Chicago, Illinois

The first thing Katherine Pryde noticed when she awoke was that somehow she had unconsciously managed to phase through her bedclothes again. Thank God I didn’t phase through the PJ’s, she thought with a cheeky grin, that would give anyone a shock. The next thing she noticed was the sound emanating from the far side of her room. The best way to describe it was a broken drainpipe being sawn in half by a nail file. She rolled over in her bed and looked across the dimly lit room. Her room mate, Jubilation Lee, was sprawled out flat on her back on her own bed, her raven hair tousled and her mouth wide open, snoring like a champion. To make matters worse, Kitty’s pet dragon, Lockheed, was sleeping on top of the wardrobe beside Jubilee’s bed, and he was doing his best to drown out Jube’s snoring with his own. Kitty smiled at the scene; she had been so lonely until Jubilee had turned up. Lockheed was good company of course, but she could only talk to him, since he couldn’t reply.

Lockheed was an Acanti, an alien race that, as far as she knew, communicated solely by emotions. His appearance was similar to that of the mythological dragons of old, purple in colour and his wings, like all of the Acanti’s, seemed too small to support his one and a half-foot length. Kat’s mind drifted back to the moment of his birth, when he’d hatched from his rainbow-coloured shell and fell into her hands. Her amazement and joy at that moment was as clear in her mind now as they were when it had first happened. A bright smile filled her face as she recalled what happened next as the newly born Lockheed looked up at her and she found herself awash in an outpouring of love and affection for her. At that moment she knew she’d never be truly alone again. He was hers and she was his and that was all there was to it.

Kitty silently rolled out of bed and padded to the small ensuite bathroom. Flicking on the light, she stood in front of the mirror, regarding herself critically. Her long curly chestnut hair fell over her eyes and she couldn’t help but notice that her blue eyes no longer had black bags under them, as they had for so many months. She smiled at her reflection, relieved that the haunted look that had tainted her features had finally faded. Kitty poured some water into the basin and splashed her face, refreshing her after a peaceful sleep. At least the nightmares have lessened a little, she thought, her expression glum. When Moira and Piotr died, Kitty had turned to drink, trying to drown her sorrows. Over the course of her grief, she had been in danger of becoming a true alcoholic but she hadn’t touched a drop for a month now though, after her friend Lisa had called her on it.

The problem with sobriety, she discovered, was that the nightmares she had successfully drowned had begun to play like badly scripted American soap operas. She’d been haunted by visions of her two past loves, and the woman who had been a source of inspiration. The dreams were fading now, much like the ache in Kitty’s heart. She still grieved, but the sheer enthusiasm and exuberance of her young companion had impressed her, and prompted her to stop moping around and get on with life.

Katie tiptoed back into the room, careful not to wake anyone and pulled out a pair of leggings and a T-shirt from her wardrobe. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was only 6.30am, but she was awake now and feeling restless. She pulled on her clothes and silently phased through the outer wall, poking her head out first to make sure no one was watching, and then she passed through the wall and dropped lightly to the grass three floors below. Kitty looked around the campus grounds, the green grass was damp with early morning dew, and the area was quiet too, not too many students are up at half six, she thought. Kitty started running around the campus, alternating between slow jogging and outright sprinting, she delighted in the feeling of the cool breeze on the bare skin of her arms, and the tug of her leg muscles as she pushed her body forward.

Nearly an hour later, she returned to her dorm room to find the scene exactly as she had left it. Jubilee and Lockheed were out for the count, prompting Kitty to chuckle softly under her breath, I’ve finally found someone as noisy and lazy as Lockheed. Kitty stripped off her training clothes and slipped into the shower, the warm water massaging away the stiffness in her legs after running. She dressed quickly and casually, intending to get to the university library when it opened at eight. She made it with five minutes to spare.

She left the library at nine and headed to a little pastry shop just off campus. There she bought a couple of bagels and wolfed them down as she hurried to her first class of the day. She took a seat nearer the back, and spread her books out in front of her, and then smiled when she saw her classmates arriving. Her friends Lisa and Joanne took up residence beside her, both girls glad to see that Kitty was starting to work through her personal problems. Kitty exchanged some small talk with them before the professor arrived in the lecture theatre.

The class was long and far too boring in Kitty’s opinion, and the thought caused her to chuckle slightly, as she thought about her roommate, and her reaction to such a sleepy subject. The English professor droned on, promoting the virtues of W.B. Yeats, and boring his class with personal observations that only he seemed to understand. The lecture lasted two hours and to be honest, Katie was ready to stab her eyes out when the bell went. Wasting no time, she was up and away, promising to catch up with her friends at the coffee house they always frequented when they weren’t busy.

Kitty made her way back to the dorm and the first thing that caught her attention as she walked down the hall to her room was the smell of something burning. Instantly aware, she looked around and saw she was alone so she phased through the door of her room and then relaxed when she saw the scene inside. In fact, she started laughing. Jubilee was sitting at Kitty’s desk in front of a tub of butter and a jar of jam. In one hand was a butter-stained knife; in the other was a piece of bread. What was comical was that instead of using the toaster that Kitty had plugged in on the other side of the room, Jubilee was sitting holding the bread as far away from her body as possible while Lockheed, hovering with his stubby wings, let out a long jet of flame, which instantly burnt the bread to a crisp.

Both of them turned to see Kitty standing laughing, and Lockheed flew over to her and settled around her shoulders. Kitty paused to scratch his muzzle as he cooed appreciatively. Jubilee sat there with a stubborn ‘what’s-so-funny’ look on her face that just made Kitty laugh some more.

Jubilee spoke, “Going to let me in on the joke, girlfriend?”

Kitty forced her face to be straight, “Sorry, but in all the years I’ve had Lockheed, I’ve never once thought to use him as a toaster.”

Jubilee grunted, “Wasn’t using him, anyway, I was feeding him too.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Kitty replied, “Lockheed is one stubborn little dragon, if he doesn’t want to do something, he won’t.”

“How was class?” Jubilee asked, a cheery smile on her face.

“Totally ZZZZZ.” Katie said, mimicking lying sleeping. “The teach sounds like the Borg, no personality whatsoever.” Kitty sat down on the end of her bed as Lockheed fluttered over to Jubilee, pestering her for more toast. “What have you planned today?”

“Absolutely nothing.” Jubilee replied. “Gonna write to Angelo and let him know I’ve got settled in, then I don’t know, maybe head down to a park and do some rollerblading.”

“Sounds good,” Kitty replied. “I’m heading to the Coffee Mill to catch up with some of the classes I missed the last couple of months. Wanna come?”

Jubilee made a face. “Nah, you’re okay, English Lit isn’t my scene and I figure it would be totally snoozeville.”

Kitty shrugged, “Your loss. You’ll never get to meet the coffee guy at this rate.”

“Hey, you have the hots for him, me, I’m young, free, single and loving it.” Jubilee handed Kitty some toast and then stood up. “Okay, maybe I’ll call in later.”

Jubilee opened her desk drawer and took out a pen and some paper. Kitty quickly scoffed the slice of toast and headed for the door. “Maybe see you later then, Jubes, remember to give my best to Angelo.” She blew a kiss at Lockheed who was sitting on the desk preening himself and then she was away again.

The Coffee Mill was a little place Kitty had found by accident one day, she had ducked into it during one of Chicago’s more persistent showers of rain and discovered a quaint little coffee shop. She loved it so much it was where she went when she was bored, or lonely or just wanted some coffee. It was a twenty-minute walk from the campus but it was more than worth it most of the time. She had become friends with the owner, Jenny, a middle aged woman who always had a smile and a kind word for her customers. Kitty just loved the fact that she could sit for hours and not be disturbed, no worries about the state of the world, or the fact she was a mutant.

Another thing that drew her to the Coffee Mill, especially in the last three weeks, was Jenny’s new employee. The man for all the world looked like a surfer, bottle blond hair, quite muscular, and Kitty suspected, not that bright either. Now Kitty had always gone for unconventional men, although she made sure that they had something in common. But someone like Ben baffled her, he was sweet and funny, and even she couldn’t deny he was also attractive. She kept thinking there was more beneath the surface, and stubbornly kept digging to discover what it was.

Lost in thought, she didn’t even notice that she had arrived, after trying to clear her head and focus on the door handle, and of course concentrate so she would phase through it, she took a deep breath and entered the coffee shop. Jenny was at her usual station behind the counter, wearing a rather frilly apron that actually matched the dress she wore. Kitty quickly looked around and noticed that Ben wasn’t there. She was actually surprised that she felt disappointed by this, it had become a habit now that she would come down here and do some verbal sparring with Ben and go home with a smile on her face. Kitty hoped that Jubilee or one of her friends would at least turn up, she didn’t really like sitting on her own, and on another note, she didn’t want Ben thinking the only reason she was here was to see him.

Kitty admonished herself, stop it, you’re acting like a teenager with a crush, but she couldn’t help smiling at that thought, it had been many years since she considered herself to be anything other than a mutant. Jubilee had been teasing her mercilessly the past three weeks, ever since she had first mentioned Ben. Kitty still wanted Jubes to meet him, on some level, she thought they would get on very well. Maybe that’s who Ben reminds me of, a cross between Bobby Drake and Jubes. Jenny waved at her as she walked over to the counter.

“Kitty Pryde, good afternoon,” Jenny said cheerfully. “Am I going to get to meet this room-mate of yours or do I still have to wait.”

“Jubilee said she would try to come by later, and Jen, believe me, that girl could talk the legs off a horse, so be grateful while it’s still quiet.” Kitty offered Jenny a wide smile.

“Now, don’t be saying things like that about your friends, I’m sure she’s a wonderful girl.” Jenny replied.

“Can I get my usual?” Kitty asked.

“Certainly, grab a seat and I’ll bring it over.” Jenny waved Kitty away and set to work brewing up a cup of coffee. Kitty was definitely an espresso girl, unsweetened, just pure caffeine.

Kitty slid into a booth by the window and waited for her coffee. Jenny came over about two minutes later with her espresso and Kitty handed her a five-dollar note. Kitty inhaled the aroma of her fresh cup of coffee, savouring the smell before the hot liquid even touched her lips. She took a long sip from the cup and felt the heat spreading through her body. She sighed, enjoying the taste of the coffee.

She sat looking dreamily out the window, not a care in the world. The great ache that had rendered her heart for so many months was easing, and Kitty was moving on with her life. She heard a commotion behind the counter and saw Ben struggling into his work clothes. He smiled and waved at her, then set to work cleaning out the filters. Kitty returned the greeting but she didn’t move from her seat. Instead, she rooted around in her backpack and took out some of her papers.

Half an hour later, she was still sitting in the booth, working on one of her assignments. The paper was due by the end of the next week and Kitty had already done the preliminary work. She thought it was ironic that the assignment was regarding mutants, and the proposed bill of mutant rights that Charles Xavier was currently debating with Congress.

Kitty looked up as the door to the coffee shop opened. Her two friends, Lisa and Joanne, spotted her and sat down around her table. Kitty put down her pen and started to tidy away her notes when Lisa spoke, “You working on the mutant rights paper?” she asked.

Kitty sighed, “Yep, getting my thoughts together anyway.”

Lisa smiled, “I know the feeling, I’ve been reading the papers and watching the news, trying to get the different points of view.”

Joanne interrupted, “Any idea which side you are going to argue?”

“Definitely for mutant rights, I suspect most of the class will go the anti route,” Kitty replied without hesitation.

“Really?” Joanne sounded surprised; “I’m arguing the neutral stance, weighing up both sides, it might be seen as sitting on the fence but it’s the way I want to go.”

“Yeah, I’m going the same path as Jo.” Said Lisa. “I don’t have anything against mutants per se, but I think some of the arguments against them are justified.”

“Hang on while I get some coffee.” Joanne stood up; “Do you want a refill, Kitty?”

“Sure,” she replied, “Just a latte this time, okay.”

“No prob.” Joanne left the table and ordered up some coffee. When she returned a few minutes later she had a tray with three lattes and three blueberry muffins too. Kitty gratefully took her coffee and muffin as the three girls continued their debate.

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