We need to start using the codenames
Logan watched Max as she slid into a deeper sleep, eager to get going. He didn’t want to drag this out any longer than he had to, and he was agitated about getting on the road; finding the place that would hopefully bring the fragments of his memory back together again. Back to Canada.
Still – she’d gotten under his skin.
He brushed his knuckles softly across her cheek and she smiled, her body shifting beneath the covers. Would she understand him just taking off, or would she be pissed at him? Hard to say.
Easier this way, though, he thought to himself as he slowly stood up, so as not to wake her.
He dressed, then took one last look back at her before he let himself out, quietly closing the door behind him.
“So you’re just going to leave her?”
He flinched at the sound of the now familiar voice, looking over to see Jean standing in the hallway, her arms crossed.
“What the fuck is it to you?” he snapped, turning and heading for the stairs.
“And how’d you know I was leavin’?”
“Professor Xavier notified me earlier.”
Jean set her jaw, her eyes flashing angrily. “Don’t you even care about her?”
Logan looked back at her as if she’d grown two heads.
“Lady – what exactly is it with you and shoving yer nose in everybody else’s business? Is that a telepath thing, or are you just a bitch on principle?”
Jean’s mouth turned down into an ugly frown, her tone snotty now.
“You’ve been nothing but trouble since you got here. Perhaps she’s better off.”
Logan let out an incredulous laugh as he started walking downstairs.
“Un-fucking-believeable,” he muttered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jean stood at the top of the stairs, her hands on her hips.
“Figure it out, crazy bitch.” he muttered as he strode across the foyer.
“Fucking psycho.” she growled, continuing to follow him.
He whirled on her, his expression empty as he growled, “Look. I don’t know what you think is gonna happen here, but you need to back the fuck off. Now.”
She opened her mouth to reply, then seemed to lose steam entirely. She actually took a stumbling step back.
He turned to open the front door and she said, “Don’t go.”
Logan turned to face her, angry now.
“You stink of fear. You’re terrified of me. Why the hell would you want me to stay?
Jean winced, her expression confused and nervous now.
Christ. He hated when Max was right. He let out a heavy sigh.
Yeah. Stupid question.
“Just..make sure she stays safe.” he murmured, looking up for a brief moment before stepping outside.
Jean moved to close the door as she watched him walk out to the main gate.
“Be careful, Logan.” she whispered, both irritated and frustrated that she was worried about him.
Max brushed her teeth, unsurprised that Logan hadn’t been there when she woke up. It was probably the best way to have handled it, though. She had never been fond of long goodbyes either.
Now she just needed to figure out what she wanted to do during the interim. It seems she had a choice ahead of her. She could either go back to her old life among the pinks, working retail and spinning her wheels – or she could stay here and learn more about these extraordinary people – this very intriguing life she’d encountered. Max had a strong desire to get to know them better.
Anything had to be better than the banal insanity of what she was putting herself through before.
Max got dressed and headed downstairs. The idea of staying cooped up alone in this room now that he was no longer here was just depressing.
She padded into the kitchen on bare feet, finding Jean and the man who’d gotten shot sitting at the kitchen table. He looked over at her and smiled. He was wearing odd looking sunglasses with thick vivid red lenses now. He was actually somewhat attractive now that the top half of his face wasn’t obscured by that strange headgear.
“Hey! You’re up and around.” Max grinned, glad to see that he was feeling better.
“Thanks for the patch job,” he nodded to his arm, which was in a sling.
“I’m happy that I could help.” she replied.
Jean leaned forward and asked, “Are you okay, Max?”
Max frowned, seeing that the man was now starting to look a little uncomfortable.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
Max moved to lean on the counter, wondering if there was ice cream in the freezer that she could snag. After all, she was planning on offering herself up for localized scientific inquiry. Ice cream was the very least they could offer in return, she figured.
“Jean..let it go.” the man beside her murmured.
“I’m just concerned..” she explained.
“Jean. Drop it.”
The man’s tone was clipped and he looked mildly irritated now.
Max took a step towards them, asking, “Should I not be okay? Did something happen?”
The man quickly explained, “Not at all. She’s just..”
Jean cut him off, turning and snapping,
“Don’t answer for me. I hate it when people do that.”
She then got up and angrily strode out of the room.
Max blinked and looked over at him, baffled. “What was all that about?”
The man ran a hand through his hair, sounding very tired.
“Honestly? I don’t know. She’s been a little on edge since we got back from picking you guys up.”
Max opened her mouth to explain, but thought better of it after remembering Logan’s words from earlier. The woman was apparently not dealing well with her attraction issues and since she already seemed to be dating this guy, it’d likely be a social misstep to stumble in and tell him that his girlfriend had the hots for another guy.
She decided instead to redirect back to the woman’s earlier comment.
“What was she talking about?”
The man looked almost embarrassed as he explained, “She thinks that you’re going to freak out when you find out that Logan’s left.”
“Ah.” Max replied, moving to take a seat across from him. “That.”
“She means well – she really does. She’s not usually this erratic,” he added, giving her a beleaguered smile.
Max grinned and leaned back in her seat, relaxing now that she knew that nothing big and bad was happening.
“I knew he was leaving. It’s just..something he has to take care of.”
The man regarded her silently for a moment, then extended a hand to her.
“I don’t think I we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Scott Summers.”
Max shook his hand gently and grinned.
“Nice to finally have a name for the face.”
She peered at his glasses curiously. “What’s up with the weird sunglasses? And the odd head thing you didn’t want me to take off the other night?”
Scott’s hand went to the glasses in a reflexive gesture.
“They’re protective gear of a sort.”
“Are your eyes unusually sensitive?” she asked, wondering if he was ever able to take them off.
“Actually, they’re to protect everybody else.” he explained.
Max chuckled and said, “What, d’you shoot laser beams out your eyes or something?”
He was grinning now.
Max blinked, her jaw dropping.
“Whoa, really? Can you ever take them off?”
“I can, but then I’d have to keep my eyes closed. I can’t control the beams.”
“That’s gotta be a pain in the ass.” she murmured.
Scott nodded and replied, “You have no idea.”
The boy with literal rose colored glasses. Had he ever been able to see other colors, or just different shades of red? Curious, but not wanting to make him uncomfortable, Max quickly changed the subject.
“Would it be rude if I rooted around in the freezer for some ice cream?”
“Not at all. I think there are several containers with different flavors to choose from.”
Max beamed and made her way over to the icebox.
Scott slowly stood up and shook his head. “No, thanks. I need to go find Jean.”
Yeah. Good luck with that, she thought to herself, hoping that the woman’s attraction to Logan was just a passing infatuation.
Scott seemed like a nice guy. She was surprised to realize that she didn’t like the idea of seeing him hurt. The nice ones always seemed to get the shaft.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” she murmured.
Scott smiled and said, “Me too. See you later, Max.”
Ice cream only goes so far, unfortunately.
Max started diving into tasks to keep herself busy so that she didn’t have to think about Logan’s absence so much. Several days had passed since she’d initially started talking with Doctor McCoy and the Professor about her nature. In that time, the Professor had shown her something he referred to as the Danger Room.
Henry had explained that it was still in the experimental stages, but what there was of it was phenomenal. He’d explained that it created “three dimensional holographic constructs” that looked and felt real – which she didn’t entirely understand until he and Warren brought her into the brightly lit white room and turned it on. It had blown her mind.
One moment she’d been standing in the room, the next – she found herself in the middle of a forest at twilight. The sounds were right, and she was startled to find that she was able to walk up to one of the trees and feel solid bark under her fingertips, but it didn’t smell right. It was the only thing that kept the illusion from being completely real.
Now, she was standing naked in a lab with multiple sticky pads with differently colored leads attached to various points along her body. Doctor McCoy had seemed embarrassed until she explained that it would be easier to shift this way.
“Maxine, are you entirely certain that you’re ready for this?”
He seemed to prefer using her formal name and she found that she liked calling him Hank. They had established a strange but firm friendship, and she appreciated that he’d gone out of his way to ensure that any of the tests or questions didn’t discomfit her.
“Yep. I’m good. Do you want me to do it now?” she asked, watching him nod as he sat at a computer terminal across from her.
Max felt her body begin the change and the connected equipment immediately began shorting out. Sparks popped from the equipment next to him and Hank leapt over and began rapidly unplugging everything connected to her. When he looked back over, his jaw dropped in astonishment.
“Good lord, Maxine. You are a truly beautiful creature,” he murmured, ignoring the blue smoke that was just beginning to curl up out of one of the terminals to his right.
Max grinned and let out a happy chuffing sound. The sticky pads had all dropped away from her skin when her fur had started sprouting and she looked down at one of them, sniffing it.
Hank crouched in front of her, mesmerized.
“This really is most astonishing. The entire mass of your body seems to have been redistributed, but it doesn’t appear as if it’s been done evenly. You’re enormous. I do believe that there is added bulk to your frame in this form.”
Max let out a soft whuf and licked the blue fur on his face. Hank laughed and gently nuzzled one of her ears with one of his enormous blue hands.
“Are you capable of transmogrifying into anything else?”
Max cocked her head at him and Hank sighed. She was starting to recognize this as the sigh he gave when he had to ‘dumb things down’ for people.
“Do you have other forms?” he asked, still smiling.
Max nodded and felt her body shifting again. Hank’s eyes grew wide and he stood up, taking a couple steps back as she morphed into dire, bipedal form.
“Oh my stars and garters,” he whispered, taking a tentative step towards her. He had to crane his neck to look up at her.
Max let her claws open so that he could look them over. Hank quickly picked up a clipboard and started quickly jotting down notes.
Max easily pulled the heads and limbs off of her attackers, then spun to face Hank; his labcoat now decorated with bright, loopy trails of computer simulated blood.
“Um..” he stammered as he tapped the tip of his pen on the official looking clipboard he held before him.
“Yes, well – I don’t think that..”
A disembodied voice broke in, echoing around the room as it explained, “I think what Doctor McCoy means to say is that we don’t usually prefer to deal with opponents with such fatal force.”
It sounded like Scott, but she couldn’t be sure. Where was he?
In order to test her response time and reflexes, Hank had brought her into a session in the danger room and the voice ringing through the trees sounded entirely too eerie.
Max shifted back to her non-furry form so that she could respond.
“You said to show you what I could do..”
Due to the nature of the tests that had been conducted so far, she had gotten past her initial timidity about being naked around others, but the men weren’t adapting to it as rapidly as she had.
Hank quickly handed her a lab coat, averting his gaze as she pulled it on.
Max heard doors open behind her and she turned to see Professor Xavier entering.
“I believe what Scott is trying to say is that it is not our policy to engage others with such..finality.”
She frowned, holding the coat closed as she asked, “So – even though Scott got shot that night, he wouldn’t have killed any of them? That’s seems foolish.”
The professor moved into the room, his voice calm as he explained, “Be that as it may, it is school policy. That, and I’m afraid that the other students and staff here don’t share your..particularly fatal way of dealing with combatants.”
Ah. The meat of the matter spoken aloud, finally. Max pursed her lips and nodded as she replied.
“You’d like me to be less bloodthirsty, right?”
Xavier’s expression became mild as he replied, “While I wouldn’t have put it quite so bluntly – yes, please.”
Max sighed and took a step back.
“You don’t have to worry. I wouldn’t hurt any of you.” she murmured quietly.
“We know you wouldn’t, Maxine.”
This from Hank who was now watching her with understanding eyes.
“I’m here to present you with a unique opportunity, Max.” Professor Xavier was watching her with an intense curiosity. Scott walked in behind him and stood beside his chair. It looked like a strange father/son pairing, the two of them standing there together.
“What kind of opportunity?” she asked, pulling the coat around her a little tighter.
Scott spoke this time, the tone of his voice different from when they’d talked before.
“That night we picked you and Logan up – it wasn’t the first time we had done that.”
Max frowned as he continued, “Every day more of us are coming into awareness; some with abilities that are both frightening to them and possibly dangerous to themselves and those around them. We do what we can to track them down and bring them here so that they can learn and adapt to their new abilities without hurting anybody. It’s what this school is all about.”
He paused for a moment, then added, “We’re still figuring out the most efficient way to do it – and to be honest, we could use another person on our team.”
Max blinked, then cocked her head at him.
“We could use a heavy hitter in situations for when things get really out of hand.”
He took a slow breath, then said, “I’m asking you if you’d like to join us.”
Max stammered, “Yeah, but I’m not one of you.”
Professor Xavier moved forward and said, “I would like to speak to Max alone for a moment, gentlemen – if you please.”
Scott nodded and Hank said, “Terminate simulation.”
The forest slowly bled back to the big white room as the two of them walked out.
“You have very unique talents and abilities that you do not engage very often,” he murmured.
Max nodded, shifting from one foot to the other.
“I’d like to see that potential realized to the fullest,” he explained. “And I think you would too.”
Max took a step back from him, meeting his gaze.
“The wolf isn’t always easily controlled. If you don’t want me killing people outright, then you don’t want me going out with them. Trust me on this.”
Xavier regarded her for a moment in silence.
“Would you be willing to train with the others to see if there is a way to gain control of it?”
“This is really important to you.” Max murmured, actually starting to think about it.
“It is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”
Such strong conviction. He almost reminded her of her father – before he’d gone insane.
“I can’t control her – but I can work with her. I’d like to get a better handle on that.”
She thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll try it.”
The Professor smiled then, pleased.
“Thank you, Max. Thank you for trusting me.”
Max flew across the room, slamming into a collection of large chemical drums. She quickly got to her feet, holding her head.
“Ow.” she grumbled.
“You need to evade better.”
She was finding that Scott could be a real tightass when he jumped into a Danger Room session. The beams that came from his eyes, while not hot, definitely knocked the hell out of things. It felt like getting slapped with a very focused hand. At least she hadn’t broken any bones yet.
Hank was nowhere to be seen, but she caught a trace of his scent off to the left, just before he jumped.
She easily ducked out of the way, coming up behind him and shifting into dire form, pinning him up against a wall.
He grunted as she pressed into him and Scott said, “See? Why couldn’t you have moved like that a minute ago?”
She released Henry, then shifted back into her two-legger form. Her training sweats had burst at the seams and torn in places.
“This isn’t going to work, guys. I’m gonna be running around naked most of the time if this keeps happening.”
She pulled at the remnants of the top, sighing.
Henry turned to face her, gently rubbing at the wrist she’d wrenched behind his back.
“I’ll see if I can come up with something that will be more capable of accommodating your body shifts easily.”
“Your reaction time is quicker when you’re up against people, but you don’t seem to do so well against projectiles. Why is that?” Scott asked, taking his hand away from his strange visor.
Max shrugged, the movement shifting the fabric on her torso, revealing one of her breasts. Scott blushed and turned away and she said, “See? It’s a distraction you guys don’t need in a situation like this.”
She moved the shirt to cover herself up and explained, “I think it’s because I track things with my sense of smell.”
“You’ll need to become familiar with more scents, then. I know that you heal quickly, but enough bullets or shrapnel and you’ll go down. Possibly permanently.”
Max let out a halfhearted laugh. “You usually get shot at that often while doing this?”
Scott sighed and explained, “I’m just trying to prepare everybody for every possible contingency.”
“How many of you are there out there – doing what you do?”
“So far, it’s just me, Jean and Ororo. Sometimes Henry tags along but he’s of more use to us here in the lab than he is in the field.”
Max felt the last of the light bruising fade as she looked over at Hank.
“Well, unless you guys want to fight me while I run around in the buff, I’m going to go for a run.”
Hank smiled and asked, “Has the lunar lady’s countenance chosen to shine the fullness of her radiance upon us again?”
She grinned and nodded. She was slowly starting to understand his wordiness.
“Wanna come with?”
Hank looked conflicted. She rested a hand on his arm and softly murmured, “You gotta let it out sometimes, or it lets itself out.”
She then presented him with a bright grin.
“Besides, it’ll be fun. Promise.”
Scott started walking to the door, calling back, “You should go let off some steam, Hank. We all need to from time to time.”
Hank grinned and said, “I would be delighted to accompany you on a run beneath the full moon, Maxine.”
Five full moons had come and gone.
Max stood at the edge of the lake behind the mansion, watching the moon wax gibbous out over the frozen water. This place was finally beginning to feel like home. Surprisingly, she had actually gotten to know Jean a little better, and found herself growing very fond of the woman. Sure, Jean could get a little crazed at times, but she’d learned that it came from having a wild heart that she didn’t let many people see.
Jean and Ororo had become almost like sisters to her, in a way. Hank reminded her of her brother Ducal in ways that still startled her from time to time. He had been the brainiac poet in the family.
February brought with it a lush blanket of white, powdery snow that draped everything in a way that seemed almost magical. Max had always loved snow. The school was growing now, slowly and surely. Hank had finally developed a special polymer that adapted to her body shape whenever she shifted into dire form – she still had to strip down to fur up on four legs, though. Since then she had even gone out on a couple of runs with the rest of the team recently, startled at how much open hatred there was for the people she’d come to call her friends.
Her family, now.
Max thought of Logan often, wondering if he was okay. She hoped that he had been able to find the answers that he seemed to so strongly need. In the beginning, she wished that he had taken her with him – but now she was content that he’d left her behind. In the last couple of months, she had established a stronger bond with her wolf and was now able to shift almost instantaneously – fluid, and with little pain. Scott had taught her a good bit of hand to hand combat so she didn’t always have to attack with a slash of her claws.
She finally felt something for the first time in her life – pride in who she was becoming.
Max hoped that her father, the man he’d been before the ‘incident’, would have been proud of her as well. The creature he was now, though – who knew?
The sounds of footsteps coming up behind her pulled her gently out of her thoughts.
“We have a pickup in British Colombia. Can you be ready in fifteen minutes?”
Scott. She’d learned quickly that he became all business when there was a job to be done.
Max looked back at him and nodded, watching her breath mist in the air as she said, “Yeah. I’ll be there.”
“You alright?” he asked.
Max smiled and replied, “I’m good. Just..memories.”
Scott gave a curt nod then said, “We’ll meet you on the pad in fifteen.”
She watched him walk back to the house, then moved to follow. Max wondered who the retrieval was this time. Scott always provided them with a briefing on the plane – which she had finally gotten used to riding in.
Max made her way back inside, heading down to the locker rooms to change. Everybody else wore those leather outfits that made them look as if they were in a strange rock band of sorts, and she got to slide on stretchy almost spandex-like material.
In the team meetings lately, they had been tossing around ideas for an identifying mark of some kind – a distinguishing symbol to place on the uniform.
Max had thought it a bad idea. They were still kicking the possibilities around, so the uniforms remained devoid of any kind of insignia. Still – a group of people running around in all black? Wasn’t that target enough?
Max chuckled as she zipped the suit up. It didn’t bunch or wrinkle, molding to her skin almost perfectly. Hank had done a good job.
When she made it to the hangar, everybody else was pacing; mentally preparing themselves for another run.
They were getting better at this now, more unified, but there was still a substantial case of pre-show jitters present from time to time.
Jean caught her eye and grinned, a playful little gleam in her eyes. At times, the woman could easily match her for deviltry, and they’d plagued both Scott and Hank from time to time with little pranks. It had actually gotten them a halfhearted reprimand from Xavier, once.
“So, our fearless leader has apparently been thinking of a name for us,” Jean quietly confided as Max walked up to her.
“You don’t say?” Max chuckled, wondering what Scott had in store for them this time.
“Oh yeah. It’s a doozie. You ready?”
Jean paused for dramatic effect and Max giggled. “X-Men.”
Max blinked, then laughed. “Wait, what? What is it even supposed to mean?”
Jean let out a snort of laughter, clapping her hand over her mouth.
“Ladies, get your heads in the game. We’re taking off in three.” Scott snapped as he headed up the ramp.
Max looked over to see Ororo watching the two of them with the barest hint of a smile. She turned and followed Scott up the ramp. Max and Jean moved to follow, trying to suppress their laughter.
“You are like evil twin sisters,” Ororo murmured, and Max could tell from her tone that her smile was more pronounced now.
“What, both of us? How can both of us be evil twins?” Jean asked, grinning.
“I do not know, but somehow you manage it,” Ororo explained, her lips curving in a wicked grin.
Scott spun around to face them, his expression stern as he began, “Tonight’s retrieval is a teenage girl who has the ability to manipulate microwaves which currently gives her the uncontrollable capability of superheating things by accident.”
Max strapped herself into her seat, watching Jean and Ororo do the same as Scott continued. “If she sees us as a threat, we’re going to have to take her down hard and fast – without damaging her or anybody around her.”
He paused for a moment, then said, “We need to start using the codenames.”
Jean rolled her eyes and said, “Not this again. You’re telling me that you really want me to call you Cyclops?”
They had gone back and forth about this particular subject throughout the last week or so, and Scott was becoming more insistent about it.
“We can’t keep using our legal names.” he explained, “We’re actually starting to see press on our little nighttime excursions.”
Jean sighed and replied. “Fine. Cyclops it is. What am I again?”
Jean shook her head and made a face. “Oh, that’s right. You do realize how much I hate that name?”
Scott leaned back in his chair, his tone becoming slightly exasperated. “We talked about this…”
“That doesn’t mean I’m okay with it.” she snapped.
Ororo broke in, ever the diplomat.
“I believe that this is a matter for discussion at another time. At the moment, we have a job to do, do we not?”
Scott stood up and crossed his arms, nodding. He looked almost embarrassed. Max wondered why he let Jean needle him like that all the time. It obviously frustrated the hell out of him. Still, they seemed to make it work together. He spun around to face the console, his tone back to all business.
“Right. Let’s get this bird in the air.”
MARVEL owns the copyright on their own characters, but I’ve fussed with and taken liberties with canon, and Max is my own creation.
Chapter 1 :: Chapter 2 :: Chapter 3 :: Chapter 4 :: Chapter 5 :: Chapter 6 :: Chapter 7 :: Chapter 8 :: Chapter 9 :: Chapter 10 :: Chapter 11 :: Chapter 12 :: Chapter 13 :: Chapter 14 :: Chapter 15 :: Chapter 16 :: Chapter 17 :: Chapter 18 :: Chapter 19 :: Chapter 20 :: Chapter 21 :: Chapter 22 :: Chapter 23 :: Chapter 24 :: Chapter 25