Why Me?

Chapter 001


"Oooph!" The guard slammed the gate shut after throwing me back into the cage.

I hit the floor and hissed in pain as my bruised and scratched up palms were once again introduced to the cement and hay of my lovely accommodations. I winced and tucked my legs under me, cradling my hands protectively. You'd think after so many times, it wouldn't hurt anymore; but, with my power nullified, it did.

"Don't worry, saint, you will be part of the greater good."

You would be part of the smear on the floor if I had any strength to speak of, jerk.

The crazy guard guy bowed and walked away.

My cage was the only one lined with hay, fresh every other-- well, I didn't really know how often, because I couldn't see sunlight so I never knew what time it was or how much time had passed. I could see at least twenty other cages like mine, that other prisoners were in from time to time, but I had outlasted them all.

For some reason, I was a "protected" saint.

Maybe I was being saved for a special occasion or something.

So what did I do? I clenched my jaw and turned my back to the wall. I was always watching and waiting for one mistake to let me outta this hell hole.

I didn't know where I was, but I did know how I got here.

I was on a mission with my team. A complex was falling in on itself and I had to check for survivors while the rest of my team stayed outside under my orders. I ignored all the warning bells that might have been going off in my brain.

When I got to the control room at the end of the only long, long hallway, I did find some people. There were two: a guy who looked like a mountain in tights and a woman who had been haunting me since I was supposedly brought back from having tea with Death (I flat lined but they were able to resuscitate me somehow).

Before I could have tapped my intercom to call for help, mountain man's fist slammed the side of my head, knocking me out cold.

Yes, this is Kookie Summers, formerly known as Kerry Michelle D'mon.

I wondered if this is what a dog felt like in the pound, watching as other dogs came and went, waiting for the next one to be picked out of the crowd and walked through the back door-- never to be seen again.

My eyelids were getting heavy.

Damnit. They drugged me again.

Must be something in the water (At least I hoped it was water...) since I tried not to eat their food due to certain reasons.

They didn't have the power to stop our mutant gifts but they could suppress them and keep us so drugged we couldn't focus on them.

I hated this. I hated this place.

I just-- I just wanted-- to go home…


"Fifty-two bottles of beer…"

CLANG CLANG CLANG

"Stop singing!"

"…bottles of beer on the wall…"

What a way to wake up; one guy singing and another one shouting at him to stop while banging on the cage bars (Nooo, that's not annoying at aaaall!) and the rest of the people trying to ignore the two.

"Saints, be still," one of the guards urged, bowing low to both the cages.

The shouting guy stopped for a while to look at the guard. "If we're saints, then why'n hell are we locked up like convicts?!"

"All saints must first go through trial and tribulation, as well as the cleansing and purification, before they can raise us to our former glory."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pull the other leg guard guy; I don't want to walk around with a limp.

If I could walk around.

The singing guy started up again and the shouting one growled at him as the guard continued to attempt the impossible task of making both be quiet.

Draping an arm over my eyes, I sighed. This would keep going until one of them was collected to go through the "back door" or went hoarse.

BAM BAM BAM!

My eyes shot open and I swore my skeleton had just hit the emergency eject from my skin and was running down the hallway. I looked around wildly, searching for the cause of the abrupt noise.

"What is goin' on?" someone whispered to no one in particular.

There was a lull of silence, and then a low rumble from above us. Loose dust and junk fell from the floor that was also our roof.

Argh! My eyes burned from the dust that landed in them. I hacked as the dust that didn't stick to my eyeballs choked my lungs. Great, just great.

Blinking, I could only just make out the blurry figures as they started to group around the cages silently. There was a distinct scent that made my stomach turn. Apparently someone got scared enough to mess their pants.

We just had our chemical baths. It was part of the "cleansing" process.

Oh, just perfect. We wouldn't get hosed down for at least another two to three days! Ugh.

The ones that I called guards wore all black and I thought they were given sashes of different colors to mark their rank; but, whatever to that! What was important was they were gathering in the holding area, and the rumbling and booming from upstairs led me to think one thing: they were being attacked.

Squinting through the darkness, I could see the other dirty faces frantically searching for the cause of the noise and commotion. Most of the time when the guards got this jumpy and hyper it was during one of the "ceremonies," when they were parading around the sacrifice of the evening.

"Fortune has spoken that this is the day of the beginning of our rebirth!"

Fortune wasn't that fate like thing. Fortune, I had found, was their wacked-in-the-head "high priestess" that decided who would be on the menu during the ceremonies.

"They are all over! The coming is here!" one female shouted, waving her gun around enthusiastically.

Ohhhhkay, that never happened before.

Boom.

BOOM!

Whatever or whoever was up there wasn't a happy or silent thing.

"We must defend the saints; without them, the coming will never be."

The coming would turn into the going? Heh, wasn't that funny in a not-funny-to-me way?

A few minutes went by before one of the other prisoners, or "saints," looked toward me and asked, "What is 'the coming?'"

I shrugged.

It was weird that I had survived this long to become the longest held "guest" here. The other prisoners would ask me questions from time to time, so I told them what I had guessed at while being here and what the guards would say to me.

They called us "saints" because we were mutants. They used to be mutants. Apparently something happened a few months ago, a while after I was kidnapped, and the majority of the mutants, like close to ninety percent I think is what I heard, in the world lost their powers.

Some were happy, some were sad, and some turned into complete psycho-kidnapper cannibals.

Just take a wild guess as to which ones I had the pleasure of keeping as landlords.

Go on and guess.

Yep. The cannibals.

I learned this: when people disappear, you don't eat the meat of the next meal.

And then-- it became quiet.

Too quiet.

Quiet didn't happen here. There was always some noise going on somewhere.

"I don't like this! I don'tlikeitIdon'tlikeit—" One of newer people mumbled, rocking back and forth on his knees and shaking his head.

After seeing this so many times, I wondered if I was as crazy as them or crazier for not being exactly like them.

"What's that--?"

KA-BOOM!

The entire room shook!

That couldn't have been a good thing!

I heard something groan and then several snapping sounds.

Through the dust and my watery eyes, I could tell one thing: snapping, groaning and booms couldn't be--!

"Aw, crap," was the only thing I mouthed out as the ceiling caved in above me, smashed into my cage, and slammed me into blackness.


I kept my eyes shut.

From the stench wafting oh so pleasantly in the air, I could tell one thing-- I was still in the hell hole.

Something in my gut (I know I sound like Mr. Logan, get over it!) made my 'fear' hit the caved in ceiling.

Cracking one eye open, I winced and squished it shut. Muttering under my breath, I used a part of my tattered white shirt to wipe away the crud from my eyes. They gave the girls long shirts and guys pants, but some of the guys I wish they woulda given shirts to as well. The gruel was hard enough to eat without liver spotted, overly hairy beer bellies watching you!

I opened my eyes slowly. My vision was still blurred, but a few blinks cleared it and I saw the damage done to my cage.

Those stinging, probably blood shot eyes flew open to the point it hurt. After-- after all this time--

I scrambled into a hunched position. The quick movement caused my head to swim for a bit, and after that was done I started creeping toward my salvation. When the beams crashed into my cage's top, it pretty much squashed the entire corner, leaving a good sized gap that I could hopefully fit through.

The thought of me being too fat to fit through the hole made me give a dead laugh. My weight was next to nothing. Even without a mirror I knew that I had lost a lot of weight since I'd been here.

Figuratively crossing my fingers, I grabbed onto a bar on each side of the opening and as slowly and quietly as I could, I managed to wiggle my way from the cage.

My landing was me hitting the concrete, tasting blood and having the left side of my face scratched up, but who cared!

I was free!

Okay, so technically I was only out of my cage but that is a lot closer to freedom than I had been a few moments ago!

Whatever caused the beams to fall had moved away, judging by the sound.

My mind was at war as I stood up straight, my muscles aching from not being able to do this for so long.

It was a momentary joy as I heard a deep groan.

What about the others here?

They were, for the most part, either passed out or-- well, they were out of pain I guess you could say.

On one hand, I could possibly help the other prisoners out of their cages and then we could head the exit, wherever that might be, and escape. However, they might be too hurt or too weak and need to be carried.

Wouldn't it be easier for one person to sneak out than a whole group? If I got out, I could find Mom and Dad and the X-men could save these people.

I'm so sorry, I thought, turning to the door on the left end the room, since it was the one heading away from the noise.

There were no codes, no cards, no anything needed to get through the doors, though a friggin' map woulda come in handy!

I turned corner after corner, realizing that either this place was a lot larger than I ever thought or I was going around in circles.

Or both.

That would majorly suck if it was both.

All the walls were exactly the same! Just sheets of metal bolted together! There were a few different doors, some that didn't move and others that opened into just empty closets.

What the heck were the closets for? When they had dinner parties? Sheesh.

Just when I was about to start tearing off pieces of my "dress" to leave like breadcrumbs, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

No, literally, I saw a blue light at the end of the hallway coming from an open door.

BLAM BLAM BLAM!!

I whipped my head around. My pounding heart screamed like a school girl and would have car-jacked the nearest SUV and left me there to die, but instead it gave my brain a vicious shake of reality.

Were they getting closer?

So many turns and no way to mark which way I was going or had already gone!

My mind was racing around screaming like it was being used as a hood ornament at NASCAR-- that was also on fire.

Then a thought I didn't even know was in my head surfaced and sent an ice storm down my spine.

Scott once told me that some people would rather destroy their resources than let them fall into enemy hands.

That meant that there was a possibility that the others I left behind--

I needed to get outta here!

Duh, okay, so I got my feet to shuffle quicker, leaning on the wall for support. I couldn't exactly move like I used to do. Walking around was a taxing effort and I would love to take a nap, but in the middle of Psycho Cannibal University's hall? That wouldn't be the smartest thing I ever did.

I made it to where the light was coming from and I felt my skin crawl in disgust. And let me tell you, after living here for as long as I did with no bathrooms, showers, or toothbrushes, it takes a lot to make my skin crawl.

The room was filled with crates, how cliché, and the light was barely useable. The room was buzzing and it smelled horrid.

My stomach lurched but honestly, it should be accustomed to stenches.

The light was only bright enough to attract attention. I squinted to see what was in the room that I could use to get outta here. You know, for any type of flashlight, gun, or any other tool I could use in case I needed to perform some random act of violence on the back of someone's head.

I swear I only looked away for a split second!

I heard another deep groan and it took the other half of that second from before to realize that one, I was in pain and two, the groaning was my own.

Someone had punched me and slammed me into the wall.

I slid down the wall into a groaning, blinded lump of bones.

There were stars bursting, reforming, and bursting again before my eyes so rapidly that I couldn't even see the floor.

The next thing that I felt was a steel-like vice around my neck, dragging me back up the wall and slamming me there once before I heard a deep, angry voice.

"Who are you?"

Yeah, well, buddy, if you would like an answer, choking me isn't exactly the smartest way to go about it!

"Ugk---!" I answered, my hands wrapping around the wrist (I think it was a wrist.) trying to get this monster to release me.

The good news was that the stars were disappearing; the bad news was that it was just turning into an inky black night in my eyes.

"Put her down, now," another deep and mean sounding voice barked.

And plop, back down I went, wrapping my hands around my throat, gulping down as much air as I could.

They started to grumble words at each other, totally ignoring me and my choking, gagging, and gasping.

I could tell they were real humanitarians.

If I wasn't so tired and too afraid that rolling my eyes would cause them to roll back in my head, I so would have rolled my eyes.

When the darkness finally faded away, I had full intentions of biting them to make my point but when I saw black boots-- well, I thought better of it. They looked tough and my teeth were weak and damaged enough that I didn't need to make it look like I was in a bubba-bar-fight by losing my teeth.

My eyes went from their boots to their faces. I was blinded by the florescent light behind them but soon I could make out their---

I swear I must have looked like a Japanese cartoon character with as large as my eyes got.

It was Mr. Logan! There was no mistaking his mask! Even if it was black and silver instead of blue and yellow, he had a signature mask and the way he was talking! It was him!

The other guy had metal wings and blue skin. I would have sworn that it was Mr. Warren but he wasn't exactly the way I remembered him.

"A-ah--" Crap. Just when I finally had something to say my voice gave out!

"What about the girl?"

Yes! Pay attention to me!

"Leave her for the authorities." A very, very tall, buff guy suggested in a humorless tone.

No no no! Don't leave me to the authorities!

Well, heck. Leave me to the authorities, I'll just end up on your doorstep anyway.

"No," Mr. Logan stated, "we bring her. She might have information about the sick bastards that lived here."

Yes yes! I know stuff! I do!

If not, I'd make it up and even put enough effort into it to make it believable!

"Fine," the big, tall guy huffed and leaned down to, I thought, help me up, but instead threw me over his shoulder like a leather jacket and asked if they were leaving now.

Well if I had dignity left to speak of, it was thrown down on the floor like a snotty Kleenex.


Huddled up in a seat on the plane, legs up to my chest and my eyes steadily on the glowing red ones around me (I hope they were just part of their masks and not their real eyes), I felt like a lab rat ready to be dissected if I moved a muscle.

Everything was calm now, but after the one they called "Warpath" draped me like a scarf over his shoulder, it got weird.

First, this creepy, dark haired girl came running down the hall, slicing and dicing with metal claws and growling like a bear. She was like a Wolverine in a bra.

Warpath-guy was also twirling and punching through walls at such a dizzy, stomach turning speed, I was grateful to have an empty stomach or he would have my meal down his back.

Mr. Logan was piloting the jet, but Mr. Warren, Warpath, and the dark and creepy girl were all taking turns at examining me.

They'd given me a bottle of water and I downed it in less than half a minute, but then ended up throwing it up again. My body must have freaked out, not knowing what to do with uncontaminated water.

What were they expecting? That I had swallowed a bomb and was going to explode at any given second?

Actually, thinking that over, I wouldn't put it past those crazy SOBs to do something like that to me.

But honestly, if they were waiting for me to try something sneaky, then they were going to be very disappointed.

Back to the escape: I saw Mr. Logan and the dark haired girl pop their claws and slash through some of the guards and Mr. Warren had spiffy new wings that were metal and could shoot his feathers off and they were like knives.

And they were giving me the suspicious eye!?

I was unhealthily skinny, had no muscle mass to speak of, and was totally bald. Not only bald, but I had no hair whatsoever on my face. Picture that. I had no hair, no eyebrows ---heck, not even that mustache girls get and either bleach or wax (and totally deny they even have).

They shaved our heads to prevent lice and infestations of other bugs in our five-star suites. (That's a joke, ha-ha.)

With no eyebrows, I always had this look of perpetual shock.

"Do you have a name?" Mr. Warren asked, now a typical white guy with kid-friendly, white, feathery wings.

Oh, and Mr. Warren who had the blue skin and metal wings somehow just transformed back into a regular looking white guy—well, a regular looking white guy with wings, but that is beside the point. I just stared at him; slack jawed as he calmly buckled himself in before the jet took off.

Who was he trying to be, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

"Kehhh," was all I could manage.

"Kooo..." Great, now I sounded like a great big, bald baby.

I glowered and started to suck on my water bottle again.

"Kakoo?" Mr. Warren questioned, his eyebrows drawn together.

I slammed my palm into my forehead and shook my head "no."

Then I had an idea, gesturing with my hand as if I was writing something on the other, I got the point across that I wanted a piece of paper and a pen.

Mr. Warren scrounged around the plane for a few minutes and came back. "None of the pens work."

Figured my luck would hold steady.

I tucked my face into my knees and sighed.


I thought we were heading to the mansion. I thought that I would get cleaned up and write down who I was, and there would be wide open arms and tears welcoming back. I thought I would have a room, my old stuff, and that dumb cat, Lucy, to greet me.

My thinking was way off.

When I got off the jet, escorted by the really tall guy, Warpath, and the creepy girl with claws, (they might not have meant to walk one in front and one behind me, but it made me feel like a class-A criminal) into a huge house.

I was already in disbelief about really being saved, but where the heck was I now?!

Mr. Logan said he was going back to San Francisco and took off in the jet while Mr. Warren said he had business to attend to in the city and whoosh he was gone they totally abandoned me with these strangers.

Why was Mr. Logan going to California? Why not New York? I guess that would just be another one of those questions I needed to get answered when I got my voice back in working condition.

I missed so much of life.

I shook my head, trying to clear the gathering clouds that held my gloomy thoughts.

So I was in a place I didn't know and didn't know where it was with people who I didn't know and who didn't know me.

Gee, except for the cage and chemical baths, I went from the frying pan into the low burning fire.

"I'll get Josh, you find Rahne," Warpath instructed creepy girl. She grunted, yet another Wolverine-like feature that made a chill run through me.

"Sit here and don't move," the big guy told me, and I promptly found a spot on the floor. I dropped like penny in a fountain, without question or hesitation. He looked around, then reached to his face and peeled off his mask before adding, somewhat awkwardly, "I meant on the couch."

I looked behind me, and sure enough, there was a variety of civilized places to sit. When I turned my head back to the guy, he was gone. I blinked in confusion. Sheesh, he was fast!

This place smelled clean and, because of the furniture, like leather. So different than where I was only a few hours ago.

This was so different… The reality must have started to edge into my brain as I felt my thoughts start to spin like a cyclone.

I hunched over, my forehead on the wood floor, trying to stop from hyperventilating. I don't know how long passed, but it was the sound of footsteps that shook me out of my "zoning."

Jerking my head up, I stared at the doorway that the big guy had gone through and waited for the person walking this way to appear.

My eyes almost bugged out of my head when I saw this—this—living Oscar award walk through the door.

"Hi." He started kneeling down in front of me. "I'm Elixir. I'm just here to help you." This "Elixir" guy was completely gold. It was strange, so strange in fact, I didn't see him reach out for me until I felt his hand on my face.

Both of us got scared when I suddenly kicked back and away from him.

It was an impulsive reaction.

For so many—months, I guess, touch never led to a good thing.

"Do I need to—" Warpath asked. My eyes darted to the sound of his voice where he was leaning against the door frame.

"No!" Elixir jumped in then turned to the guy. "She's just scared. It's perfectly natural after being in a place like you described to me."

When he turned back to me, he gave me a reassuring, hopeful smile. "I'm Josh. My codename is Elixir. I'm with the X-Men. I'm not here to hurt you, I'm a healer." I just kept staring, waiting for him to leap forward and attack me or something.

He didn't.

He waited patiently for me to respond to him.

"She can't really talk," Warpath finally piped up. "We think her name is Kakoo."

I forgot the extreme apprehension for a second to roll my eyes.

The edge of Josh's mouth twitched upward at my display of minor irritation. He ran one of his hands through his; you guessed it, golden hair and then put his chin in the palm of his hand. I felt like a geometry problem he was trying to figure out, the way he was studying me. "Do you know how to write?" he finally questioned.

I nodded slowly.

"Then wait right there while I get a pen and paper."

What else could I do? Strap on a cape and start jumping around the room declaring I was Batgirl or something?

He rocked up to his feet and went into the adjoining kitchen area, where he began rummaging around noisily.

I glanced back at the Warpath guy, and he was staring at me hard. He was out of his uniform and now in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Ah, jeans, I remembered you so well--and t-shirts! I didn't know how much I loved you until I didn't have you anymore.

And let me not go into detail about the bra and panties department for the past months.

Let's just say that they didn't run a laundromat at that hell hole I just got away from.

"Here we go!" Josh proclaimed happily, dropping a pen and notebook down in front of me.

I stared at it blankly for a moment before collecting the items in my hands and with great effort (after spending so long without writing, you forget how to start) scribbled out my name. I then turned it around and held it up for them to decipher.

"Kookie?"

I nodded.

"Strange name," Warpath added.

Oh and Kakoo was just so normal.

"Leave th' poor girl alone, Jimmy," a female, accented voice cut in. "I think she's been through enough."

A short girl with closely shaven red hair came into the room, the dark and creepy girl following her.

"I'm Rahne," she introduced herself, kneeling down in front of me, much like Josh was again. She gave me a warm smile. "I'm here to help."

My non-existent eyebrow would have gone up in question but I decided, instead, to write down one more word. I finished it with a huge question mark, rethought it and added another word.

I handed her the notebook and she read what I wrote quietly before her polite smile turned into an amused one.

"Sure, come with me." She rose to her feet and offered me her hand. With great apprehension, I grabbed it and let her haul me to my feet. "We'll be back."

She led me from the room and from the confused faces.

As for the note, it had simply read: Shower? Please.


Rahne tried to get me into the shower, but the sound of the spray hissing from the showerhead had my breath short and my heart screaming. It sounded too much like the chemical baths they gave us. They would use a fire hose and jet us down like cattle.

She quickly prepped a tub so huge I think it might be an indoor pool, and I sat soaking like an egg. (If I make the hairless jokes it's okay, so far.)

She said to stay in there as long as I needed; it was going to take about an hour to get to town and back with clothes for me.

As I sat there, soapy and happy, I couldn't care less how long she took.

Admittedly, it was a big surprise when I finally saw myself in the mirror. I hadn't seen my reflection since I entered that evil place and now I knew why no one I knew, knew me.

I was beyond pasty. I would make a vampire look like he had a sunburn, I was so white. My face wasn't recognizable since my cheeks sunk in, as did my eyes. There were dark circles around my eyes, causing them to appear even more sunken. My teeth, as gross as it will sound, were in really bad shape. They were yellow, like dirty school bus yellow.

I was glad Rahne told me I would be given something to eat afterward, because right now—uck. I would have tossed my cookies if I saw me on a full stomach.

At least Chris, my old teammate, could no longer tease me about being "fat." I felt a smile creep across my face thinking about him because it led to thoughts about others.

My whole team, where were they now? Were they okay? Had they looked for me? How would they react when they saw me again?

Sighing under the water, the bubbles popped under my nose.

My mind twirled its dancing cane and went strolling down the memory boardwalk. I don't have a lane, that would be too typical and boring.

Bobby.

My heart flip-flopped in my chest just thinking about him. I've thought about him so much in the time I was away. No matter how horrible things had gotten, I would remember some stupid thing he said or did to make me smile and I could feel myself still smile at it.

Even though it seemed like a never ending awkward dance around each other, I had fallen for him. It was hard enough for us to be together because we had to keep it a secret from everyone around us. He was, back then, my math teacher at Salem Center Private School, and I was ten years younger than him.

Little did we know that the one we thought we were hiding it from the best, knew and didn't care. Dad found us in bed together (not like that!!) and laughed it off. His only concern was a lecture from his wife about how we shouldn't be together.

Just as I was in the utopia of memories, one memory came crashing down into the middle of town, burning through everything else. It was the one memory that stuck in my thoughts like a melody to a song that you didn't like but kept humming.

"We will have to continue this later, Robert." I hissed after he made a rather snide comment about being Chris' on-call girl.

"I'm not sure I want to!"

Okay, that was a stab, it made me blink in shock, but I still continued. "Only because you are incapable of holding a mature conversation more than once a week!"

"We all can't have rods rammed up our as---"

"I have to go!" I cut in. My eyes were all ready to get lined with tears. I didn't want him to stop and feel sorry only because I started to cry, so I bit my lip and turned to leave.

"Make sure you don't come back this way for a while," he snapped.

I twirled around to face him. "You probably wish I really was dead!" I screamed, hurt and lashing out to make him hurt just as bad.

"You'd be a lot easier to live with!" he screamed back.

I huffed and the resulting explosion of bubbles under my nose made me sneeze as bits of water went up it.

"Are ye okay?" came a shout from the hallway.

For a second, I forgot about my lack of vocal ability and tried to answer, but nothing but a squeak came out. Sighing, I finally climbed out of my soapy heaven, wrapped the towel she left me around my body and opened the door that led to the bedroom attached to the bathroom.

I stood in the doorway for a moment as an extreme wave of tiredness crashed over me. All the excitement of the day decided that now was the perfect time to wear me down into a yawning, bleary-eyed, swaying female.

"Do ye wanna eat or sleep?"

Both sounded wonderful but the bed was closer and as I came up to it, I fell face first into the mattress, pulled my legs up to my chest and before Rahne finished covering me with the blanket, I was out cold.


"Waaa!" and then thunk were the first two things I heard. When my senses came back to me, I found myself head first, upside down on the floor with one leg still on the bed while my eyes searched desperately for something.

I flipped myself over and huddled in the nearest corner. My sleepy mind was trying in vain to latch onto some memory of where I was instead of the overpowering nightmare that had made me kick off the bed.

Back and forth I searched the darkened room realizing I didn't have a clue about this place.

My breathing started to pick up to the point that my chest was heaving and my vision was starting to spot with black spaces.

If I wasn't already panicked enough, the door flew open and in rushed a girl with short, red hair. I didn't know her!

Was she going to eat me? Was I finally chosen to be the sacrifice?!

I whimpered and covered myself with my arms, tears coming to my eyes. I didn't want to die like this!

"Calm down, girl." A thick accent, but it was a soft tone.

Peeking through my arms, I saw the short-haired girl leaning down to my level, concern clear on her face.

I guess they didn't want their meals to die of heart failure-- might be bad luck or something.

There was a faint recognition in my mind, but the horror that it could be that I recognized her for being evil had my heart clammed up deep in fear.

"Kookie," she tried and my mind was starting to battle back the fog of panic and confusion. "I won't hurt ye. I'm Rahne, remember?"

Calm down, I told myself. She wasn't moving; she wasn't coming any closer or sharpening a knife to cut me into Kookie bits to serve at a cannibal birthday party.

It's okay. Slowly, I started to uncoil from my fetal position into one where I was just sitting, shivering and uncertain.

"I'm gonna get ye a shirt, okay? I'll be right back." She jumped to her feet and scurried off to wherever that shirt was currently hiding.

My memories started to reform bit by bit.

I escaped from the cage by chance.

Mr. Warren sucker punched me.

They decided to take me with them.

Then they hacked their way through those… creatures that used to be called human or mutant or whatever.

There were puddles of their blood, but I wasn't fazed.

I still didn't believe it one hundred percent. I was waiting to wake up and return to that horrid nightmare.

The screams, the stench of burning fles--

"Here ye go." She slipped a long sleeved, silk shirt across my shoulders. I looked up into her face. "It's Warren's, but I don't think he'd mind."

There were scents and smells that didn't exist inside that caged world that lingered here. It was the softness around the room that finally had my heart settling. The shirt was dark blue and way too big for me (I think Barbie clothes would be way too big for me at this moment!) but it was better than running around with nothing.

She aided me back on the bed and then went on to tell me what had happened in the past twelve hours since I had fallen asleep.

Apparently when Wolverine got to California, he told Scott (Dad!) that they had found and brought back one of the prisoners. That, in itself, is nothing impressive, but, when Dad called the people here and they said I gave the name "Kookie," he all but choked on his coffee and said he'd be there as soon as possible.

Mr. Warren was also called up and told the news with a similar result.

I wondered what happened to Mr. Logan, but I guess he stayed the same: a bit flighty. Actually, I think mysterious would be a better way to classify him.

"Do they know ye?"

I nodded slowly as I dressed in the ill fitting clothes. She blamed the sizes on leaving the shopping to the males, since she didn't want to leave me alone with the creepy, Wolverine-like girl, Laura.

After I finished dressing in lose fitting underwear, a sports bra (Thank goodness they didn't try to find one with the number and letter! Men are so clueless about trying to unravel that enigma.), sweatpants, and the same silk shirt she brought me before, I picked up my pen and pad of paper.

"Kookie Summers," I wrote out.

"Summers?" she questioned in disbelief. "You're a Summers?"

"Adopted," I wrote in reply.

Something turned on a light in her mind because her face lit up with some type of recognition. "You're the one who went missing right before--" Rahne snapped her mouth shut and looked away for a second before turning back to me with a smile.

A forced, hiding-something-important smile that would have made me raise an eyebrow-- if I had one to raise. Professor Xavier would probably look like Elvis compared to me at that moment. I wasn't bitter, I was bald.

Grumble, grumble.

Wishing to totally side step the questions I might have about her earlier half-statement, she dangled the perfect bait in front of me.

Food.

Rahne said they had made lunch and, if I was hungry-- well, she didn't finish because I grabbed her hand and started toward the door.


"Glad to see you again, Kookie." Mr. Logan had a cocky, amused sound to his voice.

I couldn't be sure, but I think he must have been smirking as well.

Mr. Logan, Mr. Warren, and Dad all showed up but the reunion did not go as happy-happy as I had thought it would.

Why?

I had my head in a toilet.

Just because I had four, thick sandwiches, a family sized bag of Doritos, three glasses of milk, and every pickle and banana in the house, who knew all that food would use my stomach as a trampoline and catapult back out of my mouth?

"Didn't we tell you not to eat so fast or so much?" Josh shouted from back in the kitchen. I would have growled at him, but a sandwich double flipped off my stomach and did a cannonball into the toilet at that moment.

"Where the hell was she!" Scott demanded, doing a fairly good impersonation of Mr. Logan when the beer runs out.

When Dad had come into the bathroom, our eyes met briefly (I think) before I had my face back in the porcelain. Then he left and started questioning everyone there.

First was Mr. Logan (it was hard to hear between the retching and the flushing) and why he didn't recognize my scent right off. The chemicals they sprayed us down with apparently wiped us clean of scents. Guess they didn't want anyone having a "flavor" they didn't need to or something.

Ugh, the thought of food caused me to dry heave.

Mr. Warren pointed out that in my current condition (bald and bony, not puking) there was no way to easily recognize me when they found me.

Also, my voice was not exactly in working order, Josh added.

Yeah, this wasn't exactly my dream reunion.

It took another ten minutes before I felt sure that my stomach was completely empty, if I hadn't thrown it up as well, and could move away from the toilet. Josh was kind enough to get me some dental supplies. I gargled for a good while, trying to get that oh so lingering taste out of my mouth. Next was the scouring of my teeth with the toothbrush and toothpaste.

By the end of it all, Josh had poked his head in the bathroom again to see what was taking so long. Guess he was the most amiable of the group.

That little fact I should have guessed, since he was the only one who wasn't giving me the suspicious stare.

When I finally staggered back out to the living room, Dad was standing in front of the fireplace like a teacher with the others scattered around the room facing him.

"Kookie," he stated, not just said but stated. I didn't have amnesia; I didn't throw up my brain (yet). "We need you to tell us everything."

I'm doing better, thanks. I'll remember to eat less and more slowly next time. Glad to see you too, Dad!

Those were answers to the questions I thought he'd ask.

I should have known better.

It was business before emotions.

Glad to know some things stay the same.

I was thrilled to see him, to finally be able to see myself in those ruby quartz glasses again and guess what his eyes looked like underneath. A smile cracked my face when I pictured him with bug eyes like the bad guy at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

"We told him all that we knew going in," Mr. Warren piped in; he was to my right and Dad was to my left. "We weren't looking for those people; it was a false tip that led us there."

Fabulous.

I was rescued on a fluke.

"Kookie?" My attention went to Josh, who was approaching me at a very slow pace. "Can I try to see if I can get your voice to work?"

Again, my eyebrow would have shot to my hair line--if I had either at the moment--and I shrugged as a reply. His hand came toward me and it took everything in me not to try to a) break his arm or b) run away trying to scream. I would have failed at both, but trying was what was important, right?

His hand was warm, I don't know why I thought it would be cold, as he gently placed it on my throat. Fear slithered through me on the back of a snake, laughing like the Joker, when I had a brief flash of someone choking me, but Josh only put his palm flat against my skin.

There was a tingle and warmth in and on my throat for a few seconds, which was different from Daisy-Mae's, another old teammate, healing touch. Often hers felt like a band-aid being pulled off of you. Then he pulled his hand away, a smile of success on his face.

"That should do it." He then waited for me to do something.

My eyes darted around to everyone else, and they were all waiting for me to do something.

Don't ask me why I suddenly found my words dried up and all my questions hid under my mind's bed in fear.

"Kookie?" Dad finally questioned, cocking an eyebrow over his glasses.

Show-off, I thought, being jealous of his eyebrow.

Then a little smile crept across my face as those memories of me having to be on a sugarless, vegetable loaded diet came to the front of my mind. It would be a petty thing to say, but it would make me feel better.

So I looked directly at Mr. Logan, Mr. Warren, and Dad, made sure to give a head-to-toe examination before crossing my arms, stared Dad square in the face and said, "You've all gotten so fat."

There was a grunt of amusement from Mr. Logan, a chuckle from Mr. Warren, and Dad smiled a real smile and finally hugged me to him. It felt great to be back in a safe environment and with people who cared about me.

"Everyone will be glad to see you," Mr. Warren said, one hand on my shoulder. "At least when you can cast a shadow again."

I glared, but he just smiled.

Of course, no happy reunion would be complete without that pesky rain cloud of reality spitting lightning and dropping hailstones.

"I have a question," the golden boy piped up. "If you don't want anyone else to know about this group, what exactly--I mean, how are we going to explain her to the rest of the X-Men?"