It was a quarter past twelve in the afternoon, and still Rahne Sinclair lay in bed tired but alert. It wasn't as though she wanted for sleep, after all the young woman had gone to bed quite early in fact. No, her mind body and soul were tired in ways no amount of sleep could cure, but that didn't stop her from trying.

Finally mustering the tremendous will to get out of bed, she wrapped a towel around her slim body and made her way to the bathroom. She turned the knob and as she waited for the shower water to warm, spared a glance at herself in the bathroom's wall mirror. The bones of her ribs and spine stuck out like the quills on a porcupine she thought, before stepping into the shower.

The water was blistering hot, and to Rahne there was no sweeter feeling. The stinging heat overwhelmed her senses and brought her into the comforting feeling of now. Now, where there was nothing. No memories that stabbed at her mind like a rusty knife. No recriminations that plagued her mind and pity she saw in everyone's faces. She was overwhelmed by the now, which was nothing and everything to her.

The water washing over her skin also brought another sensation. She felt unclean, impure, diseased. No one would ever say she was to her face, but Rahne knew they felt this way too. How could they not? With the blistering hot water washing over her skin, Rahne could fool herself into thinking that she was in fact clean, something resembling her former self before her kidnapping as she scrubbed her filthy body.

Rahne didn't leave the shower until a good time after her skin had pruned. She had some responsibilities and some part of Rahne still felt the desire to be wanted, needed.

She threw on an oversized shirt, large furdera hat and heavy overalls that very nearly hid her sex from any onlookers, and left out the backdoor.

She was staying with Jean Grey and Scott Summers inside the boathouse as an extended guest. Rahne picked up her pail of gardeners tools and sulked towards the mansion. Some classes were being held outside today, and it filled Rahne with a sense of dread unlike anything else. She chose a spot that seemed relatively secure, knelt down and went to work, pruning and caring for the flowers.

However, her mind never drifted far from those around her. The laughter, the camaraderie, the smiles. They were like salt to an open wound to Rahne. One group of friends, a brown haired girl, an African American boy and blond girl began to stroll too close to Rahne, lost in their friendly conversation.

Without even bothering to be subtle, Rahne picked up her pail and left to another part of the mansion. She knew they wouldn't follow, something she was thankful for and hated all at once.

The X-Men had been kind when they lied to Rahne, but she knew the truth. The students thought of Rahne as a freak. They didn't know exactly what had happened, but her skittish behavior alone was enough to raise eye brows and subsequent derision, but in a way her past service in Excalibur and X-Factor was held against her. Many of the graduated students held a quasi legendary status at the school, revered as the standard bearers for mutants. Anyone who failed to meet that high bar was a failure, and Rahne knew she was nothing but a failure.

Another class passed by, and this time Rahne didn't move because doing so would put her in the path of another class. Worse, the class passing by was being taught by Kurt Wagner. He had a fondness for teaching outdoors whenever possible, weather permitting and though today seemed like just any other day to Rahne, it was in fact quite lovely.

Rahne could feel his eyes boring into his back, worry plastered on his elfish features. He was a friend if ever there was one, and Rahne just wanted him to vanish, disappear now like she knew he could. Finally he moved on, never saying a word to Rahne and she never more thankful for it.

About halfway through her chores, Rahne's solitude was interrupted by one of the two only people in the world she could still tolerate. The woman who was a friend, sister, mother and more to Rahne, Danielle Moonstar. The Cheyenne mutant had opted to stay at Xavier's Mansion out of concern for Rahne, and was working as a part time trainer to the older students. Dani didn't know if she had the patience for teaching under the best of circumstances, but helping train the older mutants allowed her the freedom she felt she needed while still occupying her free time.

The two had lunch, Dani never even bothering to ask if Rahne had already eaten. As always, Dani had somehow reserved them somewhere private. The two friends talked as much as the circumstances would allow. Not much happened Rahne's everyday life, and both knew it was by design. Rahne found it easier to eat with Danielle. Normally, her appetite was non existent, but just being in Danielle Moonstar's presence lent strength to Rahne. Dani was the strongest person Rahne knew and always had been. In the beginning, that strength was what allowed Rahne to fool herself into believing that things might be normal again.

But all good things had to come to an end. The weight about her shoulders soon returned, and Rahne, like always, excused herself before it became infectious. She had no right to burden Danielle with her mood, like she used to always do, like she had been doing ever since she'd been rescued. Thankfully, this time at least, Danielle let her leave to finish up her responsibilities. Dani watched her leave, a mournful look upon her face however well hidden. Rahne resigned herself to accepting the disappointment she saw in her first and oldest friend. After all, hadn't she been a disappointment all her life?

Rahne finished up just as it began to turn dark. Under the false pretense of gathering some old tool needed for her duties the next day, a lie she simply told herself and no one else, she made her way to the Mansion's forgotten tool shed. It was old and rotten, still standing because Mother Nature couldn't do the job and no one present had the mercy to put it out of its misery. But that suited Rahne just fine. The smell of mold and plants was overpowering, something she needed if she were keep her activities a secret.

Once inside, she took out one of her pruners, held it to her wrist…and drew a long, bloody line. Rahne's eyes rolled up to the back of her head, her knees started to shake but not some blood loss and the first genuine smile of the day came across her lips.

There was pain yes, but there was also the now. Now, Rahne wasn't a victim of rape. Now she wasn't a failure. Now she wasn't a constant worry to all who foolishly loved her. Now…was freedom, and she loved it.

But it didn't last long. The healing factor she'd been cursed with sealed the wound in less than a minute, and the pain was quickly dulled into nothing. In the forty five seconds since she'd cut herself, the wound was healed without so much as a scar. So Rahne did it again. And again, and again.

But Rahne while well informed was no expert on the human body, or how much blood loss it could sustain over a short period of time. She soon passed out.

Once she faded back to awareness, Rahne rose up like a vampire out of his coffin and stood up. It was dark outside, and she knew she was expected elsewhere. She made her way…home along the tree line, taking special to avoid stumbling across anyone.

Rahne was instantly brought to a halt however, when she heard a noise that was akin to nails on a chalk board to her ears.


A group of boys, obviously sneaking out into town, were making their way through the forest. They were in little danger of stumbling across Rahne. In fact, they never once saw her as they went about their mischief.

However, Rahne watched them leave like a deer frozen in a car's headlights. And once they were gone, Rahne vomited. Her knees collapsed and she expelled her stomach's entire contents and more onto the ground. She threw up until her stomach was empty twice over, and did it again.

Once her stomach was once again under control, Rahne picked herself up and made it back to the boathouse. As she feared, the lights were still on. Sitting at the table with an easy but obviously concerned smile on her face was Jean Grey, the table ready for dinner but set for one.

As she'd been doing for a while now, Rahne went through the motions. She apologized for being late, explaining how she simply needed to be alone and hoped Jean hadn't waited up for her, etc, etc.

Jean said it was okay, and Rahne found herself thankful that the woman was principled enough not to use her telepathy on her. Once, Jean had used her telepathy to find Rahne for dinner, and Rahne faked outrage and impassioned hatred at the 'intrusion'. In truth, Jean had come quite close to finding out about Rahne's habits in the shed. But now, Rahne was convinced Jean had little clue.

As she ate, Rahne couldn't help but notice Cyclops sitting on the couch, annoyance written all over his body. She knew he resented her for stealing his wife's time from him, and she agreed. Rahne had known for some time she was like a black hole, sucking everything positive and redeeming out of people while offering nothing in return, so she didn't begrudge his resentment. She only wished there was some way they could work together to remove Jean from Rahne's life. Rahne knew she didn't deserve the warmth and kindness Jean gave her.

After a few bites for hunger and two more for show, Rahne excused herself for the night.

Opening the door to her room, Rahne wondered just what kind of monster she was to put her friends through such pain. Her enhanced senses made mistaking their constant expressions of concern. She tried to reciprocate at first, she really did. During a picnic with Kurt, she almost fooled everyone, herself included that she could be well.

But that illusion soon faded under the crushing weight of reality. Rahne could only pretend for so long, after all.

So she knelt down at the end of her bed, and prayed. Like most everything else in her life now, she was just going through the motions. After what she'd experienced, she didn't want to think about God. She could never dispel her belief in a Supreme Being, but to think about it too much would surely lead to madness. Why did he let her suffer so? Why did he return her health at such a high cost?

So her prayers were almost conversational in nature. She asked for strength to stop hurting her friends, to an end to the pain. Once she was done, she reached under the mattress.

Withdrawing a knife that had been in the main kitchen, she looked into her own reflection. Her greens eyes looking back, she knew that like always, her prayers were unanswered. She was as weak as always.

Like always, she placed the knife back under the mattress in crawled into bed. Ideally, she wondered if her lack of strength mattered. All she would be doing was trading one hell for another.

Well, I'm sure you were wondering just what the hell is this. Well, 'Freedom' is a followup fanfic to what is in many ways my first fanfic, "In the Name of Science". In that fanfic, Rahne was tortured…to put it mildy. And because I didn't wish to spend the next three years on the fanfic, I glossed over her return to something resembling sanity. But I'm back, better and ready now. And Risty nags a lot. Thus 'Freedom'.