See disclaimer chapter 1
As Jean and Sonja walked down the hallway Sonja could hear children laughing along with a cacophony of noises that sounded like video games or ping-pong. Sure enough, a few more steps down the hallway led out into a huge open area where Sonja had stood the night before. Now it was crowded with children enjoying some time off between classes. There was a fierce match of fooze ball going on between two girls and two boys and there were small crowds gathered around each video game. Others were playing cards or watching T.V. and many of the students looked up at the women as they passed. Two of the children at the fooze ball table were even bold enough to say, just loud enough for Sonja to hear, "Hey look, there she is," and "Yeah, that's her alright."
Sonja refused to look their way and give them the satisfaction of getting her attention, but that didn't stop Jean from glaring over at the two boys and giving them a stern look. They passed through the room and Sonja found herself once more at the plain wood door that led into Xavier's office. Jean opened it and Sonja felt chills up her back and couldn't believe it had only been last night that she had stood in this doorway with Logan and first learned about this unique place.
Xavier was sitting at the window, looking out over the fields and basketball court where there seemed to be children playing everywhere. He turned his gaze to meet them.
Sonja was shocked, last night he had simply sat behind the desk, but now that he was out from behind it, Sonja was amazed to see that he was in a wheel chair. Xavier caught the look on her face and grinned.
"Not what you were expecting?" he said.
"Not entirely, but I don't think it makes much of a difference," Sonja said bluntly, shrugging her shoulders.
"Please, sit. Thank you, Jean," the Professor said as he rolled back behind the desk. Jean bowed out of the room and closed the door behind her. Sonja sank into a plush leather armchair and felt a bit uncomfortable under the Professor's gaze, like the boom was about to be lowered. The Professor started speaking to her.
"I usually give guests a few day to get used to things before talking to them, but it's probably better that you hear all of this from me. That's why I had Jean bring you in now, so we could get this over with and you can make a decision to stay or not."
Sonja felt a rush of anxiety. Stay here? Stop practicing medicine? She hadn't worked so hard her whole life just so that she could hide in some school for mutants. All the new information from this morning and now this was making her feel like she couldn't tell left from right, her whole life seemed to be spinning around her. What had happened to her fail-proof plan that had worked so many times before?
She was just too much on edge to sit politely. She paced around for a moment and then stood next to the bay window on the opposite side of the room. It looked out over the fields that housed the horses and she could see a couple of children riding old schooling ponies in the arena. How was she supposed to deal with this kind of place?
"If you would rather talk about this later, I understand," the Professor said. Sonja shook her head.
"No, I need all the cards out on the table now or I think I might go crazy." The Professor tipped his head to the side.
"You don't hold anything back, do you?" he said, half-grinning at her.
"Why should I? I have nothing to fear from you or your little posse of superheroes. I mean, its all fine and dandy that they go around doing all sorts of good, brave, save-the-world things, but that isn't the kind of life I want," she said matter-of-factly.
The Professor smiled to himself when the thought crossed his mind that this woman had probably never had an unexpressed thought in her life.
"It's just that you don't seem so comfortable here. Is there anything I can get for you? Is there anything wrong with your room?" he asked gently. Sonja raised her hand to her face and stiffly brushed away the stray curls.
"No, no, everything with the room is wonderful and there's nothing I need. It's just this place that I'm not comfortable with," she said. She didn't know why she was telling this man so much, but what could she possibly have to lose. "I've spent my entire life conforming to the human world, I've never even thought of myself as a mutant. I found a way to cope, and I was happy. It's all so different here, I've never been exposed to something like this."
"And being surrounded by people who accept you as a mutant is foreign and uncomfortable for you," the Professor finished her thoughts. Sonja swung her gaze at him angrily.
"I didn't read your mind, your body language was fairly screaming it," he said. "I understand, it takes some getting used to being surrounded by people who will accept you, powers and all. But we are here to help. Just give us a chance. Besides, we could use your help." Sonja relaxed again and looked back out over the fields. She stared silently for a few moments.
"I'm not sure I want to give up being a doctor. I want to live out there," she said, gesturing towards the window but meaning the outside world. "It's the only way I know how to survive." Sonja nodded her head again. "Yes, I'm sure of it. I need to move on. I'd like to take Maverick and go to a new town, start over." Sonja felt much better having said what had been weighing on her mind all afternoon. Sonja was still anonymous, nobody would know her true identity as long as she kept her secret hidden. S he would just change her name, maybe change her hair, and start over. She turned back to the Professor and was met with a sad expression.
"I don't think you understand the gravity of your situation," said the Professor.
"Of course I do!" Sonja said indignantly. "Its not like I've never had to leave somewhere and begin again. In fact, I'm pretty damn good at it by now." Xavier's face grew even sadder. How could she not know what was going on?
"Please, come here and sit down, there is a crucial bit of information that you seem to be missing. You probably did not know this because you were riding around in the wilderness for two weeks, but it will definitely explain why we had to bring you here as quickly as possible."
Sonja crossed the room and sat down in the chair again, trying to regain her semblance of control.
"What would that bit of information be?" she asked coolly. The Professor reached into a drawer and rummaged around for a second then produced a stack of newspapers. He slid them across the table and sat back, waiting for Sonja to read what was on them.
The paper on top was a widely-known national daily and there, right smack in the middle of the front page, was a huge photo of her face right next to that of a man's face that looked fairly familiar. Suddenly, her blood ran cold and she thought she might pass out. Right beneath her own smiling face were the words 'Have You Seen This Woman?' Beneath that was a big, bold headline declaring 'Mutant Saves Life of Silver Screen King!' She felt like she had been electrocuted and jumped out of the chair. Sonja had never gotten a clear look at the man's face, it had been pressed into the dirt and covered with blood. How could she have possibly been so stupid!
She let the paper flutter to the floor and reached for the next. It was the biggest paper in Pennsylvania, dated a week ago, with the same picture and basically the same headline on the cover. S he ripped it off the desk only to be confronted by the biggest paper from New York, again with her face gazing at her off the page.
"No, no NO!" she screamed, losing complete control of her emotions. Her life as she knew it hinged solely on her anonymity, and now it was destroyed. She dug through the stack of papers, scattering them all over the office, yet she couldn't escape her own face staring back at her. How could this be happening? There was no way she could start over if everyone in the entire country was looking for her. She turned from the scattered papers and paced around the room like a caged tiger. Who knew what would happen to her if she took a chance and exposed herself? She probably wouldn't be able to step foot in a public place in America ever again, much less build a new life. She turned back on the Professor.
"Where did they get that picture?!" she demanded. She recognized it as the picture she had on her plaque, and she knew the Stevensons would never have given her away like that.
The Professor had remained completely calm through the entire ordeal, letting Sonja vent her frustration. Now he looked at her and addressed her as soothingly as possible.
"Apparently, someone down at your local photo-shop was bribed to let this picture slip." He saw Sonja's eyes flame up again but decided to keep going. "Mr. Hays has offered a very considerable amount of money for any information regarding your whereabouts. Jean is our front-woman for mutants, so to speak, and she has been inundated with questions and demands ever since this whole ordeal started." Sonja suddenly felt her wall of control crumble and her rage flowed unchecked.
"So that's what this is about?! This idiot ruined my life, and now some money-grubbing mutants think that its ok for them to track me like a animal and turn me over?! Really Charles," she spat out his name like she detested saying it, "it doesnt seem to me like you need the cash!" Sonja knew as soon as the words left her mouth that they weren't true, but she was too worked up to care.
Xavier just sat back in his chair and let her anger run its course. Sonja paced around the room a few more times, feeling her panic subside and be replaced with a gut-wrenching sense of uncertainty. It took about five minutes, but eventually Sonja had worked out her initial frustrations and seemed to calm down a bit. She went back to the window and looked out at the young children having so much fun on their ponies and felt the beginning of tears sting the back of her eyes.
"Sorry," she said meekly after a long while, "I didn't mean that. I know you're here to help me." The Professor leaned forward and folded his arms, resting them on the desk. "How could this happen!" she yelled again, punching her fist into the window frame.
Sonja still needed a little more time to calm down and he knew that she would speak when she was ready. After a few more minutes, she felt confident that she had her emotions in check again and that the tears wouldn't threaten to spill over any more. She couldn't sit there in an angry rage the rest of her life. Sonja turned to face the Professor.
"I obviously can't..." she hesitated, "no, I won't, turn myself in to this guy; there are too many complications and I can't risk the exposure. So, what are my options?" she asked. The Professor paused for just a moment before starting to explain.
"Well, there are basically two avenues you could explore. First off, you could disappear, maybe into Canada or Alaska, find some small town that doesn't even have a movie theatre much less copies of these papers, set up practice there. But," he paused upon seeing Sonja's face lighten, "you'll always be risking getting recognized and endangering yourself. Don't think for one moment that Magneto wouldn't try to come after you, not with all the publicity you would generate. He would try to manipulate you into hurting the very people you've spent your whole life trying to heal, and," the Professor continued, "considering your track record, you'll probably end up having to disappear who knows how many more times." Sonja listened to his every word, absorbing it all and preparing herself to weigh the options. Xavier took her silence to mean that she was willing to hear his proposal.