An Autumn Afternoon – by Darlin
Disclaimer – All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N – I posted this quite a while ago so possibly some may have already read this although I've tweaked it a bit and added a better ending. It's not quite a RoLo but it does touch upon their relationship in the early days. Based on Chris Claremont's early work (see issues #110 and #113 for example) where, yes, he did write Nightcrawler teleporting with fire and brimstone. Wouldn't write it if he hadn't.
Being a super hero really took a lot out of you. Fighting world usurpers and evil villains combined with dealing with new teammates all from different countries could be more than difficult. For Ororo Munroe known as Storm more often than not now that she'd joined Charles Xavier's cause it meant reigning in her emotions more than she'd ever had to before.
For a person who bent the weather to her will a fit of anger could easily send the elements into a fury so keeping her emotions on an even keel was essential therefore any break away from the team, away from fighting and people in general was a blessed relief. Weekends for the X-Men were usually reserved for this much needed rest. Something about villains needing the weekend to recuperate Kurt had jokingly told her.
Unfortunately this crisp autumn afternoon was anything but peaceful. After months of battling aliens and super villains the new Uncanny X-Men now faced the torturous drudgery of cleaning. Yes, even super powered mutants had chores to tend to and the first weekend of autumn was, for Scott the leader of the X-Men, the perfect time for a major cleaning campaign.
Not negligent in her tasks but seeking some small pleasure this day Ororo was high up in the sky, soaring like a kite caught on the wind, her silver-white hair streaming behind her. The lush grounds of the school were usually a haven for her even more so than the attic she'd turned into a virtual greenhouse but in the sky she was utterly free, free to fly, to laugh, to sing as gaily as she chose with no one to observe, no one to frown upon her actions, no one to bother. Except the Wolverine. More often than not she was forced to share the peaceful outdoors with the only other X-Man who seemed to need nature in order to survive. He could frequently be found walking or running along the deer trails in the woods. Ororo didn't like to intrude and when she accidentally ran into him she sensed he didn't like encountering her or anyone else any more than she did. Solitude was peaceful and she didn't blame him. She believed that he came to refresh his spirit just as she did.
At times she's spied him deep in the woods moving in irregular lines stopping at intervals sniffing the air or sometimes stooping low to the ground sniffing and peering about but what he was looking for she could not guess. It wasn't until one day while flying over the woods that she'd seen him capture a rabbit and she'd concluded that he was hunting more than relaxing. It was an amazing sight to see that little muscled man snatch a rabbit on the run but even more so because once caught he released the animal after giving it a kind of rough pat to its trembling head.
Full of contradictions that one, she'd thought. But every one of the X-Men had some contradictions. She sometimes wondered what had truly brought them all to this luxurious estate to give up their lives for one man's dream of peaceful cohabitation between humans and mutants. Sometimes she would feel such shame and anguish that she lived there in luxury whilst the people she'd aided for so many years in Kenya continued to live in such challenging circumstances – forsaken. It was harder to adjust to America than she'd imagined it would be and when things grew too overwhelming taking to the skies, as now, was her salvation.
They were a merry group she thought now as she soared high above her new friends, each busy with their assigned duties. The air was colder now than it had been since spring, fresher and cleaner too. The temperature never bothered her but she breathed in deeply enjoying the fresh cool air. She enjoyed Autumn in New York. It nearly took her breath away anytime she gazed out a window. She never tired of seeing leaves of varying shades of red and yellow drifting leisurely from the trees that covered the extensive lawn of Xavier's school. Today it was her task to dispose of these leaves.
As always Scott was fair in assigning each member a job which complemented their unique skills. Peter, as the strongest, was given the task of carrying bags of debris and leaves. Kurt, the most agile, was to clean the gutters. Sean whose skills did little to aid him with others close by had to clean the garage. Wolverine had been given the mundane task of raking leaves along with Ororo. He was grumbling under his breath as he dragged a rake through the multi-colored leaves. Sometimes he would glance at Ororo who, truth be told, hadn't been much help so far. She'd returned to earth although you wouldn't know it by looking at her. She was staring out at the horizon lost in thought, a rake idle in her hands. That she wasn't doing much but taking off to fly around every once in a while irked him even more than having to do peon work.
Occasionally he'd glance up at the sky wondering what she was looking at. More than once, with some annoyance, he wondered if she would ever acclimatize to her new environment. With her everything was new and wondrous which was all good and well but when there was work to be done goofing off like a space cadet wasn't cutting it. The sooner they finished the sooner he was free to head into town where he could get a drink and have some peace.
Finally, enough was enough.
"You gonna help or you gonna keep goofin' off, sweets?" he snapped at her.
Startled from her reverie Ororo turned to Wolverine but instead of replying she gave him a small, self-conscious smile. She wondered if she'd ever get used to this little man with his gruff, crass demeanor. Whether or not that happened she did have an obligation to assist him and so with a mere thought a great gust of wind swept the leaves before them up into the air where she easily tossed them against the side of the garage.
"Is that better?" she asked as the sea of leaves settled into a large pile.
"Lots babe. Now all we gotta do is bag 'em."
It never ceased to amaze him, this woman and the incredible power she wielded.
"Excellent work, fraulien and for zat I bring you a gift," Kurt called out.
One moment he was on the roof and the next he materialized in front of Ororo with his arms full of leaves. Before she could get over the shock of his sudden appearance a shower of somewhat sodden leaves sprinkled down onto her and then Kurt was gone almost as suddenly as he'd appeared. His telltale burst of flame and brimstone unexpectedly appeared in front of Wolverine next and he received his own pseudo baptism of damp, musky leaves. And then in another instant Kurt was hanging upside down from a tree not far off, his tail wrapped firmly around a sturdy branch. He tossed his now empty lawn bag at Wolverine and was gone again with a laugh.
"I'm gonna kill you, you crazy Elf!" Wolverine raged. "We spent all morning raking those blasted leaves, we ain't doin' yer work too!"
"Ah, but I saw ze fair maiden sweep zese pesky leaves away as if zey were feathers. I am sure she can do so once again can you not fraulien?" Kurt said, now standing behind Ororo.
Ororo couldn't stop laughing. Kurt was such a breath of fresh air and ever the gentleman. As requested the leaves at their feet were caught up in another gust and sent to join the pile by the garage.
"Now, what do you zink about a break my friends?" Kurt suggested.
"Brother, I'm all for it, beers on me but if you keep playin' games I'm gonna have ta break your neck," Wolverine said tossing his rake aside and starting back for the mansion.
"It is always beer with that one," Ororo commented as she picked a stray leaf from her hair.
"And Canadian beer at zat. Now if it were up to me we would stay stocked in dunkles bier, the very best mind you."*
"You can keep yer lager bub," Wolverine shouted over his shoulder.
"I will never understand that intolerable little man," Ororo murmured.
* "Was? There is not much to understand, Ororo. What you see is what you get but when we are to fight zen I am glad he is on our side."
Not quite sure if she agreed with Kurt Ororo walked with him to the garage where they quickly enticed Peter and Sean to join them in the kitchen for refreshments. And as if Charles had read their minds he also joined them bringing Hank with him. The furry, blue, sapient Avenger was taking a day off from the Avengers in order to help Charles with the momentous job of cleaning the library, Charles taking care of the bottom book shelves while Hank scampered along the top shelves dusting and reorganizing.
Not long after they were all seated at the kitchen table and Hank perched on a countertop all conversation came to a halt as Scott and Jean sauntered in. Jean was giggling. It was obvious she was glad to be back with Scott after her short hiatus away from the X-Men. Scott was looking happier than he'd looked since the new team had saved the original X-Men from Krakoa the Living Island. Both had been cleaning the lower mansion rooms. Wolverine suspected they weren't getting much cleaning done though since Scott's mouth was smeared with lipstick.
"Working hard bub?" the annoyed Wolverine asked.
"Scott," Jean cautioned quietly when she saw the all too familiar twitch of her boyfriend's jaw.
That was happening a lot lately. In fact, ever since Wolverine had shown his independent streak, which had been day one, Scott had acquired an even sterner attitude to accompany the twitch. Now Scott clamped his mouth shut and forced himself to ignore Wolverine. Why the professor was so keen on keeping the man around Scott didn't understand but he felt he owed it to the professor to do his best to try to tolerate the little upstart.
"Ororo, what do you think of our autumn?" Jean asked as she poured herself a glass of iced tea.
"So many colors, it's truly beautiful."
"We should take a drive in the country, just us girls. Vermont, New Hampshire maybe but New York has some gorgeous scenic routes too. I'd love to show you."
"I think I would enjoy that."
While the women chatted the men drank in silence unconsciously eavesdropping and covertly watching the beauties. They made a stunning contrast, both beautiful and yet so very different. What surprised many of them was that they got along so well unlike many women the men had known.
Jean liked Ororo, she liked her a lot. There was an openness to her, a freshness mixed with an uninhibited mind that delighted Jean but she was also slightly worried about those same qualities. Ororo didn't have the qualms many Americans did such as when it came to wearing clothes. Jean imagined it would take a little while before Ororo was able to adapt. Something else had disturbed her too. Jean had taken Ororo shopping after introducing her to her roommates Misty and Colleen but when they'd gone to catch the subway Jean discovered that Ororo was deathly afraid of being trapped underground. Apparently she suffered from severe claustrophobia. It was something Jean had kept to herself but something she felt needed to be discussed with Scott sooner or later or at the very least with Ororo. Surely the Danger Room would be a good place to help her overcome her fears, she thought. Then, as if Scott could read her mind, he announced that there would be a training session two hours before dinner that evening.
"Be prepared people and be on time," Scott spoke over the quiet grumblings.
"Ain't it enough we're workin' like slaves for you, Summers?" Wolverine barked.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work," said Hank.
"You ever talk plain English, bub?"
"Thomas Edison," Hank replied with a chuckle. "Astute words my homunculus friend, it means . . ."
"Who gives a damn what it means? I've had enough flamin' work to last me for the rest of the weekend. I'm tired of being used for free labor. I'm outta here. Ya got a giant walkin' talkin' island ta fight call me, I'll be at Harry's Hideaway."
Wolverine stalked out. All eyes turned to Scott who was caught off guard by the sudden rebellion. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
"Hank's right, the chores have to be done people," he said after a moment.
"That was not exactly what I was attempting to say oh fearless leader," Hank replied.
"Regardless, you've all got your assignments and I expect everyone to see that they get done in time for training and that's an order."
"Ach, I see someone's up to ninety a wee bit, yeah?" Sean whispered to Kurt who shrugged, not quite sure what Sean was talking about.**
"Scott, we've had so much to do all week maybe working this weekend isn't what we need right now. You know the saying 'all work and no play'," Jean said with a smile she hoped would win her boyfriend over.
After counting slowly to ten Scott forced a tight smile. It looked more like a grimace. He shook his head.
"I'm going to have a little talk with Wolverine and in the meantime team you have five minutes to finish up here and get back to work," he said.
Sean and Kurt groaned. No one wanted to go back to work but neither did they speak up. The last thing any of them wanted was to suffer through one of Scott's talks.
"And we'll skip the Danger Room session for today. We've been working pretty hard lately," he added after Jean gave him a woeful look.
A cheer went up from Kurt and Sean. Jean gave Scott a grateful smile.
"You're all right mate," Sean said, patting Scott on the back.
Scott didn't know if he liked being thought a good mate. He rather preferred to be thought of as a good leader but he gave Sean a curt nod and was glad to see they all went back to work without further complaint.
"If we must work then at least it is a beautiful day is it not comrades?" Peter said as he heaved several heavy bags of leaves onto a flatbed truck.
"So much so that I wish I could fly away," Ororo teased.
"Weekend duties are annoying but necessary," Kurt said. "Yet still . . . I zink we should take a page from Wolverine's book and play . .. what do you call it? Play ze hooky – do you not zink so?"
"Ach, steady on you muckers if it's hooky you be meaning ta play ya better be thinkin' twice," Sean said as he came up to them. "I've been ponderin' the thought over a wee bit meself. You know mi-wadi's not what it used ta be in me younger days and I could surely use a holiday but Scott won't take kindly to a mutiny, just somethin' ta be thinkin' about mates."**
"It is not a mutiny if we hurry to complete our work first," Ororo said, her winds blowing away the leaves that had fallen on the lawn while they'd been inside.
"All good and well but none of us have your powers, Ororo. It will take me all day to clean ze gutters," Kurt said.
"Then what do you suggest?" Peter asked.
"Kurt, Sean, really I think we should finish what we have started before . . ."
But before Ororo could reign in the errant workers with words of wisdom Wolverine went flying past them. He landed with a loud thud about fifty yards past them. He didn't get up, in fact he didn't move at all. It looked as if the attack had killed him for attack it was. Stunned, his teammates rushed to help him but before they reached him he groaned and started to sit up but he was immediately knocked back down when a red beam of energy blasted him in the chest.
Logan's teammates looked from his lifeless body to the man who'd just taken Wolverine out. At first they'd thought they were under attack by an enemy but there was no mistaking that very familiar red optic blast. Scott walked calmly towards them. He was adjustting his visor with one hand and looking as serious as a man can look when his eyes are hidden.
"Now I will say this again, no one skips out on chores. Are we clear on this?" Scott said.
"Clear indeed," Peter said and he and Sean quickly ducked into the garage.
"Do we have an understanding, Wolverine?" Scott asked.
Wolverine looked up. His flannel shirt was in rags and there was a hole the size of a man's fist in the middle of his chest but he still managed to stand albeit on shaky legs. He staggered forward claws extended.
"Wolverine, no!" Ororo cried.
Wolverine glanced at her. She stepped in his path. He glared at her. She glared right back. He noticed Peter had turned back and was walking towards them, the young Russian intent on protecting Ororo. The others stared, shocked and speechless. His claws were still extended, still ready. He stepped aside, looked at Ororo and then at Scott. The men studied each other for a long minute. Scott was determined to make Wolverine understand he had to do his fair share just the same as the others regardless if he had claws and a nasty temper or not. The last thing he needed was Wolverine questioning his every move. It was clear neither were going to back down.
"Is this how you talk things over, Scott?" Ororo demanded.
"This is none of your business, Storm," Scott replied.
"Are we not all individuals to be treated with respect?"
"Of course, Ororo but sometimes . . ."
"Sometimes patience and leniency and understanding are more valuable weapons than perhaps your way of 'talking'," Ororo said, her tone ice cold. "I am sure the professor would agree."
Scott chewed at his bottom lip more than a little amazed at her audacity and feeling somewhat chastised.
"Well, I'm sorry but the professor's not in charge of the team, Storm, I am and this is between Wolverine and me. Now I'd appreciate it if everyone would get back to work."
But no one moved. No one spoke. The silence was almost peaceful. Two birds chirping carefree back and forth, wind gently rustling leaves along the driveway.
Frustrated, Ororo stepped closer to Wolverine. Leaves crunched under her sneakers as she approached and then there was silence again as she stopped in front of the crouched man and placed her hands on her hips. Wolverine starred at her. She had to be crazy, he thought. Even with his claws out she wasn't fazed. He suddenly felt foolish. He'd never been one to shirk his duties before it was just that Scott got on his last nerve. Reluctantly he sheathed his claws.
"Lady, one of these days I might just go through you," he said but he was grinning.
"Well, you are unhurt I see, still the same old Wolverine," she said.
"Fine as rain. I heal ya know."
"Rain," Ororo whispered and a smile flickered over her face.
"All right people let's get busy!" Scott ordered. He picked up a rake and tossed it more at Wolverine than to him.
Kurt caught it in mid air then materialized with it beside Wolverine and handed it to him.
"He is a hard task master I agree but ze work must be done my friend," Kurt muttered.
"What he is is a flamin' sonuva . . ."
"Sssh," Ororo whispered, interrupting Wolverine, a finger on her lips. There was a mischievous look on her face.
The look accompanied by a wink threw him. He'd never seen Storm wink before. She was too uptight for that. But he had no time to dwell on her unusual actions. A smattering of rain splashed down on him. Scott felt it too but he only paused a moment before heading back to his own chores and Jean. A sprinkle wouldn't interfere and they were almost finished he considered. And had it been just a sprinkling it really wouldn't have mattered but then, out of nowhere it became a down pour.
"Storm, do you think you could hold this off for a while, just until we finish out here?" Scott asked.
"I do not like to interfere with nature unless there are . . . dire circumstances," Ororo said with a sweet smile.
"Oh. Right. Yeah, of course," Scott said somewhat taken aback by her refusal logical though it was. These new members were too independent he decided with some disdain and yet he wasn't so sure he'd had the right to ask her to tamper with nature to suit the team's needs – his needs, he corrected himself with sudden realization.
"All right people take the rest of the day off," Scott said, finally admitting defeat and he trudged back to the mansion.
Kurt was peeking out from the garage where he'd gone to get out of the rain and he gave a whoop of delight then teleported away. Sean was just as pleased. He caught Peter by the arms and with a deafening screech shot out of the garage and into the air with his heavy load, the young Russian crying out in alarm then laughing at his free ride back to the mansion. Only Wolverine and Ororo remained. She lifted her face to the rain and smiled, happy in her element.
"You did this didn't ya, Storm?" Wolverine asked, not minding the deluge.
"Dire circumstances," she whispered, her lips twitching in a conspirators smile.
Wolverine grinned. He was beginning to think Storm might be all right. Scott, however, wasn't quite sure what to make of the dignified erstwhile goddess. But Jean, who met him at the door with a hug and a kiss, was certain she was always going to get along fabulously with Ororo. After all, it wasn't every day someone could so easily admonish both Wolverine and Scott in such an effective manner.
"Looks like they win," Scott said giving her an affable grin.
"It's not you against them, Scott and the sooner you start believing that the sooner everything will fall into place," she said.
"Maybe you're right."
"And another thing . . ."
"Jean . . ."
"I won't say anything else after this but, Scott honey you're really going to have to work on your talking skills. I don't want my man gutted and served for dinner," she teased then laughed.
Scott shook his wet hair at her giving her a good dousing but he laughed too.
Out in the rain Ororo lifted herself off the ground with a strong wind.
"Would you like a lift back to the house?" she asked Wolverine.
His immediate response was to say no but looking at her hovering just above him he had a strong inclination to take her up on her offer.
"The rain feels good does it not?" she said when he didn't answer. It was a lighter rain now and warm.
"Guess I'll head into town," he said.
"Wet as you are?"
"Well, if you are sure . . ."
"Hey, next time do that wind thing with the leaves an' we'll be outta here a lot faster."
"It would not be fair to the others."
"You think Kurt bamfin' around's fair?"
She smiled. "Perhaps not."
"So I'm outta here," he said, but he didn't budge.
"Enjoy," she said but she didn't make a move to leave either.
"Yeah. You too, sweets," he mumbled.
Ororo shook her head and smiled. No, she didn't know if she'd ever get used to this little man but she had a feeling it might not be as difficult as she'd first thought.
Wolverine watched Ororo soar up into the sky. He had the oddest feeling that he'd enjoy the day a lot more if he stayed but because he was stubborn he wasn't going to take her up on her offer. Maybe one day he'd feel more comfortable around her, around all of them. He threw his head back and let the rain pelt him full on and suddenly he started to laugh. She'd done this. For him? For them? But it didn't matter for whom really. She'd put him and Scott in their place in one smooth move. Yeah, she was all right, he thought. And it occurred to him maybe it would be sooner rather than later that he felt at home . . . with her at least.
*German interpretations more or less (if wrong please let me know):
Was – what
Dunkles bier – dark ale or lager
**Irish Interpretations more or less (again, if wrong please let me know):
Up to ninety - near boiling point, ready to explode
Muckers – a friend or mate, someone you muck around with
Mi-wadi – my body