Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men or any Marvel property.

Disney, you SOBs, only giving me 10 episodes for the first season of X-Men '97. I have waited the majority of my life for this, since the original stopped being made, and all you've got for me is just a taste. The quality better be top-notch. You know the demo you're making this for. It ain't for the kids. It's for me, and viewers like me.

But seriously, how long are those episodes anyway? I can't imagine they're any longer than like 22 minutes each.

Chapter 47: No Good Deed

We received clearance from S.W.O.R.D. to return to Earth with the Breakworld bullet in tow, but even with that, we still had other problems to work out. Where exactly do you land when you're magnetically hauling a giant metal bullet big enough to destroy all of Earth?

That's a trick question; you don't land. Thankfully, 70% of Earth is covered in water, which served as safe a place as any to mess around with a big alien bullet. This served two purposes, because the bullet was way too hard to expect Magneto to rip it open with any kind of ease while it was cold. No, he needed it hot. As hot as possible. The heat from reentering Earth's atmosphere proved hot enough to do the trick.

Still, even with the atmospheric assistance, we all got a front row seat to a vulgar display of raw power from Magneto.

We'd all heard stories, of how the man had commandeered an asteroid to serve as a base of evil operations in the past. How he had enough power to throw the planet's magnetic field out of whack. We'd trained against him and been dog-walked by a Danger Room hologram of him enough times to know that he was no joke.

I put the spaceship in a hover while all of the teenagers clambered to get the best view possible. Everyone but Ruth. She had kept to herself for most of the trip back.

It was hard to explain quite what Magneto did. I had expected him to tear the bullet open, or peel layers off of it until there was nothing left. Instead, he took the red-hot bullet and seemed to separate it from Miss Pryde's body. Then, instead of letting the remnants of the bullet fall into the ocean like I would have, he... I don't know how to describe it, but it seemed like he split the entire thing into countless pieces and shot them back off into space.

That was going to suck for whatever wound up getting in the way, but I'm pretty sure he aimed at the sun. Either way, it was still the most important thing I had ever seen live and in-person.

Best of all, it brought my teacher back, alive. After the light and pyrotechnic show had ended, she just hung in the air, looking very confused. Even when I hovered the ship closer, it was as if she didn't believe what she was seeing. It wasn't until she phased through the top of the vessel and saw all of us in the cockpit that reality sank in – not only for her, but for the rest of us.

Miss Pryde pressed her hands over her nose and mouth, looking just about ready to burst into tears. Everyone else but Laura and I did. Hisako and Eddie cheered out loud through theirs. Even Megan was ready to cry. Laura and I just stood back and watched.

"Do you not wish to join them?" Laura wondered. She hadn't been as attached to Miss Pryde as the rest of us had been when she'd been lost. That aside, she wasn't the touchy-feely type to begin with, unless it was with me... and rarely in public, "All of this was your idea, after all."

As much as I wanted to get involved, I didn't need to be at the center of this one. I also didn't really feel comfortable with it. I watched her get shot off into space to begin with. I wasn't able to help her when she needed it most. As far as I was concerned, all of this was just making up for something I couldn't prevent back then.

"Nah," I threw an arm around Laura and pulled her close, "My ego is satisfied for the time being."

In the meantime, a startling discovery was made.

When everyone went to embrace Miss Pryde, they went right through her, "What in the-?" Mister Rasputin repeatedly tried and failed to take her into his arms, "Katya… what is this?"

When Miss Pryde attempted to reply, there were no words. Her mouth moved, but no sound came out.

"Dude, can she not talk?" Eddie asked as everyone huddled concernedly.

"Goddamn it…" I spat. Of course. There was always something else. Still, if this was the extent of the problems that accompanied my actions, I'd chalk that up as a victory for me, "Alright, you know what? As much as this sucks, it's a problem for people smarter than me to solve. For now, I'm gonna take this dub."

I was not going to allow this slight turn of fortune to kill my vibe. For once, I won. I inarguably, indisputably won. Hooray. For. Me. Any other consequence that came of this could, and would, be dealt with later – preferably by someone better equipped for the job.

Eventually I noticed that absent from the reunion was the lynchpin to this entire thing working out as smoothly as it did.

"Where's Magneto?" I whispered to Laura so as not to attract attention.

She gestured with her head to the back, away from the cockpit, "I smell blood."

Well, that was ominous.

"Come on," I guided her by the hip to come with me as inconspicuously as I could. I didn't know if I would need help or not, given that he was a (possibly reforming) supervillain. Better safe than sorry.

I didn't need to worry about Magneto doing anything to us. Instead, I had to worry about the man himself. Laura and I found him on his hands and knees, breathing raggedly. There was a trail of blood along the floor where he had been crawling out of sight of anyone else.

"Holy shit," I muttered, rushing over to try and help him up into a more comfortable position. The least I could do was find somewhere for the guy to sit. There was blood coming from every orifice on his head – mouth, nose, eyes, and ears, "What happened?"

"I'm afraid... I may have overexerted myself," Magneto slurred.

Clearly. Between everything he did to help us find the bullet, keeping hold of the damn thing all the way back to Earth, and then tearing it open and sending the debris safely away from the planet, it was no wonder.

"D-Don't mind me, Solaris," Magneto said, his voice getting weaker.

Laura and I ignored him and tried to pick him up, "You weren't exaggerating about how hard that bullet was..." I replied.

We managed to find a more comfortable place to put him, receiving next to no help from Magneto himself. He clearly had nothing left. Even worse than I thought actually, as when we sat him down, his body fell completely limp, head lolled to the side. The man was out. His breath rattled in his throat.

"Oh, don't you fucking dare..." I said to the unconscious Magneto as I sprinted back to the cockpit. I yelled at the others as I jumped back behind the controls, "Everybody grab a seat right now! We've gotta go!"

I didn't bother fielding questions. All everyone else had was the ten seconds it took for me to prepare everything to take off again. I didn't bother seeing how many managed to strap to themselves in before I shot us off through the skies.

There was only one place I could think of to take perhaps the most wanted mutant in the world for medical treatment without guaranteed screwing him over.

Next stop, Salem Center, New York.


For all the serial misbehavers out there, would you like to know the secret of avoiding any immediate consequences for your questionable actions? It's simple. Present not just one, but two bigger things that clearly supersede whatever it is you may have done to get yourself in trouble in the first place.

When I touched the Breakworld ship down on the main lawn of the school, it felt like the entire staff, led by Mister Summers and Miss Frost, were waiting to give us a piece of their mind and probably banish me to detention for the rest of my time there. Anything Mr. Summers had to say visibly died in his throat when he saw Mister Rasputin disembark with Miss Pryde at his side.

I wished he wasn't wearing that visor so I could see how big his eyes probably got, "K-Kitty!?"

Everyone got a sweet one-two punch when they saw me hauling Magneto's limp body over my shoulders.

"Anyone, feel free to take this guy off my hands whenever you want!" I shouted irritably at all of the gawkers. By now, plenty of students had gathered to get a look at what was happening as well, "Not like he's dying or anything!"

The entire staff, X-Men all of them in some form, scattered in the most chaotically controlled rush of movement and action I could remember seeing. Dr. McCoy basically jumped over the entire crowd to get to us, but seemed torn over which one to prioritize. I made the choice for him when I dumped Magneto on him and used the confusion to slip away before anyone could start grilling me.

Dragging your teachers' most prolific enemy to their doorstep while he's at death's door is a good enough distraction on its own. But pairing that with the return of a lost longtime comrade who can't turn off her powers to even so much as interact with them presents a spectacular cocktail of 'we've-got-more-important-shit-to-worry-about-than-you' that served me just fine. It wasn't like I had been looking forward to the chewing out that I'd expected to receive upon our return.

I made it all the way to my room and was able to shower, change, and collapse in my bed without receiving a message or a call, let alone someone coming to bother me in-person.

Jesus, there had to be something wrong with me. This was my victory lap after pulling off the triumph I just managed to make happen? Slinking off into the shadows and taking a nap? I didn't even bother hanging around to bask in the glow of my own success. Potential punishment be damned, I knew I'd pulled off something special.

After all of the commotion that I'd managed to avoid, something rare happened. I slept. I tried not to be excited about it when I felt myself start to doze off. I failed.

Now, let me reiterate, for those who have not been paying attention; I do not sleep. Ever. Not unless I'm in a really bad way. Even rarer still, when I do sleep, I sure as hell never dream. So rare were my dreams that I immediately recognized that I was in one.

I mean... how often did you close your eyes and the next thing you know you're looking down at your own sleeping self? It was pretty self-centerd for a dream to start with you looking at yourself though. Maybe Megan had a point about me?

"You. Are you the one I need? Who are you, funny little boy?"

That was a great question little dream voice in my head. Who was I, exactly? It was something I asked myself quite often in quiet, introspective moments. In as basic an answer as I could provide, I was just the solar-powered, potentially sociopathic, perpetually testy leader of the Weenie Hut Jr. X-Men, or probational X-Men, for those of us who had higher self-esteem.

"X-Men... leader?" The dream voice in my head couldn't seem to reconcile me being in charge of the X-Men, "No... Not you. You're not the one I need. It's not enough. Not... potent enough. Not strong enough."

Ouch, little dream voice. Well, fuck me then, I guess. Even in my own dreams I wasn't good enough, it seemed.

"Hmm. Perhaps you can help me though. I need... I'm not quite sure, actually. So weak. Can you help me? I don't know exactly what I'm looking for."

I didn't know what this weird little voice was on about until I was no longer looking at myself. We seemed to be traveling around the school, searching the halls until I suddenly saw other people.

"What about them?"

The Cuckoos? And, uh-oh, Celeste, Mindee, and Irma were all less than modestly dressed. Fair, given that I seemed to be flying around their room like an insect after-hours while they chatted about in bed. And I literally could not look away.

I really didn't think I needed to be seeing that. I mean, I definitely appreciate the view, little voice, but I have a girlfriend, and she might murder me if she found out I had the Cuckoos on my brain during the one and only dream I was probably going to have that financial quarter.

"I remember them. The Cuckoos. Talking with their thoughts. They're strong," The little voice sounded intrigued, but just like that, the interest was gone, "...Oh, but there used to be more of them, didn't there? Oh well."

Yes, get me away from there before Laura rocks up to my bed and somehow figures everything out. With my luck I probably talked in my sleep.

"Laura? Is she strong?"

Absolutely. The strongest girl I knew.

Before long, I found myself looking at her, walking outside the mansion with Logan. It had snowed while we had been in space, not that the two of them seemed to care. Logan was Canadian, so I guess he had an excuse. Jackets were seemingly all either of them needed to be comfortable in the cold weather.

Snow crunched under their boots as they wandered away from the paved paths and out onto the white-covered lawn.

"So, you're letting your boytoy drag you to space now?" Logan asked.

Laura side-eyed and glared at him, "He did not 'drag' me anywhere. He told me what he was going to do, and I told him I was going with him. We all did," She bit her lip and looked away, "I was not supposed to reveal that. He told us to say that it was an order if we were asked, so that only he gets in trouble."

"Don't worry," Logan said, "When Slim comes asking about what the hell went down, I'll make sure your little group's story holds up."

Laura nodded, accepting Logan's reassurance. The two of them slipped into silence for a while before Laura spoke up again, "You do not like him. Bellamy, I mean."

Logan groaned, his breath coming out in a frozen fog, "I like Glowstick just fine. The kid kinda grows on you... like a fungus or something," He groused, shoving his hands into his pockets, "I don't like him for you," Before Laura could round on him to defend me, he preempted her, "That's all I'm gonna say. I'm not going to yap your ear off about it. If he's the one you chose, that's all there is to it. You make your own decisions."

"Okay," Laura said, calming back down, "...Thank you."

Logan grunted in acceptance before grinning over at her, "If he does something stupid and breaks your heart, tell me I can rough him up a little, or at least put the fear of God in him."

"He probably would not respond to that in any way that would satisfy you," Laura replied, "He also probably would not make it as easy as you sound like you think it would be."

"Yeah, he probably wouldn't lay down without a hell of a fight," Logan chuckled.

Laura raised an eyebrow, "Really? He lays down for me quite easily."

She actually caused Logan to wince, "...I really didn't need to fucking know that, darlin'."

It looked and sounded like daddy-daughter time, or as close to it as a clone and the original were going to have.

"I don't know her... but I do know him, don't I? Wolverine. Quick, fierce, angry. Her as well. But only flesh, the two of them."

Little voice, this is a big school. There are hundreds of people here. I don't know who you want us to see, or if anyone here is good enough for you at all. I have no criteria to work with here. Be more specific, goddamn it.

"Strength. Power."

I saw visions of a psychic at work. Telepathy, telekinesis. The next thing I knew, we were stopped at Quire's window.

Hell no. Absolutely not. Keep going, little voice.

"But he's strong."

His powers? Yeah, I guess. Other than that? Fragile body, fragile spirit, fragile ego. Fuck that guy. Keep him the fuck out of my goddamn dreams. Not even in my worst nightmares would I tolerate seeing that prick. Next.


Little voice, you hijacked my nap. If you don't like it, find yourself another dream guide.

"Oh, fine. You're quite rude for something that's mere flesh and blood."

And you're not even real. You're just a manifestation of my insomnia's slowly encroaching psychosis, so take that.

"I don't remember what I am. I don't... wait."

This time, we stopped in front of the window looking into the room that Mister Summers and Miss Frost shared. I felt super-weird, looking in on two of my teachers as they slept, but this time I couldn't persuade the voice to search elsewhere.

"It's you," The voice said as we flew inside and fluttered around the bed, "Yes... I'm remembering now," it seemed to be fixating on Miss Frost, "They always said you were cold. But I know better."

Just as suddenly, it moved over to the other sleeping occupant in the bed. It was then that everything felt... different.

"SCOTT," There was something primeval about the way the voice spoke Mister Summers' name. It landed on the frame of his sunglasses and crawled onto the lens, "I need... so much... so weak... can I even...? Yes. Can you hear me, Scott?"

Mister Summers' eye snapped open and the red of his beam began to light up right as I was pulled awake. I jumped out of my bed with a start, falling in an ungraceful heap of limbs and covers onto the floor. I jumped right back up, my heart hammering in my chest.

In the dark, I could see Ruth sitting on my bed. She had been the one to wake me up.

I stayed on the floor, looking up at her. She seemed upset, "Ruthie... did you see my dream?" I asked carefully.

Ruth shook her head, "No... not a dream, yes... not a dream. She is sorry, Bellamy. Yes. There was nothing she could do. She is not strong enough. It has come, come too early. Not quite what it should be, no."

I had spent more than enough time around Ruth to know how she was. She had seen something in her little precog/telepath noodle that spooked her hard enough to make deciphering her more of a challenge than normal. There was no talking her down when she got like that. All you could do was either try to figure out what she was alluding to on the spot, wait for her to calm down, or both.

I sat back down on my bed and wrapped my arms around her. She allowed me to and even leaned into me, but she didn't relax. She stayed tense and periodically babbled to me. She couldn't show me anything she had seen, and nothing she said made any more sense. Eventually, she talked herself to sleep, leaving me alone to contemplate things.

I looked down at Ruth's slumbering form and tried not to be jealous. Damn her. That should have been me there asleep.


It wasn't until the next morning that I went to see exactly what had been done about Miss Pryde and Magneto. That should have been long enough for someone to figure out something. Knowing that whatever it was, it would be in the medic bay, I went down to the lower levels to snoop around.

Magneto was the easiest to find. He was front and center in whatever accounted for intensive care in that place. Whatever he had done must have shredded him on the inside, because they had him hooked to all kinds of machines that I couldn't identify if you gave me the manuals to them. The guy had really tried.

Despite seeing him in that state, it kind of did my heart good to see him at all. While I figured the staff would help when they saw how dire his condition was, a part of me was afraid they might just throw him out back with the trash. It gave me hope that one day I could get over all of my petty grudges and vendettas in order to do the right thing. It wasn't likely, but that was where the hope was supposed to come into play, wasn't it?

As for Miss Pryde, she was inside some kind of containment machine. It somehow nullified her powers so that she couldn't phase through it the way she had everything else up to that point.

"She cannot turn her powers off," Mister Rasputin told me when I showed up. He had taken a seat right by the machine and clearly hadn't moved from that spot since they had placed her there. He watched her even as she slept, never taking his eyes off of her, "She held her intangibility for so long. Katya didn't just save Earth from that bullet... she saved so many other worlds. For all this time... all by herself."

I was about to apologize. The words were forming in my throat as I listened. Miss Pryde had done all of that, and for what? To find out she couldn't even talk to anyone without the assistance of a machine, couldn't even touch them. Granted, it was probably better than the alternative of being stuck inside a space bullet for the rest of one's natural life, but that was some monkey's paw bullshit if I had ever seen it in person.

"Thank you, Bellamy," Mister Rasputin continued before I could say anything, "Who knows how much longer she would have been stuck there, suffering."

He didn't say anything else, and neither did I. I gave him a pat on the back and left him, well, the two of them, alone.

That was all the victory lap I needed. I knew what I did. The people around me knew what I did. I didn't need or want a parade of roses in my honor. The feeling of a job well done was enough. My ego would feed itself well for quite some time.

That thought would keep me company through the tribunal I more or less expected to find myself standing in front of once the X-Men and the rest of the school got their collective shit together. But that never happened. I just wound up going back to class like nothing had ever happened. But people were talking.

"Did you hear? Cyclops blew out a chunk of the ceiling last night?"

"What, did Magneto attack or something?"

"What are you talking about? Isn't he dead?"

"No, he's in the sublevel! Didn't you see? The X-Men brought him in yesterday!"

"No way. That has to be a fake, or a clone, or something."

I kept my head down as I moved between classes. Even with everyone chattering about the goings-on around the school, my name wasn't in anyone's mouth. Despite what we had done, that we had done it seemed to be the least notable thing about it. This approach somehow got me through to lunch where I was unable to avoid scrutiny any longer

Julian nearly slammed his tray down on the table, "You went to space and you didn't bring me? What were you smoking?"

"That Paladin pack," I replied, "It was personal. Besides, I'm still not sure I won't get in trouble for it," I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that front.

Laura spoke up from where she was seated beside me, "No one has said anything," She said, "Also, Ruth was absent from our room this morning."

"Oh, she had a precog episode last night," I told her, "She's in my room, still sleeping it off," I had been checking in on her periodically between classes. It happened from time to time, Ruth mindfreaking herself into exhaustion. It happened frequently enough that not only was I accustomed to handling it, but Laura accepted it without question.

Laura nodded in understanding, but Julian sensed ammunition to use against me, "Wow, Marcher. The clone lets you bring other girls into your room? Can't believe she gives you that much length on your leash."

I threw a balled-up napkin at Julian that he stopped in the air with telekinesis, "Aside from the fact that what you're implying is utterly despicable for many reasons, I'm a one-woman man, you goon," I said, pulling Laura close. She switched over to sitting in my lap, entirely unprompted, and damn near mewled, "And this one is mine."

"Get a room!" Someone called out from the other side of the cafeteria.

"Bite me!" I shouted back before turning to Laura, "Not you. Well, maybe you, if you're into that. Are you into that?" I asked before remembering that we were in polite company, "You know what? This is a conversation for later."


"Mister Marcher, do you know what the Phoenix is?"

Well, that was a hell of a way to start a conversation.

When I was called to Miss Frost's office, I had fully expected to finally face the consequences of my actions from a disciplinary standpoint. Detention... suspension... maybe some other kind of punishment that ended in an –ion. What I didn't expect was to have my brain picked about a cosmic entity formerly attached to one of the X-Men's late founding members. It caught me off guard for a moment, to say the least.

For my own amusement, I decided to lead off by playing dumb, "Uh... a mythical multi-colored bird of fire and resurrection?" Miss Frost was less than impressed. Before she could respond with diamond-edged snark, I decided to cut her off at the pass, "Yeah, I know what the Phoenix is. The Danger Room tried to use it to kill me before, remember?"

Miss Frost scoffed, "Even at its most unhinged, the Danger Room couldn't have ever replicated the amount of power the Phoenix is capable of drawing upon, believe me," She said, "The Phoenix is capable of wiping out entire worlds. Whole species, civilizations, obliterated, as though they were dirt or grime, scrubbed from the walls of existence."

What a pleasant thing to envision having to deal with. Just X-Men things, it seemed. Although the Phoenix seemed like it was just a few notches higher than my paygrade would permit me to step up to. Still, I couldn't help but feel stricken by well-founded paranoia.

"Is there, uh... any reason in particular you're hammering this home for me?" I asked, trying and failing to play things cool.

Miss Frost didn't bother mincing words, "Scott has a suspicion that the Phoenix may have returned."

Just like that? The matter-of-fact way she spoke rubbed me the wrong way. Such an occurrence should not have been as simple as she tried to make it sound, "Didn't it die?"

Miss Frost smiled grimly at me, "You said it yourself, darling. It resurrects."

I allowed the sardonic response to wash over me. Fair enough. I walked right into that one. She also didn't even seem to enjoy hitting me with it, "Yeah-yeah-yeah, but didn't it die, like, a few months before I showed up?" I asked, "It has to take something that strong way longer than a year and some change to put itself back together."

Miss Frost spared a curious glance my way, "Has Scott not gotten through the Shi'ar Empire portion of your mentoring yet?"

"Not yet," I told her. Everything I knew about that was due to independent study.

"Well, that figures," She muttered, "There are admittedly more than a few touchy subjects for him there."

Such as his previous wife being the last host of the fucking Phoenix and being held responsible for the destruction of an entire planet and all 5 billion people inhabiting it. I knew that much, at least. That still didn't explain what any of this had to do with me. I definitely wasn't going to be volunteering to tangle with the Phoenix.

"So, what?" I asked, "Is this all so I can start getting my head wrapped around fighting it or something, just in case?"

Miss Frost, to her credit, looked utterly appalled by the idea, "The Phoenix is a nightmare matchup for you in every conceivable metric. Anything you could do to it would be ineffective at best and would further fuel it at worst. It is not an opponent so much as it is a literal force of nature. It devours stars, darling."

"...I didn't hear a no," I said tentatively.

"You'll hear it now then. No," Miss Frost resolutely said, "You and yours are not to involve yourself with the Phoenix. I brought you here to tell you this directly and to make sure you relay the message to your team firsthand. After all, you have been quite intrepid lately when it comes to problem-solving."

I winced at her less than subtle change of topic, "You're talking about going to space."

"I am, yes."

"Am I in trouble for that?"

"Officially, no. Too many people are ecstatic with the result to punish you, and with things as busy as they are dealing with Katherine and Erik's conditions, and this new Phoenix wrinkle, by the time we get around to the logistics of what you actually did, the moment will be long past."

I winced, not liking the way she had phrased things, "Unofficially though?"

Miss Frost took a deep calming breath before giving me a piercing stare, "Personally speaking, I'm livid," She turned her entire body to diamond to wipe away her emotions – anger included, "If something had occurred, what could we have done for you? What could anyone have done for you? For God's sake, no one knew where you were. We didn't even know you had gone anywhere at all for a full day."

As pleased as I was with what I had managed to pull off, I was also aware enough to look at things from the perspective of my minders. If Xavier's was a regular school, and not a training facility for superheroes, it would have been the equivalent of a student convincing a bunch of his peers to run out on class and wander into the remotest wilderness imaginable to search for a person that had gone missing ages ago.

Everyone who went with me had families, or at least people who cared about them. If something had happened to us, what would the staff have told any of them? It arguably would have been worse than if we'd died at school in some attack. Either way, it all would have happened on their watch.

Even if I stood by what I did, a real man could admit when they did something that adversely affected the people around them, "I'm sorry," I apologized, "I... well, I know I put you guys in a really messed up spot."

Miss Frost seemed taken by surprise, seemingly expecting me to defend myself. That I apologized to her seemed to be the last thing she had anticipated. Still, she regained her composure quickly enough, "I'm restricting you from leaving campus when not on an official assignment for the next month. I will also be requesting more counseling sessions with Dr. Garrison for you," It was a veritable slap on the wrist compared to what I'd figured I'd get. I obviously didn't say that though, "You may not value your life very much, Mister Marcher, but I assure you, others do."

"Others including you?" I ventured to ask before I could stop myself.

"I do not enjoy burying children, Mister Marcher. Remember that," She replied before allowing herself a smirk, "Even ones as headache-inducing as you."


Once all my classes and meetings were done for the day, I headed back to the dorms. Between my appointments I made sure to stop off at Ruth's classes to excuse her and get her homework from her teachers. Again, this was a regular occurrence, enough that it was accepted, no questions.

When I made it back to my room, I found Ruth all by herself, tucked into my bed, right where I had left her. She looked peaceful and comfortable. My jealousy from earlier had not wavered. How was it fair that someone who wasn't me got to enjoy sleeping in my bed more than I did?

I made it a point to be as loud as possible as I entered, closing the door loudly, dropping my bag on the floor with a thud, even dropping my weight down with force when I sat down at the edge of the bed.

"Still out of it, huh?" I said to the unconscious girl as I rummaged through my bag to retrieve her assignments, "I'm not doing your homework for you again, so you'd better wake up and do it yourself before it gets too late."

I leaned over to try and nudge her awake, but the second a laid a hand on her shoulder, I felt myself have an out of body experience. In an instant, I was no longer in my dorm room. Instead, I stood amongst the cosmos, surrounded by celestial bodies. The only thing there with me was a small firefly floating around my head, glowing a flaming orange.

"Hello, Bellamy," I heard in my head, clear as day.

"Ruthie?" It was her voice, only not somehow. Something was wrong. This didn't feel right, "You there? You okay?"

"Do not worry. She is fine," As the voice spoke, the little firefly exploded right in front of me. For a split second, it took the form of a giant bird-like mass of flames and radiation before vanishing, leaving Ruth with me in the vast emptiness, "See?"

I knew what I had seen. Temperament dampening be damned, the only reason I hadn't crapped myself at the sight of it was because I wasn't in my own body, "Why are we astral projecting?"

Ruth's expression twisted into the wholly unnatural form of a smirk. My Ruthie did not fucking smirk, "Because this is an introduction better made away from prying ears and minds," She purred, "Do you know what I am?"

It suddenly occurred to me. No, this was not one of Ruth's standard precog overexertion epiode. This was something way more alarming.

"The Phoenix," I whispered.

The being using my friend's form seemed pleased, "Yes. So, there is no need to explain," I shook my head in the negative, "Good!"

This was bad. It was so bad. If someone sat me down and tried to get me to think of a worse situation to realistically find myself in, I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to come up with something feasible. And it wasn't just me. Ruth too?

"You didn't have to take her," I said, "You passed a bunch of other telepaths first. That was what last night was all about, right?" Suddenly that dream I'd had started making a lot more sense to me.

"The others were all unsuitable to harness my power. This one is too."

"You still took her though."

At that, Ruth frowned, "You misunderstand. This one volunteered herself. She made a compelling argument," the Phoenix said through her, "Apparently, the course of action I had originally intended would have resulted in the destruction of this planet. And I would have had to return to the White Hot Room for even longer."

Honestly, I gleaned about thirty percent of that. It didn't change the reality of the situation though, "So, what? Ruth is your avatar now?"

"No. Our compatibility is lacking," The Phoenix said. Despite Ruth's inability to see conventionally, she seemed to peer down at her hand, flexing her fingers and clenching a fist experimentally, "As far as hosts go, we could do better. Far better. Still, this one is suitable for our needs... for now. She is not quite whole. Then again, neither am I."

"And what is it that you need?"

"A place to regain my strength. To... hide."

The Phoenix? Hiding? "From what?" Since when did a celestial elemental being hide from anything?

Instead of telling me, the Phoenix seemed to show me. The galaxy we stood in changed itself around. From there, we saw a spaceship that I was unfamiliar with seemingly pulling the Phoenix into existence from nothingness. I could feel the weakness, the confusion, the fear of the Phoenix as it all happened in front of me.

The ship seemed to charge some kind of weapon, seemingly intent on attacking the Phoenix with it. It used what little strength it had from a premature resurrection to warp across the universe, but the ship pursued it. The process repeated, with the Phoenix gathering what little energy it could from the nearest stars to keep it going, bouncing from galaxy to galaxy. The final time it was forced to do so, it simply sat, a little dot of light, waiting, trying to rest... until something passed nearby. Something that the Phoenix was able to latch onto. Something that felt familiar enough that the Phoenix was comfortable with taking a chance on it.

Our ship. It hitched a ride while we were in the process of towing Miss Pryde's bullet home.


I filled my lungs and took the opportunity of being astrally projected in space to scream as loud and as petulantly as I could, "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!" It lasted for more than thirty seconds. Meanwhile, Ruth just stood by looking amused, "Ahem... sorry you had to see that."

Poise be damned. Sometimes, you just had to let it all out.

"I am not whole; merely a fragment of myself," The Phoenix said. For a moment, Ruth's body was surrounded in a fiery aura, "I do not know what the Shi'ar were planning, but-."

"-They were confident enough in it that they were willing to step to you," I said. Whatever they had, they were certain they could destroy the embodiment of life and death. And now their apparent target was on Earth, "...Okay, you've got to get away from here, A.S.A.P."

I couldn't fight this goddamn thing, and I didn't want to see what it would cost for anyone else to try and do so. I also didn't want to see what would happen to anything near whatever the Shi'ar decided to use their special little tool on.

A distasteful expression worked its way onto Ruth's face, "And repeat the same process I just went through? No. I need to regain more of my strength first. That is the arrangement I came to with your friend."

Making deals with literal forces of nature. I didn't know whether to be proud of Ruth for having the guts and capability to pull such a thing off, or horrified that she was willing to even try something like that on her own. It seemed masochistic to me. I have no idea where she would have learned that kind of behavior from.

I was at a loss, though. I simply wasn't capable of getting rid of the damn thing, and as things stood, I was at its mercy. It had my mind separate from my body. If I got too uppity, there was a pretty good chance it wouldn't be coming back. There was nothing I could actively do, so I did the only thing I could. I stalled for time.

Time to regroup. Time to think. Time to maybe, just maybe, dump this bullshit onto LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE CAPABLE OF HANDLING THIS WITHOUT CAUSING ARMA-FUCKING-GEDDON!

Anyway, if it was to be believed, the Phoenix was also biding its time. It wanted to keep itself as low-key as possible for the moment. We could work with that.

"Alright," I eventually said, "If Ruth let you in, go ahead and roost in her until you've got enough juice back to take off."

From Ruth's expression, the Phoenix seemed pleased by my concession. As if I could do anything else. After a moment though, she seemed to regard me differently. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest when she floated closer and poked me in the chest. A portion of flame jumped from her to me.

I didn't feel anything, no burning, no rush of energy, nothing. But something had happened. It had to have.

"What did you do?" I asked.

Ruth shook her head, an amused smile back in place, "Mortals are so duplicitous in nature. You don't honestly think I can trust you at your word, do you? Even if you meant to keep it, you would still search for an alternative that would possibly leave me wanting," The Phoenix fucking giggled, "You really are a funny little boy. Consider this a precaution. If you force me to expose myself, and I must bring my power forth, an inert fragment of it will burst forth from you to rejoin me."

"Now who's lying?" I replied, "You're already a fragment. You're weak right now. You just said so yourself. So how can you afford to split yourself again?"

"I am a fragment, yes. But I hardly had to split myself further to compromise you. All I needed was a spark," The Phoenix explained, "Yes... just a tiny ember. One that will feed and grow on your delicious power," Ruth frowned as fear crept deeper into me, "You are afraid."

Sarcasm was the only weapon I had available in my armory, "No. Don't know why you'd think that."

I had a dead man trigger sealed in me, with a bomb that would only get stronger as it fed on the natural solar processes of my body. Why would anyone be worried about that? At least I wouldn't be at risk of exploding due to overcharging anytime soon. No, it would be because the Phoenix felt like flying the coop.

Ruth shook her head, "You need not worry, Bellamy. I would not readily harm you. Not while I share space with your loved one. Dealing with the grief that would cause her would be... vexing," The Phoenix said, "When the time comes for me to depart, I will remove my fragment. It will be harmless," It assured me, "Honestly, this will likely hurry things along in that regard."

As in, the more power the fragment could siphon from me, the more the Phoenix would receive when it took it back.

The Phoenix must have been finished with me. Just as suddenly as I had been pulled away, I found my consciousness dumped right back in my body. I jumped up with a start the moment I realized I was back. Meanwhile, Ruth slowly stirred from where she had been laying.

I didn't even need to ask if any of that really happened. I knew it had. The moment I had my bearings back, I was quick to start checking Ruth over, looking for any sign of the Phoenix or that she was in danger, or hurt.

"Are you okay?" I asked, getting a tentative nod from her, "Holy shit, Ruthie. What in the hell are we going to do now? This is completely fucked! You've got the-."

Before I could really say anything, I felt a bloom of heat in the center of my chest. Ruth reached out and put her hand there, shaking her head 'no' before putting a finger to her lips.

It was a warning from her temporary tagalong. Of course, the Phoenix could hear me. And the implication was clear. No talking about it. Not out loud, nor in our heads, at least while we were around people who could pick up on it.

The best way to keep a secret? Tell no one. The second-best way to keep a secret? Tell one other person, and only one. That way, if it gets out, you know exactly where it came from. Better still if you can coerce that one other person to help cover your tracks. Because Ruth trusted me more than anyone else, and because she needed someone to be aware of what was going on, just in case things went south, the Phoenix looped me in. I wasn't enough of a threat on my own that this would be much of a problem for it, and it would be a lot easier to keep things under wraps if I ran interference.

I heaved a heavy sigh and sat back on my bed, "I was having a nice day," I told Ruth, "We got a quality dub getting Miss Pryde back, and I for once, I didn't even get in trouble. Now, this."

Press-ganged into helping a cosmic entity hide and restore its strength. Awesome.

Ruth crawled over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Despite everything, I still had a chuckle in me to give, "Alright. To your own room now. And don't forget your homework," I said, sending her on her way.

Keep calm and carry on. Until a solution reared its head, or one of us could come up with one, things had to be business as usual. And hell, maybe nothing would happen. Maybe everything would work out and the Phoenix would just fuck off once it regained enough power.

...I mean, it wasn't exactly likely, but it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility.

I let Ruth gather her things and make for the door before saying anything else, "If anything comes up..." I wanted to tell her to come to me about it, which I imagined was obvious. Not that I had the slightest idea of what I could do to help.

That was just as well anyway. The last time I tried to come up with a plan in advance for something I thought was big, I wound up bringing the goddamn Phoenix Force back with me from space. I couldn't really account for that though.

Ruth nodded and gave me a smile before leaving me alone in my room.


The extra therapy portion of my 'not punishment' kicked in before the end of the week. Dr. Garrison was more than happy to take on the extra sessions, citing the added pressures of being an X-Men team leader along with the other societal pressures of being a teenager.

I didn't really mind sitting on the shrink couch. I mean, I didn't necessarily feel like I was cracking up or anything; not any more than normal, anyway. Still, crazy people didn't necessarily recognize when they were crazy. Either way, over time, I had started to look forward to sessions with Dr. Garrison more and more. They had started as a chore at the beginning of the school year, before moving up to something I didn't have a problem with, then on to a thing that I kind of looked forward to. I often felt pretty relaxed with Dr. Garrison. A lot of times, I had to consciously remind myself not to say anything too sensitive, even without him asking.

Just because the guy was supposed to help me understand what made me tick didn't mean he needed to be privy to everything I had noodling around upstairs.

"Have you gotten any better about your self-image issue since our last conversation?" Dr. Garrison asked.

"I guess," I mumbled, "I mean, the way I feel hasn't changed that much, but people I admire keep believing in me and telling me I don't suck, so it'd be kind of insulting to keep disregarding that, right?"

Dr. Garrison hummed thoughtfully before making a suggestion, "Try and look at yourself from the outside then. If you made your own acquaintance, what would it take for you to be good enough for yourself?" He asked, "What would Bellamy need to achieve, what kind of person would Bellamy need to be, to get Bellamy's respect?"

I laughed at the thought, trying to introduce myself to myself. "Man, doc, I have no idea. It's weird, because I wouldn't put that kind of parameter on anyone else. All anyone needs to do is just be themselves, and that's enough for me. They don't need to do or be anything, as long as they're not a dick, I guess. So why is it any different for me?"

Maybe because I am a dick? But I liked the way that I was, so that couldn't be the answer. I didn't feel like I was underachieving, or doing less than I could have been doing, so effort and achievement wasn't the problem.

"I think I see one of the problems," Dr. Garrison said, waiting for me to get out of my own head and look over at him, intrigued by what he had to say, "I still don't think it's really sunk in for just what you are. You stand as one of the X-Men. A leader, in fact. But do you really feel like it?"

"I guess not," I admitted.

No matter how much I reasoned with myself or tried to talk myself into the role; even with all of the near-death experiences and whatnot, I still took orders. Not just from the headmaster and headmistress, but from all senior staff. I went where I was told to go and did what I was told to do, even if it was up to me as to how I went about those things.

I was a student. I spent more time in classrooms than in the field. That was how it was supposed to be. It made more sense than doing things the way they had originally been done back in the day. Pimply-faced teenagers shouldn't have been squaring up with the kinds of folks the OGs had, powers or not. While the caliber of enemies out there had only gotten more dangerous over time, it still didn't help the impression that my team and I were effectively X-Men with training wheels. Even I saw us that way, and I was the leader.

Dr. Garrison leaned forward in his armchair intently, "Now... you didn't hear this from me, but I think what you did, coming with and executing a plan all your own to get your teacher back, it was a step in the right direction to remedy this. A big one."

I scoffed, "Even though it got me locked down to campus for a month and sitting here with you?"

The man shrugged, "You said it yourself that it wasn't much of a punishment for the degree of insubordination you undertook," He was right. I didn't see anything that had been done to me as much of a punishment for sneaking off to fucking space with several fellow students and a staff member, "More. Do more of that," Dr. Garrison insisted. Don't wait to be told how to act. Start making more of your own calls. Express your autonomy whenever you can. You have your team's loyalty. They'll follow you."

The more he spoke, the more I was convinced that he had a point. A good point. In fact, I started to feel like he was absolutely right. Still, I had my doubts over the last thing he had brought up, "I have their loyalty? Over Summers and Frost? Yeah, right," The small smirk that formed on his face spoke volumes without him needing to say a word, "...You're kidding."

"I can't divulge things told to me in confidence during other people's sessions," Dr. Garrison said. It was as good as confirming it without officially saying so.

This man had been in contact with all the other team members but two. They all received counseling from him, just the same as me. If anyone was in a position to know where everyone else's loyalties lay, it was him.

Dr. Garrison continued, "As a counselor, my counsel to you would be to stop holding yourself back. Stop deferring. Spread your wings. Flex your muscles. That's where you'll find satisfaction with yourself," He advised, "...I have ways to help with that, you know. My client list includes many notable figures in the hero community."

I raised an eyebrow at him, "What can a therapist do to influence any superhero stuff?"

An uncharacteristically sharp look came to Dr. Garrison's eyes for just an instant, "I chose to be a therapist, Bellamy. I didn't have to be," He took a look down at his watch and beckoned me to stand, "Well, we're just about out of time for this session. As much as I'd love to talk more about this, I have other appointments today. Let's do this again soon."

The sudden end of the conversation threw me off, "S-Sure," I said, getting up to leave. But in reality, I had been interested in what he'd had to say. I wanted to hear more about it. I couldn't wait to pick up where we left off.

It didn't strike me as odd at the time, how enthusiastic I felt about the whole thing. Why would it have? After all, the suggestion had come from Dr. Garrison. That meant it had to be the right thing to do.


Bellamy... boy, did you really think you could just pop off to space to do a good deed and it wouldn't come back to bite you somehow? Just who, what, and where do you think you are? And, of course, it can never be just one thing at once. That would be too easy. You've got to compound your misery to get that sweet multiplier bonus.

Things could always be worse though. Or maybe things just haven't gotten as bad as they're going to get yet. Who can say?


I can say. I won't though. Otherwise, why the hell would you keep reading this fic? The vibe? I doubt it.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've updated this and other works. No excuses on my end. I've been around, lurking, but focusing my energy elsewhere. Regular work and life have been draining my time, along with training and traveling to wrestle on the side, and putting remaining time into trying to write some original stuff.

Mark my words, children. Age and responsibility come for us all. And one day, it'll happen to you!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed. Until the next time, Kenchi out.