She’d never intended for this to be her chosen path in life — one of good deeds, reparation, and fostering peace. It had all been a fabrication, the result of an alternate universe where she was not only a hero, but married to one. Joanna Cargill moved slowly, listlessly, through the rows upon rows of folding chairs, all empty with the exception of two at the front of the assembly hall. Kitty Pryde — correction, Headmistress Pryde — was talking to her old friend Doug Ramsey.
Frenzy thought back to the time she had once squared off against Doug and his fellow New Mutants, the times where she had been diametrically opposed to Shadowcat and her do-gooder idealism. Back when such optimism made her sick. This was a world not filled with fear and hatred towards her kind. An entire race that had once been doomed to extinction, only to see it reborn in a blaze of fire and glory.
That left them again feared and maligned.
And now she was one of them. She was no better than them, no worse. She was an X-Man.
“Frenzy.” The perky, still irksome voice of Kitty rang in her ears. Without turning her head, Joanna glanced fully over at the duo. She was now almost in line with them, her gentle pace through the auditorium hastened through getting lost in thought. “This is Doug — I’m not sure if you’ve met.”
She turned her head to fully look over the boy Cypher. He was now gaunt and hollow, his eyes heavily lidded and bagged, cheeks inset to his face. “We’ve met,” he said just as Joanna had said it. There was a deliberate stress in Doug’s words. He sounded not quite angry, but cold and aloof, timing his words to match hers. His powers had manifested quite distinctly after his death and subsequent resurrection. Doug now understood everything as a sort of language—and he mistrusted her.
Narrowing her eyes, Joanna let so much as a weak laugh escape her lips. “It’s nice to really meet you though. Hopefully now we can work together.”
Calculating eyes scanned over her face, reading for some sign of deceit. But he found none. Joanna Cargill had truly changed for the better. There were no lingering doubts about her place in the world. She was one of the X-Men. She always would be one of the X-Men.
“Doug’s going to be joining your team. Like a second-in-command sort of deal,” Kitty pointed out. Those were words she had not entirely expected. Now it was her turn to scrutinize the gaunt blond. “Unless…?”
Frenzy shook her head. “If that’s what he wants, he’s more than welcome to it. I wasn’t expecting much from the staff.”
“We want to support you, Jo.” The nickname caused Joanna to flinch. Scott, her Scott, had been the one to first use the pet name and somehow it had stuck. “You’re doing the right thing. We’re all here to help.”
Through the exchange, Doug had remained quiet. He moved slowly and precisely, meticulously crafting narrative in his head: a logical structure through which all things made sense to him. “It’s not just me joining,” he admitted. His tongue grazed over his lips. “Dani and Amara. Warlock, too. We’re all… looking for a new direction.”
Folding her arms over her chest, Joanna finally crossed towards the two seated X-Men, standing before them. It wasn’t meant to be an imposing form, but she certainly asserted her power and dominance, even if both of the younger mutants had higher seniority than her. “So that’s four of us. Four of us against the entire world.”
“We’re X-Men,” Kitty said quietly, a sly smirk forming on her face. “We’ve faced tougher odds. Besides—” She cut herself off and stood abruptly. Any sort of professionalism she had manufactured for herself during her tenure as headmistress of the school seemed to vanish in an instant. Before Joanna was just a young, wide-eyed girl, overflowing with idealism and big ideals. “Like I said, we’re all here for you. This isn’t a closed-door operation. This is a group effort. It’s just going to be your guys’ baby.”
“Shouldn’t this be everybody’s priority?” Joanna asked, a hint of tension in her voice. She eyed Kitty up and down, sizing her up, a habit that she hadn’t dropped. It was no question that she could take her in a fight.
Immediately she regretted even thinking that, as Cypher stood up and almost protectively put himself between the two women. His lips were furled downward, and he was watching Joanna tentatively. You can sit down now, she thought with purpose, changing her expression slightly. Made it softer. It seemed to resonate as he calmed himself, uncurling his fists.
Kitty seemed oblivious to the entire mental exchange, still smiling her ever-present smile. “It is our priority. Top priority, always. But we also need to do actual damage control. We need to make sure Scott is okay—we’re all a little bit worried about him.”
“Scott’s fine. He’s always fine,” she snapped, more vitriol than expected. “He can take care of himself.”
Joanna had been one of the few not to have her memories wiped from the Age of X. It had been a conscious decision, she wanted a reason to stay on the side of good. The biggest drawback came from the unresolved feelings towards Scott Summers. The Phoenix. The corrupted. She thought she had moved past that, but apparently the issues were not as gone as she wanted herself to believe. Mentally pinching herself, Frenzy watched Kitty for a reaction. “But we need to find him. Contain him,” she said. There was a purpose behind her words, and in that moment Joanna fully appreciated why Kitty had been made headmistress.
She was a fighter. Joanna saw a lot of herself in Katherine Pryde. The briefest of smiles tugged on her lips. “Alright,” she said, nodding stiffly, reverting back to her usual, harder demeanour. “While you’re out looking for a pariah, we are going to make damn sure the people of this world know that they can trust us.” Her eyes drifted over to Doug, who looked so gangly standing there without his defences on. “Think you can handle the challenge, kid?”
“Doug’s always up for a challenge,” Kitty interjected.
Cypher just smiled.