Story Blurb: Monet vignette--Just how does one of the most engimatic Generation Xers see her teammates on the most romantic of holidays--one she does not participate in?

Cont Note: Monet here is the twins, Claudia (NOT Claudette! That was a Hamamisspell :P) and Nicole. Penance is a Yugoslavian girl who has NO relation to the twins. AT ALL. Just so you know. The Second Chances arc breaks at Ish #30, and avoids the entire Hamacide.

Rating: G! Totally mild! Nothin'!

Thanks: To Lyssie, who beta'd for me! Luv ya!

On The Outside, Looking In
By Mandy Lever ([email protected])

Part of the Second Chances Arc

On the outside, looking in.

That's what I am. The outsider, the aloof one, the snob.

Usually, I'd follow that up with, 'if only they knew the truth'. But then, Marius decided to tell them I was his 'sister'. And then, I couldn't hold the gestalt, and they found out about my 'component parts'.

And now, they skirt me, avoid me, disdain my company.

Of course, today being the sweetest of romantic holidays would explain some of that behavior. I am, after all, the only unattached young woman here at the Academy. Not that I'd want any of the boys here. I simply don't fathom the attraction.

We'll begin with Jonothon. Moody, irritatingly self-absorbed, and, alas, the lack of mouth and jaw is an impediment to a romantic fixation. I am perfection-would I want less in a potential mate? As for his good points, he does have a wealth of emotion. Pity it's currently wasted on himself, in waves of self-pity and moribund musings.

Then, there's Angelo. Rough around the edges, but beneath a bit of grime, there does lurk the proverbial heart of gold. At least, that's the image he projects at first glance. But I've heard him in the nights, shuffling the halls and haunted by a past he can't forget. It's when he wakes up from the nightmares, soaking his sheets with a cold sweat, that I can 'hear' him the most keenly. He's got such incredible emotions-deeply felt, and well hidden. When I sense his anguish and night terrors. I can almost smell the gunpowder, taste the blood on my lips, feel the weight of my 'hermano' in my arms.

It's a wonder that Jonothon, being his best-excuse me, ex-best friend-never sensed these things. But then, it's a wonder that Jonothon sees beyond his own scarred nose, I think.

Everett, however, is. is sweet and kind and he's got a shy smile that almost never leaves his lips. However, he's got at least one thing in common with the others.

They are all 'taken'.

Each one of those young men is spending Valentine's in delirious debauchery with their girlfriends. well, all but Jono. He's still 'grounded'-much to Gayle's dismay. She's currently pouting in the kitchen, and grumbling about 'being punished when she didn't do anything wrong'. Frost tried to explain to her that maybe this might teach Jono not to fly into jealous rages about his ex-girlfriends, but it didn't seem to sink in.

However, Angelo and Paige left for the riverside for a private evening of their own-maybe reminiscent of their Pacific Island encounter. However, this one won't lead to him being beat senseless.

Everett and Jubilee have equally departed, though they went into Boston for an evening on the town. Dinner and clubbing and enjoying themselves, I imagine. They haven't moved on to the 'adult' pursuits that the others seem to enjoy indulging every spare moment in.

And myself? Here I sit, trying to meditate with my Mentor. The man called 'Gateway' by the others hovers above the river in the biosphere, and I float effortlessly across from him. Doing this outside would be easily just as acceptable-neither he nor I worry much about the elements, regardless that February weather is horrid.

But he knows my focus is not with him, and without word or gesture, he dismisses me. Silently, I soar back to the doors, grab my winter coat-mostly because if Mr. Cassidy saw me out here in my nightclothes, he would assuredly have a conniption-and head back toward the main building.

Once the administration building and housing for the faculty, however, in this 'new class' it has been expanded and opened to us all. This is where we live and play, most evenings. And the full service kitchen-large and well stocked and once only for faculty use-is now for all our needs.

And there sits Gayle, glumly jabbing at her pint of Almond Rocha-

"Is that my Almond Rocha?" The words escape me before I can think it out.

She jumps in her chair, turning her head abruptly, and then shakes her head. "No, it's not." She points at the freezer with her ice-cream covered spoon, and then goes back to her eating. "Not a bloody thief." she mutters.

Not of ice cream, anyway. But I hold my tongue-Jonothon, for all that his opinion is purely emotional and has no basis at all in logical thought, trusts her, and Angelo, whose opinion is rendered equally inert on the same basis, does as well. Even Jubilee and she have grown close, and alas, though I can fault Jubilation in many ways, she has proven to be an excellent judge of character.

But lo and behold, there is second pint of my favorite ice cream in the freezer. "Do you know where the second pint came from?" I query, as I turn around and move to get a spoon, briefly pondering on why she's eating a 'comfort food' when it actually cannot act as such due to her emplate biology. Perhaps things would be better if she would simply accept what she is and will be forever.

"Yeah," she answers after a moment, "Frost. I think it's an apology for telling me I can't see Jono tonight. Though I'm not much of an Almond Rocha fan."

Figures. No taste at all. "I quite enjoy the flavor."

Gayle smiles thinly, a wan attempt at being 'friendly'. But she knows she needn't bother with it. I have no want or desire for her companionship and empathy. She is an emplate. A monster. A made monster, unlike Jonothon with his 'freak complex'. No matter what she's said about Marius' violation of her home and assault on her person-I think she 'walked', as it were, the final steps to her damnation on her own. He may have set her on the path, but she didn't need to follow through.

But this is neither here nor there. She, however, is sitting right before me, and looking as if being without her precious Jonothon is the end of the world. But then, since she came here to be with him (nevermind her words about 'finding a cure') perhaps it is.

She quietly digs back into her ice cream, and I get a spoon and remove the lid from mine. We sit there in silence, the only sound to my keen ears was the scrape of stainless steel against emulsified milk, sugar, and flavoring, and the occasional click of the spoons against our teeth.

Not that this bothered me. I am used to silence. And odd glances. And distrust. After all, people fear what they do not understand-do you think mutants are immune to this? Oh no, they are as guilty as the rest of humanity, for all that so many fight for 'equality' and 'understanding'. This is perhaps why I cannot and do not believe in Xavier's dream. There cannot be 'true' equality between Humanity and it's 'Child' race of Homo Superior-for I refuse to limit my gifts because someone, somewhere, is insecure in their own abilities. This is my birthright, both as a St. Croix and as a Mutant.

The most disturbing part about this, however, is the other mutant on the campus that sees things as I do-is Ms. Frost. However, with her gifts she has built herself an empire of white marble, fashioned herself a throne for a modern 'White Queen', and is still using these practices. However, she lets Xavier and his X-Men believe he's managed to blunt her claws and cap her fangs.

Hardly the case, but it's the belief the man run's off of, so this is no surprise.

Finally, Gayle's spoon creates a hollow clatter against the pint as she drops it, and looks impatiently toward the window-and unerringly to the boys' dorm.

"If you're that impatient, you could simply go see him, regardless of Ms. Frost's words on the matter," I finally offer, getting impatient myself watching her fidget. Am I the only person capable of calm here?

"No," she says with a wistful sigh that makes me want to grit my teeth, "Frost's right."

What was that? Did she just agree with our esteemed headmistress? "Oh?"

"Well, yeah. He was a total idiot. Angelo did nothing to deserve a beating. He won't learn to not be an idiot if what he does has no repercussions."

"And yet you took him back? Forgave him yourself?"

"I love him."

Oh, if I could only believe that it was love and not either hormonal impulses or desperation from the first stages of madness the emplating can inflict, I might be inclined to believe her. She says those three little words in so many ways-I do have to admit she's a woman with a wealth of emotion and passion. Incensed, she's cried them. Impassioned, she's cooed them. Heart broken, she's whispered them. She's turned that simple little over used phrase into everything from 'I want to have sex', to 'please don't leave me alone' to 'You're not the monster-I am.'

But this could be my cynical ('Boys are ucky' -as Jonothon would put it) nature. Or perhaps that's the nature of the beast-truly unfathomable for the likes of me.

The likes of 'us', rather. But that's neither here nor there. We are what I am, and so that is that.

And no one here is going to change that fact.

She notes my silence, and glances away. No, Gayle, I am not going to honor your statement of love and affection, even on the 'celebration' of all things passionate and carnally driven. I barely honor your existence as it is.

She gets the hint and rises. The ice cream carton hit the garbage can and the spoon is rinsed and put in the dishwasher, and then she glances back at me. "Cheers," she mumbles, and slinks away. To where, I have no care.

I finish my ice cream alone, and then look down at the half-empty pint. The lid is replaced and I return it to the freezer.

Just another evening at the Academy. Nothing special-at least, not to me.