AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: email@example.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
RATINGS/WARNINGS: PG for a little bad language
DISCLAIMER: The Ultimate X-Men universe belongs to Marvel and other entities with expensive lawyers.
CONTINUITY: Whenever you like *shrug*.
NOTES: Readers of my Enterprise fic will see a resemblance to my story "Making History." I happen to like this format. So sue me. Thanks for the beta to Captain Average, the superhero who encourages.
It wasn't often the X-Men had nothing to do. If they weren't being chased by mutant-hunting Sentinels, or captured by rogue arms of the government, then Professor Xavier had them doing some sort of team-building exercise.
But it was the middle of the worst snowstorm to hit the East Coast in a decade, even the Sentinels and government agents had apparently decided to stay home where it was warm, and the Professor was off in Washington sucking up to the President.
Now, under normal circumstance, the members of the team would spend their precious free time as far away from the others as possible. But something about the immensity of the snow outside drew them together, and they all gravitated into the living room.
Jean lit a fire and Hank cleared newspapers off the coffee table when Ororo and Bobby came in from outside, where they'd been enjoying the weather. Peter entered moments later, carrying a tray of cocoa and cookies, followed by Scott holding mugs and spoons.
Hank drew Ororo onto the loveseat, as Peter settled down on the floor in front of the fire with a sigh, and Bobby sprawled untidily in a chair. Jean tossed Peter a few extra pillows off the couch and sat down next to Scott, pulling a heavy chenille throw over herself.
The room was quiet as the young mutants distributed mugs, cocoa, and cookies; clinking spoons, whooshing whipped cream, and the crunch of masticated chocolate chips gave the room a friendly air it often lacked.
A rush of wind swirled past the French doors, making them rattle, and Jean shivered, pulling the blanket closer around her shoulders.
"Before anyone asks," Ororo said as she stretched out, dangling her legs over the side of the loveseat, "no, I can't do anything about this storm. Well, I could, but for all I know, it would cause a drought in Bangladesh." She leaned against Hank, a healthy glow on her cheeks from the snowball fight she and Bobby had engaged in.
"Well, I like it," Bobby said.
Peter laughed. "You would. At least you have left the ice outside today."
"I like it, too," Scott said. "Sometimes it's nice to have a little enforced rest."
"I agree," Jean said, popping marshmallows into her cocoa and watching them melt into mush.
Ororo had just opened her mouth when a voice from the doorway startled everyone. "Well, isn't this just charming," Logan said, his muscular frame making the doorway look narrower.
"Join us," Jean said. One or two other faces briefly looked less than thrilled at the prospect, but they managed to stifle that for the sake of politeness.
"Don't mind if I do," Logan said, slouching over to sit on the couch next to Jean. He frowned at the coffee table, which normally he would prop his feet on, but was now covered in snacks.
Jean smiled in amusement at his dilemma and offered him a mug. "Cocoa?"
"Um, no thanks." Now that he'd made his point by staking out a seat next to Jean, he wasn't quite certain what to do with himself.
Jean handed Logan a cookie and wafted a few over to Hank when he held up his hand.
There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence, before another huge gust of wind slammed into the mansion. Doors and windows rattled and snow pellets hissed against the glass like tiny bits of ammunition.
The noise made them jump, then look slightly ashamed. Scott said, "That's us, the big bad dangerous mutants, afraid of the wind." Everyone laughed and relaxed a bit.
"So, when is the Professor returning?" Peter asked.
"When I spoke to him this morning," Jean said, "he said he would wait out the storm in Washington and take the opportunity to visit a few more Senators."
"Brainwash, you mean," Ororo muttered, almost immediately looking sorry for having said it.
"If that's what it takes," Jean snapped at her. Scott put his hand gently on her arm and the redhead subsided. "Never mind. Sorry. Just feeling a little claustrophobic in the house."
"The storm will be over in another 24 hours, I think," Ororo said in oblique apology, and everyone relaxed again.
"Will we ever get normal lives?" Bobby asked suddenly. Everyone turned to look at him and he blushed, fiddling with his spoon and mug. "I was just sitting here thinking... I mean, I've never even had a girlfriend."
Jean and Hank looked uncomfortable, but didn't speak. Bobby didn't notice. He continued, "I didn't ask to become an X-Man, and I wanted to know if any of you thought we'd ever get to leave."
"No," Logan said, and all eyes switched to looking at him. He returned each look with defiance. "Nobody ever gets to leave this kind of life. Once you're in, you're in. No point in my tryin' to sugarcoat it."
Scott looked like he was about to argue when Bobby interrupted him. "But what if the humans accept us? I mean, if the Prof gets his bill passed and if humans don't hate us, then we won't need the X-Men, right?"
Logan muttered something, and Scott answered Bobby. "I think that's a lot of ifs."
"But isn't that what we're trying to do?"
"Well, yes," Scott said, "but it's not going to happen overnight."
Bobby looked at him, then around the room at the others. "You don't really think it's going to work, do you?"
"Now, Bobby--" Scott started.
"All this stuff we do and none of you really think the homo saps are going to let us be."
"I do," Scott said simply. "I have to believe it or I'd go crazy."
"Same here," Jean said.
"I agree." Hank spoke up. "The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has.'"
"Do you really believe that?" Ororo asked, twisting her head to look up at Hank. "You really think the humans are gonna decide they're tired of trying to kill us?"
"Yes," he said. "As my bespectacled colleague has so admirably put it... if I did not believe it, I'd have to go insane."
Logan smirked at him. "And who says you aren't?"
Scott rolled his eyes. "Har-dee fucking har har. If you think our odds are that bad, why don't you just take off and go be a pain in the ass somewhere else?"
The silence that fell as the two men stared at each other over Jean's head was so deafening, it almost drowned out the hissing of the snowstorm.
Logan considered his answer and nobody was inclined to interrupt. "Because I don't have anywhere else to go," he said, just as the pause became intolerable. "And even if this doesn't have a chance, it's still a hell of a lot better than any of the other options."
Scott nodded slowly. "Okay."
Everyone relaxed, the minor testosterone spat apparently over. Cookies continued to be eaten, the hot cocoa was quietly decimated, and peace reigned.
"We'll be okay if we can work together," Scott said, and everyone looked at him. "That's what's been going wrong. We keep splitting into little factions, splitting and reforming. That'll get us killed if we keep it up."
"Mindless obedience isn't too likely in a group like this," Hank said with a slight smile.
Scott slammed his mug onto the coffee table. "I'm not looking for mindless anything. I'm looking for teamwork, maybe a little understanding of when's a good time to argue and when isn't. You know, we've been through a lot of crap together. Doesn't that buy me *any* slack around here?"
Most of the faces held guilty expressions.
"Scott is correct," Peter said from the floor, just as Logan said, "He's right."
There was a brief flurry as heads whipped back and forth from watching Scott's jaw drop to watching Logan to see if he was kidding. Apparently, he wasn't.
He also wasn't going to expand on his comment, so Scott kept going. "You think I don't know what most of you think of me? Anal-retentive Cyclops, always riding your ass, no sense of humor. You think I'm doing it 'cause that's how I get my kicks?"
Scott looked at each of them in turn. Hank and Peter looked back with equanimity, but Jean stared into her cocoa. Ororo crossed her arms and frowned, while Bobby looked like a kid whose parents were fighting. Logan stared out the window, but he was obviously listening.
"I'm trying to keep you alive. I'm not perfect, but I'm doing the best I can. Just work with me, that's all I'm asking."
Logan turned slowly away from the window to look at Scott. His nod was almost imperceptible, but it was enough. Around the room, heads nodded, then the various members of the X-Men relaxed in their seats, watching the fire or the slowing storm through the windows.
"We'll be okay," Scott said quietly.
"What if we're not?" Bobby asked.
"Then we'll figure something out. We've done pretty well so far, and it hasn't exactly been a cakewalk." Scott looked around the room. "I know this isn't the group any of us would have chosen, but that's not how it works. We got the X-gene. We got the mutations powerful enough to make a difference. Either we do something about it, or we give up and let the Sentinels kill us."
Hank smiled at him. "'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.' Benjamin Franklin said that at the signing of the Declaration of Independence."
The room was quiet, everyone lost in their own thoughts. Naturally, Ororo was the first to notice the change, and her brow wrinkled as she concentrated.
"The storm is slowing down," she said with authority. "It'll definitely be done by the morning."
"Will it warm up enough for things to melt?" Scott asked.
She eyed him for a long moment, face solemn, before she answered. "What do I look like... the weather girl?"
There was a beat of silence, then laughter rolled across the room, sweeping before it all the tension that had built up during their serious discussion. For just a moment, the X-Men were united, in purpose and in laughter.
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