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Noah and the Storm (5/5)

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  • Katarina Hjärpe
    ********** They didn’t stop the wagons until they reached the station. Everyone hurried inside, and a few of the riders positioned themselves by the window
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2001

      They didn�t stop the wagons until they reached the station. Everyone
      hurried inside, and a few of the riders positioned themselves by the window
      to fire at any followers. Rachel had linens and hot water ready, but was
      still shocked to see the gashes of blood on Hank, and Hank�s own appearance
      obviously added to that shock.
      �You poor thing!� she said, and Hank smiled a little, sitting down on the
      bench by the table.
      �I assure you it looks a lot worse than it is,� he said in his usual
      refined style. �No arteries seem to have been hit, and the wounds are all
      superficial. I doubt any of them need suturing, if such a thing is even
      available in this environment. No offence, madam.�
      �Well, they have to be cleaned anyway,� Rachel said. A bit cautiously, she
      dipped a linen rag in water and started cleaning the bleeding areas. When he
      made no attempt to act as the beast he looked like, she continued more
      �No broken bones?� Ororo asked.
      �Judging from the pain in my side, a rib must have cracked,� Hank admitted,
      �but since it hasn�t damaged the lung it�s nothing to worry about. I�m a bit
      sore, of course, I suspect there has been some muscle damage, but nothing
      that will not heal quite easily.�
      �Guess they took advantage of the fact that you don�t bruise,� Logan stated
      without much passion. �Glad to have you back.�
      The X-Men were all sitting close to Hank, and Bobby hugged him so tightly
      that Hank had to push him away a little bit, grimacing of pain.
      �Sorry,� the boy said, laughing and crying at the same time, and the MD
      hugged him back, somewhat more carefully.
      �No need to apologize, Robert,� he said softly. He then looked up at the
      others. �I can�t begin to say how grateful I am you came for me.�
      �Of course we would,� Jean said. �Gives me fewer hours in the med lab.� Her
      team mates joined in with a hearty rudeness that more than anything showed
      just how much they had missed him.
      �Otherwise what would I do next time a lens cracked?�
      �You shouldn�t be the only one to try out Forge�s inventions. He�s *my* ex
      after all.�
      �Like I�d let away the only guy I can tickle properly.�
      �I�ve missed your lectures on what smokes and drinks should be doing to my
      Hank laughed. �Alright, I do believe your message has come through. And as
      for you gentlemen... and ladies,� he said, adressing the riders, �I thank
      you too. Very much.�
      �It was the least we could do!� Cody said, squirming in his chair. �If I
      had helped you in the forest, none of this would have happened.�
      Hank looked surprised, only now recognizing the rider. �That was you?
      There�s no reason to apologize. Your reaction was highly natural.�
      �Still unforgivable, though. I�m so sorry.�
      �It�s quite alright. You can hardly blame yourself for what these men did
      -- not to mention our old friend Magneto.�
      �What did he want with you, really?� Ororo asked, the one question they
      hadn�t managed to find out.
      �He wanted me to create aggression reductors. I don�t think going here was
      the plan to begin with, but once we was here, he claimed a war was the
      perfect situation to try such an invention.�
      �So there will be a war,� Teaspoon commented. The X-Men payed no attention
      to it, though, they were too busy with the revelation. So very simple,
      seemingly humane, and absolutely idiotic.
      �That�s just like Magneto, isn�t it?� Scott said, jaw tightened. �He can
      always claim he only did it for humanity. Never stops to think that maybe
      aggression is there for a reason, or what will happen if some have it and
      some don�t.�
      �But surely it would be...�
      Lou�s protest was never finished before Jimmy waved at them. �Get down!�
      Seconds later, a gunshot broke the window. Everyone crouched, and Jean and
      Ororo moved up to the window while Scott hurried to get his visor from the
      bags and put down his glasses. They positioned themselves next to the riders
      by the windows.
      �Is it really that smart to use your powers?� Jimmy turned around to ask
      Jean. �We won�t be able to hold Hank here forever.� Jean simply shrugged,
      not ready to give up without a fight.
      �We won�t have to.� It was Logan who answered. He had been playing with the
      Tesselty and now held it up. �If I understand this gizmo correctly, there�s
      an opening in five hours, three miles from here. Hank can get the button and
      go home, while the rest of us have three weeks until the next hole to
      recapture Magneto.�
      �Three *weeks*?� Jean asked, suddenly shook out of her calm. �Who will take
      care of the kids if we�re stuck here for the next three weeks?�
      Logan smirked. �Chuck, I suppose. He could brainwash them into obeying his
      every command.�
      �Charles would never do such a thing and you know it.�
      �Then he�s in trouble, I guess.� Logan was still smirking, but they were
      both serious underneath.
      �Okay,� Teaspoon said after a moment of thinking. �We�ll sneak out, two by
      two. There are extra guns for those of you who need it. What can you do,
      son?� he asked Hank.
      �I have enhanced agility, strength, speed...� Hank grimaced. �That is, I do
      under normal circumstances.�
      Teaspoon handed him a gun and raised an eyebrow towards Scott. �I hope you
      are all right with this?� he asked, acknowledging the young man as the
      leader. He got a short nod as a reply -- Scott was busy firing blasts
      through the broken window. As soon as there was a moment�s advantage,
      Teaspoon motioned for the first two to get out, and Hank and Bobby slipped
      by the intense shooting, Bobby holding on to the Tesselty.
      �Here�s to nothing,� Logan mumbled and grabbed Rogue�s hand, following only
      minutes later. After Noah and Ororo left as the third couple, the shots
      suddenly intensified.
      �They�ve figured out what we are doing,� Teaspoon said. �Well, we knew this
      wouldn�t be easy. It�s gonna be harder from now on. Any volunteers?�
      Ike, who was closest to the door, looked up to see who would come with him,
      and Scott quickly moved up to his side. �We�ll go. They�re still a bit
      jittery around my blasts.�
      �Okay. Ride safe, boys, and for God�s sake try not to get shot.�


      Teaspoon and Cody were the last ones to flee, and by then their pursuers
      were spread across the landscape. Unlike them, the riders and X-Men did not
      have horses, which made their escape slower, but also allowed more places to
      take cover. A mile from their planned destination, Ike dodged behind a rock
      and looked out for enemies. There was one riding behind that was shooting at
      them quite violently, but he also glimpsed something far ahead. Looking more
      carefully he found that it was Noah and Ororo, though, and he couldn�t help
      grinning as the distance between their faces was reduced to nothing. Mortal
      danger set off pheromones.
      He had no time for more elaborate voyeurism, though. While he still watched
      the pair disappear in the distance, a blast so forceful it made him jump
      was fired dangerously close to him. He turned around in shock, and saw Scott
      pressing a hand towards his face.
      �Ike? Are you okay?�
      Ike nodded, but Scott repeated his name, with a voice close to panic. His
      eyes were closed for protection, and Ike moved closer, squeezing the other
      man�s hand as a sign of reassurance. Scott relaxed and took off his visor.
      It had cut into his skin due to the gunshot, and his temple was bleeding.
      With remarkably steady fingers he checked the lense. A sigh escaped his
      �Shattered.� He thought for a second and then shrugged. �We�re more than
      halfway there, there�s no going back. Are you up for the challenge?�
      For a second, Ike felt a pang of panic. How could he possibly be expected
      to lead Scott to the opening when he couldn�t even make himself understood?
      But there really was no other choice, so finally, he squeezed Scott�s hand
      again, and Scott grinned. �Okay. Let�s go, then.�
      Ike held him down and touched his bleeding face.
      �It�s just a scratch.�
      That was true, but Ike still took off his bandanna and wrapped it around
      the wound to stop the bleeding. He got the slightest of smiles as a thanks,
      and they both proceeded forward.
      One of their pursuers was riding dangerously close, and they ducked. Ike
      quickly discovered that although Scott was remarkably accurate in judging
      the number and location of enemies, taking cover was another matter
      altogether. He dragged the mutant leader closer to himself and fired at the
      enemy. The man got off his horse and walked up to their hiding place, still
      firing at them. Ike took a run to the left, but Scott let his hand slip away
      and rolled down on the ground. Before the attacker had a chance to change
      his target, he found his legs caught in a tight grip that caused him to fall
      over. A few punches later, and Scott had the man�s gun in his hand, quickly
      knocking him out with it. Ike just stared. He had never seen anyone move
      like that. It wasn�t quite right to say that Scott acted as if his eyes were
      still open; a more accurate description was that he acted as if every piece
      of his body was an eye. The logic part of Ike�s mind told him that it was
      just well-trained hearing and touch, but it didn�t feel that way. In any
      case, it made him relax considerably. Still, it took them longer to get
      where they were going, and not too far from their destination, Kid and Lou
      met up with them. Ike had been in close combat with another enemy, and was
      most grateful when, at a slow moment, a gunshot made sure the man didn�t get
      close again. He looked over to where Scott was fighting, but that was a mess
      too tangled up to try and solve with fire arms.
      �Hey,� Kid said, and then, noticing Scott�s bleeding face and closed eyes,
      �are you really letting him fight like that?�
      Ike shrugged. There was no �letting� about it, Scott had made it perfectly
      clear that Ike�s presence in a hand combat would only confuse him, and he
      respected that decision. Kid, however, had gotten no word of warning and
      rushed up to help Scott, just as the X-Man knocked out his enemy. As a
      thanks, he got thrown flat on his back nine feet from where he had been
      standing. Lou tried to hide a smile, and Scott got up, frowning.
      �Who was that?�
      �The Kid,� Lou replied.
      �Oh Christ! Ike, when I told you I was trained for this you could have
      passed it on! Or was it unclear somehow?� He walked up to where Kid was
      lying and waited for the rider to rise. �You okay?�
      �Yeah. And don�t blame Ike, he didn�t have a chance to tell me.�
      Scott smiled. �Okay, I won�t. Well, if you�re not hurt, let�s get going.
      There are only five hundred yards left.�
      �How do you know?� Kid asked, getting back on his feet with some effort.
      �I just do.�


      At the meeting place, Hank and Bobby, Logan and Rogue were already gathered
      when the next two couples arrived. They had shaken off all pursuit and was
      now simply waiting for the last people to arrive. When Jimmy showed up, he
      was alone.
      �Where�s Jean?� Rogue asked, immediately worried, walking up to him.
      �She�s coming soon,� Jimmy said reassuringly. �Don�t you worry.�
      �But why were you...� Rogue caught Logan�s eye and noticed that he was
      making a motion as to take something off his hand. She put her own hand up
      to her glove and looked at him to see if that was right. When he nodded, she
      slid it off and put her other arm across Jimmy�s chest. �Make one move and
      I�ll drain you. Care to say what this is all about?� she asked Logan.
      �That ain�t Jimmy, sweetheart,� he replied. �And if Mystique�s here, that
      means Magneto�s around too, and that I�m damn lucky to not be flying in the
      air already.�
      �Can you smell him?� Rogue asked. At that same moment, Mystique, still in
      Jimmy�s form, gave her a violent kick to get loose. The only result of this
      was that Rogue�s hand happened to brush her cheek. Mystique reverted to her
      true form and fell uncoscious to the ground while Rogue took a horrified
      step backwards. Logan had already started sniffing the air, and his
      concerned eyes met hers.
      �He�s here alright,� he said.
      �Half a mile further south,� she added, with the knowledge of Mystique�s
      �I�ll go there,� Ororo said, looking towards Noah who simply nodded. He
      would be more than willing to use his whip in assistance. Another look made
      Bobby stand up and prepare to go with them. It would have been best if they
      could bring Jean as well, but she and Jimmy had not arrived to the meeting
      point, and they had no time to wait. They didn�t even have to go as far as
      half a mile before a familiar silhouette could be seen some distance away.
      He didn�t bother to try and hide. On the contrary, he was waiting. Ororo
      pulled the others to a stop and turned to him.
      �We have Mystique, you know.�
      �No, I didn�t know.� His voice was calm, almost friendly, but far from
      harmless. Noah�s hand went to the whip, only to have Ororo stop him.
      �Why don�t you just come home with us?�
      �You�re asking me to voluntarily go back to prison?�
      Actually, she was. There wasn�t much time to force him, and it was either
      that or going back in time once more just to capture him. �The way I see it,
      your plans have been hopelessly interfered with, your proteg�e is caught,
      and when we leave, you will be stuck in a time where they hang people for
      stealing a horse. I�m not sure what the punishment is for genocide -- maybe
      you could join the people currently committing it.�
      Magneto raised an eyebrow, but didn�t comment on the insult. Instead, he
      simply sat down on the ground. �I don�t wish to kill you.�
      �Same here.� She stood silent for a while. �I know there are things you
      care about, Erik, and I know that woman is one of them. As is Charles, I
      �True enough.� He rose to his feet. �Send him my regards.�
      Apparently, that was his last word in the matter, because he turned to
      leave, taking a glistening roll of thin wire from his pocket and throwing it
      in the air. It swirled around like a dancing snake and dived down to tie his
      opponents. Ororo sighed, and gave an affirmative nod to Bobby, who froze the
      thing in midair. Rolling back her eyes, Ororo called on a wind and sent what
      was now an ice sculpture back towards Magneto. He worked the metal out of
      the ice, but before it was fully through a large icicle hit him in the head
      and he fell down. Ororo hurried up to him to check his pulse.
      �How bad is he?� Bobby asked.
      �He�ll be awake again in a minute or two. *Damn*!� Someone called on them
      from behind and when she turned around, she saw Jean running up to them.
      Just in time.
      �Sorry I�m late,� Jean said. �Quite a few guys to fight off and all that.�
      �Actually, you�re not,� Ororo replied. �Think you can keep Magneto
      unconscious long enough to bring him through the opening?�
      Jean made a grimace. �It will be tough, but I suppose so, if I keep my
      hands on him.�
      �Okay.� Ororo got ready to go, but then she hesitated, throwing a glance at
      Noah before looking from Jean to Bobby, estimating their strength. �Think
      you and Bobby can handle it on your own?�
      Jean frowned. �Sure. But what are you... oh.�
      Ororo smiled at Noah. �We still have an hour left. That�s plenty of time
      for a third date.�
      �You still didn�t tell me what�s so special about the third date.�
      �Well, you�re about to find out.�


      The thunderstorm started some time later, while the others were still
      waiting. Jean�s mouth twisted a little, and Scott�s expression became even
      harder to read than usual. Cody noticed their faces and connected it with
      the sudden change in weather. �I guess they figured out a few things, after
      all,� he said with a grin that didn�t disappear even when Lou kicked him in
      the shins. However, when the two finally returned, there was a total lack of
      suggestive remarks from him as well as the others.
      �Are you ready to go?� Teaspoon asked. He had been the last one to arrive,
      and had made sure they were now undisturbed.
      Ororo�s blue eyes met Noah�s brown, and they both knew they were far from
      ready. Maybe it would have been better if they had never had that �third
      date�, but done was done, and neither of them regretted it. Still, there
      were no declarations of love, no tears in their faces. She reached out her
      hand in a formal goodbye. �Take care of yourself. With the war and all.�
      �You too,� he replied. �With the persecution and all.�
      Jean was holding the Tesselty, and she handed it to Ororo to see. �The hole
      is already open.� To Noah, she added, �You had better step back, we don�t
      want you to be drawn in.�
      Didn�t they, though, Noah thought, looking at the mutants gathering
      together to go home. Their world wasn�t his and that was all there was to
      it, no matter how nice these past few weeks had been. He retreated a few
      steps and stood there watching as the X-Men walked through nothing and
      disappeared. It was remarkably undramatic.
      �Well,� Teaspoon said, breking the silence. �We�d better go home. It�s
      going to take some effort to explain to people what just happened.�



      Ororo browsed through Kitty�s history essay. The American Civil War -- as
      if she really needed to be reminded of that. They had all gotten back to
      normal after the time traveling experience, but that didn�t mean there
      weren�t times when they still thought about it. She dismissed all personal
      feelings and tried to look soberly at the essay. The writing itself was
      fine, but the appendixes were a mess, and Ororo had a strong feeling Kitty
      didn�t always check her sources properly. She looked at a photocopy of an
      old article from a local magazine, mentioning the first casualties in some
      town called Rock Creek. Wonder were the girl got those pieces of trivia?
      Suddenly something caught her eye, and she sat up straight, staring at the
      article. Her fingers slowly traced a name, as if she had to feel it to
      believe it. Returning to her senses, she left her chair and grabbed her
      coat, heading out into the corridor. Her thoughts screamed for Jean to come,
      and her friend hurried out from her room to join her. *What�s wrong?* Jean
      silently asked, walking through the corridors to catch up with Ororo. Ororo
      replied with her discovery, her fears, and her intentions. Jean hurried to
      take her jacket, and the two women drove together to Forge�s place.
      This time, Forge was home when they arrived, slightly puzzled to see them.
      �Hey. What�s the problem? Not Magneto, I hope.�
      �No, he�s still where we left him,� Ororo saved. �We need to use the
      He raised an eyebrow. �Come on in. You know, the Tesselty isn�t a toy,� he
      added, when they were taking off their shoes.
      �We�re trying to save a life,� Ororo replied. She showed Forge the
      photocopy. �One of the friends we made in the nineteenth century was killed
      early in the war. Noah Dixon. We need to stop it.�
      Forge took the photocopy and sat down on his couch, reading it. �Ro, this
      happened a hundred and fifty years ago. They�re all dead by now, anyway.�
      �I know that,� she snapped. It wa hard to think about, and it made her feel
      a bit guilty, but she knew she couldn�t stop this. �But some of them got to
      *live* first! I�m not asking to go there for Cody, who�s going to live to
      see seventy. I don�t want Noah to die young. Not if there�s anything I can
      do about it.�
      He stared at her, and she met his eyes, not yielding. Finally, he sighed.
      �Alright, then. I�ll check for holes.�
      As he had done before this whole ordeal started, he sat down by his
      computer, connecting the Tesselty to it. There was only so much information
      that could be held in the device itself, and after their return he had
      emptied it to prepare for new journeys. He didn�t look up when he finally
      stated, �There�s a few good options. I can�t send you back to where you have
      already been, it would involve more risks than I�m willing to take. But at
      eight o�clock tonight, there�s an opening in New York City, leading directly
      into Rock Creek a few days before the printing of the paper. Of course, we
      don�t know for sure that it will be enough -- there were no daily newspapers
      back then. If you come too late, I can�t send you there again. Maybe one of
      the others, but...�
      �Do it,� Ororo said.
      �Okay.� Forge got up from his seat and went into the hall. �We�d better
      hurry if we�re going to get there in time.� He noticed the looks the others
      gave him. �What? Magneto was one thing, but I�m not sending two attractive
      young women to that time alone. One of them black, none the less.�
      Ah, of course. It had nothing to do with the fact that his ex-girlfriend
      was saving an old beau. Shame on anyone for thinking otherwise, Ororo
      thought cynically.


      So maybe they should have checked the Tesselty for details. Showing up on a
      staircase in the Rock Creek hotel may not have been the most appropriate of
      entrances. Then again, nothing would have been, considering they were not
      even appropriately dressed this time. Jean glanced quickly at Ororo and
      raised an eyebrow at her cleavage, which was no more modest than usual.
      �Ghosts!� a man yelled, rising from his chair, and his friend pulled him
      �Did you ever see ghosts dressed like that? They�re witches!�
      The rest of the crowd seemed too shocked to move, as the three mutants
      headed down the stairs and outside. Someone grabbed Ororo�s arm, and she
      spun around, ready for a fight. It was Cody.
      �What in Heaven�s name are you doing here?� he asked them. �I thought I
      would get a heart attack when you showed up like that!�
      �Where�s Noah, is he okay?� Ororo asked, ignoring Cody�s questions.
      At the same time, Jean admitted, �We didn�t have time to plan for an
      imperceptible entrance, I�m afraid.�
      Cody didn�t seem to know, which one to reply to, and was even more confused
      by the unfamiliar Indian man accompanying them. �Noah? Yeah, he�s fine. Why
      shouldn�t he be?� It finally dawned on him what they were doing here. �He�s
      in some kind of trouble, isn�t he?�
      Seeing the answer in their faces, he led them outside and looked around for
      someone to ask. �Hey, Randall!� he yelled to a young man. �Have you seen
      �Yes, he went with the soldiers to the raiders� camp,� Randall replied, and
      Cody paled.
      �What!? Why?�
      �I think he tried to look out for that Mrs. Birch or whatever her name is.�
      Cody muttered a phrase Ororo hadn�t even thought was invented in the 19th
      century, and although the mutants didn�t realize quite what was going on,
      they did understand that what they had come to prevent was about to happen.
      �Can we go there?� Ororo asked.
      �Yeah, sure. We�ll just get some horses.�
      Cody�s impatience in finding the horses didn�t exactly calm the others
      down, and although Ororo tried to push herself into leadership mode and not
      panic, she was quite relieved when they finally headed off towards the camp.
      And there was Noah, still riding with the others, and more than a little
      surprised to hear Cody yell out for him. Turning around he saw the others,
      and immediately rode back to greet them.
      �Ro? What on earth are you doing here? Is there any trouble?�
      �Yeah, well, it seems *you* might be in some trouble,� Ororo said
      Noah was distracted by what was going on around him. The soldiers were
      retreating, but a young woman seemed to have an argument with some of the
      officers, and suddenly she headed off in the opposite direction. Noah�s chin
      fell down, and he muttered something about crazy women before turning his
      horse around and riding after her. Gunshots were being fired, and Ororo felt
      strangely cold as she realized that what they were here to stop was about to
      happen. She hurried after Noah, hoping and praying that the time she had
      delayed him would be time enough -- and then there was another gunshot, and
      Noah slumped in the saddle. He soon straightened up again, but she knew what
      she had seen, and she rode up to him, taking the reins in her hand to stop
      his horse. There was a bloody stain on the back of his shirt, and when she
      had managed to halt the horse, she saw there was one at the front as well.
      The bullet had gone right through him.
      Forcing herself to stay calm, she dismounted and helped him off his horse.
      �I�m okay,� he whispered, but it was a reassurance that didn�t convince
      either of them, especially since he fainted a second later.
      Both Jean and Forge came up to her, and Jean only took a quick look at the
      wound before turning to Forge. �Is the portal still open?�
      �For another hour. Should we really move him?�
      �I don�t think we have a choice. Okay, Ro, bind him up and we�ll get him
      back. Don�t worry.�
      Cody had seen what was going on and was practically hysterical. �Noah? Can
      you hear me?�
      Jean touched his shoulder lighly. �Listen to me, Cody. I�m not going to lie
      to you, this is bad. I�ve seen people survive worse, but never in a crude
      environment like this. If we let Noah stay here, he�ll be dead by the end of
      the day. Do you understand?�
      Cody nodded. �You want to bring him back with you.�
      �I�m a doctor. I have to give him that chance.�
      With the experience of hundreds of fights, Ororo and Forge were caring to
      Noah�s wound, and Forge put him up in front of himself at his horse. It was
      nowhere near as useful as an ambulance, but it was all they had, and Forge
      rode off as quickly as he dared, to get the wounded rider to the portal.
      Jean and Ororo mounted as well, and Cody looked up at them. He knew full
      well that he might never see his friend again. �Just keep him alive, will
      The soldiers were returning, and Cody muttered a curse under his breath.
      There was no way he could explain this. �Oh, my friend Noah was just
      abducted by a bunch of mutants from the future who wanted to save his life�?
      No. From now on, Noah Dixon was dead to the world. No matter what happened
      in that obscure future, there would be a tombstone with his name on it in
      the Rock Creek cemetary.


      The X-Men landed in Forge�s livingroom, and when Noah�s unconscious body
      had been placed on the floor, Jean hurried up to check his pulse. He had
      none. �Call an ambulance,� she said, pressing her hands down on his chest.
      �Shouldn�t we take him to the mansion?� Ororo asked, knowing how hard it
      would be to explain something like this to official authorities.
      �Not enough resources. Call one.� Jean kept her sentences short, still
      attempting to get Noah�s heart to beat. She was relieved to find the pulse
      come back and Noah draw a shaky breath. The irregularity of the latter made
      her frown. �I think it must have damaged a lung.� And quite a lot of other
      things as well, although she made sure not to say this out loud. Ororo
      looked nervous enough already, and anything that could make the Storm Queen
      nervous was *bad*.
      The ambulance arrived less than five minutes later, and the only reason the
      X-Men got away without explaining exactly why there was a bleeding cowboy
      lying on the floor was that Noah�s condition allowed no casual conversation.
      Ororo was the only one to follow in the ambulance, and remained right
      outside the OR as the doctors tried to fix the mess the stray bullet had
      �He�s going to live, you know.� Jean and Forge had caught up with them, and
      Ororo knew that Jean�s comment was true, even though the rushed activity
      inside told her Noah was in no way out of danger.
      �They let me look at the X-Rays. I can�t deny that it�s an awful mess, and
      he�s lost a lot of blood as well... but he�ll live.�
      When Ororo still didn�t answer, Jean simply squeezed her shoulder and left.
      Forge, however, remained where he stood, silently watching the surgery.
      �It makes you wonder, doesn�t it?� he said after a while. �Maybe Magneto
      was right, and it would have been better if Hank had created those
      aggression dampeners.�
      �And what if the South had gotten hold of them?� Ororo asked, not taking
      her eyes off Noah. �How can we claim to be good guys if we don�t act it? But
      I guess you have never understood that.�
      Forge let the insult pass. Like many inventors, he tended not to think
      about what sort of trouble his inventions could cause. �I hope your
      boyfriend will be okay.�
      �He�s not my boyfriend,� Ororo said. �We just had a few dates.�
      �A few dates? You brought him one hundred and fifty years into the future
      to save his life. That�s one hell of a responsibility. If he�s not your
      boyfriend, you�d better start thinking of what you want with him.�
      Ororo watched the doctors work to stop the bleeding, mend the bones and
      whatever else they were doing in there. Behind them all, Noah�s heart
      monitor was showing the beats of his pulse, steadier now than before. Up,
      down, up, down, up, down...

      THE END


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