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Coming of Age

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Cody wasn't looking forward to school starting back up. The summer had been great — especially once Chance had chilled out after spending a few months hanging out with his friends like a normal person — and for as much as he was looking forward to actually starting classes with the main student body, he had to admit, he was a little nervous because he'd watched his older brother get picked on for years for not having powers — and he wasn't there yet either.

To be fair, neither was Kari, but Kari didn't seem to get nervous about anything. Ever.

But there were still a few weeks before the semester began, and he was going to get in as much time with his friends as possible. And that included finally talking K into letting him come out to the range to try shooting. After all, Chance was a crack shot. Maybe he could be too. He was okay at archery… maybe he could be better with guns. Maybe he could find something that was his the way Chance had, so he could have something to do when he was frustrated with the bullies he was sure would come after him while he didn't have any powers.

But he was disappointed when he got out to the range to find that he couldn't hit a bullseye. Chance had talked about it like it was easy, but it wasn't.

To be fair, the targets K set out for him were easy to explode — in smoke or water or actual explosions — without hitting them square on, but Cody was still a little disappointed that he hadn't hit everything in the center. At least until the red targets came out.

Then it was impossible to be in a bad mood when he was getting explosions.

Chance had been right — this was fun.

When they were done shooting, K took them through the process to break down their weapons and loaded the cases into the back of the Jeep, the whole time making sure that Cody knew he'd done pretty darn well for a first timer. "It's a lot of practice to get to be good, and I have no doubt you'll get it with some time," she told him. "And in the meantime, the red targets don't need much to set them off."

"Yeah, those are definitely more fun," Cody had to agree with a smile.

"You want to make this a regular thing?" she asked, packing up the last bits of flotsam, her back to him.

"I guess that would help," he agreed, though he was a bit distracted when he realized that the headache he thought was from the noise of the explosions wasn't going away. "I mean, I don't know what powers I'm going to get, if I get any. I should have something I can use, right? And Chance said this was fun — and it is. I just kind of … I'm not good at it, I don't think."

"Well, honestly, even if you end up with the coolest powers you can imagine, you can still end up somewhere, sometime without them, so this is good no matter what you get," K told him.

"So, can we do this on weekends, maybe?" Cody asked, rubbing a spot between his eyes. Maybe he'd inhaled a lot of smoke — or got some in his eyes.

"Sure," K said, nodding, though she paused when she saw him having trouble. "You alright?"

"Yeah. My head just hurts. I think it's the smoke," he said.

"Oh, if you're allergic to gunpowder, that will suck," she told him as she tried to take a better look at him, resting her hand on his arm.

"You think that's the problem?" he asked, glancing up at her.

"I've never heard of anyone being allergic to it, but who knows?" K answered. "Might be too much glare — that can cause a headache."

"Oh, I hope I'm not allergic," he muttered as he rubbed his forehead. "I really want to try this. Chance said it was fun, and the explosions are amazing…" He trailed off and rubbed his forehead harder when the headache started to get more insistent, a little bit sharper behind his eyes.

K stopped and pulled Cody over to the passenger seat so he could sit down more comfortably before she started on a few pressure points she'd learned from Logan that would ease a headache. She didn't say a word as she did it until she was at a point where it should have been helping him. "Is that any better?" she asked quietly, still putting pressure on the two at the back of his head.

"Yeah," he said, sounding surprised. "Can you teach me that? What are you doing, anyway?"

"I can try, but Logan's better at it," K told him. "Acupressure points. They're supposed to relieve pressure in your body, reroute whatever it is that causes odd pains."

"Well, it's working," Cody said, sounding relieved.

She took a minute to show him the points and how much pressure to use — and in which order — before she promised to have Logan show him if there was an easier method or points that were more specific to where it was hurting. When he looked somewhat comfortable, she finished up and hopped into the Jeep, not wanting to drag it out any longer if it was going to be an ongoing issue.

When they got back to the mansion, Scott was the one to meet them, grinning and expecting to see an overly excited boy, like Chance had been when he went shooting for the first time — though Cody wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as Scott had expected. The headache was mostly gone, but he had lost a lot of excitement because of the flare up.

"He did fine at the range," K reported. "Nailed the safety stuff, was wonderful about what was beyond his target, but … afterward, things lost some of the fun." She had one hand on Cody's shoulder and was trying to give him a supportive sort of smile, but it was clear that Cody wasn't thrilled.

"What happened?" Scott asked with a little frown.

"It's fine. I just … I think the glare gave me a headache," Cody muttered at the floor.

"He seemed like he was hurting pretty good for a minute there, but I don't keep any Tylenol or anything, so I showed him a few pressure points," K continued. "Logan knows more, though."

Scott looked thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe we should take you down to Hank if it was that bad."

"I'm fine, Dad," Cody promised. "The pressure points helped."

Scott frowned and watched him for a moment longer before he put a hand on Cody's shoulder. "Thanks, K, I've got it from here," he promised.

"Anytime," K replied. "For either of you …"

Scott smirked her way as he steered Cody back toward their suite, though he was sure to ask, "You sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's mostly gone now anyway," Cody promised. "Probably just a fluke thing."

"Maybe," Scott said, with a little frown. "Would you tell me if it comes back?"

"It's really not a big deal," Cody said.

"That's not what I asked," Scott said.

Cody took in a deep breath that moved his shoulders all the way up to his ears. "I don't think it'll come back," he said.


"Yes, Dad," Cody said, letting out a little sigh.

The next time Cody went shooting with K, he was relieved when he didn't get a headache at all. So he figured it was a fluke thing and that he'd just had a problem with the glare, like K had said. Of course, it didn't do much for his shooting, because he was half waiting for the headache to start up again, but he was sure that he would do better next time when he wasn't so nervous.

But if he thought he was going to get off without any more headaches, he was sorely mistaken. This time, it happened when he went with Kari to a fencing lesson. After all, he wanted to try a few things, see what stuck. And Kari and Krissy both swore that sword fighting was a blast.

He didn't even get past warming up before, all of a sudden, the headache came back. It was sharp and just behind his eyes and felt like something was trying to come out of his head, and he totally missed it when Kurt said something about moving on from warming up to some basic forms — he was too busy trying to will the headache into going away.

"Cody?" Kurt prompted, then frowned when he saw that the boy was holding his head in his hands, the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes. "Was is los?"

"I'm okay," Cody said, trying to press a few of the pressure points Logan had showed him to get the headache to stop. "Just give me a second."

Kurt crouched down next to Cody as he tried to get his headache under control. "What's wrong?" he asked gently. "You can't fence in this state — let me help."

"It's just a headache," Cody muttered.

Kurt frowned as he kept a hand on Cody's back. "Perhaps we should go down to see Hank."

"I don't want to see Hank," Cody said, still rubbing his eyes.

Kurt waited with him for a moment, but when the headache wasn't letting up in the slightest, he decided it was time to go to the med bay anyway, and the two of them appeared in a poof of blue an instant later, with Kurt still steadying Cody with one hand on his shoulder. "Henry," he called out.

"What brings you to my laboratory today, my dear boy?" Hank called out from his office as he made his way to where Kurt and Cody were, though it was clear Cody just wanted out.

"I don't need to see a doctor," Cody muttered, but Kurt wasn't letting go of his shoulder.

"Headache," Kurt explained to Hank.

"Well, that should be a quick matter, then," Hank said as he instructed Cody to get comfortable and he started a brisk exam.

"It's not really — I think I'm doing the pressure points wrong, that's all," Cody argued. "That worked last time."

"How often has this been happening?" Hank asked, already considering taking him in for a CAT scan if the headaches were this bad and persistent.

"It was just one time," Cody said. "And then today. But I can handle it."

"Are they getting worse?"

Cody let out a breath, frustrated that they weren't letting him leave. "I don't know, I guess," he said, still rubbing his forehead. "I can't really … compare. K helped last time. Really. If I can get the pressure points it'll go away; I think I'm just doing it wrong."

"If they're the same pressure points that Logan uses, then you're in the right places for them," Hank said. "But it's entirely possible that the pressure points won't do what you need them to."

"They worked before," Cody argued.

"Then your symptoms may be worsening," Hank told him. "But that's still no cause for alarm; it's perfectly normal for people your age to develop migraines."

Cody let out a breath of frustration. "Well… can't I just, like — isn't there something I can take for it?" He glared at the floor and then closed his eyes, putting the heels of his hands back where they were before — though the longer Hank took, the quieter he got when the headache wasn't letting up in the least.

"We can take a quick scan, and I can give you something to ease the migraine, but you'll have to wait here until it kicks in properly," Hank told him.

"Okay," Cody said behind his hands.

Hank gave Kurt a significant look — both men knew Cody had to be hurting now that he wasn't arguing — and as soon as Kurt stepped out of the lab, he teleported up to find Scott while Hank quickly got his scans underway. Scott and Kurt reappeared in the lab a few moments later, and Scott frowned when he saw Cody hunched over trying to get some relief.

"Headache?" he asked Hank, just for confirmation, as he headed over to sit by Cody. When Hank nodded, Scott let out a sigh and turned back to Cody to give him his full attention. "Cody, I need you to try something for me," he said low and quiet before he put the glasses he always carried just in case into Cody's hands. "Tell me if this helps."

Cody looked totally disbelieving for a moment and couldn't help but glance up at his dad, but when Scott looked perfectly serious, he tried it, slipping the slightly too large glasses on.

It took a moment, but the longer he looked through the red lenses, the less the headache in the back of his head bothered him, and Cody was visibly relaxing as Scott rubbed his back and muttered, "It's alright. Just keep focusing on your breathing."

Finally, Scott looked up at Hank. "We should get some new frames that fit his face better," he said. "But this will help with the headaches. It's not a migraine."

"We'll have to get that right away, then," Hank said, relaxing but still simply watching Scott for a good long time.

"Am I going to have to wear these all the time?" Cody asked quietly

Scott shook his head. "They'll help with the headaches when they come up," he explained. "I had headaches for a while before my powers kicked in." He started to smile. "When you start actually having optic blasts, you'll have to wear them until you can control it, though. Just so you don't hurt anything or anyone." When Cody frowned, Scott smiled a little wider. "It's not permanent, I swear."

"So I'm — I'm getting my powers?" Cody asked, both of his eyebrows raised behind the glasses as he started to very slowly grin.

"Well, seeing as the glasses helped..." Scott said with a little smile before he reached over and pulled Cody into a hug and grinned outright. "Of course," he said when he pulled back a bit to look at Cody, "it could be a while. I had headaches for a long time, and even when it starts for you, it'll be sporadic."

Cody grinned the longer he thought about it, nodding to himself. "But if I'm wearing these, how will I know when it happens?" he pointed out.

Scott smirked and tapped the side of the glasses. "They'll get brighter. Right now, these look more like shades than anything else."

"So… keep an eye on the mirrors," Cody surmised.

Scott grinned and nodded. "And I'm sure if you miss it, your friends will help you look out for it."

Cody nodded as he thought it over, then paused. "Wait. Does that mean I'm going to get a headache every time I use my powers?"

Scott smirked and shook his head. "Not every time," he promised. "For the first little bit, maybe, but…" He tapped the side of his head. "No headaches, I promise. You just need to be careful about using it all up. That will give you a headache." He grinned and got to his feet, pulling Cody with him. "We'll practice once it comes up."

Cody was also grinning up at his dad as he nodded, clearly thrilled with this turn of events. "Yeah, yeah when I get the glow."

Both of them were outright beaming as they headed out of the lab, with Cody still wearing the glasses, though now he was wearing them more because he so excited that he'd forgotten to take them off than because he needed help with his headache.

"So how long do you think the glasses will take? My glasses, I mean?" Cody asked.

"Shouldn't be more than a day or two," Scott promised. He had to smirk. "It took a little longer with mine, but we got pretty good at making those glasses after I was on the team for a while."

K and Logan were in the kitchen when Scott and Cody came up from the lab. The two ferals were discussing the test they wanted to run the kids through in combat class and sharing a mug of coffee, though they stopped when the two Summers boys came in, and Logan straight up did a double-take and raised one eyebrow on seeing Cody's new accessory.

"Slim and Slimmer," Logan said, smirking slightly at the young man. "What's the story here?"

Cody glanced up at Scott before he looked over at Logan again. "I'm going to get optic blasts," he explained, clearly thrilled.

"How'd you figure that one out?" Logan asked, his chin resting in the palm of his hand.

Cody tapped the side of his head. "Headaches," he said.

"Headaches," Logan said slowly before he turned toward K and started shaking his head. "Like the one you had the other day?"

"Right," Cody said, nodding. "But Dad brought me his glasses, and it fixed it." He shrugged. "So… that's how he knew about it."

"Your mom will want to hear about this too," Scott pointed out quietly, and Cody grinned even wider.

"Right!" He gave his dad one more hug before he ran off.

As soon as Cody rushed off to tell his mother and his siblings, Logan gave K such a look as if the whole situation was completely unbelievable. And somehow, entirely her doing. "Take him out for one shooting session and you just had to drop kick him right into puberty."

K let out a growl and smacked him hard, though she didn't even have the beginnings of a shot back when all she could come up with was: "You… are just … awful."

And that had Scott laughing — especially when Logan simply smirked back at her for her total lack of a comeback.

"I am not taking the blame on this one," K laughed as Logan pulled her over for a kiss, ignoring her half hearted attempts to make him let go of her.

Scott laughed a little harder and shook his head. "No, I was about his age when it started for me."

"And did you have some pretty older woman showing you explosions?" Logan teased.

"No. He has a point, K."

"What the hell is even going on?" K said, completely in shock. "You two … are not supposed to team up on me. I mean … it's the only way you'll have a chance, but still."

Still grinning, Scott shrugged openly. "Hey, you're the one giving my son optic blasts," he teased.

"Oh, you … are so going to get it," K promised. "You're encouraging him with blaming me for these kids … yeah. You're in trouble now."

"What, you don't want to take the credit?" Scott had to laugh.

"No, I'm pretty sure that's all you," she laughed. "I had nothing to do with any optic blasts or face lasers or anything like that! I was just present when he got a headache. Which I am getting now, by the way."

Scott shrugged openly. "I guess that's true," he said, still grinning widely. "Can't blame you for the blasts if it hasn't happened yet."

"Losin' your touch," Logan told her as he got to his feet.

"Yeah, that's gonna get you a touch alright," K shot back, eyes narrowed as Logan took a few backward steps, grinning wider at her all the while.

Hank stepped into the kitchen moments before the two ferals took off at a run, with K giving chase for once, while Scott was still chuckling to himself and unable to stop grinning as he nodded Hank's way. "It seems as if I've once again missed something vital," Hank said.

Scott shook his head, knowing what he was referring to with "once again" missing something — since Hank hadn't known about the headaches. "I wasn't in the X-Men when that started happening; you couldn't have known."

"No, of course not, but I had no idea. All this time, and in all these years, you never shared that experience with me," Hank said. "I would very much like to hear it."

Scott looked surprised for a moment and then shrugged lightly. "You heard it. And you'll see it with Cody. That's just how my power set worked."

"There has to be more that we can be prepared for," Hank said. "Something that might have helped you ease into it, had it been available."

That had Scott actually pausing to think it over. "I don't know that there's anything that we can do to help. The headaches are just the powers starting up, so a painkiller isn't going to do much. Maybe there's something now that we didn't have then, but those glasses will make all the difference." He sat down and gestured for Hank to do the same. "My parents didn't know what was going on — so for him to have them from the start? He'll be alright."

"And there isn't anything else you can think of that might be useful?" Hank said. "I truly want him to be prepared, even if there is a new visor being cut for him as we speak."

Scott leaned back. "I really can't think of anything else," he admitted. "But I'm not exactly the best litmus test for this part."

"I'm afraid I disagree," Hank said. "Who would be better?"

"Honestly, Alex," Scott said.

"Then would you mind terribly if I called him in to try to work something up before we need it?"

"I'll call him," Scott said. "But I'm telling you: the glasses made all the difference once I had them." He let out a breath. "I wish I could give you more, but you know I still don't remember all of it."

"Well if anything comes to mind, please," Hank said.

"Of course," Scott promised.

"Absolutely amazing," Hank said, shaking his head as he thought about it. "I have to say, Scott, your pediatrician had to be a genius. There had to have been dozens of different attempts before they settled on this. I'd never even heard of ruby quartz before I met you. I'd love to see the files from that time."

Scott's smile faded. "Yes, well. You'd be hard pressed to find anything, considering the source was Dr. Essex," he said quietly.

Hank was perfectly still as he watched his old friend. "I had no idea, Scott. And I take it all back."

Scott let out a breath and then smiled lightly at Hank. "It's fine. It's probably the only good thing he ever did for me, finding me those glasses."

"It's likely the only good thing he ever did for anyone," Hank replied.

Scott had to nod his agreement before he leaned back. "That's why I don't have much to give you; I still don't remember all of it."

"And in that case, I hope that you never do," Hank replied. "You've dealt with enough nightmares and horror shows from that particular villain to last anyone a dozen lifetimes."

Scott looked as if he'd rather be having just about any conversation over this one as he awkwardly tried to change the subject. "Anyway, Cody has a leg up with the glasses. It's when he starts blasting things that we'll really have to keep an eye out," Scott said..

"Before I go, should I be concerned for Logan's safety? I can't recall seeing him run like that before," Hank said, clearly trying to add a little levity to their chat when it was so clear Scott didn't want to talk about anything to do with how he had slipped into his abilities.

Scott couldn't help but chuckle. "Oh, it was worth it." He got to his feet. "Thanks for looking after Cody, by the way. Let me know when the glasses and visor are ready."

"From where I was sitting, you did all the work," Hank said honestly. "And the new visor and glasses should be ready by morning. This machine cuts faster than the old one."

"I'll come down and get them first thing," Scott said with a nod before he couldn't help but smile and put his hand on Hank's shoulder. "I'd better get up there. I'm sure Annie's beside herself."

When Cody got upstairs to the Summers suite, he was still grinning and excited. He didn't even have to say anything when he got in before Charlie had pulled him into a huge hug, beaming and almost dancing in place.

After all, she could tell he was excited and proud — and that coupled with the glasses had pretty much told her everything she needed to know.

But Chance had only seen the glasses before he started to laugh. "Hey, if you were hard up for sunglasses, you could have asked me. I bet mine would fit you better," he teased.

Cody glared at his older brother over Charlie's shoulder. "Aw, shut up Chance."

Chance laughed before he rushed over to hug Cody too. "So, spill. How'd it happen?"

Cody grinned and waved his two older siblings further into the suite so he could find Annie and Chloe playing checkers — he wanted to tell the whole family. When Annie looked up at him and smiled, she had to do a double-take when she saw that Cody was wearing his dad's glasses. Then, she scrambled to her feet and rushed over to take his head with both of her hands, looking him over with a look that was caught between proud and devastated — since no mother wanted her son to have to hide his eyes, after all.

She brushed his hair away from the glasses. "Cody?" she prompted.

He grinned madly. "Dad says I'm getting optic blasts," he explained.

"Getting?" Chance repeated, his head tipped to the side. "Pretty sure you'd know if beams were coming out of your face."

Cody rolled his eyes at his older brother, but it was hidden behind the glasses, so the effect was totally ruined. "It's not like Krissy where she just started teleporting," he explained. "Dad said he had headaches for a while before he started blasting." He tapped the glasses. "These help."

Annie frowned as she looked Cody over. "Honey, how long have you been having headaches?" she asked, sounding obviously concerned.

Cody scrunched his shoulders in a bit. "It… it was just one time before today," he said. "I didn't think it was a big deal."

"And instead, it turns out you're going to have Dad's powers!" Charlie said, grinning widely.

Cody couldn't help but laugh as he nodded. "Yep! Totally worth the headaches."

Annie was shaking her head at the excited kids, unable to stop her own smile at their enthusiasm, but even so, she couldn't help frowning as she watched her little boy. "Well," she said before she leaned over to kiss his forehead. "That's wonderful news."

"Oh, don't worry, Mom. He's going to be amazing at this," Charlie promised, putting a hand on her mom's shoulder before she pulled Annie into a hug.

"He's not going to have to wear the glasses all the time, Mom," Chloe pointed out in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone.

"Yeah, just when I get headaches," Cody said. He picked the glasses up for a second so he could look at Annie. "See? No red glow yet."

Chance grinned. "You'll get it."

"Dad said it could be a few months, but until then, Hank's going to make me some glasses that fit better." Cody touched the side of his glasses. "Since these are kind of big."

"You might grow into them," Chloe teased.

"Gonna sprout two feet in two hours," Chance chuckled.

Cody picked up his glasses just to give Chance a glare, but that had Chance laughing even harder. "It's so much funnier with them on!" he giggled delightedly.

"Oh, leave him alone," Charlie said with a sigh.

"Never," Chance swore, which got Cody to give him another dry look. And of course, that had him laughing harder.

"Nobody can see your face, Cody. It's not working really well," Chloe said in that same perfectly matter-of-fact tone, which had Chance doubled over and clutching his stomach.

"Chance, stop teasing your brother," Annie said, shaking her head.

"I can't stop laughing, though," he insisted, still grinning.

"You're just jealous," Cody insisted.

"Of the glasses? Oh yeah," Chance said, nodding along. "I've always wanted ones that are too big for my face."

Charlie reached over to smack her twin brother in the back of the head. "Seriously, Chance."

He rubbed the back of his head and then laughed before he pulled Cody over into a side hug. "Seriously, Cody. That's awesome. Let me know when the powers actually come in, huh? We can go to the range and shoot stuff." He paused and grinned. "You use your face. I'll use my guns."

"Chance," Annie said in a warning tone.

Chance grinned her way and shrugged, then raised both hands in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, okay."

Annie shook her head at him and then reached over to pull Cody into a proper hug. "We really are so excited for you," she promised.

"Thanks, Mom," Cody said, grinning before he returned the hug and nearly got knocked over when both of his sisters joined in.

Chapter Text

While most of the kids were enjoying a break for the summer, there were a few different options for activities that weren't camping or horseback riding. Krissy had gone to Japan for a few weeks with Elin, for example. Gerry played baseball. Sying worked on his spaceship to make it space-worthy.

And Kitty had started hosting summertime seminars. Enough kids were showing interest in the alien tech that the X-Men were familiar with — because it was simply not something they had ever come across before they were part of the schools — that she'd decided to run a whole class on it. And Kaito had eaten it up.

He got back from the seminar about a week after Cody had started wearing his glasses — which in itself was a week after the Japan trip. So it had been two weeks in Westchester that Krissy hadn't seen Kaito, and when he got back, she beamed at him and ran over to wrap him up in a hug. "I brought dagashi," she announced, holding up the candy she'd brought home Japan. "I thought you might like it — little taste of home, right?"

He smiled her way and nodded, almost in a bow, as he took the little package from her and thanked her. "Doumo," he said with a grin. "Did you have a favorite?"

"Oh, like, three," she said, grinning wider. "But what about you? How was alien tech class? Can you keep up with Sying now?" she teased.

"It was amazing," he said, positively beaming. "I can't wait to get started in classes full of that tech full-time." His excitement was nearly infectious; he seemed energized with the thought, smirking widely as he drew in a breath and let it out with a laugh. "Are you sure you don't want to go with me to Chicago? We could have so much fun there."

She couldn't help but smile, because he was clearly so happy, but she shook her head all the same. "I wouldn't know what to study there. This is the school for swords and bows and daring do's," she said before she leaned over to kiss his cheek. "I wouldn't be able to keep up."

"It's going to be much harder without my favorite yosei friend," he told her with a little smile.

Krissy shook her head. "You'll be amazing at it," she promised. "And you'll make plenty of friends in Chicago. Gerry's going this year too — to be a doctor. I don't know if you'll have classes together, but he'll have your back if you need it."

He looked openly disappointed but nodded his head. "You will write me though, yes?"

She nodded. "Yeah, you've got my email," she agreed. "And I really do want to hear about how it goes."

He nodded with a smile. "Yes. I'll be sure to tell you. Since I'll be going alone … you did hear that Itsuko is going to Los Angeles, yes?"

"I did," she said. "Are you going to be alright by yourself? I mean, you're such a sweet guy, I'm sure you'll make friends…"

"I tease, but I don't mean it," he said with a troublemaking smirk. "There will be plenty of like-minded people, and Shadowcat promised to take me to the best Japanese shops in the city. So I think I'll be fine."

She nodded at that and kissed his cheek again. "You're going to be amazing. Totally irresistible."

"If that were true, I wouldn't be going to Chicago alone," he teased, though there was no hint of guilt in his laugh.

She bit her lip around her smile and nodded. "Well… I guess I just love sword fighting too much. I'm a pirate at heart; I can't help it."

"And I wouldn't want you to change it for anyone," he promised.

"Then I guess… I'll see you for dances and stuff," she said.

"Yes, most definitely," he agreed. "And again, arigato gozaimashita. For everything."

She smiled lightly and gave his hand a little squeeze before she disappeared in a little poof of smoke, reappearing on the roof to get some privacy to read over some of the emails from their group of friends to take her mind off of things. Chance's description of Cody getting his powers was always funny — and Gerry's baseball videos were hilarious too, because he narrated everything.

When she felt a little better about the upcoming semester — and the fact that her first real boyfriend was going to Chicago — she teleported back down to the ground and accidentally nearly ran into Elin as she was coming inside looking a little down herself.

"You're really getting the whole 'two inches from my nose' thing down," Elin said, stepping back.

"Sorry," Krissy said, giving her friend more space. "I wasn't looking."

"It's fine," Elin said, letting out a breath. "I was gonna go find some Summerses and see if anyone wanted to go riding."

"That sounds perfect right now. Do you mind if I come along?" Krissy asked.

"I wish you would," she said. "Chance has been weird when I talk to him. I think he'd rather be hanging out with someone else. Anyone else, really."

"Oh, please," Krissy said, waving her hand. "He just doesn't like Nolan."

"Well, Nolan just emailed me to let me know he's settled into LA, so that shouldn't be a problem."

Krissy stopped and took a moment to wrap her friend up in a warm hug. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

"Sure I am," Elin said. "I haven't seen him since the end of school anyhow. No big deal."

Krissy hugged her tighter. "I'm still sorry. It's no fun. Kaito's going to Chicago."

"Yeah, he was hoping you'd want to go too," Elin said. "I tried to tell him it was too boring in Chicago for you."

Krissy laughed. "That's why you're not going to LA?"

"I just don't want to go," Elin said with a shrug. "I haven't been as vocal as some people we know." She paused and the two girls shared a look before Elin coughed out 'Chance'. "But … I have always wanted to join the team when I'm older, and that seems like the long way around to me."

"You'd get on the team if you spent all your schooling in, like, Alaska," Krissy teased.

"I doubt it," Elin said dryly.

"Besides," Krissy said matter-of-factly, "I'm not smart enough for the Chicago school. Brain's too full of swashbuckling and trickshots." She pointed at her own head with troublemaking smirk.

"I'm probably too aggressive for the LA school, and I too, am not smart enough for the Chicago crowd, so … that leaves here — or here."

"Well, I'm glad," Krissy said, wrapping her arm around Elin's shoulders as they headed down together. "I don't know what I'd do without my best friend to get me through."

"You'd find another best friend," Elin said without missing a tick. "And you'd be fine."

"Oh, lies," Krissy said, waving her hand. "I just about died last summer without you."

"Oh, yeah, I could tell from all the fun you were having," Elin teased. "Face it — you'll have a good time no matter where you are or who you're with."

"Well, I do love Sying's family," Krissy admitted.

"And beach time with your family," Elin said. "And pool time … pretty much just have to give you water."

"Well, like I told Kaito: I'm a pirate at heart," Krissy pointed out.

"Which makes it so weird that your best friend doesn't like water," Elin said.

"I don't mind," Krissy promised. "I also love riding with you. And begging your advice over boys. Which…" She turned to face Elin better.

" ridiculous. Since I have no leg to stand on there," Elin said before Krissy could even get started.

"You helped me out after Sying kissed me," Krissy pointed out. "And helped me and Kaito get together. So… now that Kaito's in Chicago, sorry about your luck, but… I'll need you. Badly. Jumping back in the boy-pool again."

Elin waved a hand as the group of their friends finally came into view. "Please. They'll be falling over themselves to get your attention."

Krissy grinned and leaned over to kiss her friend on the cheek before she waved at the group, looking forward to a quiet trail ride with their friends. "Sure, Ellie. Whatever you say."

"Mom said we can take a trail ride if you guys are up for it," Elin said rather than saying hello as they caught up to the boys, ignoring Krissy's drama for the time being. "She wants to break a new trail."

"Hey, I'm always up for riding," Chance agreed quickly.

"Then get your boots on, cowboy," Elin called back. "Meet you in the barn."

When the semester started, there were of course a few new students to replace the kids that had transferred out — though this would be the last year it was that busy, since the European campus was going to be ready for students by the beginning of the summer.

Still, there were a few new kids that were completely unfamiliar with the campus, and a little redhead named Anya was pleased to see that the cute boy who had showed her around the place was in her math class. And her literature class.

She had tried to catch his eye a few times in class, but it looked like he had a really solid group of friends that was hard to break into. And his best friend was one of the prettiest girls in the school, so that was a little bit intimidating.

But the girl was in Anya's science class, and after the class was over, Anya made it a point to introduce herself. "Elin, right?" she asked. "I heard your name on the roll."

Elin glanced up at her and nodded her head. "Yeah, that's me."

"Anya," she said, smiling politely.

"Hi," Elin replied as she readjusted her books and started walking down the hall, though she looked and sounded irritated at the intrusion. "Are you lost or something?"

"No, no. I was…" She took a deep breath. "I'm new."

"I know. And it's usually the new kids that are lost, which is why I took a guess."

Anya smiled at that. "Yes, I guess that would make sense," she agreed. "Actually, I was wondering if you ... well, this may seem strange, but I am trying to make friends. And the boy who gave me my tour seems very nice, and I've seen you two together, so I wanted to know… if you could tell me about him?"

"No. I can't," Elin said flatly — and without even thinking about it. "I don't tell strangers about my friends. But you can try introducing yourself to him."

"I just don't want to step on any toes," she said.

Elin gave her a confident sort of smirk, something clearly learned from her father. "You wouldn't."

"Oh good." Anya nodded and looked fairly relieved. "Like I said, I'm new. I don't want to step into something I shouldn't." She leaned forward with a smile. "But he is very cute."

Elin nodded and tipped her head to the side. "You should know, even if we end up hanging out, I won't give you insider tips."

Anya nodded for a moment. "Alright," she said. "I appreciate your candor."

"And if it comes down to it, I'm on his side," she said, further clarifying things.

"Of course," Anya said quickly. "You don't know me. That makes sense." She smiled. "But I'm glad to hear it all the same."

Elin turned to face her with a little smirk. "You have to understand: the same would be true if you somehow became part of the group. I won't speak for the others, but that's just the way it is for me."

"Well… thank you, I think," Anya said. "Would it be insider information if I asked where I could find him to introduce myself?"

"It would. You're on your own."

"Alright," Anya said before the two girls parted ways, and Anya headed off to her last class, mulling over what Elin had said.

Elin, meanwhile, had headed down to combat class and was ready to find out who her new sparring partner was going to be for the semester. The class was a little smaller than in years past, partly because they were getting better about weeding out the kids that didn't want to go on to join teams and partly because this was the more advanced group of kids anyhow.

She wasn't surprised to see that her brother was with Sying and Chance, and Sying waved her over with a grin. "How were classes?" he asked.

"Alright, I guess," Elin said with a sigh as she quickly braided her hair to get it out of her face. "How about for you guys?"

"Pretty good," Chance said. "I'm gonna miss having Gerry in history, though. He was hilarious."

"Yeah, Itsuko was fun in art class too," Elin agreed.

"I'm taking that this year," Sying said. "Did you guys know Kari is an artistic genius? You should see her drawings."

"She's been drawing off of James' photographs," Elin said. "Though he didn't want to share any this summer. Sorry about that. He's in a mood." She bumped her brother's shoulder with hers.

Sying smirked James' way. "What's up with that?"

"Nothing," James grumbled. "Just don't want to share."

"Well, maybe wiping the floor with a few jerks will cheer you up," Chance muttered, thumbing over his shoulder to where, to his annoyance, it looked like Brian and Casey were in their class — though they were the last to arrive before Logan.

When Logan came in, he didn't even look up before he called out for the group to pair up. "Pick on your own who you'll work best with."

To Elin's surprise, that meant Sying slid up to her quickly. "Please?" he asked. "I know you'll push me."

"Alright, sure. I guess I'll have to push you, then," she said with a smirk.

"Aww, come on, Sying," Chance muttered.

"Too slow!" Sying called out cheerfully.

"Everyone will get a chance to work with everyone else," James told Chance. "Unfortunately."

"And I was so enjoying this class last year jerk-free," Chance said, shaking his head.

"You know how Dad is," James said, squaring up with him. "Gotta find a monkey wrench."

"Yeah, no kidding," Chance agreed as he squared up as well. "How's the genius squad, by the way?"

"Pretty boring, honestly," James admitted as they started their warm ups. "At least they've gotten to the point where they don't think they have to talk down to me."

"Oh yeah, that was their mistake."

Their conversation was interrupted when they realized the speed at which Elin and Sying were going back and forth with their sticks. The dampener was on but obviously at a lower power rating than what had been used in the past, and she was pushing hard and focused to make sure she kept up with Sying at speed.

"Yeah, well, makes sense the only girl in here is Wolverine's kid," Brian muttered to Casey, though Casey was openly staring at Elin.

Elin growled low, and all at once, she broke form to kick Sying back, dropped the sticks, and backflipped over to where Brian was. An instant later, she'd caught Brian's head between her ankles and flipped him down onto the ground — hard. "You got a problem with my dad, loser?" Elin snarled out. She was standing over him with her fist drawn back, ready to cream him.

He was wincing back from her. "No, just pointing out—"

"That a girl can kick your ass? Keep in mind my mother would wipe the floor with you too."

"Yeah, but she's got your same mutation," he pointed out with a little sneer.

"Dad, turn up the dampener, please," Elin said. "I want to go one on one with this jerk with no mutation in play."

"Later," Logan replied, totally ignoring the situation as if it was part of the class. "Switch partners."

Chance was grinning as he watched Elin square up with Brian, and he partnered up with one of the other kids. "Learning opportunity," he called James' way.

"Such a good one," James replied, smirking up at Casey.

On Logan's word, it was an absolute one-way beat down. Elin didn't hold back in the least as she thoroughly stomped Brian, ending the match by pulling his arm out of socket when he tried to put a hold on her. She was standing on his back with the disjointed arm pulled back and one foot at the base of his head by the time Logan "noticed" that the fight was over.

"Whatdya think — learned his lesson?" Chance muttered to James.

"Doubtful," James replied. "He's slow. He'll need her to beat him down a few more times."

"Oh no," Chance deadpanned.

Logan called it, but before Elin let Brian go, she twisted his arm up further between his shoulder blades so that it hurt enough he couldn't breathe when she dropped down to whisper to him "Keep talking crap about girls or my family and you'll lose the ability to have one of your own." She pushed his arm back and walked away with a growl that was barely coming out along with her breathing.

Chance caught up to her with a small smile. "El, that was amazing."

"I was trying to be nice," she said, the growl still lacing her tone. "But he had to be a moron."

"I think he's hardwired that way, honestly."

"Well, I'm gonna re-wire him, then," Elin said, letting out a breath and trying to relax her shoulders.

"He's not worth the effort," Chance said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "You alright? Wanna go a round?"

"Just … mad," she admitted before she nodded. "Yeah. Let's go a round." She let out a breath and when she looked up at him, it was with a little smile — which was what Chance was hoping for by trying to distract her after all that.

Chapter Text


Chance was surprised after his math class the next day when the new girl, the little redhead, found him in the hall.

"Chance, right?" the girl asked, tucking her hair behind her ear and grinning at him.

He smiled at her and nodded. "Yeah. And … Anya, right?" he asked, figuring she remembered him from the tour. A lot of the new kids that he took around would ask him for directions at the start of the semester.

She grinned at him delightedly and nodded. "Yeah, you remembered!"

"Well, I do a lot of the tours…" He shrugged. "So, what's up? Do you need help getting to your next class?"

"Yes, please," she said, smiling even wider. "I'm supposed to be going to history?"

"Oh, hey, that's not too far," Chance said with an encouraging smile.

"Could you show me?" she asked sweetly. "I'm really bad with directions."

"Oh. Sure," Chance said, nodding. He was supposed to be headed to science class himself, which was far enough that it was a tight transition, but he figured Hank would understand if he was helping a new kid. "It's just down this hallway and to the left," he explained as they started down in the right direction.

She grinned widely at him and latched onto his arm, which had Chance raising both eyebrows. "Thanks. This school is so big…"

"Yeah. Well." Chance wasn't entirely sure what to do with this girl as he walked her to history, though when they got there, she still hadn't let go of his arm. "Um… I have to go to my own class."

Elin was just leaving history class when they got there, but it was clear that she and her father were having a very quiet word between the two of them, heads together — and by Logan's expression, he was absolutely entertained. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and then turned around to see Anya and Chance. She paused just long enough to let slip a breath of a laugh before she walked out of history and headed down the hall.

"I really have to go now," Chance said, finally managing to pull his arm out of Anya's grasp as she let out a sigh of disappointment, and he took off running — glad that Elin was headed in the same direction as he was. Literature was on the way to science. "Hey, El, wait up."

"What's on your mind?" Elin asked, still amused with ... well … all of it.

"Just wanted to walk with you," he said, rolling his shoulder a bit.

"Yeah?" she stopped in the middle of the hall and turned his way. "What's up?"

He took a breath and then let it out and smiled. "Nothing. Just wanted to spend some time with you. Your dad get onto you for yesterday, or…?"

"No, not at all," she said, brushing her hair out of her face. "He was actually giving me tips on how to get more lift when I throw that creep again. He was pretty ticked off about that guy's mouth, and he really can't do too much himself unless it goes farther… so …"

"He's a jerk," Chance agreed. "Sorry you have to deal with him. My dad says this semester is his last chance to get it together or he'll get banned from all the classes related to the team until he treats it with more respect."

"I don't mind," Elin said with a smile. "He was a class 'A' jerk to you and James, so I've wanted to kick him around for a while anyhow. I just didn't have the opportunity. It's unfortunate for him that I don't like people screwing with my favorite people."

"He hasn't hit Cody yet," Chance said, starting to smirk. "Cody 'accidentally' forgot to tell him the glasses are for headaches and he can't actually blast him yet."

"Well, he'll be sorry when he does," Elin said. "And that is privileged information."

Chance grinned. "I think he's enjoying the attention. Cody, I mean. He doesn't have to wear the glasses as much as he does, but it's sort of… proof he's got the powers, you know?"

"I know," she said. "I think he was nervous about getting the treatment from those jerks, honestly."

"Yeah, he was pretty worried this summer. You didn't get to see it, because you were in Japan, but… I might have given him a few tips just in case," Chance admitted with a smirk. "Gotta protect the baby brother. And it was good to have something to focus on after last semester wrecked my track for the team. I'm finally feeling back up to snuff, by the way. But right now, I'm kinda actually more focused on making sure Cody survives this year, you know? Dad says I gotta focus on what's important."

"Gotta protect the whole group," she agreed. "Which reminds me: be careful with the stalker, by the way. I did not tell her how to find you and I refused to tell her anything about you."

Chance looked surprised for a second before he laughed. "Oh, we have math together. She caught me after class and asked me for directions."

"Directions to classes she's been going to on her own for almost a week? Ri-i-i-ight."

"Yeah…" He rubbed the back of his neck as they reached Elin's class.

"Don't let her flatter you too much. You're too smart for that."

He grinned at her for that. "Thanks for looking out for me, El."

"See you in combat," she said with a little wave before he finally headed off to his own class.

Chance was surprised when, after all of his classes were out, Anya caught up to him again — and this time, she didn't have the excuse of being in the same class to explain why she had managed to catch up to him.

"Hey, Chance!" she called out happily, sliding right up to him to take his arm the same way she had done when he showed her to class.

"Um. Hey." He looked over his shoulder at Sying, who was closest out of their group of friends from their combat class, but Sying was no help and only shrugged openly — he didn't know this girl either.

"So, I was thinking we should do some homework together," Anya told him in a perfectly reasonable-sounding tone, though this whole thing was news to Chance.

"Listen, Anya—"

"Oh, you can bring all your friends too, that's fine," Anya assured him, still holding onto his arm and grinning up at him. "I don't want to step into your friends."

Chance stared at her for a moment, completely at a loss as to what to do, before Sying cut in. "Actually, Chance and I were going to go shooting."

"Oh, you were?"

Chance nodded, catching on to Sying's 'out.' "Yeah, and we can't take people to hang out at the range. Safety rules."

"Oh." Anya looked let down for a moment before she blew out all her breath and gave his arm a little squeeze. "Okay, well, I'll just catch you tomorrow, alright?"

"Bye, Anya," Chance said, heading off with Sying. He looked over his shoulder to make sure Anya wasn't following them before he grinned at Sying and clapped him on the shoulder. "Thank you."

"Who's she?" Sying asked.

"She's new," Chance said, shrugging. "I did the tour, and she's in my math and literature class."

"Huh." Sying shook his head as the two of them headed up the stairs. "She seemed a lot more familiar than that."


"Overly attached," Sying supplied for him with a grin.

Chance laughed and nodded. "Yeah. I just met her."

"So you're not interested?" Sying couldn't help but tease.

"I just met her. I'd like to know her before I decide if I want to start… I dunno. Whatever she's up to."

"Yeah, I couldn't tell if Elin was going to laugh or stab her."

"She already gave me grief about it earlier," Chance said, shaking his head.

Sying laughed as they got up to the residential halls, then zipped off to go pick up his own guns to meet up with Chance.

"You guys going to the range?" Cody asked when he saw Sying zip in, with Chance wearing the holsters for his new guns.

"Yeah, we figured we'd get in some practice," Chance said.

"Can I come?"

Sying and Chance glanced at each other and then shrugged in tandem. "Maybe next time," Sying said.

"You're still working with K," Chance pointed out. "You've got lessons with her on Saturday."

Cody let out a sigh and tipped his head back. He wasn't wearing the glasses when he was just in the suite, so they could tell how disappointed he was, and Sying dropped his shoulders and tried to look as sympathetic as possible.

"Hey, give it a little more time, and you'll catch up no problem," he said. "We just don't want you to get hurt."

"Big brother prerogative," Chance agreed.

"Fine, whatever," Cody said, waving his hand at both of them.

The older boys glanced at each other and shared a shrug before they headed off to go shooting, leaving Cody behind in a more annoyed mood than before — at least until Charlie came to sit down beside him.

"I know it's hard to be patient, but you'll get it."

"No offense, Charlie, but could you not 'read' me?" Cody said, pushing his sister at the shoulder to get some distance.

"I'm not 'reading' you," Charlie defended, frowning hard. "I remember what it was like when I got my powers. It took a lot of time to get used to it, and I wasn't very patient either."

"I just wish I could do what Krissy and Elin did," Cody grumbled. "They just got to go right into training."

"Yeah, after a demon tried to kill Elin and steal Krissy's life," Charlie pointed out. She leaned over to wrap her little brother in a hug. "And I know you hate hearing it, but I don't want that to happen to my baby brother."

"I'm not the baby," Cody grumbled.

Charlie grinned at him. "You are the youngest brother."

"That's not fair."

"Well, Chance is my little brother… I have to distinguish."

"He's your twin brother. How 'bout that?"

Charlie giggled, knowing that she was pushing Cody's buttons and not really caring, as long as it got his mind off of being left behind by the older kids. "Mmm, no, I don't think so. It doesn't have the same ring to it."

Cody rolled his eyes and pushed Charlie back again. "You're ridiculous."

Charlie grinned at him. "If you want, you can come with me to go see Erik and May on Sunday," she offered. "I bet he'd be tickled about your glasses."

"You think so?" Cody asked, starting to grin again.

Charlie smiled even wider and nodded, ruffling Cody's hair. "Plus, you should really practice chess. It's shameful that Chloe can beat you."

"Chloe cheats," Cody complained.

"Chloe knows the chess moves better than you do," Charlie laughed. "You're just mad that she can beat you in five moves."

"You promised you'd show me the countermove."

"I did," Charlie agreed before she got up from the couch. "I'll get the chess set."

Chapter Text

Once the weekend arrived, the students could sleep in — and, of course, the Wagners were the worst offenders. They were not a family of morning people. They made their way down to the kitchen well after everyone else was awake, though when Kari saw that James was there, she grinned and rushed over to sit next to him.

"James, can I steal you for a moment?" she asked sweetly.

James looked up at her and grinned. "Maybe more than that if you're nice," he teased.

She grinned as her tail swayed behind her. "It's just that I need a little help on my math..." She looked more like her sister when she turned purple. "And I know it's way easy for you, but maybe you could help?"

"Since when have you needed help on math?" James asked, though he pulled out a chair for her to take a seat anyhow.

"Since now," Kari said, grinning at him brilliantly as she dropped into the seat. She reached down into her bag and pulled out her notebooks, sliding the math sheet over to him so he could see what she was working on. "So. Fractions. Help?"

"Sure, why not? But … I know your mom knows you can do this already. What's the story you're running with?"

Kari shrugged. "I wanted someone to double-check it?"

"Oh. Alright. I'm sure that'll work," he laughed. "Especially since no one is around to make sure you're doing your math."

She drew a halo over her head and grinned. "Well, it might work. At least if I use it on my mom."

"I tell you what," James said. "I'll tutor you … if you can come up with something you actually need help with. Otherwise, we should just skip the game and go watch a movie."

Kari giggled delightedly and nodded. "One of these days, I'm going to actually need help," she swore.

"Well, then, one of these days, I'll actually help you," he replied. "But if you wanna zip through it, I'll double-check it and try really hard not to make your zeroes into smiley faces."

She grinned. "What if I like smiley-face zeros?"

"Then I have good news for you," he said as he pulled out a pencil from her case.

Kari grinned and set to her math homework with a new abandon, just to get it done so they could watch a movie. "What about popcorn and Twizzlers?"

"Whatever you want to do is fine with me," James replied, watching her work.

"We can watch The Librarians. I feel like vampires."

"Sure, sounds good. The room ought to be open anyhow. Most of the bigger kids got hammered with homework — whatever that's like."

Kari looked up at him with a crooked grin. "You're so lucky. I like going to the 'main' classes, but it's so busy."

"Oh, they still make me do stuff," James promised. "But half of it is just whatever Tony comes up with to see if there even is an answer."

"That sounds open-ended," Kari said, tipping her head to the side as she finished up one of her problems. "How do you know when you're done?"

"When he comes in to try to see what's taking so long and he can't end it either."

"Well, I miss having you around to cause trouble all the time," she said with a little smile. "I know they only have you in the mornings, but still."

"I think your mom is happy I'm out of her class," James said quietly.

Kari looked up at him in surprise. "Mama loves you, though."

"Yeah, but I was making her mad with my papers," he admitted.

"You were doing it on purpose, weren't you?" she said, her grin growing a little more crooked.

"Well … yeah." He shrugged. "But she still gives me looks."

"It must be genetic," Kari decided. "She gives both of your parents looks when they're ridiculous too. She gives me looks too, though."

"I think I'll just avoid her until she asks if there's a problem. That's always fun."

Kari giggled and bumped shoulders with him. "Okay. Can you check my problems?"

"Yep," he said, pulling the paper over, running down it quickly, and doodling in smiley faces. "You got the last one backwards. How?"

"I did?" Kari peered over his shoulder to see where he was pointing. "Oh. I did." She tipped her head sideways and then giggled and looked up at him. "I guess I was distracted."

"No idea why," he replied, perfectly straight-faced.

Kari grinned and put her notebook back in her backpack. "So, are we watching a movie or not?"

He tipped his head to the side and drew in a deep breath before he leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "Your call."

She looked surprised for a second before she let out a delighted giggle and then very suddenly disappeared in a poof of blue smoke.

James was completely shocked and quickly turned around to see where she'd gone. "Kari?" He got up and looked around, listening hard before he crept down the hall, where the TV room was already dark and a movie was starting up. "Kari? Are you in here?"

"Did you bring popcorn?" Kari asked, and even though it was dark, it was clear she was a little purple … and still kind of shocked with herself.

"No … I'll go get it," he said, one eyebrow raised. "I … didn't know you were doing that."

"I… wasn't," Kari admitted, her tail totally still behind her as an indication of just how much she'd been surprised.

"Well … alright. Sorry. I didn't mean to shock you," he said.

"Oh! No, no. No, no. No. That wasn't ... no. Don't apologize."

"I'll … just go grab the snacks, then," James said, frowning to himself as he turned. "Any other requests?"

"Just ... just the popcorn and Twizzlers," she said in a higher pitch than usual.

"You got it!" he called back, breaking into a run just so she didn't have to wait for too long alone.

Meanwhile, Kate and Kurt were headed out for the weekend to visit Chicago. Tyler's little boy had turned eight years old, and Tyler had asked Kurt if he wanted to come to his baptism, which Tyler would be performing.

Of course Kurt had agreed, so the two of them were grabbing a bite of breakfast before they headed out. Kate was just finishing off her toast and eggs when she saw K leaving too, and since she knew she was going to take Cody out to the range again, she couldn't help but call out, "Try not to drop kick that boy into actual lasers until we get back!"

"I can't believe you're on his side!" K called back. "I had nothing to do with… he gets it from his father, for chrissakes!"

Kate laughed outright when Annie chimed in with, "Yes, please, my poor baby boy is way too young for this nonsense!"

"Benedict Annie," K said, shaking her head. "That's it. I'm hiding the sugar for your tea."

Annie laughed. "Well, I have to blame someone when I can't see my little boy's beautiful eyes," she pointed out. "And it is your fault."

"Not Scott's," Kate chimed in.

"Oh, of course not," Annie laughed, which just got another look of disbelief out of K.

"You will call us if she causes Chloe to become an early bloomer?" Kurt asked Annie with a wicked grin.

"Oh, of course," Annie promised.

"Wonderful," Kurt said, smiling widely before he wrapped his arms around Kate from behind, and the two of them teleported off to Chicago, to the church building where Tyler and Tristan were already behind the font getting ready.

"Oh good," said a familiar voice, and the two of them spun around to see that Tammy was there, just showing that she was a few months pregnant and smiling widely. "Come sit with me."

Kurt and Kate grinned as they took their seats next to Tammy, and Kate leaned over to wrap the younger woman up in a hug. "How are you feeling?"

"Wonderful, honestly," Tammy said, beaming. "Tristan's thrilled, and Tyler couldn't be prouder."

"And the little one?" Kurt asked with a smile.

"Oh, Tyler knows what we're having, but I wanted to wait," Tammy admitted. "I'm hoping for a little girl this time, but I don't want to ruin the surprise."

"Either way, it'll be another adorable blonde," Kate pointed out, grinning.

"Impossible not to be, with our genes," Tammy laughed.

It wasn't long before Tyler and Tristan came in ahead of the start of the baptism, both of them wearing all white and grinning as they talked back and forth. Tristan, it seemed, was going to be tall like his father, though he still had a way to look up as they laughed together. And Tyler looked like he couldn't believe he was going to get to baptize his little boy.

The two of them sat down in the front row in front of Hank, Daisy, and Jolie. Gerry was sitting next to Jolie and grinning widely as he told Hank all about his plans to become a doctor and how Tyler was helping him take the right high school classes to get on that path. And Jolie, of course, was just enjoying the time with her whole family and kept trying to tickle Tristan with her tail while he was sitting in the front row.

Before the baptism itself, there were a few remarks on the importance of baptism and making covenants with God, and Tristan was paying perfect attention until there was a song ... and then Gerry had Jolie giggling madly all the way through the song by making rainbows as they sang the line, "I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain and ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again."

Tyler was grinning by the time he got to take Tristan into the font and perform the baptism, dipping him under the water — though everyone in attendance had to giggle when right before, Tristan took a huge breath as if he was preparing to go under for underwater exploration.

Once both of them had changed into dry clothes, the confirmation was given, and then they were all able to break for snacks so everyone could congratulate Tristan.

Elin had already been well into the habit of writing to Nolan first thing in the morning on the weekend. It wasn't because she liked him like that … but if she didn't, then she'd start hearing about how worried he was from Storm or Jubilee. Or even Noh. She didn't have time to write Nolan during the week, and frankly, it was easier for her to tell him the small things in one quick note than in half a dozen snippets all week long that really didn't have anything new to share. That, and she really didn't have much to say to him. Not when half of his messages were mostly 'when are you transferring to LA?' or 'how necessary is combat?'. It was so bad that she had to constantly remind him that disregarding the fact that they were kids, she wasn't going to move across the country for a guy she wasn't married to. If she responded to that at all.

She sat down with her laptop at the kitchen table with her tea nearby so while she got ready to send a quick message. Hey, stranger. How are classes with Storm? Everyone says she has the best literature classes. I know the books she gave me over the summer were exactly what I needed on my down time.

Classes are going fine here, I suppose. Same old, same old. New kids every semester, but maybe only two or three that will even speak to me, and those are usually just trying to suck up for dad's class. I think the jerky boys in combat that were such tool bags to Jams and Chance are starting to get the message — the dumb one walked away with a fat lip on Friday, and the other one learned to not say rude things where he thinks I can't hear him. So … that's improvement, right?

Chance has a stalker. It's kind of funny so far, but she's definitely on the psycho scale. I'll let you know how bad when we see how far it can go before he finally gets mad. Otherwise, it's just the same as it always is. Heading out in a little while to do the chores, then I think we're going to try to get one more day of swimming in before it's too cold.

Have fun ~ Elin

She let out a breath and closed her laptop before she finished her tea. Her parents were already on to other things. Her father was snuggled up with Malin, who was fighting a cold and needed a lot of attention, and her mother was preparing to head out to the range with the Summers boys for another day of shooting, which left Elin and Sadie to take care of the chores in the barn while James was supposed to be studying — but instead, he was, of course, still flirting with Kari. Shamelessly.

She smirked to herself and got up, with Sadie meeting her ready to work. "We're just feeding and watering," Elin told her little sister, who was bouncing around in circles.

"I know … but now I'm old enough to help," Sadie said with a grin. "I can even pick up a bale all by myself!"

"You don't have to," Elin told her as they walked to the barn, holding her sister's hand, since Sadie still got a little too excited at first when she got to the barn and Elin was trying to help their mother to teach Sadie to relax around the animals so they didn't get all worked up too.

As soon as the door opened, there was a chorus of nickers, and the two girls shared a smile before they got to work.

When they returned to the house a few hours later, Sadie ran off to play with Kaleb, and Elin grabbed her laptop and headed upstairs to the family's suite. Her mom was gone and would be for a while, and when she got upstairs, her Dad was asleep with Malin sleeping and drooling on his chest. She smiled to herself and her shoulders relaxed on seeing that Malin's fever had to have finally broken if the two of them were asleep. Which was a relief. This cold had been pretty hard on the whole family.

Elin changed quickly and cracked open her laptop, fully expecting to get down to work on the essay she had to turn into Kate's class first thing Monday. It was a pretty quiet setting, if she was being honest. The noisiest of the family was busy … and no one wanted to disturb their Dad, so she hid behind that as she got started on her essay.

She was very nearly done when she got a response from Nolan.

Hey, pretty girl -

You know, Ms. Munroe would love to see you in her class, and I'm sure you'd find the kids out here to be more friendly. None of them seem to have any issues with the kids of teachers here. I hate to say it, but … maybe the problem is Westchester.

Please be careful in combat. I don't really like to hear about some jerk hitting you. I know you said you can heal, but that just isn't right. They shouldn't hit you in the first place. It's bad enough that they're being idiots to your brother and your friend, but my parents taught me that you don't let a lady get hurt. It's not right. Besides, if you thought about it, I'm sure you'd be great teaching riding like your mom instead of putting yourself in a position where all these juiced up jerks want to hit you. You're great with the horses, and they don't try to punch you in the face.

Now me? I'm looking forward to my first winter without snow. Seriously. You guys will be bundled up while we're doing bonfires on the beach. Tell me that doesn't sound like a nice change!

~ Nolan

She let out a sigh and shook her head at his response.

"Maybe like my Mom I like the cold and hitting people," she muttered to herself, though she wasn't in the mood to reply right away.

She rested her head in her hand and stared at the screen before she closed out her email and tried to go back to writing, but she couldn't concentrate on it. And her usual distraction of riding just wasn't going to cut it.

Elin closed up the computer and frowned at her hands. She didn't really feel much like going down to the gym to practice or to hit the punching bag. Suddenly, the notion of hitting things just wasn't … anywhere near as appealing as it normally was. And she knew that her mother probably wouldn't be back with the Summers boys until nearly dark.

But, luckily for Elin, it wasn't too long before James came in. He'd slipped by their now-awake father and the still sleeping baby sister before he quietly closed Elin's door behind him. He headed over to drop onto his sister's bed and frown at her as she sat at her desk. "This day is just … weird."

"Doesn't get any better," Elin promised before she pulled out a deck of cards and tossed it to him to shuffle. "Are you hiding too?"

"More like trying to process," James replied as he automatically started shuffling the cards. That was all that needed to be said between them until something else came up.

"Krissy?" Kari tapped her big sister on the shoulder, bouncing from one foot to the other and looking incredibly nervous.

Krissy pulled out one of her headphones from the playlist she was listening to that Sying had suggested for her. She was going to tell her sister that she was busy, but when she saw the look on Kari's face, she thought better of it. "Whoa, hey, what's up?"

"I… 'ported," Kari said, her eyes totally wide; she still looked like she didn't quite believe it.

Krissy stared at her for a second before she jumped to her feet and wrapped her arms around Kari with a wide grin. "No way! What happened? Tell me everything!"

Kari flushed purple and shook her head. "It just happened."

"Well, where did you go? Did anybody see? Papa's going to be so excited!"

"Oh, Papa can't know," Kari said, her eyes even wider than before.

Krissy stopped hugging Kari and stepped back. "Why? What happened? Did you get in trouble?"

Kari shifted her weight from foot to foot and rubbed her arm with one hand. "No… It's just that … I kinda…." She took a deep breath. "I kinda sorta 'ported in the middle of James kissing me."

Krissy's jaw dropped. "Wait, really?"

"Yeah." Kari shrugged her shoulders up to her ears and looked up at Krissy. "What do I do?"

Krissy looked just as wide-eyed as Kari did, though she was trying hard to get it under control so she could help Kari. "I… I umm… Well. You should tell Papa that you 'ported, at least."

"But I 'ported because James kissed me," Kari pointed out.

Krissy tipped her head to the side. "Well, what did James do?"

"He came and found me," Kari said, biting her lip as Krissy pulled her into the seat next to her and wrapped her up in a solid hug. "I was in the TV room."

"Well, it sounds like you at least didn't freak him out too bad, if he came after you," Krissy had to tease.

"We watched a movie," Kari explained. "We were going there anyway."

Krissy grinned and scooted over on the couch. "So… James."

"Oh, shush."

"I mean, it must have been a really good kiss if it made you 'port," Krissy said, grinning even wider.


"I'm not wrong," Krissy insisted.

"It was just a quick one," Kari blushed. "Not like you and Kaito."

"Me and Kaito aren't dating anymore."

"I'm just saying. It wasn't that much of a kiss. I mean." She blushed. "I mean. That's not what I meant. I meant you're in more trouble — I mean. That's not—"

"You like him."

"Shut up, Krissy."

"You like him and he made you teleport from a kiss."

"At least he didn't do it by scaring me," Kari shot back.

"That's different. Chance didn't—"

"Is not. You like him," Kari insisted, grinning even wider.

Krissy crossed her arms over her chest and scrunched up her entire face. "Shut up."

"Ha!" Kari pointed her finger in Krissy's face. "Just admit it you like him. You should try kissing him. I bet it would make you feel better."

"Well, you shouldn't even be kissing boys," Krissy shot back. "You're too little."

"I am not," Kari insisted. "Just 'cause you didn't do it until last year!"

"Didn't do what?" Kate called out from the living room as she and Kurt returned from the baptism. Both of them were in great moods, and they were all wrapped up in each other — Kurt in particular was tickled with how Tyler was doing in his faith, and it showed in his grin.

"Krissy was kissing Kaito all last year," Kari sang out.

"And we talked with her about that," Kurt said with one eyebrow raised. "Who is it that you were kissing, Prinzessin?"

Kari turned almost as purple as Krissy was and looked down at her hands.

"You know you're too young for this kind of game," Kurt said, his tone a little gentler. "So who is it?"

"It was Ja-a-a-a-ames!" Kade called out, and both of the girls looked up to see their baby brother on the ceiling, grinning like a cheshire cat with his tail swaying behind him — only just alerting them to the fact that he was even there.

Kurt tried to keep his composure, even though the image of Kade being such a little devil was definitely humorous. "Kari…."

"It was just one kiss," Kari muttered at the floor.

"You shouldn't be kissing boys yet," Kurt told her.

"I'm old enough!" Kari insisted with her lower lip pushed out.

"You are not," Kurt replied. "Do I need to go talk to Logan about this?"

"No!" Kari said quickly, her eyes wide. She shifted guiltily. "No, that's okay."

Kade was cackling on the ceiling, which was just making the whole thing worse for Kari. "You gotta tell him about the 'porting, Kari. You gotta tell him 'bout it."

Kurt positively froze for a moment, and he turned to Kari with his eyebrows high on his head. "What's this now? When did this happen?"

"Ummm." Kari shifted again as Krissy started to giggle at her little brother and tried to coax him down from the ceiling. "Umm, it just happened while you were gone. It was an accident."

"That's amazing!" Kate said, beaming around Kurt to reach over and pull Kari into a hug. "That's so exciting, sweetie."

"How far did you go?" Kurt asked, trying to shift to celebrations while Kari was blushing and Kade was cackling.

"Not very far," she admitted. "I just went from the kitchen to the TV room."

He grinned. "You know, this means we get to spend time teaching you how to do it purposely."

"You don't gotta do that!" Kade sang out, and Krissy tried to shush him and cover his mouth, but he licked her fingers, and she let out a shriek. "You just gotta get James to kiss her and she 'ports! POOF!"

"That's not funny, Kade," Kurt said sternly.

"It's tru-u-u-u-e," he sang out as Krissy wiped her hand on her pants.

Kurt turned slowly from Kade to the girls, settling of course on Kari. "I'd like to hear everything without your brother in the middle of it."

Kari nodded. "Okay. Can we maybe go outside?"

Kurt gave her a slight smile before he took her hand and teleported to the roof with her. "What happened?"

Kari tucked her hair behind her ears and shifted. "Me and James were doing math homework," she explained. "And then we decided to go watch a movie. And…." She flushed purple and looked down at her feet again. "And then he kissed me, and I 'ported."

"Did he startle you?" Kurt asked, already thinking of the trouble that Krissy had with Chance.

"No," she admitted.

"You do know you're too young to be kissing boys, ja?" he said, resting one hand on the side of her head.

"I'm not — I'm not trying to be his girlfriend or anything," Kari said.

"I know, and I'll talk to James about this too," Kurt said.

Kari looked wide-eyed as she glanced up at him. "Oh, do you have to?"

"He shouldn't be kissing people with no warning," Kurt told her.

"That's… not ... really… true," Kari said.

"It is," Kurt said. "And he's too young to be kissing girls anyhow."

"He's almost a whole year older than me," Kari pointed out.

"And how did he react?" Kurt asked, curious on how the whole mess had ended.

Kari shrugged. "He came and found me, and we watched a movie." She glanced up at him again. "It really isn't a big deal. He wasn't mad or freaked out or anything."

"Yes, but how were you?"

"Oh, I guess … I think I was kinda … I just wasn't expecting it, but it was nice that James just let me watch a movie like it wasn't weird."

He nodded and pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry I wasn't here for your first teleport," he said with a chuckle. "Even if that's how it happened."

She grinned and hugged him right back. "We can practice now, right? It'll be fun."

"We could, but it's late, and we have to be up in the morning," Kurt said. "We will work on it after church, if you'd like."

Kari beamed up at him. "Yes, please!"

Kurt couldn't help but smile at her before he narrowed his eyes and tried to be stern. "But schatzi, you really are too young to be kissing boys. And you know it."

"Yes, Papa," Kari said, losing some of her smile.

"Three weeks," he said, and Kari let out a sigh. "You'll be grounded for three weeks — and you'll be spending plenty of time with me."

"That part will be fun."

Kurt grinned at her and teleported back to their suite with Kari still wrapped up in a hug. By that time, Kate had pulled their youngest aside to tell him to stop eavesdropping on his sisters, and as soon as they reappeared, Krissy rushed over to grab Kari.

"Come on; I still wanna see that drawing you were working on," Krissy said, pulling her sister along, though the bamfs started giggling as soon as the door to the girls' room was closed because — as they reported through little bouts of laughter — there was a lot of "how long are you grounded?" going on.

"You okay?" Kate asked Kurt with an impish grin over the top of Kade's head.

"In a bit of shock," Kurt admitted.

"To which part?" Kate teased as she ushered Kade off with a whispered, "Go play with your brother, sweetheart."

"To all of it," Kurt said, running a hand through his hair. "I think I need to have a word with Logan."

Kate grinned and slipped over to pull him into a kiss first. "Can I come with you? Not for the word. I just… I have to tease K now," she said, looking very much like Kade with how impishly she was smiling.

"Oh, because it's apparently genetic?" Kurt said with a grin.

"Oh yes," she said. "I can't possibly pass this up, and you know it."

"Tell Krissy she's in charge," Kurt laughed.

Kate beamed at that and gave him another warm kiss for that before she quickly poked her head into the girls' room. "Krissy, keep the place from catching on fire for a while, would you?"

"Where are you going?" Krissy asked. "Is Kari in trouble?"

"No," Kate laughed. "Just watch out for your little siblings, alright?"

"Yes, Mama," Krissy said, then grinned at Kari. "That means I'm in charge."

"Just 'til they get back."


Kate had to shake her head at the girls before she slid back over to Kurt, slipping her arm around his waist and grinning up at him to steal another kiss. "Come on, liebchen. You need to talk to your best friend," she said, which had him grinning as he kissed her back and they disappeared.

When they got to the Howlett's suite, Malin had finally gotten to a point that she was sleeping in her own bed. She'd eaten, and after a long week of fighting that nasty cold, she finally relaxed, leaving Logan and K curled up in bed talking to each other about how their respective days had gone.

"Logan, I need a word," Kurt said as the smoke cleared.

"Sure thing," Logan said before he gave K a kiss and crossed the room. "What's on your mind?"

Kurt clapped a hand on Logan's shoulder, and a moment later, they were in the rec room. "Your son has been kissing my daughter," he said, first and foremost.

"Just a matter of time," Logan said. "They've been flirtin' for a long time now."

"They're far too young for that," Kurt said, shaking his head.

"Alright, I'll tell him to keep it to himself."

Kurt nodded and then let out a little breath and couldn't stop his smile. "And you should know: Kari started teleporting. After James kissed her."

Logan stopped and stared at him for just a second before he broke down laughing.

Kurt couldn't help but join him, and soon, he was laughing just as hard — simply because it was so absurd and there wasn't much else that he could do.

"Yeah, that's … somethin'," Logan chuckled.

Kurt laughed again. "How am I supposed to react to that, mein Freund?"

"I dunno," Logan said, wiping tears from his eyes for as much as he was laughing. "But I think we can blame his mother."

"Oh, Kate is already doing just that," Kurt promised. "She wanted to come along to inform your wife that her son carried her special talent."

"That poor kid," Logan said under his breath, still laughing. "Anyone else know about this? 'Cause I wouldn't be surprised if Scott starts asking her to take Cody out more to kick start things."

Kurt laughed harder at that. "No, we're the first to know. But I'm sure it will get around."

Logan finally started to get control of himself, and he took a deep breath that almost made it out without more snickers. "Is she alright? Sounds like it was traumatic."

Kurt stared at Logan for a moment before he burst into laughter all over again, with Logan right there with him. It took him a long time to compose himself before he managed to say, as seriously as he could, "She's alright. We're going to work on 'porting on purpose — without your son — tomorrow."

"Good. I'll make sure he's locked up in a tower for half the day or something."

Kurt chuckled. "Now you are stealing my ideas, mein Freund."

"He kind of already is," Logan pointed out. "Of course … he's with Stark. So maybe that's part of the trouble."

Kurt wiped at his own eyes. "Oh no. You can't blame this on Stark when it is clearly your wife's genes at play here."

"No, he's absolutely caught in the crossfire."

Kurt grinned at his friend and rested his hand on Logan's shoulder. "Yes, well, I thought you should know about your son. It seems he has his secondary mutation already."

"He's speedy," Logan said with a grin.

Kurt chuckled. "Well, shall we get back to our wives? I'm certain K is perfectly betrayed now."

"Add it to your tab," Logan said as he put his arm around Kurt's shoulders.

Chapter Text

Sying had his earphones pulled down over his ears, so he didn't hear Chance approaching until Chance stuck his head underneath the bow of the ship Sying was working on. He had one of the access panels open, trying to figure out how best to get a little more power to the Kirby engines — not just in imagination but flow.

"You work on that thing all the time," Chance commented, sliding underneath the ship with his friend to look up at the panel.

"I'm thinking about taking it out for a while," Sying admitted. "I know Mom said I can't join the team until next fall — or try out for it, anyway — but I thought it would be fun to get a little adventure in where I can without having to wait for the slowpoke adults."

"Your mom would let you go out in this?" Chance asked, scrunching his nose up.

"Are you knocking my ship?"

"No," Chance said, shaking his head. "I just mean — by yourself?"

"I haven't asked her," Sying admitted, going back to what he was working on. "But she lets me come here by myself."

"That's not really the same thing, considering your grandparents are teachers here," Chance pointed out. "Can I help?"

"Sure. I need an extra set of hands anyway." Sying handed him one of the wires. "Just don't let that touch anything."

"Got it." Chance nodded and watched Sying work. "I don't think anyone would let you go on your own, but if it was a group trip…"

"You just want to go to space too," Sying said, though he was smirking.

"Well, yeah. It sounds fun," Chance said with a crooked grin.

"I guess you could come," Sying said. "My ship's not as big as my dad's, though. I can fit about… five people? But we'd all have to share rooms. Not much privacy." He shrugged. "It's organic; it's been growing with me. Yours would too if you gave it a little attention."

Chance looked sheepish. "Always figured they were toddler toys."

"No," Sying said, shaking his head. "But yours still looks like one — neglectful."

"We got them when we were, like, not even in Kindergarten," Chance pointed out.

"Yeah, I know. I'm just saying: you could fly your own ship if you gave it half the time you give pretty girls," Sying teased.

Chance rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I'm swearing off that for a while."

"Stop the presses," Sying teased, grinning wider. "What happened?"

"I can't get Anya to leave me alone," Chance said.

"Bet she'd back off if you got a girlfriend," Sying pointed out, going back to what he was doing.

"Yeah, I haven't had much luck there lately either."

"Join the club," Sying said with a glare before he held out his hand. "Okay, I need that wiring back."

Chance handed him the wire. "You find anyone you want to ask out?"

"Not really," Sying said. "And I'm not looking that hard."

"Swearing off girls for a while?" Chance teased.

Sying shot him a dry look and then rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that's it," he said before he put the wire back into place and patted the underside of the ship. "Come on; let's try it out," he said.

The two boys climbed out from underneath Sying's ship and climbed into the cockpit as Sying started up the engines. "Just going to hover for a second and check the engine output," Sying explained, and Chance nodded before Sying turned on the engines and grinned when he read the holograms in front of him.

"So? Did whatever it was work?"

"Little bit," Sying said. "Less than a tenth of a percent, but when you're talking space travel, that's still pretty good."

"I'll take your word for it."

Sying grinned. "I've been working on my dad's ship with him since I was little. This stuff just… it's second nature at this point."

"You and James ... I dunno, Sying, if you two ever put your heads together…"

Sying laughed. "Yeah, yeah." They climbed out of the ship together, and it closed up behind them.

"Do you have a name for it yet?" Chance asked.

"Not yet," Sying admitted, patting the hull absently. "It'll come to me sooner or later."

Chance nodded, then jerked his head toward the door. "C'mon. Pizza night."

Combat class should have been Elin's favorite class, but just being in the same room as those two morons that kept pushing James and Chance had her bristling every time. She couldn't help but lose her good mood the moment she walked into class, regardless of how the day had gone before then.

But … things were starting to shift a little bit in class — for her, anyhow. She ended up paired up with one or the other often enough that they started to at least shut up during class. Of course, on the rare occasion that one of them were stupid enough to say something — or to cross her in any way — she'd been reliably putting the hurt on them faster than they could begin to counter it.

She still wasn't nearly as fast as her parents, but she was working on getting there. And being on edge all the time certainly helped.

Though when Brian was nice to her — for a solid week running — Elin was understandably suspicious. The two boys seemed like they were actually paying attention in class, and after she pushed with Sying to the point that Logan called their match, she would move on to either Brian or Casey. They still weren't nearly as good as working with James or Chance … but they were improving. Quickly.

"Ready?" Brian asked with a smile that Elin flat out didn't trust as they squared off for the third spar of class. She narrowed her eyes and tightened her fists, shifting slightly back so she had that much more power in the hit she was planning on landing in the center of his chest.

"Shut up and fight," she replied between her teeth before Logan gave the word for everyone to start. To Brian's credit, he was starting to keep up; his endurance had ratcheted up since the beginning of school, and he was starting to get with the program in terms of not being overly stupid. So it was no surprise when Logan drifted away from that area of the room to watch a miserable-looking fight between some of the lesser-inclined students.

Brian stole a glance at where Logan was a split second before Casey broke away from his fight and knocked Elin's feet out from under her — totally breaking the rules of the assignment ... and leaving her wide open for Brian to pin her down. And kiss her.

No one really saw what had happened, but when Brian started screaming, it was clear something had happened. He hadn't quite let her up by the time everyone had turned to see her biting his lip — complete with blood from how hard she'd bit him. The instant he let go of one of her hands, she belted him with everything she had — and broke his jaw.

She was on her feet in an instant, squared up and growling low, with his blood on her chin and bruises on the backs of both of her hands where it was apparent she was so close to popping her claws.

Logan caught her gaze when she finally took a breath, and with a nod, she took a few steps backward before she turned and rushed out of the class and Logan took a deep breath and simply turned away from the scene with his eyes closed and his hands in fists. Though it was perfectly clear to anyone who knew him at all that it was just about all he could do to keep from pounding the little twerp himself. "You're on your own for five minutes," he said through clenched teeth before stepping out of the room with James in his wake looking every bit as angry.

There wasn't a word spoken between Chance and Sying as soon as the door was closed. Instead, both of them simply burst forward. There was no discussion of who would go after which kid, but the inhibitor seemed to suddenly be off again as Sying got to Casey in a second flat and Chance simply tackled Brian and started to beat on him — hard. He and Sying didn't say a word to either of the boys. Sying had Casey pulled back into a shape that humans were not supposed to make, and Brian wasn't able to even begin to get a good defense up against an incredibly furious Chance.

When the door to the training room finally opened again, it wasn't Logan that walked in — instead, K came in with James, and she looked positively ready to pounce. "Who was it?" she said clearly, as if the beaten down mess on the floor wasn't proof enough.

Chance finally looked up from Brian — he still had a handful of the guy's shirt — and then tipped his head at K. "The one with the broken jaw," he said just as clearly. "Elin got 'im."

She nodded and focused on the bleeding boy. "You are no longer in this class. You'll get healed up quickly, then you'll spend what was Combat with me. No inhibitors. Minimal supervision. But you will learn to respect women — or I'll take over on the Combat class and leave you in the room alone with Logan." She tipped her chin toward Casey and Sying. "Take both of them up to Scott. He's going to want to hear about all of this."

Chance and Sying glanced at each other, and Chance finally let Brian up as he pulled the guy to his feet. Sying let Casey out of the hold, too, but he was sure to remind the guy that "I can break your arm faster than you can blink," under his breath in a whisper only K could hear — though he saw James smirk out of the corner of his gaze too.

K glanced over to James and tipped her head to the door — the signal between the two of them clear to go check on how Elin was doing. "If you boys are ready, I'm sure Annie's gotten a hold of Scott by now. I'll be going in Logan's place."

Brian really wasn't in any shape to argue, and Casey looked like he was trying to avoid getting in as much trouble as his friend was as the group of them headed down the hallway with K until they reached Scott's office. And Scott didn't exactly look pleased to see that, of the four boys, Chance was the one with Brian's blood on him.

"We have a slight change in schedules," K said to Scott as she followed the group into his office.

"Oh, is that what this is," Scott said, raising an eyebrow her way.

"That's … the mildest way I can relay it," K replied. "I'll leave it to Casey to explain, seeing as he had as much to do with this as the other one."

Casey looked wide-eyed for a moment, but when it was clear that K wasn't going to give him an out, he swallowed heavily and looked between Scott and K and the others — clearly wishing he was anywhere but there. "It was just a kiss," he muttered.

"Unwanted, unsolicited, and she refuses to be anywhere near these two," K added. "Logan … I'll talk to him when he runs it out of his system."

Scott frowned as he looked between the boys in the office again. "I know you're not the one who kissed her," he said at last to Casey after a long pause. It was obvious, after all, given the state of Brian. "So what, exactly, did you do?"

K barely leaned forward to whisper to him the warning. "Do. Not. Lie."

Casey swallowed. No one in the room moved to give him any support, and Brian couldn't even speak, so it really was all on him to come clean. "I… knocked her over."

"Before or after your friend kissed her without her consent?" Scott asked, starting to glare a little harder but still wanting the full picture.

"Before," Casey said. He glanced up. "But she bit him after!"

"Yeah, and he's lucky that's all she did," Scott said with a glare.

"He's lucky that Logan left the room," K pointed out.

Scott was still for a long moment as Casey got the full bore of a furious glare before he finally said, "Pack your bags."

Casey's eyes widened. "What?"

"Both of you. Pack your bags," Scott said, getting to his feet. "This is a school for heroes, and you've just flunked in the worst possible way. If I ever hear about you two assaulting someone again, I won't be speaking to you as the headmaster of the school. I'll be speaking to you as the head of the team."

Both of the boys looked totally floored, but when it was clear Scott was entirely serious, they glanced at each other and nodded, already scooting toward the door to get out of there faster — and Chance didn't try very hard not to smirk as they left.

"I'll go track down Logan," K said once they troublemakers were gone. "Elin is about as fine as a girl can be after her first mild sexual assault. She's shaken, but she's fine, and I want to find him before he takes it out on the wrong person. Namely himself."

"Alright," Scott said, still clearly mad about the whole thing. But when K was gone, he made a point to stop the other two boys before they could leave.

"He deserved it," Chance said before Scott could say anything. "And you know it. You just expelled him, so you know it."

"Yes, I expelled him. And it sounds like Elin did a fine job making sure he regretted what he did. So what did you think you were doing?" Scott asked, now turning the glare to Chance, though it was far less pronounced than before.

"He had her pinned."

Scott's frown tightened for a moment, but he shook his head. "You still can't beat someone down once you've pulled him back." He let out a breath. "It's not your job to decide what he deserves."

Chance stuck his chin out. "He shouldn't have pinned her. And if this was somewhere else other than the school, I bet Logan or K or Kurt or you would've done the same thing if you saw a guy pin a girl like that to force a kiss."

"You're not on the team yet, Chance," Scott said sternly. "Or you'd realize how much Logan and K both were holding back just now. Logan left the classroom. Do you know why?"

"Because he was mad."

"Because he wanted to do exactly what you did — but once he started, he wouldn't have stopped until he'd killed them," Scott told him frankly. "And until you learn a little self-restraint, you're not going to be able to join any team. Just because you can teach someone a lesson doesn't mean you should."

Chance looked surprised at how the conversation had turned, blinking hard as all the breath left his lungs. He had finally been getting to a point where he and his dad had been talking about team tryouts, so this? This was a slap in the face — and the kind of setback that left him wondering if he should even bother trying out if his dad didn't think he was ready. "Yes, sir," he muttered.

Scott shook his head. "Get yourself cleaned up," he told Chance, though once he was sure that both Chance and Sying were out of trouble, he headed the opposite way down the hall to check for himself to see what the situation was with Elin and the rest of her family.

He knew that Malin and Sadie were with Annie, but when he got to the suite, Elin and James were the only ones there; K was tracking down Logan to work on calming him down.

"You alright?" Scott asked Elin gently as he made his way over.

Elin glanced up and then very quietly nodded her head before she went back to hugging her knees.

"You should know: Brian and Casey are packing their bags as we speak. There's no place for that in this school," he told her honestly.

She let out a sigh and hunkered down more. "I shouldn't have gotten so mad."

Scott smirked. "Elin, you did exactly what you have been taught to do, and you did just enough to make him back off and regret it." He dipped his head down to catch her gaze. "Trust me; I just came off a lecture about the proper use of force. You did perfectly fine."

"But … if I can't deal with idiots like that …"

"You did deal with them," Scott insisted. "Exactly the way you were supposed to." He tipped his head to the side. "I'd say that makes you more ready to join the team than anything else — that you know when not to fight and when not to give it your all."

"You're just saying that," she said quietly.

Scott raised an eyebrow. "Elin, when do I ever 'just say' anything?"

She looked up at him with a dry expression. "Really."

"Really," he said, holding her gaze. "When do I ever 'just say' anything about my team."

"I'm not on the team."

"No, but I'm telling you: you're much closer to being ready to join it than most of the kids in this school, because you know when to fight and when not to." He smirked at her. "I spent years trying to get kids to learn that lesson in human-mutant relations."

She couldn't help but smirk to herself. "Does that mean I can skip that class?"

"No. But nice try."

"Worth a shot," she said, slowly letting her knees go to sit upright a little more openly, and Scott smiled at that and reached over to pull her into a warm hug that she positively latched onto him for.

After leaving Elin, Scott had one more stop to make. He knew that Logan had to be furious, and rightly so, and he needed to know where Logan's head was.

He honestly wasn't surprised to find that Logan was in the Danger Room, locked in a solid fight against the old Brotherhood. It looked to Scott like he had already been through a solid enough fight to ruin half his uniform, but he was still going strong.

Scott waited until the fight was over before he made his way down, his arms crossed. "Yeah, me too," he said simply.

Logan looked up at him, still trying to catch his breath. "What now?"

Scott gestured with one hand. "Just meant that I'm furious too. But I just chewed out Chance for taking the matter into his own hands so I should be the good example, hm?"

"I don't have any patience for that kind of crap, Slim. Not today."

Scott sighed as he leaned against the wall. "I'm trying to say I agree with you. Why are you making that so hard?"

"I was gonna kill the little bastards," Logan growled out.

"And you didn't," Scott said.

"Still not rulin' it out," Logan replied.

"Yeah, I know," Scott said. He hadn't raised his voice as he watched Logan. "She's your daughter. I get it. I'd feel the same if it was Charlie." He straightened up slightly. "I kicked them out. For the record."

"Didn't want to take over on the class, eh?"

Scott couldn't help but smirk. "That and I didn't want anyone walking the halls of the professor's school that was willing to cross lines like that."

"Wonder what Charlie would have done," Logan said, finally shaking his arms out a little and actively trying to relax. Even if it wasn't working.

"I like to think he'd have kicked them out too," Scott said. "I think he would have liked your kids. They're smart and funny, and he always did like people who could surprise him."

"Speculatin' pretty hard there," Logan said as they started to walk away from the Danger Room.

"I choose to remember him that way," Scott said, then sighed. "I know he wasn't perfect. But he's not here, and I'd rather remember him in a way that makes living up to his dream the ultimate good."

"You'd know better'n anyone," Logan said.

Scott stopped, blinked, and then smiled at the very corner of his mouth. "I hope so," he said.

"You kiddin' me? Who else?" Logan asked, wearing an expression that clearly read how nuts he thought Scott was if he said anyone else.

Scott started to say something, but seeing Logan's expression, he decided against it and shook his head. "The point is: those boys are out. Storm said she'd keep an eye on them just to make sure they don't go from Westchester to terrorism — we're not repeating old mistakes. But that's it."

Logan nodded, still trying to wind down a little. "Good enough, I guess."

"Probably won't make you feel better, but Chance and Sying did a number on those boys," Scott said. "If I wasn't trying to teach them both to have better control, I'd almost say I was proud."

"Did more'n I did."

"You have better control."

Logan snorted at that. "Sure."

"Wouldn't trust you with my trigger-happy kid if I didn't think that, Logan," Scott said, more seriously. "He needs to learn how to think first."

"Might wanna find a better example then," Logan said. "Wasn't thinkin' at all."

Scott gestured with one hand. "You were thinking enough to get yourself out when you got mad. Chance just saw red and pounced."

"Careful, Slim. I may have to buy him a car."

Scott simply gave Logan a dry look for that and shook his head. "Sure, Logan," he said as they headed upstairs together.

Chance, on the other hand, had gone up to his room after getting cleaned up — and he'd been silent ever since.

Everyone was so focused on Elin — and rightly so — that Chance was mostly able to stay off of everyone's radar, but his twin sister wasn't about to let him get away with hiding and pouting. So, she let herself into his room and then sat down on the edge of his bed, watching him carefully. "I was expecting to see you all angry, not disappointed."

Chance hunkered down, pulling his knees up tighter to his chest. "Don't read me."

Charlie almost shot back that she didn't have any other way to know what was wrong when he was shutting down like this, but she saw the look on his face and decided against it. "Sorry."


She frowned when he fell silent all over again and then knocked his foot with her fist. "Hey," she said. "What's up?"


"Seriously. Maybe I can help."

Chance narrowed his eyes and then wrapped his arms around his knees. "It's stupid," he muttered. When Charlie opened her mouth to say that it probably wasn't that bad, he burst out with, "I'm stupid."


"I lost my temper," he said, talking more to his knees than to her. "I beat up a guy who pinned Elin down to kiss her, and Dad got onto me for taking matters into my own hands." He glared at his hands. "He said I can't be on the team if I can't learn how to not fight."

Charlie let out a soft noise and then crawled over to sit next to Chance and wrap him up in a hug. "He just wants you to think before you act. He's not saying you can't—"

"Yeah, he kind of is," Chance cut in. "You know part of getting on the team is getting Dad's approval, and he's not going to cut us any slack just because we're his kids." He shook his head, already setting his shoulders in a too-familiar way. "I've got to prove to him I'm not … trigger-happy."

"He knows that," Charlie promised.

"Maybe," Chance said, his eyes narrowed before he nodded once more. "But I'm going to prove it. Give me some time, and he'll see I can measure up. I swear."

Charlie let out a sigh, knowing better than to argue with her brother when he was locked onto a plan like this. So, instead, she simply pulled her arms around him and hugged him even tighter. "Okay. I've got your back," she said, and Chance hugged her right back.

Though Hank was the one to fly the boys out to Los Angeles for them to continue their education and hopefully reform them into not being little snits, Hank wasn't the only staff member to deal with them once they were settled in to Storm's school.

The boys had gotten into their rooms and were still grumbling to themselves as they skulked toward the kitchen, complaining about how the punishment had come down. And they didn't see the way that Logan melted out of the shadows until it was a little too late.

What literally anyone with a brain could have predicted in Westchester was the simple fact that after K had found Logan and calmed him down … he'd taken that anger and focused it down into something much more concentrated. And there was no way in hell he was going to let these two idiots think they could touch his daughter and get away with it.

Before either could scream, Logan had them both pinned. He shushed them as he let out a claw for each of them, letting it slide along the sides of their faces firmly enough that had the sharpened edge been against their skin, they would have been cut through the bones.

As Logan whispered his promises of painful and horrifying threats, the little bamf that took him there snickered in the darkness with only his yellow eyes glowing to betray his hiding spot. By the time Logan and Chuckles were done, both boys had wet themselves and Logan had made sure that both of them had a deep and nasty bruise that wasn't likely to heal soon.

But it was just enough to get Logan to head back to Westchester without killing a pair of idiot teenagers.

Chapter Text

The "fall formal," which was more or less what the annual Halloween dance had come to be known as, was coming up, and around the school, kids were pairing up, getting dates for the dance.

The kids from the other schools were coming in, too, which to Chance's annoyance meant that Nolan would be around. Though he wondered if Elin would even let the guy kiss her considering what had happened recently and the fact that she kept saying they weren't dating. On top of that, Elin had spent most of her time in her room lately, which meant that their group of friends had simply migrated there after classes to do their homework in her room and hang out together.

And that also meant that Chance had been able to more skillfully avoid Anya for a while now.

But he couldn't manage to avoid her altogether, and considering the fact that they had some classes together, it was going to happen sooner or later.

She came bounding up to him with a huge smile when he was trying to slip off toward archery. "Hey, Chance!" she said, grabbing hold of his arm.

He let out a sigh. "Anya, I have to—"

"—go to archery, yes, yes, I know," she said, waving her hand. "I just wanted to ask you really quickly what you were wearing for the costume party."

He blinked at her. "Oh, umm."

"You haven't decided yet?" she asked, completely incredulous.

"Well, I—"

"You'd better figure it out if we're going to match properly!" she informed him.

He stared at her. "What?"

"Well, if you're going to be a knight, then I'll be a princess — that kind of thing. Come on, haven't you ever done couples costumes before?"

"Anya, we're not—"

"I know, I know, you think it's not enough time, but I was going to go shopping this weekend—"

"Anya!" Chance pulled his arm away from her, shaking his head. This had to stop.

She frowned at him. "What's wrong?"

"We're not — I'm not your boyfriend!"

"Oh, well, if you don't want to put a label on it…"


She shook her head at him, her lower lip out in a pout. "What is wrong with you today, Chance?" she asked.

Chance took a step back. "What's wrong with me?"

"If you're nervous about picking out a costume, I can choose one that I'll look good in, and you can just match me," she said.

"That's not—"

"Chance, what's going on out here?"

Chance tried not to look too relieved when he saw Krissy materialize in the hallway. "We were just talking about the fall formal," he explained, sliding over to Krissy with a look that clearly told her he wanted to get away from Anya as soon as possible.

But instead of teleporting him out of there like he'd expected her to, Krissy glared at Anya with her chin slightly thrust forward. "What about the fall formal?" she asked.

Anya mirrored Krissy's body language, both of her hands on her hips. "We were just trying to figure out our costume this year."

"Let me guess — you're going as Griselda?"


"Well, you're not going with him," Krissy said, crossing her arms over his chest. "So you can stop bugging him."

"He's my boyfriend," Anya insisted.

"He so isn't," Krissy countered.

"You're just jealous."

"Jealous?" Krissy let out a breezy laugh. "Of you?"

"Just because you don't have a—"

"Oh, that's it." Krissy uncrossed her arms, her tail twitching behind her angrily, before she simply teleported over to Chance and kissed him right there in front of Anya.

"Why don't you guys just keep it to yourselves already?" Elin said without missing a beat. "We talked about this."

Both Anya and Chance were clearly shocked, though Chance hid it better and was simply grinning at Krissy after a moment's pause — and grinning wider when Anya stormed off.

Krissy let out a huff before she turned back to Chance and smoothed down his shirt. "Sorry about that. But she needed to go."

"No, it's fine," he finally managed to say, though he looked slightly put out when he realized the kiss had been for show.

"I would have hit her, but I don't think she would have gotten it," Elin said without looking up from her book. "And I doubt your Dad would let me get away with it."

"Don't worry; we totally have your back," Krissy agreed.

"And Krissy is the kissiest one anyhow," Elin said. "I told her she could do the same for me in a pinch," she added with a teasing, crooked grin.

"Yeah, well, I would too," Chance said, finally catching up, though he still felt more than a little shocked.

"Uh huh. But … you'll make a good parrot to her pirate," Elin pointed out. "Seeing as you're going to be official for the dance, right?"

"Oh." Chance turned toward Krissy with his eyebrows raised, and she tried not to blush too hard. "Do I have to be a parrot, or can I be a pirate too?"

"You can't be the captain."


"You could be the royal navy instead," Elin said with a smirk. "Chasing the pirates and all."

He smirked at her. "I think I'll just be a pirate."

"Suit yourself," Elin replied. "You'll both be cute anyhow."

"Oh yeah, obviously," Krissy laughed, patting Chance on the shoulder. "Don't worry; I won't step on your toes."

Chance stared between the two of them before he broke into a disbelieving laugh. "I can't believe you two planned this."

"You didn't have an exit strategy with your stalker. We had to cover you," Elin replied, looking up at him finally. "And I wasn't about to kiss anyone without good warning." She shrugged and tucked into her book. "I don't think I'm ready for kissing anyone anyhow."

"Which I really am sorry for," Krissy chimed in. "I would have warned you, but…"

"No, it's fine," Chance said, a little red-faced.

"We didn't have a chance to tell you about it since we came up with it at breakfast," Elin finished.

"Really, it's fine," Chance promised. "I needed the out."

"So … that's not an issue anymore, but you might want to keep up the charade for a little while anyhow," Elin said.

"What? Spending time with Krissy?" Chance grinned over at his friend. "Oh no."

"I know it's a hardship," Krissy teased.

"Yeah, try not to be too disappointed in your assigned date."

Krissy smirked. "Could be worse."

Just before the dance, Krissy appeared in Elin's room in her pirate garb, her tail switching behind her and giving away how nervous she was. "I think you should fill in for me," she blurted out.

"Why?" Elin asked, though she made no move to get off of her bed or to throw back the blanket she had over her legs.

"Because I — I don't think I can be Chance's date," Krissy said, turning bright purple.

"But you like him," Elin pointed out.

"Exactly," Krissy said, wide-eyed. "I don't want to go on a fake date."

"Then … stay here."

"Oh, but I don't want to do that to Chance," Krissy said, shuffling her feet.

"Bring him here too; we can watch scary movies."

Krissy nodded thoughtfully. "That could work…" Krissy agreed. "But.. we have to put in an appearance or Anya will ambush him again."

"So go put in an appearance; I'll get the movie started," Elin replied. "I'm not going anywhere, and if the two of you start having a good time instead … well. Have fun."

"You could come too, you know. Dance with Sying or something," Krissy pointed out.

"I don't want to," Elin replied. "Crowds are still hard to hang around in." She tapped her nose, a well-used excuse at this point.

"You did alright last year," Krissy pointed out, scooting over to snuggle with her friend and look up at her with wide eyes. "You can't hide forever."

"I think … I can take that challenge," she replied. "Not like anyone will ever be interested after that mess happened anyhow. Proceed at great risk and all."

"It wasn't a challenge and you know it," Krissy said, swatting her friend. "You just need to find someone who likes you enough to brave the risk."

"So… off to the woods for me."

"I swear to you, it's like you're trying to find an excuse," Krissy said, rolling her eyes. "You're going to let those idiots ruin dating for you?"

"No costume," Elin replied without missing a beat.

"Come anyway."

"I have homework."

"So does literally everyone else who's going," Krissy pointed out, still snuggling into her friend. "Come on. You're just making up excuses so you don't have to try."

"Why do I have to try?" Elin asked.

"Because otherwise, you're going to be a shut-in, and I won't get to see my best friend happy!"

"But you and your sweetheart have a date," Elin teased. "And I can't go with my nephew."

"Which I nee-e-e-e-e-ed your support for," Krissy said. "Go stag. You don't have to date. Just be with your friends. Puh-lease?" She made sure to snuggle in harder and bat her eyelashes at Elin.

"I … don't … ugh." Elin gave her a narrowed-eyes look. "Why do I have to be brave enough to go stag just to hold your hand on your date with your other best friend?"

"Because I have to be brave enough to go on a date with the guy I like without actually going on a date with him," Krissy said. "It's going to kill me, I just know it."

"So tell him you like him," Elin said with a shrug. "He'd probably ask you out for real. And I don't want to be a third wheel, Krissy!"

Krissy tipped her head to the side and let out her breath. She seemed to be studying Elin for a long time before she broke out into an impish grin and let out a dramatic sigh, throwing her hand against her forehead. "Oh, but Ellie, it's so hard to be so brave!"

Elin crossed her arms and shook her head. "That's your cross to bear."

"Okay, but you have to be there for me when it blows up in my face," Krissy insisted.

"I always am," Elin replied.

"Oh good!" Krissy said, and an instant later, both of them were at the ballroom, with Krissy grinning widely and her tail swaying behind her.

"Oh, I hate you sometimes," Elin growled out.

"You'll thank me later!" Krissy sang out, completely unperturbed.

"Doubtful," she grumbled as Krissy pulled her toward where there was actual dancing going on. "Oh look — it's your sweetheart," Elin said loudly as they passed the stalker. "I'll bet he's been waiting all night for you to ditch me so you can get to the kisses again."

Krissy let out a nervous laugh and shoved Elin in the shoulder. "Shhh."

"Didn't you say you wanted to try the French one?" Elin said — just as loudly. "Chance! I've got her for you! She wants to show you something new!" She turned to Krissy. "Which magazine did you read that in?"

"Oh, you are so the worst," Krissy said, turning brighter purple than before.

"That's what you get for dragging me here," Elin growled out.

"Okay, whatever you two are up to, I think Elin's winning?" Sying said as he came sliding up to the two girls, dressed as Darth Maul.

"Only because the kissing hasn't started yet," Elin said, with her eyebrow raised. "She's totally on the dark side. Always."

"Oh yeah, I heard about the Anya intervention," Sying said with a smirk. "Nice work."

"Which … is something she's gotta continue tonight because ... " Elin looked past Sying. "Stalker alert. She's watching." She turned to Krissy. "Can I go now? Or do you need more help?"

"Oh, well, in that case, let's dance," Sying offered his hand to Elin. "Just in case we need to step in."

"She dragged me down here," Elin said. "I don't want to dance."

"And I'm sure she's very sorry, but I also promised Chance I'd help out in case Anya didn't believe it," Sying admitted.

"Are you going to kiss him too?" Elin asked. "Because that might just throw her off the scent."

"That's the plan," Sying said with a smirk. "He doesn't know it, but I told him I'd 'take care of it.'"

"Oh. My. God, Sying, you are an evil dark side genius," Elin said. "Okay. I'd stick around for that." She took his hand and shrugged. "Sorry about the lack of costume. I was planning on staying in bed."

He grinned widely. "That's fine. You match your parents," he teased as they headed out to the dance floor. "Now come on. I know our family can outmatch anyone on the dance floor."

While Sying and Elin were doing a bit of showing off, Krissy had finally caught up to Chance — who was, as promised, a pirate buccaneer. She turned bright purple and grinned at him. "You look great," she said.

He grinned. "Thanks. I love the coat."

"I let it out a few inches," she said, spinning in place.

He nodded. "Well, it looks great. I'm kind of jealous of the hat, though."

She smirked. "Maybe I'll let you borrow it if we decide to upgrade you to first mate."

"You mean I'm not already?"

"Sorry, but you have to dance at least once with me before I make any decisions," Krissy teased.

Chance grinned and held his hand out to lead her out onto the dance floor. "Let's fix that, shall we?"

Krissy blushed purple as she let him lead her out, and the two of them took to the center of the dance floor, spinning in a slow circle rather than doing anything dramatic or showy.

"Anya's almost as red as her hair," Krissy whispered with a delighted grin.

Chance smirked. "Thanks again for getting her off my back."

"Oh. Well. It was no problem," Krissy said, biting her lip before she very carefully put her arms on both of his shoulders instead of the more polite dance hold they were doing before. "Maybe she'll leave you alone now."

"Sorry to make you do this instead of going out with someone you wanted to go with."

"What are you talking about?" She wrinkled her nose. "Of course I want to dance with you!"

"Okay." He smirked slightly and then pulled her around into a spin that ended in a kiss on her cheek that had her blushing bright purple all over again.

Across the room, Elin and Sying were nearly done with their dance when Nolan came up dressed up as the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz and holding a little bouquet of orange and red roses. "I haven't heard from you in a while," he said rather than a simple hello, and Elin looked surprised to see him.

"I haven't been talking to anyone," she replied.

"Why not?" he asked, handing her the flowers. "I thought I might have ticked you off … and if I did, I wanted to try to fix it." He was smiling brightly, and Elin looked down at the flowers, completely unsure of what to say.

"You didn't do anything wrong," she said before she forced a smile. "I'm … just going to go put these in some water. I'll be right back." She gave his arm a squeeze before she left him with Sying.

She was barely out of earshot when Nolan turned back to Sying. "Who ticked her off, then?"

"No one of any importance," Sying replied. "He's no longer a student here after he and his friend pushed her down, pinned her, and one of them forced a kiss on her in class."

Nolan looked openly shocked and angry on her behalf. "They … managed to do that to her?"

"It was a joint effort and entirely outside of the rules of combat in play," Sying said, still looking angry about it himself. "Before they were expelled from Westchester, Chance and I beat the two of them into the ground."

Nolan let out a breath and looked over his shoulder to where Elin had gone. "Where's Chance?"

Sying tipped his chin to a spot almost across the room, but not in a quiet corner. This was clearly in the middle of the action — even their table for getting water was where Anya could see them. Nolan thanked him and didn't even consider how long it would take to chat, sure it'd be a quick thing as he slipped between the dancing couples and cleared his throat when he got up to the table. "Can I talk to you for a minute, Chance?" Nolan said.

Chance looked surprised to see Nolan before he glanced to Krissy, who openly shrugged. "Alright," he said slowly, getting to his feet.

The two boys headed off to a quieter spot so that Nolan was sure that Chance would hear him before he let out a sigh and looked incredibly grateful. "I just really had to say thank you for what you did for Elin — going after that jerk. I'm glad she's got a friend that's so protective. She doesn't really seem to realize when things get over her head until she's already eyeballs deep. So… thank you."

Chance looked totally stunned for a moment before he finally recovered. "Well, like I said, she's my best friend. Anyone that hurts her has to deal with me."

Nolan grinned. "Yeah, but I'll be honest. I thought you were interested for a while there. So the fact that you were looking out for her when she's with me? That's … really … I wish I had friends like that."

Chance frowned and shook his head. "I'd look out for El no matter who she was dating. We've been friends literally since as long as I can remember." He paused. "Same goes for you, by the way. If you hurt her…"

"I wouldn't ever do anything to do her wrong," Nolan swore. "I just want what's best for her."

"Yeah, well, the threat still stands. She means a lot to me," Chance said, his arms crossed. "I'm glad she seems to like you, but..." He shrugged. "Anyway. It was no problem. Those guys were jerks anyway, and they got what was coming to them."

Before Nolan could really say anything else, Sying and Elin came over to them. "What's going on here?" Elin asked, looking between them. "Or … are we moving on to secret talks in the corner?"

Chance shook his head. "We were just talking about what's been going on while Nolan's been in California."

"Oh. Not much, really," Elin said, crossing her arms. "Just the same stuff as always."

"Yeah, well… I guess I'll let you guys catch up," Chance said, rubbing the back of his neck.

"O-kay," Elin said, frowning before she glanced over at Krissy, who was watching the group with interest. "I guess I'll let you get back to your date then, Chance. Have fun."

"Wait — you're with Krissy now?" Nolan said before he grinned that much wider. "That's great! She's a real sweetheart." He clapped a hand on Chance's shoulder with a bit more umph to it than he realized. "You're cute together too."

"I — wait — what—" Chance shook his head as he shrugged Nolan's hand off his shoulder.

"You're on a date, right? So … doesn't that usually mean you're dating?" Nolan said before he took Elin's hand with Elin frowning up at him, obviously ready to set him straight as he started toward the dance floor with her. "Spend some time with your date!"

Chance stared after Elin and Nolan for a moment before he let out a breath and shook his head. He had no idea what to do with that, especially because, well, he was on a date with Krissy. Technically. But he didn't really want to get into the details with Nolan on how it wasn't actually a date — more a pity date to get him out of a stalking relationship. Not to Nolan.

So he made his way back over to Krissy, who tipped her head sideways as she looked him over. "You look like you need to stab some pirates," she decided.

"Probably," Chance agreed, and with a grin, Krissy had teleported them both off to the Danger Room to find them some pirates to hit.

It didn't take long before Krissy had pulled up the sim she loved to run with her dad — and sometimes Sying — with pirates galore and plenty to work with. They were on a huge ship with plenty of rigging, on the high seas with a storm brewing on the horizon.

"Do you ever do anything, you know, not dramatic?" Chance had to tease when he saw the setup.

"Have we met?" Krissy shot back, grinning as she twirled her swords. "Come on, Chance, where's your sense of adventure?"

"Right, what was I thinking?" he said with a smirk before he dove in beside her, both of them cutting through pirates on both sides — though Krissy's style was decidedly more flamboyant than Chance's.

As the sim went on, more and more pirates came out the longer they went until, finally, both of them were too tired to keep up. The sim ended when one of the pirates tagged Chance 'out', meaning he would have been dead in real life from the shot he took, though it was obviously not the same in the Danger Room with the safety settings on.

The sim died down, and Krissy dropped down to lie next to Chance with a grin as both of them caught their breath. She had another sim cued up in case he wanted to keep going — this one for target practice, archery in a medieval setting — but in between sims, the only sound was heavy breathing as both of them grinned at each other.

That is, right up until Brian and Casey made their presence known with loud snickers. They might not have been in the Westchester school anymore, but they were in the LA school, and that meant they got to go to the dances.

Chance picked his head up to see who was there, and when he saw the two older boys, he sat up from the floor, glaring and doing his best not to look like he was trying to get his breath back, like the whole sim had been a walk in the park. When Krissy saw what he was doing, she tipped her head to the side and pushed her lips out slightly, narrowing her eyes, but didn't say anything.

"Tagged out, Summers?" Brian snickered as Casey started to circle around the room. "Too much for you, huh?"

"What do you want, Brian?" Chance shot back, his eyes narrowed.

"I think it's time you let some real heroes take a turn in the sim," Brian said. "Instead of wasting it on the pity case."

"You're not even part of this school anymore," Chance said.

"Besides," Krissy put in. "This is just a warm-up." She tipped her chin up and glared their way. "You two losers couldn't keep up with us if we really poured it on."

"Then you won't mind if we join you, right?" Casey asked as he stalked his way up behind her, so that she had to take a step back so she could see both boys. "Since it's just a warm-up."

Krissy's tail was switching irritably behind her, and Chance could see from the look she had on that this was going to end up going badly. "Invite only, guys, sorry," he said, but they weren't taking the hint.

"You're barely old enough to count — and he's not even a mutant," Casey said, sneering at Krissy and then Chance in turn. "Why don't you get out of the way? Some of us actually had to work to get into this kind of training."

"And we're not hiding behind our parents like some people," Brian added.

At that, Chance balled up his hands in fists, but just as he was about to take a swing, Casey disappeared in a poof of purple smoke, and Chance came up empty. He spun around to face Brian next, but he too disappeared in an instant, and then Krissy reappeared, clapping her hands together to brush them off.

"What did you do?" Chance asked Krissy, both eyebrows raised.

"They needed to go for a swim," Krissy said as if it was the simplest thing in the world. She shrugged, both palms turned outward. "So, I dropped them in the lake."

"You… what?" Chance blinked at her for a moment, sure that he wasn't hearing her right.

"I didn't set them out that far," Krissy said, rolling her eyes. "I'm only part-demon."

"No, that's not what I thought at all," he promised quickly, knowing it was a touchy subject for her — and for Elin, for that matter — ever since her evil grandfather had tried to drown Elin. "I just …"

"Oh, I'm sorry, did you want a turn?" Krissy asked, looking up at him with her head tipped to the side. "I mean, if you really want to hit them, I can go—"

"No," Chance said, laughing as he held up both hands. "I mean, yeah, I'd love to go give those guys a piece of my mind for being stupid, but I like your method better."

"Gets rid of them faster too — and it's some karma on top of all that," she said with a crooked grin as she straightened herself up. "Besides, they don't know what they're talking about," she added as she handed Chance a water bottle. "You've worked harder than anybody to get to where you are."

"Thanks," Chance said, though since he wasn't sure what else to say, he just took a drink from the water bottle.

"Are they like that all the time?" Krissy asked after a moment, and Chance simply shrugged.

"They're not worth listening to," he said quietly.

She glared at him before she stepped closer to put her finger in his chest. "You better mean that, or—"

"Or what?" Chance challenged, starting to grin. "You'll poke me to death?"

"Or I'll — I'll—" Krissy let out a breath of annoyance and then simply grabbed Chance's shirt and kissed him.

It only lasted for a few seconds, and when they broke apart, both of them looked surprised. Krissy's tail was totally still behind her, and Chance was openly staring at her.

"Did you … mean to..."

"Yes," Krissy said, more quickly than she intended, blushing furiously. "Obviously."

But that had Chance grinning widely at her. "Yeah, duh, what was I thinking?" he teased. "Obviously."

Krissy rolled her eyes at him and poked him in the chest. "Stop… stop grinning like that."

"Like what? Like I just got kissed by a pretty girl?" he asked, the grin only widening before he pushed her hand away. "Stop poking me."

At that, Krissy finally started to match his grin, though hers was decidedly more impish as she looked up at him. "Or what?"

"Or I'll kiss you back." He didn't make a move to act on the threat, waiting to see what she'd do.

Slowly, and without breaking eye contact, Krissy brought her tail up over her shoulder and jabbed Chance right in the center of the chest with the tip of it. "Prove it."

At that, he laughed and then kissed her, pushing her tail out of the way so he could step in closer to do it. As the two of them leaned in, all set to get more involved than the quick, surprise kiss the first try had been, the entire Danger Room was suddenly engulfed with driving, freezing rain. It was pouring down in buckets enough that they could hardly see each other, let alone the way out.

Obviously, this wasn't weather that they could kiss in, and they were both soaked to the bone by the time Krissy got the wherewithal to grab Chance's hand and teleport them both out of the Danger Room to the hallway. Both of them were shaking, and Krissy's fur was weighing down in her eyes.

And of course, Logan was leaning on the corner at the end of the wall, his cigar between his teeth as he took a few good long pulls. "You two okay, or did something go wrong?" He looked entirely amused as he watched the two of them.

"You did this!" Krissy said, sticking an accusing finger out at Logan, still dripping wet but no longer holding Chance's hand.

"Did what?" Logan asked. "I'm just smoking. Nice and dry."

"You were in the booth, I just know it," Krissy said.

"You sure about that? Pretty sure your dad was supposed to be manning that in case any kids got any ideas about sneaking down here."

"That…" Krissy glanced over at Chance, and both of them turned bright pink. "No, if it was my dad, I think it would have been worse."

"Check the schedule," Logan said as he kicked himself off of the wall and started to stride leisurely down the hall.

Chance glanced over at Krissy, who was still staring wide-eyed after Logan. "Come on, Krissy. It's not that bad."

"You've met my dad, right?"

"Yeah, but your dad likes me."

Krissy glanced at him sideways and then rolled her eyes. "Yeah… you're an optimist; you know that, right?"

"Um, yeah. And you know that too? So I'm not sure why…"

"Just trust me. He's going to freak. You should have seen his face when we were just snowball fighting."

The two of them were barely onto the main floor when both of their phones went off. When they checked the message to see that Logan had texted them both, it was pretty obvious they were totally busted.

You do know that every session is recorded, right? Doesn't matter who's running it. To back it up, there was a very short video clip entitled 'for the scrapbook'.

Krissy stared at her phone for a second before Chance burst into a laugh. "You know what this means, right?"

"What?" Krissy asked, still obviously shocked.

"It means I have proof you started it," Chance said, grinning even wider when that had Krissy letting out a noise of pure annoyance before he took off running down the hall.

For the better part of the night, Nolan kept Elin busy and away from her friends, though as soon as there was a decent opening, she wished him goodnight and headed upstairs with her flowers, more than happy to take a shower and curl up … sure that Krissy would be by after her date was over. Worst case scenario, she'd be by the next morning, since it would be Saturday, and they had nowhere else to be.

And sure enough, just as she was getting comfortable, Krissy appeared in a poof of smoke, dripping wet and wide-eyed.

"What happened?" Elin asked, though she pointed to where the towels were stacked on her desk. "And feel free to dry off and put on something clean and dry before you spaz out on me."

Krissy was still wide-eyed as she grabbed a towel to wrap around herself. "I — I kissed him. I kissed Chance," she managed to stammer.

"And?" Elin asked, one eyebrow raised.

"And your dad made it rain in the Danger Room!" Krissy said, her eyes even wider than before, if that was possible.

"He's out there, you know … or he will be," Elin said, tipping her head toward her closed door.

"I swear, Elin, your dad has it out for me. First with Liam and now with Chance…"

"Wait, first of all, he doesn't have it out for you," Elin said, holding up her hands to stop the incoming flood of drama from her best friend. "And tell me how — or what happened, exactly."

"Well, we ditched the dance to fight pirates in the Danger Room," Krissy explained.

"That explains why I was stuck with Nolan slow dancing all night," Elin muttered.

Krissy paused and grinned delightedly. "Awww, he danced with you? I thought he hated dancing! That's very sweet."

"Stop trying to change the subject," Elin said with a frown. "I only went to the stupid dance for you — and I told you you didn't need me."

"Well… maybe not, but I'm glad you went anyway," Krissy said. "I wanted you there. For moral support. In case this totally backfired. Which, by the way, it didn't!" Her tail was swaying happily behind her. "He kissed me back!"

Elin gave Krissy a little smile. "Good."

"Yeah, but your dad has it on video," Krissy said with a sigh. "Which means my papa is going to freak out."

"I don't know about that," Elin said, tipping her head to the side. "If he was going to show it to him, he'd have done it by now."

Krissy gave Elin a look that clearly read she didn't believe that. "I think he's just waiting to give him a heart attack; that's what I think."

"We all would have heard your dad by now if he'd showed him. And he doesn't want to freak him out over you. I know that for a fact."

Krissy paused as she thought it over. "Well, good," she decided before she let out a delighted giggle and leaned over to wrap Elin up in a hug. "Thanks for being there for me, Ellie."

"Sure," Elin said before she kissed Krissy's cheek.

"Are you mad at me?" Krissy asked quietly.

"I was. Not so sure about now. It's just been a weird night," Elin said before she gestured to the flowers on her desk. "And I really did just want to sleep earlier. It's hard to be friendly when I'm not in the mood for it."

"He brought you flowers," Krissy said in a tone that said she was dying of cute. "He must really like you."

"He thought I was mad at him, which is really stupid because we're not even dating anymore," Elin said. "So it doesn't really matter."

"It's still sweet," Krissy insisted, smiling up at her friend. "And he obviously wants to date you still…"

"I guess it's whatever," Elin said, brushing her hair out of her face. "But … you gotta tell me how your date went from Danger Room to showers. I know you gave the me overview, but … seriously. I know you're dying to spill."

"And you totally have to catch me up on what happened at the dance after we left!" Krissy insisted.

"You would have enjoyed watching Charlie."

"Oh, did that sweet little boy from music class catch up to her?"

"He did — and he was talking about chords and keys all night with her," Elin said. "It was boring. So. So. Boring."

"Yeah, but they both like that sort of thing," Krissy pointed out.

"All Nolan talked about all night was his writing work with Storm's class. He's trying to get me to go to LA for the different classes."

Krissy scrunched up her nose. "That sounds ridiculous." She shook her head. "Do you even like him, Ellie?"

Elin shrugged to herself. "He's nice enough, I guess. And he is sweet."

"Yes, but do you like him?" Krissy asked, resting her chin in her hands.

"I'm not old enough to know," Elin replied, refusing to get wrapped up in the drama she knew Krissy was after.

"Lies. I'm old enough to know I like Chance," Krissy pointed out.

"Well you've always been quicker than me like that," Elin said. "And I don't really want to like anyone."

Krissy tipped her head to the side as she studied Elin. "Alright," she said slowly, then grinned at her sideways. "So. Chance."

"Yes. Get on with it. You were saying …"

Krissy beamed delightedly before she positively launched into her story — grinning wider and wider the whole time.

Chapter Text

The next morning, everyone slept in a little bit, though as usual, Logan was up and had the coffee made so that K could take her time coming down with Malin. The three of them were sitting together and snuggled up when the Wagners came down well after James and Elin had taken Sadie down for breakfast and disappeared.

He looked up with a smirk and watched Krissy over the top of his paper, though he didn't say a word as he smirked her way. She flushed a brilliant purple when she saw him looking her way and quickly shoveled her toast into her mouth before she disappeared.

When Kurt frowned at her quick disappearance, Logan started to chuckle. "Typical," he muttered before he set the paper down and picked up his coffee.

"Logan… what is going on?" Kurt asked, still with that little frown.

"Nothing terrible," Logan said. "I think."

"Yes, that is very reassuring," Kurt said, rolling his eyes.

"Hey. Not my fault your sweet purple elfling has an admirer."

But at that, Kurt simply smirked. "Of course she does. She is beautiful and perfect."

"She is gorgeous. And likely why young Summers is off holding her hand now. Or … whatever."

Kurt stopped his smirk as he turned Logan's way. "What?"

"She's got a thing with Chance," Logan said off-handedly. "Didn't you notice?"

"No," Kurt said, shaking his head. "No, she and Elin set that up last night. There was something about an overly interested girl, I believe… It was hard to parse between Kari teasing and Krissy's account of the whole setup."

"Well, that may be, but it's not set up anymore," Logan said. "It was probably a way to give it a try without any hurt feelings if it went south." He looked over to Kurt with a smirk. "Which … it didn't."

"What do you know?" Kurt teleported over to where Logan was to sit closer.

"Oh, nothin' of note," Logan replied, not looking Kurt's way.

Kurt hit him in the arm. "That is absolutely untrue."

"I know what I told you," Logan said. "Your girl is runnin' around with the Summers kid. Just be happy it ain't the half cybernetic one."

Kurt shook his head. "That…"

"I'm just sayin': he hasn't been born in this timeline. It could still be a thing," Logan said.

"No," Kurt said, shaking his head.

"Never know," Logan replied. "Nate never talked about his lost loves … mighta been a purple elf."

"You are not funny," Kurt said, leaning back and shaking his head.

Logan set his coffee down and turned to look Kurt in the eyes. "If you don't believe me — about the little Summers anyhow — go send off one of your tiny demons to corroborate."

Kurt paused for a long moment before he turned to one of the little guys, who immediately disappeared to go do just that.

"Denial is ugly on you, Elf."

"She's not even old enough to go out for the team, Logan," Kurt said, shaking his head.

"Oh, come on," Logan said with a laugh. "How is that a marker? You'd rather have her risking her life than going out with a boy? At least you know where this one sleeps."

"I just thought… She hated boys for so long, I hoped it might last longer," Kurt admitted, rubbing his forehead.

"Yeah, then she turned five," Logan deadpanned. "And all that went out the window." He pointed a finger at Kurt for a moment. "Your goddaughter, on the other hand, is still pretty anti for the time being."

"Well, at least there is that," Kurt sighed.

"Amazing what a little jackass bein' pushy will do to a girl."

And around the corner, Sying had stopped in the hallway when he'd heard what Logan and Kurt were talking about. He hadn't even opened the door yet; he was frozen listening to what had happened.

He couldn't believe it. Especially since he knew that Chance knew how he felt about Krissy. And he knew how Chance felt about Elin… and how Elin felt…

This ... this was not supposed to happen. It was just a joke among friends, a way to bail Chance out of having to deal with Anya.

He listened only long enough to hear that it wasn't just Logan teasing Kurt or something like that before he was off, speeding past the other kids in the halls right down to the hangar. He wasn't even thinking about it when he started up on the checks for his ship and running down the list.

"What are you up to, starshine?" K asked as she stepped into the garage looking like she was set to take the motorcycle out.

Sying glanced up at K and tried to look like he wasn't upset — though he had never had a poker face. "I just… want to go," he said.

"But where, sweetheart?" she asked, though she didn't slow down as she picked up a helmet and held it out to him. "Take a ride with me."

He paused and then took the helmet from her. "I don't know," he admitted as he put it on. "I just want to leave."

"Then let's leave," she said. "We'll go for a ride, maybe we'll do something, and you can tell me what's got you upset."

He nodded and then climbed on behind her. As soon as he was secure, she fired up the motorcycle, and after a few healthy revs, they headed out. She was quick to open it up as soon as the bike was even halfway onto the main road, and she drove with him for a good long while before she pulled over at an overlook that looked down at a river to stop and take a minute to talk with him. The two of them headed over to the railing and leaned on it, looking over the running water for a long while before she finally broke the silence. "So. Tell me."

He took a deep breath and looked down at his hands. "Krissy and Chance," he said quietly. "They're … dating."

"Oh," K said, letting out all of her breath. "Why?"

"What do you mean 'why'?"

"I mean why are they dating?" K asked. "What's the reason? They're not old enough to be serious or in love."

"What — I mean, Krissy's liked him for a while now," Sying admitted.

"Not that long," K said with a little laugh.

"Since last summer," Sying said. "I tried to kiss her; that's how I know."

"I know," K said, turning his way. "I know about all of it."

Sying shifted slightly as he looked up at her. "Then you know I've liked Krissy since forever," he said. "And Chance knows it too."

"Yep," she said, nodding. "And I'm sure Chance was swept up in whatever this was. It won't last."

"I don't even want to talk to him," Sying muttered angrily.

"He's young … acting thoughtlessly … it'll pass." She gave him a soft look and ran her hand through his hair. "Believe me. I know when something like this is just a passing thing."

He let out a sigh and leaned over to rest his head on her shoulder. "She's never going to like me, Grammy K."

"If that were true, she would have gotten mad at you in Australia." She gave him a little squeeze. "Just think of how Elin reacted when whatsisface kissed her."

"She's my friend, though. And I didn't pin her," Sying said, letting his shoulders slump.

"And I can promise you that had that boy kissed her in any other circumstance, he still would have been bleeding with a broken jaw."

Sying nodded quietly for a long moment. "I don't want to be around them, Grammy K. I just want to hit him, and that's not going to help anything."

"Probably not, no," she agreed. "And I understand. But … where are you planning to go?"

"I… don't know," he admitted. "I just wanted to go."

"Will you do me a favor?" she asked. "Before you go running off anywhere, talk to your father. Please."

"He'll just tell me I'm being too emotional," Sying muttered.

"Then your mother," she said. "But you can't disappear and not let one of them get the chance to know what's happened with you."

"I wasn't going to ... I can call from my ship…"

"You weren't thinking. You were going to go until you got it out of your system, and don't try to tell me that wasn't what was happening, because I would have done the same thing."

Sying nodded. "I guess seeing the stars is like my version of the cabin," he decided.

"Sweetheart, I have cabins all around the world," she told him.

"And there are stars all across the galaxy," he countered.

"And the first cabin that I built was put up when I left my family all kinds of shades of ticked off," she told him. "I didn't see my sister for decades after I left. Let someone you love know — one of your parents is best. And no, I don't count."

Sying took a deep breath and let it out. "But you're not going to stop me?"

"I would rather not make you stay where you don't want to be," she said carefully. "But if you were to run into trouble, don't you think a general heading would be nice for us to know where to look?"

"I can handle myself, Grammy K," Sying promised.

"So can I," she said. "But how do you think Logan would react if I just … disappeared one day without telling him?"

Sying nodded. "He wouldn't like it." He let out a breath. "Fine. I'll tell Mom."

"Thank you," she said before she pulled him into a hug and kissed his temple. "But do it when we get back. If you're going to disappear, I'd like to take you out for a bite first. And that might take a few hours."

"Well…" He smirked up at her. "Alright. But only because you twisted my arm," he teased.

She smiled at him before they headed back to the motorcycle, and while they got the bike warmed up again after their little chat, K sent Logan a message letting him know her plans had changed substantially. No reason to not practice what she was trying to get the boy to do.

Chance and Krissy, on the other hand, had absolutely not noticed that Sying was gone, too wrapped up in spending time with each other to notice much of anything else. It was cold enough now that they could break out the hot chocolate, and as soon as they had a couple Thermoses, Krissy had teleported them both up to the roof so they could enjoy it together — away from Logan, who Krissy was still convinced was out to get her and anyone she was dating.

Once they were seated on the roof, they poured themselves some hot chocolate, and Chance pulled out the bag of mini marshmallows — a total requirement for this sort of thing.

"Couldn't teleport with the mugs, or you would have spilled," Krissy teased over the top of her cup.

"And you wouldn't?"

"I am perfectly graceful," she said with a smirk and with her nose pointed in the air.

"Oh yeah. All the time."

"Are you insinuating that I am ever anything but?" she asked, turning a raised eyebrow his direction.

"I think you're reading into things, but if you think there's anything to insinuate…" He trailed off and gave her a wide, crooked grin as she reached over to smack him in the shoulder.

"You're insane," she said, shaking her head at him. "That must be it. I'm perfectly wonderful."

"Hey, let's get one thing straight," he said, straightening up a bit. "I never said you were anything but amazing."

She grinned wider at that and leaned over to kiss his cheek. "Maybe I just like hearing it," she teased.

He smirked at that before he leaned over and stole on actual kiss, grinning when he saw that it made her flush bright purple. "You know, if you just asked me on a date instead of the convoluted whatever with Anya—"

"That wasn't—" Krissy blushed a deeper purple that had Chance grinning even wider. He couldn't help it; he liked the fact that she liked him that much and that it was so easy to see. "I wasn't trying to trick you into a date. She really did need to go."

"I'm glad you did it," Chance said.

"The saving you from your stalker or the rest of it?" she asked with an impish grin, her tail swaying easily behind her — again, an easy way to tell that she was totally enjoying herself.


She grinned even wider and then scooted closer to him. "You know, there's no cameras up here that Logan can use against us later," she pointed out.

He grinned. "Yeah, good point," he said, and he was going to kiss her — he was — but she got there first, and he just started laughing before he ran with the kiss.

"Which star system is this?" Elin asked as she finally let her presence be known where Sying was looking over dozens of odd-looking star charts.

Sying glanced up from his work for a second and then relaxed slightly when he saw that it was Elin, taking out his earphones so he could talk to her better. "It's a few quadrants away from Hala," he explained. "I thought I'd take my ship out and see this place my dad says has the best jukebox this side of Earth."

She took a seat next to him and looked over the one nearest her. "When are you thinking about doing that, and is this an official visit or just for fun?"

"No, I'm not going with Dad," Sying said, shaking his head. "This is just…" He let out a breath. "I'm taking next semester off."

"So … are you going alone?" she asked, though she didn't have nearly the practice her parents did at schooling her expression.

"Peterquill said I could meet up with the Guardians for a while if I wanted," Sying said. "I don't know if I will, though."

"Oh," she said quietly. "So this has all been okayed already then." She nodded to herself and then folded her hands into her lap. "You'll tell me before you leave, right?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "Your mom was the one who made me sit down and plan it out, so I'm not going anywhere without telling at least her — and of course you too." He paused. "You could come with me if you want."

"Mom — and Dad, for that matter — have both said space isn't as fun as it sounds," she said. "And I'm not in a rush to get there."

He shrugged. "That's too bad," he said, going back to his charts. "I figured you wanted to get away as much as I did."

"I was thinking of going to a different school," she admitted. "I just don't know which one. Chicago would be a problem with the course material, and I don't really like the ocean enough to go to LA, not to mention that's where those two boys are now."

"Well, what about Europe?" he asked. "Or Canada?"

"Mom and Dad said no to Canada," she said. "And Moira … irritates me."

"Huh." He tipped his head to the side as he looked back up at her. "That's kind of impossible to get around, then."

"Unless I just said 'forget about doing the hero thing'."

Sying looked surprised. "Seriously?"

"Maybe," she said with a shrug.

He took a deep breath. "Okay. Well. Then I guess you could go to a normal school for a while," he said. "But the offer still stands. There's plenty of space for a copilot in my ship."

"I guess it'll depend on when you go," she told him. "But I'll think about it."

He nodded and went back to his charts. "I just… can't stay here," he said quietly.

"I know," she said. "I'm not going to try to make you."

"Mom wants me to stay," he admitted. "I think Grammy K does too, but she's not pushing."

"Mom wants you to make your own choice," she told him. "She just doesn't want you rushing off because of someone being stupid — or if you haven't thought it all the way through. Which is why she wants me to tough it out."

He reached over to pull her into a side hug. "Yeah, that's why I offered. I know for me … at least I know I didn't have a shot with her."

"Not like I did either," Elin replied with a little smirk. "It's fine."

"It's not, but we'll get there," Sying said.

"You're right, it's not, but for different reasons," she agreed, snuggling into the hug.

He rested his head on her shoulder and let out a long sigh. "If you don't come with me," he said after a long moment, "then when I get back, you should spar with me again. I don't want to lose anything, but I don't know if I'll get into any Skrull fights or if it'll just be dancing and space travel." He gave her a tiny smile. "And I'll be almost old enough to go out for the team by then, so I want to be sharp when the audition comes up. Stupid dating crisis or no, I'm gonna be an X-Man."

"You'll probably be the first," she told him.

"Only because Charlie and Gerry don't want to be," Sying said. "Chance might beat me if he gets out of his head and decides to try out. I mean… he's fourteen next month." The thought had him frowning, and he didn't add that it would be the second time Chance had beat him out.

"I think … he might be disappointed, unless he's learned a few things," Elin said. "But I won't say what I know."

"Oh, trust me, I was there for the 'learn when not to fight' lecture," Sying said with a smirk. "I got it too."

"I got a different one," she told him.

He shrugged. "There's still a lot to learn. I'm not expecting to get further than the junior squad for a long while," he admitted. "I just… I just want to get going. I'm tired of spinning wheels, and…" He took a deep breath. "I'm considered to be older in space, you know? Not just a kid. I'm older if you go by Kree years…"

"I know," she said. "But I think you should split the difference." She gave him a little smirk that made it clear she was teasing.

He returned the smirk and shook his head. "Right. Well, I think I'm going to go with the Kree number when I'm in space. I'm tired of being a kid here."

"Mmmhmm," she said, nodding. "Just don't forget to keep in touch with me while you're dancing in the stars and falling for someone intergalactic."

"Yeah, that's not going to happen," he laughed. "The love story — not the keeping in touch. I'm totally emailing you, I promise. I just… don't think dating is in the cards for me." He shrugged. "I've tried to like other people, but…"

"Family curse you were born into," she sang out quietly.

"Are we talking about my grandparents or my parents?" he teased.

"I was going with your grandparents, but I suppose your mom took forever to find your dad … but nowhere near as long as my mom and dad took."

"Yeah, I'd appreciate it very much if it didn't take that long," he muttered. "I'm not gonna live a hundred plus years."

"I probably will," she muttered.

"So you've got time," he said.

"Yeah, that's so reassuring," she deadpanned. "Thanks for that."

"Oh, sorry, I thought we were being dramatic and talking about family curses," he shot back, though this time with a little smirk.

"You're pretty terrible sometimes," Elin said before she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I think I'll go look over my report again. Maybe I can finish it."

"You know where to find me if you need a break," he said. "Maybe you can help me come up with a name to paint on the side before I leave."

"You don't have one yet?" she asked. "How is that possible?"

"Well, I thought about a few seafaring names, but I'm not feeling particularly… piratey," he said, muttering the last word at the floor.

"No, you're not," she agreed. "At least not the seafaring type."

"Dad already gave me the full permission to shoot Starjammers if I run into any," Sying said with a smirk.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you did," Elin said. "It'd be fitting if you did."

He gave her an honest grin. "Want to run a few sims in the Danger Room with me later? I'm running the gamut of alien menaces. Just in case."

"Sure, that sounds like a lovely change of pace," she said. "I've been beating my head against the wall just working on the basics."

"Dad says he's not okaying the trip until I can beat his Shi'ar program, so… it'd be good to have a partner," Sying said.

"Sounds like fun," she agreed. "Whenever you're ready."

He grinned. "Meet you down there after dinner."

Chapter Text

Chance and Cody were scheduled for a day out at the range with K again, and of course, none of the X-Men could resist needling K on her way out the door with the boys with little whispered jokes that they knew the kids couldn't hear — but K could.

"Just make sure you bring them back without any new changes," Kate whispered, snickering to herself.

"Don't be like that. One of them is dating your daughter," Logan whispered to her. "You'd be bringing it on yourself."

"The one who's dating my daughter isn't the one who hit puberty shooting with K," Kate whispered right back, grinning widely.

"She can't help how she is," Logan said with a smirk.

Kate's grin widened. "Wouldn't put it past her to change the one with no powers — she's that ridiculously good at this," she teased.

"She really is," Logan replied before he gave Kate a look and left the room before K could throw something at him.

"Have fun with the boys!" Kate sang out as she headed out herself.

"I hate you," K sang back.

"No you don't!"

"Let's get rolling," K said to the boys this time, pushing both of them ahead of her.

The boys both grinned at her in tandem as they headed out, though they were more interested in teasing each other than in the teasing that K had to endure from the older X-Men. Cody had plenty of new material, after all, considering Chance had a new girlfriend.

The boys loaded up into the Jeep, where Logan had already loaded up the weaponry. "The targets are all waiting for us," K told them as they headed out. "I expect you both to focus on yourselves — and not each other."

"Oh, I can focus," Cody promised with a wide grin. "I'm not the distracted one."

"Aw, shut up, Cody," Chance grumbled.

"I'm just saying: how are you going to go for so long not holding hands or kissing someone purple and cute?" Cody said, grinning even wider.

"Boys," K said. "I'm not going to let this happen the whole time." She paused long enough to take in their expressions. "So get it out of your system before we get there."

"Well, don't blame me when he gets all distracted when we shoot a smoke target thinking about some purple smokey kisses."

"Cody, I swear—"

"What're you gonna do?" Cody asked, grinning up at his brother. "It's true."

"Just because you're too young to be dating anybody!"

"It's disgusting."

"Yeah, right. You'll grow out of that," Chance said, smirking to himself.

The boys kept sniping at one another the entire trip out, back and forth, though after Chance got over the initial assault of Krissy teasing, he did manage to get in a few good shots about not being able to understand Cody when his glasses were on.

"We're here, so you both need to stop if you want to shoot," K warned as they turned down the old two track that led to where Logan and K liked to shoot.

The boys shared a look and then seemed to come to a silent understanding with a nearly simultaneous "yes ma'am."

"You two," she muttered, shaking her head at the both of them, though the last leg of the drive through the woods was quiet. When the road opened up to the range, she pulled off the two track and told both of them which rifle was theirs for the next few hours. "Chance, you've got the lever action this time. Cody, bolt. We set up the targets earlier, so … Cody, do you want left or right to start with?"

"Right," he said, grinning to himself.

She waited until both of them had gotten the rifles out and checked the chambers in both before she handed them their ammunition. "Blue first. Like always."

Cody and Chance were both grinning as they went to work, though K couldn't help but notice that Cody was significantly slowing down after just the first few shots and fiddling with the rim of his glasses with an almost thoughtful look.

"You alright, kiddo?" she said, watching him closer as she took a few steps his way.

He let out a small breath. "Yeah, I just… sometimes the glasses don't stop the full headache," he admitted. "It's pretty sharp this time." He glanced up at her and tapped the frame.

"Take a minute if you need it," she told him. "We've got plenty of time."

"Yeah, I know," he said. "I was just thinking…." He glanced up at her again, biting his lip. "Do they look different? The glasses. Dad said there would be a glow when it started…"

"No, they don't," she told him. "Same as ever."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Can we put the gun away for a minute?" he asked.

"Sure," she said. "Unload it and take a break." She turned to Chance. "Why don't you let yours cool off too? The barrel is hot enough you're starting to shoot to the right a smidge."

Chance looked disappointed for a second before he shrugged and nodded. But while he had stepped away and was taking an actual break, Cody stayed at the bench for a while, working something over in his head before he reached up and pulled the glasses off his face, concentrating on one of the targets downrange.

And then, all of a sudden, there was the telltale crackling sound that they all knew from Scott's eye beams — and a second later, the resulting beam not only hit every target on the range but went a fair distance further.

As soon as the sound of crackling hit her ears, K turned toward Cody, holding her breath, just in time to watch the disaster happen. The whole line of red targets went up at once, along with everything behind them almost all the way to the next hill. And all she could do was cover her mouth for a moment and stare at the damage.

"Oh wow," Chance said quietly as Cody put the glasses back on — though not before both of them got a good look at the seriously wide-eyed expression he was wearing, his lips slightly parted in obvious surprise.

"Okay then," K said finally. "Boys … we're done for today. Gather up your stuff. Time to pack it up and go home before the feds show up." She snapped her fingers for both of them. "I'm not even joking; we've gotta get the hell outta here."

The boys both looked surprised by that and quickly started to pack up, though Cody was still rubbing his forehead and shaking his head, clearly in shock at the damage he had done. He hadn't expected a full beam like that.

She helped them pack up, of course, double-checking the chambers faster than they'd seen her handle the weaponry before. She quickly packed them in the back of the Jeep and covered them with a blanket as the boys buckled in.

On the way out, rather than the usual easy ride, she dropped it into four wheel drive and floored it, throwing mud and water at every dip and divot in the road, which in any other circumstance would have had the boys rolling laughing … but they'd never seen K act like this. When they hit the main road, she barked the tires in all five gears before they headed off to a side road and kept going full tilt away from the main roads as much as she could until they got back to Greymalkin Lane. She hit the button to close the garage door before the Jeep was even all the way inside, and the door closed just after she turned the car off. "Grab the cases; get them inside."

The boys were still obviously shocked by her businesslike reaction and were moving as quickly as they could to do just that when Scott reached the garage looking like he was ready for a fight. "What happened?"

"Your son took out all of the red targets — and half the forest — on his own," K replied. "And we booked it before the authorities could investigate."

The anxious look turned almost into a smile for a moment before Scott quickly moved to help them.

"You can just shut up right now, too," K told him.

"Oh, so you don't want the credit for the optic bursts?" Scott teased.

"I … hate you. So much."

"I'm used to it."

"Not from me, you're not," she pointed out before she took a deep breath and tried to ignore the look he had on his face. "He was doing wonderfully before that. Both of them were."

"I didn't mean to set off all the targets," Cody put in, sure that he was in trouble.

"It's fine, sweetheart," K told him, resting a hand on his shoulder. "You didn't know that would happen. At least, I'm sure not to that level."

"I just wanted to hit one," he said quietly, still rubbing his forehead.

She had to laugh at that. "Well, you sure did."

"And it was amazing," Chance said in a voice of quiet awe, grinning at his brother.

"You're no help at all," K told him before she turned back to Cody. "You alright?"

He nodded quietly. "Just a headache."

Scott nodded. "Yeah, that'll happen when you run yourself out," he said, putting a hand on Cody's shoulder to pull him under his arm. "We've got to teach you some finer control so that doesn't happen every time."

K picked up the cases — with one of them slung over her shoulder — and headed into the house. "You boys have a nice chat about control, then. I'm sure you're the perfect candidate for that. And it is not my fault."

"It absolutely is," Scott said with a smirk her way.

"No," she countered, still shaking her head.

But Scott laughed outright at that. "No? That's the only comeback you've got?"

"Shut up, Scott." K was making a point not to look his way. "I don't want to hear it."

He chuckled as he headed inside with both of the boys. "You really can't get out of it, can you?" he teased. "I haven't ever heard you this eloquent."

"I was a witness; that's it," she replied, finally looking over her shoulder and up at him.

"Both times."

"I can't help that it worked out that way," she said. "It would have been the same if you'd taken him out today instead."

He grinned at her. "If you say so."

"Ask him," she said. "He's the one that tried it."

Scott glanced down at Cody, who looked between the adults for a moment, still half-convinced that he was in trouble for the destruction he'd caused. "I thought… I had a bad headache, so I thought maybe it was time to try something else?" he offered quietly.

"It's fine," K promised. "You didn't do anything wrong. It's just that your father is insane."

Scott chuckled. "Don't listen to her. She can't stand it when she takes the blame for something nice," he told the boys.

"No, it's that I can't say anything without you twisting it into something awful," K replied. "And when I try to just not, he gets his one and only free pass for his life."

She was glaring his way as they finally came to the kitchen, where Logan was watching for them. "Everything okay?" he asked, looking from Chance's grin to Cody's pained expression to Scott's far too amused grin and K was … just … so irritated.

"Well, the range is gonna need some help," Chance said with a crooked grin. "It's pretty… well-flattened."

"What the hell happened?" Logan asked, pulling the cases out of K's grip and setting them on the floor - sure not to let her slip by him either.

"Doesn't really matter now, does it?" K asked. "Just need some new backing and some fresh targets. Maybe a new shooting range."

"It was me," Cody explained as he took a seat and Scott went to get him a water bottle. "I didn't mean to blow up the whole range, though."

"You alright?" Logan asked, pulling K with him to sit next to Cody as he looked him over and reached out to start with a few different pressure points. "Where exactly does it hurt this time?"

"Right behind my eyes," he said. "Like… something's trying to claw out of 'em."

Logan glanced at K and then over at Scott. "Is that normal?"

Scott set the water bottle in front of Cody and then sat down with him. "It won't happen every time — just when he runs dry."

"So is that a roundabout way of sayin' 'yes'?" Logan asked, readjusting his hands on the boy's head and frowning to himself.

Scott let out a breath. "It's not going to happen all the time for you," he assured Cody instead of answering Logan's question. "You just have to keep from running out."

Logan looked past Cody to Scott and met his gaze for a moment. "But it was for you. All the time. For what? Twenty, thirty years?"

Scott took a long time to think over his answer before he let out a breath. "Yeah, well, you get what you get."

Logan didn't move, still staring at Scott for a long time before he shook his head and dropped his voice to address Cody a lot more gently than they'd been talking before. "Is this helping at all?"

Cody nodded against Logan's hands. "Yeah. Thanks," he said quietly.

He kept it up for a few seconds longer before he took his hands off of him. "That can't be used all the time, and it's easier for someone else to do it for you," he told him before he looked back over at Scott. "I can show you how to help him in a couple hours. Not now."

Scott nodded lightly. "Alright. You know where to find me."

"If you're up for it," K said to Chance, "would you take the gun cases up to my room, please?"

"Let me help," Cody offered quickly.

"Are you sure?" Scott asked, sounding surprised.

Cody nodded. "I got it," he promised, sliding over to help Chance with the cases.

As soon as the boys were gone, the three adults all shared a look. "You're both awful," K said at the same time that Logan said "this explains so much," and the three of them were on their feet with totally different destinations in mind.

"I am not debriefing," K said, spinning to face Scott.

"I'd hope not," Scott said, perfectly straight-faced. "He's only ten."

Logan's face shifted to total amusement about half a second before he started laughing, and K outright socked Scott in the arm. Hard. "You… suck!" K hissed. "That's your kid you're being terrible about."

"K, if I thought you had done anything, you wouldn't have made it through the garage door," Scott told her. "But this?" He smirked. "You have to admit: it's too good of a setup."

She put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at him. "I know. I can't … even find an argument that wouldn't twist given a different person dealing with this crap. Which is why I am not making it worse." She shook her head. "And I so could."

"Smart," he said, still smirking.

"You know I'll have to get you back somehow, though," K warned.

Scott grinned at her. "I like to think of it as me getting you back for years and years of teasing," he shot back.

"Then you better make it count if you're clearing the slate," she said. "Because the kids are nearly old enough for me to stop censoring myself."

That had him grinning wider. "Right."

"Believe it or not, she has been," Logan told him with a grin.

"Oh, I believe it, but I'm trying to figure out a time when there won't be little ears to censor," Scott said, grinning wider. "The way you two carry on."

"This is true," Logan agreed, grinning right along with him as K stared at the two of them open mouthed.

"Oh, this is such an ugly look on the two of you," K said low and half as a breath. "Wrong kind of cooperation. So. Wrong."

With a chuckle, Logan crossed over next to Scott and, out of nowhere, pulled him into a solid hug. "This really explains your whole life. I had no idea."

Scott looked surprised before he very briefly returned the hug and shrugged lightly. "Didn't think it would come up," he said simply.

"Yeah, but ... " Logan shook his head. "Headache like that every time you let loose? How long did they last?"

Scott shrugged. "Long enough," he muttered. "It really doesn't matter. I didn't think it was ever something that would go away, that's all. Didn't bring it up."

"Oh, I get it," Logan said, nodding. "Just didn't know you were dealing with that on top of all the crap we were throwing at you too."

"Logan, it's fine," Scott said, shaking his head.

"Didn't say I would've stopped," Logan countered.

Scott finally smirked at that. "Now, that I believe."

"If you two are done snuggling …" K said. "I want to go crawl in a hole and die. Kurt is going to be insufferable."

"Annie will probably kiss you," Scott teased.

"Uh-huh," she said. "If I die, you mean."

Scott's smirk widened as he headed down the hall, though he didn't make it much farther than the stairs before someone rang the front door.

"And there are the feds," K said, gesturing to the door. "Probably."

Scott nodded and lost a bit of his smirk as he headed to the door, though he was surprised to see that it was Nick Fury with Tony Stark, of all people.

"Oh, no. This is much worse," K muttered under her breath as Logan pulled her over to give her a kiss.

"And here I came dressed to party and there's not even anything exciting to do," Tony said with a grin obvious in his tone even behind the face mask, though he took a moment to scan the group. "So, K. You decided to have all the fun without us?"

"Do you have a frog in your pocket?" K asked. "Us? Since when?"

Tony chuckled at that as he pulled the helmet off. "No, seriously. What happened?"

"Small incident at the range," K said with a wave. "It's been handled."

"What would you consider a large incident, then?" Fury asked with a frown. "Because we have satellite images that say this wasn't just a small range issue."

"Nothing short of nuclear?" K said with a shrug, though there was no denying the sheepish expression she was wearing. "That seems like it'd qualify as … big." Tony grinned wider on seeing her so clearly uncomfortable. It was certainly a new experience for most of them to watch.

"I'd like to see what you've got," Scott said. "I haven't been to the range yet myself, and I'm sure your satellites got a good picture."

"A few good ones," Tony said with a smirk, projecting a few of the images — where K could see that she featured in a couple of them as she had hustled into the Jeep. "Come on, sweetheart. Come take a look." Tony was waving her over, his eyes absolutely dancing with amusement.

K let out a heavy sigh and leaned back against Logan as he pushed her toward the small group looking through an impressive collection of high-quality, state-of-the-art satellite photos.

"I haven't seen that expression on your face since the old surveillance years ago," Fury said as he gestured to one picture in particular that showed K with a more deadly serious expression than even Logan and Scott were used to seeing on missions. "The ones where you weren't on our side? Natasha is going to love them. Especially after all this time. Bound to bring back memories, don't you think?"

K shrugged and tried to play it off as Logan wrapped his arms around her waist and couldn't stop smirking over her shoulder at the photos. "I had to get moving. I was drawing attention. You know how it is."

"Yeah, but you're not on the wrong side; you don't have to run when you blow up something like that," Fury pointed out. "Don't tell me it's that so ingrained into your head that you automatically run when there's a little trouble."

Scott couldn't help but grin as he looked over the pictures. "Didn't want anyone to know about the secondary mutation," he muttered her way, though his expression was clearly proud when he saw the extent of Cody's range.

"Stop," K said, pointing a finger his way as Logan started to chuckle. "It is not a secondary mutation, you lunatic."

Scott smirked wider, clearly entertained, though Tony couldn't pass it up, "Alright, what's the joke?"

"Nothing special," K said, though she knew if it was her running with the tease, it wouldn't die right there. And she did tell him to make it count. "And it's a total coincidence. He's just … him."

"Nothing special," Scott said, totally amused. "Just the ability to kickstart someone's primary mutation."

"Witness … I witnessed it, that's all," K said, her eyes closed as she pinched her nose and Logan pulled her tighter so she couldn't run off.

"Wait, wait," Tony said, starting to grin. "Doesn't that happen when…" He trailed off, and the grin became obscene. "Well, no wonder. Some lucky kid with you, ammunition … explosions! That'd catapult any boy into puberty — maybe a couple of girls too!"

"Oh my God; this is never going to die," K muttered before she pointed Tony's way. "You are so not funny."

"Admit it: this isn't the first time, is it?" Tony laughed. "If it was a fluke thing, you wouldn't have Cyclops in on the joke."

"It's just the one kid," K defended, though she was even starting to smirk at the good humor in the air, seeing as Logan wasn't letting her get away from them and even Fury was having a good time. "I'm sure you've handled more yourself."

"Two-step mutation," Scott explained with a smirk. "It's a bit destructive — thus the explosion. We've got it under control."

"Of course. Destructive mutation and her …" Tony was still grinning obnoxiously. "If you want a safer range that reliably won't call in the feds, I can help."

"Does it include you as supervisor?" K guessed.

"Of course," Tony replied. "Someone has to supervise you with these poor impressionable young men."

Scott shook his head. "Now, wait, it's one thing when it's just K, but I draw the line if you're pulling kids in. She's not taking my kids out so you can make dirty jokes the whole time," he said.

"Got halfway there for me, didn't you?" K said to Scott.

"And you got him the rest of the way," he teased.

"Specialty of hers," Logan agreed, though he wrapped an arm over K's so she wouldn't hit Scott again — which she looked ready to do.

"Alright. Keep it up, and I'm going to get a divorce," K grumbled, though they knew there was no real threat there, especially since she turned into Logan when he muttered out a quiet "no you won't."

"Going back to freelancing, are you?" Tony asked as Fury finally cracked and started laughing too.

"Next time this happens — and considering the consensus, there will be a next time — let us know instead of running out looking like you're gearing up for another assassination," Fury told K as the two of them headed out, chuckling still.

K looked up at Scott and finally let out a quiet laugh. "I did tell you to make it count," she said with a sigh.

"You did," he agreed, grinning once more.

"You're going to go tell Annie now, aren't you?" K asked, but Scott didn't answer but to chuckle on his way out.

Chapter Text

Kurt had been working on the blocking for that semester's play for a while now, ahead of the performance near the end of the semester just before finals. At the moment, he was simply sitting on the stage, his back to the theater seats as he considered the scene he was working on.

It certainly didn't help his concentration when he heard a telltale bamf and then a whispered "Oh crap" before there was another bamf. Krissy had only been visible for a few seconds, but Kurt wouldn't pretend he didn't know she had been scouting a place to spend some time with Chance.

He absolutely didn't think that Krissy was old enough for anything like dating, and he especially didn't think she should have been kissing a boy nearly two years her senior in the middle of the Danger Room — but to his irritation, Logan had absolutely refused to help him deter this… whatever it was.

Kate, of course, thought it was sweet that Krissy was brave enough to put her heart out there already, and Scott was no help, since Chance had already dated enough that he was used to the idea — though that was precisely the problem, wasn't it? Kurt didn't want Krissy to get twisted around; she was too young for that.

He was getting more irritated the more he thought about it, so he nearly startled when there was a popping sound — a different kind of teleporting than he and his bamfs did. The next second, Jana's boyfriend, Brandon, all but crashed into several of the theater seats from his teleport. The young man was incredibly pale, halfway folded in on himself and hyperventilating.

Kurt teleported to him in one jump and then to Hank's lab in the next as soon as soon as he saw the blood smeared on the young man's clothes.

"What … where did he come from?" Hank asked, abandoning his studies to rush over to where Kurt stood with the young man.

"I have no idea. I thought his team was out of state this weekend," Kurt said with a frown.

Hank didn't ask Kurt any more questions, instead trying to direct all of his attention to Brandon as he began looking over the distinctive wounds with a growing frown. "More gauze, please." he said gently. "This will need some help."

Kurt was gone in an instant to retrieve what Hank needed as Brandon tried to get a better hold of himself.

When Kurt handed him the supplies — opened and ready for Hank to simply use them — Hank barely changed his tone from earlier. "Thank you. Please … get Scott."

Kurt frowned for an instant before he disappeared to do just that, leaving Hank to his work.

"Have you seen Jana?" Brandon asked quietly — the first thing he'd managed to say since appearing.

Hank glanced up at him momentarily before he shook his head lightly. "Should I have?" he asked.

Brandon closed his eyes and looked downright panicked again. "I don't know if she was grabbed… I didn't see who hit me," he said.

"Is that who you were with when this happened to you?" Hank asked, rushing his careful work.

Brandon nodded. "We were going out to dinner."

"Wait for Scott before you tell me what happened, it will save you from telling it twice."

Brandon nodded again, though it did nothing for the worried look building on his face. At least he didn't have long to wait; a few moments later, Kurt and Scott appeared in a poof of blue, and Scott already looked ready for a fight.

"What happened?" he asked.

Hank gave Brandon a look and a nod that indicated he should continue his story while he worked — quicker now with Kurt handing him more supplies.

Brandon took a deep breath to order his thoughts. "I … don't know," he admitted. "I was out with Jana… and the next thing I know, someone hit me. I woke up…" He looked down at himself and looked started to breathe more heavily before he closed his eyes. "I didn't even think to look for Jana. I just… I just got out. No one was around. I didn't want to stick around and wait for someone to come back…"

"Do you know where you teleported from?" Scott asked, his frown deepening the more he heard — and saw. He had seen similar wounds often enough to get an idea of what was happening, but he'd thought Sinister was dead. He'd done it himself.

"I… I think I can give you an idea," Brandon said shakily.

As soon as Hank finished stitching him up, he zipped over to pick up his laptop to help the boy find a vague area on a map and then pulled Scott to the side for a quiet word. "I'd like to say that this is a copycat," Hank said. "But the precision has me seriously concerned."

Scott let out a tired breath. "It wouldn't be, would it."

"The real concern, though, is that I don't believe that he could use a host that he didn't have a familial link to."

Scott frowned at that. "Rachel said she didn't leave any traces of him in Remy's mind. I'm not sure who else he could be using."

"I'm sure in his long, miserable life that there would be more options than just Remy," Hank pointed out.

Scott rubbed a spot on the bridge of his nose before he let out a breath. "It doesn't matter. Let's just get whoever it is. I'll call Rachel."

Hank nodded. "We'll need to find Jana first, of course."

"If he took them both, we'll find her there," Scott said before he moved to his comm to call for the rest of the team to let them know they were loading up. Now. "I'm sending Kurt to you," he told Rachel when he called her up next. "We already have coordinates. I just want him out of whoever he's using this time."

It didn't take any time at all before the full senior squad was loaded up and ready to go — with the junior X-Men and the oldest kids in charge of the littlest kids in the meantime. Brandon had narrowed down the area where he had been held captive, but there were two likely spots close to his estimated spot that fit Sinister's usual MO, so unless Rachel could narrow it down on the way and find either Jana or Sinister, the plan was to simply split up once they hit the ground running and check out both spots at once.

"Looks like we get to play Charlie's Angels for him," K whispered to Kate as they got the final destinations figured out and the two of them headed out with Scott — with the others in the other direction.

"Be real: we have the pose down to an art, and he likes to feel even taller than he is," Kate said with a smirk.

"You know it," K agreed. "And we do make him look good."

Scott was ignoring their commentary as they hit the grounds of what was easily a Sinister-style hideout: sprawling grounds, far from prying eyes, century-old architecture. And when the first Marauder showed his face, that clinched it for Scott as he called into his comm, "Unless you've got Marauders on your end, I think we've found it."

"We do," Logan called back, already fighting with the group they were up against. "And they're nastier than usual too — watch your back!"

Scott swore under his breath when he heard it before he turned to the two women with him. "Sounds like he's been busy while he's been laying low. Be careful."

"You got it, brown eyes," K agreed as she opted to put a magazine of explosive cartridges in her side arm. "I'll try to keep them back, if I can." She looked at Kate with a frown. "Aim for their eyes, do you think?"

"Probably," Kate agreed, already setting her sights with two arrows strung. "They look a little sturdier than usual." With that, she let both arrows fly toward the eyes of the nearest Marauder and immediately moved to grab more as Scott started blasting his way forward to get inside.

K stuck to Scott, letting him handle pushing back the bulk of them and covering both of them to keep anyone from coming up on their blind side — at least until she ran out of ammo, at which point, she darted between both of them and turned her grip on the pistol to backhand the nearest Marauder with it.

She got two solid hits in before one of them grabbed her by the arm and started to swing her in an arc — though she managed to hack off the limb of the offending Marauder. "Um. … yes, more sturdy," she called back. "Has it been too long or do they seem faster too?"

"We still don't know who he's using as a host; he's probably been 'improving' them for a while," Scott said, glaring, before he hit one of the Marauders squarely in the chest with a solid blast.

"I'll find a soft spot," K promised.

"Just see if you can make a path. I'd rather be inside than out," Scott said.

"On it," she replied before she started to narrow her focus to what she knew would do the most lasting damage to the towering weirdos, precision stabs at the base of their necks, flick here, slash there … though once the path was clear to get inside, it wasn't at all what they were hoping to find. And they didn't see it until they were well and truly closed off from the exit.

There was a lab setup, but it was completely empty of anyone else but the three of them — and there was no sign that it had even been used recently. There was no sign of Jana or Sinister or anyone, outside of the equipment.

"I'll see if I can find a back door," K said, skirting around the lab equipment as if it wasn't there, but she'd only just gotten to the other side before what looked almost like a bolt of lightning snapped loudly in the room — blinding all of them and shaking the building.

When Scott looked up again, it was to see a Marauder hauling K off — she was clearly dazed and still smoking from the strike and not fighting him at all. But he wasn't alone … the walls seemed lined with more Marauders. Before they could quite make their rush for Scott, he managed to blast back the ones headed for him and then simply made a rush for the Marauder who had grabbed K, blasting him sideways hard enough to knock him out so that he dropped K before he spun back around and called out to Kate: "Hawkeye! Down!"

Kate dropped in a second, and as soon as she was out of his sight line, Scott simply let the wall of Marauders have it, full throttle. By the time the beam ran itself out, there was a hole through to the outside, and not a one of the Marauders was left standing.

Kate let out a low whistle as she climbed back to her feet and Scott helped a still-dazed K up before he turned back to his comm. "Logan, he's not here."

"We'll keep lookin', then," Logan replied, though Scott could hear the fight waging in the background as Logan called out for Tommy to check again.

But a few moments later, Tommy's voice crackled over the comms. "Same as last time. Nothing. Zilch. No crumb too small for a mouse."

"No secret passages?" Kurt asked.

"Not that I can find," Tommy said. "I vibrated a few walls that looked promising, but no go."

"Scott," Logan said over his comm, though he didn't stop the fight. "Something's off. He's not here either. He's been here, but the scent is old."

Scott frowned for just a second before his mouth tightened. "Kurt, go home. Right now."

Kurt didn't even respond, though the sound of him teleporting was clear enough to hear.

In Westchester, things had not been quiet either. The junior squad was on patrol, keeping watch over the grounds and the mansion, keeping in contact with each other as they did so. Until they didn't.

Muted pops were heard through the mansion, one at a time, shortly before a massive Marauder appeared in each room that held someone there to defend the Institute. With each Marauder's appearance, gas filled the rooms, knocking out everyone there but the gas-mask-clad Marauders.

Sinister was there as well — inhabiting Jana's body as she walked through the mansion, stepping over unconscious students and kids as she did so. Sinister had a few specific people in mind if he was going to augment his current form to deal with the X-Men, and he directed the Marauders on picking up two of the younger X-Men — Sylvia and Eleanor — before heading upstairs to where the residential suites were.

He intended to take the oldest Howlett with him as well, though when Sinister arrived at their suite, he paused. James was in the same room as his sister, and with Jana's powers, he could tell: the boy had already started to come into his mutation as well.

It was an unexpected bonus, but too tempting to resist, and with a wave, he had the Marauders grab both of them on their way out.

And, finally, he found his way to the Summers' suite. All four of the children were there, as well as Nightcrawler's oldest. He had the Marauders take Cody and was sure that when they took Charlie as well that she had an inhibitor collar on. After all, he knew what Jana did — that Charlie had been able to 'call' her sister empathically despite his telepathic shielding.

He didn't take Krissy — that was why he had started with Brandon, after all. He was wary of relying on any teleportation that came from that demonic family line, since he still wasn't sure if the spell would follow him even in a new body. But he did pause to consider it, simply because, before he had lost everything, he had been studying her before she was even born.

He shook his head and turned to leave — he had everyone that he wanted for the moment, after all, and he could always come back to his studies once this body was augmented properly — and then nearly did a double-take on seeing the young man beside Krissy. Chance Summers looked just like his father had at that age before he even knew the X-Men, when he had been Sinister's alone. And all at once, the unmistakable resemblance infuriated Sinister as he considered it. There was no reason the boy shouldn't have been a mutant, to look so much like Scott.

It was entirely the fault of the completely unremarkable woman Scott had married. He would insist on finding someone so incompatible.

Sinister glared down at the unconscious teenager for a long moment before, in a fit of fury, he stomped down on the boy's chest and strode off furiously, teleporting off with his Marauders and his subjects.

An echoing bamf filled the air as Kurt appeared in the kitchen, where Sying was on the floor, passed out. A mist was hovering a foot off the floor, clueing Kurt in to the fact that the house had been gassed.

He teleported upstairs to his family's suite first to find that the only person gone was Krissy, and he swore under his breath, since, considering how things had been going with her lately, the girl could literally be anywhere — or nowhere at all had Sinister picked her up.

With a frown, he appeared in the Summers' suite, since that was the best place to find Krissy — or to find out if Annie was alright, seeing as she had both Kade and Malin as well. When he arrived, all of the occupants of the room were passed out — and they were down Charlie and Cody — but that wasn't what drew his attention. He heard labored breathing, and when he turned, he saw that Chance had blood pooling out of the corner of his mouth — and he looked incredibly pale.

He scooped him up and teleported him to the lab, shouting for Henry to attend to the young man while he went back to take stock. "Scott is waiting to hear what happened and I'm sure rushing right back here," Kurt said as Hank groggily started checking Chance over, though Hank himself was still shaking off the effects of the gas.

When he got done looking through the rooms, Kurt was sure to hail Scott on the comm that went right to him, keeping the rest of the team out of the loop for the time being. "We're missing a few people," Kurt told him. "Sophia and Eleanor from the team along with Cody, Charlie, Elin and James. I'm going back to tell Logan now."

"Send the bamfs for me — and take Rachel back. Get her on Cerebro as soon as possible," Scott said after a long beat of obviously angry and shocked silence.

"See you soon," Kurt said, and a moment later, three bamfs appeared looking up at Scott with wide eyes and muttering 'bamf' as they shook their heads slowly, looking more than a little scared.

"We'll get them back," Scott told the bamfs before he nodded to them both. "Get me back there — let's get to work."

The little bamf nodded, and an instant later, he had teleported Scott back to the mansion, with his two friends on either of K's shoulders, since K was still reeling from being electrocuted. A couple more went back for Kate, but they took her to where the little elflings were.

"You alright?" Scott put a steadying hand on K's back for a moment as he looked around at the slowly stirring mansion with a tight expression on his face.

"I can go to Hank on my own," K told him. "Go … do your thing. Logan will be here soon, I'm sure."

"We can't do anything until we have a location," Scott pointed out.

"Well, everything is still buzzing. So ... "

"So I'm coming with you," he said , still keeping his hand on her back as they headed down the hall. "I'll go check on the others in a minute, but not until I know I won't find you in a hallway too."

"You won't," K said, frowning. "The bamfs would take me to Hank. Right, guys?"

Even with the bamfs nodding, Scott shook his head. "Come on," he said, steering her around the corner toward the lab.

"Fine," she said, trying to make it easier on both of them. "But the fact that I'm volunteering isn't enough somehow?"

"K," he said, letting out a breath, "I can't be worried about you and the kids."

"Alright, if it'll make you feel better," she said, taking it a step further and leaning on him for the rest of their walk.

As soon as they got down to the lab, Scott called out to Hank — "Henry."

"That was quick," Hank called back, not looking up at him. "We're looking at broken ribs … some internal bleeding putting pressure on his lungs. But not to worry! I'll have him patched up in no time. He's resting if you want to come and take a moment."

Scott froze not even a few steps through the door. He hadn't known that Chance was even in trouble, and there he was laid out on Hank's table looking so pale and drawn. "What…"

"Come on," K said, taking over and gently pulling him along. "You can see Chance for yourself in a minute."

Scott still looked totally shocked as he let K pull him forward. "What… happened?" he asked.

"While we were all gassed, I'm afraid someone took exception to your son," Hank said, his eyes narrowed. "Judging by the size of the bootprint, it thankfully wasn't one of the Marauders, or Chance would be dead. We're lucky whoever he's inhabiting doesn't yet have his previous strength."

Scott's shocked look transitioned quickly to anger when he heard Hank's explanation, and it was clear Scott was simply murderous as he locked his jaw.

"We'll get him," K said, still sticking close to Scott as he headed toward Chance.

"Nobody else was hurt?" Scott finally asked as his gaze flitted between Hank finishing up and Chance sleeping soundly under sedation.

"No, not that we've found," Hank admitted before he glanced up at the two of them. "And you?"

"Electrocution." Scott waved a hand K's way. "When you're done…"

"Don't worry about it," K said. "I'll be fine. I just wanted to come down and keep out of the way while everyone did the important stuff." She paused and looked up at Scott. "Do you want me to go check on Annie while you hang here?"

He blinked for a second and then turned her way and took a deep breath. "I can get her. She should be here. You should rest."

"I'll just take the kids for her — free you both up a little bit," she said. "They'll be fine once we get a movie going anyhow."

"Fine," he said, sitting back before he rested his chin on his clasped hands. "I'll tell Rachel to let me know when she finds Charlie — that should be the first indicator, if they can pull the same trick twice."

"We'll get her back," K said as she turned to head toward the door.

Scott frowned at the wording and then turned back to her, realizing that in his shock, he hadn't told K all that Kurt had told him. "K," he called out. "It's not just Charlie."

She turned and matched his expression. "Who else?"

"Two from the junior squad: Eleanor and Sylvia. Cody." He let out a breath. "And James and Elin."

She straightened up, and her gaze hardened. "Then we'll kill the bastard for it."

"Let Rachel handle that part. We don't know who he's using," Scott said. "And then, yes, we'll burn him out of existence."

"If there's any bit of him to kill that's physical? I'll dissect it out myself."

"I won't argue with you," Scott told her. "I just want him gone."

She nodded, though it was clear she was tensed up again. "I'll send Annie down and get the kids in one place." K turned again and headed out, clearly raging enough to ignore the dizziness that hadn't left her yet. She held her breath as she jogged up the stairs toward the suites, where Annie was slowly rousing.

"Hey, sunshine," K said as nicely as she could force herself to sound. "I'll take the little ones, but you should head down to see your boy. He was injured in this mess. Scott is with him. He's been attended to." She helped Annie upright as she picked up Malin. "Charlie and Cody are missing with Elin and James and a couple of the big kids. Rachel is on it already. And I swear to you, I am going to skin that sorry sack of crap with a pair of toenail clippers."

Annie looked completely wide-eyed at the influx of new information — and the fact that none of it was good — as she took a moment to simply sit back down. "He's back, isn't he," she said almost dully.

"He's back," K agreed.

"And he has our kids," she said in that same tone.

"Yes," K said, sure to put one hand around Annie's shoulders as she sat next to her with Malin.

"And Scott… is where?"

"Scott is with Chance in the lab. Scott is perfectly fine, I promise. Chance is banged up, but Hank has already set him up. I'm sure he's called Tyler, too."

Annie closed her eyes for a moment and nodded. "You don't mind?" she asked after a moment, opening her eyes again to gesture toward the kids.

"I'm just waiting to go kill someone anyhow."

"I'd go with you and bring a Stark gun, but I don't think Scott would let me on the plane," Annie said with a fair bit of steel in her tone as she pushed herself to her feet. "I'm so tired of that man putting his nose in my family and not staying dead where he belongs."

"You and me both," K told her sounding completely sympathetic.

Annie nodded K's way and then paused to give her a quick hug from the side, careful of Malin. "I can take them again when you leave. I just… I need to see my boys."

"We'll see how it works out," K said, nodding before she tipped her chin toward the door. "Go on. I'm just going to get all the kids we do have together."

Annie nodded before she all but rushed off down the stairs to head toward the lab, bursting through the doors with a fury that was growing with every step. "What did he do?" she demanded of Hank.

"Not a thing," Hank said. "At least, not as we know him." He showed the two of them a picture he snapped of the footprint. "That … there's no way that this was Sinister's foot. This could be some henchman or … other flying monkey."

"He's not even interested in Chance," Annie said. "Why can't he leave my son alone?"

"Annie," Scott said gently, "he looks like me."

"And?" She whirled around to face Scott. "Did he go around stomping on you?"


"No, really. I want to know what he thinks gives him the right to attack an unconscious boy when he's already tried to tear apart our family so many times — why he has to go and do this on top of everything else!" She gestured toward Chance without taking her gaze off Scott. "Why can't he just stay dead?" she demanded, not really expecting an answer and simply furious at the whole situation.

And of course, Scott didn't have an answer for her either, so he just pulled her down to sit next to him and pulled her head underneath his chin to kiss the top of her head. "We're getting them back, Annie. As soon as Rachel has coordinates."

Chapter Text

K had taken the kids down to the War Room once she knew where all of them were, and she had them follow her, more or less like a little row of ducklings all the way there, with Kade making quacking noises that made some of the other kids giggle. She had them grab a few little things to keep themselves entertained on the way, but once they were in the War Room — coloring and playing with cars — she took out the laptop and started digging through files, glaring at the screen as she did so.

She'd been at it for a little while when she finally got up and picked up a paper tablet and a pen as she found things she needed to write down in her own little shorthand. She was biting the back side of her pen when Scott finally came in, looking completely confused as to why she was there with a flock of kids.

"I thought you were putting on a movie."

"I had an idea," she replied distractedly.

"An idea that required… all the kids," Scott said as he sat down next to her. "Rachel's still looking," he told her. "She can't find Charlie."

"No … I just … needed the computer and everyone was busy. So we came here."

He frowned as he looked over her shoulder, but her shorthand meant very little to him and only made sense in her head. "And your idea…"

She looked up at him for a moment and shook her head. "You guys are all working on how to kill him. I heard from Logan. You don't need me there. So I'm looking for how he picks his spots."

"Same approach you used to smoke out Creed," Scott said, nodding approvingly.

"Little bit different," K admitted. "Creed was easy once I put it out of the 'revenge' mindset," she said as she sat back. "This … I gotta get into his head first."

Scott raised a single eyebrow at her.

"There's too much emotion involved," she explained when she realized he was just staring at her. "He's not … it's not going to work if we look at it emotionally. What's he after — and what's the whole purpose of this, first of all?"

Scott leaned back. "I've been thinking about it. Cody and Charlie are obvious, but the others — and Brandon — are practically screaming powers he wants for himself," he said.

"But then why take both Elin and James?" K said. "They've got the same talents. So to speak."

"I didn't even know James had his abilities yet," Scott admitted.

"He's been quiet about it," she muttered.

"Must be genetic," he said just as quietly.

She gave him a look. "Do you know why he was being quiet about it?"

"I know Elin didn't want to draw attention."

"James wanted to continue to draw fire from Chance so he wasn't the only one around with no abilities."

Scott looked visibly surprised for a moment before he let out a sort of 'huh' noise. "You have good kids, K," he said at last.

"Always so surprised," she teased.

"Not at that part of it, no," he said, shaking his head at her, though before he could say anything else, he was distracted by the flashing light that meant someone had hit the emergency button on their comm. He got to his feet. "That's Eleanor's," he said.

"Go get her, then. I'll be here … crawling into Nate's head," K said.

"Don't call him that," Scott said.

"What would you prefer?" K asked. "Because I'm not going to call him 'Sinister.'"

"I don't care, but you can't call him Nate. That's my son," Scott said.

She nodded in understanding. "Alright. I'll stick to last names, then," she promised.

Scott nodded her way before he went back to his comm. "Kurt, I'm getting a signal from Eleanor's comm. Grab Logan, and let's check it out. If it's not him, I'm not going to take the whole team on another wild goose chase."

"Where are you? We'll come to you first," Kurt said, since he and Logan had been together since he'd gone to get him.

"War Room."

A moment later, there was a muted 'bamf' as Logan and Kurt appeared — and until Scott got over to them, both of them looked confused at what was going on in there. "Don't ask. Go get the missing kids. I want to talk to them when you're done," K said before she blew a kiss to all three men.

It was clear they wanted a little more of an explanation than that, but the missing kids took precedence, so with the coordinates from Eleanor's comm, the three of them disappeared.

As soon as they reappeared, Scott headed forward, and Kurt had to shake his head as he and Logan followed suit. "Your wife is a little scary," Kurt muttered.

"Tell me about it," Logan replied just as low before the pair of them came up on either side of Scott and Logan headed out in a spiral around them looking for any sign of further trouble.

It took a little while, and Logan was understandably irritated when he found the beacon first — and hit the comm for Scott. "Got the beacon; still looking for the girls. Keep your eyes peeled. Wouldn't be surprised one bit if it was a trap."

He took a moment to scent the beacon and frowned when he didn't find anything but a bit of Eleanor's scent and Sylvia's too — almost as faint. He growled to himself before he started circling out from the beacon carefully, every nerve on edge as he strained his ears and used every bit of his abilities to watch for them carefully.

He was acutely aware of how on edge Scott and Kurt had to be in the still silence until he finally heard a faint heartbeat off in the tall grass to the north. He didn't say a thing until he was sure that the girls were there — and he wasn't happy in the least to see them in the shape they were in. "Got em!" Logan called out, abandoning the comms as he worked to make sure that they weren't bleeding too badly.

In an instant, Kurt was there as well with Scott, both of them upset to see the junior members of their team with all the familiar marks of Sinister's work — and still unconscious. "What about the others?" Scott asked.

"I'll keep looking, but these two were the only scents on the beacon," Logan told him.

"Then we're still down five people," Scott said, his tone clearly frustrated.

Logan sat back and tipped his head to Eleanor. "Take over here? I'll keep going. Pretty sure she's stable."

"We'll get them to Hank," Scott said, crouching down by Eleanor.

"You know where I am," Logan said before he stepped back and headed off again, fully expecting the two of them to take the girls back and leave him there until he found the others.

Kurt was sure to take care that Sylvia was stable as well before he teleported the group of them to Hank's lab, and the two men helped to set the girls on beds for Hank.

"We're going back out," Scott told him as soon as he started to examine the girls. "Sinister just left them for us to find. The others are still missing."

Hank waved a hand at them both as he simply got to work, and in a poof of smoke, they were gone again to catch up with Logan, though Scott was pulling out his cell phone as he kept pace with Kurt.

"Wade, you and Lisbet should go to the school," he said as soon as Deadpool picked up on the other line, cutting through any conversation Wade might have tried to strike up with Scott.

"What's goin' on, oh, fearless leader?" Wade almost sang out, clearly in high spirits. "I mean, outside of getting a phone call from my second … no… third … wait. Well, you're in my top five of all time favorite X-Men ever."

Scott shook his head. "Wade, there was an attack at the school. A few of the kids are still missing, and Eleanor was hurt," he told him frankly.

There was, surprisingly, silence for a long moment before Wade's tone changed entirely. "I'll be there ready to go."

Scott hung up with Wade and let out a breath. "Anything?" he asked Logan.

"No," Logan replied, sounding entirely distracted.

"He had Brandon first. He could have teleported them here and left," Scott said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Rachel might be able to get something from the girls on where they were being held. If they were conscious at all."

"If I could just find a direction," Logan was almost mumbling as he kept working.

Kurt finally put a hand on Logan's shoulder. "Logan," he said quietly. "They're not here."

"Yeah, I know," Logan replied, though it was clear he wanted to keep going.

Kurt shook his head and, in an instant, they were back in the War Room, where K was still working away. "We found Eleanor and Sylvia," he told K as Logan snapped at him about how he wasn't done.

"That's a start," K said, still writing rapidly in her own shorthand as she stared at the screen, scrolling with the other hand.

"Wade and Lisbet will be here," Scott said.

"Uh-huh," she agreed. "Good. I'll be here."

The three men shared a look at that. "Doing what, exactly?" Kurt asked.

"Getting into Essex's head," K replied frankly. "He's actually got a pretty strict set of requirements on the places he keeps."

"Then there can't be too many places that fit the bill," Scott said.

"About thirty I've found worldwide, most of which are in North America and England." She glanced up at the three of them for a moment. "For some reason, he seems to avoid Japan and China. I think it has something to do with the fault lines; he seems to keep away from any earthquake zones."

"Keeping his research safe," Scott said as he sat down beside her and added more quietly, "And hands steady."

"He keeps places with large windows and strong power supplies — seems like the windows are a throwback to the last century," K said. "I think he likes to take breaks to look out at the trees or water — both, by the way, are also requirements for the long-term spots. The place in Chicago was a drop-off."

"He's been around that long," Scott pointed out. "He lives in the past."

"I've noticed," K said, nodding.

"I know he's had hideouts in Bannerman Castle and that sort of thing, but for the most part, he's not going to stay in the cities — or anywhere near them," Scott said.

"No, any cities, like I said, are just stopping points. Minimal lab materials, but a great spot to use as a warehouse."

"The trees aren't necessarily a sticking point either," Scott added. "He was in Nebraska for several years."

"Yes, he was," she said. "Obsessing over you. Which breaks the rest of his little rules." She pushed a notebook his way after flipping past a dozen pages of neat writing — the same shorthand, of course — to show him a checklist. And really, the only place that they'd seen that didn't fit the list was that orphanage. "Addresses or coordinates are on the next page."

Scott raised both eyebrows as he looked over her notes before he looked up at her again. "This is great, K, but he has two of my kids. And that breaks the pattern, like you said. When he's obsessing over my family, he isn't as picky."

"I know. That's why I'm narrowing it down. He sent you to Missouri for the two juniors, right?" K said. "There's more going on than you think. He's hiding. And that will fall under the rules. He wasn't hiding when he had you — because he had you. And he was still looking for more mutants. He's not looking. Just hiding."

Scott was quiet for a moment as he looked over her list, noting a few places that Sinister had used in the past before K was on the team before he pointed one out in Alaska. "You can take that off the list."

"Is that your way of saying it's a sound list?" K asked before she took back the notebook and carefully crossed it off.

Scott nodded lightly. "I'd like a copy. I could probably give you a few more just from experience."

"Go ahead and take that page. Leave me my notes," K said.

Scott nodded again as K tore out the page and he looked over what she had. "It's a sound assessment. Some of these places ... I wasn't with the X-Men for that one…"

"I didn't get this out of your files, Scott," K told him. "This is my list. My elimination system based on what he wants."

"I know you didn't," he said, still shaking his head at her. "That's what I'm saying. It's impressive. No one but Annie knew about that one — and she never asked where that was," he said, tapping the pencil against the list where he'd had her cross out one of the coordinates.

"I told you," K told him, "I'm hunting. He's not going to run forever from me."

"He's certainly building the skill set to do it," Scott pointed out, his tone more serious. "Think about it. You can't find Eleanor on her best days."

"I am … and I've faced my issues with Q while you boys were out looking. He's working on a few things," she said. "Most of them are painfully simple too. Even more painful than listening to his whole slew of new puberty jokes. Thanks for that."

"You're welcome," he said without missing a beat. "Look, I'm not saying we can't stop him, I'm just laying the facts out."

"I know," K replied perfectly reasonably. "And I'm pulling in all of our resources to get the job done — and, with a little luck, stop him too. I'm hunting him to get to the kids. He's priority two."

Scott nodded and simply made himself a bit more comfortable. "You said you were getting in his head. Let me help."

"I'm here," she said. "What do you want me to know?"

Scott took a deep breath and tapped his pencil on her notes. "Take me through this," he said. "And I'll fill in what I can. We'll start there."

"It's just … basic CIA shorthand — backwards and run through a few of my favorite ciphers." K smirked at him.

"Take me through it," he said again. "You're not going to get a better in-person indicator on him."

She nodded and started going down the list — including a few inferences she had here and there about his motivators, which included the fact that even though he was gathering powers to use for his own means, he was also doing it for the purpose of continuing his research — all while Scott cut in every once in a while with his own thoughts and experience to add in.

It had been the middle of the night when Scott called Wade, so it was still dark when he got to the mansion and bounded down the halls straight for the labs, where Henry was still monitoring the four young people in his care. Although most of the residents were asleep, the kids in the lab had spent the better part of the day gassed or drugged and were groggy but awake.

The girls didn't remember anything of what had happened — they'd been asleep for all of it — and Brandon had more or less the same story. Chance had a similar story — simply waking up in Hank's lab full of morphine — so the four of them were slightly loopy and sharing theories.

"What kind of school is this?" Wade said, sounding entirely shocked. "And why the hell wasn't I allowed in when I could have appreciated these kinds of shenanigans?"

"Oh no. Who called my dad?" Eleanor whispered, then giggled. "Hi, Dad."

He made his way over and fussed for a moment, both hands hovering over her as if he was afraid touching her might break her. "What happened, sweet-cheeks?" he asked. "Who does daddy need to stab?"

Eleanor smiled up at him for a moment. "I don't know, Dad, really," she said.

"Oh … that … that is not a good sign," Wade said, shaking his head. "Bodily harm and messed up memory runs in the family — and not in a fun kind of way, either — though technically that wasn't really from me, per se .."

"Dad," Eleanor let out a sigh. "I don't think it's like that. Miss Annie keeps saying it was 'that man'."

He let out a dramatic sigh and pulled a chair up as close to her bed as he could — and then tried to get closer. "Tell Daddy everything."

She smiled and then scooted over so she could snuggle closer and lay her head on his shoulder. "I don't know. We all passed out. Sylvia and I woke up here — Brandon says we were gone for a while. Annie says there are still some kids missing."

When she winced a little at a spot in her side from trying to snuggle in closer, Wade glared at Hank. "Don't you X-Freaks have someone on staff for this kind of thing?"

"We do, in fact," Hank said simply.

Wade stared at him for a moment before gesturing grandly and raising his voice. "And … where the hell is he?"

Hank raised his eyebrows over the top of his glasses, but before he could say anything further, Kurt appeared in the lab with Tyler.

"Was that so hard?" Wade asked, gesturing at the freshly arrived pair. "That is the kind of service my princess deserves!"

"Daddy," Eleanor said quietly, blushing.

"I'm just saying they're slacking ... " Wade said, drifting off.

Tyler shook his head at the scene before he turned to Hank. "I heard you guys could use a hand."

"Yes. Just … watch where you put them, blondie," Wade warned.

"Don't worry; I'm happily married," Tyler said without missing a beat as he came over to stand by Eleanor and hold her hand for a moment, since clearly, Wade wasn't going to be satisfied until his little girl was right as rain.

"Dad, there's other kids here too," Eleanor said, flushing bright red once Tyler had finished healing her.

"Right. Of course there are," Wade said, patting her knee. "So that brings us to … what's a guy gotta do around here to get the coordinates to stab some … creep that cut into my sweet little angel?"

"You could ask my sister," Chance offered with a sideways smile. His voice was quieter than usual when he still had pressure on his lungs, but he was on enough drugs that he didn't notice.

"Scott and K are planning in the War Room," Hank told him. "Rachel is manning Cerebro."

"Like I said," Chance said, still smiling. "Ask my sister."

"You're welcome to stay with Eleanor if you can mind your manners," Hank told Wade. "I'm sure she's perfectly fine to head upstairs now."

Eleanor took her dad's hand with a smile. "Come on. Let's get out of the way," she said. "Did you bring Mom and Ryan?"

"Of course I did — they're with Miss Annie sippin' sweet tea and having cookies."

She grinned. "Great. I'm actually pretty hungry."

"Healing does that," Tyler said with a smirk as he sat down next to Chance.

"Let me just ... " Hank quickly measured out a dose of sedative and came over to sit on Chance's other side, prepared to put him under — since his internal injuries would be more painful to heal than what had happened to the others. "Try to relax. You'll wake up in a few hours good as new."

"Got it," Chance said, smiling at Tyler before he drifted off.

Chapter Text

It was already well into the morning, with no solid coordinates or leads on where the last five kids in Sinister's possession could be, when Scott and K had an unexpected visitor in the form of Billy — with mugs of coffee for the both of them. Both of the two X-Men were looking weary and as Billy walked in; Scott had a tighter expression on his face as he rubbed his shoulder.

"Oh God, we're all gonna die," K sang out under her breath, still not looking up from the screen.

"It's not that bad," Billy said, pushing the mugs forward, though Scott quickly held up one hand and shook his head at the offer. The last thing he needed with the headache and tight chest he had worked himself into was caffeine.

"All due respect? You're not one of the people in this room with two kids missing," K shot back.

"I just meant—" Billy shook his head. "Sorry. I just meant I'm not here because the world is ending."

"Maybe your world isn't," she growled out, not in the mood for him to try and lighten things up.

Billy took a deep breath. "Tommy let me know what's going on," he said. "Teddy brought the twins and is offering some help to Annie and Kate. I thought you two could use… a little push." He waved his hand, and K's notebook fell open to one page of possible locations in particular.

She looked over at the open page and nodded. "Yeah, that just narrows it down to where we were already looking." She let out a sigh and covered her eyes with one hand, deciding to leave it between him and Scott if they were going to play games.

Billy shrugged lightly but didn't say anything further, just sitting across the table from the two of them.

Scott sighed. "Billy, this isn't the time."

"I really can't interfere," he said.

"You would if it was your kid out there," K pointed out, her eyes still closed.

Billy watched her for a moment before he let out a sigh. "Yeah." He held out one hand, and one specific set of coordinates glowed brighter on the page than the others.

Scott frowned down at the notebook for a second before he glanced up to Billy, who simply nodded once, and Scott got to his feet. "K, get Logan and Kurt. I'll let Hank know to prep for incoming."

She looked between the two of them and stood up, then crossed over to Billy to kiss his cheek and whisper out a little 'thank you' before she headed out to find the guys.

Logan and Kurt met Scott at the War Room, where K was writing out details on that particular location so that, should they get separated, they'd know how to get out and where to go. "Four kids and a big kid … should be good with four adults, right?" K said as she handed Scott her little map, drawn and labeled with shorthand.

"We'll let the bamfs take someone if we need it," Scott said before he nodded to Kurt, and the bamfs teleported all four of them to the coordinates, setting them down just outside of the house itself.

K and Logan were very clearly ready to go, but Scott was sure to straighten them out before all hell broke loose. "The priority is the kids — we still don't know who he's using, so knock him out if you can. Rachel will burn him out."

"Got it," Logan said with a nod, though he looked a little off-balance as they were taking in the big stonework manor. "Claws for the big ones only."

"Kurt, take K on the north side; we've got the south end. Keep comms open; I want to know who finds the kids and where so we're not doubling back on ourselves."

Kurt nodded once as K took his arm just before the two of them disappeared, leaving Logan and Scott to head in as a team. They weren't surprised to meet with Marauders as soon as they were in the house, but neither of them was going to pull any punches with both of their kids on the line. With Logan barely holding back from going all out, it wasn't long before there was a path inside — and Scott was sure the same was true of K and Kurt with how mad he knew K was.

Scott and Logan hit a fork in the road, and Scott reached down to pull out the map — but before he could, Logan tapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, this way," he said, moving at a solid clip, while Scott let Logan lead the way, trusting his senses to lead them down the right track.

"Watch out for the turrets; they can angle through the windows easy enough," Logan said as he peeked around a corner.

"There are no turrets on K's notes."

"Didn't look at her notes," Logan said in that same even tone.

Scott was frowning as he made a point to keep an eye out, though when they came to another split in the hall, he was surprised when Logan took a moment. "Scent's not stronger one way or the other?" he guessed.

"No, just … trying to remember which way is the library and which is the lab." He turned to his right and scowled, then headed down that path.

Scott frowned. He knew, from the last nearly full day with K going over Sinister's paths, about more details of Logan's history with the man, but … he hadn't expected to run into that history in person. He kept pace with Logan as Logan picked up speed before they did spill out into the lab — with tall windows on one wall and arches in the architecture.

Inside, Jana was working over one of the kids — though from the doorway, they couldn't see which two were in the lab, just that there were two tables. Jana was out of the usual jeans and tee shirt that she wore, instead in the more familiar black leather and tall boots.

When she looked up to see the two X-Men in the doorway, they could also see the familiar red glow as a smile curled over her expression and she sang out a quick command, "Stand over there by the windows." She gestured to a corner. "Be still and silent." In a normal voice, she added, "I'll get to you soon enough."

As both Scott and Logan moved slowly toward the windows, Jana — or Sinister inside her — turned her attention back to Cody. Elin was strapped down to the second table in the lab, absolutely wide-eyed and pale and watching Cody, who was deeply unconscious but somehow paler than she was, his eyes already wrapped in gauze from Sinister's other studies as she took a few more vials of blood for some tests.

On the other side of the manor, Kurt and K had worked their way through an impressive number of Marauders and had finally found a small room to step into and try to get a breath as more Marauders rushed by, trying to find them. It was exhausting, but they knew they had to be close for how much resistance they were coming up against.

The two of them shared a look once they were halfway caught up again and waited for the Marauder's heavy footsteps to pass them by before they slipped out again and continued on their way. They ended up teleporting to the top of the curved staircase ahead of them rather than risk getting caught between waves of Marauders. Three doors down the nearest hall, Kurt grabbed K's arm and pulled her into yet another empty room.

"Did you see the security down the other hall?" he asked quietly, peeking around her to make sure they weren't being followed.

K shook her head and turned to steal a peek the opposite way to find a dozen Marauders filling up the hall, walking slowly up and down it, obviously patrolling as awkwardly as anyone had ever seen. "So," K said quietly, "do you want to be the distraction or the rescue team?"

Kurt smirked over at her and simply twirled his swords. "I think my talents are best suited in being as dashing and distracting as possible."

"Well, darling," she replied with a smile, "that would be the case anyhow, right?"

"Oh, naturally."

"Then … off you go," she said. "I'll start breaking locks as soon as the morons are utterly derailed by you."

Kurt grinned at her before he disappeared in a poof of smoke, along with several of his bamfs. And between Kurt's triple wield and the disorienting echoes of the giggling bamfs — who were making excellent use of the acoustics in the old house — the Marauders patrolling the hall were well and truly distracted.

In spite of the severity of the situation, K had to smile at the sound of pandemonium breaking loose before she took a quick peek again and rushed out, taking advantage of the smoke-filled hallway to break into the rooms one at a time until a familiar voice called out to her once the lock on the last door was broken.

"K?" Charlie asked, her eyes wide from where she was curled up with her knees pulled up to her chest on the little four poster in the middle of a small bedroom. The walls were positively lined with shelves full of books, and the shelves nearest Charlie's bed had some of her favorites. There was even a balcony overlooking the lake — though with a sheer drop down a couple stories.

"Are you alone?" K asked before she properly looked around the room on her way in. "Wow. Are all of the rooms like this?"

Charlie glanced around with a frown. "I don't really know. I haven't seen any of the other rooms," she admitted.

K took a closer look at Charlie and simply started to growl, her gaze hard. "What …" She reached out to lightly touch the collar on the girl's neck, glaring hard at the glowing lights on it. She pulled her hand back and flexed her fist a few times, trying to regain control over the anger at seeing an inhibitor collar on the little girl.

Charlie watched K for a moment before she reached over and put a hand on her arm. "Did you find the other kids?" she asked.

"You're the first we've found," K told her, still glaring at the collar. "And that has to come off."

Charlie nodded. "Maybe I can help you find them," she offered.

K nodded and took another moment to compose herself before she took Charlie's hand and brought her right to the open door of the balcony, then pulled a chair over for her. "Alright. This is what's going to happen. You're going to have a seat. You're going to close your eyes. And you're going to hold very, very still. Got it?"

Charlie nodded, her eyes wide as she watched K carefully. "Yes ma'am," she said quietly, knowing that K was beyond mad even without her powers.

Once Charlie had taken a seat, and K had her sit on her hands to be doubly sure there were no accidents, K very carefully and very slowly let out just enough of one claw to slip between Charlie's neck and the collar. She didn't warn her beyond that, and with a quick flick of her wrist, she sliced through the collar and then retracted quickly and wrenched it open, only to toss it out the window before the lights had even died out.

Charlie peeked one eye open and then let out a breath as she ran her hand over her neck and then all but melted into a hug with her arms around K's neck.

K wrapped her up and held onto her tightly for a moment. "You okay?"

Charlie nodded into the hug, but she still muttered a very quiet, "It was so quiet."

"And now?" K asked.

Charlie tightened her hold on K for a moment. "Now… everyone's so scared. And mad." She glanced up at K. "I can still feel Jana. That's a good thing, right? She's still in there?"

"Jana?" K asked, frowning slightly.

"She's the one Dr. Essex is using," Charlie told her honestly. "Like with Remy… I can still tell she's scared in there."

K let out a breath and nodded. "Alright. That's … that's something we need to tell Hank about so Rachel can focus better."

Charlie nodded. "She … umm. Dr. Essex, I mean ... she's got my brother and Elin and James. I don't know where. Or if she has anyone else."

"We'll just have to send in some recon," K decided. "Tiny, troublemaking recon."

Charlie couldn't help but smile at that before she wrapped K up in a hug again. "I know you're mad, but it's so nice to hear another person again," she muttered.

K nodded and took Charlie's hand, totally unwilling to let the little girl go unless completely necessary as the two of them worked their way out of the smoke-filled hallway and back to the empty room she and Kurt had hidden in before the 'distraction' started. The two of them were barely in the room when one of the little bamfs appeared and was leaning against the door, panting as if he'd been into some terribly hard work.

"Think you can tell Kurt to poof his pretty little tail over here?" K asked him.

The little guy nodded quickly before he disappeared — and a few moments later, Kurt teleported into the room, all three swords drawn, though he quickly sheathed them when he saw Charlie with K. "Is she alright?"

K turned to Charlie and let her answer on her own — mostly by rushing over to Kurt and throwing her arms around his neck.

Kurt hugged her tight for a moment and then looked up at K. "We should let the others know we have her."

K took out her comm and pressed it into Charlie's hands. "Please, call Rachel. Green button. Don't touch the other one until we know where the guys are. I don't want to blow their sneak with a radio."

Charlie nodded as she took the comm in her hands, though she glanced up at K and Kurt. "I think… Elin's scared, but the boys are… quiet," she offered.

K nodded and looked over at Kurt. "Hall still full of smoke?" When Kurt nodded, she gave him a significant look. "I'm going to double check the rest of the rooms down that hall. You get to protect the princess this time."

"A specialty of mine," Kurt said with a smile before he took Charlie to the window to sit down with her while she called her sister to let her know she was alright.

While Sinister worked on Cody, Logan closed his eyes and was doing all he could to try to find a way around the commands or to outright go around it somehow. As he did so, Scott realized that Logan was visibly shaking. The minutes dragged by until, finally, the silence was split as Logan started growling.

Jana's head came up at the sound, and she narrowed her eyes at Logan. "Willful, as ever," she said in a dismissive tone.

Logan was snarling by that point, and it was only a moment later that he managed to break loose of the other command and dart right for her with one arm drawn back. She didn't manage to dodge the punch, but she did teleport to the other side of the room after it connected, staggering and her head drooping as she put a hand to her jaw.

Logan started to stalk toward her, stopping partway there and clearly trying to figure out where she was headed next before he made a rush. But she teleported away once more, this time without reappearing in the same room. Scott could tell that she was far gone when he felt the command lift as well, and he took a deep breath that hurt his chest from the stress of fighting the command before he ran over to where Cody was to check him over.

Logan turned from where he was to head back to the kids and cut Elin loose first, though she was shaking from nerves after the whole affair. "Any idea where the other two are?" Logan asked her quietly as he pulled her closer, trying not to make too much noise in the big room now that it was missing the giant creep.

"Hey, boys," K said over the comm. "We found Charlie. Do you need bamfs yet?"

Scott let out a breath of relief as he heard it as he looked for the release on the bottom of the table. "We've got Cody and Elin."

"Try the other side," Logan told Scott. "It's backwards from what you're used to seeing and held together with a leather strap."

Scott frowned at that but ran his hands over the other side until he found it, and once Cody was free, he shot Logan a grateful look as he pulled Cody up. "Kurt, have you found James?"

"No," Kurt replied. "No sign of him yet."

Scott nodded as he thought it over. "Have the bamfs get the kids out of here and down to Hank. We'll keep looking."

Logan waited until the bamfs and Kurt and K showed up before he started to walk across the giant room. "They probably already covered the more 'common' areas," he said as Kurt and K gathered up the three kids, though Charlie did take a minute to give her dad a hug and a kiss.

"It's just like Remy," she whispered into the hug. "Jana's still in there, okay?"

"She's in there with a busted jaw," Logan muttered, mostly to himself, glaring at the room, though much of his focus was up at the tall glass windows.

"We know she's still there," Scott assured Charlie before he kissed her cheek. "I'll catch up to you in a minute. Can you go with Kurt and watch out for Cody until I get back?"

Charlie nodded and gave him one more hug before she slipped back over to her still-unconscious brother and Elin and Kurt, and the group of them disappeared.

"We can go room by room," Scott offered.

Logan gestured to a door not far ahead of them. "Probably that way."

Scott gestured for Logan to lead the way. "I'll follow you."

Logan nodded once and took a deep breath before he started up at his usual pace, cautiously scenting out his path as he went -tensed up, ready for a fight. When the hall split, he paused and turned to Scott. "One's as good as the other. It's the same, scent wise."

"We'll start to the east and come back if we're wrong. If she comes back, she'll regret it," Scott swore.

"I'll just be stubborn again," Logan muttered, doing his best to try for a self-deprecating tone, and Scott smirked as they headed down the hall until they did find a room with an old-fashioned wrought iron cage inside — and with James curled inside it.

Logan stared for a moment before he started looking around the room, nowhere near the cage, looking for the wiring that he was sure went along with it. "Don't touch the bars yet," Logan told Scott.

Scott frowned at that. "What am I looking for?"

"Wires," Logan told him, moving things carefully to avoid hitting a trigger if there still was one. "It was hooked up to a button. Shocked the cage. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was set now to shock once it was grounded."

Scott stopped and looked Logan's way, knowing Logan had to know this from experience, before he pushed that thought aside and followed his lead, looking for the wiring as well before Logan was the one to find it and cut it. And then, after only two seconds of trying to open the door to the cage, Logan got mad and popped his claws to slash open the entire side of the thing and started pulling the bars out of the way as Scott tried to rouse James.

When James didn't seem to be coming out of it, Scott simply picked him up. "Let's get out of here," he told Logan.

"Lead the way," Logan agreed as he took James from Scott.

Scott headed down the hall, as he relayed his position to Kurt so he could send a pair of bamfs their way. There was a telltale bamf a few moments later before a pair of tiny demons spotted them and teleported to their shoulders to take them back to Hank's lab.

When James was set down on one of the beds, Scott let Hank know that he wasn't rousing with a short, barked out "healing coma" before he crossed the span to where Cody was with Tyler, and Charlie all but crawled into his lap to wrap him up in a hug.

"You okay?" he asked, surprised by how upset he was, still even with both of them right there. His chest was hurting, but he made sure to wrap Charlie up a little tighter and kissed the side of her head.

"I'm alright," she said, hiding in his shoulder. "I didn't get to see Cody." She hugged him tighter. "But he'll be okay; you shouldn't be so worried about him. Ty's got it, and K got the collar off me, and everything's alright now," she promised, then paused. "Well, except for Jana… but we'll fix that too."

"K… what?"

"Oh, she was so mad," Charlie said, her eyes wide. "I didn't need powers to tell that. She was still mad even after it came off."

Scott frowned at that but just pulled her into a tighter hug for a long moment as he found K over the top of Charlie's head and mouthed out a quick 'thanks' her way.

"Right back at you," she said very quietly from where she was sitting with James and Elin, who was leaning on her heavily, half wrapped around their mother.

Scott turned back to Charlie and took as deep a breath as he could with how tightly she was holding onto him. "I'm going to get your mother," he told her. "She's been worried."

"Yeah." Charlie gave him another squeeze and then stepped back. "I'll stay with Cody in case he wakes up. I don't want him to wake up scared." She looked toward Elin and James. "Everybody was scared."

"I know. I'm sorry," he said before he ruffled her hair and headed out to go let Annie know that the kids were safe.

Before Scott made it to the door, Logan gave K a quick kiss and followed, sure to catch up fast. "You alright, Slim?" he asked once he was just a few paces behind him in the hall.

"Fine," Scott said shortly.

But Logan wasn't buying it, particularly since Scott was slowing down and clearly breathing harder than he should have been. Before he could go much further, Logan realized what was going on and took a few quick steps to grab a hold of Scott's arm at the same moment that Scott collapsed outright. Logan eased him to the ground and swore under his breath as he laid a hand on Scott's chest and wordlessly hit the panic button at his side, muttering to Scott and telling him to relax and breathe.

When Kate came over his comm, he barked back at her. "I need Hank now, and I'm not leaving Scott here by himself." He wasn't even trying to hide the panic that he was working far too hard to push back.

Kate sounded caught off-guard before she called for Hank — though whether she was off her game at the news that Scott was in trouble or at the pure worry she was hearing from Logan, it wasn't obvious. But she was sure to let Hank know that it was something that had Logan upset — which got him to the hall fast.

"He's havin' a heart attack," Logan said as Hank skidded to a stop next to them.

"I'm not," Scott muttered, finally coming around a little.

But Hank was looking just as serious as Logan; he had already pulled out his stethoscope and was listening intently. "What happened?" Hank asked, though Logan didn't even try to answer, leaving it to Scott to fill in the blanks.

"I'm fine," Scott muttered again.

"All the same, I'm going to have to check you over," Hank said. "Because of all the things you most certainly are, fine is not one of them."

"It's stress," Scott said, shaking his head lightly.

"Then spend a little time on the monitor and prove Logan wrong. You'll even get it in writing," Hank teased.

Scott gave him a dry look. "I'm fine, Hank. Stick with the kids."

"The kids are fine," Hank said. "And none of them have passed out in the hallway. Have you been having any chest pains?"

"Hank, my kids were gone."

"Scott. Answer the question," Hank said as he and Logan both got Scott upright and kept on either side of him to get him back to the lab. "I know how the kids are. I'm asking about you."

"I'm telling you," Scott said. "And I didn't pass out, either."

"If you'd wait just two minutes, we can have this argument with Annie acting as referee and tie-breaker," Hank warned.

Scott glared Hank's way. "Fine. Yes."

Hank paused and narrowed his eyes for a moment before he nodded to himself and directed both of them toward a bed for Scott. "Even if you'd said no, we'd be doing the same thing."

"What happened?" Charlie called out when she saw the three of them. "Did he come back?" she asked, her voice wavering slightly.

"No," Logan said. "He didn't come back." He stepped back as Scott finally went along with Hank's direction.

"Well, you're scared all over again," she pointed out.

"It's fine, Charlie," Scott said.

"Are they okay to head upstairs for movies?" Logan asked Hank. "We'll get 'em outta here for a while if they are."

"Cody is still sleeping off the sedative, but he's fine to move to his room," Hank said.

Logan turned to Scott. "That okay with you?" When Scott nodded once, he headed over to the kids to get them out of there so Hank could do his thing.

But Logan had no sooner dropped the Summers kids off with Annie, who was already peppering Charlie with kisses on the top of her head, when Kate stopped him in the middle of the hallway. "What happened?" she asked.

"Don't worry about it right now," Logan said, frowning deeply at her.

"Logan, let me help. If you need someone to watch the kids or you need someone shot…"

"Nothin' like that," Logan said, shaking his head at her.

"Then what's going on?" Kate asked. "Don't tell me nothing, because you don't panic like that. So spill."

"Not sure yet," Logan said. "Might be nothin'."

"Is Scott alright?" she asked, walking with him down the hall.

"Kate, I'm tired."

"Then tell me what's going on, and I'll take over," she said. "You go work on kid number five and I'll just… handle whatever." She tipped her head to the side. "Seriously."

He stopped and gave her a look for a long moment, then took her arm and pulled her into an empty room. "I think Hank's in over his head on this one."

"I thought he pulled in Ty," she said, wide-eyed.

Logan shook his head. "Not the kids," he said quietly. "I'm waiting to hear it from Hank, but I think Scott's havin' real problems."

She looked even more wide-eyed for a second. "How serious?"

"I'm pretty damn sure he just had a heart attack," Logan admitted. "Hank has him on monitors, but it went right along with the few that I've seen before."

"Well. Alright. I can call Tony — ask him who he uses."

"Right, as long as they don't get it in their head to kill him outright. Mutant terrorist leader, remember?" Logan replied. "If you're gonna get started, I want names for K and me to tear through."

"I'll call Tony and … and I'll contact a few other people," Kate promised. "I'll have you a dozen names by the time you and K get some food in you to head back out." She was already heading for the door. "Nobody's going to work the boss man over on our watch."

He let out a little breath as he followed, then turned to head to his room. "I don't want to get Annie all worked up unless it's a real issue either," he pointed out. "It's possible I'm wrong."

"I'm sure Hank will clue her in if that's the case," Kate said as she pulled out her cell phone and gave Logan's arm a squeeze. "Like I said: I got this."

He pulled her over to give her a kiss on the temple. "Thanks, Troubles."

"Can't let you have all the fun," she shot back with a smile before she called up Tony and got to work.

Chapter Text

Working on a hunch, while everyone in his care was asleep soundly — and stable — Hank started digging into his files on the members of the team, both past and present. It was unusual for them to need to compare anything between team members, but … it had come up a few times in the past, and he was starting to wonder if he shouldn't change his process. Especially when he cross-checked his records and found the match he'd suspected.

He stared at the results and decided that there were certainly grounds to run an actual test when his second test subject was a bit more reachable, all things considered — just to make doubly sure. Even if it made perfect sense with his still standing theory that Sinister could only possess those that he was directly related to.

Considering everything that had happened, it wasn't a bad idea to bring in some extra hands anyway, so once Hank gave Kurt a call, it was maybe ten minutes before Remy and Storm both arrived in Westchester.

"Logan told us what happened," Storm said as she strode in through the door, looking perfectly concerned. "How is everyone? What can we do?"

"There isn't much," Hank said. "But we could use the backup."

Remy nodded with a little smirk. "Dat's what we here for," he said. "How's Charlie?"

"She's doing well," Hank replied. "But that's not what I asked you here to address." He gestured for Remy to follow him back to his desk and pulled up the two files. "I know you don't know what all this means, but … the ramifications here are severe. You see, I theorized not too long ago that the only people that Mr. Sinister can possess are those with whom he shares a direct blood relation." He pointed to the screen. "So you can see, we have something that requires your attention."

"So you thinkin' some other poor soul got Sinister for a relation?" Remy asked, one eyebrow raised.

Hank smirked. "I am ninety-nine percent sure of it," he said. "And this same soul has you for a much closer relation."

The little smirk Remy had been wearing disappeared entirely, and he looked much more openly surprised Hank's way. "Whatchu talkin' 'bout…"

"Remy," Hank stopped and let out a breath. "Lets try this a different way. Jana has been possessed. By Sinister. I checked your DNA profiles that we've kept on file — and there is a positive match."

Remy stared at Hank outright, not bothering to close his mouth or hide his surprise as it was clear he was struggling to process that. "She don' hardly look like me," he said in a hoarse voice.

"Well, it seems she was lucky in some rights," Hank teased. "Though to ease your mind, I will perform a more detailed test once we get her back."

"Dis just cannot be so," Remy said, shaking his head. "Where has he slipped off to? We gon' get her back right now an' address dis."

"That is the plan," Hank agreed.

"No, if she mine, we gettin' her back now," Remy said as he got to his feet, still in obvious shock. "So where she get to?"

"Remy, we don't know where she is," Hank pointed out. "Rachel is still looking."

"Well, she gon' do her thing, an' Remy gon' do his, and between us, we gon' get her back," Remy decided. "Ain't nobody can hide for dat long."

"You might want to check in with K then," Hank said. "She seems to have acquired quite the knack for finding his hideouts."

Remy simply nodded wordlessly before he strode — quickly — out of the lab to do just that.

K was curled up with James and Elin … or that had been her intention before Malin and Sadie joined the party, of course. The little group had taken over Logan and K's bed entirely while Logan was running down a few leads that Kate had picked up already, and both James and Elin were more than happy to curl up with her.

They hadn't gotten more than twenty minutes into the movie they'd planned to watch before all of them were passed out and snuggled down — and not one word had been spoken more than to pick out the film. The kids of course had slept first, though once K knew they were all safe, the adrenaline crash hit her hard, and she wasn't far behind them.

So everyone but Logan was totally, peacefully asleep by the time Remy and Storm had shown up. And they were still out when Remy came bounding up the stairs after having missed K in the War Room.

"Out," K said once he'd stepped into the room.

Remy stopped short from coming the rest of the way in. "Gon' need whatever you got on de creep what got my girl, K. You kin go right back to sleepin' soon's I got dat."

"Something happen to Marie?" she asked, sleep still thick in her voice.

"No, she right as rain," Remy said. He ran a hand through his hair as he waited for her to wake up enough to hold a reasonable conversation.

"Then what the hell are you talking about?"

"Hank done tol' me 'bout Jana," Remy explained impatiently.

"Well he didn't tell me, so outside of the fact that she's the girl the creep is wearing, I don't know what the hell you're flapping about right now."

"She mine," Remy breathed out, still looking fairly wide-eyed about the whole thing.

"Wait, what?" K said, emphasizing the very last 't' hard as she started to sit up, carefully trying to dislodge James from one side and Elin from the other, even if the real danger was Malin with her head in K's lap.

"Dat's what I said," Remy said. "So we gon' get her back."

"Remy … I'd send you to Scott, but that probably won't work," she said. "Everything is in the War Room still. In my notebook."

Remy breathed out a little sigh and then nodded. "Merci beaucoup."

"Remy," she called out before he could disappear. "The whole thing is in my shorthand."

"What, you need translatin'?"

"No, it's just faster to write that way when I'm on a roll," she replied. "Logan can read it."

"Well, he ain't here," Remy said.

"Or … bring it back to me with coffee," she suggested.

"You got it, petit," Remy promised, already headed for the door. "We gon' get her back, and we gon' get dat creep for messin' wit dese kids, n'est pas?"

"Sure," she said. "Not like that's the first time we've said that."

Remy shook his head at her. "He ain't never been so stupid as to take all dese bebes and get away wit it, petit. He died last time he try it."

"You're right: taking two of my kids and two of Scott's was just a walk in the park," she said. "And if he was dead, he'd be dead."

"You sure inspirin', Miss K."

"We'll talk about that later, when you come back with coffee and an offering."

"And den we gon' get Remy's petite fille," he said before he rushed back downstairs, clearly ready to go after Sinister.

Downstairs, a few of the X-Men and the students were having breakfast. Classes were obviously canceled with so many teachers down and out, but it was still fairly quiet around the school. The regular students were spooked by everything that had happened and by the gas attack, and the kids who had grown up there were concerned about their friends.

And while Storm and Remy's appearance was good for backup, Teddy and Billy hadn't left either. Their twins were playing with Chloe, who was the only Summers who hadn't stayed up in their suite with Annie.

Teddy was entertaining the kids, shapeshifting to make different silly faces and get them to laugh, but Billy seemed to be totally distracted. It was harder to tell with the changes to his eyes, but he didn't seem to be paying attention, even when Teddy morphed his face into Billy's with overly exaggerated star eyes that had the twins rolling on the floor giggling.

He did, however, pay attention when Tyler came up to refuel after all the healing he'd been doing — for the kids Sinister had as well as what damage he could help with when it came to Scott.

"How… is everybody?" Billy asked as Tyler sat down with a plate full of food.

"Doing well," Tyler replied. "Everyone is healed up that I can heal … and Scott's stable. Looking good, really."

"That's… good," Billy said, then let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

Tyler stopped just before he would have taken a bite of his food and set it back down. "Are … you alright?"

"Oh sure. I'm always alright when I change the course of events and give the leader of the X-Men a heart attack," Billy muttered, pushing around the pancakes he hadn't so much as tasted.

"Ah, no. No, you didn't, all powerful Billy-boy," Tyler said, easily dismissing his concern and going back to his food.

"Yeah, and the fact that it happened right after I showed 'em the path to Sinister had nothing to do with it," Billy said, shaking his head.

"Oh sure. Except according to the tests, he'd been building up to it for weeks, so no. You didn't have anything to do with it." Tyler shook his head. "This is the result of decades of high stress and raised blood pressure. He's been fit enough that it never went high enough to really be called 'high', but for him, it was."

"Come on, Tyler. You can't tell me that sending him into where Sinister was cutting into his kid didn't set him over the edge."

Tyler shrugged. "Maybe, except you're ignoring the fact that he was having chest pains before you did anything to help. He was going to do it one way or the other." He tipped his head to the side for a moment. "But go ahead and look into what could have happened and tell me that all the science is lying."

Billy almost smirked at that, and for a second, his eyes glowed brighter before his shoulders relaxed. "Right." He saluted Tyler with his orange juice.

"Don't leave me hanging, magic man — how off am I?"

"Well… It could have been worse," Billy said slowly. "He could have had it while the kids were still gone."

"And then …." Tyler was smirking to himself.

"And then I would've had to step in anyway, because it would have gotten pretty bad," Billy admitted. "With everyone distracted… he would have been alone and ... "

"Yeah, he could have died, medically speaking," Tyler said quietly.

Billy rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands for a moment. "Thanks for the reality check, Lifeguard. Believe it or not, I still need that every once in a while."

"Any time," Tyler said. "You really need to quit being so hard on yourself sometimes."

"Yeah, well, you accidentally create a dimension ruled by Weapon X, and then you can tell me about being hard on yourself."

"Maybe I will," Tyler muttered.

Logan and Kurt had just come back in from one of their runs to get more intel and private information on a handful of heart doctors to attend to Scott. It was clear that both of them were relieved at some of what they'd found but also that they both were beat.

To make matters more interesting, Kurt had been arguing with him between runs that there was no need to drag Storm away from the LA school to run things in Westchester while Scott was down for the count, but of course, Logan wouldn't hear it. Even with the promising doctors … he just didn't think they had what they needed there in Westchester to keep the school calm while Scott recovered and to run the team to hunt down Sinister.

"Speak of the goddess," Kurt said with a smirk when they reappeared in Westchester to find Storm waiting for the both of them.

"Hey, 'Ro," Logan said sounding absolutely relieved when he saw her. "Missed ya, darlin'. Anything new?"

"Nothing at all," Storm said, shaking her head as the two of them wrapped each other up in a tight embrace. "The students are enjoying their time off from classes, the children are playing with nearly the entire roster of the former Young Avengers, and I have a school to run across the country."

"I just need you here until we get Scott squared away," Logan said.

"I'm more than happy to be there for Scott when he is recovering, but you don't need me," Storm said, shaking her head at him.

"What are you talkin' about?" Logan said. "Of course I do. I can't do this."

"Really?" Storm raised an eyebrow before she simply hit him upside the head. "You can, and you will run this school — and call me when you have a doctor for our fearless leader. I'll fly out myself to be there for our friend, but I am not going to do your job for you."

Logan stared at her open-mouthed for a moment. "What the hell makes you think it's my job?"

"I don't think it's your job; I know it is," Storm said. "You've done it beautifully before. And I have other responsibilities than to be your crutch."

Kurt smirked at Logan's expression as he stepped around his friend and offered his arm to Ororo. "Come, big sister. Let's return you to Amadi and the Maker," he teased lightly, raising an eyebrow Logan's way before he teleported off with Storm on his arm.

"Ah, the patient awakes," Hank teased as he made his way over to Scott, who was just sleeping off some of the sedation from an exploratory test. "I'm afraid that this particular condition is outside of my comfort zone, medically speaking, of course."

Scott let out a breath when he heard it and nodded. "Alright," he said slowly, already starting to think of what needed to be done in that case. He would need to make a few calls, make arrangements for the kids to be taken care of while he was gone...

"But, I'm happy to report that you have a couple of options to choose from," Hank said as he handed him two business cards.

Scott raised his eyebrows — he hadn't expected the work to already be done — but took the cards. "Just the two?" he asked.

"Well the initial pool was over a dozen," Hank replied. "These would be your best options." he tapped the top of the cards. "Already checked over and vetted."

Scott frowned at he thought it over. "We'll need to look into the staff as well — and the hospital admissions guidelines—"

"It's already done, Scott," Hank said. "All of the footwork has been covered — from the doctors, nurses, and receptionists down to the hospital staff and their availability to do this in an entirely private manner. It's taken care of."

Scott's eyebrows went up a little higher before he seemed to relax as he leaned back. "Thank you, Hank."

"All I did was make sure you didn't run out of the lab," Hank replied. "Thank your team. They did all the work."

Scott smiled at that and nodded. "Alright. When can we set this up and get it over with?"

"Both of them are waiting on your call, as I understand it," Hank said. "The young woman is a mutant herself, and the gentleman is married to a mutant. Both are very much in our corner all the way around."

"Do you have a preference?" Scott asked.

"No," Hank replied. "I'm sure you'll find the overly detailed files in your office if you want to peruse them first."

"I think I will," Scott said as he swung his legs around. "You're not going to stop me leaving?" he had to tease Hank.

"Just don't forget to take your medication," Hank told him. "Annie knows the schedule that goes with it."

"You are using my own wife against me."

"For you, Scott. Not against you."

Scott shook his head as he headed out of the lab and to his office, where, just as Hank had said, there were files waiting for him. But he was surprised to find that it wasn't a simple matter of a file or two for each doctor. No, there were two banker boxes. One for each doctor.

Despite himself, Scott let out a low whistle as he looked over all the information in front of him. He hadn't expected it to be so… thorough.

And, of course, he more than appreciated the thorough job, all things considered. He was well into the boxes of files and research when the door to his office opened as Annie let herself in and sat on the corner of his desk, watching him for a moment and occasionally reading over his shoulder before, when he didn't look up, she simply dropped the bag with the medications he was supposed to have taken out of the lab into his lap.

"I'm sure you just forgot," she said sweetly, finally getting him to look up.

"Hank sent you, didn't he?"

"I don't answer to Hank, Mr. Summers," she said before she handed him a water bottle. "Now, you're going to take care of yourself, and if I have to keep tabs on you like one of my Kindergarteners, so help me, you will not like me."

"Annie, I don't need the babysitting," Scott said, gesturing to the boxes of information. "And in case you haven't noticed, I'm working on it."

"Uh-huh." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I don't just mean this part of it — even though I can't believe how much went into this part." She gestured to the boxes. "Have I mentioned lately how much I love that we've moved to Westchester with your team?"

"They're pretty amazing," Scott agreed with a smirk.

"So don't throw away their good work. Take care of yourself," she said, one eyebrow raised and watching him until he did finally relent and take the medicine. She let out a breath and shook her head at him. "Honestly. It's not even that bad. You only have to take them at breakfast and dinner."

"I've got it, Annie."

"You'd better," she said. "Because we have four beautiful kids who need their father, Mr. Summers."

At that, he finally did look up to meet her gaze and then let out a breath before he got to his feet to wrap her up in a kiss. "I've got it," he promised, this time more seriously, before he went back to kissing the worry out of her.

Elin and James had been hiding out in the Howletts' suite since their rescue, laying low and watching movies. Normally, the Howlett family would head off when there was some tragedy that had hit them, but with Scott laid up and Logan stepping up to cover for him, they were all trying to do their best with what they could manage in Westchester.

The two oldest Howlett kids were snuggled up together when a purple poof of smoke filled the corner of the room, and both Chance and Krissy appeared.

"We brought food," Krissy said, holding up one of the bowls of popcorn.

"Thank you," Elin said forcing a smile her way. "Didn't really want to leave if we didn't have to."

Krissy nodded. "I thought so," she said. "We can bring dinner too if you want. Mama can order pizza."

"Mom and Dad have been covering the big meals," James said quietly.

"Well, Sying should be here soon with blankets and stuff," Krissy said.

"Charlie would come too, but she doesn't really want to leave Cody."

"And we're bugging her," Elin added.

Chance rolled his eyes her way. "Yeah. With Mom freaking out and Dad having a heart attack and everything else going on, you're bugging her."

"I just meant there's not a decent hideout if she comes here," Elin clarified. "Which is an irritation, I'm sure."

Chance shrugged as he set down the rest of the food and then curled up between James and Krissy. "You holding up alright?" he asked James.

"Yeah, sure, of course," James said automatically, nodding his head.

"I mean, that's a heck of a way to get your healing — and go right to a coma," Chance continued.

"What?" James said, frowning at him for a second before he shook his head hard, honestly having forgotten that he hadn't clued anyone in that he'd had his powers for a while now. "Oh. Right."

"I mean, Cody doesn't remember any of it, but you guys…" Chance frowned. "That's why I asked. That's gotta suck."

"Yeah, it does," James agreed before he and Elin shared a look. "But it's fine."

"It's not fine when someone steals you guys away," Krissy wrapped her tail around Elin's arm as she snuggled in between her best friend and her boyfriend. "And thus, we brought snacks," Krissy pointed out, snuggling into Elin a little more.

"It just kind of hangs on for a while," Elin explained.

"The healing?" Chance asked. "Or the drugs or…"

"No," James said, shaking his head. "That's over with pretty quick." He shrugged and scooted away from them. "You know what? It doesn't matter."

"Sure it does," Krissy said. "If you're hurting, let us snuggle you or something."

Before either of the Howlett kids could respond to that, though, Sying arrived to join the group. "This looks cozy," he said with a smirk.

"Oh yeah, regular love fest," James replied dryly.

"Yeah, well, believe it or not, I'm here to make it cozier," Sying said with a smirk as he set down the blankets in front of him.

"So … what's the plan here, exactly?" James asked.

"Pretty much just hang out, watch movies, and remind you both that you're not alone," Sying said with a shrug.

"What if I want to be alone?" James replied.

"Then you picked the wrong friends, because anyone with brains knows Wagners organize hug fests like no other," Sying said, perfectly straight faced.

"We need to hide better," James said, leaning forward so he could see Elin. "Maybe we should try next time."

"No-o-o-o," Krissy said, snuggling into Elin deeper and only proving Syings point as he gestured wordlessly at her.

"You're a ridiculous Elf," Elin told her. "You do know this, right?"

"Oh, absolutely," Krissy assured her.

"We're fine," Elin promised. "Just waiting for classes to start again."

"Mom's not making us go back until after Dad's done with the doctor." Chance shrugged.

"I thought he was done," Elin said. "The team's running missions."

Chance shook his head. "No, your dad's running that," he said. "Didn't you know?"

"He didn't say anything about running anything," James said.

"Huh." Chance shrugged lightly. "Well, Dad's got to go see the doctor … there's some kind of test that starts with an E..."

"I bet Gerry would know," Krissy said with a smirk.

"Yeah, well, I don't speak the same language as him and Dr. Blue," Chance said with a grin her way. "Anyway, me and Charlie are kinda… looking out for Cody and Chloe when Mom and Dad are doing that stuff. So she's not making us go to class until that's over."

"You're going to be so far behind," Elin said, shaking her head.

"Oh, I'm still going to combat class."

"Because priorities," Krissy teased with a little shake of her head.

"And because I don't want to get behind enough I have to put off the team again," Chance said. "Though I might have to… I mean, Mom says she won't let me try out if I'm behind on schoolwork… but it's more important to look out for Cody and Charlie after Sinister screwed with 'em."

"Well, these are things you need to know," Elin defended. "How often are you going to use Algebra?"

"Me? Never," Chance said with a smirk.

"Right, because calculating angles has nothing to do with shooting," Sying muttered.

"Algebra's boring," James muttered.

"See?" Chance gestured at James.

"Though to be honest, so is calculus and geometry," James added. "And statistics …"

"Of course. You're good at that stuff," Krissy said, shaking her head. "So the universe wouldn't make you like it too. That would make too much sense."

"Naturally," he agreed.

"But combat class is starting back up soon anyway," Sying said.

"Yeah, Dad said Monday," Elin agreed.

"So maybe we can just snuggle and watch a movie before you all go back to kicking each other's butts," Krissy said, illustrating her point with a deeper snuggle.

"You need to catch up on the butt kicking," Elin teased as Krissy knocked her over entirely.

"Not everybody can skip ahead a grade because they're been learning since they could walk."

"Not my fault you're slow," Elin teased, smirking just the tiniest bit.

"Oh, that's it," Krissy declared before she outright tackled her friend off the couch to start tickling her — tail and all.

Elin sucked in a quick breath and planted her feet at Krissy's hips before she launched her across the room, though Krissy teleported before she could get too far and reappeared on her feet.

"And that is how you prevent elf attacks," Sying said.

James opened his mouth, clearly with something good lined up, but he quickly grimaced and shook his head before he settled back in with a muted 'nope'.

"And this is why you're in the class behind us," Chance teased Krissy as she came to sit back down.

"Oh you are just… so not funny," Krissy said, glaring at him until he grinned at her and put his arm around her shoulders.

"She just likes the view from behind," James said in an even tone.

Sying almost choked before he shot James a dirty look, though both Chance and Krissy had flushed red and purple, respectively.

"You know … if you're blushing … you shouldn't be doing it," James said without looking their way.

"Just un-pause the movie," Sying said low.

"You want to sit here, Sying?" James asked.

"Yeah, I'm taking the corner — scoot over."

"That's not what I meant," James said as Sying pushed him into Chance.

"Too bad. I'm sitting by my younger uncle, so just deal with it."

"Well… if that's settled," Krissy said before she reached over with her tail to snag the remote and get back to the movie.

Of course, it didn't last long before someone on that end of the couch rebounded a piece of popcorn off of Krissy's forehead. She blinked for just a second before she decided that, rather than figure out who it was, she was going to get both of the boys — and simply threw a handful at both James and Sying.

"What is wrong with you?" James asked, sounding perfectly irritated. "Why do you want to start a fight?"

"Oh please," Krissy said with a little sniff. "If you're going to start something, at least own up to it."

"I'm not starting anything," James said, both hands raised before he pushed Chance out of the way and tackled her. "I'm finishing it."

She let out a shriek of surprise before she immediately started to tickle his sides with her tail to get him off, and he gave it right back to her until they were both crying laughing.

"Should I … do… something?" Chance muttered to Elin.

"Keep out of it," Elin said, ignoring them altogether and picking up the non-weaponized bowl of popcorn and offering him some. "They'll stop eventually."

"O...kay," he said, grabbing a handful as the movie kept right on playing and Sying looked highly entertained by the whole thing.

Chapter Text

It was late enough in the year that going to the barn simply wasn't a viable option, but there were plenty of hiding spots still available in Westchester, and Charlie knew almost all of them intimately.

Her favorite was actually the music room, though not many people would have thought of it as a hidden, quiet place. They didn't seem to realize that it was better insulated than a lot of the other rooms so that the practicing students didn't disrupt any other classes, which meant that as long as no one was in there to practice their music, it was one of the quietest spots in the whole institute.

It was also one of the few places that the Howletts could get away from all the noise of the institute in the middle of the semester. So, Charlie wasn't surprised at all when she could 'hear' James headed to the music room before he even made his appearance.

When he poked his head into the room, she made sure to smile at him warmly so that he didn't think he was intruding. "Come on in," she said. "I was just catching up on some homework." She gestured to a seat across the room. "There's plenty of space if you want privacy. I won't bother you."

"I'm more worried about bothering you," James said, still pausing near the door. "Seeing as you're the one that has to deal with everyone."

"I'm used to it," Charlie said with a shrug. "I can block you out if I need to."

"Or I can leave you your hiding spot," he replied. "And you won't have to concentrate on anything."

She rolled her eyes. "Stay," she said. "Really, I don't mind."


Charlie gave him a dry look. "Okay. Sit."

"If you try to rub my belly, we're going to have to listen to a lecture, I'm sure."

"I thought you already got one of those after Kari," Charlie said with a smirk.

"Yeah, but it was from my dad. 'Stop it' — very, very lengthy."

"Very," she agreed with a smirk.

James crossed the room and took a seat near the window, book in hand, though he didn't look much like he was interested in reading it.

"You know, you really don't have to stay if you're bored," Charlie said, looking up at him.

He let out a sigh and leaned his head back against the wall. "It's more of a hiding situation here too," he replied. "Trying to avoid overly snuggly Wagners."

"You think the lecture will get longer for repeat offenses?" she teased.

"Don't start," he said, giving her a little look.

"Can't take it, don't dish it," she said, still smirking.

"I'm not trying to," he promised, curling up on himself a little tighter.

She smiled at him and shook her head as she came over to sit next to him. "I'm just teasing."

"Oh sure," he said. "You say that now as you move into the hug zone. I can see what you're up to."

"What have you got against hugs, anyway?" she asked, shaking her head at him.

"Just … don't really want to be touched, honestly," he said with a shrug.

Charlie's smile wavered for a moment, and she let out a breath. "Is it his fault?" she asked hesitantly. "I didn't see…"

"I dunno," he said with a shrug. "Probably partly? His creepy thugs didn't have a light touch either."

"Yeah, I know," she said quietly. "The first time — with Remy — there was a lot of my feet never touching the floor."

"Must be nice," he replied. "I got dragged."

Charlie looked very much like she wanted to hug him but refrained. "I didn't know that."

"It doesn't matter," James said. "Can't change it … and there's no reason to freak anyone out with what happened. Just makes people nervous."

"I know," she said with a little nod. "Believe me, I know." she paused. "But you know, if you need an ear, it's not like … I mean, we were both separated. I saw Cody and Elin, but you got the special treatment too, locked away from everyone else, right?"

"Oh yeah, super special." James watched her for a long moment. "Where were you?"

"Upstairs," she said, her gaze on a spot beyond him as she thought about it. "Last time, he had … this weird dollhouse. This time, it was books. Lots and lots of books." She shuddered. "With anyone else, that would be nice, but that… that was creepy."

James' just stared at her with his eyebrows up. "Sounds like a nightmare."

"Don't tell my parents? But Chance and I watched Chucky once, and I had nightmares about those dolls for weeks," she told him with a muted smirk.

"My lips are sealed," James promised, though he looked overly thoughtful.

"What about you? I mean, I can't imagine there was a chemistry set…."

"Nothing like that," he said quickly. "Nothing … yeah, No."

She tipped her head to the side and studied him more carefully. "Well, it had to be pretty different. You were surprised by the dolls and books."

"Maybe he was just following form on how he dealt with our dads," James said diplomatically.

Charlie frowned at that and shook her head. "He shouldn't—" She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I thought... Since you were separate…"

He shook his head and frowned at her. "What are you sorry for?"

"I don't know. I just hate the idea that he treated you differently than me."

"I'm not sorry," James replied, tipping his chin up. "I would have been bored out of my mind with his idea of good reading and dolls. And if he'd given me a chemistry set, I'd have probably blown something up."

She had to smirk at that. "Yeah, you would have." She shrugged. "He had all my favorites, you know. Like he's been watching."

"Stalker," he said, shaking his head. "Looks like your family is plagued by them. Not that I have room to talk."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, that's one thing I'd have preferred not to share with my brother."

"Is whatserface hitting on you now?" James asked. "Because that seems like a very real threat."

Charlie made a face. "No, thank goodness."

He leaned back and tossed the book in his hand onto the nearest table. "So, now what?"

"Now… I guess we go back to school," she said.

"Right. I guess I'm staying here until your dad gets over his whatever and gets back to teaching," James said.

Charlie smirked. "Yeah, well, that's what happens when we steal your 'mentor' for math class."

"You know Tony's going to talk about like … everything but math for half the class, right?"

"I was thinking about finishing my history essay…"

"I thought it might be fun to get the class to give Tony a report card on how he did at the end of his time here." James was smirking to himself. "The comments section should be golden."

Charlie grinned. "Oh yeah. There's the James we know and love," she teased.

"Not sure what you're talking about," he said, going back to looking at his hands. "I'm going to end up spending the whole morning with Tony … probably going to be rebounding spit balls off the back of his head when he gets off track."

"And we're all going to be grateful for it," she said with a smile.

Scott was appreciative of everything that his team had done to find Dr. Sarah Manning, he really was. And she was a wonderful doctor. But he was more than ready to leave the hospital by then — and he was sure he'd worn down the doctors into letting him leave a few days early. He didn't need to stay any longer than that.

Thankfully, it hadn't been too long of a stay. He didn't have one of the heart attacks that most people thought of when they heard it — there were no blocked arteries, no clots, nothing like that. This was, he'd been told, a coronary artery spasm.

Basically, he'd overstressed his heart. Which didn't entirely surprise him, considering everything that had been going on.

There were a few tests to run and some forced rest and observation, but honestly, with no procedure or surgery, Scott didn't see a reason to stay longer than necessary.

Of course, what he didn't know was that his team had already spoken with Dr. Manning and warned her ahead of time to double the amount of time she told Scott would be required for his recovery. They knew he'd try to cut it in half anyway.

Either way, Scott was glad to be back at the institute, and the moment he saw Annie, he was sure to sweep her up into a passionate kiss, just to say hello.

Annie grinned up at him and slid her arms around his waist. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you missed me," she teased.

"Of course I did," he said and kissed her again. "Where are the kids?"

"Chloe and Charlie are playing checkers in our suite," Annie said. "Chance and Krissy made some hot chocolate, and I don't really know where they went after that."

"And Cody?"

"Cody found out that Sying is going to space for a semester and is trying to convince him to let him come," Annie said with a fond smile.

Scott let out a breath and nodded before he kissed the top of Annie's head. "It sounds like they're doing alright."

"The boys don't remember most of it," Annie admitted. "Charlie is still quiet, but I think it's helping her that Chance has been in such a good mood since he started dating Krissy." When he raised his eyebrows at her, he couldn't help but smirk when he saw the troublemaking sort of twinkle in her eyes at the pronouncement.

"You're a romantic, Annie," he told her.

"Of course I am. That's why you fell in love with me," Annie said with a little laugh.

He smiled at her and stole another kiss before he looked around. "What about Elin and James?" he asked. It was good to know his own kids were alright, of course, but he loved those two as well — not to mention one was his godson, and he was still torn up over the image of that sweet, smart little boy looked up and unconscious in a cage.

"They've been keeping to themselves," Annie admitted, and he could hear the honest concern in her voice as she said it.

"Yeah, I'll bet," Scott said, losing some of his earlier smile before he kissed Annie's cheek. "I'm headed up."

"Just be back in time for dinner."

"I will," he promised, leaning over to kiss her one more time before he slipped off, headed up the stairs to check on the other two kids he'd been worried about for the past few days.

Logan and K's oldest children were, as Annie had said, tucked away by themselves, curled up together away from the rest of the group, though when they saw that Scott was back, they were sure to give him a proper welcome and rush over to hug him.

"Hey, guys," Scott said as he squeezed them both. "How you holding up?"

"We're fine," Elin said. "How are you?"

"Doing better since I got home," he said, watching both of them carefully.

"So for the past ten minutes? That's … great," James muttered. "Miracle recovery."

He smirked. "Just wanted to check in on both of you. I didn't get to be there for you right after we got you out."

"It's fine," James said, with Elin nodding in agreement. "We had Mom and Dad."

"Well, if you need anything..." he said, still looking them over. It was obvious they weren't fine.

"We'll take care of it," Elin promised.

He shook his head at her. "It's alright not to be fine, you know," he said.

"It's been almost a week," Elin said. "We will. Be. Fine."

"You will be," Scott agreed with a nod. "But it's okay not to be there yet." He tipped his head to the side. "I know I've had a few sleepless nights after run-ins with him."

"And what do you do about it?" Elin asked, though James was quietly listening to both of them discuss things — and totally not willing to get into the middle of it.

Scott let out a breath. "Now? It helps when I'm with Annie. Having someone there — even if they don't understand it all — that helps."

"And before that?" she continued.

"Before that, I thought I could handle it on my own," Scott told her frankly. He tapped the center of his chest. "Pretty bad plan, huh?"

"Took a little while to catch up to you," James pointed out.

Scott nodded. "It did," he admitted. "But that doesn't mean it didn't catch up — and that doesn't mean I should have done it."

James drew in a deep breath and nodded sharply. "Right. Lesson learned vicariously."

Scott smirked and reached over to ruffle James' hair. "Godfather prerogative."

"Maybe when you get a note from your doctor, we should go fishing. That's good for you, right? As long as I don't hook your nose?"

Scott chuckled. "Yes. I'd appreciate it if you didn't take my nose as bait. We could go ice fishing later if you want."

"Sure," he agreed. "Been a long time since that happened."

"Great. I'll talk to your dad; we can go out before your birthday."

"As long as there's enough ice by then," James agreed.

"Should be," Scott said. "Or we can go up to Alaska and find a solid spot." He pulled James over to give him a quick hug before he did the same for Elin, and then he got up to leave them alone — since they clearly still needed their space.

Scott still had a little time before dinner, so he made his way across the residential halls to his family's suite — where, as Annie had said, his daughters were playing, though they had moved on from checkers to chess. And it looked like Chloe was winning. But as soon as the girls saw that he was back, they completely abandoned the game, rushing over to wrap him up in hugs as he dropped down to one knee so he could catch Chloe in particular.

"You're home!" Chloe giggled, wrapping her arms around his neck.

He grinned at her and pulled both of his girls into a warm hug to kiss the tops of their heads. "Sorry I was gone for so long."

"That's okay," Chloe promised.

"We're just glad you're alright now," Charlie added.

"What about you?" he asked, looking over Chloe's head to Charlie.

"I'm alright," she promised, though Scott raised both of his eyebrows at her when he heard her tone. He'd heard himself say those exact words, in that exact same way.

"It's alright it you're not," he told her quietly.

Charlie shook her head. "No, I'm alright," she said, more firmly this time. "I was scared, but I wasn't…" She trailed off and bit her lip.

Scott watched her for a moment before he kissed Chloe's head. "Could you help your mom set up for dinner, sweetheart?" he asked, and Chloe nodded quickly.

Once Chloe was gone, he sat down with Charlie and pulled her into a solid hug, though she squirmed out of it a bit. "I'm fine, Dad, really."

He shook his head at her. "Charlie, you shouldn't lie to me."

But that had her wide-eyed as she shook her head more strenuously. "Dad, I promise, I'm alright. I am. I was scared, and sometimes it takes some time to not be scared, but…" She took a deep breath. "I know the other kids got hurt worse. And I know he wanted to keep James. And I know... " Her voice caught for a second, and her lip quivered. "I know James didn't have a bedroom like me."

Scott stared at her for a moment before he pulled her into a tighter hug, with her head underneath his chin. "I'm sorry, Charlie," he murmured into her loose brown curls.

For a moment, Charlie tried not to melt into the hug, but that didn't last long at all before she was holding onto him tightly. "Why did he do that?" she whispered.

"I don't know," he admitted, holding onto her tighter. "I don't know why he's been following me, and I'm sorry that it's affecting you kids. I wish I knew so I could stop him."

"Dad, he had all my favorite books," Charlie said without picking her head up.

Scott had to take a deep breath, though he knew that Charlie could tell he was furious hearing it. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," she pointed out. "I just… I want to know why I had Nancy Drew books and James was locked up."

"I don't have a good answer for you," he admitted. "I can only tell you that he's been following our family for generations."

Charlie nodded as she thought it over and then let out a breath. "He … he was excited about Cody," she said after a long moment's pause. "More than me. Because he's like you."

Scott closed his eyes when he heard it and simply tightened his hold on Charlie. "I'm sorry you heard that."

"I'm not," Charlie said, surprising Scott with the tone she took. She met his gaze. "I think I'd rather know what was going on. I don't like not knowing. And…" She took a deep breath. "I want to make sure my brothers are safe."

Scott smiled at her and kissed her forehead. "Charlie, you are amazing, you know that?"

She grinned. "Just like my dad."

Chapter Text

It had been a few weeks since everything that had happened with Sinister, and while the main body of students was getting back into a more normal schedule, the team itself had been pushing hard to try and find Sinister — and Jana.

But they were coming up empty, to their increasing frustration.

In the meantime, several of their friends had been coming and going to check in on the team. Noh and Forge had gone over the defense systems yet again, Kitty had double-checked their work with David, and just about everyone had come to check on Scott after hearing about the heart attack.

So it was almost a relief to Scott when someone came into his office with work to do rather than with well wishes — as Betsy arrived to talk about the school opening on Muir Island in a few months.

"We can start taking kids over the summer if they don't have families to go home to for the holidays," Betsy explained. "We won't be done in time for the spring semester, but we should be able to open our doors in June."

"That should help with things around here," Scott agreed.

Betsy nodded and watched Scott for a moment. She hadn't brought it up the entire time she had been there, but now, she had to ask, "And how are things around here, then?"

Scott let out all his breath. "I'm fine, Betsy, really."

"I know." She smiled at him and reached over to rest a hand on his arm. "You always are. But I had to ask."

"I'm more concerned about the kids, to be honest."

"I'm sure," she agreed.

"We've revamped all the codes and the security systems—"

"But you still don't think it's going to be enough." Betsy shrugged lightly when Scott looked up at her. "I wasn't prying. It's plain enough to see even without telepathy."

Scott scrubbed a hand over his face. "I don't know," he told her. "We couldn't stop him before, and now he's running around with everything Jana has learned from living in the institute for years, learning our team maneuvers, learning how to take each of us down best…" He shook his head. "It's not even just the team. It's the personal details. He knows Charlie's favorite books. I'm sure he knows every little detail he could get his hands on…"

"So it's personnel and not just the systems," Betsy said, still watching Scott for a long time before she took a deep breath. "Scott, maybe it would help if they were somewhere else."

"Where?" Scott gestured broadly. "The institute is the safest place in the world for mutants. We've spent decades making sure that's the case. If they're not safe here…"

"That may be true of every other mutant child that comes to this school, but we're not talking about just any mutant," Betsy said calmly. "Sinister has had just as much time to get to know the team, to study your defenses, and to study the kids."

"Then what would you suggest?" Scott asked, his frustration coming out in his tone.

"Scott," Betsy said evenly, "Sinister doesn't have any experience with my school. Most of the staff isn't even on his radar. Do you think for a second that Moira would let him get anywhere near your kids?"

For a moment, Scott looked totally taken aback as he considered it. Betsy waited for him patiently, without changing her expression, before he finally let out his breath and scrubbed a hand over his face. "I'm not sending my kids across the world unless they agree to it — and Annie has to agree," he said at last. "And not without taking to Kurt. They should have a bamf with them in case Sinister comes back again."

"Of course," Betsy said.

It wasn't until the next day that Scott approached Cody and Charlie about the idea of going to Europe — not because he was reluctant to bring it up but because the fact of the matter was that it had taken that long to come to an agreement with Annie.

He didn't like the idea of their kids being that far away either, but it had helped significantly when they got Kurt on board. The kids could come home to visit after classes, over the weekend, whenever they wanted — they would simply be living in Europe.

That is, if they agreed to it.

Once they had the kids wrangled — all four of them, since Scott was sure this would be a discussion they'd have to have with Chloe when she got her powers, and since Chance and Charlie had never been separated that much — Scott and Annie sat them down to lay it out.

They weren't surprised, though, when neither of their kids was that excited about it.

Charlie's eyes were wide as she shook her head. "I don't want to leave," she said. "I worked so hard to stay…."

"We won't make you go," Annie promised softly.

"I don't want to go by myself," Cody said, his eyes just as wide as Charlie's.

"But you should go," Charlie said, turning to Cody, perfectly serious. "That's creep's more interested in you."

Cody crossed his arms with a glare that lit up his glasses a brighter red than usual. "That's ridiculous."

"She's not wrong," Scott told him gently, which had Cody glaring that much harder.

"I could go with you," Chance offered suddenly, and Cody's head came up in surprise when he heard it. Chance shrugged. "Well, if you don't want to go by yourself, then I can come and look out for you."

"I don't need to be looked out for," Cody insisted.

"Okay, well, I can just come and make sure you're not by yourself," Chance said with a shrug. "That's what big brothers do."

"Are you sure?" Scott asked, both eyebrows raised. "I thought you wanted to go out for the team."

Chance nodded. "I'd rather make sure Cody's alright," he said honestly. "And… besides, I bet I can learn a lot in Europe. And you said we could visit all the time, so it's not like I'd have to miss out on too much, right?"

Annie and Scott glanced at each other, surprised by this turn of events, before they both nodded. "Kurt has already agreed to send you with a bamf, like he does for James when he studies at Stark Industries."

"Well, great, then we've got a way to visit, and we can still go to the range with K on weekends and stuff," Chance said, bumping Cody's shoulder with his own. "That's not so bad, right?"

"I guess so," Cody said slowly.

"And, hey, we can share a room if you're still nervous," Chance swore.

Cody looked around at his family for a long moment, obviously thinking it over, before he very slowly nodded. "Alright," he said. "But if I hate it, I can go back to staying here, right?"

Scott nodded. "Of course you can."

"Besides," Annie said warmly, "once we catch that man, none of this will be necessary."

Cody took a deep breath before he nodded. "Alright," he said. "I'll try it."

"Papa, I want to go to a different school," Krissy announced.

"Oh?" Kurt said, looking up from the play he was looking through. "Which one?"

"I want to go to Europe," Krissy said, her smile wide and pleading, with her hands clasped in front of her.

Kurt looked at her for a moment and let out a little huff. "Not this year."

"Why not?" Krissy asked, pushing her lower lip out.

"Because you won't be going into high school yet," Kurt said easily. "And you're too young to make that decision until that time. More or less."

"But Cody's going, and he's ten."

"That's between Cody and his parents — and that is entirely to keep him out from Sinister's radar."

Krissy pushed her lower lip even further out. "But Papa!"

"I'm not saying no forever," Kurt said. "Just no to this coming year."

"But most of the staff are your old friends," Krissy argued.

"And yet that isn't a solid argument in your favor," he replied easily.

"And — and I can come home all the time. It only takes a few 'ports…"

"Not this coming year," he repeated.

"But Chance is going!" Krissy blurted out.

Kurt lost his easy countenance and gave her his full attention. "Then absolutely not — you can't be following a boy to an entirely different continent."

"You would!" Krissy shot back with her hands on her hips.

"I would not," Kurt replied, his nose up.

"Yes, you would," she said. "You always say you would follow Mama to the ends of the earth."

"Ah, but she wasn't my first love," he pointed out. "You're too young. No."

"I'm almost old enough to try out for the team. I should be old enough to go to Europe!"

"When you're old enough to try out for the team, we'll revisit this."

"But fall admissions will be closed by then!"

"Which follows what I said before," Kurt pointed out. "Not this year. If you still want to go the following year, then I'll take you myself and show you around."

Krissy let out a long and dramatic sigh. "Well, you better warm up your tour guide, Papa, because I am going to Europe."

"Oh?" Kurt said, his tail swaying behind him. "Is that a promise?"

"You bet it is," she said, sticking her chin up.

"Even if Chance decides to return?" Kurt challenged, resting his chin in the palm of his hand.

Krissy seemed to wilt a bit. "Well…"

Kurt pointed at her, knowing he had her caught. "And that is precisely why I am going to say 'no' for sure, at least until you decide to make decisions for yourself. And not someone else."

"But Papa, I really, really like him," Krissy insisted.

"I know," he said, sounding entirely sympathetic. "But I don't want you to make the same mistakes that I have done. Choose what's best for you — not what's best for someone else. And until you're old enough to make those choices yourself, then I'll have to make sure you do the right thing."

"The right thing according to you," she pouted.

"Consider it the voice of experience."

Krissy let out all her breath. "I knew I should have asked Mama."

"I'm not so sure she would agree with you," Kurt replied.

"Mama went to space with a boy she liked."

"How old was she?" Kurt asked, going back to his book.

"Not that much older than me," Krissy pouted.

"How old?"

"Okay so she was twenty. But still. You and Mama are always saying to follow my heart, and then you don't let me."

"Yes, but you should be an adult before that happens," Kurt said. "It's our duty to make sure you learn to be responsible and make good choices. If we can."

Krissy's ears were drooping along with her tail — she was so disappointed that she didn't even see the bamfs behind her mimicking her pouting. "But Chance is going to Europe, and Sying is going to space!"

"And those choices are up to their parents," Kurt said. "Everyone has their own story."

Krissy rolled her eyes. "Ugh. Why did I get the boring parents?"

"Lucky, I guess," Kurt said, not bothered in the least by her little outburst. "Perhaps we should forget our pirate adventures if it's so boring …"

"No!" Krissy said quickly, her eyes wide. "Then I would die of boredom! That's the only fun thing you let me do!"

"Is it? So the archery is a chore then too? And the swordfighting? And the trips to the beach? I'm sure there's nothing else of note that you'd miss if we stopped ..."

Krissy let out a noise of pure frustration. "You are just — so — ugh!" she said before disappearing in purple smoke.

"What was that all about?" Kate asked, peering out from around the corner with her red pen tucked up in her hair — she had been working on her publishing work in their room until then.

"Krissy wanted to follow Chance to Europe," Kurt said in a bored tone. "I told her no."

"I take it that went well," she said with a smirk as she came to sit beside him.

"She was upset," he agreed, setting his play aside. "But I'd told her no before I knew Chance was the motivating factor. I did say next year. That wasn't fast enough."

"Well, consider the source," Kate teased, leaning over to steal a kiss. "Face it, liebchen, we make romantics."

"It's unavoidable, Vögelchen," he agreed, pulling her down for a more involved kiss.

True to his word, Scott did take James ice fishing, though they headed up to K's cabin once he got clearance from his doctor to travel. They hadn't had the chance to get away just the two of them in what felt like far too long, so Scott expected that this trip would be good for both of them.

They didn't say much as they got to K's hidden away cabin, unloading their things in companionable silence before they grabbed their fishing gear and headed out. They didn't really need to talk, and neither of them had ever been good at expressing themselves in matters like this anyway.

But Scott was glad that they had this chance. He knew that James wasn't as okay as he was pretending to be — none of the kids were — and he wanted to take the time to be with his godson.

Still, he knew that trying to sit down and talk to James wasn't going to cut it. He'd already tried that with both James and Elin, and the kids had shut down on him. Not that he blamed them. When he'd had to deal with Sinister — far too often — he had wanted to retreat. He still remembered what it felt like to be that age and to feel like he had no control of what happened to him, to his life, to his body. And considering that James was still struggling with his newfound abilities, that had to weigh even heavier on him.

Scott knew there was nothing anyone could say that would make that feeling go away.

So instead, Scott decided to make sure that James knew he was there, when he was ready to open up. And he especially wanted to make it clear to James that he wasn't going anywhere when he knew the kid had to be shaken by Scott's recent health scare. All of the kids were. And he knew it.

He had to keep promising Annie and his kids that he was going to stick around. Might as well say the same to James — but in a language that James spoke.

And if that was a quiet fishing trip in which the two of them didn't say anything but instead sat in each other's presence? Then that's what Scott would do.

Chapter Text

It had been a few weeks since Sinister had resurfaced, but there was no sign of him anywhere — which, on the one hand, meant that he hadn't come after anyone, but on the other, it also meant that Jana had been missing for about a month now.

Things had started to go sort of back to normal, at least where the kids were concerned. Finals were over… Christmas was coming up…But Charlie had noticed when Remy came into the mansion — not just because she knew his 'music' but because he was so disappointed. He hadn't really gone back to LA ever since the Sinister incident, and while at first, Charlie had thought it was because he had been the last one Sinister used and wanted to make sure it didn't happen to anyone else… one of the advantages of being quiet was that she overheard plenty.

So, she slid up next to Remy and rested her head on his arm when he got back from yet another unsuccessful search. "You'll find her," she said. "I know you will."

"Fo' sure," Remy replied gruffly. "Ain't no other possibility, petit."

"She's lucky," Charlie said. "I mean, I've got a pretty great dad, and I know he'll come after me when I'm in trouble. So she's lucky she's got you too."

"Only she don' know dat yet," Remy pointed out.

"She will," Charlie said. "And I'm sure she'll be excited. I mean, you're pretty amazing." She smiled up at him.

He pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head. "You one sweet lil' ting."

"I only say things that are true," she said with a little smirk.

"Don' make you no less sweet," he pointed out.

"Well, I couldn't let my favorite teacher look so sad this close to Christmas," she said.

Remy let out a quiet laugh and offered her his arm. "You wanna help me make dinner?" he asked. "I don' know who's up tonight, but I'm takin' over anyhow."

"Absolutely!" she agreed with a beaming smile. "I'll help with the gumbo."

Kate was planning to sleep in on her birthday, but that plan went right out the window when, of all things, she woke up to a cat licking her face.

"What the actual heck," Kate muttered as she scrambled awake and picked the kitten up to put her down on the ground — though she noticed that the sweet little fluffball had an arrow on her collar.

But that wasn't the only strange thing in her room. Oh no. There was an overly floral decorated couch, and the whole place… smelled like a grandmother's house. Gingersnaps and that weird smell that no one could identify…. Not to mention the bowl of taffy on her desk… the slippers at the foot of her bed… Kate was shaking her head. She had expected her friends to get her back for all the ridiculous birthday things — and she was forty now, after all — but this was not on her radar. And she'd slept through it all…

Henry, I'm going to get you back for this, Kate thought, shaking her head as she went to her closet and let out a cry of dismay when she saw that there was nothing in her closet but frilly, lacy, flowered dresses.

"Oh no," she said. "No, no. I'll just wear my pajamas all day, thank you very much."

She was just crawling back into the covers when the kitten hopped up onto the bed with her, and she shook her head. "Alright. Do you have a name?" She leaned down to check out the tag, but she didn't see one. "Alright, Princess, you're adorable and all, but I think it's just going to be you and me, because I am not wearing those dresses," she told the kitten, who pushed her nose into Kate's hand.

Her phone went off with the first of several texts — all of them wishing her a happy birthday, though some of them were threatening to pour out the last of the coffee if she wasn't going to get with it and get some.

Kate rolled her eyes. "Ugh. Fine. But you're all putting up with my silk jammies," she told her phone as she picked up the kitten and took it with her, seeing as it was pretty well attached to her at this point.

As usual, the ferals were curled up in a corner together, their newspaper divided between them as they got into their coffee … but both of them were dressed far outside of their usual attire. As was the rest of the staff, it seemed, once Kate got a moment to look at all of them.

"Good morning," Annie sang out as she finished flipping a few pancakes.

Kate stared at the group of Grim Reapers — including the very tiny Grim Reaper that had to be her youngest son, considering the little maroon tail sticking out the end of his costume and the giggles coming from under the hood — before she burst into laughter. "Oh. Please tell me you got the whole house in on this."

"Ninety-eight percent," Kurt told her.

Kate chuckled as she peered under his hood so she could steal a kiss. "Who was the holdout?"

"Two girls from your archery class," Scott said. "But I think that James and Kaleb made up for it with the makeup."

Kate grinned up at Scott. "I dunno. I think you've got the build for it, boss man," she teased. "Too realistic. Take it back."

"What did you expect from a guy that goes by 'Slim'?" K asked.

Kate laughed as she sat down by K. "Does she have a name?" she asked, gesturing at her new kitten.

"Oh no," K said, shaking her head. "That's a job for an old lady. Naming their many cats. Besides, if I name it, you can bet it would be inappropriate, and then Scott would have problems."

"Let's save him another heart attack and just name her 'Princess'," Kate decided, grinning wider.

"So … Happy Birthday," K told her. "The coffee is a special blend — easy on your tummy. Poor thing."

"Oh, you guys are just… how long have you been planning this?" Kate giggled.

"Not long," Logan told her. "It was a thrown-together thing."

"You gotta earn back your young lady things by proving your young-lady ness…. Big sis," K said.

Kate smirked and leaned over to Kurt. "I have a few ideas…"

"The rules state nothing that would get you to break a hip," K sang out. "Because … that would disqualify you immediately."

Kate smirked. "I wasn't going to break anything."

"That's what they all say."

"I'm just saying: it would prove a few things if we had a fifth elfling," Kate teased.

"Oh, well. By all means," Annie called out.

Kate gestured toward Annie. "See? She's on board with this plan."

"Is that an offer?" Logan asked as Kurt broke into a laugh. "Because that sounds like an offer."

"Mmm, no. This is between me and my Elf," Kate said.

"Oh, in your dreams, old lady," Logan shot back. "I'm advocating for my poor neglected friend here."

Kate stuck her tongue out at him, then started to grin. "Stop telling me what to do! You're not my dad!" she said in what was a scary-good impression of Krissy.

"But you're screwing around with mine, mean old lady," K said.

Kate rolled her eyes at her. "Don't judge us. We're in love, okay?"

"Worst step-mom ever," K muttered. "She's gonna make me run away with my sweetheart."

"Oooh, we should do that," Kate said, grinning up at Kurt.

"Do what?" Kurt asked with a laugh.

"Run away together," she said.

"To an island?" he suggested, grinning right back at her.

"Yes, absolutely."

"Destined to return with number five … and at her age, maybe number six too," Logan muttered in K's ear, which got her snickering to herself.

"Won't be an abracadabara situation," K said. "Maybe Captain Morgan and some … other. Things."

"Oh, you better be careful," Kate giggled, grinning up at Kurt. "My older brother is good with a shotgun."

"I think I can handle him," Kurt laughed. "He's starting to slow down."

"He helped with the cat," Annie laughed.

"Yep, he even let Wade and Lisbet come over to be sure that Little Fluffy Butt here was good with the dog," K told her. "Pizza cat."

Kate laughed delightedly. "Yes! That exactly."

"So, we get to keep her?" Kaleb asked, grinning delightedly, which looked particularly fun with the Reaper facepaint.

"Oh yeah. Her name's Princess," Kate said.

"Princess Pizza Cat," Logan corrected.

"Princess for short," Kate said. "And you're all distracting me from a promised island getaway."

"Yeah … that can't happen until the weekend," Logan said. "Sorry. We'll be shorthanded as-is."

"Ugh. You guys never let me do anything fun," Kate said.

"Wanna go check out a lead on Jana with me?" Logan offered without looking up from his paper.

Kate nodded immediately. "Sure. I'd rather shoot Marauders than put up with denture jokes."

"It'll be us and Remy then," Logan told her. "He's worthless for anything else right now. But you still get denture jokes."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine. But when I take down more Marauders than you, they have to stop."

Logan barked out a laugh. "That ain't never gonna happen."

"Oh yeah?" Kate grinned as she got to her feet. "Just try and keep up, old man."

"Keep up? I'll set the pace, Gray Hair. You just try not to get yourself too winded while you tag along."

The tip was good, as it turned out, when it came to Jana's location. It wasn't one of the hiding places on K's list — because at the moment, Sinister wasn't looking to hide away. He was simply looking to get one more power on his wish list for augmentation. When he had gone to the mansion, he hadn't gotten his hands on any telepaths, and with Rachel already having proven once before that she could burn him out of any host mind, it seemed he was going for the easier route.

Kate could hardly believe it when Logan said that it was Daken who called in the tip, though when she heard who it was that Sinister had taken, it sort of made sense.

Daken was part of the Hellfire Club, after all — she knew that. But she hadn't realized (though in retrospect, she realized she should have) that he had gone in not just because he was bored and wanted to screw with people but because it was an opportunity to gather information for Logan on the club and their movements.

In retrospect, that made a lot of sense. And was probably why none of those idiots had tried to kill Annie… or try to make Rachel give Emma her powers back…

Either way, it was a lead, and the best one they'd had in weeks.

The location Daken had given them was closer to the city than they were used to, not far from Seattle — but again, Sinister wasn't hiding. This was a temporary lab so that he could get something else on his wish list.

They had just spotted the first Marauder when Kate reached out on instinct and gave Remy's arm a squeeze. When he raised an eyebrow her way, she smiled at him. "You're usually the one calming the rest of us down. Figured someone could return the favor and remind you we got your back." She smiled a little wider. "I wouldn't spend my birthday fighting Sinister for just anybody."

Remy smiled tightly back at her. "Miss Kate, we all gon' be fine soon as we get dat creep outta Jana."

Kate nodded at that and then reached back to string an arrow — and the three of them dove into action. Even with everything else that was going on, Kate couldn't help but pay a little closer attention to Remy as he plowed his way through the Marauders. Sure, Logan was doing his concentrated butt kicking as usual, but Kate had never seen Remy this pissed off before — and it was showing in how much he was creaming the Marauders, with both his powers and his bo staff.

Usually, Remy played small-time with his powers and his playing cards, but this time, Kate looked over just in time to see him reach the front door as the entire frame of it glowed bright pink and then exploded, not only taking out a few Marauders but blasting the door backwards far enough that the door itself took out a few creeps too.

Kate let out a low whistle as she saw Remy burst into the house, with Logan not far behind. "Remind me not to make the Cajun mad. Ever," she muttered to no one in particular before she rushed to catch up to the other two.

Logan was working just ahead of Remy — and the two of them were cutting a wide path deeper into the building. Kate shot over their shoulders whenever someone popped up that looked as if they might be getting too close to her friends, and before long, they'd all but burst into the lab where Jana was elbow deep in Emma Frost.

The telepath was even paler than usual, which was saying something, and when she saw them come in, she tried, very weakly, to call out to the two men.

But it was Kate who got to Jana first, with an arrowhead that she simply hadn't ever had reason to use before. They'd kept a few of the inhibitor tags that the Friends of Humanity had tried to use before, and she had a few arrowheads made with them for exactly this kind of emergency. She swore up and down that she never wanted to use them unless she had to, but for this?

She tagged Jana right in the shoulder, which meant that the girl — who was now far paler than they were used to seeing her and who had completely changed her wardrobe for something far more like what Sinister would wear — could no longer teleport out of there or use any of her other stolen powers.

That didn't mean, of course, that she was unable to fight, and the first thing she did was to more or less try to make sure the X-Men were too distracted to go after her, slicing open Emma even more than before and stepping back as the White Queen started to bleed out.

Logan rushed forward to Emma, abandoning the fight in favor of trying to keep her from bleeding to death, even getting a little smile from her as he did so. "I didn't think you'd bother," Emma said quietly.

"Shut up and let me work," Logan told her as he pressed more gauze to the fast bleeding wounds.

While Logan tried to save Emma, Kate and Remy rushed Jana. And while Sinister had always been a good fighter, without any help, the fact of the matter was that Jana was too small to stand up to them once Remy got her solidly pinned and Kate put a tranq in her arm — though neither of them let her up until it was absolutely clear she was unconscious.

As Remy scooped up the unconscious young woman, Kate turned to Logan and frowned when she saw what was going on. He was shaking his head and desperately trying to stop the bleeding — but it just wasn't doing him any good, and it was clear that they weren't going to be able to move her.

"Go ahead," he told them. "Send a bamf. I'm not going to let her go alone."

Kate raised both eyebrows at that, though Remy was already on his way out with Jana. "O…kay," she said slowly before she rushed after Remy, figuring she could at least get the other two back. On the way, she made sure to call up the cell phone she left with the bamfs for just this reason — and let them know that their favorite troublemaking buddy needed a pickup.

Which meant that, a few moments later, Kurt teleported to the coordinates Kate had given them for Logan. He took in the scene in an instant with a frown before he rushed over to help Logan. "Was is los?" he asked. "What happened?"

"Spitefulness," Logan said, shaking his head. "We interrupted Sinister mid-gathering, and she took a second to make the situation worse." He stopped talking and trying to explain before he glanced up at Kurt. "I can't stop it." He never took his hands from the wounds, and he was keeping up pressure, but they both knew with a wound this bad, and with how much blood Emma had already lost, she was on her way out.

Kurt met his gaze and looked back at Emma, who was fading fast even to his estimation. "No," he agreed very softly before he briefly rested his hand on Logan's shoulder and then let out a breath before he very softly started to go through the Last Rites for Emma.

It didn't take long, and the truth was that Emma was gone before Kurt had finished. The two of them stood there with her for a long moment before Logan headed across the lab to get a clean sheet to wrap her up. "Can't leave her here," he said as he got to work. "Don't know where to take her, but we can't leave her here."

"Perhaps you could get the Hellfire's Club's location from Daken," Kurt offered.

"They don't care about her or anyone else in their ranks," Logan pointed out. "Do me a favor and call Petey. Maybe we can just leave it to SHIELD."

Kurt nodded and stepped back from Logan as he pulled out his cell phone to call Peter, who answered cheerfully and quickly, "Happy New Years Eve! Oh, and tell Kate 'Happy Birthday' from me."

"Yes, thank you — and Happy New Years to you too," Kurt said, though he didn't sound overly enthusiastic at all, cluing Peter in pretty quickly to the fact that something was wrong. "We have a little issue, and we're not quite sure how to proceed." He took a deep breath and tried to be as straightforward as possible. "The White Queen is dead," Kurt told him frankly. "Mr. Sinister, inhabiting another person's body, killed her. We can't just leave her where this happened, and we can't bring her back to the mansion."

Peter's tone changed entirely. "Oh." He let out his breath into the phone. "Okay. Alright. So. Pretty sure I know where the Cuckoos are — or, at least, SHIELD does. That work?"

"Yes," Kurt said. "With all the trouble we've had with the Hellfire Club in recent years, we don't want to bring this to the mansion. Logan and I are keeping watch for now, and I can send you the coordinates."

"Great. I'll bring a team — or send a team. There will be SHIELD there shortly. Just keep an eye out."

"We're not going anywhere," Kurt promised, hanging up the phone before he put a hand on Logan's shoulder. The two of them stood in silence for some time as they waited.

It was never easy to be in the company of death.

Chapter Text

The X-Men already had the room prepped that they had used when Remy was possessed by Sinister, which would keep him from jumping to anyone else, so all that was left was for Remy and Kate to get back with Jana. Rachel was pacing and flexing out her hands, ready to get this creep out of the young woman he was using, and Scott had only stopped pacing because he had turned his attention to triple-checking the locks on the cell they had prepared.

Jana was still unconscious when Remy finally brought her in, though she was starting to stir. It was disconcerting to see the physical changes that had already taken place, from the paler skin to the red glow in her eyes when she did open them. Her lips pulled back in a sneer when she saw the room as well as Rachel in it. "And the willful little pest returns," she said through her sneer.

"I could say the same thing," Rachel said evenly as she sat down across from Jana, though she wasn't about to let Sinister drag this out any longer. Instead, she simply jumped right into Jana's mind, fully expecting to be able to do the same thing she had done with Remy to push Sinister out of his mind.

But to her surprise, she had only gotten partway into Jana's mind before she saw that it just wasn't going to be that simple. Sinister had leached into Jana's mind like an infection, the deep red influence obvious everywhere that Rachel looked.

Not quite so simple this time, is it? Sinister's voice echoed in Jana's mind. I've had time, my dear. If you truly want to be rid of me, you'll simply have to kill the girl.

She frowned and considered her options. That would of course be the simplest way, but … she'd burned him out once … a closer look made it clear to her that even if she could find every pathway and vein he'd burrowed into, she simply couldn't keep the focus up long enough to burn out every last bit of him. And he had traps in Jana's psyche, things that would do her damage and tear her apart if he triggered them.

Rachel could do it if she relied on the Phoenix, but… she only wanted to use that power as a last resort, especially with an innocent woman in the middle of it all.

Dad, Rachel projected to Scott. I can't do it. Not without killing her too. It's too widespread into every cell of her being.


It took all my concentration last time, she explained. And I did it, but I didn't have too far to look. He's honestly taken her over entirely, and I don't have the juice to keep it up long enough to burn it all out. If I only go partway, he'll just build up while I recharge.

It was obvious Scott was shocked by how long it took him to respond. Alright, he said at last. There has to be something else we can do. We'll figure it out.

Rachel glanced his way and nodded, sure that he was right, but also at a loss as to what to do about it.

Rachel, he prompted her, then gave her a small reassuring smile. It's fine. I'll call Strange and see if there's a magical solution here.

She nodded again and let out a breath. "Then I guess, for now, we'll just have to keep this one in a collar."

"And under tight watch," Scott agreed. "Not in the institute." He let out a breath before he took out his phone to call Peter.

"What happened?" Remy asked with a frown.

"I can't get him out without killing her," Rachel told him quietly.

"Whatchu mean?" Remy asked, his eyes narrowed. "You did it wit' ol' Remy jus' fine."

"I mean he's like a virus in there," Rachel said. "With you, he didn't have the time to dig in like he's had with her. Burning him out would burn her with him. He's everywhere in her mind."

Remy shook his head. "You de mos' powerful telepath in de world. Get him outta my lil' girl," he said, clearly irritated.

"I will — but I need help," Rachel said.

"Well, tell ol' Remy whatchu need, and dey be here in a second."

"You can't do anything, Remy," she told him. "Dad's getting into it already. I promise."

For just a second, Remy glared at Rachel before he let out a scoff, turned on his heel, and swept off, muttering under his breath the whole way.

"Um … is the team there already?" Peter asked when he picked up Scott's call. "That was fast."

"What are you talking about?" Scott asked.

"I thought you might be with Logan and Kurt," Peter said. "They called for some extra um … you know, it might be better to hear it from them?"

"Sounds like it," Scott said with a frown.

"They're fine!" Peter promised quickly. "They're just waiting for a transport. No … no big thing to get yourself all twisted out of shape over. Everything's fine." He cleared his throat to fill the dead air. "So. What … was it you wanted again? Happy New Year's Eve!"

"Yeah, happy New Year's Eve," Scott said, frowning to himself. "What do they need transport for? Kurt should be able to get them out just fine."

"Woah, it's not for them," Peter said, trying to reassure Scott. "They're just securing the scene until we can … you know... pick up the White Queen. They didn't tell you this?"

"Ah, no. But we've had our hands full over here." Scott said. "We've got another pickup for you when you're through."

"Sure, sure," Peter said, nodding to himself. "What kind of a pick up do you need? Because this New Years Eve is totally weird so far."

"High security," Scott said. "We've got Sinister here."

"Eww," Peter said, totally on instinct. "Yeah, okay. Big bad pick up. I should probably go for that one, right? I mean. That's like … higher on the scale of … okay. We'll be right there."

"Thanks, Peter," Scott said. "You should know: it's not the Sinister you're used to seeing. He's taken over one of our junior squad members, and we can't get him out psychically."

"Duly noted," Peter said. "Not as creepy on one side, but overly creepy on another. Gross. You guys have the weirdest call-ins, did you know that? You have to know that, right? This is not normal."

"Yeah, I've heard that a few times since we started working with the Avengers on rotation," Scott said with a whisper of a smirk. "Stay in touch with Strange, too. I'm going to ask him to see if he can get Sinister out magically, since we can't do a psychic extraction."

"Alright, great. I'll see you in a bit with a super duper high security SHIELD detail."

Scott nodded. "See you then."

As it turned out, Logan and Kurt teleported in shortly after that. Logan looked worn out. He had blood dried to his arms and front — more so than usual — so Kurt decided to take him straight to his room so he could clean up before he took the time to debrief.

Logan simply headed off to take a shower, sure that Scott would be looking for the breakdown of what had happened and how, so he rushed the cleanup and threw on the first clean clothes he saw on his way back down, anxious to see how things had gone with Jana.

So he was a little cautious in his approach when he saw that Scott looked down, rubbing his hands over his face before he looked up to see Logan.

"I was a bloody mess," Logan said. "Had to deal with it before the kids saw." He tipped his chin up at Scott. "What's the story?"

"Rachel can't do it," Scott said simply.

"You mean she can't do it yet," Logan said. "She will."

"I'm calling Doctor Strange to see if there's a non-psychic solution here," Scott admitted. "Rachel says he's in there too deep."

Logan nodded and leaned against the wall as he watched Scott. "Between the two of 'em, it'll happen."

"Yeah." He looked up at Logan. "Right. How did the mission end? I know Peter said he picked up Emma. I've got him coming to pick up Jana. Or… Sinister."

"Yeah, it was a real low-priorty pickup, honestly," Logan said. "I take it you haven't talked to Kurt."

"Not yet. I just got off the phone with Ilyanna trying to get a hold of Strange," Scott admitted.

"Alright." Logan let out his breath. He really would have preferred not to be the one bringing this particular news. "Emma's dead. That's what took so long. We did what we could, but … Sinister got a little vindictive when we interrupted."

Scott totally stopped. "Oh."

"Had Petey deal with notifying the Cuckoos," Logan continued. "Figured they didn't need to be pokin' around here, all things considered."

"Right." Scott leaned back as he tried to order his thoughts. "Right. Well. Thank you for telling me."

"Not something I wanted to do," Logan admitted before he pushed off from the wall.

"Right. I'll tell Annie… She'll be relieved to hear the White Queen won't be looking her way, I think," Scott said slowly.

"She's Southern," Logan said as he crossed the room. "She'll look like it was a sad thing as best she can."

"She has been getting a better poker face since she started hanging out with your wife," Scott said with an attempt at a smirk.

"Yeah, but this falls under the whole 'don't speak ill of the dead'," Logan pointed out. "She came to you with that one set already."

Scott nodded. "Anything else?"

"Not really," Logan said, shaking his head. "I was out of the fight nearly as soon as we got into the room with Sinister. Remy and Kate handled that part while I tried to stop the bleeding."

"Kate said the fight wasn't too long anyway," Scott said.

"Not at that point, no," Logan agreed.

"If you interrupted him, that would explain it. It's the best time his guard is down." Scott rubbed his eyes. "As bad as that sounds."

"We did," he said, nodding. "And he took it out on her." He shrugged. "Come to think of it, he probably did it to keep one of us out of the fight."

"That wouldn't surprise me," Scott said. He let out a sigh. "Everyone else is starting to get together for the New Year's party if you want to join them. I'm just waiting to meet up with Peter."

"Not sure I'm much in the mood for a crowd," Logan replied.

Scott gestured to a nearby seat. "You can wait for Peter if you want. Shouldn't be too long and then we can make sure Sinister's in a collar in a SHIELD cell until we can get him out of Jana."

Logan nodded and thought about it for a moment before he crossed the span and took a seat. He didn't really have anything to add, and he knew Peter would want to make sure that his team had done what they were supposed to. So, in light of all that, he settled in for another quick debrief. At least a partial one.

When Peter and the SHIELD team got there, though, Peter was in a much lighter mood than the situation necessarily called for as he grinned at the other two heroes. "Figured I'd come down for this one myself. Kinda A-list… no, A+-list… anyhoo. You guys alright?" he asked, finally coming around to that last part when he saw the looks they were wearing.

"Fine," Scott said, though he was already getting up to watch the SHIELD agents take the collared and tranquilized Jana-Sinister out of the mansion. "I'll need a call once Sinister's locked up — and one if anything goes wrong."

"Yeah, for sure," Peter promised.

"I can go with if you want, Slim," Logan offered.

Peter tipped his head Logan's way. "I mean, you can, but Clay's running this … thing… I was thinking about staying here and spending New Year's Eve with the family."

Scott looked between Logan and Peter for a moment, took a deep breath, and shook his head. "SHIELD has it. That sedative will put Sinister under for at least another six hours as it is anyway." He shot Logan a look. "And I'm not letting him screw with family plans any more than he already has."

Logan held his gaze for a moment and finally nodded once. "Alright. Good luck with her."

Peter nodded and then held up a hand. "Oh, hey, you two are going to be upstairs at the party, right? Because… I know it's been a day full of death and bad things, but I gotta tell you something."

"I'll stay for a drink or two," Logan promised. "Otherwise, Kurt'll be dragging me back anyhow."

"Great!" Peter grinned outright at Logan before he hurried off to go make sure that everything was secure with the handoff, leaving the two X-Men shaking their heads as they headed upstairs to where more people were gathering to ring in the new year, including several of their friends from the different schools as well as the Avengers. Even Peter's Aunt May was there with Erik — with a box of new sheet music for Charlie for her birthday.

"Well, it's about time you showed up," Annie said, pulling Scott toward the rest of the group. "The countdown isn't going to wait for you, you know."

He let out a breath and gave her a tired smile and a kiss on the cheek. "I had some things to get done."

"Yes, I know. Rachel told me," Annie said before she made it a point to steal a longer kiss. "It's not quite the ending we were expecting, but I'm sure we'll get it sorted out in no time flat."

"Yeah," Scott said. He kissed her and then took a deep breath. "Annie, Emma's dead."

Annie froze and looked up at him. "What?"

"Sinister was working on her — stealing her powers — when the team showed up, and he killed her."

"Oh." Annie was wide-eyed , but then, she somehow managed to school her expression all the same as she shook her head. "Oh, that's horrible. No one should die from that man."

Scott simply couldn't help the smirk as he thought of Logan's prediction of Annie's reaction as he nodded. "Yeah."

"And you've made arrangements for her and everything?"

"The Cuckoos are taking care of it."

"Oh." She looked perfectly inscrutable. "So she's not going to be buried here."


"Alright then." Annie nodded once and then slid her arms around him. "Let's not talk about that then. It's a new year, new beginnings, all that."

Scott's smirk widened despite himself. "Yeah. All that," he agreed before he kissed her.

Logan, meanwhile, had made a beeline right for K and was sure to give her a kiss as he took the bottle of whiskey out of her hand with a smirk. In a flash, the two of them were curled up in a chair and passing the bottle back and forth, peppering each other with little kisses.

It wasn't too terribly long after that before Peter came up to join the festivities — with good timing, as the conversation had turned to things that the gathered group wanted to do in the upcoming year. There were plenty of goals and resolutions including a few promises from both Sying and Chance that this was going to be the year they went out for the team, especially since Chance wouldn't have to go to Europe with Cody now that Sinister was captured.

"So, ah, these aren't exactly goals or anything, and they already sorta happened, but…" Peter shrugged both of his shoulders up to his ears. "This'll be my first full year as Assistant Director. So. That's a thing."

Cheers raised up around the room from the whole group, and already, Kurt was toasting him with a grin as Peter raised a hand to ask them to settle down again.

"And, ah, this year, I'm also going to be a dad," he said with a crooked smile. "We're three months in. Due in June."

Logan was smiling at him as the cheers rose up again, and before Peter could get too far into the bright red flush he was wearing, Logan pulled him over into a tight hug. "About. Damn. Time, Parker."

Peter looked totally surprised by the hug before he grinned and returned it with some serious strength behind the bear hug. "Thanks. We wanted to wait 'til the first third was through before we told people… you know. Just to play it safe."

"It'll be fine."

"Sara is going to get so many little SHIELD onesies, like you don't even know," Peter said with a little smirk. "We haven't told them yet, but the HR department in SHIELD… they love Sara, so… that'll be fun."

"Well, congratulations!" Kate sang out, toasting Peter alongside Kurt. "One eyepatch away from running SHIELD."

"Yeah, no, don't jinx me. I intend to have both eyes by the time I get there, thankyouverymuch," Peter said, holding up both hands quickly.

"Any other big announcements?" K asked. "Like … twins … or … something like that?"

"Ah… no. No, that pretty much covers it," Peter said with a sheepish grin. "We'd know by now if it was, right?"

"Oh, you would think so," Annie said with a crooked smirk.

"Um. I've decided she's the scary one," Peter said in a teasing tone Logan's way.

"That's what K's been saying for years," Logan agreed. "Particularly in this area of things."

"It's true," K agreed. "She's a monster."

Annie rolled her eyes at K before she made her way over to give Peter a brief hug and more or less pull him sideways into May so that May could monopolize the hugging for a while, looking over the moon excited as even Erik looked proud, resting a hand on Peter's shoulder with a warm smile.

The congratulations and well-wishes only paused when the countdown of the final minute started to play, and everyone made sure to grab a glass (with sparkling cider for the younger crowd) to toast in the new year with kisses and laughter. Even the kids got in on the fun — and this time around, Chance was the one to grab Krissy and surprise her with a kiss when the countdown hit zero.

The following morning, the usual birthday celebrations were into high gear. The eve had been for Charlie and Kate … the day, however, belonged to Chance. The group at Xavier's was somber to start the day, and the heads of the Howlett family had been the first up as usual, tucked in closely and sharing coffee as the kids slept in. It was too early for the paper, and the news that the two of them wanted to read was only viewable in SHIELD reports and the team's own files.

But their somber morning was broken up quickly when the Summers clan came in ready to start off Chance's birthday right … showering the young man with affection and gifts already.

Annie was a whirlwind in the kitchen, and the scent of muffins and coffee cake had even the late risers coming down to take part in the festivities — which were made even funnier by the fact that Cody had gotten his brother a gag gift of sunglasses to get him back for all the teasing he'd had to endure over his new shades. (Charlie, of course, was more sensible: she and Chloe had collaborated to get Chance some clothes that fit better after his most recent growth spurt.)

Finally, when Chance sat down at the table, Logan slid an envelope across the table to him, and Chance looked up at him with a questioning expression. "Doesn't feel like a card," Chance said, still smiling, since the day was already going so well.

"Nope," Logan agreed, and when Chance opened the envelope and a set of keys fell out into the palm of his hand, the boy looked even more confused. "Happy Birthday. Little somethin' you and your old man can fiddle with." He tipped his head toward the garage. "Go on. Next to the Jeep."

Chance looked like he could hardly believe his ears. "Seriously?" he asked as he rushed toward the garage — a sentiment that was echoed a second later by his father, but in an entirely different tone.

"Seriously?" Scott gave Logan his driest look — the kind that was reserved for just these kinds of shenanigans from Logan. "He's fourteen."

"Who cares?" Chance sang out before Logan could even respond — and then, he let out a whoop of joy when he saw the Charger in the garage.

To Scott's relief, the Charger wasn't quite ready to drive. It would need some work, and that, at least, was something he and Chance would enjoy doing. Something he could sink his teeth into without people worrying about his heart, too — though that didn't stop him from giving Logan a look all the same.

Logan had his arms crossed as he returned Scott's dry expression. "I already ordered parts to get you two started."

"This is the best birthday present ever!" Chance crowed, already climbing into the Charger to see what needed doing and what it would feel like to be behind the wheel.

Scott shook his head. "You know, when you said you'd buy him a car earlier this year… I thought you were joking."

"Had to beat you to the punch," Logan said with a smirk.

"Of course you did."

"Start it up, Chance," Logan said without dropping eye contact with Scott.

"You're on!" Chance called out, and Scott just started shaking his head… even if he couldn't hide his smile at his son's obvious glee.

It took a little bit, but when it roared to life, no one missed the whoop out of Chance. "Runs a little rough," Logan said, more to Scott than anyone. "But it'll need more'n a tuneup to be roadworthy. The head's in good shape and I don't think it's burning anything it shouldn't. Still … all new seals and gaskets on the way along with a new transmission. This one won't get out of third." He shrugged. "I figure at least a year and a half worth of tinkerin'. Plus paint."

At that, Scott finally cracked a smirk. "Hear that, Chance?"

"Can we paint it red?"

Scott shook his head. "After we tune it up."

Logan was snorting to himself at that and clapped Scott on the shoulder, leaving the two of them alone in the garage.