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To Catch a Falling Star
        By Bobbi Todd

Under Wolverine's watchful eye, Beast removed the last of the stitches from Star's back. He surveyed the wounds critically, then said,

"There you are, my dear. Any tenderness?"

"Yes."

"Understandable, there was considerable damage to the muscle tissue. I want you to be careful for a few weeks. Gentle stretching exercises only, nothing strenuous. Your burns are healing nicely. How are the ribs?" Wolverine helped her to sit up on the examination table and she smiled up at him.

"Okay." Beast looked at her skeptically. "Well, they are a little sore."

"A little sore?" She ducked her head, then smiled impishly.

"It doesn't hurt to breath. All the time." Beast sighed.

"I wish I could tape them for you."

"It's all right, Henry. It's really not too bad." He shook his head.

"The swelling has gone down and the bruises are starting to fade." He glanced at the wound across her torso. "Should be able to take the stitches out of this one tomorrow or the next day." He cupped her chin gently in his hand. "In a few months we'll see if we can reduce the scar tissue on your back. Other than that," he said fiercely, "I don't want to see you for anything more serious than a hang nail for at least six months." She looked up at him, her eyes serious.

"I will try, Henry. But I make no promises." He smiled, then picked up her chart.

"Any headaches?"

"No."

"All right, then. There are a few more tests I'd like to run next week to determine the extent to which your powers were ... damaged."

"There doesn't seem to be anything left."

"I know, but we need to check anyway." Star sighed and Beast looked up from the chart. "Too much lab time?"

"I was created in a lab, hatched in a lab, and raised in a lab. I've literally spent more time in the lab than out." She sighed again. "I know I'm not much use to the team without my powers, but I can't say I'm sorry they're gone." She looked down at her hands uncertainly. "I guess when my skin grows back I'll need to ... to find ... someplace else ..."

"Nobody's gonna throw ya out, darlin'. This is yer home now," Wolverine assured her.

"Logan's right, Star." Beast said. "You are always welcome here." Star shook her head.

"I'm a liability. Just something else for you to worry about when you should be concentrating on keeping your hides intact. Something I'm apparently not very good at."

"Star..."

"No, Logan. You were ... hurt. Jean and the Professor were nearly killed trying to help me. A heavy investment for so little return." She eased off the table, touching the floor gently to avoid jarring her injured body while the two X-Men stared at her, speechless. She walked out of the lab. Beast and Wolverine exchanged glances, and Wolverine went to look for Star.

He finally found her out on the patio at the back of the mansion. As usual, she had forgotten her jacket.

"January in New Salem ain't the time ta be outside in yer shirtsleeves." She looked up at him, then shrugged.

"What I said wasn't completely true. I do miss feeling the animals, and knowing that I'm ... I'm not alone." He put his arms around her and she leaned into him, only to flinch away at the slight contact. He released her instantly.

"'Tender', huh?"

"Okay, so it hurts a lot."

"Why didn't ya tell Hank?"

"Why? There's nothing he could do for me, and he would just worry."

"Star, he's tryin' ta help ya."

"I know, Logan. Everyone has gone out of their way to help me. I just ... feel so useless."

"Yer not useless, girl."

"Right. I weigh less than a hundred pounds and can't even tie my own shoes. I'd be real handy if someone needed help."

"Darlin', ya can't know fer sure..."

"Logan," she said, her voice tired. "I burned it out. It's gone." Her voice was barely audible. "I don't have anything left to offer." He turned her toward him and gently tilted her head back until she looked up at him. Her eyes brimmed with tears. He pulled her to him, careful not to disturb the burns on her back.

"I'm scared," she whispered.

"It's all right, girl," he stroked her hair. "I'll always take care of ya."

"Logan, you can't take care of me all the time."

"Then I'll teach ya ta take care of yerself. And I can't do that if ya ain't here." He wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Now, let's get back inside 'fore ya catch cold."

"I can't catch cold, Logan. Didn't you read my chart?"

"No, I didn't. Hank's the only one with access to stuff like that."

"Maybe you should. I have a very...interesting...lineage."

"It don't matter who yer parents are. Or how many of 'em ya got. The only thing that matters is who ya are." She sighed. "How can you love me? After what I did to you?"

"Ever'body makes mistakes, darlin'. The point is, I do love ya. An' if ya decide ya can't stay here, then we'll find someplace else, together. 'Less ya don't want me taggin' along."

"I want to be with you, Logan." He kissed her gently, her hands held in his.

"C'mon, darlin', let's get back inside. Frostbite might not do any permanent damage, but that don't mean I like it."



They went down to the gym and Wolverine took her through a careful regimen designed to stretch her damaged muscles without stressing them. He watched her carefully for any sign of strain. She tired easily, but wouldn't quit until she was told to do so. Or until she collapsed, which was something he wouldn't allow.



Jubilee entered the gym, but started to hastily back out when she saw Star and Wolverine.

"C'mon in, darlin'," Wolverine called to her, and she came back in almost reluctantly. He helped her set up the weight machine while Star continued her exercises, quietly watching Jubilee. After several minutes, Star picked up her towel and turned to Wolverine.

"Logan," she said, hiding her reaction to Jubilee's glare as he looked up at her. "I think I have done enough for now. I'm going to get cleaned up, then go to my room. If anyone needs ... well, I'll be in my room," she turned to Jubilee. "Jubilee?"

"What?" she answered, clearly annoyed.

"Perhaps we could ... go shopping? Tomorrow?"

"Uh, yeah. Maybe."

"Thank you." Star quietly left the gym. Wolverine looked at Jubilee.

"You two havin' problems?" She stared at him.

"Oh, come on, Wolvie! You're my partner. You an' me, we're a team. But ya took off with her."

"Jubilee..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. It was necessary." She folded her arms across her chest and glared at him. "But it wasn't 'necessary' for you ta come back makin' eyes at her all the time."

"Jubilee..."

"Don't 'Jubilee' me! Just tell me what's goin' on."

"Yer still my partner, darlin'. The best I could ask for."

"Then what's with her?" He looked at her for a long time before answering.

"I love her, Jubilee. I'm gonna ask her ta marry me." She stared at him, her mouth open. He reached out and gently lifted her chin. "Ya lookin' ta catch flies, darlin'?"

"Yer gonna marry her?" Jubilee was incredulous.

"I said I was gonna ask her. She might turn me down."

"Anybody that'd turn you down'd have ta have rocks in their head." He shrugged.

"It's happened before."

"Oh. Yeah. Right. Mariko. But that didn't have anything to do with you. That was because of whatsisname. Mastermind."

"The arguments were still valid. I ain't exactly a prime catch."

"Well, I think you are. Um, we can still be partners?"

"'Course, darlin'. Nobody I'd rather have."

"Okay. Come help me with this."



Star went to her room and showered. Moving carefully, she dried her hair with her towel. She flinched as one of the internal stitches suddenly parted, sending a sharp pain unexpectedly through the muscles of her back. She stepped up to the three way mirror and studied her reflection. Everything looked so different now that she could see with her eyes. She was accustomed to seeing things more ... deeply. Before, her reflection had been blue tinged, and sort of ... sparkley, and it had depth. Now, it was as flat as the glass in front of her. She reached out and touched the glass, enjoying the cool smoothness for a moment before returning her attention to her image. Her dark hair glistened wetly, the curls in disarray from the toweling. Her face was round with a slightly pointed chin. Her eyes were blue, which was a startling change from the shining silver they once had been. It would be easier to pass in the human world, however, without them to blatantly brand her as a mutant. Which would make her shopping trip with Jubilee easier. She turned so she could see the wounds on her back. The tears had been ragged, and the stitching had been hastily, and sloppily, done. The scarring already pulled the tissue, limiting her movement. She supposed that was why Beast wanted to reduce the scar tissue. The burns from the electrodes were going to scar as well.

Moving carefully, she combed her hair before it could dry completely. Then she stretched out on her bed, intending to rest for just a few minutes before starting dinner. She might be completely useless to the others when it really counted, but she could still help with the domestic duties. She fell asleep almost immediately. And began to dream.



It was dark and she was alone. More than anything, she hated being alone. She was lying on a bare floor and she was cold. She tried to sit up and realized that she was bound, and that she hurt all over. A door opened and she was momentarily blinded as the room was flooded with light. She blinked in the glare until her eyes cleared. A woman stood in the door. Her arms were oddly elongated and ended in sharply clawed, long fingered hands. Her eyes were cold.

"Bring the Gaijin whore," she said to someone behind her. "I want him to watch her die before I kill him." The woman moved away from the door and a man stepped into the room. He grinned at her, then lifted her effortlessly to his shoulder, knocking the breath out of her. She struggled for air as the room grew dim around her.



She woke with a start, her body protesting the sudden movement. She sat up on the edge of the bed, and her heart gradually slowed its frantic beating. If she had glanced at the mirror then, she would have seen silver eyes looking back. When she did look in the mirror, after dressing, the now familiar blue eyes returned her gaze.



The next morning Jean, Storm, Jubilee, and Star set off for the mall. All four women were acutely aware of what had happened the last time Star had gone shopping and, although she would not admit it to the younger women, Jean was very glad Storm had decided to accompany them. Jubilee was uncharacteristically quiet throughout the trip and Jean could sense the tension between the two young women without any need to probe them telepathically. She knew of Wolverine's attachment to Star, so it was easy to guess the source of the trouble. She hoped they could work it out.



After a couple of hours at the mall, they decided to take a break and get a bite to eat. They hadn't been in any hurry, but Star was showing definite signs of fatigue. She sank carefully into a chair. Jean silently suggested that she and Storm should get the refreshments, leaving the younger women alone for a few minutes.

"Jubilee, if you and Star would hold the table for us, we will return shortly," Storm said. She and Jean moved away.

"Jubilee?" Star said finally.

"What."

"I will not come between you."

"What?"

"Your friendship with Logan will not suffer because of me. Friends are too precious. Especially for him." She looked at her hands for a moment, then looked back up at Jubilee, "And for me."

"He told me he loves you." Star didn't answer. "Well? What about you? Do you love him?"

"Very much." Jubilee was silent for a minute. Then she sighed.

"Okay, then. But if you ever hurt him, I'll rip your heart out!"

"If I hurt him, Jubilee, I won't have a heart." They watched each other warily for a moment, then Star extended her hand. "Friends?" Jubilee hesitated for a heartbeat, then took the proffered hand in her own.

Storm and Jean returned a minute later, Jean having 'listened' to the mood of their conversation, with hamburgers and french fries for each of them. Star forced herself to eat when she realized that she was too tired to be hungry.

After lunch, they decided to see a movie. Jean suggested it because she could see that, tired as she was, Star was reluctant to be the cause of an early ending to Jubilee's shopping trip, and this would offer her an opportunity to rest. She fell asleep almost as soon as the movie started.



She woke with a start as the car smoothly took the curve of the highway, allowing the sun to shine in her eyes. She blinked, confused. Jubilee was beside her, chattering happily about which of her new clothes would go with what. Jean was driving while Storm was turned in her seat to listen to Jubilee, directly behind her. Star listened without interrupting, still trying to comprehend fashion. She tended to wear clothing that was comfortable, her only concession to style was in NOT wearing color combinations that her friends objected to. When required to wear shoes, she usually wore the moccasin boots Jubilee had given her, but most often she went bare foot. Suddenly there was a loud noise and the car swerved sharply left. Storm struck the back of her head on the window, shattering the glass. Their car was thrown into the path of an oncoming semi. Jean fought the steering wheel and tried to get them out of the way of the larger vehicle, but even with her telekinetic powers, there just wasn't enough time. The truck hit them.

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