"Well?" Professor Xavier's tone was stern. Rogue stepped forward. As the group's eyes fell on her, she faltered and wrapped her arms around herself.
Startled, Hank knocked over his coffee. Fortunately, the doctor's fingers were nimble enough to snatch his paperback copy of Melville's Moby Dick away from the flood of brown liquid. Hank grabbed a nearby box of tissues and began to mop up the mess.
"Why? Have you been reading my mind?" he asked.
"You know I would never abuse such things," Professor Xavier sounded hurt. He wheeled himself into the middle of the medical bay and looked squarely at Hank.
Hank continued to clean his desktop. He kept his gaze directed at his work.
"It's just that you've conveniently worked your own schedule completely around my own," Xavier continued. "I'm sure that you will continue to do as you feel you must, but I would like to talk to you."
"Talk?" Hank peered around hesitantly. "About what?"
"I'm glad that you decided to come back," the professor said. "Despite what you may think, I've missed you. Perhaps it's old age, but the students here are like children to me. Each one that leaves is more painful than the last."
"Especially when you know that they'll never return." Hank nodded. "I always understood the risk of being an X-Man, Professor. But regardless of the dangers being so apparent, I would have never been able to convince myself that of all the people that could fall, that it ever would have been Jean."
A melancholy smile lit Charles Xavier's face. "It's part of what makes us human, Henry."
"Human? Not mutant?" Hank replied. "Forgive me. I know it wasn't your intention to quarrel with me."
"Your simply being here proves that we can put our differences aside for the moment at least," Professor Xavier said.
"So it seems," Hank agreed.
"Can I expect you in the cafeteria for dinner?" Professor Xavier asked.
"We'll see," Hank replied. "I still have a lot of work to do. After what just happened, it took quite some time to calm Sam down enough to make sure he truly was unhurt."
Xavier nodded. "He's a hero among his peers now. As the gossip spread around, Sam went from being a hostage to single handedly facing off against Pyro," he said. "How are Peter and Bobby?"
Hank sighed. "If Bobby really wanted to, I'm positive that he could transform his hands back to flesh. But I think he's afraid."
"I'm not so certain," Hank confessed. "If he reverts back to flesh, perhaps he'll be fine. Perhaps not. Perhaps he even lacks the capability until we can correct his organic steel. Maybe I should take him to the Muir Island facility for research. I don't know, Professor."
"I could call Dr. MacTaggert if that's what you wish," Professor Xavier offered. "I haven't seen Moira or Sean in a long time."
"I have some tests that I haven't run through yet with the boy," Hank said. "Maybe they'll reveal something."
"All you have to do is say the word, Hank," Xavier replied.
"Thank you." Hank began to flip through some papers on his desk.
"It's good to have you back, son."
Hank watched the door close after the bald man. He turned back to his desk where an unmarked syringe sat ominously. He sighed.
Hank had never been able to put anything past his mentor before, but the man had made no mention of his plans. He rolled the syringe with his fingers as if all would become clear simply by gazing at the prototype from another angle. No such luck.
"Only one way, I suppose," Hank muttered.
The doctor walked over to the door and made certain it was locked. He stilled his trembling hand by occupying it with banding a tourniquet around his right-hand arm. In his nervousness he forgot a swab of iodine. Hank found an acceptable vein in his arm with a finger and reached for the needle.
His right hand in a tight fist, the needle found its mark with precision. Hank took a deep breath before he pumped the prototype into his body.
Nothing happened. He exhaled.
As he reached for the rubber strap on his arm, Hank was hit with a wave of nausea. Sweat beaded at the large man's forehead as he knocked a stack of papers off his desk. Hank snatched at a notebook, tried to scrawl notes before his vision completely blurred.
In illegible doctor's script, Hank managed, "I was wrong" before he collapsed on the cold floor.
Professor Charles Xavier left the medical bay quietly. With a shake of his head, the older man wheeled himself to the elevator. His children would be waiting for him in the foyer. He would have preferred a cozier meeting place, but as it was, the rec. room was unavailable.
Scott greeted Xavier a floor up and walked by his mentor's side as they joined the cluster of students. Orange wreathes bedecked with Indian corn adorned the hallways and whole ears of corn and gourds decorated the main stairwell.
Jubilee was sprawled out on the stairs, a wad of pink gum stretched between her mouth and first finger. She flashed the professor a grin before she turned back to her sugary mess.
Sam had meanwhile earned the admiration of both Theresa and Lorna. The two girls were batting doe eyes at him, while his elephant ears were turning red from the attention. Roberto was sulking in a corner and Kitty had joined Jubilee on the stairs while Rogue stayed off to the side her eyes taking in everything.
"Is everyone accounted for?" Xavier asked.
"Bobby's in the freezer and refuses to come out," Scott said. "Peter's up in his room, sleeping. Being in his steel form puts quite a strain on him."
"I understand," Xavier murmured. "I see Jamie, all twelve of him. The boy should really absorb his duplicates. Hank's down in his lab, Artie's hiding behind Kitty... Where's Logan?"
"Probably on my bike," Scott muttered. Cyclops briskly strode off down the hallway towards the garage.
Warren Worthington looked extremely uncomfortable. He gave agitated tugs to the sleeve of his fine linen shirt. His large wings were still exposed after Warren forced them through the back of his shirt, but he kept them fretfully pinned close to his body.
The newly minted "Angel" made to walk towards Xavier, but was cut off by one of Jamie Madrox' copies as it dashed in front of him and ran to join Sam and the girls. Warren hesitated and settled back to his place against the wall when he felt Charles Xavier's eyes on him. He looked up to see the bald man give him an inviting smile. Warren sighed, he should have known that it was impossible to not be transparent to a telepath.
Careful not to step on the various children or their duplicates, Warren made his way to Xavier's left side.
"Professor Xavier?" Warren began.
"Yes, Mr. Worthington?" Xavier nodded.
"I'd like your permission to go home," Warren said. "It's not well known by most of my business associates that I'm a mutant. I'd like to get a fresh shirt to cover my wings."
"You don't need my permission," Xavier said.
"I felt that it was the only courteous thing to do was ask due to recent events," Warren replied.
Warren glanced past Xavier and the hallway behind him. He raised an eyebrow as Scott came jogging back.
"Professor, I think we may have a bigger problem on our hands," Scott announced as he hastily made it back to Xavier's side.
"Why do you say that?" the professor asked.
"Logan didn't take my bike," Scott explained. "He took my car."
"I don't understand," Warren said.
"Logan didn't go alone," Xavier stated.
"Rachel!" Scott realized.
"And Kurt," the professor added.
"Do Logan or Kurt have their comms on them?" Scott asked.
"Kurt may," Xavier answered. "But if they left without telling anyone, do you think they'd want us to find them?"
"Did you want me to make preparations for the Blackbird or one of the other vehicles?" Scott was grateful that his ruby quartz glasses masked a good part of his worried expression.
"In a moment, Scott," Xavier replied. "First we need to know where we are going and what we are up against."
The headmaster of the School for Gifted Youngsters wheeled himself into the center of the foyer. He cleared his throat and the din from the children died down.
"Can anyone tell me where Logan is?" Charles Xavier asked quietly.
The students were silent, save for the pop from Jubilee's bubble gum. The pink gunk splattered around her lips and nose, but she left it there, frozen. Kitty began to systematically study her knees.
"Well?" Professor Xavier's tone was stern.
Rogue stepped forward. As the group's eyes fell on her, she faltered and wrapped her arms around herself.
"Rogue?" Scott asked. He looked so boyish with a stray lock of dark brown hair flopping over the edge of his glasses. Their fearless leader's darting eyes were concealed by the dark red quartz, but his frown was clearly visible.
"Ah know where Logan went," Rogue said firmly.