Julian comes in with Noriko the day the adults take off for the Marauders to get the baby back, the baby. The way they come in, uncharacteristically quiet, shoulder to shoulder in unmistakable solidarity, is enough to get Josh, and everyone else in the room, to sit a little straighter and look their way.
"We need to talk. All of us," Noriko says darkly. She turns and stalks out of the room. Vic shakes Santo awake; Megan shoots off to the dorms to knock on doors. Josh catches Julian's eye and raises his eyebrows as a question, but Julian is impassive. He just jerks his head as an indication to follow and goes after Nori.
Surge has taken a place in front of the fireplace in a living room, arms crossed. David comes into the room and plants himself beside her, looking sideways at her, which she hardly seems to notice in her mood.
iPods and phones are turned to silent and placed on the coffee table. Santo takes up almost a whole couch. Josh takes the chair closest to Julian, who splits from Noriko's side, giving up a speaker's position at the mantle to lean on the back of Josh's chair. Cessily in turn gravitates to him and sits on the arm.
"Purifiers," Noriko spits by way of prelude. Everyone tenses in apprehension; Julian and David are merely grim. "They were there. Trying to get the baby."
"Bastards," Anole whispers. Santo growls wordlessly. Sooraya hangs her head and whispers what might be a supplication or short prayer.
"Professor Xavier talked to us about it," David says with a brief nod at Julian, who tilts his chin up in acknowledgement.
"Yeah, he told us all about how he wanted to use us," Surge shoots at Prodigy. "Because we're all pawns to him, isn't that right?"
David's jaw sets, but he knows how to defer, and he does. He crosses his arms and lets her continue.
"But we know the X-Men--the X adults--aren't going to help. And I say, fuck it, why should they? This one isn't their fight. It's ours."
Noriko looks seriously around at everyone. Her eyes crackle with a fire that has nothing to do with electricity. "They're the Purifiers. They went after us. Not the adults, not Mutant Town or fucking X-Factor, they went after fucking us and they got forty-five of us. This is personal." She crunches one gauntlet into another. "I say we go after them."
The other kids look at each other. Whispers are exchanged. Josh's stomach sinks.
"If we let them go they'll strike again," Noriko continues. "And they'll kill that baby, which might be our only chance at not being the last mutants, ever. So we'll save it, and if they don't have it, fuck it, we burn them down anyway."
Nori allows a pause, and Josh feels sick. When he thinks of the Purifiers he thinks of Laurie, and DJ, and his hands feel empty, empty, useless and dull.
But then he twists his fingers together and they don't feel empty anymore. They feel full of the decay, the poison. It should feel like a release when Josh puts it into someone else, but it just feels like it grows in himself every time. Purifiers. Purifiers. The sons of bitches who got Laurie. The fuckers who made beautiful, innocent, shy Laurie bleed out in his arms. If he sees them he'll kill them all.
Oh god, he'll kill them all.
"So. Who's with me?" Noriko demands.
Josh tries to shake his head clear, rubs at his eyes with black fingers. He can't do this. He can't go with them. He's going to kill them all and he can't, he can't do that, he--
Julian's voice comes first, not a surprise. His fingers are tight on the back of Josh's chair. "I'm in. Those people killed Brian."
"Me too," says Cessily immediately. Her hand curls around Julian's arm.
Josh looks at his hands and wills them to turn gold again. It takes a moment, but slowly the black drains down his fingers; he half expects ink to drip from his fingertips.
"I must decline," says Sooraya, her eyes bright with concern for Noriko. "If it were for the baby... but you want revenge, more blood to spill. That is not what I want for us."
Josh thinks of how Julian is probably the only one who doesn't avoid his black spots, so confident that they--that Josh--won't hurt him.
"Well, that's why I'm doing it," says Anole. "For the baby."
He nudges Santo, who nods and says, "But I'm not gonna change its diaper or anything."
Josh looks up at Julian, whose eyes are following the conversation, and remembers the last time he healed him, just his back, and how Julian didn't try to run, and had asked for it. How Julian had let Josh hold and kiss him afterward, and how they'd laughed together.
"Um, I'll teleport us, but like? I don't wanna, like, kill anyone, if that's what you mean." Megan bites her lip. "I won't have to, will I?"
Josh thinks of how passionately Julian hates the idea of the X-Men killing anyone, how strong his conviction is.
When Noriko looks at Laura, she merely nods.
Josh thinks of Julian after that mission, in a way not so much unlike how it felt with Laurie, him on the Blackbird strapped down and bloody, struggling to breathe, dying. Josh imagines Julian not having been sedated well enough to finally pass out. He imagines his shields not falling and letting Josh in soon enough. He imagines Julian on a mission with no extraction team, no Blackbird, no Dr. McCoy.
A mission like this one.
"Don't do this, Noriko," Prodigy urges. Surge glares at him.
Josh slowly reaches up and interlocks his fingers with Julian's, who looks down at him, a little surprised at an affectionate gesture at a time like this.
"You're with us," Noriko doesn't quite ask, nodding at Josh. David furrows his brow as if he was expecting something different.
Josh looks at Julian, takes a steadying breath, and nods. "Yeah," he says softly. "I'll go." He clenches the fingers on his other hand around a palm he can feel blooming black; the hand in Julian's is gold, and that's all that matters.