Things We Lost in the Fire
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. R/R.
The first thing all of them noticed when they teleported in was the crunching sounds underneath their feet. The second thing that only a few of them noticed was the cold.
"Good call on the wardrobe change," commented Pixie as she hugged her coat tighter around her body and shivered, "I totally forget how cold it gets here."
"You'd think global warming would have wrecked that whole 'white Christmas' idea," muttered Anole as he blew on his hands in an effort to warm them.
"It's not Christmas just yet," reminded Mercury as she stared at the snow-covered ruins in front of them, "That's the whole reason we're doing this." The others all nodded silently as they looked at what was left of the Xavier Institute. The once proud and noble mansion was now nothing but debris slowly being consumed by the snow. Its students had grown up, moved on, started their own lives. However, it wasn't the living that had inspired this "class reunion" as Rockslide jokingly dubbed it. Mercury was the one who organized it because all of them had lost so many of their classmates and friends. Moving to San Francisco hadn't helped any of the former New X-Men escape those ghosts.
"You think the others will show?" asked Rockslide.
"Laura said she and Josh were," answered Mercury, "I tried to get in touch with Nori and Julian but I don't know."
"Should we wait?" asked Dust.
"No," replied Mercury with a shake of her head, "This is a personal thing. We shouldn't need a schedule for it." Cessily proceeded to lead the silent charge as the group of teenage mutants walked through the rubble. All of them remembered what Xavier's had once been. They could recall with crystal clarity the day Charles Xavier or one of his associates entered their lives and changed them forever. They lingered among the wreckage for scant moments as they fondly recalled those days when Xavier's was a real school. Such reminiscing wasn't the real reason for their visit. The real reason lay beyond the walls of the old school in a clearing that, regrettably, wasn't as small as it once was.
"This is unnecessary," stated X-23 as she continued to fiddle with the lock on the door, poking and prodding it with one of her claws, "I could easily get you inside."
"You'd break something," reminded Elixir as X-23 finally picked the lock and the door slid open, "I don't want her to have to pay for damages just because I came to visit."
"Again, unnecessary," repeated X-23 as the duo quietly crept into the apartment, "She's in the bedroom. It's on the left."
"Wait here," ordered Elixir as he moved through the room as quietly as he could, clutching the bouquet of flowers in one hand. X-23 shoved her hands into the pockets of her coat after silently closing the open door in order to avoid attention from anyone wandering the halls. She wasn't exactly accustomed to spending so much time thinking about dead people. It wasn't as if she had a shortage of dead people to think about. Laura Kinney simply believed her time was better spent thinking about live people, specifically the live people she had to protect from falling into the opposite category. Dead people were dead weight in X-23's professional opinion.
Elixir didn't share such an opinion, evidenced by his current actions. When Mercury had contacted him and X-23, Josh could only think of one name. Laurie Collins. Even though he was with Alani, Elixir still remembered Laurie and the fact that she had died in his arms. This visit was supposed to be about remembering the friends who wouldn't be seeing their families on Christmas, the friends that no longer had a future all because of the letter they chose to wear.
"I know it doesn't matter," whispered Elixir as he gently laid the flowers on the bedside table and watched Gail Collins as she slept, "I know it won't change how you feel towards us for killing your daughter. The problem is that I want it to because I'm really, terribly sorry." Elixir spent a few seconds in silence before he stealthily made his way out of the bedroom and towards the door.
"I could have the Cuckoos take your memories of her too," offered X-23 as the duo exited the apartment, closing the door behind them.
"I'm really not in the mood for this, Laura," warned Elixir.
"Then why are we here?" questioned X-23 as the two mutants descended the stairs and walked out of the apartment building. They stood on a corner and attempted to hail a taxi.
"Because the others deserve to be here with us," retorted Elixir as he succeeded in his mission and climbed into the open door of a taxi, "Greymalkin Lane, please. We can find it from there."
"You think he'll show up?" Rockslide looked at the grave of Nicholas Gleason before acknowledging Mercury's question. The members of the Young X-Men thought it appropriate to bury Wolf Cub with his friends instead of in San Francisco. Santo didn't know why this latest death affected him as much as it did but he chose not to dwell on it.
"He's a stiff, Cess," reminded Rockslide as he gestured to the grave, "I know we've seen weird stuff but Nicky's not gonna 'show up' anywhere."
"I meant Julian," explained Mercury with a practiced sigh, "I finally managed to find his email address but I never got his reply to my message."
"He'll show," assured Rockslide in a tone that sounded confident despite the fact that the speaker wasn't confident in the slightest. None of them had seen Julian Keller since the disbandment of the New X-Men and the X-Men in general.
"He better," muttered Mercury as she eyed the grave of Brian Cruz.
"Julian missies him too, Cess," reminded Rockslide as he rested a hand on her shoulder, "Hey, we can get you a spot on our team. I'm not really crazy about the new kids and it'd be nice, ya know?"
"I appreciate the thought," replied Mercury, "I'm not up for being an X-Man right now. Living with them is fine but it'll be awhile before I put a uniform on again." She pulled her phone out and checked it for messages, half hoping that Hellion would have contacted her.
"He'll show, Cess," repeated Rockslide though both of them believed it even less than the first time.
"So then I went home and I fought a bunch of these demon things," explained Pixie as she sat in front of the headstone, "Then the X-Men came and were all like 'You should totally hang out with us' and stuff and I'm like 'Okay, cool' so now I'm doing that. Oh and I got beat up by some goons but then later I stabbed some guy with my Souldagger and saved the day so that was kinda cool. I totally met Dazzler too. You should've been there, DJ. You probably would've liked it." Pixie stopped talking and was uncharacteristically silent for a long time.
"Don't think he's gonna answer back, kiddo," said Surge as she suddenly appeared next to Pixie. Pixie looked up at the older girl before Nori took a seat next to her.
"When did you get here?" asked Pixie, "Where've you been?"
"I ran here," replied Surge, "Took a few charges but I did it. I hung out with Miss Moonstar for a little while and then I just wandered around. I stopped at Forge's placed a couple days ago so he could tune up my gauntlets and that's when I checked my email."
"I'm glad you came," admitted Pixie, "I like hanging out with people closer to my age."
"So you're an X-Man now?" asked Surge.
"Not really," clarified Pixie, "I hang out with them but I feel like the dorky, little girl who somehow got put in the super-advanced class with all the older kids. I just feel kinda, I dunno, lost or something."
"Talk to them about it," suggested Surge.
"No way," disagreed Pixie, "I mean how uber-cool is it that I'm hanging out with Cyclops and Wolverine and Nightcrawler all the time? I mean these guys were my teachers and now they're all 'You're one of us now' and I don't wanna say anything to mess that up."
"No cool kids your age in San Fran?" inquired Surge.
"None like you guys," answered Pixie with a sad shake of her head, "I guess I just miss the old days, you know?"
"You had a thing for him?" asked Surge as she gestured to the grave.
"He was kinda the first guy to hit on me," explained Pixie sheepishly, "I mean I know he used to hit on anything that was female but I guess you kinda always remember that, right?"
"He was a charmer," agreed Surge with a fond grin.
"Yeah," said Pixie, "I think it was the only time I felt okay with who I was. I mean it's hard to have a good self-image when you see Miss Frost walking around all the time and you read about all this cool stuff all the X-women have done. Him doing that just made me feel kinda special."
"Just do the best you can," advised Surge, "It's what we all do, Megan." Surge slung her arm around Pixie's shoulders. The two girls sat in silence for a moment as they contemplated their lives and remembered their fallen friends.
"My butt is freezing," declared Pixie as she got up.
"Same here," agreed Surge as she followed suit and stretched her legs. Surge turned and saw Elixir and X-23 enter the clearing.
"Good to see you again," said Surge as Elixir hugged her, "I'm sorry more of the old squad isn't here."
"Better out there than here," reminded Elixir, "We would've been here earlier but I had an errand to run."
"Did you bring Alani?" asked Pixie hopefully.
"Christmas with the fam," answered Elixir, "I was supposed to come with her but I wanted to do this first. She sends her love though."
"You're meeting her parents?" assumed Surge skeptically.
"I figured on the way back we'd stop at Dani's," replied Elixir, "Evens things out and stuff."
"So where are you guys staying these days?" inquired Pixie.
"Angel's place in Colorado," answered Elixir, "Warren's taking care of a few of us until we get back on our feet."
"I take it Laura stays there too," surmised Surge.
"Laura doesn't really live in places," explained Elixir as he noticed his traveling companion had faded into the night, "She just kinda moves through them."
Dust finished saying her prayers and opened her eyes. She stared at the grave of Joshua Guthrie as if it held some mysterious truth about the nature of things.
"It's good to see you again, Sooraya," admitted X-23 as she joined her former roommate.
"You as well, Laura," greeted Dust in return, "How are you?"
"I am," replied X-23, not really willing to commit herself to any one state of being. She felt neither particularly happy nor sad, neither confident nor afraid. She just . . . was.
"You did not know these people well but you came," said Dust, "It is good that you did. I wanted to see you before . . ." Dust's words trailed off into nothingness and X-23 sensed something was off with her.
"You're upset," decided X-23 with a simple sniff of the air, "What's wrong?"
"It is nothing," assured Dust quietly.
"It's something," corrected X-23. Dust paused as she debated whether or not she should tell Laura the truth. Her eyes darted from side to side as she made sure they were alone for the moment.
"I assume you can keep a secret," said Dust as she uncovered her arm and revealed that part of it was still made of glass thanks to the fight with Magma.
"You can't change it back?" asked X-23, a slight crack of worry creeping into her voice.
"I have tried and I have been unsuccessful," explained Dust solemnly, "I fear that it might spread like an infection but I have kept it a secret because I do not wish to burden anyone else with it." Sooraya pulled her arm away from view, covering it to hide her affliction from the others.
"Your secret is safe with me if that's what you want," promised X-23 "Your God will save you, Sooraya. Have faith."
"Thank you, Laura," said Dust with a nod. X-23 turned away from perhaps the closest friend she had. It was another name to cross off the list of the people close to her that were still alive. The list was entirely too short and it seemed to grow shorter all the time.
"I have to say that this is probably the worst place for a party I've ever seen," decided Hellion as he touched down in the middle of the clearing, flowers clutched in his hand. Mercury instantly hugged him and he felt Rockslide's hand lightly grip his shoulder.
"I didn't think you'd come," admitted Mercury.
"This is where I need to be," stated Hellion as he saw X-23 and Dust, "Hang on, more people I need to see." Dust moved forward and hugged him while X-23 receded into the background to mull over the new information about Sooraya. Seeing Hellion always created unnecessary emotional baggage for her and now wasn't the time to add more fuel to the fire.
"You could stay for a minute, Laura," reminded Hellion. Laura complied with his request despite the fact that the only thing she wanted to do was run away back into the dark where she belonged.
"Hi," muttered X-23.
"You look good," commented Hellion, "You been keeping yourself busy?"
"Yes," answered X-23, "Why didn't you stay with the X-Men?"
"They didn't want me," said Hellion simply.
"Their loss," decided X-23, "Tactically speaking, you're a huge asset and your powers are incredibly versatile. Anyone would be happy to have you on their team."
"Does that include you?" asked Hellion with a grin.
"I wasn't speaking for myself," clarified X-23, "Yes though, that would probably include me." Julian smirked as he suddenly leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. Laura felt the unneeded and unwanted rise in her body temperature as well as the almost imperceptible rush of blood to her cheeks. It was extremely unnecessary but it was nice.
"Not right now," whispered Hellion to her, "Some day soon though." Hellion took the flowers he was holding and placed them at the grave of Brian Cruz, the teammate who was more like a brother to him than his real brother.
"We still remember," assured Mercury.
"Damn right we do," agreed Hellion emphatically as he put his brave face back on and turned to the rest of what he still considered his team, his family, "It's pretty close to Christmas. We should go out to eat or something. I bet we can even score some booze if we need to."
"Laura and I need to catch our flight," reminded Elixir.
"It's a private jet," spoke up X-23, absently touching her cheek, "He can wait on us."
"Food and booze it is then," declared Hellion, "I can't think of a better way to spend a Christmas."
"Always making trouble," said Surge, "How did we survive with you on the team?"
"Must have been my charm," retorted Hellion as he led the way out of the graveyard, "C'mon, it's not every day that all of us are together like this." The New X-Men followed him away from the woods. They knew he was right. All of them were moving in different directions but for this one night they felt like a family again. They had spent their time in remembrance of the dead. Now, it was time to celebrate living.