"Anyone up for seconds?" Bobby asked, holding up the platter of Rogue's fried chicken. "Or in Logan and Peggy's case, fourths?"
"Nothin' wrong with a healthy appetite," Logan rebutted, calmly helping himself to more mashed potatoes.
"I'll second the motion," Peggy spoke up, reaching for another drumstick.
"More?" Bobby exclaimed. "And they used to call me the bottomless pit!"
Peggy blushed. "You know birds have to eat three time their own weight every day just to replace the energy they spend flying," she pointed out.
From the other end of the table, Warren cracked a smile. "I'll have to remember that one next time Betsy complains about me eating all her chocolate ice cream."
"Besides, haven't you ever heard the phrase 'eat like a horse'?" Jubilee piped up in her friend's defense.
"Hmmm...," Bobby said, tapping his chin with his finger and eyeing Peggy speculatively. "No, but I have heard 'I'm so hungry I could eat a horse'. Y'know, that chicken wasn't very filling..."
"Bobby," Scott spoke up, "if you attempt to eat my daughter, it will reflect very badly on your annual evaluation." He went back to blithely eating his meal as the others looked at him open-mouthed. Was he--?
Bobby moved his gaze from Scott to Jean and Peggy. The former's face was suffused with suppressed laughter, and the latter's wore the small beginnings of a smile. Finally he let out a surprised laugh. "I can't believe it. The man who can kill bad guys with a stern look and drive Mr. Sinister to his knees with a lecture--our very own Fearless Leader, Cyclops himself, ladies and gentlemen, has just made a joke! What does that make, four? Five, since I've known you? Boy, fatherhood's been good to you!"
The other X-Men laughed, more for Bobby's reaction than the joke itself. "Speaking of fatherhood," Storm began after the laughter died down, "is not Nathan visiting soon, Scott?"
Scott nodded, swallowing a mouthful before continuing. "X-Force is supposed to come out in a few days for their annual physicals, and Jean, ah, 'convinced' Nathan to come a little early."
"Convinced?" Warren repeated with a wry grin. "Jean in full maternal mode isn't someone you have to be 'convinced' to agree with!"
General laughter, interrupted by Jean's mock glare. "Whatever the reason," she said, sharing a glance with Scott, "it'll be good to see him again. We have a lot to talk about."
Peggy hovered in the air, wings trembling with exhaustion, as she evaluated the situation. Those bumps looked like they might house lasers of some sort. She'd already discovered to her chagrin that other protrusions concealed cables that would dart out and grab a leg when she was in range, effectively immobilizing her until she was dealt with. But what other surprises were there, hidden where she couldn't see?"
~Can't stay here forever. Better get moving before they figure out where I am.~ She angled her wings and swooped downward. She flew towards her target, changing altitude and course adroitly to avoid the lasers and other dangers. There--it was in sight! Just a little bit--no! She nearly screamed with frustration when the cable wrapped around her hindleg. She was so close! It couldn't end here.
Hit with sudden inspiration, Peggy looked around for the laser she knew would be brought to take her out of commission. She relaxed against the cable, gaining as much slack as she could while keeping one eye on the laser. When it fired she had a split second to rear and twist painfully in the air so that it missed her by a hair and instead neatly sliced through the cable. She whinnied triumphantly as she shot free and darted to the target at top speed. She landed gently, raised one silvery hoof, and pressed it down with great relish on the large red button embedded in the floor. Abruptly the dangers she had navigated melted away, leaving her in an empty room.
When Peggy changed back to her human form she bore a wide grin on her tired face. She'd finally done it! She brushed her hands off on her tight-fitting, sky blue uniform and headed for the exit. She palmed the door open and walked out--straight into Gambit. "Oh!" she exclaimed, stumbling backwards.
"Sorry t' scare y', petite," he apologized, extending a hand to steady her. "What y' doin' in de danger Room at dis time o' night? Not even Cyclops crazy 'nough t' schedule workouts at four in de mornin'!"
"Oh, I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd run through that session I screwed up yesterday and see if I could get it right this time."
"Don' be so hard on y'self, petite. Y' doin' good f' bein' new at dis. Most o' us take a while t' build up de experience. Gambit, he jus' learn faster dan most." He winked at her. She returned his smile hesitantly.
"Well, it was a great cure for insomnia," Peggy replied. "I think I can drop right off now."
"Oui, Gambit ready f'r bed too. I had a very long night. I tell you 'bout it when y' older."
Peggy laughed. "Can't wait. Good night, Gambit." She yawned hugely and walked past him towards the stairs. When she reached her room, she barely managed to peel off her uniform and slip on a comfortable oversize shirt before sliding gratefully into bed. It had taken god-knows-how-many runs to get that right, and she was dead tired. But she was determined to be the best X-Man possible. She would be worthy of her new family. No matter what it took.
"So are you nervous 'bout meeting your big bro?" Jubilee asked, cracking her gum and looking at Peggy expectantly.
Peggy looked up from her scribbled science notes. Hank might be a brilliant researcher, but he was not the best teacher to the scientifically-challenged! "That's right, Nathan's coming today."
"How can you be so totally cool about it? Man, if I had a bro like Cable, I'd be majorly freaked at meeting him."
"I'm sure he can't be that bad," Peggy replied hesitantly.
Jubilee gave a very undignified snort. "You won't be saying that after you meet him, Peg. Trust me."
Peggy chewed her lower lip nervously. she thought back to what she'd read about her new brother in the X-history files. Scott's son by a clone of Jean, sent two thousand years in the future as a baby, little Nathan Christopher Summers had returned a battle-hardened veteran older than his own father. He had become the leader of X-Force and was known as quite a formidable man. She was a lot more worried about meeting him than she wanted to let on. She still wasn't quite sure of her place in her new family, both the X-Men as a whole and the Summers in particular. ~He's Scott's real son. He's such a great X-Man, and I can't even get my sessions in the Danger room right. What good am I when he has a son like that?~
She was deep in her brooding when the doorbell rang. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound. "I'll get it," she managed to say to Jubilee. Peggy kept her face schooled in a neutral expression and a tight lock on her emotions. Nathan was a telepath, after all. She pulled open the heavy wooden door to reveal a tall, muscular man with silver-streaked hair. The gleaming metal of his left arm confirmed without a doubt that this was indeed Cable.
He looked over her for a moment, his features hard. "Are Scott and Jean here?" he said finally. "I'm expected."
"Yes, come in," Peggy replied quietly, opening the door further to allow him entrance. "Scott's supervising a session in the Danger Room, but Jean--"
"Hello, Nathan," Jean said as she stepped into the room. "I just told Scott you were here. He'll be up as soon as he can. I see you already met Peggy."
"Briefly." His gaze passed right over her. Peggy cringed inside. He could see she wasn't good enough to be here, part of the X-Men or of his family.
Peggy tried hard to melt into the couch as Jean chatted with Nathan. The stern-faced telepath hadn't spoken two words to her since he'd come to the mansion. His and Jean's conversation seemed somewhat stilted and formal to her, as if it was between two people who were practically strangers instead of practically family. She didn't understand why, but Peggy was sure it had to be because of her somehow. She was so sunk into her misery that she didn't even notice a fourth person enter the room until she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Aren't you interested in telepathic mechanics?" a familiar voice asked, looking down at her through red-shielded eyes.
"Hi Dad," she replied , tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Unless they're talking about animals it's pretty much lost on me."
"Well you've still got me beat," Scott countered with a smile. He was still dressed in his X-Men uniform from the training session, but the hood and visor was slung back behind his head, a pair of ruby-quartz sunglasses keeping his powerful optic blasts in check. He looked over at the other occupants of the room. "Hello, Nathan. Glad you could come," he said with a nod.
"Scott," the other man replied in the same manner. "Jean said you had something you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Straight to the point, as usual. Yes, we did." He walked over to stand by Jean, squeezing her shoulder affectionately.
"Does the girl need to be here?" Nathan asked brusquely.
Peggy tried to sink deep into the cushions at his tone. Scott looked back at her. "This concerns Peggy as much as you," he said simply. Jean reached up and squeezed his hand, smiling at the other two.
"We've decided to get married," she announced.
Peggy's eyes widened in delight. "That's wonderful!" she exclaimed, jumping up to hug Scott tightly. Scott laughed and ruffled her hair.
"I'm glad you approve."
"So you're not worried about getting a wicked stepmother?" Jean asked with a grin.
"Does this mean I have to call you Mom now?" Peggy laughed. She turned back to Nathan with a wide smile--one that faded at the look on the man's face. It might have been carved in stone. "I-isn't this great?" she faltered.
"Congratulations," he offered curtly. Peggy sighed. Why couldn't her brother be as excited about this as she was?
Next chapter--An engagement party in the X-Mansion. What could possibly go wrong?