Written By: Matdeception
Rough Draft Begun: 7/20/11
Rough Draft Finished: 8/6/11
Revision Begun: 8/6/11
Revision Finished: 8/7/11
Disclaimer: I own a cat named Mouse. He is awesome. That is all.
Author's Notes: Foesjoe for the blood test idea.
Ranma blearily opened his eyes as he woke. It was dark, soft light from the outside lamps pushing their way in through the half closed blinds covering the window. He glanced around, slightly confused to find himself sleeping on a couch. He could make out the coffee table, the big screen TV and other pieces of furniture that made up the living room of Xavier's mansion. Remembrance trickled in, and he sighed as he sat up. They were all upset with him, either by his actions or his refusal to yield whatever critical information they imagined him to have, which meant now was the best time to skip town.
He shook his head, idly getting to his feet and heading for the kitchen. He opened the fridge, grabbing a bottle of orange juice and sitting it on the counter. Momentarily pondering getting a cup, he shrugged that thought off as he popped the cap and took several generous gulps of the tangy liquid. Yeah, it really was the best time to leave. The kids here barely knew him, they'd forget he existed and likely wouldn't remember him within a month or two, which suited him just fine. Logan knew enough to not let a man's personal choices upset him for long, and Xavier was nothing if not understanding to the point he'd likely stop being angry inside a day or two. Ororo... well, that was a bit of problem. The Weather Witch may appear calm and controlled most of the time, but she could hold a grudge like it was no-bodies business.
The cursed martial artist sighed, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. She would remain angry at him for a long time, months most likely, but whatever. She knew his stance on their oh so precious dreams of uniting humanity and mutant-kind, knew he would not involve himself in a fight that he had no right to involve himself in. This was their world, this was their fight and their dream, he was an interloper here who had no right getting involved. Whatever, he'll check back in with her in a year or so, give her some time to mellow. Gah, this was exactly why he tended to avoid the Weather Witch nowadays. Sure, they'd enjoy several days of orgasmic bliss, playful banter and all around good times, but then something would always come up about that damn dream of theirs and she'd chill faster then a freaking glacier. What the hell did she want from him?
"Bah." he grunted, taking one last swig of juice before putting the bottle back in the fridge. He blinked then as the refrigerator closed, noticing a plain white envelope with his name on it held to the door by a magnet. Ranma frowned as he grabbed it, opening it and dropping it's contents into his hand. A neatly folded letter with a single key. Opening the letter curiously, he felt his heart clench in his chest.
'I'll miss you. Please don't stay away so long this time. Signed, Your Friend; Ororo.' He felt his eyebrow twitch at that. Either he was becoming entirely predictable, or that woman just knew him too well. Ranma looked up at the roof, frowning thoughtfully.
Ororo sat on the veranda, eyes lost in the deep black eternity of the night sky. Light from the setting moon reflected off her silver, almost see-through nightgown and starch white hair, creating an incandescence that illuminated her figure for all around to see. She listened to the night-time animals, the hoots of owls and the song of crickets combining into a symphony of life. She sighed softly, mind drifting in memories, of her time in Kenya, of meeting Xavier and the training that followed. Of Ranma... and that silly fight they had when they first met, and of all that came after.
She could admit it, at least to herself, that having Ranma here made her feel more complete then she had ever felt before. This had nothing to do with being intimate, nothing to do with the heated cries of passion and the wonderful release that would soon follow. He was her friend, her confidant that she could tell all her secrets and woes too and not fear him refusing to listen. Yet... even if he was all that to her, what was she to him? It was a question she always asked herself when he visited, and it was one she had yet to find an answer for. Was she simply a friend with benefits? A woman he could enjoy some 'down-time' with, no strings attached? Or was she something more? He maintained that emotional divide, accepting her in his arms even as he closed off his heart.
Ororo sighed, closing her eyes tiredly. If only he had been born in this world... if only he was willing to stay, rather then search for a way to return to the ones he had been forced to leave behind. It was selfish of her to wish for such, she knew. What would she do if she happened to be in that situation? If she found herself forcibly ripped from Xavier, or Logan, or the kids, could she really just accept her fate and leave them behind? No, she could not.
A stuttering roar drew her out of thoughts. She stood from her chair, stepping up to the stone rail and eying the garage as Ranma zoomed off on a motorcycle. She watched him leave, watched him as the gate slowly opened and he rode out and vanished from sight. She stood there for a time, how long she didn't know, but long enough for clouds to gather overhead almost of their own accord. As soft rain began to fall, she turned and stepped inside and closed the door.
She was hurt, hiding from people who would use her momentary weakness against her. She laid back, resting her aching head on a pillow of feathers. She just needed to sleep, just needed to rest and recover...
'To think a coupling took place with the likes of this one.' A voice, old, muted. She couldn't hear the words, she could only feel them as she suddenly lost the ability to so much as move her fingers or toes...
Rogue startled awake, gasping desperately for breath as her heart beat like a thundering drum. Deep breaths, calming breaths, inhale, exhale until she finally calmed down. What a weird dream, it was just so... weird. She shook her read, rubbing the sleep from her eyes before blearily checking the clock. She frowned at the time, 5:30. Her alarm wasn't set to go off for another hour, but here she was wide awake if not a little drained.
Momentarily debating about trying to go back to sleep, she shrugged that thought off and climbed out of bed. She knew she'd never be able to sleep so soon after waking from such a needlessly heart pounding dream. Ah well, looks like she'd be able to shower before Kitty for a change.
Rogue softly closed the door to her room, lest she disturb her slumbering roommate. The halls were empty, lights dim as the others slept the last handful of minutes they had before their alarms went off. It was weird waking up early like this, to the silent house and no one around. Except for Storm, the goth knew she got up early every day to prepare them a healthy breakfast. Well, maybe she could give her a hand today, it'll certainly help clear her mind of yesterdays debacle with Ranma and Mystique.
Mystique, the mere thought of her made her gut wrench. To be betrayed by the woman who dared to call herself her adopted mother, guh, just thinking about it upset her. If it wasn't for her she wouldn't have run from the X-men, wouldn't have caused Scott or the others all the problems she did. Far as she cared, she had hoped the woman gone forever, but now that she was back she could only think of one thing; Smashing her damn teeth in.
She shook her head as she descended the stairs, dispelling those angry thoughts as she moved for the kitchen. There was a myriad of scents in the air, the soft sound of something sizzling in a pan touching her ears as she neared her destination. Rogue felt her mouth water, gulping back her sudden hunger as she entered the kitchen proper where she froze at the sight of it all.
Ranma, the curious guy who had shown up just a few days ago was there, moving between the stove and the counters as he cooked several dishes at once. He was dressed in an almost blinding white silk get up, shirt with matching pants that hung baggy and loose on him. The man in a boy's body glanced at her, winking, "Morning Rogue."
"Mornin..." she said hesitantly, eying the small stack of food set up along the kitchen island. Hash-browns, fluffy eggs mixed with thin bits of ham and bacon, pancakes that still had steam rising off them and... she felt her stomach roar as she caught sight of the glistening hush-puppies stacked several inches high.
The boy grinned slightly, motioning towards the food, "Go ahead and dig in. I'm making plenty for everyone."
"Uh... okay, th-thanks." The girl stuttered, still off kilter. "Uh... where's Storm?"
Ranma shrugged, "Still sleeping I'd guess." he turned to the stove, waving his hand over the sizzling eggs and bacon. Small motes of bluish white light trailed from his fingers as they moved, gently gliding down to the food before vanishing.
Rogue raised an eyebrow at that, "Uh..."
"Trick I learned in Africa." Ranma didn't even turn around, "Keeps the food fresh and warm, excites the taste buds and it's a nice pick me up in the morning." he glanced back then, with a knowing smile, "Hush-puppy?"
"Uh... yeah, thanks." she said, finally grabbing a plate and lifted some food from the island. She moved and sat at the kitchen table, glancing one more time at the boy still busily preparing breakfast, before picking up a single hush-puppy and nibbling on it.
Rogue shuddered as her taste buds exploded in absolute ecstasy, alien feelings of strength and confidence filling her chest as her mind suddenly sharpened to an absurd degree. "Guh!" she almost moaned, staring in wide eyed shock at her food.
"Good eh?" Ranma said, putting a cup of orange juice in front of her. "Take your time." he smirked, "I don't cook all that often, so enjoy it while you can."
Rogue grunted, ignoring the boy as she grabbed another hush-puppy and returned to her sensory nirvana.
Xavier stifled a yawn as he wheeled down the hall, idly making a mental checklist of his schedule for the day. Boy oh boy he had a lot to do; Impound lot, retrieve what items he could from his wrecked car, police reports and all sorts of bureaucratic nonsense. He sighed at that, reminded of the upset feelings he went to bed with the night prior. While yesterday's debacle had been more extreme then some of Ranma's other escapades, he knew the man enough to know he'd likely have taken off in the night, leaving the rest of them to cool off. He wondered how long the pigtailed boy would be gone for this time, six... eight months maybe? He always seemed to know when enough time had passed and angry feelings had cooled, which Xavier couldn't help but be grateful for.
It saddened him to think about it, but perhaps it was for the best. Things would get back to normal in short order, the kids would forget about him and soon enough all the agitated feelings would calm into something more sensible. He knew he would feel better with Ranma gone now that his association with a known enemy had been revealed to him. Though... he couldn't help but wonder just what Mystique was up too. He made a mental note, next time Ranma was in town to keep an eye on him. While he wouldn't reveal any information himself, if he could keep tabs on the boy he might be able to figure things out himself.
Xavier nodded. Yes, that would be a good idea. Now all he had to... he broke from his train of thought as the oh so delicious scent of freshly cooked food hit his nostrils. There was something there, something familiar that tantalized his taste buds, brought a feeling of fond remembrance to his chest. Wheeling into the kitchen, the headmaster blinked at the sight of it.
The kids were there, ravenously tearing into the rapidly dwindling mountain of food set up on the island. Rogue looked content, leaning in her chair and smiling happily as she rubbed her tummy. Scott, normally cool and collected boy that he tried to be, was engaged in a fork to fork battle with Evan over the juicy, steaming sausage patties before them.
Kitty grunted something unintelligible, free hand flicking towards the food. Kurt vanished in a puff from the table, reappearing at the island and grabbing a stack of waffles before bamfing back to the table, setting the waffles down, earning a soft mew from the California girl who viciously stabbed the offending food and dragged it to her plate.
Xavier boggled, glancing towards their unexpected cook. Ranma was leaning on the counter, watching the children eat in amusement. He held a steaming cup of coffee in his hand, idly breathing in it's dark aroma before taking a sip.
"Morning." Ranma raised his cup slightly in greeting.
"You... cooked?" Xavier sought to clarify. At the boys amused nod the older man turned and wheeled to the intercom. He pressed a series of buttons, before speaking, "Logan."
Xavier tried again, raising his voice slightly, "Oh Looogan!"
A few seconds later, an annoyed grunt came through the speaker "G'way." The feral-like mans voice oozed exhaustion.
Xavier chuckled internally, ignorant of Ranma rolling his eyes, "But Logan, I thought you'd like to know Ranma cooked breakfast."
There was a crash, a soft sound echoing far off followed by repeated foot falls as the Wolverine slid into the kitchen. He wore nothing but loose pajama pants, his fierce eyes darting left and right before settling on the mountain of glorious sustenance before him. He sniffed tentatively, a rather manic grin spreading across his lips.
Kitty hiccuped, rubbing her lips before snarling sharply and waving towards the counter-top island.
Kurt grunted, vanishing in a puff of smoke only to reappear at the island, where he began reaching for a stack of oh so delicious pancakes.
"Don't even think about it, bub!" Logan snarled, slowly stepping up to the boy.
Nightcrawler glanced back, utterly oblivious to the syrup dripping off his lips. He tilted his head curiously, even as he picked up the plate of pancakes.
Logan snarled, the disgusting sound of skin tearing reverberating across the small kitchen as he brought his claws out. "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the earth!"
Kitty glanced up, an angry frown marring her otherwise innocent features. She snapped between bites, "Grawwf sauwarf!"
Kurt blinked, shrugging as he put the pancakes down and grabbed a plate of sausages before vanishing in a puff of smoke, reappearing at the table. He barely put the plate down when Scott and Evan practically lunged for the simmering meat, their fork to fork battle escalating as Evan formed a fork of bone, and Scott stole Rogue's fork in turn. Now dual-wielding forks, they clashed in an epic battle that would not soon be forgotten!
"You have got to be kidding." Ranma snorted as Logan speared a stack of pancakes, "You'll hunt them down for stealing pancakes?"
Logan didn't even bother to respond, taking to his pancake-ka-bob with a gusto he usually reserved for his enemies.
"Congratulations Ranma." Xavier drawled, "You've turned my pack of mostly polite, well-mannered teenagers into sub-human beasts of insatiable ravenous hunger."
Ranma grinned, "Noticed you didn't mention Logan in that..."
Xavier snorted, "Couldn't turn him into something he already is."
"Point." Ranma chuckled, refilling his cup of coffee before pouring another for Charles. By the time he turned around the Professor was already spreading cream over some bagels, he had a rather dangerous predatory glint in his eye at that.
Jean ran back and forth, quickly grabbing her books and jamming them into her back pack before closing it. Late late late, she was so damn late! She looked around one last time, quickly scanning her room before stepping out into the hall, closing the door behind her and locking it. She turned around and blinked, catching sight of Ororo walking up the hall towards her. "Uh... morning Storm."
Storm nodded lightly, "Good morning, Jean." she frowned slightly then, checking her watch, "My, you certainly are late getting up today."
The redhead grimaced inwardly at that, being reminded just why she had overslept. "Yeah..." she breathed, walking down the hall side by side with the older woman, "... with what happened between your boyfriend and Mystique, I forgot all about my calculus homework. Couldn't sleep until I finished."
Storm tensed up a bit at that. "I'm sorry to hear that." she threw a pointed glance at her, "But to clarify, Ranma isn't my boyfriend."
Jean blinked at that. The two had been seriously involved with each other since the boy had shown up, so why was Storm denying her relationship to him? "Uh... I'm sorry, I just thought..."
"We may act as such." Storm sighed, crossing her arms, "But Ranma would never allow a title to be placed on our relationship, or any relationship for that matter."
"I... don't understand." Jean raised an eyebrow at that.
"The title boyfriend implies commitment." Storm explained as they descended the stairs, "Ranma will not acknowledge a commitment, to me or anyone."
Jean frowned at that. She could respect, if not agree with his stance on mutants and his desire to stay out of their troubles. She had assumed it was a guarded choice from some one who just didn't want to take sides, but now Storm's words made her wonder. Is choosing a side any different then the commitment he refuses to acknowledge? Why exactly does he push people, his friends no less, away like that? It was something to think about, at any rate.
"I see." she finally said, sighing. "I'm sorry for bringing it up, I'll keep my mouth shut around him about it."
"No need, Jean." Storm, while still the epitome of calm, took a slightly subdued tone as she spoke. "He left early this morning, he'll likely not return for some time."
Jean blinked. "Just left? Did he at least say why?"
"It's his way." the Nubian woman sighed, "He knew his presence, his choices, and his views were causing problems. Rather then stay and confront them, he flees."
"That's rather cowardly, isn't it?" Jean almost wish she could take those words back the moment she said them. Storm shot her a dark look at that. "Ah... I'm sorry."
"No." Storm sighed tiredly, "No, I'm sorry. You're right, of course. It is cowardly, but he has... reasons."
"If you say so." Jean shrugged as moved towards the dining room.
Rogue stepped out of the kitchen, hands locked behind her head as she smiled the most happy smile either women had seen on the Southern Belle in all the time they had known her. Jean was further thrown off balance as the girl practically skipped by them, cheerfully chirping "It's ah great day ta be alive, innit?'
"Surreal." Jean breathed in slight awe.
Storm smiled pleasantly, "Well... it's certainly good to see her in such bright spirits."
"Yes..." the redhead smiled slightly at that. "... it certainly is." she finished, stepping into the kitchen and boggling at the sight of it all.
Storm frowned, eying the rather frantic fork battle taking place between Scott and Evan over what looked like a sausage patty. Poor Scott, while an excellent leader, did not have quite the experience with melee weapons as her own dear nephew and was quickly finding himself struggling just to remain in the fight.
Kitty and Kurt were fighting to stuff as many waffles and pancakes down their throats as they could, with Logan jealously guarding the remaining pancakes on the counter island. He waved one hand with claws extended threateningly at the table of teenagers, just daring them to try and steal the fluffy goodness.
To her side, Jean boggled at the sight of it all. "Good lord! What's going on?"
Storm felt her chest tighten at the sight of Ranma, the boy sharing a cup of coffee with Xavier. He came back... she never thought in a million years he'd come back after leaving earlier. What changed his mind?
"Morning you two." Ranma waved lightly, nodding towards the island, "Help yourself Jean."
Jean chuckled weakly, "Ah, sorry. I'm on a diet."
"A... diet." Ranma frowned at that, glancing her over. "Why on earth are you on a diet?"
"Ranma." Storm breathed, stepping up to the boy. "Don't start."
"What?" The cursed martial artist blinked, "You can't honestly stand there and tell me that girl needs to be on a diet!"
"It's her loss." Xavier shrugged, ignoring or ignorant of Storm's warning look. "I certainly wouldn't give a diet a second thought, not with your cooking."
"Bah." Ranma stepped around the Nubian woman, grabbing a hush-puppy and stepping up to the redhead. "Eat this."
Jean blinked, staring incredulously at the boy, "Uh, no. I'd rather not..."
Ranma pouted adorably, crocodile tears forming in his eyes as his lower lip trembled, "... Please?"
Storm wanted to giggle at that. The sight of her... of Ranma, the sight of the boy employing the cute guilt tactic was amusing. And very effective, she had experienced it first hand several times and had always fallen to it. Even now, with the way Jean started sweating she could tell the girl was about to break any second.
Sure enough, Jean managed a weak smile, accepting the deep fried ball. She took a small nibble under Ranma's gaze, before her eyes widened in shocked surprise.
Ranma chuckled, turning back. "Yeah, diet my ass."
Jean ignored him, finishing the tasty treat in several bites before grabbing a plate and serving herself generous helpings from the island.
Xavier chuckled, wheeling around and exiting the kitchen as Jean began tearing into her food with reckless abandon.
Storm shook her head at that. "She'll be upset later, you realize."
"Maybe." Ranma allowed, "But come on Ororo, that girl is in perfect shape for her age. She doesn't need to diet anymore then you do!"
A sideways compliment? Storm smiled slightly at that, leaning up against the counter as Ranma stepped up to her. "Thank you."
The pigtailed boy grinned a bit, leaning up beside her. "It's just the truth."
Ranma busied himself... herself with washing the enormous amount of dishes cooking entailed. Ororo helped a bit, drying dishes as the red-head finished with them and put them away. The children had already long since gone, most leaving with a noticeable hop in their step. Jean looked happy for the most part, if not a little bit guilty about indulging herself and once again ruining her diet. While she happened to agree with Ranma about Jean and her lack of need to diet, it was still rather underhanded to force the girl to break it like he had.
"And this is why I hate cooking." Ranma grumbled, rinsing the pan before handing it off to be dried.
Ororo hmmed, rubbing the pan dry. "At least everyone left happy this morning."
"I noticed you didn't eat." The red-head shot her a curious look.
Storm smiled lightly, putting the pan away. "I didn't need the food to be in a good mood." she stood back up and looked at the boy-turned-girl, "Seeing you returned was enough for me."
"Ah... what made you think I left?" Ranma said nervously, pulling the drain plug. She turned the faucet on even as the water drained, letting hot water stream freely.
"I stayed up late and saw you leave." The Nubian woman confessed, "I'm not saying I'm not glad you stayed, I... well, I'm surprised."
Ranma looked at her then, her fierce gray-blue eyes burrowing into her own. "Maybe I'm just tired of leaving with you being upset at me."
Storm raised an eyebrow at that. "Are you saying you stayed for me?"
"Eer..." The girl coughed, slightly flushing. "... maybe."
"Ororo!" Xavier spoke loudly as he wheeled into the kitchen. "Have you seen the proof of insurance and title forms we kept on the Sedan?" the man turned his gaze to Ranma, "I need it to retrieve my wrecked car."
Ranma winced at the slight glare she received from the bald man at that. "Ah... sorry about that. I'll get you another one, promise!"
Ororo sighed, "It's in one of the file drawers in the sub-level archives; We put them there after having the car modified."
"Ah." Xavier nodded, wheeling around and leaving the pair alone.
Storm turned her gaze back to the red-head, "Now... where were we?"
Ranma passed her hand under the faucet, her form shifting and expanding as she returned to the gender of her birth. He turned the water off before looking directly into the woman's eyes. He stared for a time, before speaking sincerely. "I'm sorry."
Ororo grinned slightly then, stepping up and cupping the boy's cheeks and kissing him lightly on the lips. "Apology accepted." she affectionately rubbed his cheeks even as the boy grabbed her hips and pulled her body against his. He had a rather lecherous look to his eyes, but there was something else there. A degree of relief perhaps? The very thought he had been so concerned about her feelings in this matter made her feel suddenly warm.
"Kids are gone." Ranma waggled his eyebrows, "What do you say?"
Ororo just smiled, "Not until you get a blood test."
Ranma blinked, "What? Why the heck would I need..."
"Mystique has gotten around a bit." Ororo pointed out helpfully, "I'm not about to risk my beautiful body until you do."
The boy pouted adorably, "S'not fair. That takes weeks!"
"Oh I'm sure Hank could work faster then that." she let her hands fall, sliding down his chiseled chest and around to his butt. "Now off with you..." she playfully smirked, pinching his butt as she did so, "... and maybe when I get back from dealing with the whole crashed Sedan incident we'll be able to... have some fun."
Ranma nodded, a seriousness to his features Ororo rarely ever saw on the boy as he turned on his heels and raced down the stairs to the lower level.
Taryn grinned, enduring the pointed questions and unbelievable amount of attention she was receiving. She wasn't the most humble person to begin with, but even she was starting to get a mite bit irritated at the sheer popularity her chance recording yesterday had garnered her.
Jean rolled her eyes, leaning against her locker and staring at the crowd of her peers tiredly. They had swarmed the both of them when the arrived at school, and thankfully the crowds were lessening each period that went by, she just wish things would get back to normal soon. The faster people forgot about the fight the faster she could lose that nervous apprehension she felt. "Am I ever going to get my friend back?"
Taryn stuck her tongue out at the girl, "Don't ruin my high, girlfriend!"
The red-head sighed, "Whatever. I'm going to head to class, catch you next break!"
The brown-haired girl nodded at first, before suddenly leaping out and grabbing her shoulder. "Hey! Jean, wait a second!'
"Hmm?" Jean hmmed, glancing back curiously.
"Do you have the Calculus homework from last night?" Taryn blushed a bit, pressing her fingers together in embarrassment, "I, uh, didn't think to do it with all the excitement yesterday."
Jean snorted, "That excuse doesn't hold weight with me. I stayed up late just to get that homework finished."
Taryn huffed, "Aw, come on! I promise I'll return the favor!"
'Ah, why not.' While she wasn't one to condone cheating, it was hard to say no to a friend in need. Jean shrugged her bag to the front, zipping it open and fiddling with her folders. She frowned then, dangerously in fact, "Oh... oh no."
"Hm? What's wrong?"
Jean frantically checked her folders again. Try as she might, she couldn't find her calculus folder. "It's not here!" she grimaced, trying desperately to think. Where was it last? She remembered taking it out, doing her homework last night before gleefully turning off her desk lamp and lunging into bed and falling fast asleep. Did she... argh! She probably left it on her desk! "Damn, I think I left it at home!"
Taryn sighed, "Of course."
Jean grimaced, pulling her cellphone out. "Of course nothing!" she half snapped, dialing the institute. "I am not risking an A- in that class because of this!"
"A-?" Taryn boggled, "Jean... I think you need to give this perfectionist streak of yours a rest."
Jean just ignored her, waiting for some one to pick up the damn phone.
The mansion was a lonely place with everyone gone, Ranma decided finally. Oh sure, Hank was in the sub-levels doing whatever it is that mad scientist wanted to do; His blood test for example. Not that he was concerned with finding anything like an STD, but if would put Ororo's some what justified concerns to rest. Aside from Hank and Logan though, the latter happily fallen into a food induced coma, there wasn't a soul in the house. The kids were gone to school, Xavier and Ororo went off to deal with the wrecked Sedan thing, leaving him alone to hold the fort.
Ranma paused, a buzzing from his cellphone grabbing his attention. Who the devil would be calling him now? He flipped the phone open and frowned. It wasn't a call, but rather a video message; He opened it and waited. The screen turned black at first, a silvery R flickering across the screen before an address and time stamp appeared beneath it, along with the message 'Dress to impress; +2 seats secured. Be mindful of the lights.'
'Rizo.' the boy grumbled. How the devil did that little bastard even know he was in the neighborhood? More importantly, what the hell did he have up his sleeve this time? Not for the first time since meeting the enigmatic man did he wonder what sort of trouble he was about to end up in. He examined the message again, frowning ever so slightly. Dress to impress said a lot, likely a high society event. +2 suggested he needed to bring a date, which could be problematic. Be mindful of the lights could mean anything, he'd just have to wait and see.
Ranma flipped his phone open, hitting in a number and waiting for the line to pick up.
"Look..." Ororo began calmly, even if inwardly she was gritting her teeth. "... we have the police report right here, as well as proof of insurance, title papers, and even a court order to let us examine the wreck and collect any personal belongings that remain. Why are we being given the runaround?"
The woman sighed tiredly, "We're trying to process the information as fast as we can. If you'd like to take a seat, we'll call you as soon as all the information clears."
Grumbling, the Nubian nodded, leaving the line and taking a seat. Xavier wasn't around, the bald man still busy chatting up his contacts in the local police department. What she wouldn't give it be in his shoes right now...
Her cellphone began ringing. She drew it out, smiling slightly at the caller ID flashing across the screen. Flipping it open she said with a smile, "Hey you."
"Hey Ororo." Ranma began, "How's things going for you?"
"Waiting and more waiting." The Nubian woman grumped, glaring at the teller who was busy speaking to whom she could only assume was a fellow employee. "Being given the runaround, and Xavier's using his contacts as an excuse to avoid the irritating lines."
"Ah... sorry to hear that." came his hesitant reply.
"Something wrong?" Ororo frowned, "Don't tell me Hank found something..."
"What?" The boy scoffed, "Not likely. Somethings come up, and I was wondering if you're free..."
The teller suddenly waved for her to come up.
"We'll talk later." Ororo cut him off, flipping the phone closed as she stepped up to the window. "Everything's in order, I hope?"
"Ah..." the woman winced, "... your insurance card was expired. We need you to call the company and have them fax us an up to date copy."
Ororo pondered the possibility of a sudden twister destroying the damn building.
Ranma sighed, flipping the phone closed. Well, okay, he had been kind of hoping things were square with him and Ororo again, but if the mere mention of asking her out caused her to cut off the line he could only assume he was still some what in the dog house. He debated idly about tracking down Mystique, but thought better of it. Last thing he wanted to do was alienate Charles or the others again. What to do...
The main line for the house began to ring. Distractedly he meandered over and picked it up, "Xavier's school, Ranma speaking."
"Ah... Ranma." It was Jean, and she sounded rather pensive. "Is Ororo there?"
"Nope." the man trapped in a boys body grunted, leaning up against the wall. "Xavier's out too. Only Hank and Logan here, the latter's in a food coma from breakfast."
"I see." she sighed irritatingly, "Look, I'm sorry to bother you, but I need a favor."
"After yesterday's excitement, I kind of forgot to put my Calculus folder in my bag." He could practically hear her frowning, "I have some homework I absolutely can not be late on turning in. Could you grab the folder from my room and bring it by the school? Say around eleven?"
Ranma grunted, "Yeah, I guess. Meet you in front?"
"That'll be fine. Thanks." she said curtly before ending the call.
Rogue had never felt more focused in her life. Perhaps it was Ranma's food, or perhaps her own mistrust with things in general, but between Risty's story and Ranma's follow up the night prior she had been left with doubts. They were eerily similar in many regards; Gem being stolen, met each other seemingly by random chance. The only real difference was the time, sixteen to seventeen years as opposed to four or five years ago from Risty's story. Still, and it pained her to even think of it, this cast some severe doubts about Risty in her eyes. She wasn't quite willing to make the assumption Risty wasn't who she said she was, but the notion was there, a kernel in the back of her mind almost coming to the fore.
"Something wrong, Rogue?" The English Goth looked at her curiously, "You've been staring at me an awful lot this morning."
"Ya said somethin about ah jewel goin missin just afta Ranma left, right?" Rogue cut to the heart of the issue; not particularly one to play around or subtle enough to get information by beating around the bush.
Risty blinked, "Yeah?" she frowned thoughtfully, "Don't tell me you don't believe me!"
"Uh, it's not that." Rogue shook her head at that, "Jus curious, is all. What kind of gem was it?"
Risty eyed her warily for a moment, before shrugging as she started digging in her pack. "Couldn't remember myself, and after seeing him yesterday I did an internet search on it." she pulled out a couple of papers. "Sapphire, least that's what the net says."
Rogue blinked, taking the papers and eying it thoughtfully. Sure enough a Sapphire, Medigio's Jewel, went missing five years ago. No suspects in it's disappearance, and it had yet to be found. As she read she felt that sudden guarded mistrust fade away; Risty was telling the truth. "Ah... ahright. Was jus wonderin."
The English Goth looked at her thoughtfully, "You thought I was lying, didn't you?" she accused.
Rogue winced, "Ah... no, I didn't mean it ta sound like that."
"Right." Risty huffed irritably, "I wouldn't lie to you about something like that, Rogue."
"Ah believe ya." Rogue hugged her book bag to her chest tightly. How to salvage this; A visit to the institute maybe? Risty always enjoyed the time spent there. "Hey... wanna come to the institute today? Pretty sure is a visitors day."
Risty shrugged lightly, a small smile coming to her lips, "If you're sure..."
Jean kept her gaze on the passing cars, nervously tapping her fingers against the chain-link fence she was leaning against. She eyed her watch thoughtfully, "Five past eleven, he's late."
"I hope he's not too much longer." Taryn grumped, "If I don't have time to copy it down he might as well not show up with it at all."
"Thanks Taryn." Jean rolled her eyes, "Never mind the fact I'll get a failing grade, right?"
"Eh..." The brown haired girl smiled weakly, "Sorry."
Jean shrugged, glancing around again. Just where was he that annoying guy? If he didn't insist on some kind of battle with Mystique yesterday she wouldn't even be in this mess. As her tummy rumbled, she was reminded of the fact the creep had convinced her to break her diet early that morning. If she hadn't broken her diet she could at least have snacked on something for lunch, but no, she couldn't do that now. She had already taken in way too many calories today thanks to her earlier indulgence.
There was a soft roar that increasingly grew louder as the seconds wore on. Jean caught sight of a sleek black motorcycle zooming down the street, the driver wearing a pure white silk ensemble that flapped errantly in the breeze. She felt a bit of that nervous apprehension in her gut fade as he pulled up into the driveway. "There he is!"
Taryn blinked, eying the boy as he parked and stepped off the bike. "Uh... who is that?"
"A... visitor." Jean explained lamely. Thankfully Taryn was too caught up making googly eyes at the guy. Jean could appreciate the girls reaction, he was rather cute despite his many glaring flaws.
Ranma stepped up to them, glancing from Jean to Taryn and back. "Hey, sorry I'm late." he smiled slightly, "You locked the door to your room; took me a bit to get in with out breaking the door down." he flicked his arm to the side, a green folder suddenly popping into existence.
"Ah." Jean nodded. She had forgotten about that. She took the folder, opening it and flipping through the papers within a bit. "Thanks Ranma, this is a load off my mind." she closed the folder, handing it to Taryn who took the proffered article dumbly. "Hurry up Taryn, I need this back before lunch ends!"
The brown-haired girl blinked suddenly, nodding with a tight smile. "Right! Thanks Jean... Ranma."
Ranma eyed the girl weirdly as she walked away, before turning his attention back to Jean with a slight grin. "Really Jean? All that hard work so someone can cheat off you?"
Jean blushed lightly, "Ah... sorry. I really did need it though, I'm just doing her a favor."
The boy chuckled, shaking his head. He turned to leave before freezing suddenly, his fierce gray-blue eyes examining her from head to toe. Jean honestly felt uncomfortable with his looks, especially in light of just how old he was. "Uh... Ranma."
Ranma frowned, "Jean, are you busy tonight?"
The redhead blinked, "What?"
"Are you busy tonight?" the boy grinned slightly, "I have a high society event to go too, and find I'm in need of a date."
Jean boggled. He was asking her out? Was he insane? What on earth made him think she would even consider the possibility? Heck, why the hell would he ask knowing full well Ororo would find out about it one way or another. "I... uh, don't think..." she breathed nervously, before speaking again, "Why not ask Ororo?"
"I tried." He spoke honestly, "She cut me off. Now, I'd rather not track down Mysty, but this kind of event isn't one you show up dutch too."
"I have a boyfriend you know." Jean weakly threw out.
"And I have no intention of stealing you from him." Ranma snorted, "So what do you say? A nice night out, chance to mingle with the so-called high society, maybe some shopping? All on me, of course."
Jean bit her lip thoughtfully. "I... it's a school night. Xavier wouldn't let me..."
Ranma grunted, flipping open his cellphone. "Let's ask him, eh?" he placed the call.
The red-head was wondering why she just didn't say no. Honestly that would have put an end to this whole thing before it got to this point, but why didn't she think of it? Ah well, guess it didn't matter. No way was the professor going to let her out on a school night.
"Yeah Charles, I need a favor." Ranma kept looking at her even as he spoke, "Got an invite from one of my contacts in New York. It's a high society event and I need a date..." he suddenly grimaced, "... no I'm not asking you out!"
Jean stared wide-eyed. That was weird as heck coming from the Professor.
"Yeah, I tried asking Ororo." Ranma continued, "But she cut me off. I'd much rather not try and track down Mysty for it, especially after the drama from yesterday, so I'm wondering if you'd be okay with me taking Jean out on a date tonight?" he was silent for a bit, eventually rolling his eyes and saying, "Like I'd ever do something like that." he sighed after a bit, before holding the phone out, "Here, he wants to talk to you."
Jean took the phone hesitantly, "Hello?"
"Jean." Xavier began, "I'm going to go ahead and give you permission to go with Ranma tonight. However, I want you to be aware, keep an eye on him and see if anything about Mystique comes up."
"What?" the red-head boggled, "But Professor..."
"I'm asking you, Jean." the man's tone turned serious, "Believe it or not we can learn a lot about Ranma, or potential adversities to our dreams if we but pay attention. Can you do that?"
"I..." she sighed, "Alright Professor."
"Good girl. Hand the phone back to Ranma, please." she did so.
"Yeah?" Ranma frowned. "Eh... I'd say between eleven and twelve at the latest." he grunted then, "Right, see you later." before flipping the phone closed. He glanced at the red-head with a smile, "See? Permission granted. So how bout it, wanna go on a date with me?"
Jean stared at him thoughtfully. The Professor had all but made it an order, and it was one she was extremely hesitant to accept. Not because she didn't trust Ranma, though she quite frankly didn't, but because she was practically being forced too. Now though, even after getting permission Ranma still asked rather then demanded. It was a slight thing, true, but it made her feel loads better because at the end of the day he made sure it was her choice. "I... sure, I'd like that."
Ranma smiled brightly then. Jean suddenly realized why Ororo liked the guy, that smile could melt ice with its intensity. "Thanks Jean, you won't regret it!"
"I hope not." She grumbled slightly, looking down at her clothes with a frown. "I don't think I have anything to wear, not for the kind of party you're taking me too."
The boy blinked, "Oh..." he glanced her up and down thoughtfully, "Turn around, slowly."
Jean did so, shivering a bit. She could practically feel his eyes raking the length of her body as she did so.
"Alright, I can handle that." Ranma nodded, glancing up at her neck, then face and hair. "Yep, this will be easy."
"Okay?" she really didn't know what to say to that.
"I'll pick you up here after school." Ranma grunted, "We have a bit of a drive, so no time to delay."
"Okay." Jean nodded, slowly stepping away. "I'll see you after school then."
The boy grunted, leaning on his bike and reeving the engine. "It's a date."
"She is abhorrent to the plan." another voice, feminine with a sultry undertone to every word.
She felt a piercing warmth over her abdomen that shifted back and forth, like a wave caressing from side to side. "She is irrelevant, not abhorrent." this voice was slightly mechanical, or perhaps a voice veiled by a synthesizers of some kind.
"The child?" that first voice, old and dark in tone. She felt a fear the likes of which she had never known swell up in her chest from that voice alone. It was like listening to eternity, old and so terribly alien.
"Partial vergence." the mechanical voice said simply. "It is unlikely to inherit more then a modicum."
"Abort it." the woman snapped, "It is outside our plans, just as this pustule of a woman is."
"Let it be." the old voice said with finality. "If nothing else we can gauge his lowliest inheritance. Send her to Magnus."
"He'll stop his quest." the woman returned angrily, "We'll have failed."
"Alter the memories." the mechanical voice said simply, "Dilate time, make it unfeasible for conception to have occurred and she will not seek him out." a pause; "A vague simulacrum would do well as a replacement."
Something grabbed her arm, pushing it away and letting her see something more then darkness. The man... if you could call it that, had skin of silver and the consistency of water. Ripples traveled along his form, reflecting light and even her own reflection. She could see her blue skin, notice the shocked horror etched across her features as she stared into the endless silver.
Rogue jerked awake, a scream ripping from her lips as an unfathomable fear clenched her rapidly beating heart.
Class abruptly came to an stand still, everyone staring in wide eyed shock at the girl as she thrashed in her chair.
"Rogue!" Risty hissed, gripping the girl by the shoulder and trying to calm her. "Snap out of it, girl!"
Rogue stared at the girl, eyes wide and unseeing at first while she struggled to calm herself. "Uh..." she shivered suddenly, "Sorry... sorry..."
"Are you okay Rogue?" Their teacher stepped up tentatively, "Do you need to visit the nurses office?"
The Southern Belle blinked rapidly, "Uh... no, no." she grimaced, "Jus ah bad dream, s'all."
At least she hoped so, but she didn't think she was that lucky.
Scott had cut class a little early and didn't feel the least bit sorry about it. It occurred to him that with Duncan's car pretty much scrap, or in the shop for a while, then Jean would need a ride home. This had the added benefit of limiting that jerk's time with the girl, which as far as he was concerned was only a good thing. He didn't deserve the red-head, not with his egotistical tendencies and all around asshole mannerisms. Maybe he wasn't seeing the good in the guy, but as far as Summers was concerned there simply wasn't any.
As the bell rang, he let his eyes zoom on anything and everything red he could find. Other teenagers began piling out the doors, some heading towards the buses idling nearby, many more rushing to cars driven by parents or older brothers and sisters. No sign of the red-head just yet...
"I'm worried Rogue." he half heard Risty from his side. He glanced in their direction, frowning thoughtfully as the two goths approached him. Rather, the look Rogue shot him had him worried, like something had seriously disturbed her and she desperately needed to tell some one about it.
"It was jus a dream, Risty." Rogue said as she stepped up to Scott, glancing at him meaningfully. "Ain't tha first time I had dreams like that."
'Dreams?' Scott pondered mentally. "Hey you two."
Risty huffed, shooting a look at the boy, "Scott, you gotta talk to Rogue! She won't listen to me at all!"
"What's this about?" Scott glanced at the Southern Belle pointedly.
"Jus..." Rogue nervously glanced at Risty, before turning back to face Scott. "... ya remember those dreams ah had bout Kurt little ways ago?"
Scott blinked. Oh he didn't think he could ever forget about 'those' dreams. Mystique's memories that had surfaced as dreams for Rogue, revealing a link between the blue skinned woman and Kurt, that link being the fact she was his mother. If Rogue was having more dreams along that vein... "Well, I'm sure it's nothing, but we can always talk to the Professor about them."
Rogue nodded, relief flashing in her eyes. "Ya mind givin us a ride to tha school?"
"Not at all." Scott shrugged. Okay, he had been hoping for a little alone time with Jean, but there were some things far more important then his own infatuation with the red head. Speaking of the red head, the boy suppressed a frown as he spotted her walking out the front with Duncan and Taryn in tow...
Jean had hoped for a quick get-away. The last thing she wanted was to be bogged down by Taryn or Duncan today, not since she agreed to a 'date' with Ranma. The brown-haired girl had practically gushed questions about the boy since seeing him, and she didn't need to be a mind reader to know Duncan wouldn't like the boy on principal once he found out about him. She thought it rather sweet, if entirely annoying, how her boyfriend could get jealous so easily over the slightest of things. She shook those thoughts off, practically power walking to the front and praying with all her might to get by unnoticed...
"Jean!" Taryn chirruped, grabbing her arm and denying the red-head her escape, "Where are you off too so fast?"
"Eerm..." Jean grimaced, "Just, y'know, want to get out of here quickly."
Taryn looked at her suspiciously at first, before grinning brightly, "I don't think so."
The red-head raised an eyebrow at the girl.
"Not until you give me all the juicy gossip on that Ranma guy." She practically swooned, "To think some one like that is staying at your place..." she fanned herself dramatically for effect.
"Who is what now?" Jean winced as he boyfriend stepped up behind her, grabbing her in a light hug that left her feeling irritated and nothing else.
"What, you didn't know?" Taryn took a slight scandalous tone with that, "This hunk of a man is staying with Jean, and the girl won't even help hook a friend up!"
"... Right." Duncan snorted, leaning in close to his girl. Jean could feel his breath caress her neck followed by the feather lite kiss. "... this guy isn't something I should worry about, right?"
"Absolutely not." Jean half snapped, breaking the embrace as she started for the exit again. "Look Taryn, Ranma isn't the type of guy you'd want to date."
"Oh?" Taryn kept step with her, looking oh so curious, "Why's that?"
Duncan snorted, "It's probably the other way around." he looked at the girl seriously, "You're damn annoying at times, Taryn."
"Shut up dick for brains." The girl snapped, glancing pointedly at Jean.
Jean debated about how to respond, but settled for some supposed truths in the end. "He doesn't date younger girls." she said matter of factly.
"What?" Duncan blinked, "He a cougar chaser?" Jean had the oddest impression her boyfriend was starting to like the guy.
Taryn huffed, "Lies! I'm sure he'll give me a chance..." she trailed off as they finally made it to the front of the school. She frowned thoughtfully, "Oh, you need a ride Jean?"
Jean spotted Scott glancing at her curiously before responding. "No, I... have a ride already."
The brown-haired girl pouted, "Oh come on, let me give you a ride home! Please? Pretty please?"
Duncan rolled his eyes. "She just wants a chance to jump this Ranma guy's bones."
"I deny nothing." Taryn grinned shamelessly.
"Hey Jean." Scott stepped up to them. Jean idly noticed Risty and Rogue a little ways behind him, both watching with bored expectant eyes. "Was about to take off, wondered if you needed a ride?"
Duncan almost growled there, but managed to remarkably restrain himself.
Taryn looked at Jean expectantly.
Jean winced internally. Where was Ranma when she needed him?
A loud roar followed by squealing tires answered her prayer, Ranma sliding to a stop on Storm's motorcycle near the curb. The sound drew everyone's attention, Scott staring blankly with Duncan blinking owlishly at the sight of the boy.
"Hey Jean." Ranma smiled slightly, reeving the bike a bit. "You ready?"
Jean couldn't really think of a worse way to leave, but frankly didn't much care. She stepped away from her friends, smiling weakly, "Yes, well. My ride's here so... see you all later!" she turned and practically ran for the boy.
Ranma blinked, eying her weirdly as she practically lunged onto the bike. "Get me out of here!" she half snapped.
The pigtailed boy chuckled, glancing at the group of kids with a smile. He gave them a thumbs up before zooming off with Jean.
Taryn pouted, "That's not fair! She already has a boyfriend, damn it!"
Scott and Duncan both just glowered.