A/N: Well, I wanted to finish this 'arc' by Easter Sunday, but at the rate things are going with the family stuff, that seems unlikely. I've got my skeleton all-set- it just needs time to be all typed out.

The next chapter will definitely finish this 'arc'. Promise.


Omake 2: The Search for Cyclops – Noon Side

"With pressure hemming in on you from every other side, we smile just like the other folk but with a lot more pride."

- Tightrope by Charcoal Filter


Everyone was asleep.

It had been a painfully long couple of days since departing the paradisiacal Cyprus – a seemingly never-ending eternity since the most memorable night of her distorted life. Truthfully, she did not know Scott had such a facet to him. She had always assumed Scott was at the bottom, what with how domineering Emma Frost was…

Not that she felt it was something bad; no, no, never.

Ever.

Regardless, it was a pity they hadn't gone all the way – even when her future-self joined in on the carnal fun. Damn his lingering restraint; she wouldn't have minded if he just tore through her right then and there! Why, even now, recalling how Scott had roughly pulled at her horns while he teasingly stroked her tail sent pleasant shivers down her spine and moistened her needy loins!

Ahem.

Illyana had waited patiently for Scott to approach her so she could tempt him once more; it was in Scott's rather anal nature, after all, to clear airs without hesitation. When it appeared that Scott would not take the first step, Illyana decided that another bout of rope-n'-whip would be needed if she wanted him to break that pesky membrane of hers.

Patience was one of those things the devilish mutant imposed limits.

Tonight was the night she feasted, Illyana decided.

So, with a sultry roll of her shapely rear, the ruler of Limbo stepped out of her portal, dressed in an even more provocative outfit than their first night, sans horns and hooves. Cautiously, she pressed her ear against Scott's door, before the rest of her body slowly molded against the cool surface. The tingling sensation of her flesh against the barrier between them only seemed to heighten her anticipation, and her heart pounded an aphrodisiac of desire and sin through her blood red veins.

"Scott…" she moaned his name in a throaty whisper, mindful of the many ears that filled the walls. "Are you in there…?"

The lack of reply made Illyana lick her suddenly dry lips in realization.

Was their esteemed leader asleep? Oh, this was just delicious!

It seemed luck smiled down upon on this twilit hour.

Illyana knew for a fact that Scott was not out mingling with the city like the rest of their group. It had taken the former leader of the X-Men two full days of negotiation before they were allowed most-likely-temporary lodging in Geneva, after all.

Her eyes fluttered to a close before she called upon her ability, imagining the room Scott slept in beyond the door. A lecherous grin spread her lips as she opened her eyes.

She was right.

There, sleeping soundly on the bed millimeters from her, was her glorious prey, blissfully unaware of the rapturous sin they would once more indulge themselves on this unholy night.

In another flash of light, Illyana crawled out of her stepping disc at the foot of his bed and over Scott's sculpted frame, her body slinking like a cat with the feline's renowned grace and, above all, silence to match. Even in her eager state, Illyana knew just how keen Scott's senses were – and how trained his reflexes were.

The last thing she wanted was to be blasted out of his bed in only her lingerie.

"Scott…" She whispered, effortlessly balancing on the curves of her knees as she straddled the strength of his abs. Her hands lightly caressed his chest as they trailed upwards and over his manly shoulders before planting themselves on either side of his neck as she slowly bent over to capture those lips. "Why, Mr. Summers, should I take your lack of reaction as an open invitation?"

Scott appeared to huff in his sleep before murmuring something softly.

Illyana blinked curiously before lowering her ear closer towards his lips and whispering her reply.

"Feel free to repeat that, Mr. Summers."

As if actually hearing her, Scott repeated his earlier mumbling, and Illyana slowly drew back with a sinister smile.

"Delicious."

But Illyana never did manage any further as a screeching voice exploded in her mind.

:.: Freeze, jailbait! :.:

Ruby Summers was here, and she had seized the Russian mutant's body. Illyana could only manage to spy the detestable interloper from the corner of her eye and mentally taunt in return.

:.: Isn't it past your bedtime, Ruby? :.: Illyana taunted calmly.

Scott's daughter stalked forward from the shadowy corner she appeared to have hidden-in-wait, somehow managing to look menacing in her hotpants and tank-top combo. It must have been a Summers thing, as Scott managed to do the very same in just his boxers. Of course, Ruby still wore her obsidian shades that hid her eyes and, most importantly, optic blasts.

On a minor, less-serious note, Illyana had to wonder how Ruby could see in this darkness.

Ahem.

:.: You're one to talk, 'Yana. :.: Ruby growled at the younger woman. Much. Younger. :.: It seems I was right to keep a lookout tonight. :.:

Illyana rolled her eyes at the Summers' conceit. :.: Don't delude yourself. You read my mind. :.:

:.: Sore, are we?:.:

:.: I intend to be, with your dad's help. :.: Ruby didn't like the aloofness in Illyana's reply; it was as if the devilish mutant knew something she didn't. The feeling was distinctly disconcerting. :.: Be smart, Ruby, and leave. You wouldn't want to get between me and my fun. :.:

Ruby snarled.

:.: Like hell I'd let you- :.:

Illyana opened a portal that engulfed the time-traveler.

No sooner had the portal opened, however, did Illyana realize the error of her action. Against her own wishes, she felt Ruby's telepathic probe in her mind abruptly morph into a command – and a second portal opened by the bedside against the teleporter's wishes.

:.: -rape my dad in his sleep! :.:

Ruby's legs flew out of the portal first as she drop-kicked the crouching Illyana off the bed and her father. It was thanks to Illyana's quick thinking that opened yet another stepping disc, this time leading to the hallway, for them to slip through as they fell with a hard thud; hopefully Scott remained asleep and unaware of the spectacle they made. The devilish mutant would get back to the matter at hand after swiftly neutralizing the nuisance.

Illyana grunted as her body hit the floor. The devilish mutant only had just enough time to register a foot impacting on her side so that she was flat on her back before Ruby's weight settled on the skin of her stomach and pinned her arms above her head. Naturally unperturbed despite the sudden difficulty in breathing, Illyana smirked at the older mutant as she commented on their current predicament.

:.: Why Ruby, if you wanted to take Scott's place, then you only need ask. :.:

Ruby's brows creased in frustration.

:.: Shut up, you crazy woman! I'm keeping you down here until you agree to leave my dad be! :.:

:.: We will be like this for long, then. :.: Illyana teased with an unrepentant glint in her eyes. :.: I don't give up so easily. Why don't we make ourselves comfortable? :.:

Feeling her patience thin, Ruby leaned down until their noses almost touched to glare straight into the Russian mutant's eyes.

:.: Do not test me, Illyana Rasputin. :.:

As expected of both Limbo's Queen and a member of Scott's Extinction Team, Illyana remained unaffected by the deathly seriousness in Ruby's warning.

"You know how Scott is feeling." Illyana accused - the sudden shift of her mood made Ruby's visible anger falter. "He is lonely. He is breaking. He is hurting even when he smiles."

Hearing the sincerity in the Russian mutant's confession, Ruby's gaze slowly softened and she eased her grip on Illyana. "I know."

It was an unspoken agreement that none would comment on Scott's fragile state – even if everybody but Scott himself knew it. After the ordeal with the Phoenix Force, Scott appeared to have erected a glass fortress around himself.

It was almost painful to reside in her father's thoughts whenever reality checked in – urging Scott to take up arms once more and fight for their right. Ultimately, it was the call of duty that drove Scott Summers – and now that very same mutant was stalwartly denying that which gave his life meaning.

But then again, Scott was strong, wasn't he?

Ruby looked down on the younger mutant in her grasp, and softly admonished.

"But that doesn't give you the right to take advantage of him – especially just to fulfill your own misplaced desires."

Illyana actually snorted.

"I do what I want."

"Illyana…" Ruby growled as she felt her anger return.

That was as far as Ruby got, however, as the door to her father's room suddenly swung open.

"What's with all the noise?" Scott asked groggily as he looked around for the source of disturbance.

Whether it was fate or Murphy, Scott's gaze inevitably lowered to the disturbing sight of his scantily clad time-traveling daughter straddling an even more scantily clad Illyana out in the hallway.

"…" Scott stared uncomprehendingly.

"…" Ruby stared back. Her mouth was hanging open, too.

Seeing both Summers' vaunted composure become nothing more than dumbly gaping, Illyana decided to bring matters into her own hands.

"This is a dream." Illyana suggested airily.

Ruby's head snapped toward the mutant below her as she shot the unabashed Illyana an incredulous look before realizing the genius in her suggestion.

:.: You are dreaming this. :.: Ruby planted the suggestion in her father with just the right amount of push to not alert him.

"Right…" Snapping out of his trance, the sleepy Scott nodded his head slowly. "This is just a dream."

"Yes." Illyana agreed agreeably. "It's your libido talking." A cold shiver ran across Ruby's spine when she realized the devilish mutant planned on taking advantage of this embarrassing situation. "You are sexually frustrated. Come morning, you and Illyana will need to-"

At her patience's end, Ruby rapidly shifted to her gem form and promptly slapped her forehead against the younger mutant's.

Needless to say, Illyana blacked out immediately.

Ruby returned her attention to her father, who appeared to be considering Illyana's suggestion. She inwardly growled.

Not if she had anything to do about this!

:.: This is a dream! Sleep! :.:

Unprepared for the telepathic attack, Scott promptly dropped. Where he stood.

Ruby visibly winced at the meaty smack her father's head made when it met with the floor. Looking between Scott and Illyana, Ruby could only shake her head wryly and grumble.

"I traded paradise for this nuthouse?"

Sighing, Ruby spent the next few minutes tucking both Scott and Illyana in their respective separate beds before heading off to catch some well-earned z's herself…

…all-the-while deliberating Illyana's earlier warning.

How much longer could they keep this glass fortress standing?

-00-

"Is this thing on? Cable? You there? Yoohoo~ Ca~ble~? This backwards piece of scrap works, right? God, we need better tech."

Nathan Summers groaned at the much-too-peppy wake-up call. Staggering to his chair, the aged Summers hit a button that brought a widely grinning Neena Thurman into view.

"Dom, do you know what time it is?" Nathan asked, eyes narrowed.

"You're awake, aren't you?" The mutant known as Domino countered unabashed.

Nathan sighed. "Alright. What's up?"

Domino blinked before titling her head questioningly. "'What's up'? I wake you in the middle of the night, and you ask me 'what's up'?" She shook her head as a wolfish smirk stretched her lips. "My, living the life must have really taken its toll on you, big daddy. You're usually on the ball."

Domino's taunting abruptly snapped Cable out of his sleepy fog, and his posture straightened.

"What did you find?" Cable demanded.

"Ah, there's the Cable I know." Domino nodded her head in satisfaction. The dark haired woman's grin returned as she exclaimed, "Anyway, you wouldn't believe what I found!"

Cable frowned. "Alright, now I know you're doing this on purpose."

Domino blinked at him innocently. "Doing what?"

"Stalling!" Cable hissed out in annoyance before exhaling deeply. "Though I guess, with you stalling like this, it's nothing too important."

"Busted." Domino pouted cutely.

"What did you find?" Nathan asked with a patient smile- like a grown man talking to an incredibly slow little girl.

It was Domino's turn to scowl. "Fine. I see when my humor isn't appreciated. It's not like I'm running around doing errands for you out of the goodness of my heart."

"Melodrama. Cute." Despite his dry words, Cable's eyes only reflected warmth. Still, he urged her, "But we really need to hurry this up before Hope wakes."

"Ah right. Fatherly duties." Domino nodded. Her previously soft expression hardened, all traces of her earlier playfulness disappearing, leaving only the Domino Cable had always known and relied upon. "I saw younger-you."

"Nate Grey?" Cable's lips thinned at the thought of his counterpart, Nate Grey, running around. Last he heard, the weakened X-Man was slumming somewhere in San Francisco when Utopia fell. "What was he doing?"

"I wouldn't know. I tried to approach him, but he just look at me and smiled. Then he disappears."

"You lost him?" Cable asked dubiously.

Domino raised both her hands as if to deny responsibility. "He's a telepath, and you know what the crowds of Mumbai is like."

Cable sighed. "Well, he's not hostile. He would have confronted you, otherwise."

Domino nodded her head before asking cautiously. "Do you think he's after Cyclops, too?"

"It's a possibility." Cable's lips flattened. "I was gone for a while so I'm not one to judge, but how do you think Nate would react if he met up with Scott?"

"I don't know." Domino confessed. "To be honest, the guy's an enigma- just like how you started."

Cable rolled his eyes but kept his silence as his partner continued.

"Last I heard, Moonstar's team brought him in and he was recuperating in Utopia. After that? Who knows?" Domino scratched the back of her head sheepishly before asking with an easy smile. "How would you react if Cyclops suddenly appears on your doorstep?"

"I don't think I'll react the same way X-Man will." Cable says gruffly.

"You're evading the answer." Domino points out.

Cable just stares at her, but Domino does not say any more as she patiently waits for a satisfying answer to her question. Finally, it is Cable that relents.

"I'll welcome him in." Nathan admits. "I'm furious with him for abdicating his position when we still need him."

"Do we?" Domino quickly raised her hands placating at Cable's piercing glare. "I'm not saying Cyclops hasn't done anything for us, or that we'd have survived this long without him. But Hope's safe; you're here and in good health; Cap A's given his word the Avengers will support whatever remains of us…" She trailed off wistfully. "Things are no longer like how it's been before, so who's to say things will progress the same?"

"It's not that simple, Dom." Cable argued. "Do you really think that, just because one man's word is given, everything will change? Do you really think the Avengers will fight for our survival when the next world-ending threat arrives in our doorstep? Do you really think that Steve Rogers will lay down his life for an innocent but powerful mutant when America calls for her head?"

"You're losing focus, Cable." Domino warned. "You're too close to Hope and Scott."

"Do you deny my points?"

"Do you deny needing Cyclops for your own personal reasons?"

Tension impregnated the silence that followed as both stubborn but wizened mutants glared at each other before, finally, Cable admitted.

"…I don't." His strong gaze never wavered. "Scott is as much my family as Hope is. However, that does not discredit his worth in our survival."

"Alright." Domino finally amended. "I'll continue searching for him—if only to ease the demons in your mind."

"Thanks, Dom. I owe you one."

Domino threw him a sly wink. "When have you never?"

Cable shook his head.

"Nathan," The pale woman began softly, "I'm not trying to antagonize you, alright?"

"I know. You're just trying to keep me objective about this."

"Not only that." His long-time friend explained. "I want you to consider the ethics behinds asking a man as tortured as your father, who may actually have found peace as we speak, and forcing that man to fight."

"This is his calling." Even Domino could see Cable didn't believe his words. "He knows what being an X-Man is about."

"Self-sacrifice?" Domino asked disbelievingly. "Protecting a world that would much rather have you dead?"

"You make it sound like a bad thing."

"And you're taking the phrase too lightly." Domino shook her head and gave him a tired smile. "Just think about this, alright? Dom, out."

"…I will, Dom. Thanks. Cable, out."

-00-

"I could fly faster than this jet." Carol Danvers pouted as she sat on the plush couch in the private jet.

"So can I." Tony Stark agreed, declining the stewardess' offer of a drink. Really, his staff should know better these days. "But there's something about not having to do anything that's oddly appealing."

Carol rolled her eyes. "How much longer until we hit France?"

"Oh, another hour and a half." Tony supplied before giving the woman an once-over; that brown air-force jacket irritated him as much as her jeans did. "Carol, dear? Would you mind changing into something more flattering?"

"I'll wear something flattering in the gala, Stark. Not before." She gave him a friendly smirk. "Besides, think of this as my protest at being your Plan B."

"Plan A, Carol." Tony corrected her firmly. "I had always known Rachel wouldn't take up my offer, so I always planned to invite you. You are my plan A, while Miss Grey was my Plan B."

Carol shot him a flat look.

"You're a world-class liar, Tony." She shook her head and flashed him a friendly smile. "But don't worry, you'll be punished soon enough."

"Is that an invitation, Captain?" Tony leaned towards her and wagged his brows suggestively.

"It's a warrant, you lecher!" Carol barked at the leering playboy before laughing at the absurdity of this moment. "I can't believe you suckered me into this. I can't believe we're just talking like this."

"Funny, isn't it?" Tony eased back into his seat. "A little more than a week ago, the world was in hell, and now the world is continuing as if nothing has changed. I don't know if that speaks volumes of the tenacity of the human spirit or if the world itself has found some sort of equilibrium."

Carol sighed deeply, gazing at the clouds with a wistful smile. "If only the X-Men could see the world this way."

Tony frowned at her tone. "I'm just throwing this up in the air, but that sounds to me like you're referring to one particular mutant." Carol opened her mouth to explain but Tony held a hand up to silence her. "I don't want to talk about him. Steve has been up our rears with that topic far too frequently, and I for one would much rather spend my business meeting without having to think about man-children."

"Tony…" Carol trailed, wanting to defend her most-likely lost friend but not wanting to aggravate the iron Avenger further. A lot of people—Cyclops' supporters, mostly—had been giving Tony a lot of grief lately regarding the former leader of the X-Men, as well as Stark's role in the entire debacle.

With a tired sigh, Carol silenced her tongue and instead said, "Are we there yet?"

Sensing that Carol was changing the topic, Tony rewarded her with a grateful smile. "That depends. Are you appropriately dressed yet?"

Carol rolled her eyes at Tony's incessant flirting.

-00-

Scott Summers slowly staggered to the breakfast table with uncharacteristic sluggishness. The man's hair was unruly and it seemed he forgot to put his shirt on this morning—decked only in his sandals and a loose set of faded jeans, one would think this seemingly inebriated man was some nameless hobo and not at all Cyclops, former leader of mutantkind.

"What happened to you?" James Bradley asked from where he was tweaking his breakfast.

"Honestly?" Scott began, plopping himself down on the chair unceremoniously before helping himself to a slice of fresh, gorgeous bread. "I don't know. I had the oddest dream last night—and no, I don't want to talk about it."

"If it's something you don't want to talk about, then I'm guessing it involves Ruby."

Scott visibly shuddered. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Then again, Illyana could be involved." James mused, not at all missing Scott twitch.

"Can we not talk about this?" The former leader of the X-Men looked at the mad scientist pleadingly, though it was difficult to tell due to the thick layer of ruby quartz hiding his eyes.

"If I may," Danger interrupted as she came to a stop behind the pair. "My records indicate that the problem is due to both mutants you have mentioned."

"That makes sense." James nodded his head cordially. "Any chance you can share that video?"

Scott opened his mouth but Danger cut him off. "Unfortunately, I cannot." Danger noticed Scott sigh in relief. "Cyclops is still within the vicinity and he will most likely attempt to blast my parts off."

"Danger…" Scott slowly began with growing horror. "Did you just develop a sense of humor?"

"I always had one, meatbag." The former danger room deadpanned.

James tipped his fedora in a vain attempt to hide his chuckling while Scott merely gaped stupidly at the grinning Danger—a sight which, had this been any other time, would have scared the daylights off the self-exiled Summers.

"You can close your mouth now." Danger suggested. "I have a report."

Scott complied and shut his mouth with a dull click. Immediately, his posture straightened as he turned his full attention to his self-appointed chief of security.

"What happened?"

"Megan Gwynn was attacked by the locals last night when she and her cohorts left to explore."

James' keen eyes caught Scott Summers' anger before the former mutant leader schooled it in the millisecond that followed Danger's statement.

"Take me to her." Scott demanded.

Dr. Nemesis watched as his two comrades departed, taking a sip from his morning drink calmly. He had already seen to the young Megan when she was first brought in—nothing long-lasting; Pixie would be fine. Scott running in shirtless may even speed up her recovery.

Really, that Foley kid wasn't even needed.

Ruby and Illyana had also ran damage control when Megan was brought it. Well, as much damage control as two of their respective temperaments could manage. Between Ruby's telepathic commands and Illyana's threats, the former Nazi hunter knew Scott would have his hands full later talking with the locals.

But that was a worry that wasn't his, and so James Bradley continued to calmly sit and sip at his morning drink.

-00-

Had Laura Kinney been any other normal young woman, her face would have already twisted in disgust at the distinct and familiar scent her sensitive nose was currently picking up. Being that Laura had spent quite some time in the thralls of the less-virtuous sort—a massive understatement, but what have you—she, instead, merely turned her head away from the smell of brimstone and arousal.

"They were here." She muttered absently, an old habit from her days as an assassin when she was required to report to mission control with every new development.

"Of course they were here." Her Cypriot guide, a tanned man in his mid-to-late forties, barked as if her statement was ludicrous. "I told you, didn't I? It's not like their crowd is easy to forget."

Laura chose not to comment as she closed the door to the repulsive room. Had things changed so much since she departed Utopia those many months ago? When had Magik and Cyclops begun their affair?

Their scents were all over that room, mixed with the lingering stench of blood and fire; the thought only made her curious mind wonder what sort of depravity those two engaged in.

"Thank you." Laura spoke formally, securing her leather jacket tighter around her frame.

When the fledgling Avenger—based on the ID she presented anyway—made to leave, the guide couldn't help but ask. "Where are you going? Aren't you supposed to track those muties and bring them to justice?"

"I am." Laura answered vaguely. "I have confirmed they were here, but their trail is now cold. I must consult with my informant, and for that I require connection to the internet."

"There's a coffee place not too far down the road from here." The Cypriot suggested. "You can head there."

Laura nodded and took out her phone, unlocking the device and navigating to the twitter app.

No new tweets from 'Ruby' yet, but so far, this person seemed to supply accurate, if slightly outdated, information, meaning this person was her key in finding Cyclops and having her questions answered.

Her mind was already cross-referencing the locations Cyclops' team stayed in for a possible pattern. So far, she could not find any, and that was a bit problematic. Regardless the case, she still had Finesse's advice to fall back-on in the worst case scenario.

Really though, what was Cyclops doing?

-00-

"Oh, wow. Is this going to be a thing whenever I get in trouble?" Megan Gwynn smiled appreciatively at Scott Summers' bare chest when the man pointedly strode into the room she shared with Noriko Ashida.

Unfortunately, Scott didn't squirm under her gaze as the former mutant leader was too focused on her state. "Are you alright, Megan?"

"I'm fine. Better now. It was just a couple of scratches, really." The young mutant answered distractedly, casting one last look at the oblivious Scott's sculpted chest before finally meeting his ruby frames and adding wishfully. "I might just possibly feel better if you come closer, though."

To her utter delight, Scott did move closer as he sat himself on the single bed opposite hers.

"Mind telling me what happened?" Scott asked her slowly, his tone causing Megan's mood to sober. The cautious way with which he spoke was so very different from the cool and certain Cyclops she had always known. It was as if he was afraid of hurting her—of losing yet another of his friends.

Or maybe, she was just being too sensitive to his situation?

"We wanted to go watch a movie." Megan explained with an embarrassed smile, stowing her musings for later. "We went to town and, well… stuff happened."

Scott's lips flat-lined in an all-too familiar stone-faced stare. "Explain."

"It was our fault, Scott. Really." Megan dodged the landmine, inwardly wincing when Scott crossed his arms and stared harder. Nevertheless, "There were… cultural differences. It wasn't- it wasn't because we were different." She mumbled before her eyes widened with panic. Waving her hands frantically, the Welsh mutant corrected. "I mean, not that kind of different! I tried to talk it out but there were… barriers, you know? And!" She suddenly exclaimed, "It was the other locals that stopped the fight, too!"

Scott remained silent—he remained silent for a very good while. It was unnerving, but Megan Gwynn was an X-Man, and a very resourceful one at that. Her gaze slowly lowered until she was once more staring at his chiseled chest and the manly muscles of his arms.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of pressure, Scott sighed.

"I think it's best if you return to Logan's school." He spoke deliberately but clearly—giving the young mutant the illusion that he knew he was making the right choice.

Megan, however, knew much better than that.

"You're not the boss of me, Scott." She reminded him mildly; not at all trying to offend him. "Not anymore. I can make my own choices."

"Then I want you to reconsider." Scott pressed forward, his normally modulated tone faltering. "You were lucky this time, but what about next? Megan, this life—it's not safe. I can't—" Scott looked pained, struggling to admit both to Megan and to himself. "I can't look after all of you."

"I know." Megan smiled at him softly, sclera-less eyes shimmering with a reassuring warmth. "We all know that you're not looking to protect us." When Scott remained silent, Megan mustered all her courage to explain, "Us? All of us? We're here for you, Scott. I'm here for you."

Her cheeks took on the shade of her hair when she realized how she must have sounded.

"I mean, it's clear you need a friend, now more than ever! And, well, I thought that maybe I could be the one…" The young mutant trailed off softly, before shaking her head and focused. She reached out to take his large hand in hers, sharing with him her warmth and confidence. "And besides, we're X-Men. We can look after ourselves."

Scott shook his head slowly and sighed in defeat. "Your idea of X-Men is different from what I have in mind."

Megan giggled. "Really?"

"Really." Scott assured. "I always felt the X-Men were family—we look out for each other."

"There's that, too." Megan agreed, lacing her fingers between his, unconsciously seeking more of his warmth. "I think we're quite like that."

"Hn." Scott grunted in approval, not noticing the young mutant's intimate grip. "Look after each other, alright?"

"Um!" Megan happily nodded.

Scott flashed her a wry smile before subconsciously withdrawing his hand—looking a bit puzzled at the small disappointed groan Megan gave—and asking, "What movie were you all trying to watch?"

Megan tucked a lock of pink behind her hair in sudden embarrassment. "It was a choice between, er, Les Misérables and another."

"Les Misérables?" Scott's brows creased in question. "Isn't that a play?"

"And a book, and now a movie." The young mutant explained with a smile. "It stars Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe!"

"Hugh Jackman?" His brows creased even further. "The name's familiar…"

Megan gasped in horror. "You don't know him? He's, like, really, really famous! He's also been in a lot of movies lately! Van Hellsing, Prestige, Real Steel, X-Men-"

Scott blinked. "X-Men? There was a movie about us?"

Megan blushed. "He was Wolverine."

"I see." Scott nodded, taking in all this newish information. "What was the other movie you wanted to watch?"

He hadn't thought it was possible but the Welsh mutant's blush deepened.

"The Avengers."

"That, I heard of." Scott nodded again and smiled. "Alright, take your pick. We'll all watch the movie together—as a family. That means, no more sneaking out at night, alright?"

"Right!" Megan swiftly agreed, blessing Scott with a radiant smile. "Hmmm…" She trailed off thoughtfully. "How about Les Mis?"

"Sure. Check the times. I'll need to speak with the locals for a bit—Danger informed me that Ruby and Illyana had tried to fix this situation, and I'm worried about the outcome—but we can watch this evening if there are any showings."

Megan gave a delighted cheer and threw her arms around Scott's waist giddily, her wings fluttering joyfully. "Thanks, Scott!"

Scott was stunned by her affection but quickly regained his senses. Smiling down warmly at the young mutant, he ran his fingers through her pink silk softly. He didn't pay much mind when Megan suddenly rubbed her cheek against his bare chest—even when her cuddling was embarrassing him.

Maybe…

Maybe things won't be so bad after all….

-00-

"Sentinels?" Reed Richards stared at Steve Rogers incredulously.

"Guardians." Steve quickly corrected, though his words didn't relieve his own unease. "When I explained my case to the President a week ago, he agreed that Cyclops' team running freely is a threat to our world."

"But Sentinels?" Reed pressed with narrowed eyes.

"Guardians." Steve defended quickly. "It was based on Juston's Sentinel and tweaked by Tony and Hank Pym. All weaponry was disabled—it only has nets and tear gas, really." Even as he recited his thoughts, Steve didn't like the idea. "They are meant to specifically detain Cyclops and his team, but Charles and Hank McCoy appear to be having problems locating them with Cerebro, so we are hoping you would be able to provide an alternative."

"'We', Steve?" Reed continued to frown in disapproval. "Who is 'we'?"

"I don't know—confidential matters." Steve's posture finally sagged. "The President doesn't like this idea either, but it is better that we have a hand in this than some unknown party that we cannot control."

"So you're happy building Sentinels to hunt down our friends?"

"Building Guardians to reclaim our fugitives!" Steve bristled at the question. "The Avengers are busy handling other more important matters. We can't scour the globe for Cyclops."

"I don't care what you call them, Steve. You are still building Sentinels to hunt down mutants."

"You're generalizing this too much, Reed." Steve countered, his conscience warring with his duty making him appear angry and agitated.

"Am I?" Reed scowled. "Where does this stop, Steve? Once you've brought Cyclops in, what will happen to these Sentinels? Will you scrap them, or will you use them to hold Cyclops prisoner? Will you deploy them in another mutant uprising?"

"I don't see why you have such a big problem with this." Steve scowled. "You created Ragnarok, after all."

Steve didn't flinch under the withering glare Reed gave him. As far as Steve was concerned, this was the truth. Unfortunately, Reed Richards wasn't among those Captain America could easily guilt.

"I am not helping you with this, Steve." Reed finally said. His eyes were cold and hard. "Whatever you may think, Scott Summers is now a free man. I have been monitoring the globe, and he hasn't done anything that warrants this treatment."

"I am sorry to hear that." The star-spangled soldier spoke tightly. "I hope you will come to your senses and realize this way is right."

"You have no idea how much I hope you will come to your senses." Reed turned and began walking away. "There was a time when you fought the system when it infringed on the rights of the few. Now, you're willing to bend over just to serve the rights of the many. You've taken upon yourself the burden of fighting for mutant rights—but your actions speak a whole different matter."

Steve gave the scientist a hard, unreadable stare before replying stubbornly. "You don't know what you're talking about, Reed."

Strangely, Captain America's words sounded hollow to even Steve Roger's ears.

-00-

Scott tucked his scarf tighter around his neck as a chilly breeze blew by his spot just outside the cinema. Blowing warmth into his hands before subsequently pocketing them, his gaze rose to the heavens, watching that red circle—the full moon—beam its usual ruby light down on him.

"Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men?" He hummed to himself.

Les Misérables was a wonderful movie. The cast had really done it justice. Watching the movie in the cinema, with most of his group—his family—had also been a wonderful experience.

But Scott had to excuse himself when the credits began to roll.

The movie was so good… that it had given Scott much to think about.

The crux of the matter was, Scott had, unconsciously, identified himself with both Jean Valjean and Javert. Like he, both men had stood on the brink of the abyss, their pasts and choices weighing down on them. Unlike them, Scott hadn't made his choice yet.

It was impossible for Scott, introverted as he was, to not think of the implication of both men's character. Would their fates be his should he choose either path?

Who was Scott Summers, then?

Was he Jean Valjean, the man who was humbled by his demons and chose to change himself? Or was he Javert, the man who steadfastly held on to his beliefs, gazing defiantly into the void until his world came crashing down on him and was consumed?

Could Scott forgive himself of his sins as Valjean did? Or should he stubbornly carry on forward just like Javert until his cross pulls him into the dark depths below?

"Dad?" A solemn voice asked, drawing his attention to his approaching Cosette; his daughter; his light; his Ruby. Her eyes were also hidden by her obsidian shades, but they were not enough to mask the concern undulating off the mutant in waves. "Is everything alright?"

It was a very silly question—especially as he felt Ruby's presence nestle itself in his thoughts. When they first began their psychic bond, it was to give each other better understanding of each other's upbringing—mostly for Scott's benefit. Since then, Ruby had housed herself in his mind, explaining that it was comforting inside his walls.

"I need time to think." Scott confessed.

Ruby nodded in acceptance. "Is it about today—about what happened to Megan and the others?"

"Yeah…" Scott trailed. "I just don't understand it. Any of it. What is it with the world that makes people antagonize those that are different?"

"Everyone has their own comfort zones, and when those are breached, people will do anything to restore what they perceive is the logic of the world." Despite her grim words, Ruby's tone remained conversational. "You, of all people, should understand this, dad. It was exactly what you did when the Phoenix Force opened everyone's thoughts to your mind. It is exactly what you are thinking of doing now."

It was also precisely the reason she and Illyana quickly tried to correct the situation before Scott cauht wind. Despite their differences of opinion, both woman cared for Scott Summers; they didn't want him to thrust himself blindly into taking up a torturous cause once more.

Scott may profess that he was through with fighting—and he was doing an admirable job thus far—but nobody was fooled that he could change so quickly.

"I'm going on ahead." Scott finally said. "Please tell Megan I had a wonderful time."

Ruby took the hint and Scott felt her warmth departing.

"She's wondering if you want to watch The Avengers tomorrow." Ruby informed. "I asked a few people—I didn't use my gift without their consent, alright? Anyway, the general consensus is that it's a good, light-hearted movie."

"Alright. If nothing comes up tomorrow, we can go."

"Hey dad," Ruby suddenly called when her father began making his way. "Smile."

The simple request brought a small grin to Scott's lips. Ruby lifted her XPhone and quickly snapped a shot much to Scott's confusion.

"To remind you that you can still smile." The blonde mutant explained, pocketing her phone. The knowledge helped alleviate her own guilt for the turmoil she was putting her father through as he warred within himself—she was doing the right thing. "I'll see you back at the motel."

"Just don't post my picture anywhere." Scott lightly reminded.

"I'm not that careless." Ruby smirked. The pictures was hers and hers only to keep.

This joyful evening, however…

"Goodnight, Ruby."

As she watched her father's back depart into the shadows of the night, Ruby made her way inside where the rest awaited, quietly singing to herself with hope that her father would not choose battle again.

"When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes…"