Shatterstar had stayed in his room all morning. Peter managed to get a good chunk of his work done before he saw a telltale flash of red outside. Muttering to himself, he headed into the backyard.
The girls were lined up along the short retaining wall, watching Shatterstar go through fighting drills. Red hair and silver swords flashed, the whole thing much more dramatic than it needed to be.
Shatterstar had stripped down to his briefs.
"Man can move, I gotta say," Alison laughed. "I mean, I go more for the dark types myself, but damn. Imagine what that boy could do in bed."
Ororo laughed. "Al, that's awful."
Peter leaned on the wall beside Ororo. "Has anyone told him we have a training room?"
She snorted. "And ruin this? Are you out of your mind?"
He looked around. Even Jean was there.
"I can't believe you people," he muttered.
Oh, right, because you're leaping in there and stopping him.
He glared at Jean. She smiled. He looked around. He was the only man outside. "Maybe I should stop him," he said, standing and starting to climb over the wall.
"No, nonononono," Ororo said, grabbing his shoulder. On his other side, Kitty had grabbed hold of his shirt.
"You don't want to ruin his fun," Alison said, leaning around Storm.
Peter sighed. "Very well. I'll let him keep going. Just this once." So he sat there with the girls, waiting for Shatterstar to be done. Eventually, the young man turned to them all and bowed.
The girls clapped. Peter sighed and hung his head.
By the time Shatterstar--sweaty and smelling--walked up to him, the others had gone back to whatever they were supposed to be doing. Peter looked up. The young man was strutting. And looked incredibly smug.
"What are you so pleased about?" Peter asked.
"I am still attractive. Even though that little pacifist--" he said it the same way someone else might say "pedophile” "--called me stubby."
"Well, she thinks you're beautiful," Peter said.
"She called me stubby."
"She didn't mean you were short."
Shatterstar glared at him. Peter shrugged. "You should put on some clothes."
"I am wearing--"
"Underwear. So called because they are supposed to go under your clothes."
Shatterstar sighed, but this time didn't argue. He picked up a pair of sweatpants that were obviously Angel’s--no one else had designer sweatpants--and shoved his feet into them. "These are not very attractive."
"But you can move in them?" Peter guessed. Shatterstar just nodded. "We'll see if we can get you something else. In the meantime, why don't you go shower?"
Shatterstar sniffed himself. "Ah. My scent is not attractive."
"Not in the least," Peter agreed. In fact, Shatterstar stank. Peter didn't know if it was mutant genes, or not having a shower for years, or what it might be--but the man had a stronger scent than anyone he'd met.
"Shatterstar!" Bobby called out of an upstairs window.
Shatterstar looked up.
"Have you always had that eye thing?"
Shatterstar just looked at him. Peter looked at Shatterstar, then up at Bobby. "The silver eyes or the star?"
"He has silver eyes? Aw, man." Bobby turned to look at whoever was inside. "That's not him."
"What is he doing?" Shatterstar asked quietly.
"They're trying to find your family. They broke up into groups, and whoever figures it out first wins."
Shatterstar shrugged. "I have no family."
"You must have some sort of past," Peter said, walking into the mansion.
Shatterstar just shrugged again. "I am going to go change."
"Where's Shatterstar?" Alison asked when Peter walked into the room. "Isn't he like, a fixture around you now?"
Peter glared at her. "He's with the professor and Jean. They're trying to identify his mutant powers." He collapsed into a chair beside her. "He is one of the most arrogant people I have ever met."
Alison laughed and rifled her fingers through his hair. "Aw, poor Peter. Tired of your playmate?"
"How about I take him off your hands for awhile?"
Peter eyed her. "What's in it for you?" he asked finally.
"A shopping trip." She smiled.
Peter shrugged. "If the professor agrees with it . . ."
"I'll talk to him. Shatterstar's been saying he doesn't like his clothes, anyway."
Peter just shook his head. "Like I said. Arrogant."
"The professor," Shatterstar announced, entering the room, "said I am attractive."
Peter let his head thump back against the chair.
"He also said that you just said I wasn't attractive because you were annoyed with me."
A head appeared in front of Peter's. Shatterstar, leaning over his chair. Hair spilled into his lap. "Everyone thinks I am attractive," Shatterstar said smugly.
"Scott doesn't," Peter countered.
"Of course Scott does."
"No. He doesn't. I asked him." That was a lie. He just couldn’t help himself.
Shatterstar frowned. "Of course he thinks I'm attractive. Everyone thinks I am attractive. Except the fans that hated me, and Scott doesn’t hate me."
"But he still doesn't think you're attractive."
Shatterstar seemed to think about that.
"I think you're hot," Alison said. "Even if you do have freakishly orange hair."
Shatterstar looked at her and smiled. "I know."
Peter snickered as Alison's eyebrows rose. "He's very modest, too," Peter said.
"So I'm noticing . . ."
"I am not modest," Shatterstar corrected him. "I do not need to be modest, because it is not true. Everyone wants to 'do me.’ That is the truth. I used to get fanmail all the time from both men and women who wanted to 'do me.’ I even got one from a person who said they were an alien." He looked thoughtful. "Of course, now that I know what 'do me’ means, I'm not so sure about it . . ."
"Please tell me you're going to take him shopping," Peter said.
Alison just nodded.
It had taken some major convincing to get the professor to let them go. It had taken more convincing to get Shatterstar to leave his swords. They finally compromised: he took them, but left them in the car.
Peter actually got real work done, which was a relief. None of the other new students had been nearly as much of a pain.
"I should have just broken out of Mojoworld on my own," Peter grumbled to himself. "It would have been easier."
He spent the next hour reading. It was blissful. It was quiet. There were no naked teens wandering around, declaring themselves God's gift to men and women. There were no annoying questions.
He cringed. Yes, Professor?
Shatterstar's at the hospital. If you and Jean would . . .
Peter was already standing, setting his book aside. At the hospital? This couldn't be good.
By the time they got there, Jean had been telepathically filled in, and then filled Peter in, on what had happened.
They'd been in a holdup. Alison had said, "Them you can fight!" and Shatterstar had taken it from there. He'd stopped the robbery, but not before he was shot. Through the heart.
"We know he has a healing factor," Jean said as they jumped from the car and raced toward the hospital, "But how good is it?"
"Nowhere near as good as Logan's," Peter returned. "But I saw him heal a broken neck. It just took a while."
Jean nodded. They walked into the hospital, past the security--who didn't notice they were there--and into the ICU.
There were doctors and nurses moving quickly in green and white, passing silver objects covered in blood.
"We're still getting a heartbeat," one of the nurses said.
"But I’m looking at his heart!" the doctor shouted. "It's not moving!"
Jean frowned. Everyone in the room froze. Silence fell, broken only by sounds coming from the corridor, muffled, and the steady beep-beep of a heart monitor. Jean walked to Shatterstar.
Peter followed, at a distance.
"Peter, take over the respirator," Jean said suddenly.
Peter hurried to the side of the bed, taking the pump from a nurse and squeezing. Shatterstar's chest lifted and fell with the rhythm Peter set.
"Lots of blood," Jean murmured. She glanced up, at the blood-drip they had going, then pulled on gloves, eyes suddenly vacant. Peter guessed she was looking for someone with mutant medical knowledge. "Not breathing," she said softly, "heart's stopped. Monitor says it's still going . . ." She put hands on his chest, doing little more than lining up broken arteries and letting them knit. "Heart's not beating." Her eyes narrowed. "I'm getting a pulse. But his heart's not beating."
Then, suddenly, the muscle jumped. The heart monitor beeped twice, then continued with a steady four-beat tempo.
Jean looked at Peter. Peter looked at Jean.
"That's just weird," Jean said.
"Let's get him out of here. I think he'll heal on his own."
"The bullet?" Peter asked.
Jean looked around, then picked it up off a tray. "The doctors got it. Let's go."
Peter pulled the oxygen mask away slowly. Shatterstar continued to breathe. Carefully, he shifted the young man to a gurney and they wheeled him out. It was only once they were out of the room that Jean let go of the doctors' minds.
"Come on," he heard Jean say as they walked through the waiting room unmolested. Alison and Kitty, the two who had taken Shatterstar shopping, followed meekly.
"We're really sorry," Kitty said. "We couldn’t stop the paramedics from taking him."
"Don't worry about it," Jean said. They got to the car, and Peter carefully picked the limp body up and laid it across the backseat. "Bring the other car home?"
Alison nodded. Then they got in and drove back toward the mansion.
By the time they got there, Shatterstar was conscious. And raving about his swords.
"If I'd had them," he declared, "I wouldn’t have been shot!"
"Your swords can't deflect bullets," Peter said.
"Of course they can."
Peter sighed and opened the door for Shatterstar, catching the younger man when he nearly fell.
"I can walk," Shatterstar muttered.
"No you can't. You were just shot in the chest. You stopped breathing. You just now nearly collapsed."
Shatterstar sniffed. "Minor inconveniences."
Jean rolled her eyes. Peter was just glad to see that someone felt the same way he did about Shatterstar.
"Let's get him to the med bay," she said. "The professor wants to check out that double heartbeat."
Shatterstar started to lag. "Med bay?"
"Come on," Peter muttered, pulling him along.
"Wait--med bay? I don't want to go to the med bay."
Peter frowned. "Why not?"
"I have heard about med bays from television. That is where people die."
Peter sighed. "It's not where people die. It's where they go when they get sick. Sometimes, yes, they die. But you're not going to."
"You're sure?" Shatterstar asked, worry lines between his eyebrows.
Slowly, Shatterstar started to walk again.
Jean and the professor had him running tests for the next two days.
"It's official," Jean said at breakfast several mornings later. "On top of a healing factor and a wacky using-metal-to-focus-sound-into-energy thing, he's got two hearts."
"Two hearts?" Kitty said.
"And two circulatory systems."
“Is that even possible?”
”Apparently it is if you’re Shatterstar.”
The door opened and Shatterstar walked in, got a banana, and walked back out.
"Was he wearing a skirt?" Kitty asked slowly.
"Yes," Peter answered, staring hard at his cereal.
"My skirt," Alison said, standing. She pounded through the kitchen door, and in the hall Peter heard, "That's my skirt!"
"It was with the things we bought for me. It is my skirt. Besides, it's very comfortable to move in."
"I thought the professor fixed his clothing issues," Kitty said.
Jean sighed. "He explained the clothing issues. He can't just re-wire Shatterstar's brain."
"He did it with Magneto," Peter muttered.
"Yeah, and look how well that turned out."
Peter ate his cereal.
"Found him!" Scott said, slapping a faded edition of The National Enquirer down on the table.
Shatterstar looked up. "Who?"
"You." Scott grinned and pointed at the headline. "'Woman's twins are abducted by aliens. Alien baby put into her womb in their place.'"
Shatterstar eyed the picture of a hysterical woman. "I'm an alien?"
"No, 'Star," Peter said, scanning the article. "This is surprisingly well researched."
"I know." Scott grinned. "Shatty, your real name is Benjamin Gaveedra Russell--"
"Gaveedra?" Peter asked doubtfully.
"Ga-veeeeee-dra," Shatterstar said.
"--you're seventeen years old, you've always had that star thing--" Scott pointed to his eye, "--and you were born in San Francisco."
"That explains 'Gaveedra,'" Peter snorted.
"Congratulations, Ben," Scott said.
Shatterstar frowned. He shifted his swords, sitting next to him on the carpet, and frowned harder. "I do not like the name 'Ben.' I like Gaveedra." He smiled, apparently settled. "That is what you may call me. Gaveedra, or my real name."
Peter looked at him, confused. So did Scott. "Ben?" Scott said after a minute.
Gaveedra looked annoyed. "No. Shatterstar."
"But your real name is 'Benjamin,'" Scott pointed out.
Shatterstar looked at him the same way he might look at mucus.
"Right. I'm just gonna take this to the professor," Scott said after a minute.
Peter eyed Shatterstar. "I'm not calling you Gaveedra," he said finally.
Shatterstar shrugged. "Then continue to call me Shatterstar."
Peter nodded. Even that was preferable to Gaveedra. His parents must have really hated him.
Peter, could you come to my office?
He set down his book and stood, stretching. A glance outside told him Shatterstar was still 'practicing.' The girls were still watching, too. Peter shook his head and headed toward the professor's office. The door was open, and Scott was inside.
"Sir?" he asked, poking his head in.
"We've located Shatterstar's family," the professor said. "I was hoping you might accompany me to go see them."
Peter glanced at Scott. "Me? Why me?"
"You know Shatterstar the best. We thought you might be able to talk to them about their son."
It occurred to him that if he knew Shatterstar the best, it was pretty pathetic how little anyone knew him.
I agree, but he's not exactly opening up to people, the professor sent.
Other than to tell everyone how attractive he was, Peter had to add. "Of course I'll go," he said out loud.
Two hours later they were sitting outside a little country home.
"This is nowhere near San Francisco," Peter muttered, getting out of the car and opening the trunk.
After Benjamin's mother got married, she moved here with her husband. His trucking company is based in the city nearby.
He doesn't want to be called Benjamin, Peter thought back. He pulled the travel wheelchair out of the trunk, opening it and setting the braces.
Yes, but 'Shatterstar' might be a little much for them. There was a smile in the sending.
Peter brought the wheelchair around to the passenger door, helping Xavier into it.
He had to lift it up the porch steps, carefully and in human form. They knocked at the door and waited.
You're sure they’re here? Peter asked.
His mother is.
Does his father live nearby?
His father is married to his mother. They just weren’t married when Benjamin was born. Right now, he’s at work.
Peter nodded, even though the professor was in front of him and couldn't see it.
The door opened, an older woman with long hair--brown, not red--standing behind it. She was wearing a baggy dress, and a long string of beads. "Can I help you?"
"My name is Charles Xavier," the professor said, smiling. "This is my student, Peter."
"Student? Are you a teacher? I really don't have any money to donate--"
"No, no," the professor said quickly. "I'm not here for donations. I'm here about your son."
Her smile faltered. "I'm sorry. I don't have a son. I have two daughters--"
"Your son, Benjamin Gaveedra Russell?"
She froze. "I'm sorry," she said again. "You must have the wrong house." She started to close the door.
Peter stepped forward, stopping it. He flinched when he saw the moment of fear in her eyes, but it was quickly replaced by anger.
"Let go of my door, young man," she said firmly.
"Ma'am, please," the professor said quietly. "We know where he is."
Her gaze--very blue and very hard--switched to Xavier. "I don't want to know where he is," she hissed.
Xavier held out a piece of paper, and Peter caught sight of a picture printed from a digital camera. Shatterstar was watching television, looking decidedly normal. Or, at least, more normal than he usually did.
The woman didn't take it.
"Your son has been badly hurt. He is with us, now. In Westchester, New York. The address is there. If you decide you feel differently, please tell us." Let's go.
Peter backed away from the door, took the handles of the wheelchair, and started backing carefully down the porch stairs.
"Wait--" she said.
"He's seventeen. He's still underage. What do you want? You want money? I don't have money. The money that freak paid us for him is gone."
Xavier went very still. Peter realized he was holding his breath, and released it.
"You took money in exchange for your son?" the professor asked quietly.
"Wasn't my son," the woman said. "It was an alien or something. People don't have two hearts."
"He is a mutant," Xavier corrected.
She stared right at him. "Same thing."
For a long moment, the professor just looked at her. Then he said, "Give me the picture."
She walked forward, handing it back.
"We were never here."
She blinked. Frowned. Rubbed the bridge of her nose. Looked at them--and past them. "Weird," she muttered, turning and walking back into the house. "Could'a sworn--"
Peter took another deep breath. The skin between his shoulder blades itched.
"I'm sorry you had to see that," the professor said quietly. "I know it makes you uncomfortable."
Peter just backed the rest of the way down the stairs and pushed the wheelchair back to the car.
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