X-Men are Marvel's, Charlotte is mine.
No money in suing me, honest. Just for entertainment.
Wrong Place, Worse Time
"There's a crowd gathering over on the next block in the commons
area," Bobby said. "Go take a look?"
The group gathered around him.
"Yeah," Jubilee spoke up at once. "Might be fun."
"I don't know," Charlotte said. "We don't know what's
"So we go look," Angelo said. "Never know till you
take a chance, Charlie."
She shot him a disgruntled look for his attempt to cajole her. "Shall
we take a vote?"
She didn't know how it happened, but she found herself chaperoning
some of the students on a day trip with Bobby. For most of the morning
she'd felt like the roadie for the clown troupe in the Ringling Bros
Circus. Bobby was the head clown, with a willing Jubilee as his sidekick.
Angelo was entertaining himself egging the girl on. Everett and Paige
had no more luck then she did at containing their enthusiasm, but
it was a day for kicking loose.
Still, Charlotte wished she'd come with anyone else but Bobby. She
loved the guy, she really did, but the urge to slap him down bubbled
up every so often. Instead of four students and a teammate, she felt
like she was trapped with four students and a twelve-year-old. She
tried to remember if Thomas ever went through that stage, but it had
been a vastly different world then. Thomas never had the chance to
be playful and carefree.
That was unfair. She knew she could count on Bobby when she needed
him, had counted on him numerous times. She was just cranky. Something
in the air here felt wrong and it grated on her protective instincts.
Even with the absence of a mall her credit cards were getting quite
a workout. Not that she minded, she could well afford pampering them.
She enjoyed it. But the air around here....
Bobby grinned at her over Jubilee's head. "It'll be fun."
Emma made it quite clear to him that Charlotte was in charge. There
had to be at least one adult who wasn't swayed by the idea
of causing mischief.
"Okay, but let's stay together," Charlotte gave in. "I
don't want to lose anyone yet." It would be in a time and place
of her choosing, preferably somewhere they couldn't find their way
back too quick.
A man standing on the orator's platform in the commons was holding
forth, a large crowd gathered around. They couldn't hear what he was
saying too well, the voices all trying to outshout each other.
There seemed to be at least two separate groups, each jockeying for
It made Charlotte uneasy. "I don't think this was a good idea,"
she told Bobby.
He finally looked serious. "You're right." He looked around.
"Where's Jubilee and Angelo?"
They scanned the crowd quickly. "I can't see them. Everett?"
The taller boy looked over the crowd for Jubilee's screaming yellow
coat. "I think she's down in the front." His face paled.
"It's the Friends of Humanity."
Jubilee gripped Angelo's arm tightly. "You see what I see?"
she asked in a whisper. They were close enough to read the T-shirts
one of the groups wore openly.
He nodded. "Yeah. FOH. This is a bad place to be right now,
chica," Even with the image inducer he felt exposed. "Let's
get out of here."
"Wait," Jubilee pointed, "they've got a mutant back
there with them."
Two FOH boys were manhandling another person towards the the platform.
He was a visible mutant, one who could be readily identified by his
physical appearance. His face had feline characteristics, but his
body was underdeveloped. He looked small and weak next to his torturers.
Not much more than a boy.
"We gotta get him outta here," she continued.
<No, you don't.> Charlotte's 'voice' rang through their
heads. They both turned to see her several feet away from them, her
attention firmly on the captive. <Go back to Bobby.>
<No buts, Jubilee, I'll get him, but you two can't stay here.>
She still wasn't looking at them, but they knew she meant it. The
last time they crossed her they paid for it big time with extra homework
assignments and 'special' workouts she personally supervised.
Thomas hadn't sided with Jubilee that time. "There were few
rules growing up," he told her when she called to vent her frustration,
"but what rules I had were carved in stone. They were there to
keep me alive. The world's not so different now. Staying alive is
still the whole idea. If she told you to do it, it was for a reason."
The second group, now obviously identified as a pro-mutant crowd,
began shouting at the FOH. This was a riot in the making, and they
all knew what staying here meant.
<Char, what's going on?> Bobby asked her. He, Paige
and Everett stood at the back of the mob waiting for Jubilee and Angelo.
<It's going to be bad. Get them out of here. If there's any
danger all of you gate to my house, understand?>
<Bobby, they've got a mutant up here and they're planning something
very public. I'm going to try and get to him, but I've got to plan
this carefully.> Already she'd brought up her shields, calculating
the distances, the number of people she'd have to get through to do
this. It didn't look good, but she only had the one homing belt with
her and she'd just given it to Bobby.
She wished she had her sword, even the larger knives, but she'd kill
someone with those. Absently she patted her jacket pocket to check
if the gift Logan had given her for her birthday the previous Christmas
was still there. It was. With a flick of her wrist it would twist
out to a 6' adamantium bo. Just like Remy's. She could do plenty of
damage with that, oh my, yes.
Some men sent flowers, some candy. Some gave their wives diamonds.
Logan gave her weapons. The man knew his way into her heart.
<TV's here, cameras. It's going to be public.>
<Damn. All of you go now, then. We don't want the kids on TV.
Call the mansion when you get there, Logan, Hank or Bishop can come
"It's time you know exactly what the mutant threat is all about,"
the FOH speaker announced. "See and hear what exactly is going
on behind closed doors in your neighborhoods."
Someone bumped her but she didn't look up, focusing on her objective.
Bumped her again. "Charlie."
She spared a glance. <You were supposed to go with them.>
Bobby didn't crack a smile. <They're gone, I pushed the button
myself. I can't let you stay here alone with this.> He glanced
around at the pro-mutant group gearing up for a 'rebuttal.' <Oh,
God. I'm sorry I ever suggested this.>
Hank picked up the phone as he passed by on his way to the kitchen.
"Hello, Institute for Higher Learning," he said in a sing-song
"Beast, hey come an' get us now, quick!"
"Jubilation? Where are you?" Thoughts of lunch disappeared,
along with his jubilant mood. She sounded scared.
"We were with Bobby and Char, but there was trouble an' Bobby
sent us to her house in the mountains. Come get us, we gotta go back.
They need help!" Jubilee was nearly stuttering in her agitation.
<I'm going to make a grab for him when I get an opening,>
she told Bobby, <and take him through the back between the
trees. If you get the car and wait over there, this'll all be much
<Okay. Stay linked to me so I know you're all right.> He
moved off back through the crowd. <Sing something.>
<You know, play a song in your head so I can hear it. Otherwise
I'm coming back there. As long as I hear something I know you're still
She started to grumble at him, then stopped. <When this is
all over you're going to feel just how alive I am.>
<Is that a come-on? Wow, I didn't think I appealed to much
That didn't deserve an answer. She thought quickly, trying to find
something in her head to placate him, other than 'Row, Row Your Boat.'
The last song she heard on the radio would do.
<'...Is this just a dream, livin' in a fantasy. Surrendering
our hope never, never...'>
"We must unite against the common enemy. The enemy from within!"
<'...Teaching old mistakes deep from in a memory...'>
She moved around the edges of the crowd, careful to keep inside the
"No longer can we identify the enemy on sight! We must rely
on each other to expose them! To protect our families!"
<'...Hate for each other, so blind to kill. 'Cause it will,
yes it will...'>
The rhetoric was the same, different decade, century, different target,
but the same. She'd heard it all so many times. The small mutant cowering
among the FOH wasn't anyone's enemy except his own right now.
"Everyone here knows a mutant! Everyone here can make the stand
to protect our race!"
<'...Stand up before it's too late. This is not a dream, no...'>
Yeah, people, turn over your husbands, wives, children, mothers,
fathers, brothers and sisters to the nice man and it'll all go away.
Until the next hate target comes along.
"Protect our jobs! Don't let mutants take food from your families!"
<'...What we leave behind, is it fool's reality...'>
Forget the mutant, she wanted that bigot's hide nailed to her wall,
head mounted on a pole for target practice. Nope, gotta focus. Rescue
now, play later. Logan, babe, you're missing all the fun.
"The longer we wait, the more powerful they'll become! Already
there are mutants out there who can kill with just a thought! The
next time you cut a mutant off in traffic you could be dead!"
<'...Fear is forever, both stand apart. When love's forgotten
the tears from the start. Stand up before it's too late...'>
"Our children are not safe in their schools!"
Until the next gang war...
<'...Stand up before it's too late, this is not a dream, no...'>
The token mutant was crying, tears dripping down his face. He searched
the crowd for a friendly face, someone to pin a hope on. He couldn't
find one. He wouldn't find one here, he wasn't powerful enough for
the pro-mutant crowd to want to save him. They only backed the high-profiled
Publicity whores, she thought in disgust. <Don't worry,>
she sent to him, <I'm coming for you. Be ready.>
<'...Sorrow, sorrow, surroundin' my soul. Cry no more, all's
His face lifted a little, a tiny flame of hope glimmered in his cat-eyes.
She caught sight of Bobby with the car over on the farside of the
public area. He parked at the curb, engine running.
"Take a stand! Tell our representatives you won't take it anymore!
Get the mutants out of our lives, put them away where they belong!"
He motioned for his associates to bring the mutant forward.
<'...Stand up before it's too late...'>
Hank and Logan arrived at the mountain house through the gate, the
students waiting in the kitchen. The kids backed up at their first
sight of Logan, but his anger wasn't directed at them. "What
happened?" he demanded.
They all started talking at once.
His face darkened even further. "You. Talk." He pointed
"We walked into an FOH rally. They had a mutant with them. Charlotte
and Bobby sent us here and stayed to get him out."
Hank finished reprogramming the gate to get them back to the mansion.
"The others will no doubt have more information available about
the situation when we return," he told Logan.
"They better," Logan growled. "Damn woman," they
heard him mutter under his breath.
The breeze shifted as they brought the mutant forward. The scent
of some type of accelerant wafted from him, along with his fear. She
couldn't immediately name the substance, but it wasn't good.
<Oh, damn, Bobby, they've rigged him. They're going to set
him on fire!> A public burning! Something for the TV viewing
folks at home. After today anyone who could say 'I was there' would
be paid a fortune for their stories by the gossip rags. God, if I
believed in you, I'd recommend you try that flood thing again.
Bobby jumped from the car and dashed towards them, his heart pounding
in his throat. He didn't dare ice up and call attention to himself
just yet. Find her and get that poor kid out of there.
The speaker held aloft a torch and touched his lighter to it. The
flames shot up. The crowd went silent, even the pro-mutant faction.
This suddenly promised to be more than they wanted to see. People
in the back started to leave.
"Witness God's judgment on the abominations of this world!"
He waved it around.
This was as good a chance as she was going to get to make it out
of here alive with her soon-to-be new friend. Charlotte pulled the
bo cylinder out of her pocket and pushed people aside, making a run
for the platform.
At the mansion, the some of the team watched in horror at the spectacle
on television. Jubilee realized now she had no business wanting to
see what was going on there in the first place. Bobby and Charlotte
were alone facing an angry FOH mob. The man holding the torch looked
like he was about to call down the Wrath of God himself.
Logan stood on board the Blackbird, Bishop at the controls, Scott
navigating, watching the monitors, his claws flexed out, growling
as he watched his wife make a mad dash for the platform. Rogue put
a gloved hand on his arm. "She can take it," she reminded
him. "She'll be just fine."
"Not when I get done wi' her," he growled. He was going
to kick her ass for getting in the middle of this, right after he
made sure she was okay.
Charlotte jumped, one hand out, the bo a shining spinning wheel in
the sunlight. She took down the few who got in her way, using her
weapon in a completely unbiased manner. If they wanted to fight, she'd
oblige them, couldn't get more fair than that. Something inside her
lighten, the sheer act of combat loosening her control. She smiled
nastily. This felt so good!
She turned to the Speaker, favoring him with a smile that would have
chilled anyone who knew her. "Why don't we just all go home?"
she suggested, not so secretly hoping he'd do something stupid and
"Mutant lover!" he pointed at her with the torch. "You
have no business here!"
"I believe the First Amendment applies to everyone," she
retorted mildly. In an move to swift for him to anticipate, she knocked
the torch from his hand, sending it up into the air-
"And you have no right to prevent me from speaking," she
finished, the bo still twirling between her hands. "Unless you
want to talk about my right to bear arms?"
-where it iced up, the fire doused, falling to the ground between
them, the ice shattering at their feet. <Thank you, Bobby.>
"You're one of them, aren't you? Mutant." The one word
carried every ounce of disgust he could inject into it.
A voice came from above the crowd and all thoughts of leaving were
"What do you know, you pathetic little man?"
Everyone looked up. A man levitated in the air, his purple and red
costume a dead giveaway.
The ultimate publicity whore. Charlotte sighed with irritation.
It couldn't have gotten any worse....
Of course she was wrong. It could and it did.
"You will not threaten her, or anyone else," Magneto intoned,
lowering himself to stand in front of her. The FOH encircled them,
the other mutant forgotten now that the Master of Magnetism had arrived.
The pro-mutant group cheered. Here was someone they could root for.
The darling of Mutant Support League.
<Get him now, Bobby, and take him out of here.>
"Ah, Magnus?" she tried to get his attention. "This
really isn't the time."
"I will handle this," he told her, not turning his attention
from the speaker.
"No bloodshed," she said softly. <There are television
cameras here that would be more than happy to televise to the world
that the mutant threat is real.>
His eyes flickered to the TV crews at the edges. "Perhaps you
have a point."
His magnetic field grew to enclose her inside, his arm around her
waist holding her against him, then they both lifted up off the ground.
As they rose above the crowd Charlotte spotted Bobby's car drive off,
the almost-torched victim with him. She let out a sigh of relief.
She looked down to see the FOH yelling at them and pointing. <Could
you have found a more public way of playing hero?>
<But the view is so lovely.> He smiled into her eyes.
<Have you had lunch?>
He set them both down on a rooftop a fair distance away. "I
was in the area and thought to lend my support. I had no idea you
would be here."
"Liar," she told him with some heat. "You heard me
say I'd be here at our last lunch. You knew there'd be a demonstration,
"How could I give up an opportunity to rescue a damsel in distress,
though I am at a loss as to exactly when you were in distress."
"I had it all under control. You're as bad as Logan, you know
that? Always try to second guess me. And you wonder why I don't join
"Forgive me?" he offered her a bow. "I'll forgive
you for comparing me to that ani-"
"Watch what you say about my husband," she warned him.
He ignored her use of the word 'husband.' "You could hardly
be one of my Acolytes. You have far too much to offer for such a common
role. I would offer you a position as-"
"The answer is no, again. You don't want me, I'd try to kill
you first chance I had. Keep that in mind, will you?" She looked
up to see the Blackbird hovering over them.
Rogue appeared from the rear hatch and flew down to land lightly
beside her. "Everythin' all right?" she asked, eying Magnus
"Fine. Magnus thought to lend his assistance, which I am grateful
for," she gave him an exasperated shake of her head, "and
Bobby got away with the kid. I'm ready to leave." And find a
hot tub with a glass of brandy and a good book.
Rogue gripped her upper arms and lifted off.
"I'll see you next month for lunch," Charlotte yelled back
down at him.
He waved, unfazed by her words. One of these days he'd persuade her
to join his team.
Logan got his hands on her, hugging her tightly, then shaking her
'til her head rattled, then hugging her again. "Next time ya
gate out wi' the rest of them," he ordered, his face buried in
"Looogggaaann," she protested, "We've been married
for a year. Would you stop treating me like I'm made of fluff?"
"I don't recognize her," the shadowed figure said to himself,
watching the television shot of Magneto rising above the crowd with
the woman. The white face emerged from the darkness, burning red eyes
bright with curiosity. "I wonder if she is a mutant."
End -- perhaps.
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