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Schoolyard Drama
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The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning is a school founded by Professor Charles Xavier as a means to further his dream foster peace between humans and mutants. In their constant struggle he and his students face many daunting challenges. Recently, his X-men endured a difficult loss against Magneto’s newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants. It started off as an effort help a disturbed young man named Lance Alvers, a mutant with the power to cause earthquakes. It turned into a disaster with Magneto and his team not only defeated them utterly, they brought Lance onto their side as well .

For the Brotherhood, the victory is a vital step in Magneto’s developing plans. Now that his team includes the likes of Mortimer “Toad” Toyenbe, John “Pyro” Allerdyce, Fred “Blob” Dukes, and Lance “Avalanche” Alvers, he is ready to move forward. He and his team seek to assert themselves and mutant-kind as superiors to homo-sapiens. They are willing to do what it takes to overthrow the current order and only the X-men stand in their way.

In the meantime, Professor Xavier must assess the fallout of this recent battle. More than anything, the Brotherhood’s triumph highlights his own team’s shortcomings. With new members like Wolverine and Storm, the team is still adjusting and so far their progress has been hampered. Between parts of the team that don’t get along and other parts that are still getting used to the spirit of the X-men, there is a great deal of tension that continues to evolve.

Xavier Institute – Xavier’s Office

It had been a rough week for Charles Xavier and the X-men. After their humbling loss to Magneto’s newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants, morale amongst his team was shaken. Despite all their training and their advantage in numbers, the Brotherhood bested them and picked up a new recruit, Lance Alvers, along the way. And to make matters worse, the media covered the whole thing. They focused on the destruction and chaos that ensued from the fight, ignoring the more noble exploits of the X-men such as saving those who were trapped in the rubble. Overall, it didn’t bode well for their public image and was beginning a disturbing trend.

It was the worst loss in quite some time and there was a lot of finger-pointing. Scott blamed Logan for being brash with Lance and not fighting with the team when Magneto came in. Logan blamed Scott for not backing him up and letting him do what he did best. Jean blamed them both for being at each others’ throats the whole time. But for everybody else, there were no easy answers.

All the X-men could do at this point was mitigate the damage. To do this Professor Xavier had to call in a few favors from an old friend. He spent much of the day on the phone, working out the details while keeping his team insulated from the media and a wary public.

“So the city of Detroit is going to try and sue us, but the case will not go to court? How is that…oh, I see…no, I understand. I know how this works…don’t worry about the money. I will make the donation anonymously the fix the concert hall. Seems the least I can do…I know it won’t make us any friends. A number of protesters are already demanding that the X-men arrested…good, so long as we’re in the clear. Are you certain we can’t use the Good Samaritan laws? I thought there were provisions for super-powered individuals…I see, well that’s your expertise. Not mine. Just tell me what you need to make it happen and I’ll do the rest. I’ve already issued a public statement to the press. The least we can do is keep the legal ramifications to a minimum…I understand. Thank you, Amelia. My X-men are once again in your debt.”

Letting out a tired sigh, Professor Xavier hung up his phone. It seemed the debacle in Detroit was going to cost him, both financially and figuratively. This was the unknown pitfalls of trying to be heroes. When things went wrong, people and authorities looked for someone to blame. Since Magneto and Avalanche were nowhere to be found, the blame fell upon the X-men. It was a good thing Charles invested heavily in lawyers since the early days of the X-men. In many cases they were all that stood between his X-men being heroes or fugitives.

“I’m guessing we’re not going to be getting off on a technicality this time,” said Warren, who was perched on a chair across from the Professor’s desk.

“Unfortunately, there are no loop-holes for destroying half a city block and putting hundreds of lives in danger,” said the Professor, “We are going to face some legal scrutiny, but it shouldn’t turn into a serious case. I’ve already taken steps to ensure this is resolved quickly and quietly.”

“How quiet can it be when mutants are involved?”

“So long as this school is a private institution, we do have certain legal powers on our sides. That entitles us to rights we can exercise regardless of public sentiment. It’s just a matter of having our lawyers weave through the necessary red tape.”

“So playing hero now requires a good legal team that only a billionaire can afford?” scoffed Warren, “There isn’t a word in the universe to describe how wrong that is on so many levels!”

“Right or wrong, this is how the world works. The X-men can only fight so many battles. Some need to be fought with powers. Others need to be fought with lawyers. Sometimes we have to use both if we’re to further our cause. Especially when we encounter setbacks such as this.”

Warren fell silent. He didn’t find Xavier’s words too uplifting. Between the public blaming the X-men for everything and Magneto getting away with further tainting the mutant image, there was only so much their superpowers or well-paid lawyers could do. It was a powerless feeling in a team full of extraordinary powers. If irony had a spokesperson the X-men would be the top candidates.

It was a lot to take in. Professor Xavier mused over these issues in the early evening hours of a cloudy night. Sitting in the den drinking tea, his thoughts wandered over the many issues surrounding recent events from Logan’s recruitment to Magneto’s new team. Warren was with him, not looking too optimistic about what this meant for their cause.

“So Magneto has his own team, the media is blaming us for the Detroit incident, we’re being sued by God knows how many angry bureaucrats, and Wolverine isn’t getting along with anybody except Jean,” summarized Warren, “I think it’s safe to say we’re down for the count, Professor.”

“While I agree things could be better, I certainly don’t think we’re down in any respect,” said Xavier as he sipped his tea, “We did succeed in ensuring nobody was seriously hurt in the incident.”

“Yeah, but the media isn’t covering that!” quipped Warren, “And the police had the gall the actually charge us with reckless endangerment! And for what? For trying to help people?”

“The city just wanted to show that they were doing something,” said Xavier, “They know their case is shaky at best. Our lawyers have already made that clear to them.”

“Yeah, and that makes how many cases Amelia Voght has bailed us out of?”

“I’ve long since lost count,” sighed Charles.

“She wouldn’t have had to if we were still wearing masks to cover our identities,” Warren added, “Remind me again why the X-men stopped covering up so we could live halfway normal lives beyond our missions?”

“Times are changing, Warren. We need to have a human face in wake of growing human resentment. It is the only way humanity will ever see as more than just monsters.”

“I still think masks would be easier.”

The winged mutant had a point. Professor Xavier remembered how different it was in the early days of the X-men when he had his students wear masks to conceal their identities. This allowed them to be heroes and students without the public knowing the difference. It was a good way to break into the mutant issue, showing that mutants could be heroes and use their powers for good. Unfortunately, the nature of mutant affairs evolved. Hiding behind masks wasn’t enough. A great many circumstances went into his decision to give the X-men public faces and along with this decision came consequences like these.

Warren started pacing. He was just as frustrated as everybody else. When they did good and didn’t get any recognition for it, that was bad but manageable. But when nobody acknowledge they were trying to do good and doing everything possible to harass them, that was just unfair. And he had enough unfairness in his life already.

“So what do we do now? Lay low for a while?” he asked.

“I’m afraid that isn’t an option,” said Professor Xavier, “We cannot shy away from scrutiny if we are to gain public acceptance.”

“With stunts like this we’ve got a long way to go,” said Warren.

“I don’t disagree. That is why we must stand together as a team.”

“Tell that to Scott and Logan,” scoffed Warren, “Those two haven’t stopped fighting since we got back.”

“I know and I’ve spoken to them. If they’re going to be part of this team they’ll find a way to resolve their differences.”

“I don’t know if that’s possible, Professor…especially when Jean is involved.”

Xavier shook his head. That was one circumstance he hadn’t prepared for when he brought Logan in. His attraction to Jean was clearly a major source of tension between him and Scott. There was only so much the Professor could mediate and a drama like that wasn’t one of them.

“I say it was easier when it was just the five of us and we were small-time,” mused the winged mutant, “I have nothing against Logan and Ororo, but we did a lot of good just being a team of masked teenage superheroes using our powers for the common good.”

“Indeed we did,” said Xavier, “But the world has become more complicated, Warren.”

“I know. The mutant population is rising, public sentiment is becoming polarized, and Magneto is on the move again,” said Warren with dripping sarcasm, “But seriously, when did being a hero become too little? Why can’t we just keep doing what we do best and let the rest of the world take it from there?”

“In an ideal world, heroics would be enough. But as you well know, this is not an ideal world. Our older ways may have been simpler, but our mission has evolved since then. The world itself has evolved.”

“The world still sucks,” muttered Warren.

“That doesn’t mean all is lost. It just means the X-men will be facing a new array of challenges.”

“I know. But why does it have to get so complicated? We’re not the military, we’re not some activist group, and we’re not the Avengers. I though we were just mutants trying to do good, but if that’s not enough anymore then what are we really?”

Professor Xavier let out a tired sigh. He didn’t blame Warren for his longing of simpler times. Back then, things were so much easier. They played hero and grew stronger because of it. Warren especially was fond of the hero role. Out of his uniform, he was just a shy rich guy whose parents kept him at arms length. But as Angel, he was more than that. But now that mutation was becoming politicized, being a hero just wasn’t enough.

“We are what we’ve always been, Warren. We’re just adapting to new situations. It’s an unfortunate consequence of time, my boy. Like everything else, the X-men must learn and grow. We’re all going through a maturation process. We should expect to endure such defeats along the way.”

“Does that mean it’ll always be this bad afterwards?” said Warren in a disheartened tone.

It sure didn’t make things any easier, but as Professor Charles Xavier finished his tea and looked out at the cloudy night sky he remained determined.

“We can only hope, Warren. Until then, we must be vigilant.”

Xavier Institute - Foyer

It had been a long time since Hank prepared for a date. It had been so long in fact that he almost forgot how to carry himself in the hours leading up to it. There was once a time when he carried himself with such confidence before a night like this. Professor Xavier himself once described him as confident without being cocky. Of course, that was before his transformation into his current blue-furred incarnation. It felt a lot different this time and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Pacing about in his custom-made suit, Hank took deep breaths as he waited for Ororo to join him. Since their date had been interrupted by the fight with the Brotherhood, they were looking to give it another try tonight. Everything was set. They would first go out to dinner and then for a nice walk. From there, they would play it by ear. With news of the Detroit incident still a hot topic it might best if they avoided crowded areas, but he wasn’t going to let it stop him from enjoying this night.

‘Why must fate have such a cruel sense of irony? I can understand the equations that predict the behavior of quantum particles. I can work out calculus equations while hanging upside down and doing pull-ups simultaneously. I can even synthesize advanced gene sequences that make up most mutations. Yet I don’t understand how the hour before a date can be as stressful as the date itself.’

While Hank contemplated these daunting notions, Scott stood with him while leaning against staircase. He was genuinely glad to see his teacher get out of the lab for once. A date with someone like Ororo would be good for him. He tried to be supportive, but he had his own daunting issues to obsess over.

“I know I’ve already asked you this twice, Scott, but are you sure the suit looks okay?” said Hank as he fixed his collar.

“It looks fine, Mr. McCoy,” said Scott, rolling his eyes, “I know you like to be thorough and all, but men’s fashion isn’t as complicated as quantum physics.”

“I appreciate your candor. But you must forgive my anxiety,” he said, “It’s been a while since I’ve worn it. I don’t remember it fitting quite so snugly.”

“You probably put on some muscle since then. That or it shrank on you when you washed it twice,” shrugged Scott, “I’m trying to remember the last time you wore it.”

“It was a while ago, that’s for certain. If I recall it wasn’t a very pleasant event.”

“You mean when you were with…”

“Yes,” said Hank, abruptly cutting his student off, “But if you don’t mind, I would rather not get into such matters. Not when I’m trying to move forward with Ororo.”

“Fair enough,” said the X-leader, “Believe me, I understand…more than I wish.”

Hank noticed a shift in Scott’s demeanor. Leaving his collar alone he approached the young man with renewed concern. He figured he had been under his share of stress in wake of the Detroit incident. He always did bear full responsibility when the team failed. But he suspected there was something more to this.

“Now you seem to be the anxious one,” said Hank with a half-grin, “Care talk about it?”

“Not really,” muttered Scott, “I’m not even sure where to begin.”

“If my recent observations are any lead I would say it has to do with one of two issues. The first one being the debacle in Detroit.”

“Yeah, that’s a peachy subject,” said Scott dryly, “I still can’t believe we let Magneto get the better of us.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time. Magneto is a cunning fellow. Defeats are an unavoidable byproduct of our line of work,” Hank pointed out, “Which leads me to believe the second issue is more pressing. That issue being Logan.”

Scott shifted uncomfortably at the mention of those names. It was hard to hide how much it had been affecting him. Ever since Logan came on board there was tension. His flirtation with Jean only made it worse. It was only a matter of time before someone pointed it out.

It was a touchy subject. Hank understood that. Having taught Scott for many years he knew he was someone who stayed reserved when it came to such personal issues. This was a very different kind of issue, one that struck him on many levels.

“I won’t waste time pointing out the obvious,” said Hank, “Aside from your many clashes in the field, you know as well as I do that Logan has developed a certain chemistry with Jean.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” said Scott bitterly, “Another way is to say he’s practically obsessing over her like she’s some forbidden prey. I swear Logan flirts with her just because he knows how much it annoys me!”

“And yet he also goes out of his way to get closer to her,” Hank went on, “Even if it means forcing himself to be better than who he was when he first arrived.”

“What are you saying? That he’s just putting on a show?”

“Of course not,” said Hank, “But I think you’re ignoring the possibility that maybe Logan’s affections towards Jean involve more than merely pushing your buttons.”

“He’s a selfish brute who hasn’t even tried to be part of the team! How could he anything else when the team to him is just an excuse to flirt with Jean and bug the hell out of me in the process?!”

Hank tried to calm his student with a comforting hand to the shoulder. Scott was getting quite worked up. He had plenty of reasons between Logan’s ongoing flirtations with Jean and his continued attitude problems when it came to being part of the team. But being so emotionally worked up on this issue, Scott was missing the point.

“Please calm down, Scott. You’re making too big a deal out of this,” he said.

“I can’t help it!” said Scott, still sounding very distressed, “I just know he’s bad news! I don’t want him hurting Jean!”

“I admit, your concerns are valid. However, I believe you’re missing one important aspect to all this,” said Hank.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” said Scott skeptically.

“That Logan’s intentions towards Jean and the X-men for that matter are actually honest,” he said, “You may not see it for personal reasons. But many others have.”

“So now you’re taking Jean’s side?”

“I’m not taking any sides here. Now I’ll be the first to say I was skeptical about Logan’s character when he first joined. But in working with him I’ve seen that he is genuinely trying to better himself. Sure, he has a harsh personality to say the very least. But he does have an honorable side that is more than worthy of a place in the X-men.”

“Funny, he didn’t show much honor in Detroit.”

“Like I stated, he’s trying. There are certain to be a few mishaps along the way. Everybody here struggles when they try to build a new life. Even you struggled if I recall. Yet we all overcame it. I have no reason to believe that Logan won’t overcome it either. Even you have to admit he’s making an effort embrace the X-men.”

Scott scoffed at such a notion, but he chose not to argue. He understood he was bias in that respect. But Professor Xavier trusted him. Jean trusted him. The rest of the team was starting to trust that he wanted to be an X-man. If he wasn’t serious about making a better life for himself he never would have stayed. Even the incentive Jean brought wouldn’t be enough for someone like him.

The X-leader found himself rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. Now he was starting to feel like the jerk instead of Logan. Everybody else seemed to be coming around except him. Yet he still had his concerns.

“What about Jean?” he asked, “What if something happens between her and Logan?”

“Then that would be their business and not your own,” said Hank, “Jean is a smart, responsible woman. She can handle herself if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Against a guy like, Logan? I don’t know,” he groaned.

“Could it be that you’re not so much worried about her being able to handle Logan?” Hank pushed, “I know you and Jean have always been close. Much more so in recent times than usual. Perhaps there’s another reason why you would be so dead set against her getting close to another man?”

Now Scott was in a real awkward position. He found himself turning away from Hank, his expression contorting in a mix of conflict and angst. Such words evoked a lot of conflicting emotions, many of which he had been struggling with for a while now. Dwelling on this as well as the notion of Logan and Jean getting closer was almost too much.

Upon seeing this, Hank realized he may have pushed too far. Scott was pretty sensitive to his friendship with Jean for reasons the rest of the mansion clearly understood. Bobby had been making his share of jokes about it, but it was no laughing matter. For that reason, he tried to reassure his young student.

“I’m sorry if I brought up a touchy matter, Scott,” he said with another gesture, “But more than anything else, I think you should talk to Jean. She’s your best friend. She’ll listen to you.”

“Even about Logan? I don’t see that going well,” he muttered.

“Regardless of what comes of that, don’t you owe it to her? You’ve always been there for each other. Why should that change now?”

“I don’t want it to. I just…”

Scott’s words eventually trailed off. He settled somewhat under Hank’s coaxing. As a smart man with his own history with women, he did have some experience in this respect. Scott would have liked to get some more advice from him, but Hank soon had something more pressing that demanded his attention.

At the top of the stairs, Ororo stood ready for their date to begin. Her presence quickly brought a smile to Hank’s feral face. She was wearing an elegant black and purple dress with various African embroiders along the waist and back. On her picturesque figure it looked so amazing. Even Scott had to admit she was quite a sight.

“By stars and garters,” said Hank.

“I’ll take that as words of approval for my new dress,” grinned Ororo.

“Oh I most certainly approve,” said Hank as he watched her gracefully descend the stairs, “I would question the mental fortitude of anyone who didn’t.”

“The date hasn’t started and already you’re so charming? What a wonderful way to win a woman over.”

Hank’s smile widened as he took Ororo’s hand and escorted her to the door. All the anxiety he had been feeling earlier quickly melted away in her presence. It was yet another example of that irony he pondered earlier. It all seemed so stressful beforehand yet when it all came together, it felt as natural as could be. By any logical measure, it was a good start to this night.

“And with that, I shall lead the way,” said Hank as he opened the door for her.

“Have fun you two,” said Scott, managing a smile for them, “We would do well to have a happy couple in the X-men for once.”

“What do you mean for once?” laughed Ororo.

“That’s…a long story. I’ll be more than happy to fill out in over dinner,” said Hank as he escorted her out, “Take care, Scott. We’ll have our communicators on should you require our attention.”

“Short of a mutant apocalypse, we’ll let you guys enjoy yourselves,” said Scott.

The X-leader waved as Hank and Ororo closed the door behind them and went out on their date. He found himself walking towards the window and watching as they drove off in Hank’s car. Seeing them together got him thinking more and more about relationships. Like Hank, he was no stranger to them. If he told Ororo about some of the drama that had gone on over the years here at the mansion, he was sure she would be surprised.

With that same drama in mind, he sighed as his thoughts drifted back towards Jean, Logan, and the advice Hank gave him.

‘Mr. McCoy is right. I should talk to Jean. Lord knows berating Logan isn’t going to get me anywhere. Before tonight is up, I should confront her. Hopefully we can work this out before Logan makes a move or something. Even if he is trying to better his life with the X-men, the thought of him and Jean together just feels so wrong.’

Xavier Institute – Med Bay

The mind of Wolverine was not a pleasant place to say the least. Aside from there being fragmented memories, chaotic thoughts, and burning rage it was a lot to handle even for him. It was part of why he was such a tormented soul. He spent untold years trying to manage his own madness. His progress had been limited at best to say the least. That’s what Professor Xavier promised to help him with as an X-man. There was also Jean Grey to provide extra incentive. At the moment, she was boldly venturing into his mind to help him make sense of his feral madness.

In his mind, Logan was back in that fateful room again. It was the room in Weapon X where he was strapped to a gurney, probed by an array of machines, and dissected like a lab animal by faceless men in lab coats. Such a memory had always brought out the raging animal in him. Sometimes they came in the form of nightmares and sometimes they came during the heat of battle. Usually, it sent him to the edge of madness. But this time, he was fighting with all his might to combat these inner demons.

‘That’s it, Logan. Hang in there. We’re almost done.’

The calming voice of Jean Grey kept him calm. Even as the sensations around him grew more vivid, he maintained control. This time Logan would set him free, not the Wolverine. Fighting through anguish and rage, he grit his teeth in determination and broke free of the restraints holding him on the gurney.

“Stop him! Stop this monster!”

The figures attempted to restrain him. Usually, they were strong. They would strap him back in and stick his body with any number of needles and blades. But this time, he was able to fight them off. With the strength he gained from many hours of training with the Professor and Jean, he drew his claws and tore into the hated incarnations of his mind.

“I…am not…a monster!” growled Logan.

Everything started spinning. More figures converged and Logan tore into every one of them. When he impaled them, they vanished in a cloud of dust. But they wouldn’t stop coming. His berserker rage threatened to overtake him.

‘You can do it, Logan. Fight it!’

He kept his focus, fighting back the urge to let the monster inside him take over. Soon, the figures grew weak and began to fade. The more he focused, the stronger he became. Finally, they all turned to ghosts and Logan collapsed on the gurney.

Letting out a deep groan, Logan opened his eyes to see Jean Grey hovering over him with a warm smile. It was a beautiful sight to wake up to after living through one of his many nightmares. While he wasn’t one to smile much, seeing her affectionate gaze brought warmth to his otherwise hardened soul.

“Hnn…how’d I do?” he asked as he rose up from the hospital bed.

“Better than when we started, that’s for sure,” said Jean warmly, “You finally made it through without going into your berserker rage.”

“That’s a first. Guess Chuck won’t have to pay to clean this place up again,” said Logan, rubbing his still sore head, “I still felt it though. It was damn close.”

“You’ll probably always feel it. Some of these things are just part of who we are. As much as my telekinesis is a part of me, your berserker rage is a part of you.”

“Lucky me,” said Logan dryly, “It still has its uses. You never know when a bunch of nut jobs will burst in wanting to cut you open and hijack your brain.”

“Which is why it’s important to learn how to control it,” said Jean as she placed her hand on his, “That way the man you are isn’t tainted by the monster within.”

Jean gave his hand a warm squeeze, evoking another smile from the feral Wolverine. It was hard to believe someone could see a man through his intimidating exterior, but this woman was special. She showed Logan a part of himself he didn’t even know he had. It didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes as well.

A brief silence fell over them. Jean blushed under his gaze, which was becoming all too common lately. It was getting increasingly difficult to hide her attraction to him. So much of her was still unsure and she struggled to keep it under control. And before it got too awkward, she went back to the matters at hand and pulled away to make a few notes on his chart.

“So um…the Professor says we can start scaling back these telepathic sessions,” said Jean, “With the progress you’ve shown, I think you’re ready to control your mental states on your own.”

“Sounds promising, but it won’t be the same without you around, Jeannie. I’ve grown kinda fond of your company.”

“You’ll be fine, Logan,” said Jean confidently as she put away the notes, “If something comes up, the Professor and I will be here to help.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Jean was caught off-guard as Logan reached for her shoulder and turned her back to meet his gaze. This time she couldn’t turn away. He was standing right in front of her, those penetrating eyes of his staring at her in a way that made her weak in the knees. She opened her mouth to talk, but nothing came out.

“I ain’t good with words so I’ll just up and say it. You’re attracted to me, Jeannie. I ain’t psychic, but I can sense it. And I’m bettin’ you can too.”

Logan moved in a little closer. Now Jean was really drawn in. His musky scent inundated her senses. It brought out all the things she found alluring about this man. There was so much about him that was a mystery and yet something within him drew her in. And now Logan was making a move.

“Logan…” said Jean distantly.

She tried to turn away, but Logan cupped her chin and turned her back towards him.

“Come on, is it really that big a deal? I like you too. If I haven’t made that clear what more do I gotta do? I need to write ya a novel or something?”

“It’s not that,” said Jean with a light smile.

“Then what is it? Why the hell are you holding back?”

“It’s just…I don’t know why I’m attracted to you. Do you even know why you’re attracted to me?”

Logan paused for a moment. It wasn’t a big question. He shouldn’t need a reason to be attracted to a beautiful woman. But she did have a point. He really didn’t know what it was that drew him to her. It was as inexplicable as the memories of his life that were lost. But this was no time to dwell on it. This was an opportunity to take a chance on something and he wasn’t going to turn back.

“Hell if I know. But does that really matter? You like me and I like you. You got a nice butt and a cute face. And you blush every time I take my shirt off. What more do you need?”

It was a gross simplification of the rules of relationships, yet he made a point. It had been a long time since she had been in a relationship. Being part of the X-men took up a lot of her time. This was a chance to go with something new. There were many reasons she should think twice about this, but none of them were good enough to make her pull away.

“I…I don’t know,” said Jean, still blushing under his gaze.

“What’s there to know? Just take a chance already!”

“But we barely know each other. It’s reckless, risky, and possibly detrimental to team chemistry.”

“Now you’re just stalling,” said Logan with a wolfish grin.

“Logan…” she began with that uncertain look in her eyes.

But he didn’t give her a chance to finish this time. She wasn’t one for taking chances so Logan would have to take one for her.

“Maybe this will help you make up your mind.”

Before Jean could react, Logan pulled her into a deep kiss. It was a lustful gesture, if not downright feral. Logan was attracted to this woman for reasons he couldn’t understand, but none of that crossed his mind. He liked this woman and this was the best way he knew how to show it.

It came so suddenly and unexpectedly. And yet it stirred Jean’s passions even more. Her eyes were wide with shock at first, but it didn’t take long for her to settle into his embrace and kiss back. It said more than any flirting or heart-to-heart talk ever could. It was all the assurance she needed. And for once, Jean threw caution to the wind and embraced this feeling.

Time stood still as Jean and Logan kissed passionately. They parted only briefly for Jean to cast him another warm smile, which let him know that she made her decision and she was going to take a chance. Then the kissing resumed, this time with greater fervor. It was a fitting gesture to celebrate their newfound connection. They still didn’t understand it, but in the end they didn’t have it.

As Jean and Logan continued to kiss, Scott stood outside the infirmary with his head hung low. He had just been passing by after a workout in the gym to blow off steam and ended up listening in on Jean and Logan’s conversation. He was unfortunate enough to arrive just in time for Logan to make his move. His curiosity got the better of him and he peaked inside only to see them in a passionate embrace.

‘Damn it.’

Letting out a frustrated grunt, Scott stormed off. He couldn’t believe it. The girl that meant so much to him had just jumped into the arms of Wolverine. It was so unlike Jean. Granted she had been in relationships before, but she never just hooked up with a guy she barely knew. It was just as he feared. The flirting was hard enough and now he was going to have to deal with them doing this.

It was enough to make the young X-leader’s stomach churn. In his disgruntled state he stopped midway down the hall and contemplated going back to stop them before it could get any worse. He couldn’t just let Jean fall under Logan’s spell. Then it dawned on him.

‘Way to go, Summers. She’s attracted to him and he’s definitely attracted to her. And you didn’t step in when you had the chance. Face it, you lost her.’

Anger welled up inside him. Scott clenched his fists in a rage and slammed it against the metallic wall. He took deep breaths as his mind processed what was happening. It shouldn’t have made him feel this bad, but it did. Jean was more than a friend to him. They came of age together at the X-men. They knew each other so well and had always been close. Lately he had been wondering if maybe there was something deeper to their relationship. But now that she was kissing Wolverine, she must not feel the same way.

It wasn’t enough that Logan undermined his leadership. Now he was involved with Jean. How was he going to deal with this? Moreover, where did it leave him? Anger soon gave way to sorrow as Scott Summers was at a total loss. He didn’t yell, cry, or lash out. Like always, he took a deep breath and locked it all away.

While in his torn state, Bobby passed by after doing some maintenance duty on the institute computers and quickly noticed Scott’s distraught state.

“Hey Scott, are you okay?” he asked with a hint of concern.

Scott looked back the way he came and sighed.

“I’m fine…just peachy.”

He was definitely lying. His tone easily gave it away. But before Bobby could make a comment, Scott was off and out of sight. He could do nothing more for his friend than hope it wasn’t too bad. He was tempted to go after him, but he had his own issues he needed to sort out. He had an appointment with the Professor to talk about Lorna.


Hank and Ororo walked hand-in-hand through the park in high spirits. It took them an extra week with the Brotherhood affair, but they finally went out on their date. They ate at a nice restaurant, saw a movie, and enjoyed the ongoing nightlife of the city. It was just what they needed after enduring defeat at the hands of the Brotherhood. It was also a good time for them to take a break from their usual X-men duties. For all the chaos that led up to this night, it had definitely been worth the wait.

However, the night hadn’t been without incident. Hank had to carefully guard his appearance with a coat and hat to avoid scrutiny. It was unfortunate necessity because there was always someone in a crowd that would make a scene. It forced them to eat in the back of the restaurant, which only let them in after Hank slipped the waiter a one hundred dollar tip. It also forced them to sit in the back of the movie theater so they could stay out of sight in the dark. Some still noticed them, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying themselves.

“I’m glad we did this, Hank,” said Ororo as squeezed his oversized hand and leaned in close, “We definitely needed to get out.”

“Indeed,” said Hank with an affectionate smile, “I had nearly forgotten the simple pleasures of a night out on the town.”

“Don’t tell me you never went out in college.”

“Oh I did. I remember a time when work and play were relatively balanced. I had friends, colleagues, and an active social life.”

“How active? Were you one of the popular boys?” she said with a slight tease.

“I suppose I was as popular as a star football player with straight-A’s could be,” he said modestly, “But I always managed to maintain perspective. You have to when you have powers like I do.”

“I can relate to that,” said Ororo, “What about other women? Did you have any girlfriends?”

Hank’s expression shifted. Ororo just touched on a very sensitive issue for him, one that was not easy to talk about. Even through his beast-like expression, she could see she hit on something.

“I had a few,” he admitted, “But not many.”

“Any I should know about? If we’re to be going out like this, shouldn’t we know each others’ history?”

“I…I agree. But at the same time, we should take it slow in some areas. I’m sure there are a number of details about your personal life that you are not ready to discuss as well.”

Ororo was silent for a moment. Hank had a point. This was the first date so it may be a little too soon to get into those issues. It wasn’t the easiest subject. Perhaps later on he would be more open to revealing more to her. And perhaps she could let him in on a few of her secrets as well.

“I suppose you’re right,” she conceded, “I don’t think either of us are in the mood to get too personal after what’s been going on lately.”

“Our line of work is prone to fluctuations. There are good times and bad. This just happens to be one of those times. But they get better. They always do.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” she smiled, “Maybe when it gets good again I can let you in on some of my personal history. I must warn you though, I do have some baggage.”

Her tone shifted a bit and she looked away from him briefly. But Hank didn’t let her get too disheartened. This date was supposed to lift their spirits.

“Hey, it’s okay, Ororo. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody in the X-men who doesn’t have some form of baggage, emotional or otherwise. That is why it helps to have somebody to relate to during these times. In my experience it makes being a mutant that much easier.”

“Yes, I’m beginning to understand that. You’ve already done so much to help me. The least I can do is return the favor.”

“You already have,” Hank said with a smile as he held her a little closer, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me that we’re doing this. While my romantic history is complicated to say the least, I’ve always been open to the idea of a little close companionship.”

“Given how fast you asked me out, I’m not surprised,” Ororo smiled.

“What can I say? It’s been too long since I’ve reached out to somebody,” he said with a half smile, “It’s been difficult after I had my…accident. Since then I’ve been committed to my work and my X-men duties.”

“Well maybe I can provide some incentive to give the outside world another shot.”

“You already have, Ororo.”

The couple shared a smile as they came up to a bridge overlooking a small creek. It was a peaceful scene in an otherwise bustling city and it provided the perfect moment for them to get a little closer. Ororo leaned into his warmth, enjoying the soft feel of his plush fur. It was like fine velvet to the touch. She wouldn’t be surprised if he actually groomed it. At least he didn’t mind her running her hand through it.

A peaceful calm came over them as they watched the water flow. Hank had always marveled at nature, but it was made all the more meaningful having a beautiful woman by his side. It had been so long since he had gotten close to a woman and it felt nice to open up again.

“So despite recent events, how do you like the institute, so far?” said Hank, breaking the silence.

“It’s really something, that’s for sure,” said Ororo with a half-grin, “It feels like I came just in time for things to get complicated. First we rescue Logan from Weapon X and then we face off against Magneto and that Brotherhood of his.”

“I’d like to say that’s just a fluke, but that kind of activity is fairly normal for the X-men,” sighed.

“I’m beginning to see that. But at the same time it is pretty unsettling. We tried to fight him and he beat us. And if it works for Magneto, who’s to say others like him won’t follow suit?”

“That’s exactly why we must always be prepared, Ororo,” said Hank, not shaken at all by her grim assessment, “It’s what the X-men do.”

It was a pretty bold statement, but he was certain of every word. It reminded Ororo that she was still new to all this. Even though she was technically a teacher she was learning just as much from the others as they were from her. She was still learning what it meant to be in the X-men. It was coming at her so fast, but everybody remained confident in her, especially Hank.

“What about teaching the others?” he inquired, “How has that been going?”

Ororo shook her head and smiled.

“It’s definitely more challenging than the teaching job I trained for in college.”

“Yes, but one does get used to it. I noticed lately how you’ve been tutoring Bobby and Warren and they seem to be taking nicely to you.”

“Yes, although Scott has been more difficult than I expected. He seems…distracted.”

“Well I assure you, he’s not usually like that,” said Hank, “His current attitude is completely new. I’m guessing it has something to do with the Wolverine situation.”

“I figured as such,” sighed Ororo, “That and Jean. Didn’t you tell me they were an item once?”

“No, I told you they only acted as such. It’s one of those unspoken things that Warren, Bobby, and I have noticed over the years and not commented on. That’s why I’m somewhat surprised Jean has gravitated towards Logan.”

“Does that worry you?”

Hank thought for a moment. He usually wasn’t one to get involved in the drama of others, but this was a pressing issue.

“A little bit. Jean has never been shy about her passions. This wouldn’t be the first time they’ve gotten the better of her. She’s a good woman, but she tends to act emotionally when she should act rationally.”

“Aren’t we all guilty of that at some point?” Ororo pointed out, “It did help lead to this date.”

“True, but with Jean it’s a bit more pronounced. If you knew her history you would understand,” said Hank, “Nevertheless, Jean’s a strong woman. Believe me, she can take care of herself.”

“I don’t doubt that. Not after what I’ve seen from her in the field and in the classroom,” said Ororo, “What about Logan?”

“Him I’m not so sure about. I see in him a genuine desire to gain control over his life. I just don’t think Scott sees that.”

“Sounds pretty complicated. Then again relationships often are,” shrugged Ororo, “But that makes me wonder…”

“About what?” he asked curiously.

Ororo hesitated for a moment. This was one instance where she had to be careful with her words. It was easy when she and Hank just exchanged e-mail and phone calls. Now that they were in this moment together it was possible for things to get much more intimate

“Hank, with everything that’s happened and all the chaos that comes with being in the X-men, do you think we could have a real relationship through all this? I know this is just the first date, but still…”

Ororo trailed off and turned away for a moment. She promised herself she wouldn’t move too fast with Hank. Relationships had never been her strong point. She got the feeling they weren’t Hank’s strength either. But even going back to Africa she struggled to really connect with someone. There were many reasons for this, but she couldn’t let that stop her from pursing this.

Sensing her distress, Hank slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

“I’m willing to give it a try if you are. Even with our current situation, isn’t that all the more reason to take a chance?”

“But what if it interferes with how we do our jobs?” asked Ororo seriously, “Don’t get me wrong, Hank, I really like you. But this opportunity really means a lot to me and…”

But before she could go on, Hank placed a finger over her lips.

“Shh…I know you’re concerns. And believe me, I share them. I’ve looked at this from every possible angle and I’ve concluded that this is right.”

Ororo couldn’t help but smile.

“Really? Every possible angle?”

“I never lie when it comes to musings,” said Hank confidently, “Would you like me to go over every detail to set your mind at ease?”

“I don’t know. How long would that take?”

“I’m not sure. It may take several more dates. But if you’re ready and willing…”

“I got a better idea,” said Ororo as she slipped her arms around his neck, “Why don’t you just forget the details and kiss me?”

“Hmm…” he said as if he needed to think about it, “I suppose that would be easier.”

Never one to pass up a good opportunity, Hank captured the lips of the African beauty and held her in a strong embrace. He was tempted to make a beauty and the beast reference, but now was not the time for witty banter. He had a beautiful woman in his arms and a new relationship in his life to look forward to.

Xavier Institute – Upper Dormitories

Jean Grey couldn’t remember the last time she was in this good a mood. After her little moment with Logan, she was practically walking on air. She still couldn’t believe what had happened. One minute they were flirting and the next minute they were kissing. It definitely went against the typical rules of relationships, but then again Logan was hardly typical. He was impulsive, mysterious, and downright wild at times. He was not the kind of guy her parents would approve of, but she could care less what they thought. This was her decision. For once she wasn’t going to rationalize this. She liked this man and was intent on giving this a chance.

She had no idea how they were going to go about this. It was highly unlikely that Logan would follow the usual dating scheme. He was a man of mystery with his own way of doing things, but Jean was willing go along for the ride. And who knows? It could be good for her.

Many possibilities ran through her mind as she neared her room. But just as she turned the final corner, she found Scott standing there leaning against the wall with a distant look.

“Don’t you look happy? Have a good session with Logan?” he commented in a sarcastic tone.

Jean blushed, the memory of what happened still fresh in her mind.

“It was…productive,” she said, unable to stop herself from blushing.

“I’ll bet. You seem to be enjoying them more and more lately.”

Her smile quickly faded. Scott had that tone in his voice again. It was the same tone he always had when he talked about her and Logan. Only this time he didn’t come out and say it overtly. It hinted to her that he knew something was up.

“Scott, let’s not do this,” said Jean in an exasperated tone.

“Fine, then I’ll just come out and say it,” said Scott, his expression growing more serious, “I saw you two kissing earlier.”

“You were spying?!”

“I was just passing by. My timing just happened to be on.”

Jean cast him a skeptical look, but Scott ignored it. He wasn’t about to start a whole new argument about respecting one another’s privacy or whether or not he found out by accident. This was about her and Logan.

“Now before you yell at me, let’s just skip the usual I-don’t-trust-Logan and you-don’t-need-me-looking-out-for-you ordeal. I get that now.”

“So then why are you still giving me that look?”

“What look?”

“You know what I’m talking about,” said Jean strongly, “The same look you always give me when I do something you don’t approve of.”

Scott took another deep breath. Jean wasn’t making this any easier, but they had to get this whole Logan affair out of the way. He was sick of letting it coming between them.

“I’m not going to lie. I was pretty shocked when I saw it. Hell, I was tempted to barge in and break you two up.”

“Thanks for the restraint, I guess.”

“Your welcome,” said Scott flatly, “Instead, I ran off and blew through level six Danger Room session. But when that didn’t work I went on a long walk to calm down.”

“Did it work?” asked Jean anxiously.

Scott looked away. This was already harder than he expected.

“I guess so. We’re not arguing, are we?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean you’ve changed your mind.”

“Of course it doesn’t. Now I’ll admit Logan has made some adjustments since the whole Brotherhood fiasco. I’ll be the first to say I was wrong about that.”

“I’m glad,” said Jean with a half-smile.

“But that doesn’t make me feel any better about you two being an item. And don’t tell me to just talk to him because you know he won’t listen to me.”

Jean hugged her shoulders. As much progress as Logan had made, he still didn’t get along with Scott. Part of that was her fault, but if she and Logan were going to be in a relationship she had work this out. Scott was still her friend and there was no way she was going to push him out of her life.

“Look Scott, I like Logan. He’s a unique and special man and I won’t deny I’m really attracted to him.”

“Yeah, you’ve made that abundantly clear,” said Scott dryly, “I still don’t get why though.”

“To be perfectly honest, neither do I. It’s just one of those things that come along so fast you can’t control it. Granted, Logan is different from the other guys I’ve been involved with. But I…I want to give it a try.”

“So you really do feel the same way,” said Scott in a low tone.

“Yes,” said Jean honestly, “But I know what this is about.”

“You…do?” said Scott nervously.

“Of course I do. You think that me being with Logan is going affect our friendship. It’s obvious. What with the way you two are always at each others’ throats.”

Scott breathed a sigh of relief. For a second there he thought she was going to say something else. Maybe it would have been better if she hadn’t, but at least it spared him the awkwardness. Rather than debate her, he went with it.

“Yeah…no argument there.”

“Scott…” she said, taking a step closer, “Believe me when I say I don’t want anything to come between our friendship. You and I have been through way too much together to let something as trivial as some new love interest hurt that. You mean too much to me to just up and risk everything.”

“You mean a lot to me too, Jean. But seriously, how do you expect me to handle this? You know how I feel about Logan.”

“I’m not saying you have to like each other. All I’m asking is that you give him a chance.”

It was a lot to ask of the young X-leader. Jean was basically asking him to turn a blind eye to something that tore him up inside. He wished he could say no, but looking into those desperate eyes of hers it was all but impossible. Jean liked Logan and Logan liked her back. He didn’t have to like it, but she made her decision and all he could do now was be the friend he had always been. 

“Fine,” he sighed, “I’ll do my best. Just…remember I’m still here for you.”

Jean smiled warmly, glad that she reached an understanding with her friend. And to show her appreciation, she leaned in and gave him a friendly hug.

“Thank you, Scott. And don’t worry, I’ll never forget.”

“Neither will I.”

The two long-time friends parted and Jean retreated to her room. Scott still lingered, his mind slowly processing what just happened. The idea of Jean and Logan still didn’t sit well, but at least he salvaged something with his friend. It was just going to take some getting used to.

As Scott walked off with his hands in his pockets he let out another sigh. Jean was with Logan, Bobby was head-over-heels for that Lorna girl, and Hank and Ororo were really hitting it off. Maybe he should look into getting a girlfriend too. It would definitely make times like this easier.

Brotherhood Lair

It had been a week since the Brotherhood of Mutants was formed and so far they had adapted well to their new dwelling. It wasn’t fancy, but for Mortimer, John, Freddy, and Lance it was manageable. Never-the-less, there was plenty to complain about. A cave on an island in the middle of nowhere could only go so far in satisfying a bunch of mutant renegades.

“Damn, all this high tech hardware and we can’t even get decent cable,” groaned Lance as he flipped through the limited channels, “I don’t know how much longer I can take living in this place.”

“Ah, quit your whining! I kind of like it here,” said Mortimer, who was casually sitting on a couch with his feet on the table.

“Of course you like it. You’re part reptile,” said Freddy as he tore into his second helping of salted chips.

“Amphibian, blob for brains. There’s a big difference. Didn’t they teach you anything in school?”

“Who needs school when you can bench monster trucks?” scoffed the oversized mutant, “I’m just waiting for Mags to give us a chance to bust more heads. After fighting those X-geeks, I think we’re ready for the big time!”

“Don’t get too ahead of yourself,” said Lance, “Save the confidence for when we’re not living in a cave.”

“Oh lighten up, Lance. It’s dark, it’s dreary, and it’s cold at night, but has its perks,” smirked John.

“Like what?”

As if on cue, Wanda walked in with a stack of papers in hand. As always she drew John’s flirtatious leers, but she just rolled her eyes and ignored him. Lance shook his head. It seemed John would tolerate anything as long as he could be around Wanda. He didn’t know how she put up with it.

“Shouldn’t you guys be working on those team-building exercises I gave you?” she said in a disgruntled tone.

“We should, but after wrestling,” said Lance.

“Figures,” said Wanda, rolling her eyes, “Honestly, how do you expect to fight for mutant liberation sitting on your asses like this?”

“What? Doesn’t watching wrestling teach us how to fight?” quipped Mortimer.

“I give up,” she groaned, “When you decide to stop being lazy, look over these reports.”

“Reports, huh?” said John as he picked one up, “What is it? Plans to blow up the White House?”

“Not quite. But if I were you, I’d read up on them. My father has a reputation for planning missions that tend to get messy.”

That helped get the attention of the four mutant men. They signed up for this deal knowing full well they were going to engage in battles for all mutant-kind. They just didn’t know it was going to come so soon.

While they all gathered around to read over the plan, Wanda left the lounge area for the central chamber. She still couldn’t believe these guys were going to be part of Magneto’s grand scheme for mutant liberation. Lance, Freddy, Mortimer, and John were more outlaws than visionaries. They all came from shady backgrounds. Two had done serious time behind bars. They were also young. She understood that was important because youth was key in fostering loyalty, but she was still skeptical and would be until they proved otherwise.

Sighing to herself, she met up with Magneto, Pietro, and Mystique. They were each going over maps and assorted news clips. The focus was on growing public concern over mutant issues. Already, there were major divisions. Some wanted containment while others favored human rights. It was a debate Erik Lensherr knew all too well. He had seen it develop as a boy in Poland during the rise of the Nazis and it ended in war, death, and genocide. And he would be damned if homo superior was going to face such a fate.

“I hope you’re right about these guys, Father,” said Wanda, “Because honestly, I don’t see in them the future freedom fighters for our people.”

“Don’t be so quick to judge, Wanda,” said Magneto, his eyes never leaving the computer screen, “I chose them for a reason.”

“Let me guess. Is it because thugs make better soldiers?”

“Hardly,” scoffed the master of magnetism, “I am a firm believer that those we consider thugs are merely those society has given up on. With more and more mutants facing such despair, our cause is ripe for spreading.”

“Does that mean more recruitment missions?” asked Pietro from another console, “Because at the rate we’re going, we won’t be much of a force within this decade.”

“Big movements require big bangs,” said Magneto ominously, “Rest assured, my plan will leave quite a mark on the world.”

With the push of a button, the many monitors surrounding the room stopped and focused on one image. It was that of a war ridden wasteland wrought with political upheaval and authoritarian oppression. And at the center of it all was a charismatic strongman dressed in military uniform delivering fiery speeches to masses of mindless followers.

“My people, the time of reckoning is at hand! The world is finally taking notice. They see that our civilization is on the brink of collapse. Morality is decaying. Order is crumbling. Our very species is becoming polluted with freaks and monsters bent on destruction! Well I say not in our land! Long live the great leader, Cameron Hodge! Long live Genosha!”

A wave of cheers erupted from the audience. The finely dressed strongman waved to his people with the poise of a despot. With such a smile one would never suspect that he ran a country through terror, torture, and slavery. He was the kind of man Magneto spent his whole life fighting against. Soon he and the rest of the world come to respect the power of homo superior.

“Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” commented Wanda.

“He’ll pay,” said Magneto sternly, “He and everyone like him will answer for his crimes.”

“And when we free the mutants he’s been secretly using for slave labor, we’ll have all the recruits we’ll ever need,” said Mystique.

“Indeed, but we must proceed carefully.”

“I don’t care how we do it as long as we get what you promised,” said Mystique.

“Of course,” said Magneto as he turned to his shape-shifting ally, “My promise for your…offspring.”

Mystique shifted uncomfortably. Any reminder of what she sacrificed to be a part of this was difficult to manage. But like always, she tucked it all away in the deepest recesses of her core.

“Don’t even go there,” she said callously, “Let’s just get on with this. I’ll feel a lot better when all this is over and mutants have the upper hand for once.”

Xavier Institute – Xavier’s Office

“Seriously Professor, I think we should look into bringing Lorna here. She’s already been kicked out of school and her mother lost her job. Shouldn’t we help her?”

“It’s not that simple, Bobby,” sighed the Professor for what seemed like the hundredth time.

“Why not?” exclaimed Iceman, “I thought helping mutants in need was what the X-men were all about.”

It was yet another dead end for a conversation that had been going on for nearly two hours. Having had enough legal issues for one day Professor Xavier hoped to catch up on Cerebro’s latest findings tonight, but Bobby was in a panic. He just got word from his online love interest Lorna that her mother lost her job and she may not be able to get online to talk to him anymore. His solution to this problem was simple. He wanted to recruit Lorna to the X-men. But the Professor was hesitant.

“I understand your concerns, but we’ve been through this. I talked to Lorna over the phone the last time you wanted her to come here and she was adamant she stay with her mother.”

“That was months ago. The situation is different this time and not in a good way. They’re already on the verge of getting kicked out of their apartment. Ever since her neighbors found out she was a mutant they’ve been looking for reasons to put her out onto the streets. So let’s just bring them here!”

“Our doors are open to them if they want to come, but you know our policy.”

“Yeah, yeah…people must come of their own free will,” he said dryly, “But can’t we make an exception just this once? I’m worried about her.”

“I can’t say I blame you. But until Lorna or her mother contacts me we can only support them indirectly.”

Bobby let out a frustrated sigh. Xavier wasn’t going to back down on his rule of not interfering in the lives of others. It was one of his most strongly guarded principles whether it applied to using his powers to influence others or pressuring people to come to the institute. Usually, he didn’t argue with this policy, but this was serious. Lorna was in trouble and for some reason she stubbornly avoided getting involved with the X-men. She wouldn’t even come to the mansion when he invited her. She never gave a reason, but her current situation left her with few options.

“So what am I supposed to do? Just sit back and watch her suffer?”

“No Bobby, but if you truly care about this girl you’ll be there for her. It sounds like she needs that more than anything now.”

“I guess,” he sighed, “We’ve already planned to meet in person for the first time. I just wish I knew why she’s so against joining the X-men.”

“I’m sure she has her reasons.”

“That doesn’t mean they’re good reasons,” quipped Bobby, “For all we know something or someone is holding her back. Something we may have to get involved in eventually.”

“Even so, I’ve made my decision. Until she changes her mind, you are not to pressure her. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir,” he said grudgingly, “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Instead of arguing further, Bobby got up and left. He hung his head low, his usually high spirits dampened by this Lorna situation. His heart was in the right place in wanting to help Lorna. But he had to remember that the institute was a school and not a safe-house. It wasn’t easy when he clearly felt strongly for this girl. In fact, Xavier couldn’t recall Bobby ever being so smitten with someone before. It clouded his judgment and was sure to remain an issue for a while.

‘They grow so fast.’

Setting aside such musings, Xavier turned his attention back to his computer. Cerebro had just analyzed the latest string of new mutant signatures and there were a few that caught his eye. One in particular exhibited very usual manifestations around a small town in Mississippi. But it wasn’t so much the powers that intrigued him as much as it was the identity of the young woman exhibiting such traits.

“Marie Anna Darkholme,” said Xavier as he brought up an image of the woman’s public record, “Hmm…I wonder.”

Next Issue: Rogue Spirit

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