Flotsam

7

Mort stepped out of the court a free man. And his first act as a free man was to find a nice patch of wall and try to nut a dent in it. "God. Damned. Fucking. Bastards," he snarled, impacting his head against the plaster.
Fucking yanks.
He'd been proud of being a Brit, of being English. Even though he was a yob, he was better than almost all of the bloody Yanks because without his country, theirs would have never got started.
And some fucker of a Yank had to dig up some document that said he was half Yank.
"They're just names, Mr Toynbee," said Adrien. Sam. Sara's father. "Names on a piece of paper."
"One of 'em's a fuckin' Yank," Mort howled at the wall.
"Well... speaking as a 'fucking Yank', I'd have to advise that you take the advantages of being one."
"Yeh?"
"For example, you can stay in this country without fear of being deported," said Sam. "You can stay near Sara."
Mort glared at him. So far, he seemed unperturbed that he and she had a 'thing' going on. But then, he'd seemed unperturbed after watching the securicam footage of his wife mentally abusing his daughter. Mort had only known after the judge asked Sam about it. "You got anythin' to say 'bout her'n me?"
"Us Adriens fall in love for a very long time," he said. "With the right partner, that's a divine blessing. With the wrong partner..." he stared off into nothing, unconsciously touching the gold band on his left ring finger. "If you decide on staying with Sara... be prepared for forever. Decide - *forever*. Changing your mind - can only hurt her... maybe even damage her. Sara's had too much pain already."
"Damn straight," said Mort.
"I'm glad we agree on that," said Sam. "Because if you hurt her, I swear to God I will destroy you."
"I owe 'er me life," said Mort. "I owe 'er... me salvage rights. I don't want nuthin' for 'er that she don't need for 'erself... and if that includes me pissin' off, I'll go. I'll go even if it bloody kills me... 'cause I want 'er to get better."
Sam grinned. "Then I believe we have a deal."
The second mutant-human handshake in the history of the nation sounded as a muffled clap in the empty corridor. There was no fanfare. No flash of photography. No assembled mass of media[1] to observe and record. Just two men shaking hands in a hall.
"Can I drop in on 'er?"
"Sure. Show of support," Sam carried himself a little lighter, now. "My little girl needs it."


Sara knew when her father entered the courtroom. It was a knack she'd always had, of picking up the subtle vibrations that always spelled out 'Daddy's home' in her mind.

She smiled and waved for both he and Mort, but kept it down. Not appropriate behaviour when hearing about her alleged escapades as Adrian Essel, the transie 'ho.
As far as muckraking went, it was a sad effort. There was no proof. Just rumours, innuendo, and a kneejerk reaction from the PTA.
And was easily disproved by the school's own documentation on Sara. Including the numerous memos she'd sent around with regards to Adrian Essel and his lack of existence in reality.
Finally done with dredging up her past and present as a potential mutie psycho, the Prosecution played the trump card of paranoia.
Who knew exactly what this mutie would do if provoked?
Who could tell what damage she could wreak if allowed back out into the public?
Who knows what evils lurk in the hearts of men? Sara thought.
Ms Adler was on her toes, asking how many humans had committed atrocities with nothing more than their own ingenuity. Could we trust our neighbours? Evidently not... but we don't feel the need to lock them up because of their race. Certainly, Sara could blend her way into some situation dangerous for the rest of the world... but what was the point. Just because one has the capability to do something doesn't mean that they would.
Every human being on the planet with a certain IQ and a modicum of training could be the next Adolf Hitler... but they choose not to. That choice is an individual's right by birth. Sara had not chosen to expose her mutant nature. She certainly hadn't chosen to have a member of her race perform a spectacular attention-grabbing stunt just after she got in trouble about the riot. She definitely didn't choose to be a mutant.
Now the choice of her life lay with twelve people who'd heard a lot of confusing things.
Sara barely had time to hug and kiss her Dad and Mort before the bailiffs gently escorted her to the holding area.
To wait.
And wait.
And wait.
[1] I like this as a collective noun. A mass of media ;) Sort of like a bark of papparazzi :D


Magneto walked with ease behind the guard. As far as disguises went, having Mystique be a guard was an excellent way to get in to a facility.

And it was personally amusing to get some use out of the late Mr Laurio.
People never questioned a guard, never really looked at who they lead... never thought. He was just another man in a grey suit. At least, today he was.
They found her meditating on a bench. The heater in the cell had ensured that she had taken her coat and shoes off, revealing that her most interesting skin could also blend when she was completely relaxed.
Were it not for the clothes, which looked like the invisible woman was in the cell, she would have been impossible to spot.
"Visitor," said Mystique-as-Laurio.
Eyes opened in the patch of wall where her head should have been. "They don't let visitors down here," and she moved, revealing where her skin finished and the background began. The colours shifted and faded into the myriad of aquas that were her natural state. She was also as tall as advertised, almost towering over him, were it not for her tendency to stoop. "Erik Magnus Lensherr, I presume."
He tipped his hat. "Magneto," he corrected. "You have me at an advantage, miss...?"
"Sara Louise Adrien. This week's news. So tell me... Why does a megalomaniac who survived the holocaust name himself after an engine part?"
He and Mystique exchanged a Look. "If she's a telepath, too, we might have a strong Beta," Mystique murmured.
"Everybody keeps thinking that," said Sara. "Honestly, it's just a question of observation and deduction..."
Magneto decided to get back on the track. This child was erratic. Flighty. But he could gain control of her. "What is your real name, Sara?"
"Abc'defghij'kl'm'nop'qrstuv'w'xyz[1]," she said, apparently amused. "Supercalafragalistic-expialidocious... Fimblamenacular-diatropetazatemine - but you can call me 'Fimblar'."
"You don't have a real name," he said.
"And you expect to give me one - Magneto?" she snorted. "I really have to know - why an engine part?"
He bent the bars aside for her. "I am the master of magnetism," he said. "Metal is mine to command."
"Even copper and aluminium? What about gold?[2]" Annoyingly, she remained inside the cell. "Superconductors? What happens if you get too close to a working microwave?"
Maybe she was thick. He'd dealt with that, too. "Questions for another time, my dear. I'm offering you the ultimate freedom... the chance to step above those who have held you down."
She stepped closer to the gap in the bars. "Just like you gave it to Mort?" Her skin rippled with a band or two of black.
"Ah yes. The Toad. I'll gather him for you shortly, my d--"
The next thing he knew, there was a pain in his face. An equal pain in the back of his head. Someone was screaming. Not Mystique. One eye wouldn't open. He struggled to open the other.
This child... this slip of a creature... had metamorphosed into a living demon. Her skin rippled with bands of black, red, and yellow as she held her own against Mystique.
And worse yet, the child was winning through sheer, unadulterated rage and brutality.
His vision waned.
When he was next able to focus, the child-demon had him in a choke-hold. Distant figures, blurred through concussion, were moving closer to the scene.
Mystique was down. One of her arms had been broken.
"Give me one good reason," the child-demon snarled. "Just one."
"Murder is for the unimaginative, Sara Louise."
"...charles..." he whispered. God, he never thought he'd be so glad as to hear Charles' voice.
"Sara..." an unknown. The blur was tall enough to be of her family stock. Perhaps her father or a close male relative. "What did he do?"
"He uses people," the girl managed, her fury plain on her face. "He used up Mort. He hurt him..."
"Put the ole sod down," said the Toad. "He ain't worth it."
If he could but focus... Just one slip of metal. Just one wound...
"But--"
"Don't become him?" Toad pleaded.
The anger colours faded. Tears spilled and she put him down.
Magneto was grateful for unrestricted air. He managed to sit up, smiling at Toad. "I knew..." he panted. "I knew you'd not forget your debt to me."
"Yeh. 'S'right. I owe you one." He had a good run up.
The last thing he knew was an incoming boot at warp 9.
[1] Remember that song from Sesame Street?
[2] Non-magnetic metals. I've wondered about this, myself...


She was shaking. She'd just taken down the man who was possibly the world's most dangerous mutant and she was shaking. Once she could control her breathing, she could box these shakes away...

"Ride it out," advised Daddy. "Let it go into the air. Don't keep it."
Mort was keeping guard over Lensherr. The guard had transformed into a blue woman who was-- oh dear. Sara blushed, grabbed her coat from inside her cell, and at least covered her over.
"I did this?" she squeaked.
"Weren't nobody else," Mort said. He hadn't taken his eyes off Lensherr, as if he were some kind of anti-leprechaun who would grant more evil to the world if he was allowed to get away. "Only caught the end of it, luv. You were fuckin' beautiful..."
Guards were arriving, now. Sara slunk back inside her cell and held on to the straight bars for support. If she sat down, her legs would refuse to work for half an hour.
It's all right, soothed Xavier in her head. They won't blame you.
Meaning you'll see to it personally?
A smirk. I, too, once learned to tap-dance.
The resulting kerfuffle passed by in a blur for Sara. She wished she could recall the exact dance of Xavier's filibustering, but shock had disconnected her synapses. She'd remember the feel of her father's hand against hers, the simple warmth of a parent's loving touch.
He never flinched. Not once.
She remembered coming through the bent bars, rough blanket itching her skin, and watching Mort making certain the guards had Lensherr strapped down and given some chemical concoction that disconnected him from his powers. She remembered Mort asking if they could wake him up... grabbing the old man's hair and yelling.
"You got taken down by a couple of fucking Gammas, ya fuckin' bastard! 'Ow's THAT for yer fuckin' new world?"
She heard her own voice, but never remembered actually speaking. "Mr Toynbee, really. The Dragon is dead. There's no need for mutilation."
"Had t' take the heart, luv." He grinned - cheeky - and paced away from Lensherr. "You be all right?"
"Oh, no. I've always been half-left," she said as she was ushered into the next availlable cell. "I would be eternally grateful for a decent hot chocolate, though."
Mort's hand against her cheek. A tender touch, as if afraid he would somehow break her. "Nuthin' but the best, luv."
One by one, all the players in the drama filed away. Sara got her coat and shoes back. A styrofoam cup of hot, sugary tea was pressed carefully into her hands by a guard. And then she was alone again.
Ugh. They put non-dairy creamer in it.
Sara drank it anyway. Hot sugar helped with shock.
Too frazzled to meditate. Too shaky and aware to nap. Too low on resources to create... Sara found interesting shapes on the walls with her eyes.
It was something to do until the forces in charge decided what should happen to her life.


There was quite a show of force for the final part of Sara's trial. The assembled mutants in the audience of the court, along with those humans who looked 'mutant' enough to have wound up behind the wire, sat in such profusion that Kurt had turned off his holographic disguise in order to fit in.

The sandy-haired man near the front was the girl's father, but it was the presence of the greenish man next to him that caused Ororo to stiffen.
"Problem?" he whispered.
"Toad," she whispered. "One of Magneto's henchmen."
"Not any more, so the Professor said," murmured Kurt. "Remember?"
"It could have been a plot."
Kurt was still trying to figure out what sort of plot hinged on betraying someone you greatly feared when the key participants filed in. Some minor paranoia had caused the guards to block Sara in, thus obscuring all but the top of her head and the thatch of disorganised hair that rested there.
They all rose for the judge, and sat again.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached your verdict?"
"We have, your honour," said the spokesperson.
"And is that verdict unanimous?"
"Yes, your honour."
A piece of paper was passed between the jury and the judge. The elaborate pantomime of American law played out as the focus of so much attention rose.
Leiber Gott... she is that tall.
"How do you find?"
"In the charge of conspiracy against the President of the United States... not guilty," the spokesperson read. "In the charge of terrorism... not guilty. In the charge of conspiracy to commit murder... not guilty. In the charge of incitement to riot... not guilty."
The court erupted. Sara's jubilant arms enveloped both her father and the man Ororo had identified as 'Toad'. Applause broke out, barely suppressed by the judge's gavel.
He did rise and bring his hands together as himself... but he baulked for the representational introductions and turned the more - acceptable face on.
No sense in scaring the poor kid before they even got her inside the gates.
Sam made the introductions. "Sara? This is Ororo Munroe and Kurt Wagner. They're teachers at that school I was telling you about."
Sara's greeting was enthusiastic - she hugged the stuffing out of them. She was grinning ear to ear and shining like some rare and exotic gemstone. She pulled back and clasped his hand. "Isn't 'freedom' a marvellous word?"
She almost didn't notice that she turned completely blue.
Her eyes hadn't changed colour at all. It was odd to see his colouring without those familiar yellow eyes staring back at him.
Sara let go, distracted. "That's never happened before..."
Ororo and Toynbee were staring each other down like cats. She never once broke eye contact with him as she ran through the full spiel for Xavier's marvellous institute-come-sanctuary.
Then Sara said the words that started an entirely new mess of trouble.
"Can Mortimer come, too?"


Mort glared at the woman who tried to kill him. She glared back with equal venom. They'd both been in a battle on opposing sides. They'd both fought for their lives and various causes.

At the time, all the old bastard had said was, "Go down there and delay them."
He'd been glad to comply, attempting to make 'daddy' proud.
Maybe his heart hadn't entirely been in it with this one. Maybe he'd heard one too many snide comments from his alleged team... but he'd saved his one offensive weapon for last-ditch circumstances - and paid the price.
He heard Sara's innocent question and felt his heart stab him.
"Don't think I'd be welcome," he said. "We got 'istory." His body, unbidden, curled easily into a quasi-defensive posture.
Just like Storm's had.
Both were waiting for the first one to strike.
Sara sized up the situation in seconds. "I see. Ms Munroe, am I correct in guessing that you were on the side of the mysterious benefactors who chose to remain unnamed?"
Storm looked startled[1]. "Are you--?"
"She's not a telepath," said Sam, Mort, and the German guy together.
"She's reading us," said the German guy. "And if I may say so; you're very good at it, Fraulein."
"Dankeschoen, mein Herr... aber ich bin nicht bis zum Niveau der legendären Detektive, noch[2]," said Sara, blushing.
Mort rolled his eyes. "Great," he muttered. "Now she can't take a compliment in two languages..."
"Fifteen, at the last count," murmured Sam. "I love you dearly, sweetie, but you've got to learn to stop at the 'thank you'."
Sara was shrivelling under their combined attentions. "...'m not worth it..."
Fuck the weather bitch. Sara needed him. He wrapped an arm around her and gave her a squeeze. "Hey. Shh... 's all right. You got a whole bunch of people who reckon you are worth it. They're teachers. They gotta know something, right?"
Sara managed a little nod. "...mmm..."
Sam was watching him with a raised eyebrow. Mort wouldn't put it past him to know about Sara's absolute faith in the judgement of teachers. It was one of the things he'd used to get Sara to try the more advanced courses in the first place.
"So all we gotta do is go to your flat an' get all your things packed right." He couldn't resist the temptation to brush the tears from her cheek. "You're goin' to a new school. You've got your second chance."
Sam ushered them out. "I'm sure we can discuss this over lunch... I know this nice little place where we can all manage the little details in a civilized manner. I believe some of your friends might be there, Sara..."
"It's all about second chances," said Sara.
Aw fuck, thought Mort.
She whirled out of his arms, walking backwards and only relying on the touch of his hand for guidance. "Ms Munroe... would you agree that death is the ultimate change?"
"I--"
"And having come as close to death as Mort has would improve a person's perspective vis-a-vis action, consequence, and the path they choose for themselves in the future?" She was talking very quickly. Tapdancing... but not literally.
"Ah..."
"Ergo, coming dangerously close to death is the ultimate chance to be born again. Mr Toynbee has had that chance. My father is a witness. He saw Mort turn away from the path he'd once followed."
"...and spit in its eye, too," added Sam.
"He's already been dead... why not allow him to reincarnate?"
"Because some people don't get that chance," Storm said.
"Then it makes the ultimate gift," Sara persisted. "Give the chance that others couldn't take... or weren't given. I can testify that - since his recovery - Mr Toynbee has made a concerted effort to turn his life around... and in the process, help others. Isn't that what you do?"
"Your 'Mr Toynbee' was a terrorist."
"So was I," said the German. "Yet you gave me a chance."
"You weren't in your right mind," she argued.
"There's more than one way to control someone's thoughts," Sara argued. "Believe me, Mort bears the scars. Lensherr was a pro. I've no doubt he learned from pros... and yet, somehow, Mort's managed to break free of it."
"You can't trust him."
"Ms Munroe, I trust Mort implicitly. He stayed by me when he had no motive to stay. He caught me when I fell, and helped me stand when I needed support. In all good conscience, I can do no less than that in return. All he needs is a job and a place to stay. And what better place than where you can keep an eye on him?"
God, he loved Sara-logic. She could twist things about so that they worked for an ideal good... that also left the opposition scratching their head and wondering how the hell it happened.
The German fellow took up the baton. "Why not?" he said. "I don't think anyone wants a loose cannon running around free in New York."
O, please, Br'er Bear... don't throw me in that there briar patch... thought Mort. He decided not to say anything, concentrating instead on steering the still-backwards Sara safely through the pitfalls of New York sidewalk life.
[1] Which I'm certain is Halle Berry's one and only expression when 'acting'
[2] Thank you very much, sir... but I'm not up to the level of the legendary detectives, yet.


Sam was reminded of the old jokes. These mutants walk into a bar... He could see people at the restaurant observing them. Waiting for the punchline.

"Two weeks and the first thing I see of you is the back of your head," said Callisto. She was waiting in the foyer with a handful of others.
"See?" said Sara to Ororo. "All the way from court to here and he didn't even let me trip." She turned. "Callisto! Don't you look funny in a dress."
"Daddy-dear told us to look nice," said the one-eyed mutant. She gave Sara, then Mort a bear-hug. "Just so you know? Yellow was never your colour."
"I don't think yellow is anyone's colour," joked Emilia. She gave Sara a hug. "Open air is so much nicer, yes?"
"Where's Dianne?" said Mort. "She okay?"
"Had to go see her OBGYN," said Callisto. "And she said that her family's glad to have her back."
Sara smiled. "Nice to know some of us have the chance."
"What am I?" joked Sam. "Chopped liver?"
Which triggered Sara's Comically Cute mode. "Aw. Is daddy-waddy a diddle upset?"
"Enough..."
Of course, the maitre'd had noticed them and did not want punchlines happening in his restaurant. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave... we don't exactly welcome mutants on these premises."
"What? You have an objection to people of colour?" said Sara.
"Don't start," he warned, surprised at the chorus from both Mort and Callisto. Sam reached into his pocket and produced The Card. "All of these people are my guests, m'seur. Please don't upset my guests."
The Card had him in a spin that resulted in the man pointing due Prestige. "Of course, sir. I'll find a discrete booth for you and your... party."
As soon as he was gone, Sara pretended to clean out her ear. "Did anyone else hear that last word as 'pets'?"
Mort and Callisto put up their hands... then Kurt, with a sly grin.
"I'm starting to like you," said the German acrobat. "And I definitely hope you decide to join us at Herr Xavier's school."
"What other choice could she have?" said Ororo.
"In an infinite universe, all things are possible," said Sara. "Up to and including going back to the shreds of my former life - where people don't talk about me as if I'm not in the room."
"Hackles down, darling," counselled Sam. "Give the nice lady a chance to improve."
Mort had to work very hard to wipe the grin off his face on that one.


The maitre'd didn't want to touch her or Mort, and he was leery of the Other People surrounding them. Kurt found it interesting to watch the ballet play out differently, depending what his impressions were.

He leaned over and whispered in Ororo's ear, "I'm half-tempted to turn off the inducer and see what he does."
Ororo smiled politely at the napkin and murmured back, "Don't. It's already caught far enough."
He straightened in his seat with a regretful sigh. He was dearly fond of Ororo, but sometimes, she was just no fun at all.
Maybe if he waited until the second course...
"Don't even think about it," said Sam. "We're in enough trouble already."
Kurt pouted. His desires aside, it probably was a bad idea. And it would be bad press.
The menu arrived in French.
"Oh darn... everything has alcohol in it," said Sara.
"It all burns off, madam[1]."
"Ready to defend that statement against a bout of anaphalactic shock?" said Sam. "Not to mention the subsequent lawsuit..."
Mort looked aside at Sara and looked like he was vowing to never touch alcohol ever in the rest of his life.
Definitely smitten.
"I shall discuss things with the chef," said the maitre'd.
"Daaa-aaad... it's not anaphalactic shock..."
"No, but they understand 'anaphalactic shock' and it scares the beans out of them."
"I know... a lie they can understand... but-- I just have trouble with maintaining it."
Mort was concerned. "So what is it, really?"
"Depending on severity; swelling, weals, blisters, burns and airway cloggage. Not a fun experience."
"Makes dining out an interesting time," supplied Sam.
"Something usually reserved for Daddy-daughter day," Sara grinned. "We're both far too used to arguing with head chefs in their native tongue."
"And speaking of the devil," said Kurt. "...so to speak."
The irate man in the white outfit was storming right up to them, and began haranguing them in broken French.
Sara launched into far better French and told him off in no uncertain terms. And corrected his grammar.
Kurt sniggered behind his hand before adding in perfect French, "[And by the by... it'd be far better if you stopped pretending you were French.]"
"Kurt..." warned Ororo.
"Just trying to help out," he smiled.
Sam sighed, "This is why I only go out once a year..." He managed an amiable front. "M'seur... surely you are such a great artist that you don't need to rely on something as crass as wine in order to infuse flavour into your meals?"
The chef took the lifeline. "Oui. That is more than true. I shall create for you a work of art..." and zoomed off.
"Take a bow," said Sara. "My dad. Supreme master of the left-handed insult."
[1] Big Posh Restaurant Lie #3. It doesn't. And if it *did* - why do they bother putting it in?


The conversation relaxed into amiable babble on this or that, primarily with updates on news or TV show trivia.

"And yes, before you ask, everyone has been checking in on your goddamn hamster," Callisto laughed. "Mrs Nesbit has one hell of a social calendar, now. People bringing her groceries..."
"People willing to feed the hamster," said Emilia. "If it wasn't for your feeding instructions, I swear you'd have a little hairy sphere."
"The kids have drawn up a roster," said Sam. "It's incredible to watch."
Sara giggled. "Chuckie's more famous than I am by now. I wonder if I could sell his story."
"Oh yeah," said Mort. "I was a teenaged mutant's hamster."
"Sounds like one of my hack jobs," Sara grinned.
The table laughed its way free of the tensions that had plagued the beginning of things. The appetiser helped more than a little. Sam had always noticed that people were less inclined to be aggressive with a stomach full of good food.
Sara was telling a story behind one of her features. A soap-parody she named All My Zombies. It was the sort of anecdote that had listeners in helpless hysterics.
"...so there we all are, flesh hanging off our fake bones, just as Maria delivers the immortal line, 'you just love me for my braaaaiiiiinnnnnsss' - and mother walks in..."
"Did she have a coronary?" said Mort, hopefully.
"Please, I need a run-up to do the expression," Sara took a few deep breaths, mimed holding a glass with one hand... and pulled the expression.
Ororo cackled, tears spilling from her eyes. Kurt was barely holding himself up. The others around the table were in various stages of hysterics.
"And falls over in a dead faint," Sara said, painting the picture with her expressive hands. "Bam! Down like a sack of suds. Ray did his best to revive her... and then found out that that's a bad thing to do when one's makeup involves a dangling eyeball..."
The main course arrived. Another work of art without a single trace of alcohol.
"Five fainting spells later, we hit on the idea of breaking for the day, got the prosthetics cleaned off, and finally revived her for good... and that, my dears, is how I lost any chance of sick days from school."
It was funny, true... but like all good comedy, it straddled the line into tragedy.
Sam decided to steer the conversation back to its original purpose. "And speaking of school, darling... perhaps we should negotiate some -ah- fine details."
"Mort gets a fair chance," said Sara, instantly. "That's all I really want."
"Define 'chance'," said Ororo.
"The man you knew as the Toad is dead. You killed him... and I think Mr Toynbee is somewhat grateful. I can... make myself forgive the damage you did to his poor body - provided you forgive his sordid past in the spell of a bed decision. He starts with a blank slate."
"It's a lot of effort," said Sam. "My family has a history of intense loyalty and devotion to those we hold dear. That can even hold true for retroactive tallies."
"It's only fair, Dad. I can't hang on to the sins of the past if they're willing to give them up. Blank slates all 'round - though I refuse to start anew at the ABC's."
"You don't have sins of the past," said Sam. "Not significant ones, at any rate."


Ororo looked to Kurt.

"Was? You think I can give you advice?" his voice coming out of that hologram was more than disturbing for her. "I rather like Mort. I'd have let him in without any kind of deal."
"Bless you!" Sara cheered.
It was all so confusing[1]. If Jean were here...
...if Jean were here...
Was trusting the Toad the sort of gift Jean would appreciate?
And the Professor had seen the man defy Magneto.
Was a man who betrayed his master the sort of man who she would trust?
He didn't have the world's most ideal history...
Neither did I. Remember Cairo.
If it hadn't been for the Professor and his own willingness to give the freedom of a blank slate, she may just be where Toad - where Mort was, now... dangling by the decision of one person. Dependant on the judgement of one open-minded soul.
She owed it to the man who took in so many waifs and strays to follow his example. "All right... just - don't expect us to trust you at first."
"Taken as given," said Mort. "I'll do me best to be trustworthy."
"I hear you need teaching staff," said Emilia. "There happen to be more than a few of us who need jobs... those of us who never minded being around mutants."
"We're just old softies, really," said Sara. She was smirking when she said it, so it had to be a joke.
Ororo didn't find it that funny.
"Which reminds me," said Callisto. "Remember that jerk Arnold[2]? The guy who told all of the very-obviously-muties they should hang themselves?"
"Oh him," said Sara. "Our day and age's answer to Heston. 'Getcher stinking paws off me you damned dirty mutie'..."
"That's still damned scary, luv."
"What's happened to him?" she continued without missing a beat. "Something karmic?"
"Karmic and scandalous," said Callisto. "Turns out our beloved (cough) Arnie was incarcerated for possessing the X-gene. His place of ex-employment registered him as a latent mutant. He's getting his own racism thrown back in his face, his wife divorced him, and his family's threatening to sue him for 'introducing the mutant taint' into their precious bloodlines."
"Not that I have much faith in higher powers," said Sara, "but I pray that that lovely little case gets thrown the heck out of court."
"Amen," said Emilia.
Kurt's face fell. Ororo knew exactly how much faith meant to him. This was going to devolve into theology in nothing flat.
"You don't believe?" he said.
"Organised religion makes my skin crawl," said Sara. "I'm sorry, but it does. Say these words, do these things... and some higher force will give you lots and lots of good things when you're dead. I think the system would work much better if the good things happened a tad earlier." She sipped her juice. "And don't get me started on punishing evil..."
"The eternal question," said Kurt. "Why does God let bad things happen?"
_This isn't what I thought he'd do..._ mused Ororo.
"And a very good why it is," said Sara. "Along with, 'why does He let them continue to happen?' and queries of a similar vein. I've posited that if there is a higher power in charge, they're a lot less involved in things than the churches would have one think."
Kurt actually laughed. "I know the feeling," he said. "But that is the essence of faith... to hold true to the idea that there is a higher force, watching over you. Something that will care for you when you need it the most. Someone who loves you no matter what."
Oh yeah. This was the very core of him laid bare. His reason for faith. She could believe in that, if not the tenets of a church.
Sara looked extremely wistful. "I want to believe in that, but... not while the wounds are fresh. I have extreme trouble with a kind and loving God who lets little girls get fractured minds... who allows Dragons and Gorgons to prey wherever they whist... and who lets it all - perpetuate."
Kurt bowed his head to her. "I understand. Some of us walk through the fire earlier than others." And he reached across to touch her hand in reassurance. Even though he knew what would happen.
Again, Sara matched his true colours.
"Twice in one day," said the girl. She admired the colour, even as it faded. "I know touching Mort makes me literally green around the gills, but turning blue? I didn't even do that when I was in the Terrible Twos..."
"No, you disassembled the televisions and put bike chains on the liquor cabinets," said Sam.
"It would've worked if they had handles..." muttered Sara.
"I'm sure the solution will be made clear," said Kurt. "In good time."
Ororo felt it was high time she spoke, "And attendance at Xavier's will help you learn to control reactions like that, amongst other things."
"I just want to know one thing - how big is the library?"
"Liebchen, the whole estate is a library," said Kurt. "Everywhere, there are bookshelves."
"Bliss..." Sara grinned. "I might even encounter a few volumes I haven't read yet..."
"That's two muties hooked," smirked Callisto. "How are you guys for security measures? It used to be my field of speciality before things imploded. I can think nastier than the other guy..."
Kurt nudged her. "If nothing else, she'd give Logan someone to play with..."
Ororo could just picture the two of them in a battle sim. Callisto constantly gave off vibes that she'd rather be in combat fatigues, belting several colours of shit out of the badguy. They'd get along like a house on fire.
...flames, screaming, and people running for safety...[3] "I'm sure you'd be a welcome addition to the team," she said.
[1] Halle's one other emote [/meow]
[2] He's Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer...
[3] Terry Pratchett.

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