Disclaimer: X-Men and its characters don't belong to me, and I'm not making any profit from this fanfic.

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I've been watching her for a few minutes now.

I've always been a pretty observant guy. It comes with being an art student, I guess. You learn quickly to study the environment around you, to notice things other people don't. And hey, I don't have any problem admitting that one of my favorite parts of the environment to study is the female population. I'm a guy, comes with the territory.

I came to the park today to sketch a few scenes for one of my classes. I didn't have anything particular in mind to draw, but being surrounded by nature and other random park-goers usually gets the inspiration going. And this particular park-goer is pretty cute. She's been standing there, leaning against the little fence for a while now, and I've already drawn a few quick sketches of her. Her hair was the first thing I noticed—it's a little past shoulder length, mostly dark brown in color, but it's the locks framing her face that stand out. From where I'm sitting, they look pure white. In reality, it's probably a really pale shade of bleach-blonde, but whatever it is, it's a pretty striking contrast to the rest of her hair.

Her eyes caught my attention too. "The eyes are the window to the soul," they say, and it may be an overused cliché, but it does have an odd grain of truth to it. From what I can tell from here, hers is a soul currently deep in thought. She's leaning against the fence, picking absently at a few blades of grass she must have plucked earlier. She's staring out over the park, obviously not really seeing it; she has a pensive, almost dreamlike expression on her face. As often happens when I watch people, I wonder what she's thinking about.

Suddenly, I want to pick up my drawing pad and pencils and move a little closer to her, so as to better capture her expression, but I know it's not a good idea. She hasn't noticed me drawing her yet—in fact, she appears totally oblivious to the world in general—but if I move closer she might see me and get creeped out.

Still, the urge is hard to squash. I debate with myself for a minute. It wouldn't hurt to walk up to her, to introduce myself. Maybe I could ask her if she'd like to take a walk through the park with me. Granted, she has no idea who I am, so she might be suspicious, but there are a lot of other people around (it's a sunny day, so the park is fairly busy). Not to mention that I'm a non-threatening looking guy—especially when I'm carrying my drawing pad and pencils. Who knows, she might just say yes. Hey, worst-case scenario, she flashes a can of mace at me and tells me to get lost. Wouldn't be the most horrible thing that's ever happened to me.

I give it another minute's thought, and then decide to go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, after all. Maybe if things go well and we hit it off, she might even let me draw her—a real drawing, not just a quick, surreptitious sketch done without her noticing. Decision made, I pick up my art supplies, run a hand through my hair, and start towards her.

I haven't made it more than a few feet before I notice a quick movement to my right. Involuntarily glancing that way, I see another guy heading purposefully in her direction. He seems to have come out of nowhere; I don't remember seeing him before. He's big and brawny, maybe not quite Arnold Schwarzenegger-like, but he's definitely got enough muscle to break your average guy in half without trying too hard. My footsteps falter a bit as I watch him stride unrelentingly toward the girl with the brown and white hair. Whereas her eyes are thoughtful, his are piercing, and his dark eyebrows are drawn together to create an expression that makes him look a little angry and a little dangerous. I can't know for sure, but as I watch him, I get the feeling that that's his perpetual expression. He's definitely not the type of guy you'd want to meet in a dark alley.

Having come to a complete halt now, I regard him a little warily, hoping that maybe he's not headed for the same girl I'm walking towards, but to no avail. He comes to a stop next to her and places one hand on her back. It's a simple gesture, one that probably wouldn't even be noticed by most people, but it's unmistakably protective—maybe even possessive. I risk a glance at his face and give an involuntary, inward start when I see he's looking directly at me.

His expression actually isn't overly threatening. It's definitely not a "come-one-step-closer-and-I'll-tear-you-to-pieces" look, although I have no doubt that he could do just that if he thought the situation warranted it. It's more of a calm but meaningful, almost matter-of-fact look—one that says in plain English, "Don't even bother. This one's mine."

I stand glued to the spot, hesitating a moment longer. Fleetingly, I wonder as to the nature of their relationship. He doesn't look old enough to be her father, but he could definitely be an older brother or some other relative. Or, who knows, it could be that he's her boyfriend. The age difference is maybe a little wide, but I guess in this day and age, pretty much anything goes.

I look back at her. Her head is upraised, her face tilted towards him. The contemplative look is gone now, replaced by a smile of recognition and affection—maybe even love. I drop my eyes and let a brief, rueful smile cross my face. Clearly, this was a battle I lost before I even started to fight it.

Suddenly, I don't really feel like drawing anymore, and I turn slowly to head towards the park's exit. When I'm almost out of sight, I throw one last look over my shoulder. The two of them now appear to be deep in conversation, although what they might be talking about is anyone's guess. I watch them for a moment longer before I slip out of the park and head down the sidewalk.

There'll be something new to observe tomorrow.