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"Hell." Remy swore as he glared at the empty spot where he'd left Lance. He followed the trail of broken under brush. Lance had only made it a few yards. He stared up at Remy without recognition as he dug his heels in and shoved himself backward in an attempted to escape.
"Easy Mon Ami, y' know me." Remy said. He crouched down so they were on eye level Remy popped out his contacts to reveal his distinctive eyes and used a touch of his power to disintegrate the contacts. "It's Remy. Silver's… Pietro's friend y' know me, y're safe now. Y' safe."
Very, very slowly Remy reached toward Lance. " 'M gonna untie y'. Dat's all. I ain't going to hurt y'. Didn' want to do dat, but I had to. Needed to set Matthews up. Dat homme's got it in for y'. If we're lucky he'll tell dem he kilt y'. He wants to have done it s' bad I figure he might as well rot for it." Remy's voice was low, hypnotically soothing. While he talked Remy loosened Lance's bonds and removed the gag.
As soon as his hands were free Lance lashed out at Remy. Remy easily caught Lance's fist and held it. "Easy, easy. 'M here to help." He murmured.
Slowly the blind fear left Lance's eyes. "What's happening?" He asked.
"Y' don' recognize a jail break when y' see one?" Remy asked lightly. He pocketed the handcuffs he'd used to bind Lance. "T'ink y' can walk a bit?"
"Where?" Lance asked.
Remy grabbed Lance's arm and hauled the teen to his feet. "Got a car stashed on a side road. Did y' know there's a sinkhole dat ends in an underground river out here? No one's going to be surprised when dey can't find your body. Probably should've dumped Matthews dere. Still de idiot'll make sure de blame ends up somewhere harmless." Cyclops be catching up wit' us in a day or two, he's de one wit de plan. He said he'd have Forge bring your jeep."
"Where are we going?" Lance asked as Remy led him away.
Remy wrapped Lance's arm over his shoulder when the teen stumbled. "Tonight, a motel. After dat y'll have to ask Scott. Come on, we gotta get movin'."
****** ****** ******
Mechanically Kitty phased through the wall grabbed two Jamies and pulled them out into the hall. Her expression was blank but her heart and mind were at war. Lance was going to be safe; it was a good thing. Only she wouldn't be with him. According to Scott's plan she and Lance wouldn't even see each other for years. No matter what logic said her heart couldn't help but look at their separation as a catastrophe.
A few feet up the hall Amara and Sam studied the door with critical eyes. "If the hinges were on this side we could just knock 'em out." Sam said. "That's what mah sister Paige and Ah did when our baby brother Jeb locked himself in the bathroom with a big mess of our Halloween candy. We got him out right quick."
"Which would explain why hotel doors have the hinges on the inside." Amara replied tartly. "There's no way around it. I'm just going to have to burn the door down."
At that the Jamies Kitty had already rescued went wide-eyed with fear. " 'Mara no!" an un-gagged Jamie protested.
Amara ignored him and traced a quick line of magma around the edge of the door. Several Jamies shrieked in outraged pain as the heat burned them. The door burst outward and a mass of Jamies tumbled into the hall. "You've been spending time with Tabby haven't you?" One of them said as they glared accusingly at Amara.
With the cork out of the bottle the build-up of pressure inside the room eased and Jamie gradually began to regain control of his powers. Once the room was emptied the police moved in to look for clues.
Fifteen minutes later a call came through that Duncan Matthews had been picked up driving a stolen car and that traces of blood had been found in the trunk.
Kitty felt her heart jump into her throat. Her imagination started filling in the details of a dozen different ways things might have gone wrong. She retreated to curl up on Lance's bed while she waited for news and feared the worst.
Later the sound of a commotion drew her back out into the hall. She saw the police hauling Duncan back to his cell. When his eyes met hers he grinned. "Your boyfriend's dead." He said.
"I don't believe you!" Kitty exclaimed.
"Believe it, he's rotting in a hole in the ground."
The next thing anyone knew Duncan was on the floor with an enraged Shadowcat standing over him. She leaned down and snatched his handcuffs off. "Get up and fight me!" She screamed.
The police tried to grab her only to have their hands pass through her.
Duncan's expression was smug as he jumped to his feet. Shadowcat laid into him using every trick she'd ever learned as an X-Man. She only solidified for the split second it took to land her blows. Duncan couldn't lay a hand on her; neither could anyone else. In a few minutes Duncan was back on the floor in fetal position cringing away from her.
Then Kitty turned and walked away. She stayed in control until she was back in the room where Lance had been held then she threw herself on the bed and started sobbing.
Out in the hall Nelsen and McFadden pulled the bruised and battered Duncan to his feet. "You read him his rights didn't you?" Nelsen asked.
"Yep." McFadden said.
"Good. I'd hate to waste what sounded like a confession of guilt."
****** ****** ******
Scott disconnected his cell as he parked his car outside of the police headquarters. "That was Gambit. Go tell Kitty everything is fine." He told Jean.
He watched Lance's jeep pull up beside his car. "Hope you're ready to put on a show Fred." He said under his breath. Scott got out of the car and stalked up to Xavier and Logan. "We were out with the police searching for Lance. They called us back; said he was dead."
"Matthews." Logan said grimly.
"I can't say I'm surprised." Scott said. He was acutely aware of the other students clustered around, of the police watching curiously and the reporters waiting with anticipation. Fred and Todd worked their way to the front of the group. "I don't know why anyone's surprised." He announced. "We all have targets painted on our backs. Eventually our luck had to run out. Face it Professor the only way mutants and humans can co-exist peacefully is if the humans don't realize what they're doing."
"If then." Fred chimed in.
"No one's going to give us the chance to prove ourselves. They're all too busy trying to get rid of us." Scott continued.
"I don't go anywhere I'm not wanted." Fred announced.
"Um, what about…" Todd began only to be silenced by a nudge to the ribs from Fred that sent him flying.
"I've had it with this town!" Scott exclaimed. "I'm getting out of here on my feet, not in a box."
"Good riddance." Officer Rondell muttered.
"I'm going too." Fred said.
"Kid's got a point." Logan commented flicking his claws out. "Bigots have a way of bring out the worst in me, wouldn't want any accidents happening."
"I'm sorry you three feel that way." Xavier said. "I still see reason to hope for co-existence here. We have seen individuals overcome their fears. We have found individuals willing to meet us with eyes free of prejudice. We have seen some of our worst detractors choose to place bounds on their hatred. Those people may be in the minority; they are certainly much quieter than those who spew hatred, but they exist and I believe that, in time, they will prevail. However, I won't try and change your minds. I wish you luck as you follow the path your conscious guides you to walk."
Scott nodded respectfully then started walking back to his car. The reporters closed in around him. "Where are you planning on going?" Trish Tilbily asked.
"Telling you would defeat the purpose of going." Scott replied. "Somewhere where people don't shoot at mutants for the heck of it."
While Scott spoke one of the reporters superstitiously worked his way toward Xavier. Wolverine snarled to warn the man off. The reporter flinched but came on with increased determination. "Back off bub." Logan warned.
"Professor, is Lance really…" The reporter broke off.
"Logan." Xavier said as he placed a hand on Logan's arm. He turned to face the reporter. "Mr. Alvers, I'm sorry I couldn't do more to protect your son."
Rich Alvers looked around at the rest of the X-Men. They glanced away uncomfortably; he turned and walked way. Several of the other reporters approached him. "Leave me alone!" Rich snapped. The hurt, angry tone was so familiar; none of the X-Men could doubt his relationship with Lance.
"Come on, there's nothing here for us." Scott said guiltily as he watched Rich leave. The other X-Men broke up and headed to their cars.
Kitty and Jean were waiting for Scott by the convertible. Kitty punched Scott in the stomach. "You could have warned me." She cried as she glared at him with reddened eyes.
Scott's breath exploded outward. He wrapped an arm around his stomach and held up a hand to ward off further attacks. "Get in the car." He said.
Jean offered him an apologetic shrug as she pulled Kitty into the car. He started the engine. Once they were safely on the road he said. "I didn't know Gambit was going to play it that real. I still don't know how he got Matthews to confess… God, we just told Lance's father he was murdered."
"The bastard deserves it after everything he's put Lance through." Kitty said. "Lance's guitar is stashed in the trunk. Give it too him for me okay?"
****** ****** ******
Jean stood in the door to Scott's room. "You're really set on this aren't you?" She said.
"Yeah. And you're going to college, Penn State accepted you didn't they?" Scott replied.
Jean nodded. "Contingent on passing some sort of psych test to prove I'm not dangerous. Look, I have an idea. I could make the link between us a lot stronger. If you guys ever got in trouble I'd know. We could come play Calvary."
"Will it work both ways?" Scott asked hopefully.
"Better than a telephone." Jean said.
Scott smiled. "That was the one part of this plan that I hated." He said. "That I wouldn't know how you were doing. Plus this way we'll always be able to let the other team know if they run into something the other group should handle."
"Scott, this really isn't about team-leaderly guilt is it?" Jean asked. "I know you feel responsible for keeping everyone safe and someone's going to have to keep an eye on Lance until he's better."
"Magneto's trying to start World War III. Humans like Trask would happily oblige him. We're got a guy who calls himself Apocalypse running around loose with a ton of power. Then there's this Shadow King making everything worse…" Scott said. "There's no doubt that the fallout from Lance's rampage is going to get really ugly. You guys are going to have your hands full trying to rebuild our images after this. Who's going to take care of the bad guys?"
"I got a call from the computer in the earthquake base." Scott confided. "It calls itself Cable, says its whole purpose was to retrieve or destroy the technology Apocalypse was so hot to get his hands on. I've got Forge to figure out the tech and Gambit to dig up other sorts of info on Apocalypse. Once we get a line on how to beat him, we'll call in the X-Men."
Jean wiped at her eyes. "It's just hard for me to believe. You've been my best friend since we were fourteen." She gave a watery little laugh. "You're so much a part of me that I didn't even realize that I was in love with you until Taryn started chasing you and I got all jealous. Now you're leaving and I'm leaving and I just can't believe we're really not going to be together anymore."
Scott embraced Jean. He smoothed a hand over her hair. "Hey, it'll be okay. You thought of a way that we can be together even when we're not."
"Right." Jean sniffled. She laid her hand along side Scott's face.
He felt the residual link between them flare to life as Jean infused it with all her strength. He opened his mind to her, welcoming her inside.
//Together, forever and always.// Jean whispered in his mind.
//Forever together.// Scott echoed.
****** ****** ******
Fred winced as the floor creaked under his weight. He glanced nervously at Todd then sighed in relief when he saw the younger teen was still sleeping soundly.
He slung a bulging duffle bag over his shoulder then with a last, regretful look at Todd headed out into the hall. Todd had Moira looking out for him. Pietro had his parents back. Someone had to look after Lance.
Scott and Forge met Fred at the foot of the stairs. "You guys take the jeep. I'll pick up Lance and Gambit then we'll meet up at the rest stop a hundred miles west of town." Scott ordered
Scott went down to the infirmary to collect up some supplies while Fred and Forge headed out to the garage. They tossed their bags on top of a pile of blankets in the back of the jeep. The pile squeaked when Forge's tools landed on it but the two boys were too busy arguing about who was going to drive to notice.
Fifteen minutes after they'd left Scott hauled one last load of supplies to his car and headed out. He heard the roar of a second engine and Logan's bike pulled up beside him as he waited for the gates to open. The older man tossed a beat up rucksack in the back of the convertible.
"What are you doing?" Scott asked.
Logan snorted. "Think about it Shades, I'm sure you'll figure it out."
"You're coming with us?" Scott asked.
"Yep, when are you picking up Lance?" Logan's nostrils flared. "Hold up a moment. Half-pint, get your rear-end out of that car."
A moment later a sulky Shadowcat stuck her head through the lid of the trunk. "You are so mean." She exclaimed as she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Got that right, now get." Logan told her.
"You can ask Evan to repeat the 'Your parents will raise a stink' lecture." Scott told her. "Give it a few years, turn eighteen, if this is still what you want Jean will tell you how to find us."
Kitty sighed deeply. "Tell Lance I love him and to call me." She said as she stepped out of the car.
****** ****** ******
Fred yawned and reached across the jeep to shake Forge awake. "Just five more minutes mom." Forge mumbled.
Fred chuckled and turned the jeep on to an exit from the freeway. Ahead of them the taillights of the convertible and the two motorcycles pulled away. "I'm making a pit stop." He said directing Forge's attention to the fast food Mecca surrounding the gas station.
"Do you want anything?"
"No thanks I'll pass." Forge said. "I'm still full from the last one."
"I'll have a burger, a double order of fries and a milkshake." The pair jumped then turned to the backseat where Tabby was sitting up surrounded by a pile of blankets. "Oooh and maybe an order of chicken nuggets."
"Tabby, you're not supposed to be here!" Fred exclaimed.
"When has that ever stopped me?" She asked as she leaned over the seat and threw an arm around the boys' shoulders. "I was feeling so trapped at the Mansion. I'm a free spirit. All those rules, not to mention the Bayville mob, were making me feel claustrophobic."
"Scott's going to send you home." Forge said.
"Not if we cross a few more state lines before you tell him about me. It'll be too much trouble to send me home." Tabby replied. "Until we get a few thousand miles away what Scotty-boy doesn't know won't hurt him."
"Um Tabby…" Forge began.
"Come on you know you want me to stay." Tabby said as she fluttered her eyelashes at the boys. "Someone's gotta keep things exciting."
****** ****** ******
Epilogue – Four months later
"Mail call!" Sam yelled. He stood in the Mansion lobby with a grin on his face and waited for the fun to start.
Rogue raced in seeming to appear out of thin air. "Did Ah get anything?"
Kurt appeared in a cloud of sulfurous smoke.
"Sorry Kurt. Rogue two college letters for yah. Where's Speedy? He got a couple too."
"Working with Moira. I think he's about ready to cretify as a medic." Rogue replied as she snatched the letters and started flipping through them. "Yes! We have a match."
"Did you tell them you're mutants?" Kurt asked.
"Do yah think we're stupid?" Rogue replied. "Ah've been registering as Anna Adler, Pey's going by Pietro Lehnsherr. We'll have to tell 'em eventually… after they say yes. That way, if they change their minds, there won't be any doubt about why."
Rahne loped down the stairs in wolf-form while Todd leapt from the balcony railing to the chandelier then did a flip and landed neatly beside her. "Sorry, no joy." Sam told them.
Bobby and Ray shoved past Jamie. His multiples piled on the two boys while the original Jamie calmly walked up to Sam. "Care package from your Mom." Sam said as he handed over the package. "Smells good. Bobby, yah got a letter from home. Ray nothing."
Kitty and Amara strolled down the stairs. "Kitty, yah got a package. California postage." Sam said with a grin. Kitty squealed and ran to seize the package from Sam. She phased the wrapping and pulled it off whole, then tossed it over her shoulder. She kissed the videotape that had been hidden inside, slid the note into her pocket then ran to the den. "Evan, I need the TV. Scram." She ordered.
"Tape from Lance?" Evan asked with a grin.
"Out!" Kitty said. She pulled him off the couch and shoved him toward the door.
"I'm going, I'm going." Evan laughed.
Kitty shut the door and popped the tape in. There were a few seconds of snow then the picture cleared. The image shifted as the person manning the camera adjusted it then Lance walked over to the counter he'd focused on and took a seat. "Hey Kit, love ya." He said. Kitty paused the tape for a few moments to study Lance. His color was improving, the tan made the Shadow King's mark stand out less, but she thought his face still looked thin. She restarted the tape. "You asked what I'm doing while we've been hiding: Logan decided the Prof's old punishment still applies so he's teaching me martial arts. It's actually pretty cool and I'm learning a lot, there's not a lot else to do here. The most reliable source of entertainment is the on going battle of wills between Logan and the computer. Forge is starting to think it's not an artificial intelligence, he says it's a ghost because an AI would be more reasonable. I think Cable and Logan hate eachother because they're too much alike. Lately we've started doing all our lessons outside of the base to avoid commentary from the computer on Logan's technique, teaching style, height… Lessons were more interesting when Cable could butt in."
"The base is starting to feel like home, but I wish you were here. I miss you. I'm so glad you're graduating early. If I had to wait two years to see you again… Well, I'd go back to New York no matter what."
Lance smiled and picked up his guitar. "Okay, this is totally corny but I thought you might like it, so here goes. Thanks for telling Scott to take the guitar by the way." Lance settled the guitar strap over his shoulder and spent a few moments checking that it was in tune. Then he looked straight at the camera, smiled and started to play.
**I got no money in my pockets. I got a hole in my jeans. I had a job and I lost it. But it won't get to me.**
Lance's grin was gently self-mocking.
** 'Cause I'm ridin' with my baby. And it's a brand new day. We're on the wheels of an angel. Flyin' away.**
Kitty smiled warmly. "Lance…" She reached out touched the screen.
**Now she's strumming on my six-string. Across her pretty knees. She's stompin' out a rhythm. And singin' to me.**
Then she couldn't help but grin when the door behind Lance opened. Fred and Tabby slipped in.
** And I got the one I love beside me. My troubles behind me. I'm alive and I'm free. Who wouldn't wanna be me?**
"Kitty, I guess I just want you to know: If you were here, my life would be just about perfect now."
"That is so sweet." Tabby said as she applauded.
"I think you were flat." Fred commented.
Lance spun around. "Don't you have anything better to do?" He demanded.
Tabby and Fred grinned. "Nope."
"He's right; you were flat." A disembodied voice added.
Lance shot a glare at the ceiling. "No one asked you." He said.
"Five hundred years of peaceful solitude, now I'm stuck with an invasion of teenagers and attendant melodrama."
"For once I agree with the short circuit." Logan said as he and Scott joined the peanut gallery. "You sound like a scaled cat."
"Just the singing. You're pretty good on the guitar but your voice really sucks." Tabby said. "Still I hear it's the thought that counts."
"Thank you so very much. Now I've got tape it again." Lance complained.
"Not in here!" The disembodied voice insisted.
"Deal with it," Lance said. "And if you guys keep bugging me I'm going to keep doing this until I get a good copy."
Tabby darted past Lance and snatched the camera. "I think Kitty deserves a critique from an unbiased audience." She said.
"Give that back!" Lance shouted giving chase.
Kitty laughed as the picture bobbed and weaved. "Tabby, you are a such a klepto!" Lance yelled. Dust leapt from the floor and the camera showed Tabby's knees as she stumbled.
"Shame, shame, Lance. Using your powers is cheating." Fred said. Tabby giggled and the camera refocused on a grinning Fred holding Lance off the floor as the dark haired teen struggled and cursed.
"Tell me about it." Logan said. "Hey Pest, point that thing this way."
"Sure Badger." Tabby replied.
Logan snarled at her then looked into the camera. "Hey, Half-Pint. Don't worry about Rocky here. We're keepin' him in line. He ain't a half bad student either. Remind the Speed Demon I still know where he lives so he better be doing right by Stripes."
"Kitty, give Blue my love!" Tabby yelled turning the camera around to talk to it. In the background Kitty saw both Fred and Forge frowning. "And remind Amara to email me. And tell Jamie hi for me."
"Say hi to Todd and Quickie!" Fred yelled. Tabby turned the camera back on him.
Fred was still holding Lance prisoner. "Why can't you guys ever do this on your own time?" Lance asked, he sounded resigned.
"Because this is more fun." Scott said. Tabby turned the camera on him. He waved. "Hey everyone! Rogue, Sam I hope you're both keeping your teams busy. The rest of you pay attention to what they say. Evan, I don't want to see you until after graduation."
Lance shook his head. "Hey everyone." He sighed. "Quickie, I hope you're having fun with college. Todd… Don't ask me, Moira might have an idea though. Evan, do what Scott says. Kitty, like always, I'll finish in the letter. I love you."
"Love you too." Kitty said with a smile. She rewound the tape to the point where the commentary started. "Okay everyone, we've got a letter from our renegades." She yelled. From the speed with which the room filled up it was obvious the other students had already spread the word.
By the time the tape finished Kitty was back with a camcorder. "Okay guys, our turn." She said.
"Me first! Me first!" Todd shouted. Kitty grinned and turned the camera on him as he jumped up and down. "Hey Freddy! Hey Scott! Hey Tabby, Forge, Mr. Logan, Computer person! Lance you're looking lots better…"
Author's Note: Well that's it for this one (and a good thing too, this is the longest story I've written to date and I can't fit any more chapters on my website's index page ). The sequals are going very smoothly so I'll probably start posting chapters pretty soon; next week or the one after.
Kitty and Lance are going to stay split up for a bit, I want to play with them dealing with a long distance relationship. And some outside circumstances are going to dictate the reformation of the teams (rather than having them broken between X-Men and New Recruits). The new grouping will probably change the focusal characters a little, Fred and Kitty are definately getting larger rolls. Some characters are still moving around looking for the spot where they fit in the best but roughly the teams will be:
Mohave team: Scott, Lance, Fred, Forge, Tabby, Gambit, Megan (from Excalibur), Penance (Gen-X)
Mansion Primary team: Jean, Kitty, Pietro, Kurt, Amara, Todd, Rahne, Ray
Mansion Secondary team: Rogue, Sam, Evan, Bobby, Jamie, Jubilee, Alex, Wanda
Magneto's team: Emma Frost (X-Men/Gen-X), Banshee (X-Men/Gen-X), Mastermind, Siren (X-Force), Karma (New Mutants), Sunspot, Feral (X-Force), Chamber (Gen-X)
Goverment affliation/undisclosed loyalties: Nick Fury, Val Cooper (X-Factor), Henry Gyrich (X-Force), Donald Pierce (X-Men), Brent Jackson (Weapon X), Pete Wisdom (Excalibur), Dani Moonstar, X-23. Dani and X-23 are going to show up in substantially different ways from Evo cannon. Honestly, I didn't like X-23 very much in the show, but I've got an idea that suits her. Dani is a character I enjoy but her introduction in the show left her somewhat at loose ends and I've got plenty of those already.
So obviously I'm bring in a lot of new 616 characters, mostly as adversaries, even though most of them were good guys in 616. :shrug: I need villians more than heroes but these are the characters I want to play with.
Quick question here. Does anyone remember the name of the guy who owned the Power Aid sports drink factory from "Extreme Measures"?