Title: Fragility, Chapter 1

Rated: PG

Disclaimer: Shandra is mine. I secured the rest through Textual Poaching.

Summary: As a five-year-old girl lies dying of a rogue mutation, the staff of Xavier's scrambles to find a treatment. As her situation grows more dire, they are provoked to acts of courage, self-examination, sacrifice, kindness, and faith.

Shandra is burning.

She lies in a white bed in a white room, a long, long way from home; and she burns and burns with acid fire that runs through every limb. The sheets burn where they touch her and her eyelids burn against her eyes and her fingers burn where they hold Kitty, and the only thing that makes it better even a little is when the man everyone calls the Professor comes and talks without words in her head.

At first Doctor Grover (that's not really his name, just what she calls him – because he's blue and has fur like her favorite monster on Sesame Street) at first he tried to give her a shot to make the burning better. But the shot just burned her – and not only the needle; the medicine itself ran through her like fire on top of fire. Doctor Grover looked angry at that, and the Professor said it was because the burning is in something called her deeyenay, and the shot can't fix it.

Shandra wonders what deeyenay is, and why hers doesn't work right, why it burns when nobody else's does, and if she is going to die.

She wishes it didn't hurt so much to hold Kitty, because Kitty keeps bad monsters away (not good monsters like Doctor Grover) and Kitty loves her and Kitty is here even though Momma and Daddy can't be, and in five years Shandra has never ever been without Kitty for more than a few hours. But it still hurts to touch anything, even Kitty.

A man comes into the white room; at first Shandra thinks it's the Professor. But he's not sitting down, he's walking on his feet, and he's got dark hair instead of just skin like the Professor, and while the Professor makes Shandra think of smooth things like Momma's fur coat and vanilla ice cream, this man makes her think of Daddy's sandpaper beard and the way a real kitty's tongue used to feel on her hands.

The rough man stands looking down at her, not saying anything. He has deep, deep eyes that are sort of unquiet, but gentle, and he smells like the cigars her granddad smokes. Shandra likes him even if he doesn't make her stop hurting like the Professor does.

"Hi." It hurts to talk very much, she guesses because she has deeyenay in her throat too, but she doesn't want the man to think she can't talk or doesn't want to. She used to really like to talk, before all her deeyenay caught fire and started burning her to death.

He blinks at her. "Hi." He has a low, sort of growly voice like a bear might have.

"What's your name?" She wants to tell him that her voice isn't always croaky like a stupid frog, she even sang in the Christmas program last year; it's just that her deeyenay hurts and makes it hard to talk much.

He doesn't seem to mind; he just tips his head to one side and says "Logan. What's yours?"

"Shandra." Shandra Lear, she thinks, and wants to tell him how everyone laughs when they hear her name.

"Why are you crying, Shandra?"

She didn't know she was crying, she tries so hard not to; Shandra wants to be a big girl, she really does. Stupid deeyenay. "'Cos it hurts." He doesn't seem to know what she means, and first she wants to say everything but that sounds like a baby, so she adds "To hold Kitty."

The rough man looks hard at Kitty for a minute and then looks at her, and then without saying nothing he moves across the room and rummages around in one of the drawers where Doctor Grover keeps needles and tape and things, and he comes back with a roll of funny-looking string.

He reaches up to the big light above Shandra's white bed, the one Doctor Grover shines hard at her sometimes when he's trying to fix her deeyenay, and he ties the end of the string around the light. Then SNIKT he makes a knife come right out of his hand, and Shandra can't hardly believe her eyes. He cuts the end of the string and the knife goes back into his hand, just like it was never there; and Shandra wonders if maybe there must be something wrong with his deeyenay too, because she's never seen anything like that before.

The rough man puts out one of his big hands with the knives inside, and takes Kitty from her very very gently, and ties the string around Kitty's middle. Shandra can still see Kitty – he's right up above her – but it doesn't hurt as much any more without Kitty in her hands.

Shandra may only be five but Momma taught her her manners, so she smiles her best smile and says "Thank you, Mister Logan."

He gets a real funny look on his face then, like he almost wants to cry but doesn't know how to do it, and finally he just nods and says "You're welcome, kid," and leaves the room without another word.

Kitty twists back and forth a little, like a Christmas ornament, and Shandra smiles up at him, and even though the rough man didn't say things into her head like the Professor, it still doesn't hurt as bad. She wonders if the rough man and the Professor together could maybe make it really stop hurting, if maybe both of them plus Doctor Grover too could fix her deeyenay for good.

Shandra wonders if she'll ever stop burning.

To be continued in Chapter 2 . . .