Author: A. X. Zanier

Title: School Daze

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I do not own the character or basic story premises to "The Invisible Man." Any additional characters or premises are mine, mine, mine.

Timeline: After Judgement Day

Comments: Due to the need for major rewrites I'm skipping over several stories and posting a few of the later A.S. fics. This takes place well after the events in the Deceptions/Aftermath/Homecoming trilogy, which I will indeed post eventually, once I've fixed the buggers. If you feel the need to read the original versions *shudder* you can find them at the IMFanfic Yahoo!Group.

Original post: Uh, somewhere back in the stone ages of I-Man at IMFanfic.

A huge thanks to Rebecca (Workercaste/OneEyeDRD) for being a wonderful Beta.

School Daze

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you haven't really learned anything."

Mohammad Ali

"No way. You are not making me do this." Alyx was shaking her head and glaring at the Official at the same time.

Darien and Bobby looked at each other, then back at her.

"What's the big deal, kid?" Hobbes asked, perhaps a tad foolishly.

She turned on him. "The big deal is that he wants me to play a sixteen-year-old in an all-girl private school. That's the big deal." By the end she was nearly shouting and holding onto her temper by a very, very slim thread. Claire might have declared her fit for duty, but she was still having problems. It was still a struggle. Every day she got through was a victory, for all of them.

None of them spoke again until she had herself back under control. It took several long minutes.

"This is why Claire declared me fit for duty, isn't it?" Her shoulders had slumped and she sounded tired.

"Yes. This one has been waiting for you to return to something vaguely resembling normal, but there has been another death. And it was most certainly not an accident this time. We need your help." Eberts kept his tone of voice very calm, knowing that she could and would react to the slightest thing.

"Just read the file. Come back when you're done," the Official said gruffly.

She nodded and took the file from Eberts. Without looking at either of her partners, she left for her own office. There, hopefully, she could regain some control.

"She's not ready," Darien said once she had left.

The Official sighed. "I know, but we have to move on this now. We have over a dozen very powerful families being blackmailed and two very dead girls. I pulled some really big strings to get this job. Never mind the fact that she is pretty much the only one in any agency who might be able to pull this off." He looked to Eberts.

"Other agencies, including the FBI, local, and state police have become involved because of the deaths, but because of the blackmail it is being kept as quiet as possible." He paused, handing the two agents copies of the file. "The threat appears to be real. If you'll look at the photos you'll notice all the girls are unconscious."

Both Darien and Hobbes looked over the pictures with frowns.

"Their families don't dare even remove them from the school for fear of retaliation. It has been implied by the blackmailers that there are even more revealing pictures that are being kept for later use," the Official added. "Most of the girls involved don't even know their families are being blackmailed."

"The families would like it to remain that way so that the girls suffer the least amount of trauma." Eberts finished

Darien looked up from the file he'd been skimming over. "Not know? How could that be?"

"Whatever they are being drugged with also wipes their memories. They wake up the next day feeling a bit ill and that's all." the Official explained.

"Sounds like roofies or GHB." Hobbes commented.

"Yes it does. The two who died were tested. One had an allergic reaction to something. We suspect it was the drug, but it is not a known substance." Eberts told the two men. "The other was killed by a blow to the head. We suspect she saw something she shouldn't and was killed because of it."

"The Keeper is working on the blood samples, trying to figure out exactly what the substance is," the Official added.

"But Alyx..." Darien began.

"Will not be alone," Eberts interrupted. "You will both be at the school as temporary instructors. Arriving after she has established herself."

"The two of you should be able to help keep her balanced." The Official looked at Darien. "Especially you, I suspect."

Darien said nothing. It wasn't like the relationship was a secret anymore, but they did try their best to keep the Official from using it against them.

Alyx came back into the room and said, "I still don't like this, but I'll do it." She walked across the room and stopped before the desk. "We need to make some changes to my profile, though."

The Official nodded. 'Good,' he thought, 'she's starting to think like an agent again.'

* * *

"Hey, Callie. Wait up."

Callie paused and turned back to see who was calling her. It was her roommate, Frances.

"Whatcha need, Frankie?" Callie asked the girl as she moved alongside and they began to walk.

"Help with Lit. That Mr. Fawkes is gonna kill me. Thank god he's only here until Mr. Thompson gets better." Frances sighed. "He may be a hunk, but he's tough."

Callie rolled her eyes. "Maybe if you took notes during class instead of drooling over the teach you wouldn't be having so much trouble."

Frances giggled. "But then class wouldn't be nearly as much fun."

"Frankie, I'd tell you to get a life, but you're not likely to find one at this school." They walked outside and into the garden behind the school. "I've got gym with that new guy. Hobbes. I'm so not looking forward to another afternoon of dainty, proper badminton."

Frances smiled. "I know something you don't know," she said in a sing-song voice.

"What now?" Callie complained.

Frances only laughed. "You better hurry or you'll be late." She ran off through the garden towards her next class while Callie turned to the left to head for the gym.

She was late, but that was nothing new. She made a point to be late for the classes that annoyed her.

The new instructor glared at her when she finally appeared. "Miss Borden, so kind of you to join us."

Callie didn't react. She looked about the gym, noticing the decided lack of boring, dainty girl equipment. She also noted the plethora of mats on the floor and the padded gear lying stacked in neat piles. She wondered what was going on.

"All right, girls. For the next few weeks you're going to get a crash course in self-defense. By the time I'm through with youse, you will be able to deal with pretty much any hand-to-hand situation, from a mugger to a boy who gets a bit too friendly with ya," Hobbes barked at them like a drill sergeant. Which he formerly was, or claimed to be anyway.

The girls shuffled their feet a bit and looked at one another in surprise.

"Miss Borden, I've read your transcript. Based on what I read, I would guess you have some idea of how to defend yourself. Front and center." He stood with his hands on his hips waiting for her.

Callie sighed and joined Hobbes on the mats. "You really don't want to do this."

"Girl, I suggest you shut yer mouth and prepare to defend yourself." He settled himself into a defensive posture and waited for her to do the same.

She did, sort of. It was the lazy man's version. Not that it mattered as he didn't intend for her to get settled and went after her with several basic punches and kicks that she blocked easily. A few moments later, Hobbes found himself looking up at her from the floor.

She offered her hand to help him up, which he accepted.

"Not bad. Looks like yer rich daddy may have gotten his money's worth for yer lessons," he said as he once again settled into position.

"My rich daddy, who is paying your salary by the way, has been seeing that I've had lessons since I was three. I can guarantee he got his money's worth," Callie responded, just standing there, looking at him.

Hobbes raised his eyebrows at her. "We'll see."

For the next several minutes they fought back and forth across the mats, much to the shock and amusement of the other girls. They all had figured out Callie was a bit different, but now... well they weren't sure what to think.

Hobbes had closed with her and whispered into her ear. "If you don't let me drop you, I'll never be able to prove my point with these girls, kid."

"All right, Hobbsey. I'll fake a right and you can toss me, okay." Callie whispered back.

"Sounds good, kid." he agreed.

They broke apart and she faked a right allowing him to catch her arm and toss her over his shoulder. When she was on the floor he tagged her with a chop to her throat that would have effectively put her out if it had been real. This time he offered her a hand up.

"Good job, Borden." He waved her back to the group of girls and then addressed them as a whole. "That is what you can achieve after years of practice." He gave a small bow in Callie's direction. "I'm just hoping to teach you girls the basics. Now, how many of you have any martial arts experience?"

Three girls, aside from Callie, raised their hands. He pulled them out of the group and began testing them to see how much they knew.

"Callie, where did you learn that stuff?" Jenny asked her.

Several other girls huddled around to hear the answer.

"Like I said to Sarge over there, my dad's had me taking lessons since I was three." Callie sighed. "It's no big deal. It's part of what my dad does anyway."

"Why'd you end up at this school, anyway?" Tricia queried.

"You really want to know?" Callie asked of them.

The entire group nodded.

"Okay. At my last school I beat the crap out of the star quarterback when he tried to rape me." The entire group sucked in a breath. She paused to let that sink in. "His daddy and the school admin thought that, since he was so much more valuable to the school than I was, perhaps I should have just let him have what he deserved. Namely me," Callie explained in disgust.

"You're kidding?" Sandi sounded shocked. "And they tossed you for that?"

"No. They tossed me because I decked his daddy when he made the comment," Callie said with a wry grin.

The group of girls all looked properly shocked for a moment, then burst out laughing.

Hobbes looked over at the group of girls standing around Alyx and shook his head. And she thought she wouldn't fit in. Sheesh, in another week she'd be running the school.

Callie's last class that day was with Mr. Fawkes, which was cool. It wasn't like she had to put a whole lot of effort into the class, and he was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. The girls were allowed to sprawl pretty much where they wanted in the room. Most of the desks were shoved against the rear wall, leaving most of the floor empty. The girls lazed about wherever they felt comfortable; as long as they paid attention, he didn't much mind. He even let her sit in the windowsill.

She was staring out the window across the expanse of grass and garden that was behind the school. She really wished they didn't have bars over the windows, but at least they were set out somewhat so that the windows could still be opened, as they were now.

She sat with her head leaning against the window frame, allowing the voices of the girls reading to wash across her senses, soothing her tired mind. She'd known this was going to be difficult. She'd known she was going to hate this, she just hadn't realized how much. She'd been here nearly two weeks now, establishing herself and waiting for the guys to show so that she could actually get down to work. Not that she'd been sitting around doing nothing. She'd checked out this place as much as she could. Raided the computer system, checked out all the power systems, done just about everything short of reading the minds of every person here, and she had found nothing.

Nothing.

And she was quickly going nuts because of it.

Darien had also tuned out the girl who was speaking. It was the third rendition of Hamlet's soliloquy in this class alone and it was definitely not the most impressive. He and Hobbes had arrived on Monday, nearly two weeks after Alyx, and although she looked like she had blended right in, he could tell this was far harder on her than anyone could have expected. Hell, it was harder on him than he had thought it would be. If he had known what this place looked like, he would have given serious consideration to rebelling against this job. This place was stirring up way too many memories that he had tried to push into a far corner of his mind and forget.

His attention snapped back to the class as he realized that the young lady had finally finished. He gave her a nod and she sat back down.

"Miss Borden, care to share your choice with us?" he requested of her.

She didn't move. Just continued to stare out the window as she recited her choice.

"No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it; for I love you so,

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O, if, I say, you look upon this verse,

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,

But let your love even with my life decay;

Lest the wise world should look into your moan,

And mock you with me after I am gone."

She turned to look at him then. "Sonnet Seventy-one."

He raised he eyebrows at her and made his first comment of the entire class. "Interesting choice."

The bell rang then, interrupting anything else he might say.

"Remember, reports are due Monday." Darien reminded them, as the girls began to gather their stuff together to leave. "Miss Borden, please stay a moment."

That comment earned a round of giggles and 'oooohs' from everyone else that Callie ignored. She waited until everyone had left before even bothering to stand up. "Whatcha need, Mr. Fawkes?"

"A vacation," he muttered. "How are you adjusting?" He leaned back against the desk stuffing his hands in his pockets. Asking her a question from halfway across the room was not what he wanted to do. What he wanted to do involved much closer contact and preferably a decided lack of clothing, but neither of them had much of a choice. So he stayed where he was and she stayed where she was.

She shrugged. "Well enough I guess." Bending down she picked up her books and stuffed them into her backpack and then slung it over her shoulder.

She looked so odd to him in the school uniform, which she of course wore with her own sense of style. Hiking style boots, white socks, then the horrid blue, green, and yellow tartan skirt. The top was a plain white shirt with tartan collar to match. She had failed again to tuck in the shirt and also had failed to button about half the buttons. The other teachers had given up trying to convince her to wear the clothes properly. She was technically following the dress code, as she had proven by not only quoting it word for word, but by holding the book open to the exact page for them to read.

After that, she got away pretty much with anything on the uniform front. Several other girls had taken to copying her, much to the dismay of the administration.

"What about that special project you've been working on?"

Callie walked over to stand in front of him. "Nothing. No luck whatsoever and I don't like it at all."

He nodded. That's pretty much what they had expected, since she had not contacted anyone before he and Hobbes' arrived. Lowering his voice he whispered, "We need to talk."

She nodded in agreement. Boy did they, and for more reasons than just the job at hand.

*Meet me at The Tree tonight, an hour before first bed check,* she sent into his mind.

"We done?" she asked, dancing a little in place. Being near him, practically alone, was not easy at the moment.

"Yeah, we're done. Al...." he began.

"Callie, Mr. Fawkes. Calinda Borden, remember?" She gave him a smile. *I've missed you, Dare.*

He felt her emotions wash across his mind and sighed. *Me too.* he sent back. Then, "Off to your next class, Callie. You wouldn't want to be late."

"No class. Done for the day, but thanks." Callie laughed and bounced out of the room. *Smart-ass.*

He shook his head and laughed for a moment. Then he turned to greet the next group of girls who'd been waiting patiently in the hallway for him to finish.

Callie made her way down the hall and through the doors into the dormitory wing of the school. She jogged to the staircase and went up one floor, heading for the room she shared with Frances. She paused, leaning over the railing to see what if anything was going on in the common room down on the ground floor. There were two floors of dorm rooms that overlooked the common area and library far below.

The school was three large buildings set in the shape of half a hexagon. The two side buildings angled out from the main building. The main building contained both the adult and student dormitories, divided by the main entrance area that contained the administrative offices, infirmary, housekeeping, and some storage. The building to the right housed classrooms on the top two floors and the cafeteria on the ground floor. The building to the left also had classrooms on the top two floors, but had the gym and pool on the ground floor.

The common areas on both sides were accessible to the students, both for general relaxation and study purposes. The teachers and administrators had their own private common area on their second floor. The classrooms could be accessed both from inside the buildings as well as from the outside in the courtyard and garden area. Out beyond the buildings were a number of sports fields. Beyond that was a general recreation area, which included The Tree.

Callie sighed and dove into her room, dumping her backpack on her bed. Her classes were done for the day and she fully intended to relax for a while. Her version of relaxing, anyway. She changed into a pair of official school shorts and a T-shirt, then zipped a sweatshirt over it. She'd already completed her homework, as well as her larger assignments for the week. Here they went to school six days a week, two of which were half days and had required study time. She tended to blow off the study time, however, in favor of trying to keep her mind in one piece.

She left the room without seeing Frances, who was her assigned senior. Seniority was based on time at the school rather than by grade, which is why Frances, who was only a sophomore, was paired with Callie who was a junior. They were also paired in the hopes that Frances' quieter disposition would have a calming effect on Callie's rather boisterous and brash personality. The opposite was occurring, however, as Callie was bringing 'Frankie' out of her shell. Frankie had discovered from Callie that being smart didn't mean you had to be quiet and bookish. You could be smart and still have fun, lots of fun.

Callie made her way downstairs, sliding down the banisters until she reached the ground floor. She made her way through the various stacks and game areas until she found one with a TV no one was watching and turned it on to catch an early news cast. She sat sideways in the overstuffed chair, her legs swinging as she watched the room about her.

Her inability to determine what was going on at this school was really beginning to bother her. Only one girl had turned up sick since she had arrived, and that had been a legitimate virus. Nothing else. She'd broken into the admin offices on two separate occasions and found nothing suspicious there. She found no hidden audio or video devices. Nothing overly unusual in the infirmary. The only thing she hadn't done, and wanted no part of doing, was reading the minds of the people here. The stuff she couldn't filter out was bad enough.

Her personal nickname for this place was 'hormone hall'. Stick several hundred adolescent girls together in one building, provide them little or no male distraction except the occasional cute teacher, and you get a whole lot of girls all thinking about the same few guys. Throw someone who is both an empath and telepath, of sorts, into the mix and... Poor Callie, who never slept well anyway, was having an even worse time of it here, and since Mr. Fawkes had arrived things had become worse. She'd been very careful about touching other people and tried to avoid touching skin on skin if she could avoid it.

When Frances stepped up behind her, she knew about well beforehand. "Callie, heard you had a good time in Lit. Mr. Fawkes asked you to stay behind." She had squatted down next to the chair, smiling. "Lucky you."

Callie shrugged. "He just wanted to know how I was fitting in. He seemed to find my recitation choice a bit odd."

"I told you he would," Frances said. "About Lit?"

"I'll help you after dinner, okay Frankie?" Callie almost pleaded.

Frances nodded. "No problem." She looked about the room. "Listen, I heard that Miriam and Witch Hazel are looking for you. Seems you keep avoiding their little initiation. Be careful. They apparently had a bad time with Sarge Hobbes today." She laughed quietly. "He apparently put them in their place. They tried to live up to your example from earlier and failed."

Callie sighed and rolled her eyes. "Thanks Frankie. I'll be careful. Pick a comedy for Lit."

Frances looked surprised. "Comedy? I was going to pick a historical."

Callie looked at her. "Trust me. You'd do the historical just fine, but you'll be great with the comedy."

Frances tipped her head a bit. "I always did like Comedy of

Errors," she mused. "All right. I'll try it. See you at chow time, roomie." She got to her feet.

"Later." Callie watched the room for a few more minutes and then shut off the TV and headed for a set of French doors that led out into the courtyard. If Miri and Haze were after her, she wanted to meet them on her terms, not theirs.

Ah, the joys of high school.

Callie wandered out by the kitchen garden, where there were few people and plenty of open space. She liked coming out here by the herb and vegetable garden to do her katas and yoga. The scents were soothing and very few others hung out around here. Too close to the buildings, she guessed. So she had the place pretty much to herself as she centered herself and began to move slowly through her routine. She let the voices, minds, and emotions of those around her slide past her senses. Only then was she able to isolate her own emotional state, which was still pretty darn erratic even by her standards, from the surrounding noise.

These last couple of weeks hadn't been easy. Losing herself to the part she had to play, while still having to be little miss secret agent. It was hard. She hated lying to the girls, especially those that were becoming her friends. Or Callie's friends, anyway.

Callie was fitting in just fine, causing trouble as expected, but doing okay. And that was part of the current problem; until Callie had arrived, Miri, Haze and their little crew had pretty much run the show here after hours. Callie had changed that, had upset that delicate balance of bully and bullied. Callie had collected herself a group of followers that she hadn't even been seeking, and they had begun ignoring the rules that Miri and Haze had set down.

She hadn't planned it. She'd just been herself. Well, herself as a trouble-making, smart-assed teenager. Something she hadn't been the first time around in high school because she'd been so much younger than her classmates. She'd had friends, back then, but not like this. There was too much of the adult in her to let go completely, which left her seeming a bit aloof to the other girls. She had the feeling that was part of their attraction to her. She joined in the fun, but did it from a point slightly above the, to her, simple games.

When Miri and Haze finally showed up she was more than ready for them. Centered and calm. Which was good for them. If she were in one of her moods, she might take them apart with a thought, and that would be bad.

"Well if it isn't little Miss Teacher's Pet herself," Miri sneered.

Callie ignored Miriam and continued her routine.

"Not just one, but two. Apparently the new teachers have a thing for tiny redheads with funny looking eyes," Haze added.

Callie continued to ignore them, or at least appeared to. She was actually paying very close attention to what they were doing.

"She appears to be deaf as well as stupid," Miri commented to her cohort.

"Quite. Either that or she simply does not realize the amount of trouble she is in," Haze tossed back to her partner.

Both girls stood at least six inches taller than dainty-looking Callie, and both had made a point of spreading their version of brutality around for a couple of years. They had become very adept at causing trouble and either not getting caught or getting the blame placed elsewhere. Usually on the person they were currently targeting. That's what they were trying now. They were hoping to egg Callie into taking the first swing. To get her so angry she'd simply attack without thinking. If Callie had been a somewhat insecure sixteen-year-old, feeling somewhat out of place at a new school, it might have worked, but she wasn't. They were dealing with someone - something -- they could never hope to understand.

Miri and Haze were both getting angry and had begun to yell various insults at Callie, who still ignored them. They were attracting attention. Heads were sticking out of class and dorm room windows to see what the ruckus was all about. Several teachers were watching carefully as well.

Miri gave in to her anger first and went after Callie with a simple punch to the chin. Callie dodged by leaning backwards, allowing the fist to slide past her face with inches to spare. The girl screeched in anger and charged the smaller girl. Callie simply stepped aside and let her go flying right past.

Callie decided to pay attention then. "One warning. Stop or I will stop you."

Both of the larger girls laughed. Nasty, angry laughs. Within moments, there was an audience forming a wide circle about them. "Like we're afraid of your tiny ass. Get real."

Haze came at her from the side, and once again Callie simply moved and let her rush by. The two girls looked at each other and came at her together this time. It was obvious that they had used this tactic before. Hazel moved to the right and Miriam to the left. Callie forced herself to relax and wait for them to make their move. When it came, it was pretty predictable. Miri went for the hair, while Haze tried to keep Callie's hands busy with a few halfway decent punches that were easily blocked. Haze threw one too many and Callie ducked at the perfect time.

Ignoring the pain as her hair was nearly ripped out, she went to her knees, letting Hazel's fist connect with Miriam's chin. In shock, Miriam let go, allowing Callie to roll out from between them.

She ended up near the herb garden and was momentarily distracted by the scent of the herb sitting directly before her. It was eerily familiar, and from a very recent adventure of hers.

The distraction lasted a bit too long. She felt herself being dragged upright by her hair and facing a very angry Miri. Miriam's lip was bleeding; she'd bitten it when Haze hit her.

"You little bitch. I'll teach you to take your medicine." Miri pulled back her arm, taking aim on Callie's face. Callie just looked at her without fear.

"I warned you." Callie said quietly.

When the fist came forward, she moved her head to the side, grabbed Miri by the forearm and twisted, dumping her over her shoulder and onto the ground. She got to her feet and went into a full defensive posture waiting for Hazel to make her next move. It didn't happen. Hazel was being held in place by the collar of her shirt by Headmistress Adams. Callie backed away from Miri, relaxing her posture.

Mr. Yothers, one of the math teachers, walked over and helped Miriam to her feet, but didn't release her once she was upright. He simply changed his grip to her upper arm.

"Who started this?" The headmistress asked of the crowd that had gathered about to watch the show.

Almost as one, the crowd implicated Miri and Hazel, some even adding the 'witch' appellation to her name.

The headmistress nodded. "So, we finally caught you in the act. Good thing I have your expulsion papers ready for my signature." She turned Hazel over to another teacher, who joined Mr. Yothers in escorting the two girls to the Headmistress' office. She walked over to Callie and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for your restraint, Miss Borden. I'll need to speak with you later about this, but I assure you, you are not in any trouble over this matter."

"No problem, Headmistress Adams," Callie responded with some relief. She was just glad she hadn't been forced to take it any further. She could have done serious harm to the girls if her temper had suddenly decided to go.

Hobbes pushed his way through then. "Aw right, break it up. Some of youse still have classes to attend." Once the crowd began to move, he walked over to Callie. "Good work, kid. Now make yourself scarce for a bit."

She nodded and after a moment she walked over to the garden and picked a couple leaves off one of the plants. Looking back at Hobbes she gave him a wink and then headed for the building. Now was looking like a good time to hide in her room for a while.