Hello. Standard disclaimer stuff. I don't own the X-Men. In fact I don't own much of anything. I created Melanie but, unfortunately, I'll never make any money for that. I take the Lord's name in vain quite often out of habit, sorry. Umm, what else? I know how people hate new characters but I wanted a romance with Bobby and there weren't any good candidates so I had to make one. I realize the story is pretty long (you should have seen it before!) but (I think) it's worth reading. I hate doing chapters so I'll just put up whatever I have and call them parts. Italics usually mean thoughts. And I promise this will be more of a romance later on, I just needed to make Melanie a really solid character first. Write a review please, even if it's just to exclaim your disgust. Enjoy!

" Why do we always come here? The food isn't great and the service is terrible", said Logan. They were at the local greasy spoon in Salem Centre enjoying one of those rare moments of peace between global disasters. Well, enjoying was a relative term. Right now Logan was anything but happy. The food at the restaurant was invariably poor quality and there were always too many people around to assail his heightened senses. Not to mention the little plastic sign in front in front of him that proclaimed the restaurant as a smoke free environment was annoying him no end.

" It's not the service that's terrible. It's the service to us", Jean said with a meaningful look at the waitress at the counter. The Xavier Academy was well known in these parts, as were its tenants. As a result it was hard to go anywhere in Salem without being recognized as a mutant. Truthfully it wasn't much of a problem since nobody wanted to get on the X-Men's bad side. Of course it didn't stop people from being rude. You didn't need a telepath to know that the blonde, perky, waitress was making them wait on purpose.

" This is getting really stale! I'm going to give that girl a piece of my mind", Rogue fumed. Before she could get up Gambit put a restraining hand on her arm.

" Don't go playing into their hands. I know the owner; he likes anybody so long as they bring in money. I have a feeling d'at girl's in for an earful."

" I do believe you are right", said Storm, from her seat in the corner of the booth. A portly man came blustering out of a side door and yelled at everyone to get back to work.

" And last I looked Hollywood still hadn't called for you princess", the man said loudly, " So you'd damn well better get moving."

" I've served everyone except for that table of muties. You don't pay me enough to help them", she said with a sneer. The manager's face went beet red and a vein popped out on his forehead. Before he could let loose a plump, brown haired girl edged inside. She was wearing one of the restaurant's blue and white uniforms and she took in the situation in an instant.

" I'll take tables Carla, if you want", she said softly. Carla smiled her thanks and slid behind the cash register with her nail file. Immediately the tension went out of the room and everyone returned to their meals. The manager was slightly irritated still since he hadn't gotten his opportunity to vent.

" It's 4:30, Melanie, you must be late", he snarled at the new girl.

" You told me not t come until five, when it was busiest."

" Oh", he said defeated. " Well don't think I'm going to pay you for this extra half-hour. It's your fault for coming in early."

" No, wouldn't dream of asking for a whole buck fifty", she said softly when the manager had gone back into his room. Then she smiled and shrugged and hurried to get ready. Instantly she was at the X-Men's table. " Sorry about that", she said when she got to their table. " I'm going to take a wild guess and assume you've had long enough to decide what you want to eat."

" So you hired to deal with mutants?" Logan asked bluntly.

" Logan", Scott said warningly, " You don't have to interrogate everyone you meet as to their position on mutants."

" Just a question. If she don't want to answer…"

" People are people", Melanie said, seeking to avoid the argument brewing between Scott and Logan. She joked, " No one group tips better then another."

Later when the X-Men left, Melanie was about to clean off their table when she came across a beautiful leather purse.

I bet this belongs to Jean or Ororo, Mel thought. She knew the X-Men by name like most other residents of Salem. She opened the purse enough to verify that it was Jean's. " Carla? That woman forgot her purse. I'm just going to try and catch them, I think they were walking home."

Carla gave her a look that clearly said 'why bother?' but didn't stop her. The work was almost over for the evening anyway. While Melanie dashed out, Carla helped herself to the overflowing tip jar. Even if Melanie noticed, she reasoned, Mel wouldn't say anything.

Feeling a little stupid in her uniform, Melanie darted off in the direction the X-Men had taken. Despite looking somewhat out of shape, Melanie was actually quite fit. She caught up with them not two minutes later.

" Excuse me, umm, excuse me?" Mel said. She didn't feel right calling them by their names since they hadn't been introduced. Logan spun around warily but relaxed instantly when he saw who it was. " I'm sorry to bother you but you, uh, forgot your purse".

" Oh dear, that's mine. I thought I was missing something".

" You must have a lot on your mind", Remy joked. Rogue elbowed him.

" No problem, glad I caught you", Melanie said. She turned to go when a bright light blinded her. Blinking rapidly she tried to get her bearings when she was knocked to the ground. The next thing she knew she was aboard a spaceship, her arms and legs wrapped in enormous cuffs, surrounded by similarly held X-Men. (AN: Sorry, I hate writing battle scenes!) Well, if your going to get abducted you could have worse companions, she thought ruefully as she came back to consciousness, head pounding.

" Hey, I think she's waking up. Are you okay?" asked Cyclops.

" I guess".

" I'm sorry for this I suppose we should explain. We're the X-Men and we were ambushed on our way home. I'm afraid you got caught up with us, Wolverine knocked you over."

" Sorry, the lights threw my senses off".

" No problem", she said with an attempted nonchalant shrug. It wasn't a particularly effective shrug since her hands were trapped and she was very close to freaking out about her situation.

" Anyway it seems were stuck here for a little while. My name is Cyclops and I lead the one of the X-Men teams".

" Actually I know who all of you are and I know what you do. Not to sound rude or demanding, but why are we still trapped here? I would have thought you guys knew your way around an escape pretty well by now."

" Whoever has caught us knows enough to give us tamper proof cuffs. Not to mention unbreakable. Not much we can do, might as well wait and see who wants us so badly", Rogue said with another fruitless tug on her chains.

" Don't like giving all the advantages to our enemy", Logan said. Melanie looked down at the metal that pinned her arms up to the elbow and from her feet to the knee. CLANG CLANG! Went both sets of cuffs as she absorbed them into her body and then discarded the metal. All eyes were suddenly on her.

" My power, its absorption", she said as she proceeded to remove everyone's cuffs with out difficulty. " Prof. Xavier approached me years ago but I didn't need any help controlling my ability. I moved to Salem to be nearby though. Do you need me to do anything else?"

" No, I think that will just about do it", said Jean, shaking her head in amusement.

" Keep near the middle of the group. We're going to get out of here."

And get out of there they did. It took a little fighting, a lot of sneaking, and one more act of absorption from Melanie to get them out but eventually they were aboard a stolen ship and heading back to Salem. The X-Men were discussing what had happened but Melanie, sitting, quietly in the back couldn't really follow what they were saying so she tuned them out. What had she gotten herself into? She hadn't wanted to tell them she was a mutant, not because she was ashamed of her powers, but because she knew they weren't good enough to win her a place on the team. And that meant another day at the greasy spoon where she worked and another night alone in the tiny room she rented above the restaurant. Well at least she had this night to remember. What an adventure. Oh dear, she had forgotten about work. She hoped her boss wouldn't be too angry. She didn't want to have to look for another job because she hated interviews. All those people judging her and just knowing that so often she came up short.

A change in cabin pressure brought Melanie's attention back to the present. They were in the process of landing on a small tarmac outside of the X-Men mansion. The X-Men were still talking animatedly when the airship door whooshed open; none of them paid any attention to Melanie. She slipped out into the predawn night and realized she didn't have a clue where she was. Which direction was home? Nothing for it but to start walking she supposed.

" Oh wait, Melanie. I'm sorry I forgot you were still with us", said Jean apologetically. " Would you like to come in with us?"

" If you could tell me what direction Salem is, I would like to get home. It's only 11:30, I might catch my boss before he leaves and explain things."

The other's looked at her oddly as they suddenly remembered that Melanie still lived in that mundane world where she had to worry about things like rent and paychecks. Her otherwise ordinary life had been changed; to them being abducted into space was almost a regular occurrence but for someone new to the superhero business…

" I'll give you a lift", said Logan. He didn't wait for her to answer and she had to run to catch up with him. Logan rode fast all the way into town and neither rider said a word. Wolverine was thinking to himself that the girl had guts. She hadn't screamed once during the whole ordeal.

" Thank you for the ride", she said politely as she stepped off the bike in front of the restaurant yet again. Logan took off and Melanie went in to face the music.

" You expect me to believe you were captured by aliens?" Yelled her boss as she tried to explain.

" No, I said that I was captured along with the X-Men and taken to a spaceship. I never mentioned aliens", she said flatly. This had been going on for twenty minutes. No doubt she was fired, if she had a spine she would have left already. If.

" You think this is funny? You are fired miss and I want you out of that apartment. I can't trust a liar and a sneak like you."

On the way up to her room she passed the tip jar and saw that it was empty. A perfect ending to a perfect day, she thought sourly.

Melanie woke up at a quarter to seven as was her habit but took her time getting ready since she didn't have to go to work. She sighed; she didn't deal well with change. Melanie took a shower and changed into faded blue jeans and gray sweatshirt. She wore her long wavy brown hair hanging loose about her shoulders. She grimaced slightly as she unintentionally got a look at herself in the mirror. Mirrors were another thing she didn't deal well with. Her power's one drawback was her skin. For whatever reason, her skin hung in loose folds about her as though it were a couple of sizes were too big. No matter how much she exercised, or how little she ate, she always looked slightly overweight. Combined with her hereditary 'chipmunk' cheeks she looked to be (in her mind) about twelve. She was actually twenty-two.

It didn't take her long to pack up her room; she absorbed everything into her and then shut the door sliding her key and uniform into the manager's office. She grabbed a cup of coffee and decided that since her boss would probably keep her deposit money she might as well take a cup of coffee on the house. She walked around the streets for a while, coffee in hand, thinking up little stories and stuff. Eventually her feet began taking her in the direction of the train station.

" Hey kid, thought you might want a ride back to the mansion", said Logan pulling alongside her on his motorcycle.

" Why do I need to go back to the mansion?" Logan and Melanie looked at each other, both in separate states of confusion.

" Well we all sort of thought you'd be joining on. It's the usual pattern."

" Oh. Sorry I'm generally a little quicker on the uptake."

" So you coming?"

Melanie stopped to consider. Join the X-Men? She'd always wanted to, but had always thought she wasn't good enough. Then again they had asked her, she would be stupid to turn down the invitation. Besides if she didn't like it, she could always leave later on.

" I guess I'm coming. Take me to your leader", she said, a rare smile illuminating her face.

" Do you want to get some of your stuff?" Logan asked.

" I've got it", she said. Logan looked at her quizzically so she explained, " I got fired because of that stunt yesterday so I absorbed all my stuff and decided to get away."

" Welcome to the X-Men where nothing is predictable."

Logan dropped her off at the front of a large colonial mansion that was now to be her home. " Storm is probably up now. She'll show you around", he said before heading out God knows where. Melanie stood at the bottom of the steps feeling very out of place. I shouldn't have come, she thought, I don't belong here. Then just as suddenly she decided to stop her whining. Something was finally going right and she'd be damned if she was to screw it up now.

She hesitated about ringing the door, it was still fairly early, but she didn't feel right just walking straight in. Barging in on a team of superheroes somehow didn't sound like a wise idea. Fortunately her ears picked up on the sound of someone humming softly on the other side of the door. Melanie knocked lightly and then opened the door.

" Excuse me, Ororo?" She asked hesitantly. Ororo stood up startled from the plants she was watering.

" Oh I see Logan must have found you. You didn't bring any of your things?"

" They're with me", she said shyly, feeling like a fat slob next to Ororo's exquisite lounge attire.

" Interesting. I suppose Logan just deserted you on the doorstep. Trying to teach that man some manners… well you shall soon learn all there is to know about us for yourself. On behalf of the X-Men I would like to welcome you to our home and now yours as well."

" Thank you, it's really gracious and rather surprising."

" The professor, who is currently on assignment, left specific instructions that we were to offer you every assistance should our paths ever cross."

Melanie took a moment to digest that information. So they didn't really want her, they were just keeping a promise to their mentor. Or was she blowing things out of proportion again? She had a tendency to seek out storm clouds in a blue sky.

" Storm, have you seen Bobby asked an irritated looking Scott. " Oh it's, uh, you."

" Melanie", she supplied as he groped to remember her name. It was going to be one of those days, she could tell.

" Right, sorry to interrupt."

" It thought Bobby had practice in the danger room at 9:00?" Storm said in response to Scott's earlier query.

" He did only he's late, as usual. When is that boy going to learn to take his responsibilities seriously?" Scott looked Melanie up and down. " All of us spend several hours a day practicing for battle in our danger room. I will set up a schedule for you starting tomorrow", he said seriously.

" I would appreciate it", she said. Scott seemed almost surprised at her easy acceptance of his rules. He had gotten rather accustomed to the excuses of his younger charges, he supposed.

" Well after you get shown around we'll go over some of the X-Men protocol. Say around 1:00 in my office?"

" Give the petit a chance to like us before you start boring her to death. I am Remy, AKA Gambit and one of the few around here who know how to have fun", Remy said grandiosely. He brought her hand to his lips but besides blushing, Mel didn't respond. This baffled Remy a bit. Charm on full force and he'd gotten the equivalent of a pat on the head.

" One o'clock will be fine. And I wouldn't worry about my being bored. New toothbrush day has been the highlight of my life for the past while." Melanie had already grasped that it wasn't a good idea to choose sides when it came to Scott and Remy. Scott nodded and went to continue his search. Remy bid Ororo and herself adieu before skipping out of the mansion for a whole day with Rogue.

" Rogue and Remy spend a lot of time together but you probably already grasped that", Ororo said as she started to walk down the hall.

" They make a beautiful couple, but so sad", Melanie said almost to herself. Ororo looked surprised. " Sorry, the professor has given me a lot of information on them over the years. He was trying to see if my absorption powers were similar to Rogue's and if so how I was able to control mine. I couldn't help though", she said sadly. Ororo thought it odd that someone would care so much about complete strangers but shrugged it off. She met all kinds in this profession.

" Hello Wind-Rider. Found someone else to worship you?" said a voice from the shadow of the stairs. In an instant, Marrow had launched herself over the stair rail and had landed gracefully in front of Melanie, bone in hand.

" This is Sara, otherwise known as Marrow", Ororo said, unfazed.

" And sharp bones are my specialty got it?" she said threateningly.

" Yes", said Melanie. Sara was caught off guard by the direct answer.

" Well, good", Marrow stammered. " I gotta go practice", she snarled, annoyed that she had failed to terrify her newest teammate. And even more annoyed that she hadn't remembered to ask the girl her name.

" I apologize for her behaviour", said Ororo stiffly. Truth be known she had a soft spot when it came to Sara's 'exuberance' and didn't like the fact that to be proper she had to make excuses.

" Not necessary. I didn't handle that well. I… I am not very good with people", Melanie admitted. Ororo turned to actually look at her companion and realized how tense and uncomfortable she was underneath her calm, almost aloof, exteriour. Ororo realized how stressful it must be to move out of one's home only to be thrown in with a large group of radically different strangers.

" Only three more people left to meet and then I'll show you to your room."

" Thank you", Melanie said gratefully. Already she could feel her inner resolve to appear professional slipping away from her. She wanted to be alone with her thoughts. She couldn't remember the last time she had been forced to converse with another human being for so long. Would they leave her more or less alone once she'd settled in? Or would there always be some intrusion? Then again maybe she was too fond of her isolation. This was a chance for others to get to know her. But if she could scarcely stand herself how would others react?

Mel's musings were brought up short when Ororo led her to one of the many labs located on the premises. Two people were working hard in front of a row of chemical beakers. One was a beautiful woman and the other a beast. She could have guessed that that was his code name.

" This is Dr. Cecelia Reyes – she has a practice in town but helps out around here."

" We've met. I've been a regular at the restaurant ever since the coffee improved", Cecelia said with a nod. Melanie blushed before stammering,

" I would suggest going somewhere else for coffee then. I used to make the coffee; before I got there it was hardly better then tap water. I expect it will return to that state now I'm gone. I know the necessity of a good cup of coffee so I thought you should know."

" Damn, that place was nice and close. Thanks for the warning though. Coffee is crucial in my line of work".

" And mine. Dr. Hank McCoy at your service", said Hank, removing a non-existent from his head.

" Also known as Beast. I'm introducing Melanie around. I've only got Bobby left, you wouldn't happen to know where he is?"

" I assume he is not at practice? Well then he is probably in hiding."

" Hmm, well he'll be back for dinner. I guess you'll meet our errant teammate then", Ororo said to Melanie, a trifle annoyed at Bobby's antics. " You met Jean yesterday and I'm sure she would have been here to introduce herself properly but she's gone to a conference. Perhaps I can show you your room now?"

" Yes please. It was nice to meet both of you", Mel said, smiling politely at the two doctors.

" A visit from a young lady is always welcome. Ouch!" Hank yelped, glaring at Cecelia.

" Sorry was that your foot?" Cecelia said with a laugh. Ororo hustled Melanie out of the lab and closed the door.

" Once those two get going, it's best to just get out of the way. Now, we have rooms all over the place so if you don't like the room I have in mind be sure to tell me. Sara has taken over a section in the basement for instance and my rooms are in the attic."

The two women climbed a staircase and swept along a hallway walled entirely by windows where a vast array of plants grew. At the end of the hall two doors opened into a new wing. Stairs led back down to a living room area but from the landing six rooms, three on either side, could be seen. Ororo went to the left side and opened up the last door. It was an empty white room with polished wood floors and a large bay window that looked over the rolling hills of the estate.

" It's beautiful", Melanie exclaimed. It was easily three times the size of her old room (which wasn't saying a lot) but more important was the view. No more brick walls for her, no sir!

" The other rooms are a bit bigger but this one has the biggest window, the others have two smaller windows."

" This is perfect. Are you sure it's okay for me to stay here?"

" Of course! You'll earn this trust me. Now there's a sink in here but the bath and shower rooms are on the main floor. You go down the stairs just outside, do an about face and you'll see them. Women's is left I think but be warned that your teammates may feel the need to switch the signs on you."

" Who else stays in this wing?" Mel asked, meanwhile thinking that it was going to take some getting used to having the X-Men for teammates.

" Bobby is next door to you, then Hank's room. Directly across is Rogue's room followed by Gambit's and then Logan's when he's around. Cecelia has her own place in town; Scott and Jean live in the boathouse. The professor has a set of rooms in another other wing and there's an almost identical set of rooms on the other side of the house, closer to the road, where the other X-Men used to stay. They stay there when they come to visit. Do you need help unpacking?"

" No, I can mange thank you. Where's Mr. Summer's office?"

" Call him Scott. I'll tell him to come get you. It will be easier then trying to explain. Oh, and feel free to make as many changes to this room as you want. It's yours now; paint it black, put holes in the wall whatever. Nobody need ever see it if you don't desire them to. Understand?"

" Yes, thanks for all your help." Melanie felt like a broken record because of all her thank you's. It was just that she had never been treated so kindly before. Ororo nodded and left and Melanie breathed a sigh of relief as she unloaded all her furniture.

First thing she did was put up her soundproofing walls. Her ears were unusually sensitive to noises, particularly high pitched ones, and at night when she was sleeping it seemed her ears could pick up even more. The walls wouldn't block all noise but they would let her get a good night's sleep. Her double sized futon bed she placed under the window flanked on either side by large potted plants. The left and right walls were covered in wall to ceiling bookshelves. On the side with the door she placed her desk and her forever crashing computer was placed on the desk. In the corner by the sink she placed her painting easel and the small table for paints and brushes. After a lot or rearranging (she had inadvertently placed a bookshelf in front of the closet) things started to come together. She placed all her books on the shelves, along with a vast collection of comic books in a place of honour. A small battered stereo also found a place on the shelves along with the dozens of CD's she had accumulated. She hung a large black and red painting above one potted plant and a series of four paintings that depicted the four seasons respectively on the other side of the bed. Melanie did an eternal sweep to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything inside but the only things there were a pen, paper, a book, a sweater, and a first aid kit. She always carried those things around in case of an emergency.

There was a knock on her door and then Scott's voice. " Are you ready?"

" Yes", she said and followed Scott to his office where she spent the better part of the day learning more then she ever wanted to know about the superhero business. When it was over it was near six and she wearily made her way back to her room. Closing the door to her room she flicked the light switch and instantly felt soothed. Yes, that was the atmosphere she'd been hoping for. Her room would become her sanctuary and knowing it was waiting for her would help get her through the days ahead. Having nothing better to do, she decided to move the telephone wire closer to her computer so she could hook up her modem without having wires stretched all over the place. Absorbing a piece of the wall was no problem but she couldn't just suck in the connection or she'd sever the wires. Getting out her tools she was hard at work, her head through the plaster of the wall when someone knocked at her door. Thanks to the soundproof walls and her preoccupation, Mel missed it. Her hearing was never as good when she was in the process of absorbing plus she had spent a lot of time as a waitress learning how to ignore people. Obliviousness became just another occupational hazard. The knock repeated itself and then a head stuck its way into the room.

" Anybody home?" Surprised, Melanie tried to sit up and consequently hit her head, sending a shower of dust down that made her sneeze. " Oh, geeze, I'm sorry. I tried knocking", said Bobby, looking around and not really caring if she forgave him or not.

" My fault, I was busy."

They stood there for a moment in awkward silence, both wondering what the other wanted. Eventually, Bobby came to his senses. " I'm your neighbour Robert Drake – Bobby, AKA Iceman. Usually though I'm known as 'that boy' or other derogatory terms. Honestly you're late a few times and suddenly you have an attitude…", Bobby said with a goofy grin. " Anyway we ordered out for pizza so if you want to eat you'd better come quick."

" Thanks for remembering about me".

" We almost didn't", said Bobby without thinking. He didn't see her face fall and continued, " Ororo was trying to remember why she was supposed to be mad at me and then she remembered it was because she'd wanted to introduce you to me. That made her think of you and I was voted as the unhappy victim to make sure you came. Now hurry up or the pizza will get there before us and I'll starve to death."

" Oh, I'd hate to have that on my conscience. Am I allowed to brush the dust out my hair?"

" How long will that take?" Bobby asked warily, taking his first good look at her. He eyed the very long chestnut brown hair in particularly thinking that combing out that mass could take forever. He was never going to get any food at this rate.

" Done", she said, while he was still complaining in his head. Her hair was shiny and clean without a speck of dust on it. She brushed past him on the way out the door. " Which way?"

" Oh right", he said, closing her door having never released the doorknob in the first place. " It's this way."

" I am so totally going to get lost in this place."

" Good then somebody else will be late and I can avoid getting yelled at." Bobby had meant to say it as a joke but he really was getting tired of being picked on around here. Sure he was chronically late and usually tired and clumsy at practice. People critiqued his lifestyle, told him he had no direction if life, no goals. He was twenty-three years old for Christ's sake but they still thought it was their mission to make something of him. " Like that will ever happen", he said out loud forgetting he was not alone. He glanced at Mel but she pretended not to have heard for which he was grateful. He wasn't about to explain to a complete stranger his problems. Better she consider him the class clown like everyone else. Strange that he had himself slip up in front of her, he'd never forgotten to keep up his persona before.

He's gorgeous¸ Melanie's mind sang. For a moment she let her brain think this over before pulling back tightly on her thoughts. Are you happy now brain? Have you got that out of your system? Since she was now living in a world of telepaths, she was going to keep an even stronger control over her thoughts. By berating herself for thinking such pedestrian thoughts about Bobby she was able to rebuild her walls of detachment. Now the world could go by without fear of involving her.

Soon Melanie began picking up sounds of a gathering of people. Beyond that came a loud, high pitch squeal of tires coming rapidly to a stop.

" You're in luck. The pizza's just arrived", she said. Bobby broke out of his thoughts and wondered how she knew. A few moments later the doorbell chimed and Bobby decided he didn't care how she'd known.

" Come on", he said excitedly, running into the kitchen where everyone had gathered. Bobby charged into the room and grabbed one of the boxes to him before plopping down on a chair.

I know, crappy place to end but as I said, I hate chapters. Please review so I know whether or not to put up the next part. ( I swear the next part won't be so slow!)