Disclaimer: X-Men belong to Marvel. I am not making any money from this page.

A/N: This is an AU. After seeing a commercial for "The Roomate" a few weeks back, I wrote this story. I haven't actually seen the movie, so let me know if it's worth watching.

Rating: T, for slightly dark themes.

Her foot hurt.

As she cautiously took another slow step up the marble staircase leading to her dormitory, Paige Guthrie winced in pain. She was certain that her big toe was bruised from when she kicked the ancient maple tree in her front lawn after storming from the house, her father's shouts following her outside.

Thinking about it, her back was sore from lack of sleep and her shoulder ached from her heavy duffel bag. Suddenly, Paige was tempted to bolt down the staircase to the ground floor and just take the elevator, to save herself the trouble of trudging up the staircase. Then a feeling of disgust overwhelmed her. Here she was, furious with her parents for not allowing her enough freedom, and she couldn't even walk up a damn staircase.

Paige shook her head, exasperated with herself and just so exhausted, then gripped the railing and charged up the staircase. The pounding of her footfalls resounded against the wall. The lonely echo reminded Paige that she had chosen to get a ride with Danielle Moonstar, a senior, and return to the Massachusetts Academy earlier than necessary. The senior workload was exceptionally heavy this year, and Danielle had needed to return to school to utilize the library's resources to work on her various essays.

Paige hadn't minded, in actuality she had been pathetically grateful for an excuse to escape her overbearing family as soon as possible. Besides, Danielle lived in the next town over from her, and the only other option to get back to her school would have been asking her parents. And Paige sure as hell wasn't going to give either of them the satisfaction of asking them for anything.

Even after earning a scholarship to an impressive boarding school, Paige felt her parents weren't proud of her. All because she wasn't Sam, her perfect, saintly older brother. In her parents' eyes, he could do no wrong, while all of her best efforts and accomplishments were barely acknowledged. Instead, her feats were ignored because Sam was so damn flawless, and she screwed up every once in a while.

But so what? She was human. Paige had never claimed anything else. So she made mistakes. How utterly sinful.

Hot tears pooled in her eyes, but Paige swallowed and forcibly tried to push her anger and bitterness aside. This was so stupid. She shouldn't be tearing up so easily, not when she was fifteen years old.

But hell's bells, her family sucked.

The rays of sunlight pierced through the windows of the Xavier Building, and the light glinted on the doorknob of the colossal oak doors at the top landing, diverting Paige's attention from her resentful thoughts. A sigh of relief escaped Paige's lips as she pushed a strand of her strawberry blonde hair behind her ear, shouldered her duffel bag and pulled open the door with effort, her toe throbbing with pain at the pressure of her weight.

The thick carpet silenced her footsteps as Paige proceeded down the hallway. The scent of polished wood soothed her irritable mood, and she found herself relaxed at the familiar sight of the dark oak walls and the gleaming brass numbers on the doors, softly illuminated by the lights hanging overhead.

This was where she lived. Away from her family, in another state. On her own, independent. She had forged her way here, and she could keep her place.

The thought was comforting, especially in the aftermath of the argument between Paige and her parents. The memory of that morning stirred anger in Paige's chest, distracting considerably, so much that she almost strode straight past her dorm room.

Sighing, Paige allowed her duffel bag to fall to the floor with a thunk, and then knelt beside it, rummaging through the pockets in an attempt to find her key card. Just when she was ready to rip her hair out with frustration, Paige recalled that she had placed the card in her wallet.

Wearily, she dug out the card, locating it behind the Olive Garden gift card that she had never used, and jammed it into the slot. The light blinked green, and Paige heard the electronic lock click open. The cool metal handle twisted at the pressure she exerted upon it, and Paige pushed the door open with her shoulder, her hands occupied with her wallet, key card, and duffel bag. The toe of her red Converse caught on the edge of the door, a painful reminder of how she had injured her foot earlier that day.

The door slammed shut after Paige's entrance, and for the first time it occurred to her how utterly quiet the dorm was without the other sophomore girls who occupied the seventeen other rooms on the floor. It was a nice change of pace, Paige decided, not to hear shrieks of laughter and questioning yells demanding the location of various items of clothing.

The duffel bag was subsequently tossed onto the nearest bed, which was Paige's, designated as her own with a colorful floral duvet. The wallet and key card were dropped onto one of the polished oak desks.

Glancing at the bed, Paige was reminded of the late hour she had turned in the previous night, and the weariness seemed to settle heavier on her shoulders.

After a moment's hesitation, Paige pulled her travel bag off the bed to make room for her to sit down and yank off her Converse, revealing her favorite pair of rainbow polka-dot socks. She allowed her shoes to drop to the floor, removed her pink sweatshirt and hung it in the closet prior to stretching out on her bed.

Now that she had nothing to distract her, Paige's thoughts were occupied with her family. Her mother and father were angry because they correctly thought she was trying to leave them, but they failed to see their role in her departure. The epitome of excellence that was her brother Sam, if her parents' ravings were to be believed. Paige didn't, but that was mainly because she knew Sam was selfish and flawed, and her parents were too blind in their happiness to have evidence that they were good caregivers to see the truth.

Half-finished thoughts and memories swirled in Paige's mind, but she was too exhausted to stay awake much longer. The abyss of sub consciousness yawned before her, beckoning her into its wake. Too fatigued to remain cognizant, she eventually drifted off into an uneasy sleep, her blue mood following her into her dreams.

The murmurs of voices and doors opening and closing floated into Paige's sub conscious world, stirring her into awareness. In the back of her mind, she realized that the other sophomore students must have returned to school after the early October break. The click as the electronic lock on the door retracted jolted Paige awake, and she rolled over, staring fixedly as the door opened and her roommate entered.

Despite what self-esteem pamphlets rushed to reassure readers, what was on the outside did matter, but luckily, Anna Marie Darkholme had stunning good looks in spades. Long, rich auburn hair complimented her ivory complexion, which in turn emphasized her green, feline eyes. High cheekbones and upswept eyebrows, denoting the perfect symmetry of her face, balanced full lips, and rounded her face to soften the angles.

In short, Anna was attractive. Very attractive. Blessed in all the ways Paige wished to be.

But there was no truth in beauty, and Anna's picture perfect appearance couldn't totally distract from her impassive demeanor. Her constant blank expression, aloof mannerisms and apparent inability to emote were decidedly unnerving, especially as a collective. Although Anna had never expressed any aversion or malice (Or anything else for that matter) to Paige, it was impossible to avoid the feeling of apprehension when her roommate was present.

"Hey," said Anna tonelessly, striding across the room to her bed and setting down her bag. She gazed at Paige for a moment, and Paige was reminded of a scientist studying its guinea pig. "I didn't realize you were asleep. I'm sorry if I woke you."

Paige sat up, rubbing her palms over her eyelids. "Don't worry about it. I was going to have to wake up sooner or later. What time is it?"

"Half-past four o'clock," Anna responded, her voice emotionless as always. She opened her Nantucket-style duffel, plain black but for the Armani logo stamped on the side, Paige noticed. Anna's manicured hands removed articles of clothing in a variety of colors and styles from the bag, but Paige knew all were most likely ridiculously expensive. Despite Anna's preferred style, elegant but vaguely punk with just an edgy hint of goth, she couldn't hide that her wardrobe cost more than an upper middle class house.

For a few moments, Paige sat on her bed, watching Anna fluidly transfer designer clothes from her bag to the closet. Noticing Paige's eyes upon her, Anna paused briefly.

"I didn't realize that you were back, and I invited Ororo over to hang out. Do you mind, Paige? You can stay and hang out with us, if you want." Anna's cold green eyes focused on Paige, and although there was no emotion to be found in her face or voice, her eyes always seemed to hold a great intensity that her demeanor reflect.

Her words hung in the air for a moment; Paige was concentrating so deeply on her eyes that she didn't realize what Anna was asking. Embarrassed at being caught staring, heat rose to her face. "Oh, um, I don't have a problem with that at all. But I think that I'm going to take a walk around, you know, get out to the grounds before we go back to classes tomorrow." Paige laughed nervously, inwardly wincing at her noticeable attempt to ignore the awkwardness she had caused.

Anna merely nodded. "Thank you. I don't want to inconvenience you, it's just that-"

Paige's artificial laugh escaped her lips again. "Oh, don't worry about it," she said, waving a hand. "It's not an inconvenience at all." She felt like smashing her head against one of the desks at her failed attempt to be casual. Anna must have thought that she was so uncool . . .

But instead of sneering at her, Anna just finished unpacking and stowed her bag away on the top shelf of the closet. "Are you planning to unpack, Paige?"

Once again, it took Paige a minute to respond, but this time it wasn't because she hadn't been focused enough. Anna's monotone caused all questions and statements to sound the same, and most times it was difficult to infer if she was actually asking a question.

"Oh, um, yeah," Paige said, glancing at her own sky blue, nylon duffel ordered from the Land's End catalogue, lying on the floor beside her bed. "But maybe later. I just don't really feel like it right now. You know?" Trying to hide her discomfort, she swung her feet over the side of the bed and pulled on her shoes.

The question if Anna knew the feeling of apathy when it applied to unpacking bags, or if she knew any feelings at all, wasn't to be answered at that moment. A knock sounded on the door, and Anna elegantly strode across the room to open it, ignoring Paige, who had already risen to open the door.

"Ororo," Anna said with a hint of warmth in her monotone, accompanied by a small, but genuine smile on her lips. "Come in."

"Afternoon, ladies," Ororo Munroe greeted them both in her throaty voice. "I hope you're in the mood for sweets, because I brought chocolate."

Ororo Munroe had a reputation at the Massachusetts Academy for being one of the most strident feminists who had ever walked the hallowed, polished oak halls. According to rumors, she had even called in a few favors and abolished the school's Home Ec class, subsequently replacing it with kickboxing. Paige didn't know if this was true, but it wouldn't honestly surprise her if it were.

Although Paige found Ororo slightly intimidating with her opinionated mannerisms and biker chick-style wardrobe, she couldn't stop herself from admiring the girl. Ororo may have been beautiful, but she in no way relied on her looks to sashay her way through life, instead getting by through sheer determination and carefully calculated arguments and schemes, obviously a shrewd and educated young woman.

Somewhere along the line, Ororo had adopted a 'rebel' look to go along with her attitude. Her hair had been chopped short like a boy's, bleached white, and gelled into small spikes. Well, Paige assumed her hair had been bleached- her eyebrows were also the same shade of white, and a thin silver hoop pierced the left one.

Contrary to her African American complexion, today her eyes were a pale, icy blue, comparable to glaciers. Paige presumed that these were yet another pair of tinted contacts, as Ororo sported a pair of a different color on every given occasion, most likely to play mind games with anyone who cared enough to notice. None of this, however, detracted from Harrison's irresistible appeal. Paige was willing to admit that Ororo was even more attractive than Anna, because she had a personality to accompany her beauty. Altogether, a very striking girl.

The close friendship between Ororo and Anna was something Paige couldn't fathom. Whereas Anna was emotionless, Ororo was passionate and always crusading for a different cause. Anna seemed to be content to remain in the background; Ororo always wanted to be front and center, commanding the attention of everyone. Paige couldn't imagine what had established such a deep bond between the two friends.

"What kind of chocolate?" Anna asked, settling on her bed and gesturing for Ororo to sit beside her.

"Godiva," Ororo replied, lifting the lid of the red and gold-gilt box. "Assorted. They have the strawberry-filled ones that you like." She offered the box to Anna, who delicately accepted a single bonbon. "Want one?" She held out the box to Paige.

"No thanks," Paige said placidly, walking over to the closet to retrieve her sweatshirt. "I'm going to go out for a walk."

Perhaps it was just Paige's imagination, but she thought a slightly disappointed expression crossed Ororo's face. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Paige replied, trying to be casual as she crossed over to the door, delaying only to grab her wallet and key card. "I think I need to get some fresh air. See you later." She exited the room, closing the door behind her.

Once Paige was out and walking down the hall, she exhaled in relief. Fun as it would've been to hang out with the two other girls, she didn't have anything in common with either of them. They were from wealthy, privileged families, born and raised in money. Paige was from a working, middle class family, and the only reason she was here because she won the scholarship. It might have been disappointing to have to avoid hanging out with them, but Paige knew it was for the better. Her lack of finance would just make all of them uncomfortable.

As Paige exited the Xavier Building, a distraction from her gloomy thoughts was provided in the form of her closest friend at the Massachusetts Academy: Jubilation Lee.

"Hey, Paige!" Jubilee greeted her enthusiastically, running over to her.

"Jubilee!" Paige exclaimed in surprise.

Jubilee grinned, halting in front of her. "That's me!"

"How are you? Did you have a nice break?" Paige asked, smiling at her friend.

Jubilee made a face. "Okay, I guess. My mom wasn't too happy with me, because she feels I'm not working to my full potential at school and spending too much time shopping. Because, you know, since I'm Asian, I have to be uber-smart. Anything else is just unacceptable." Jubilee scowled.

Paige sighed. "If it makes you feel any better, my break was pretty horrendous, too."

"Let's go down to the picnic grove," Jubilee suggested. "We can grab a soda and swap horror stories. And you can tell me all about it, chica."

Sitting at a table in the warm, afternoon sun of early October while drinking soda and just talking to a friend was refreshing, Paige had to admit. Much of the reason she liked Jubilee so much was because her friend was so personable and open.

After Paige listened to Jubilee's tales of woe, she shared her own story of the argument between her and her parents. "It just sucks, you know?" Paige sighed. "I mean, I've always done well in school, I was a great runner for the track team, but all they ever paid attention to was Sam. And now that I've earned a scholarship, all they want me to do is come home. They say that I'm setting a bad example for my younger brothers and sisters by living so far away, but honestly, I just want to get away from them. It's just too much to take sometimes."

Jubilee nodded sympathetically. "That sounds like a helluva lot to deal with, Paige. Is that why you were taking a walk? To try to clear your head?"

"No," Paige said. "Anna and Ororo were hanging out in my room, and I didn't feel like joining them."

Jubilee's eyebrows rose. "That's right. I forgot that Anna Marie Xavier was your roommate. Well, I don't blame you for not wanting to hang out with her."

"Her name is Anna Marie Darkholme," Paige said, frowning slightly.

"Darkholme is her mother's maiden name," Jubilee informed her. "You know, Raven Darkholme?"

"The fashion designer?" Paige asked, impressed. "Wow." She considered what Jubilee had said. "Xavier? That's the name of our building, right?"

"Yeah. Charles Xavier, Anna's dad, always donates a chunk of cash to Mass Ack." Jubilee replied. 'Mass Ack' referred to the Massachusetts Academy, an abbreviation most students used for the sake of simplicity. "He paid for the construction of our dorm building. But for whatever reason, Anna has used her mom's name for as long as I can remember. I don't really know what her deal is, but neither does anyone else here at Mass Ack, except maybe Ororo. But in all honesty, I don't think I really want to know."

"Why do you say that?" Paige asked, startled by the words of her usually laidback friend.

"Hello? Carol Danvers?" Jubilee looked at her as if the answer should have been obvious.

"Carol Danvers?" Paige echoed blankly.

"Oh, yeah, that's right," Jubilee recalled. "You weren't here during freshman year. Of course you don't know. Sorry, that was lame of me."

"Don't worry about it," Paige quickly said. "But what about Anna and this Carol person? Who was she?"

"Let me give some background," Jubilee said, with the air of one settling in to tell a long story. "Once upon a time, during last year when we were all innocent freshmen, there were four friends. Anna, Ororo, Carol Danvers, and another chick named Jean Grey. They were all very close. Rather akin to a clique, but it wasn't as if they were trying to be exclusive. They were just all very tight with one another. If one was on a sports team, it was a guarantee that at least one of the others would be on the team, too. It was almost funny, because it was as if they couldn't function independently. They always had to be in a group together.

"Of course, Anna and Ororo were best friends- they always have been, ever since they were in grammar school, so Jean and Carol were closer to each other. But they all really enjoyed each other's company, a bit too much, if you get my drift.

"They were all very competitive, though, very driven to do well. But during basketball season, Anna fell and sprained her wrist, and the MVP award went to Ororo, instead of her. Back then, she was less emotionally unavailable than she is now, but she still was kind of closed off. So she never said anything, and she wasn't bitter, but Anna was disappointed. Luckily for her, she had another opportunity for success. A chance to be the top student of the entire freshman class. The only thing stopping her was Carol, her friend, roommate, and direct competition."

"So what did Anna do?" Paige asked anxiously. "I know that she made top of the class. The plaque is hanging above her desk in our room."

"I don't doubt that," Jubilee smiled mirthlessly. "That sounds just like the kind of cold-hearted bitch Anna is."

"Jubilee!" Paige exclaimed.

Jubilee held up a hand to placate her. "Listen to this, chica. Last spring, right before May, Ororo had to go home because she had mono. Then, in the middle of May, Jean, Carol and Anna had this great idea. They decided that the racing pool on the grounds of Mass Ack was old news, and since the community pool in town was open for the season, they thought it would be a great idea to sneak out after curfew and walk over there and go swimming."

"That's just stupid," Paige said in disbelief. "Why would they do that?"

Jubilee shrugged. "Just to be bitches and rebels, I guess. Maybe they thought they were being clever. Apparently, it was Carol's idea. But do I think that Anna could have convinced her to do it earlier, so Carol would suggest it to Jean later on? Yes. Anna's underhanded enough to do that."

"So what happened to Carol?" Paige asked curiously.

"Well, they got to the pool and climbed the fence without a hitch," Jubilee continued. "But I've been to the community pool a couple of times. Just beyond the inside of the fence, there's a grove of huge, old trees with roots bursting out of the ground everywhere. Then there's about fifty yards of grass, and then there's the pool. Jean tripped and fell over the roots, and lost a shoe in the process. They hadn't brought any flashlights. Hell, they didn't even think to bring their cell phones, so Jean knew it would take awhile until she found her shoe. She told Anna and Carol to go ahead without her, and they did. But about ten minutes later, Jean still hadn't found her shoe, so Anna went back to check on her, supposedly."

"'Supposedly?'" Paige repeated. "You don't believe that's what she did?"

"I don't trust Anna as far as I can throw her," Jubilee replied shortly. "Together, they searched for a while longer, and eventually Jean found her other beloved Puma. So she and Anna ran across the lawn back to the pool, and dove in, splashed around for awhile. But then Jean noticed that Carol hadn't joined them, so she asked Anna where she was. Anna didn't know, so they went to look for her. And they found her, floating facedown at the other end of the pool."

"Oh my God," Paige gasped. "Did they save her? Was she okay?"

"No," Jubilee said flatly. "Jean ran to call 911 on the pay phone while Anna dove into the water to rescue her. They took turns doing CPR until the ambulance arrived, but Carol was already dead at that point."

Paige stared at her friend in shock.

"After the police investigation, Carol's death was officially ruled a freak accident," Jubilee went on somberly. "She died of blunt trauma to the head, and they think that she must've slipped and hit her head on the concrete when diving into the pool when Anna was helping Jean. The county didn't press any charges for trespassing because they thought enough had already happened to them.

"Jean was traumatized by the entire ordeal, and she couldn't handle what had happened. She freaked out, and had a mental breakdown. Her parents brought her back home to recover. It was really sad, because out of all them, I thought Jean was the nicest, and yet she was the one in need of therapy. But Anna? She just became a harder, colder bitch. A bit suspect, if you ask me."

Paige shook her head. "Come on, Jube. You're not telling me you think Anna killed her, are you? I know Anna isn't exactly the friendliest person out there, but I don't think she would kill one of her friends just to get an award."

"Don't be naïve, Paige," Jubilee said, her tone half-joking, half-serious. "If you grow up in a wealthy family, you normally don't get much attention from your parents. Anna sees her parents even less frequently than most other rich kids do, because her dad has to manage his stocks and estates, and her mom is flying all over Europe because her designs are in such high demand. She wanted to impress her parents enough to get their attention, and she had already missed one of her chances, and she was in danger of losing the other chance to someone else.

"I think that she was desperate enough to kill Carol. Anna is self-centered and sometimes a little psycho. Carol wasn't planning on backing down from the challenge- her parents had already bought her a beautiful gold locket set with diamonds and opals to show her how proud they were of her hard work. She wanted her parents to notice her, too, and she was counting on getting the award."

"But killing someone?" Paige shook her head. "I don't think Anna is capable of that."

"Maybe she was, at the time," Jubilee suggested. "And she's changed now because she feels guilty about what she's done."

Seeing that Paige still didn't look convinced, Jubilee spread her hands. "Okay, hear me out on this. Like I said before, Anna could have convinced Carol that it was a good idea to go swimming at the community pool. Why else wouldn't they just have used the pool here if they wanted to go swimming? And it was so dark when they climbed the fence, there's no reason why Anna couldn't have stepped on Jean's heel to remove her shoe, and then thrown it somewhere. Jean wouldn't know the difference; of course she would've just thought that it was a tree root."

"You're telling me that you've speculated the ways Anna could have killed Carol?" Paige asked in dismay.

Jubilee took a deep breath. "Look Paige, the general consensus of the student body at Mass Ack is that Anna really did kill Carol."

"That's stupid!" Paige exclaimed vehemently. "Those are just rumors! There isn't any real proof that Anna killed her!"

"Proof?" Jubilee raised an eyebrow. "Give me a few more minutes to explain, chica. Anna went to the pool without Jean, so she could be alone to kill Carol. Or maybe she just wanted to give her a concussion, so Carol couldn't take the finals and Anna would get the award, but something went wrong and Carol actually died. So Anna went back to Jean to establish an alibi for herself and provide a logical conclusion for the case to make it look as if she was with Jean when Carol had died. That way, the blame couldn't be pinned on her.

"And why do you think she dived into the pool to rescue Carol? She wanted to make sure that Carol was already dead. Hell's bells, maybe if Carol even was alive at that point, Anna drowned her to make sure she would never be able to tell what had happened."

Paige stared at her friend, chilled to the bone. "And you think that Anna is capable of diabolical thinking like that?"

"All I know is that you'd be surprised at what people are capable of when they're jealous and angry," Jubilee responded soberly. "You're a good person, Paige, and you're new to all the lying and backstabbing that goes on at this school. But think about this: Ororo is Anna's best friend and has been for years, so it's understandable Anna wasn't upset with her for receiving the award.

"But Carol was another story. Ororo got to be MVP of the basketball team, but missed out on the chance to be the top student because of mono. Jean had a chance to be MVP of the soccer team, but missed the rest of the season because of her breakdown.

"And Anna missed the chance to be MVP of the basketball team, but she won the 'Student of the Year' award because her main competition died. She's awfully smart, come on, she was one of the top students. I'm willing to bet she's cold enough to kill someone, if she really felt she had no other choice."

Hiding the eerie feeling she received from listening to her friend's grim statements, Paige shook her head stubbornly. "Anna wouldn't do that. I know she wouldn't."

"But you don't know her very well, Paige," Jubilee said gently. You've only been rooming together for about a month . . ." Her voice trailed off, and her face hardened. "Oh. I'd forgotten about that."

"Forgotten about what?" Paige asked with a sense that her inquiry was more morbid curiosity than anything else.

"When the investigation was taking place, Anna's father stepped in. Charles Xavier had always been fairly generous with his money as far as the school was concerned, but this time he made a special donation. He funded a special scholarship that would pay for the uniforms, books, meals, and tuition of the girl who won it." Jubilee glanced meaningfully at Paige.

"Scholarship?" Paige's mouth dropped open. "Anna's father is paying for my scholarship?"

"The scholarship was officially arranged by the school board," Jubilee acknowledged. "They made all the requirements about academic records and stuff. But my point was that I think good ol' Charles was trying to draw attention away from Anna's crime, trying to show everyone what righteous, kind-hearted people the family was in an attempt to make Anna seem innocent. That, you know, she couldn't have done anything like that because she came from such a good family.

"But it's not like he bribed the police, or anything," Paige, trying to be reasonable with Jubilee.

Jubilee shrugged. "Hey, anything's possible, chica. A man with his wealth and power could've shelled out enough cash to keep the local law enforcement from charging her. Not because he cared about Anna, mind you, but because he just wanted to cover his own ass and save his reputation."

"So he doesn't care what actually occurred as long as it doesn't damage his social standing?" Paige questioned.

"It's a bit sad, isn't it?" Jubilee sighed. "I'm not justifying anything Anna has done, but with those people as role models . . . well, it's not surprising if she's really screwed up. And think about it, this is what happened when her parents didn't bother to pretend to care about her. Can you imagine what she would be like if she actually tried to emulate them? Her dad's a cold bastard, and I hear that her fashionable mom is a heartless bitch. I'm not a fan of her twenty-four seven monotone, but it's better than an openly immoral, spoiled brat any day of the week."

"You're still talking as if she actually killed Carol." Paige pointed out. "She didn't, though. If the police didn't think so, then it's doubtful that she did."

"All of this and you're still not convinced?" Jubilee stared at her in disbelief. "I've never met anyone so willing to believe in the good in people before. It's endearing, I guess, if a bit sad because I know the world is going to chew you up and spit you back out completely robbed of your optimism, but nice all the same."

Paige smiled faintly. "Thanks. I try to keep a bright outlook. I feel that it helps me to be a better person." She became serious. "Hey Jube, you said that all four of those girls were all close friends, right?"

"Yeah," Jubilee replied. "They were practically joined at the hip."

"So if Jean suffered a mental breakdown, what was Ororo's reaction?" Paige queried speculatively. "She and Anna are obviously still very close."

Jubilee grimaced. "Knowing you, Paige, you'll take this with a grain of salt, but I've always suspected that Ororo and Anna were a little bit more than just friends. Especially these days, when Ororo is more of a fem-Nazi than ever, and she's the only person who Anna exhibits emotion to. That right there speaks miles. Clearly, she trusts Ororo more than anyone else. So Ororo would've believed Anna more than anyone else, probably even if Anna had been charged with murder. Those two are extremely loyal to one another."

"But to be . . .together in an, um, romantic kind of way?" Paige questioned, taken aback by Jubilee's response.

Jubilee shrugged, looking somewhat uncomfortable. "The way they interact has always seemed . . . somewhat suggestive to me. Maybe it's because they've always been very close, and their friendship has been the one stable relationship in their lives, but when they're together, they just give off these vibes, you know? I mean, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but when they're together, I just get this weird feeling."

Taking a moment to seriously consider what Jubilee was saying, Paige took a moment to recall her feeling of discomfort around Ororo and Anna earlier that afternoon. Yes, she had felt uncomfortable around the two of them, but that hadn't been because she had cogitated the two were in a relationship. It had been because they were from families with old money, and she was from a working class family.

"Oh, dammit!" Jubilee exclaimed. "I was supposed to meet with Ms. Frost and talk to her about switching some of the classes on my timetable! Sorry Paige, I have to go! See you at dinner!"

"See you," Paige called as her friend jumped up and ran off in the direction of their headmistress's office.

Left alone in the dimming sunlight with her thoughts, Paige drained the remaining Pepsi in the bottle and contemplated the grim story Jubilee had told. Carol's sudden, tragic death, allegedly an accident, accompanied by Jean's mental breakdown and Anna's disturbing transformation into a person so aloof that she was almost without emotion.

Were Jubilee and the other students at Mass Ack correct in their assumption that Anna's impassive attitude was the result of her guilt about what happened to Carol? But that didn't necessarily mean Anna had killed Carol. Perhaps it had really been an accident, but Anna felt guilty for leaving Carol alone, and thus felt responsibility for Carol's death.

But why were the girls at Massachusetts Academy so fixated on the belief that Anna had killed Carol? Was it because while Jean was severely traumatized, Anna had only become extraordinarily unemotional? Or was it because the other students were able to recognize the dissonance in Anna's reaction, and assumed it was because she had killed her roommate?

Had Anna been desperate enough to kill Carol in order to eliminate the competition? Paige shivered despite the warm sunlight. The very idea chilled her to the bone.

And to think, Carol had been Anna's roommate.

"There you are," a monotone voice said from behind her. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

Paige yelped, startled, and whirled around to find Anna standing behind her, expressionless as always.

"Sorry," Anna offered. "I didn't intend to scare you."

Paige swallowed. "It's all right," she managed.

"Dinner will be starting soon," Anna informed her. "You might want to change into your uniform."

Paige stood up from the picnic table where she had been sitting. "Yeah."

"I'll walk back with you," Anna said.

The two began the sojourn back to their dormitory. Neither spoke. Paige though, couldn't stop herself from glancing at Anna, trying to judge how likely it was that she had actually murdered her roommate.

At the fifth glance, it became apparent that Anna was aware that she was being watched, because she met Paige's gaze, her expression unreadable as always, but her green eyes both intense and cold.

A breeze stirred the leaves that had fallen from the trees too early in the season, rustling across the wide, brick walkway.

Still, Anna's cold eyes remained fixed upon her.

Paige shivered, but it wasn't from the wind.

A/N: I don't have any definite plans about this story. I don't think I'm going to write a full-length story, but I may write a conclusion. But if you have any ideas about where this story could go, let me know. Feedback on about what you thought would be greatly appreciated.