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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

The Cast of Shadows - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 04/17/2007 12:31:02 AM

Chapter 6

Scott smiled and waved, in attempt to attract the petite red headed girl who had just stepped from the boarding gate. A perplexed look crossed her features as her eyes scanned the crowd for a moment. Her attention finally locked onto Scott and a grin split her face.

"Scott," Madelyne said as she crossed through the crowd of people gathered around the gate.

He extended his arms, welcoming her into a hug. Scott grinned when she returned the embrace, even though it was only the briefest of moments. Stepping back from the hug, he gave her an appraising look. "This is how you look after a five hour flight?" Scott asked her. "Iím impressed."

Madelyne laughed and tossed her hair over her shoulder. "Must be a superhuman ability," she said.

He stared back at her for a long silent moment, his lips quirking into a strange sort of smile. "Can I take your bag?" he offered.

"Such a gentleman," she replied, and handed her traveling bag over to him.

Scott grimaced as he hefted it. "What have you got in here?"

"Plutonium, careful not to shake it too much."

"Scott!" a voice was calling to him. "Hey!" Scott and Madelyne turned to see Alex hurrying over to them, a drink and an oversized cookie in his hands. "How convenient of you to send me away for snacks just as Madelyneís plane was landing."

"Hi, Alex," Madelyne said. "Nice to meet you. Iíd shake your hand butí," she gestured to the cookie. "I didnít know youíd be bringing your brother to meet me," Madelyne said to Scott.

Scott noticed the faint trace of disappointment in her tone, but Alex seemed oblivious.

Madelyne continued. "So what can I say butíShotgun!"

"What---hey, no, wait," Alex began, obviously disappointed and flustered that he would be losing his seat in Scottís car.

Scott grinned. "My car is this way," he said. He offered her his arm, and she took it, giving him another small hug in the process. Scottís spirits soared. Maybe Alex had been right, and Madelyne was truly interested in him. He could only continue to test the waters, and hope Maddie would give him some sort of sign. He glanced over at her, hoping to make eye contact, but her expression was distant. Her fingers absently fiddled at the silver chain at her neck. Scott recognized it as the same necklace on which she wore her boyfriendís class ring. A small triumphant smile appeared on his lips when he noticed that the chain was mysteriously unadorned.

Rogue paused in the hallway mirror to double-check her appearance, though she had spent the past hour primping. It never occurred to her that she was, in fact, stalling. She carefully examined her makeup, pale foundation and powder, dark lipstick and eye shadow. Rogue had plaited her hair in two French braids, her white forelock falling free in soft wisps across her forehead and over her eyes. She had on a white blouse, like that of a peasantís shirt, with puffy sleeves that cinched tight just above her elbow and flared out in a lacy bell shape ending just above her wrists. In her never-ending search for new and interesting things to wear she had come across a deep red velvet corset at a consignment shop, which she had been waiting to wear for some special occasion. A long black skirt and black mules on her feet finished the outfit. For several long moments she stared at her reflection, debating what to do next. There had to be something else she had to do before leaving. Her thoughts were interrupted when Lorna pushed through the swinging kitchen door. The hall was illuminated, bright then dark, bright then dark again as the door swung back and forth.

Lorna was wearing her pajamas, a bag of microwave popcorn in her hand. Rogue realized that it must be rather late, if Lorna was all ready dressed for bed. The contest at Harryís could be done by now. If she arrived late, and it was over, surely Remy wouldnít hold it against her. After all, she had made the effort to show up. That had to count for something.

"Hey, Rogue," Lorna greeted her. "Where are you going all dolled up?"

"Ah---uh, Ahím goiní to Harryís," Rogue replied.

"Really? For Open Mike night?" Lorna said as a smile spread across her face. She took a peek behind Rogue, who was obviously trying to conceal something. On the floor behind Rogueís legs was her guitar case. "Are you going to play something?"

Rogue flushed, embarrassed. "Maybe," Rogue said.

"Excellent," Lorna said, giving her a thumbs-up. "I would go, butí" Lorna began. She glanced behind her as if looking for someone. "But Jean and I are having a movie night in our room. Just us two. Sweet November and A Walk in the Clouds."

"Sounds like fun," Rogue said, though from the tone of her voice, it was easy to tell she didnít think it would be fun at all.

Lornaís mouth quirked into a sort of sad smile. "Hey, uh. You havenít noticed anything, like, strangeíabout Jeanílately?"

Rogue looked away, her mind instantly replaying the incident she had witnessed in the kitchen the day before. Iced tea and sugar spilled across the countertop, the refrigerator doors standing wide open, the melting ice creamíand cherries. Cherries everywhere. Rogue shuffled her feet. "No. Not really," Rogue said. "Ahíd better get going. Ah donít want to be late."

Lorna nodded and began to walk to the stairs. "Have fun," she called over her shoulder. "Or should I say íbreak a legí?"

"Ahíll try. To have fun, that is. Ahím not going to try and break my leg though," Rogue replied.

Lorna grinned and disappeared up the steps, leaving Rogue alone in the dark.

"Well," Rogue said as she picked up her guitar. "Here goes."

In the garage, Rogue found her scooter and tied her guitar case to the rack on the back of it. She took her time opening the garage door, pushing her scooter out onto the driveway, and pulling the door shut. It was another perfect summer night. Crickets were chirping in the underbrush, fireflies courted one another in the shadows. The dark cloudless sky drank up the summer heat and left the world below refreshed. She drove through the night, her thoughts buzzing in her head just as persistently as the summer insects in the grass. Rogue was a bit disappointed when she realized she had reached her destination so soon. The town of Bayville was dark, save for the glow of the old-fashioned iron lampposts. All the shops were closed for the evening: the beauty parlor, the comic shop, the VFW hall, the dry cleaners. All dark save for one small pizza shop called Harryís Hideaway. A yellow rectangle of light was cast onto the pavement from the large picture window. Cars were parked along the street and had filled the modest parking lot beside Harryís. Voices and laughter floated through the air, emanating from the open door. Rogue found a place on the street to park her scooter. She took up her guitar and slowly walked towards the door.

Rogue paused to look through the window. The restaurant was crowded. Chairs were turned to face the makeshift stage that had been set up beside the old jukebox in the corner. Every seat appeared to be filled. There was a boy Rogue recognized from school up on the stage, trying to perform a magic act. While he was failing miserably at producing anything remotely like magic, he was drawing a good deal of laughter from both the crowd and from himself as well. Rogue scanned the crowd, searching out a particular face. She found Kitty and Lance at a small round table, paying more attention to one another than the act that was going on onstage. Rogue couldnít help but feel a flash of nervousness when she spotted them. Lance could be especially rude towards her at times. Hopefully, he would be too entranced with Kitty to notice Rogue at all.

Rogueís heart quickened a pace when she found Remy sitting near the couple. He was focused on the stage, a small smile on his lips. There was an empty chair beside him; perhaps it was saved for her? She watched him from the outside of the pizza shop for a few moments. He was wearing a white dress shirt, casually unbuttoned at the neck and the sleeves rolled up, black jeans held in place with a thick belt and oversized silver belt buckle. As always, he had on his cowboy boots. He somehow made his deliberate choice in clothing look casual, as if he had just fallen out of bed dressed as he was. While she was staring, he happened to look up. Rogue blushed and turned away as if she hadnít noticed him. She walked resolutely to the open door. The moment she entered the hot, stuffy restaurant, she realized with panic that she had forgotten the song she had wanted to sing.

Oh, God, no! her mind screamed. What am I going to do? Iíve only practiced it five million times! How could I blank like this? All I think of is that stupid Jennifer Lopez song! Rogueís hands trembled. People had glanced over at her when she had entered Harryís and taken note of the guitar in her hand. A couple kids had smiled at her encouragingly before turning back to the new act on the stage. But they were soon forgotten when someone gave her a brief once-over and a haughty sneer. Someone else raised an eyebrow in skepticism and dismissed her.

Thatís it! she thought. Iím out of here! She turned and walked back out the door she had only just come through. That was embarrassing enough, she raged on. Less humiliating than sitting there with my instrument and not play anything at all. Or to choke up like a fool! Geez, things were easier when I was trying to beat out Kitty for the bit part in the school play. Use the dance moves and memorized lines stolen from Kittyís mindísimple! Maybe if I come across Ani DiFranco or Shannon McNally somewhere, I could brain drain them?

"Hey, Rogue," called a voice. "Where are you off to?"

Rogue turned away from her scooter, where she was fumbling with the cords that would tie her guitar case onto the back. She looked up to see Remy approaching her.

"Arenít you going to play something?" he asked.

"Forget it!" Rogue said. "Itís obvious no one in there wants to hear anything Ah have to play!"

Remy paused a few paces away and gave her a quizzical look. "What makes you come to dat conclusion?" he asked, then shook his head. "Why do you judge people so quickly?"

"Ah donít," Rogue declared. "Itís them all who judge me."

"Cherie, no one is judging you. Despite everything you believe, the world is not out to get you."

"Ah donít got to prove anything to them," Rogue snapped.

Remyís eyes widened and a flustered look came over his face. "Jesus Christ, Rogue! What de hell are you talkiní about? No one is askiní you to prove anything."

"Oh, shut up!" Rogue said huffily. "Ahím sick of you preachiní at me. Every word out of your mouth is a lie. Youíre a damned hypocrite!"

"Excuse me!" he snapped back. "Excuse me for tryiní to get you outta your little protective shell! I wouldnít want to have to force you to interact with other people. You told me you trusted me, and now you call me a liar? Dat hurts, Iíll let you know. Why are you so angry with me?"

Rogue softened a bit, regretting her words. "Ahím not angry with you. Ah guess Ahím mad at my own stupid self. Ah forgot mah song. There, now you know what kind of moron Ah am. Happy?"

"No, Iím not happy," he said as he approached her. "Do you really tíink Iím a hypocrite?"

Rogue shook her head, refusing to look him in the eye. "No. No, Ah wonít if you tell me one thing."

"Ah, I see how it is," he said sourly. "Now whoís asking who to prove themselves?"

Rogue turned to him, her face set. "Thatís right. You do have to prove yourselfíto me. Ahím sick of people dickiní around with my feelings, okay! So can you tell me why it is you keep pestering me? Do you really like me, or are you just screwing around?"

She was happy to note he looked genuinely surprised. "I would think itíd be obviousí" he began.

"Stuff it! Thatís not an answer. Why do you keep on pushiní me?"

"Okay, all right. I keep pesteriní you cause I like you. Is dat an acceptable answer?"

Rogue crossed her arms and gave him an expectant look. "And you like me why?"

"At de moment, I was wonderiní myself," he retorted, but held out a hand to stay her as she turned angrily to mount her scooter. "Wait, just teasing, just kidding!" Rogue paused. "And I like you ícauseí ícause when youíre not so damned pissy, youíre pretty fun to be around and easy to talk to. And weíve got a lot in common. And youíre probably the most beautiful girl Iíve ever met. And last of all, you may be about as subtle as a chainsaw, but at least youíre honest. Maybe not with yourself, but with everyone else. Admitting you forgot your songíokay, thatís hard to admit, but you did. íCause youíre honest. And datís something I havenít seen in anyone in a long, long time. So, in conclusion---."

"Okay, Ah get it," Rogue cut him off. She started the engine of her scooter.

"Where are you going?" he asked her.

"Home, and to bed. You exhaust me, Cajun."

"Hey, I just spilled my guts to you and you leave? Datís hardly fair."

"You know what they say about life being fair," Rogue said. "It ainít."

She could see his eyes sparking in the darkness, his jaw working as he ground his teeth. Ha, Rogue thought. Iíve aggravated him. I win this one. Rogue turned her scooter around him and drove off down the street, humming a song under her breath. With a sudden jolt, she realized it was the song she had intended to play at Harryís. Rogue smiled ruefully. Dummy, she thought to herself. At least the night hadnít been a total loss.

He said I was beautiful, Rogue hummed happily, and fun. And honest. Iím an honest person; she grinned a prideful smile. Who cares about the rest of that crap he saidíIím plenty honest with myself. And Iím definitely not pissy. Jerk. He doesnít know me.

Despite her conflictions, her heart danced. Beautifulífun, honest, the words flowed through her like song. Rogue nodded, thatís me to a íTí.

Scott drove his car through the twisting back roads of Westchester County, slowly making his way to the summit of a particularly high hill. Once at the top, he pulled over to the berm, coming to a halt just beside the guardrail. The place he had chosen overlooked the town of Bayville. From this point, the entire town could be seen in miniature, full of twinkling lights, and the tree-filled hills beyond. The girl in the passenger seat beside him sighed.

Madelyne had requested some time alone, together. Scott was only happy to comply, even if it meant he had to abandon his younger brother for the evening. She had been somewhat distant all day, not at all excited, as she had seemed when they last talked on the phone. Something must have transpired since then to make her so unhappy. Scott suspected it had something to do with the missing class ring Maddie had once worn around her neck.

He turned to Madelyne, in hopes she would mention something about the moon, the incredible view, or something equivalent, so that he might be able to make a complimentary comparison to Madelyneís own beauty. Instead she was sitting quietly, staring down the hillside with an unhappy look on her face. She seemed to have changed somewhat since they had met at school, in the emotion sense as well as the physical. She had always been curvaceous, which was only accentuated by her height. Now however, he noticed the fullness of her breasts and hips. Her complexion seemed paler than before. These things did nothing to detract from her beauty, but only made her seem more womanly and vulnerable.

"Is something wrong?" Scott asked her after studying her expression. Maybe it was too soon after her break up with her boyfriend to take her out parking? Jean always thought it was stupid and trite to come up here. Did Madelyne think the same?

Madelyne looked up, her fingers immediately going to the chain at her neck. "Hm? Oh, no, Scott. This is nice. Itís very pretty up here."

Scott decided against paying her a compliment. Instead he said: "You said you had something to talk to me about."

She nodded and swallowed nervously. Her eyes blinked rapidly to hold back tears. Scott frowned. This certainly wasnít the fun-loving Maddie he had come to know.

Uh oh, Scott thought. Sheís going to start telling me about the break up.

"Scott," Maddie hesitantly began.

Yup, Scott nodded, here it comes. The big break up story. Lucky you, youíve become the emotional outlet. Look sympathetic.

"Iím pregnant."

Scott began to nod understandingly, but then caught himself. "Wha‚ÄĒwhat?" he stammered.

Madelyne choked back a sob.

"Y-youíre pregnant?" Scott exclaimed. "That---thatís not so good. Uhm. How did it happen?"

She gave him an angry look.

"Wait, I mean, I know where babies come from," Scott amended. "But didnít you use protection?"

She began to cry in earnest. "No," she moaned unhappily.

Scott reached out awkwardly, to try and put a consoling hand on her shoulder.

"Oh," he said. "Well, itís something of a risk---."

"No, I didnít use protection," Maddie said, shoving his hand away. "Because I didnít need to. Scott, I mean my boyfriend Scott, not you, he and I werenítíwe werenít having sex. Which is why he left me when I told him about the baby. He thought I was cheating on him."

Scott was at a loss as to what to say. He was wondering if he was even hearing Maddie correctly.

"But I wasnít cheating on him!" Maddie said, her fists pounding the dashboard. "But of course thatís hard to believe, right? How could I be having a baby without having unprotected sex?"

"Iímínot following you Madelyne," Scott managed. He was stumped, perplexed. But he was completely floored at the next thing she said:

"Scott, Iím a virgin!"

Lorna fiddled with the DVD player. She had managed to appropriate it from the recreation room earlier that evening without anyone noticing. Surely, no one would mind if it were gone for a few hours. Besides, Lorna thought as she glanced over at Jean, itís going to good use.

Jean was sitting cross-legged on the bed. She was dressed in her pajamas, as required by Lornaís mandatory rule that she had put in place for their ígirlsí night.í Jeanís expression was detached and distant. Her hands sat idly in her lap and a bland smile was on her lips. Lorna shook her head in a disgusted manner, but Jean didnít seem to notice.

It looks like sheís majorly crushing on some guy, Lorna thought. Or strung out on drugs. Lorna blinked, distracted from the task at hand. Could she be? Lorna asked herself. It would certainly explain a lot of things. She dismissed the thought with a shake of her head. No, not Jean. Lorna stood back from the DVD player and turned on the television.

"Looks like everythingís ready," Lorna told Jean, who didnít respond. "Jean! Hello!"

Jean blinked and looked up. "Oh, right."

"Somethingís missing," Lorna mused. "We need popcorn!"

Jean nodded and gave her a watery smile.

"Iíll be right back," Lorna told her before bounding out the door. It was taking a lot of effort to keep Jeanís attention. Lorna hadnít thought anything of Jeanís little moments at first, she just assumed the detachment came with being a telepath. How many times had she seen Xavier staring blankly into space with a contemplative look on his face? So Lorna got Jeanís attention by flashing her boobs, or dropping her pants and mooning the red head. Jean would shake her head and laugh at Lornaís antics. Though lately, Lorna had to resort to yelling, or even throwing things to pull Jean from La-La Land.

Her thoughts turned back to the possibility that Jean was on drugs. Sheíd witnessed what could happen to someone on drugs before, during the time her body was possessed by Malice. Many of the Marauders were addicts, which did nothing to better their anti-social behavior. Luckily, Malice hadnít abused Lornaís body to that extent. Tears suddenly pricked Lornaís eyes at the memories. No, Malice didnít fill me with drugs, she thought bitterly. She had plenty of other vices to spend her time on. One of the worst involved lying flat on her back and spreading her legs to any dick that came along.

Lorna dismissed the memories with a shake of her head. She pushed through the kitchen door and flicked on the lights with a casual gesture of her mutant powers. She found the box of microwave popcorn in the cabinet above the stove.

"Ew," she said, looking down at the kitchen floor. Her bare feet were sticking to the floor tiles. "Ugh, who spilled juice and didnít clean it up?" Walking on the sides of her feet to avoid contact with the floor as much as possible, she waddled over to the microwave. If there was one thing she hated most, it was having things stuck to her feet. And touching pennies. Lorna shuddered. Pennies were so dirtyíand they had that funny smell. What if a penny stuck to my foot? Lorna thought with horror. Her toes curled at the thought.

"Dance my little microwaves, dance," Lorna told the microwave after she had put the flattened pack of popcorn inside. She watched the bag turn round and round on the microwaveís turntable. Like Forge, she had a strange sort of affinity for electronic devices. She sighed with contentment when the microwave beeped, telling her the popcorn was finished. As she walked out of the kitchen shaking the bag of popcorn, she caught sight of Rogue out in the hallway. Lorna smiled at Rogue and admired her outfit and her sense of style.

"Hey, Rogue," Lorna greeted her. "Where are you going all dolled up?"

Rogue looked guilty, as if she had something to hide. "Ah---uh, Ahím goiní to Harryís," she stammered. Rogue shifted her stance as she pushed something behind her with her foot.

Lorna had seen the fliers posted around town. "Really? For Open Mike night?" she asked. Sure enough, right behind Rogue was her guitar case. "Are you going to play something?"

"Maybe," Rogue mumbled as she looked away.

Good for you, Lorna thought. Maybe sheís finally coming out of her shell? "Excellent," Lorna said and gave her a thumbs-up. "I would go, butí" Lorna began regretfully. "But Jean and I are having a movie night in our room. Just us two. Sweet November and A Walk in the Clouds."

"Sounds like fun," Rogue said dryly.

Lorna smiled at Rogue. She knew their planned activities wouldnít interest the girl. A sudden thought came to her. Rogue was usually pretty forthcoming with her opinions, many times, at the risk of offending others. Lorna had never been at the receiving end of Rogueís sharp tongue, and therefore didnít really hold it against her. Given her honesty, not to mention her proximity to the gossiping Kitty, Rogue was a veritable wellspring of information. Lorna glanced up at the stairs to make sure no one was listening. "Hey, uh. You havenít noticed anything, like, strangeíabout Jeanílately?"

"No. Not really," Rogue said as she looked away. "Ahíd better get going. Ah donít want to be late."

Rogueís body language told Lorna that she was holding something back. Something she didnít want to discuss. Lorna could understand, it had been hard enough to bring up Jeanís strangeness in the first place. Lorna nodded and began to walk to the stairs. "Have fun," she called over her shoulder. "Or should I say íbreak a legí?"

"Ahíll try. To have fun, that is. Ahím not going to try and break my leg though," Rogue replied.

Lorna grinned at Rogue and turned to climb the steps. Her smile soon disappeared when she approached the room she and Jean shared. She paused outside the door, thinking about Rogue and her roommate Kitty. They had such an easy relationship. A sort of friendly competition. Lorna mused over the latest incident that had occurred between them. Kitty had decided to paint their bedroom in pastel pink. Lorna wasnít sure if Kitty had chosen the color out of personal taste, or because she knew it would incite Rogueís anger. Kitty had all ready begun painting her side of the room when Rogue found out. The southern girl had stomped out and returned an hour later with a can of paint of her own: a soft gray-blue. The two painted furiously, each working on opposite sides of the room, eventually meeting in the middle. Amidst their struggle to paint over what the other had just painted, they had mixed the colors together. They finished, covered head to toe in splotches of paint, and had surveyed their handiwork. Though neither had won the battle, it was certainly over. They agreed to leave the room as it was, finding the wall color a lovely shade of lavender.

Lorna thought the incident was a nice kind of metaphor for the girlsí relationship. Despite differences, they had managed to meld into something that appealed to them both. Lorna envied them, and wished she could have the same with her roommate. When Lorna opened the door to their room, she found Jean was still on the bed. Only now she was holding a pillow in her lap and stroking it gently like one would a lapdog. Lorna stared at her incredulously for several moments.

"Oh, for the love of God, what are you doing now?" Lorna cried. She tossed the bag of popcorn onto her desk and immediately marched over to Jeanís vanity. There, she began to yank the drawers out. Lorna gave each one a thorough search, rummaging through Jeanís belongings, before slamming the drawer shut and proceeding to the next one. Lorna had gone through several drawers before Jean came out of her daze.

"What are you doing?" Jean asked, her voice bland and almost uninterested.

"Where have you got them, Jean?" Lorna demanded, not once pausing in her search.

"Got what?" Jean asked, her voice tinged with curiosity. She stood suddenly when Lorna started to pull Jeanís clothes from her dresser. "Hey!"

Lorna then looked up at Jean, satisfied that she had finally gotten a reaction. "Where are the drugs? Hand them over, right now!"

Jeanís eyes widened with shock. "Iím not on drugs! What gave you that idea?"

Lorna put her hands on her hips. "Okay," she said calmly. "So youíre not on drugs. Who is the guy youíve been mooning over?"

Jean frowned at her roommate and shook her head. "What are you talking about? Thereís no guy."

Lorna extended her hands towards Jean in a pleading manner. "Tell me, Jean," she said desperately. "Tell me whatís going on with you! You can trust me, Iím your friend!"

"I donít understand you, Lorna. Thereís nothing going on. I just have a lot on my mind, is all."

Lorna eyes brightened suddenly as she was struck with a new idea. "Are you autistic? Is that it?"

"No!" Jean cried, outraged. To her surprise, Lorna burst into tears.

"Fine! Letís just pretend everything is peachy! Iím good at that!" Lorna cried, turning away. "Letís watch some movies!" Lorna fumbled with the DVD, trying to put the disc into the tray with no success. She angrily wiped tears from her face.

"Lorna," Jean said softly, "I donít know whatís gotten into you. Iím touched at your concern, but thereís nothing to be worried about. Iím fine. Everything is fine."

"Oh, okay," Lorna replied sarcastically. "Well, now that I have your word for it." She threw the disc to the ground. "Now that I think about it, I hate Keanu Reeves! If I want to sit around and watch someone who canít act out any emotions, Iíll stare at you for awhile!"

Jeanís eyes flashed with anger. "Are you possessed again or something?"

Lorna froze; anger and energy flowed out of her in a rush. "Iím going for a walk," she said, her voice devoid of any emotion.

"Outside? In your pajamas?" Jean asked.

"Yeah." Lorna replied. "Now whoís the crazy one?" She turned slowly and left the room, closing the door with a very final sounding click.

Though it was only mid-morning, the air was all ready hot, foretelling that the afternoon would only be hotter. Professor Xavier shut the last of the windows, leaning forward from his wheelchair to latch the lock. He then looked thankfully towards the air conditioning vent, through which soft cool air was blowing.

He was in the stately living room, a room he and his students used for social gatherings, meetings, and occasional parties. He had summoned his students only moments ago, telling them to meet him in fifteen minutes time. Something heavy and important was weighing on his mind.

Last night, Xavier had been contacted by one Reginald Frost, businessman and owner of Frost Industries. Through his vast resources, Frost was able to discover Professor Charles Xavier, a renowned psychiatrist and therapist. Xavier had earned his name in dealing with particularly difficult cases; one most noted was the case of a young girl, who after witnessing the death of her best friend, would have spent her life in a catatonic state if not for Xavierís treatment. Though Xavier cared nothing for Frost, or his love of money and his political views, he had agreed to help. They may have been opposites in character, but Xavier could easily find one important redeeming quality in Frost: the love he had for his daughter. It was plain to hear the desperation in Frostís voice, see the strain in his face. Frostís darling daughter, his princess, had fallen into a state unable to be explained by doctors. Living in an unseen world, little Emma was oblivious to her real surroundings, unable to be touched or spoken to. Frost was relying on Xavier to pull her back. Xavier was his last hope.

The professor turned from the window when a student entered the room. As always, Scott was the first. Xavier nodded a welcome as Scott took a seat nearest to where the professor sat. Voices raised in argument echoed down the hall. Xavier didnít need to use his telepathic powers to know that Kitty and Rogue were just outside. When he had first assigned them to room together, he had thought he had made a mistake. The two girls had immediately set upon one another like cats and dogs. After some time had passed, however, he came to realize that Kittyís exuberance was a nice counter to Rogueís somewhat reclusive behavior. Arguments never went past friendly bickering, though they could be trying on the other studentsí nerves.

"He is not!" Rogue was saying.

"Is too!" Kitty replied.

"Is not!"


The pair sat beside one another on the couch. "Quit crowdiní me."

"Youíre hogging the couch!"

"Stay on your side!"

Ororo entered the room, her serene and silent nature a sharp contrast to the girlsí boisterous behavior. She was soon followed by Lorna, who perched herself on the edge of the couch beside Scott. Wolverine appeared, dragging Remy behind him. Judging from the grip Logan had on the boyís upper arm, it could be assumed that he had caught Remy in the act of doing something he probably shouldnít have been doing. Logan released Remy, who rubbed his arm with a scowl. Remyís eyes glanced over Rogue. He then made a point of sitting beside Lorna.

"See, I told you he wasnít," Rogue said to Kitty in a superior tone.

Both Jean and Hank arrived at the doorway at the same time. Hank gave a little bow, as if to say "after you," and Jean smiled back. Jean sat down on the arm of the couch Kitty and Rogue were sharing.

"Weíre all here," Hank said, as he went to stand beside the professorís chair.

The professor looked at each of his students in turn. "Thank you all for coming on such short notice," he told them. "Iíve called you all here to inform you I will be leaving this afternoon for Boston. Iíve been asked to try and help a young girl who has fallen into a coma."

"Is she a mutant?" Scott asked.

The professor nodded at him. "Though she is young, the nature of her coma seems to indicate that she could be a mutant."

"How long will you be gone?" asked Kitty.

"With any luck, I hope to return in a few days time," the professor answered. "But before I go, I would like to take the time to review the rules."

The students shared a collective groan, making no effort to hide their dismay. Xavier smiled. At times it could be easy to forget that they were just teenagers, but moments like these made it perfectly clear that they were just that. "First of all, in my absence, curfew has been moved up to 10:30 instead of 11:30," the professor made the effort to glance in Kittyís direction. She, in turn, shrank back into the couch cushions. "No guests are permitted on grounds at this time," Xavier continued. Scott shot forward in his seat, an anxious look on his face. He was never one to interrupt, but the pained look on his face begged the professor to take notice. "The exception is your brother, of course," Xavier told Scott. Instead of looking relieved, Scott looked crestfallen, and his shoulders slumped. Xavier didnít take notice. "The rest of the house rules stand while Iím away. I am leaving Ororo in charge in my absence, and I expect you to treat her with the same respect and authority you do me."

He turned to Kitty and told her mentally: "No parties in the mansion, on the mansion, on the mansion grounds, in the trees, on the lake---I think you get my point?"

Kitty nodded glumly. Xavierís eyes then turned to Remy. "Please refrain from any further body modifications and/or mutilations. If I return to find yet another hole punched in your face, there will be a reckoning."

Remy shrugged noncommittally. Lastly, Xavier looked at Logan. "Donít break anything expensive."

Finally, the professor addressed the students as a whole. "I know that summer break is almost over, and soon you will all be returning to your studies. I was going to save this as a surpriseí" at that moment, they all perked up in expectation. Xavier continued: "But I have purchased tickets to Six Flags for all of you," the teens let out a whoop of joy. "Weíll take a holiday when I return from Boston."

"We love you, professor!" Kitty cried.

"Yes, all right!" Rogue said. "Youíre awesome!"

"Thank you, Professor Xavier," Scott told him.

"De professorís generosity and compassion can only be surpassed by his supreme intelligence and dashing good looks," Remy concluded.

"Great," Logan mumbled. "Get íem all riled up before you leave. Why donít you fill them full of caffeine and sugar while youíre at it?"

The professor patted Logan on the arm in a consoling manner. "Iím sure everything will go just fine while Iím gone."

Authorís Notes: Yah, right professor! Boy, is that guy delusional! Okay, so it wasnít an íaction-packedí chapter, but I promise the next one will have plenty of evil scheming, fights, and explosions to keep your interest! And an exorcist to boot! Huzzah!

More on my dearest Maddie to come! More Jean craziness! More RoGambitíLetís get physical, physical! *hint hint*


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