Coldfire

Written by Darkstorm5000

Disclaimer: The X-Men and related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Comics and Marvel Enterprises.

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Part 4- Melt With You

The.

New.

Girl.

At.

School.

Those five words carried with them, and were easily capable of evoking, a widely varying range of meanings and feelings. Particularly, for a young lady to whom these words were being used to describe, and who was also all too familiar with what it meant to be the new girl in some new place, somewhere.

And for Angelica Jones, at this moment there were a number of other words that could have been used to describe her as well. But, the most apt would have probably been 'frantic'.

Frantic, as in not wanting to be late, at least not for her very first class this morning at Xavier's School for the Gifted. After hearing most of the other girls' shouting out to her from out in the hallway that they were on their way downstairs, Angelica was currently rushing around her new room in a desperate attempt to get dressed and join them. Which, was a task that had been made that much more difficult for Angelica, since she had yet to have the opportunity to completely unpack all of her clothes. It was a chore which she had neglected, thanks to her having had spent the majority of the previous evening, following their return from New Jersey, regaling most of the other students' with her and Bobby's tale of how they had faced off against, and then defeated the Brotherhood in New York City.

And, with how they had done it with more than just an inconsequentially helping hand from Spider-Man, of course.

"I'd better hurry up and get downstairs, before everyone starts thinking that makin' fashionably-late entrances is my only power." Angelica was quietly saying to herself, as she sat on the edge of her half-made bed and put on a hastily thrown together light-gray, long-sleeved ensemble, which was completed by the white sneakers in her hands that she was quickly forcing each of her feet into.

But, a quick survey of the room to make sure that she hadn't forgotten anything now wound up revealing something else to Angelica, something which she hadn't really noticed that was sitting over in the corner of the bedroom during the preceding nighttime hours. It was more than just the walls that were painted in a lemon color, or the pink-and-white checkered curtains covering the window that partially obscured the rays of a new morning sun. No, it was something else that Angelica hadn't been expecting to see, at least not here.

"I didn't know the Professor let his students' keep pets here at the school." Angelica said to herself, as she stood up from her bed after putting her shoes on.

Angelica then proceeded to walk over to the opposite side of the room, where the other bed that belonged to her new roommate Kitty Pryde was. On the floor right beside Kitty's bed was another smaller, oval-shaped bed in a brown and sage striped-design, which also had a name stitched in black into the cloth material that covered the bed.

"Lockheed." Angelica read on its front, as she bent over slightly to more closely inspect the bed, which she could see was small enough that it had obviously been designed for a pet to sleep in.

"Oh, well. After being around cats' that can be as temperamental and moody as Pumpkin and Catseye are sometimes, I'm sure Lockheed'll have to be a breath of fresh air." Angelica thought to herself, as she just assumed that Lockheed was also a pet of the feline-variety. And, it now appeared that there were three individuals who were all in for a VERY big surprise, very soon.

Angelica then straightened herself back up, remembering that she did have somewhere else that she needed to be getting to. Angelica left what was now her's and Kitty's bedroom, and made her way down the hallway towards the elevator. Which one of the other girls' at the school, whose name escaped her at the moment, had shown to Angelica last night and had told her would take her downstairs to the main floor, and then even further down below to the mansion's subterranean levels.

………………………………………………………

After being shuttled down to the ground level of the mansion, and then dozens of feet farther below, Angelica now found herself in the school's sublevels, which was where lessons of a different sort were conducted. As Angelica made her way down this corridor that was completely tiled in steel from head-to-toe, she couldn't help but observe just how eerily similar everything down here was, when compared to the underground levels back at the Massachusetts Academy. It was a coincidental resemblance that went right down to the location of the locker room area and the Combat Room, which were in roughly the same place here as they were back in Massachusetts, although Professor Xavier called his Combat Room 'The Danger Room'.

Walking into the girls' locker room, Angelica looked around to see if there was anyone else in there at the moment. But seeing no one, she proceeded on in and began a search to try to find out where her locker was. That is, until she felt a presence slowly slip up from behind.

Spinning around and fully expecting to see one of her new classmates standing there, Angelica was taken aback when she did see someone standing there.

On all four paws.

Now before Angelica stood a fairly large and very intimidating brown wolf, who was curiously looking up with its yellow-gold eyes completely fixated on her, and had its bushy brown-tail slowly wagging back and forth behind it.

"Um…you wouldn't happen to be Lockheed, would you?" Angelica nervously asked and was so unsettled at her having run into a real-life creature of the wild down here, that she really wasn't thinking about what it was that she was saying.

Then, Angelica saw the most unusual thing, as if this situation wasn't already strange enough. The wolf down in front of her suddenly, and inexplicably, stood back up on its hind legs and started to go through some means of physical transformation. Right before her eyes, the creature's lupine-features lessened and soon disappeared as it metamorphosed, leaving in its place the form of a human girl.

"'Course not, ye silly." This girl, who now stood about Angelica's height, had green-eyes like her, and had hair that was a shade of red similar to her's, although it was of a much shorter length, said to Angelica.

"Huh?" Was the only thing Angelica could manage to utter in response.

"Mah name's nae Lockheed, it's Rahne." Rahne Sinclair now told Angelica, as the young Scots-girl took a few steps towards her, "Wolfsbane, if ye must, but that's only when we're trainin' in the Danger Room."

"Oh…uh, yeah, right." Angelica fumbled out, as she saw Rahne and instantly recognized seeing her last night.

Rahne was one of the many students' at Xavier's that she had been introduced to the previous evening. And, Angelica also remembered that Rahne had seemed to be shyest and perhaps the most introverted of the bunch, which was something Angelica herself could definitely relate to. Rahne was content with sitting off on the periphery of the group the entire evening, silently and intently listening to them as they talked, but not really saying much herself.

As Angelica further studied Rahne's now human appearance, she immediately took notice of the uniform that she had on. Rahne's uniform was made out of a dark-blue leather material, consisting of thick leather gloves, a zip-up jacket top, dark-blue leather pants and matching leather boots, and it was trimmed all over in a silver-gray color, with a pair of silver 'X' symbols' stitched on the uniform's collar and on both of her shoulders. It was almost identical in its basic design to those magenta-and-purple leather uniforms, which Angelica had grown accustomed to wearing during her training sessions back in Snow Valley.

"We was startin' t'wonder if maybe ye had overslept or somethin'? Then, when I was gettin' ready t'head down t' the Danger Room mahself, I smelt ye comin' in here." Rahne explained to Angelica, as she placed her leather gloved-hand on Angelica's shoulder and then pointed over towards a specific area in the locker room, "Yuir uniform is hangin' up over there. Ye'd best hurry up and get into it, before the Professor gets after the both of us for bein' late."

With that little reminder, Angelica went over to the area in which Rahne had directed her, seeing the cubicle where her dark-blue, junior X-Men uniform was hanging. In the span of just a few minutes, and with some invaluable assistance from Rahne, Angelica had expeditiously changed and was now fully dressed in her new school ensemble. The pair then quickly made their way out the locker room together, as they hurried down the metallic corridor towards the Danger Room.

…………………………………………………

As the huge steel-doors to Danger Room slid open in front of them, Angelica and Rahne now looked inside of this sports' arena-sized, dome-shaped training chamber to see that everyone else had already gathered in there, most of them warming up in preparation of today's training session. For Angelica, it was her overriding hope that she just wouldn't do anything to embarrass herself on her first day, or at least not to do anything so embarrassing that she would never be able to live it down.

"Bom Dia, Angelica! For a second there, we were starting to think that you had chickened out on us? Which I can understand, since the Danger Room can be intimidating to a first-timer." Roberto Da Costa, the solar-powered mutant also known as Sunspot was the first to say, as he smiled at them and stood next to a pommel-horse inside, while the two girls' made their entry and the Danger Room's immense steel-doors slid closed behind them.

Although the handsome, dark-haired Brazilian teen who, unlike Rahne, had charisma and confidence enough to spare, which some would say was to the point of bordering on overly-confident braggadocio, had intended his remark to be a friendly ice-breaker towards his newest classmate, for Angelica and given the baggage that she carried with her from her own past, it sounded to her like Roberto's words were just being used as an opportunity to pick on 'the new girl'. But, she simply shook off whatever her insecurities regarding it were, as she continued on inside of the Danger Room to take her place among her new teammates.

As all twelve of the junior-level X-Men finished up their warm-up exercises without delay, the various gymnastics equipment that they had been using were lowered back down beneath the steel-tiled floor in the Danger Room. They all walked over and assembled together right below the training facility's control booth, looking up to the glass-encased control room above where Professor Xavier, Bobby Drake, and the youngest student at the school, Artie Maddocks, were all observing them from.

Professor X had chosen to forego his usual suit-apparel this morning and was dressed in a rather relaxed, brown turtleneck sweater with casual slacks, while Bobby stood beside him in the control booth fully decked out in his senior-level black leather uniform, trimmed in an ice-blue color.

"Today's training objective will have you facing the obstacle-course." Professor Xavier said, as he addressed his students' over the Danger Room's loud-speaker, and drew from them a number of mumbled groans from some of them at the prospect of having to go through the most difficult drill that they had faced so far, and the one that had given the junior X-Men the most trouble, "You will split up into two groups for this exercise. And as your team's co-captains, Samuel and Danielle will each pick who will be on their respective squads, and they will be responsible for mapping out your team's strategy. You will run, and re-run this course if necessary, until one of your teammate's successfully makes it through, or until your team's allocated time for today expires."

With that, Bobby entered in the commands to the control booth's computer from up above, which started up the arduous obstacle-course program. The various traps and pitfalls that made up this cordoned-off interior course emerged from the Danger Room's floor, walls, and ceiling, as the program simulation was now being readied for the junior X-Men to test their mettle against it.

Meanwhile, Samuel Guthrie, the rocket-powered mutant code-named Cannonball and Danielle Moonstar, the astral-projectionist code-named Mirage, set themselves to the task of selecting who would be on each of their teams' for this exercise. That is, until Roberto interrupted them just as Sam was about to make his first choice.

"Why don't we make it easy? Since we've got an even number on both sides now, how about making it boys vs. girls? And, we can even let the girls' go first, just so we won't make them look so bad when we beat the course in half their time." Roberto cockily suggested, as he walked over to Sam and Dani.

"You're on, 'Berto!" Dani responded to him, as she accepted his challenge on the girls' behalf, who were all now shooting dirty-looks in Roberto's direction.

The junior students', who were all also dressed in their dark-blue junior X-Men uniforms similar to Rahne's, but were cut in varying styles, proceeded to separate into their two groups. The boys' squad, which besides Cannonball and Sunspot also consisted of James Proudstar, the super-strong and agile Warpath; Julio Esteban Richter, the tremor-inducing Rictor; Jones Davidson, the digital-manipulating Circuit; and Jamie Madrox, the one-mutant proliferation machine known as Multiple Kid.

Meanwhile, the girls' squad made their way over towards the obstacle course in the middle of the Danger Room, as squad leader Mirage was joined by the aforementioned Wolfsbane and Firestar, and by Theresa Cassidy, who was capable of generating intense sonic-vibrations and was appropriately enough code-named Siryn; Amara Aquilla, the volcanic-controlling Magma; and Carmella Unuscione, whose ability to create a telekinetic force-field around herself had earned her the code-name of Barrier.

"Alright ladies', the floor's all yours. But make sure to keep an extra eye out for Firestar, so she won't get hurt her first day here. I mean, she might be a little scared since Spider-Man probably won't be swinging by anytime soon to give any of you an assist." Roberto smirked, as he once again addressed the junior-girls' and continued with his agitative comments. Which, caused some of the other boys' to chuckle a little at Roberto's slightly incendiary remarks, and which Angelica also once again took notice of.

Angelica now felt that Roberto was intentionally going out of his way to make fun of her, and she was determined to put an immediate stop to it by showing him and the others that she was more than capable of handling herself down here. And more importantly, that she belonged here.

"Me, scared? Not hardly!" Angelica exclaimed out of nowhere, as she looked over in Roberto's direction and responded to his questioning of her abilities. The anger inside of her was starting to swell, while the air around her began to pop and crackle from the tremendous microwave-energy that was now radiating from her body. A bright aura then quickly surrounded Firestar, an instant before she took flight and tore through the air in a loud and frighteningly-dynamic fashion, heading right for the obstacle course in this immense training-room.

As she barreled down right into the first section of this transparent, plastic tunneled-obstacle maze, Firestar saw that she would have to contend with a number of deterrents designed to prevent her from successfully achieving their training objective. The first of these was a huge and very intimidating spinning-gun turret, which shot up from the floor right in front of the entrance and began firing small paintballs at her. Easily dodging these paint-filled spheres that were sailing at her through the air, Firestar continued on unabated and quickly flew over the gun turret to enter the training passageway.

Now in this confined area, Firestar next had to face a series of plastic walls that repeatedly popped up and down from the top, the bottom, and the sides of the training tunnel's interior, which would force her to carefully maneuver herself and perfectly time her navigations past them. Once she had made it through this second part of the course, Firestar had to once again encounter objects being sent her way. This time, the projectiles' consisted of metal rods that were padded at each end and were fired at her at a very high velocity, being used in conjunction with larger and slower-moving leather bags that were filled with sand, all in an attempt to disrupt Firestar's timing and catch her off guard.

But, she smoothly breezed past these ensnarements as well, and Firestar proceeded forward towards the obstacle course's finish line. Where a large battle-droid, which resembled a large robotic-construct that had been lifted straight out of a 1950's sci-fi movie, awaited her. Rather than pause and give the battle-droid a chance to analyze a means of preventing her from getting past it, Firestar unleashed a massive energy-beam at the robot and melted its entire upper-torso.

"1 minute, 6 seconds." The Danger Room's computer said, as it announced in its monotone, automated-voice the time results of Firestar's run through the obstacle course. Meanwhile, Firestar now flew over the metal-slag that had been left in her wake and exited the course's tunnel, landing just a few yards outside of it.

"Good goin' there Firestar!" Siryn was the first to say, as the dark-blue and silver cape attached to her uniform ruffled briskly behind her, while she and the rest of the junior-girls ecstatically hurried over to congratulate Firestar on such an outstanding performance.

"Guys, did ya see that! Ah ain't ever seen anyone beat the obstacle-course that fast, and especially not by themselves either!" An astonished Cannonball exclaimed next, as he and the rest of the junior-boys stood in astonishment of Firestar's amazing feat.

But, they weren't the only ones who were marveling at the almost clinic-like demonstration that Firestar had just put on for them.

"That was most impressive, Firestar." Professor Xavier now said to her from the control booth up above, as he spoke into the microphone on the computer console directly in front of him.

"Thank you, Professor." Angelica smiled, as she looked up at him through the control booth's window.

"You are quite advanced, I must say. Especially, when one considers that Miss Frost had placed you on her junior-level squad at the Massachusetts Academy?" Professor Xavier remembered and commented.

"Not really. I mean, Miss Frost used to have me and the other junior-students' run sims sorta like that one all the time.

As a warm-up.

Before, she would make us do our real workouts."

As Firestar revealed that little tidbit to them, doing so without any pretensions regarding her own abilities, nor was she attempting to be conceited or brag about them, Professor Xavier and Bobby simply turned and looked over at one completely speechless. It was partially because of Angelica's telling them, in such a matter-of-fact manner, that Emma Frost's students were on a much faster learning track in grasping how to use their mutant powers. But, it was also because Bobby had silently pointed down onto the computer console, which revealed that Angelica's time in completing this exercise had actually ranked her up with those scores of the senior-level students'. In a couple of cases, Angelica had either tied or beaten some of those times, with Bobby's own personal-best included among them.

"Well, Mirage, having completed today's training objective, you and your team are excused and free to leave. Cannonball, if you would begin preparing your team for their turn?" Professor Xavier now said, as he excused the girls' for the day, not that he had much of a choice in the matter.

As he watched the junior-girls' make their way over to the Danger Room's exit, Professor Xavier now realized that he would have to reassess whether or not he was pushing his students hard enough in their drills? And given what Angelica had just told him about her former fellow students who, for all intents and purposes, were the Brotherhood's junior-level members, Professor X also knew that he would have to reexamine where that fine-line stood between allowing his own novice students' to excel in completely comprehending the full-extent of their powers; and knowing when he was actually forcing them forward too far, too fast, and too soon before they were ready. It was a delicate line, which Xavier now wondered whether Emma Frost had considered to even exist?

Meanwhile, as the girls' proceeded out of the Danger Room together, Angelica shot a quick glance over in Roberto's direction, but didn't receive one back from him. Roberto was definitely still stunned by what he had just seen her do, but beyond that, he also felt a slight tinge of jealousy towards her. Not so much because of her advanced abilities, or even because of the fact that she had gotten the opportunity to meet and fight alongside Spider-Man, who happened to be one of his all-time favorite heroes. No, it had to do with something that had been told to him a few weeks ago in New York City when he and John Allerdyce, the mutant also known as Pyro, had spoken briefly.

Despite the fact that Miss Frost had given her students' strict instructions not to discuss, or to even bring up the subject of what it was that they actually did behind-the-scenes at the Massachusetts Academy, John had recalled one-time overhearing Roberto complain about his desire to learn to use his powers beyond simply controlling them, back when he himself was still a student at Xavier's along with Roberto and the others. Deciding to ignore his Headmistress' forbidding decree in just this one instance, John took it upon himself to take Roberto out onto one of the secluded balconies at the Hellfire Club that night at the Gala, and then proceeded to inform the younger teen on how the students' at the Massachusetts Academy progressed at their own rate in learning how to master their mutant powers, and how they were allowed to do so as quickly as possible without any arbitrary limitations or restrictions being placed upon them.

It was a thought that had remained at the back of Roberto's mind, one which he was once again reminded of after seeing Angelica's proficient display of her powers today, as she had single-handedly bested this fairly difficult training-simulation right before his very eyes.

And, it was one of many things that Roberto would continue to mull over internally, among complicated ponderings that would most likely persist in his mind long after today's exercises had come to an end.

………………………………………………………

A short time later in the girls' locker-room…

After hitting the showers, following what was probably the shortest training-session that they had experienced in their time at Xavier's, the members of the girls' junior-squad were now talking as they got dressed. And, the main topic of discussion remained the performance that had been put on by the newest addition to their ranks, which they were all still pretty elated about.

"I have to give it to you, that shit you pulled back there in the Danger Room was pretty kick-ass!" Carmella remarked to Angelica, as she was the last to come out of the shower area, doing so with one huge white towel wrapped around her, while she had another in her hands to dry her lengthy and voluminously-frizzy chocolate brown hair, having had been within earshot the entire time to overhear the conversation that was taking place out here.

"If'n ye would'nae please mind it with the swearin'." Rahne scoldingly said to Carmella's comment, as she and most of the other girls' had for the most-part finished getting dressed. Rahne now sat on the black, hard-plastic surface of one of the benches in there, bent forward as she fumbled with the laces of her black, canvas walking-shoes.

"Fine, she was pretty kick-butt. There, you happy now 'Mom'?" Carmella replied, as she sighed, shook her head a little, and looked down at Rahne with a frowning expression. As Carmella walked off, Rahne simply looked away from her and back down towards the locker-room floor, so that she could finish tying her shoes.

"No matter how you say it, you still made Roberto eat his own words." Dani said next, as she sat on the same bench beside Rahne carefully reaffixing her two long pigtails that hung down on both sides, which Dani had plaited her naturally long, blue-black hair into. All the while, she was facing and speaking to Angelica, who was sitting on another bench right across from them.

"More like ye had Roberto chokin' on 'em, like they was day-ol' colcannon. Which is an accomplishment in itself, considerin' he's always runnin' that big mouth o' his." Terry added next, as she laughed a little while she turned to make her comment directly to Angelica, who was sitting right beside her, Terry's own Irish-accent now also made quite noticeable to her new teammate.

"Really guys, you don't have to make such a big deal out of it. I was only trying to do my best in there, it's not like me and Roberto have some kinda rivalry goin' on." Angelica replied to all of their remarks, and was starting to feel a little uncomfortable by all of the attention that she was getting. Mainly, because it hadn't been too often that Angelica was ever on the receiving end of such accolades, especially from any of her peers previously.

"I don't believe that anyone is trying to infer that you do. It is merely the way in which you were able to so effectively and convincingly validate your point to him." Amara was the last to chime in, as this prim and polite girl with curly, brownish-blonde hair stood just a few feet away from them, and was leaning back up against one of the nearby metal lockers as she spoke to the other girls'.

"Yeah, listen to 'Lava-girl'. She definitely knows what she's talkin' about, even if sometimes we don't." Carmella teasingly declared aloud, as she now stood in the next row of lockers over from them and finished dressing.

"And thank you for the kind words, 'Bubble-girl'." Amara smiled and immediately shot back, as she called her response out to her roommate over the lockers' directly behind her, which currently separated the two girls.

"Well, I think we've said enough about icky-boy's busted ego. What are we gonna do, now that we've got a whole day off to ourselves?" Dani asked the group, as she stood up with her hands in the front pockets of her faded bleach-washed jeans, also wearing a red retro-wool ski sweater over her extremely slender-physique with them, a sweater which was zipped up in the front and had thin black-and-orange horizontal stripes on it.

"We could head into Salem Center, 'n show Angelica around?" Terry suggested, as she sat now fully dressed in a solid mauve pullover, cable-knit sweater, and accessorized her look with gabardine-twill slacks in a light safari-green color, which had cargo-pockets on the side and slash-pockets in back.

"That sounds like a fabulous idea!" Amara enthusiastically squealed, as her blue-eyes lit up in excitement and she came over to the other girls' wearing a very stylish long, cowl-neck sweater, which was made from a stretchy black material and zippered down the back, along with an as equally expensive pair of plaid coral and periwinkle wide-cuffed trousers, which sort of flared out at the bottom.

"I know I sure as hel…heck, wouldn't mind getting away from here for a while." Carmella also agreed, as she came back around the corner from the other side of the lockers and threw another fleeting glance in Rahne's direction.

Rahne was still sitting down on one of the locker-room benches next to Dani, dressed in one of her usually conservative outfits. This particular combo consisted of a gray button-front cardigan sweater and a white turtleneck underneath it, along with a matching gray long-skirt and a pair of black stockings.

Once she had made it back around with the others, Carmella showed off for them a modest khaki button-up shirt with mock patch-pockets on the chest that she had on. A blouse, which Carmella was wearing with the top two buttons undone and with both of the sleeves rolled all the way up to her elbows, and had on black, boot-cut denim jeans as part of her outfit. Then, Carmella turned her attention over towards Angelica.

"How about you, you feel like headin' into town?" Carmella now asked, as she looked down and solicited Angelica's opinion of their preliminary plans.

"Oh…um, it sounds like a great idea to me." Angelica told the others, as she sat wearing an ensemble consisting of a white and aqua-blue striped, knit hoody with matching aqua sweats, and was both surprised and happy that they actually wanted to know what her feelings on the matter were.

As the girls' now began to map out an itinerary for the day, which included but was not limited to them hitting the Salem Center Mall, Angelica was starting to feel more at ease in her new surroundings. Partially, it was due to Angelica having gotten past some of her own insecurities that had continually hounded her, and over her earlier fear about embarrassing herself in front of her new classmates on her first day at Xavier's. But beyond that, it was because Dani, Terry, Rahne, Amara, and Carmella seemed now to be genuinely accepting her.

As a friend.

……………………………………………………

Later, the girls' made their way out to a small highway close to campus, which had a bus-route that ran past the Xavier estate every few hours. After waiting at the stop to catch this mostly-empty bus heading into Salem Center, they soon found themselves shuttled into the moderately-sized town's business-district referred to as New Salem Center, which is were its main retail-nexus was located, the Salem Center Mall.

Following an extended shopping trip that took up most of the afternoon, which had included them perusing through just about every department store and boutique in the mall where they had seemingly tried on a few dozen outfits between them, Rahne, Amara, Angelica, Dani, and Carmella had finally called it a day. But, as they made their way out of the mall, the girls' continued with the gossipy-talk that had dominated most of their conversations' on this day.

"But, ye still didn't answer the question. Ye said he was kinda cute, but the question was whether or not you'd actually consider doin' it with him?" Terry made this fairly provocative inquiry, as all five girls' walked through the mall together towards one of its main entrances.

"And my answer, again, Little-Miss-Nosy is I don't know. It's something I'd really have to think about it, whether it's with him or with anyone for that matter." Dani, being the girl to whom the question had been directed replied, as she looked over towards Terry while they walked on.

"Can we please find somethin' else t'discuss?" Rahne now implored of Dani and Terry, as she and the other girls' followed behind the two. Rahne up to this point had remained fairly quiet, but it was easy to tell by her reaction that the slightly-racy subject matter that had dominated most of today's girl-talk was starting to make her very uncomfortable.

"You know, everyone has been saying that there already is something secret and torrid going on between the two of you." Amara giggled and told Dani next, as she continued the conversation without even a pause in deference to Rahne, all while she carried a couple of shopping bags along in her hands. In the bag in Amara's left-hand was a new outfit, which went perfectly with the Prada handbag that she had bought, and was now carrying in the shopping bag in her other hand.

"And who's everyone, the four of you?" Dani smiled and skeptically raised an eyebrow, as she looked accusatively at Terry, Amara, Carmella and Rahne.

"I didn't say anything like that." Carmella replied with a slight grin, as she was walking alongside Rahne and Angelica, but suddenly stopped and took a step back with her hands out in front of her in an absolving manner, "Just, that a couple times I saw the two of you heading off somewhere on the campus grounds. Alone."

"And, ye two were awfully cozy at that big t'do in New York a few weeks ago." Terry added, referring to the Fall Formal Gala, which was a joint-dance that had been held at the Hellfire Club, and had been attended by students from both Xavier's School for the Gifted and from the Massachusetts Academy.

"Oh, so that automatically means there HAS to be something goin' on between us then?" Dani cynically laughed, as she tossed these rumors back at them, "Just because a guy and a girl are really good friends, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're anything else beyond that."

"And, just because ye're so boy-crazy, doesn't automatically mean the rest of us are either." Rahne now remarked to Terry, as she once again inserted herself into the conversation.

"In yuir case, there's only one boy that ye're crazy about. Saammmuuel Guthrie." Terry teasingly responded, as she intentionally pronounced Sam's first name very slowly for Rahne's benefit.

"Where'd ye get a daft idea like that!" Rahne unexpectedly exclaimed, as the girls' had reached the mall's exit and went outside on this partially-overcast fall afternoon.

"It's kinda obvious. I mean, you are always staring at him all the time." Carmella unabashedly pointed out for her, which put Rahne into an even more defensive mood.

"I'm 'nae always lookin' at him all the time!" Rahne semi-shouted back at them, as their small group came to an abrupt-halt right outside of the mall, with this intensely private girl now utterly and completely embarrassed by their apparent observations of her.

"It's alright Rahne, there's nothing wrong with having a crush on someone." Angelica now said, as she intuitively came up and put her arm around Rahne to try and calm the girl down, before she lost control and shifted into her wolf-form out there in public.

With that bit of melodrama having now passed, the girls' were just about to resume their journey out to the mall's bus-stop so that they could catch a bus over to Harry's Hideaway, which was a favorite hang-out among Salem Center's teenage population.

But suddenly, the cell-phone in Amara's purse started to ring.

The Nova Roman-native proceeded to carefully sit her shopping bags down on the ground beside her, reached down into her purse, and then pulled her phone out to promptly answer it.

"Hello?" Amara said, as she spoke into the tiny receiver-end of her phone and waited for a reply.

As the others watched her with tremendous curiosity, they saw Amara attentively listening to whoever the caller was for a few moments, before she spoke again.

"Yes, we're still here and…yes, she is here with us also." Amara continued, as she answered what were obvious questions being posed to her from the caller, "No, not yet. Actually, we were on our way over to Harry's to…well, we just came outside, we're near the entrance by the sporting-goods store. Yes, that one, the extremely large one. Okay, we'll see you in a moment."

"Soooo, what was that all about?" Dani asked, as she took a few steps over towards Amara and then asked her the question that was on all of their minds, while Amara flipped her cell-phone closed.

"You know what you were saying just a minute ago, about it being alright for someone to have a crush on another?" Amara said, but instead of replying to Dani, she instead turned her gaze towards Angelica, "I hope that you are prepared to heed your own advice, because I'm confident that there is a certain upper-classman, whom we all know, that seems to have developed a rather sizable one on you."

While the other girls' didn't have a clue what she was talking about, Amara attempted to clarify things by giggling and pointing over at a SUV that was driving towards them across the mall's parking lot.

This midnight-blue Chevy Trailblazer pulled up and then slowed to a stop right in front of girls', which they all recognized as being from the considerable assortment of vehicles back in the school's enormous garage. When its driver slowly rolled his window down for them, the girls' could now see who was sitting behind the wheel and that it was none other than Bobby Drake.

When the boys' half of the Junior X-Men squad had completed their training session for the day, which took them more than three hours to finish, they came up and found that all of the girls' at the school were nowhere to be found. And, after some casual searching of his own throughout the mansion, which then stretched out onto the campus' outdoor grounds, Bobby came back inside and went straight to Professor Xavier's study to inform his Headmaster that the co-eds had all mysteriously disappeared.

To which, the Professor revealed to Bobby that the girls' had all gone into town.

When Bobby further asked the Professor how he knew all of this without the aid of Cerebro, Professor Xavier silently and non-chalantly responded by handing Bobby a small, folded piece of paper. Once he opened it, Bobby saw that it was a note that had been handwritten by Dani and that she had left for Professor Xavier on his desk in his study, which had told him exactly where it was that they were all going.

"I thought you guys probably wouldn't mind a lift over to Harry's, and then back to the school." Bobby now smiled and told the girls', as they could hear the sound of the automatic locks on all of the doors to the SUV being unlocked.

But, while his statement had been meant for all of them, Bobby had subconsciously focused his attention entirely on Angelica while he was speaking. Which shouldn't have been a surprise, since Bobby hadn't been able to stop himself from thinking about this attractive young female all day, and he definitely hadn't been able to get the kiss that they had shared together the night before out of his mind.

"It was pretty thoughtful of you to drive all the way down here, just to pick us up." Angelica said to Bobby, as she came over and stood at the driver's side window, and was smilingly thanking him.

Accepting his offer, Angelica then went around the front of the SUV to open one of the its doors. But, she abruptly stopped in her tracks when she noticed that the other four girls' hadn't budged an inch, and were all still standing in place in front of the mall's paved entranceway.

"Aren't you guys gonna get in?" Angelica turned back to ask her new friends, with the passenger-side door to the SUV now half ajar in front of her.

"Thanks, but we'll stick with public transportation. Besides, I think you're the one that Bobby really wants to give a ride to anyways." Carmella smirkingly replied. And, Dani and Terry couldn't help but join in with Amara's almost contagious giggling in response to Carmella's remark, which now caused Angelica's face to turn slightly red as she blushed a little.

Dani, Amara, and Terry had each noticed that when Bobby pulled up and spoke to them just now, that his eyes had remained fixated on just Angelica the entire time. Which, they had also noticed Bobby doing the night before, when Angelica was telling them all about how they had run into Spider-Man during their fight in Manhattan.

But luckily for Angelica, she had been spared what would have been ten-times the embarrassment that she was currently feeling, given the fact that none of the other girls' knew about the spontaneous kiss that had occurred between her and Bobby last night, while they were on their way back to Westchester from her home in New Jersey.

Amara, Dani, Terry, and Rahne now began walking towards the bus-stop, and to also without doubt continue their gossipy-conversation on their brand-new speculation regarding the romantic implications of Bobby's showing up to pick up Angelica. Meanwhile, Bobby and Angelica were now once again left alone in an automotive vehicle, a situation which they were fast becoming used to.

"So, do you wanna head over to Harry's, or stop somewhere else first?" Bobby now asked Angelica, since they had the remaining afternoon hours to kill.

"Why don't we…" Angelica was saying, as she climbed into the passenger-side seat and the closed the SUV's door beside her, when she suddenly interrupted herself, "Um, never mind, I'll let you decide."

"No, what is it?" Bobby now urgingly asked her, as he wanted to know what Angelica had in mind.

"Well, I was gonna suggest we go see a movie, since it's still pretty early." Angelica went ahead and told him, as she sat and dreamily inspected his form beneath his maroon, quarter-zip front sweater and the pleated sand-colored pants that he had on, before she snapped herself back into the present and turned her attention back towards his face.

"Okay, so what do you wanna see?" Bobby further asked, showing that he was certainly receptive to the idea.

"You'll probably think it's kinda lame." Angelica was saying, as she paused yet again.

"I won't be able to think anything, not if you don't tell me first." Bobby replied.

"I really wanted to go see that new Harry Potter movie." Angelica told him, as she finally revealed to Bobby the picture that she had been dying to take in, "I mean, I'm a huge fan of the series. I've even managed to read all of the books."

"That sounds fine to me." Bobby said to Angelica, doing so in a tone that relayed that he genuinely thought her movie suggestion was a good one.

Although, just about any reason that wound up resulting in Bobby getting the opportunity to spend some more time alone with Angelica would have been equally as okay with him, as he now put the Trailblazer into gear and set off for the Salem Center movie theatre, which was just a few blocks away from the mall.

……………………..…………………………..……

More than two and a half hours later, the movie had let out and Bobby and Angelica now found that nighttime had set in earnest at this late evening hour. They now also found themselves exiting the theatre and making their way back to the SUV, talking to each other about the finer points of the film that they had just seen.

"So, what'd you think?" Angelica asked Bobby, as she had had been silently wondering to herself the entire time during the movie if it had been a mistake to suggest that they come here this evening?

"I've never been that much into Harry Potter, but it was okay. And it was a lot darker than I thought a movie like that would be." Bobby replied in regards to the overall plot and themes within the movie, as they continued across the parking lot together, "What do you think, was it better or worse than the book?"

"Actually, I would have to say neither. It's just different. Most times when a movie is based off something else, like a book, it's going to have to be different anyways, and there are just some things that won't work up there." Angelica told him, as she personally-referenced some of the many other books that she had also read, only to later see them adapted into their big-screen versions.

"Either way, I don't think I could picture myself going to a school where weird and freaky stuff like that was always happening." Bobby was saying to Angelica, when she suddenly stopped right in the middle of the movie-theatre parking lot, and just stood there looking at him.

"Uh. Huh…" Angelica said in response to his statement, raising an eyebrow and folding her arms in front of her while shooting Bobby a smirking glance, which couldn't have been any more obvious as to what she was currently thinking.

"Yeah…um, right. Mutant-High, and all that. You can go ahead and scratch what I just said." Bobby laughed and told Angelica, as his momentary memory-lapse came to a quick end.

"It's just a darn shame the evening had to end so early, else we could continue this conversation and I could help point out some more examples of art imitating life, if you'd like?" Angelica sarcastically commented, as they now resumed their trek across the movie-theatre's parking lot.

"Okay. Sure. I know somewhere private where we can go, so you can finish your short dissertation to me on 'surreal-ness'. And then, you can even try to explain to me why reality-TV is still going strong, even though its fifteen minutes should've been up hours ago?" Bobby playfully replied to Angelica, which drew a brief, but heartfelt laugh from her.

Then, without even thinking about it, Bobby went and put his arm around Angelica, pulling her closer to him while they continued their journey across the parking lot together towards the SUV. And for the first time, Bobby realized just how much he enjoyed having Angelica be so very close to him, and how warm and naturally pleasant that it felt.

………………………………………………………

The Hill.

While being a fairly descriptive nickname for this area, which overlooked a good section of the township of Salem Center down below, in all actuality The Hill was more of a flat, man-made escarpment than anything. With it being reasonably secluded, The Hill was a popular destination for individuals, particularly couples, seeking a private place to go to be alone. And, it seemed to be the perfect nightspot for those who desired somewhere to go, where they could have uninterrupted conversation.

But, for most of the couples' that wound up on this cloistered jaunt, the temptation of a quiet and dark night with their significant other could just as easily be an overwhelming enticement.

Which, Bobby and Angelica could certainly attest to at the moment.

Rather than talking about art, or life, or about any other topic that existed underneath the big, bright stars that were visible on this clear and now cloudless night, Bobby and Angelica had instead found themselves lip-locked, and were now heavily immersed in one major make-out session in the spacious backseat of a borrowed SUV. And, as opposed to the previous night, where she had felt slightly apprehensive about being in such a romantic situation with him, Angelica had in a remarkably short amount of time grown far more comfortable with herself, and even more so in being with Bobby.

But even with that taken into consideration, as Bobby and Angelica slowly kissed, while holding onto one another so tightly that it seemed as though they were anchoring one another to this world, they would soon be reminded that such a simple thing as a kiss could still come with its own set of complications and unanticipated consequences. Especially, when hormones and emotions were running as hot and as heavy as they currently were between these two very unique individuals.

"Um, Bobby. I think we'd better stop." Angelica now told Bobby, as she pulled away from him and they then sat looking at one another in the backseat of the SUV, which was parked on this elevated precipice over-looking Westchester County's largest populated area, with Kasabian's L.S.F playing on the radio in the background.

"Why, what's wrong?" Bobby asked Angelica, both of their faces still somewhat flushed from the passionate exchange that they had been engaged in just moments before.

"Well, you're getting me all wet." Angelica informed Bobby, as she didn't look at him directly in the face, but instead turned her gaze towards the rear-passenger window right behind him.

"Huh?" Was the only thing that Bobby could utter and manage to get out in response.

"I think your ice-powers and my heat-powers are doing some kinda weird condensation thing." Angelica now clarified for Bobby, as she looked all around them and inspected the SUV's interior, "I'm starting to feel my sweater getting damp from it, and you can see how we're fogging up all the windows in here."

"Boy, are we!" Bobby now remarked, as he looked at all of the vehicle's windows and realized that their heightened emotional-states had caused both him and Angelica to slightly and momentarily lose control of their powers, "I don't think a fogged window or two ever hurt anyone, but I am sorry about messing up your sweater. I guess I'll just have to learn not to get so excited when I'm around you?"

"Better not!" Angelica grinned and happily replied, as she lightly nudged Bobby on his side with her elbow, "Besides, I guess I can always dry it out later, and I won't even need a dryer to do it."

As she sat looking up into Bobby's beautiful eyes, Angelica went and placed her arms up across his shoulders and clasped her hands around the back of his neck, before she leaned forward into him. This seemingly unlikely couple once again started to deeply and heavily kiss each other, and immediately picked up right where they had just left off.

And in doing so, these two diametrically-opposed extremes that Bobby and Angelica metaphorically represented in their tangible forms-

Hot and Cold.

Fire and Ice.

Had now found a way to blissfully co-exist together. Not in dichotomy to be forever separated, but instead as a single entity now made up of two parts, slowly burning and melting into a greater whole.

Into a Coldfire

…………………………………………………………

Epilogue

Being the ambitious, and at times overbearing, CEO of her own Fortune-500 company known world-wide as Frost International, as well as serving as Headmistress to the exclusively private Massachusetts Preparatory Academy, Emma Frost was a woman who knew a thing or two about reaching the pinnacles of success, and also firmly understood what it took to get and remain there.

Growing up as she had, in a family where the very name 'Frost' was just as much of a description of the emotional climate of their household, as it was the bandied-about last name of her blue-blood ancestral lineage, Emma had been prepared to possess such a mindset at a very early age. For her, those lessons that had been imposed upon her from her father, to strive to attain a relentless drive to succeed, to be better than the next man no matter what the cost, had remained with Emma well into adulthood. All in spite of her own youthful, and ultimately futile, attempts to deviate from that path that he had laid out for her.

Which, is also why Emma Frost felt a deep sense of regret for what she now had to do, the one thing that she had sworn to herself to never do again in her lifetime.

Admit failure.

"…so, I thought that you should be made aware of the situation, and what has transpired." Emma now finished her statement, as she stood in the center of her private office right in front of her desk, an office that was located on the campus of the Massachusetts Academy in Snow Valley.

Foregoing the more conservative wardrobe normally associated with a woman of her position at such a distinguished institution of learning, Emma was instead dressed in a pristine, white two-piece leather corset outfit with matching knee-high leather boots and arm-length gloves, along with a white full-length, fur-trimmed shawl that draped down from her shoulders, which was the traditional attire worn by the White Queen of the Hellfire Club's Inner-Circle.

"Charles Xavier is slowly making himself into a veritable thorn in our side, first with the Blaire-affair, and now this." Sebastian Shaw, who was CEO of the equally prominent Shaw Industries replied.

Sebastian himself was now standing in the middle of his own corner, top-floor office at Shaw Industries' headquarters located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He stood in front of an enormous video-screen that took up a good section of one of the walls in there as he addressed Emma, doing so while dressed in a far more understated black suit, with a black dress-shirt underneath and a black and gray striped-tie over it.

"But no matter, I will show you how a Lord Cardinal deals with such treachery. Xavier and his X-Men will all learn that there is a price to be paid for meddling in the affairs of the Inner-Circle, and Firestar most importantly will quickly understand that her betrayal will come at an especially high-cost to those around her." Sebastian calmly finished, as he abruptly signed off from his video-conference call with Emma, and now slowly paced back and forth in front of the blank video-screen.

After a few moments of contemplative pacing, Sebastian turned his attention to the other person in his office with him, who had been silently sitting off to the side taking in their conversation the entire time, while watching a digital-broadcast signal being picked on a small, handheld receiver in her palm.

"Shall I summon the Inner Circle's elite mercenaries?" Tessa, Sebastian's raven-haired assistant now asked of him, as she looked up from the device in her hand, doing so in a manner that almost seemed as though she were reading his mind. Like Sebastian, Tessa was also wearing a rather reserved ensemble, consisting of a charmeuse-silk blouse in ebony, which had ruffles that ran down the front from its round, banded-collar, along with a matching pair of black form-fitting pants.

All this time, Tessa had been watching, or more accurately cataloguing, Emma and Sebastian's conversation, while simultaneously making a mental note regarding a news report that had just come across on her handheld device about a disturbance last night on the streets of Tokyo, Japan.

"No. If it were simply brute force that was required, then I would most assuredly have gathered them already. But, considering that they were soundly trounced by just four of the X-Men, I believe that I will have need of a far more skilled-man for this assignment." Sebastian said, as he stopped his pacing across his office and turned back to talk to Tessa, with a huge and ominous grin now clearly evident on his face, "If you would be a dear, and fetch my Black-Folder for me."

Tessa immediately did as was asked of her, standing up and going over to a hidden wall-safe in his office to retrieve Sebastian Shaw's Black-Folder. In reality, his Black-Folder was a CD-ROM labeled with the words 'Black-Folder' on it.

"Tessa, I've been meaning to ask if have you been able to locate that no-account son of mine?" Sebastian now inquired her, as he had went and sat down behind his desk, his right-hand patiently tapping the surface of his desk next to a computer keyboard.

"I've left a number of voice and text messages for him, per your request, but I have yet to hear a response from him." Tessa replied, as she stood and punched in the safe's combination on the keypad located on its door, "From what I was able to gather during our last, and very brief conversation, in addition to what I was able to extrapolate from the data at my disposal, Shinobi was heading to the Far East for what appears to be some business venture, most likely in Hong Kong, which he apparently wants to keep under wraps."

"More likely, he was heading there to congregate with his ribble-rabble friends for a week of frolicking and carousing." Sebastian disparagingly commented, as Tessa now brought his Black-Folder over for him to sift through.

On this disc in Tessa's hand were the names of individuals whom Sebastian had encountered and had prior dealings with over the years, along with people whom he had simply learned about through his various contacts worldwide. People, who despite their various backgrounds, all shared a single and definingly common-trait.

They all possessed a masterful propensity for doling out death and outright mayhem in frighteningly lethal quantities, but only doing so when the price was right.

At least in most of their cases.

……………………………………………….……

Meanwhile, back in Snow Valley, Massachusetts on the campus of the Massachusetts Academy, a woman there was also currently preoccupied with an important task of her own.

A woman who wasn't Emma Frost, however.

In the senior-students' residence on campus, which was affectionately referred to as 'The Brotherhood House' by those same residents, a woman with silver-gray hair and who was much older than the student-body and most of the other individuals with whom she shared this dwelling, sat locked away in her second-floor bedroom. Irene Adler, who had on a plain, yet classic blue long-sleeved skirt-set, now sat at a desk by a window that she unfortunately was unable to see out of, busily involved in what had become a fairly routine labor of hers.

Ever since her early teens, back when her mutant power to see the future first emerged, Irene had been both gifted with the ability to know with a modest degree of certainty what tomorrow might bring, while also being cursed with the responsibility of possessing that knowledge. And while her clairvoyant gift was not an exact science, with most of the time being far from it, there were some visions that would sporadically come to Irene, and would continually re-occur to her with such force and vigor that they seemed to be portentous omens being sent to her warning of events in both the distant, as well as the near future.

When she would receive these unique visions, which were easily distinguishable to her from her usual ones, Irene would write them down in what had become her private journals. When her powers first burgeoned forth and granted her a window into the infinite passage of time itself, it did so with such ferocity that she wrote down everything that was being shown to her. But in the decades over her rather extensive lifetime since she had begun keeping her journals, Irene had wound up recording numerous volumes of them, some of which she had gone back and had later amended when she had become more experienced at analyzing her own visions, and had realized the fact that many of her early predictions didn't belong to this timeline and wouldn't ever come true, at least not for those in this here and now.

But for those predictions, which were so clear and vivid to Irene that she felt without a doubt they belonged to this timeline and stood a real and very strong possibility of happening here, they were the ones that remained. And, they had been compiled into these numerous journal volumes, whose existence only Irene and one other person knew about, and which she still wrote in from time to time, although with far less frequency than she did when she was younger.

Case in point, was an entry that she was now making into her most recent journal volume, which regarded an unassuming girl whom Irene foresaw one day as playing a pivotal role a number of years from now in helping to influence the course of human history…

"A bright and shining comet, capable of scorching the heavens itself on her own, will one day help to serve as a guiding beacon to those mighty beings assembled in a fantastic battle to save this world from the ultimate Chaos…"

With this intentionally shrouded and cryptic message now inscribed into her journal alongside a multitude of other auguries, Irene now placed her pen down on the desk beside it and she sat there by this closed window reflecting on what she had just written. Those individuals of a pessimistic viewpoint, if ever given the opportunity to read these words, might say that with them Irene's prediction had unfairly sealed the fate of this girl from New Jersey, whose future should have been left up for her to decide. But, those of a far more positive inclination would most likely call it something else.

Destiny.

………………………………………..………………………….

To be continued,

Let the Headgames begin…