First Night
Melissa Flores

Rating: M

Disclaimer: Um… these characters are not mine. I just played with them. 
So … yeah.

Author's Notes: Remember the whole "not too distant" future thing? Let's 
disregard that for now. We'll just say that the not too distant future is 
now, at least a year from now, in Angel's time.


It always happened at night.

The darkness of the Third Street Promenade, littered with napkins and
empty cups, remnants of the crowd that had loitered and lingered in the
over priced shops on their way to the beach, came with a stillness all
it's own.

The place was halfway peaceful, and somewhat soothing to Jared Jenkins,
the night security watchman, while maintaining that peculiar ability to
be utterly terrifying. As a child, he had always been afraid of the
dark, as most children likely were. As a night watchman, he had long
since outgrown it, baton clipped to his waist alongside a gun that
thankfully hadn't been put to use in his three months of service to do
anything more than chase homeless pedestrians from the promenade's
surrounding areas. Mostly he left them alone. They had no place to go,
they were hurting no one, and here, at least they had a decent place to

A safe place to sleep.

He whistled lightly, flipping out the baton and twirling it in
distraction, rolling it in his fingers thoughtfully. It looked like a
quiet night, and he was more than fine with that.

When the sounds of footsteps running toward him broke him out of his
peaceful state, he was more annoyed than frightened.

When he heard the shouts that came with it, terrified and loud, he was
slightly more uneasy than scared.

But when he turned the corner and found what he did, he became utterly

His hand grappled feebly for his gun, the shaking of his fingers making
it awkward and almost impossible.


The figures moved quickly, the growls and groans that accompanied the
fighting barely visible in the pale moonlight.

Two men, both tall and dark, one in what appeared to be black leather,
the other dressed in denim, fighting off other... things... while they
simultaneously seemed to be having conversations with two women who
were fighting other.... things and each other.

"OW! That hurt, BITCH!"

"Rogue! Are you going to take that from her?"

"LOGAN, shut the hell up until you finish your guys, THEN talk to me."

One of the woman, taller and more slender, was struck in the face by
the... thing... and she fell back, causing one of the fighting men to


Jared swallowed, easing toward them slowly, gun finally out and in
ready position. With fumbling fingers, he managed to cock it.

It took him several hoarse tries before he managed to say anything
anyone could hear.


He didn't know if he expected immediate compliance, but he certainly
didn't expect the ...things... to come after him. Panicking he shot,
bringing two down, before the others were on him.

He was disarmed, and the gun was leveled on him, a blast and suddenly
his leg was on fire. His head slammed against the pavement, and he
cried out in pain, an aching splinter in his head as his eyes opened
groggily to watch as the two men were both shot at, bringing them down
momentarily, just enough time for the both women to be grabbed. The one
with the shorter hair, still unconscious, was slung over a shoulder,
tossed into a truck, the one with the white streak putting up her share
of a fight before she had the gun leveled in her face.

She gave no more fight after that.

The one in leather was up in almost a second, screaming after them,
running as fast as he could after the car that they streaked away in.
The other man was up a few seconds later.

He wasn't sure, he could have imagined it, but it appeared the claws
seemed to shoot out of his knuckles before he followed the taller man,
running as fast as he could.

Jared swallowed, feeling his heart pounding, reaching for his radio,
managing to rasp into it that he needed back up, before letting it fall
with a clatter next to him, and letting the darkness take him.


Angel, the vampire with the soul, sprinted as far as he could, but as
fast as he was, he couldn't keep up.

With a frustrated growl, his steps faltered, and he could only watch
helplessly as the van with Cordelia in it got farther and farther away.

His throat was dry and he was gasping despite the fact he needed no air
and he largely suspected it had something to do with the incredible
lump in his throat.

Cordy was gone. They took Cordelia. Cordelia was in trouble.

WHY was Cordelia in trouble?

He swallowed, pacing in the night as he looked into the distance,
trying to put away the blind panic, clenching his fists to keep from
looking for anything to kill as the demon in him grumbled, growled at
him in anger for letting his best friend get taken.

It was his fault. He had left her to fend for herself, and although she
could usually DO that, HE was the fighter, he was the champion, and now
she was in trouble and he had to find her and if anything happened to

Okay... okay... calm down... calm down.

He closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on something soothing.

Didn't quite work. Cordelia nursing his wounds was immediately what
came to mind but of course she was the reason for his rage and-

Okay, not working.

He continued to pace.

Think... think...

Wesley. Call Wesley... call Gunn...

He never realized how badly his fingers were shaking until he almost
dropped the cellphone Cordelia had given him twice, trying desperately
to punch in the numbers.

He almost had the phone number dialed in when he was immediately plowed
into from behind.

Angel grunted, taken completely by surprise, on his back to find the
same guy he had been fighting in the alley straddling him, metal claws
protruding from his knuckles and held directly at his throat.

Angel was too stunned to do anything but blink for two seconds.

"Where the hell is she?" the dark man growled.

Immediately Angel bucked his hips upwards, sending the guy sprawling
over him, getting to his feet, wincing at the wound in his chest.

Angel rolled to his feet, balance spread evenly, tensely waiting as his
mind reeled.

This was virgin territory. Looked human... smelled human... but
something was... off. Could have been the claws.

"Weren't you just SHOT a few seconds ago?" he voiced.

The dark man with the whiskers glowered at him, and the thought came to
Angel that he probably was not one for pretension.

The girl had called him Logan.

"Where'd they take her?"

"That is the universal question right now, buddy."

"I'm not your buddy," Logan growled.

Oh geez. Angel felt a surge of annoyance in his chest as his eyes
glanced down the road where Cordelia disappeared.

"You want a claw in your stomach? No? Then tell me where they took

Angel snorted. "You think if I knew I'd be standing here talking to
you? I've got a missing friend to find so if you don't MIND-" He
attempted to push past him, but the guy held him, the claws now
pricking menacingly at his chest.

Angel felt a growl shudder through him, one that he knew sounded quite
dangerous, but the man didn't seem to care.

"I'm warning you," he snarled. "Back off."

The guy sniffed at the air, both hands now at his chest, the claws
poised to rip though him. "You're not human," he glowered with
realization. "Not a mutant. What the hell?"

"Hey! Who knew! Good job smart ass, now get the hell away from me."

Logan growled, and a damn good growl it was too, and Angel's eyes
widened when the hands lunged. Lunging to the side, it was barely
enough, as one of the claws skimmed his side.

Immediately, the anger ripped right through him, and Angel lost

"You know," he growled, popping his neck as he glared, the demon face
sliding over his features. "I HATE when people stab me."

Tall, dark and rude hardly had time to blink before Angel lunged.

The fight was pretty much even. The guy was pompous, but he knew how to
fight, thought before he jumped in, and he smelled human...

Could Angel kill a human?

Aww hell, why not?

He snapped a hand across his face and received a kick in his stomach in
return, making him reel back, landing with a thud against the warehouse

"I don't have time for this," he growled, shaking off the confusion.

"Where the hell is she?" Rude Claw Guy said, shaking the clawed hands
at him. "You working for the Brotherhood bub? Didn't your buddy
Sabretooth tell you what happens when you mess with Wolverine?"

"Sabretooth?" Angel repeated. "Wolverine? What the hell are you from,
like a zoo?" Claw guy lunged and Angel grit his teeth, blocking the
blow before landing one of his own. His fist smashed against the

OW. Did that metal go around his insides too?

He jumped forward, landing a swinging back kick that got the guy on the
face before ending in an inevitable face-off.

He really didn't have time for this.

"All right," he managed through the fanged teeth. "How about you put
those things away and I'll put the teeth away and we discuss this like
the civilized beasts I know we are, huh?"

"Where the hell is she?" the guy growled right back, words so full of
anger and emotion he ended up spitting in his eyes. "HUH?! Where the
hell is she?"

"I just told you I DON'T know!" Angel's yellow eyes glowed as he
snapped, indicating his loss of patience. "But obviously you're missing
a girl here and I'm down a seer. Seems to me this is a situation here
that would bear a bit further scrutiny before we -can you NOT try to
swipe at me?" he snapped in exasperation, ducking away from the
swinging claws. "What part of the whole truce thing did you not get?!"

"I don't care about a fucking truce, I care about finding Rogue!"

"And I care about finding Cordelia, okay? So give those things a rest
before they rust because we could do this all night and that's not
going to do us ANY good."

Logan seethed, but apparently Angel's words seemed to make sense,
because the hand with claws wavered slightly before finally coming
down, the metal blades slipping back in with a sheathing sound.

Angel sighed, the hands coming down. Thick-headed broody jerk.

"Who the hell are you?" the guy whispered in barely controlled rage,
the wild eyes telling of the panic of losing the girl they had found
him with. .

Angel went over to pick up the cell phone that was lying on the ground,
flipping it open, letting the demon face slide off to take the form of
his human one. "I'm Angel."


The first realization was a simple one: she was freezing.

Her body, previously seemingly disconnected from her mind and its hazy
state, suddenly plummeted down with reality, and she felt the dead
weight of it come to her with a groan.

She was lying on solid cement, and Cordelia Chase, no matter how many
times she said she was USED to poverty, really would never get used to
that. The Princess and the Pea had nothing on her.

"Hey," a low, husky drawl cut through the silence, but all Cordelia
could concentrate on, hand rising to her temples to feel the small bump
on the top of her forehead was the aching pain she should have been
used to by now. "You okay?"

Cordelia opened her eyes slightly, letting what dimness there was
around her seep into her vision. There was a dull, resounding ache in
her body, in her head, and she barely understood the words that were
being said to her until a strong, hand - abnormally strong, she noted,
Conan the Barbarian strong - took her by the shoulder and shook her
once more.

"Hey. Wake up there, sugar. Last thing we need is you getting a

She grimaced, blinking once, twice, three times before she was finally
able to rise on her elbows, finally able to look at her cellmate in the

"Well concussions are one thing I'm used to. It's never a party unless
you wanna die from head trauma," she remarked tiredly, voice dripping
with sarcasm as she finally inspected her surroundings, propping
herself up on one elbow. She blinked, shaking her head in an attempt to
orientate herself, pulling the high lighted blonde bangs away from her
face as she squinted through the darkness. "Where the hell are we?" Her
head turned as she leaned toward her cellmate. "And who are you?"

The young woman cocked a perfectly arched eyebrow, the dark smudge of
dirt on her face accenting the movement, before she said in a voice
tinged with a Southern accent that was faded from time, "Doncha

"Uh... not really no." Cordelia narrowed her eyes slightly, grimacing
as she fought the throb that was beating like a hammer in her head,
finally able to give the stranger as good a look as one could get in
the less than suitable lighting. It was impossible to tell what age she
was. Her features couldn't have possible made her more than twenty-one,
but her eyes... They were dark, vivid with intensity and very, very

Cordelia remembered once when Kate, in a fit of spell induced
sensitivity, remarked that Angel had eyes of an Old Soul. That would
have pegged this girl perfectly. She had an old soul, adding years to a
face that couldn't have been any older than she was. Funnily enough,
that wasn't the most striking part of her. Her hair was luminous and
dark, with the exception of one white streak that ran from her bangs,
framing her face with some sort of silver halo-ish effect. Interesting
fashion choice.

All in all, not a face Cordelia Chase would be likely too to forget.
Not for long anyway, and when the object of her scrutiny turned her
head to inspect the walls, the profile triggered the memory.

"Oh, God. The vision! You're the girl in the-"

"I'm Rogue, yeah. Remember?"

Oh boy did she. The vision came so fast she had lost her footing, her
head almost slamming against the ground before the hands of the vampire
slid around her and jerked her up, pulling her against his hard body,
holding her close as she dimly heard him crying out for help. She
stumbled, fell, her eyes unseeing as she saw this particular girl
crying softly, felt the absolute pain, the horror, and the aching wound
in her stomach, the blood seeping from her. She felt the horror at the
man with the claws, his features convulsed in a frightening snarl as he
came forward, launching himself at her, heard her crying out in a
frightened voice no-

"The chick you almost got killed?" Rogue continued in a dry, bitter

Oh, yeah. That. Not their greatest shining moment, true enough. Once
again Cordelia made a point to try and find a way to kick the PTB's
asses for their incredibly stupid vagueness.

"Well how the hell were we supposed to know he was a good guy! Do you
have any idea how SCARY he is?"

That, surprisingly, earned her a smile, one that spoke of mischievous
wit and humor. Oh great. She got stuck with one of THOSE.

"Like that guy of yours is any less freaky?" The drawl at the end of
her voice softened the comment some, but Cordelia, ever the champion of
her mostly undeserving and broody undead boss, was still quite ready to
defend him, mouth opening to issue one of her trademark retorts when
she suddenly winced, falling back to the floor, causing the Rogue
chick's face to morph into one of worry, catching her with that amazing
strength that seemed so unnatural and settling her head on her thighs.

"'Kay you gotta watch yourself. They shook you up pretty bad."

Cordelia took a ragged breath, biting down on her lips, eyes roving
around the dark cell where they were confined, breathing hard until she
was able to take control of herself.

"What happened?" she finally demanded, and Rogue sighed, sliding a hand
through those white bangs of hers.

Looking around the cell room one more time, helping Cordelia sit up,
she shrugged. "Ah have no idea. But I know who's behind it, saw him as
we were brought in."



"Magneto? Who the hell is Magneto?"

Rogue managed a smirk before venturing into a worried frown. "He tried
to kill me once when he tried to make everyone on the earth a mutant."

"Oh." She hadn't heard anything about that.

"Yeah. It was pretty bad."

"I bet." Cordelia cocked her head, her voice almost small as she asked
uncertainly. "Is that what you are? A mutant?"

Rogue's eyes flipped to hers as her face became cautiously guarded.
"Yes. Got a problem with that?"

"Are you kidding? My boss is a vampire with a soul," she said, as if
that explained everything. "And it also explains the hair."

Rogue cocked another eyebrow, and finally just shrugged, leaning back
against the wall. "Well I guess we wait until Logan gets the team to
come get us."

Cordelia didn't even bother to ask who Logan or 'the team' was. Her
mind was still splintered in pain, and she took a good gulp, attempting
to clear her head.

More than likely she was bait to bring Angel here.

God she HATED being bait.

Her breath was a bit unsteady and her head still throbbed as she
whispered, "Angel, when this is over, you SO owe me."


Dr. Jean Grey studied the lap top screen with growing unease, her mouth
pursed and eyes narrowed in concentration.

This was definitely new. With a confused shake of her head, she
straightened, poising her palms on the keys and typing, tapping the
mouse and letting the search engine continue her work.

"Jean, it is two o'clock in the morning," A voice interrupted the
stillness, and Jean jumped slightly, startled by the sudden intrusion
as Storm flipped on the light, striding into the room to put down a
pile of books, sorting through them flippantly. "Shouldn't you be
resting? You have a long day tomorrow."

Jean shrugged, resting her chin on her palm as she offered her dark-
skinned friend a tired smile. "I could tell you the same thing."

Ororo Munroe conceded with a slight grin. "I am not giving the

"True." Jean sighed, massaging at the back of her neck as she stretched
out her back, leaning against the chair. "It's just... this research
is... amazing."

"Oh?" Ororo seemed distracted, palms sliding over a leather bound
volume that was shedding dust. "Hmmm."

Jean looked over. "What?"

"This book came in mixed up with the others. It is not something we

"Let me see?" Ororo nodded, holding up the book. Jean focused her
concentration, and the book floated easily into her hands, followed
quickly by Ororo, who pulled up a chair and sat down next to her.

Jean studied the etching on the cover. It was tattered and torn,
obviously old.


Ororo smiled, patting her on the shoulder before she stood. "I should
have known it would interest you."

Jean shrugged, conceding with a smile as she put the book to the side.

"I am going to bed."

"Kay, night. I'll go to bed soon. The flight back to the school
tomorrow will take all night and I don't want to get back to the school
jet lagged. Have Logan and Rogue come back yet?"

"I have not looked," Ororo said, a frown emerging on her face. "Would
you like me to check?"

"No, no, that's all right. I'll check in on them later. The last time
some one startled Logan in his sleep she got impaled. I'd rather that
not happen to you."

Storm grinned. "That was over three years ago, Jean."

"Yes well, what was that about you can't teach old Wolverine's new

Storm chuckled, striding to the door.

Jean frowned, looking back to the screen. "Do you believe in demons,
Storm?" she asked suddenly.

The wind goddess paused in the doorway, hand poised to close the door
behind her. Her features were curious as she responded, "Pardon?"

"You know," Jean continued. "Demons. Vampires. Creatures of the night?"

Storm's eyes darkened in mirth. "May I ask what brought on this

Jean flushed slightly, shrugging as waving a perfectly manicured hand
to her computer. "It's just... I was doing some last minute research,
statistics and facts for the conference tomorrow and I stumbled on
this-" She turned the laptop screen so that Ororo could look closer.

It was a demonology search engine. Jean had typed in vampires and hit a
slew of information.

"The meticulous research dedicated to this is amazing,'" she continued,
as Ororo leaned forward, pushing the scroll button down to wade through
the entries. "Scholarly and... the MYTHS, the urban legends! Like this
one, here!" She clicked on one entry. "Talks about a vampire with a
soul, who helps people."

"Interesting," Ororo said, scrolling down. "A seer?" she said after a

"You caught that too?" Jean shook her head. "It's just...
fascinating... and kind of scary that people would dedicated so much
time on ... this."

Ororo smiled, once again moving toward the door. "Like you've been
doing all night?"

That earned her another sheepish grin from Jean. "Good night, Jean."

"Night, Storm."

She crossed her arms, looking over the entries, reaching over to click
on another link when the phone rang.

Her eyes were still on the words as she reached over and picked up the
hotel phone, holding it to her ear.

"This is Jean Grey."

Upon hearing the voice, her eyes immediately jerked away from the
monitor. "Logan?! What's- No- ... Okay. Are you- Okay." She slammed
down the receiver, darting toward the door. "STORM!"

Immediately Ororo was back in the doorway, sliding on a robe over her
nightgown. "What is it?"

"We have to call the mansion," Jean said, already dialing. "Something's
happened to Rogue."


Wolverine clipped the phone closed, giving it a hard look before
tossing it to Angel's side of the black car, not saying anything as
they continued to drive down the darkened highway.

Angel felt the pulse under his jaw beat slightly, his throat once again
tight and his chest quickly following as the never-ending pang in his
heart and itchiness in his mouth drove him to distraction as he thought
of the one person that always managed to nearly drive him insane.

Why was it always CORDELIA getting kidnapped? Cordelia being sucked
into another dimension? Cordelia receiving the mindnumbing visions that
were getting so bad nowadays she had to be hospitalized last time? God
what did she ever do wrong in the last five years but love him?

He gulped down the curse that had arisen to his throat at the thought
of the forbidden "L" word that they swore never to use.


He put away the anger, his fists clenching harder around the steering
wheel, hearing Claw Guy shift in the seat for the twentieth time and
finally looked over to him for some distraction against the blind

"So you're a mutant, huh?"

Wolverine didn't say anything, didn't even bother to look at him as he
let Angel drive.

"I just...never met a mutant before. Kinda cool." Angel shrugged,
letting the sentence die.

There was silence, and Angel sighed. Was this what Cordy meant about
being all silent and broody? He wasn't that bad, was he?

"So what are you, some sort of vampire?" The question was tossed
indifferently, as if the man who phrased it wasn't the least interested
in the answer.

"Pretty much."

Another beat.

"I thought vampires were evil."

"They are. I have a soul."

Another long beat.


"It's a long curse story."

Wolverine didn't answer, and when it was safe to look, Angel glanced
curiously to his fellow fighter, who at the moment was rubbing his

"So ... how long have you had... those?" he asked, motioning to the

Wolverine glanced at him, cast him a wary, uncaring look before looking
away. "Long as I can remember."

Oh-kay. And Cordelia said HE had social issues. Angel felt his heart
squeeze tightly within him at the thought of his best friend, seer,
and... well...

"So what exactly caused you and your girlfriend to attack me and
Rogue?" Wolverine asked, his voice hard and angry.

"I uh...Well my girl-... Cordy gets these visions... of people in
trouble. You guys were in it, but ... we ... well you looked like you
were attacking her and she...we... misinterpreted... she's not my

Logan raised one eyebrow, slowly as he looked at him. "Uh-huh."

"We're friends."


Angel's knuckles turned white over the strain he was giving the poor
steering wheel. "Hey, you weren't exactly being brotherly with that
Rogue girl, either!"

Logan just snorted, arms crossed, body leaned back against the seat in
a way that seemed way too casual to be anything but intentional.

Angel felt a short growl come from him in exasperation and finally just
told himself to shut up and drive.

The sooner he found Cordy, the sooner this would be over.

And the sooner he could kill something, the better for his sanity.

His hands tightened around the wheel and his foot pushed the pedal
forward, the car lurching faster towards the exit.


"Are you sure this is it?" Charles Gunn cast Wesley an annoyed glare,
reaching behind him and pushing him back into the cramped backseat of
the truck.

"Angel did say the Bonaventure Hotel," Winifred responded, her glasses
glinting as she peered forward, eyeing the street signs in the downtown
district. "It's quiet out here."

"Happens at three in the morning, Fred," Gunn said, eyes narrowing as
he pulled into the parking structure for the magnificent hotel.
"Nothin' but homeless dudes, creatures of the night, and us. Now why
Cordy always gotta get herself kidnapped at night?"

Fred looked away.

Gunn received a thump on the back of the head from Wesley. "This is
hardly the time for that type of humor, Gunn."

Gunn shrugged, swallowing down. "Ever heard of sarcasm as a defense
mechanism, Wes?"

"Yes but now is hardly the time for it."

Gunn shook his head, pulling the tricked out truck in front of the one
lone valet guy in the red waistcoat.


Gunn rolled his eyes, tossing the keys in the guy's hands and patting
the truck with his free hand.

"This thing's my baby. Treat it right."

The valet managed to stop staring at the spikes protruding from the top
long enough to nod hesitantly.

Fred let Wesley out, and then reached into the car quickly, pulling out
the white ticket. "Validated," she remarked, waving it to Gunn. "The
cost for parking here is... ridiculous."

Gunn had to smile. She grew on you, crazy Fred.

The smile quickly faltered as he remembered the reason they were there,
when they walked into the lobby of the expensive hotel, to find Angel
waiting, his face drawn, pensive and disturbed.

Gunn felt the hitch in his chest as he slowed, watching as another guy
who looked just as mean and dangerous as Angel stood, eyes bloodshot
and angry.

He found himself letting Wesley take the lead, come forward and clasp
hands with Angel.

"Wesley. Thanks for getting here so fast."

"My," Gunn heard Fred whisper, clasping the books she had brought with
her to her chest. "This is... extravagant."

His eyes roved around the hotel. Yeah it was. One of the richest hotels
in Los Angeles.

"Guys, this is Logan. The girl Cordy saw in the vision was also taken.
Logan thinks he knows by who. Logan, these are my associates. Wesley,
Gunn, and Fred."

"Ah." The guy named Logan gave everyone a short, brusque nod, not
taking the hand Wesley accepted in greeting.

Gunn cocked an eyebrow as Wesley flushed pulling back, meeting Angel's
eyes as he shrugged, not wanting to comment.

"We're waitin' for Jean and Storm," Logan said, raising the cigar to
his mouth and taking a puff.

Fred straightened next to him, "You know... that will kill you
eventually. Studies have shown it and while tobacco companies have
vehemently denied it-"

"It won't kill me," Logan practically snapped.

Oh yeah. Not a nice guy. He could practically see Fred shrink before
she retreated behind his back.

"As much fun as this tense moment is, ya'll, can we figure out where
the hell Cordy is?"

Angel closed his eyes once, slowly, opened them, and was about to
answer when the glass elevator doors opened and Gunn's jaw immediately
dropped as two of the most beautiful women he had ever seen stepped out
of them.

Oh... shit.

Fred's fingers clenched into the back of his shirt, but he could hear
Wesley gasp audibly. The red head was tall, slender, classy but sexy as
hell. And the other one... Man. Halle Berry with long white hair and
leather pants. Could it get any better?

The red head came forward, meeting Logan with a hand on her arm,
squeezing slightly, eyes full of questions while the darker skinned one
waited tensely with crossed arms.

He watched curiously as the red head stared at Logan, eyes closing and
suddenly she jerked back, her face convulsing slightly before turning
and regarding the other woman.

Wesley coughed and suddenly she blinked. "Oh, I'm sorry, forgive me. My
name is Jean Grey, this is Ororo Munroe, Logan's associates."

Hmmm. More associates.

"I'm Angel," Angel said, shaking her hand. "And the two drooling guys
over there are Wesley and Gunn, and Fred is hiding behind Gunn's back."

Gunn snapped his mouth shut, seeing Wesley blush, and out of the corner
of his eye, saw Fred wave her arm in an almost timid greeting.

Logan turned toward Jean, his voice hoarse, whispering slightly. She
nodded, squeezing his arm again before turning to them. "I understand
you lost some one as well."

"Yeah, we lost Cordy, our girl."

"She was the office manager for our detective agency."

"Yes well... " Jean paused, rubbing at her eyes slightly before looking
around. "Would you mind if we continued this conversation upstairs?"


Storm had told Logan to sit.

He wouldn't. He already felt like a caged animal and sitting down just
would not help things.

Hell might freeze over before he admitted it, but he liked the group he
had spent the last two years with. He had settled into a rather
unsettling level of domesticity, flings and occasional road trips
alleviated the caged animal instinct, and over the years, he had left
less and less and come back more and more.

Of course things were never easy, because being a damn mutant was never
easy, and it was never harder for anyone than it was for Rogue.

Damn, now there was a complicated kid. He had managed to come back
through her "transformation" period, the time when all the baby fat
shed away and Rogue became a woman, right about when everyone started
seeing her as something more than a kid.

It wasn't until she sucked some mutant psycho bitch into her head that
had tried to gain control of her mind and body that Logan really had
issues with the age thing. He had been inside of the room as Rogue
battled for her mind, his head had been aching with worry, and he came
close to killing her when the chick inside of Rogue tried to seduce him
by telling him some very erotic things that should have never come out
of Rogue's mouth.

It had done things to him, changed things, and for the longest time he
had avoided her, for fear that that bitch still inside her would come
out, remind him of the way his body had reacted, a way it shouldn't
have reacted with a nineteen year old girl.

But it changed when Rogue had come to him, pleaded with him to be her
friend, because that was what she needed more than anything. He had
never been afraid of her before, and she couldn't stand it if he was
afraid of her now.

It had been the breaking point. He had held her and let her sob in his
arms and promised her he would never be afraid of her, he would always
be her friend, he would always take care of her.

It had been more than a year ago, and Logan, who had never put much
stock in anything, put everything into his friendship with Marie -only
to have it thrown for a damn loop again when he had lost control and
practically ravaged his best friend in the dark alley - before the damn
vampire and his little girlfriend came in trying to kill him.

He ground on his cigar, biting off the tip and smashing it into the
ashtray before glaring at the broody dark fang boy.

Shit. And now they were here, and Rogue was gone and they were playing
'pleased to meet you?'.

Well, fuck that.

"So I know, he's a mutant," Angel began, a hand massaging as his
temples tiredly. "Does that mean that the two of you..."

"Mutants?" Wesley breathed, startled, leaning forward.

Jean flushed a bright red at the immediate interest, but Ororo merely
gave a small smirk.

"Mutant Mutants?" Gunn queried, eyes flicking between the two women.
"Like... mutants with special powers mutants?"

Storm and Jean exchanged looks before Jean hesitantly answered, "Yes."

"So what can you do?"

"I... I can read minds and control things with my mind."

"Telekinesis," Wesley remarked. "We've met one before."

Jean gave him a surprised look, and smiled in spite of herself. "And
Storm here... can manipulate weather."

Gunn blinked, and shifted feet. "Coool."

"The genetics must be astounding," Fred offered from her side of the

That did it. Logan actually snorted. Loud, causing Fred to jump yet
again as he launched from the wall.

"Yes. We're mutants, okay? Jean there is telepathic, Storm can make the
wind fly, I got claws. Rogue's skin sucks the life outta you." He
turned to Jean. "HE's a vampire, a good one. These guys work with him
to kill demons and crap. Are we done? Can we move on the part where we
talk about saving Rogue?"

There was silence that followed that statement, broken when Wesley
stood, clearing his throat carefully.

"Mr. Logan is quite correct. Perhaps we could discuss the nature of our
work a bit later, and concentrate on the problem at hand?"

"What he said," Angel said sharply.

Jean nodded, but her voice still was slightly astounded as she couldn't
help but ask, "A vampire with a soul?"

Angel narrowed his eyes, but nodded.

"We do need some information," Storm said, her voice mellow, soft,
almost tranquil. "Such as... was there any reason that Cordelia could
have been kidnapped alongside our Rogue?"

"Pick a reason. Most of the times it's cause of her being a seer-"

Fred pressed a hand to his shoulder, and Gunn found himself shutting up
immediately when Wesley whirled.

"A seer?"

Angel gave an audible sigh. "She gets visions. We don't like to tell
too many people because... "

"A prophetess?" Ororo asked, clearly intrigued. "Has she always had
this gift?"

"No. It's a long story, but she does tend to... get sucked into a lot
of things because of it."

"You'll have to explain the particulars later," Jean said, arms
crossed. "It might provide some insight. For now, we just have to hope
that Charles has used Cerebro and has located Rogue, which will also
lead us to your friend."

"What about the others?" Logan asked, hand twitching.

"Scott is on his way now, he's bringing Remy and Charles as soon as
they find out where she is."

"What's Cerebro?" Wesley asked.


She was definitely seeing stars.

Rogue silently groaned, leaning her head back against the stone wall as
she watched her new cellmate moan slightly, gathering her knees to her
chest and hugging them to her.

She was in SERIOUS pain, and it wasn't the first time Rogue cursed
herself for not paying better attention in first aid.

Cordelia Chase had mumbled something about vision hangovers, but Rogue
hadn't understood what she meant because the chick had moaned and then
whimpered and never said another word.

It scared the hell outta her.

Rogue had almost bruised her trying to wake her up, and from the barely
worded whisper, she gathered that Cordelia here was some sort of vision

And the pains were a part of the process.

In a way she was glad for the distraction. Being a living sponge Rogue
had managed to get a one-way ticket into Eric Lensshur's head and it
was NOT a nice place to be. Death camps and conflictions and true fear,
dreams that woke her up nights and had her babbling in German - Logan's
hellish labfests were almost a welcome change.


Rogue gave a small shudder, wrapping her arms closer to her body,
hugging herself, closing her eyes and trying to keep the fear from
overwhelming her. Being held captive by a guy like Magneto, who had had
no qualms about killing an innocent child, no qualms about anything but
his deluded and blinding schemes, was never a good thing, and being the
child in question who had not only gotten a good dose of death camp in
her head but had really, actually, literally DIED, only to come back
and find she had not only almost killed the only man who ever really
gave up anything of value to her, but had inherited most of his bad

It was enough to scar someone for life.

But she was older, stronger, had fought and had more experience and she
could handle Magneto. Oh, God, she hoped she could. At least until
Charles could get into the big Circle and send Logan and Jean and Scott
with the team to bring her and Vision Girl back.

"You look incredibly freaked."

Rogue opened her eyes to find Cordelia Chase sitting up, rubbing at her
head, grimacing slightly.

"Feeling better?"

"Not really, no. It won't get better until we save you," Cordelia said
matter-of-factly, "From whatever the hell is going to happen to you
that's going to end up with you on the floor in a bloody mess."

How comforting.

Cordelia paused, wincing slightly. "God. I'm sorry. I didn't mean...
it's just when these pains-"

"It's alright," she responded, looking away, managing to look almost
indifferent. "I've been through worse."

Cordelia looked lost in thought, gave a slight grimace and shook her
head. "I'm not sure. It was... pretty bad." Rogue looked away, and felt
almost no comfort when Cordelia added, "We'll help you. That's what we

"Who's we?"

"Angel... the gang and I. We help people. Save the world and stuff."

Rogue managed a smile. "Same here."

"Oh yeah?"


Cordelia gave a weak grin, muttering a falsely cheery, "Cool", before
wincing and putting her hand to her head, lying back down on the

Rogue groaned, crawling over to her, hand on her forehead. "Kay, this
is more than a normal concussion."

"No, no it's... " Cordelia closed her eyes, whimpering slightly.
"It's... the visions... I'm fully human... I'm not supposed to-" she
winced, closing her eyes, hugging her own body, "Nevermind. It's

Rogue swallowed, gloved hand on her shoulder. God, she felt so
helpless. Her eyes flickered to the bars that held them and with a
mental curse she wondered what the hell was taking the guys so long.

She gave the suffering girl a comforting squeeze on the shoulder.

"Anythin' I can do?"

"Yeah," came the whisper. "Get yourself out of the damn visions so it
can stop."

Ouch. THAT wasn't comforting.

Damn. And she thought SHE had it bad with all the psychos running
around in her head.

She licked her lips, trying to find any type of comforting words that
would help when the sound of metal bending caused her head to jerk
toward the door.

Rogue scrambled to her feet, immediately placing herself between
Cordelia and her older facet of the past.

Her heart hammered, every vivid emotion brought back in Technicolor as
she stared into his face.

"Rogue. Life certainly has treated you well."

She didn't say anything, afraid even to breathe.

Magneto's face was tired, aged, and he looked older, much older. The
years in jail must have been tiring. Rogue felt her heart tremor
slightly, and once again, she battled the fear inside of her that this
man invoked so easily.

"Move aside, Rogue," he demanded, the command said in his soft, firm
tone that scared her so much more than if he had just shouted it.

"What the hell do you want with us?"

And he smiled. The damn man actually smiled at her, like he was looking
at his grand kid or something.

"My intentions are clearly honorable, Rogue."

"Oh, lahk they were so damn honorable before?" she spit, hands clenched
into fists.

"I believe they were. My methods, were not. You confuse yourself,

"I'm not a child," she whispered, voice edged in hardness, tremoring
with emotion. "I'm not the scared little kid that's gonna let you push
me around, Eric."

Eric paused, and a flash of sorrow flickered over his face as he cocked
his head studying her. "You most certainly are not, young Rogue. You've
seen more through my eyes, through the eyes of others than any
youngster should have to face. For that I apologize, you were to die
then, only experience it a short while."

The memories. Her body shuddered and her eyes closed, the tears coming
to her eyes so easily as she saw through the eyes of the young boy,
felt the panic and the horror-

She swallowed, stranding straight and tall. "I won't let you hurt her."

Eric finally just sighed, and before could quite react she was pinned
to the wall with a chair, held only by Magneto's awesome strength. She
struggled, calling on her above average strength, but it wasn't enough,
because Sabretooth growled, held up a claw at her throat, and then she
had no choice but to stay still, eyes focusing on his animal eyes as
the claw traced down her neck, reaching into her cleavage and pulling
out the metal tag she still wore, mostly out of habit, she told
herself, all these years.

"Wolverine," she heard him breathe, and she sucked in her breath,
wincing slightly as he broke the chain off from her neck.

"Leave that the HELL alone!" she nearly screamed, earning her a glance
from Magneto, who was now crouching over Cordelia.

"Sabretooth don't upset her, she has become quite dangerous, you know."

But the beast only smiled. "I like danger."

Rogue only rolled her eyes, struggling against the chair and glaring
into his eyes, before turning and keeping her eyes on Magneto and


Her body was weak, and her mind was tired from fighting the pain.
Cordelia had issues with even opening her eyes, but when the soft, aged
hands cradled her face, curiosity, mixed with fear at the gentle touch,
forced her to do so.

She was staring into the eyes of an old man. Not too old, but old
enough to be considered his age, with white hair and wrinkles. The
hands were strong, and the eyes were filled with a depth and maturity
she had long come to associate with hardened pasts. His mouth was
pursed into a slight frown as he studied her, looking almost

"It's taking its toll," he remarked, to no one in particular. "Not
exactly what I was hoping for but it's a start."

Cordelia could only breathe, try to will away the pain one more time as
she pulled herself away, rubbing at her head and looking at him. "What
the hell are you doing? Haven't you ever heard of personal space?!"

He sighed, clucking his tongue. "Another one with spirit. Why can't
they ever be docile?" His hand stroked his chin. "Cordelia Chase, one
of the few human seers. You have not always had this gift, have you?"

Cordelia looked at him uncertainly, then turned to Rogue, and found her
held in her place by a chair and a REAL furry guy who was playing with
some metal chain. Her eyes met her new cellmate's, and when Rogue shook
her head slightly, Cordelia took a deep breath, summoning her strength,
and turning back to the old guy.

"Magneto, right?"

He smiled, nodded, waited patiently.

"My friends are SO gonna kick your ass for taking me."

That earned her a smirk, and he leaned forward, chucked her chin
lightly. "Those visions will eventually drive you crazy, Miss Chase.
Perhaps we can find a way to figure out how to make you live-"

"For how long?" Rogue bit out from her position from across the cell.

"As long as I need, of course," Magneto tossed flippantly over his
shoulder. "Don't feel left out, young Rogue. You, as always, are
needed." He turned back to Cordelia and gave her a small smile.
"Welcome to the fold, sister."

Rogue sucked in her breath, but Cordelia only raised an eyebrow,
watching as he stood, walked toward the door. Her eyes widened and she
jumped with a start when she saw him flippantly bend the bars away,
walking through them. Sabretooth waited on a second longer, dangling
the metal tags in front of Rogue, who all but spit at him, before

The bars realigned and the chair fell, but Rogue just stood there,
staring after him with a haunted look in her eyes.

Cordelia gave her a curious look, pushing back the fear at the
uncertainty and concentrating fully on her.

"What the hell was that?"

Rogue's palms hit the wall of the cell. "Cordelia… these visions of
yours… have you always had them?"

Cordelia blinked, but answered the question, "No. I inherited them from
a friend."

"And before that?"

"I was normal. Lucky me. Normal me. Why?"

"SHIT." Rogue closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then pushed it
out. "I know why he wants you now."


"Because you were a human who became a mutant." Her eyes opened. "And
you're not dead yet."

~ Chapter Three ~

Jean Grey took a short breath as she zipped the suit up, taking a
moment to study herself in the large mirror of the bedroom that had
been her temporary home for only a day.

One day ago Rogue, Logan, she and Storm had all been safely home in
Westchester, sitting around one of the cafeteria tables with Charles
and Scott, discussing the trip that would ensue.

She had known that the conference would be important, but the growing
hate factions against mutants had garnered more trouble than Charles
and Scott thought it might have been worth. Jean had argued the point,
stating they needed to be here, at least to make their presence known.

Storm, in a true bout of friendship, had offered to accompany her, and
Logan, surprisingly, had agreed to come as well. Rogue asked to come,
and Jean didn't mind the younger team member tagging along: in a fight,
Rogue was well on her way to becoming lethal with more than just a

Despite the precaution, she really hadn't expected anymore than the
usual hate threats and interviews. Rogue had dragged Logan site-seeing
(a very funny sight on its own. Only Rogue could convince Bad Ass Logan
to take a leisurely stroll down Hollywood Blvd) and she and Ororo had
stayed in to prepare for the speech.

Good Lord, how many things could go wrong in just a few hours?

Life never ceased to be so amused at its little twists and turns. In
less than an hour, Jean's eyes had been opened to a world she had never
before known existed.

Had she had time to process it, perhaps she would have been a little
more skeptical, would have wanted to run tests and think and perceive
and make theories before accepting the fact that a Vampire with a Soul
and his band of do-gooders were at this moment camping out in her room
in search for not only her lost ex-student and current fellow team
member, but a seer.

Now, it seemed there was no other choice but to come face to face with
Angelus. The intimate details she still didn't know, but the readings
had made her well enough aware of why the vampire garnered such fear
and paranoia before he had been cursed with a soul.

Oh, Lord, Scott, if I could just see your face now.

She took in another shuddering breath, and quickly wrapped her hair
into a pony tail, heading toward the door.

Jean Grey was well aware of the stares as she left her bedroom, pulling
on the gloves, barely stopping as she walked toward the desk where
Wesley was looking at her with mild shock and a bit of admiration.

"That's quite an ensemble," he said, eyes roving down her body before
Fred reached over and thumped him on the back of his head, hard,
obviously not impressed with his regression into `guy'.

Jean, despite the tightness in her chest that never quite went away
when one of her teammates was missing, managed only a disinterested
nod. "Have you found anything?"

After casting a glare at Fred, who merely cocked an eyebrow and
returned to her studying, Wesley slowly shook his head no.
"Unfortunately, no. I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. Demons,
vampires, ancient prophecies, that's one thing. But mutants? I must
confess I'm not fully versed on the subject."

Jean ventured a smirk. "Yes, well up until one hour ago I had a hard
time believing in vampires. So count us in the same boat."

Fred looked up from her books, as Logan also emerged from his room with
the trademark black leather uniform, although he looked more than a
little uncomfortable in it. "He is quite sure Magneto is behind this.
Perhaps if we started in the news headlines."

"Hmm... Good idea."

"You'll find nothing we do not already know," Storm remarked, adjusting
the cape as she, now properly dressed, walked up to them.

"Man I gotta get me one of those," Gunn remarked, riveted on her.

Storm gave him a long stare until he blushed and turned away, before
continuing her conversation with Wesley. "We have tracked him ever
since his break from jail. There has been nothing. He has kept quiet."

Wesley pursed. "No, nothing more than the usual mutant/human tension in
these headlines. The paranoia is astounding."

"Right cause right now that's what we care about," Angel dripped
sarcastically from his position against the wall. "Human/mutant
politics." His eyes were riveted on Logan, who merely ground on his
cigar in silence, as he groaned slightly, closing his eyes and then
opening them to come forward.

"Ororo," Angel's eyes were intense, dark and deep and almost
hypnotizing, as Jean watched his worried expression. He was a vampire,
that was what everyone was saying, but he acted human, looked human...
there was nothing- Her eyebrow furrowed and she shook her head,
blinking, forcing herself to concentrate on what he was saying to her
friend. "This Magneto guy, would he hurt Cordelia? I mean, really hurt

Storm shot her a quick glance and Jean felt her chest tighten in
response. God. Once more, she looked to see how Logan was fairing, but
true to his nature, the gruff mutant only kept silent, acting as if he
wasn't listening, when she knew he was taking in every word.

Oh, God, Rogue. Please be okay, if not for us, for you, be okay for

She had no idea what would happen to Logan if anything happened to her.
Lately it seemed Rogue was the one fixture of stability he had.
Friends, more than friends, of the nature of their relationship she
wasn't sure. But she did know that Logan considered it his most
precious possession: his bond with Rogue. No friendship he had with the
other X-Men could compare to the bond, not their lusty friendship that
had dwindled into mutual affection, not his admiration of Xavier, and
she knew Rogue cherished it just as much. Logan had always trusted her,
never been afraid of her powers or her skin, and Jean knew that for the
troubled, insecure soul that still harbored in Rogue's much more
confident exterior, it meant the very world.

"Magneto believes that a war is brewing between mutants and humans,"
she finally said simply, opting for the quick and bitter truth. "About
four years ago he took Rogue and sucked himself into her. She would
have died, if we had not saved her."

"So Cordelia's in serious trouble."

Beside her, Storm nodded mutely with a carefully closed expression, and
it didn't take a telepath to see how deeply the nod affected him. She
saw the vampire's face immediately wince, a low growl escaping as he
continued to pace, hands in fists, banging at his sides.

Wesley also saw the reaction, and exchanged a wary look with Gunn
before saying, loudly. "Angel, we're not sure he's who took her."

It was meant to be comforting she supposed, but it didn't do much. "For
all we know Wesley she could be back in Pylea. That doesn't help."

The young woman who was called Fred gave a squeak, making Jean look at
her curiously, but she was back to being buried in her books.

A solid knock at the door brought an end to the stillness as she felt
the invasion of her mind in the form of a very familiar presence.

Jean felt a flood of welcome relief as she turned to Storm, "It's

She strode to the door, moving past Gunn to open it.


Logan took the cigar out of his mouth, his leg falling to rest on the
carpeted floor as he stood upright, watching the procession fill the

About. Fucking. Time.

He stifled the urge to grab Charles outta that wheelchair and shake him
and demand to find out where Rogue was, `cause hell, that guy had more
power and demanded more respect than anyone he had ever met. Charles
had more patience and understanding than Logan could ever hope to
attain, if he in fact, ever wanted to attain that. Which he didn't, but
that didn't mean he didn't respect the hell outta Charles X for his own
control over his mind, and his good intentions in a world where
everyone hated and feared him.

Still, the goodness and patience was not something Logan appreciated
when he was in a desperate hurry. Charles and his "pleasantries" was a
team thing everyone but he accepted. He had finally learned to keep his
mouth shut and clamped on his cigar to keep from snapping at them to
shut the hell up and hurry up with the plan.

It was no different now. Charles wheeled in, and on his face was this
smile that hid the anxiety, one that Logan knew was on his face for a
purpose, to put everyone at ease. If Charles had control, then it was
gonna be cool.

Fuck that.

Cyclops followed right after, with the no nonsense face that Logan had
come to appreciate: cause Scott Summers liked to get things done,
followed by the irritating red-eyed Cajun Remy Lebeau.

Storm had once kidded Logan that he didn't like Gambit because he might
have reminded him a little of himself, with how the guy didn't like
being told what to do, or what to say. That wasn't true. Logan didn't
like Gambit because he fucking hit on every chick in the school: Marie

Scott had been vastly amused by the whole thing, Jean too, in her own
quiet way, and it didn't help that Rogue had no problem flirting back,
with that little `sugar' thing she had been using ever since Carol
Danvers had been absorbed. It wasn't until the pissing contests (that's
what she and Storm called it) between him and Gambit came to a head in
the courtyard that it finally stopped. Rogue had dragged him away, and
Storm, actually being the Cajun's friend, had pulled him, her face dark
and angry as she taken him into the shelter of the trees.

When Rogue was done chewing him out, Logan felt like a damned dog with
his tail between his legs.

Even then, Logan didn't envy Gambit. No one pissed Storm off and
managed to get through it unscathed.

Needless to say, Gambit and he had found a way to work together.

Logan took in another breath, venturing closer as Charles turned
immediately to Tall, Dark and Broody.

"You must be Angel," he said warmly, voice pleasant despite the
circumstances. "I am Charles Xavier."

Angel looked down at the man in the wheelchair, whose blue eyes seemed
so wise, and whose frail body was barely noticeable under the power of
his stare. "They said you'd help us find Cordy, is that true?"

Cordy? Who the hell cared about `Cordy'? What the hell about Rogue?

"She's already found." Charles turned to Jean, who had until this
moment been lost in conversation with Scott. "It is as we feared. She
is in the hands of Magneto."

Logan swore, jumping to his feet and striding toward the door. That was
all he needed.

When no one followed him, he turned back slightly. "Well? You coming or

Angel immediately followed, but the rest of them kept staring at him
like he was a freak.

Ororo cleared her throat, looking around the room before moving from
Remy's side. "Logan, we need a plan. Remember?"

Crap. They had to go and come up with a PLAN again.

"Screw the plan. Let's get Cordy back."

The bookish English guy rolled his eyes. "Angel. Turn, sit. Brood."

A low growl rumbed out of Angel's throat, and Logan actually felt for
the guy as he slunk back in the room, hearing Wesley murmur to Jean,
"he's always doing this when she's in trouble."

"We're used to it."

Logan glared at her, but turned, following the exact path Angel took,
and plopping down next to him with more than a little anger.

He hated waiting. He hated a lot of things. A lot of things pissed him
off. But waiting was sure as hell in the top five.

He sucked in his breath, and reached for his cigar again. When he heard
the shuffle next to him, he paused, and then held it under Angel's

Angel sniffed, and when he looked at him curiously, Logan shrugged.

"Grind your teeth on it. Makes the frustration a little easier to stand
before you have to kill someone."

It seemed to make perfect sense. Angel immediately took it, clamping it
in his mouth while Logan reached for another.

When the little mousy brunette opened her mouth, they both snapped, "It
won't kill me."

But when everyone gave each other sympathetic glances, Logan seriously
thought about killing them.

Or scaring them.

Just a little.

He let out a low angered breath, and he immediately heard Angel mutter,
"I know the feeling."


Cordelia Chase was severely pissed off.

She HATED being kidnapped. She HATED being pawed by aging degenerates.

But the kicker, was being called a -

"MUTANT?! I am NOT a mutant!" When Rogue cocked her eyebrow, she
amended quickly, "Okay, not that there's anything WRONG with being a
mutant and all that, because you pull it off nicely. But I'm not one! I
mean, freaky, okay I will admit, a little weird, maybe, but I draw the
line at mutant!"

Rogue looked a little taken aback by the outburst, quite possibly
because it was the most animated she had seen her, but immediately she
just shook her head, rolled her eyes, and moved toward the bars.
"Accept it, don't accept it, I'm not even saying it's true. But it's a
damn good reason."


Rogue pulled at the bars, testing the weight as she answered, "Remember
that time he almost killed me I told you about?"

"I remember the nutshell version."

"Well the man is scarred for life. He's a Holocaust survivor, and I
have a play by play account in my head that tells me the guy, he's not
all there when it comes to this stuff." Rogue looked through the bars.
"It's a clear drop from here. How did he get us over here?"

Cordelia felt a familiar pang in her head and rose to her feet
unsteadily, hoping to get the rest of the `Cordy may be a mutant' story
out before she passed out. Again. "Okay, skitzo girl, back to the
original tale."

"Huh? Oh." Rogue blinked, and nodded, her face of concentration
clouding for a bit as she paused, her voice softer. "He uh... wants to
make everyone a mutant. The last time he built a machine and it didn't
work. The one person he tried it on died. They couldn't handle the

Oh, God. This was starting to sound way too familiar.

"They died?"

"Uh huh."


Immediately memories began to flood Cordelia Chase. Her long years as
the most popular girl at Sunnydale High, not withstanding, Cordelia
Chase was a fairly resilient girl, and when she had come across the
gift of the visions by Doyle, after she got past being outraged,
horrified, and the feeling of being betrayed from a last kiss, she had
come to regard them with a sense of honor.

Never, in her life, had Cordelia been given something as important and
special to carry as these visions. Even in Sunnydale, she was treated
as shallow, vain, conceited. She might have been, but now, these
visions seemed a testament to who she truly was, to what she stood for.

To who she had become.

In Los Angeles, Cordelia was poor, but never alone. Not when she had
Gunn and Wesley, and even nutty Fred, who had become a friend despite
her annoying habit of stating EVERYTHING with that nervous half giggle
she never quite shook. And she was never alone, because of Angel.

The visions hurt, God they hurt so bad, but she never told Angel that
she had had the chance to get rid of them a year and a half ago, and
have some damn good sex with a hunky half demon while she was at it,
because she had known exactly what he would have said.

He would have been furious. Sure, he probably would have killed Groo on
sight after the developments in their relationship, but eventually,
after the growling and snarling and vampire mad rage, he would have
told her to do it. Because he loved her. He would have told her she
should have done it because deep down they all knew the truth: the
visions were killing her.

But she couldn't do it. She couldn't do it because it meant leaving
them. It meant leaving him. And God she had promised to be by his side.
She had promised to never leave him and he had promised he would never
leave her.

What the hell did she have if she didn't have this? Didn't have them?
Or him?

Nothing. There was nothing without the pains that were slowly going to
drive her insane, that were getting so much worse they had almost come
to dread each and every one.

And now she seemed to finally get why. Because she was a human, who
couldn't take-

A mutant?

Rogue must have seen the look of pure horror on Cordelia's face,
because she grimaced, turning and looking at the wall, and then
marching to the bars facing the cliff. "You know what? Fuck this. I'm
fucking tired of waiting for the damn team. We're gettin' outta here."

Wow. Chick had a potty mouth.

"Uh-huh. And what do you expect us to do, She-Ra of the Skunky hair?"
Cordelia asked, her words dripping with sarcasm. "Break down the door
and plummet to our deaths?"

Rogue shrugged. "Sounds like a plan."

Before Cordelia could move, Rogue had gathered her strength and rammed
into the bars, splintering them and flying through.

"HOLY CRAP! ROGUE!" Cordelia Chase ran toward the wall, which now had a
huge gaping hole in it, and gingerly looked over the ledge, down to the
water crashing on the rocks some fifty feet below. "GREAT- That's just
GREAT. GO Kamakazi on me." Her heart beat wildly, and Cordelia looked
near tears as she screamed again, "ROGUE!"


Cordelia looked up to find herself face to face with a floating Rogue.

She immediately shrieked and scrambled back, falling flat on her back.

"SHIT! ROGUE YOU BITCH!" Cordelia heaved in a huge gasp, trying to get
her whirling senses as she looked at Rogue, who continued to hover in
the air. "YOU SCARED THE HELL OUTTA ME! Are you like on a string or

Rogue looked down, rubbing at her shoulder slightly. "That kinda hurt."

"KINDA! You put a HOLE in a BRICK WALL. And you're FLYING!"

Rogue looked at her, and finally seemed to take pity, because she
landed in the hole and came forward, leaning by her. "You okay?"

Cordelia just groaned, falling back so that she was strewn back on the
floor spread eagle in the cell. "I'm SO gonna need therapy for the next
fifty years."

The snapping of metal at the outskirts of the cell made Rogue suddenly
stiffen, and quickly, she gathered the vision girl in her arms, hefting
her weight as if she were holding a feather, immediately heading to the

"Okay, rule number one to flying with Rogue. Never touch her skin."

Cordelia opened her eyes, looked down, and shrieked, wrapping her arms
around Rogue's shoulders and holding on for dear life. "Why?"

"Another mutation. Mah skin... I suck in anyone's life force who I
touch and really don't want those visions of yours in my head."

"Thanks so much for your concern."

Rogue shrugged, when a low feline growl came from the opening, she felt
her heart jump, biting back the retort and flying into the night,
streaking away as fast as she could, Cordelia shrieking all the way.


Victor Creed walked quickly, his nose wrinkling, his animal instinct
taking over the human as he beat on the bars, not having the patience
to wait until Magneto let them bend away.

The cell was empty, and where the little barred window used to be was a
pile of debris littering a suddenly much clearer view of the ocean.

Sabretooth roared, his eyes narrowed on the two figures that were very
quickly fading away in the moonlight.

He swallowed, afraid to look back at Magneto's expression as his two
very key components of the new plan disappeared into the sky.

Shit. He lost them. He lost them and Magneto would be angry. He would
be so very angry.

He would be so angry he would send him away. He would keep him locked
up and then he would send him away for losing them.

'I'll get the helicopter," he said immediately, moving toward the door.

"No, let them go," Eric said, holding back the seething man with an
outstretched hand. Sabretooth gulped down that anger, turning to see
his mentor smiling, his eyes twinkling. "They have played right into
our hands. Let them go back to the mansion. Do what they will to the
seer. When we take them again, that will make all the difference."

Sabretooth stared hard at Magneto, but it still didn't make sense.

Magneto gave him another look and just shrugged. "Don't think, man. You
weren't made for it. Allow me to do the thinking and just blindly

Sabretooth just nodded.

The beast man had trusted Eric his whole life. He was what made them
safe, and he would continue to trust Eric for the remainder.

His eyes narrowed at the departing women, hands rising to his chest and
palming the tags that rested there.

The X-Men would pay their price soon enough. Magneto had told him they

A soft purr slid through him, and he smiled.


When Cordelia shrieked yet AGAIN, Rogue finally lost patience.


"Listen, Little Miss Streaked, you're not exactly American Airlines
first class, okay? You almost dropped me!"

"Ah won't drop you. Keep talkin' and I just might fumble ya, though."

Cordelia swallowed and glared, but kept her mouth shut. Quite a feat,
Rogue guessed, as she looked down at the ocean below them.

"So umm. Where we going?"

"To the mansion."

"What mansion?"

"Home. Most likely the team's still there trying to come up with a
plan." Rogue rolled her eyes as a smirk floated on her face. "Logan's
prolly chewed through all his cigars by now."

The excitement seemed to wear at Cordelia, because she suddenly winced,
her head falling on Rogue's shoulder. She gave a low moan, and when
Rogue dipped in a sudden drop, Cordelia's face jerked in very
discernable pain.

Oh crap. The vision pains were back.

Her body convulsed, and it took all Rogue had to keep her grasp on the
jerking Seer, holding on tight and still managing to keep contact out
of her face. "Cordelia!"

Cordelia's eyes shakily opened, and the hazel orbs were moist, filled
with tears. "Oh, God, Rogue," she whispered, voice wracked with pain.
"We are in serious trouble."

~ Chapter Four ~

For Ororo Munroe, finding the morbid humor in situations had never been
difficult. It was a consequence that came from having a rather wry
sense of humor, and although few could claim to know her, and very few
could claim to know her well, those who did have the privilege remarked
that when the usually quiet Storm had a smirk on her mouth and a glint
in her eyes, something witty, morose, and often unexpected would come
drifting out in an understated tone.

It was a gift, and a blessing, and true to her nature, Ororo used it
with control, much like everything else in her life. So despite the
perceptive remark that threatened to come from her lips to alleviate
the tension in her taught stomach at the thought of Rogue being in that
man's clutches AGAIN, her statement about the amount of chewed cigars
littering the floor of the cabin plane remained right where she thought
it should be: in her closed mouth.

Of course the crowded plane did nothing to help her jitters about the
assignment, her uneasiness working with a vampire and his colleagues,
no matter how `good' he might be, and her ever increasing worry that
Rogue was in very much trouble.

Damn her claustrophobia.

She shivered, felt Remy's hands tighten on her elbow once and when she
shot him a grateful smile, he squeezed once again in support.

True, Remy was the mansion sex fiend, but he could be a damn good
friend to those who wanted to keep it platonic.

Unfortunately, that line was beginning to be blurred more and more
lately, with Logan and Rogue's increasing intimacy.

The closeness had resulted in Remy's consulting her, getting closer to
her, and considering the fact that she had never been immune to his
blatant sexuality, just appeared to be, gave rise to even more

Damn. She hated not feeling in control.

Her eyes roved around the plane, pausing once to study the identical
faces of worry and repression in Logan and the vampire's faces,
flickering over Jean and Scott's, lost on concentration, to the two
young men who seemed extreme opposites, but extremely close, as they,
in turn, studied her.

Aware that she had caught them staring, the English one blushed,
something that looked rather cute, and Storm found herself smiling in
return, missing the frown that passed momentarily on Remy's face.

His mouth opened to speak as his grip became tighter on her arm, but a
ringing that came from the console in front of her kept him from saying
anything else.

Immediately her hands flew over the buttons, quickly answering it.
"Storm here."

The fuzzy screen quickly gave way to clarity, and when the figure grew
clear, Storm gave an audible gasp.

"Hey, `Ro.'"

She swallowed, her hand gripped the Cajun's as she barely managed,
"Scott, stop the plane."

His head jerked in her direction, and his mouth parted in a frown.


The plane jerked and all eyes were on her, but Storm paid no attention
as she leaned forward.


Rogue gave a nod, looking amused as she shrugged slightly.

"ROGUE?!" People scrambled out of their seats, ran to the monitor, but
no one did it more forcefully than Logan. Someone literally went
sprawling as he clawed his way to the front of the pack.

"ROGUE! Where the -"

"Logan! I'm okay. Relax. Deep breath, sugar."

Storm, in spite of the incredible relief that flooded her own body,
managed a smile at the obvious relief on Logan's face.

"You're home?"

"I'm home. You think I wouldn't get tired of waiting for the all mighty

"Now why does everyone gotta go knocking the plan?" Gunn asked from
behind him.

"Shit," Scott said, looking none to happy. When all eyes turned to him,
he blushed. "Nothing," he said quickly, blushing slightly. "but it was
a good plan."

Logan just glared and turned back to the screen, almost pushing Storm
away from the seat, a task that was completed when the big hulking
vampire moved in next to him.

"Where's Cordelia?" he immediately demanded, earning a glare from Logan
as he cut him off before he could question Rogue's health further.

Rogue's eyes narrowed, but she began haltingly, "Angel, right?"

He nodded breathlessly, and she paused, an expression flitting across
her face that made Storm's stomach sink slightly.

"She's here, but... she's in trouble."


"You're not just leaving us here while she's in trouble. Angel, blindly
jumping into situations doesn't help! Did PYLEA teach you anything?"

"Wesley I think you're being-"

"I'm not being-"


"I KNOW! Which is why more than one of us needs to be there!"

"Gentlemen we have to take into consideration-"

"Butt out Fred!"

"HEY! Don't take out your `Cordy's in trauma so we gotta lash out'
issues on our girl here just because you haven't killed anything yet!"

Scott gave an audible sigh, his forehead resting gently against Jean's
shoulder as his warm palm tightened against her, pulling her more
firmly against him as they waited.

"Can we get the group therapy meeting overwith?" he muttered.

Jean shushed him, raising a hand to gently press against his neck
before letting the argument continue.

She could understand their worry. It was better to let them work it out

"Thank you, Gunn."

"Welcome. Now Angel. Ain't no way in hell you're leaving us behind and
going with a bunch of mutants-"

"Ahem. Just what is the matter with mutants?"

At the soft, yet firm entry into their little argument, the three men
turned, sheepish expressions flitting over them as Jean raised an

"Nothing. It's just, no offence, Jean. You're cool and all that. But
it's not like we know you."

"Likewise," Storm added. "But your friend is in our mansion, and she is
hurt, so perhaps this argument could be settled a trifle bit more

"Yeah? Like now?" Logan added, a snarl attached to the end of his

Angel gave an audible sigh, glancing over to the group of leather clad
mutants who were all sprawled on the sofa's and chairs with barely
contained expressions of impatience.

Even that Charles X guy was looking ready to clean their clocks.

"Alright," he said finally, trying to get past the blinding worry. "I
... Storm's right. We can't spend anymore time arguing. Wes, come with
me. Gunn and Fred, I NEED you to stay here. Talk to Lorne, talk to
anyone, keep LA safe until we come back. Maybe you'll find something
here that we can't find over there."

"I can research," Fred began softly, her eyes sad and gentle. "Maybe I
can find something. We haven't really had time to look before, but I
can find things."

Angel gave her a soft, affectionate nod, squeezing her shoulder and
pulling her close for a quick hug before letting her go.

"I know you will, Fred."

Gunn gave a short nod, finally relenting. "Sorry, ya'll," he said to
the group waiting on them. "Things get a little nuts when one of us-"

"It's quite all right, Mr. Gunn," Charles said, wheeling forward. "We

Gunn nodded, and shook hands with Wes, clasping it tightly. "Do what
you can. Keep in touch."

"We will."

To Angel, who wore eyes of pain and incredible insecurity, he gave
nothing more than a nod, knowing that he didn't need to give him
anything else. Angel understood. "Take care of business."

"You too."

He waited a minute, locking eyes with Wesley once more, and turned,
taking Fred by the elbow, steering her past the Mutant Models and
making his way toward the door.


Storm pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek as she paused by him. "It was
very nice meeting you."

He would have blushed had he not felt like there was a blender in his

"You too."

It was good he wasn't going. He needed to take care of his guys. He
needed to stay in LA and not be in Winchester holed up in some mansion.

It was good he wasn't going. It didn't mean he was being left behind,
but he was needed here.

That was all it meant. He had to take care of Fred and his crew. He had
responsiblities to his family.


"Yeah Fred."

Fred's voice was tired, she looked weary from lack of sleep and her
pretty face was worried for Cordelia, but when she held up the white
slip something in his heart gave and he had to smile.



She had never been a good patient, and Rogue, as she waited outside of
the medical ward that she had become very familiar with during the
battles for her mind and the world, was never one to debate it.

The truth was she hated the medical ward, because it dredged up
memories. Memories of the past, the present... of watching with eyes
that were hers as her body lost control to another, and in the process,
she lost the trust of the many friends she had worked so hard to make.

The fear was still there, in their eyes, and she couldn't blame them.
In her mind manifested killers, leaking out.

One day, Rogue would snap, that's what they feared.

That's what they believed.

In her heart she knew she was death incarnate. The fear inside of her,
at her gift, was something she had long ago come to terms with, but it
made it no easier to settle down now, as her dark eyes flickered toward
the door, supressing the shudder and the sigh that so easily came to

She was too old for this.

She was too old and too young. Her gloved hands drifted to her eyes and
she rubbed at them, wincing at the pain in the left shoulder, already
beginning to heal thanks to the inherited traits of Logan that had
somehow still managed to worm their way into her system.

Rogue gave a sigh, leaning against the wall of the medical bay that
held the Seer, her eyes bloodshot and red and all she could think of,
alone with the lonely stark white was that...

It should have been over.

It should have been over. Rogue was taken, Rogue rescued herself,
Magneto was averted again and that was it, it should have been over.

God she so desperately wanted this to be over. She could deal with her
fear, but she could not deal with HIM, with Magneto... he brought back
the child... and her hold over her mind, her control was so precarious
and being the child was so dangerous...

Mission completed. Finito. Danger gone - disaster averted - happy X-Men

That was how it was supposed to end.

But the seer had told her she would end up with a wound in her stomach,
dying, that Logan would try to sacrifice himself to save her, and she
wouldn't allow it-

And the world would end in the process.

There was a woman her age in that room almost in a coma and in very
serious pain from a head trauma that Hank had no idea how to fix and it
was damn scary.

It was ridiculous. Ridiculous and full of shit and who the hell were
The Powers That Be anyway? The seer was half baked and fried and half
crazy and that kinda put a fork in anything she might have said.

Didn't it?

They couldn't have spent more than fifteen hours together, but it had
felt like days, and although Rogue, Marie- whatever the hell people
felt like calling her that day- was never one to make acquaintances
fast, thanks to her inheritance of Logan's love of solitude and blunt
insecurity of people, she almost considered this Cordelia Chase a

Despite the fact she had called her bitch twice and the fact that she
kept muttering about her impending doom.

This was scary. Scary and freaky and something she did NOT need right

If she kept thinking about she was going to freak out. Rogue knew that
freaking out was not a good thing for her, and once again thanking
Ororo the control freak for her little lessons, Rogue closed her eyes,
took a deep breath, muttered a curse about the others taking so damn
long and then her mind locked onto another thought to distract her.

Unfortunately the thought was a memory, and memories were dangerous.
She was against a wall, he was pressed against her, hands kneading one
breast almost reverantly as his breath was hot and moist against her
neck and -


Rogue's eyes shot open and she shifted, gritting her teeth, feeling her
stomach plummet at her own carelessness.

She was an X-Men. She should have thought of Magneto, of his plan, of
mutations, ANYTHING but what had transpired between she and Logan
minutes before they were attacked.

But she bit her lip and again the thoughts flitted inside of her head,
long supressed by the kidnapping and well... the blinding fear.

It was... unexpected. Logan was a friend, her very best friend... a
brother type...

At least that was what she had told herself since she was seventeen
years old.

And God that was the last thing she needed from him at this moment. She
trusted him. She loved him-

But the aching in her heart, the splinter in her mind and the sadness
that would come from admitting that she was IN love with him would only
worsen if he EVER decided to `go for it' with her.

She knew it was impossible. Physical intimacy with death incarnate was
impossible. A relationship with someone who could kill with a touch...

She loved Logan too much... loved anyone too much to allow that.

In her heart, in her mind she knew that she would never go on if she
accidently lost her very best friend in a night of passion.

She could live without passion.

She could not live without Logan.

Rogue swallowed, wrapping her arms around her body and holding on

As soon as Cordelia was taken care of, as soon as Magneto was taken
care of and the world was safe and Rogue was reasonably sure she would
not come out of this with a gaping wound in her chest, then she would
explain that to Logan.

It wasn't a conversation she was looking forward to.

Her breath blew out and her body sagged against the wall.

She had a sinking feeling it would lead to the breaking of her very own


The plane landed over a basketball court that quickly gave way to an
underground warehouse of sorts.

It was dark, night had long ago fallen, his hands gripped the side of
the chair, and he felt tired.

Angel closed his eyes as he felt the thud of the plane, not speaking,
not looking, just thinking.

Cordelia was in trouble.

The thought resonated through him and there was nothing he could do.

The helpless feeling coursed through him and it was followed with
anger, as his chest rumbled with a growl that made Jean jump and Storm
gaze at him, but Logan merely stared, and then turned away, forgetting
him whent he doors opened and everyone stood.

Jean made a point of staying by his side as they walked down the stairs
of the jet, Angel seeing the chrome, the high tech suits and the
weapons and motorcycles, heard Wesley gasp in awe, and yet never
letting it sink in.

He walked quickly, following Logan, Jean and Charles, letting Wesley
follow with Storm and the others as they walked with assurance through
the maze of brightly lit rooms, with the flourescent lights and 'X's
that were placed on everything.

There was a lump in his throat that made it hard to breathe and when he
turned the corner, his steps faltering as he recognized the girl from
the alley.

Her eyes were red and bloodshot, she looked tired as she moved away
from the wall. Her jeans were torn and dirty, her face smudged with
blood and caked with dirt, and her hair pulled back into a pony tale,
the white streaks mingling with the dark.

But her eyes were the part that made him suck in an unneeded breath of
air, quicken his step and then stop uncertainly.

Jean approached her, but it was Logan who reached her first, rushing
toward her and then stopping a foot away.

Rogue stared at him, and small smile flitted on her face and she only
nodded, her eyes leaving his immediately and turning toward Jean's.

Angel didn't wait to see what Logan would do, but pushed past him,
standing next to Jean as he looked down at the young girl.

"Where's Cordelia?"

This was so different from the blinding panic he usually felt.

He had no idea where she was but his movements were slow, almost as if
he was drugged, in a daze.

So this was what true fear really was.

"Angel," Rogue whispered, and her head cocked toward the doorway, and
no one tried to stop him as he pushed through them, not giving them a
chance to slide before he burst into the room to encounter a huge blue
furred beast standing over an incredibly frail body lying on a medical

Oh, God.


He didn't wait for the British man to follow, didn't even let himself
think about walking but he was suddenly by her side, hand clasping
hers, fingers tracing down her face, and oh GOD she was-

Her body was trembling, dried tears were on her face and there was so
much pain in her face... there was so much pain-

"Cordy," he rasped.

Across from him he saw her other hand taken as Wesley sunk down,
glasses glinting, his own face somber and sad.

Wesley was trembling.

"It's as we've feared," Wesley whispered. "This time... it was too

"She'll get through it. She has to," Angel snapped back, reaching
forward to press his fingers against her face, leaning forward, feeling
his vision blur with unshed tears.

DAMMIT. He would NOT CRY. There was no reason to cry because NOTHING
was going to happen to Cordelia.

"Cordy, look at me, Cordy."

Her mouth opened and she whimpered, and his body jolted when her eyes
fluttered open and her eyes locked with his.

"Angel?" she whispered. His hand tightened and he found he had no
voice, and at best could only nod furiously. Her eyes lingered on him
and her body shuddered again and when she looked at Wesley, he could
only smile that crooked English smile of his that was so full of fear.

She saw it.

She saw the fear and it affected her. Her eyes closed and her body
curled into a fetal position, pressing her cheek against Angel's cold
hands, and Cordelia Chase held onto his arm desperately and she cried.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "It hurts too much. Angel, it hurts so

The tears, despite his damndest to keep them in, slid over and he wiped
them away furiously, kneeling down against the bed and pulling her into
his body. Wesley gave a choked sound that sounded like an attempt at a
word and Angel didn't pay attention to it.

She needed him to hold her.

And dammit, that was what he was going to do.

His body shuddered and she continued to sob, heartwrenching sobs that
were so painful as they wracked her tired body.


All he could do was hold her.


"She's dying." Jean took the glasses from her face, put them down and
rubbed at her tired orbs, body tight and shoulders aching from the
hours without sleep. "She's dying and I don't know how to stop it."

It was the sentence that hung in the air, lingering over the heads of
the X-Men that had gathered to hear the verdict.

Jean Grey was a leader in her field, she was a GOOD doctor, and Hank
was a good doctor, a GREAT doctor and this wasn't suposed to happen to
a twenty-two year old girl.

"Jean." Charles wore a haggard frown. "Have you considered using the
mind to-"

"No," she said immediately. "Absolutely not. I have considered it,
asking you, or myself going into her mind to try and deal with them
but... it's much too dangerous."

"The amount of pain she is going through... would be too shocking,"
Hank explained, his blue fur glinting somewhat in the flourescent
light. "I'm afraid even your mind, Professor, would have a very hard
time taking control."

"The problem isn't her mind," Jean added. "These visions... it's from a
vessel. They are outside forces. A channel inside of her has triggered
them, but the channel isn't strong enough to..." she cut herself off,
sinking down into the chair. "The vampire said she inherited these
visions from a half-demon. Now, granted, that is taking a lot on faith,
but it makes sense. As a human, she isn't strong enough to-"

"I know why Magneto wanted her," Rogue interrupted. Jean looked up.
Until now Rogue had been quiet, sullen almost, eyes haunted with a pain
that Jean knew she or Charles would have tried to touch on had they not
been so involved with saving the Seer's life.

Scott turned, glasses glinted as he leaned forward. "Why, Rogue?"

The faded Southern drawl was thick, a sure sign that Rogue was
troubled. The accent was always thicker when Rogue was nervous.

"He thinks she's a mutant. A human who became a mutant. And with what
happened to Senator Kelly-"

"Could be happening to her," Jean breathed, hand jerking away from her
face and sitting up. "Cordelia could be a mutant."

"That might be a longshot."

But her mind was already whirling. Her eyes connected with Hank's and
immediately he stood, walking over the floor plan.

"It's the only lead with have, Scott," she said, moving past him, eyes
already on the charts she had taken of the seer. "and we don't have
much time."

There was shuffling behind her, she dimly heard Scott telling Storm and
Remy to work with Rogue and research Magneto and what he could possibly
want, but it barely registered.

Her glasses were back on and her energy was renewed, and although tired
lines marred the pretty face and bags were forming under her eyes, Jean
never felt more alive.

It was the fervor with which she tackled every mission, and she very
much hoped it would be key in saving the life of the young seer who lay
nearly comatose in the next room.


Winnifred waited as Gunn opened the doors to the hotel, and her steps
faltered as she stood in the doorway.

She had never realized how empty it was... how alone it was when it
wasn't occupied by a vampire, a seer, a watcher and a renegade.

Fred had been alone for as long as she could remember, and in her mind
her own personal hell consisted of nothing more than being alone.

The hotel had never seemed so big, so lonely... and so incredibly

She closed her eyes and shuddered, clutching her books to her chest and
moving back. "Perhaps it would be better if I stayed at Cordelia's,"
she said quickly. "I'm sure Dennis wouldn't mind the company."

"Fred you have to stay here," Gunn said, catching her as she pushed
back and moving her forward, hands on her waist, gently leading her in.
"One of us needs to be here in case Angel calls."

"Why can't we both be here?" She whirled in his arms, and when he
looked down he saw eyes wide and frightened, and SHIT he had forgotten
how afraid she was of being alone.

Fred was a damned strong woman; it took a strong person to have lived
as a slave for years and still have a vestige of sanity, but in so many
ways, she was a child.

A really smart, really pretty child, with a hell of a mouth on her...
but a child. A woman-child.

He licked his lips, keeping her in place with large hands wrapped
around a small waist and looked around the lobby.

Shadows flitted about, seemed to move in strange places and it was dark
and cold and empty and Cordelia was in trouble and-

"You want me to stay with you?"

Her eyes lit up and she nodded, the books still clutched in her chest,
pushing into his, keeping them neatly seperated.

He reached in between them, prying the book out and tossing it on the
counter. "Fred, you don't gotta be scared, okay?"

"I can't help it," she whispered, "Cordelia's my friend. She's my
family and if she dies-"

"She won't die."

She swallowed, and her eyes closed and when she whimpered his hands
went around her. She leaned into his embrace instinctively, face
burying into his chest and Gunn was almost glad she had broken down.

That meant he didn't have to... and damn it he would have...

He was this close.

A small whimper slid from her still body and he sighed, pressing his
lips against the top of her hair, smoothing down the silky brown
strands as they stood in the cold, empty hotel lobby.

"We're gonna get 'em back, Fred," he said soothingly, eyes wide open as
he stared at their home, his home.

He wasn't homeless anymore.

"We're gonna get Cordy back, and we're gonna get our family back and
we're gonna be okay," he said, voice rough with conviction. "Until
then, you and me, we're gonna stick together, okay?"

There was a sniffle, and an uncomfortable wetness down the front of his
shirt but when her eyes met his and she gave a short, strong nod, he
didn't mind.

It was going to be easier being with her.

"We can help them here," she said, pulling out of his embrace and
picking up the book he tossed. "With research and books and... I can do
that. And you can do the street thing and we can -"

"Fred." His fingers closed over hers and he pried the book once again
from her fingers and led her to the stairs. "We will. In the morning.
Right now, girl, you gotta sleep. You aren't gonna be any use to Angel
and Cor and Wes if you're all baggy-eyed."

Her shoulders were tense, but he kneaded into them, and she didn't
argue as they walked together to their bedrooms.

He knew it would be one of the longest nights in his life.

~ Chapter Five ~

Wesley put the pen down.

His eyes were stinging and watery, his mind was reeling with unfiltered
emotions and he knew that finding the discipline he needed to
concentrate was impossible.

How the hell was he supposed to concentrate on a threat they knew
absolutely nothing about when Cordelia was in such immense pain?

"Something wrong?"

The velvety voice of Storm broke into his thoughts, and he pulled his
hands from his face to find her gazing curiously at him, face placid
and calm.

"Well my friend is bloody dying on the table, so yes I believe
something is wrong," he snapped. Immediately he winced, closing his
eyes when he saw her look away, pursing her lips.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, closing the book and removing his glasses,
letting out an agonized groan. "You've been nothing but kind-"

She didn't say a word, merely stared at him from across the small
table, head cocked and resting against one slender hand.

Her gaze never left his face, and after a moment, he found it
unnerving, running his hands through his frazzled hair before looking
at her.

"What are you staring at?"

She shrugged slightly. "You have a hidden strength. I find that
intriguing." When he blinked, she smiled, the expression a tad
sheepish. "Forgive me. I like to observe. That young lady in there, she
is your heart."


"Your group's heart. Angel, he is the soul. The others I'm afraid I do
not know enough about to find what part they play. But, you are the
strength, the wisdom."

Her voice had a soft, tuneful quality, tone lilting and changing almost
as if in song, and even as his heart shuddered at the sheer beauty of
Storm, he still felt the pang inside of him at her words.

He shook his head, biting his lower lip and reopening the book. "You
are mistaken, Ororo. Wisdom and strength are two of my weaknesses."

"I think you don't give yourself enough credit." She had an accent.
African, maybe? Slender fingers slid through the long white locks and
she moved gracefully, stretching back in the chair in the dark library,
craning her neck slightly as she looked at him, brilliant eyes boring
into him. "Strength and wisdom is not won by brute force, nor is it
something anyone can attain. It lies dormant, in the quietness of one's
movements, in someone's eyes or in their faces. In their actions. When
Cordelia looked into your eyes she saw your fear and it affected her.
She turns to you for strength."

He wasn't aware his hand was trembling until he looked down at the
pencil shuddering against the table. He took a breath, stilled it, and
then looked up at Ororo Munroe.

"Why exactly are you creating the aura of psychobabble?" he asked. The
tone wasn't angry, but frustrated, and she didn't seem offended.

"I'm just letting you know that the strength you seek, the discipline,
is inside of you. The others need you because of it." She leaned
forward, and her darker toned hand covered his palm. "Perhaps you don't
feel it now but it will come when you need it. And the wisdom for the
choices, they are a part of it." He only stared at her, and a small
sliver of a smile emerged. "I just felt you needed someone to point
that out."

His throat was quite dry, and when he took a second to swallow to get
the moisture back so he could reply, the door opened, and the moment
was lost when Storm's brilliant orbs left his to land on the red-eyed
French mutant.

"Goddess," he greeted, his eyes riveted on the contact of her hand on
Wesley's. Her hand drifted away as she pushed away from the table, a
questioning look in her eyes.

"What is it, Remy?"

He came forward, casting Wesley a glare that wasn't exactly hospitable
as he lay a hand on Ororo's shoulder. "Jean. She wants us all in the

Storm immediately nodded, gathering her things. "I'll be just a

"Him, too."

"I have a name," Wesley bristled, rolling his eyes as he got up,
walking with him out of the door.


When Erik was a child, he found himself without a home, and without a
family, nursing a broken heart and a splintered mind.

When he was older, he had walked, barefoot, in the mud, his body beaten
and broken as he stepped out of the iron gates and looked up into the
dark gray sky to find the officers who freed him staring at him with
barely masked sympathy.

As a teenager, he had found nowhere to go and nothing to do but live
with the haunted memories of his past, forever fearing, forever hating-

At nights the dreams still came.

He never forgot.

That was the promise he had made to himself long ago, hidden in his
cell, almost naked and shivering with pain, lips ice-blue and mind
reeling, and his hand reached for the metal chair and it bent and his
eyes had glazed over with hate and he had made the promise to himself.

He would never forget.

He was still, fingers locked into a fist, leaning on the cold, gleaming
metal, his body weary with age and heavy with heart. The tick, tick,
tick of the metal balls that swung back and forth on his table served
as a welcome facilitation to his thoughts.

Perhaps it was better when he didn't know. When he didn't know them and
only knew Charles, and had blocked away the memories of friendship, and
had only the purpose, the future of mankind to contend with.

Perhaps if he hadn't seen the dark eyes, the white streak, the complete
and utter fear he had instilled in the child who should have been
sacrificed, the woman who had once cried and screamed. Perhaps if he
hadn't seen the other woman, barely out of her teens, in splintering
pain, perhaps if he wasn't struck with the memories of a boy in a camp
who had never known true hell until the moment the butt of the rifle
struck him and he fell, close to death, in the mud, the dirt and the
water sticking in his throat and making him choke.

The memories slid through him and the place in his chest ached, and he
swallowed, and suddenly everything was all right again, and the belief
was fermented in his heart and he knew that the choices he made were
the right ones.

Because he would never forget.


Rogue knew he could smell her before she came into the conference room.
She heard the hitch of his breath, could see him shuffle as she stepped
into the doorway.

But his eyes revealed nothing when he focused on her. They were the
same deep, dark color. The intensity was always there, even when he
smiled the feral grin that made him Wolverine.

She also knew he could hear the way her heart raced, could smell the
sweat on her palms and could mostly like see the way her breathing
changed when suddenly she was struck with memories of a hard body
rubbing against hers-

She swallowed as she gripped the doorway.

Shit. It was all different. He had made it all different.

He had made her want him.


The anger rose in her, and it gave her the strength to meet his gaze
with a cocked eyebrow, a slight smirk before she walked casually into
the room, sitting in her spot beside him, saying hello to Storm as the
weather Goddess settled in on the other side, but not paying attention
to anything but her awareness of him.

She closed her eyes, steeling herself for a bit before turning to him,
letting the temper that was just a little bit his rally to her defenses
as she opened her mouth to speak-

"Are you okay?"

She blinked at the concerned voice, and the anger faded away meekly and
she almost growled in frustration as she let her eyes focus on his.
Dark. Deep. Intense.

She had to clear her voice before a real answer came out. "I'm okay.
Not good. Worried."

"You and that girl."


"Yeah. Got close?"

She shrugged, pushing one white bang out of her face and tucking it
behind her ear. "Nothing says friendship like being through a life or
death situation." Her eyes flickered to his, catching his gaze. "I
guess you'd know."

The implication was clear, and it had come out of her mouth before she
had a chance to stop it and she almost cursed out loud for the way he
blinked and looked away, looking so damn unsure and so unlike Logan.

She leaned forward, about to speak when Jean entered the room, the dark
vampire that had scared the shit outta Rogue following closely behind.

Rogue took in a breath, remembering why they had all gathered and the
shaking started all over again and her hand gripped the desk, guilt
seeping through her.

Just like her. Southern brat thinking of her own damn problems when a
Seer was dying a few doors down.

She blocked out Logan, knowing any other time she would have reached
for his hand, to feel the warmth of the skin through the thin leather
gloves, would have gripped it hard and not have to have worried about
breaking it like she had before with other people, because Logan had
metal in his hands and he let her grip as hard as she wanted.

But she didn't.

Because she couldn't.

Because it was different.

So her hand gripped the table as she watched Jean sit down, her face
weary and tired and still beautiful.


Jean took a breath, hands shifting over the papers reading quietly to
herself until she heard the murmuring among the group stop and could
feel the eyes on her.

If she wanted to, she guessed she could have reached out, let her mind
open up to the feelings around the room, but she didn't need that. All
it took was one look at Angel's darkly handsome face, at Rogue's
confliction, and Logan's careful mask of indifference, to know exactly
what was going on.

A tight smile caressed her features as she gave Charles a glance, and
when he nodded, she took a breath, her voice purposely steady and even.

"I realize it has been a while. I'm sorry. Hank and I have been running
tests all night and thanks to Rogue. We may have something."

A spark of hope flitted on Rogue's face, but Angel wasn't as convinced

"Cordelia is a mutant?" Wesley breathed, and again Angel didn't say a

"Not exactly," Jean hedged. She lolled her tongue around her mouth,
almost as if she was physically searching for the words before she
glanced at the much bigger Beast and then took a breath, starting.
"It's very hard to explain but, Cordelia is somehow, through this
connection with, Doyle was it?" Angel nodded, his eyes completely
focused on her. "she started mutating. But apparently because of her
being fully human, whatever action was triggered... stopped. The
connection would have worked fine for Doyle, because he was half human
and half demon and the demon side could more than make up for the pain
that came from the PTB not allowing this mutation to take place

"You just completely lost me," Rogue said, raising her hand.

Jean sighed, shrugging. "I don't know how to explain it any other way."

"I'm listening," Angel said, leaning forward.

"What Jean is trying to say is that Cordelia is only half a mutant. The
reasons these pains are so debilitating is that however this connection
started was done with a half demon in mind, not a human. It's ...
genes," Hank finished.

"Okay, that's all very informative. But how will this help her?"

Jean gave Wesley an anxious glance. "We don't know. I... I have an
idea. But it's never been tried before and I'm worried... I don't know
what it would do to her."

The silence was not encouraging. She could see Angel processing the
information, so the way Rogue's hands clenched the table, the way Storm
glanced at the Englishman, who matched his vampire friend's expression
to a letter.

Yes. This was definitely not encouraging her in anyway.



The voice was barely a rasp, but she heard it.

Her eyes were shut tight, and her body trembled. The flood in her head
was overwhelming and she gave a short whimper, eyes unseeing.

She couldn't think, could barely move, but the voice called to her,
familiar but strange.

Something was off.

In the haze of the pain, there was a squeeze, and it was then she
realized that hands were pressing into her.

She sucked in her breath, and braced herself, letting a small moan
escape as she opened her eyes to find the gentle brown orbs staring
down at her.

She blinked, focused, and when the caring face didn't disappear, she
felt her lower lip tremble, moving onto her side, pushing the side of
her head against the pillow, trying to keep the tears from blurring her

"Angel." A small smile forced it's way onto her lips as his fingers
entwined themselves in hers. She fought against the ache, the pain,
once again pushed through it to do anything to remove the hurt look in
his face.

He had always been so beautiful. His eyes, dark and brilliant, shining
with untold stories of heartache and vengeance, and beneath all that, a
hope that seeped from within him, a love that gave life to a dead
vampire that for four long years had embodied every reason for living.

It was for this man she was fighting, he was the reason she blinked
back the tears and bit back the pain.

Her free hand reached, unsteadily, to his face, tracing the strong
jawbone as she closed her eyes.

"Cordelia, look at me," he tried again.

Her eyes opened, and she hitched in her breath, feeling his hold
tighten on her, jerking her slightly.

The ringing got louder in her head, and her eyes splintered against the
images and god they were back-

"Cordelia you have to-"

He was crying. He was close to it, the cracking, the cloudiness in his

Her eyes shot open and suddenly she was back, staring at the beautiful
face of her best friend.

"Angel. I'm sorry. It hurts... it won't stop... hurting."

His palm wrapped around hers and she felt his soft lips pressing
against them, gentle and sweet and trembling.

He was scared.

"Angel," she could barely manage anything more than a whisper, but her
heart thudded and she forced her dry mouth to have just a little bit of
moisture by swallowing. "What's wrong? Did something happen to...
where's Wesley?"

"I'm right here, Cordelia."

Her body shuddered with visible relief when she heard the Englishman's
voice, and when he came up from behind Angel, she managed a smile at
him too, knowing he was trying hard to be strong for her, knowing she
needed that.

Angel was still holding her hands, keeping them close to him, almost as
if it were some sort of lifeline, almost as if he could find some sort
of truth that he was desperately seeking in the silken touch.

Her heart thudded at the somberness of it all, and with a sigh, she let
her breath out, not daring to close her eyes for fear the pain would
overwhelm her yet again.



She looked so damn helpless. So much in pain and so tiny and frail and

Dammit. He couldn't ask this... he didn't-

"Cordelia," Angel struggled with his words, keeping her hands in his,
gripping them tightly as he forced himself to look into the pained,
beautiful face. "We can make the pain stop, Cordelia."

Her eyes widened, and suddenly they were on him again, flickering
between him and Wesley as her whole body went still.

And the pain came again and he saw her body jerk and her eyes close for
a millisecond before she forced them open yet again.

"What are you talking about?" she managed. "Tell me now."


"Who the hell is Jean?"

"She's a doctor here. She... she thinks she might be able to... do one
of two things."

Cordelia sucked in her breath, long and hard, before letting it out in
a short burst.

"Is it a mutant thing?"

"Yes." His voice was soft, gentle, barely above a whisper, too afraid
to raise the volume any higher. "Cordelia, you're half a mutant."

Her eyes opened again, but she just stared at him, the hollowed pain
apparently all she could really process.

"So?" she asked bluntly. When he opened his mouth to speak again, she
added, "Just get it out. Please. It hurts. I can't... it hurts. I need
to... the vision."

The stammering words gave him all he needed to know. Get it out quick
and fast because she had no idea how much longer she'd be able to hold
it and SHIT he had forgotten all about the vision of Rogue-

His eyes flickered to Rogue's still form at the doorway, where she
leaned, watching with the others, and he immediately focused back on

"Cordelia, Jean wants to either revert it or go through with it."

"Revert what?"

"Cordelia," Wesley kneeled down, his hand on Angel's shoulder as he
spoke gently. "Jean thinks she can make you fully human again, or fully
a mutant. It's a lot of genetic mumbo jumbo I'm not quite sure I
understand but, from what I can tell, she can take away the visions if
you turn fully human. As a mutant, you can stand them, but, she doesn't
know if she can make the pain go away."

Her voice was hesitant, eyes just a bit wider as she repeated, "Take
them away? My visions?"

Angel nodded, hold on her fingers tightening. "No more pains."

"No more visions?"

"That's right."

The tears came, as expected, but the answer was completely surprising.



"You're not taking them away." Her head shook slightly as she looked
directly into his dark orbs. "They're mine."


"I can't not have them. They help us. They help you."

The sharpness of her voice broke with the last syllable, and again he
felt the stinging at the back of his eyes that he blinked back, shaking
his head furiously, "Cordelia, the pain."

"I can handle the pain."

"No you CAN'T." His voice was louder, angry, his form shaking as the
vision became blurry again and he growled, wiping at his eyes with his
sleeve and focusing again on her. "Cordelia you can't. I don't want the
visions and not have you." His hand released her fingers and suddenly
he was cradling her face. "I need YOU. Forget the visions."

"Then make me a mutant. I can stand it then, can't I?"

"Cordelia," Wesley joined the argument, forcing her eyes away from
Angel's as he bent forward. "If we can take these away-"

"We can't." She took in an unsteady breath, and when her eyes opened
they were brilliant, shining and full of need. "You don't get it. I see
what's out there. I KNOW what's out there. I can't not be a part of it.
These visions are mine and they were given to me for a reason. I've
lived with the pain for almost five years. I can handle it. Make me a
mutant and I can live, right?"


"Angel," Her hand groped for his face and suddenly her eyes locked with
his and she was close to crying again as she pleaded, almost begged,
and God she never did that. "Please. Just do it. I need to help

His hand tightened on hers and the lump at the back of his throat was
almost painful as he turned to look at Wesley's glistening eyes.

A short nod.

Angel took in an unneeded breath and then leaned forward, pressing his
lips against his hurting friend's temple, feeling the soft skin beneath

That was it then.

His hand tightened on hers as he stood, faced the group of X-Men that
were waiting, carefully closed expressions on their faces.

"Do it."

~ Chapter Six ~

"Our first stop doesn't always have to be world of the weird, you know?
Sometimes actual human people can be just - awful." ~ Cordelia, Angel:
The Series


It was getting cold.

Fred shuddered, wrapping her hands around her shoulders and rubbing
slightly, looking up and around the cold hotel lobby, stopping to
absentmindedly peel off the glasses.

Her head ached.

She took a breath, reaching over to the lamp and turning it up another
notch, flooding more light into the room, chasing away more shadows.

She was tired, that was obvious. Her whole body felt heavy, and despite
the years of manual labor she had had to endure in Pylea -funny how
everything ended up reverting back to Pylea for her - she knew that
true exhaustion came from the mind.

And God, her mind was so tired.

Her heart was thumping, and the place was so quiet she could hear the
beat rumbling through her ribcage.

The last two years had been... interesting, to say the least. Life was
always going to BE interesting, she supposed, when you kept the company
she had kept - but it had been different.

They had had their share of trials, that was true, in the years
following Buffy's death and ressurection and then the whole hell of an
ordeal they had to endure when Angel and Cordelia finally admitted
their mutual very big like and then proceeded to ignore it and the rest
of them had to pretend they had no idea it was even going on -world had
almost ended, at least twice. Demons rising in Receda and other things
and it had all been interesting.

It had also been fun. Fun to look up to Cordelia Chase, and to be
dressed by her. Fun to go out on shopping trips and come home to three
men who smiled and clapped and watched patiently - or rather, watched
with feigned patience, not wanting to risk the wrath of their princess
- as Cordelia made her model her clothes. Fun to watch the look in
Gunn's eyes when she had tried on the most revealing and un-her thing,
looking so shocked and wierded out and then just walking out.

Okay, actually that was a little disconcerting, until Angel said Gunn
thought it was nice and Fred, more shaken by Gunn's rough man show than
she wanted to admit, had chosen to believe it.

It had taken two years for things to get... nice. Before the pains in
Cordelia's head started to get unbearable and before that look in
Angel's eyes was back and Cordelia had to be put in the hospital AGAIN,
and before Wesley started looking tired and Gunn started spending less
and less time at the office and more and more time in that rundown
apartment where she KNEW that housing regulations were not being kept.

It was all tiring.

She was tired. And sad. And alone.

The hand on her shoulder startled her, and Fred let out a squeak, hand
lashing out, that was just as quickly caught by a chocolate brown one.

Gunn gave a sad smirk, looking at the little palm in his before looking
down at her and letting go. "You okay?"

"Ahhh," she closed her eyes, taking in a breath and biting her lip,
fumbling for her glasses. "I am just... jumpy."

"Yeah, no shit, Sherlock."

She gave him a glare, but he merely yawned, stretching out and leaning
his forearms on the side of the counter.

"How'd you sleep?"

The tone was concerned, careful, and once again the guy's penchant to
treat her like a china doll made her snap, "I wish you would stop

"Stop what?"

"Treating me like I'm a fragile. You don't treat Cordelia that way."

He let out a breath, looking down at the countertop before looking up
at her. "Maybe because Cordelia don't need it."

"She needs it, trust me."

He shrugged slightly, the somber expression on his face a tad
distracted. Once again she closed her eyes, pulling the glasses off and
rubbing at her temples.

"Angel doesn't-"

"Yeah well you know what Fred? I'm not Angel." He bit out the words and
when she looked up at him in surprise, he swallowed, eyes suddenly
focusing on her.

Sometimes she could have sworn there was something behind those eyes-

The phone ringing off the hook startled her yet again, but she
immediately recovered, thankful for another place to focus as she
reached over, answering with a breathless hello.


"Angel." Her body trembled with relief and anticipation, her eyes
closing. "Thank God. How's Cordelia?"

He was quiet, and it was then that Fred realized that something was...
off. Her heart began to pound and dammit she hated when hearts pounded
because that led to insecurity and she hated insecurity because that
led to-

"She's... it's complicated."

Gunn was up and at her side, and when he reached for the phone she
smacked his palm, moving away from the counter, ignoring his questing
hands as she listened to Angel's quick and hurried explanation.

"Uh-huh... Oh. I see.... Well... Yes... And- Okay... But what if-...

Gunn continued to try and weave around her, and Fred finally glared at
him, pushing him back and ducking under the ever questing hand.

"Okay," she finally said, leaning against the wall, sighing. "Good

She heard the click and her eyes closed, hugging the phone to her


Her eyes shot open to find Gunn glaring at her. "What the hell did he

She swallowed and then moved around him, putting the phone back and
grabbing her coat.

"We have to go see Lorne."

When he threw his hands up in the air, she turned around, shrugging
slightly. "I'll explain on the way, Gunn."


Angel placed the phone in the cradle, hearing it find its place with a

Five hours into the surgery. Cordelia was behind closed doors, with the
beautiful telepathic doctor and the blue furred beast man who had a
surprisingly gentle soul.

He had no idea what the hell was going on.

Angel sighed, letting the unneeded breath course through his dead body,
biting on his bottom lip and trying to still the demon within who urged
on the panic, the desperation, the need to kill anything and everything
that came close to killing his mat-

His best friend.

He swallowed, his hands clenched into two hard fists as he pushed
himself away from the desk, meeting the eyes of the young mutant woman
with the really old eyes.

Rogue crossed her arms, nodding to the phone. "They going to be okay?"

Angel nodded shortly, feeling his body ache under the strain of trying
to remain civil. "They're going to be fine. I wish I could say the same
for Cordelia."

The pretty girl's jaw hardened, and her chin came up, body
straightening ever so slightly as she clipped back in what he suspected
was a deliberately sugar coated drawl, "Jean is the best doctor I've
ever known. You're lucky you got her."

"I don't feel very lucky."

She pursed her lips, sighing as she looked away.

There was a beat, and finally he just shrugged. "Okay, look. I don't
want to take things out on you. I appreciate what you've done, I do.
But right now-"

"You're fucked, I know." At the use of the coarse word, Angel felt a
bit surprised, taking a closer look at the younger team member. The
body was small, but there was a hidden strength behind it, and her face
was interesting, almost as if she was lost in thought every second of
the day, as if there was so much going on behind those doe eyes that
every word that was edged out had a double meaning.

It was interesting... eyes of an old soul trapped in the body of a
young woman.

Angelus would have loved her.

Already he felt the demon within pricking with interest.

And there was a reason Cordelia's vision had pinpointed her so

Shit. The vision.

Cordelia would kick his ass if he came out of this and hadn't done
anything about her vision.

That was the reason for all this, wasn't it?

That Magneto guy... and Rogue... dying.

Angel just mutely nodded, looking away. "Would I be able to speak to
the professor?"

Rogue just nodded, heading toward the door with the graceful ease he
had marveled at before.

"Come on. He's in his study."


It was easier to walk with the drop dead gorgeous vampire, because then
she wasn't alone.

Then Rogue could concentrate on Cordelia, because it was obvious that
he thought of little else and such focused concentration aided her in
thinking about nothing but her too -

Because dammit with all the shit goin' down that was really the only
safe place TO think.

Her eyes flickered to the man clad in black beside her, with the
haunted face and hidden strength, and once again her mind was filled
with questions.

Fifteen hours with Cordelia Chase and Rogue had learned next to
nothing, except for the fact that Angel was a vampire, Cordelia was
most likely very close to him, a lover maybe, and that he and their
little band of renegades 'helped' people.

And of course, that she was next on the list.

The thought was almost amusing if it hadn't been so damn scary.

Her palms were sweating under the gloves and Rogue licked her lips,
ignoring it, like she had learned to ignore it all these years.

Gloves, no matter how soft or fine... were damn hot.

And the inventor of the gloves rested happily in his grave.

She smelled Logan before they turned the corner, and dammit - her
fucking heart did that flip-flop thing and she didn't need it right

Angel must have sensed or smelled something because he looked at her,
slowing his walk, gazing at her curiously.

She ignored him, eyes focused only on the Wolverine as he turned the
corner, body tense and hands clenched and that only meant one thing.

She knew that look, she had seen it on him on many missions.

He was a hunter looking for his prey.

Oh this was good. Just fine. Good old fashioned face-off with her best

Just... fucking.... peachy.

"Rogue?" Rogue was immediately torn from the feral eyes to look into
the dark abyss that was the vampire's orbs.


Oh thank God. Distraction. Distraction was good.

"Uh... in here." She grabbed him by the elbow, and ignoring the look of
surprise at the amount of strength she used, she flung open the door
and pushed him inside.

She was about to follow him in when she felt an equally strong hold on
her own elbow yank her back, before another hand slammed the door shut,
keeping her away from the sancity of Charles' room.


She closed her eyes, the warmth of the palm permeating through her
whole body as the voice rasped with need and hurt and suddenly she was
there again - with him - and they were-

"Logan... can't it wait?"


No. Of course it couldn't.

She didn't want to look. She didn't want to feel the twist in her heart
when she turned her gaze on him, she didn't want to feel the pain that
she had been fighting all day to repress, to put away.

God, if this was being in love...

It fucking sucked.

Her hand fisted into a ball and a grim smile slid over her features, as
Rogue, ever the tactile, clever mutant with the killing touch and the
invisible strength, let a fake smile plaster over her face that wreaked
of old memories that were not hers, before turning and facing her
would-be lover.

"What's up, sugar?"


Charles Xavier was an odd man, that Angel had figured out immediately.
There was wisdom in those older features, a hidden peace and belief in
the world that Angel still marveled at. The man permeated power - he
seemed to have all the answers and Angel knew he was just as lost as
they were. That kind of leadership drained.

Giles would have liked to know him.

He knew that Charles sensed him, but the bald, handsome professor did
nothing that signaled he knew Angel had just been shoved into his room
by a little woman with a hell of a grip.

His eyes were closed, palms cupped together as he leaned forward,
breathing in and out, almost as if in deep meditation.

Angel paused, unsure of what to do or say, moving about awkwardly
before finally settling on standing next to a dark leather chair.

Charles let out a breath, and his eyes opened. They were curiously

"Forgive me, Angel. Perhaps you'd like a cup of water?"

Angel mutely shook his head, shifting uncomfortably. He was hungry, but
not for water.

Charles looked at him for a second, and then nodded, reaching over the
desk and punching a button. "Kitty, would you please see if we could
rustle up some blood for our vampire friend?" Angel blinked when
Charles looked up and politely asked, "I assume any blood will do?"

"Uh... Pig's blood is fine."

"Pig's blood preferably."

The link was silent, before he heard a young woman respond with an
utterly confused, "Okay. We might have some human in the med bay. Is
that cool?"

Human blood.

Angel swallowed, feeling the urge in him rise, the salivation dripping
from the fangs as the low growl slid from his body without

"I think that will be fine." His hand left the button and Charles
smiled pleasantly. "We don't normally stock blood, with the exceptions
for transfusions, you'll have to forgive us."

Human blood. Shit.

Angel sank into the chair. "I... I was hoping to talk to you about-"
The voice was almost a rasp, but to his credit, Charles only listened
without nary an expression. "You were busy. Did I disturb you?"

"No. I was merely... brooding. Perhaps it was a blessing that you
pulled me out of it. Solitary confinement is not good for humanity. We
need the companionship to survive." His blue eyes bore into Angel's and
again Angel felt the shudder that went through him as the man seemed to
look past his eyes, deeper, into his very soul.

"Do you always have this effect on people?"

"You'd be surprised." Charles managed a smile before wheeling around
the desk to meet him. "You're concerned about many things."

"Yes. But I'm here to talk about Rogue."

"Your friend had a vision of her in trouble."


Charles brought his fingertips together, lost in thought. "Perhaps when
your friend awakens, she will allow me to see it for myself."

When. He liked that. When Cordelia awakened. Not if. When.

There was no option... there was no if.

Cordelia was going to be just fine.

His muscles clenched and his grip tightened on the seat.

"She better be okay, Mr. Xavier."

"Call me Charles, and I know you're worried, Angel. I trust Jean
wholeheartedly. You should too."

"I don't trust a lot of people."

"Based on experience, neither do we. Trust is a fickle thing, so I've
learned." A shadow flickered over Charles' face, before he leaned back.
"Right now we must use that trust and bring it together, to save Rogue
and Cordelia from a very real threat."

"Magneto," Angel rasped.

"Yes. Magneto."


Shit. She was doing it again. She was pulling that shit with HIM.

Logan felt the jolt inside of him, the stab of pain that told him he
knew Rogue too well, way too well... because he knew exactly what she
was doing, she did it with every guy she had ever blown off.

"Don't start that shit with me, Rogue."

The fake 'sass' smile faltered at the grim voice, and once more, the
unsure, insecure face that was so reminiscent of the child that had
long been left behind floated back in it's place.

The voice had lost the deliberate 'Rogue' drawl and she almost shrank
from his touch as she whispered, pleaded, "Logan please. We can't do
this now."

"I think we should."

"I know we shouldn't."

His eyes bore into hers, and he knew she could push him away if she
wanted to, her and that damned invincible strength of hers. She was
well on her way to being able to kick his ass, but she stayed, in
between his hands that were plastered to each side of the wall beside

It was almost as if her mind wasn't quite connecting with her body.

Her body... He closed his eyes and inhaled, feeling the rumble start in
his chest and then up to his throat as he leaned forward, nuzzling the
crook of her neck, taking in the scent of desire, of want and need and
something deeper -

Only to be replaced with fear.

His eyes shot open when she planted her hands on his chest and pushed
him back. "NO," she answered with a heated whisper. "Please, Logan.

"If not now then when?" he answered, the feral tinge that accompanied
it making his voice hoarse, and so damn angry.

"Never." Her little gloved hands had tangled in the flannel of his
shirt, her eyes were wide and soft and bright and then they turned hard
and angry when his heart lurched at the one word.

"What the hell do you mean?"

"That night doesn't exist. Not now, not ever." She swallowed and
suddenly the softness was back, and she was the little girl again, as
the palms slid up to his cheek and the soft leather gently caressed the
whiskers. "Logan please. This can't change. So many things fucking
change but YOU... you never change and I love you that way. I NEED you
that way. Please... you're the only thing I can count on and if-"

The voice broke and his heart melted and suddenly the anger was gone,
as his arms slipped about her, and he held her close, feeling her heart
thumping against him as she whimpered, wrapping her arms around him,
burying her face in his neck and just holding on for dear life.

Fuck. This was how she wanted him. This was how she needed him.

He closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against the silky curtain of
her hair, as her body trembled and her strength made him catch his
breath and again appreciate the metal in his ribs.

"It's all right, Rogue," he whispered, feeling the warmth in his arms,
every tremble and shudder wracked against his body. "It's okay. You got
me that way."

Her voice was wracked with sobs and muffled as she whimpered, "I'm

"Hey- don't. It's okay." His fingers gently pulled the bangs from his
face, always carefully avoiding any skin as he looked into her face,
watching as the tear-streaked face looked at him imploringly. Shit. He
was the only one who saw her this way... he was the only one that she
came to... the only one she trusted enough to-

And he almost threw it away for sex.

FUCK. He was a bastard.

"I was scared," he finally managed, voice gruff with emotion. "I was
scared that I almost lost my best friend and I over reacted. I'm

Her eyes closed and he watched as the tear trickled over her chin.

Carefully he used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe it off.

"It's okay, Marie," he said, forcing a smile as he gave her another
embrace, letting her forehead fall against his shoulder, keeping her
close. "Nothing's gonna change now."

The words were muffled, but he heard them. They damn near broke his

"You promise."

A grim smile floated on his face and the Wolverine bit back the retort
that it had already changed... it had changed a long time ago.

"Yeah. Yeah I promise."


"This thing with Magneto. Wesley and Storm have been all over it and
they can't find anything. We don't know what he wants or what he's

Angel leaned forward, watching as Charles tapped his fingers absently
against the desktop.

"It's not the what. It's the how, the why... and the where and when.
Magneto is not exactly vocal about his plans. He's amazingly narrow-
minded when it comes to them. He plans to use the same plan that almost
killed Rogue and myself before..." Angel could hear the hitch in the
voice, would not have caught it had he not had the sensitive hearing
that he had been blessed... or cursed... with, as a vampire.

It was as if Charles was sad.

"I know what he plans to do. Erik is a very motivated when it comes to
his plans. He sees them through. For a long time his dedication
inspired me."

Angel paused, looking up. "You know him."

Charles would only allow a slight shrug. "We were great friends once.
He gave me the idea for the school we are in now."

Angel furrowed his eyebrows, leaning forward. "You know what he's
capable of?"

"Magneto is a complicated fellow," Xavier said after a beat. "When I
met him... there was a fervor inside of him... I thought I understood
him completely." There was a grim smile. "Little did I know that even
if you can read a person's thoughts you never know their soul. Perhaps
if I had gotten to him earlier... been able to reach him."

Angel cocked an eyebrow, swallowing as a flicker of grief passed over
the old man's face.

"Erik and I spent quite a bit of time together," he began finally, a
small smile on his face as he shrugged slightly. "Eventually our lives
took us in different directions. I was never prepared to understand how
different, until the incident with Rogue and Logan."

Angel swallowed, eyes flashing of Darla, Drusilla, Spike, Penn, before
resting back on Charles. "You feel responsible."

Charles smiled slightly and shook his head. "In the end we are all
responsible for our paths, Angel. It is our choice, after all.
Sometimes the lines get blurred and the choices are difficult... that
is where the pain lies."

Angel knew the answer only too well.

"Nothing matters but what we do."

Charles nodded and smiled. "Yes."

~*~ Caritas was, by far, one of the weirdest damn places he had ever
been in, and shit, he had been through some crazy ass stuff.

Gunn sighed, pausing in the doorway as he led Fred in, keeping his grip
on her hand firm as they weaved through the crowd, watching as the
demons, humans, and something in the corner that he so didn't want to
identify as they made their way to the green skinned Pylean who was
bobbing his head to the beat of a song as a particularly ugly pasty
faced thing warbled to the tune of "Careless Whispers."

Gunn kept his hand clamped on Fred's shoulder, despite her glare and
the knowledge that she was going to get him for it later.

Hell, he knew he pulled the white knight on her a little too much, but
someone had to. No matter what Fred said, she was fragile, and he had
seen enough of fragile souls getting their hearts beaten and battered
to let it happen to her.

Lorne, also known as the Host, acknowledged his friend with a drink
tipped in their direction and a smile that was half pain and half duty.

"Sometimes this gig is bordering on painful," he said, eyes locked on
the demon singing his heart out. "Give me a minute to sort this guy out
and I'll get to you. Life hasn't exactly been a dream for you, has it?"

Gunn just took a breath and then reached for Fred's hand again, weaving
her toward the ball, where he made sure she was firmly settled before
leaning beside her.

She was quiet, and that was odd. Fred liked to talk, mostly because she
hated silence, because silence equated being alone and being alone
equated with Pylea.

Girl had issues, that he had to admit.

But damn if she hadn't dealt with them better than anyone he had seen.

Her slender hands were still gripped in his palm, and when she
squeezed, he found his focus directed at her yet again.

"Hey. You okay?"

"No," she answered, eyes flitting closed and opening a moist brown.
"What if she's not alright, Gunn? What if Cordelia comes back and she's
not all right?"

"Hey." Crap. She was scared. She was really scared. He hated Fred
scared. The lump in his throat got bigger and gently he leaned forward,
taking the glasses from her eyes so he could look at her, make her
focus on him completely. "It's gonna be all right. It's always all
right, isn't it?"

"I couldn't lose any of you, Gunn," she admitted finally, breathing
out, keeping her gaze locked on him. "Not Wesley, not Cordelia, not
Angel... not you."

Amazing what dangerous situations did... bringing people closer and all
that. It had taken Angel dumping them on their ass those years back for
Gunn to really appreciate Cor and Wes, and it took Cordelia on her
deathbed for him to appreciate Fred.

"Hey. Check this out, Fred," he said, sliding his arm around her and
gently fitting her into his side. "You're not gonna lose any of us.
We're here for you. We need you too."

There it was again, that muffled half giggle that Cordelia had a hard
time standing and that he just thought was cute.

"I highly doubt that possibility."

"Oh, he's right, sugar lips," came in a cheery voice from behind them.

Gunn looked up to find Lorne smiling a half grin from over the top of
his drink. "If you guys are gonna defeat the big bad, you're going to
need all the help you can get. Oh, and please don't misunderstand,"
Lorne added, reaching over to pluck a peanut from the bowl behind them.
"I know you've dealt with end of the world shindigs before but this
really takes the cake."

Gunn's brow furrowed and he sucked in his breath when Lorne finally
ended with, "When those bad mutants and demons get together -this world
is in for a killing."


He had no idea why the Storm Goddess had made it her personal goal to
befriend him, but Wesley Wyndham Price was not complaining.

Storm, or rather, Ororo as they also called her, was someone he had
found he liked very much. Her perception was rather disconcerting, but
the softness of her nature was refreshing. Life was full of abrasive
characters, and those who chose to approach it with a subtle shift were
those to be admired.

Now, she sat beside him on the great stone wall that surrounded the
school, quiet, not speaking, just being, and Wesley was thankful for

His mind was full of many things, and the waiting was the hardest part.
Waiting for them to come out and tell them that Cordelia was all
right... that she had survived the mutation intact... that she was
still... Cordelia.

"You're scared." He blinked, surprised, before turning and regarding
her, shrugging as he adjusted his glasses, clearing his throat.

"I am, yes."

"Me too."


She took a breath, looking over the night sky, eyes focusing on some
unseen constellation as she replied, "I do not like not knowing."

"Something we both have in common."

She seemed distracted, giving him a flitting smile before looking back
up at the stars. "How did you come to know Angel?"

"I was assigned to ... mutual friends," he finally said. "I was fired
from a job and was looking for a place to belong to. Angel and Cordelia
gave me that friendship, that acceptance."

A long rush of air fled from her body, and she nodded, her smile
indicating she understood. "I can appreciate that. Acceptance is
something we strive for."

"You mean as mutants."

"I mean as people, but mutants especially, yes."

He nodded, eyes flicking toward the stairs of the large mansion she
inhabited before wondering out loud, "And your red-eyed Cajun,
shouldn't he be looking for you by now?"

She froze ever so slightly, he could feel her shift a bit closer and
there was a beautiful, lilting laugh that came from her as her
shoulders shook in slight mirth.

"He has gotten rather protective lately, hasn't he?"

"I believe he thinks he has every right."

She smiled, nodding slightly before turning, looking into his eyes. "He
may think he does, but he does not. Not yet."

There was a curious thump in Wesley's heart as he swallowed suddenly,
leaning forward. "Exactly why does he not?"

"Perhaps because he spent so long making up his mind about me that I
got tired of waiting. A women does not like to wait for love."

"I wouldn't say that," Wesley countered. "Cordelia seems content enough
with it."

"You mean her and Angel?"

"Their friendship, yes."

"Is that what they are?" There was genuine curiosity in the voice as
she tipped her head at him, eyes focused on his face, waiting for his

"As friendly as Logan and Rogue are."

She chuckled. "You noticed that."

"I notice a lot of things," He answered with a smile, thankful for the
joking tone. "A watcher sees all."

"A Watcher?" she raised an eyebrow. "You're a seer too then?"

"Oh, no." Wesley shook his head. "A Watcher. Well... a former
watcher... actually."

"What's the difference between a watcher and a seer?"

Crap. He shouldn't have brought it up. How on earth did one explain the
phenomenon and paranoia and the supernatural demons that came with
Slayers and Watchers and what they did without completely throwing
someone off? Storm was relatively open minded but they had been liberal

Unfortunately one look into those dark eyes and he didn't seem to mind
trying to put those thoughts into words. This was dangerous. Very

No good falling for a woman who belonged to another man, even if she
seemed not to notice or believe it.

"A seer gets visions and the watcher..."

"Watches while I writhe in pain," a voice supplied helpfully.

Wesley gasped, turning and almost stumbling off the wall had it not
been for Storm's strong hold.

"Good Lord, Cordelia!"

Standing directly behind him, legs encased in black leather pants,
black boots, and dressed in a black tight top that had an 'X'
emblazoned on the shoulder, was Cordelia Chase.

~ Chapter Seven ~

"I've got visions coming out my ears - and maybe a little blood too -
but that doesn't make me a princess. That makes me... kinda weird." ~
Cordelia, There's No Place like Plz Grb. Angel: The Series


"You're quiet."

"I'm always quiet."


Gunn just shrugged, acknowledging the strange behavior with a nod
before turning his focus back on the road.

Thoughts, mixed emotions and a hammering heart were distraction enough,
the last thing he needed was the worry in Fred's glistening eyes to
seep through his own soul. He had lived a lifetime without rest,
without regard for himself and it seemed it would always be that way -
if Lorne had told the truth.

And damn if the bastard didn't always tell the truth.

He took in a breath, thankful that Fred had elected to stay silent as
he silently processed all that he had been told.

"I still can't believe you made me sing."

The grumble was muttered with an almost childish pout, and it brought
an involuntary smile to his lips.

"Better you than me, Fred."

"You could have at least let me pick the song."

He had had to drag Fred up to the stage, and didn't tell her that Lorne
had let him know it was HER that had to sing, because whatever the hell
was going down was going to involve her a bit more explicitly than it
involved him.

"Support and muscle," Lorne said, winking. "Like Rambo, in a Denzel
sorta way."

And the little sparrow had a surprisingly sweet song, once she got
passed the aching fear and complete trembling.

Better than any of their group, anyway. People didn't noticeably
cringe, and when her voice lilted in that soft movement, it had gone
right through him, sending some heat and ache that had before only had
been summoned by the lovely princess Cordelia, who was a strictly 'look
but don't touch unless you wanna get gutted by a vampire' sorta girl.

Winnifred also fell under the protective 'Angel' umbrella, but in a
little sister 'protect at all costs' sorta way, and Gunn could deal
with that.

Course all these thoughts were damn confusing, and thrown completely
out the window with Lorne's words of doom and despair.

"Chaos on the First Night, sugar lips. Get your little Fang Gang back
over here, cause it's not happening over on the east side snow border.
And bring the little X's while you're at it. They've got an old friend
who's waiting to follow through on a promise."

And he thought Cordelia's visions were vague and foreboding.

"What? You had a problem with Janet Jackson?"

"I had a problem with the lyrics. They were highly suggestive."

He stifled another grin. Yeah, he guessed the lyrical rendition of 'If'
was a little suggestive, but damn did she look cute all flustered doing

"Don't think I can't see you smiling."

"What, you're pissed at me now?"

Fred shifted, crossing her legs and looking toward him, the glasses
glinting as they passed another streetlight. "Perhaps if you told me
what Lorne told you-"

"For my ears only, Fred," he cut in shortly, the smile immediately
sliding off. "You heard all that you needed to hear."

"I sung, I should have heard it."

"Fred, drop it."

The words were clipped, but the glare she gave him told him she wasn't
going to give up anytime soon. Plucky little girl.

He shook his head, clamping his jaw as he processed what Lorne had told
him while Fred was singing.

"Protector, Pretty Boy. You guard her. It's not that hard a concept."

Gunn had only narrowed his eyes. "She already has me taking care of

"No. Just her. In a bodyguard kinda way. I think we could do with
another Whitney Houston soundtrack, don't you?"

Again, Gunn jerked his gaze back to the singing girl on the stage.

"So I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life protecting her?"

"And the light blinks on. Glad it got through that little bald head of
yours, my friend. Cordelia has her champions. That Fred there? She's
got a destiny that is beyond what we can even comprehend. She needs a
champion - tag. You're it."

"You're all quiet again."

He huffed, turned to glare at her when the car jerked and the body came
out of nowhere and flew against the windshield with a resounding crack.

Fred had jumped and he had swerved, feeling the truck slam into the
side, his body lurched and immediately he unclipped the seatbelt,
blinding reaching for Fred in the near total darkness.

"Fred are you-"

Vampires. Large and big and a gang of them. One on the truck, two on
either side.

He sucked in his breath, and the anger slid through him, the hate that
came so easily as he reached into the back seat and grabbed the stakes
and an ax.

"Stay here," he breathed.

"I'm not letting you- "


She looked angry, but her forehead was bleeding slightly and the
glasses looked more than a little broken and he wasted a precious
second to wipe at the blood, run his fingers along the wire frame of
the dangling eyewear, pulling it off gently, before biting his lower
lip and moving to the side.

"I don't need a protector, Gunn."

He had paused again, and suddenly he turned and his body pressed
against hers and his lips were on hers, plundering her mouth in a hot,
desperate kiss.

Her body was trembling and she was gasping for breath when he moved his
lips away. His eyes searched hers and the intensity behind them made
him smile as he traced a gentle finger down her face.


With that, he let her go, and kicked at the door, sending one of the
vampires flying backwards.


If everything wasn't so chaotic and they weren't on such a crucial time
table, Cordelia would have actually enjoyed the look of utter panic and
then approval on Wesley's face.

As it was, she didn't even had time to thank Storm for the clothes
before the Englishman launched over the wall and pulled her into a
furious hug.

God, he had been really scared. He had really thought – oh God had bad
DID she look before?

He was trembling, and Cordelia felt her eyes water at the sheer emotion
in Wesley's form, and to hide the beating of her own heart, she
shrugged helplessly at Storm, who was nodding and looking a bit misty
eyed herself – though that could have explained the sudden thunder they
were having.

"Wesley – Uh… can't breathe – " she patted his back awkwardly,
swallowing as she continued to be suffocated by an armful of shaking
and blubbering Wesley. "Uh… Wesley? I love you but – personal bubble!
PERSONAL BUBBLE!" She pushed him back, running her hands through her
hair in an attempt to regain her appearance, only to be plowed into by
him again. "AUGH! HEY! What's with the touchy gropey!"

He pulled back, hands cradling her face with genuine warmth in his
eyes. "You're alive!"

"Yeah. So? Here I am in all my mutant glory. Storm, right?" she said,
nodding over her head to the Weather Goddess who was watching with an
incredibly amused expression on her face.

"It's very nice to meet you."

"Likewise," Cordelia said. "And thanks for the clothes. Perfect fit."

"They look good on you."

Wesley pulled her to him YET AGAIN, and patient as Cordelia liked to
think she was, that was quite enough. "Wesley, I appreciate the
sentiment but if you get tears on my brand new X-y clothes I'm gonna
kick your ass."

Immediately he leaned back, but he was still smiling widely. "How are
you- Are you – Has Angel-"

"Fine, I'm fine, and No. I saw you on my way to the study and wanted to
say hi. And I really WISH I could revel in the whole `Cordy is alive
and let's worship her' emotional bonding, but … vision. Couldn't tell
you before what with all the mind numbing pain."

Wesley took a breath, squeezing his friend's elbow. "Vision. Right.

Cordelia smiled, and leaned forward, planting a kiss on his cheek. "I'm
glad I'm alive, too."


Logan had to admit something, no matter how much he claimed to hate
Scott or think he was a tight ass son of a bitch, the bastard got
things done.

Logan saw stereotypes, and when he first encountered Scott, he had to
admit he saw nothing but a stick up the ass leader with as much common
sense as a barmaid.

Now, a few years later, Logan owed the guy his life, on more than one
occasion, and had come to depend on him as a teammate, and
occasionally, when they weren't playing the roles they were supposed to
play as beastie and team leader, as friends. He felt he understood
Scott Summers – and the guy needed to learn how to relax.

The guy never took a rest, and Logan wondered if he even knew what the
term `recreation' meant, because whenever he saw him, he was always
thinking of all the different things that needed to be done and never
about the present – about now.

Logan shook his head, looking down at the beer he had just emptied and
reached for another one out of the cooler.


Scott looked up from his books, the glare easily discernible despite
the lenses covering his eyes.

"Logan, can you not call me that?"

Logan smirked, and tossed the bottle across the room, nodding when
Scott caught it immediately.


Scott fingered the bottle, taking in a deep breath. "I shouldn't," he
said, more to convince himself than Logan.

Wolverine just rolled his eyes, shifting as he grabbed himself another
bottle. "Shit, Scott, I'm not telling you get piss ass drunk, but
relax. Jean isn't gonna be too happy when she comes out of that surgery
seeing you all haggard and crap."

"Shit, Logan, since when did you start making sense?" Rogue smiled from
the doorway, and Logan froze and there it was again –

The hitched in breath, the tensing of his muscles and the twist in the
ever-hardening knot of his stomach that told him this wasn't going to

Just friends his ass.

Rogue just gave him a smile, acting just like she would act any other
day, before leaning over and plucking off the bottle cap of Scott's
beer. "Fuzzy's right, sugar."

In the pause that followed, Logan narrowed his eyes, watching with
fingers clenched exactly how the hell they were supposed to handle this
whole `last night never happened' when they both know it fucking did.

If Rogue had meant what she said about wanting things to be just like
they were, she would have made a bee-line to his sofa and curled
herself up under the crook of his arm.

Instead, he heard the uneven breath of hesitation, before she smiled
back at Scott, and then turned, curling up in one of the bigger
armchairs in the lounge, never once looking into his eyes.

He fought against the growl, knew it would give him away, and instead
he swallowed, clenched the bottle harder, and tried to drown himself in

So he promised.

She lied.

He blew out his breath, launched out of the chair, aware her eyes were
on him, and thankful when Jean Grey stepped into the room.

Rogue immediately stood, Scott slammed the bottle down on the chair and
all eyes were on Jean.


She looked tired, her eyes were tired and there were bags under her
beautiful eyes. When she came into the room, immediately she sought out
her fiancée and with a sigh, sank down on the couch beside him, curling
his arm around her and leaning on his shoulder.

She looked exhausted.

But her eyes were shining brilliantly and Logan knew that Jeannie was
walking on freaking air.

"Hey guys," she said with a sigh, hand reaching up to massage at her

"Take it it went well?"

"Oh, God, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," she
said, her voice soft, barely a rasp. "But she's alive."

"She's alive?" Rogue seemed above relieved, slumping back into the seat
and catching his eyes and smiling.

"Completely mutated, and alive." Jean leaned forward, her shoulders
shuddered slightly and she looked up, her eyes bright and so very
radiant. "We did it. Hank and I did it." Scott smiled, leaning forward,
sliding a warm hand down her back and back up, massaging lightly.

"Can we see her?" Rogue asked, crossing her legs and leaning forward.

"Sure. She's…. " Jean sat up, and immediately looked toward the door.
"Coming right now."

Huh. So it was time to meet the all famed Seer.

Logan wasn't sure what to expect when the woman walked through the
door, but he sure as hell wasn't expecting what he got in the black

Before, he had only seen glimpses of the girl, first in the night that
had restricted his view and then lying in the medical ward, in pain and
definitely not at her best.

Now, he understood why the vampire and the English librarian looking
guy had been so hung up on her.

Cordelia Chase was fucking hot.

The body was long and slender, voluptuous curves accentuated by the
black clothes given to her by Jean. The hair was short, accented with
blonde highlights that did something to her eyes, made them sparkle,
set off by a bronze colored skin that was even, making her the oxymoron
of a California girl with just that little bit of class that gave her
that something extra. Jean had it in spades. Rogue had a different
sort, and Storm's was it's own godly type. But Jean and Cordelia had
the exact same move, grace, walk.


What was he overheard that Wes guy telling Storm? Cordelia was a
princess or some shit like that?

He pursed his lips, looking over to Rogue who greeted Cordelia with a
hint of a smile on her face, all the affection she usually allowed.

Cordelia Chase gave Rogue a smile, but there was something in her eyes
that, upon sniffing, matched fear. Cordelia was scared. Scared

"Hey guys." She remained standing, but took the beer that Scott had
taken but never drunk, and took a sip herself. "Jean, shouldn't you be
napping or something?"


"Yeah. Later."

Logan cocked an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes, and almost as if she had
felt him, she turned, regarding him.

He had come to notice that most women who first laid eyes on him had
two different reactions: blatant fear or immediate curiosity.

Cordelia Chase regarded him, and it was clear she was experiencing the
later. Her eyes bore into his and she paused, and she continued to
silently process everything she was seeing.

"Who's Lumber Jack Dan over here?"

Rogue raised an eyebrow and Storm came forward, moving past Wesley.
"You do remember Logan, don't you?"

Cordelia's eyes never left his and he only smirked, looking right back,
knowing Rogue was watching and so angry he didn't care. Let her check
him out. He was just as good at checking right back.

But the girl didn't back down. Her eyes were on his and they were damn
pretty eyes, and in the end it was Rogue who stepped up and broke their
line of sight by turning her back on him and talking to Cordelia that
ended the staring contest.

"How are you feeling?"

Cordelia looked over her shoulder to him again, but she just shook her
head slightly and then turned to Rogue. "We have to talk. Now. The
vision. Was Freaky."


Rogue's eyes were dark, troubled, more troubled than before, and
Cordelia felt her mind flash yet again. Her eyes fluttered and the pain
was back and she closed her eyes, taking a breath, and letting it ride
through her.

"Are you okay? Cordelia?"

"I'm fine," she whispered. "The pain... it's... just a flash." Not
nearly as painful and God... she could almost stand it.

Mutation was a scary thing, when she allowed herself to think about it.
The Truth was, Cordelia Chase wasn't sure exactly what the mutation had
done to her. All she knew, was waking up to find a pretty, tired, young
doctor looking over her shoulder along with a huge beast with fur who
spoke with better grammar than Wesley.

And she didn't care. She was alive, she was sane, visions still there.

Mission accomplished. She'd worry about being a freak later.

She swallowed down the nausea and then turned to Rogue, hand on the
smaller girl's covered shoulder before beginning. "You remember that
vision I had?"

"The one you had while we flew?"


"What did you see, Cordelia?" Wesley asked, immediately at her side.

"Where's Angel?" She asked, looking around.

"In the study with Charles."


Logan snorted, amused despite himself. "Yeah. Wheels."

Cordelia's eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. He crossed his right
back, daring her to comment.

She didn't. She'd worry about hairy freak later.

The last thing she needed was to tell Rogue that her boyfriend would be
the one responsible for her death.

And that he would kill himself when he realized what he did.

And that she would lead the parade to the apocalypse.

Or that the demon Angelus would take over her best friend.

All that information was on a need-to-know basis.

And Angel needed to know. NOW.

"Let's go get him."


The phone rang, interrupting Angel's contemplation, and Charles just
smiled, moving about the chess pieces, while Angel reached for his cup
of mug, pausing to savor the scent before letting what little there was
left slide over his tongue, down his throat, the bitter, tangy liquid
filling him as nothing else did.

God. Some things never felt better than human blood... life blood...
the soul of something... seeping through him.

He closed his eyes, feeling an unconscious sigh as it seeped through
him, jerking his body as the demon growled in appreciation.

Human blood.

"Angel?" Angel opened his eyes, felt his fingers jump to his face and
immediately looked away in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry," He managed to growl through the fanged lips, hiding the
demonic face from the professor.

"It's quite all right, Angel. The phone. It's for you. Some one named
Charles Gunn."

There was a dizziness, a buzz and he blinked, shaking it away, trying
to remember how to contain the sensation that came only with the
consumption of human blood.

Human Blood.

He reached blindly for the phone, shoving it against his ear, not
wanting to see the Professor's face as his mind reached to control the
demon that had managed to slip out.


"Angel, man. There's shit going down here. You gotta come back. NOW."

Crap. Angel bit into his lip, holding it down as he managed to eek out,
"What happened?"

"Vampires. And other stuff. I mean it's WIERD. I talked to some of my
boys and - Angel - Lorne said you had to get your ass back here NOW.
And to bring those X's out too. It's the end of the world."


"The end of the world as we know it," came a voice from the doorway.

His entire body stilled at the familiar tone. Angel almost dropped the
phone when his face jerked toward the doorway.


She leaned against the door, offering him a sad, grim smile. "And I
feel fine."

He could only stare in shock, not standing, not moving, his entire body
and mind just focused on the woman in the doorway.


Oh God. She was okay. She was safe. She was okay and safe and standing
here and she was okay and oh God she almost died and-


She came forward, and his gaze burned into her, as she kneeled in front
of him and plucked the phone from his lifeless fingers, taking them in
hers and massaging them lightly as she picked up the conversation.

"Angel's a little cryptic now," she said, ignoring him as the vampire
slid fingers through her hair, his face one of utter amazement. "Uh...
hold on Gunn... Angel what are you ON?"

"You're alive."

"Uh... Can I call you back?" She listened, her eyes focused on Angel
and then flipping back to some people behind him.

He didn't care. She was here and alive and not dead and there was
ringing in his eyes and God his heart was ready to burst and he could
have SWORN it was going to beat any second now because SHE WAS ALIVE.

"We're on our way." She gave the phone to Charles, and again Angel's
hands began to roam over her, on her. "Uh..." her hand picked up the
empty mug. "Is this human blood?"



"Don't vampires drink human blood?" asked Rogue from the back.

"Uh... bad ones do. Angel hasn't had any in a while and it's made him a
little... vampirey." Cordelia's hand cradled his face and his eyes
glowed as he gazed at her, covering her hands with his own and

"You're alive."

Her eyes met his and for a moment she just stared, and her eyes closed
and her heart skipped a beat - he heard it- before she stood, and his
hands were burning on her waist and she said something to everyone
about leaving and getting ready to pack and all he saw was her until
the blood rushing through him and in him and around him died down and
suddenly it was just him and her.


She took a breath, fingers running over the features of his face as she
smiled, a little shakily. "Hey. You with me now?"

He swallowed. She was here. She was alive. She wasn't crazy, and the
only thing different about her was her ensemble.

With a strangled moan he pulled her to him and held her close, eyes
stinging with tears as she let him hold her, just for a second, before
pulling away, taking a step back.

Oh, God, Cordy, don't do that... don't pull away when I need to feel

"Angel. You need to listen. The vision - the one I had yesterday."

"Not the vision. Not right now," he spat immediately, rising, looking
at her as if she was some sort of prey he had been tracking forever.

Her eyes widened, and immediately narrowed. She knew him too well, his
Cordelia. She knew what he wanted.

"Angel -"

His dead heart felt as if it would burst as her eyes met with his, the
smile coming from her lips quickly faltering when she saw the intensity
in her eyes.

"I almost lost you, again," he whispered, voice hampered by emotion,
lust, desire... love. "I could never..."

He could smell her - the increased awareness of him, could hear the
blood racing through her heart, could see the way her feet stepped back

His hands clenched at his side, and he felt caged: knowing what he
wanted, helpless to get it and not giving a damn.

She was still Miss Commonsense, he could practically hear her mind
whirling as she fought this, fought him, fought it for so long.

But perhaps it was the moisture that tinted his dark brown eyes that
made her hesitation disappear, and every reason that they had discussed
those years ago on why they could never be more than friends unless the
impossible happened was thrown out the window when her eyes watered,
and her mouth trembled and she whispered, "Oh, God Angel. I thought I
had lost you too."

He lunged forward, meeting her halfway as he pulled her close, pulled
her head back and met her lips in a desperate, searing kiss.

God - how had he forgotten the sensation of her hot, moist lips against
his colder ones? How the burning, raging desire inside of him exploded
with every movement of her body against his? Every touch of her hands
on his body, the way she felt so obvious, wanting him, needing him-

How had he forgotten how good it felt to kiss her?


Okay... sex with Angel equaled badness. That was her mantra, she had
come to accept it - but GOD.

The second his lips left her own she tried to speak, tried to reason
this out. "Angel," she managed, mind reeling as she tried to do
anything but concentrate on the feel of him against her, the way his
hands spread out on her waist, fingers grabbing and pulling her closer
against a hardness that body melt and soften against his, the aching
heat that was spreading from her groan to her chest to her heart until
she wanted to explode -

The way the only thing that seemed to soothe her was the aching
coolness of his lips, his body, his hands-

And his lips came down and there it was again - the beautiful kiss that
only felt right, only felt REAL, when he gave it to her.

When he loved her.

His lips clung to hers, a low rumbling vibrating from his throat that
seeped into her body, as he jerked her toward him, crushing her against
him, her back slamming against the wall as he slid his hands over her
waist and lifted her up, fitting her hips neatly against his.


She swallowed, almost suffocating as his chest was rock hard against
her, the wall not giving any- but who cared about breathing when Angel
was with her, when Angel was kissing her.

He mumbled something intelligible and her lips parted with a sigh,
taking in a breath as one hand gently slid up under her shirt and
skimmed the side of one breast, face buried in her neck, and there was
sucking and tiny nips with teeth, and suckles.

Her cheek scraped against the rougher stubble of his cheek, and he
hadn't cared about shaving so it burned a little, but it was a good
kind of burning as her mouth pressed against the dark fabric covering
his shoulder, opening and biting down lightly.

He groaned, jerking his hands down and now they spread against her
backside, palming them carefully, pulling in, until her hip was rocking
against his and oh God-

"Angel," it was barely a word, and even her arms and hands rebelled
against her as they buried themselves in the nape of his neck, fanning
out, then closing back in to grope at the silky stands, pushing them
closer, and then, in an admirable sense of control, pulling away.

Her back was pressed flat against the wall, he was inches away, but she
managed to make her grasp hold, her voice weak, but surprisingly firm,
despite her gasping breaths that seemed incredibly contradictory. "We
have to stop," she rasped, eyes locked with his.

"We have to," she said again. His chest was shuddering underneath her
hands, but her forehead gently rested against his and she was putting
so much trust in him, and the humanity that she was linked to - his
humanizing influence - gave him the control. He gulped, nodding,
growling and groaning and shutting his eyes as he felt his body
betraying him, showing her how much he still wanted her.

But he moved away, let her slide to the ground, held her steady as she
reeled slightly from wobbly knees. She swallowed, chest heaving,
closing her eyes and keeping her forehead resting against his as she
stroked him comfortingly, swiftly, down his chest, up his neck,
struggling to keep even a bit of contact as she desperately tried to
get her body, her mind, her feelings, under control.

He groaned, closing his eyes, fingertips gently skimming her elbows,
head rolling up as he growled at the ceiling. "I hate this," she heard
him whisper. "I hate not being able to touch you."

She swallowed down the lump of emotion, letting his arms go around her,
holding him close as she pressed a kiss to her best friend's throat. "I
know," she replied gently. "I hate it too."

But there was no other choice, as they held each other in a quiet
moment of solitude, best friends, who could never be lovers...

Cordelia felt the tears brim beneath her eyelids, but she wiped them
quickly away. At least she still had him in her life.

That was okay for now, wasn't it?

She sighed, keeping her eyes closed as she breathed him in, knowing
when they left this room, it would all be the same as it was before.

It had to be.


"I have my heroes, but no one knows their names They never ask for
recognition, they never wanted fame..." ~ Sons of the Desert - What I
did Right ~*~

They were taking a hell of a lot on faith.

Faith was a tricky thing, and Rogue knew, deep in her heart, that she
had come to terms with losing it a long time ago. She didn't remember
the exact date, or time, or even the exact moment when her faith had
shriveled up and dried away, but she did remember the moment she had
come to realize that there was no faith inside of her.

There was darkness and there was pain. There had been fear, when she
had broken a hand from squeezing too hard, when she had woken up with
her face plastered against the ceiling and had no idea how to get down.
When she had looked into Logan's eyes and seen actual fear.

It hadn't been a big change, but it was there, in her heart, eating

She had borne it admirably, she supposed. She had allowed Scott to talk
to her about what these new mutations did and how they could help her
and how it would help her be a better X-Men as a result. She allowed
Storm to take her up into the sky and teach her about the need for
control, and she had worked until she discovered gravity again and no
longer fell asleep with ropes tied to her hands for fear she would
float up and smack against the wall again.

She had even managed to retain her friendship with Logan. It had been
the hardest, and oddly, the easiest thing to do. He had promised to
never be scared of her, and he held her and whispered he was sorry but
she never forgot the look of fear.

Even now, she saw it.

With the look came doubt for her own future. If Logan feared... then
perhaps it really was over.

Hope, and faith, had died then.

Even now, as she watched Cordelia enter the room on shaky legs, could
smell her flustered and cooling body thanks to Logan's inherited
traits, she had to wonder exactly when it had started to come back.

Because, she knew, there were taking a hell of a lot on faith.

And if that was true... then perhaps it hadn't been so dead after all.

Cordelia caught her eyes, and she only shrugged, walking to a locker
and opening it.

"This is for you."

Cordelia Chase looked, and blinked, and looked again, rubbing at her
eyes, and running tired hands through her hair before shaking her head

"You've got to be kidding."

Rogue only shook her head slightly, reaching to the side and pulling
out a duffel bag.

"Keep it in here until we need it. We won't change for the trip but
just in case it's a good idea to carry it around."

"I'm not one of you."

"You are now."

Cordelia looked tired, but Rogue felt just as exhausted, and when
Cordelia's hazel eyes met her brown ones, Rogue knew she was through

There was simply no time. They had loitered, talked, bonded enough.

"Fine," she finally said, crossing her arms, and shaking her head,
taking the leather suit that had been set aside for her and folding it
into the bag.

Rogue nodded and grabbed her own bag, slinging it over her shoulder and
heading to the doorway, when she suddenly paused. "Is he okay?"

Cordelia's shoulder slumped slightly, but Rogue got a nod out of her.
"For now."

Rogue pursed her lips, and studied the woman, before finally letting
the curiosity get the better of her.

"So what the hell are you two? Friends or Lovers?"

Cordelia stiffened, and the sucking in of the breath, was followed by a
very audible sigh as she grabbed the bag and turned, eyeing Rogue with
such a tired expression.

"Friends," she clipped finally. "Nothing more."

"It didn't look like it."

"I don't give a rat's ass what it looked like," Cordelia snapped, and
then launched forward, moving away from Rogue and past her.

Rogue's eyes narrowed and her hand lurched out, grabbing Cordelia and
making her pause.

"So why does it matter so much?"

Cordelia was trembling, and her body was hot under Rogue's leather
touch. Rogue was silent, watching, waiting, ever the predator, ever the
hunter, inherited by the mastermind, by the beastman, by the woman with
the incredibly strength, all of whom still resided in vestiges of her

They were all silent, watching, and waiting with her.

"Because to love him means death," Cordelia finally said, eyes flashing
as she tossed her short hair and glared into Rogue's eyes. "Happy now?
I sleep with him, he gets a happy, he loses the soul and the world
meets Angelus. Death Incarnate. I'm in love with a demon. So we're
friends. Discussion closed. I had a vision, the world is ending. Let's
save it."

Cordelia shrugged her off and continued on her way to the jet, and
Rogue didn't stop her. Instead she found her hands stealing around her
own body, hugging herself with the immense strength that had taken her
weeks to try and control and get used to.

In the silence that followed, it was Rogue's own form that was
trembling, and the tears that slipped, came from her own eyes.


Cordelia took a breath and walked into the jet, making sure to keep
away from the vampire who sat by himself in the corner.

Her throat ached from emotion, and her body was still not quite
recovered from the trauma and the pain. Her mind felt... open some how,
and feelings that were flitting over her seemed alien and too
tumultuous not to disorientate her slightly.

She shook herself, and finally opted to sink down into the nearest
chair, closing her eyes and holding a hand to her head and taking a
deep breath in.

"Vision Girl. You don't look so good."

Cordelia opened her eyes and the oddest sense of fury and anger and
bitterness and ... love... slid over her and she blinked, turning and
found exactly who she had seated herself next to.


Logan just crossed his arms, and Cordelia took a breath, trying to
control whatever the hell it was that was slipping over her.

"I'm going to ignore you," she muttered under her breath. "Don't take
it personally. I would ignore anyone right now."

That earned her a smile, but she didn't see it.

The vision. She needed to concentrate on talking about the vision.

But the damn emotions-

There was too many.


"- Officials refuse to comment on the extent of the damage done by
looters to the downtown district, but Mayor Hahn has said that if the
rioting continues, the City of Los Angeles will be put under a state of
emergency. Police is urging residents to please, stay in your homes."

The television image grew fuzzy for a moment and Gunn frowned, turning
up the volume as the reporter lost contact, and then she was back,
amidst the site of blazing fires and shouts of anger and shots.

The image cut to a shot of the Police Press Agent, looking concerned
and annoyed and calm at the same time. Cameras flashed off the dome of
his bald forehead as he leaned forward. "The riots over the mutant
rights convention are unneeded. We are all citizens. Again, we ask,
please stay in your homes. Mutants or humans, it doesn't matter. Any
civil unrest WILL be prosecuted."

"Sir! What about the eclipse!"

"Is it true mutants are biting people?"

"Are humans fighting back?"

Gunn closed his eyes and groaned, finally fed up. He switched off the
television, and the monitor winked out, leaving him and his companion
in complete silence, sitting side by side on the couch.

Fred reached over, turning on the lamp, sliding her book in her lap and
casually turning a page - a little too casual, in Gunn's opinion.


"I don't know."

Fred rubbed at her neck, grimacing as she brought her feet up under her
thighs to settle herself more comfortably, wincing again at the crook
of her neck.

"If we're going to stop this we need to figure out what Lorne meant by
First Night. But... I'm not... I wish Wesley was here."

Gunn, who at the moment had been watching the line of her shoulder to
her jawbone, quite graceful, that was, let a swell of irrational
irritation slide over him. "Wesley. Angel. Cordelia. Damn girl, it's
almost as if you'd rather be with anyone here but me."

Her eyes widened slightly and her head jerked to him. "No. It's not
that, Gunn. Wesley is better at the research. Angel - he's my friend.
And Cordelia is my friend and you-"

"I what?"

"Disconcert me." She gave a small shrug and then looked back down at
her pages, her hair tumbling forward with the action. Absently she
pulled the bang back behind her ear. "I'm never sure where to place

A morose smile slid over him and he nodded, answering dryly, "You're
not exactly placeable yourself, girl."



"My name is Fred."

He just sighed, picking up another book and looking through it
absently. There was quiet from Fred's side of the couch, and he took it
as a cue not to talk, letting the awkwardness between them that had
been in residence ever since he had impulsively kissed her die into
companionable silence.

Gunn used the time to think, to try to understand exactly what had
happened. Whatever Lorne meant about First Night, it was starting.
Outside the confines of the hotel was chaos. An eclipse that no one had
seen coming was indeed coming, and it would cover the sun and Gunn had
the sneaking suspicion it would stay there, making this crazy night
seem even longer.

Riots between mutants and humans had started and gotten violent and
bloody, and demons had taken complete advantage, roaming the streets,
masquerading as mutants, and adding to whatever evil they could.


He should have been out there. He should have been at Anne's protecting
his crew and instead he was here, hiding, waiting, with a girl who
barely tolerated him, even if he did 'disconcert' her.

Protector his ass.


He took a breath, and looked again at the crazy Fred, who had taken off
her glasses and was again rubbing at the crook in her neck.


"I need you."

He blinked, and replayed the words, and again they didn't seem to make
sense, the matter-of-fact way she said it, with no breathy romantic
sigh or hands clutched over her heart making him simply stare stupidly.

"I need you," she repeated. "You make me feel safe. You said before -
about me preferring the others... I don't. You make me feel safe. No
one else does that but you. So... there you go." And she gave a half
smile and blushed slightly and pulled on the glasses and turned back to
her books and Fred was herself again.

Gunn could only stare, an odd stirring in his heart making him smile
and the knowledge that the world was ending dimming to slight drum as
he cocked his head and stared at her.

Okay... so maybe there was some merit in this whole protector gig. He
could get used to it, if it got more smiles and blushes like that outta

He paused, considering and finally he scooted over, gently moving her,
ignoring her surprised sound of protest and kneading gently into her

"We're gonna be up all night most likely, waiting for them and trying
to get this thing researched. We need to get that crick out of your
neck." He said it matter-of-factly, with no room for argument. When she
looked into his eyes and he smiled, he knew she understood, because she
smiled back. Her gaze held his and her eyes closed as her head leaned
back against his shoulder.

And he held her, and he liked it.

Because he made her feel safe. Outside, the cries and panic of a city
in chaos continued to come closer, but Gunn felt strangely able -not
fearing, for the first time in a while.


Trouble in paradise.

Wesley watched with dimly concealed curiosity as Storm and Remy argued
heatedly in the corner. The emotion that came off the Goddess in waves
was more than he had ever seen in her, and he found himself oddly
fascinated by it, as Remy grabbed her shoulders and she shrugged him

"She likes you. He hates that. He's not going and pissed." Cordelia
sank into the chair next to him, offering her friend a tired smile
before leaning her head on his shoulder.

"How exactly do you know that?"

"I can... feel it. It's... weird."

His eyes narrowed and he grew concerned at the uneasiness in her voice,
was about to ask her about it when she moved her head from his shoulder
and stared at him.

"The Vision."

"Yes,'" he said immediately.

"It's bad, Wesley," she said finally, her voice a hoarse whisper.


He was fighting within himself for the words to answer her, she knew.
Storm felt her insides tremor and she swallowed and flickered a glance
back to the Englishman who was talking in heated whispers with Cordelia


"Save it, Remy," she spit, moving past him only to be held in place
with a hand on her elbow. Her dark eyes met the fiery red ones with a
defiant shrug of her shoulders and a shake of her head, and the
movement seemed to undo him, because he swallowed and let her go,
licking his lips.

"I handled things badly, mon ami. It was not like ... it was different
with you."

"No Remy it wasn't." Storm hitched in her breath. "You said it meant
nothing and I believed you. I told you that if you valued our
friendship we would keep it what it was... one night. I believed you. I
made myself believe you even when I-"

His hands were back on hers and she swallowed, stepping back,
accidentally knocking her head on the low overhead in the process. "You
told me you loved me, Cherie."

Her cheeks turned into a blush and she swallowed, licking her lips. "I
know what I said, Remy."

"Then why..."

"Because you don't love me, Remy," she snapped finally. "You had one
night of sex and now because you think Wesley is getting a little too
close you want to save your investment." Her eyes blinked and they grew
milky and he saw it, and she cursed herself for the loss of control. "I
thought we were friends."

"We are."

"Then it shouldn't matter."

He gazed at her, and finally the broad shoulders slunk down and he took
a breath, and he stepped back, away from her, watching her the entire
time. "It shouldn't, mon ami. Remy does not want to care. But he does.
There is fear."



"I see Angelus... and I see Rogue with a wound... I see Logan dying...
and I see me... but it doesn't... it doesn't feel like me... and I'm...
spurring him on... like... " Cordelia's hands shook , and Wesley moved
his eyes to Angel, who was watching. He shook his head slightly and
Angel got the message.

He stayed put.

"It's us, Wesley. Us four. Something WE do triggers it. We bring back
Angelus... GOD Wesley. After all this time - all the damn precautions
and all the damn sacrifices if we let him go-"

"Hey," he immediately slid an arm around her, drawing her close.
"Cordelia, look at me. We have quite the impressive track record, don't
we? We'll figure this out and we'll stop it. Just like we always do. I

Cordelia let her breath out and she swallowed, processing the pep talk.
"Then why is there fear in you?"

He froze, his heart hammered as Cordelia looked deep into his eyes.

How the bloody-

"Wesley you're the only one I've told because I don't want Angel to
panic. When the time comes I will tell him. Until then keep your mouth
shut and all that panic and paranoia bottled up. Research something for
me, when we get there... Something... I keep... it's in my head - First
Night. I don't know what that means. But it should mean something."

Scott slid into the chair and he shouted some orders and suddenly the
plane jerked and Storm settled in beside him.

She was quiet, but he noticed Remy was not on the plane, and neither
was Charles Xavier when the jet took off.


Charles Xavier had no idea why he was attempting what for seven years
had never worked. He had no idea why he even felt the inclination to
try, but he could not simply stand by and wait while the younger
members of the team he founded stepped into the virtual unknown.

He knew that someone had to stay with the school, and he knew that as
powerful as he was, controlling minds and telepathy could only take him
so far in battle. Oh yes, he was strong, powerful, and thankful that it
had not corrupted him as it had corrupted others, but what had kept him
sane was the reality check.

It gave him the ability to trust his students. It did not give him the
ability to stop worrying.

He waited, studying the chamber that had always been little to no help,
and was once almost fatal, in his dealings with his old friend, and he
clenched his jaw, giving the Cajun next to him a side long glance.

Remy LeBeau looked angry, and Charles did not blame him. Remy was a man
of action, who did not like to be left behind, and that was exactly
what had happened, at least in Remy's eyes. Charles did not bother to
explain that in a situation where quick thinking and a one man army was
needed, Remy was the best candidate, being lean and strong and a leader
that the younger team members looked up to and saw as their own,
unorthodox and smart.

All Remy saw was Storm very likely involved with someone else,
disrupting his own revelations concerning the wind goddess.

Charles Xavier dismissed it. There were far more important matters at

"Wait out here," he said finally.

The Cajun nodded.

Charles wheeled forward, letting the security system that housed
Cerebro go through its procedure, granting him access once it
ascertained that he indeed, was Charles Xavier.

The door opened and he took a breath, about to go forward when steps
running toward them distracted him, making his head turn to regard
Kitty, who seemed a trifle out of breath, holding out the phone.

"It's for you, Professor."

Charles gave a small frown. "I'm busy Kitty, perhaps you could take a

"I don't think I should, Professor."

"Kitty, Leave 'em be!" Remy said, crossing his arms and leaning against
the wall. "Take a message."

"It's Magneto."

Charles paused, and then looked up to finally see the face of the very
agitated Kitty. Taking a long breath, he waited until the heartbeat
that had swung out of control had calmed somewhat, before leaning
forward and plucking the phone from her waiting fingers.

"This is Charles."

"Old Friend."

The delicate rasp was familiar enough, and Professor X closed his eyes,
meditating on it before opening and answering calmly, "Hello, Erik.
Perfect timing. I was just going to try and pay you a visit."

"I was waiting, Old Friend. I never felt the pull, so I thought I might
speed things up."

Remy was standing upright and Kitty was right next to him, both
watching the conversation intently.

"Why do you persist in trying, Charles? Slowing what is inevitable? You
are hindering your fate, all of your children's fate. Getting them
stuck on a side that will be overcome."

"What makes you say that, Erik?" he asked, his voice almost
conversational. "Because you believe it to be so?"

"It is written in the stars, Charles. In the future. It is

"You never struck me as a superstitious man, Erik."

"And you were never the type to put your children in needless harm.
Pull them back, Charles. You cannot stop the inevitable, and you are
killing them. Give me one to sacrifice many."

It took two deep, long breaths, both in and out, before Charles was
able to give his long lost friend a coherent answer, "Erik if you hurt
any of my students I will dispense with the civilities."

"And do what? Kill me? Then you would be no better."

Charles swallowed, his hands clenching his chair.

There was silence, and Erik decided to fill it, his voice now matter-
of-fact. "The time for pleasantries is over, Charles. We are dealing
with the end, and with forces you had no idea ever existed. I thank you
kindly for your help, Charles, in bringing three crucial elements to
this plan. The inevitable has started Charles, but I'm afraid your part
is ended. I have no need for you, nor your students. As an old friend,
for the memories, I leave you with one warning, keep them out of my
way. The First Night has begun, Charles, as your students shall soon
find out, as they meet their hosts here in wonderful Los Angeles.
Regards, Charles. Have a pleasant evening."

The speech ended with a click, and Charles held the phone to his ear,
hoping he had misheard. "Erik! ERIK!"

He cursed silently, and slammed the phone down, immediately looking up
to Kitty. "Call the jet. Call them back, now. Tell them now to touch
down until we know what we're dealing with."

"But they're almost there-"

"DO IT," he snapped and turned, wheeling into Cerebro, letting the
doors close behind him, shutting his students out of his mind, and out
of the room.


"Are we there yet?"

"Shut up, Logan," Scott snapped from the front.

Logan smirked and leaned his chin on his palm, once again turning eyes
on the young seer that sat beside him. She was very, very still, and
his smirk faded, as his eyes narrowed slightly.

Chick was in bad shape, and no one really seemed to notice but him.

"Hey, Vision Girl. You okay?"

"Why the hell does everyone keep asking me that? Do I look okay?" she
snapped immediately, keeping her eyes closed.

"Fine. You look like shit. Feel better?"

"Tons," she said dryly. One eye opened precariously, and she regarded
him. "You're not as hairy up close. What's with the 'do anyway? Stuck
in the seventies much?"

The smirk faded away completely. One hand almost drifted insecurely to
his hair, but he stilled the urge with a growl, as he gave her one long
once over that had managed to squelch a few bitches before.

She didn't even blink, so he added, "Right. And those streaks are as
natural as the breasts."

"The boobs are real, bub."

She thumped him once in a chest with a finger and then went back to
closing her eyes. "Now shut up. I'm trying to be as still as possible."

Something told him it wasn't something she was very good at.
Immediately she shifted and groaned.

He ignored it, instead looking across the plane where Rogue was seated
next to tall dark and broody, who had his eyes fixed on the chick
seated next to him.

Logan licked his lips slightly, his eyes continuing to watch as his
former best friend, leaned back against her seat, fingers pulling at
the gloves, a sure sign of insecurity, nervous agitation. He continued
to stare, watching as her mouth trembled, and her fingers absently
twirled a white strand of hair.

"What's the ETA?" Jean asked from the front, and Logan harumphed
slightly when Scott answered her patiently, when all she had really
asked was a different version of his question.

"About ten minutes."

The console in front of Storm beeped slightly, and Storm leaned
forward, answering it immediately.

"Storm here."

"'Ro, tell Scott to turn back."

There was panic in the voice that he immediately recognized as Kitty's
and again there was scrambling, as he moved over the barely moving
Cordelia, letting his hand slip on her knee in the process, before
moving behind Ororo to watch Kitty's face.


"Professor Charles said-"


Logan looked up, immediately focusing on Scott, because Scott rarely,
if ever, cursed, at least not in front of the crew.

"What the hell?"

"Back in the seats! NOW!" Scott cried hoarsely, and somewhere behind
him, he heard Cordelia whimper and the jet shook and he very nearly
lost his footing when the damn thing jerked completely.

"SCOTT!" he growled.

"LOGAN SIDDOWN!" Scott yelled. "We got company."


Panic and fear and desperation slid over her and the feelings were so
alien and consuming that Cordelia groaned in protest, covering her ears
with her hands in an effort to keep it away from her.

But it continued to seep through her as the shaking continued and the
aching started and when the vision came she was strapped tightly to her

The myriad of images floated over her, and it was so confusing as she
felt the blood, the haze, watching as Angelus bit into Rogue's neck,
watching as Logan dangled helplessly in the air, watching as Fred
writhed and Wesley cried out in pain and Gunn grew horns-

And in the present, about her, there was shouting and shaking and the
visions stopped and her eyes snapped open and she found herself in yet
another nightmare.

The jet was smoking and the feelings rushed over her as there was a
crash and her body lurched and strong arms encased in denim slipped
about her and hands touched and DAMMIT THERE WAS THE FEELINGS AGAIN-

They consumed her, and she struggled against it, whimpering against the




She was pushed back and her eyes opened dimly to find the cargo bay
door open. The wind was frigid, but through the murkiness of the panic
and fury and fear that paralyzed her body she was able to watch as
Rogue held her own against the winds, as Storm immediately moved to her
side. Rogue grabbed the top of the open doors and swung through, strong
legs connecting with something outside before the wind sucked her out,
taking Storm with her.



Logan growled, a deep rumbling that slid through her and the feelings
intensified and she closed her eyes, unable to do anything but feel.

"Hang ON!"

She heard Scott yell in concentration and the plane landed with a jerk
and a bump before she was almost jerked out of her seat yet again by a
jarring crash that splintered in her ears.

"Out now!"


Angel grappled for his seatbelt, shaking out of it, as the plane slid
to a stop in the concrete parking lot.

He lurched forward, immediately moving toward Cordelia, pushing Logan
away from her, who was already scrambling to the open cargo bay where
Rogue and Storm had disappeared seconds before.

He had never heard of being attacked in mid air before, and the
emergency landing had taken it's toll on the smoking plane, he could
see that clearly, as Scott cursed, moving away from the sparking
console, bringing Jean with him.

"Out! Now!" he ordered.

Angel crushed Cordelia to him and obeyed, moving toward the opening
with the others, jumping out and landing on the hard cement, only to
have his still heart heave within him at the sight that was waiting for

Logan unsheathed his claws, and Scott immediately raised his hand to
the visor, as the rest of the team stumbled out, all pausing when they
saw what Angel had deemed as a not good site.

At least two dozen mutants and... vampires were waiting for them,
surrounding the plane, the darkened parking lot suddenly the perfect
place for an ambush.

Angel pulled Cordelia closer to him, and she was still numb with shock,
because she did nothing, merely held her hands to her ears and burrowed
deeper into his clothing.

Above them, Rogue and Storm fought, the mid air collisions loud enough
to make Angel look up.

"Shit. Demons and mutants."

"Demons?" Jean immediately breathed, her hands clenched. "I'm not
dressed for this."

"Okay, one question, can we KILL the demons?" Logan rasped.

Angel nodded mutely.

"Oh-kay, Great. Only one quibble. Which ones are mutants and which ones
are demons?"

Wesley didn't have a chance to answer, before a blast that came from
one of the men advancing cut off any words he could have spoken.

"Cordelia," he breathed, moving back, putting her against the plane,
shaking her roughly. "Open your eyes, come on!"

She swallowed, and shuddered, but her eyes obediently opened, looking
slightly glazed over. "I need you to concentrate," he continued, and
the shouting started, and there was fighting around him. "Come on."

"I'm... fine..." she began. "Angel... there's feelings..." her eyes
widened. "ANGEL!"

He sniffed, and turned, barely catching the clawed hand the came down
on him. He growled, the vampire face in full swing as he kicked up,
smashing into the face of the mutant the attacked him.

In the wake of the battle that ensued, he barely had time to even look
at the seer behind him, but the words she spoke next were so incredibly

"The First Night... There is chaos on the first night. It's begun."

~ Chapter Nine ~

I lose what I love most did you know I was lost until you found me

a stroke of luck or a gift from god the hand of fate or devil's claws
from below or saints above you came to me here comes the cold again I
feel it closing in it's falling down and all around me falling Garbage
– Stroke of Luck


It was utter chaos, and Magneto was vaguely annoyed, arms crossed in an
expression of placid arrogance and utter disapproval. From the tower
where he stood, the view was unobstructed, and he watched, the master
of the destruction that was being caused, with an unflinching eye.

Hands rhythmically rolled the metallic balls around and around his
palm, massaging ever so slightly, fingers unconsciously fidgeting as he
let his eyes rove over the destruction.

"It's like a poem," came the singsong voice from behind him, as there
was a breathless whisper and a giggle. "A living poem. Daddy's come
home to play."

"For goodness sakes, will you shut her up?" he snapped, his eyes not
moving from the battle taking place, watching as the X-Men fought
alongside the vampire and his colleagues. "This isn't what we

A low, sensual laugh emerged from behind him, as fingers gently slid
across his forearm. He gave the woman next to him a scathing look,
turning back to the scene.

"This is exactly what we discussed."

"Ambushing is a cowards way."

There was silence, and the tone that the answer was returned in was
harder, clipped, "It's the only way, if you want to get things done.
You want to disorientate them, you bring them down."

He narrowed his eyes. "Do not think I've forgotten what you are."

"Good, I'm glad. Because then you'll remember exactly what I'm capable
of. You and I want the same things, Erik, but don't let the appearance
fool you. You may think you are wise, old Man, but I've got a couple
centuries on you." Her eyes narrowed, and there was a shift, and the
normally angelic face shifted into one of demonic ugliness. "Watch and
learn, child. You'll find that I get things done. And I've never been
to jail."

The face slipped away, and suddenly she smiled, leaning forward to
press her cold lips against the powerful mutant's cheek. He closed his
eyes and shuddered as the laugh behind him grew almost hypnotic.

"Metal man smells fear. Fear and a heart. Metal man-"

"Dru, shut up," his companion snapped, letting her eyes flash with
irritation as she turned back to her companion. "And keep watch.
Prophecies require timing, precision and a little manipulation. Don't
screw it up."

The vampire beside him growled, and the smile turned angelic as she
cocked her head at him, absorbing his expression. "Don't think you're
better than us, Magneto. Never underestimate the undead."

And he let a smile crawl over his face, cocking his head and shaking
it, before reaching out and grabbing her with surprising strength,
pulling her closer until he could look into the deceitful eyes. "One
thing you must learn about me, Darla. I never forget."

She smiled. "That's my boy."


A figure launched at him, loomed out from the darkness and he let a
growl escape him, reaching up and grabbing it from the fabric on the
front of his shirt and pulling, letting the momentum take the mutant or
demon or whatever the hell he was. He slammed him down, hard, on the
pavement, and the creature, stunned, could do nothing when Angel
brought his foot down, smashing his heel into the chest.

The yellow eyes glowed as he whipped around, feeling the rush of air as
a tangle of brown and white rolled to a stop before him, immediately
standing. Rogue was breathless, there was a cut on her cheek, and she
wiped the blood away absently, never noticing the way he focused on it
completely until someone else crashed into him.

Angel immediately pushed up, slamming a fist into the face and rolling
over, nodding to Rogue who immediately nodded back. With a yell she
grabbed the shirt, rolled into a duck and the mutant went flying.

The mutant had some pretty nice moves, for someone so young.

And the strength of a Slayer.

Angel swallowed once at the thought of his first love, but was
thankfully distracted when Rogue glanced at him.

"Logan?" "There."

And the mutants kept coming, and the growls filled the air as Logan
fought above them, over a bleacher that had been abandoned, claws
extended as he punched, kicked and stabbed with all the grace of a bar
fight. Next to him, Storm stood, arms extended, such a vision of power
and grace, as the lightning came along with the wind, faithful to their

They had been cut off, from the rest of the team, and Angel used the
borrowed time before another mutant targeted him to seek out his
friends. Wesley he found easily enough, directly under Storm, playing
an odd game of King of the Hill, as he kept any mutant that tried to
reach Storm and her winds from getting to her by throwing them off.

Cordelia was nowhere to be found.

He didn't have time to concentrate on that fact before he was plunged
into again, and this time the push was accompanied by a sickening
squelch, as he groaned, the claw digging into his body, drawing blood.

"ANGEL!" Rogue was immediately beside him, throwing the beast off. He
gave her a smile of thanks, but immediately his eyes widened and he
shouted a warning. Rogue turned, but was not fast enough, and a stray
bolt of a reddish laser skimmed her side, burning into the flesh. She
gasped, reeled, and Angel's cry of warning caught in his throat, as he
immediate plowed into her, wrapping his hands around her waist and
rolling with her, quickly, until they were under the bleacher where
they were safe from the mutant blasts.

She was breathing hard, face constricted slightly from the pain, eyes
slightly dazed, and he immediately checked her face, wiping the blood
off absently and licking it off his finger before feeling the wound on
her shirt.

She gasped, and despite the injury, managed to fight off his questing
fingers with an angry, "What the hell are ya doin'?"

The Southern accent was thick, and Angel swallowed, shaking his head,
barely paying attention to it before again moving to the hem of the
shirt. "Nothing personal, okay? We gotta check the injury." She had
incredible strength, but she was clearly wounded, and Angel finally
just growled in warning, pinning her hands down with his knees before
lifting up the shirt and pressing his hand against the wounded flesh.

In his concentration he barely heard her quick intake of breath, the
way she stiffened , forgot to breathe when his fingers touched her

"Not too bad. When we get out of here, Cordy'll just wrap it up. Just…
might leave a scar." She didn't respond, she wasn't even breathing, and
finally he looked up, into her face. What he saw was so completely off:
in the chaos of the night, the blasts and howls and cries of angers
followed by shouts of pain, Rogue's face held an expression of absolute
bewilderment. Her eyes were focused completely on one simple point, and
his eyes quickly floated down to follow it.

His hand resting against her bare skin.

"You…" she looked confused, conflicted, and their eyes met, and
suddenly Angel remembered what he should have never forgotten – Rogue's
mutation was her skin.

And he was touching her and nothing was happening.

There was absolute quiet, and the urge to panic was rising in his soul,
utterly terrified, mind grasping for answers, while she quickly tore
off a glove with her fingers, exposing the milky white skin that
rivaled his in paleness.

Her fingers floated to his face, her eyes wide and shocked, and when
she touched the ridges on his face, sensitized folds of a demon, his
eyes closed, a small groan working his way from his body.

He unconsciously leaned into the caress, feeling a small puff of warm
air on his face as she breathed out. Questing digits slid over the
skin, and everything was so still –

Until the shouts grew louder, and they were both shocked out of their
daze, as Logan's voice cried out hoarsely for Rogue and Storm and
Wesley cried out for him.

The reality of their situation became apparent once more, and
immediately the two injured warriors scrambled up, moving as quickly as
they could from out of the bleachers to find their friends had more
than held their own without them.

Rogue pulled on her gloves immediately, nodding when Logan grabbed her
by the elbows, demanded to know if she was all right.

"I'm fine," she said, her voice a little more shaky than usual, and her
eyes were on Angel, but she said nothing, had no time for observation,
as another blast came, and the second wave of mutants and vampires came
at them again.

His mind was overtaken by the fighting, as a vampire came immediately
for him, and he pulled out the stake hidden in his trenchcoat, ducking
under the swinging arm and slamming up, impaling him on the short
stick, watching him explode with a satisfying blast of dust.

But his eyes were on the fighting Rogue, and even as his mind wondered
where the hell Cordelia was, he couldn't help but notice, that the girl
had just had the shock of her life.


The years training her mind had left a woman of boldness, more than
capable fight in a fight. On several occasions Logan had called her
dangerous, and she knew that from the burly street fighter, that in
itself was the highest compliment she could have earned.

Jean did not consider herself a warrior by nature. Unlike Storm, who
fought well when she had to and enjoyed the tactile stealth of it all,
and had no problems with taking out another if they threatened the
lives of those she loved, and unlike Rogue, who had absorbed enough
murderers and killers, and had retained enough of her own sassy nature
to earn a reputation as a playful, sassy, deadly warrior, Jean had
always been known as the healer. In a situation where someone needed
protection from a fight, she was never chosen, because there were
others, who were better, at this.

She should have felt fear, insecurity, because Jean, despite being
called `perfect' for most of her adult life, or perhaps because of it,
was blatantly, largely, insecure. Tall, gawky as a child and then
blossoming in late teens, only to be struck with the life shattering
eye opening experience when she kissed someone and suddenly all the
thoughts he was thinking had flooded into her.

Life was terribly complicated when every fleeting thought of what every
one thought of you was clear.

And now, fifteen years later, Jean Grey stood, body over a woman who
had barely been a teenager, fighting for her very life.

Cordelia Chase had been almost rendered comatose. Jean suspected she
had never been much of a fighter but she had more then held her own
until the chaos of what was happening seemed to overwhelm her and she
had sunk to the floor, covering her eyes.

Jean hadn't understood what was happening until she recalled one night,
so long ago, when she had crawled to the floor in much the same way,
hands over her ears in any attempt to stop the voices.

Clarity had come with a single glance, and immediately Jean had yelled
to Scott to cover her, and her entire concentration was taken with
keeping the vampires, the mutants and whatever beasts that had centered
on them, away from the girl.

Scott was busy trying to protect her from much the same thing, and Jean
had been soley absorbed in the fight, thankful for her mental abilities
to keep everything at least ten feet away from the circle, distracted
only when she realized they had been completely cut off from the other
half of the group.

They stood, the trio, in the dark corner, where no light shone except
for the one lamppost that was coming dangerously close to burning out.

And the assailants kept coming.

It took everything in Jean to keep vigil over the girl, wanting
desperately to turn away from the fight and tell Cordelia to try to
shut her mind down, avoid everything that was swimming over her because
then, maybe she would stand a chance to stop drowning, but each time
another blast would come or another hand would swing and it took her
mind and her body completely focused to keep the little bubble of space
around her and the girl clear, trying to help keep the flood of emotion
that was trickling through even her tired body, from getting to
Cordelia, from paralyzing her more.

The bubble was quickly losing ground, and in her weariness, Jean felt
the emotions, the words, the hate slipping over her, infecting her body
with the alien feelings.

Just her and Scott, it wasn't enough.

She bit her lip and took in a short breath, and immediately let it out
in a cry of alarm when Scott was beaten, a sock in the jaw dislodging
the ever precious eyepiece. It slid, dangling off his nose, and for a
second her focus was on him, setting it right, love for her fiance
outweighing the worry and fear that had consumed her before.

It was a deadly mistake.

In the second she had turned her focus, a blond woman, small and quite
normal looking, had taken advantage. She flipped in towards her,
cleared the space, and before Jean quite knew her folly, she had been
kicked in the chest, flying back into the darkness, leaving the Seer

Her body landed with a jarring impact, making her gasp for breath, her
head slamming against the concrete, making her dizzy and leaving her
mind, her most powerful weapon, splintering with pain.

She gasped, but had no time to look for Cordelia because they came
again, this time for her, and she stumbled up, her mind groggy, her
body in pain, but still workable as she fought defensively now.

She could not see Cordelia, but she could hear her, when the hoarse
rasp of the seer came through the darkness.



Wesley Wyndham Price supposed he had more than done his share on behalf
of the human contingent – namely him – of the fighting group. Though
the fighting had been fierce, he sustained only a fading bruise on his
left cheekbone.

The pavement was hard, he should know, he had just spent the last five
minutes lying on it, and Storm only smiled, shaking her head before
reaching her hand out to help him up.

"I am impressed."

Wesley gave her a smile, running his hands through his ruffled hair and
taking in a deep breath, steadying his tired body. "That I was able to
hold my own with no powers to help me?"

"No… that you were able to land that hard and not crack your head

He smiled sheepishly when she winked, and gave a soft laugh, shrugging,
"It happens quite often."

"I would imagine it does."

Again he shared a smile with the Goddess, and now, seeing her in
battle, he understood why she had earned the nickname. Storm was truly
a sight to behold when her eyes were solid white, when the wind obeyed
her every whim, and though the white hair was passive now, gliding over
her shoulders, the strands would never be tame.

"Where's Cordelia?" The smile left his face as he turned to Angel.

"Oh, Lord."

"Jean `n Scott are missin' too," Rogue said, hand on her ribcage where
the laser had taken it's toll. Immediately Logan took a look, his
gloved fingers covering hers as he sniffed slightly.

But Rogue's eyes were on Angel, then sweeping the perimeter of the
darkened cement parking lot.

There was complete darkness. Every lamppost had been broken, the glass
shattered uselessly on the ground.

Ororo Munroe didn't seem to care. She walked a little ways apart from
the group, and suddenly the winds came along with the thunder, and the
lightning crashed, and the parking lot was illuminated with Storm's

Immediately the remnants of the group were located, and the scene made
more than one mutant catch their breath, and Wesley gasp entirely.

Without another word, everyone broke into a run, Rogue not trusting
herself to fly with her injury.

Storm flew, the fastest, outpacing them, but Wesley immediately stayed
by Angel, struggling to keep up with Angel's faster gait.

"Angel it can't be her."

"It's not her," Angel said immediately, his eyes dark, words clipped.
"She… God it can't be her."


Wesley swallowed down the confusion, breaking into a sprint, yelling as
they reached the outskirts of the fight, the mutants and vampires
trying to keep them the hell away from what was inside –

From Buffy Summers and Cordelia Chase.

Logan paused beside him, and sniffed once, and suddenly there was a low
growl that emerged, like an dog with his fangs bared.

Rogue paused, asked hesitantly, "Logan?"

He sniffed again, and the claws slid out, as he whispered, "Mystique."


It was the pain that sliced through her arm that brought her back to

Cordelia's eyes shot open, and immediately the source was clear.

Buffy Summers was cutting her arm with a long knife.

The chaos of emotion that had been struggling through her now filtered
through into one simple emotion that she found impossible to block :
hate completely, and utterly directed at her.

"Buffy…" she struggled, but the blonde just smiled, shaking her head
and keeping her long, agile legs thrown across Cordelia's torso,
keeping her pinned beneath her.

"Hold still, Cordy," Buffy said, catching the blood in a plastic bag.
"Just trying to get a little sample here."

"What are you- Buffy!" The pain was sharp, but it was more the sight of
the blade slitting open her skin, the blood pouring out, the hate that
was so incredibly overwhelming, that kept her in place more than
anything. She attempted to yank her hand back, but the grip on her hand
was strong, and Buffy only shook her head in annoyance.

"Always about you, isn't it Cordelia? Am I hurting you, bitch?"

The words were edged in hate, and Cordelia's heart skipped a beat, the
movement almost painful. "You're not… you can't be Buffy."

A low laugh came from Buffy's throat, as she shook her head and held
the arm steady. "Why? You haven't seen me in years, Cordelia."

"You're not-"

"So I hear you've shacked up with Angel. Heard it from Wills. That

Cordelia blinked, shaking her head slightly, disoriented. "What?"

"Oh you know. That you're doing the shagging thing."

Immediately Cordelia's eyes widened, and she yanked hard, bucking from
under the Slayer, but immediately she was back under.

Damn. She had never known Buffy to be so flexible.

"Buffy – what the HELL are you doing?"

"You know he would never have left me, Cordelia, but he loved me too
much to have a relationship with him." Buffy paused, taking the knife
from Cordelia's dripping arm, and depositing it in her jacket pocket,
appearing to be lost in thought. "He wanted me to have a normal life.
He loved me so much, he couldn't stand for me to spend the rest of my
life – loving what he was. A dark, evil, killer."

Cordelia sucked in her breath, her eyes immediately flashing. "You're
wrong Buffy. He was never like that."

"He's exactly like that. And you let it happen. You're putting your
life on hold for a vampire, who'll never age, never grow old – and is
bound to darkness." Buffy's blue eyes bore into hers. Cordelia only
swallowed, letting her hazel eyes glare right back. "It must kill you,
doesn't it? The wondering? Does he love you too much or too little? Why
on earth would he give up everything with Buffy, and not care about it
with me? I bet he hasn't even brought it up. No kids. No life. You age
and he stays the same."

"It's not like that."

"Oh? And what makes your case so different from mine?" Buffy shook her
head, the wind sliding through her bangs. "Too much, or too little."

Cordelia trembled, anger sliding through her, replacing the hate that
had been so rampantly directed at her, and she was glad for it, as she
struggled again. "You can't do it, You can't make me doubt him."

Buffy only smiled, and clucked her tongue. "Already did, Cordelia. It's
in your eyes."


Buffy looked up, and then back down, patting her cheek. "See ya soon,

Cordelia closed her eyes, as the pain resurfaced, the aching gaping
wound on her forearm dripping blood, the flood of emotions encompassing
yet again as she struggled to stand, keep herself upright as the
footsteps pounded on the pavement and the fighting was coming closer,
and so were the emotions.

She closed her eyes, wished for all the pain, and horror to just go
away, and suddenly she was drowning as it came full force – pain and
love and anger and hate and doubt and fear and it was worse than the
visions because it never stopped.


Cordelia Chase tried to concentrate, to focus before she lost her mind,
but it was too late.

The world tipped sideways and the asphalt met her face and everything
went black.


She had fallen asleep a half hour ago,

Gunn took a breath, gently shifting the sleeping woman in his arms,
trying to settle more comfortably on the sofa as he clicked off the

It was doing him no good. All it was doing was making him worried and
scared and that shit just wasn't cool when he had to protect Fred.

Weird. He knew Fred thought she was the last person in the world who
needed a protector. She had spent five years as a slave, and that made
her strong – half crazy, but strong, and resourceful. She had rescued
him, when Angel had been torn between man and beast in Pylea and he
guessed that now it was time to return the favor.

Gunn never took well to people close to him dying. For five long years
his life had been about protection, making sure what happened to his
little sister, who never had a bad bone in her body, never happened to
anyone else.

And now, with Fred's tiny hands wrapped around him, with her chin
settled on his chest and her body shifting slightly with each
unconscious breath, he understood why he had let himself have only the
vestige of a life in favor of hunting down every damn vampire he had
seen and staking the hell outta it.

Funny how the very reason for him forgoing having a life was now making
him wish for one.

This thing with Fred was getting damn mushy, and hell, he had only
kissed her once.

Perfect timing too. Figured he'd be distracted by a woman when the
apocalypse came; when there were demons and mutants and humans and
demons masquerading as mutants running amok in Los Angeles, which had
it's share of evil already – AND WHERE THE HELL WAS ANGEL?!

His job had just gotten a hell of a lot harder.

Thunder and lightning ransacked the place, and he jumped, causing Fred
to stir above him, looking up and blinking and then shivering.

"I've always hated rain," she muttered with a drowsy twinge on her
already faded southern accent. "It's wet."

"And loud," he responded, tightening his arms around her as the thunder
blasted, and lightning made the darkened room light up with seconds of
white hot illumination.

She shivered slightly, and he absently kissed her forehead, running
fingers down her soft dark curls, looking around the hotel.

The distant far off screams and cries were getting curiously closer,
and suddenly they were too close, because Gunn pushed Fred off of him
and walked to the counter, reaching behind it and picking up the
makeshift ax that had been given to him so long ago.

Fred was immediately up, grabbing a crossbow and arrows, aiming them
easily toward the door.

When it burst open, they were ready for an attack, but when Angel
paused, holding a bloody Cordelia across his chest, the bow and arrow
was immediately lowered, and Fred darted forward, followed quickly by

Angel only nodded, moving past them, as a crowd of others moved into
the room, carrying duffel bags, some with scrapes, others holding
injured limbs.

The mutants.

Wesley was one of the last in, closing the door behind him, and
waiting, looking only once as Angel hurried up the stairs with the
unconscious Cordelia, followed by Jean, Rogue and Fred.

Logan took a breath, and turned back, moving past Gunn towards the

"She can't hold them off forever."

"When Storm's through she'll come in through the roof," Wesley said,
motioning with his head. "Hello Gunn, Good to see you," he added as an
afterthought. The two immediately sprinted for the stairs.

Gunn was left alone in the middle of the floor, holding his shiny ax
and feeling completely confused.