Lance Alvers slouched in the corner of one of the closet-like group study rooms at Bayville High, his fists clenched at his sides. Instead of leering at Kitty or giving Scott his usual, pathetic I'm-gonna-kick-your-ass look, he stared at a spot on the wall, perhaps seeing something else in his mind's eye. Even from the opposite corner of the tiny room, Scott could smell Lance's greasy hair and body odor. The threadbare jeans Alvers always wore had dark, yellow-brown stains on the thighs, and parts of his black tee shirt looked stiff, as if caked with something. Even by Brotherhood standards, Lance looked like he was losing it.
The door swung open, passing through Kitty, who stood beside Lance. Rogue entered, shut the door behind her, and sat in one of the plastic chairs, next to Kurt. She ran her eyes over Lance, shook her head, and sighed in disgust before putting on her usual bored expression. Despite her affected apathy, the fingers of her right hand closed around those of her left in what would have been an innocuous gesture for anyone else. Scott knew it was the equivalent of him touching the rim of his glasses; she could have her glove off in seconds and her left hand on Lance's wrist or cheek before he could bring down the walls.
Scott leaned forward, resting his palms on the small, graffiti-riddled table and said, "Alright, Alvers. We're all here. If you've got something to tell us about Jean..."
"It wasn't my fault--" Lance shuffled his feet and shrugged, opening his mouth and then closing it, as if unable to decide how to spin the story.
For a moment, Scot considered pulling off his glasses and blasting that Brotherhood loser through the wall; if Lance had to think that hard about why Jean's disappearance wasn't his fault, that meant he was directly responsible. Scott's hand drifted to his temple before he forced it back down to the table.
"I don't care whose fault it was," Scott said through clenched teeth. "I just want Jean back safely."
Lance raised his hands, palms outward. "Look, I don't know where she is--"
"Then why bring us here? If this is some kind of joke--" Scott began, the right lens of his glasses pinched firmly between his thumb and forefinger.
"Whoa! Like, let him talk!" Kitty phased through the table and stood in the center of it, arms extended so that one hand rested on Scott's shoulder and the other disappeared into Lance's chest.
The implication was clear; Kitty was restraining Scott, but actively threatening Lance by positioning herself one thought away from literally holding his heart in her hand.
"Scott's right," Rogue muttered, pinching the finger of her glove. "Start talkin'."
Looking nervous, Kurt sidled closer to Lance, probably planning to bamf them both out of the room if Scott, Kitty, or Rogue made any sudden moves. Kurt took the whole "love thy neighbor" thing to its ultimate extreme, even if said neighbor knew something about Jean and was playing coy. At the moment, Scott couldn't share Kurt's convictions, but he was able to lower his hand, slowly.
Fixing his eyes on Kitty and ignoring everyone else, Lance repeated, "It wasn't my fault. At least, not this part of it, not her getting kidnapped. I was--" He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Pietro brought her back to the boarding house and she'd been-- it looked like she'd been in an accident. I wanted to drop her off at Xavier's, but Pietro had already called his dad."
"Is she alright?" Kitty sniffled, lowering her hands and turning to face Lance. "I mean before Magneto took her, was she..."
Lance shrugged. "She was pretty banged up, but yeah, I think she's fine. Physically, at least."
"Jean hasn't been herself," Scott snapped, feeling the need to defend her.
"Kitty explained about the Phoenix, but that's not what I mean. It wasn't Magneto that took her. It was this guy Jason Wyngarde, calls himself 'Mastermind'."
The four X-Men exchanged an alarmed look.
"If Magneto is working with the Hellfire Club, maybe we need to tell the professor," Kurt offered.
Scott folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the wall, his mind racing. "Lance, is there anything else you can tell us?"
"Nope, that's it. And I'm done." Lance took a step toward the door, pushing past Kitty when she tried to grab his arm.
As Lance exited, Rogue jumped to her feet, her bare left hand extended. Scott took her by the shoulders, holding firmly until the sound of Lance's footsteps faded.
"What'd ya do that for?" Rogue demanded. "He might be in on it! Ah coulda found out what he knows."
Scott shook his head. "I'd rather see where he goes. Kurt, tail him. Don't let him see you. We need to know if he's reporting to Magneto or the Hellfire Club."
"Yes, sir!" After a brief, mocking salute, Kurt bamfed away, leaving Scott alone with the girls.
Scott slumped into one of the chairs, feeling suddenly exhausted. "Kurt's right. We have to tell Professor Xavier that Magneto is working with Mastermind."
"But Jean--" Rogue began, frowning.
"We don't mention Jean!" Scott barked. "All the professor needs to know is that Magneto and the Hellfire Club are up to something together. Kitty can say Lance told her in the back of his jeep."
"Ewww! As if!" Kitty protested.
"Fine. Then say you overheard him talking to Pietro, I don't care." Scott ran a hand through his hair and put his elbow on the table so he could rest his forehead on his palm. "We just need the professor to locate Mastermind using Cerebro. Once we know that, we have an idea where Jean might be."
"Yeah, and like, so does the Professor and Storm and Mr. Logan. Don't you think they'll take the X-jet and go looking?" Kitty shook her head and opened her mouth to continue her protest.
Scott pounded the table with a fist. "No! We can't let that happen. That's why we're going to disable the X-jet. We won't do anything permanent, just unplug a few connections. After the professor briefs everyone, he'll put together a team. When they find out the jet is grounded, Kitty, you'll offer to phase through and look for problems. That's when you make your repairs, and then the four of us take off."
Rogue raised her eyebrows, tilted her head, and regarded Scott with a look of admiration that made him feel guilty for enjoying it so much. "That's a good plan. Kurt isn't gonna like it though. Lyin' to the Professor, trickin' the whole team..."
"That's why he won't know the details. Once we have the X-jet ready to go, we ask him to come with us, but until then, we keep quiet."
"And then, like, what? We go in and storm Magneto's headquarters?" Kitty wondered.
"If that's what it takes."
"I-- I don't know, Scott..." Kitty spread her fingers and looked down at the back of her hands.
"Well, Ah, do." Rogue reached across the table and took Scott's fist in both of her satin-gloved hands. "Ah know what Jean means to you, and if-- if there could be someone Ah could feel that way about, Ah – Ah'd do anythin' for 'em."
"Yeah, but Rogue, what are we actually going to do once we find Jean?" Kitty asked.
Rogue took a deep breath, sending a tremor through her body that Scott could feel in her hands. She released his fist and cradled her left hand in her right, fingering one glove with the other. "We do what we hafta t' save Jean."