Disclaimer: There are really four things I have to give credit to for this story

Disclaimer: There are really four things I have to give credit to for this story. First, the creators of the Marvel Universe.  Couldn't have done it without them. 
Second, the creators of the MC2 Universe.  It's pretty damned cool, and I really liked some of the new characters.  Too bad they didn't get used more. 
Third, Phil Hartman.  His New Mutants stories were the basis for my X-Mutants team (which I use a lot). 
Fourth, I need to give credit to my other story, which was entertaining (at least the beginning.  It kinda got worse as the story went on, which is why it hasn't been continued).
Quick background: The year is 2032, and the new generation of X-Men is only familiar in that Wolverine is still in it.  The rest were all middle-aged and old, so they've retired to more normal lives.  X-Factor is a high-profile team like the Avengers, a la X-Factor #149.  That's about it.  Enjoy the story.

Marc looked down the way he had just gone, grinning with pride.  That was it, the mountain had been scaled.  The horizon was the most beautiful sight Marcus Fried could remember seeing.

Dense forests, containing more shades of green and brown than a lot of city-dwellers knew existed.  The sky was orange and violet, with rays of light shining through the clouds.  'This is spectacular.  If there was a tropical beach on the other side of this mountain, I would be in Eden,' Marc thought to himself.  "All we need now is Adam and Eve."

"What?" said a voice from behind.  Chris Lawrence had decided to join Marc on his climb.

"Never mind.  The view is beautiful."

Chris took a moment to respond.  "Yeah.  Really Kodak."

Marc shook his head.  His friend definitely was not a poet.  But he did have a good point.  Marc took out his Kodak camera, and photographed the horizon.  The sky would not come out, but the trees and mountains were what was important.  If there was one perk about his job, it was being able to go places with wonderful views ... and getting paid to do it.  "I'll race you back down," he suggested.

Chris grinned.  "You're on."

"No telekinesis."  The X-Man feigned pain.  "Look, just because you've got the mutant powers, that doesn't mean you can cheat.  It's about skill, my friend."

The other shrugged.  "Fair enough.  Winner buys beer?"

"I don't drink."  Chris laughed.  "Let's get going."

Marc began his descent, but he was a little distracted.  When he was about one-third the way down, there was a loud noise above him.  Fear rose in his throat when Marc looked up to see a piece of the cliff face falling towards him.  Later, he remembered wishing that he had climbed the same side of the mountain as Chris.

As the boulder fell, more rocks broke loose.  A few of the smaller rocks hit him, but Marc resolved to stay clung to the wall.  Just as the large boulder was about to flatten him against the cliff face, it was somehow pushed to the side.  It bounced off the wall ten feet to his right.

He continued climbing down, this time more cautiously.  After he reached the bottom, he coiled up his long climbing rope.  Roughly thirty minutes later, he was back at the parking lot.

When Marc put his gear into the trunk of his car, Chris arrived.  "Damn it, you beat me again!" he shouted, pretending to be frustrated.  Marc slammed the trunk shut.  "Now you get to write an article for the Bugle about what a shame it is for such a resource to go unused."

"Yeah," was the quiet reply.  After a moment's thought, he said, "Chris, did you hear that rock fall while we were climbing down?"

"I didn't see it, but it was very loud.  Judging from the noise it made when it hit the ground, it was a pretty big boulder.  Did you see it?"

"So you didn't do it?"

Chris cocked his head.  "Do what?  Are you okay, man?  You look pretty pale."

"I'm not sure."  He took a deep, painful breath.  "I wasn't really paying attention.  One moment, there was a boulder heading towards me, and the next.  The next thing I know, it's pushed out of my path.  I could have sworn it was you."

His friend placed a hand on Marc's shoulder.  "You have to come with me to the Xavier Institute."

Marc looked up, understanding what was being implied.  "You think I'm a mutant?"

"There's no other possible explanation, man.  A rock was falling at you at you, as quickly as gravity could take it, then it was suddenly pushed aside."

Running a hand through his hair, Marc considered his friend's words.  He sat down on his car trunk, thinking.  "You want me to join the X-Men, the selfish bastard that you are."  There was no reply.  "I'm twenty years old.  I have normal job … well, I'm a newspaper reporter, that's kind of normal.  I'm even thinking of asking my girlfriend to move in with me.  Something like this … I can't keep it from her."

"Then don't.  Marc, don't worry about it.  If she really likes you, it won't matter.  It's not important enough to really care.  I want you to visit the Xavier Institute.  If anything else, you'll be a good influence on the students there."

"All right, man.  I'll think about it.  I'm driving home.  See you around."

"Bye," said Chris, the X-Man walking over to his very own Dodge Viper.  Marc had to admit that he was jealous as he got into his Saturn.

The drive to New York City went by quickly.  By the time he reached the city limits, it was completely dark outside.  Marc knew that if he went to his studio apartment he would sit around and brood for a couple of days.  He opted not to be alone that evening.

An hour later, he was standing in the hallway of a rather large apartment building.  It wasn't his.  The place was too fancy, too expensive for him to even dream of living in it.  Somewhere in that very building lived the Fantastic Five.  Marc did not know where, nor did he care.

He hesitated at the door to his girlfriend's apartment for two reasons.  First, he had only been there twice.  Both times it was to walk her home.  Supposedly she had a very protective family.  The second reason was what he came to tell her.

'"Hi, Reba, how are you today?  Just wanted to tell you that I'm a mutant.  Oh, and hey!  How would you like to move in with me?  Into a tiny studio apartment with a guy that's going to be treated like criminal or vigilante, depending on which social circle you happen to be in."  No, I definitely cannot say that.'  A few other ludicrous possibilities flashed through Marc's head before he finally worked up the courage to knock on the door.

Luckily, it was Rebecca who opened the door.  "Hey, babe," she said, kissing him before he could respond.

"Hi," he said.  Marc looked her up and down, wondering how he could end up with someone like her.  She was just a couple of inches shorter than he, with green eyes and blonde hair.  He decided that she looked good in shorts and a T.

"This is a nice surprise."  She continued without missing a beat.  "Let's go to the beach." Reba slipped an arm around his waist, and placed the other on his chest.


She smiled.  "Of course now.  It's the best time to go; no one else is there."

Marc bit his tongue to distract himself.  The image of her in a bikini was very alluring.  "Sorry, I can't."

She gave him a sad puppy face.  "You still have to write that article, don't you?  Then what are you doing here?"

He pursed his lips, trying to think of the best way to say it.  "We need to go somewhere you can sit down.  There's something we need to talk about."

Her jovial expression left her.  A pang of guilt hit Marc.  "Why don't we go inside?"

"Isn't your family home?"

"Nope.  Out for the evening."  She opened the door and led him in.

"Wow, so this is what your place looks like."  The ceiling was high, and the furniture probably cost more money than his car did.

Rebecca plopped down on a couch, somehow making the action look graceful.  "Yup.  What do you think?"

Trying not to get nervous, he replied, "I prefer the beach.  There you've got the ocean, sand, salt … what's not to like about there?"

"Now you're teasing me."  As he sat down, Marc had to shrug in admission.  Reba turned to face him, placing her legs across his lap.  "What did you want to talk to me about?" she asked, recovering some of her courage.

"I … discovered a mutant today."  He looked down at the ground, not quite sure how to proceed.

She blanched visibly, and turned away.  "So?"  Her voice was tiny.  "What does this have to do with us?  Is it a friend of yours?"

Marc took her hand.  "You can say that."  She looked as if she was going to run away.  He didn't know if she could take the news.  "Reba … we've known each other a while, right?"

"Eight months isn't exactly 'a while,'" she answered.  Something in her voice made it sound as if she were trying not to cry.  'Is she upset because it might be me?'

Continuing the conversation was becoming more difficult, for both of them.  "This isn't getting easier.  I might as well say it.  Rebecca."  She turned to face him, not knowing what to expect.  "I'm a mutant."

If there was a reaction he was expecting, what Rebecca did was not it.  She threw her arms around him, holding on as tight as she could.  "It's okay," she said, her color restoring.  "That doesn't make you a different person."  She pulled away, holding his hands.  When she saw him shiver, and noticed that his face was still blanched, Rebecca held him again.

"I was trying to be happy with my life."  Marc licked his lips, trying to continue speaking.  "I've always been religious, but … what does this make me?"

"You're exactly the same as you were yesterday."  She pulled back a moment to sit down beside him, her head on his shoulder.  "Don't leave," she pleaded.

Marc opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.  'If we stay together, Rebecca, and your family finds out, will they be as understanding?'  "Reba, did you know that my family hasn't talked to me since we've been together?"  She shook her head, looking up at him.  "There are certain things my family takes for granted.  Like, that our traditions will be passed on with every generation."

With a surge of strength that surprised Rebecca, she sat up and said, "Marcus, there is something you have to understand.  It's not your genetic makeup that defines who you are.  Is it the shape of someone's body that determines whether he's a terrorist or a cop?"

"No."  He smiled weakly, and kissed her hand.  "I'm just scared, Becca."  He snorted a laugh.  "My best friend, Chris, wants me to move in with the X-Men.  To be one of them."  Marc closed his eyes, not knowing that he was frowning.

Becca bit her lower lip.  "You don't look so good, Marc.  We should get out of here, spend some time in nature."

He nodded, and smiled.  'She really does know me.'  His voice came out weakly, in a whisper.  "I'd like that."

"Great," she said smiling.  "I'll grab a couple of sleeping bags and a backpack."  Marc blinked.  In all the time they'd been with each other, they had done a lot together.  Not once had they slept together, presumably because of Becky's parents.  "We're going to have a great time, Marc.  You'll see."  She hopped up off the couch, leaving Marc feeling like the luckiest guy alive.

For the second time that day, he was in the State Park.  Granted, it was midnight.  This time, however, he had company he was no longer sure he could live without.  "I feel like I've been so weak," he said to the air, glad she was out of earshot at the moment.  Somehow, being around the trees gave him strength.

When she finally made it to the overlook Marc had been waiting at, he was already gone. 

In the nearby bushes, he watched her walk back to the path, frustrated with his games.  He knew that she was enjoying her search for him, and that she would never admit it.  Marc needed to find a way to repay her for taking him out to the woods.  There was no place that he enjoyed more than the Appalachian Mountains.

Taking a shortcut, Marc sat down on the trail, just around the corner from where Becca would end up.  And, sure enough, she appeared several minutes later.  "You did that on purpose," she said.

"I was wondering where you'd gone off to," he replied.  "Here I was, walking along side you, then, poof!"  Reba cocked her head; Marc just had to smile.  "I found a great place to camp, about twenty feet off the trail."  She sat down next to him, resting her head on his shoulder.  "Or we could go back to the campground," he said.

"Sounds good.  You've got a tent in your car, right?"  The tone in her voice showed what her plan was all along.  Reba hopped to her feet, not waiting for Marc to answer.  Before he could even stand up, she was around corner.  He had to stumble his way in the dark to catch up.

"Boo!" he said into her ear, putting an arm around her waist.  It took half an hour to get back to the campground, and another ten minutes to set up the tent.

'At least it's cozy inside,' Reba thought to herself.  "Marc, there's a reason I wanted to come here."

He curled up beside her.  "You don't want to brush your teeth in the morning?" he asked.  That got him a jab in the ribs.  "Guess not."

"Sit up, babe.  It's time for you to learn my little secret."  He complied.  "You love me, right?"

'Uh oh.'  "Can I plead the Fifth?" he asked.  Becca shook her head.  "Don't tell me you had an operation, and you were born a man."

Rebecca giggled.  "Okay, that's a strange one.  But you didn't answer my question."

Marcus sighed, running fingers through her hair.  "Yeah.  And not because of your body, I can't see that right now.  You turned the flashlight off."

"So if I gained some weight, you'd still love me?"

"Silly girl," was the only answer Marc would give.

"What if I told you that I'm not a natural blonde?"  She heard him chuckle.  "What if I turned out to be an alien?"  He kissed her hand.  "Well, half alien."  She slapped Marc to get him to pay attention.  "Marcus, you have to know this.  Otherwise, you're going to wonder what the green person is, lying next to you when you wake up.

"The reason that it doesn't matter to me if you're a mutant is my father's the Human Torch.  Being a superhero runs in the family, and it makes me happy that you'll be one, too."  Marc tried to speak, but she covered his mouth with her hand.  "You have to know that … I'm half Skrull, a shape shifter."  He pulled her down.  "What are you doing?" she asked.

"Go to sleep!  Unless you told me that you're a man or breaking up with me, nothing you can say will change what I want to do right now.  Which is, sleep."  Becca shook her head in amazement.  "Goodnight."

"Layla tov," was whispered softly into Marc's ear.