EXCHANGE STUDENTS

BY MADRIPOOR ROSE

Disclaimer: X Men Evolution was a production of Marvel Entertainment, Kids WB, and The Cartoon Network. This work of fanfiction is not intended as copyright infringement.

It was the summer vacation right after they had defeated Apocalypse, and everything was different. Rogue carefully smoothed sunscreen on her arms and legs, to protect her too pale skin from the sun. She had a gauzy wrap skirt and a long sleeved top just in case, but since this was a mutant beach party and everyone knew about the danger of her touch, Professor Xavier had given her permission to risk a tankini.

She glanced at the blond boy to her right. Bobby Drake was certainly different. Maybe the battle had made him grow up, or maybe it was that they were gonna be seniors next fall, but he'd stopped being such a jerk. He even offered to pretend to be her boyfriend to help keep the Cajun Creep offa her today.

She looked around for Gambit warily. Being on friendly terms with the Brotherhood and the Acolytes was certainly different. She smiled a little. Pietro Maximoff was playing volleyball with six of Jamie Madrox, running back and forth on both teams. Gambit was with Freddy Dukes and Pyro, over by the grill. Keeping an eye on Pyro, who was a little too interested in the barbecue. Yeah. John Allardyce and lighter fluid. OTP.

"This is gonna be one strange summer," she drawled.

On a towel on her other side, Kitty chimed in. "I know! We stopped Apocalypse, we're friends with the bad guys, Scott and Jean are going off to college next fall...everything's changing and nothing will ever be the same again."

"Wow Kitty," Rogue gave her a sidelong glance, "that was almost profound."

"Hey, I'm not just some silly airheaded oh my gawd..."

Rogue sat up again, tensing. From Kitty's shocked squeal, she was expecting anything from a Sentinel attack to Principal Kelly on a surfboard.

Piotr Rasputin was coming out of the water.

Dark hair plastered down seal-sleek, lightly tanned golden skin glistened wetly in the sun, rivulets of water pouring down his body to emphasize the smooth slabs of muscle laid out as neatly as an anatomy diagram. He was wearing Speedos the same shade of electric blue as his eyes.

"Oh. My. Gawd." Kitty whimpered.

"Whoa," Rogue let out a wolf's whistle. "Check out the Abs of Steel."

Even Bobby was looking. "Okay. I'm comfortable enough with my masculinity to say, wow. And as a guy who works out for an hour every day, so not fair."

Kitty rolled over onto her stomach to tan her other side, and to follow the handsome Russian's progress up the beach.

Rogue settled back down on her towel, and closed her eyes. Basking in the unfamiliar warmth of sun on bare skin. But she couldn't resist...

"So. Over Lance, huh?"

"Huh? Oh yeah. Totally. I think it was more the whole we knew each other from Deerfield thing. It obviously was never gonna work out. I think he's dating Tabitha now."

"And you've got a new bad boy crush."

"Colossus? Get real. Okay, he like, redefines the word 'hardbody' and he's really actually pretty sweet. We teamed up under the Sphinx, and he kept getting worried when I went ahead to scout. I wonder how he ended up working for Magneto anyway?"

All thoughts of teasing Kitty fled Rogue's mind as she was suddenly lost in memories not her own. Memories of a simple, happy childhood, memories of tearing grief and fear. She sat bolt upright and gasped, "Snowflake!"

Bobby gave her a puzzled glance, but held out a hand and began cooling and condensing ambient humidity. "Um, here?"

She gave him a look. "Piotr. When Mesmero made me absorb everybody. Colossus was forced to become an Acolyte because Magneto kidnapped his little sister Illyana," Rogue explained flatly, trying to control her rage. "Snowflake is her nickname. And since I absorbed Ol' Buckethead too, I know where she is. I gotta talk to the Professor."

Bobby stopped his miniature blizzard in shock, and Kitty's mouth dropped open. She sent a sympathetic glance over to the oblivious hunk stretching out on his towel. "I think I'll go with you."

Before leaving, Rogue looked for Kurt. Piotr's memories of being a big brother...maybe she should appreciate having one more.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Wolverine paced angrily after hearing the girls out. "Damn it, Chuck, the tincan practically told me he was being blackmailed. It was a kid sister in danger. I shoulda known, I shoulda done something about it."

"There's no way you could have known, Logan," the Professor's mouth tightened in a grim line.

"So we go in, grab the girl, and bring Colossus in from the cold..."

"No."

The three of them froze and stared at Professor Xavier as he turned his chair to look out the window.

"Or at least, that will be Plan B. The current state of truce we're enjoying will end abruptly with such a raid. However, I may be able to negotiate the child's release and preserve good will. I shall arrange a meeting with Erik. If the diplomatic solution fails, your team will have to move swiftly to retrieve young Illyana."

"Good." Logan's grin was positively feral. The mutant's memory was blurred, erased by some unknown trauma. But one thing he knew about himself for a certainty, he held the innocence of children as sacred. The Lord have mercy on anyone who dared to harm a child, for the Wolverine would show him none.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Erik Lehnsherr carefully moved his rook. "The girl is quite unharmed, Charles. Do you think me as monstrous as that, that I would kill an innocent child?"

"Not deliberately, old friend. But as you are fond of saying, this is a war and in war there are casualties. I take it you did not leave little Miss Rasputin in her brother's care. So who have been her captors, and can they be trusted not to mistreat a child?" Charles calmly countered the move, and added, "given that the only other one of your Acolytes known to have experience with children is Sabretooth, are you surprised by my concern?"

Magneto could not surpress a wince at the thought, and paused to take a sip of his tea. Earl Grey. An excellent blend. Served in paper thin export china brought home by the Xavier shipping fleet. Dear Charles. Such a cliche. Power and prestige would protect you from many of life's little irritations, but would serve as no shield against the coming whirlwind. Charles was a fool to think otherwise.

"I would not entrust Creed with the care of a four year old girl. I could not bear to have her underfoot, a little girl's laughter woke too many memories." Wanda in her more lucid moments, the mistakes he'd made with the twins. "She is being fostered by a couple loyal to my cause whose mutations do not permit them children of their own."

"Ah. Do you find loyalty more easily bought, or coerced?"

Artfully transparent. "The boy may have his sister and be released from my service," Erik agreed. "His greatest asset is his mutant strength. I had hopes of harnessing it. In practice, my needs would have been better served by hiring a forklift. Using the boy to move crates is a waste. Take them in, if you like. He is better suited to your cause, Charles." Erik moved a bishop.

They studied the board in quiet contemplation.

"It seems we have played to a draw."

"Indeed."

XxXxXxXxXxX

Kitty walked down the hall to the room Piotr shared with Illyana, trying to settle the butterflies in her stomach. She didn't know what the Professor had said to Magneto. Colossus had just shown up at the gate one morning, with suitcases under one arm and a golden haired toddler under the other.

It reminded her a little of Lance's brief attempt to switch sides. But Piotr understood trust had to be earned, and was taking the suspicion stoically. And Scott actually defended him, saying he knew how it felt. Magneto had gotten to Alex first, after all. Scott didn't know what he would have done if he hadn't gotten his brother out of the Acolytes.

Kitty had been spending a little more time with Piotr than anyone else. Not because of the crush Bobby and Rogue kept teasing her about, but because she was helping him take care of Illyana. She'd always liked babysitting, and it was tough to get jobs in Bayville after the Xavier kids were outed as mutants.

She was also helping Piotr study for his GED. She giggled a little, remembering the bureaucratic nightmare of getting his records transferred from Transbaikal State School Number Twelve to Bayville High's night school program.

Illyana was staying with them for a while before going home to her parents. She hadn't been hurt, hadn't even been very frightened. Magneto let her brother visit her often, and the little girl thought it was all a great adventure. Her caretakers treated her like the daughter they wanted desperately. The worst she'd suffered was homesickness.

Kitty knocked at the door, waited for an invitation, and phased through the closed door, walking into the room. "Hi Peter. Bobby said you wanted to see me?"

He smiled in greeting. The fact that he was folding a itty-bitty pink tee shirt, putting Illyana's clothes away from a laundry basket on top of the dresser, that just made her stomach flutter more. Darn it, why did he have to be so adorable?

"As you see, Illyana has only a few things. The stores in our homeland...I want to get her more clothes and toys to take home. Bobby said you are...mall rat? That you are liking to shop as a hobby. Would you help me, Katya?"

"Sure, I'd love to," she paused, and tilted her head. "Katya?"

"In Russian. It is the familiar of your name, Katarina, Katherine. You call me Peter, not Piotr, I am calling you Katya, not Kitty." He ducked his chin, blushing a little. "Unless you would prefer I didn't..."

"Katya...no. No, I like the sound of that just fine."

XxXxXxXxXxX

It was late at night, past midnight, and the black clouds that promised rain by morning only made it darker. If anyone was out on the street, they'd be surprised to see a bright, full moon in the sky. And even more surprised to see the moon lowering itself to the ground in the warehouse district. No moon at all, but a large metallic orb.

Part of it sectioned open, and Magneto stepped out, waiting for the shadowy figure waiting in an alley to come forth.

A teenage boy with dark skin and hair dyed blond, shaved in patterns that oddly matched the yellow-ivory plating that covered his bare shoulders and arms. A duffle bag was slung over one shoulder, strap secured to one of the curving hooks of bone that protruded from his body.

Evan Daniels, also called Spyke, stopped in the dim light of the orb interior. "One condition, old man. You don't put me up against the X Men. We ain't on the same team no more, but they're still my friends, my family. I don't fight them."

"My boy, you'd be surprised how much of the world is not Bayville. Any other conditions?" he added dryly.

Evan shook his head. "The Sentinel. Kelly. Power 8. Duncan was dating Jean and still came after us with a mining laser. Nah, man. It's us versus them, and I know what side I'm on."

Jaw set, he entered the orb and left childhood behind him.

Magneto sealed the orb and concentrated on lifting it, propelling it to his base. Piotr Rasputin's placid Siberian pragmatism had been useless to him...but Evan Daniels' rage...that could be forged into a fine weapon.

An exchange of students, armored boy for armored boy.

He thought about their last chess match.

Yes, he and Charles had played to a draw again, indeed.

END