After five-and-three-quarter years of getting up before dawn to trek into Manhattan to go to school, Alex was used to waking up tired. You can doze on the subway, but that doesn't make up for the lack of sleep.
After two-plus years of membership in the Friends of Humanity, Alex was used to waking up sore. Sometimes there's more physical activity at a rally than just giving speeches.
Neither set of experiences prepared Alex for when he slowly regained consciousness. Groggy and aching, the blissful darkness faded to light and the all-consuming silence gave way to a sterile quiet.
Alex's first thought was one of confusion. An attempt to roll over met with resistance - lambskin padded resistance to be sure, but even only half-conscious, Alex knew he wasn't going anywhere. That realization quickly begat another and full alertness came quickly on its heels.
Eyes wide open despite the fluorescent brightness, Alex reveled in the sharpness of the pain and blinked away the tears meant to soothe. The burning in his eyes was a welcome contrast to the dull ache that encompassed him. It was almost (but not enough) to distract him from the burning in his soul.
There was a clock on the wall. Five to four in the morning. Alex laughed bitterly, an aborted sound that made his chest ache even more. Twenty-three hours ago, he had woken up to go to school. There had been no warning that that had been his last morning as a normal high school kid (as normal as any kid in his geek school was). No warning that it had been his last morning as a human being.
Self-loathing usually was a matter of an individual coming to hate what he was. But what happened when you suddenly became that which you hate?
The tears came again, but they weren't there as balm to hurting eyes. And they couldn't calm a wounded heart. Alex felt like his world had crumbled beneath him. It had crumbled beneath him.
There were very few unchangeables in Alex Summers's life. In sixteen years, he had had to change parents, change homes, change siblings, change schools, change identities, change lives. The Friends of Humanity were all about fighting change.
He had gone from being secure in his place in his family to the tenuous role of rent-a-kid. There was nothing tenuous about his membership in the Friends of Humanity.
After all, what were the odds that he'd suddenly stop being human?
Alex craned his neck and looked around. Behind him, he could see another bed. If he arched even further, he could see... Scott. Lying on his back, looking uncomfortable even asleep. If he was asleep. Alex couldn't see anything above the chest.
"You're up," Scott said quietly.
Alex cursed mildly to himself. He hadn't gotten friendly with his own thoughts yet and now he had to deal with Scott. [And when had he become Scott, not Cyclops?] "Apparently."
"You okay?" Scott asked, sitting up gently and failing to stifle a groan.
"It depends. Am I supposed to ignore the fact that I'm trussed up like an extra from 'One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest' or not?"
With a hiss of pain, Scott swung his legs over the side of his bed and hopped down. Coming over to Alex, he looked down.
At least Alex thought he was looking down. It was hard to tell with the visor.
"Don't try anything stupid," Scott warned as he reached across and undid the restraints.
Alex immediately raised his arms to stretch and made incidental contact with Scott's arm as it retreated. Scott sucked in his breath sharply.
"Like that, you mean?" he asked sourly. Apparently he wasn't the only one who had had a rough night.
"Yeah," Scott replied tiredly and moved to sit down in a nearby chair. "So are you all right now?"
"I feel like I fell under a subway," Alex replied, absolutely not wanting to get into any deeper issues. Certainly not with the poster child for well-adjusted mutancy.
"You must have outputted enough energy to power a small city," Scott replied calmly. As if that explained everything.
"Is that what it was?" Sarcasm to cover up the curiosity. Because, truth be told, Alex didn't have a clue about what went on. He remembered the pain, remembered the blinding light and the noise. And then nothing.
"Yeah," Scott replied, either missing or ignoring the acid dripping from his words. "I don't know what sort of energy, though. I'm sure the Professor will be able to tell you later."
"He's not here now running tests?" Pulling gently on the electrodes running from his chest to a machine. "I'd think he'd be dying to know what my little moment of freakdom is."
Scott gestured with his chin toward the machine and the electrodes. "That's just to check your vitals." He pauses, as if considering something.
"You blew a crater in the mansion," he continued with a wry frown. "I think Xavier knows enough about your mutant powers to be able to wait for the rest until morning."
"I did?" Surprise. It shouldn't be surprising, not with the makings of an explosion that he remembers, not with the pain he felt then or the pain he was in now. But it just seemed... surreal that all of that is connected to him. Came from him, in fact.
"Yeah," Scott affirmed. He's tired, Alex can tell. Whether that's because he, too, just got up or whether it's because he never went to sleep - Alex didn't think Xavier would really leave him unattended - he didn't know. "It was dark, so I didn't get a real good look at how bad the damage was, but... We came in through the back door when we came back inside."
"You busted out," Scott explained.
"And I took you with me," Alex finished. Not wanting to think about how awful a pattern was forming that all of his life-changing moments seem to be prefaced by his falling to earth with his brother.
Alex didn't really want to care if Scott's all right, so he made it easy on himself and didn't ask. Scott was probably okay. He was Cyclops, after all. Able leader of a band of mutant vigilantes. He could fall out of buildings and be fine.
"Can I see?"
"The mess? Maybe later," Scott replied. "You're hooked up to the monitors and I don't want to screw them up by trying to unhook you."
"It's not that hard, Scott," Alex said, emphasizing his use of the other's name, hoping to get further with the familiar. He reaches for an electrode stuck to his chest. "You unstick..."
"Don't," Scott warned, batting Alex's hand away. "It'll trigger an alarm."
"Like a jailbreak?" Alex asked bitterly. Nice for Scott -- Cyclops -- to try and pretend that he wasn't a prisoner here.
"Quit with the paranoia crap, Alex," Scott said, clearly irritated. "This is standard medical equipment. The ones in the hospital sound an alarm, too. You just had a pretty... extreme... experience. Let's just make sure that your body handled it all right, okay? You're not going to be here longer than you have to be. Nobody is."
'Nobody is,' Alex repeated to himself. Another reminder of where he was. In the bosom of the beast, the heart of the enemy's camp. It should provide pleasure to see the proof that the X-Men suffered casualties, too. But even if this was the equivalent of the FoH first-aid station, it wasn't. It was a mini hospital, complete with fancy equipment and what looked to be all of the tools required for everything from stitches to open heart surgery. Amazing what a little money can do.
"Here as in the clinic or here as in X-Men headquarters?" Alex asked.
"Both. Either," Scott replied, looking slightly amused by the question if Alex is reading the quirk of his lips correctly. "Nobody's in the X-Men who doesn't want to be."
"I don't want to be."
"No shit, Sherlock," Scott said with a chuckle, completely undermining Alex's defiant tone. "This wasn't a recruitment mission."
"Then what was it?" Alex asked, snarling.
"We knew you were about to manifest and figured you'd be safer doing it here than at FoH headquarters," Scott answered. He ran his fingers through spiky hair.
Alex was about to spring a sarcastic-yet-witty retort when Scott shook his head to silence him.
"You don't care about yourself, we know that," Scott said. "But you blew up a chunk of a very well constructed house, Alex. Had you done this at your home, at your school, even at your FoH clubhouse... You would have annihilated anyone in the immediate vicinity. Don't you have enough innocent blood on your hands?"
"Innocent blood?" Alex repeated, incredulousness warring with rage at the accusation. "I've just become the perfect example of why the Sentinels are necessary. Why the FoH platform is the only right one. Mutants are a threat even when they don't mean to be."
"Stop talking in the third person, Alex," Scott replied testily. "You're a mutant. It's 'we', not 'they.'"
There was nothing to be said about that. Scott was right. But Alex was too pissed off to just let the matter drop. "If I'm free to leave, then I can just go, right?"
"What?" Scott asked tiredly. "If you're so concerned about mutants being a threat, why would you go out into the world when you don't even know how your powers work? Besides, where would you go?"
"Home?" Alex replied. He was playing devil's advocate. He knew he couldn't go home. His foster parents were liberal sorts, eager to help out the less fortunate (by taking in a blond-haired, blue-eyed amnesiac little boy from an orphanage in mild-mannered Nebraska) and sorely disappointed in his choice of politics. But just as they had spurned the notion of taking on the responsibility of the mildly brain-damaged brother of their newest project - charity only went so far; they couldn't devote that kind of attention to a child who wasn't even theirs - Alex didn't want to know just how far their professed acceptance of mutants went. They weren't bad people, but they had put money and effort into raising Alex and he really didn't want to face their denial of him when he so sorely heartsick by himself. That, and...
"If you go home, how long will it be before the FoH realizes what you are and firebombs the house?" Scott asked, yawning despite the harshness of his tone. "I'm assuming, of course, that the FoH realizes that you were adopted and doesn't kill your family outright so that they don't breed any more abominations."
Alex didn't miss the slight emphasis on the words 'home' and 'family' and wondered if Scott had known either since the plane crash. Suspected he hasn't.
"Can we argue about this later?" Scott asked, standing up and gingerly rolling his neck. "I'm too tired to think anymore and the pain killers are starting to wear off. The Professor will be around soon, anyway. He's usually up early."
Alex let his silence serve as tacit agreement - he was not a little tired himself - and was mildly surprised to see Scott climbing back onto the bed he was lying on before. "Don't you have a room here?"
"Yeah. Upstairs," Scott replied, lying down awkwardly.
"Why aren't you going to it, then?" Alex asked. He knew the reason was that they didn't trust him alone and that they thought he'd either escape or destroy something. He just wanted to see if Scott would say so.
"Because being alone in a hospital bed sucks," Scott said quietly but emphatically.
Alex furrowed his brow, glad that Scott couldn't see him. That wasn't the answer he was expecting.
"Is it all right if I turn out the light?" Scott asked. "Professor Xavier will turn it back on when he shows up, but for the time being, if we're just going to sleep..."
"Yeah, go ahead."
Alex doesn't know why he's surprised to see Scott fiddle with his visor and shoot a tiny red beam at the light switch across the room from both of them, thrusting the room into near-darkness. Theoretically, there had to have been practical uses for even freakish mutations such as Scott's.
Alex fell asleep wondering if there could be any practical applications to whatever he did. Maybe a career in demolition.