They made their way to the Blackbird only to find Shield sitting on one of the wings.
"I figured someone would have to come back here sooner or later," he said, holding one of his sides.
"Russell!" Glow ran and fell to her knees by his side. "You're hurt."
"That big guy moves faster than you'd think," Russ grinned, and immediately regretted it. "He's got nasty claws too."
Cyclops opened the door of the jet and helped Glow pick her brother up and carry him inside. Glow sat next to her brother, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. She steadfastly refused to even glance in Wolverine's direction, even though the dark-haired Canadian stared at her openly. None of this exchange was lost on Russell. When everyone was situated Cyclops sat down in the pilot's seat.
"Hang on!" The Mezmerizer looked to Glow. "I've still got enough energy to do crowd control. Shall I?"
Glow got up from where she was, leaned over Scott to look out the window at the crowd gathering around the rescue vehicles. "All right, if you think you can get everyone. Let them think they were the victims of some freak storm, between Storm and ‘Rory's powers that's true enough for them to accept."
The Mezmerizer sat on the floor of the jet and assumed the lotus position, folding her hands across her forehead she began to glow and pulsate with red and gold light. The light expanded out briefly and then snapped back inside her.
"You'll love this," Whirlwind leaned over to Storm conspiratorially. "The evening news will have their weather men going nuts trying to figure out why they didn't know that a storm was going to hit. No one will link this to mutants."
The X-Men looked back at Mez and then to Glow.
"It's what makes us the best secret operations team out there," Glow said, voice slightly defensive. "No one knows we exist. And in this case, I think it would be better if no one knows you do either."
"All right, let's go home," Cyclops said.
No one really spoke on the way back to the Westchester Mansion, although there were quiet murmurings from the back where Glow and Shield sat. Small wonder the siblings had a lot to talk about; it had been thirty-three years since they'd last seen each other. Badlands and the Mezmerizer had fallen asleep holding hands. Whirlwind's eyes never stopped moving, taking in every detail of the jet and passengers. She spent a lot of time staring at Wolverine, who shifted uncomfortably under her look. Once in a while she'd glance back towards Glow and Shield and shake her head, as if unbelieving of the situation.
The welcome they received when they landed back at the mansion's hanger was much different than the last one they'd received. The only one there to greet them was Professor Charles Xavier. The tired mutants disembarked the aircraft, moving slowly. Tired from the fight, tired from the long day, and in some cases wounded, they filed out of the Blackbird and lined up in front of the X-Men's founder.
Glow walked off the plane with her brother leaning on her shoulder for support. She looked at Xavier and spoke before anyone else could.
"Lecture me later," she told him. "My brother was seriously injured fighting Sabertooth. Whirlwind might not want to show it, but I think something happened to her wrist. Badlands pulled his shoulder. Mez is going to have a stress-reaction headache the size of the Rocky Mountains if she doesn't get some painkillers and sleep - my fault, I let her do too much - and I, I think I broke a rib and breathed too much of Checkmate's poisoned gas."
"By all means we will deal with your injuries before anything else," Xavier motioned for Jean to aid them.
"Jean needs medical treatment too," Glow said surprising them all with her statement. "She's limping, in case no one's noticed, most likely, she twisted her ankle. It's probably from when we had to duck and cover as Magneto threw small buildings at us. Storm hit her head then too, so she should be checked for concussion. I think Cyclops is okay, and the only one to walk away unscathed is of course, Wolverine."
"How did you know?" Cyclops asked. Now that he knew what to look for, he saw that Jean wasn't putting any weight on her left leg as she stood. He put her arm over his shoulder to support her, hearing her sigh with relief as he bore the brunt of her weight.
"A good leader knows how to read his or her team. To judge what they're capable of, when to pull them in, and when to let them overexert or even sacrifice themselves for the greater good."
Glow began to shuffle slowly towards the hanger's door, carrying her brother. "Come on, the medical unit is this way."
Her team silently followed her out, the X-Men leaving after them just as quietly.
As it turned out, Whirlwind had the most serious injury with a broken wrist on her left arm. She took it with good grace complaining that it happened all the time and asking everyone to sign her cast. Fortunately, Shield's wounds were superficial and looked worse than they really were due to the fact that head and face wounds tend to bleed more. He'd have an interesting scar pattern for a while though. Glow's rib was not broken, merely bruised and an hour of breathing pure oxygen on a tank took care of the leftover poison from Checkmate's little belt-of-wonders. Badlands' shoulder had been pulled when he was forced to twist away from DreamWeb at such high speeds. Two shots of painkillers and a lot of sleep restored him to his usual good humor. Mez was silent, reverting to sign language to speak with her team because she did not want to bring back a stress headache by using her mental powers too soon. It shocked the rest of the X-Men to learn that she was mute. Xavier and Jean both knew some sign language, but not enough to communicate efficiently. They relied on Badlands to translate.
The next few days in the mansion were subdued, even among the younger students. The kids had all seen the news footage of the aftermath of the storm at the Tropical Forest Casino and Resort. None of them believed that it was just a freak tornado and storm that caused that kind of damage though, not with the way the adults were acting, and with the extra houseguests that had suddenly appeared. Bobby, Kitty, Jubilee, and Rogue hovered an uneasy distance away from Glow and her friends. Likewise, they kept their distance from Wolverine, who'd taken to following Glow around when he thought she didn't notice.
Finally, it was Rogue who broke the silence in this uneasy truce between the two teams.
"Glow?" Rogue called as she walked up to the older woman slowly. Glow, dressed in a swimsuit borrowed from Storm, lay on a lawn chair a ways from the pool where her brother was swimming laps to rebuild his strength. The siblings had been nearly inseparable since their reunion.
The orange-haired woman looked up from the book that Storm had lent her to the young woman before her. "Yes Rogue?"
"Can I talk to you?"
Glow motioned for her to take Russell's empty seat next to her own. As she sat down, Rogue cleared her throat.
"I just wanted to ask you a question," she said, and then paused. The other woman waited. "I mean, I wanted to know - why'd you come here in the first place? Logan said something about you being a mercenary on a secret mission but...I don't know what to believe."
Glow marked her place in the novel and closed the book, setting it in her lap. She stared at the title on the cover as if it held her answers. Finally she replied, "I came here to get information on a man that hurt my friends and I and countless others for years. We've been trying to track this man down for over a decade to put a stop to what he does-harming mutants in the name of science."
"Then you were just using Logan to get access to the computers so you could track this guy," Rogue whispered, sounding horrified.
"Not quite. It's true, I used him to get in here," Glow admitted, hanging her head in shame. "But that was it, I swear. I would never deliberately hurt someone who had never hurt me. Logan, I don't know, Logan just sorta reminded me of myself."
She put her head back against the chair and stared up into the sky. "He'd suffered so much at the hands of F.T.L.'s affiliates. Just like I suffered at the hands of F.T.L. I thought I understood his pain, I thought he understood mine. I did what I had to in order ensure the safety of my team and our mission to avenge the deaths of 154 mutants."
"I'm sorry if he feels I betrayed him. I truly never meant to."
Glow reopened her book and stared blankly at the page, signaling to Rogue that the conversation was over. Rogue sat for a moment digesting what she'd been told and studied Glow from the corners of her eyes. The pages of the book had small wet drops on it. Glow's cheeks were damp. Rogue felt her heart soften as she realized that the older woman was crying. Leaning over she brushed one tear away from Glow's cheek with a velvet-gloved hand. Rogue squeezed her shoulder in silent support, got up, and walked back inside where her friends were waiting.
Russell stood to one side, uncertain of what to do. He'd gotten out of the pool when he saw the kid approach his sister and meant to intervene, but something had stopped him. He'd listened, mindful that he was eavesdropping, but needing to know more about the woman his sister had grown into. He remembered her as a boisterous, open young girl, a bit on the tomboyish side, rather bright, but not willing to apply herself. This quiet, introverted, brilliant but driven woman before him frightened him a little. This woman was a warrior who kept her own counsel. She'd developed an acid tongue and a sarcastic sense of humor as a shield of her own. Sara had talked to him somewhat of the labs she grew up in, but even that had to be dragged out of her.
At last he moved towards her, grabbing the towel from his chair and flopping down on it, drying his hair. "So, what did the munchkin want?"
"You know, you were listening."
That gave him pause; he didn't realize she'd known he was there. He stopped and thought about it for a moment longer and realized that the bond they had as siblings, and mutants, had been slowly reestablishing itself. In the back of his mind he could once again feel her, as no doubt she could sense him as well. Time and distance between them had faded that odd link, but it was once again present. They'd always know where the other was.
"I heard," he admitted. "And I saw enough during that fight with that witch woman and her allies to know that you like this guy, the one they call Wolverine."
"Logan. His name is Logan, Wolverine is just his code name," Sara said stiffly, trying to change the topic.
"Okay, Logan, then. You like him. He seems to be attracted to you to," Russ stated, amiably. "So why don't you give him the benefit of the doubt and talk to him? The best he can do is forgive you, the worst he can do is not. Either way, you'll know and won't have to kill yourself wondering ‘what if?'"
"I scarcely doubt he wants to talk to me. He runs every time I enter the same room with him," Sara said, closing her book again and turning to face her brother.
"That's because he doesn't want you to know he's been following you around, trying to sort out what's in his head," Russ said as he stretched out on the chair, tucking the towel under his head a pillow, "I mean, I know the guy's no Andy Clemmings but..."
"Andy who?" His sister sat straight up, swinging her legs off the chair and onto the patio's surface.
"You remember Andy Clemmings. The one true love of your life... You used to play basketball with him!" Russ teased.
"Him? Russ, we were twelve! He used to irritate me by following me everywhere," she said, staring at him aghast.
"Well, what can I say?" Russ grinned that evil grin that only big brothers can get away with when they torture their younger siblings. "You were a heartbreaker even back then."
Sara shrieked with pretended indignation and swung her book at her brother. He ducked her blow and tumbled out of the chair. She tore after him in full chase around the pool. He halted mid-stride letting her run into him and grabbed her in one of his force-shield bubbles. She threw her shoulder against it shouting at him to put her down. So he did, when she was floating over the middle of the pool.
Sara surfaced, sputtering, incensed, and looking like a drowned rat. "I swear Russell Matthew McLain, I'll get you for this!"
"Oh! She used all three of my names! I'm scared!" the older man laughed, feeling twenty years younger now that he'd made his sister act more like herself.
Three sets of hands pushed him off the pool's edge and into the water. Standing where he'd just been, stood Bobby, Kitty, and Jubilee. Rogue ran up to them dressed in a full-body wet suit.
"Aw, I missed the best part already!" Rogue pouted.
"You don't have to," Jubilee cried gleefully as she pushed Rogue into the water. Kitty pushed the Asian girl in, but Jubilee had the last laugh when she pulled the brown-haired girl in with her.
Russell surfaced behind his sister and dunked her. She surfaced behind him and pushed him under. After that there was a free-for-all as the girls ganged up on Shield.
"HEY! Help! The men have to stick together!" he called to the blonde boy still on the pool's edge.
"No! Wait Russ!" Sara shouted. "You don't know his power!"
It was too late; encouraged Bobby took a running start and cannonballed into the pool.
The water froze almost instantaneously. Russell, Sara, Jubilee, Kitty, Rogue, and Bobby himself were stuck.
"Sorry," Bobby said sheepishly.
"It's okay kid," Sara said. "Kitty? Do you think you can go get Storm or John? We're going to need some help evaporating this."
"Uh, sure." Kitty's eyes unfocused for a moment and her image wavered as she began to move through the solid block of ice. She climbed back on the patio deck, turned solid again and ran for the house.
Sara surrounded herself with her yellow halo, using the heat of her electricity to start melting the water around her. She sighed, "This is almost where I came in."
Russell looked puzzled but the other girls giggled.
Cyclops came out of the mansion with John on his heels. "What happened here?"
"Um, early frost?" Glow looked at him as innocently as she could.
"Right." He turned back to the teenager behind him. "Do you think you can control the fire enough to melt the edges?"
"I can try," John gulped at the thought of having to melt the entire pool.
"Then hurry up and try!" Jubilee called. "I'm losing feeling in my legs!"
"Too bad it's not your brain," Rogue retorted.
"If we weren't frozen solid I'd dunk you."
Glow sighed and applied more power to melt herself out faster.
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