As she rushed into the hangar bay with her hands full of medical supplies, Cecilia felt like she had just entered a war zone. Wolverine stood near the main door of the recently reacquired Blackbird, barking quick orders. Storm stood by his side, surveying the melee of scattered equipment and frayed tempers with a regal air as she held her arm tightly against her side. So there was the broken wrist. She didn't seem to be in too much pain, which meant she could wait. Cecilia eyed the rest of the X-Men as they unloaded equipment off of the cargo hold of the high-tech plane, quickly doing her best to diagnose their wounds. Marrow, Maggott, Rogue, Joseph, Cannonball: a little battered but nothing serious. Only two were unaccounted for... Hank and Bobby. She did the math and realized that one of them had to have the chest wound Wolverine mentioned. She took a deep breath as she approached Storm and Wolverine. She had to keep her wits about her.
"Just another day on the job," she said quietly to herself. "Just like triage at O-MOM. Piece of cake, chica."
As she looked to Logan, he narrowed his eyes at her and nodded his head in the direction of Blackbird's rear cabin. "He's in there."
Cecilia simply nodded as she clutched a medkit tightly in her hands and scaled the ramp to the plane's interior. Before she even had a chance to assess the situation, she heard Hank's warm baritone say in a singsong tone, "And here's the good doctor now. I could use your help, Cecilia. It seems our patient is a little crotchety."
As he turned to face her, he stepped away from a small gurney, revealing Bobby reclining awkwardly, still in ice form. Cecilia couldn't help but gasp and she dropped her kit to the metal floor with a loud clatter.
"Yeah, well. Having to look at your ugly mug for the last hour isn't doing any wonders for my disposition, Blue."
She stared at the both of them, mouth still agape as she sized up the situation. Much of the left side of Bobby's chest was shattered and singed from a plasma rifle blast and from the looks of it, he was having trouble holding his ice form as a small amount of water pooled around the wheels of the gurney. She shook her head as Bobby and Hank continued their banter. Regardless of the jovial mood inside the Blackbird, this was a serious situation. She needed to get Bobby to the infirmary fast.
Kicking her medkit out of the way of the gurney's wheels, she said gruffly, "Hank, let's move it."
Hank grinned, exposing a full set of white teeth as he said cheerfully, "Yes, ma'am!"
If it wasn't for the seriousness of Bobby's condition and the fact that once again she felt completely out of her element (ice manipulating mutant physiology not being a part of her course-load in medical school, even if it *were* offered), she would have given Hank a rather large piece of her mind. But as she fumed to herself and helped Beast load Iceman into the emergency medical lift, she knew it was just his way. To Hank McCoy, laughter was the best medicine. And Bobby was, well... he was Bobby. Hank's best friend, class clown. Who was she to question Hank's methods? No one, she thought to herself. 'Face it chica, you just stepped hip deep into a strange new world. It's time you learned how to swim.'
She looked down at Bobby who had turned his head toward Cecilia and shut his eyes while he quietly hummed a made-up tune to himself. Then and only then, when Bobby wasn't paying attention did Hank's face show any signs of concern as he reached a furry hand down to rest on the gurney. She watched him as Bobby stirred, his expression once again jolly and bright and he began to hum with his friend, this time the theme to a cartoon she knew they both liked to watch together when they had the time. As she made eye contact with Hank, she began to wonder if the entire metamorphosis was simply a trick of the florescent lighting in the cramped lift or simply a figment of her imagination. He was good. Too good. She knew he had played this emotional ballet many, many times.
Once they were in the infirmary, they placed Bobby on a surgical table while Hank mumbled something about missing his Shi'ar equipment. If only she had a nickel for every time she heard Hank or one of the other X-Men wish for one of their former luxuries... but in this situation, she couldn't help but agree. She didn't have the first idea how to treat this injury. Technical resources could only be an asset.
She followed Hank into his office and asked in a whisper, "So what do we do? From the looks of his injuries if he reverted back to flesh and bone, he'd be missing half his lung and most of his heart."
Hank stroked his chin as he paced a small circle in the tiny office. "He's been through an injury like this before. As a matter of fact, it was only about a year ago."
Cecilia raised an eyebrow. "Madre de Dios... And what did you do then?"
Beast tilted his head and looked at Cecilia, his eyes betraying his concern. "Nothing. He healed himself."
Folding her arms over her chest, she pursed her lips and then said, "I didn't know he could do that."
"We have been working diligently to replace the team's medical records from scratch. I believe we hadn't gotten to that portion of his history yet. And frankly, we're not exactly sure of the limits of Bobby's powers. It is my belief that he could reconstitute himself from water vapor if he had to. He simply never knows what he can do until the need arises." Hank then whispered, "I think he is afraid to find out how much power he has, afraid that he will lose his human form forever. Perhaps even afraid of losing himself."
Cecilia furrowed her brow as she whispered, her exasperation unmasked by her hushed tones. "So it's all in his head? He's doing this to himself? All this production for something that could be as easy as flexing a muscle."
Hank fiddled with a pair of glasses on his desk before putting them on. "I would put it a bit more delicately, Cecilia. But essentially, yes."
Releasing a sigh, she said, "And basically he wants us here in case he can't do it?"
"This is ridiculous. A man could essentially kill himself with a case of insecurity?" She dropped her head as she weighed the options and decided she didn't like the odds. Then, she looked up at Hank as she continued, "What made him get over his 'fear' the first time?"
A broad grin spread across his face as he said, "Emma Frost bullied him into it."
Cecilia rubbed her hands together as the logic of the scenario finally fell into place and said, "Sounds like a woman after my own heart. Now bullying the ice cube is a much better scenario than putting him in an iron lung."
"Indeed it is. And I think I know the perfect person for the job."
She grinned. "Si. Then let's do it."
When they returned to the surgical bay of the infirmary, they found Bobby struggling to sit upright. As Cecilia watched him, she couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy deep inside. She knew the expression on his face, could sense the churning conflict of determination, fear and paralysis. And for a brief moment, she realized that perhaps she and Bobby weren't as different as she had thought. As he stared through her with pupil-less, unblinking eyes she steeled herself for the role she needed to take, allowing Hank to rush to his side. If they were going to play this game, she had to be the bad cop to Hank's good cop.
As she approached them, her posture calm and a little aloof, she heard Bobby muttering to Hank, his words laced with anxiety, "I... I can't do it, Hank. I just can't."
Hank placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Of course you can, Bobby. It will be as easy as the proverbial walk in the park. And we will be right by your side. Am I correct, Cecilia?"
Leveling a cool stare at the two of them as she pulled on a pair of latex gloves, Cecilia said, "Of course."
Bobby then looked at Cecilia as he stammered, "But... but what if I can't? How bad will... it be? You guys can fix me up, right?"
Turning her focus to a tray of surgical instruments, Cecilia said nonchalantly, "Maybe. Frankly, the odds don't look like they're in your favor."
She heard Bobby gasp as Hank said politely, "Now, Cecilia. Don't scare him like that. I cannot fathom what passed as polite bedside manner at Our Mother of Mercy, but I hardly think this is appropriate."
Picking up a scalpel, she turned her wrist to examine it, watching the metal glint in the bright lights of the surgical bay. "Just being honest."
She then felt a cold grip on her arm as Bobby begged quietly, "Please, Cecilia. Help me."
Narrowing her eyes, she placed the instrument back in its place and turned to face Bobby. "You've got to help yourself, Drake. So skip all the melodrama and do it. You know you can, stop fooling yourself."
Expression aghast, Bobby said meekly, "But..."
Planting her hands on her hips, she said sharply, "But what? Just do it, already!"
Bobby merely looked at her in disbelief and she released a heavy sigh before she said angrily, "Do you want to die, Drake?"
His expression completely blank, Bobby stared at her in silence.
She leaned in closer to him, her breath frosty from the chilled air surrounding her patient. "I asked you... do you want to die?"
She jabbed a finger into his good shoulder and said loudly, "Well, do you?!"
Bobby whispered, "No."
"What was that? I couldn't hear you."
Flashing an almost angry expression at her, Bobby said forcefully before retreating back into his insecurities, "No. I don't want to die. It's just that..."
Cecilia folded her arms over her chest. "I don't want to hear any piddly excuses, Drake. You do it and you do it now!"
Eyes wide, Cecilia's voice rose a few decibels as she bellowed, "No, dammit! Now!"
Shaking his head, Bobby said, "Okay. I'll try."
"Try? No, you'll damn well do it!"
Bobby narrowed his eyes at Cecilia and then pushed Hank away from him as the floor began to ice under their feet. She couldn't help but shiver as the room's temperature dropped dramatically and Iceman clenched his fists, filling in the gap in his chest and almost instantaneously reverting to his human form as a loud groan escaped his lips. When he was finished, he sat on the table in his torn uniform and glared at Cecilia with a smirk on his face.
"There. You satisfied?"
She couldn't help but smile back. "Si."
Patting him on the back, Hank beamed, "I knew you could, my fine, frozen friend."
Bobby coughed. "Always the optimist, right?"
"Indubitably. One of us has to be."
Before Iceman could offer another witty retort, his eyes rolled back into their sockets and he collapsed into Hank. Though he was still conscious, it was obvious he was barely coherent and Cecilia rushed to his side as she declared, "Dios, he's going into shock!"
Beast prepared a saline drip as she took his blood pressure, which was well below normal. Cecilia cut away the remaining top of his uniform and Hank examined where the wound had healed. He looked at her over his glasses as he said calmly, "There does not appear to be any internal bleeding. I believe he is simply massively dehydrated."
Cecilia nodded. "Understandable considering how his powers work."
Bobby convulsed once on the table and then turned his head, emptying the contents of his stomach on the floor by Cecilia's feet. She and Hank exchanged a grimace as she placed a bedpan near his face and Bobby whimpered something that might have been an apology.
Cecilia then retrieved a few heavy blankets and they moved Bobby to a recovery bed as Hank said, "He's still fairly coherent. I think the fluids will do the trick. I'll stay with him and keep him conscious while you treat the rest of the team."
She heard the doors of the infirmary swish open as Cannonball walked in with a limp, favoring his right leg, and Maggott followed close behind, his girls on his heels while he supported a bruised arm. Cecilia breathed a sigh as she prepared for her next, far less dramatic patients. "Sure thing."
Before she left to start her work, Hank said quietly, "And Cecilia?"
She turned to look at him as he propped a few pillows behind Bobby's head. "You did very well."
She smiled and lowered her head. "Gracias, Hank. Thanks a lot."
Later as Cecilia sat in the infirmary office scribbling notes onto the records of the injured X-Men, a weary Beast flopped in the chair across the desk from her. She raised an eyebrow. Hank was hardly one to flop. So she asked while noting Ororo's fractured ulna and chipped carpal bones, "That bad, huh?"
Hank removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "It has indeed been a harrowing day."
Cecilia put down her pen. "How's Drake?"
"Better. It was only a mild case of shock. I believe healing himself in such a manner might have been a tad too much for his brain to process for a few moments there."
She nodded. "I can see why."
Hank smiled. "We X-Men are an extraordinary lot, are we not?"
Shaking her head slowly, Cecilia said as she reclined slightly in her chair, "Si, I think you could say that. I'll tell you, working in the barrio I saw all kinds of weird things... but nothing like what I've seen in my last few months with you X-types."
Picking up a pen from the desk and twirling it expertly between his fingers, a nervous habit Cecilia had noticed in him over the last month, Hank asked, "So how were things with the rest of the team? Anything of note?"
"Bruises and cuts mostly. I had to put Storm in a cast. I don't imagine she'll be too happy about that."
Hank grinned. "She has survived worse."
"I bet she has." Cecilia paused for a moment and then asked abruptly, "So what did you guys run into today?"
"Well, it seems Wolverine's hunch about the isolated installation paid off. We were able to learn much from their databases and a few of the men questioned... though these Sentinels are hardly forthcoming with information. Apparently Bastion had certain countermeasures programmed into them in the case of capture."
Cecilia didn't want to know the details about the captured Sentinels and was happy that Hank dropped the subject. She had been curious about the mission since the X-Men's return and until now no one had the time to fill her in. Or maybe they just thought she didn't care to know. It seemed to her she was starting to be viewed as a sort of transient by members of the house. Since Cyclops's initial offer, no one had mentioned her becoming a member of the team, even after her failed attempt to reassume her previous life at O-MOM. And for some reason, especially after Maggott's initiation, her "outsider" status was beginning to nag at her. As Hank's description of the technology inside the Zero Tolerance base rattled to a stop, Cecilia asked, "So are you any closer to finding Xavier?"
His expression growing pensive as his head drooped a little, Hank answered, "We happened upon a few more clues to his whereabouts. But nothing tangible at the moment, no."
While she had only met the man on one occasion, she knew how much his recovery meant to the X-Men as well as the underground movement. There was no way to know what state they would find him in, though Phoenix had been able to confirm that he was still alive. That gave them hope and sometimes hope could mean everything in the world. Cecilia pursed her lips and then said quietly, "I see."
The two sat in silence for a few seconds as the hands of the clock on the wall ticked in a monotonous rhythm. Finally Hank stirred and said a little more enthusiastically, "We were able to recover some stolen databases and files. We are hopeful that Bastion's men were not able to crack the Shi'ar code. It would be detrimental to the underground if they did."
Cecilia furrowed her brow as she asked, "Why? What files were they?"
"Data obtained from Cerebro on known mutants as well as log entries on some of the prospective students Xavier had interviewed over time. There are large holes in the information as we always thought it would not be safe to keep such logs in one central location."
Swallowing hard, her throat suddenly dry, she asked, "He kept records of all the mutants he interviewed?"
Beast nodded. "Yes. In the event an organization like Bastion's decided to go on the offensive against the whole of Mutantkind. It is how Bobby knew to find you. Many of the members of the X-Men as well as a few persons outside of the team were appointed to protect certain mutants should the case arise. It was all very covert. No one really knew who was responsible for who or much more than the mutant's location and name. Xavier thought it was best that way. It would save the organization as a whole if a single member were apprehended."
Cecilia's heart throbbed in her ears as she asked, "So only Xavier had access to the more... personal accounts?"
Hank nodded and then the two sat in silence again as Cecilia's panic began to fade. For a brief moment she was afraid that the whole mansion knew all about how she rejected Xavier so brutally years before, about the real cause of her brother's death. She wasn't ready for anyone, much less a house full of accidental friends to know about Enrique. She didn't need the pity. And her reaction to Xavier's offer was even worse. They would never let her live that down. When he had approached her at the age of sixteen, she had called their beloved Xavier a freak, she had said that she didn't want to become any more of a monster than she already was. She shuddered at the recollection and wished she had focused her raw and bitter anger a tad more constructively.
As she stared absently at the empty bulletin board that hung just above Hank's shoulder, he said quietly, "I believe Logan and Ororo are going to begin the decryption process later today. I can ask them to inform you if they find your records."
Cecilia released a deep breath as she made eye contact with Hank, never realizing she had been holding it. "Would you mind?"
Standing, Hank straightened his large, white lab coat and said, "No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I'll breach the subject with them right now." He looked at his watch. "I am scheduled to meet with them for a debriefing, actually."
She watched him walk toward the office door as she stopped him and asked, "Hank?"
"Would you please ask them not to open them?"
Narrowing his gaze at her, he was obviously a little curious but not so much so to press the matter. He then simply nodded before he departed, indicating he would value her privacy and request the team leaders to as well. She was sure it was a breach of security, but she hoped she had gained their trust enough by now to be granted a little leeway.
She leaned back in the squeaky desk chair as her stomach rumbled and she realized she hadn't eaten all day. She glanced at the clock. Nearly six hours had passed since stumbled into the woods on the campus grounds. She hung her lab coat on a peg on the wall and walked out of the office, intending on finding something edible in what passed as the X-Men's pantry. Just as she was about to exit the infirmary, she heard Bobby's voice call her name. Weak, but still sure. She could tell before she even got to his bed that he was feeling better.
Cecilia stood by his bedside and looked down at him as he shifted in his bed, wearing a pair of surgical scrubs instead of the standard patient's gown. It seems Hank was showing his best friend a little favoritism. "Que pasa, Drake?"
Bobby ran a finger down a crease on his sheets as he said somewhat timidly, "I just wanted to apologize."
Cecilia smiled. "For what? Being a pain the ass or for losing your lunch on my shoes?"
He couldn't help but laugh. "Um, both I guess."
"It's no problem. I'm just glad you're okay."
He sighed and reclined back on his pillow. "So am I."
Sitting on the edge of his bed, she folded her arms over her chest and stared at him while he tried his best to avoid her gaze. Finally, she asked, "Can you answer one question for me?"
"I can try."
"Is it worth it? All the stuff you guys go through?"
Bobby pursed his lips and finally met her gaze before he sat up and said, "Yes. One hundred percent. I know it probably sounds weird coming from me... but any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for."
Cecilia smirked as she got to her feet. "You know, that sounds almost poetic."
Relaxing once again on the pillows behind him, Bobby said as he waved his hand, "Eh. I think I heard that in a movie somewhere."
They both chuckled and then Cecilia said, "Well, I'm off to the kitchen. You get some rest."
As she turned to leave, Bobby said, "Oh and Cece?"
"Thanks a lot."
Smiling as she left the infirmary, she said over her shoulder, "You're welcome, Bobby."
Continued in Part 4.