Two Days Later
Rogue ignored the blatant stares from the students in the halls as she walked to her locker. She had just reached her destination and was digging for her math book when Kitty appeared next to her.
"Brr," she said. "Is it just me, or is everyone acting even creepier today?"
Rogue glowered at the nearest gawker, then returned to her search. "It's the fight last Friday. Everyone's heard by now about how Samuels pounded on Scott. I guess they're waiting to see what we're going to do about it."
Kitty's face was a mask of disgust. "Yeah, like we could. I mean, we'd be expelled, while they'd be let off with a slap on the wrist. This is so totally unfair."
"Tell me about it," Rogue agreed, finally locating her book and shoving it into her bag.
"Come on," Kitty said. "Kurt and Evan said they were going to save us a table for lunch. Let's get Jean and the others and go eat."
The girls started down the hall to where they knew the seniors' lockers were located and found Jean scowling at Duncan. Worried, they hurried towards the teens.
"I told you, Duncan, it's over," Jean said hotly, turning and slamming her locker door shut. "Now get lost. I don't want to see you, and that's that."
She started to walk away when Duncan caught her arm.
"Come on, Jean," Duncan pleaded. "I said I was sorry. Why can't we get back together? Is this about last Monday? I should've known that Summers would've said something to you."
Jean went very still. Fixing a dangerous look on Duncan, she asked, "Last Monday?"
Duncan, completely unaware of the tone Jean had used, nodded. Kitty and Rogue paused to watch the drama unfold.
"I was gonna ask you out last week, but every time I tried, Summers got in my way," he said. "Look, I warned him, but he just wouldn't keep his nose out of my business."
"What did you do?" Jean asked quietly, her voice like steel.
"We had a little scuffle," Duncan admitted. "I didn't even shove him that hard, but the jerk fell and cracked his head on the corner of the desk. It was an accident. If he had just-."
Duncan reeled back, holding a hand to his cheek as he stared at Jean in shock. Jean lowered her hand, green eyes blazing in fury.
"You . . . you jerk!" she yelled. "Ooh . . . Get out of my life, Duncan! You have no chance of getting back together with me, you stupid oaf!"
Jean whirled around and stomped toward Kitty and Rogue. Grabbing their arms, she pulled them off down the hall.
"Can you believe that?" she fumed, stalking down the hall. "Scott didn't tell me that he and Duncan fought! Why would he do that?"
"Jean, take it easy, will ya?" Rogue said, tearing her arm free of Jean's tight grasp. "You're gettin' upset with the wrong people."
Jean released Kitty and heaved a huge sigh. "Sorry, guys. Duncan just makes me so mad . . . I mean, what would make him think that I wanted anything to do with him? And Scott . . . I already told him that I can fight my own battles. What was he thinking?"
Kitty rubbed her arm. "Well, Scott usually doesn't repeat his mistakes. Maybe there was more to it than that."
Jean grew thoughtful. "That's a good point. I wonder . . ."
Before either of the younger girls could ask her to elaborate, Amara and Bobby turned a corner right beside them. Amara was hugging her books close to her chest, and Bobby had an arm slung around her shoulders, a scowl on his face.
"What's wrong?" Jean asked.
Amara looked too near tears to speak, so Bobby answered for her. "That jerk, Clay Silvers?"
"You mean that rich snob who lives outside the Bayville city limits?" Kitty asked.
Bobby nodded. "That's the one. He came up to Amara and had her cornered near the bathrooms. Said he wanted to have a little fun with a mutant- since he never had before. He had grabbed her arm, and I think he was gonna push her into the guy's room when I got there."
The older teens were horrified. "What?" Kitty gasped.
Amara nodded, fire burning in her almond eyes. "Yeah. He said he got delayed; he wanted to do it last week, but knocking Scott around was a lot more fun at the time."
"Amara! What's the matter?"
Tabitha Smith came running down the hall, concern on her face. She placed her arm around Bobby's, sandwiching the smaller girl between her friends. Quietly, Bobby recounted the events for the new arrival. When he had finished, anger had replaced the worry on Tabitha's face.
"Don't you worry about him," she said, holding out her hand. Three brilliant balls of light appeared, sizzling with energy.
"No, Tabitha," Jean said. "We can't use our powers, or else they'll expel all of us."
Tabitha made a face, but tossed the balls aside, where they exploded against several lockers. None of the mutants paid any notice.
Jean looked at Amara. "You said that Scott got into a fight with this guy before he could go after you?"
"Okay," Jean said. "Tabitha, take Amara to report this to Principal Kelly."
Tabitha snorted. "What's he going to do? Not only is Silvers rich, but Kelly hates us."
"It has to be reported," Jean insisted. "Get it reported, then go get the Brotherhood. Kitty, you go too. Bobby, you and Rogue and I are going to find the others. Tell everyone to meet at Lookout Point after school for a meeting."
There was a chorus of cries that arose at her words, but Jean silenced them with a wave of her hand.
"What makes you think the Brotherhood'll come?" Kitty asked.
"Because it's about all of us mutants," Jean replied. "We need to meet to talk about these problems at school. Do what you have to, but get them there."
Scott sighed and gazed longingly out the window. The day had dawned bright and warm, but Scott had been stuck in the mansion as Ororo worked with him on his school assignments. Since Scott's injuries would keep him out of school for the next few days, Ororo had decided to keep Scott up with his work.
Ororo noticed Scott's lack of attention and followed his gaze. A pang of sympathy struck her; she knew Scott's withdrawn attitude had hardly improved over the weekend, but the cause was still unknown to her. He simply sat with her, completing everything she gave him with hardly two words.
"You know, it's a beautiful day today," she stated. "Why don't you go outside and enjoy it? Take a walk, sit by the pool . . . just make sure you stay on the grounds. I'd hate to think what Logan, Hank, or Charles would do if you disappeared."
Scott smiled faintly. Hank still hovered over him, and had promised to continue until all of Scott's bruises had healed and he regained the weight he had lost the last week. Logan and Charles were watching the teen's every move almost to the point of distraction. Scott would be glad when he would be allowed to return to school.
"I think I'll take that walk," Scott said. "Thanks, Ororo."
Ororo watched him go, lost in her thoughts. A throat clearing brought her back to herself, and she looked up to find Logan watching her.
"Where's the kid?" he asked.
"I sent him outside," Ororo told him. "The poor boy's so distracted that I released him from his schoolwork early."
"You told him to stay on the grounds, right?" Logan asked.
Ororo raised an eyebrow. "Really, Logan, what is he going to do? He is almost eighteen-years-old; if he wants to leave, he can."
Logan tensed. "'Ro . . ."
Ororo sighed. "I told him, Logan. And he'll listen. He always does. Don't you think you're overreacting? Scott can take care of himself."
Logan turned to go. "Don't start, 'Ro. You don't know."
Ororo stood and caught his arm. "Then tell me, Logan, because I'm tired of being kept in the dark."
Logan hesitated, then shut the door. "Chuck promised Scott we would keep his secret. He can't know I told you."
Ororo and Logan sat down.
Jean sat on the back bumper of her car, waiting patiently for everyone to arrive at the designated meeting place. Rogue and Evan were sparring to ward off their boredom. Bobby, Ray, Sam, and Kurt were sitting on the ground near Jean, sharing their stories of the day.
The low roar of an engine grew louder. The teens all stood and watched as Lance's jeep appeared and parked beside Jean's vehicle. Kitty, Amara, and Tabitha all hopped out, but Lance, Pietro, Todd, Fred, and Wanda exited cautiously, eyeing their enemies with suspicious eyes.
"Look, when Tabitha told us you wanted to meet, we wanted to just blow you off," Lance stated forcefully. "When we heard what happened today, well . . . you've got five minutes, then we're outta here."
"Fine," Jean said evenly. She looked at all the people who had gathered. "Everyone knows about the fights that have been going on last week. I did some checking, and I found out that at the source of each fight was Scott and some anti-mutant bully looking to make trouble for all of us."
"What's that got to do with us?" Todd asked.
"Yeah, what's it to us if Summers can't fight off some weaklings?" Fred demanded. "Seems like it's your problem, not ours."
"Yeah, well, that anti-mutant group that's started to form at school was looking to attack all of us last week," Jean stated. "Scott followed them around all day to stop them from going after any of us, so this is as much your problem as it is ours."
Wanda stepped forward. "You guys, to the rest of the world, we're all mutants. It doesn't matter if we're on the same side or not. To them, we're all the same. Maybe we should hear them out."
The boys in the Brotherhood shifted uncomfortably, but didn't offer any protests.
"I think we need to start to work together," Jean stated bluntly. "Especially at school. Scott put his life on the line to protect us from these threats, but he can't do it alone anymore. We need to help each other out. If we're in groups, they can't touch us."
"Wanda and I have history together first period," Rogue volunteered. "We can meet up and walk together." She glanced at Wanda, who nodded.
"Amara and I have the first two periods together, and I believe Lance has third next door to Amara's," Tabitha offered. "He can walk her there."
"What about you?" Kurt asked.
"No problem, Blue," Tabitha smiled sweetly. "Just pop on over. We've got third and fourth together."
Jean nodded. "Great!" she said. "If we all team up, then no one will be alone during the day. That should help us out a lot."
"What about the larger groups?" Ray spoke up. "I hate to put a negative spin on things, but if there's only two or three of us, we won't be able to take them on."
Jean nodded. "Then if there's a problem, send me a message. I'll pass it along to everyone else, and we'll get there in no time. I really think this will work."
There was a murmur of assent from all students assembled. Sitting comfortably in a circle, they pulled out their pens and notebooks to plan their pairings at school.
It was getting close to suppertime before the students returned to the mansion. Scott watched them all walk in, chatting happily about their day at school, and moved to Jean's side. Jean smiled at him, then turned to Amara.
"Go on and tell the Professor," she told the girl. "He's going to find out sooner or later anyway."
Amara scowled. "We had to live with a telepath, didn't we?"
As she hurried off for Charles' study, Scott frowned at Jean. "Tell the Professor what?"
Jean shrugged, unconcerned. The students had all agreed that Scott did not need to know about the day's events, or their subsequent plans. If he wanted to keep his activities a secret, then they could as well. "Oh, nothing. Just a little problem at school, nothing more. I'm starved. What's for dinner?"
"Jean-." Scott sighed as Jean moved quickly down the hall, avoiding his question.
"Come on, Scott!" Jean called over her shoulder. "Kurt'll eat everything by the time we get there!"
It had been a long and stressful week, but Scott was finally allowed to return to school the following Monday. After promising his guardians that he wouldn't do anything to get himself into more trouble, Scott managed to escape to his car and peel out onto the open road.
He had parked and was on his way up to the front doors of the school when someone jostled him. Books slid out of his grasp, and with his arm in a cast, he couldn't catch them all. They fell to the ground in a pile. Rolling his eyes and sighing, Scott stooped down to pick them up.
Another pair of hands reached out to help. Scott looked up to find Evan collecting his books. "Evan? Thanks, man. I guess I'm a little clumsy today."
"No problem," Evan replied. "Hey, you want any help carrying some of these? My first class is right across the hall from yours."
"Uh, sure," Scott replied. "Thanks."
Ignoring the stares, looks of disgust, and filthy comments from other students, Scott and Evan walked into the school. Scott did a double take and nearly ran right into Evan when he saw Rogue and Wanda walking down the hall together, chatting. Shaking his head, Scott was ready to dismiss the sight when he saw Pietro and Ray waving to the girls as they passed each other in the hall.
"Did I miss something last week?" Scott asked Evan.
"Not really, man," Evan answered, not seeing what Scott meant. They arrived at Scott's locker. "Unless you count that majorly boring assembly last Thursday about vandalism. I knew I should've skipped it, but Sam wanted to go, so . . ."
"Since when do you and Sam start hanging out together?" Scott asked, opening his locker and selecting his materials for the day.
Evan shrugged. "We're on the same team, man. I guess I just wanted to get to know him better."
Scott found this a little odd, but dismissed it. Closing his locker, he and Evan continued down the hall and bid each other goodbye as they entered their separate classrooms.
The slender teen thought nothing more about the strange things he had seen that morning until after first period, when he and Evan walked down the hall together on their way to their next classes. At the junction in the hall where he and Evan would go in opposite directions, they found Lance and Kitty waiting for them.
"Well, see ya later," Kitty said. "Hi, Evan. Hi, Scott."
Scott frowned after Kitty and Evan, then looked at Lance. "What's going on?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Summers," Lance said bitingly. "The late bell's about to ring, and I don't want to be stuck in detention. Do you?"
Scott stared at the boy, but walked with him further down the hall. "Did something happen last week?"
Lance was saved from answering when someone stepped out in front of Scott. Scott bumped into the immovable figure of Clay Silvers and stumbled back a few steps.
"Welcome back, Summers," Silvers said tauntingly. "I was afraid you were gonna miss your chance for round two."
Scott opened his mouth to reply when his rescue came from a very unexpected source.
"Is there a problem?" Lance asked, stepping toe-to-toe with Silvers. His eyes bored into the other student's with an intensity that caused Silvers to take a step back.
"No problem," Silvers said smoothly. "Just chatting with an old friend, that's all."
"Chat some other time," Lance retorted. "We've got classes to get to. Get lost."
Silvers tossed a glance over at Scott. "I'll see you later, Summers."
Scott was too stunned to watch Silvers' retreat, or to comment. He was staring at Lance as though he had grown a second head.
Lance scowled at him. "Are you coming, or what?"
Scott, realizing his mouth was hanging open, snapped it shut and mutely followed Lance down the hall to his second class. Lance disappeared into his classroom several doors down, leaving Scott standing just outside his classroom, his head spinning from confusion. Shaking it as if the answers would tumble free, Scott moved into the room.
More of the strange quirks happened during the course of that morning. Scott found himself walking to his next two classes with Todd and Kurt, and then with Bobby. All through the halls, he saw members of the X-Men walking with mutants from the Brotherhood as if it was the most natural thing in the world. By lunchtime, Scott's head was throbbing from trying to figure out what was going on.
Scott left his fourth classroom to find Jean waiting for him, a big smile on her face. "Hey, you still owe me an after school snack, remember? How about we make it lunch?"
"Uh . . . sure, okay," Scott stammered.
They began to walk to their lockers. Jean turned a puzzled grin on her friend. "Is there something wrong, Scott?"
"You could say that," Scott muttered. In a louder voice, he said, "Jean, something's going on. I must've seen just about every mutant in this school walking and talking with each other like they were best friends. And Lance, of all people, stepped in to stop a fight this morning."
"Well, Scott, you see . . ." Jean broke off, her eyes widening. Scott paused beside her, recognizing that she was receiving a telepathic message. Her brow furrowed as she sent a message to someone, then she looked at Scott.
"Come on!" she cried, tugging on his good arm. "We have to get to the gym!"
Scott broke into a run, Jean at his side. "Why?" he asked. "What's going on?"
"Trouble," was Jean's cryptic response.
The two teens were met by Ray and Amara, and then Wanda and Rogue on their way to the gym. As the gym drew nearer, more mutants began to appear. The group burst through the gym doors and stopped to survey the situation.
Evan and Lance were surrounded by half of the school's football team. As Jean and Scott's group entered through one set of doors, the rest of the mutants ran into the gym from the side doors.
"Do the smart thing and just walk away," Jean commanded in a loud voice, advancing on the hostile group.
"What are you gonna do?" one of the football players taunted. "You can't use your powers, and you're defenseless without them."
"I wouldn't bet on that," Kurt responded icily.
"We don't need powers to handle thugs like you," Pietro added coldly.
The mutants began to spread out, surrounding the football players. The athletes, glancing around, began to relax their offensive stances.
"You're all a bunch of freaks," the teen who was obviously the leader said. "You shouldn't even be here. All mutants deserve to be wiped off the face of the planet."
"Probably not the smartest thing to say in front of mixed company, now is it?" Wanda asked, her voice taking on a dangerous tone.
"Tell all your little friends," Jean said. "No one's picking on the mutants anymore. If you mess with one of us . . ."
". . . you mess with all of us," Fred finished.
"So do yourselves a favor and get on with your lives," Kitty stated.
The football players exchanged glances, then gradually dispersed. Once the last one had gone, the mutants relaxed.
"You guys okay?" Rogue called to Evan and Lance.
"Just fine," Evan answered.
"Yeah," Lance agreed. "They didn't have enough time to do anything. Good response time, guys."
The teens broke into smaller groups and began to chatter with one another as they moved out of the gym and to the cafeteria. Scott pulled Jean aside.
"What was that all about?" he demanded. "The X-Men and the Brotherhood never work together like this."
Jean sighed. "I'll tell you after school. I promise. Right now, I'm starved. Let's go get something to eat."
The rest of the day proved to be about as eventful as the morning for Scott. He had been accompanied to each class with no less that two other mutants in the afternoon. After school, when he was sure he was on his own, Duncan Matthews had appeared, looking for a rematch. Seemingly out of nowhere, Kurt and Pietro had appeared to help him out. Not a single fist flew, and Pietro had left for his home without another word.
The teens had all gathered in the planning room at the Institute after school, along with Hank, Ororo, Logan, and Charles. Once everyone had gotten settled, Jean stood and cleared her throat.
"I guess we should let you in on our little secret now," she stated. "It's become obvious to us that we can't hide it any longer."
"What are you talking about, Red?" Logan asked.
"Last week, on Monday, Duncan confronted me," Jean began. "He told me what happened with you, Scott. I was a little confused, but then the business with Amara led me to discover a few things of my own."
She focused intense green eyes on Scott's impassive face. "I found out what happened two weeks ago. All of it."
"Protecting ourselves was a great idea," Jean continued. "Protecting the whole team by yourself was not. So, last Monday, I called a meeting of all the mutants in the school."
The teens' faces, except for Scott's, showed disinterest; they knew this already. The adults, however, were listening with rapt attention.
"We developed a plan to get each and everyone of us to our classes with at least one other person," Jean stated. "That way, anyone looking to pick a fight would think twice when there's more than one person to do it with. In the event of a larger fight, like with what happened today in the gym, I would send a message to everyone and tell them where to meet. So far, everyone- including the Brotherhood- has been getting to and from classes without any major problems, and all of the fights have stopped."
"It was a cool plan," Kitty agreed wholeheartedly. "Plus, we've been getting along better with the Brotherhood."
"We're not going to be best friends or anything, but it works for me," Evan spoke up.
"I'm just glad that I don't have to worry about going to school anymore," Amara chimed in. "Now that we're looking out for each other, I can go back to worrying about homework again."
"It's not much," Jean concluded, staring at Charles. "But it's a start."
She sat back down and awaited the adults' responses patiently.
Expressions of shock and amazement soon gave way to pride on each of the adults' faces, but it was Charles who spoke.
"I must say that my dream of seeing mutants and humans unite has seemed far off," he stated. "Now, more so than ever. However, your teamwork with the Brotherhood, whom you've all considered enemies of a sort, has more than restored my faith that we will succeed. I cannot express in words the pride I feel when I think about how all of you-," he glanced at Scott, "have reacted to this new situation. I have no doubt that, despite the long, hard road that lies ahead, mutants will emerge side by side with humans."
Amidst praise of the other teachers, the students stood and left the room. Scott caught up to Jean and took her elbow, steering her to the side of the hallway.
"Why didn't you tell me what you were doing?" he demanded.
Jean raised an eyebrow. "Why didn't you?"
Scott withdrew and folded his arms. "My reasons are different."
Jean shook her head and lightly placed a hand on his arm. "Your motivations may have been different, Scott, but our reasons were the same. Just promise me, next time you decide to take on the world? Get yourself some back-up."
Scott grinned ruefully, rubbing the back of his head. "I didn't exactly expect my plan to work out like it did."
"I'll bet," Jean agreed. Her arm slipped around Scott's waist, and she guided him down the hall. "You know, the X-Men and the Brotherhood make a pretty good team. Do you think it'll last?"
Scott's arm fell around her shoulders. "I don't know. I hope so. But with someone like you to help us get through times like this, I don't doubt that this alliance will help not only us, but more mutants in the future."
Sighing contentedly, Jean leaned her head against Scott's shoulder and continued their leisurely stroll through the corridor. For the first time since their secret had been revealed, both teenagers felt a sense of hope for their future.
End Part B: . . . And All For One