Fire - Turning
Jonothon Starsmore furnaceface
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Xavier Institute for Higher Learning to a Church in Brooklyn, Sunday Fandom Time
It had been a long night at the Xavier Institute. Some of the visitors from Fandom had managed to get rest, and nobody was going to deny them that. Not after the way they'd saved the lives of so many of their own. Even in spite of certain... differences of opinion.

The X-Men, sans Jonothon and Warren, had set off during the night to hunt down the individuals responsible for all that had happened. Kurt had given them a lead to some church that he was supposedly ordained in. Warren had stayed behind in case more of his blood was needed, and Jonothon had stayed behind because...

He was going to assume he was behind because two of his best friends were in hospital beds, and ignore the probability that he was really still at the mansion because it was his responsibility to keep his friends from Fandom from somehow blowing up the place. Which, in retrospect, was a sort of amusing change of pace. Usually he was the one blowing things up, after all.

Raven had eventually made it from the hall to Jono's room to rest while he checked on his friends. The day before she'd been able to stabilize her patients so that they were no longer in immediate risk of dying before she'd been too drained to continue. After several hours of rest, she returned to the infirmary to see what more she could do to help.

Jono glanced up from where he was seated, somehow still more or less awake on a chair between Angelo's bed and Jubilee's.

You could not have pried him out of that spot if you'd given a crowbar to the bleedin' Juggernaut and told him to do the job.

... Which was entirely possible, considering the fact that the guy had taken to hanging around this place, and all.

//Morning, Sunshine,// he greeted, nodding Raven's way as he spotted her. //Sleep well?//

"I did," Raven said, moving between the beds.

When she reached Jono's side she paused to send him a soft kiss. "But you did not sleep at all, did you?" she said. Other than their nap in the hallway.

//I don't need that much sleep in order to function,// Jono replied, waving a dismissive hand.

... That said, when he did manage to get sleep that wasn't fitful with nightmares? That was kind of nice.

//Didn't feel right just... leaving them, after all that. And somebody needs to keep watch.//

Not really.

"If they sensed your presence, it would make them feel safer," Raven said, deciding not to object to the guard duty. She'd insist he get some real rest tonight, though.

She bent over Angelo's bed, reaching out with her senses to see how he was healing. She'd taken the worst of his injuries, and now she drew some of the lingering soreness into herself to speed along his recovery.

//I hope so,// Jonothon murmured, intently watching her do her thing, there.

The general consensus around the school was mostly that he was creepy even just to be around. But if his old teammates had managed to get a decent rest after a horrible day as a result, he'd be okay with that.

//Have you eaten yet today, luv?//

He was doting. He was allowed, dammit.

She'd pretty much splashed water on her face and combed her fingers through her hair once she'd woken up and then gone straight to the infirmary. "I have not," she admitted. She hadn't run into Rinoa after she'd arrived the night before, so she hadn't eaten since before Jono's call for help.

"I will find something to eat," she promised. "Once I am done here."

Jono considered that, and then considered Raven.

He'd met Raven.

//How long do you suppose you'll be, in here? I can bring you something.//

Hey, she wasn't as bad as Karla!


"For awhile," she said. "I want to check on everyone. I have faith in Karla's Craft and the powers of Warren's blood and Squall's potions, but I wish to see for myself that they are doing well."

//Fruit,// he offered. //I'm certain there's fruit in th'kitchen. I can bring some for you and for th'patients, perhaps?//

She needed to eat. Emergency or no.

"Fruit, yes," Raven said absently, turning to check on Jubilee. "Juice would be very good for those who are recovering."

She straightened back up and gave Jono a grateful smile. "And I would appreciate something to eat too," she said.

//Any special requests, luv?//

Raven had put in more than enough work to warrant a special request.

Hell, even if she hadn't done anything, Jono was willing to get her pretty much anything. He was thankful beyond words for her presence right now.

"I am not picky; whatever you can find would be very welcomed," Raven said.

Then after a second's thought she added, "Not strawberries." Those were her favorite, but she didn't want to associate them with this.

//Not strawberries.//

Jono couldn't eat them, himself, but there were some things that even he didn't want to associate with this.

//Apple juice. Oranges. Toast. I'll see what I can find for you, Sunshine.// He leaned forward as he stood, thinking a gentle kiss her way. //I'll be right back.//

We have an emergency situation, a calm, but insistent psychic voice broadcast throughout the school. Students, please remain in your rooms until informed otherwise. This is not a drill. All remaining X-Men, report to the Blackbird.

Well, that would include Jono, wouldn't it? He was wearing the X on his belt, and all.

//Jean?// It took a bit of doing, but now that he knew that he could reach out farther than across a crowded room, getting his voice out as far as she was wasn't quite so difficult.

The mansion to whatever church in Brooklyn that Kurt thought he was ordained in wasn't half as big a deal as the Alps to bloody Paris, after all.

//What's the situation?//

There was the slightest hesitation before she replied.

We found where the people responsible were. The injured outside our school were just a small group of who they'd taken. That was cheery, wasn't it? They need to be stabilized before we take care of the people responsible.

'People' had the same inflection on it that 'worthless bags of flesh' might have any other time.

Really, Jono probably would have said it in much the same way. He had no love for the Church of Humanity before they'd attacked Lee and Ange.

//... Are there many survivors?//

He was already pushing through the hallways in search of the healers. Hed apologize to them later, for the time being he was sticking make-believe unofficial X-logos on their belts, somewhere in the back of his head.

Not as many as there should have been.

Jonothon winced. Wasn't that always how it went?

You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

//We'll be right there.//

There was a polite tap on Jean's mental shields, almost like a request to enter, before Karla sent her psychic thread.

*The students here are stable enough to be left alone, under the eye of your nurse.* There was a slight thread of contempt there for Annie, but Karla didn't actually give voice to it. *They should be fine with plenty of rest and fluids.* And if Annie kept her stupid mouth shut. *If there are more injured, we should be there for them.*

Jean probably didn't much like Karla, but that didn't matter. What mattered was the victims right now, and Karla hoped the other female would see that.

Otherwise, she was just going to make Jono take the lot of them and damn Jean anyway. Maybe if he got in trouble for it, it would just make him come back home faster.

Rinoa was standing in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of orange juice, when the strange voice echoed into her head. Strange, powerful, and female.

She nearly dropped the jug.


And just as quickly, she caught her breath again. This was probably one of the mutants who lived here. A telepath of some kind, not a Sorceress launching a full assault on her shields.

I don't like strange people in my head so please don't try to get in.

Ultimecia's possession had made her a little jumpy.

Jean Grey
There was only a hint of a smile in the presence because there were more important things to focus on at the moment. Telepathic morals are different where you're from, I see.

Squall moved quickly to steady the jug. "What the hell is a Blackbird and where is it?" he asked.

Strange-powerful-and-female seemed polite, so Rinoa felt sheepish.

Sorry? she said. Someone forced her way in once. Not a telepath exactly. It's complicated.

"I have no idea," Rinoa said aloud, happy to let Squall take the jug. "Sorry, I just ..."

Was being weird. She shook it off, quickly, adding an additional I didn't mean to snap at you out in the direction of whoever's-voice-that-was.

"We should find Jono," she suggested. "Infirmary?"

She could down the orange juice before they went. She might need it.

"You don't like people in your head," Squall finished. "Understandable." He shrugged. "Infirmary's a good place to look. If nothing else, it's probably where he'd look for us. Let's go."

And then, on an open thread to his friends, scattered around the school though they might be...

//Guys... Hate to ask you all for another favour, but...//

(Then don't ask. Of course we're coming.)

Jono could hear him if he thought loudly, right? Did it work like that?

(Where's the Blackbird?)

Jono could. He did't have much practise with it, but considering the circumstances, he was already trying to filter out the background noise of the school's students for replies from his friends.

//... Under th'basketball court. But meet me at the infirmary. I'll grab Raven,// who he hoped would be up for this. And if she wasn't, well, at least he was the one here with the security clearance to get to the hangar. //She'll get us there faster than any jet could hope to, if she hasn't worn herself down completely after last night.//

*Already there,* Karla sent. Because where else would she be? Breakfast was for after she'd checked on patients. *Shall I make sure Raven's up for another trip?*

She was already moving towards her friend to find out.

We're on our way, Rinoa thought. Loudly. She wasn't sure that was going to work, and she wasn't sure that she was getting all of the conversation that was going on, either, but meeting up in the infirmary? That much, she could handle.

//Karla, yes, please, thank you,// Jono sent back in reply to the first. //Rinoa, I hope you've got some of that fancy healing mojo ready. This is going to be a messy one.//

He hadn't even needed to ask for numbers to know that much.

Raven had heard first Jean's broadcast, then Jono's request, in her mind as she'd checked on Bedlam's condition. She turned toward Karla with fear in her eyes. "What is happening?" she said. "Is the school being attacked?"

She wouldn't let her patients be harmed again. Or Jono or Karla or any of them there. She couldn't stand by and let that happen.

"Even worse," Karla said, rubbing her temples. "The folks that left yesterday...found something. Something awful, I think. We need to go to...Brookline? Somewhere. Our skills are needed. Badly."

"I will teleport us," Raven said. It wasn't going to be easy, even after several hours of rest she was still exhausted, but if they were needed she was going to get them there as fast as possible.

*She'll do it, Jono,* Karla sent. Completely unsurprised. *Get everyone here ASAP.*

It's not like they'd get a chance to rest while they waited. They'd be far too keyed up to rest.

Jono nodded, making his way down the hallways a little more quickly.

//She'll do it,// he sent to anybody in the building with an ounce of healing capacity.

So... his friends from Fandom, and Warren. Xorn, of course, was still nowhere to be seen.

//Meet at the infirmary. We'll be leaving immediately.// A pause. //Brace yerselves for th'worst, folks. And then, once you've managed that, brace some more.//

The tone that Jean had used when she was speaking to him suggested that this one was going to be ugly.

While she waited for everyone else to reach the infirmary, Raven made one last round among the patients to check on their recovery. Satisfied they were all stable, she made certain that they would not be left unprotected, and that Annie (even if Raven didn't like her) would be there to monitor them.

Once everyone was ready, she called her Soul-Self out to teleport herself and Jono, Karla and Warren, and Rinoa and Squall to the where the X-Men waited. She just hoped she was ready for what awaited them.

Old Warren
"My god."

The fact that he'd managed to sleep even most of the night meant that Archangel was considering himself fit for duty, now. The food that Rinoa had brought had done wonders to help his healing factor along, and now, after hearing Jean's call, he'd come on this mission. It would have taken a lot of muscle to keep him back, really, and since all of the heavy hitters were already here, looking for Kurt's mysterious priesthood, there hadn't been a thing to hold him back.

"Jean!" He pushed his way over to her, ignoring the heaviness that settled in his gut.

He'd seen worse.

He'd done worse.

"What happened here?"

"They were doing experiments," Jean said, eyes closed as she searched out the survivors mixed in with the dead. Each she found was pulled up to the surface and laid out for a healer to work on.

Old Warren
Warren watched the bodies as they rose from the pit, watched them settle a few at a time among the broken floorboards. So many...

"And do we know where they went?"

Pertinent questions only. As much as seeing things like this made him feel tired, made him feel old, made him want to scream and break things and find the people responsible and do things to them that suited him far more thoroughly when he'd had blue skin and poison-tipped wings.

Pertinent questions only.

"Not yet." Her voice went distant as fire sparked around her like a halo. "But we will soon."

Old Warren
"Good." And Warren hoped that they suffered. "Make sure Scott punches some for me, would you?"

He would have wanted to go with them. He really would. But if the handful of students yesterday had been a drain on these kids that had shown up, he was needed here far more than wherever the other X-Men were heading.

If asked, Karla would have said that she was prepared for this. That after dealing with Agio, nothing could surprise her again. Nothing could affect her again. Not in that same, visceral way.

She would have been wrong.

In Agio, at least, she'd been spared the piles of the innocent dead, shielded by Jaenelle's corridor of black power. She'd dealt with the stench of the sickroom, of blood and bile and bowels...but not this. Not the sickly-sweet smell of decaying flesh piled high, left like broken toys abandoned halfway through playtime.

Karla turned chalk white and swayed on her feet, but she did not avert her eyes. They welled with tears and she bit down on her handkerchief, but she refused to look away. She would remember them and this place.

And when everyone was Healed and moved? She would help burn this place to the fucking ground.

Warren was going to be sick. Warren was going to be sick. Through the doors, and bodies everywhere, and he could only imagine how much worse it was through that gaping hole in the floor.

He'd find in a minute that his imagination didn't even start to cover it.

His hand was reaching for Karla's, though, a wing folding around her shoulders to steady her.

He was going to be sick. Later.

"There can be no forgiveness for this," Karla said quietly, squeezing Warren's hand. For a moment, she almost wished for Jaenelle's powers, for another resolution like Agio. If she could get her hands on the people who had done this, she would make them bleed before they died. "Just...none. I don't understand...all this hatred...just because they're different. I don't understand."

"They don't understand," Warren said, barely loud enough for him to hear his own voice. "They're afraid."

It felt like his legs were stuck. Glued into place. He couldn't move. This was the world below his window. This was what happened to mutants when nobody was looking. Because nobody wanted to look. This was the world that he'd missed out on for so much of his life.

He couldn't breathe.

"We're evolution. We're change. We're the children they don't want because we're not like them. So they hate us. And they fear us. And they do this."

"That's not good enough!" Karla said, her voice catching. "I don't care how scared or how angry or how much they hate. There's nothing--no reason--no one can do something like this and call themselves anything but a monster."

Preaching to the choir, she knew, but it was either rage or sob. And sobbing would just weaken her for the job ahead.

"I know."

This was the world his father had kept him hidden away from.

This was the world that had inspired a search for a cure. The world that had almost cost him his wings. Maybe not exactly the same, but...

He took a half-step into the building, trying to keep his breath steady while his heart pounded in his ears and bile burned at the back of his throat.

"They all look like me..."

Not like him, like him. They weren't all blonde billionaires with impressive wingspans. There were enough of those around here already. But they almost all looked like mutants. Most of the kids from yesterday didn't have that distinction.

Karla got what he meant. And, furthermore, she realized that she didn't. Would that work against her here? These people had all been hurt by 'perfectly normal' humans. Would they see her face and panic, worried she was here to do the same?

"I wish I did," Karla said quietly. "I wish I had your wings, or Lucivar's. I wish I looked like Grezande or Sceron or even like Gabrielle. Something...something obvious. Something that says I'm on their side."

She had her snake-tooth, but that was tiny and dangerous all on its own.

And for a moment, just for a moment, Warren couldn't help but remember how exhilarated he'd felt when he'd danced with her in the sky.

"But... You do have wings," he noted, biting his lip. "A beautiful pair of leathery mutant wings."

Everyone here was like them. Everyone here had powers, or... or something.

Karla was confused. So confused she even glanced backwards to see if she'd possibly grown a pair of wings in the night.

Don't blame her for being slow. She was tired, she was traumatized, and the day had barely started. "No, I don't," she said quietly. "I mean, I could weave an illusion, but that would take Craft better spent saving someone's life."

...Though if it let her near them, maybe it was an expense she could spare.

Warren just shook his head, smiling faintly, in spite of... everything.

"I know you have them, Karla. We flew together. Unless they're sitting in your room and not vanished..."

"Oh? Oh!" Her wings! Of course! "They're vanished, I always vanish them. But they're fake. It's obvious that they're..."

Wait. They were clearly cloth and metal when they could be seen. But they didn't need to be seen exactly, did they? Not if they were hidden under her shirt. It would be obvious what they were, that way. Especially with both Warrens wandering around.

"I think that would--yes. I can do that." She gave him a tremulous smile. "You're brilliant, love."

Warren blushed a little, and gave his shoulders a small shrug.

"It won't be anything remotely comfortable," he murmured. "But it might get some of them to let you closer a little more easily."

He'd have to keep that in mind, if anyone else was having troubles. Obviously they couldn't all look like mutants, but, if there was something...

"I'd have to find somewhere to go..." she said, looking around for just such a place. "Somewhere that they wouldn't see..."

Like those confessionals over there. Yes. They might do nicely.

"I'm going to go over there and change." And take a few moments to just breathe. But not long. People needed her more than she needed a breather. "And then to the Healings."

Warren nodded a little, looking out at the scattering of bodies and blood and splintered wood once again.

"I'll be out here," he replied. "Shouldn't be easy to miss."

He'd be the smaller of the two feathered guys. The one not wearing the insane red tights... thing...

Also the one looking like something had knocked him totally senseless while he clawed at himself, trying to get enough blood into those wounds to save everybody that he could get to.

Karla leaned up to brush a kiss across his cheek before darting away to the confessional. She wasn't sure when she'd see him again--after she had her wings on, her world was going to narrow down to just her and the person under her hands.

But it was good to know that he'd be there, with her, saving lives, making a difference. It wasn't enough to even begin to make up for everything else...but it helped.

Raven had turned white before they even entered the church. She could feel the suffering and fear within, and even though she tried to brace herself, she wasn't ready for the sight of the blood and the bodies strewn about the shattered floor. And worse still was the glimpse she had through the gap in the floorboards of the room beneath, the tortured and twisted bodies of those who had already died.

She'd seen death before, a planet destroyed before her eyes, sacrifices bled dry to resurrect her body, Jaenelle's lethal power in Agio. None of prepared her for this. She clamped a hand over her mouth, fighting the urge to be sick. That would come later. These people needed her now.

A dead silence was something that Jonothon was accomplished at at the best of times. For him, being still as the grave was mostly just a matter of not blinking. But here and now, as he froze and looked over the undeniable proof once again that people like him were seen as less, as things other than human, it was like he'd been stuck into a moment. Just staring, glowing white eyes searching for some logic behind all of this and coming up nil.

He shouldn't have asked them along. His friends from Fandom. They didn't need these nightmares. He was used to not sleeping at night, but this...

//Just focus on th'ones above,// he murmured, stepping into the church, calm. So, so calm. And pushing a wave of that calm out toward Raven. //They'll be the ones still hanging on.//

She latched on to that calm as she latched on to his arm. WHY? she wanted to scream. How could anyone with a soul be so hateful and senseless? They hadn't even been just satisfied killing mutants, they tortured and maimed and experimented with indifference to the pain they were inflicting, all because the mutants were different from them.

She lurched forward, letting go of Jono's arm so she could sink down beside a groaning body on the floor. There wasn't time for questions or fear. Her body stiffened as she began to draw the mutant's pain into herself.

Jono stood there quietly, not making his way very far beyond the doorway. Just being in the same room as most mutants tended to frighten them. The last thing they needed now was somebody waking up and panicking because of the sight of him.

But he could make himself useful. He was no empath, but he could try, at least, to project his calm outwards. Not just to Raven, but to anybody nearby. Anybody awake enough to be terrified.

He was one of the X-Men. They called days like this "Wednesday."

He called days like this "Hell."

Rinoa had been steeling herself for this on most of the trip up. Yesterday had been bad. She should be strong, for everyone else's sake; she had been lounging around while they were tending to the dying. She could do this.

She stepped into the church and felt the air leave her, all at once. The bodies. The dead. The dying.

There was nowhere to start. There was everywhere to start. They couldn't possibly help all of them. There was so much blood.

Rinoa closed her eyes, fighting a wave of nausea, urging herself not to panic. Not to be childish, not to flee. She had to be strong. She had to try.

Uh-oh. Warren knew that look. He'd felt it himself, all too recently, back in Panem. Both after the first wave of explosions had hit, and after the second.

He reached out and gently rested a clawed hand on her shoulder.

"Just focus on whoever is nearest, if you don't know where to start," he murmured. "And try not to look too hard at the rest, unless you absolutely have to."

She was nodding, quickly, and trying not to let on how badly she was shaken. Pull it together. Together. Together.

"I'm s-s-scared I'll picked the wrong p-person and someone else will d- ..." She couldn't say that out loud. She was going to clear her throat and try again, and her eyes were not tearing up. Dammit. "O-okay. They need us. Okay."

She was a Sorceress. She was a powerful, dangerous being, and right now, that was a good thing. And that meant she wasn't going to be a terrified teenage girl.

Maybe if she said it a lot, she'd believe it.

"Thanks," she said, resting one gloved hand over his. She noticed the claws, then, and offered a faint smile. "You, too?"

First he had wings, and now they both had claws. She was tempted to ask if he developed any interesting golden-brown tattoos in the future.

None that he'd noticed, but his body would probably destroy a tattoo overnight if ever he got one, so there was hardly any point.

"Me too," he replied quietly. "And today, they're going to be a blessing."

He looked into the church again. Couldn't quite nerve himself to see what was beyond those shattered floorboards yet. He was pretty sure that he wouldn't be able to stomach it.

"You're... hiding yours?"

He couldn't, really. He'd tried keeping his hands in his pockets, but that just resulted in holes in his pockets. Not that he was exactly worried about loose change, but still.

"A blessing?" Rinoa asked, with a frown. She hadn't noticed anything that needed the quick slice of talon fingernails; if there was anything, knives would probably be faster. She'd never tried her new claws out. She was trying to forget about them entirely.

She flushed, glancing at the gloves. "I was waiting for them to go away," she explained. "Like the gray skin and all the rest of it. And then I just wanted to ... pretend they weren't there."

"They won't," Warren whispered, holding up his own hands and looking at his fingernails. Hooked and black and sharp and fierce, like a tiger's claws, if tigers weren't capable of pulling them back and hiding them away. "If mine haven't gone by now, they never will. But... In there, treating a bunch of people who have been pushed beyond their limit by pure-blooded humans, I don't think a set of claws could do any harm."

He was lucky. He had wings. They were hard to miss.

Everyone else? Well.

Rinoa's fingernails were sharp and tapered, and the fingers leading to them elongated and malformed. There was something disquieting about them. She had been waiting for them to seem normal, or less shocking even; that had yet to happen.

"Pure-blooded ..." Her voice trailed off as she followed his train of thought. These attacks had happened ... because they were mutants. And mutants were different, and people feared what was different.

Other people, that was. Mutants wouldn't fear what was different. Mutants would ... would probably see it as a relief. Proof that you were friend, and not foe.

Which meant that her talons were a blessing. And that she should get over her silly vanity and stop covering them up long enough to go save some lives, already.

"All right," she said, nodding once, determination setting her chin. "Thanks. I -- you're right. Okay, then."

She gave his hand one last, firm squeeze before heading off into the church. There wasn't any time to waste. She could peel her gloves off on the way.

"Darkness have mercy," Karla breathed, staring at the...blood-drenched chaos. "And none for the bastards that did this."

Yesterday had been a lot of Healing followed by not enough sleep. But, as bad as that had been, today was going to be worse. Time to get reckless with her Craft. She'd pay the price for it, but better her than any of these poor people.

Pulling her hair back, she summoned all of her remaining Healing webs. There weren't many left. She'd have to weave some more--or, more likely, just suck the backlash and deal with it later.

Now to find a patient. Not that she had too far to look.

Squall was prepared for this sort of thing, as much as anyone COULD be. He swiftly moved among the worst off with Phoenix Downs, his practiced eye discerning the merely KO'd from the well and truly dead. Emotions could happen later -- right now, there were lives to save.

Raven moved from body to body, drawing at their pain and fear, taking it all inside her. She was still exhausted from the healings the day before, but desperation gave her new strength. She tried not to look down at the mutants in the basement; they were beyond her help, but she could do all she could to make sure the ones Jean had brought up would not join them.

"Do not be afraid, we are here to help," she murmured as she worked. As soon as she stabilized one, she would move to the next. And there was always a next.

Jonothon was not a healer.

Sure, he'd taken a first-aid course through Fandom. But... so many of these injuries were beyond his ability. The best they could hope for was a fleet of ambulances, with paramedics that didn't care that their patients had extra arms, or horns, or green skin.

Or else they could hope for a miracle.

Or, barring all that, they could hope that the healers that were here didn't drop of exhaustion before their job was through.

Jonothon wasn't a healer. But as he stood watch in the doorway, keeping an eye out for any unwanted company with flames licking up dangerously around his face, he did reach out with his power, offering raw psionic energy to anybody in the room who had the potential to tap it.

And, alongside that, for everyone else, he continued to try to radiate calm around the room. Just calm. No panic.

No time for panic.

Eventually, Squall noticed Jono and headed over to him. Standing guard was important, but it looked like Jono would rather be helping everyone else. "Here," he offered, pulling a handful of vials out of his pocket and thrusting them at Jono. "If anyone's conscious, make them drink."

Lord love you, Squall. Jono nodded his thanks as he reached out for the potions.

//Just that simple, is it?//

He... would try not to be too intimidating as he wandered from patient to patient. But at the first sign of somebody scooting off in the opposite direction just to get away from him, he was passing the potions off to somebody who was already healed and he was going to return to moping standing guard.

"That simple," Squall confirmed. "If they're still bleeding after one hit, give them another one."

Granted, they were for physical injuries, and who knew what kind of experiments had been going on in here. Some of the it probably counted broadly as "poison".

"If they don't get better, or they get better and then start getting worse again, call Karla or Raven," he added. "Potions can't fix everything."

//They're an improvement on what I'm accomplishing out here,// Jono pointed out, his voice seeming distant as he looked into the building, seeking out at least one person who was somewhere approaching consciousness. //Now, let's see if I can get one of these into anybody before they try to hide again.//

"Post-traumatic stress disorder," Squall explained. "Right now, everyone looks like a threat." He shrugged. "We don't have time to talk them all into trusting us," he decided. "Shove it down their throats if you have to."

Squall's logic was amazing. Or, at least, Jono was willing to go with it until fewer people were almost-dead.

//I think I can do that,// he decided. //Won't win myself many friends among them, I'm sure, but... I wasn't looking to get cozy with them anyhow.//

Squall nodded. "We're here to save lives, not make friends," he agreed. "I'm not really much of a P.R. person."

//We can leave th' P.R. to the Worthingtons,// Jono agreed. //Thank you, Squall. These are going to get some use this afternoon.//

As opposed to waiting for some sort of miracle where suddenly he could both heal and stop looking like a horrifying freak of nature.

Well. More horrifying than some of them could handle.

It was a Jono thing.

Squall shrugged. "They'd better. When you run out, come find me."

//Will do, mate.// Jono pocketed a handful of them, because so help him, if he fumbled he'd never forgive himself. //Now... let's go save some lives, hm?//

Rinoa was not going to let herself be intimidated. Because second-guessing herself would just mean more people died, and Warren had told her to just start with someone nearby. She was going to do that. Okay, then.

She knelt down by the closest person who looked to be in need of help, and closed her eyes, trying to focus enough to find her healing magic.

She could do this.

Morlock Girl
She was breathing. But barely. Shallowly. To look at her, her naked body pale even beyond the natural state of her icy-blue skin, it was a wonder that there was even that. She looked almost as though she'd been taken apart and put back together again. And in this place, overlooking so many who hadn't made it, it was entirely possible that she had been.

She didn't want it. Any of it. This body. This life. And if she'd been awake to say so, she might even express disagreement that she had to be revived at all. She hadn't asked for this.

But then, nobody ever asked for this.

She looked fragile. Rinoa couldn't say how old she was; she looked young, but that may have been the blue coloring of her skin, or how delicately she floated on the edge of life itself.

Had Rinoa known of her internal struggle, she might have sympathized. But it wouldn't have changed her answer.

She let the magic course through her, hating the way that she had missed its feel. And she pushed as much of that into a Curaga spell as she could, relaxing when she saw the familiar green glow settle over the girl's body.

Morlock Girl
It was wrapping around her. Pulsing through her, warm and soothing and more like a breath of fresh air than anything she'd ever known. Pulling her together again. Dragging her back to awareness, as if somehow she wanted to be there.

She didn't. They couldn't make her. Couldn't. She'd resist. She'd... She'd just curl up in a ball, right there, no matter how much it still hurt, and refuse to react to anything else they could do to her.

She couldn't fight back. Nature hadn't afforded her with anything useful enough for that. But she didn't have to be cooperative, either.

"It's okay," Rinoa murmured, sensing the girl's reaction. Waking up would be frightening, after what she had been through; better to reassure her that they were friends, and not the monsters that had did this to her. "I'm here to help. I promise. You're safe."

She was already calling up a second spell to follow the first. The first had only stopped the immediacy of the danger; the second might begin to heal her.

Morlock Girl
Kind words. Lingering right there, on the very edge of her consciousness. Words that she hadn't thought of the meanings to in far too long.



A trick?

She whimpered softly, either unable or unwilling to accept that the slow easing of the pain was anything but a sign that whatever was to come next would only be worse. Maybe they had found a use for her, after all. She'd seen the way they'd used the telepath they'd gotten their hands on. Better off dead than useful.

Right, the gloves. She had been so distracted by the spells that she hadn't taken them all the way off. She tore at them, quickly, tossing aside the satin and not bothering much with where they landed.

Gloves were cheap, and she didn't plan on putting them back on today.

"Look," she said, gently, holding one of her misshapen hands up for the girl to see. "I'm not one of them."

Her fingernails were bird-like talons, and her fingers elongated to end in an abrupt V. With gloves on, the eye could pass over it easily; without, her hand looked almost like a caricature, a children's drawing of a pointy hand, only somehow a touch gruesome when made flesh.

Morlock Girl
Not... not one of...

She was afraid to look. Afraid that she'd open her eyes and she'd see... she wasn't sure what. Exactly what she wanted to see, perhaps. That would almost be more cruel. But she opened her eyes anyhow, pure white, and blinked, once, while blurred vision slowly corrected itself, while distorted shapes resolved themselves into something...

Something real?

"Not them..." she murmured, reaching one hand tentatively toward those fingers.

The most beautiful fingers she had ever seen.

Rinoa couldn't say for sure why her eyes were tearing up. She had spent the past month loathing these hands, and this girl was staring at them as if they were awe-inspiring.

Maybe, for her, they were. They were clear evidence of Other; proof of companionship. A Sorceress wasn't technically a mutant, but she didn't think the Church of the Horrible Fuckers that Did This would make much of a distinction. Neither did she.

She was one of them. It felt ... different, somehow, when the blue-skinned girl said it.

"One more time," Rinoa said again, encouragingly. "Ready?"

Morlock Girl
She didn't want to. She didn't. But she was too close to back away now, too near to some vague idea of 'okay' to shake her head and back down and commit herself to the end that had been sweeping up around her.

But this girl... wasn't Them. She was Us, she understood. She had to understand. And her power, to heal...

She nodded, just a little bit, not quite unfolding herself from the ball that she was in. Not certain what she'd do with herself if she did. She wasn't ready. She'd almost forgotten how to live just for the sake of staying alive. But maybe she'd have to be. Just this once.

The green swirl settled over the girl, one more time, fading into the blue of her skin. It was hard to tell what was part of her mutation and what had been done to her in that lab that Rinoa was absolutely not thinking about, but she looked decidedly better. She was breathing more easily, she was conscious, and she seemed less afraid.

So Rinoa squeezed the girl's hand. "You'll be all right now," she said. "Get some rest, and I'll be just over here if you need me."

On the next patient, and the next, and the next. Because she was a Sorceress, dammit, and it was time to stop running from that.

[It continues! With a warning for more wholesale slaughter and torture, because X-Canon is happy like that. Ganked and adapted from Uncanny X-Men 424. Follows this, this, and this! Preplayed with mouthy_merc as Jean, and trigons_child, glacial_witch, whateverknight, and angelo_wings who rocks like a rockstar for coding this one up. NFB, NFI, OOC is awesome.]