Headers and warnings on part 1.
Part 5 - Events from the junior X-men perspective, primarily Bobby.
Since this is the end of this story, I'd really appreciate your comments - what worked, what didn't. Hey, just drop me a line if you liked it, but don't want to get into details. As a writer trying to improve, your comments are helpful! Tarchannon@...
* * *
�Now, hold still, � I grumbled at the fidgeting man.
�Bobby, I do not believe that you succeeded in convincing me to attend this event,� Hank complained. I was trying to hook the large costume cravat around his neck. �And this costume!�
I had done a bad thing � actually several bad, bad things. First, it had taken an hour of whining and pleading, and a whole box of Twinkies, to convince Hank to attend the party. Second, I had to find a costume for him. I just couldn�t help myself. I had to search all over the country, but I had managed find the perfect costume. Hank was swathed from neck to toe in white and pale peach satin. Jean had agreed to be his escort, and her matching costume had arrived with his. They would be perfect!
I had felt a little bad about Blue�s costume, as it was a little theatrical, but that only lasted until Marie informed me that we were going as Cinderella and Prince Charming. I hadn�t been aware that tights were so chilly, but I thought that not wearing the tights might be even chillier.
The other older students and I had spent most of our free time over the last two days at the Mansion putting up decorations. The Professor had been really supportive, and had ordered food and decorations and paid for all of the costumes. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and exciting, and it seemed to lift everyone�s spirits. I even got Scott to agree to come in costume.
�There,� I said, stepping back to examine my handiwork. Hank looked sharp � well as sharp as one could look in peach satin. �You look great! Your mask is on the bench over there. Jean said she�d come down here to get you when she was ready.�
�I�m not sure this was a good idea,� Hank said nervously. He�d told me earlier in the week that he hadn�t been out in public since the incident that caused his mutation to accelerate and he�d gotten furry and blue. Most of the reactions that he�d gotten from his colleagues were positive, but he�d had a few negative ones when he went out in public and they had really affected him.
�It will be fine, Hank. I promise.� I smiled my most winning smile, and internally crossing my fingers. The Professor and Jean said that they would look out for him this evening. I sent a little prayer to any of the gods that would listen that the evening would be a success for my new friend.
* * *
The party had started early for the younger kids because they couldn�t stay up as late as the rest of us. Dr. Palmer, Nightwalker, and Mr. and Mrs. Martinez had agreed to run the games and watch after them so the rest of us could finish getting ready after we had helped the young ones get dressed. I�d just finished strapping on my sword when Rogue knocked on my door. She�d looked beautiful, just like in the movie, with a pink and white full-length dress, puffed sleeves and long opera gloves, hair pulled up, and a string of pearls around her neck. My back coat with tails, white shirt, and gold sash, over short pantaloons and white tights fit reasonably well and we looked great together. I offered her my arm and a huge smile. We took the elevator down, then followed the long trail of flickering luminaries to the darkened and newly eerie Mansion through the gardens.
The ballroom at the Mansion was a special use only place, very traditional European in style, gold leaf and murals and tons of mirrors. The softly lit crystal chandelier had to weigh more than a car. We had brought in chairs and tables and covered them with dark fall colored fabric, added tons of fake battery powered candles, hung spiders and cobwebs, and strewn the corners of the room with colored fall leaves.
Julian had started the music by the time we arrived, and a few of the older kids were there as well. Most of the little ones were already tuckered out, tired from the games or getting sleepy. Most were sitting in chairs, talking quietly or munching on treats as the watched the older people arrive.
We entered the ballroom and crossed to Jubilee, who had decided to continue the classic Disney theme I had started and dressed as Mulan. Though she usually wore yellow, tonight she wore red, and she looked beautiful. She was so excited, she pulled me down for a kiss on the cheek as soon as I was within arms reach.
�Doesn�t this place look great? Very Martha,� she gushed, and I had to nod. It was pretty good for short notice, I thought.
�It�s perfect. This was a great idea,� Marie told me softly, squeezing my arm gently and granting me one of those award winning smiles. She started to bop a bit to the infectious music Techno had selected for the evening.
We had gone for some punch and watched at the others arrived, with the kids tittering at each new costume. Kitty had selected Sleeping Beauty, and she came on the arm of John, who had also been coerced into the Prince in tights costume. We looked like bookends with different color sashes.
Akasha, dressed as Princess Jasmine, came in with Anna, who had chosen Pochohontas. I watched with great interest as Akasha immediately noticed Julian behind the mixing table. She blushed furiously and ducked behind Anna as she saw that he�d come as Aladdin.
/Hmmmm,/ I thought, my eyebrow rising unconsciously.
People starting coming quickly, and the girls wanted to dance. Marie nodded toward the dance floor, and I nodded then raised a finger to let her know I�d be along in a minute.
I watched as most of the other kids arrive, Sam as Simba, the triumvirate � Piotr, Neo, and Martin � as three dwarves. Then the staff started arriving. Tinker came as a chimney sweep, with Cherise on his arm as a British nanny. Even Scott and Aurora, as Robin Hood and Rafiki, had arrived. I was getting nervous, and it was annoying that Scott looked better in tights than I did.
I held off for another minute or two hoping they show up so I relax. I watched as Marie had pulled Nicholas out on the dance floor and was getting him to shake his groove thing in a bumble bee costume. I had to chuckle as he got into it, watching Marie wide-eyed and laughing the whole time.
Unexpectedly, the music faded and the sound of a trumpet fanfare � electronically provided, of course � drew my attention back to the doorway. The final couple of the evening stood in the doorway, Hank huge and dapper and Jean looking as beautiful as ever. They were storybook perfect. Julian announced over the audio system, �Our guest of honor, Dr. Henry McCoy and his escort, Dr. Jean Gray.� The room quieted and people stared at the couple. The silence lengthened.
�Beast!� Nicholas shouted, spotting Hank. My heart leapt into my throat as my attention snapped to the blond 8 year-old. You could have heard a pin drop.
Then Nicholas started running, but to my surprise, _toward_ Hank.
�And Belle!� he shouted joyfully. He ran over to Hank and wrapped both arms around his knee. Hank�s expression went from apprehensive to dumfounded, and everyone started laughing, the tension broken.
I gulped in relief, thankful, and thought, /That�s my little buddy!/
After a few moments, Jean extracted Nicholas from Hank�s leg and tugged them both toward the refreshments. People watched the giant man intently for a few moments, but then they drifted back to their previous pursuits. A smile spread across my face, and I knew it was going to be there for a while.
I felt a tug on my arm, and Marie pulled me out on the dance floor. It had been a hell of a month and I suddenly felt like flying. I laughed out loud, bumping and grinding, and forgot everything else for just a little while.
* * *
The rest of the night had gone amazingly well. The little ones were taken to bed just after Hank had arrived, and after, we�d all danced together for a couple hours. The teachers allowing us an extra hour or so because we were all having such a good time. John and I had a chance to show off a couple of dance moves that we�d practiced, making the girls squeal � whether in appreciation or amusement I wasn�t sure. Of course, it didn�t really matter because it was fun. Hank was a surprisingly good dancer, and even Scott got into the action. He and Jean never looked at each other the entire night, so I assumed that they were through. The realization had brought me down a bit, but it wasn�t exactly a surprise.
After, Marie and I had walked through the formal gardens under the new moon. Most of the plants had withered in the New England chill, and we didn�t stay out long, but it was beautiful to see the stars nonetheless. We didn�t say much, we just walked hand in hand. When I dropped he in her room, she just smiled at me in a way that was hard to coax out of her. It made me brilliantly happy, and I kissed her gloved hand and said goodnight.
After I�d showered and changed for bed, I was still a little restless. I turned off the light and opened the window, letting in the cool air. I stared out across the rooftops, over the labs, to the lake in the distance, gently glimmering in the moonlight. I sat for a long time, just watching, afraid to do anything that would ruin this feeling. I felt better than I had in months.
The steady glow of a light coming on in the distance pulled my focus back to the building, low and dim from the basement labs. Hank must have gone back to work.
I was so relieved and thankful that the party had worked out and Blue was happy. He certainly deserved it.
Hank had told me that after the accident, he had inadvertently run into a little girl and her mother. She had screamed and called him a monster. He�d fled from the child, shocked and deeply upset. I think that in some way he actually felt like a monster, and I think that was at least part of the reason he left Xanthon Biomedical and came here. Of course, Hank is about as far from a monster as you can get, but I could understand - I think we all feel like a alien creature some days. In Hank�s case, I think that feeling became that shadow in the closet that we don�t want to look acknowledge.
Of course, we all have our own monsters to deal with, those things we fear, the things we don�t want to see but know that are there. I know I have my share.
I had thought that Hank was a monster the first time I saw him in the dark of the lab. I�d run away, but I eventually returned to face him. Blue certainly wasn�t what I had thought. Later, when some of my personal monsters had raised their heads, he was the one that helped.
One person�s monster is another person�s beloved beast, I guess.
A Beast in peach satin. I had to chuckle at that.
I sat in the dark for a while longer, looking out into the evening. Eventually, the lab went dark, and I assume Hank went to bed. I was exhausted, but the evening had been really good, and I didn�t want it to end just yet. When I was too tired to stay awake any longer, I leaned up and reached to close the window. Below, I caught a glimpse of the faint glowing red of Scott�s visor. He was sitting on the edge of the fountain in the courtyard, and it looked like he�d been there a while.
I sighed. I guess Scott has his own monsters to deal with. I made a mental note to catch up with him tomorrow. That was the great thing about being here � we don�t have to deal with our monsters alone.
********************* End of Part 5 - end of story - feedback - Tarchannon@...
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