cure’ of theirs is effectively dead.”

Todd was sitting crosslegged next to the fire, and near Morgan with his own soda. “Yeah! Good riddance! and as for the x-dorks,” he grinned at Lance, “I’d say we showed em not to mess with us!”

Dorian was standing in the shadows, his arms crossed as he watched the fire. He was quiet, but nodded to Morgan when she said it deserved to burn.

Morgan nodded back. “Even if it was kinda rough. we did. They tried to stop us from doing what was right. They brought up the past and tried to distract us…but we didn’t let ’em.” She looked at Dorian “We’ll just have to keep fighting towards the future, right?” She raised her drink “to brotherhood for all of us.”

“I can drink to that.” Lance chuckled. “And next time I won’t let blue boy put the beatdown on me.”

“I can teach you to fight an opponent who won’t stand still.” Mystique picked up a drink from the cooler, and opened it with one of wolverine’s claws as her hand shifted. “I’ve had experience.”

“You’ll learn,” Magneto agreed. “You’ll all learn. Become more than you are now. Take back this world from the people who would hold it from us. No matter who they are.”

He levitated a drink out of the cooler, and it hissed open midair.  “To the future, my brotherhood, and all the fights before us.”


Greg knocked softly on the door of his new room before he entered, not wanting to startle his roommate.

Surprisingly  he got no answer from Bobby. He’d seen him go into the room…but there was no response to the knock at all.

Well… it was his room too, wasn’t it? Even if Bobby didn’t answer.

“Hey,” he said softly, half slumping into the room.

The window was open. Wide open, with the curtains fluttering in the chilly wind from outside. A ladder of ice started inside, before curving up and towards the roof.

Frowning, Greg moved toward it, and tested his weight on it. Finding it stable, he climbed it. He crested the top of the ladder, which led to the roof of the school on one of the many castle-like protrusions that overhung the front lawn.

Bobby was there, holding a soda half covered in ice as he stared out at the moon cresting the trees. His pensive expression was cut by the slightly tight smile as he noticed Greg.

“Hey man. Long day, huh?”

“Long as hell,” Greg agreed, hefting himself up to sit next to him. “I feel like death warmed over.”

“You know. Same. Which sucks for me ’cause I prefer my death to be cold.” He paused “fuck, that sounds grim. i’m sorry man.”

Greg snorted. “Eh, it sounds grim, but I get what you mean.” He sighed heavily, and looked at the sky.

Bobby turned his eyes back to the sky again, and leaned so his back rested against the shingles. “Hey. I know…it ain’t the same or nothin…but I’m sorry that your sister joined those guys too. I can understand a bit of how you feel.”

“Thanks,” Greg sighed. “I think we can both understand a bit about how we feel. … it sucks.”

“It sucks a lot.” he murmured. ” Dorian…he wanted me to go with him, you know. He extended his hand to me and offered to like…take me with him to the Brotherhood.”

“Yeah?” Greg cocked his head. “This is gonna sound stupid, but I’m almost jealous. My sister screamed at me about what an idiot she thought I was.”

Bobby smiled weakly at Greg.

“That’s….that’s real rough to hear from someone you love. In my case it’s likely ’cause dorian already knows I’m an idiot. Heh.” He offered Greg the soda. “I dunno. I don’t know your sister well, Greg…I don’t. But what they were doing in there– I can see why they’d be angry. Maybe she just…I dunno…lashed out at you.”

Greg took the offered soda and took a sip, before handing it back. “She’s always lashing out at me. Ever since we got older. I think I just have to be… done… trying to change how she thinks. Live my own life instead of trying to fix hers.”

Bobby nodded, taking the soda in his hands with a pensive frown. “Yeah. that’s..probably the healthy way to do it, Greg.  It’ll be hard, yeah, but… …living your own life…finding your own path and making your own choices will , I dunno, help you figure out your own shit…and hell. Maybe she’ll figure out hers.”

Bobby looked  up at the moon, and kept talking. “…I spent most of my life trying to be who my parents wanted me to be. Even when they hurt me. Even when they screamed insults and slurs.” his fingers tightened on the soda’s bottle. “…eEen when they sent me to that fucked up ‘therapy’ to ‘cure me’…I kept trying to give them what they wanted. And look at me. Miles and miles away, rescued by the Prof…and trying to appease their afterimages almost ruined everything for me.”

He shrugged , closing his eyes. “Maybe I should live my own life too. The both of us should. Just…be us, for us. Live the way we need to….grow. All that stuff the Prof always talks about.”

Greg looked over at him, and nodded. Quietly, he said. “Yeah… I think you should. We both should….” He paused a moment and sighed. “I should probably tell you…. I didn;t– I mean… my mom was never around. Never had a dad. So, my parents never gave a shit. So I know it’s not the same but…. ….me too.” He tripped over his words, flushing and sure he wasn’t making any sense.

Bobby’s eyes had opened again, the light of the moon reflected in tired, teary eyes.

But when Greg stammered out the jumbled yet earnest confession, he turned his head to face him with a smile.

“You too, huh? hey…welcome to the club.”

“Y-yeah,” he nodded, staring straight ahead for a moment, face burning, before he turned to face Bobby. he smiled very, very nervously. “I–i”ve never really… told anybody. Maybe my sister knows, or like, guesses… but… I never thought.. it was anybody’s business to know, you know?”

“I mean..these things gotta be taken at your own pace, you know? …though I ain’t the right guy to ask about that, hah.” He smiled warmly at Greg, and reached over to punch his shoulder. “…I get it. But I’m glad you trust me enough to…you know…tell me.”

Greg laughed and then punched him back  gently. “Yeah… I do.”

Bobby laughed softly. “Makes me feel a little less awkward about hitting on you earlier, at least.”

“Fuck so you were hitting on me? God damn I’m a moron.” he made a strangled wheezing noise, though the smile didn’t leave his face.

“I mean uh. It kinda slipped out.” Bobby admitted, his face slowly turning a deeper red as he gave Greg a wobbly, unsure smile. “Like. I didn’t set out to hit on a guy I thought was straight, but like…you know. No shirts, no shoes, no filter.”

Greg made another strangled noise. “Y-yeah. Can’t say it’s not difficult to concentrate in the locker room.”

“Yeah. haha.” Bobby rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Y-yeah. So …yeah. I was. Hope you didn’t mind too much. Just. you know. You’re a cool guy.”

Greg rubbed his scarlet red face and looked away. “I mean, between us you’re the cool guy? right. Haha.”

“Cool as ice, my dude.” Bobby said, casting a small spray of snowflakes in the air, where they glittered as they fell.

He chuckled. “You never get tired of that pun, huh?”

“Nah. It’s served me well this far, hasn’t it? And I don’t have snow other ideas for good ice puns.” He paused, grinning at Greg. “snow. Geddit.”

He snorted, and punched Bobby gently again. “That’s terrible. You’re terrible.” Suddenly, he felt a sting of vertigo, and started to slump on the pitched roof.

“Woah!! woah woah…” Bobby reached over and cast a wall of ice between him and the edge of the roof, before rolling over to catch him.

The soda wasn’t so lucky, falling down to the turf below…but he managed to grab Greg before he fell. “You alright, man??”

He clutched his head, straightening up. “Thanks for the assist. Yeah…. I think I’m just completely beat… I should probably get to bed…”

Bobby looked worried for a moment, holding his shoulder.

“Like, you kinda look how your sis did during that tour when she nearly passed out. are you sure you’re alright?”

“Like Morgan…. does that mean I need blood? Shit….” Greg grimaced, paling at the thought.

“probably…you guys seem to have pretty similar mutations at least.” Bobby murmured, rubbing his neck. “….you need blood, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess maybe?” he sighed. “The professor said he’d get me some.”

“Think uh…he’s gotten any yet?” Bobby rubbed his neck “do..like, I dunno…you need some to tide you over until he does ?”

“I uh… I don’t really know?” he mumbled. “I should probably power through for tonight and ask in the morning… I don’t exactly have a donor….”

Bobby flushed, looking up at the moon “I dunno, the ambiance is probably spooky enough out here with the moon an’ shit for me to offer this.”

He held out his arm “if you uh, be careful, you can take a little from me I guess.”

Greg flushed too, looking at his arm. “Uh, oh damn uh….. Bobby, wouldn’t that…. hurt?”

Bobby flushed scarlet, looking out over the grounds instead of at Greg. “Yeah but uh. I’ve got my fair share of scars. A little pain won’t scare me.”

“I’m warning you, I’ve never uh, I’ve bitten somebody before. This might be terrible for both of us.”

“hey uh, it’s my first time too.” He winked “heh. i mean. i’ve given blood before…at least…I did before I manifested as a mutant, but..”

He mimed fingerguns “Hope you don’t mind your blood a little chilled. heh. ’cause…that’s uh, what’s on tap.”

Greg rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh, r-right,” he opened his mouth and closed it several times, as the wheels ground inside his head, slowly and awkwardly. He realized with bone aching embaressment that there was absolutely no way to tell Bobby it was his ‘first time’ biting someone without it sounding like he was talking about something else . “I uh…”

Bobby himself looked pretty flustered…it was likely that the same thought had occurred to him. He laughed, a little awkwardly “y-yeah. So. uh…”

Greg punched him on the shoulder. “Hey uh, thanks for the offer but, uh, I think I’ll like, be fine, for now. Yeah? Kinda weird to just like, bite someone like that… seems kinda….”

Bobby ran his hands through his hair, laughing almost timidly “yeah you aren’t wrong. It uh…might be kinda, you know…” He murmured under his breath “Intimate.”

“Ye-yeah. Intimate… and I was gonna say fast.” he chuckled, and gave him an awkward, and maybe hopeful smile. “Lets get inside and get some sleep.”

He pat Greg on the shoulder ‘Yeah. Let’s get ya down, alright… rest up and we’ll get you some blood bags or something in the morning.” Bobby returned the smile almost note for note. “been a long day, pal. Let’s see what tomorrow’s like, huh?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a good feeling about it.”



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