X-Men-First Class: Rise or Fall

Chapter One Hundred Twelve

Author's Word: Fam, Fam! *Huff, puff*. At last, I have returned to you. Your reviews and PMs kept me so sane throughout the last couple weeks. Now, I'm not one to point fingers normally, but it's completely and entirely my mom's fault that this chapter is so late. More on that another time. Please enjoy and review!

Decorations of red, brown, orange, and harvest gold crafted by the house's children filled the living room where five of the adult members sat around together. The two telepaths and the normal guised shape-shifter lined up on a sofa with the glasses adorned beast on the arm nearest his wife. The metal wielder took up an armchair. Each one held a mug of coffee or tea in their possession.

Raven's spare hand went to Emma's lower stomach and she asked in youthful curiosity, "What's it like?"

Emma laid her hand over hers. "Like this body is finally worth something."

"If only males could receive such an honor," Erik remarked.

Hank piped up, "Well, in certain species of aquatic life…" He turned slightly sheepish at the less than interested expressions. "I'm ruining the beauty of it all, aren't I?"

Charles sent him a smile. "Impossible, Henry. It would seem all of our minds are elsewhere."

Raven said, "Mine is more like else-elsewhere. See, our president was just killed and now that's somehow our fault and we're stuck twiddling our thumbs. But at the same time, I'm still married with a ginormous herd of people to feed in three days." She looked around at the others. "Is it wrong that that's all I really care about right now?"

Erik reached forward to pat her knee. "I envy you, sister."

"And I must admit," a glint filled Charles' eyes, "I have been dreaming about our upcoming holiday feast."

Emma placed an arm around Raven to hold her near and play in her mutated golden hair.

Jubilant footsteps approached and Cordelia and Joey rushed in, the former in yellow dancing sun pajamas and the latter wearing a set made up of a splattered paint design.

"He's here," Cordelia beamed.

Emma looked towards the entryway. "That he is. Joey, get the door, please."

The small boy hurried to obey the request but his excited features instantly drooped at finding a different male on the other side. "Oh it's just you."

A dry toned and countenanced Christian Frost responded, "Yes, I get that a lot. He'll be here soon enough." He walked by the child and put down his overnight bag to pause at his youngest sibling, who appeared entirely stone faced. "Still here I see."

Cordelia shrugged and replied low enough for only him to hear. "I only run from people not worth my time."

Chris moved beyond her to share a greeting with one of their other sister. "Emmie."

Emma gave him a little hug. "It's good to see you."

Chris nodded towards the others and extended a hand out to Charles. "I appreciate the invite."

Charles shook heartily with him. "Family is always welcomed here, Chris."

The blonde male caught a brief glance from Erik that clearly told him certain restrictions came with that.

"Grandpa!" Joey reacted when he finally saw him headed up the walk.

Suitcase in one hand and cane in the other, Winston let go of both to lift the eager boy straight up. "My grandson," he used one arm to embrace Cordelia who ran at him next, "my little girl."

Cordelia told him as she buried her face against his upper body, "I am so glad you made it."

"It was either this or the president's funeral." Winston then said, "Less security clearance, not to mention a far superior welcoming committee here in Westchester. And what's this?" He made his way into the living room still holding Joey with Cordelia at his side. "My other little girl," he held out a hand, "carrying my new grandson."

Emma took his hand with her daintier pair. "Hello, Father." She squeezed his shoulder when he leaned in to kiss her cheek.

Winston placed Joey down to shake with Charles and pat the younger man's arm. "Standing taller than ever I see, son."

"I don't know about tall," Charles denied humorously, "but the leg is holding up quite well."

Joey went to retrieve the scepter and with some difficulty pulled Winston's suitcase over as well.

"Best let me do that, Joey." Hank took the bags. "I'll put these in your rooms."

Winston looked away from saying hello to Raven. "Oh thank you, Hank. And Christian will be more than happy to help you."

"Ever so much," Chris muttered, taking hold of his own bag.

Hank tried to hide his amusement as he gestured towards the doorway. "After you."

IIIIIII

Near echoing laughter made Maya turn around in time to catch Cody being rushed down the hallway in a wheelchair by Sean.

When they got close enough, Maya grabbed her boyfriend's arm. "Sean! Are you insane? Nearly every department in this hospital knows me. You'll get us banned at this rate."

"Banned from medical assistance?" Sean scoffed. "That is so not the American way. Besides," he pulled her over into his arms, "after all the work you've done, they can deal."

Maya then felt herself flutter under his kiss.

Cody made imitative sucking noises.

"Hey down in front," Logan came through pushing a shopping cart loaded down with various nonperishable food items. "That's married folk lovin'."

"You mean they're not married?"

Recognizing the sarcastic voice, Maya looked over. "Hi, Mom."

"Hi, Mrs. Patterson," Sean greeted.

"Always a pleasure, Sean." Lauren made her way around a desk with a chart. "Helping Maya with the food drive I see."

Kayla approached with her own heavily filled cart. "We're all trying to give her a hand wherever we can."

Lauren looked at her briefly before pointing down the hall. "Cafeteria's that way."

"I got this, Kay." Sean took over her cart.

Cody tugged on Maya's hand. "Push me, Smiley. Pleeeease?"

"Well," Maya eased and gave in, "just for a bit." She grabbed onto the back of the chair and started wheeling him forward.

"Whee!" they cried out together.

"Race you, Wolves," Sean challenged.

"You're on, Red," the man gladly accepted.

While the four of them zoomed on, Kayla flipped some hair over one blazer covered shoulder and walked over to the desk. "Maya's really thrown herself into these donations."

Lauren busied herself with paperwork as she spoke. "She's always been charitable that way."

Kayla's eyes narrowed. "Or desperate to distract herself any way she can this time of year. You know, even mailmen get Thanksgiving off."

"Postal workers don't save lives."

"And yet the one life that should matter to you most is passing you right on by." Kayla headed away from her.

Lauren breathed through her nose and slammed one clipboard down in frustration.

IIIIIII

"It's really nice to see you again, Mr. Frost." Jasmine turned to the other gentleman. "And to meet you, Mr.—"

Chris immediately held up a hand. "That title is very, very taken. Chris will do nicely."

Jasmine went to sit beside her father again, who asked, "So how long are you in town for?"

"We have a late flight after dinner on Thursday," Winston replied. "It's the best we could have hoped for after the mayhem the assassination caused."

"Oh tell me about it," Trick concurred. "I should have booked in advance because now we have to be up at the crack of dawn to visit my sister down in Florida. I'd have liked for her to come here, but she has a pile of studies in front of her."

"People are in hysteria over Kennedy. Yet," Winston took a sip of tea, "the public needs to realize that this is nothing that hasn't happened before and will surely happen again. That's simply the way the political world works, despite how unfortunate."

"Perhaps we could discuss a friendlier topic," Charles proposed.

"Of course." Winston glanced down at Joey, who sat to his left while Cordelia took the right. "Little Charles, are you excited to become an elder brother?"

"Oh yes," the child answered. "I'll be glad when he's here."

"You'll love it, trust me," Alex said from where he sat off to the side with Erik and Becky.

"I still find it impossible to believe that little sis is with child." Chris reached out to rub Emma's stomach.

Joey nearly fell off his sofa as he leaned forward to bat his hand away.

"Joseph," Charles reprimanded.

Emma tugged Joey over to sit in her lap. "He's very protective."

Chris looked at his own hand then back to the boy. "I see."

Emma ran a hand down Joey's back. "It's alright, darling."

Becky went over to embrace Joey from behind.

Charles mentioned, "I think it's time for the little ones to get ready for bed."

Alex knelt down to hold his arms open. "Come on, Eel." He picked Joey up to carry out when the shorter blonde came to him.

Cordelia kissed Winston's cheek as she stood. She then linked arms with Jasmine and Becky to leave out.

Once all the children had departed, Winston asked, "Would now be a good time to take notice of that rather large elephant currently trampling through the room?"

Charles looked at him. "What do you mean?"

"Come off it, Charles," Winston dismissed. "While sour is a normal sentiment for a Frost gathering, it's unbecoming to your household."

"We have a great burden hanging over us," Trick confided.

Winston turned to him. "Does it have anything to do with your stabbing?"

Erik stood to his full height. "It's no concern of yours."

"Brother, please," Charles said, trying to maintain some diplomacy in the room.

A now annoyed Erik stepped forward. "We found out recently that the government is ready to issue a control order over mutants- though that's not the term they're using. They've decided for themselves that we are behind Kennedy."

"That's insane," Chris reacted. "Oswald is already dead. Unless they're prepared to call him a mutant as well."

"You say that as if it matters." Erik's eyes and voice carried venom in each word. "People still are not satisfied. No doubt since we opted not to register ourselves to the government, we've now been made the perfect scapegoats."

"Does anyone know where you are?" Winston asked next.

Charles said, "I erased the memory of the one person capable of disclosing our location."

"And I did a little housecleaning of my own before I decided to end my stay in CIA containment," Emma added. "From what I gathered during my time there, several of them believe that protection rights don't extend to mutants."

"Ridiculous," Winston claimed.

Erik shook his head at that. "It's as you said. This is nothing that hasn't happened before," then turned and walked out.

IIIIIII

While Kayla flipped another page in her book, Logan sat at the side of the bed getting his shoes back on.

A freshly showered and pajama adorned Maya walked in. "Thanks again for helping me today."

"Sure, darlin'," Logan said dismissively.

"It was for a worthwhile cause." Kayla then added, "And by that I mean you of course."

Maya smiled and leaned over to hug her. "Good night." She kissed Logan's cheek. "Oh," she remembered something, "chamomile tea alright for tomorrow?"

"Yeah," the gruff man replied, "thanks, baby." The teenager nodded and left back out. "Want to tell me what that whole thing was about?"

Kayla's attention stayed with her reading material. "What?"

Logan took the book away from her. "I heard you back at the hospital. Why're you steadily gettin' into it with Lauren Patterson?"

"Why does she steadily ignore her daughter?" Kayla countered. "Maya wears herself raggedy trying to hide how that really makes her feel and she shouldn't have to."

"Look, I know the dame's no saint, but she's important to Smiley. You need to respect that, Fox," Logan reasoned.

Kayla lay down with a simple, "Fine."

Logan shook his head, "Keep lookin' like your son all you want to," and moved over to kiss her. "I'm on your side ya know."

She linked hands with him and stared up at the ceiling. "It's not fair."

"I know. What do you say we take off this weekend? Maybe head down to Mexico or somewhere for a few days."

Kayla gave him a smile. "That'd be nice."

That agreed, he resumed preparation for his shift.

IIIIIII

Seated by her brother on the bed he would be using for his time there, Emma brought up, "So sobriety is going well?"

"Dry as a bone," Chris reported. "Not that it's enough for Daddy. He didn't drag me out here for a bonding ritual."

Emma said with darkened eyes, "Nice to know you had to be dragged."

"Oh little sis," Chris put his hand over hers, "I didn't mean it that way. You know I'm happy to be here with you. But with the way we left things, I wasn't so sure you'd feel the same way."

"I meant what I said, Chris," Emma looked at him sharply, "you need to take real responsibility, especially where Cordelia is concerned. She's convinced you care nothing about her. Even Adrienne makes acknowledgements on birthdays and holidays."

Chris sighed. "I know. But she's a teenage girl and so… spacey. We've never had a long list in common."

Emma informed him, "Well, while you're in this house you're going to make an effort."

"Of course, sis," he complied tiredly.

From the slightly open door, a pair of brown eyes peeked in.

"So that's your uncle on your ma's side?"

Joey shrugged and said, "I guess. I wish he wouldn't come here. He was mean to my dad in Boston and Cordy says he's a crummy brother. She'd never say that unless it was true."

Cody sat back down next to him with their backs against the wall. "Your family's real weird, Joey. I mean- your dad's always nice to you, your mom's always cool, and your uncles are fuss monkeys."

Joey lifted his hands in a "I don't know what to tell you" motion.

Logan came through and stopped at the sight of them. "Hey," he gave each of them a little kick, "gruesome twosome, why ain't you in bed?"

"Can I go to work with you, Daddy?" Cody then reminded, "There's no school."

"Just for a while." Logan lifted him up over his shoulder with one arm.

Joey stood up. "Thanks for finishing Xander's barn, Wolvie."

"Don't worry about it, shock jockey." Son in tow, Logan continued on down the hall.

Joey.

At the normally comforting mental petition, Joey headed for his room where his father waited on the bed with Bounty near him.

"There you are," Charles acknowledged warmly.

Joey shut the door before heading over. "You gonna give me a tongue-lashing, Daddy?"

"A tongue-lashing?" Charles echoed in amusement.

"I heard it in Uncle Hank's class."

"Ah, I suspected as much. And no," Charles opened his arms to him, "I am not going to give you a tongue-lashing… tonight." Joey climbed up into the man's lap. "However, I would like to know what was behind that little display downstairs. Does Chris make you feel uncomfortable?"

"A little," Joey replied honestly. "I just didn't want him to touch my brother. 'Cause he's not nice to you."

Charles hugged him closely. "Do you remember how much you didn't want to share Alex when Scott came to live with us?" Joey nodded against him. "I suspect Chris is feeling something along those lines. He doesn't like that I now have your mother's attention. They were quite close growing up you see and sometimes elder brothers don't care for it when their younger sisters have beaus."

"But you've never been mean to Uncle Hank," Joey pointed out.

"I try not to be, but when they were first dating," Charles leaned in close to Joey's forehead, "I always kept one eye peeled."

"Hmm." Joey considered something. "Daddy, can I have a sister next? So my eyes can peel, too?"

Charles said, "We'll see about that. For now, you can try to keep your brother out of mischief, alright?"

"Alright," Joey conceded.

"Good lad. Now," Charles laid him down beside Bounty, "story time."

"Can I have one about Thanksgiving?" the child requested.

Charles agreed then had to think of one not riddled with negative political implications.

IIIIIII

Untwining one shoulder-length dark braid, Winston commented, "It's been quite a while since I've done this. You always managed to stick chewing gum in the oddest places- drove your mother up the wall."

"Spots on glasses drove Mommy up the wall," Cordelia reminded.

Winston sent the brush through her hair. "Charles tells me your grades are up. And I suppose the recent uproar hasn't affected your gymnastics."

"We won't be starting up for another couple weeks," Cordelia told him in annoyance. "I'm so sick of hearing about Kennedy."

"Cordy dear," Winston's arms went around her, "know that I'm all for it if you ever wish to return home."

"What, because of this blame-all-mutants nonsense." She then explained, "Em and Headmasters filled us "big kids" in. Please, it's sure to blow over, I just want to enjoy Thanksgiving with you here."

Winston gave her forehead a kiss. "You're a woman of priority, Miss Frost. Oh the places you are headed."

Cordelia smiled, nestling in his hold.

IIIIIII

Glass of shared milk between them on the table, Frank dipped another cookie into the white substance.

He then brought up, "You have to be up early tomorrow."

Jasmine shrugged. "So? I'll sleep on the plane. I'd rather be with you."

"Wish you didn't have to go." Frank's gaze fell to his lap. "Now Mom's not going to be here."

Jasmine's eyes bugged out. "What, why?"

"Linny and his missionary guys are in Texas to do some in-person praying and ministering," he explained. "Mom's flying out to see him. She asked me to come."

"Why aren't you?" she asked curiously.

"It'd be good to see how my brother's doing, but," Frank thought how to word it, "Raven needs my help with dinner, Scott's here, and the X-Men are dealing with heavy stuff. I feel like I need to be here… it's a nice feeling."

"I wish I could be here, too," Jasmine touched his arm, "but these schools are having so much rioting and I need to make sure my aunt's okay."

"Oh I know," Frank quickly assured. "Besides," he gave her a hug, "you'll be back."

Jasmine hugged him back but remained silent. Something she felt from her father the past few days caused her to wonder about that.

IIIIIII

Alex rolled over at the presence of another joining him in his bed. The additional weight proved a bit too much to belong to Joey so, despite the darkness of the room, he went with his next best guess.

"Hey, little brother," he yawned, an arm automatically going over him. "You okay?"

"I can't sleep," Scott reported.

Alex frowned in worry. "Nightmares again?"

Scott shook his head against him. "I'm just so excited. Thanksgiving will be here soon and we're together. Then after that, Christmas will be here and we'll be together. Then after that—"

"Whoa, whoa. Slow down," Alex urged. "Christmas may be all fun and games for you but it only reminds me that I have finals coming up." He gave Scott a squeeze. "Meh, who cares? I'd take a hundred thousand tests just to spend this with you."

Scott seemed to glow as he spoke. "I helped Rebecca with the decorations."

"I know." Alex closed his eyes again. "I saw."

"We made a bunch of turkeys. You know the kind you trace with your hand? Then Joey got the idea that we should try to make some with our feet. They turned out pretty goofy so we called them Thanksgiving alligators and give them little tails we made with our pinkies."

"Scottie," Alex beseeched tiredly, "it's bedtime. And if you keep talking we'll be too tired to play tomorrow."

Scott settled and whispered as he drifted off, "Being an X-Man's the best…"

Alex gave his stomach a fond pat at that.

IIIIIII

Still in his pajamas and with a mess of wild hair, Joey knocked on the designated guest room's door, making it open. He poked his head inside, seeing the bed already made. Hearing the shower going, he entered full and climbed up on the bed. Noticing the scepter propped up by the headboard, Joey picked it up and channeled his inner King Arthur as he swiped the sharp end about in the direction of invisible enemies.

Before long, Winston stepped out from the bathroom, fully dressed for the day in a casual outfit. He quietly watched the boy play for a moment.

"Well, good morning."

Joey plopped down onto his bottom, smiling at him. "Good morning, Grandpa. How come you're up so early?"

"Seven AM is early for you?" Winston waved off. "You should see me on a work day. However," he joined him on the bed, "I can't help but wonder what a little boy such as yourself is doing up at this hour."

"I was looking for you."

"Were you?" A twinkle came to Winston's eyes. "You hopped straight out of bed just to find me?"

Joey nodded and sat up on his knees to place both arms around the man's neck. "I wish we didn't have to sleep so we'd have more time to play and I want to show you Xander's new barn."

Winston put arms around him in turn. "I would love to see Xander's new barn, but first, why don't we see about breakfast, hm?"

Joey got down and took his hand. "We get to eat cold cereal today."

"Do we?" Winston stood, allowing the boy to move ahead of him. "Well, let's have at it."

Holding on tightly to the older male, Joey led the way out of the room.

IIIIIII

With Frank and Jasmine off to explore the gift shop, Charles decided to retrieve some unwanted-on-his-part but necessary coffee for himself and Trick.

"Thank you, Charles," the ash blonde said, accepting the foam container.

"No trouble." Charles took up a plastic seat beside him. "Needless to say, we're certainly going to miss you this week."

"All of you as well, Charlie boy," Trick returned. "I'd hoped we'd have another day."

Charles put forth, "We could have several days if you choose to stay."

Trick gazed ahead a moment. "There's a conspiracy over our kind, Charles."

"I know," Charles said quietly.

Looking through the window to the two children in the gift shop, Trick went on. "My daughter cannot find relief in any aspect of her being. And I keep receiving constant reasons as to why we should cross the pond yet again."

"You must do what is best," Charles had to reason. "Admittedly, it's mostly selfishness as to why I want you to stay. With everything that's happening around us, I'd rather not lose my best mate."

Trick paused from taking another sip of his coffee. "I don't think I've been referred to as such in a long time."

Charles stood up and held out a hand to help the younger man rise as well. "Safe journey, Patrick."

Trick responded, "Keep safe on the home front."

They shared a quick hug before the boarding call sounded.

A hand in hand Frank and Jasmine left out of the gift shop.

"Take care, love." Charles hugged Jasmine tightly.

She leaned on him. "Happy Thanksgiving, Charles."

"Be sure to give Erik a mighty hard time for me." Trick embraced Frank.

"Piece of cake," Frank replied softly.

After the Hughes boarded, Charles and Frank remained inside the airport. They gazed out of the large windows until the airplane turned into nothing more than a dot in the sky.

Charles' arms stayed around Frank from behind. "Ready to go home?"

Frank nodded. "Sure am."

Hand staying on the boys shoulder, the pair started back for the parking lot.

IIIIIII

Tying the white waist belt of her fall jacket snugger around her, Emma lingered in the backyard where many of the X-Men had gathered. To one side Scott and Becky rode on the backs of Alex and Hank around the trees while near to the house Winston rolled around on the ground with Joey while Cordelia rained leaves down on them.

Noticing his middle daughter, Winston went over while Cordelia and Joey started up a game of tag with the others.

"You shouldn't be out here, dear," Winston put his hands to her upper arms, "it's cold."

"I'm fine, Daddy." Emma looked toward the children then back to her father. "I must keep a camera on me at all times during your visits. I can't believe you're honestly frolicking."

"You've seen it before."

Emma gaped at him. "When exactly?"

"When you, Chris, and Adrienne were small," Winston attempted to jog her memory. "Remember we were in our yard during winter and Christian decided to dump a pound of snow down my trousers?"

Emma gave off a small laugh. "Before or after I "accidentally" made Adrienne fall into the tree?"

"After," Winston said pointedly. "I'm fairly certain Chris sought to avenge you for the entire five minutes of quiet time I gave you."

Emma's expression changed slightly. "Do you ever wonder how we ended up here?"

"No," he replied straightforwardly. "Because I already know. In the name of success, I left nurturing almost entirely up to your mother. One of many mistakes I made. Emma," Winston brought her in closer towards his front, "I thank you for giving me the chance to set things right with the next generation. I only hope the same can be said for us."

"So do I, Daddy," she quietly concurred.

"Grandpa," Joey's voice called over.

Winston glanced back before looking at Emma once more, "I think I prefer that title to my given name," then went to rejoin the youngsters.

From the kitchen window, icy blue eyes observed the playful hijinks taking placing outside.

Turning away, Chris let off a "Gah!" at the sight of the unheard pair behind him. "Don't… do that."

Logan did not even blink. "So what's your beef with your father, anyway?"

Chris answered, "A long list of complications."

Victor titled his head a bit. "He ever knock you down the stairs."

"No," Chris responded as if the answer should have been plain.

"Gut punch ya?" Logan guessed.

"No."

"Draw blood from your ears?" Victor went next.

"No." Chris' voice carried a great deal more annoyance.

Logan stated, "Pretty boys," and walked away.

Victor remained staring at Chris. "Ya know, for two guys who don't get along so good, your dad drops your name an awful lot." He gave off a sweep of his coat then went the way of his brother.

Chris stood in place, leaning one arm against a window with a building pensive expression on his face.

IIIIIII

"I already explained this. Yes, I know I didn't make it back during summer." Sean paced back and forth along the second floor as far as the phone cord would go. "My professor almost died in that car accident. Don't you get that?" He threw his head back in complete frustration. "Dad, would you stop? I have too much going on here to hop on a plane. No, I already told you I want to spend Christmas break with Maya." Sean's eyes seemed to glow as red as his hair at the next words he heard. "Well, I'll take my "little high school romance" over being a middle-aged bachelor like you were." He slammed the phone back down onto its base then noticed someone out of the corner of his eye. "…Hey."

Hank walked up to him. "I take it your parents still aren't taking your decision of where to spend the holidays quite well."

"My grades are perfect, Hank," Sean emphasized. "They don't get any "your son is a delinquent" phone calls and yet they can't just take my word for stuff. I'm a mutant, I go to Mutant School, and I'm not about to go home and leave that part of me here."

Hank's hands quickly went to the young shoulders. "Breathe now, please."

Sean let off a breath, going back to his normal soft-spoken tone. "If they found out what was going on with the feds, they'd probably try to ship me off to the old country or something."

"I know how insensitive they come off to you," Hank said, "but they do care. Meanwhile, I'm quite sure my father doesn't want to hear from me again unless I work the word "cure" in five seconds into the conversation."

The redhead sighed. "I complain too much."

"No, you do not," Hank insisted. "Seanie, I know how hard this is. You feel torn between two worlds and the one that has your loyalty also creates the most guilt within you. I have been there."

Sean decided, "I need to write to my brother. Explain things better."

Hank nodded. "You do that. Also, don't forget I'm here if you want to talk about it."

Sean managed a smile. "Thanks, Hank."

IIIIIII

At the figure in black encroaching on the property, Victor's eyes narrowed and he immediately departed from Eye Spy to make his way up to the main level. He pressed up against the key hole, taking a moment to fully visually receive the one on the coming his way on the other side.

"ID."

Adrienne jumped at the voice then recognized it. "Victor? Victor Creed?"

"ID," he repeated.

One impatient hand went to her hip. "You know perfectly well who I am."

"ID, please."

Sighing with aggravation, she fished through her purse for her wallet and removed the necessary card.

She held it up to one of the glass panes. "Satisfied?"

"Under the door, please."

Adrienne formed an expression that clearly said "shoot me, please," but complied.

Silence fell until she heard, "Mother's maiden name?"

"Mr. Creed!" Freshly manicured fingernails felt ready to claw at the door until it suddenly popped open.

"Miss Frost." Victor diplomatically stepped out of the way. "They're out back."

When she at last got inside, Adrienne reached for her ID only to look on as Victor tucked it away down his shirt. Eyes rolling as far back as they could, she started through the grand house.

Emma turned around at her exiting through the back door. "Adrienne, what are you doing here?"

The redhead replied, "It's Thanksgiving."

Emma said dryly, "I repeat, what are you doing here?"

"Adrienne." Winston came towards her. "What on earth?"

"Oh boy," Cordelia reacted far from enthusiastically.

Becky looked cross then shared a glance with Joey and did not have to read his mind to know they experienced the same simultaneous thought.

"Don't you remember, Father?" She moved her cheeks back and forth for him to kiss. "I told you all about my holiday benefit in Manhattan."

Winston said, "I thought you'd cancelled it after all the chaos."

Adrienne came back with, "You thought I would allow the two seconds it took to kill Kennedy destroy two months of planning?" She waved to the others. "Hello, children. Oh, and baby sis."

Cordelia came over and greeted in the usual way, "Big sis… you're actually coming to Thanksgiving dinner?"

Adrienne touched Emma's shoulder. "If little sis will have me."

Emma smiled at her tightly. "The more the merrier."

"A Thanksgiving miracle," Winston declared, arms going around his girls. "All of my children together on a holiday. That's been too long."

Noticing someone pass through the ajar back door, Cordelia stepped away. "Pardon." She went inside and straight into the Mag Cave just as the occupant settled down into his chair. "Hi."

Erik glanced up at her. "It seems we're in full Frost formation."

"The chill will die down as soon as Dri is gone." She walked up to his desk, hands folded girlishly in front of herself. "You know, I remember how you and I talked about the way you once were and how you weren't exactly the most popular fellow. What's funny is that my father is much the same way. It's too bad, though. Joey and I try, but I don't think he'll ever receive the adoration the Erik Kids have for you."

Erik said as he wrote something, "It's undeserved, I assure you."

"Oh nonsense," Cordelia agreed. "Do you know why this entire governmental threat hasn't kept me up late at night?" Erik looked at her again. "Because I know there is nothing in the world you and Charles cannot see us through."

Rising from his desk, Erik went around to face her. Noticing a stray leaf on her shoulder, he plucked it off and tweaked her nose.

IIIIIII

Emma placed the clean-from-the-dishwasher glasses back in their appropriate cabinet. "My sister is a transparent little gnat."

Kayla added another plate to the stack. "Yet Lauren Patterson is the one deserving of infertility. Harsh, but I fail to care at the moment."

"At least she spends more than five minutes for a photo-up with her children."

Kayla turned to her. "I thought Adrienne had no children."

Emma shut the dishwasher. "I meant our mother." She looked at the older woman. "I understand your less than favorable sentiment towards Lauren and I know from where it really comes. You don't have to explain it."

Nodding, Kayla said, "But I can't hide my curiosity regarding you and your sister. Call it an only child's fascination."

"To sum it up, our mother decided she was the pretty one, devoted every moment to convincing her of that, and Adrienne milked it for all its worth. When I came home for Mother's funeral? She took the liberty of leaving an album of undesirable photos of my hideous youth in plain sight of Charles."

"That sounds very…" Kayla thought a moment. "Teenaged."

"As is Adrienne," Emma stated.

The aforementioned redhead seemed to appear in the doorway. "Did I hear my name?"

Ears like a female dog, Emma sent to Kayla.

The Indian woman attempted to hide her laughter.

"Since I'd rather not take yet another extended cab right, I very much could use a lift back to my hotel."

Emma looked surprised. "You didn't rent a car?"

"In New York?" Adrienne let loose a dismissive breath. "Not worth the effort."

"I'll see what I can do." Kayla headed out.

"Not even showing yet," Adrienne's eyes stayed on Emma's stomach as she came in closer, "Though I know you must be looking forward to breaking past a size zero at last." She them shrieked in pain when Emma yanked down on multiple strands of her hair. "Are you insane?"

"No, pregnant," Emma released her, "Hormones." Her hands went to her waist. "Why the hell are you here?"

Adrienne rubbed her now sore scalp. "I'm beginning to wonder."

"Don't," Emma countered in a low tone, finger jabbing towards her face. "Do not play the feigned victim card."

"Right." Adrienne straightened out her suit jacket. "You only find that adorable on Christian." Emma gave her a glower. "I have my reasons."

Emma crossed her arms. "Are you dying?"

"No," Adrienne said matter-of-factly. "Your one true wish has yet to come true."

Emma informed, "You have no idea what my one true wish is, big sis."

Following Emma's sudden shift in gaze as well as reacting to the strong footsteps, Adrienne turned around.

Victor stood there, practically filling up the entirety of the kitchen doorway. "Heard ya need a ride."

IIIIIII

Hearing someone come into the gym, Cordelia glanced back with a bright smile, which quickly fell flat.

"Oh it's just you."

"I'm going to have that phrase stamped across my forehead," Chris decided.

"Hoped you were Alex." Cordelia went to stretch over her balance beam. "What do you want?"

"We've hardly spoken since I arrived." Chris went up, taking a seat on the beam.

"We've hardly spoken in the last three years," the teenager mentioned, flexing one arm.

Chris thought a moment before trying again. "So gymnastics? How is that going? Reigning champ as ever?"

"I guess," she shrugged indifferently.

"You know, you don't necessarily need Alex," Chris tried to smile, "I could help you train."

Cordelia looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "You?"

"Need I remind you of my track and field days?" He stared ahead with a gleam in his eyes. "The better part of prep school."

"Before you got the boot," Cordelia brought up with a smirk.

Chris half glowered. "…Yes. Anyway, interested?"

Facing him fully, Cordelia repeated her previous question in a far lower tone. "What do you want?"

Letting off a sigh, Chris stated bluntly, "I've been a piss of an elder brother. Towards you and Emmie. I let my issues with Daddy—"

"Stop blaming him for everything," Cordelia ordered. "God Chris, I got hooked on anti-depressants and turned pseudo-anorexic. You know who's fault that was? Mine. Not yours, not Daddy's, not big sis one and two, mine."

Chris shook his head in awe. "That's where we part ways, baby sis. You make mistakes and can take the responsibility for them. I haven't mastered that yet and I have more than ten years on you."

Her arms folded and her lips stuck out. "I'm aware you're old."

Chris hopped up. "Are you aware I'm sorry, too?"

"Hm," she pondered then opened her arms. "I suppose."

Not needing further invitation, Chris started to go into the hug then yelped when her foot stamped down on his. With a flip of her ponytail, Cordelia skipped merrily away.

"See…" He got down on one need to rub at the aching appendage. "Just like old times…" He then mumbled, "Baby brat."

IIIIIII

Wind whipping vigorously through her face, Adrienne yelped loudly as Victor took yet another sharp turn.

"Hold on real tight now," he encouraged, only picking up speed.

"Not a problem!" Adrienne's fingernails practically tore into him already.

Arriving in front of the twenty story luxury hotel, Victor came to a sudden stop, getting another feminine outcry from his passenger.

He took off his helmet and let off a lengthy whistle. "Geez, bet the valet charges ten bucks just to take a whiz in this joint." He glanced back as the seemingly dizzy Adrienne got up. "Whoa, easy." He got up after her. "Ya act like you never been on a motorcycle before."

"Let's just say," she tumbled forward against him, "it's been a while." Removing her helmet and freeing her long red hair from it, she paused to gaze up at him a moment then stepped back. "Well, um, thank you I suppose."

"You're welcome." He flicked something her way. "I suppose."

Adrienne caught it and recognized it as her driver's license. "Oh. I'd forgotten all about it."

"Just holdin' on to it for the pic." Victor started back towards his bike.

Adrienne watched him then called out, "Mr. Creed?"

He turned back around. "You rang?"

Adrienne played with her ID card as she spoke. "I'm hosting a benefit for St. Jude here tomorrow evening. With my schedule as hectic as it is, I couldn't possibly find the time to… that is, it would be completely inappropriate for me to appear unescorted."

Victor nodded, following along. "Uh huh."

"You don't have plans for tomorrow do you?"

He eyed her. "They can be changed."

She brought up, "And you'll need a tuxedo of course."

An unmoved Victor said, "I'm sure I could dig up a little somethin'."

"Excellent. I'll be by in the limo at six. See you then." She started towards the hotel.

"Hey," Adrienne looked back now at his voice, "can't wait."

The corners of her mouth turned up a bit as she continued inside.

Putting his helmet back on, Victor climbed back on his bike and revved up. With a holler that caused several bystanders to gape after him, he took off.

IIIIIII

Giving a tiny knock to the doorway, the Professor waited for the teenager to look up from his book.

"Oh come on in, Charles," Sean invited.

Doing so, Charles sat near on the bed facing him. "You seemed quieter than usual at supper."

"Did Hank talk to you?"

"No, but it would be lovely if you would."

Sean explained, "I've been arguing with my folks a lot lately. Last year I was a kid going to boarding school who went home on breaks. Now, this is home and leaving feels like a stint in the military."

"I understand that," Charles nodded.

Sean turned silent before going on. "Mom and Dad have been reading my letters about how better with my powers I'm getting. They think… they think I'm cured enough."

Charles realized, "They want you to return permanently." Sean nodded now. "Is that what you want?"

"The teeny tiniest part," Sean replied honestly, "but really no. I have my Frank, my Maya, my cool group, we're having a baby."

Charles smile at him. "That we are." He draped a hand over one of Sean's. "Seanie, you know how much I love you, yes?"

"Yes, sir," the boy responded.

"Therefore you also know how much I want you here. However," Charles eyes shined a little, "I have to do what is right by you. Whatever that may be. If you need time to think about this, it won't be an insult to me."

Sean pouted and nearly fell over to hug Charles closely.

Charles held him as near as he could and kissed the top of the ginger head.

IIIIIII

"Ra—" Becky stopped to think a moment. "Rrrash…"

Chuckling good-naturedly from deep within his throat, Erik coiled arms around her tighter and supplied, "Rosh Hashanah. Which is?"

"The Jewish New Year," the girl filled in then appeared puzzled. "Chinese New Year, Jewish New Year. Why can't everybody just celebrate it on December 31st?"

"The December holiday marks the aging of the earth, but other cultures observe their own New Years as a sort of cleansing for the specific groups," Erik explained. "Rosh Hashanah is considered a day of devotion to the Lord as well as a time to reflect on Abraham and his descendants. Among other things of course."

Becky nodded her understanding. "What are you supposed to eat for it?"

"Many different things. Fish for prosperity, fresh fruits," Erik formed a fond recollecting gaze, "Mama used to prepare these wonderful little treats for us out of apples, cinnamon and honey. I loved helping her in the kitchen."

Becky smiled. "Was it like Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly," Erik replied. "Such grand meals are usually reserved for occasions like Passover."

"I just love Passover," Becky informed.

Erik concurred into her ear, "So do I," and pecked her cheek.

Stepping into the parlor, Winston paused in the doorway. "Oh please excuse my intrusion. I was looking for Charles."

Erik glanced over. "He'll be in here soon for a round of chess. Ladybug," he stood his daughter up, "go on up to bed. I'll be there in a minute."

"Yes, Papa." Becky headed out on pink bunny slipper padded feet. "Good night, Mr. Frost."

"Good night, dear," the man returned then shook his head lightheartedly as moved passed him. "It's a terrible shame they have to grow into women."

Erik shared the sentiment with a single, "Yes." He watched Winston moved towards one shelf of books, searching for nothing in particular. "Everything alright?"

Fingers paused at the spine of one hardback, Winston spoke distantly. "Marcus Simms. He was a bagboy at the supermarket; a bit of a fixture around the neighborhood. I remember finding him so much older and mature with his fifteen to my ten years. He often snuck candies and soda pop for me and my schoolmates. I came home from the park one evening and found stretches of yellow tape as far as the eye could see. I heard the adults around talking. On his way home from work, Marcus had been shot down by police who apparently mistook him for a robber they were after."

After a few seconds, Erik inquired, "Marcus?"

Winston answered the vague but obvious question with, "A negro. Though honestly," he turned around, "I hadn't quite realized it until that moment." Erik said nothing but remained attention. "I always assumed my genetically perfect blue eyed children would have a simple ride through life." He walked forward, sitting on the arm of the chair across from Erik. "Wealth, education, social power. I considered the girls' mutation to be yet another advantage. However, it would seem others believe differently."

Erik folded his fingers together. "Do you love your children?"

Winston replied sincerely, "More than I thought myself capable of such an emotion."

"Then what begat the status quo?"

Winston considered that in full. "I watched my own father work himself into exhaustion day in and day out. That's how I considered the paternal role; provider, disciplinarian, teacher. By the time Cordelia came around, I did things a bit differently, but it didn't erase my previous mistakes. I'm not perfect, I make no deep apologies, yet I can't deny some of the regrets I have."

Growing quiet again, Erik next said, "Cordelia has faith in you. All it takes is the one. The rest falls on you."

Winston gave off a respectful nod of comprehension towards the younger but seemingly wiser man before him.

IIIIIII

Scent picked up, Victor leapt in front of Emma to catch her as she descended the stairs.

The blonde woman reacted with, "I see you made it in alright."

"We need to talk," he told her. "Ya might want to sit down for this one." When she only folded her arms with a very even expression, he went on slowly. "I sorta agreed to go out with your sister."

Emma came back with, "Just have her home before curfew."

"I meant—"

"I know who you meant."

Victor tried to read her face, which proved futile. "Look, if this really bugs you, I'll call the whole thing off."

"You're a grown man," Emma walked by him, "do as you please."

Victor hurried to stand before her again. "I'm serious. If this is gonna cause friction between us, it's not worth it to me."

"You're an intelligent man, Victor," she stated. "Though I know I'm supposed to be a testimony of the power of change among Frost women, Adrienne can never not be up to something. Don't let her do this to you."

"I know she's got an angle," he said. "And I want to find out what."

Emma then put forth, "Do you have feelings for her?" She did not miss the sharp blink that resulted from the question. "Oh Victor…"

"It's not as big as all that," the male mutant assured. "Trust me, Em. I'd never try to hurt ya."

"I'm immune to my sister," Emma told him. "But for your sake, be careful."

"Right," he nodded and she walked off.

Logan descended the stairs next with an acknowledgement of, "What's up," towards his brother.

Victor looked at him and replied, "Think I got a date."

Developing sudden catatonia, Logan used his only accessible muscles to whip his head back.

IIIIIII

Discovering Cordelia pleasantly in slumber, Winston closed her door and moved along through the second floor hall of the Xavier mansion. He poked inside one of the guest rooms next and saw that his son had left a night lamp on. He started to click it off then knelt down to rummage through the small stand.

"Don't forget the closet and drawers." Chris peeled his eyes open. "Not to mention the fifty billion or so other hiding places there are to be had around this insane complex."

Completely untaken aback, Winston simply stood. "Recovery comes with numerous stumbling blocks."

"And of course I'm your spokesman for stumbling."

"Christian, please." Winston held up his scepter as a silencer. "I forgot to pack the violin." He turned to go.

The younger Frost male sat up in bed slightly. "Do you remember my track days?"

"We—" Winston slowed his pace a little. "Your mother and I still have your last silver medal."

Chris raised, "I didn't think you found silver satisfying."

Winston corrected, "I don't find it deserving of those capable of gold." He left out with that.

Remaining in place for another moment, Chris turned off the light before settling back down in bed.

IIIIIII

Not needing to use the peep hole or a window to discover who signaled the bell, Emma went on adding colorful beads to the plastic string from Becky's bracelet kid.

"Darling, would you get that, please?" she requested.

"Sure, Auntie Em." Becky got up from the sofa to go towards the foyer.

"I'm still astounded that Victor is actually going out," Kayla continuously marveled from where she sat on the arm of the chair her husband occupied.

"Hm," proved Logan's only response.

Opening the front door, Becky stepped back for the visitor to enter.

Clothed in a sleek black sequence dress with a thigh high slit up the side and red hair in a half up half down do, Adrienne ushered inside on heeled feet. She wore a dark shawl around her shoulders.

"Is he ready yet?" She then absorbed Becky's odd staring. "What?"

The child stated plainly, "Snow White's stepmother was beautiful, too."

Adrienne opened her mouth but found herself without her usual immediate response.

"You look magnificent, my girl," Winston's voice sounded as he appeared from the back of the house with Cordelia in tow.

"Much thanks, Daddy," she squeezed hands with him, "and it took hours so smudge nothing."

Cordelia mustered up, "You look nice."

Emma came to the doorway. "Very nice."

Smoothing out the dress a bit more, Adrienne greeted, "Sisters. Any word on Mr. Creed?"

"Not for a while," Kayla chimed up in realization.

"I thought I heard you."

All eyes went to the stairs and a near chorus of gasps filled the space.

Unable to believe his blue pupils, Logan raced out from the sitting room.

At the top of the stairs stood Victor in a crisp white tuxedo with black collared shirt underneath and a dark gold silk tie. His normally loose strands of honey wheat had been pulled back into a neat ponytail. The gathered still eying him, he departed down the steps in such a motion that only his legs moved.

"Knight Victor!" Becky exclaimed. "Oh gosh—wait til I tell Jasmine!"

"You're a smash, darling," Cordelia proclaimed. "Absolutely perfect."

Kayla could only point. "Who…?"

A disbelieving Logan claimed, "Never seen him in my life."

"Mr. Creed," was all Adrienne could utter.

"Miss Frost," Victor walked up on her, "I have nothing on you right now."

Finding her words again, Adrienne cleared her throat. "Well, we'd best be going." She curtsied lightly towards the others. "Night, all."

Victor stepped forward to get the door for her. She left out and he went right after.

As soon as they departed, Becky and Cordelia linked hands and began jumping up and down excitedly.

Logan went over to Emma. "Does your sister have honorable intentions towards my brother?"

Emma turned to him, "No," and headed back into the living room.

From one of the second floor balconies, the youngest two of the house watched the limousine take off.

"Wow, it's really happening. My uncle's going out with your aunt." Cody looked at his friend with glowing features. "What if we actually end up cousins? That'd be the best!"

"I know," Joey agreed though his face carried more uncertainty than excitement. "But I don't think you want her in your family. She's not like Aunt Raven or Cordy."

Cody proposed positively, "Maybe my uncle'll make her a nice lady. Then they'll get hitched and we'll have even more cousins." He noticed Joey's countenance darken further. "What?"

Joey told him, "I heard my mama telling yours Adrienne can't have any babies."

IIIIIII

"My brother-in-law is dazzling," Kayla plopped her formation of dough onto a rolling dish, "words I never thought I'd utter."

Raven continued mixing her stuffing. "I know, we saw when he was still upstairs. Hank is still accusing the Triad of bringing on hallucinogens."

"I'm a strict member of Camp Sean and even I noticed," Maya said, cutting up celery.

"I could look that sharp," Frank shut the oven door from checking on the baking pies, "if I wanted to."

Becky entered the kitchen and went straight to the head chef. "Raven, do we have apples, honey, and," she thought about the last part, "cinnamon?"

"Are you kidding?" Raven responded. "This kitchen is army stocked. Why, what's up, Gorge?"

The curly headed girl explained, "I want to make Grandma's special treats from when Papa was little. So we can have them tomorrow with dinner."

"Oh that's a great idea," Raven immediately concurred. "Hold on. Let me check the pantry." She headed that way.

Frank walked over to Becky. "Can I help? This'll make Erik's whole holiday."

"Sure," Becky smiled.

Raven returned to them with all necessary ingredients.

IIIIIII

The cream and goldenrod decorated ballroom of the Plaza Hotel proved positively packed within minutes. Tables with beige cloths and candles filled up a good portion of the space while still relieving an area for the orchestra and dance floor.

When they arrived, Adrienne took a moment to glance inside. "Excellent. A full house- I knew a few tears from the Kennedys couldn't top this."

Victor extended his wide arm. "Shall we?"

Adrienne smiled coyly and linked up with him.

"Presenting our hostess and head benefactor," the announcer decreed, receiving the notice of all gathered, "Adrienne Frost and her escort, Victor Creed."

Victor half-expected a round of applause as they walked in. Instead, they received a near paparazzi effect with several people gathering around them.

"Adrienne, where on earth have you been hiding this gentleman?" one woman wanted to know.

"Mr. Creed is an associate of mine," Adrienne said casually. "And unfortunately an east-coaster."

Victor took a brief one-legged bow. "It's a pleasure."

A man asked, "What line of work are you in, Creed?"

The tall blonde responded to that with, "Protection."

"A bodyguard," another fluster female determined. "You're in good hands, Adrienne."

The redhead looked to her escort. "I certainly am."

IIIIIII

At his girlfriend deciding to take over his lap space, Charles all but dropped his book to better support her. He then had to support himself, arching back in his armchair to fully absorb her strong kiss.

When they finished, Charles put forth, "I take it my existence pleases you."

"Every square inch," Emma walked a pair of fingers across his left shoulder. "And do you know what else?" He eyed her closely. "I love second trimesters. So much less vomit involved."

"And despite that vivid imagery, I still want to do this." Charles brought her nearer to him in another kiss.

Coming inside Charles' open master suite, Chris groaned and slapped both hands over his eyes. "At least wait for this child to come out before you step back into production."

Emma looked to her brother in annoyance. "You could at least make yourself useful and guard the door."

Chris appeared ponderous. "I'm getting such déjà vu to that homecoming you spent with Skip J—"

"Christian!" Emma hissed at him with venomous eyes to boot.

Charles smiled, usually finding himself on his beloved's end whenever Raven decided to stroll down memory lane.

"In all seriousness," Chris approached them, "which is admittedly rare on my part, I wanted to talk to you, Charles."

"I'm listening," Charles said gently.

"I…" Chris appeared the picture of a contrite adolescent boy for a moment. "I wanted to thank you. Not only for your generosity but for making my little sis," he rubbed the back of his neck guiltily, "not to mention baby sis, so happy. Something I've always had trouble accomplishing myself."

Charles replied genuinely, "I'm glad you came here, Chris."

"So am I." Emma narrowed her eyes and indicated the door with her head. "Now get out."

"Right, guard duty, of course." Chris quickly took his leave.

IIIIIII

When she left out of the ladies room, Adrienne reentered the party festivities but found her designated table abandoned. Looking about the room, she finally found Victor among a circle of people and headed in the direction.

"I'll never forget my second tour in the military," Victor spoke, glass of club soda in one hand, "but watching over the kids— it's the real payoff."

"You're certainly not alone in that sentiment," one man concurred. "St. Jude is such a worthwhile organization."

"That Danny Thomas," a woman said fondly. "It just goes to show you that not everyone in the entertainment industry is a clown for hire."

"Victor."

"There you are, darling." Victor placed an arm around Adrienne's shoulders. "We were just discussing—" the orchestra started up a new harmony. "I haven't waltzed in ages." He took Adrienne's hand, leading them onto the floor. "Let's cut a rug, baby."

"Why…" Adrienne took his other hand as they got into position. "I'd be delighted."

Arm winding about her waist, Victor pulled her in close to his chest. They began the motion in a three-fourths step.

"Mr. Creed," Adrienne had to work to stay in tune with him, "you're just full of surprises tonight. I never pegged you for a dancer."

"Honey, my century invented this jig." He stepped back to give her a twirl.

Adrienne extended one arm then meshed with him again.

When the music ended, the men bowed to their partners while the women clapped lightly.

While everyone caught a breath, Adrienne moved to stand on top of the platform.

"Attention everyone, the time for your generosity has arrived," she addressed them all. "Though many of you have already given, I must remind you that St. Jude is a new treatment facility that could use as many donations as possible. And don't forget, whatever you give is fully tax deductible."

Several checkbooks came out.

"I have five hundred."

"I'll give another two."

"A thousand," the gathered looked to Victor, who held a thick wad in his hand. He walked forward, holding it out towards the podium. "Hope you take cash."

Mouth widely open, Adrienne took the offering with dainty fingers as if it would combust in her grasp. "Thank you, Mr. Creed."

Victor nodded then stepped back for the rest to hand over a plethora of checks.

IIIIIII

Finished folding the piece of construction paper into as perfect a triangle as he could, Scott showed it to Becky.

He then asked, "Now what do we do?"

She replied, "Now we put words on them that describes a person's best attribute. Like this one," Becky held up a blue cut out with "Intelligent" written out in bold letters, "goes by Hank's plate."

"Oh," he nodded, "I see."

"It's one of Papa's old traditions."

"Hm, let me think." Scott wrote out "Loving" on his. "How about this one for Emma?"

"Perfect," Becky determined. "Hm, what should we do for Uncle Charles?"

"Let's make his and Erik's last," Scott suggested. "Theirs will be hardest."

"You're right," the girl agreed.

Returning to his den, Erik saw the young pair at his desk. "Ah, you're on to this now, are you?"

"Papa, what do you think is best for Raven?" Becky put forth. "Beautiful? Or should I make hers "smart" with Big Bear's "intelligent"?"

Scott said, "I think we should use "cool", but that makes me think of Alex, too."

"That's certainly a difficult choice. I'll have to get back to you on it. However," Erik took a marker to write out one of his own, "I believe this one suits our Cyclops quite nicely." He held up a "Courageous" cutout. "Wouldn't you agree, Anya?"

"Oh yes," she replied strongly, "that's perfect."

Scott dipped his face and used his hands to cover up the blushing laughter ready to erupt from his throat.

IIIIIII

"Twenty grand in one night," Victor nodded approvingly as he reviewed the profit notes, "Not bad." He noticed Adrienne's face. "Aren't ya happy?"

She took another long sip of champagne. "I expected better."

Victor put the papers down and peered into her countenance. "Why'd ya do this? Showin' off or do you actually give a damn about those sick kids?"

"If I had no damn for them," Adrienne reasoned, "I could've decided to sponsor some endangered wildlife or a mysterious plague not seen since the eighteenth century. Why did you join me this evening?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "You asked."

"You didn't have to say yes."

"Sure I did," he countered simply. She regarded him differently but still closely. "So you out to screw with Emma's head?"

Adrienne sighed and waved a hand. "My life does not begin and end with the great blonde twig."

Victor shook his head. "I could live to see a thousand and I'll never understand you little rich brats. Raised in the same house, same ma and dad, hell- same last name and you can't find a spec of common ground between ya. If I had the chance to be with my brother from day one—"

"You could be worse off than we are," Adrienne retorted.

"No chance," he disputed without delay. "Because there's one major difference between you and me."

She crossed her arms. "Another for the list. Alright, what is it?"

"I know what's important to me," Victor stated. "And it begins and ends with that pain in the ass kid brother of mine and his family. You don't have a clue what matters to you."

Adrienne eyes turned dim and she shifted in her seat. "You don't know me." She looked towards the window.

Victor's fingers gently taking her chin caused her gaze to return to him. "I'd like to."

Not speaking, Adrienne touched his wrist.

When the limo pulled up outside the mansion gates, they got out together.

"Don't exactly gotta walk me to the door ya know," Victor told her.

She brought up, "We could always return to the hotel for a nightcap."

Victor said, "Temptin' but… I'd rather respect ya in the morning."

Adrienne smirked. "I think you have the wrong Frost sister. The only thing you'll get out of me tonight, Mr. Creed, is a cocktail. Or in your case, a frosty root beer."

"Speakin' my language already." Standing taller, he peered down at her with warm brown eyes. "You have a good time tonight?"

"Does this answer your question?" Squeezing his shoulders, Adrienne reached up to connect with his lips.

Eyes closing, Victor pressed hands to her upper and lower back.

Pulling apart, he looked at her. "I'm much obliged, Miss Frost."

"I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Creed." She returned to her limo.

Victor watched the car take off before taking a mighty leap right over the gate.

With the help of one certain positioned camera, the other Howlett-Creed brother observed the goings-on from Eye Spy.

IIIIIII

Gliding out from the kitchen, Frank proclaimed, "Dinner in five minutes. Let's do this!"

Overcome with elation, Scott took the banister downstairs. "This is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever!"

Alex captured him at the landing and draped him over one shoulder. "I think you called it right, twerp."

Becky and Maya hastened to get the remainder of the place settings ready.

Cody went to the younger girl and tugged on the ribbon of her dress. "Becky, could you make sure Joey's Aunt Adrienne sits next to my Uncle Vic?"

Becky formed a displeased face. "Why? She's just a pretty witch you know."

"Please, Becky," Cody folded his hands together in a plead, "it's Thanksgiving— well, not in Canada."

Giving in, Becky repositioned the specified settings.

When the very full table proved complete, Hank rolled out the turkey on a silver roller. The gesture resulted in applause from the diners.

Charles stood from his place at the head of the table. "Ladies and gentleman, it is my pleasure to have you all here to join in the second Thanksgiving shared by the X-Men. It only means so much more to have friends and family here to take part in it. Now, last year I carved the first slice of turkey and made the toast. And since we hear quite enough from me in the classroom—"

"Oh yeah!" Frank seconded, receiving some laughter.

"Thank you as always, Franklin." Charles stood back. "This year, I would like to invite my elder brother and Master of Magnetism, Erik, up to carve the turkey."

Getting to his feet, Erik made the long utensils spring to life. With another wave of his hands, he used the knife to slice the browned bird. More applause sounded at the act.

"Well done, brother." Charles turned back to the others. "Now, I'd like to ask our sister, Raven, to deliver this year's Thanksgiving toast." He returned to his seat.

Raven got up, smoothed out her dress, then picked up her glass. "This year started off so wild and crazy. Now it's actually ending wild and crazy but in a good way this time. I am married to the best man I could ever imagine, and I say that with full gloat, Henry McCoy," she took a moment to lock eyes with her husband while the younger girls seemed to swoon, "and I have so many wonderful new people in my life, a couple of which who couldn't be here today but who I'm totally thinking about. Though I've had my ups and downs, nothing can take away from what I'm feeling- from what I've felt ever since the night I met Charles… thankful. For everything, everyone that we have." She held her glass higher. "Happy Thanksgiving."

The rest raised their own and resounded, "Happy Thanksgiving," followed by a myriad of celebratory clinks.