Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Sinister Soldiers

Making Friends

by slickboy444 0 reviews

The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters: Avalanche, Berzerker, Blob, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Jean, Magma, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Multiple, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor Xavier, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Storm, Sunspot, Toad - Warnings: [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2006-12-30 - Updated: 2006-12-31 - 7065 words

Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 55: Making Friends


Things didn't get much easier after the stellar show that Shadow Cell gave everybody with their danger room performance. If anything, it had only added to the animosity because many of the regulars didn't like being upstaged by newbies, even if they were trained soldiers. So as a result, the five mutant soldiers had to contend with numerous scowls and weary glances, which didn't add much to their comfort level to say the least.

In addition, things didn't really improve with Mystique either. She still made no secret of her dislike towards the five of them, particularly Jean. Even though they had apologized, she was not too willing to accept it, and in many ways it was somewhat surreal to them because they never had to contend with being around one of the victims to their assaults...Yet here they were. It really gave them a lot to think about, given that they had killed and maimed so many people, but regardless of what everybody thought of them, there really wasn't much they could do to change things.

Their mood remained rather stoic and solemn, spending most of the days hanging around one another, reading books, and training. They also had their identification papers finalized, so now they were going by their real names. The Professor made a formal announcement to inform everybody of their new names, but it didn't seem to change their perceptions. They also had ID papers, drivers license with info that had to be forged in some areas, and a new paper trail to manage their new wealth. It was a bit odd though since everybody still knew them only by their codenames, but they were slowly adapting.

Yet names or no names, they still had problems interacting with others. On occasion, they would converse with Ororo and Logan, who seemed to be a bit more willing to accept them, but there was only so much they could do in a crowded house of young mutants. This whole adjustment bit was really starting to take a toll on them, causing them to have some serious doubts as to whether or not they belonged in a place where so many people hated them. But through the support and encouragement of the Professor and his fellow teachers, they managed persevere...For now at least. There was still no telling just how much things would change at any given moment.

For Jean Grey, she felt as though she was at an even greater disadvantage because not only did she have to see those scowls or weary glances, but she also had to hear their thoughts. A lot of people at the institute liked to project rather loudly and it was difficult at times for someone of even her skill to filter them out. Mystique was particularly bad, for she still couldn't bring herself to look her in the eye after what she did to her and her conscious was still nagging her incessantly. Thankfully, she still had her comrades and spending time with them always helped. And, of course, she and Scott still made their discrete visits at night, making love and holding one another as they had come to treasure so much over the years.

At the moment, Jean was just walking down the main hall in the upper levels around the dormitories. She was still struggling somewhat with these clothes that Betsy had given her to wear, for they were still quite uncomfortable and they hadn't gotten around to buying a new wardrobe. So far, she didn't exactly have plans for going out and she just wanted to find Scott for now and have a little alone time with him before the regulars finished their training session.

She remained lost in her thoughts as she kept trying to adjust her shirt and her bra, which seemed a cup-size too small for her and was really starting to get on her nerves. She was so lost that she didn't notice one of the New Mutants, Tabitha 'Boom Boom' Smith walking up behind her. Since she had the reputation of being the rebel and the wild child of the institute, she wasn't necessarily as uptight as the others when it came to Shadow Cell's presence. And given that she was never one to squander an opportunity, Tabby found herself trying to greet one of the institute's newest controversies.

"Hey Phoenix!" she said, standing just a few feet behind her, "What's going-whoa shit!"

Suddenly, before the young blonde could react, a lifetime of training kicked in for Jean and she immediately spun around, grabbed her arm, put her in a grapple, and threw her to the floor so that she was completely at her mercy. It was just a basic CQC maneuver...One of the many that had been drilled into her head. And she hadn't even thought about it as her body took over and as soon as her mind caught up with her, she immediately regretted her actions.

"Oh...Uh, sorry," said Jean as she extended a hand to help her up.

"Hey, no biggie," said Tabitha, rubbing her sore head and arm as she regained her footing, "Guess I should have known better than to sneak up on a vet."

"Um...Right," said Jean, finding this girl's demeanor to be a little strange, "Well, sorry again. I'm still not used to all this. Oh, and you can call me Jean. As long as we're living under the same roof, we might as well know each other by our real name."

"Don't sweat it, Phoe...I mean, Jean," said Tabitha, casting her a reassuring smile.

Thinking this was odd enough, Jean began to turn and walk away, but Tabitha wasn't about to let her do that. Because now her curiosity was even greater as she quickly caught up with her.

"Hey wait!" she said, stopping the older redhead cold in her tracks, "That was some move back there...What was it?"

Jean looked back at the strange young girl with an unusual glare, but she answered her question none the less.

"It was just a standard take-down maneuver...One of the many there are in the art of CQC."

"That a fact?" said Tabitha, still smiling in a manner that made Jean feel a tad awkward, "Say...You don't think you could teach me that move, do you?"

"What? You want to learn CQC?" said Jean, finding that to be quite odd, especially for a girl she had just taken down without breaking a sweat.

"Yeah, that was really cool! It's like a female version of moves by Jet Li or Jackie Chan!"

"Who the hell are they?"

"Oh just..." Tabitha began, but quickly remembered the circumstances that she and the rest of Shadow Cell were here under, "It's a long story and I don't have the energy to tell it. So how about it? Will you teach me?"

"Well, if you really want to know it, I guess I could show you a few things," said Jean, thinking it couldn't be any worse than making more enemies here at the mansion than they already had.

"Sweet! Thanks Red!" said Tabby in her usual, over the top tone, "So what are you up to? I noticed that you're still wearing Ms Ninja's threads."

"Threads?" said Jean with a curious expression, not familiar with such a term, "Oh, you mean her clothes? Yeah, I'm still stuck with them. And half of her shit doesn't even fit me anyways, so it's been a real bitch."

Jean definitely still had the mouth of a soldier, but that didn't seem to dissuade Tabitha in the slightest. If anything, that made her all the more curious about these mysterious newcomers that had already left such an impact on the institute as a whole.

"I see..." she said, mischievously rubbing her chin, "Well in that case, we'll just have to fix it!"

"Fix it? How?" she asked.

A slow smile spread across the young blonde's face...One that Jean found both odd, yet intriguing. And if her expression was any indication, she had already formulated something rather elaborate in her young mind.

"Oh I think I know the perfect way to mend your fashion woes."

"What do you mean?" asked Jean, sounding somewhat skeptical.

"Two words Red...Mall crawl."

"Mall crawl? What the hell is that?" she said, thinking it sounded like some infiltration maneuver.

"You've never been on a mall crawl?" said Tabitha, her eyes widening with shock, "Damn girl, you have been deprived! But fear not! Stick with me and I'll get you up to speed! And by the time I'm through with you, you'll be a certified mall junky just like me!"

And before Jean could respond to that, Tabitha grabbed her hand and led her downstairs. Not knowing what to expect, Jean just followed her, thinking this was definitely going to be interesting without a doubt.


Raven Darkholme was still not comfortable in this place. Even with her kids here, she still found herself looking over her shoulder every five to ten seconds whenever she walked down the hall. It was Saturday and by now, the early morning training session for the regulars was just about over, so that meant that they would be scouring around the upper levels at any time and that, of course, meant she was going to have to find some place of refuge until she could find some time to be around Kurt and Rogue.

So far, the shape shifter had been hiding more than exploring, growing quite sick of all the suspicious glances she kept getting from everybody. The only time she didn't really deal with that was when she was with her kids, which was probably because Kurt and Rogue provided a natural barrier to keep the others from making any comments. But she couldn't always be around them...Kurt still had this habit of hanging out with that Kitty girl and Rogue had been hovering around Remy a lot more lately. And while Kitty wasn't that bad in her mind, Mystique still had her anxieties about Remy...Especially now that her daughter could touch.

Right now, she hoped to find at least one of them to spend some time with...If for anything, just to have somebody to talk to. Because contrary to popular belief, even she craved human contact at times. Having been so alone all her life living under a veil of lies definitely still had an undeniable affect on her and as much as she hated to admit it, it was rather nice walking around a place in her natural blue form without having to change into a more 'acceptable' appearance.

Upon hearing some commotion from the den, the shape shifter began to make her way towards the noise, hearing a few fits of laughter and some familiar voices. She wasn't sure if Kurt or Rogue was in there, but she decided to check...Hoping that they were.

As she slowly entered the room, she saw what appeared to be Warren, Betsy, Bobby, Jubilee, Roberto, Ray, Remy, and Jamie watching what looked to be an old episode of Family Guy, which definitely explained the laughter. But the minute she set foot in that room and came into their line of sight...The reaction was almost immediate.

"Hey Rogue, is that you? Because..." but Warren's words ended the second he made eye contact with her.

The others were quickly drawn to Warren's sudden silence as they too turned to see Mystique standing in the doorway, looking right back at them with an indifferent expression. And as she expected, a heavy silence quickly fell over them as she was met with a maze of menacing glares. It was as if to say 'we still don't believe you.' But after having dealt with that sort of thing for the better part of her life, the shape shifter remained stern as she turned around to leave.

"Sorry...Wrong room," she said before walking off, her mood quickly souring.

For the X-men, the heavy silence pervaded even after she was gone. But for some, it was an act that was getting old and even though the shape shifter was still very much an enemy in their eyes...There were a few, but not many, who were a bit more sympathetic.

"Dat was real nice guys. Way to mend old wounds," muttered Remy, his words dripping with bitter sarcasm.

"Hey, it's not our fault!" exclaimed Bobby in response, "It's not like it's been easy having her around."

"Well dat doesn't mean dat she don't deserve a chance," argued the Cajun.

"Ah you're just saying that because she's your girl's mother," muttered Betsy in a cynical tone.

"Hey, I don't see you doin' anythin' about it?!" he spat in response.

"Doesn't mean that I'm wrong, luv," she said, feeling as though her words were justified.

"Yeah, and you do realize that you didn't deny it, Remy," said Warren, naturally taking his girlfriend's side.

"Aw to hell wit you!" he said, getting up and making his leave as well, not wanting to start another argument about this.

"Jeez, I guess Rogue is starting to rub off on him," said Jubilee with a slight chuckle.

"Yeah, guess that means we've got two ill tempered southerners now," said Ray with a slight chuckle.

"Oh yeah...Lucky us," muttered Bobby, thinking things couldn't possibly get worse with a former enemy and Shadow Cell now living with them.

Back with Mystique, she just dragged herself along the hall with a newly embittered mood. It wasn't like she wasn't TRYING to fit in here. It wasn't like she was giving them reasons to be suspicious. After all, she hadn't even done anything. She was just trying to catch up with her kids...Was that really so hard for them to believe?

Well, in some ways, she couldn't blame them. After all, her extensive time with the Brotherhood wouldn't soon be forgotten. She just wished it didn't have to make this place that much more unbearable.

She had no destination in mind other than a place that was far away from where she had just come from. But along the way, her sour mood did not go unnoticed by a few fellow housemates that had been having the same problems. Only for her, they were probably the last people she wanted to see.

"Hello Ms Darkholm," greeted Vincent as she passed him and Scott.

"Leave me alone," she muttered in response.

"Oh, let me guess...You walked into a room and got a bunch of thousand mile death glare?" inquired Scott.

That caused Mystique to stop in mid stride and turn back towards the two young men she had so much distaste for after having attacked the Brotherhood. She couldn't deny that Scott's words pretty much summed it up for her in a nutshell. And as much as she didn't like them, she couldn't deny the fact that they were in the same boat as her in regards to how much of the institute felt about them.

"I take it you've gotten that as well," she found herself saying, but still keeping her bitter tone.

"Yeah, more than I care to recall," answered Scott, "Sucks doesn't it?"

Under normal circumstances, Mystique would have just stormed off. But for some reason, she found herself lingering. The two young men who had faced many of the same things she had in the complicated world of lies, conflict, and carnage. And now that they were here under the same roof, they were facing yet another similar challenge...The scathing disapproval of their peers.

Taking a few deep breaths, Mystique managed to calm herself down. After all, she didn't want to give anybody any further reasons to think that she was just some bitter old woman who hated the world for rejecting her.

"We were just going up the library where it's usually deserted on Saturdays to play some cards. Want to join us?" asked Vincent, empathetic towards the shape shifter's predicament.

The shape shifter just shot them a cynical glance, thinking she couldn't have heard right.

"You must me joking."

"Honestly Ms. Darkholme, do we look like the joking type?" made Scott, his expression staying completely serious every step of the way.

Mystique raised an eyebrow to that, not finding an effective means to argue that point. Like her, these two were soldiers...And soldiers were many things, but they certainly weren't ones to joke around. And adding on to that, they also weren't ones to tell lies, for they had all had enough lies for one lifetime.

"You're really serious?" she said, still checking as the cautious woman she was.

"Of course," said Vincent with a nod, "You may not like us, but I can tell we still have a few things in common. And besides, I know perfectly well that even loners crave contact at times."

"Yeah, and because of that, we have to stick together," said Scott, hoping to further push his point.

Thinking back to the incident with the others that she had just experienced, Mystique merely let out an exasperated sigh. As much as she hated to admit it, they did have a point. It wasn't like she hid her desire for contact very well. Even as a shape shifter, there was only so much she could conceal...Especially when it came to dealing with a couple of highly skilled soldiers.

And after a brief debate with herself, she eventually came to a decision...One that she hoped she wouldn't regret later on.

"Fine..." she said, still not sounding too enthusiastic about it, "I guess it couldn't be worse than hanging around the others."

"No argument here," said Vincent as he, Scott, and Mystique began to make their way up the main stairwell, "But try not to think of them now. I'm sure they'll find plenty of time to scowl us to death later on."

"Yeah, but I hope they ease up soon," commented Scott, "Their bullshit is really starting to piss me off."

Mystique wasn't sure why, but she actually cracked a smile upon hearing that. Maybe it was because she knew how he felt...Maybe because it best symbolized their current predicament. But whatever the case, it did feel kind of nice to be in the presence of those who understood her. And it was quite a welcome feeling to be around those who didn't judge her for once. And who knows? Maybe this could be a chance for them to learn about one another more, hopefully helping to mend some of the lingering bitterness between them. Because without a doubt, it sure sucked going through this shit alone.


Even long after the Saturday morning sessions ended, Logan found himself lingering a bit longer as he so often did, planning to make another run. He usually did this for a multitude of reasons, some of which included stress relief, managing his animal side, and honing his skills. After all, he was the best at what he did and he intended to keep it that way.

In addition, Ororo lingered as well, taking a little time to stay back and chat with him about this and that. She still hadn't confronted him in regards to what Hank had told her earlier, but with all the turmoil going on at the institute with Shadow Cell and Mystique, it was probably best that she wait a bit for things to settle. Yet still, even if her feelings remained unspoken, she still had knack for putting a smile on Logan's face. And that alone spoke volumes as to how things were growing between them.

"So what do you plan to rip to shreds today, Logan?" asked Ororo as she casually leaned back in the doorway while he programmed his run.

"Oh you know...The usual," replied Logan, "Couple of tanks, giant mace, and maybe even a few Sabretooth holograms here and there."

"You know I would be tempted to call that excessive, but I've known you long enough to know that it's just another day in the danger room for Wolverine," she said with a humored grin.

"Hey, it's how I stay the best at what I do," he said, flashing her a wolfish grin.

"Well don't go too overboard," she said as she turned to make her leave, "But knowing your style, I can't say I would be surprised if you ignored such warnings."

"Glad to hear it won't disappoint ya," he said as he punched in the command to queue the program, "Care to join in the fun?"

"Maybe another time, Logan," she said with a warm smile, "But I know you'll have plenty of fun without me."

"Yeah...Well, guess I'll just have to trust ya on that."

"I guess so. See you later, Logan."

"See ya later, Ro," said the Wolverine, still finding himself smiling as he watched her walk off.

With the danger room now left to him, he made his way down to the entrance. But along the way, he came across a rather unexpected presence...One that, unknown to him, had seen the whole bit with Ororo from afar.

"Kid?" said Logan as he saw young X23 simply waiting casually near the main entrance to the battleground, "What are you doing here?"

"I told you, Logan...Stop calling me, kid!" she said, still deeply annoyed by that.

"I will when we finally get ya a name, but until then, I ain't callin' ya some lousy number," he said, managing to cast her a smile.

"Yeah, yeah...I know. It's just that...Thinking of a name isn't as easy as it sounds," she said, her tone somewhat low.

"Hey, just give it time. I know you'll think of something," he said, trying to sound encouraging, although he had come to accept that he really wasn't that good at it.

There was a brief silence between them...The same kind of silence that had so often come between them ever since their paths had crossed. Neither of them really knew how to go about this, for they both shared the same blood...They both bore the same scars of the past. They had been used, tortured, and controlled their whole lives, living with the same burdens day in and day out. Yet for the first time, they actually had a means of easing that burden. They had each other.

In addition, there were still more complex issues to consider. After all, they were technically related because of their blood. But did that really make them family?

"So...What are ya down here for? Do ya need something?" asked Logan, finally managing to get things going again.

"No...I just...I wanted to get away. Everybody just won't stop shuttering every time they see me or my comrades," she said with a sigh, showing just how much this had been affecting her.

"Yeah, I noticed that too," muttered Logan, thinking he was going to have to have yet another little talk with the students, "But it's like I said before, these things take time. They're still gettin' used to the idea of livin' under the same roof with you guys."

"But do they have to make it so difficult?" she said, sounding all the more frustrated, "I mean, it's not like we're not trying!"

"Hey, come on, kid...Calm down," he coaxed, finding it ironic that he was actually telling somebody else to calm down for a change, "I know you're trying. But ya just can't rush things like this. Believe me, I know. When I first came here I was so out of control that I never thought I'd ever get a hold of myself. I couldn't control my anger, my instincts, or my thoughts for that matter. Everything was a mess and I thought about leaving at least a dozen times in those first few months."

"So then how did you do it? What made you stay?" asked X23, suddenly feeling very curious as to how this man that she had so much in common with managed.

Logan sighed a bit at the memories, many of which were sketchy at best. But from what he did remember, those times had been among the hardest he could recall. They were not unlike the issues X23 and Shadow Cell faced...Things like uncertainty, confusion, and feeling so tied to the past. But he had managed and it was for that reason why he believed that this girl who shared his blood could as well.

"It was a lot of things really..." he found himself saying, "As crazy as I was, I still had this desire to leave the past behind me. I hated the nightmares that I kept having and the reminders I have of it every waking moment. And even when I thought about giving up, I remember how Chuck and Ororo never gave up on me. Even when I was on the verge of insanity, they stuck with me. And it's because of them, I found my place here."

X23 thought about that and couldn't help but see how much of this man's experience paralleled with her own. She too sought to leave the past behind...To rid herself of the unending nightmares that she had endured since her 'birth.' And ever since she and her comrades arrived at this place, she had been dealing with plenty of doubt. And for the most part, she had every reason to feel that way...Until now, that is.

"So you think I'll find my place here, too?" she asked him, still very much uncertain of the path she was now on.

"I don't think so...I know so," said Logan confidently, placing a hand upon her shoulder, "You and I are alike in more ways than just blood. And if I can do it, then so can you."

"I hope you're right, Logan...I really do," she said, finding the feeling of his hand upon her shoulder to be very strange to her, but welcome nonetheless.

"Right and wrong really don't apply here. This is something way more complex than that."

"Then...What is it?"

"This is life, kid," said Logan, simply going on what he had learned over the years through living here at the institute, "And believe it or not, life is capable of being anything you want it to be. Even to people like us who don't have a whole lot of control over who and what we are, we still have the power to find our own path. It's not so much a matter of work. It's more so a matter of faith."

"Faith, huh?" said X23, actually managing a smile upon hearing that, "You got that from Ororo, didn't you?"

Logan was immediately shocked by this girl's perceptions. Truth was, that was more Ororo's words than his own. But somehow, this girl knew it. And if she could see that, then what else could she possibly see?

"How in the hell did ya know that?" he asked her in a bewildered tone.

"Wasn't too hard," she said with a shrug, "Keep in mind, my team and I did a lot of reconnaissance on you and the rest of the mansion before this whole mess started. And I couldn't help but notice that you and she seem a little...Close."

Logan was caught completely off guard by that. If it were anybody else telling him this, he would have denied it adamantly and told them to fuck off. But this girl was different. This was a girl who thought like him, felt like him, and had many of the same issues as him. Add to that, she had the skill and aptitude of a soldier...One who had been trained vigorously in the art of perception. It was easy to deny it around the others, but not around a girl like this.

"Yeah, well...I have known her the longest out of anybody else here, minus the Prof of course, so of course we're close."

"That's not what I meant and you know it," said X23 skeptically, "I'm a soldier, Logan...Believe me, I know how to read between the lines. I know how to decipher that which I see. And what I've seen with you two both before and after I settled here, there is a lot more at work there than just friendship. The way you were looking at her just now was proof enough."

Logan felt like kicking himself for forgetting that bit. Hell, if any of the other students had seen it, they would probably assume the same thing. But this girl was different compared to the other students. She was not one to joke around. And as much as he would have liked to argue this matter, a part of him simply conceded to this girl's uncanny perceptions.

"Good eye kid...Good eye," he said, actually laughing somewhat at that.

"So are you going to ever talk to her?" she asked, sounding as though she was deeply concerned by this.

"Why do you care?"

"No reason, just..." she began, but for some reason, she cut herself off.

"Just what, kid?"

X23 fell silent, not knowing how to continue. She found herself looking away, not wanting to meet his gaze because it just made her feel so...Strange inside. From the moment she first saw him the moment she had been unable to kill him when she had her chance, X23 was still very much confused by the affects that Logan had on her. She wasn't sure why she felt this way around him, but it just too strong for her to ignore.

"It's...It's nothing," she said, "I'm sorry I brought it up. I had no right to..."

"Hey, it's okay kid. Don't apologize," assured Logan.

"Logan, please...Don't call me kid!" she said, still not liking that word one bit.

"Then I guess we'll just have to try harder with that name of yours," he said with a wolfish grin, "If you can't think of one, maybe I could help."

"How do you figure that?" she said, sounding very skeptical of that.

"Because..." he began, once again struggling with what he was trying to say, "I'm the closest thing to family you've got. Like it or not, my blood flows in your veins. And for that reason, you're my responsibility. And I'm going to help you. I'm not going to give up on you, ya hear? I'm going to do everything I can with whatever I have to go on to help you."

For some reason, X23 felt a heavy lump form in her throat as her emotions threatened to take hold. It was always so difficult for her, dealing with all these complicated feelings. But whenever she was around this man...Whenever she looked him in the eye...She felt things that she had never felt anywhere else before. She had seen countless battles, witnessed many deaths, and fought many very unsavory people in her life as a soldier, but they all paled in comparison to what she saw in this man. It was like that hole in her heart that had always festered from the day of her creation was actually being mended by this man. And despite all her tough training, she couldn't fight the emotions it brought out in her.

"Family..." she said, finding that word to have so many different connotations, "I...Thank you Logan. Really, I honestly can't tell you how much it means to me."

"Think nothin' of it, kid," said Logan, smiling back at her as he saw her sad eyes gazing back at him, "Now come on, let's try and think of a name. And I know just how to get things going."

"And what might that be?"

"A little session I programmed in the danger room that I like to run on my own whenever I feel stressed beyond my limits," he answered as he led her towards the danger room entrance, "Want to join me?"

Young X23 didn't have to think about that for very long. For some reason, the thought of spending time with this man tearing things to pieces had a great deal of appeal. And even if it didn't help her think of a name, it certainly would help with her overall stress. After all, she was still a soldier and as such, nothing made her feel more alive than the heat of combat.

"Tearing chunks of metal into scrap and risking injuries that would maim a regular human being?" she said, flashing him a wolfish grin that was so much like him that it was almost scary, "Sounds like fun."

The danger room didn't stand a chance now. Logan and X23 were sure to leave quite a mess in their wake with this one. But for the two lost souls who had been down so many of the same painful paths in life, it sure was comforting to actually have someone to share their burden with. And in addition, it was nice to explore this new facet of their lives, for there was no telling where it would lead them next.


Out in the garage, Jean and Wanda waited impatiently for Tabitha to arrive for this so called 'mall crawl' that she so eagerly wanted to take them on. Neither of the two former soldiers knew why it was such a big deal, but if it helped them get out of this confined place with so many death glares around every corner, then it couldn't have been all bad. And now that Xavier had cleared a paper trail for them, they were now able to go out in public without running the risk of arousing any suspicions.

But then again, why would they want to? What was so great about this 'mall' to begin with? And why did it cause so much excitement among some of the girls? Jean and Wanda could only speculate, but near as they could tell, they would find out soon enough.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Jean?" asked Wanda as she casually leaned up against one of the many cars in the garage.

"Not really," answered the young redhead honestly, "It's not like I know any more about this shit than you do. But if this place can help us get some decent clothes, then I guess it can't be all bad."

"I take it Betsy's shit isn't doing it for you," she commented.

"What gave that away?" she said in a sarcastic tone as she once again tried to adjust her bra, which was still so damn uncomfortable, "I swear these clothes are like Columbian torture devices!"

"Yeah, I know. Although Rogue's stuff isn't too bad," she admitted, looking down at her attire which consisted of a green shirt, black denim pants, and her usual pair of heavy duty boots, "It's just a bit loose in some places."

"Well I hope we find something else soon," said Jean, finally giving up on her bra, "Because if we don't, I may just run around naked for a while."

"Yeah, like I'm sure the boys won't love that," said Wanda with a laugh, "I've already noticed a few of them staring at you...Or rather, parts of you."

"Well if they want to keep their eyes in their heads, they'll stop," grunted Jean, "I've had enough leers for one lifetime."

"Yeah, tell me about it."

Just then, Tabitha emerged from the doorway with Kitty and Amara following close behind. Her spirits seemed high as she made her way towards the two former soldiers that had once put much of the institute residents in a world of hurt, but that didn't seem to bother her for some reason. Besides, it just wasn't in her nature to hold a grudge.

But for Kitty and Amara, the thought of going on a mall crawl with these two girls of all people was definitely more disconcerting for them than it was for Tabitha. They were still very weary about them, for they still bore some of the lingering pain of their first assault. And even though many of the external wounds had healed, it was the internal ones that still festered.

"Amara, how did we ever get Tabby to talk us into this?" muttered Kitty under her breath to her Nova Roman friend.

"I have no idea," she responded, not liking this predicament one bit, "But damn, she can be persuasive."

"Yeah, like, tell me about it," said Kitty, rolling her eyes a bit, "Oh the things I do for a mall crawl."

The two girls remained silent as they approached the two older girls who had seen more action on the battlefield than they probably could for their entire lives. They looked as indifferent and stoic as ever, neither showing excitement nor dread. It was probably something that rubbed off of them from Magnum in some ways. After all, they still bore a few of her genes. But they were going to try this out one way or another, hoping that it wouldn't be a total loss in the end.

"Ah there you are," said Tabitha in an overly enthusiastic tone, "I see you managed to convince your friend to come along as well."

"Wasn't like I had anything else to do," shrugged Wanda, finding this younger girl's demeanor to be nothing short of strange.

"Hey, works for me," said Tabby, "Now come on, since I'm officially banned from operating a car, we'll have to take the bus."

"Fuck that!" scoffed Jean as she and Wanda made their way towards one of the nicest cars they could find, "I don't care where the hell we're going, but we're NOT taking the bus."

"Hey, like, what are you doing?!" exclaimed Kitty as she saw them hop into the front seat of a red convertible, one of the most prized cars in the garage.

"What does it look like?" said Wanda in response, "We're getting us a ride."

"Are you two crazy?!" said Amara, her eyes wide at what they were doing, "This is Warren's car! He loves this thing as if it were his kid! We can't take this!"

"Sure we can. Watch me," said Jean with a slight grin as she used her telekinesis to rip out the key slot and flipped a few wires in order to start the motor.

Upon hearing the engine of Warren's coveted car hum with activity, the three girls stood mildly impressed/horrified at what they were doing.

"Wow! How did you do that?" exclaimed Tabitha, who looked way more excited than concerned.

"Please..." scoffed Jean, "If I can hotwire a T-72 Russian tank and disarm a North Korean ballistic missile in mid flight, then I can certainly hot wire some rich guy's car."

"Dude, you have GOT to show me how to do that!" said Tabitha as she jumped into the back seat, simply brimming with excitement.

"Sure...I mean, it's not like it's all that hard," shrugged Wanda as she and Jean buckled up, "It's a machine, they're all the same."

"Nice! I'm already starting to like you girls!" said Tabitha as she then turned to Kitty and Amara, "Come on you two! Let's go! The mall awaits!"

Both Kitty and Amara exchanged worried glances. Somehow, the idea of the ever over the-top Tabitha mingling with the ever volatile soldiers seemed like a mixture for mischief. But as much as they hated to admit it, the thought of a mall crawl in Warren's car on a Saturday afternoon did have its appeal. But if anything, they felt as though they should probably go for the sake of watching over them to make sure that nothing too serious went wrong.

"We are going to be in so much trouble if Warren or the Professor finds out about this," mused Kitty as she and Amara jumped into the back seat.

"Oh you worry too much, Kitty!" scoffed Tabitha, as she grabbed some sunglasses from the glove compartment, "It's sunny, it's Saturday, and we have an entire afternoon to kill at the mall. What could possibly be more worth the risk?"

"You know, Tabitha...I'm beginning to think we could have used someone like you in some of our sabotage missions like that bit we had in China where we had to blow up that depot," said Wanda with a smirk, "Something tells me you would have fit right in."

"Guess I'll have to take your word for it," said Tabitha with a smile as she felt the warm sun bear down on them as the car made it's way down the driveway, "Now onward my female compatriots! The mall awaits us!"

"You got it!" said Jean as she kicked the car into high gear, "Oh...And I'd buckle up if I were you."

And with that final warning, Jean hit the accelerator and sped down the driveway at breakneck speed. Driving a car like this sure was a far cry from driving a humvee through the jungles of South America or the Middle Eastern desert, but for now it would do. And for the three younger girls, they were definitely going to be in for one hell of a ride, for Bayville Mall awaited them and it would certainly be interesting to see how these two former soldiers handled it.


AN: Tabitha, Jean, and Wanda...Now there's a dangerous mix if I've ever heard one! It was only a matter of time before they found someone who would look past all the rough edges. Now both Jean and Wanda are about to come face to face with a new force...The mall! Oh this is going to be fun! Add to that, X23 and Logan seem to be developing a stronger bond. She still doesn't have a name, but hopefully they'll work around that. And things even seem to be getting better with Mystique! Looks like things are finally shaping up, but there's still more to come, so stay tuned! As always, I implore you all to REVIEW! Send them to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish you all the best!

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