Rachel's Realm of Words Presents

        L.A. Field Trip

                            By Harli1Quin and Bum




//I wonder if Emma does that on her damn computers for a REASON,// Angelo thought as he pulled up his on-line programs.

//No mail...wonder where Dream Boxer went...// He skimmed over his favorite message boards, picked up mail from his sim group, and then went to the newsgroups. He scrolled down to ALT.NEWS.MUTANT, and opened it. They were plenty of new messages, but most of them were for or from Friends of Humanity, Humanity's Last Stand, or other splinter Fascist groups that would like to see him and his kind eradicated from the earth.

A title caught his eye. MUTANT GANG TERRORIZES LA. //Que?//

He opened the message and began to read.


Yesterday in South Central Los Angeles, a group of teens went on a terrible spree of violence, killing at random. Will mutant gangs become a new, horrible threat? What will parents with mutant children do?

President Kelly announced today that there is a state of emergency in LA, and is prepared to send out the National Guard. But is it that severe?

Presidential Candidate Graydon Creed thinks so, and is urging the President to send out troops as soon as possible.He was quoted as saying, "These mutant teens are no better then the outlaw X-Men...and who knows. Maybe this is where the X-Men start recruiting!"

The article went on, describing atrocities that made Skin glad he wasn't in LA. But as he scanned the article for names of the criminal mutants, one caught his eye.

Aleela Burke.

//Madre de dios...No...// He stared at the name for a few seconds longer. //Not you, 'Leela. You were above that, remember?//

An old pain rose up his heart. //I can't let her do this to herself. Even if it DOES mean blowing my cover...// He logged off the system and shut down his computer, turned off all of his lights, and used his flashlight to gather up whatever he might need on the week long road trip he was about to take.

Then, he was out his window and running toward the garage under cover of night.

Paige was doing a midnight jog. She liked the cool night air on her face and it kept her awake. She loved how big the campus was. Once around the entire thing, and she was completely exercised.

//Ah wonder what everyone's dreamin' about all warm in bed-- What?// She saw someone dashing toward the garage. Slim, wiry and moving as fast as he could go and still be stealthy.

//Who's that? Could it be some sorta intruder?//

She stopped jogging and watched him to continue toward the jog. She couldn't make out WHO it was, and decided it must be hostile. //Who else would be sneakin' around campus?//

She quietly husked her skin into a solid metal form and vanished into the brush, creeping along as quietly as possible. The figure had reached the garage and was typing in the code on the wall. //No one knows that code but Emma and Sean...// she said. //And it ain't either of them.//

She got closer, but, unfortunately, she wasn't quiet enough to approached unnoticed. Just as the figure tapped in the last of the code, he heard her. "Que?"

//So much fer the element of surprise,// she thought, as she leapt from the bushes. She tackled the intruder to the ground, and all he got out was a soft "oof".

"I got ya so you might as well surrender," she said, sitting on his back, twisting one of his arms around him.

"P-" He spat out grass. "PAIGE?"

She stopped and looked at him. //Wish I had my glasses in the dark.// "Angelo?"

"SI! SI! Get off!" he hissed.

She stepped up and pulled him up with her. "What are ya doin HERE?"

"Nothin'," he said softly. "And what are you doing out here looking like the cyborg from Terminator 2?"


"Disguised as the Silver Surfer's sister? Ahuh."

She put her hands on her hips. "Well I saw you sneakin' about and-"

"And thought you'd play hero and grab the intruder?" He shook his head. "Life is NOT an adventure, Paige."

She ignored the comment. "Well...What ARE you doing over here at the garage? We're all-"

"Supposed to be in bed? Si, Country Mouse, we ARE. Why aren't you?"

"I couldn't sleep," she said, looking down at the ground. "Jubilee... snores."

Skin cocked an eye brow, and then pulled off his over sized flannel shirt, leaving his tank top that had been underneath it on. "Here. In case you don't change back with clothes."

She acted as if she had blushed, but he couldn't tell with her steel skin. "Thanks."

"De nada," he said, shivering as the cool Massachusetts air bit into in bare shoulders. "Now, excuse me a minute, Paige."

"What are ya doin'?"

He entered the garage and opened the jeep door. //Sean NEVER leaves these locked in the garage. Why should he? Not gonna get stolen...// He got in the car and reached under the dash, popped a panel off, and began to hot wire the car.


"SHUSH!" Skin sent tendrils of gray flesh to cover her mouth. "Country Mouse, I have to go to LA."

"Mmmph!?!" She was tugging at the skin with her still metal fingers.

"If I let go do you promise not to yell?"

"MMMPH!" She bit into the skin around her mouth and he yelped. "Yes," she said, as he massaged his bitten hand.

"That HURT, chica," he muttered.

"I don't care. Tell me why yer goin' to LA. I thought you said you'd never go back."

He finished hot wiring Banshee's jeep. "People make promises chica, and alot of times, they can't keep them." He opened the passenger side door. "Get in."


"GET IN," he snarled.


"You're not gonna blow my cover. You're comin with me."






Skin smiled slyly. "You don't have ANY choice in the matter, Paige. The skin from his shoulder reached out and circled her around her waist, pinning her arms to her side and her to the seat. "ANGELO!"

He simply pulled out of the garage and headed toward the gate.


The gate swung open as Skin pressed the opener attached to the visor above the drivers seat.


He simply drove through the gates, and out into the night.

"Do you know how long it's going to take us to drive all the way to L.A.?" Paige says as she looks down at the wrappers and crushed slurpie cups on the floor of the jeep. Angelo doesn't loosen his grip on Paige. "Si, But this is very important." He looks away from the road and over at Paige, "And stop pouting Paige. If I let you go, do you promise not to try and do something stupid." //Caramba, this is just like that movie 'the Getaway' except I can't envision a bunch of cops chasing after us and Paige isn't going to climb on top of me an-//

"I'm NOT pouting. I'm thinking. Let me go okay? We're already in enough trouble already." Paige says as she starts to squirm //This shirt isn't going to cover everything when I change back.//

"Fine." Angelo's skin loosens from around Paige and returns to his shoulder.

"So which one are you?"

"Pardon me, Paige?"

"Are you Thelma or Louise?"

"Huh? Must have missed that show, " Angelo mutters. He looks over and notes that she's still looking at the garbage on the floor. "What's wrong now?"

"Nothing," she replies, in a non-heartfelt way.

"Paige. You can't convince me that nothing's wrong when you're looking down at the ground like your hermano died."

"Angelo. I need jeans."

"You do?"

"YES I DO!!" Paige shouts back at him.

"Que, un momento por favor! I didn't mean to sound like that," Angelo says, //Good thing it's dark out, I've gotta be turnin' red here.// "Reach around into the back seat, there's a bag full of clothes. Find a pair of jeans that fit you."

Paige doesn't comment she unbuckles her seatbelt and actually climbs into the back seat.

"HEY! Watch it!" Angelo shouts as a metal foot connects with his shoulder.

After a few minutes a baggy jean wearing Paige climbs back into the front seat. //She's still barefoot// Angelo notes with dismay. He catches the fact that she's no longer causing glare in the corner of his eye as they pass the streetlights. She must have changed back to normal.

"This is going to be a long trip," Paige mutters.

"Well thank you VERY much master of the apparent."

"Don't get sarcastic with me, Espinosa. I'm not here because I want to be."

"Por Favor, You know as well as I do that you would love to actually SEE a city."

"But not in a stolen car, not wearing your clothes, and maybe if I had some money."

[There's nothing wrong with my clothes, and it's your fault I had to haul you with me, not that I don't mind the company, hangin' with a beautiful woman can't hurt my rep or cover any]

Paige looks at him funny, "I hate when you talk Spanish so fast I can't keep up, it's-"

"I know you hate it," Skin says as he smiles an exaggerated smile.

"I take it you have money," Paige says to change the subject.

"I brought enough to eat, and live."


"For one. I wasn't expecting passengers."


"Si, Yeah, very bad."

"So what do you recommend to do about it, hmmmmm?"

"Not much. We'll survive, Country Mouse. And we'll make it to LA. No matter WHAT it takes." //Cause I am not letting Aleela down again.//

"Fine," she said, folding her arms across her chest.

"Stop pouting, por favor."

"I'm not pouting."

"Then go to sleep so I can drive."


"Si. You know, sueno."

She sighed and settled back into the seat. "Fine."




"Speak English."

"Why should I?"

She sighed exasperated. "GOOD NIGHT, Angelo."

"Buenos noches, chica."

She settled in the seat and closed her eyes. A few minutes later, the steady rise and fall of her chest told Skin that she was deeply asleep.

//Bout time,// he thought. He reached over a brushed a long strand of blonde hair away from her face. //So pretty, so sweet....So freakin' innocent. I don't like takin' her into el barrio. But I'm stuck with her. I just hope we both make it out alive. And I hope Aleela's okay.//

Paige woke to the sun filtering in through the window of the jeep. She moaned at the sunlight lanced through her eyelids, making it IMPOSSIBLE to sleep. "Ugh..." She pushed herself up from her sleeping position and looked over at Angelo.

He was asleep as well. He had obviously pulled into a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. //Wonder how long he drove before he stopped,// she said. She yawned and stretched. //I wonder what's so important in LA that he's just GOT to be there...I thought he said he'd NEVER go back to the "circle of violence" he came from.//


No response. He was still asleep. "Angie? Angelo, wake UP."

"Mmmuph," was the mumbled response.

"Listen, Sleeping Beauty, I ain't gonna kiss you to wake you up. Now WAKE UP!"

He groaned, yawned, and stretched. "Por favor, Country Mouse! Some of us are decidedly NOT morning people, okay?"

"No. Not okay. We're goin' to LA, we're not gonna waste a whole lotta time sleepin'."

"Fine, fine. " He swept a hand through his hair brushing the stray brown threads away from his face. He pulled out a pair of sunglasses and put them on. "Ready to roll?"

She looked over at the bathroom complex that was part of the reststop. "No. Hold on." She dashed out of the car and over to the rest room.

Angelo sighed. //Girls.//

At the nearest gas station, Skin got out to fill up the car. Paige simply sat in the car and looked around. //I hope Skin knows where he's goin'.//

Skin hopped into the car, and smiled at her. "Off we go, chica," he said and started the car. She nodded, and then when they had pulled out and driven for a few minutes, she realized somethin'.

"Angie, did you PAY for that gas?"


"Did you PAY for that GAS? You didn't, did you!"

He sighed. //I knew it. I KNEW this was gonna be trouble...// "No," he said flatly.



"SO? It's WRONG," she sighed, totally exasperated. "I can't believe you DID that. First Banshee's car, then gas, what are you gonna take next?"

"I only did it because we are not gonna have money for gas and food, Paige. Would you rather drive or starve?"

"I'd RATHER be back at school and not on an unofficial field trip!" she snapped. "What else are ya gonna do, Skin steal our journals next?"

He shot a shocked glance at her. "N-No." He stammered. //Monet's was an ACCIDENT..It fell out. Practically fell into my lap...//

Paige folded her arms across her chest and began to pout again. //Oh, no, not that! I HATE it when she does that...cause she got such PERFECT lips...//

"Don't you pout over this," he said. "You got yourself into this. You would have snitched on me and I HAVE to go to LA."




"DAMMIT, PAIGE, I HAVE MY REASONS." Paige was shocked into silence. Her friend was normally cool, calm,and collected. //Something must REALLY be up, if he gets THAT angry about it.//

"Angelo, you can tell me..."



"Paige, you're here cause you blew my quick getaway." //Makes me think of that damn movie again.// "NOT because I asked you, NOT because I needed your help, but because you GOT IN MY WAY. You do that in LA, chica, and you are bound to get us both killed. From now on, no more questions. Whatever I tell you get to know on a need to know basis. Understand?"

Paige bites her lower lip and turns her head away from Angelo and looks out the window. //Great, not only am I dressed like a clown, but I'm hurting our friendship, Why don't you make it easier on him, Guthrie and call Banshee, It's clear we are going head first into trouble an-//

"Look, Country mouse. Didn't mean to shout at you. It's just that we have to work together, verdad?"

"Yeah," Paige mutters, still looking out the window.

Angelo sighs. "McDonalds?"


Again Angelo sighs. [Why must they all be so stupid when it comes to-]

"Don't call me stupid."


"I CAN understand some Spanish you know. You referred to the plural you as 'stupid'."

"So the books you read aren't just good for holdin' a door open."


Angelo again sighs as he pulls the car into a McDonalds parking lot. He climbs out of the car and yawns he looks around quickly to make sure noone is looking then stretches his six feet of skin, after he's done stretching he pulls his skin back in and tries to assume the best normal facial features he can. He smirks as he watches Paige climb out of the car and how she constantly attempts to keep the jeans she borrowed from him from falling down.

A few minutes later as both of them sit across from each other as a table at McDonalds they start to eat the hotcakes they ordered. Paige looks across at him but remains quiet. Half way through the meal Angelo stands up and goes over to the counter. She can hear him arguing really quickly in a blur of Spanish and English about how he found a hair in his pancakes. A few minutes later he returns with two more servings of hotcakes. He smiles as he drops one in front of Paige.

She raises an eyebrow as she looks from the hotcakes to his smiling face. "You...There wasn't a hair was there?"

"Now you're catching on. Congratulations," Angelo says. Paige normally would argue about this, but she's to hungry to give up the extra food.

"Angelo, you know, if you want to talk about-"

"Si, you should know. I mean you are coming along, you'er going to find out anyway. Story goes like this. Everyone's loyal to their colors, verdad? Well, some hombres decided that because they were mutants, that make them a separate group, so they all started to get together and form their own little group in the barrio."

"But you said you'd never go back. Why not let the police handle it?"

"The Police. Por favor, read the newspapers, chica. Besides, I have a friend that is involved. Don't want to see any unnecessary deaths when I can prevent them. Besides, noone will know it's me." Angelo says as he picks up as much of the syrup with a small part of pancake as he can.

"Why not? I mean no offense but you rather..tend to stick out."

"Like a gray sore thumb? Si, but I'm going to use a different name while I'm down there, and no one's going to expect me to be back."

"Assumed name? What's that going to be?"

"Haven't figured that out yet," Angelo says between last bites of his meal. "Maybe you can help me think of one."

Paige shrugs as she helps Angelo clean the table up.

"Wait a sec for me. Gracias," Angelo says as he heads into the bathroom.

Angelo looks at his ash gray face in the mirror.//I'm going to stand out bigtime in the city. It might not be pretty. Could get even messier with the fact that I got a fellow traveler who happens to look like she belongs NOWHERE in the barrio. Could be the blond hair and blue eyes and the fact that hide it as hard as she can, she's got a slight southern accent. No, this isn't going to be easy... So what am I going to do?// Angelo crosses himself and turns on the water and when it's nice and warm he cups his hands under the water flow and splashes the water on his face. Then he uses the handy green liquid soap to wash his hands and face. He looks in the mirror one last time and runs a hand through his hair. //Humph, should have brought my shampoo in here with me. Oh well//

Paige is sitting in the driver's seat when Angelo finally gets outside. "I'm driving."

"No way."

"Please Espinosa, I'm older than you for starters and-"

"Have you ever driven before?"

"Lots o' times."

"Something besides a tractor, Paige."

Angelo is answered by a glare. He hands over the keys and sighs as he gets into the passangers side and buckles the seat belt. He nearly jumps litterally out of his skin when he feels Paige reach into his pocket. She pulls out his sunglasses and puts them on as she starts up the car. Angelo mutters a prayer under his breath as Paige pulls out of the McDonalds parking lot.

"Now remember chica, we ain't gonna do anyone any good if we arrive in LA as pavement hamburger, si?"

"I know. I'm not speedin' TOO much..."

[Says you, Country Mouse.]



"SPEAK ENGLISH! I KNOW what yer sayin' when you speak Spanish, so don't bother."

[Oh yeah? WELL Country Mouse since you are SOOO smart and know SOO much more then a little barrio boy like ME then why the hell did you get dragged out here with me when you didn't want to come? Cause you are not half as smart as you think you are! You're over-confident, and you have an EGO the size of M's!]

She glared at him.

"You didn't catch a WORD of that, did you?"

She drove in sullen silence.

"You didn't," he said with a smug smile on his face. Then he noticed the quiver in her jaw. //Madre de dios, she understood.//

"You did."

"Ah-I did," she said softly. //I will NOT let what he said GET me. I WON'T cry. I WON'T.//

He was quiet a minute. "Paige, I-"

"Just keep your mouth shut till it's your turn to drive, Espinosa, all right?"

"Si, Paige, if-"

"Callate!" She growled.

//Did she just tell me to shut up in Spanish?// "Si," he said softly, and then took to looking out the window as the small towns went by in a blur.

After three hours of driving, Paige was alone with her thoughts and Angelo was fast asleep. //Jerk. Don't even know why I put up with his crap,// she thought, looking over Angelo. Then she noticed something...he twitched. He was dreaming, and it didn't seemed to be a very pleasant one. //I wonder if he's dreaming about LA. That must be a nightmare.// Then her expression hardened a minute. //Nope. I WON'T pity him. He's doin' this to himself. If HE'S havin' nightmares about home, then that's his problem. // Her scowled faded. //I would hate to have grown up somewhere so bad that I have nightmares about going back...//

She watched him sleep for a second more, and then turned her eyes back to the road, and kept driving.

Dawn came and went, and they borrowed gas once again. Angelo was still very much wide awake, and Paige noticed he was very fidgety. "What's UP with you, Espinosa? You keep drumming the steering wheel or crackin' your knuckles or SOMETHING. It's getting on my nerves."

Angelo kept his eyes fixed on the road. "Country Mouse, I am a chain smoker. Got any idea what that means?"

"No, Angie, I'm an idiot. Enlighten me, o great and wise City Mouse. What does that fact that you are a chain smoker mean?"

"It MEANS that I have gone with smoking for three days. And I WANT a cig BAD."

She giggled. "You're havin' a-a nic fit?"

He glared at her, and then looked back to the road. "Yes."

She laughed out loud. "This isn't FUNNY, Paige. You try bein' an addict, see how YOU act when you don't get your fix."

She was REALLY laughing now. "FIX? Oh, Angie, that's a GOOD one."

He simply ignored her comment and kept driving. At the next gas station, "'Scuse me, for a sec." He dashed in, grabbed a candy bar from the snack shelf, and then went over to the register. She couldn't see very well what went on inside the shop, but eventually, he came out smiling.

He tossed her the candy bar. It was a Three Musketeers, one of her favorites. As he started to pull out of the lot, she looked confused. "I'm lost. Why did you do this?"

"Pay for the candy, snag some cigs," he said as he produced a pack of Camels from his jeans pocket.

"How did you-?" she asked, jaw dropping.

"Having six feet of skin DOES have it's advantages."

"So you paid for the candy bar as a distraction?"


She shook her head. He pulled out a new lighter, and she stared at it for a moment. "You didn't?"

"I did."

"Oh, God, Angie! You are sooo pathetic!"

He ignored her, opened the pack, took out a cig, and lit it. Paige began to roll down her window. "Second hand smoke KILLS you know," she grumbled under her breath, but it was too late. Angelo took his first drag and calmed considerably. Then, he rolled down his window. "For the virgin lungs," he said.

Another day passed, and another night. They were making excellent time. Another day of driving and they would be in LA

"Angelo?" Paige said as she drove from noon on. "Where are we gonna STAY in LA? In the jeep?"

"Hell no," he said." We're gonna ditch the jeep outside city limits, on a back road that SHOULD still be there."


"Si. And then we WALK the rest of the way into LA...and you HAVE to promise you follow my lead. You do what I say, and you go along with whatever plan I may come up with to get us out of a fix, okay?"

She sighed. "Since you ARE the City Mouse, I guess I have to," she said.

"And please, Paige, be careful? I can't tell you how much I would hate myself if you got hurt, okay?"

She looked over at Angelo. "Really, Angie? I'm that important to you?"

//More then you know, Paige, more then you know.// "Si, Paige, you ARE. So don't screw up and get us both killed."

She smiled. //You know, I kinda wondered if he could really care about someone. Guess I know.// "Thanks, Angelo. So....where are we STAYING in LA?"

"A safehouse I know of. A shelter."

"A shelter? For homeless people?"


"Won't that be a little...dangerous?"

"Si. But LA itself is dangerous, Paige."

She nodded. "Okay. A shelter. And how are we gonna find these friends of yours?"

"Leave that to me, Country Mouse. Just leave it to me."

"How much longer do we have, barrio boy?" Paige says as she empties the garbage out of the car and leans against the open door. All four doors of the Jeep are open and letting the jeep air out as Skin sits on the hood, contentedly smoking.

"Not much longer."

Paige climbs into the car and re-programs the radio to the local stations. She smirks to herself as she watches Skin dance to some of the music. //You'd think with all that extra skin he'd be trippin' all over himself.// She climbs out of the car and cranks the jeeps stereo louder and she climbs up on the jeep's hood and sits in the place previously occupied by Angelo's spot. She lays down and looks up at the sky. The sky's clear and blue much like it is back home. //I really miss home. I miss wakin' up with the sun shinin' in my window, eating breakfast with the whole family. It wasn't an adventure like being a X-man in training is, but at times, ya gotta miss it.//

Paige is bumped awake, She looks around and realizes, confused, that it's dark out. "Whu-"

"Buenos Dias. You dozed totally to sleep on the car hood. Musta been really tired from drivin' for so long. On the floor's a McDonalds bag, there's food in there."

Paige yawns and searches out the food. Between bites of the cold Big Mac she asks "How's the arm?"

"Much better. Still half gone, but it doesn't hurt as bad." Angelo says.

"How long have I been asleep?"

"All afternoon and most of the evening. Hey, you deserve it, I guess. I mean after driving most of the morning and everything." Paige cracks her knuckles.

"Yeah well. It's my turn to drive now."

The jeep pulls slowly to the side of the highway and they get out and switch spots. //Stealing a blackbird from the X-men would have been much more efficient, but at least I'm learning more about Angelo. We don't get to talk much, if we're not trying to save mutant kind, we're trying to pass a geology exam.// Paige thinks as she starts up the car. She looks over at Angelo, whose face seems to being melting. //He's stressed, he's just not letting on about it.// "Angie, you sure you're okay?"

"Mmhumm," he murmurs.

//He's most likely exhausted,// Paige says as she focuses her attention back on the road. Suddenly she's aware of flashing red lights in the rearview mirror. A lump rises in her throat. She tightens her grip on the steering wheel. She checks the speed she's traveling at. It's an honest 70 in a 65. The cop car pulls along side of the jeep. Paige is aware of a cold sweat running down her back. She throws a glance at Angelo. His only response is a calm look on his face and the sound of his breathing The cop car passes them and keeps on speeding down the road. Paige exhales. //Okay Guthrie, get collected here. It was one bad cop and it's over. I'm fine. Nothing happened.// She switches the radio station to a light rock station and turns the volume down so it's nice and calming. //No, face it, It's affecting me. Before this trip would I ever have used my accent to sucker some innocent guy into giving me money? Noo. So what do I do now? This trip isn't a good idea. Don't need no precog to tell me that. I need to get more information out of Angelo. With out bein' too much of a prying- //

Suddenly Paige is aware of the sound of a state trooper. She looks in the rearview mirror and sees the famous flashing blue and red lights. She looks down at the speedometer. It reads 95. Paige slows down and pulls to the side of the road. She rests her head on the wheel as she rolls down the window. //Ah'm gonna cry.//

"License and registration." The cop says as he shines a flashlight in the window. Paige looks at Angelo who looks more like a bundle of gray rags more than a human at the time. //Oh larwd, please Angelo. Please wake up.//

She does a mock show of looking around all over for the registration, before shrugging. "Afraid, ah- I can't find it sir," she says without establishing eye contact.

"Please step out of the car."

"NO! Ah ah mean... It's no big deal officer. Uh please, just let it slide, the highway's empty and noone was in danger or anything." //Oh god, Please wake up, Angelo. Wake up!// She pinches Angelo and he murmurs slightly, but he doesn't stir.

The cop leaves for a second and goes back to his car, he appears to be talking into a CB radio or something like that. Paige turns and starts to shake Angelo. He wakes up.

"Que tal?"

"Gawd, Angelo, the cops, Ah was speeding and they pulled me over and and... Ah wasn't thinkin' and ah was speedin', and now he wants me to get out of the car an'.. an'.." Angelo shoots a look backward at the cop's car. //Oh shit. A state trooper. And Paige is still freaked about that encounter with the last cop.// "Okay, Paige do EXACTLY what he tells you to. I'll stay in here, If there is ANY problems scream and don't be afraid to use your mutant abilities Verdad?"

"Yeah. Ah'm... I'm not worried. Or anything. It's just that-"

"Yeah, I know Paige, now hold it down." Angelo says as he goes back to looking like a pile of gray rags in the passenger's seat."

Paige slowly climbs out of the car. //Okay, compose here, gal.// The cop starts to run her through the standard Drunk Driving tests. Paige passes all of them with ease.

"Okay that's good Ms. Toonces, now if you don't mind getting into my car."

"WHAT?!" Paige feels our the strength drain out of her legs again. "N-no. Ah can't do that sir."

"I'm sorry to inform you of this. But that Jeep you're driving, it's reported stolen, and you don't have the registration. Now ya seem like a nice girl and all. But you gotta understand that I have a job to do here, and I've gotta take you in."

"No. I can't get in your car."

Inside the car under the pile of colored and gray clothes two white eyes view the scene //Madre de Dios, Please, please don't do this Paige.//

"Miss. Look we need to get this cleared up. Now if you'll please come with me. I don't want to have to cuff you."

"NO! I'm not going with you."

Inside the Jeep Angelo starts to pray. //We're are only halfway through the corner of Colorado. If she blows it, we ain't gonna make it out without the State Police on our tails.\\

"NO!" Angelo hears Paige scream followed by the sound of her husking. Seconds later she jumps into the jeep and starts the ignition and speeds off so fast Angelo is forced backwards.

"Madre de dios... You... what did you do to that man Paige?" Angelo asks, regretting the answer before she gives it.

Paige stares straight ahead. "Ah'm. Ah'm sorry Angie. Ah couldn't go with 'im."

"Ms. Toonces?"

"Tooncess the driving cat. It's a Saturday Night Live skit from way back-"

"I know what it is, but I'm surpised the officer didn't see through that." Angelo smiles. Then he frowns as she looks at Paige. "You didn't kill the man did you?"

"No. He's just going to have a headache when he wakes up. That's all." Angelo can barely make out Paige's facial features in the dark of the jeep but he's pretty sure that she's in some sort of rock form by the way her brow seems extended and how she seems all tense. "Please, Angie. Shush. Just go to sleep okay? Ah need time to think."

Angelo doesn't sleep but he remains quiet for the next few hours just watching the scenery pass and Paige driving. At about seven in the morning they pull out of Colorado and enter the very corner of Utah and Arizona. Paige pulls to the side of the road and gets out of the car. Angelo watches her but doesn't get out of the car. After Paige is gone for a few minutes he gets out of the jeep as well.

"Paige? What's going on? Where did you go?" Angelo asks he's answered by a form dropping out of a tree and landing next to him. Instinctively he lets loose with a strand of skin and wraps it around the form and pulls forward. He hears a familiar "oof" and pulls in his skin and goes over to Paige. "Sorry."

Paige looks up at him and spits out a few blades of grass. "What goes around comes around." She stands up. She's still wearing Angelo's baggy jeans, and a tee-shirt, but now she has his flannel shirt tied around her waist and she's wearing what looks to be combat boots a size too large for her.

"What the... Why did you run off?"

"I needed some time to myself. I wanted to jog but didn't want to wake you up- You weren't waiting for me in the jeep were you?"

"Nada, no. I just woke up and noticed you were gone and decided to get some fresh air myself." Angelo lies.

"Just needed some time away from bein' inside the jeep, besides, we've been driving it nonstop... I know you do that to a tractor, the engine's gonna fry. So just want to hang around and kick back and you know...talk?"

"Sure, country mouse."

Angelo sits down and leans up against a tree. Paige does the same thing. They start to discuss all sorts of random things like Monet, Jubilee and the other students in their class.

Angelo smiles as he looks down at Paige. Half way through talking she conked out on his shoulder. He brushes his hair out of his face as he smiles. It sort of reminds him of when they first met. When the Phalanx kidnapped them for the first time He was one of the first to be kidnapped, and she was the last. She was really talkative and attempting to take charge then. She even had the guts to back-talk a double-her-size techno-organic man-thing, all the while she had that techno-organic virus and was dying.

Angelo sighs as he puts an arm around Paige and tucks her hair behind her ear. //Man. I wonder if I'd ever have a shot I mean if I wasn't gray and not exactly normal..//

Suddenly one of those strange random thoughts pops into Angelo's head. //Caramba! Did I lock the jeep doors?// He looks down at Paige, not wanting to move and wake her up. He sighs and extends his skin to the point that he can ever so slightly lay her on the ground without her knowing that he's actually left. //Smooth, Angelo. I'm sure that trick will come in handy...someday.// Angelo thinks to himself as he walks off to the car.

Angelo woke up to the sun on his face and Paige still curled up on his shoulder. He had draped the skin from his arm around her slumbering form to keep the both of them warm. //I haven't been this close to anyone in a loooong time, physically or otherwise. Wakin' up next to some one is really nice, even if they're only your best friend.// He brushed one finger down the side of her face gently. //I hate to wake her up, but we got to get moving. The jeep will be fine after last night's long sleep of its own.//

"Buenos dias, Country Mouse," he said, nudging her gently. "Paige?" No response. "C'mon, Paige..."

She was still very much asleep. He sighed. //Fine. Sleep then. But we HAVE to get moving. He extended his skin underneath like a sling, maneuvering his free arm gently beneath her. He lifted her slowly. //Please don't wake after I've gone to all this work to let you sleep...//

He eventually made it to the jeep and laid her in the passenger seat. //Sweet little senorita...I feel bad having made you come along.//

He shut her door softly, and then dashed over to the driver's side and quickly but quietly got in. He started the jeep, and they were off.

Paige woke up while he was driving. "Angie?"

"Hmmmm? You're awake."

"Yeah." She looked around. It was the middle of the day. //What? Did he just bring me in the car and let me SLEEP? How...oddly sweet...//

She looked over at him. The window was down, and he was smoking. "Buenos tardes," he said. "You slept like a ROCK Paige."

"Really? Hmmm... Is it really the afternoon?"

"A-huh." He reached into the backseat and pulled out a McDonalds bag. "Breakfast and lunch in there for you," he said.

She suddenly realized how hungry she was. "MMMMMmmmmm... Muchas gracias, Angie," she mumbled through mouthfuls of food.

"You're welcome," he said, flicking the last of his cig out the window. As he rolled up the glass, he looked to her and said, "You doin' okay, Paige?"

"Yeah. Much better," she said, smiling.

"Bueno, bueno. You were muy cansado last night. I figured it would just be best to let you sleep." He smiled at her, a warmth in his brown eyes she hadn't seen before. //Odd... Who'd EVER thought Angie could be...selfless...or caring. I mean, I KNEW he had a good side, but...he's really nice when you get past all the sarcasm, all the barriers he puts up.// She tilted her head and looked at him in curiosity. // Wonder why he does that... Hide the good parts of himself away. What is he afraid of?//

They drove in all but silence, as listened to the radio while they sped toward their destination. As they crossed through Utah into Nevada, Paige saw Angelo get more and more tense as he drove.

Eventually, at nightfall and nearing the California-Nevada border, Paige took over driving. Angelo SHOULD have slept, but as she drove toward the border, she noticed him staring out the window.



"Is it....is it gonna be hard for you to go back?"

//In more ways then one.// "Si."

"Oh." //I shouldn't pry...I shouldn't...// She gritted her teeth. //If he needs to talk, he'll talk. Just like when we talked about his dad.//

Eventually, he fell into a fitful sleep, and she could tell that his dreams were nightmares. Worse ones then before. Instead of just twitching, he'd jerk, and almost thrash, in his seat, and would occasionally mumble in Spanish and English, but nothing that she could ever understand. Eventually, he was jerked awake by whatever haunted his sleep, and he sat for a minute just staring, as if unsure that this was reality.


He let out a long sigh, and some murmured words, and rested his head in his hands.

She laid a hand on his shoulder, and he reached up and grasped it tightly with his own. "Gracias, gracias..." he murmured, but couldn't seem to be able to say anymore.

//God, Angelo, whatever is down here, it must be bad for you to make yourself go back, if this is what thoughts of LA does to you.// She couldn't say anything. She just merely held on to his hand and kept driving.

The next day, Angelo steeled himself as they drove into California and straight toward LA. He took over driving, because he KNEW that Paige didn't have the defensive driving techniques to be able to manage on the California highway.

And then Paige could almost swear that Angelo's finger would leave an indent in the steering wheel as he drove it into a backroad, covered it with a tarp they found, and then stared to walk into the city.

It was daylight, but as Angelo had said before, that meant nothing. Open drug deals, killing, rape, all of it could happen during the day here...

They moved quickly though the street, Paige following Angelo's lead.

"Where are we going?"

"It'll be dark soon. We want to get to that shelter before nightfall."

She nodded. "All right."

"Stick really close to me, but not too close. Put one hand in your pocket and keep your eyes and ears open." Angelo advises as they wander down the street.

Paige winces as in the distance it sounds like someone is setting off firecrackers. //Don't think about it Guthrie.// "Why the hand in ya pocket?" Paige asks, trying not to make a joke of it.

"Looks more like it's possible your packin' and with both of us it's more chance one of us will shoot the shooter if we both look prepared."


Angelo looks around visibly nervous. //It's been while since I was last in this section of the barrio. Noone should notice me.// He looks at Paige and then looks back around, //If I remember right Andre used to run with a gang around here, Before he went down 'remember talking to him about the local head honcho's policy regarding.... no. I'm not going to think about it.// He looks at Paige and starts to walk faster. "Sooner we get out of this area the sooner we're safe."

"Safer you mean."

"Verdad. Now hurry up."

Out of the corner of his eye he sees a 8 year old walking into the street ahead of them.

"Paige. Stick close."

"No offense Angie, but it's a kid. I mean he's no older than Artie or Leech."

"And a whole hell lot dangerous. He's wearin' an initiation-"

"Initiation? You mean he's a-"

"Recruit, he's gotta prove himself. Don't ask how."

"He's just a kid though."

"Charles Manson was a child once too, Paige." Angelo keeps walking forward. The kid walks so he's directly in the path of Angelo and Paige. Angelo keeps walking forward. When he's about five feet away from the kid he makes eye contact. Paige looks at the small trickle of sweat run down the side of his face. She watches as both Angelo and the boy lock gazed and keep that lock untill Angelo passes him almost running into the boy. Before Paige who's following almost exactly in Angelo's foot steps has the boy behind her, he reaches out and grabs her arm.

[Who are you] He asks.

"Uh. Me lamo es.." Paige shoots a worried look at Angelo. //Oh shit shit shit. She killed that!!// Angelo tries hard not to show the fact he's stressing out.

"Not from around here?" The boy asks as he reaches into his Raider's jacket. [Rookie. Find someone else to prove yourself with. We don't have the time and we aren't anyone important.]

"You, never seen you before. You have any money, I'll let you go. But, well.. Her, I KNOW that I'll be in for sure if I bring her in."

Paige laughs outloud at that, "ME? Why would I POSSIBLY go with you."

"You don't want to ask that.. TRUST me on this one, chica."

The boy pulls a switch blade out of his pocket. "The money, amigo," he says as he holds out his hands. Angelo looks around nervously. There's other members of the gang bound to be around watching to see how he handles this encounter.

"No money." Angelo shrugs. "Our car broke down, no money."

"Then I'll just take it outta your hide and her."

"WHAT?" Paige shouts. "Ya can't do that. Ah'm not afraid of-"

"Callate!" Angelo snaps at Paige. Paige just glares at him. //He knows more of this area than I do, but ah'm NO baragin chip and I'm not gonna stand for it//

"Look, Amigo, you're a smart kid. I can see that. In case you haven't noticed...no colors. We've got no prize or value, no money. Just normal people whose car broke down."

"So what? Life isn't fair, is it amigo? Now do I have to slice you up or what?" Out of the corner of his eye Angelo is aware of a few older teens walking out into the street, all of them walking togetter. //Great.//

"If I go with you, will you let him go?" Paige asks the boy.

Skin's jaw drops //What is she thinking... She's going to die...well, eventually die.//

"She's high, she isn't thinking straight." Angelo tells the boy.

The boy grins as his fellow gang members, the ones that are watching this test gather behind them. The boy looked at Paige. "She dosen't look high."

"TRUST me, amigo, the girl is out of her mind. And she's MINE, so you and your homies better just BACK OFF."

"Yours?" Paige said, looking at Angelo funny. "YOURS?" She hissed.

"I said callate." His voice was low, deadly serious.

"Aw, fuck you." The boy said, and took the advantage while Angelo was distracted, sweeping the hand with a blade in a wide arc toward Angelo's midsection.

"SHIT!" Angelo lept back,noticing the attack JUST in time, and pushed Paige futher back.

"Look, kid, I don't want trouble with you OR your friends. I don't bang. Period. I am NOT worth this."

[Shut up and die.] The boy rushed him with the switchblade, but Angelo simply sidestepped the ill timed attack and tripped the boy, letting him sprawl out onto the concete. The knife skittered from his hand across the side walk and into the gutter. Paige ran and grabbed it, but not before she noticed the other gang members quickening their approach.

And she saw with horror that they were all VERY armed. Chains, knives, and guns could ALL be seen.

The kid looked at his appraoching gangbangers. "You lose, fucker," he laughed at Skin. Angelo looked at the bangers and then looked at Paige. //Madre de dios, no, can't let them kill her...//

"PAIGE, DOWN!" He placed himself between her and the rush of the gangbangers and she heard his cry of pain as they siezed him and began to attack him. She felt strong arms grab hers and pin them behind her, throwing her roughly to the ground. Someone was sitting on her back, pulling her head up by her hair, and laughing. She blinked at the sound of thunder went off in her ears, and she gasped.

Two more shots went off, and she heard Angelo slump against her. "Angie? Angie?" She said, her voice quavering. She used the switch blade, still gripped in her hand, to slice through the skin of her palm, and used her other hand to peel away the skin, revealing a metal fist underneath. She grabbed the her attackers wrist, pressing metal fingers into the nerve points. The gangbanger screamed and jerked his hands away. She pushed him off, and he took off running. "ANGELO?"

Her jaw dropped when she saw him.

A HUGE black man had picked Angelo bleeding, broken body, holding him like a child. About him, the gangbangers were either dead or unconscious, and Paige didn't really care which.

"C'mere," he said. It was not a request. It was a command

"My-my friend, he-"

"We'll help you both. Us muties gotta stick together, yeah?"

//How did he know I was a mutant?// "Uh, yeah."

"C'mon." She obediently followed him as he began too walk calmly down the sreet away from the carnage.

//Shit...what have I gotten us into?// She looked at Angelo's limp, bloody form and shuddered. //Come on, City Mouse. You can't leave me alone out here. You HAVE to stay alive!//

She followed the large, nameless black man through alleyways and back roads, until they finally stopped at an abandoned house.

"Here," he said, opening the door.

From inside the house, she heard, "Ramsey? Dat you?"

"Yeah, Tre. I got visitors."

A thin, wiry young black sauntered into view. "Well, what do we got here? A piece of the Aryan Nation and some bleedin' spic. I'll talk to this one, you take the one whose drippin' back in to 'Leela." Ramsey grunted, and then began to move back down that hall.

//Aryan Nation? Ohh boy...// "Wait! A-My friend, he's-"

"He's gonna be fine. 'Leela's powers are healin'."

"Healing? She can save him?"

"Probably. But it'll hurt."



Forgeting where she was she pushed past him, and began to hurry down the hall after Ramsey. "Hey, girl, wait up!" Tre said. "Damn bitch." He went into a room, following Ramsey, and was horrified. There was only a bed, stained with old blood. "Where's this 'Leela?"

"She's comin'. " Ramsey said.

A moment later, a young black girl walked into the room. She was only sixteen, and she had a baby on her hip. "Ramsey, take 'Lonzo." She handed the baby to the big black man and walked over to Angelo.

"My God," Paige heard her whisper. "Angelo? But-but you're dead..."

//HUH????// "You know him?"

"Course I know him! God! I'm his girlfriend."

"WHAT?" Paige shrieked. //GIRLFRIEND?!?!?///

"Don't you tell me that you and him...?"

"NO-Well, uh, no. We're just friends."

'Leela looked her up and down. "Yeah. Right."

She then ingnored Paige and proceded to remove Angelo's shirt. She used his shirt to mop up the blood, and Paige was begining to get nervous. //He looks paler then normal and his breathing's shallow. I wish she'd hurry up.//

She examined the wounds. Two holes, one in the center of his abdomen, probably in the stomach, and the other on his side, in the area of his kidney. "He gonna be okay?"

"Yeah. C'mere. Sit behind him, and prop him up on your legs. Hold his arms back." Paige mutely did as she was told. She didn't like the cool feel of his flesh against her. //Hurry, please, hurry...//

Then, she saw 'Leela's hands begin to glow. And she shoved her hand into the open, bleeding wound.

Angelo was suddenly very conscious and in a lot of pain. He jerk forward and screamed once, straining against Paige's grip on his arms. "Angelo, calm down, please, she's tryin' to help yah!"

"P-Paige?" He gasped. 'Leela removed her hand, coming out with a bullet and lots of blood. Then she went to the other wound and repeated the proces, and Paige held onto Angelo for dear life.

Finally, the hardest part was over. 'Leela just placed her hands over the wounnds afterward, and they closed.

Angelo slumped back agaist Paige. "Madre de dios, Country Mouse, I don't ever want to feel anything like that again..." he mumbled, exhausted.

"Angelo... We need to TALK... Do you know a 'Leela?"

His eyes snapped open. "Why?"

"Cause the girl that just, uh, healed you? She says her name is 'Leela, and she SAYS she's your... girlfriend. " Angelo turned his gaze to 'Leela and leaned foward. "Aleela?" He murmured.

"Yeah, Angelo, it's me."

"I came here looking for you," he said. He fell back against Paige. "Madre de dios, Paige, what HAPPENED?"

"They shot you, and they grabbed me and-"


"I'm a hell of a lot better then you are! But that's thanks to you and...uh... Ramsey."


"Ramsey." Aleela said. "My NEW boyfriend, since you vanished on me." Aleela's gaze was hard and cold on Angelo. "How could you do it, Angie? We thought you were DEAD. Did you find out? Did you find out I was pregnant? Is that why you left?"

"Que?" He sat up and looked at Aleela with confusion on his face.

"Yeah. Alonzo. Your son."



Aleela shook her head. "Rest. I'll talk to you LATER," she said. "ALONE." As she locked eyes with Paige, and then walked out.

Paige edged back away from Angelo, and slowly let his head rest on the pillow. She stand over him as he lays on his back. She looksd down at him. She points a finger at him. "YOU!"


"YOU HAVE A CHILD??!! What kind of guy are you?!!"

"It's called bein' human, Paige."

"I thought you were.. you know.. 'pure'."

"Did I EVER tell you I was a virgin, Paige?"

"No, but how STUPID could you possibly be? I mean... How well do you know this girl?"

"Why is this your concern?" Angelo says as he tries to sit up. His ribs scream at him //oh, Madre de Dios, bad idea// he lays back down.

"Angelo Espinosa, if you weren't layin' there so helpless, ah'd slap ya an-"

"PAIGE! It's MY problem and my life, why do you care?" //Good question, why should she care about-//

"Look! Do you know what's out there? AIDS for starters, and 1 out of every 6 people has-"

"Paige. Look I appreciate you playing my madre, I really do. But I highly doubt that child is mine and, even if it was, I knew nothing of it. If I did I wouldn't have left."

"You're 16 years old!!!"

"And you're 17, Paige, por favor, as though the thought never crossed your mind ONCE in your life."

Paige walks away from Skin and glares at the wall. Actually she's hiding the fact that he just touched a rather sore spot. //Jonothon. Ah'm surprised he didn't end our friendship after what ah put him through. Ah really wish Jonothon was here now, he's more suited to talk with Angelo about this than ah am.// She turns back to look at Angelo. He's now leaning propped up on his shoulders and supporting himself. Paige can't help but think about the movie 'Princess Bride' and how the hero was when he was coming back from the dead. "I'm a different case Angelo."

"WHY?! BECAUSE YOU LOOK NORMAL?" Angelo shouts. Then regrets it as pain rips through his whole chest.

"No! That's not it! It's just that... Ah. Ah... Oh, who cares? Who cares? Ah shouldn't and ah don't. So go on. I don't know what's going on. I know half of nothing of your life up here. But I DO know the statistics. It's not my fault if I don't want to see you as one of those statistics okay? But who cares?!" She turns and storms out the door, furious. //Caramba. She really went loco about the news I wasn't a virgin. Is it because she cares or is it her moral upbringing?//

//Ah can't belive this, Angelo has a child. Well, he could have a child. After all the time we've spent togetter, ya think he'd tell me, Ah mean Jonothon would tell me. Ah miss Jonothon.// Paige sits down on the steps of the entrance of the abandoned building.

"Hey Aryanian." Tre's voice is heard as a shadow falls over Paige. She turns and looks up at Tre. He's not much bigger than Angelo. He sits down next to her. He hands her a warm bottle of Absolut Vodka. She looks at him strangely. //How am I spose to respond to this. If I refuse it, I might insult him. But I'm not in the mood to drink. Besides how did they manage to afford this?// "Ah-I like my drink cold, no offence."

Tre looks at her strangely. "Don't trust you. Let's be clear on this. You don't belong here and neither does that bleedin' spic. Aleela says she knows him. But then again she tells me that he's sposedly dead. That doesn't place him to high on my friend list, And you?"

"I'm southern and white."

"Now, straight from the lion's mouth."

Paige just looks away in response. "I can't prove myself to you, and I can't force you to trust me, but as Ramsey said, We mutants have to stick togetter right?"

"I'm just watching you closely Arayanian, keep dat in mind. You so much as cause ONE arguement with any of my people, and you know those guys you and "Angelo" met in the street?"

Paige frowns and nods.

Tre continues, "I'll HAND deliver you and "Angelo" to them, and I might as well tell you, word has it their leader, the spineless ass he is, he's got a likin' to girls lookin' like you, that's why you don't see many-"

"You're lying", Paige growls. //I don't like this guy's threats, they aren't funny at all.//

"Test me, ghost. Just you test me. You'll WISH you died."

"If you don't mind. I think it's gotten really cold out here. I'm going inside." Paige says as she stands up and walks into the building.

Paige walks into a room with a black and white TV. Ramsey is in the room, Aleela stands up and leaves out another way as soon as Paige comes into sight. Ramsey is cleaning his fingernails with a knife. Paige goes to a far corner of the room with her back against the wall and starts to watch the TV, she doesn't make a sound. //Wonder what the other's powers are?//

Ramsey stands up and turns off the TV and leaves the room. Paige wraps her arms around her knees and sits there, She tries to zone off her thought of what's happened, what could have happened had Ramsey not shown up, and what's happening now. //I wonder what the others are doing in class.// She smiles very briefly. //Wonder if Jonothon actually got his paper done. I was going to help him with it. That was my stresser of the week. Helping Jonothon and bein' so close to him without bein' able to tell him how I feel... Now here I am across the country, hell, I might as well be in another country... Angelo's already been shot... what else could possibly happen?//

Paige looks up at the ceiling covered sky. //What next God? Suddenly are ya going to have us find out we're really part of some dream bein' manipulated by a scar-faced, claw-wearin' man named Freddy? I mean what next?//

God's response is the sound of distant thunder.

Skin laid back and shut his eyes, trying to block out the pain from his beating. //Well at least I'll live.//


"Aleela?" He struggled to sit up. //MADRE DE DIOS! THAT HURTS.//

"My powers saved your life Angelo, but it dosen't spare you any pain. You have to heal the rest of your wounds normally."

"I noticed, chica."

She stared at him coldly. "Chica? It used to be amante, Angelo." Angelo looked nervous. //Great, I'm losing Paige, and Aleela's coming back on...//

"Si, si, it used to. But I haven't seen you in a long time...and well, you said that you'n that Ramsey..."

She shrugged. "Yeah, Ramsey and me are a thing."

"So I figured that calling you lover was a little out of place."

"You callin' Paige that?"

"No." //I wouldn't MIND though...//

"REALLY? She seemed to be a little upset over me and you."


"So I'm thinkin' that you and her are more then amigos."

"Not happenin'."

"Bullshit. I've SEEN you look at her, with that desperate love in your eyes. She's just to blind to notice. I've heard that quake in your voice. I KNOW you, Angelo Espinosa. Inside and out."

//That true...Aleela always did know me inside and out...//

"I went to your funeral, Angie."

"I wouldn't doubt it." //I can't just LAY here...I have to say this on my own two feet.// He pushed himself up off the bed and gritted his teeth as he stood.

And she took the advantage, walking straight over and slapping him hard across the face. "You two-faced BASTARD."

//I derserved that.// He plopped back down on the bed. "I had my reasons."

"I was PREGNANT Angie!"


She was silent. "The day...the day they told me you were dead was the day I was going to tell you."

"All right."//Now, how do I tell her I knew she was sleepin' with Ric?//"You know, I knew you were sleepin' around, Aleela."


"Si. I KNOW you were sleepin' with Ric."

She stopped dead. "N-No. I wasn't."

"Aleela, you know me inside and out. And I know YOU. You're lyin' when you say that boy is MINE. I can see it those big brown eyes of yours."

She shook her head, and stared at the wall.

//Time to change the subject.// "I came down here, looking for you, 'Leela."

"Really? Why? The white bitch ain't puttin' out for the little spic boy?"

//That is it...I have HAD IT.// He reached up with one hand, letting his skin shoot forth from his wrist and fingers, entangling about her waist. He pulled her over to the bed and got right in her face. "Let's. Get. One. Thing. Straight. Paige is my FRIEND. Nothing more."

She struggled against his hold, but couldn't escape. "I KNOW that kid could be MINE. But I KNOW it could be Ric's, too."

"I WASN'T sleepin' with RIC! You and I lost it together, remember? Sneakin out at midnight? Dodging the 'bangers and the dealers and meetin' behind Rollie's?"

"Fondly, chica, fondly." //God...one of the few GOOD memories I had of the hood...//

"You ARE Alonzo's father," she stated again.

//Fine. Ric wouldn't take care of a kid anyway.// "Okay. I'm his padre." //Problem is, I might be... She might not know WHICH of us fathered him...// He loosened his grip around her. "You've gotten better with that," she said. "I remember...I remember when you first started growin' it all. You've learned to look more human."

"Si, si. That's why I came down here," he said. "Aleela, this is WRONG. Just cause you're a mutant doesn't mean you need to start 'bangin'."

"What do you mean?" A dark shadow seemed to wash across her face. "We're protectin' ourselves-"

"From WHO? Don't see many Friends Of Humanity down here. You're usin' that as an EXCUSE, Aleela, and I don't like it. That's - partly - why I left LA."

"You're still with other mutants."

"Si! I am! And we're learning how to use our powers and NOT hurt other people." He thought of Jonothon. //And for some of us, that's harder then for others.//

"So you're hiding in some mutant boarding school?"

"I am NOT hiding," he said hotly. "I am learning how to deal with what I became!"

"Bullshit, Angelo."

He silently glared at her.

"So why are you so worried? Cause you don't look normal? You can't pass for human most of the time? Angelo, I loved you when you were still gray and melting. Can your Paige say the same thing?"

He was silent a moment. //No, she can't. I can't..//

"Angelo...I may be with Ramsey, but I still love you. And all she'll do is hurt you."

//Oh, God, Aleela, you HAD to say that, didn't you?// "Paige would never hurt me intentionally."

"Yeah. Intentionally. But she already has and doesn't know it, does she?" She walked over to the door. "You know, the whole BUILDING heard your argument." She opened the door. "I heard it." And she walked out.

He slowly laid himself back on the bed. //God, you MUST be a woman... No one else could hate me this much and be a man.// He shut his eyes and tried to sleep.

Paige saw Aleela walk into the room with her baby on her hip. //What was his name? Alonzo?// She looked over at her and the baby, and saw Aleela make a makeshift crib out of cushions from the beat-up couch.

//Okay, Paige, do the math. We've been togeather for nearly a year.... enough time for her to have that baby, cause it isn't more then six months old. He...He COULD be a father...// She rested her head in her hands.

"Listen. If you and Ange are stayin' here, you're stayin' in with Ange. We don't have the room for you to be seperate." Aleela said, looking coldly at her.

"I wasn't intending on stayin' anywhere ELSE but with Angie." She said, standing up.

Aleela walked over to her, and got close into her face. "Listen, bitch. You hurt him, and you'll go back to that mutant boarding school in a casket. Got it, white girl?"

"Yeah. I got it." //Hurt Angelo? How could I hurt Angelo?//

Aleela backed off and then walked over to her baby. "G'night, Alonzo." She leaned over, kissed the baby on the forehead, and walked out of the room.

Paige walked over and looked down at the child. //Cute thing... Does kinda look like Angie. Looks like Aleela more though.// Then she went down the hallway, and into Angelo's room.

"Angie?" She whispered.

"Hmmm?" Came the soft response.

"Are you asleep?"

"I WAS...."

"Oh. Sorry."

"You comin' in to sleep?"


"Here." He rolled over to the best of his ability. "We share. I'd go to the floor, but that's beyond me right now..."

"No, Ange, I couldn't..."

"Why? You were FINE the other night. The revelation that I used to be active make you wary of me?"

//A little...// "No, Ah-Ah...."

"So now you don't trust me? Maravilloso. Great open mind you got there, Paige."

"Angelo, you ain't bein' FAIR."

"You know, I keep TELLING people that we're just friends...and now YOU don't believe me? That helps." He rolled over on to his side, gritting his teeth against the pain. //I'm just gonna roll over and ignore her. Thats it Just ROLL over and IGNORE HER.// He tried to position himself so he felt as little pain as possible.

Angelo wakes up. He rolls over an hears someone give a shout of surpise and then a thud as the person falls off the cot. A sharp stab of pain reminds him of where he is. He looks down at the floor. Paige looks up at him surprised. "Que? Chica, what are you doing on the floor?" Angelo asks as he smiles.

Paige just makes a low growl. //I really don't like it here. I don't. Not only have I found out way more than I would ever want to know about Angelo, everyone here's not giving me a chance at all.// Paige stands up and rubs her now sore shoulder.

"If you want to eat, we are all eating now." A black girl with her hair done in dreds says as she walks in the room and looks at the two. She's wearing reflective sunglasses and she's got four visible scars. It's quite possible that it's just two and they intercect behind the glasses. "Name is Gorgon. That's what you call me. I'll have someone bring some food up to you Angelo." She turns and walks back down the stairs. Paige shoots a nervous look at Angelo.

"Don't be nervous, just watch what you say, that's all."

"I'm not nervous." Paige mutters as she goes down the stairs after Gorgon.

There is only room for Paige to sit between two gang members that look like werewolves. She tries not to stare. After a few minutes the one on her right turns to her and between mouthfulls of Coco Puffs he says. "Hey, name's Che," He points to the other werewolf "That's my sister Maria, She takes life way to seriously." He then points to the woman with the glasses. "That's Denise. Don't look her in the eye or your get a grande headache." His smile gets even bigger. "I'm guessin' you met Patcher already." Aleela glares at Che and gives Paige a glare of death. "Brick there was the one who saved ya last night, and Sighter sent him out. But Denise is our leader and all," he says as he smiles and shows off his enlarged canines. Tre nods at the mention of his name and then looks back down at his food.

Paige finds it very hard to eat. After a few minutes Aleela gets up and leaves the table with a bowl, milk and cereal. "I'm going to go give Angelo some food now," she says with a short look at Paige. Tre looks like he's meditating on something.

"Wait." Denise says. "We need to talk. For starters. I want to get one thing out in the open. If there is ANY fighting in this group. BOTH of the people who are involved in the fight will be taken care of, MY way."

Aleela sighs and goes upstairs. Maria leaves the table after a while. Che smiles. "My sister's not rude or nothin', she's just not to thrilled about what's been going on lately. Tre's been workin' overtime on keepin' a look out on the other hoods round here. Denise basically holds us all togetter. We mutants have to stick togetter, or else we're going to be sent to a camp or something."

Paige puts her bowl in the sink, "But all you guys are managing to do is GIVE people a reason to send you to camps."

"Rather go down fighting than like you special kids at your private school." Paige turns around and is met by Aleela's glare.

"In case you don't know...I don't see any of you that are bullet proof. You can't heal everyone...and if you keep this up you'll have to."

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Denise says, "You don't understand what it's like around here. You join a gang, then you become a mutant, then you're a weapon, or a threat to the group. I'd rather see us safe togetter than dead apart."

"But violence isn't the answer," Paige says, forgetting about her promise to Angelo.

"We do what we have to survive."

Suddenly the sound of the door opening and shutting is heard. In an instant Denise is reaching for her glasses, and every member in the room pulls a gun.

"IT's ME! It's ME!" A voice is heard. Everyone relaxes in the room. In walks a boy that looks no older than 10. "Hey guys. I planted that bomb in the Scabs's normal hang."

Paige's jaw drops.

Che smiles as he puts an arm around Paige. "Paige, meet Shane... The all-American pyro." Shane smiles. "I blow things up. My mutant power, it rules."

Tre growls, "Che's the spicin' Beavis and Shane is the mixbreed Butt-head."

Ramsey comes down the stairs, right behind him is a staggering Angelo. Ramsey helps him down the last few steps.

Shane looks at Angelo. "Who's he?"

Aleela looks at Paige. "An old, close friend. A very close friend." Angelo and Aleela lock eyes for a moment but Paige is surprised to see her friend look away, almost in defeat. //What did they talk about last night?//

Ramsey drops Angelo roughly into a chair, and then sits down himself next to Aleela. "So." Gorgon starts. "You know Aleela."She says to Angelo.

"Si. I do."

"Why did you come here?"

"To help her." Paige leaned in. //This is what he's been keepin' from me this entire trip.//

"Help her? WE'RE helping her."

"No, you're not. You killin' her. And yourselves. You just don't REALIZE you're dead already."

"Is this a threat?" Paige saw Gorgon raise one eyebrow behind her mirrorshades. " 'Cause if it is Gray-"

"The name to you, Gorgon, is Skin."


"Si. Skin," he said flatly. //What's wrong with him?// Paige wondered. //This ISN'T what I expected. It-It's like he gave up hope...// "And it is no threat. It is simply what I have learned in my year outside of el barrio."

"And WHAT did you learn outside at a cushy private school?"

His laugh was a harsh bark, and she knew he forced it out even though it hurt him. "CUSHY? I have seen things that would make your blood ice in your veins, if you have blood at all. I have already lost an innocent friend, and have almost lost my own life in the process. I have learned what it is to care about total strangers, NOT because we were the same colors or run with the same pack, but because we need one another. And I want Aleela and the rest of you to LEARN. Your gang means nothing." He pointed to Paige. "Our friendship does. That why Paige is here with me. She's my friend. And if you cannot realize, Gorgon, what you do drops you down the level of the Friends of Humanity, or the Genoshans, then I will simply walk out of here like I walked in. And you can go about your merry business and let the death toll rise."

Gorgon rises out of her seat. "You talk like a preacher. Who are you to tell us you've been through more than we've been through! If it wasn't for US you'd be dead!"

There was a silent face off, between Gorgon and Skin. Paige looked from one to the other, from hard, brown eyes that screamed in pain, and the flat, black of Gorgon's mirrorshades. This time Skin won out, and she exaulted silent in his small triumph.

Che nudges Paige. "Tre is our living security camera, he every now and then scopes out other groups' haunts. Keeps us one step ahead of everyone else."

"I know everything that goes on everywhere." With that he pokes Skin in the middle of his chest with one finger, "Don't forget that spic." And he turns and walks off.

Che swallows hard, then he mutters to Paige, "Hey, how about you, me and Shane hit the local stand."

Shane smirks, "Yeah, if anyone asks, she's my girlfriend."

Aleela glares at Shane. Shane shrugs, "she AIN'T going out with Skin."

Skin rolls his eyes, //Things have changed slightly, but there's one in every group.// Paige looks at Skin. Skin shrugs. "Sure. I'll go along with you," she says and the three of them head out the back door.

Tre runs in and screams "GET DOWN!" Angelo ducks as soon as Tre is done with the statement, along with everyone else. The window shatters inward, Glass flies everywhere as bullets punch through the wall and the door.

"FUCK! They're packin' some heavy shit!" Gorgon puts her hands over her head as she hits the ground. "Tre!"

"It's CLEAR" Tre shouts over the sound of fireworks, splintering wood and plaster being plastered.

"Everyone crawl to the back way."

Angelo can hardly concentrate over the sound of the entire front of the house being shot at. He doesn't hear Aleela scream her child's name over the sound of the bullets.

As Gorgon and Maria clear the fence they look up at Angelo. Angelo jumps from the top of the fence. Tre closes his eyes. "The aren't persuin'."

Ramsey dusts off his jacket. " 'Leela?"

Tre closes his eyes and nods his head no.

"FUCK! FUCK IT! FUCK!" Maria screams, her screams sounding more like a wolf howling. She slams her fist into a garbage can.

Tre doesn't open his eyes. "She stood up to grab Alonzo." Gorgon turns. "If it wasn't for Gray, she would have been thinking clearly." She rips off her glasses and turns to look at Angelo, but he's nowhere in sight.

Angelo enters the building. Blending in as best he can with the shadows. He looks around. He remembers where he was, and where Aleela was in relation to him. He's suddenly aware of the sound of a baby crying. He sneaks along the ground to the site of the sound, It's coming from a pile of bloody clothes. He touches the pile of clothes. They are warm to the touch. Angelo hears his heart pounding in his ears as he turns over the corpse. It's Aleela. Her eyes are open and looking blankly at him. //Madre de dios, no...// Clutched close to her chest is Alonzo. Angelo crosses himself and reaches down and shuts Aleela's eyes. He picks up Alonzo who's face is red from screaming so hard. Angelo checks one last time to make sure. [Be at peace. I'm sorry. I never got to say I'm sorry for leaving you.] Angelo tries to see though his tear clouded vision.[I loved you once, Aleela. But now...I guess I just have to take care of...of our son...] He finds a blanket and covers Aleela's corpse with it. He looks down at the still screaming Alonzo.

//What do I do with Alonzo? He could possibly be my child. Great, Senor Cassidy is going to LOVE this.// Angelo crawls out a side window and jumps another fence, avoiding the others, using the skin on his back he holds onto Alonzo, //I have to find Paige, there's no use for me here, and if Gorgon convinces the others that 'Leela died because of me then...// Angelo speeds up his run. //Where would they have gone in such a short time?// Angelo ponders.

"You ever notice how people always ask to borrow a light? Well, Do they ever give you it back?" Shane says as Che and him walk down the street. Paige notices that unlike Angelo, they don't seem worried at all about walking down the street.

"PAIGE!" Paige turns. Angelo is running down the street. He stops when she turns, He's still holding his ribs.

"'Scuse me guys." Paige says as she walks over to Angelo. //In his shape, if he ran, something must be up.//

"Angelo, what are you doing with Alonzo? Angelo!" She supported him as he almost collapsed from the strain. And then a odd soft, sensation run under her fingers. She pulled away from him, and where hand had touched bare skin, there was gray, melted flesh clinging to her fingers.

//Ah-Ah will NOT throw up.//

"T-Take the baby..." he panted. He undid the skin papoose he had made on his back, and let Paige lift Alonzo. //Got...to...get...control...//

He dropped to his knees, and Shane walked up to Paige, just at her elbow. "He don't look to good."

"No...No he doesn't. Angelo?"

"Just...got...to...pull...myself ...together...." he said through clenched teeth. //Come ON, DAMMIT!// He could feel a migraine coming on.

Finally, the skin stopped dripping from his shaking form, and Che helped him up. "C'mon, brother," he said, dusting the exhausted Angelo off. "You're comin' back with us."

"N-no," he mumbled, but Che ignored him. "Gorgon may run the group, Gray, but we got a say. You went in after Aleela and Alonzo. That took guts. and they ain't even your homies."

//If you only knew...// Angelo looked at Paige with tired eyes. "Can't ...make it...." he murmured, and swiftly lost consciousness while leaning on Che.

Shane grabbed his feet, and Che hung on to his shoulders. They both turned to Paige. "You're call, whitey. Where do we go?"

"Uhh...Uh...I'm not sure." She looked down at the screaming baby in her arms. "I'm not sure at all."

Che and Shane looked at each other. "Where will you be SAFE?"

"Massachusetts," she said softly. She turned to Che. "Can I trust you to keep him alive?"

"Si." Che nodded. "He hasn't done ANYTHING to us." He smiled kindly at Paige. "Some of us don't think like Tre and Gorgon, amiga. You have my word that he will still be alive. Where are you going?"

"To find a payphone. To call our headmaster."

Che nodded. "There's a liquor store with a payphones that USUALLY working down the street. And these are pretty calm streets, for LA. You should be able to make it down there and back with no problem."

She nodded. //Good thing I have left over change from food and gas in my pocket...I COULD call collect, though.//

"Soon as we get him situated, Shane will come back for you. Meet him here."

She nodded. She walked over to Angelo's unconscious form. //You'd better be alive when I get back, or so help me I'll kill you.//

"Good luck, Paige," Che said, and then turned to Shane. "Let's vamanos!" And they headed off quickly down the street. Paige watched them go for a few minutes, and then headed off to find the liquor store.

"Wake up you son of a bitch." Angelo groaned softly and then came face to face with Gorgon's mirrorshades. "Que?"

"You got Patcher killed. And for that, we are gonna do TWO things. I am gonna break your mind, and Ramsey is gonna break that skinny little spic body of yours."

He could hear Che from across the room. "NO! You CAN'T do this, Deni! He SAVED ALONZO!"

"Yeah! Aleela's baby! And handed him to the white bitch who went to make a PHONE CALL? God, Che, you are such a dumbfuck!"

"I trust her." Che growled.

"I don't CARE who you trust. Who's in charge here? ME. And Aleela was my lieutenant. And for her death, Gray here is gonna live out his worst nightmares."

She turned to Angelo, who was too weak even to look away. She took down her mirrorshade, the scars on her face make a X the lines intersecting right between her eyes. She grins evily as


Paige got back from the phone call, and was running hard with the baby still in her arms. //Ah wish Ah could have given you to Che and Shane, but they were busy enough as it was with Angie.// The baby had cried himself into exhaustion and was now sleeping fitfully in Paige's arms. //God, could you REALLY be Angelo's? If so, are you gonna be a mutant like your mama and daddy? What is life gonna be like for you now?//

Shane met her at the prescribed meeting point. "You gotta come quick. Gorgon's gone overboard. She's gonna kill Gray!"

"WHAT?" She handed Shane the baby and said, "WHICH WAY?"

He gave her a few brief directions, and then she took off running, full tilt. //Come on, nights of jogging, don't FAIL ME NOW!//

She burst through the door of the gang's safe house and screamed out Angelo's name. //If they've hurt him... If they've...killed him... Oh, God, there will be hell to pay.//


//You know, I've HAD it with this guy and racism...// She proceeded to husk away her skin and slammed a silver fist into Tre's delicate face, and he falls backward, bloody and defiantly suffering from a broken nose.

"All right who's next? Who wants some?" Paige growls, her eyes glowing red, She's defiantly mad. "YOU." She points to Gorgon. "You want a little?" //Jubilee and her late night movies.//

She saw Gorgon, holding Angelo, their eyes locked. Angelo's body shook as if in some sort of seizure. Gorgon said. "Wait your turn, you baby-stealin' bitch. You're next."

"NO. I'm NOW." And she steps towards Gorgon, but not before Ramsey interposed his huge mass between Gorgon and Paige.


Ramsey simply stared and looked down at her.

"MOVE!" She said, as she steps on his foot hard, He looks down at his foot and grunts, unimpressed. He looks back at Paige in time to see her step and then lunge forward bringing a solid steel knee into his crotch. There was a soft whine, and Ramsey crumpled to the floor. //So much for tall, dark and easy to knock down.//


Gorgon kept her eyes on Angelo. "His pain is quite sweet, Paige. Especially concerning YOU. If YOU got hurt, that you be a fate worse then death for him..."

"He's my friend. I'll die for him if Ah have too."

"You will, will you?" She dropped Angelo into a pile at her feet, and turned to face Paige. "Then look into my eyes, Paige and see the truth!"

Paige turned her head and raised her arms to block Gorgon's gaze. Then, she heard a feral growl, as Che leapt toward Gorgon his claws going for her face.

"CHE! YOU BASTARD!" The claws ripped through flesh, but didn't score her dangerous eyes. But it did accomplish a distraction. Paige grabbed a strip of her husked skin and tied it around Gorgon's eyes.



Gorgon stopped moving. "No wonder...."

Paige sat on her back. "WHAT?"

"No wonder his pain was so sweet....the woman he once loved, and the woman he loves now, all in the same place..."

Paige was dumbfounded, this is the last straw. //She's sick, she gets off on pain of others.// "You lie. Enjoy THIS." Paige slams Gorgon face down into the hard wood floor. The sight of the small pool of blood from Gorgon snaps Paige out of her rage. //Gawd, I snapped. Ah really snapped.//

Che walked over to her. "Get out while the getting's good. Maria won't attack you. Shane's got Alonzo. Go. Home. And don't come back to LA. Gorgon won't give up."

"What about you?"

He grinned ferally. "Me and Maria will make it. Maybe we'll travel out of here. Go to some place green. I've always wanted to see a forest. Guess it's the wolf in me. But you HAVE to go home. Go and see your headmaster and GO HOME." He picked up Gorgon, holding her tightly, her eyes are closed and her faced is drenched in blood.. "Take him and the baby and GO."

She nodded mutely. She grabbed Angelo's unconscious body and the baby as best she could, and headed out the door and into the night. //Just GET to the jeep...And we'll be okay...//

Trying to support Angelo alone is hard enough, but add to that the weight of a healthy baby boy, Paige is walking way too slow. As the sun starts to set she starts to get to the street where they first met Ramsey. Her heart starts to pound in her ears. As long as she's perfectly quiet and blends into the shadows there should be no real problems. She looks at the spot where Angelo was shot. She shudders, and secures her grip on Angelo. Suddenly Alonzo wakes up and starts to cry. Paige quickly clamps a hand over the baby's mouth.

"Shh...quiet...please be quiet," she whispers to the baby, he clearly isn't listening. Suddenly Paige catches the glint of metal out of the corner of her eye, she drops to the ground and rolls over on top of Angelo to shield, while holding Alonzo under her right arm.

As she slowly gets up, she thinks //What was that? Bein' in this crazy city's makin' me paranoid. Wish we never came here.// She looks around, she turns around and right at an in-motion butt of a pistol. It catches her right in her cheekbone. Paige doesn't have a chance to scream in pain before she hits the ground and lands right next to Angelo.

"So, what's a nice girl like you doin' with a gray trash like this one?"

"So this kid yours, sure don't look nothin' like yours. Your lucky, I got a soft spot for kids, else I'd air out its head just for bein' so damn ugly." Paige rolls over and tries to stand up. She only manages to get up to her knees before one of the two attackers grab her hands and twist them behind her back, She screams in pain as he digs his nails into one of the pressure points in the palm of her hand. One of her attackers stands in front of her and grabs her by the hair and pulls her face up so she has no choice but to look at him. He's white with black hair pulled back, He smirks. "So what's the scoop chica? We iced this freak, then some mutant trash comes along and make a mess with my boys an-"

"You? You run this group?" Paige says and then regrets it as her jaw screams in pain.

"Surprised. Skin tone can be deceivin', ya never know what's under it all." Paige's eyes narrow at that //You better believe I know that loser, and if you don't stop pulling my hair...// Her thoughts are stopped by the guy behind her quickly letting go of her hands then grabbing her arms and pining them to her sides and picking her up. "LET ME GO!" Paige screams, now longer caring about the pain in the side of her face.

A black man goes over and looks at Angelo. Behind Paige, she can hear someone talking in Spanish, [You want me to waste him, for good this time.]

[No, get me some smelling some ammonia or somethin' strong, I want the guy to watch.] Paige tries to understand the Spanish, but she only picks up a few words. She can't husk due to the fact both her arms are pinned at her sides and she's to tired from carrying Angelo and the baby to do anything extremely drastic. Suddenly she jumps straight up. The man behind her tightens his grip on her and tries to pull her closer and as he does that Paige kicks backwards with both feet hoping to take out both his kneecaps. It works, and the man loosens his grip for a second as his kneecaps scream in agony at him. Paige doesn't bother husking, she doesn't have time, She takes a swing at the leader. He grabs her fist and twists it around and brings it down on his leg. Paige's world goes red for a second.

"PAIGE! DO SOMETHING! MOVE!" Paige can hear Angelo's voice. She opens her eyes. They are still in the street, she must have passed out for a split second. Angelo is awake but he's laying propped up a light post. He looks almost white. His face and clothes are all cut up. It looks as tho they roughed him up, but didn't kill him. //Of course they will kill him. But why haven't they?//. Laying next to him on the ground is Alonzo.

[You said she was your girlfriend. You don't deserve her. She needs a real man.] The black haired leader says. Angelo spits on the ground, //This isn't happening. If I could just compose... but it's taking everything I've got not to loose total control.// [A real man wouldn't have to force himself on a woman.] //You so much as TOUCH her and I'll come back from the dead and you will be one sorry fucker.//

"Normally I don't use the term but you are the DUMBEST fuckin' spic I ever met." He then turns to Paige, "Ever been fucked to death?"

Paige is past furious now. Her eyes are closed and she's trying her hardest to concentrate on keeping a hold of her selected form under her skin, "Never try'd it 'fer."

The leader snorts, and slaps Paige hard across the face, "this is for bringing that spic back with you." Paige looses her concentration. It takes her a second for her eyes to focus. Paige's head starts to pound. The leader reaches and grabs the neck of her tee-shirt.

"Wouldn't do that," Paige growls.

"I would," he says.

Suddenly Angelo screams in agony. Paige looks at him for a split second, as does the leader, he lets go of her shirt and his jaw drops. Angelo Espinosa has lost full control, his skin is literally dripping off his face.

"Leo...he's melting...he ain't spose to do that," the man that's holding Paige's arms at her side mutters.

"It's called him tryin' to distract us for his stupid mutant friends. Let him die." He turns back and looks back at Paige. He steps back. Her eyes are glowing bright red. "Fuck...what the?" Paige's eyes narrow. Her hair is beginning to stick to her forehead from sweat. "What the...what's the mutant doin' to her?" he shouts.

Paige, eyes still red, looks up at him, her face looks pale and like someone just dunked her head in a bucket of water, "Ya're a loser. Leave the mutant alone. It's me you want."

Leo looks confused for a second. "Aw fuck it" he pulls a switchblade our of his backpocket. He points to someone behind Paige and mutters in Spanish, [Ice the meltin' freak over there.]

He takes the switch blade and sliced Paige's shirt making it a middrift. //Ah gotta get my hands free, holding onto this form is going to kill me.//

"You don't look so good. Maybe it's cause you know your boyfriend there can't do anything to help you." Leo smirks as he takes the point of the knife and runs it across Paige's cheek, with his other hand he starts to reach up Paige's shirt.

"Please, he's twice the man ya'll ever hope t' be," Paige whispers, she's beginning to passout from the strain to her body.

"FUCK THAT!" Leo shots and with the knife slashes a cut across Paige's face from her temple to her nose, just missing her eye, and effectively removing the skin. Suddenly a green light pours out and then half of Paige's face is no more, replaced by a bright green light.

Paige's eyes turn pure white. She speaks and her voice no longer sounds even human. "FIRST let's get one thing straight; the baby is not mine. Second; you TOUCH Angelo and you WON'T die, but you'll wish you did. Third; I'm a mutant too. Ya never know what's under someone's skin, right?"

The black man standing near Angelo drops his knife.

"Bullshit," Leo shouts and throws his knife at Paige. The knife is halfway between Leo and Paige before a sound like something exploding is heard and the man that previously was pining Paige's arms to her side is just holding shreds of skin. The knife is implanted into the man.


"SHUT UP! Yo' don't deserve t' live!" the glowing green mass of energy says. It grabs a shaking' Leo by the neck and he goes limp, electrocuted. It turns and looks at the black man who's got a knife to Angelo's neck. "GET OUT OF HERE. DON'T COME BACK."

The black man kicks the lump of gray skin. Paige screams with anger rushes forward the second they make contact the man falls dead, electrocuted. The other gang members are gone by the time Paige turns around.

Paige looks down at Skin. //Oh god, please be alive. I can't help you. If I touch you when I'm like this, I'll kill you for sure.// She kneels down next to Angelo and looks very closely, she can see movement. "Don't die Angelo. You can't die here." //Oh god. If he stops breathing, ah can't do anything. Ah can't do anything! Ah can't touch him to help him or anythang!!// Paige keeps an inch away from Angelo's melting form. "Angelo. Ya...ya gotta pull together." Paige realized that if she were in her normal human form she'd be crying now, but she can't when she's in this form. "PLEASE, ANGELO!" she screams. The baby on the ground next to Angelo starts to scream again. Suddenly Paige hits the ground. The strain from changing into this form over takes her and she passes out and falls asleep barely breathing in glowing green energy form next to Angelo.

Banshee flew quickly through the skies of LA and his keen hearing picked out the sounds of Paige's screams. "BEGORA! EMMA! THEY'RE OVER THERE!"

"I SEE them, Sean."

"What happened? What... My God...what happened to those boys?"

"I DON'T want to KNOW, Sean. You grab Angelo and I'll get Paige and -- the baby?"

"Baby?" Sean walked over to Emma, who was kneeling near Alonzo.

"Baby, Sean. There is a screaming baby next to Angelo -- God, Sean! ANGELO'S NOT BREATHING!"

"WHAT? GIVE HIM TA ME!" He reached down, and picked up the melting mutant boy who had dreaded coming to LA. "Saints preserve us, don't you die lad!" He turned to Emma. "Get Paige and the wee little bairn and come on!" He began to scream and took off, flying as quickly as possible to the borrowed Blackbird.

Emma grabbed the very unconscious and very naked Paige. She covered her with her jacket, and then began to walk down the street, masking her presence from anyone who would do her harm or otherwise.

"Paige?" Angelo's voice was a low rasp.

"Don't speak, lad." He heard Banshee's warm, fatherly voice, filled with concern.


"Lad, I told ye to be QUIET. Now shush, or I'll have Emma put ye to sleep."

Sean looked over at Emma, who shook her head slowly. [[I'm not touching his mind after that trauma! Do you want me to make him brain dead?]]

"Ye got a point."


"She's FINE lad. She saved your life, I'm guessing."

He tried to nod, but the pain was too much. He smiled weakly at Banshee and then slipped back under the warm darkness of unconsciousness.

"Ach, Emma, what are we going to do with these two?"

"Stick Skin in the medlab for about...oh...a month, Paige for two weeks. Maybe longer."

"Anythin' else? They stole my bloody jeep."

"Sean, do you REALLY think you can punish them after everything they have OBVIOUSLY gone through? You can't sense it, but Skin's suffering from psychic trauma. He's not going to be in ANY condition to do anything but psionic counseling. And Paige...she's a good student and a better girl. I don't think her going on this trip was her idea."

"Aye. I doubt it meself." He looked at Paige's slumbering form that lay covered across the seats of the black bird. "I guess I get to WAIT till they're better...and then not have the heart to do it..."

Angelo's fingers slowly tapped on the keyboard of his laptop. His hands hurt and he was tired due to all the drugs that were currently being pumped through his system. He yawned and stretched and was about to shut down the laptop when a tiny wooden square thunked into his chest.

"Que?" He picked it up. It had a large, black letter "S" on it. //A scrabble piece?// He looked over at the open door way. "You want me to spell out enter?"

"With an S, Angelo?" Paige Guthrie walked into his room slowly, pushing a cart with an unfinished scrabble game on it.

"Hey, you said you could do it with just an M...."

She laughed softly, and he made a signal to be quiet. He pointed to a crib in the corner of his room. "He finally settled."

"Good. Sooo... What are you and Alfonzo gonna do?"



He sighed, and shut down the laptop. "Senor Cassidy made a deal with Ev's parents...they...they are gonna take care of him till I 'graduate'."

"So, foster brother?"

He shook his head. "I don't want to think about it." He looked at her for a moment. "So...how are you doing?"

"Betta." He nodded. "Banshee says I'm gonna be in here quite awhile longer," he said. "And after THAT...I get to start psionic therapy...undo the damage that Gorgon did..."

"What did she DO to you, Angelo?"

His eyes grew distant. "Made me live out my worst fears, my...most unpleasant memories..." He laughed bitterly. "And my fondest dreams. And then she twisted it all...God, Paige, the DREAMS I have been having..." //The ones with you in them are the worst...Aleela and my Padre are a close second...//

She laid a hand on his. "Ah'm here for you Angie."

He wrapped his long gray fingers around her and squeezed her hand gently. "I know."

There was an uncomfortable silence that seemed to drag out second into minutes, minutes into hours...and then Angelo broke the silence.

"You know what, Country Mouse? The weirdest thing is, I keep waking up and expect you to be in the chair across from me, or laying beside me... Got a little used to you being there, on the trip." //And I wouldn't mind wakin' up to that pretty face from now on...but with my luck...it won't happen...//

She laughed. "You know, some nights, I feel the same way?"

She was quiet for a moment. "Angie, I-Ah, wanted, to-ah-apologize...fer bein' so mad when I found out, that you, were , uh, not a-"

"Shush, Country Mouse. After everything you did for me...and my son... ALL is forgiven. All right?"

She nodded mutely and stared at the scabble board.



"Do you want help with your Spanish? It...needs a little work. Mostly with inflection, but still...do you?"

She nodded. "Sure."

"How fluent ARE you?"

"Okay...I guess. I know mostly what you're saying...."

//Damn...that means I can't get away with tellin you how I feel and get away with it...// "How well do you keep up?"

"The faster you talk the harder it is...."

He smiled.//Time for that blur of Spanish technique....//

"Just a test...I will tell from your reaction either or not you can understand what I say....I warn you, Spanish flows better than English, so it may be hard to keep up...."


//Here goes nothing...// [Paige, I just wanted to let you know that I really care about you and if anything had happened to you back there, I would have never forgiven myself. I was wrong to take you on this trip, and I owe you my life. And even though I know you don't feel like I do, no matter how much I may wish you did, I love you.]

//Por favor God, let that have ALL passed right by her...//

"Well?" he said tentatively.

Paige paused for a second and looked at Angelo. She picked up the two mugs. "I'm going to get some hot coco," she said with a blank expression on her face.

Angelo looked away. //She didn't understand. It's stupid of me, what was I thinkin' to say something like that. If she understood she'd at least have some sort of reaction.//

Paige walked out the medlab door. As soon as she turned the corner, she smiled. She understood almost every word.


This has been a Rachel's Realm of Words Production