Trading Stories

Disclaimer: Premise and characters are the property of Marvel, I'm just borrowing them for a bit of non-profit fun.

Thanks for the feedback: Raniatlw, Orca,DemonRogue13, Mirror Mirror

Sam burst into the infirmary. "Paigey, yah ain't hurt bad are yah? Ah would have been here sooner, but the Prof didn't tell me. Ah, well, he's probably right, but Ah promised Momma Ah'd look out for yah."

"Easy, big brother, I'm not dying or anything." Paige exclaimed. "Dr Moira is taking care of me and Jamie kept me company. My arm still itches like crazy but it doesn't even hurt anymore."

"Bobby is dead." Sam proclaimed. "He never thinks about the consequences! 'Lets go joy riding. Who cares that we smash every vehicle we take; let's fly the plane.' We were damn lucky Kitty and Lance caught us. 'I'll make an iceberg right in front of the boat. 'Cause playin' who sunk the Titanic is fun.' But this is too much."

"You don't really want to beat up Paige's new slaves." Jamie said.

"What?" Sam asked, startled out of his rant.

"Bobby and Alex felt guilty." Paige giggled. "I'm letting them make it up to me. They're finding my favorite flavor of ice cream because it might distract me from how much my arm itches… I swear the itch is spreading. When they get back I've got a letter to the editor for the Daily Bugle. Mail service is spotty out here. I think they'll have to walk it to the post office for me."

"Which will give us plenty of time to think up new stuff." Jamie added. "We've been keeping them jumping for hours."

Sam shook his head. "Ah should've known yah were handling things your own way. Yah always have."

Paige smiled. "I couldn't let you or Josh get away with bullying me now could I?" She scratched at the skin above her bandages and sighed with relief.

The two boys stared at Paige's arm in horror. Long strips of skin had peeled away under her fingers.

Paige gulped. It didn't hurt; in fact it felt really, really good. She tugged at the skin like it was just a peeling sunburn. A strip of skin an inch wide tore off.

"Dr. MacTaggart!" Sam hollered.

The red-haired Scotswoman came running.

Paige kept peeling away sections of her skin. Ragged edges peered out from the top of the bandages. She rolled up her sleeve to get at the skin on her shoulder.

Moira looked at the pink, healthy skin that was being revealed beneath the tatters of Paige's old skin. "Well now, that's a different sort of mutation. Sam, Jamie, why don't you give Paige a bit of privacy while she finishes this up. I'm curious as to whether she'll have repaired her injuries."

The too boys exchanged a disturbed look and hurried out.

Doug was waiting in Xavier's office when the Professor returned from the X-Men's failed attempt to make contact with Jonothan Starsmore.

"I want to go home. I don't belong in this lunatic asylum." The boy complained.

"I apologize for what happened." Xavier signed. "But I can't send you home. However, you and Paige will be exempted from danger room sessions for now."

"I suppose you think I ought to thank you for not trying to kill me anymore?" Doug snapped. "Look at your campus, the whole student body is composed of a bunch of walking time bombs."

"Mr. Ramsey, I believe you have an appointment with Mr. McCoy." Xavier said, his voice notably cooler.

"Right, to find my non-existent mutation. I keep telling you: I'm not a freak."

Xavier rubbed his forehead. "You aren't making this any easier for yourself."

Doug recognized a dismissal when he heard one. He turned and stalked out of the office. Beast intercepted the frustrated boy on his way to the room he shared with the silver-blonde egomaniac. Doug assumed Xavier had given the blue mutant a heads up.

Hank slung an arm around Doug's shoulders and redirected the teen toward his office. "Just the student I was looking for. I'm certain you simply forgot our much anticipated investigation due to the day's excitement. You wouldn't try to 'ditch' me after all. I know my charming company is sought by all and I promise I won't assign much homework for this class."

Doug sighed as the wave of jovial cheer swept over him in a torrent of words. Mr. McCoy had a way of forging on despite the occasional flash of pain in his eyes that made Doug want to bite his tongue every time the word 'freak' slipped out while he was in the blue-furred mutant's company.

Hank led his most reluctant student to his office and sat him down at a table. Doug's eyes strayed to a stack of pictures set off to one side.

"So I've been going over your records. It seems you have a remarkable aptitude for computer programming. Your first teacher in the subject considered you a prodigy."

The picture was of a wall covered in hieroglyphics. "I've got a talent for something, so I must be a mutant. Let's drag Michael Jordan in here next, he must be a mutant 'cause he's better at basketball than everyone else." Doug replied.

"But he never should have tried baseball." McCoy replied equitably. "Douglas, I'm not trying to take your accomplishment away from you. We know you have an active mutation. You don't look like me, read minds or shoot blasts of energy out of your fingertips ergo it must be something subtle. Areas where you've shown an unusually strong talent are a logical place for me to start looking for your power."

Doug absently pulled the picture closer. The hieroglyphics seemed to call to him, like he could read them if he just looked closer.

"You have an interest in ancient Egypt?" McCoy asked.

Doug pulled his eyes away from the hieroglyphics. "No!" He exclaimed. The way they called to him; his certainty that he could understand them if he wanted to, scared him. If he could do that, could read a language that had been dead for thousands of years like it was no more difficult than interpreting a classmate's bad handwriting, then he wasn't normal and he really did belong here.

"I'm not a mutant. I don't belong here. This is a waste of my time, because I don't have any powers!" Doug stood up and stomped out of the office. As he left he grabbed up several of the photos and stuffed them in his pocket without thinking about it.

McCoy watched the boy go with a feeling of sadness. He knew what it had done to him when he fought to deny his nature.

Pietro stood in the door to the Institute's secondary gym; it was just a normal workout room, nothing like the danger room; and watched Rogue's work out. He was starting to feel sorry for the punching bag. Nonetheless he opted for the better part of valor and stayed in the background until his girlfriend appeared to be winding down.

"Wanna talk about it?" He asked when Rogue took a break to wipe the sweat off her face.

"No." Rogue stated shortly.

Pietro slipped behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Want me to take your mind off it?" He breathed in her ear.

Rogue twisted around to face Pietro. She tilted her head back and he kissed her. Together they relaxed. The stress of adapting to a world that couldn't hope to keep up with them fell away. Rogue let go of her constant fears about touching someone; Pietro couldn't be hurt by her powers, not anymore. The sensation of touch was still so remarkable to Rogue. In spite of the day she'd had she quickly lost herself in the feel of Pietro's mouth moving against hers. As they kissed Pietro backed Rogue against a wall and leaned into her. Behind his back Rogue stripped off her gloves and slid her hands under his shirt. Pietro reached for the fastener on the front of her uniform.

"Oh boy PDA. Maybe I should call Storm." Jubilee interrupted.

"Do and die." Pietro said as he glanced over his shoulder.

"Does that personality absorption thing go both ways?" Jubilee asked. " 'Cause you sound crabby."

"Jubilation, yah know what kind of day I had. If I get rained on instead of spending time with mah boyfriend Ah will take it out of your hide." Rogue growled. She pulled Pietro closer "Come on Pey."

A moment later the gym was empty.

"Mah room?" Rogue asked.

They opened the door and found Kitty reading a letter from Lance she glanced up at the two of them and threw a rolled-up sock. "Go somewhere else."

"My room." Pietro decided.

Wanda glanced up from her brother's computer.

"What-are-you-doing-in-my-stuff?" Pietro demanded.

Wanda took in Rogue's half open shirt and Pietro's general dishevelment and smirked. "What have you been doing brother mine?"

"Lets go somewhere else." Rogue said. They ran down the hall and Rogue pulled Pietro into a coat closet. Rogue pulled Pietro's shirt over his head as he closed the door behind them. Rogue moaned when Pietro's mouth found her throat.

"Uhhh…." Alex and Bobby stood in the door, their mouths hanging open.

Rogue lunged at the boys with murder in her eyes.

"What is going on here?" Xavier asked.

"Next-place?" Pietro whispered to Rogue.

hu-humm.Xavier's mental throat clearing froze the speedsters in their tracks.

"What's a person got to do to get some privacy around here?" Rogue demanded.

"Rogue, we've discussed this…"

"We discussed sex, not making out." Pietro replied.

Xavier just shook his head.

Upstairs Amara stared into the flames in Pyro's room. Anyone without a fire-philic mutation would have found the room stifling. "Sorry Pyro, I'm not in the mood to read to you tonight." She told the comatosed firebug.

"I know, it's not the end of the world. Roberto and I weren't even dating it was just a little crush. And so what? He's fighting against us. The Brotherhood was against us, Gambit was against us, even Rogue started out a bad guy; now she's a team leader. People change sides, only Roberto went to their side instead of coming to ours."

Amara turned away from the dancing flames to watch Pyro's chest rise and fall. "I don't know why I'm telling you this." She said. Amara giggled nervously. "You know, for an evil pyromaniac you really are a good listener."

"I don't know why I'm getting like this. Roberto and I weren't that close before he went home. Still he was cute and I could see introducing him to my parents someday if things ever got that far. I guess it's just that every time I turn around more and more people are pairing off and I don't want to be left out."

"At first it was just Scott and Jean's endless denial. Then Kitty started sneaking around with Lance and Amanda asked Kurt out. The next thing I know Rogue and Pietro are attached at the lips, Tabby goes and moves in with Forge, Rahne's chasing Todd, I Wanda and Gambit are sleeping together</I or they were anyway before the big blow up. Now I think both Bobby and Alex are 'noticing' Jubilee and Jamie's spending an awful lot of time with Paige."

"A freaking thirteen year old is closer to having a relationship than I am!"

"I mean whose left? Sam's sweet I suppose, but definitely not suave or romantic. I know there are the new students; they're not all jerks like that Ramsey guy. But, well, the first two classes were sort of special. We all lived through the Sentinel attack and the mansion getting blown up together. We were here when Bayville High got shot up. We fought Apocalypse together. We share the secret about Lance being alive and Scott's Underground… I just feel like I should be with someone who was a part of all that."

Amara sighed. She tucked her feet under her body and turned back to the fire.

The Shadow King retreated from the astral plane back to his mortal shell. The Xavier creature was beginning to annoy him. His feeding network had been severely restricted by Xavier's actions. He had been forced to rebuild Magneto's army of minions from the foundations. The little telepath wouldn't confront him directly; he just sniped at him from a distance. The Shadow King had to acknowledge that the Xavier wasn't stupid.

The Shadow King had tried to manipulate Xavier into sacrificing the Alvers boy. Now the boy was not his and not dead, that was unacceptable. Still the Alvers boy had served his purpose. The Shadow King had kept a leash on the boy ever since finding the family. Left to it's own devices the girl's body might have gained immunity from the effect of her power but he'd pushed her mutation to develop at an unnatural pace. He had been delighted when her brother witnessed her immolation. He'd collected data on the boy, turned it over to Shen then he'd made sure Magneto forgot him. The world had done the rest, all the Shadow King had to do was sit back and feed off the boy's dark emotions.

The Shadow King had kept dozens of prospective mutants under his observation; he'd just needed one child to develop a highly destructive power. The world was a darker place for what he'd done with Alvers. Over a decade of planning had paid off in spades, even with all of Xavier's attacks he was stronger than ever before. But Lance Alvers was his, had been his since he'd first become aware of the three-year-old sitting in the waiting room while his older sister was examined. The only master he' would ever release the boy to was death and even then Alvers would always wear his brand. Between the courts, drugs and schemes circling the boy like wolves Lance shouldn't have lived out the summer, only he had. Now the Shadow King's possession was gone, stolen and Xavier was making a career out of destroying his leashes to the others who belonged to the Shadow King. He sensed the telepath's desire to take them all from him, even the mortal shell that hosted him.

The Shadow King was violently possessive of Lance after investing just over a decade of patience and planning into the teen. He had been carefully manipulating the one called Magneto into becoming his conduit to the physical plane for nearly thirty years. Just knowing that Xavier desired to free his old friend was an insult beyond bearing to the Shadow King's way of thinking.

The dark entity set about securing his assets and planning for the confrontation to come.

Theresa didn't remember exactly what had started the fight with her father but it was rapidly spiraling out of control.

"Uncle Tom wouldn't have let mom die!" Theresa couldn't believe what had just come out of her mouth, but she was much too angry to apologize. She spun on her heel and was about to storm off.

Sean caught her by the wrist and jerked her back around to face him. Pain radiated up and down Theresa's arm. She opened her mouth and screamed, unleashing her powers at her father from point blank range.

Sean was flung into the wall then fell to the floor, unconscious.

Xi'an gritted her teeth as the twins rough housed. They bounced on their beds and generally refused to settle down and go to sleep.

A hundred times before Xi'an had resisted the temptation to use her powers to force them to bend to her will. This time she gave into to it.

Emma frowned as she felt a blackness encroaching on her thoughts. She increased the strength of the mental shields erected around herself and her student. Then she turned her attention back to Jonothan.

Ms. Frost, what was that?

I am not certain, but you should guard yourself against it. Do you see how I'm shielding us?

Roberto squirmed uncomfortably as he scrolled through the tapes and articles covering Avalanche's trial. Ms. Frost had ordered him to research what had happened. When Roberto had left the Institute the Brotherhood's status had been a question mark. They weren't enemies anymore but they weren't exactly friends either. Sort of like guests, distant relative who you didn't really know or like, but you had to make nice with anyway.

Lance had been extremely withdrawn because of his illness and Roberto really only knew the other mutant by reputation but they'd lived under the same roof. Roberto couldn't help but think Xavier should have done more to protect the other boy.

When he'd lived at the Institute he'd thought of Xavier as infallible. Xavier's dream had been beyond question. Now he wondered.

If what he was looking at was the price for living in peaceful co-existence with humans maybe Xavier's dream wasn't worth it. Maybe it was better to attack them first and get the advantage after all.

Feral slunk through the bushes; her eyes were fixed on her prey. Just a little closer and she could pounce.

One of the chaff blundered through the clearing and startled the raccoon into hiding.

Feral bared her teeth in an angry snarl then she took a more appraising look at the student. His head was sparsely feathered and over-balanced by a large beak. His arms also bore feathers and were shaped as if his genetics hadn't determined whether he should have arms or wings. Feral licked her lips.

"Frosty wouldn't like it." The feliniod thought regretfully.

"She wouldn't need to know." The shadows whispered. "And she approves of discretion not coddling genetic dead ends."

Feral stood up and approached the bird-boy with the air of a demure young girl. "Hi, I'm Maria." She said. "I thought, well, it'd be nice to talk with someone else who… looked different."

The boy stared at her with wide eyes. "Um I, um, I'm Barnell, but everyone calls me Beak."

"Beak, that's cute." Feral smiled without showing too much fang as she urged the boy deeper into the wooded area at the back of the Academy.

"… It wouldn't be so bad if I could fly. I mean I wouldn't even mind looking like this if I had a useful mutation." Beak said.

Feral decided that she was far enough from prying eyes. She stepped away from Beak, her tail lashed. "It all works out in the end." She said. "Some people are just born to be predators and others, prey."

Beak gulped as Feral's teeth and claws gained new significance. He backed away from her, his eyes were fearful.

Feral sank down into a crouch. "I bet you taste like chicken." She said.

"I'm a person, you can't eat me!" Beak protested.

"Funny, you look like meat to me." Feral replied. She slunk forward.

Beak's nerve broke. He turned to run. Feral pounced.

Author's note: I enjoyed doing that to Beak way too much. )