A/N: Thanks for the feedback on chapter one. There's more of Connor from here on in so you can get to know him a little better. Writing the stuff with him, Gabria and Jubilee is my favorite part of this.
Meanwhile, the senior members of the X-Men were finding it as difficult as ever to see eye to eye. Logan and Scott were both distrusting (which was making Logan even more annoyed because he hated to agree with Scott about anything), Remy and Ororo both felt that Gabria deserved the benefit of a doubt, and Rogue waffled between the two camps, torn between her sympathy for the girl's situation as an outsider and her strong feelings of self-preservation. Jean and the Professor had been outwardly silent, but had communicated silently over the issue.
Did you sense anything unusual about her, Jean? the Professor asked, ignoring the squabbling of the others.
Yes. Jean agreed. It was like a block in her mind. Could you see past it?
No. The block is very complex and very strong. I don't think she's even aware of it. Perhaps with time we can discover what's there.
A block that's strong enough to keep you out, Professor… do you think she's a mutant? Jean wondered.
I don't sense any mutation, but there's no telling what's walled up inside her mind. However, I do believe that she is genuine in her purpose.
I agree. I felt her grief when she found out her friend didn't make it. She's controlling it now, but she definitely cared about her.
Yes, that is why I believe it may be good to see if she will remain here for awhile. I've asked Connor to show her around. I also think it will be good for the students if she stays. I can hardly expect them to understand our teachings of mutant and human coexistence while living completely separated from them, after all.
I think you're right. Besides, where else does she have to go?
I'm glad you feel the same, Jean. the Professor said with a smile. What about Logan and Scott? Do you think they will accept her?
Scott will if you say so. He's just worried about protecting everyone. Jean responded, glancing at her fiancée affectionately. Logan, though… he's been betrayed before. He's not going to trust her until he feels she's proved herself to him.
That's to be expected, I suppose. the Professor said, his voice in Jean's head sounding resigned. However, the tone masked a stronger feeling of pride he felt at Jean's growing control over her ability. She really was his star pupil even if he knew that Jean herself did not feel such confidence in her progress.
"That's enough." the Professor said out loud, putting an immediate halt to the other conversations, "I intend to ask Gabria if she will stay here with us and attend the school with the other students. I do not sense that she is any kind of threat. Actually, I believe it will be beneficial to everyone to have her here. Scott, I know you are concerned about security. She will of course be restricted from the Danger Room, Cerebro, and any X-Men equipment. I will also ask Connor and Jubilee to look after her. They can report to you if you like, but I do not foresee any security problems."
"Professor…" Rogue stepped forward to protest once again, "what about her safety? She doesn't have powers. We could hurt her. You know, on accident."
The Professor nodded, a thoughtful look on his face, "Your concerns are valid. I believe that Connor and Jubilee should be able to ensure her safety, but it is a risk that she will have to be willing to take. It's her choice."
Rogue nodded, but she was still frowning. Even if this girl was willing to accept the danger of being surrounded by mutants, what if they weren't willing to put another person in that position knowingly? She'd had her fill of hurting the people around her without meaning to. That was what had driven her to the X-Men in the first place.
Rogue was pulled from her thoughts when Remy snagged her gloved hand with his, placing a swift kiss on the material over her knuckles, his red eyes glinting up at her. Rogue glared at him for being so presumptuous, but was secretly grateful to the sneaky swamp rat for always knowing how to make her feel better.
"Now, if that is all, I think I will go find our new student out on the grounds." the Professor said, moving his chair towards the door.
The assembled mutants watched silently as the door opened for the Professor and he left.
"Well, I don't care what you psychics say. I'm keeping an eye on her." Logan grumbled, stalking out a moment later.
"Who's going to keep an eye on him?" Remy mused.
As if in answer to Remy's question, Scott muttered under his breath and strode out next. Jean rolled her eyes at the others, smiling in amusement as she followed him. Remy chuckled.
Storm inclined her head to Remy and Rogue and left next, leaving the pair alone in the room.
"Well, are you hungry, chère?" Remy asked.
"Hmm. I guess." Rogue said with a shrug.
Gambit flashed her a grin and gestured for her to precede him. Shooting another glare at him, Rogue sauntered past him to head for the dining room. Remy found his eyes drawn to her swaying hips and shook his head to himself. He'd always been a sucker for a challenge.
Gabria was honestly feeling overwhelmed. The Mansion was huge and beautiful and the people who lived there exceedingly diverse. Some looked unusual while others looked like anyone she might have passed on a street. And the amazing array of abilities they possessed was stunning. Gabria was somewhat relieved when Connor led her away from the building and out into the grounds where everything was a little quieter.
"So what do you think?" Connor asked finally as they walked along a path through the trees.
Gabria smiled at him, her face clearly showing the sensory overload.
"Yeah, I felt that way when I first came here, too." Connor agreed, "Don't worry. You get used to it."
Gabria wondered if she would be there long enough to get used to anything, but didn't bother to say so. She had no idea what was going to happen to her now. It was pointless to speculate. There was something else that she was curious about, though.
"Connor," Gabria ventured after a moment of silence, "can I ask you a question?"
"Of course." Connor nodded.
"What about you? What's your power? How did you come here?"
Connor's lips pulled up on one side as if he were smirking at himself. He gestured for Gabria to join him as he moved off the path to sit on the grass under a large, oak tree. Once they were both seated- Connor leaning back on his elbows, Gabria sitting cross-legged- Connor began to explain.
"Obviously, I'm from Ireland. I grew up in Belfast. I don't know how much you know about Irish history, but there were a lot of problems there. When I was little, my parents were killed. They were Protestant, but I think they were mostly just in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the bombers found me and took me with them. The Provisional IRA raised me, trained me. I was basically a soldier by the time I was ten. I did a lot of missions for them. I was a great asset because they were technically considered terrorists by most of the world and since I was so young I didn't meet with much scrutiny getting into and out of hot spots." Connor glanced towards Gabria, a sardonic smile gracing his features, "I thought I was a freedom fighter, you know. I didn't truly realize what we were doing for a long time. It wasn't that we were wrong. It's just how we were making our point. I figured it out when I got pinned down, stuck in this building in the middle of a big barrage of Molotov cocktails. I was on the wrong side of the attack, but the people I ended up with didn't know that. One of them, a middle-aged woman, sacrificed herself to save me from an explosion. She didn't know me from Adam. After that, I decided that I'd had enough. I took off, made my way to Dublin and from there to the U.S."
Gabria stared at Connor, utterly astounded. That was certainly not the sort of back-story she'd been expecting. Connor seemed like a carefree smart aleck, not like an ex-child soldier who'd seen more horrors in the first decade of his life than she could imagine. She didn't know how to respond and so, to her personal horror, she found herself just staring at him, slack-jawed.
Connor smiled reassuringly at her. He'd known how she'd respond to his story. It was for that reason that he rarely told it, but there was something about this particular girl. She'd made quite an impression on him between what the Professor had revealed in his brain and what he'd observed while he'd shown her around. He liked her. And since the Professor had asked him telepathically to be responsible for her, he felt that it was important that they start off on the right foot which, in his book, meant some brutal honesty. However, that didn't mean he wanted her pity.
"It's alright. That's just how things turned out." Connor shrugged dismissively.
"So, then you came here?" Gabria ventured.
Connor shook his head, a short laugh escaping him, "Oh, no. First I wandered about, using what the IRA taught me to make a living by stealing. I wound up on the wrong side of the Thieves' Guild. I ended up here as an alternative to messing with them."
Gabria absorbed that information. Connor wondered what was going through her head, but didn't push her. He sensed that she had questions and waited for her to get around to asking them.
"But…" Gabria began hesitantly, "you never said what your power is."
"Let me show you." Connor offered.
Gabria waited, looking at him expectantly. Then, suddenly, he wasn't there anymore. Gabria's brow furrowed in confusion. She looked around for him, but soon she forgot what she was even looking for. Sighing, Gabria began to get back to her feet, deciding that she might as well start heading back to the Mansion. There was no reason for her to be sitting out here in the woods by herself.
"Leaving so soon?"
Gabria jumped in surprise, her head jerking around to find Connor standing behind her, looking at her quizzically.
"What…?" she asked, not really comprehending what had just happened.
It wasn't just that Connor had disappeared. She'd forgotten that he'd been there.
"I can make people not notice me." Connor explained, "I can't make you not remember me at all, but I can make you forget you saw me here. Short term, not long term."
"That's amazing." Gabria said, wide-eyed.
Connor shrugged again, "It's what made me so good at the covert stuff."
Gabria nodded. She could imagine that Connor's ability made him an exceptional covert ops soldier and thief. What was bothering her now was why he was telling her all of this? She'd assumed he'd just show her around and then take her back to the X-Men, but he seemed to be establishing a more significant relationship. Otherwise, why bother telling her this? That he was making such an effort made Gabria think that he might know more than he was letting on about her situation here.
Before Gabria could inquire, Connor's attention shifted and Gabria followed his gaze to see Professor Xavier wheeling down the path towards them. Gabria and Connor both immediately climbed to their feet and Gabria was relieved to see that she wasn't the only one who felt that the Professor commanded respect. Actually, Gabria realized with a grin and a sideways glance at Connor, she wasn't even the only one who was inadvertently standing at attention.
"How was the tour?" the Professor asked with a disarming smile.
"Amazing." Gabria immediately replied.
She grimaced and her composure slipped for a second when she found that she'd almost automatically added that Holly would have loved it. Shifting uncomfortably, Gabria cleared her throat and wished fervently for someone else to say something.
"I'm glad you like it." the Professor said and Gabria wondered if he'd heard her unspoken request. Dismissing the thought, she focused on his words, "I actually have a proposition for you that I hope you will consider."
"Sir?" Gabria asked.
She felt Connor glance at her, but kept her focus on the Professor. She could feel that this was something important.
"If you would like to, I would be pleased to have you stay here as a student."
Gabria was almost certain she hadn't heard that right.
"But…I'm not a…I don't have…" she stammered uncertainly.
The Professor looked amused by her reaction, "I am aware of that. You spoke very insightfully about the coexistence of humans and mutants. You made me realize that I have been foolish to pursue such a goal without putting it into practice at my own school. I think you are a perfect candidate for a…well, a human ambassador to our school."
Gabria just stared at him, at a loss for words. The Professor continued, unfazed by her lack of response.
"I know it will be difficult for you. Many of my students have powers that could be potentially dangerous to you. I have already asked Connor and Jubilee if they would help ensure your safety and comfort here, but it is ultimately your choice if you would like to stay. I hope you will. I think my school has a lot to offer for a bright young woman like yourself."
Gabria was silent as she replayed the Professor's words in her head. Stay at the Mansion? Be a student here? Be the only human student at a school of mutants, a small-scale experiment in integration? On the one hand, Gabria jumped at the chance to be a part of this awesome and exciting world. On the other, Gabria's mind latched onto the finer points of the situation. She'd thought she was an outsider before. That would be nothing compared to this. Everyone would know she was distinctly different. She'd need mutant bodyguards to accompany her to ensure her safety even if it was from merely accidental displays of powers. Gabria tried to mentally compare her previous life to this new own laid out before her, picturing them side-by-side. What did she really want?
A voice of reason sounded in her head, stopping the internal pro and con list composition. Did it even matter what she wanted? Could she really go back after what had happened, after Holly? That question was easily answered. She couldn't face them. She wasn't ready. Nor did she expect that she'd be welcome even if she could. She was welcome here. She should be grateful that she even had somewhere to go now.
Meeting the Professor's gaze finally, Gabria figured he probably already knew her decision, but she decided to voice it anyway, "Thank you, sir."
The Professor smiled, "Thank you, Gabria. Welcome to my school. Dinner will be served soon if you're hungry. Connor, would you please show Gabria to the Girl's Dormitory after dinner? Jubilee will show her to her room."
"Yes, sir." Connor nodded.
The Professor was still smiling as he turned his chair around and disappeared back up the path. Gabria stared after him, still a little dazed by what had just happened. She would never have predicted this series of events just a few days ago.
Connor's warm hand brushing hers snapped her out of it.
"Hungry?" he asked, head tilted to the side, a hint of a grin on his face as he looked at her.
Food was the last thing on Gabria's mind, but it had been quite some time since her last meal. She was sure as soon as she smelled food, she'd be starving. So she nodded, gesturing for Connor to lead the way.
As the pair made their way at a leisurely pace back towards the Mansion, Connor continued to glance at the girl at his side. Finally, unable to quell his curiosity, he said to her, "So, I have a feeling I'm not the only one with a military background."
Gabria blushed, a little embarrassed that it was so obvious that she was a military brat. Slowly, she began to explain her own history. After Connor's revelation, she hardly felt she could be anything but forthright with him. She figured she probably imagined a gleam of interest in his eyes.
Dinner proved awkward. Word spread fast around the Mansion about the new girl with no powers. Gabria ignored the whispers and glances, but that didn't mean she wasn't aware of them. If she hadn't been distracted by Connor, she might have been more bothered by them.
Gabria was swiftly coming to the realization that she was developing a crush on the young mutant. It helped that he was showing an interest in her, didn't seem to care that she wasn't a mutant, and seemed unconcerned by the reaction of the others. He chatted casually with her while they ate, not sparing a glance at anyone else in the room. Gabria was simultaneously thrilled and embarrassed by the attention. While she considered herself a strong individual, she was rather shy when it came to the opposite sex. Besides, given her social standing growing up and the fact that she wasn't exactly the prettiest girl in the room on most occasions, Gabria had never been the type of girl that guys crossed the room for. This made her a little perplexed and suspicious of Connor's attention, but for the moment she decided not to question it. So far he was her only friend here. It would be stupid to cause any friction between them if she didn't have to.
Unexpectedly, someone sat down across from them, plopping down a dinner tray and drawing both their attention. A young girl mutant, about the same age as Gabria, was now occupying the seat across from her. The girl was leaning back in her seat and glaring around the room, but when she noticed that she had Gabria's attention, she flashed her a bright smile.
"Hi!" she said and extended a hand across the table, "I'm Jubilee."
Gabria hesitated a moment before shaking Jubilee's hand. She was a little confused about this sudden intrusion. Jubilee must have seen the confusion on her face because her smile turned slightly embarrassed.
"Sorry. I guess you don't remember me. You were sort of unconscious at the time. I found you at the train station." Jubilee explained, "The Professor told me you're staying and asked if I could help show you around and get adjusted."
"Between me and Jubilee, there's pretty much nothing we don't know about this place." Connor nodded reassuringly.
"Oh…okay." Gabria said slowly. She suddenly recalled the Professor mentioning a Jubilee as the other person who would be looking out for her and everything made a little more sense. Gabria was also relieved to see that Jubilee seemed pretty cool about the whole situation. It was definitely a good thing to have another ally around here.
"I'm sorry everyone around here are being such jerks." Jubilee said loudly, looking pointedly around the room, "You'd think mutants would know better than to stare."
Many people around the room took the hint and looked away; some even had the grace to look embarrassed. Jubilee nodded her satisfaction.
"That's okay." Gabria said, squirming a little in her seat. She didn't much want to draw any more attention to herself, but Jubilee seemed oblivious to her uneasiness. Gabria briefly wished she had Connor's power to make people not notice her.
For the remainder of dinner, Jubilee kept up a steady stream of chatter, pausing only briefly for Gabria to answer her questions. Gabria felt slightly overwhelmed by such an exuberant personality, but was also sort of happy that Jubilee was so easy to be around. She hardly felt any pressure to explain herself or prove anything with Jubilee. Jubilee seemed perfectly content to pretend like everything was as normal as it could be in a school full of mutants. Connor had offered her a bemused smile and an eye roll that seemed to indicate that this was how Jubilee normally was and that it wasn't any sort of act that she was putting on. Gabria found that she quite liked her.
After dinner, the trio deposited their dishes on the counter with everyone else's and wandered out of the dining area. Even though Connor had shown her around the mansion, Gabria still felt distinctly overwhelmed by it all and had little idea where anything was. Thankfully, her two guides led the way to a sort of lounge area where a few other younger mutants were either sitting and talking, watching television, reading or, in one case, playing foosball. Jubilee claimed a small, round table with three chairs around it for them by plopping into one of them.
"So…um…what exactly am I supposed to do about classes tomorrow?" Gabria asked as she joined her, "I don't have any books or anything."
Jubilee waved dismissively, "It's no big deal. You can borrow Connor and my notes and we'll get you some books tomorrow. One of us at least will be in all your classes."
Gabria nodded slowly. Academics had always been something she'd excelled at and it bothered her a little to be so unprepared, but she supposed that was the least of her worries. Besides, she didn't even know what classes here would be like.
"What classes do I have?" she asked, wondering if maybe she should already know the answer to that question somehow.
"Chemistry, English Literature and Philosophy before lunch. Then, Gym, Trigonometry, and History. Our last class is a foreign language. It's your choice if you want to take French with Jubilee or Japanese with me." Connor explained.
"You're learning Japanese?" Gabria asked in surprise.
That would not have been the first language she would have assumed he'd choose. However, she had only just met him. It was a little presumptuous of her to suppose that she knew him that well already.
"He's crazy." Jubilee said, making a face.
Connor shrugged, "I already know some French and some German and, of course, Gaelic. I wanted to try something different."
"Forget that. There are cute boys in French class." Jubilee said with finality as if there were no possible argument to beat that.
Connor merely shrugged again.
"That seems like a pretty standard class schedule." Gabria commented, frankly a little surprised that the classes weren't more unusual.
"Well, this is a school. Just because we're mutants doesn't mean we don't have to learn the same stuff." Jubilee rationalized, "And we do have some other sort of classes that have to do with using our powers, but you don't have to worry about those."
They way she said it made it seem like it was no big deal, like Gabria was escaping an extra load of work, but Gabria still felt the familiar sting of ostracism. She knew it wasn't intentional this time. It was no one's fault that she hadn't been born with powers. Focusing on that, she tried to push any negative feelings about it aside.
"Enough about school!" Jubilee declared, "What do you guys want to do? We could watch a movie or play pool or something or…"
Jubilee continued to list a number of different options, but Gabria didn't hear them. She was distracted by a large yawn that caught her by surprise.
"Or maybe we should let Gabria get some sleep." Connor interrupted Jubilee, smiling in amusement at Gabria as she fought a second yawn.
"Oh, yeah. Geez, you're probably exhausted after a day like this. Come on. I'll show you where you're staying. Boys aren't supposed to be in the Girl's Wing so Connor can't come." Jubilee said, stressing the 'supposed' as if this was a rule that was commonly broken.
"Got it." Gabria nodded, standing up from the table, "Night, Connor. Thanks for showing me around and everything."
"Not a problem." Connor replied, "Spending time with pretty girls is one of my favorite pastimes."
"You're so lame." Jubilee said, shoving him out of the way as she moved past him, "Come on, Gabria."
Connor waved goodbye to the girls as they walked away. Gabria waved back. Jubilee ignored him.