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Adventures in Babysitting

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Everything would have been fine if it weren't for the lightning. Up to that point, their impromptu busking has gone surprisingly well. Juggling is easy for Jean now after hours of telekinesis practice with Professor X, and when Ororo gets in on the act it's pretty dang cute.

The corner of Central Park where they're standing is full of mothers and nannies taking young children out for a midafternoon walk. Jean and Ororo are soon surrounded by a small crowd of tiny faces, many of them tugging on their guardians' skirts asking for a coin to give to the jugglers. Scott's contribution is mainly staying out of their way and thanking anyone who tosses money in Jean's knit cap on the ground.

They’ve only been at it for twenty minutes or so before Jean's hat is sagging under the weight of nickels and dimes. There are even a few quarters, and a man in a tan leather jacket hands Scott a shiny fifty-cent piece. Surely they must have enough money for the train by now. Jean is getting ready to stop when she looks down at Ororo and sees her eyes have gone white like they've rolled back in her head.

"Is she okay?" a woman nearby asks and at that same moment Jean loses control, dropping all five of the tennis balls in motion between them.

"Ororo, no, don’t—!"

But it's already too late. The sky directly above them darkens, going from an overcast fall day to a threatening storm cloud in moments. There's a brilliant flash and a booming clap so loud that Jean ducks her head and covers her ears. A series of cracks follows the bolt of lightning, like wood popping in a fire. The lightning must have hit the tree directly above them and it causes a flurry of orange leaves to tumble down, followed by another ominous crack as a large branch gives way and drops out of the canopy.

Jean gets knocked to the ground, landing painfully on her knees as Scott slams into her side. She's annoyed at first, thinking he fell on accident, but then she looks back and sees the tree branch lying on the pavement exactly where she was standing a moment ago.

If it were only lightning, they probably would have been able to get away. No one would think to blame three kids who just happened to be standing coincidentally near to a freak lightning strike. No, they would have been fine if it weren't for Scott.

Jean is still recovering from her fall when hears a familiar crackle of power just to the side of her head and then there's another blinding bolt of light, red this time. Jean hits the pavement again under her own power and there's a scream from somewhere nearby.

When she looks up Scott's face is bare and he has one hand over his eyes, unsuccessfully trying to keep the glowing red energy at bay while his other hand gropes blindly along the sidewalk.

"Jean, help, my glasses!" he says unnecessarily, another red beam escaping through the gaps in his fingers. "I can't find my glasses!"

Jean feels the energy beam pass her, the strength of it blowing past with a gust of displaced air that knocks her hair back. Thankfully, most of the crowd fled after the lightning strike and no one is standing nearby. The beam shoots across the sidewalk and hits a bench, toppling it over and snapping the wooden back in half.

"Keep your eyes closed!" Jean says. She turns over leaves and debris with her hands, searching for a sparkle of ruby quartz among the orange and yellow of autumn.

"Here they are!" Ororo shouts, jumping over the fallen tree branch. She lifts Scott's glasses high over her head and rushes to hand them to Jean with a triumphant look.

Jean snatches them from her and puts them in Scott's hands, ducking down again as he fumbles to get them on his face. Several new bolts of red energy escape out the sides and the poor tree next to them loses a few more branches before Scott finally gets his glasses fixed back on his face.

Jean brushes leaves out of her hair and turns to glare at Ororo. "What the heck were you thinking!"

Ororo has the decency to look contrite. "Sorry, I didn't mean to! I wanted to make it sunny again. I thought people might go inside if it looked like rain and… I don't know what happened."

"You shouldn't have even tried, Ororo!" Jean says, putting her hands on her hips. "This always happens."

"Does not!" Ororo says, glaring up at Jean.

"Yes it does. Remember when you tried to make a rainbow on your birthday?"

"That was one time!"

"Uh, guys?" Scott says, trying to get their attention. Jean ignores him.

"Or what about the time you wanted to make a snowman and we ended up snowed in for days?"

"That wasn't even me! The Professor said it was ad—ad-merse weather patterns!" Ororo says, stumbling over the big word.

"He was just saying that to be nice," Jean replies. "Because you’re such a baby."

"You're a baby!" Ororo says, putting her hands on her hips to match Jean's stance.

"Jean—guys." Scott is tugging on her arm now so Jean finally turns to look at him and freezes. There are two men standing behind Scott, the man in the tan leather jacket from earlier and a police officer in full uniform.

"What's all this then?" the officer asks. He has a strong Brooklyn accent and a deeply suspicious expression on his face. He also has one hand resting on his hip just above his nightstick.

 Jean squares her shoulders. She should be able to handle this. She's not just some kid, she's Marvel Girl. And Marvel Girl is practically an adult. She takes a deep breath and opens her mouth, but nothing comes out. She can't think of anything to say.

"Did you see the lightning?" Ororo asks, pushing past Jean and throwing up her hands. "It came out of nowhere! We almost died!" 

"I've never seen red lightning before," the officer replies, eyes narrowing underneath the brim of his hat. He looks toward Scott, whose face starts turning red to match his glasses. "Funny thing that."

"I know, wasn't it weird?" Ororo says, shouting like she thinks she can distract the police officer through the sheer volume of her voice.

"Seriously weird," Jean says, her voice squeaking slightly. "I think maybe we should go inside. Or go home. We should probably go home."

Scott nods frantically at her, and they both raise their arms and lift one foot, miming getting ready to leave. They look expectantly at the police officer. He does not look impressed.

"How about a walk over to the station instead?" he says.

"Uh," Jean says. "The thing is—we're late—for, um, things. So we should really—"

The man in the leather jacket clears his throat, interrupting the officer and cutting off Jean's completely unconvincing lie. He reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a black wallet from the inner pocket, opening it and showing an ID badge inside to the officer. "Sorry to do this, but I think it would be better if I handled things from here."

The officer does a double take, squinting at man's badge and then back at his face. The man isn't in uniform and he doesn’t look like a policeman to Jean, but maybe he's a detective. He has short brown hair and a clean-shaven face, and he looks genuinely sorry for pulling rank. He also looks downright nice, like he could be a teacher or a librarian. Whoever he is, Jean suspects they'll be safer with him than with the belligerent police officer. 

"Who are you?" Scott asks. The man hands him his badge in response, and Scott's mouth opens in surprise. "You're with S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

"What?" Jean says. She grabs the wallet out of Scott's hands to see for herself. On the left side is a gold badge that shows a stylized eagle holding an emblem that looks like the American flag. She's never seen a S.H.I.E.L.D badge before, but this one looks pretty official. On the other side is an ID card that identifies the man as Steve Rogers, Specialist.

Ororo pulls on Jean's wrist, tugging her hand downward so she can see too. "Wow, do you know the Avengers?" she asks, her eyes lighting up as she looks back at the man—Mr. Rogers.

"Uh, sort of," Rogers says. "Say, how'd you three like to come visit Stark Tower?"

"What?" Jean ask while at the same moment Ororo shouts "Seriously!?"

The police officer shakes his head at this, apparently deciding he's had enough. "They're all yours then," he says, turning to go and grumbling loudly under his breath. "What’s the world coming to? Spooks and superheroes everywhere. Kids with laser eyes… pfh!"

Ororo, meanwhile, is bouncing up and down on her toes in excitement. "Do you know ThorMr. Rogers?" she asks, giving him a look so intense that he looks slightly taken aback.  

"Uh, sure, I've met Thor," Rogers says, rubbing the back of his neck.

Ororo gasps. She's so excited she has to do a little dance, jumping in place as her whole body trembles. "Wow, Thor!"

"Yeah, he's a good guy. And you can just call me Steve."

"Thanks, Mr. Steve! Can we really come with you to see the Avengers?"

"I'm not sure any of them are in today, but we can go see." He nods his head, signaling for them to follow him toward the south side of the park. "Stark is off at some conference and I think Hawkeye and Black Widow are still on a mission, but I can show you around. And then we can see about getting you home."

"Cool!" Jean says at the same moment Scott says "Neat" and they both start following Steve.

"Wait!" Ororo shouts, pointing behind them. "The money!"

"Oh!" They rush back to the damaged tree and search until they find Jean's forgotten hat buried under the leaves on the ground.

"Why were you guys collecting money, anyway?" Steve asks as he kneels down to help them scoop up the scattered coins. "School fundraiser?"

"Um, no…" Jean says, trailing off.

"We needed money for the train," Scott explains. "We didn't have enough for tickets home."

Jean looks away, embarrassed. They did have enough money, until she got pickpocketed.

"Oh," Steve says. "Well, next time you know you can always ask a police officer for help. It can be dangerous to go around begging for money like that. If you ask the wrong person they might try to take advantage of you."

Scott looks down. "Sorry," he says. "I guess we didn't think." It wasn't even his idea, but then he's always too ready to take the blame for everything.

Once they have all the coins gathered up and the leaves picked out, they have nearly five dollars. It's more than they had before, but not actually enough to buy three train tickets back to Westchester. They split the money evenly between the three of them since it's too heavy for one person to carry. Jean slips a few of the coins into her shoe instead of her purse, just in case she gets robbed again. She taps her left shoe on the ground, shifting her toes around inside of it. She already has a scrap of paper tucked inside that one and it's starting to feel crowded.

Steve has a car, thankfully, so they don't have to take the subway again and spend any of their hard-earned nickels. He drives down Fifth Avenue and they all hang their heads out of the windows to stare at the stores and the people walking down the street. There are lots of women in tall shoes and expensive-looking jewelry. "Ladies who lunch" as her mother would say.

Steve turns down East 44th Street and pulls into a parking garage that doesn't have any signs on the outside. The door opens automatically as he pulls up and they pass through a security gate on the inside. The guards all seem to know Steve and they wave him through without making him stop. He drives down a few levels and pulls into a parking spot with his name on it right next to the elevator.

"Nice digs," Scotts says, looking around. The parking garage is the cleanest one Jean has ever seen, full of smooth grey concrete and shiny metal walls.

Steve has to press his thumb on a fingerprint reader to get the elevator doors to open. "Wow," Ororo says, impressed. "Do the Avengers get parking spots too?"

Steve shrugs, looking thoughtful as he follows them into the elevator. "Well, Stark has a whole private floor for his cars, but I'm not sure if any of the others drive. They probably just borrow a S.H.I.E.L.D. car if they need one."

The elevator ride doesn't take very long, but Jean's ears pop on the way up. When the doors open they come out in a big open room with floor-to-ceiling windows. They must be fifty floors up, looking north toward the park and midtown. Ororo runs up to the windows and presses her face against the glass. Jean follows more slowly, her stomach turning slightly when she looks down and sees just how far away the ground is.

"Do you think we can see the mansion from here?" Ororo asks. Jean kicks her ankle and glances back at Steve, but he's talking to Scott and doesn't seem to have heard. There's a large open kitchen along the back wall of the room and comfortable looking couches on the other side in a living room area.

"Do you mind waiting here a minute?" Steve asked. "I'm going to check if any of the Avengers are around. There's food in the fridge if you're hungry."

Someone's stomach rumbles in response and Jean glances over to see Scott blushing. Steve smiles. "Have anything you want. There should be some sandwiches and other leftovers."

After he leaves they investigate the fridge, finding it is absolutely packed with food. There's fresh produce and big tubs of pasta and potato salad and even pre-wrapped sandwiches like from a grocery store. Jean passes food out to Scott and Ororo and then stuffs several extra sandwiches into her purse. They'll probably need them later on the train. Ororo also finds a package of cookies in one of the cabinets but Jean makes her save them for after she finishes lunch. 

They're still scrounging through the cabinets when the elevator door opens with a loud chime. Jean looks up, expecting Steve, and drops the orange in her hand. The man stepping into the kitchen is wearing a very familiar blue suit with a white star on the chest.

"Captain America!" Ororo shouts, startling Scott who is still searching in the far reaches of the fridge. He hits his head on one of the shelves as he turns, knocking several bottles and containers out onto the floor. A half-empty bottle of milk shatters and Scott jumps away cursing. "Shoot!"

Jean scrambles to grab a dish towel, throwing it down over the shattered glass and quickly spreading milk on the floor. Ororo tries to pick up a large shard of glass but Jean grabs her arm to stop her.

"No, let me get it!" Captain America says. "Don't touch the glass." He opens a closet and produces a broom. And that's how they all end up apologizing as Captain America cleans up the broken glass and milk.

"No, no, it's my fault for showing up so suddenly," he says, kneeling down to sweep the last of the shards into a dustpan.

"What happened to Steve?" Ororo asks, putting an odd amount of emphasis on the name. Jean looks at her in confusion and catches her winking at Captain America.

"Uh, Steve had to go," Captain America says, looking down as he sweeps the floor. "I ran into him in the hallway and he asked me to check in on you."

"Are you the real Captain America?" Ororo asks.

"I am," Captain America says.

"Like—the real guy from World War II?" Scott asks. "Not just someone wearing the suit?"

"The real guy," Captain America says, smiling like he gets that question a lot.

"You don't look that old," Ororo points out. Jean elbows her.

Captain America laughs as he empties the dustbin into the garbage can. "Thank you. I don't age the way most people do. Side effect of Dr. Erskine's super soldier treatment. So I heard you kids were juggling for money in the park?"

Jean feels embarrassed about it now, although at the time it seemed like such a good idea. She and Scott exchange a look, neither of them sure what to say.

Ororo, on the other hand, has never hesitated to speak in her life. "Jean was carrying our money, but she got pickpocketed on the subway," she explains. She rolls her eyes like this was a very stupid rookie mistake on Jean's part. Ororo loves to treat Jean and Scott like rubes who don't know their way around the city like she does.

Jean glares at her. It wouldn't have mattered if the bank let them take money out of the Professor's account. But the clerk said they couldn't withdraw money without an ID or an adult to vouch for them, and Jean was too nervous to stick around and talk to the manager. The clerk was already suspicious of the check they brought with the Professor's forged signature.

They wandered into Central Park for lack of anywhere better to go, and that was where they saw the musicians playing for money, which gave Jean the idea. They found a few old tennis balls by the tennis courts north of the reservoir and then set themselves up on one of the busiest paths in the park. It totally would have worked if not for the lightning.

"So, you see," Ororo finishes. "We know how to get home, we just don't have enough money."

"Right," Scott says, stepping in. "We need to take the train back to Westchester. There's a 3:45 we could catch if we left now. If S.H.I.E.L.D. could advance us a small loan, we would totally pay you back!"

Captain America frowns. "You all live in Westchester? I don't know, I'd feel better if I talked to one of your parents before I put you on the train."

"No!" Jean says. "I mean, our parents don't. Um, we all go to school there," she says, falling back on their usual cover story. "That's why we came to the city—a field trip."

"Your school sent you on a field trip without any adults?" Captain America asks, looking even more concerned.

"No, I mean—we, uh…" Jean trails off.

"We're not babies," Ororo says. "We come to the city all the time!" This is not entirely accurate. One of the older kids has always come with them as a chaperon before, but it could be true. Jean's seen younger kids than them riding the subway alone.

"It was a free day," Scott says. "We went to the Met for—research. And then we were going to catch the train so we'd be home before dinnertime. Our teachers are probably wondering where we are." 

"Yeah, a free day, and we need to be back before curfew," Jean adds, her mind whirling, barely able to keep up with the lies her mouth is spitting out. "So we really have to go. Now. It would be bad if we missed a check in. Our Professor might think something happened to us."

Captain America raises one eyebrow under his cowl, not looking like he believes her. "In that case, you'd better call your school and your parents and let them know what happened." He turns and opens a panel on the wall that Jean didn't notice before. Behind it is a push button phone, the expensive kind with programmable buttons like she's only seen before in fancy hotels or the Professor's office. He pulls it out of the niche and sets it down on the kitchen counter.

Scott and Ororo both look at Jean. She's the only one with parents they can call. She takes a step toward the phone, her stomach sinking. Her mom and dad are going to want to talk to the Professor when they hear what happened, and then the whole mess will come out and they'll blow the school's cover. 

She looks back at Captain America, trying to sound perfectly reasonable and not at all like she's lying. "It's just that, I don't think anyone will be in the school's office right now. It's a free day for the teachers too. And my parents won't be at home either. And I don't know if I can get my dad at work, and it's, like, the longer we're gone, the worse it looks, you know? So probably it would be better if we just left right now to catch the train. Then no one has to worry!"

"Try," Captain America says, not looking like he's buying it. "I can't release three minors without an adult. I need to know that you have a safe way to get home."

Jean takes a deep breath. "Okay, I'll... I'll try."

Captain America nods, and pushes the phone toward her. She stares at it, and then looks back up at him. He doesn't seem inclined to leave the room. She takes the phone off the hook as slowly as possible, raising it to her ear and chewing on her lip as she looks down at the buttons. "Um, is there a phone book I could use?"

"You don't know your father's number?"

"Not at work. I had it written down on a piece of paper, but it was in my wallet and that got stolen."

"Uh, okay," Captain America says. He scratches his head and looks around. "Hold on, there's got to be one around here somewhere." He turns in a circle and starts opening cabinets. Thankfully, a phone book is not forthcoming. After a minute of looking Captain America signals that he'll be right back and leaves the room to keep searching.

Jean looks over at Scott as soon as the elevator doors have closed behind him. "What'd we do? I can't call my parents for real. It'll take hours for them to drive up to the city, and they'll get suspicious if they hear we're on our own. What'll we tell them?"

Scott's jaw clenches, his face tightening into his default stoical expression  "Maybe we should tell Captain America what happened. The Avengers could help us."

"No way!" Jean says. The phone starts beeping and a disembodied voice tells her to hang up and dial again. She sets the receiver back down on the base. "Do you want to go back to the orphanage? Or send Ororo back to foster care? We can't risk that."

"They might not!" Scott says, sounding unconvinced. "We don't know. They're superheroes, right? They help people."

"But they're not babysitters! They'd have to call social services. And what happens if—what if we don't—" Jean looks away, blinking as her eyes go hot and prickly with tears. Stop it. Jean cries, Marvel Girl doesn't cry. "What if we don't find them? What then? There's no way they'll let us stay together. You'll both go back into the system and I'll go back to live with my parents. And that's it. No more school, no more X-Men."

Scott drops his head and sighs. "What else can we do? There's no one else we can call."

Jean licks her lips. She's suddenly aware of the piece of paper in her shoe, the edges of it feeling sharp against her foot. "Actually. There might be. Before we left the mansion, I took something from the Professor's study."

"What?" Scott asks, looking back up in confusion. He didn't notice the date planner in Professor X's desk, and he wasn't in the room when Jean opened it up and found the list of telephone numbers on the front page. She toes off her left loafer and empties the coins inside on the kitchen counter. The piece of paper at the bottom falls out, landing on top of the pile of change. Jean picks it up and unfolds it.

She lifts receiver of the phone and skims down to the bottom of the list, to the number marked ***ONLY IN EXTREME EMERGENCY. She starts dialing before she has time to second-guess herself.

Their standard operating procedure is to pretend to be family when they’re in need of serious help—the closer the relation, the more immediate the danger. She doesn't know if the Brotherhood has a similar code, but she figures whoever picks up will at least know to play along with her. They should realize that it's the X-Men calling since she's using the number the Professor refers to as the "red line." He only uses it when there's a threat they can't handle alone or something serious he needs to warn his sister about.

It rings four times and then there's a pause and the sound of distant clicking. For a moment, Jean is afraid that it's only an answering machine, but then an all-too familiar gruff voice says, "Hello?"

Jean was hoping she'd get Mystique, but she recovers quickly, shifting gears. "Dad, it’s me—Jeannie!" Captain America might be gone, but she still has to make this convincing. For all she knows the Avengers record all of their out-going calls. Scott gives her a confused look and starts to open his mouth but Jean waves at him to be quiet.

"What? Who is—Jean?" Thankfully, Magneto seems to pick up on the deception immediately, his voice becoming more certain as he realizes who she is. "What in the—what’s going on?"

"I’m, uh, I’m sorry to bug you at work, Dad," she says, taking a breath and steeling her voice, making her request into something more like a command. "But I need you to come pick me up."

"What?" he asks again, his voice rising sharply. "Where are you? Why aren't you at school?"

She cringes a little at his harsh tone. She's only met Magneto once, when he came to the mansion to argue with the Professor after the Brotherhood and the X-Men clashed. Jean didn't exactly talk to him then, but she feels strangely like she's speaking to a teacher now. A distant one who is very hard to please. "Uh, remember how we were going on that trip to the Met today? We kind of, um... please don’t be mad."

She hears him take a deep breath. "I’m not mad, just tell me where you are."

"We're at—it's—Stark Tower. With the Avengers."

Magneto's voice drops down into a harsh whisper. "The what?"

"We’re not, we didn’t. It’s not like…" Jean swallows. "It’s a long story. We went to Central Park and someone stole my wallet and we needed money so we tried juggling and Scott lost his glasses and we met Captain America and—I’m sorry!"

"I—okay." There’s a pause in which Jean imagines a whole series of enraged and frustrated faces that Magneto is likely making into the receiver. "I’m not mad," he repeats, completely failing to convince her of that fact. "I'm only—who’s with you?"

"Scott and Ororo."

"Are you by yourselves? Where's Char—your teachers? Why isn’t anyone with you?"

"Um, we didn't—he’s not—there's no one we can—" Her voice jumps up an octave and she feels tears prickling at the back of her eyes again. So much for the grownup adult Marvel Girl who's cool in the face of a crisis. 

"Never mind," Magneto says. "It’s not important. Can you leave? Are those—are they holding you there?"

"Uh, yes?" she says, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. "Captain America said we can't go until he talks to one of our parents."

He mutters something she doesn't quite catch, maybe a curse word in another language. "Okay, Captain America is there? Who else have you seen?"

"Uh, just him and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who picked us up in the park, Steve. But he had to leave. Oh, and a bunch of guards in the parking garage."

"Okay, fine. I'll do my best to talk you out of this, but I'm not sure—"

Jean doesn't hear the rest of his sentence because the elevator door opens then. They all jump as Captain America returns, his boots stomping loudly across the kitchen tile.

"Uh, hold on a second, Dad," Jean says. "Captain America came back." Magneto says something in response, but she presses the receiver against her shoulder in case it's incriminating.

Captain America has a pile of heavy phonebooks in his arms and he sets them down with a loud thump on the counter next to the phone. "I wasn't sure which county you needed, so I brought all the ones I could find."

"Oh, thanks," Jean says. "But guess what. I realized I do have the phone number! I put it in my shoe." She indicates the wrinkled paper still in her hand. "And I got my dad on the phone." 

"Oh," Captain America says. "Great." He holds out his hand for the receiver.

"Okay, Dad," Jean says loudly as she hands it over to him. "Here he is now."

"Hello, is this Jean's father?" Captain America asks. Jean can hear Magneto saying something in response, something that sounds belligerent, but she can't quite make out the words. "I understand that, sir, but I can't—"

Magneto tries to say something in response, but Captain America interrupts him. "Hold on a moment, I'm switching lines." He presses a button on the base of the phone and sets down the receiver. He taps the side of his head then, apparently transferring the call to his headset. "Hello? Mister—yes, that's better."

Captain America glances back over at the three of them, all of whom are listening intently to his side of the conversation. He turns away and walks to the other side of the room, still talking into his headset. "That may well be, but they're still children in an unfamiliar city…" He waves a hand as he goes and a glass wall drops down from the ceiling, separating him from the kitchen and blocking the sound as he continues arguing with Magneto.  

"Who did you call?" Scott asks, whispering as Captain America turns his back to them.

"Um, remember that—the special number the Professor had? For the—the other guys? You know, just in case? I called that and, um... he might come and get us."

"Who?" Scott asks, leaning forward, and she's sure if she could see his eyes he'd be squinting in confusion.

"You know," she says, glancing back at Captain America and dropping her voice even lower. "The Master of Magnetism."

"What?" Scott says. "Jeannie, Magneto can’t pick us up from the danged Avengers!"

"Sssh!" She looks back, but Captain America doesn’t seem to have heard them. He’s starting to get more and more animated, waving his arms angrily. Magneto must be really sticking it to him. "He’s not going to come in costume, dummy. Nobody knows what he looks like anymore than they do the X-Men. We’ll just pretend he’s my dad and they’ll never be any the wiser."

"I dunno," Scott says, chewing on his lower lip. "Professor Xavier wouldn’t like it."

"Well, the Professor isn’t here, is he?"

"We should have just told him the truth," Scott says, giving her a miserable look.

"I thought you didn't want to go back to the orphanage?"

"I don't, I just—It's the Avengers! Maybe they'd let us stay here..."

"We'd have to blow the school's cover and tell them the Professor's real identity. Maintain cover identities at all times, that's rule number one!"

"But that doesn't mean—"

"This is the only way, Scott," Jean says, making her voice more certain than she feels. "Either we tell the Avengers everything now or we wait for the Brotherhood to come get us. We know for sure one of them can keep a secret, and it's not the Avengers."

Ororo clears her throat, interrupting them. "But what if Magneto's behind it, huh?"

Jean glares at her. "Well, then one way or another we'll find out what happened to the Professor and everyone else! It'll save time."

Captain America seems to be wrapping up the conversation now. He raises the glass partition, repeating, "fine" and "all right," several times as he comes back into the kitchen. "Yes. Thank you again, sir," he says with a touch of sarcasm. He punches a button on the phone, transferring the call again, and holds the receiver out to Jean.

"Hello?" Jean asks, pressing it against her ear. "Dad?"

Magneto sighs. "He wants someone to come pick you up. He refuses to put you on the train alone. This might be—well, one way or another, I'm going to come get you. Or someone will. Within the hour."

"Okay," Jean says, glancing back at Captain America, who is watching her side of the conversation with interest. "I'm sorry you have to come get us."

"It's fine. But, Jean? I need you to stick together. Especially the younger girl—"


"—especially her. Don’t let them separate you, not even for a minute. I will be there as soon as I can."

"Okay. Thanks, Dad." Magneto hangs up without saying goodbye. Jean sets the receiver down. She really hopes she hasn't made a mistake.