Bridesmaid Dresses, Slime, and Other Horrible Things
L. Burke

"Elaine, I don't think there's anyone here," John Grey announced to his wife, who was leaning on the doorbell of Charles Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters.

Elaine glared at her husband.  "Charles has been after us to come tour the school for a while now.  I'm not sending Jean to this place until I meet the other students.  I want to meet the boy with the juvenile record before I decide if we will be sending Jean here.  If Charles has a problem with that, he can stuff it where the sun can't reach."

John Grey sighed and rolled his eyes.  "Yes, dear.  I trust Charles when he says that it would be in Jean's best interest to send her here."

Elaine leaned on the doorbell again.  "That makes one of us, John."

"Mom," their daughter Sarah whined.  "Couldn't this wait another day?  I'd really like to get this dress home."

Elaine set her jaw.  "Don't start, Sarah.  I don't care if we have to wait here all day.  We are doing this."  She leaned on the doorbell again.

Suddenly the front door flew open.  A teenaged boy of about thirteen, looking as if he'd just rolled out of bed, stood there.  He growled out, "What?" Elaine was taken aback for a moment; the boy had blue, spiked hair.  He glared at them again and asked, "Is there something I can help you with?"

John cleared his throat.  "We're here to see Professor Charles Xavier."

Frowning, the boy said, "He's not here.  If you had bothered to make an appointment, you would know he got called out to D.C.  last night on urgent business.  You wouldn't have ended up pulling me out of bed.  The professor isn't going to be back until this afternoon sometime."

Elaine glared back at him.  "We have a standing invitation to come tour the school and meet the students."

The boy blinked for a moment, appearing to process her statement.  "You're the Greys?" All three of them nodded.  "Oh, crap," he grumbled.  "Professor Xavier is not going to be happy about this."  A big, forced smile suddenly appeared on his face.  "Hi, I'm Bobby Drake.  It appears I'm going to be your tour guide this morning.  Come in and have a seat."

Bobby showed them to a couch in the living room, then vanished in the direction of the kitchen for a moment, and re-appeared with a Mountain Dew can and a glass.  "Is there anything I can get you?" The three of them shook their heads.  Bobby smiled and nodded.  "Okay, first off, you do realize that this school is specially designed to teach a very small, gifted percent of the population?"

Elaine rolled her eyes.  "Let's can the small talk, Mr. Drake.  My daughter's a mutant and that's why we're considering sending her to this school."

Bobby broke into a wide smile.  "Cool -- you know.  That means I don't have to be discrete."  Suddenly a bunch of ice cubes appeared in the glass he was holding.  "I hate to drink Dew warm and we were out of ice cubes."  He poured the soda over the newly formed ice cubes.

Sarah gawked at him.  "Is that what you can do?  Freeze stuff?"

Bobby smiled at her.  "Essentially.  I pull moisture from the air and make ice.  And just for the record, blue is not my natural hair color.  I got the blue hair when Hank McCoy put something in my conditioner.  It isn't washing out and I have every intension of making him suffer for it."  Suddenly, an explosion rocked the basement of the house.  "Speaking of our resident mad scientist --"

Just then, a blackened Hank McCoy -- his eyebrows singed off -- ran up the basement stairs.  "Where's the fire extinguisher?" were the first words out of his mouth.

"Electrical or chemical?" Bobby asked.

"I think it would be prudent if I grabbed both at this moment."

"Behind the door in the kitchen, where Slim hung them.  We have company.  These are the Greys."

Hank nodded to Greys.  "It was very nice to meet you.  I would love to converse, but I think it would be best for me to contain the blaze downstairs first.  Who would have thought that bread mold was that combustible?  Now, if you'll excuse me."  Hank dashed off to grab the two fire extinguishers, and then bolted back down the basement stairs.

Bobby smiled at them.  "You'll get to meet Hank later.  He's a little busy at the moment."  Elaine smiled back at him nervously and exchanged a look with her husband that said 'what type of nut house is this?'

"Why don't you wait here?" Bobby said.   "I'll get dressed and show you around the grounds.  That should take up most of the morning.  By the time I'm done with the tour, the Professor should be back -- and Hank should have the fire out."  He added 'I hope' under his breath.

Elaine forced herself to return his smile.  "That sounds like a wonderful plan, Mr. Drake.  Is there anywhere we can hang our coats and Sarah can hang Jean's bridesmaid dress?"

"Sure.  I'll hang your coats in the closet and the dress in the other room so it won't get wrinkled."

As Bobby showed them around, Elaine had to admit to herself that Charles' school had excellent facilities.  In fact, Elaine didn't think they could do better sending Jean anywhere else. 

"Here's the girls' dorms.  As you can see, the girls have one side of the house and the guys have the other," Bobby explained as he continued the tour.

"Will Charles be adding any other female students?" John asked.  "It appears he has the facilities in place for more than just Jean."

Bobby considered that question for a moment.  "I honestly can't answer that.  I think if he finds one, the professor would have no problem adding another female student to the school's ranks.  Mutants are very rare and the Alpha-level mutants this school is equipped to train are even rarer.  The four of us are all the professor found while searching the East Coast and the interior of the country.  Regardless of what the media says about the 'mutant threat,' there really aren't that many of us.  Here, let me show you our classrooms."

When they entered the classroom, Elaine was once again impressed.  Charles had spared no expense when he designed these.  Something written on the board caught Elaine's eye.  It said, "Thought for the day," and underneath it in Charles' distinctive handwriting was "Compromise is the oil of all well-working teams."

One the other side of the board, written in a very precise engineer-like script, was "Counter-to-thought of the day," and underneath that, "Rome did not build a mighty empire by compromising.  They did it by killing all who opposed them."

Bobby smiled nervously.  "The professor hasn't been able to instill in Slim the joys of compromise.  This little argument between the two of them has been going on for a few weeks now."  Bobby rolled his eyes.  "The two of them ran out of quotes a few days ago.  Now they're getting petty."

"Where is 'Slim' now?" Sarah asked.  Elaine groaned inwardly as Bobby narrowed his eyes.  Sarah needed some lessons in subtlety, because Bobby saw right through that question. 

"He's out with his parole officer today.  He'll be in around dark," Bobby answered, smiling. 

"We can't wait to meet him.  Charles has said so much about him," Sarah added, trying to cover her mistake.

"I bet," Bobby replied coldly.

Right then a voice came roaring through the house.  "Bobby!  I am going to kill you!"

Bobby smiled gleefully at them.  "I think you're about to meet Warren."

Right then a very handsome teen came stalking into the classroom.  In fact, Elaine thought, handsome didn't even touch him -- breathtaking was more like it.  He stalked right up to Bobby and yelled, "I am going to kill you for this one.  You went into my address book and changed all the names of my dates.  I was calling my date by the wrong name all through lunch."

"Well, you should stick to one bimbo at a time and not try to juggle one for every day of the week," Bobby replied snidely. 

Warren leapt at him and Bobby ducked behind the teacher's desk.  "I got slapped thanks to you."

Bobby shrugged in response.  "It wasn't the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last."  Warren growled and dove after him again, and Bobby ducked behind Elaine, muttering, "Protect me."

Warren jumped for him again.  "Hiding behind someone's mother isn't going to save you, you . . .   you little weasel!"

"That's using your expensive prep-school vocabulary!" Bobby fired back gleefully.

"I would use the vocabulary I picked up at prep-school," Warren growled as he went for Bobby again.  "But there are ladies present.  If there weren't, I'd give you a vocabulary lesson you'd never forget.  All while I kicked the crud out of you."

Right then Hank came running in wearing his goofy-looking chemistry goggles.  "Oh good, I found you two.  I need your help locating something."  Hank blinked for a moment, then addressed Warren.  "Can I ask why you're trying to kill Bobby?"

Warren glared at him.  "I got slapped."

Hank shrugged.  "So?  Back to my original question."

"He doesn't keep track of their names," Bobby said gleefully from behind Elaine's back.  "You owe me twenty bucks."  Warren glared at Hank and Hank smiled back sweetly.  "I don't know why Warren's trying to kill me for switching a few names," Bobby grumbled.  "It's not like I was the one who cut up his favorite blue silk shirt to use as a mold filter."

Warren glared at Hank, who was now smiling nervously.  "Sacrifices must be made to further science sometimes," Hank offered.

"You cut up my favorite shirt?"

"Consider it revenge for spending two hours in the bathroom every morning."

"I haven't done that since you took the hinges off the door, and when I unlocked it, it fell in and almost squashed me."  

"Blah, Blah, sacrifices must be made in the name of science.  It's not like I was going to cut up my favorite shirt for my mold filter," Hank added, trying to keep a straight face.

Warren set his jaw.  "Why did you crawl out of the basement Hank?  Don't you have Frankenstein to assemble?"

Hank shot Warren a mock-hurt look.  "Bring a few body parts home from class and suddenly I'm Dr. Frankenstein."

"You laid eyeballs next to me on my pillow while I was sleeping.  I woke up looking into a human eye," Warren replied.

Hand started laughing.  "And you should have seen the expression on your face.  Bobby did a wonderful job catching it all on film."

"You should have done what Scott did and bounced them off his head," Bobby tossed in.  "Boy, do those suckers bounce."  Looking in the Greys' direction, Bobby added, "Warren and Hank are roommates."  Like that explained everything.

Warren took a deep breath.  "What do you want, Hank?"

"I came up to warn everyone that they should close their closet doors," Hank said sheepishly.  "It appears that when the mold combusted, 'it' got away again."

Warren looked at him for a moment.  "I thought you had it in a glass cage that it couldn't eat through?"

"It got away again?" Bobby whined.  "Slim is going to kill you.  Do you have any idea what it did to his closet the last time it got out?"

Hank shrugged.  "I already checked Scott's and my closets.  It's not there.  I need help trying to locate it."

"Wonderful," Warren said, exasperated.

"Great," Bobby grumbled.  "You need me to climb up in the attic and check and see if it's in the insulation again, don't you?" Hank only nodded.  Bobby groaned in response.

"Henry!  There is black smoke bellowing out of the basement."  Charles Xavier's voice roared through the house.

"The Professor's home," Bobby chirped.

"Don't worry Sir," Hank yelled back.  "The fire is out.  I'm just airing the lab out."

"We're up in the classroom Sir," Warren added.

"The Greys are with us," Bobby tacked on as an afterthought.

A few moments later, Charles Xavier came wheeling into the classroom.  "Elaine, John, it's very nice to see you both.  I hope Robert was giving a enjoyable tour?"

Elaine smiled back, a little wanly.  "It's been . . .   insightful . . .   all right."

Xavier turned to glare at Bobby, who smiled nervously. 

"We would love to talk, sir," Hank butted in.  "But the three of us really need to go locate something."  Xavier raised an eyebrow at that remark, much to Hank's discomfort.

Bobby cleared his throat.  "The Greys are here to tour the school.  Since you're here, you can give them a more in-depth look at the academic side of the school, sir.  May I be dismissed?"

Xavier pegged the three of them with a look, but they were all sporting innocent expressions.  "Dismissed," Xavier finally growled.  "I expect everyone to make an appearance at dinner and no one had better be late.  No excuses."

"Yes, sir!"  And the trio bolted out of the room.

Xavier smiled then at the Greys.  "Why don't we go down to my office, and I'll try to undo the first impression my students gave you.  We can also go through Jean's proposed lesson plans, and I can find out what you think.  By the time we're finished, Scott should be home and I can introduce all of you to him."

The slamming of the front door heralded Scott's arrival home.  "Oh come on, Scott -- admit it, you had fun today," urged Carol, his short, perky, blonde, blue-eyed, parole officer.

"Oh, yes," Scott retorted in a dry monotone.  "I had a blast.  I got stuck with a bunch of musty-smelling Dungeons and Dragons freaks, or better yet, those vampire-loving goth freaks.  The whole collective lot have fewer social skills than I do.  They climb out of their crypts once a year to make idiots of themselves in public at our annual Renaissance fair.  A bunch of three-hundred-pound gamers, running around in tights, and getting drunk on mead is a sight I'm hoping senility will erase from my memory one day."

"That's what I love about you, Scott, you always see the bight side in every situation," Carol said, bestowing a bright, warm smile on the Greys and Xavier as she and Scott walked into the office.  "Looks like you have company, Scott.  Hey Charles."

Carol, Elaine noticed, was wearing a long flowing dress that looked as if it had come straight out of a fairy tale, along with a long, blonde wig and one of those pointed hats.  Scott was wearing a brightly colored jester's costume in shades of red and green.  "What?" Scott suddenly snarled at John when he caught John studying him.  "Haven't you ever seen a dork in a jester's costume before?"

"Scott!" Xavier growled.

Carol smiled at the Greys.  "We were working at the Renaissance Fair the entire day.  All the benefits go towards the new Children's Hospital's Cancer Wing.  Scott was our jester today and entertained all the little kids.  He did a great job.  All the kids loved him and want him to come back next week.  He had a really good day."

Scott snorted, turned to Xavier, and said, "I insulted our nun.  I made the Town Crier cry when the Crier got fresh with me and then I beat up the Pope.  Thought you would like to know."

Carol grinned.  "For Scott, that's a good day."

"Was it necessary to make the poor girl cry?" Sarah blurted out.

Scott turned and studied Sarah coldly for a moment, then sneered.  "Who said the Crier was a she?" Turning to Xavier, he added, "Where did you find these people?"

Xavier took a deep breath, and his next words came out more in the form of a growl, "Scott, I'd like you to meet the Greys.  They are touring the school before deciding whether they want to send their daughter here."

"And to check out the resident juvenile offender no doubt," Scott said dryly. 

"Scott!" Xavier admonished.

Scott shot the Greys a completely baffled look.  "Why would anyone send their daughter here?  Knowing she would be the only girl among four teenage guys?  Are they that desperate to get rid of her?"


"What?" Scott countered.  "It's a logical question."

Xavier set his jaw.  "Why don't you go change and get ready for dinner.  We will be eating in about half an hour."

"Yes, sir," Scott responded dryly, then headed up the stairs to his room.

Xavier turned to Carol.  "You are staying for dinner?" he asked, though his tone brooked no argument.  "I'll have the cook set an extra place for you."

"I just love when you ask so politely, Charles," the social worker replied.  "Of course I'll stay and eat with you.  Dinner, I can tell already, is going to be a very interesting affair."  

Scott had just climbed out of the shower when Bobby came running into their dorm room.  "Scott!  Great, you're home!  We have a problem." 

"What now?  Hank not manage to put a chemical fire out again?  The fire extinguisher is behind the door in the kitchen."

Bobby shook his head negatively.  "That's not the problem.  It got away again."

That earned Bobby 'the look'.  "How did it get away?  Do you realize what happed the last time it got way?"

"Answering in reverse order.  Last time it got away, it wrecked half the clothes in your closet.  As for how it got away this time," Bobby shrugged.  "I guess when Hank's mold experiment exploded, the glass cage got knocked over and it oozed away."

Scott rubbed his head.  "Have you managed to locate any sign of it at all?"

"Weve found no trace of it yet," Bobby said, shaking his head.  "And we've checked the oblivious places."  At that moment, the Professor's mental voice shouted, Dinner.  Bobby and Scott both flinched.  "Well," Bobby grumbled, "I think our search will have to wait until after dinner.  The master has summoned."

"Skip dinner.  We need to locate it before we do anything."

Bobby shrugged.  "We can't.  Professor Xavier gave us all orders not to be late for dinner, or we were going to be in big trouble."

Hank McCoy suddenly appeared in the doorway.  Looking at Bobby, he asked, "Did you inform him of our situation?"

Bobby smirked.  "Yes.  I informed him of our situation.  What do you think, Slim?"

"I should blast you through the nearest wall," Scott snarled at Hank.  "You swore it would never get away again."

Dinner, the Professor's mental voice once again echoed through their heads.  

"Will the three of you hurry up?" Warren's voice carried ahead of him before he finally appeared in the doorway.  "The next one is going to give us all a horrible headache, and the professor will start adding Danger Room hours for every minute we're late."

Scott took a deep breath.  "Everyone keep your eyes pealed during dinner.  Hopefully, it will make an appearance.  If it doesn't, we hurry and eat, make our excuses, get out of there fast, and continue the search."

The other three boys nodded at Scott.  "Sounds like a plan, Slim," Warren replied.


All four of them grabbed their heads at that mental shout, and Scott shouted back (aloud), "Coming!"

Hank was rubbing his head.  "It would be prudent for us to get going.  The Professor is becoming agitated."

"Agreed," Scott said.  "Remember to keep your eyes open.  We don't want it getting out of the mansion."

"What is that hideous thing?" Scott asked as he walked into the living room and stopped dead in his tracks.  All he could do was gawk in horror.

"That is a bridesmaid dress," Bobby informed him. 

"What color is it?" Scott asked, a perplexed expression on his face.

"Key-lime green," Warren informed him.  "With white trim."

"Anyone who wears it will resemble a key-lime pie," Bobby added.

Scott blinked.  "You're kidding, right?"

Hank was studying the dress and flinching.  "We only wish."

"Someone please explain this to me," Scott asked in a baffled tone.  "I know I don't understand the wedding thing but why would anyone want to place her sister or best friend in a dress designed for discomfort and constructed out of only man-made, oil-based materials.  So they can resemble a key lime pie and be humiliated in front of the bride's entire group of family and friends?"

"You forgot that most times, the bridesmaid actually has to buy the dress," Bobby chipped in.  "And being a bridesmaid is considered a great honor."

"Don't forget the all the pictures of the wedding party," Hank stated matter-of-factly.  "That way the bridesmaid's humiliation is immortalized forever." 

"I think it's a subtle form of revenge," Warren added thoughtfully.  "It's a way for a woman to get back at her best friend or sister for all the wrongs she might have done to her in the past."

Scott studied the dress thoughtfully for a moment.  "Women are the more vicious of the species.  Men don't do this to each other.  We take it out using violence instead.  Much simpler." 

"What are you doing to my sister's bridesmaid dress?" Sarah Grey demanded from the doorway.

"Getting hints on new forms of torture," Scott replied dryly.  "You're going to put your sister in that dress?  You must really hate her."

Sarah set her jaw.  "My sister is a redhead."

"Oh," Scott responded thoughtfully.  "She's the pretty one and you're punishing her for it."  Sarah opened her mouth to respond to that comment just as Professor Xavier's voice roared into the room.  "Dinner!  Now!"

Scott ate his dinner slowly, wondering where the Sentinels were when you really needed them.  The Greys were studying him with an expression that most people reserved for rather distasteful insects.  He always loved being discussed as if he wasn't even there.  "Scott has made remarkable progress since he has joined my school," the professor droned to the Greys.

'I will be good.  I will be good,' the little voice in the back of Scott's head chanted.  'I will be polite.  I will be polite.  No matter how much the professor is managing to piss me off.'

"We have made huge leaps," the professor tacked on then for good measure and Scott thought, Screw being good.  He wasn't a lab rat on display.  As for being polite, he and politeness weren't on speaking terms anyway.

"-- that my recovery is going nowhere fast," Scott suddenly blurted out.  Elaine Grey's ice tea came out her nose.

Xavier glared at him, then smiled at the Greys.  "Scott has made huge leaps socially since he joined the school."

Smiling sweetly, Scott retorted, "Without television, I have no friends and I like it that way.  I accept the fact that I must control all the inferior morons around me.  I also take pride in the fact that I'm alienated from myself, society, and the universe."  Then in a very dry, patronizing tone, he added, "But I don't patronize and disrespect authority figures nearly as much as I use to.  Right Professor?" More ice tea came out of Elaine Grey's nose.  The professor set his jaw and glared at him.  Scott grinned right back.

John Grey cleared his throat.  "So Scott, I understand that Carol's your parole officer."

"Yes," Scott replied, turning to look at his parole officer.  She had lost her wig and pointy hat but the long dress remained.  With her blonde hair, big, blue eyes, and her annoyingly perky attitude, Carol tended to remind Scott of an elf.  "The judge in my case decided to punish me for doing the right thing and that's why I have Carol," he continued.

Carol broke into a huge smile.  "He loves me," she informed the Greys.  "He just won't admit it."  She broke into an even wider smile, then asked, "So, kiddo.  You never told me -- what did you think of my costume?  I made it myself."

"It was not the costume with the pointy hat, I pictured you in."

"I got it covered," Carol replied smugly, lifting up her leg so Scott could see her foot.  On her foot was a red, sequined, slipper. 

Scott almost smiled when he saw the slipper.  "So you were on the lookout for rainstorms, tornadoes, and falling houses?"

Carol winked at him as she put her leg back under the table.  "I'll have you know, I'm a good witch.  Though I could sure use one of those flying monkey slaves to do my paperwork."  She turned to the Greys and said, "Scott was in charge of taking care of the kids today at the Renaissance Fair."

"Really?" Mr. Grey asked.  "Did you learn anything at the fair?"

"Oh, yes," Scott replied sarcastically.  "I want Hank to invent a time machine so I can send all those medieval-loving gamers and the history teachers who inspired them back to the Middle Ages.  There's nothing quite like explaining to a four year old why mommy and daddy ditched them with a complete stranger so they could go run around like idiots and get drunk."

"Scott was great with the kids," Carol butted in.  "Some of them didn't even want to go home with their parents because they wanted to stay with Scott."

He snorted.  "Of course they didn't want to go home with their parents.  Their parents were dressed up as freaks.  They had also been running around hitting each other with sticks in front of the kids all day.  Oh, pardon me, the adults were 'fencing with staffs.' I wouldn't want to go home with them either, and people have the gall to wonder why children today don't respect their parents."

Mr. Grey blinked at Scott for a moment.  "Come now.  There had to have been something at the fair you liked.  The Middle Ages were a very romantic age in art and literature." 

Scott studied Mr. Grey for a moment.  "You're a history teacher, aren't you?" he asked.  "I don't know whether to give you my condolences because you have to deal with those freaks everyday, or blame people like you for what I saw today.  As for the Middle Ages being romantic, what's so romantic about them anyway?" Scott!  he heard the professor snarl in his head.  He ignored Xavier and continued on.  "What's so romantic about open sewers, unwashed bodies, tetanus, staff infections, people hacking each other to death with swords, illiteracy, and people sleeping with their livestock?  I bet you poisoned your daughters with fairy tales and that happily-ever-after crap, too."

"I'm afraid Scott's not much of a romantic," Carol chirped.  "He is still great with kids.  Kids seem to love him."

"You mean people let their kids near someone like Scott?" Sarah Grey blurted out.  Elaine groaned into her hands.  Bobby, who had been strangely quiet all through dinner, opened his mouth to say something when the Professor shot him a warning glance.  Bobby wisely decided to stay quiet.  

The Professor glared at Scott and telepathically warned him, Don't even think about responding.  Scott hoped the professor caught the two-word thought he fired back at him.

Smiling sweetly at Sarah, Scott said, "Tell me, Ms.  Grey, is it the mutant part that bother's you or the delinquent part?" he retorted coldly.  "The mutant part I can't do anything about, any more than your sister can.  As for the delinquent part, I'm doing my time and paying my debt to society."

Sarah glared at him.  "It's not the mutant part that bothers me, Mr. Summers."

He glared right back at her.  "I think you're lying.  I think you have a big problem with the mutant part.  I think you resent your sister for being a mutant because having a mutant in the family isn't suppose to happen to you.  But cheer up!" Scott chirped in a fake, perky tone.  "If society and our Government has their way, we're all going to get marched into gas chambers anyway and you won't have to worry about your mutant sister embarrassing you anymore."  Turning to the Professor, he asked, "May I be excused?  I've suddenly lost my appetite."

Xavier nodded and spoke aloud for the Greys benefit.  "Of course."  Telepathically, the professor added, Go to your room right now.  You and I are going to have a long talk later.

"Thank you, sir," Scott said, but at the same time, he shot a thought to the Professor:  I'll be waiting.  With that, Scott marched out of the dining room.

"Hey, Warren," Bobby suddenly blurted out, trying to break the tension in the dinning room.  "Did I tell you that my Dad's mill is going out on strike?"

Warren blinked at Bobby, confused for a moment.  "No.  Why would I care?"

Bobby smirked at him.  "Well, it appears that Worthington Mutual is one of the major stock owners for the mill's parent company.  My dad wanted to see if I could pull some strings with you."

Warren stiffened for a moment.  "What did you tell him?"

"I told him we didn't touch upon those things at school and I couldn't pull strings," Bobby said, still smirking.  "I did tell my dad I would do my part for the strike by tormenting you and trying to embarrass you in public."

Warren blinked.  "You do those things anyway."

"Yes, I know," Bobby said gleefully, rolling his eyes.  "But now I have an excuse that it's a class-struggle thing when I try to get you slapped by your bimbo girl friends."

"It's nice to know the status quo around here isn't going to change," Hank mused. 

"You aren't listening," Bobby complained, exasperated.  "I have an excuse to torment Warren now."

"Robert!" the Professor barked out.  "You are not going to torment Warren."  Xavier suddenly turned to the Greys.  "John, Elaine, if you will excuse me for a moment, I need to go fetch something in my study.  I'll be right back."  With that, the Professor rolled out of the room.

"Oh, boy," Warren muttered in a low tone, so only Hank and Bobby could hear him.  "Slim is going to chewed for this one."  Hank nodded in agreement.

"Well," Bobby huffed aloud, more for the Greys' benefit than any other reason.  "I know which side of the class struggle the Professor comes down on."  Right then Bobby stiffened.  Hank shot him a questioning look and Bobby indicated a corner of the dining room with his eyes.  Hank and Warren both glanced towards the corner, and saw it.  Bobby, Hank, and Warren all exchanged a look before directing their attention back to the corner.

Scott wasn't really surprised when the Professor's mental projection appeared in his room only a few minutes after he'd entered it.  He felt rather than saw the Professor, though Xavier's reflection appeared in the window Scott had been leaning against to look out of.  The cold, icy feeling that suddenly filled the room indicated the Professor's displeasure.  "I hope you have a very good explanation for your behavior towards the Greys tonight," the projection demanded.  "You were very rude."

Scott watched his own reflection.  "At least when I'm rude, people know it.  I don't hang up the phone when a conversation bores me and later pretend the phone disconnected.  At least I'm honest about it."

Scott could feel the professor's eyes bore into his back.  "Don't change the topic, Scott.  We are talking about your behavior tonight.  It was the most horrible behavior I've ever seen you display."

He suddenly spun around and glared back at the projection that was standing in the middle of his room.  "My behavior tonight!  What about your behavior tonight!  I am not a lab rat you can put on display for prospective recruits.  I am not an object you can casually discuss like I'm not even there.  I am not your personal pet project.  I'm a human being, damn it!  I'm not the poor little, delinquent, mutant runaway that your school has managed to turn around."

"It was not my intention to display you, Scott.  I wanted to prove to the Greys -- "

"I don't care what your damned intentions were!" Scott shouted back.  "That's exactly what you did back there!  If it ever happens again, I will petition both Carol and Judge Harris to get me the hell out of here!  I won't be treated like an object!"

The Professor was quiet for a long time.  "Scott, I --"

"Don't even start," Scott said, his face assuming a bitter expression.  "I don't know who I feel more sorry for, you, or the girl wo you're trying to get sent here.  Her parents are giving you the runaround."

Xavier studied Scott for a moment.  "Explain?"

"Are you sure you want me to?" Scott sneered.  "I'm already in trouble for being rude tonight."

Xavier nodded and his mental projection sat down on the bed, replying dryly, "Humor me." 

Scott took a deep breath.  "I'm not saying the Greys aren't good people, but they are 'out of sight, out of mind' people.  They're the type who'll send a large check to feed the starving kids in Africa but will cross the street to avoid a homeless teenager in their own back yard.  They have been giving you the runaround about sending their daughter here for the last year because they have no intention of sending her here.  If they did, they would have to admit she's not normal."  Scott sported a bitter expression again and shook his head in amazement.  "What a family.  The older sister is angry with her little sister for being a mutant.  I bet Sarah is scared to death that her kids are going to end up mutants.  Sarah considers being a mutant more of a disease and blames her younger sister for bringing it into the family.  Mommy and Daddy want to pretend that if they ignore it long enough, their daughter being a mutant will go away.  She'll go to college, marry a doctor, have 2.5 kids, and live that happily-ever-after crap."

The projection sighed and rubbed its head.  "I think you may be right.  I have sensed some denial."

"I think that family is living in it.  As long as their daughter's mutation isn't causing any problems, they want to sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist."  Scott suddenly shot the professor's image a very serious, concerned look.  "Meanwhile, you're running yourself ragged trying to tutor this girl every weekend, make trips down to D.C.  trying to gather information on this new Sentinel mutant-hunting program, and teach us, here at the school.  You can't keep this up, sir.  If the Greys aren't willing to send their daughter here, you have to consider cutting her loose."

"Scott, I have never 'cut a student loose,' as you put, in my life," the professor snorted indignantly from the bed.  "I refuse to start now."

Scott shook his head sadly.  "Her parents might not give you any choice, sir."

"I know," Xavier sighed aloud and started fading away slowly.

"Oh, sir," Scott suddenly blurted out.  "About the Sentinel program."

"The one you're not supposed to know anything about?" Xavier replied dryly, amused.  "What about it?"

Scott cleared his throat and looked down at his feet nervously.  "The lower right-hand drawer of your desk.  I went and talked to Rat."

"Someone you're not allowed to have any contact with under your parole agreement," Xavier added, raising his eyebrow a little higher.

"So what if Rat's wanted for hacking and forgery?" Scott grumbled.  "It's not like he ever killed anyone.  Besides, he's my friend and he owed me a favor.  Anyway, Rat hacked into the Pentagon's mainframe and managed to pull the original specs that Congress and the Pentagon approved for the project.  It's not much, sir, but it might help.  What I saw when I checked the blueprints was rather horrifying."

"I'll keep that in mind," the professor said quietly, and started fading out again.  "And Scott, I've very sorry about what happened tonight -- and thank you."  As the Professor faded completely from view, he offered Scott a final thought.  "I still think you should seriously consider giving the Greys an apology."

Carol went looking and found Scott in the kitchen about ten minutes after Charles and the Greys had left the table.  All of them had gone into Charles' study to discuss something private.  Scott was sitting on the kitchen counter, Indian style, drinking a large glass of lemonade and munching on a green apple.  The kid did seem to have a thing for tart.  She leaned against the kitchen door and announced her presence with a, "Hey."

Scott looked in her direction for a moment, then looked down at the floor and said, "Hey," back.  

She smirked.  "I thought you would like to know that Bobby's climbing through the air ducts after something that they guys are referring to as 'It.' Something about it being in the corner one minute and it getting away.  You want to tell me what's bothering you, Scott?  You've have been snappish and bad tempered all day.  Then you made a marvelously rude first impression on the Greys."

Scott snorted indignantly.  "Like I care what a bunch of whining suburbanites think of me," he said, rubbing his head as if it really ached, and sighed.  "I know, I know.  I owe them an apology.  I was mad at the professor and took it out on them.  I'm sitting out here trying to find the guts to go apologize."  Carol sighed to herself; she'd been watching Scott rub his head all day as if it were aching, and she had a pretty good idea what was making him snappish.  "I hate being put on display," he said.

She raised an eyebrow at that comment.  "I figured.  If it makes you feel any better, I don't think Charles meant it that way.  He's proud of you and he just wanted to brag a bit."

Scott scowled at her.  "Maybe.  It didn't feel that way, though.  It felt like he was putting me on display.  It felt like he's so determined to get this new student down here that my feelings didn't matter to him.  If it took putting me on display to get her, he'd do it.  Pissed me off."  Scott sighed and a strange look crossed his face for a moment.  "Back at the orphanage, they would line us up for foster parents to inspect.  It was embarrassing and humiliating.  Later, with Jack . . .   " Scott stopped right there, as if he couldn't finish the thought.

Carol sat down and motioned for Scott to have a seat.  "Have you told Charles about this?"

Scott sighed as he sat down.  "No.  The Professor has been so fixated on this Grey girl, we haven't been able to talk to him about anything else.  Have you ever tried to talk to that man when he has his mind settled on something?"

She shook her head negatively.  "No, but I have a tire iron in my trunk.  We could give it a shot at making him listen."

Scott smirked at her.  "Don't kid.  It might just come down to that."  He suddenly got a very serious look on his face.  "Can I ask you something?"

Carol gave him her brightest smile.  "Sure, kiddo.  That's what I get paid for."

"How exactly do you go about apologizing to someone?  I'm new at this."

Carol chuckled softly to herself.  "Try doing it honestly and sincerely.  Just don't do it in your usual blunt 'tie the message to a brick and bounce it off their heads' fashion.'"

"Scott!" Warren said breathlessly as he ran into the kitchen.  "I need to talk to you."

Scott eyed him suspiciously for a moment.  "What did you do?"

Warren turned to Carol.  "Hi," he said and Carol nodded at him, then Warren turned to Scott again and gave him an exasperated look.  "Why do you always assume I had something to do with what's going on?  Hank and Bobby managed to get themselves into this mess all by themselves."

Scott eyed him again and repeated, "What did you do?"

"Well," Warren started nonchalantly.  "Hank managed to get Bobby into a bit of a fix."

"While you sat on the sidelines and urged the two of them on, no doubt."

Warren gave Scott an exasperated look.  "Of course -- but I don't think that counts as 'doing' anything.  Anyway, Hank managed to get Bobby stuck in the air duct.  Neither Hank nor I can squeeze in there to help him out."

Scott took a deep breath.  He felt a migraine coming on.  "Why was Bobby in there to begin with?"

Warren shrugged.  "It got away when Hank, Bobby, and I tried to pounce on it in the dining room.  Bobby was squeezing in the air duct to see if it could have oozed in there."

Scott counted to ten.  "I see." 

"Anyway, Hank told me to go find you and the Crisco," Warren continued, a confused expression on his face.  "Who or what is Crisco and where do I find it?"

"The Crisco is in the kitchen Warren.  It's cooking grease," Scott replied dryly.  "May I ask what Hank wants with it?"

Warren looked around the kitchen as if viewing an alien landscape.  "I'm afraid you're still losing me here, Slim.  Why does someone want to cook with grease?"

Scott shook his head and rolled his eyes behind his glasses.  "Never mind.  What does Hank want with it?"

Warren shrugged.  "Something about a fair, greasing Bobby up like pig, and sliding him right out of there.  I blocked Hank out at about that point.  The conversation was getting too farm involved for me."

Scott tossed back the last of his lemonade and rubbed his aching head.  "I'll be right there."

Warren nodded and took off in the direction of the dining room.  Carol's eyes followed Warren with an amused look.  "Well, it looks like you have your work cut out for you," she said.  Scott nodded and rubbed his head again.  "You go see if you can get Bobby out.  I'm going to see if Charles is done speaking with the Greys."  Carol headed out of the kitchen, but stopped for a moment.  "Oh Scott," she called.  

He froze in the middle of getting up.  "Yeah?"

Carol shot a smirk over her shoulder.  "Bring the Crisco with you.  You're going to need it."

"So he's stuck here?" Warren asked, tapping a spot on the wall. 

"Apparently, according to my stud detector," Hank said, studying a machine he held up against the wall.  "He's wedged in there tight, too.  I think were going to have to grease him up good or take the wall and the duct down."

"You two had better be coming up with a plan to get me out of here, damn it!" Bobby's voice carried through the wall.

"Well," Warren declared.  "At least we know he has air."

"Indeed.  Really Robert, such language," Hank admonished playfully.  "There is no need to start pulling out the four-letter words."

"My father was a Marine.  If you two don't get me out of here soon, I'll teach you some four letter words!"

"Temper, temper."  Hank said gleefully.  "We're working on it."

Warren walked over to the wall and removed a painting that was hanging there and put it on the other side of the room.  He smirked at Hank.  "If I were a better person than my spoiled, corrupt, old-money, brat-prince self, I would never take advantage of this situation.  But I'm not a better person, and I must do my part for the upper class in the class struggle."  Warren pulled a tennis ball out.  "I'm not going to enjoy this.  It's all for the class struggle.  Now where would his face be?" Warren asked aloud, throwing the ball up and down with one hand.

"By my calculations, somewhere in that location, " Hank said, pointing towards a spot on the wall.  "You would have to throw that ball against the wall with quite a bit of force for Bobby actually to feel it.  " Warren threw the tennis ball hard off the wall.

"I felt that!" Bobby shouted.

"Really?" Warren asked innocently as he caught the tennis ball.  "Think of it as payback for the date you ruined, you little twerp."

"I'm surprised your date even noticed you were calling her the wrong name, considering she had the I.Q. of a carrot," Bobby snarled through the wall.

"That isn't a very nice thing to say about Marie -- or was it Nancy?" Warren turned to Hank.  "What was her name again?" Hank shrugged in response.  Warren threw the ball at the wall another time.

"Stop it!" Bobby shouted.  "If you bothered to scrub the heel marks off the roof of your car . . .   " Warren nailed the wall again.  "Ouch, damn it!  Okay, you mother . . .   "

"My sensitive upper class ears.  Really Bobby, such language does show you're from the lower classes," Warren reprimanded cheerfully.

"Just wait until I get my hands on your personal planner, Bird boy," Bobby growled.

Warren was aiming to throw the ball against the wall again when Scott walked in and barked, "Warren stop tormenting Bobby!"

"Slim get me out!" Bobby shouted.

Scott sighed, looking at the wall.  "Carol was right.  I should have pulled out the Crisco."

"If I hear one Star Trek crack about Scottie climbing through the auxiliary tubes, someone will die," Scott snarled into his communicator as he slowly made his way through the air duct.

"Not one crack comes to my mind," Warren mused a little too innocently over the communicator.  "Ahead warp two, Mr. Scott." 

"We know, Scottie.  You're giving all you've got and you canna take it no more," Hank McCoy chimed in and started snickering over the open line.

"They're going to be dead when I get out of here, Jim," Scott growled.  "People wonder why I claim bitterness, sarcasm and apathy as my only friends." 

"I'm hurt, Scott," Warren deadpanned.  "And the fact that you're following all the Star Trek cracks proves you need a girlfriend."

"Now why would I want a girlfriend?" Scott replied dryly.  "You're the perfect vehicle to date vicariously and not worry about getting slapped."

"Oh, good one, Fearless."  Then Scott could tell Hank was addressing Warren:  "I told you Scott had not forgiven you yet for that blind date."

"I did him a favor," Warren grumbled.

"By setting me up with Barbie the plastic wonder?" Scott asked, exasperated.  "And stop calling me 'Fearless.'"

"That's not a very nice thing to say about Marie . . .   Tracey?  Or was it Jodie?" Warren paused for a moment.  "What was her name again?"

"How the hell should I know?" Scott growled into his communicator as he inched along.  "She never shut up long enough for me to ask her."

"Changing the subject," Scott could hear the smirk in Warren's tone.  "Can you see Bobby's light yet?"

"No.  You're sure he had a light?" he asked, inching a little further into the duct.

"Indeed.  Robert says he has it on, too," Hank added from his end.

Scott crawled a little deeper into the duct.  "I should be under your feet right now."

"That's what my scanners are indicating," Hank responded.  "You have about another ten feet to go to reach Bobby." 

Scott froze then.  It was there, right in front of him, and Scott made his way carefully down the length of the duct, then pounced.  But he couldn't get a grip on it, and it quickly slid through his fingers, oozing into another duct.  That's when Scott heard the distinct sound of the duct groaning under his weight.  "Oh no," he whispered under his breath as he tried to crawl further in.  He wasn't going to make it to a supported area of the air duct.  The duct under him groaned again.

All Hank and Warren heard over their communicators was the loud groaning of metal, Scott muttering, "Son of a . . .   ," then a louder groaning sound, a sound that was quickly followed by a large crash.

"Scott?  Scott?  Are you all right?  Can you hear me?" Hank demanded over the over communications line.  "Answer me!"

"I was just out-thought by a pool of snot with an attitude," came Scott's dazed reply over the communicator channel.  "Gee, all I need to do now is go to our nearest grocery, pretend to try to buy booze, then hold up the place and leave my ID behind on the counter.  I need to go play some more mind games with my court-appointed therapist.  I'm losing my edge." 

Hank and Warren both breathed a sigh of relief.  "It's nice you can see the bright side to all of this," Hank replied dryly.  "What happened?"

"Apparently, it ate through the duct supports," Scott reported.  "I'm down in the basement.  I'm all right, just got knocked silly when the duct hit the floor."

"Well Fearless, any other bright idea's to get Bobby out of the wall?" Hank asked dryly.

They both heard Scott sigh.  "Go to the tool shed, get the hammer, a chisel, and a crowbar.  It looks like we'll have to take part of the wall down to get him out.  First we get Bobby out.  Then that ball of slime is going down."

Charles Xavier was sitting in his office listening to John Grey give him one excuse after another as to why they were not going to send Jean to the school.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind people indeed.  Apparently, Scott had been correct in his assessment.  Charles shook his head.  For someone who was not a telepath, Scott could be very perceptive.  Hearing the same excuses over and over again, Charles was ignoring John and watching the clock behind him.  The seconds, minutes, and hours were ticking away.  Jean's seconds, minutes, and hours were ticking away.  She was quickly running out of time.  "We were very impressed by what we saw here, Charles -- if you remove the Summers boy."

He set his jaw and glared at John.  "Scott is going nowhere.  Even if I did send him somewhere else, you would find another excuse to avoid sending Jean here, like you have continued to do for the last year.  John, Elaine, allow me to be blunt."

"Let's," Elaine blurted out.  She'd been strangely silent the whole evening.

"When you first approached me about taking on Jean's case, I did so on the condition that you would allow me to treat her as I saw fit and that you would not interfere.  At the time, it included removing her from the hospital you had her placed in and relocating her here so I would be able to work with her.  Here I was able to pull her out of her self-imposed catatonic state.  I put temporary blockers in her brain that were designed to deteriorate over time, giving her a chance to get used to her telepathy so that her mind wouldn't be overwhelmed by it." 

"Charles we will always be grateful . . .   " John started. 

He put his hand up to stop John in the middle of that thought.  "I did not make her telepathy go away.  I just put barriers up to allow the ability to develop like it should have if the accident with Annie never happened.  Jean is starting to break those blockers down.  She can already read surface thoughts, but right now other people's thoughts are not loud to her.  That situation is going to change quickly.  She'll begin to hear the voices again."

"You put blockers up before," John blurted out.

"I put the genie back in the bottle, John -- barely," Charles said with a sigh.  "I won't be able to do it a second time; Jean is just too strong.  When she starts to withdraw back into a catatonic state, I will not be able to stop her or pull her out of it this time."

"How long do we have?" Elaine asked quietly.

"I would optimistically give the blocks maybe six months," he responded in a serious tone.  "The sooner I get her here, the sooner I can start working with her, the better I can prepare her for when those blocks come down."

"But you've been working with her at our home for years," Sarah suddenly blurted from where she was standing behind her parents.

"That arrangement worked while I was monitoring her condition and aiding her in handling her telekinetics," Charles responded quietly.  "That situation no longer applies.  Here, I have equipment and shielding to work with her.  At your home, I don't.  Jean is no longer my only student.  The boys are reaching points in their studies where I will have to start to work with each of them on a one-to-one basis.  I won't be able to continue teaching Jean on the weekends and do that too."

Elaine gave him a very thoughtful look for a moment.  "This has to do with Scott doesn't it?" she asked quietly.

"Yes.  Yes, it does."  Charles sighed, closing his eyes.  "Scott needs stability.  He needs me, and he needs me here.  I can't continue to be gone all the time on the weekends."

"Jean needs you!" John blurted out angrily.

Charles closed his eyes as he was assaulted by an image of Jean when he first met her -- a big mop of fiery-red hair and big green eyes that were too big for her face.  He hoped someday Jean would forgive him for this decision.  "Yes, Jean does.  That's why I want to bring her here to the school," he said.  "But whether I like it or not, I'm a court-appointed guardian now.  That means I have to make some changes in my lifestyle.  I thought after Scott had stabilized, I would be able to resume my life as it was before he came to live here.  I was wrong.  Parenting, I'm finding out, is a full time job.  Tonight that was made evident to me.  I should have known how Scott would feel about meeting you tonight.  I didn't.  That alone shows me I've been neglectful.  If it comes down to me having to choose between Scott and Jean, I'm all Scott has."

"What exactly are you trying to say here, Charles?" John asked quietly.

Charles closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  "I will not be able to continue to treat Jean from your home.  The only way I will continue to treat her is if she is sent here."

"And if we choose not to send Jean here?" Elaine asked very quietly.

"I'll hand over all her files and give you the names of some excellent doctors who will be able to resume her care," he answered quietly.  "Jean will no longer be one of my patients." 

The room was deathly quiet for a long time.  "I see," Elaine said softly.  "Charles would you mind if we stepped outside to talk this over?"

"Of course," he replied.  "You don't have to make the decision tonight.  You can call me and tell me what course of action you have decided to take.  It will require time for me to gather Jean's files anyway."

Elaine gave him a very serious look as she got up to leave his office.  "Trust me, Charles," she said in tone that brooked no argument.  "John and I are making our decision tonight."

Carol stuck her head into Charles' office a few moments after the Greys had walked out of it.  "Hey?  Is all the secret stuff over?" she asked him quietly. 

Charles was sitting with his back to her, looking out the window beside his desk.  "Come in, Carol.  What may I do for you?  I assume you wish to discuss Scott," he asked, looking at her reflection in the window.

"I think I should be asking you that question," she said, studying him carefully.  "You want to talk about it?  As long as it has anything to do with Scott's case, I'm legally obligated not to say anything." 

He was very quiet for a few moments.  "Do you remember your first case?"

<>She studied him carefully from the doorway for a few moments, then suddenly closed the office door and sat herself down in the chair in front of his desk.  "Of course.  The first case I ever tackled alone was Joanne.  I flopped it up terribly, ended by locking myself in the bathroom and crying my eyes out for weeks." 

"Jean was my first case," Charles replied, spinning his chair around to look at her.

"I thought you had been in practice for a long time before Jean came?" Carol asked, confused.

"I was.  Jean was my first case after I landed in this wretched thing," he said, motioning to the wheelchair.  "I had quickly discovered that recovering from my injuries and living with them were two very different situations."  Charles was quiet for a few moments.  "Suddenly, the simplest things I had always taken for granted, like using the restrooms or entering shops with stairs were nearly impossible without help.  Before the incident that landed me in this chair, I was a very independent person.  I left home at an early age.  Asking for help wasn't something I was comfortable with, yet suddenly, I was forced to ask for it for the simplest things.  I felt useless, and spiraled down into a deep depression.  I won't lie and say the thought that the world would be better off without me didn't cross my mind."

"And?" Carol asked, prompting him to continue.

Charles took a deep breath.  "Elaine showed up at my door one night leaning on the gate buzzer.  John, her husband, was an old friend of mine, and Elaine was certain I was the one person on Earth who could help her daughter.  Jean had been diagnosed a schizophrenic, was catatonic, and was not responding to any medications.  Her prognosis was not good.  Elaine and John had already taken her to the best doctors and nothing had stopped Jean's decline and withdrawal.  Apparently, Elaine had read some reports on my work.  I had remarkable success with fairly similar cases in the past."

"So you agreed to take Jean's case?" Carol asked.

"Not quite.  Not at first anyway.  I was too wrapped up in my own self-pity and depression to think of helping another person.  In fact, I threw her off my property numerous times, telling her point blank that I was no longer practicing."  Carol raised an eyebrow at that remark.  Charles chuckled humorlessly to himself.  "I will have to give Elaine one thing -- she is a very determined woman.  Amelia, my lover at the time, finally let her in, and Elaine was not going to take no for an nswer until I agreed I would go see Jean.  When I did, I discovered it was not a mental illness, but in fact Jean's mutant gift that was doing this to her.  I could help this little girl."  Charles sighed.  "Elaine and John give me credit for saving Jean's life and sanity.  It's the farthest thing from the truth.  The night Elaine showed up at my door demanding my help, I was considering ending my life.  Jean gave me something to live for."

Carol considered that for a moment.  "Well, now I understand why you were so determined to get her up here," she said.

"Yes," he said.  "But I realize now that I stepped all over Scott's feelings to do it.  I didn't mean to, but I did so anyway -- something I swore I would never do."

"So what are you going to do about it?" Carol asked very quietly.

"I told the Greys the arrangements that we made years ago are no longer acceptable because I have Scott to consider now.  If they didn't send Jean here, I was going to have to release her from my care.  The situation as it is now is fair neither to Scott nor Jean.  I made a choice tonight that I never wanted to be forced to make.  The horrible thing is, there never was a choice."

"I'm sorry, Charles," she whispered to him.

He rubbed his hands over his face.  "I never planned on being a parent.  The closest I ever planned to get was teaching other people's children.  Suddenly this scrawny, withdrawn fifteen-year-old boy was thrust into my life.  It was only supposed to be a business arrangement.  I needed a first student and Scott needed a place to say.  I honestly thought I would be dealing with a court-appointed foster family, didn't think I'd have the boy handed to me.  Judge Harris had other ideas when she appointed me Scott's legal guardian."

Carol smiled at him for a moment.  "You quickly found out you were in over your head and sinking fast?"

"Yes," he responded dryly.  "Theory and practice are two very different animals.  Being suddenly responsible for a badly under-fed, scrawny, fifteen-year-old who would wake me up screaming because of nightmares every night, and was prone to anxiety attacks, was not what I expected.  Scott would jump at every little thing, huddle in corners when he thought he did something wrong, and trusted no one.  It took me five months to pull him out of his shell, so he would let me in close enough to touch him."  He suddenly turned and looked at Carol intently.  "I never thanked you for showing up that night."

She raised an eyebrow.  "I'm assuming your talking about the night I found you pinning a screaming, bleeding, Scott down?  I was expecting something like that to happen.  Abused kids break down when you take them out of an abusive environment.  All that anger and rage needs to go somewhere.  Their whole world shifts too fast for them to handle and they have to hit rock bottom before they can start climbing back up."

Xavier sighed for a moment.  "I'm trained to know those facts.  Still, I wasn't emotionally prepared to walk in and find that Scott had put his fist through a sliding glass door and was sitting there watching a very deep wound bleed.  Honestly, the rest of that evening is a haze.  I remember Scott snapped and started screaming, suddenly lashing out.  And I recall getting out of my chair and pinning him down.  The rest of the evening is a blur."

Carol shrugged.  "I walked in to find you pinning him under your weight and Scott sobbing and screaming incoherently.  Later, we found out Scott didn't know why he put his fist through the door -- he just did.  You came into the room to investigate what was going on, and Scott said something in him snapped.  At least he didn't put any thought into hurting himself," she said, then smiled.  "At the time I didn't know who was going to pass out first -- you or Scott.  That night was your first real breakthrough with him."

"It didn't feel like it at the time," Charles replied.

Carol chuckled humorlessly.  "No, I guess it didn't.  Scott has made remarkable progress since he came here.  He's not the same kid you took in a year ago."

"No he's not," the professor said, letting pride sink into his voice.  "I don't know who I should worry about more -- the withdrawn boy he was, or the stubborn willful creature he's becoming.  Suddenly, I'm finding myself teaching someone how to tie a tie straight, taking my life into my own hands teaching him to drive a car, and fighting over how loud the stereo will be played."

"Ah," Carol laughed aloud.  "The music wars."

Charles rolled his eyes in disgust.  "The boy has NO appreciation for Frank Sinatra.  The closest I can get to him to Sinatra is Nancy.  If it doesn't have a guitar or rock with some rhythm and blues, he doesn't want to hear it.  At least he likes some jazz, so he wasn't completely raised by wolves.  He snuck out after curfew to go catch Bonnie Raitt in concert when she was playing at a local club last week."

"And?" Carol asked calmly.

"I tracked him down and we stayed for the entire show.  Ms.  Raitt is actually very good.  But I grounded him for sneaking out the next morning."  Carol laughed at that remark and Charles snorted.  "He's stubborn, he's prickly, and half the time he's blunt and sarcastic to the point of rudeness.  He hates to lose, and if he can't win, he cheats.  He has a chip on his shoulder that makes Mt.  Everest look like a molehill.  He plays mind games with his therapist.  He picks fights with my neighbors as to whether they feed their dogs enough.  The last time he got mad at me, he took a personal ad out and listed my private direct line as the contact number."  Charles' expression suddenly softened and he looked at Carol.  "Somehow that bad tempered, moody, prickly child has come to mean quite a lot to me.  He's managed to worm his way into my heart, and I'm still trying to figure out how." 

Elaine Grey smoked a cigarette outside the mansion, trying to calm herself down after a fight with her husband.  That's when she saw Scott walk outside and head for the tool shed.  He didn't look very pleased.  Elaine put her cigarette out and ducked into the bushes so he wouldn't see her.

"What exactly does a chisel and a crowbar look like Scott?" he snarled under his breath.  "Look up the term 'bird-brained' and you will see a big glossy picture of Warren.  I know all he wants to do is stay and torment Bobby.  I'm holding fast to the belief that I'm surrounded by morons."  Scott suddenly looked up at the stars and sighed.  "I'm sure someone is having a perfect life, somewhere far away from me."

He walked over to the small, white tool shed, then reached out and gave the lock on the shed a good yank.  "Damn it!" Elaine heard him mutter aloud.  Scott suddenly took a deep breath.  "We don't have time to find the key.  I can do this -- just visualize a very narrow beam.  The professor says I can do this.  I can control the width of my beam without the visor to do it for me."  Scott took another deep breath and lifted his glasses slowly. 

The red beam that came out not only destroyed the lock the boy was looking at, but also blew a hole right through the shed door and blew out the back of the shed itself.  Elaine stared at the rather impressive display.  Jean couldn't do anything like that, could she?  Elaine's brain couldn't help but wonder what would happen in a few months, when Jean's blockers dissolved.  Would Jean be able to do something like that with just a thought?

"Damn it!" she heard Scott exclaim.  If she didn't know better, she would have sworn he was on the verge of tears.  Elaine couldn't really tell because he was wearing the glasses.  "Right, Professor," he sneered aloud.  "Visualize the width of the beam you want, Scott.  Well I visualized all right professor.  I visualized a hole right through your shed."  A very frustrated expression briefly crossed Scott's face.  "Damn it!  Even Bobby has made more progress towards controlling his powers than I have, and I've been working at mine twice as long."

"Are you all right?" Elaine blurted out as she stepped out of the bushes.  She inspected the damage to the tool shed intently.  The destruction was even more impressive up close.  The shed resembled a target that had been bombed more than a few times.  "Are those red beams what you do?"

Scott didn't give her quite the prickly response she was expecting.  In fact, he looked surprised that she had run up to him.  The surprise was quickly covered up when he answered bitterly, "Yes, the beams are what I do.  Hank gets a super high IQ and can climb walls.  Warren can fly.  Bobby can control ice and temperatures.  I uncontrollably blow stuff up with my gaze of death."  He smirked at her for a moment before he added dryly, "Of course, the professor and my therapist keep telling me I shouldn't think about it that way.  I think they don't appreciate the healing, transforming energy of anger, remorse, and self pity." 

Elaine studied the shed again as she considered his words.  "I guess you put a whole new spin on the old saying 'if looks could kill.' My daughter Jean can move things with her mind and read other people's thoughts."

Scott was very quiet for a moment.  "There are days I would love to have a gift like that," he finally replied.  "At least you can do something with it besides hurt someone.  Other times, I wouldn't want to be able to read other people's thoughts.  I have a hard enough time trying to figure out who I am.  I know I wouldn't know what to do with other people's thoughts bombarding me." 

They were both quite for a moment before Scott said quietly, "I owe you and your husband an apology.  I was very rude.  I was angry with the professor and took it out on you and your family.  I'm very sorry for doing it."

Elaine chuckled to herself for a moment.  "I accept your apology, Mr. Summers, though I cannot speak for my husband or daughter.  You made a rather strong first impression."

A cute, lopsided smile appeared on Scott's face.  "I guess your husband and daughter don't approve of sarcasm and name calling as a primary form of communication?"

"Only if it's coming from me," Elaine said, returning his smile.

Scott exaggerated the gesture so she could tell he was rolling his eyes behind his glasses.  "People just don't appreciate blunt honesty and mean-spiritedness these days.  You're expected to be honest, but if you're completely honest, you're considered rude.  I will never understand this politeness thing.  Where do you draw the line at being polite and were do you drawn the line at being honest?  I would rather be honest than polite."

"Me, too," she replied.  "But I'm married to the chairman of a college history department.  Nothing resembling honesty can come out of my mouth.  I don't think people realize exactly how political a college campus is.  I hate playing all the games."

The rustling of Carol's long gown announced her presence before they both heard her voice call out, "Scott?"

"Over here," he shouted back.

Carol suddenly appeared in front of them.  "Hey.  I decided I better go get you; Warren's bouncing a basketball off the part of the wall where Bobby's face would be now," she informed Scott, then studied the remains of the shed for a moment.  "Slip up?"

"Some thing like that," Scott replied sheepishly.  "I tried to blow the lock.  I blew up the shed instead." 

Scott turned to Elaine.  "Mrs. Grey, thank you for accepting my apology.  I have to get going."  With that, he walked into the remains of the shed, grabbed some tools out of the wreckage and ran towards the house.

Carol studied Elaine for a moment.  "I get the impression he apologized?" she asked.

Elaine nodded.  "Yes, he did.  He's not such a bad kid once you get to know him."

"No, he's not," Carol replied with a big smile.  "He just needed someone to give him a chance."

"He's at least one worry off of my mind," Elaine said, returning Carol's grin.  "Now's there's the Worthington boy, who's the founding member of the 'Bimbo of the day club;' and the mad scientist, who's trying to blow up the school every other day and brings home body parts.  The one with blue hair, I haven't gotten a feel for him yet."

"The place is never boring," Carol said, chuckling.  "Any place with teenagers rarely is.  You're right about Warren liking the ladies, but he never goes any further than a girl is willing to go.  Some of Hank's experiments could have come right of a science fiction novel, but the last thing he'd ever do would be to hurt anyone.  I've never met someone more determined to become a doctor.  Scott's bitter and prickly, but after you get past that shell there's nothing but a heart of gold there.  Bobby is a self-proclaimed slacker, but guess what?  I think he should be doing my job.  I've never met someone better at pulling people out of their shells.  I think Scott's made the progress he has more because of Bobby than anything Charles or I have done for him.  All four of them wouldn't think twice about jumping in to help someone in need.  they're great kids."

Elaine considered Carol's words for a moment.  "I'll keep that in mind," she said, sighing.  "John is furious at Charles.  He sees the decision that Charles made tonight as choosing Scott over our little girl.  John can't comprehend the decision.  I understand it somewhat because I was forced to make a similar decision when I had Sarah.  I quit my job to raise the girls.  I understand why Charles said that he couldn't maintain the arrangements we'd made anymore.  Charles is a parent now and he has more than himself to consider.  John can't see that.  He can only see the situation as Charles having chosen someone over his little girl." 

"I get the impression that Jean's his favorite?" Carol asked.

Sighing, Elaine pulled out another cigarette and lit it.  "I don't think John ever meant it to happen.  Jean was an unexpected surprise after the doctor told us we couldn't have any more children.  I had a very hard time carrying her to term.  Then, after her mutant powers were yanked to the surface, she spent most of her young life in and out of hospitals.  You have no clue how horrible it is to watch your child suffer and know there's nothing you can do.  John did everything in his power to protect and help her.  Later, when she got better, it translated into spoiling her.  Sarah resents all the attention we were forced to give Jean growing up."

Carol gave her a thoughtful look.  "That's a common problem in a family with a chronically ill child," she pointed out.  "The healthy child resents all the attention that the ill one gets, but at the same time feels guilty about that resentment."

<> Elaine took a long drag on her cigarette.  "You just summed up Jean and Sarah's relationship.  John spoils Jean, and Sarah resents it, but at the same time Sarah feels guilty about resenting it because Jean was so ill growing up.  If Jean wanted the moon, John would find a way to bring it down to her," Elaine explained, then took another long drag.  "He can't say no to her.  That leaves me playing the bad guy all the time.  I'm the one who's always forced to tell Jean no.  I'm the one forced to put down rules and boundaries.  and I'm the one Jean feels she has to rebel against."  Elaine had a bitter expression on her face.  "I'm the bad guy.  The fastest way to get anything done is to tell my headstrong youngest daughter not to do it.  I get tired of playing that role.  This decision is going to fall on my shoulders the same as it always does.  If Jean hates being here, it will be my fault.  If she likes it here, John will take the credit for wanting to send her here from the beginning.  The horrible thing is, I don't see a choice.  Jean needs training or she will end up right back in the hospital."  

Carol chuckled softly.  "I think you and Charles should get together and swap stories."

That remark drew a smile from Elaine.  "I always wondered what the judge was thinking, making Charles, of all people, a parent," she said.

Carol considered Elaine's words for a moment.  "I felt the same way in the beginning," she said.  "Charles is the last person, in my experience, that the foster care system would consider for guardianship.  The judge in the case thought differently at the time.  I believed it was a huge mistake then, but now, I'm not so sure.  Scott saw the real Charles Xavier behind the wheelchair and Charles saw the real Scott behind the glasses and the attitude.  Maybe that's exactly what they both needed."

Elaine absorbed that answer and said, "Maybe.  I never quite thought of it that way."

"Scott has a wicked, dry sense of humor, once you really get to know him," Carol said impishly.  "I will give Charles credit -- he took the personal ad that Scott bought on his behalf rather well.  It said something like 'Single, white, rich, male seeking furred mutants for a night of kinky sex games.  B.Y.O.L."

"B.Y.O.L?" Elaine asked, confused.

"Bring your own leather," Carol replied with a wink.  Elaine almost inhaled her cigarette.  "You should have seen the look on Charles' face when Scott announced it was a recruiting drive for the school.  It was priceless.  I guess that stunt was nothing compared to the Daddy Warbucks doll Scott managed to find, dress in drag, and wired to the grill of Charles' car.  I don't know the details on that one.  When I walked in, Charles' face was purple and Scott was just sitting there with a lopsided smirk on his face.  I'm guessing that Scott is now responsible for the training room's maintenance for the rest of his natural life after that stunt."

Elaine threw her head back and started laughing.  "It's nice to know Scott keeps Charles on his toes."

"Oh, he does, and that's exactly what Charles needs.  I get the impression that not too many people have managed to out-think Charles."  Then Carol's expression lost its humor and turned serious.  "I think you should carefully consider sending your daughter here, Mrs. Grey."

"Why?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Aside from the fact that you couldn't find a better academic program, all the students here are mutants.  Every one of them here knows how it feels to be an outsider.  It's bad enough being a teenager, but being a super-powered one is even worse.  Here, there's a support system.  They all know what it's like to not have complete control over their powers.  A couple of them understand how it feels to rip a door off and not mean to.  One knows what it's like to slip up and freeze the rec room, and another might know what it's like to blow out the back wall of the west wing by mistake.  Here they commiserate and support each other.  The boys know that they aren't going through this by themselves, and they aren't alone in the world.  I imagine your daughter is feeling very alone in the world right now."

Elaine was very quiet for a moment.  "I never quite considered it that way," she said.

Carol shrugged.  "If she doesn't like it here, you can take her out later.  At least she will know there are others like her."

Elaine stomped out her cigarette.  "You've given me a lot to think about.  Thank you.  I believe it's time I go find my husband."

"You know, I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about the three of you," Scott stated dryly as he took a chisel and hammer and slowly loosened the plaster around the duct in which Bobby was stuck.  "Bobby," he grumbled out loud.  "You really need to stop putting aside special time in which to humiliate yourself."  Right then, there was a loud 'thump' from the other side of the wall.  "Warren stop it with the basket ball!" Scott shouted.  "You are supposed to be taking plaster down!"

Warren walked into the room holding a basketball.  "Now why would I want to unstick the little weasel?  I finally got him in one place for a while, and I intend to enjoy myself."

"Because," Scott said, exasperated, "you're a . . . wait, even I don't believe the nice guy remark.  Because you're a . . . "

"A materially driven charlatan," Bobby shouted from inside the wall.

"Thank you," Scott said loudly, so Bobby could hear him.  "Because you're a materially driven charlatan."

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Warren replied innocently.

Scott took a deep breath and prayed to a God he wasn't sure he believed in for patience.  "Like I was saying, there's really no profit in torturing Bobby."

"True," Warren acknowledged thoughtfully.  "But there is the enjoyment factor, and it's free.  So I am maximizing my enjoyment for the lowest economic cost."

"The lower classes will rise up and overthrow all the evil factory owners," Bobby yelled through the wall.  "The lower classes will win the class struggle, in the end."

Warren bounced the basketball off of the wall again.  "If you confiscated all the wealth in this country and distributed it evenly among all the people, in about three year's the wealth would most likely be in the hands of the people you confiscated it from in the beginning," he stated.

"That's why you're going to be the first to go during the revolt Birdboy.  You better be careful.  Some of my father's friends might just know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa," Bobby retorted.

"Then a new upper class would rise up to fill the gaps of the old one," Warren said, emphasizing his point by bouncing the ball off the wall again.

Scott rubbed his head; he was getting a headache.  "When our capitalist system crumbles, and you two are fighting it out during the revolt, I'm going to stay out of it and go looting," he declared.  "Hank!  Put the tennis ball down and start knocking plaster down!"

Warren shot him a snotty look for a moment.  "You're really no fun.  You know that?"

Scott glared at him.  "Now that I've been refreshed and enlightened by your point of view, get back to work getting Bobby out of the duct," he ordered.

Right then, the ceiling above them groaned loudly.  "What was that," Warren asked, looking up nervously.  The ceiling groaned again.  Scott jumped at Warren, tackling him into the other room just as the entire ceiling came crashing down.  "Did that ball of slime just try to kill both of us?" Warren asked, a shocked look on his face.

"Don't be ridiculous Warren," Hank said, looking down at them.  The two had landed right at the budding scientist's feet.  "It would take sentient intelligence to plot a murder attempt."

Scott glared up at Hank.  "It tried to kill me the last time It got loose."

Hank gave him a snotty look.  "You tried to throw it in the microwave."

"It tried to kill me first," Scott claimed insistently. 

"It did not," Hank retorted. 

"It buried that lime green monstrosity of a dress under a ton of plaster," Warren added in a daze.

"See," Hank sneered at Scott.  "It does nothing but good for humanity."

"It tried to kill me," Scott repeated, glaring at Hank.

"I could argue that validates my point," Hank said smugly.

Before Scott could fire back a retort, Professor Xavier's voice roared from the entrance of the Dining room.  "What the devil is going on in here?"

Scott exchanged ill looks with Hank and Warren before they all blurted out simultaneously, "Professor, we can explain!"

"Okay.  Let's go over this one more time," Charles Xavier said calmly, trying to ignore the tick in the corner of his eye as he studied the three students standing at attention in front of him.  "This started several months ago during an experiment?"

"Yes, sir," Hank answered.  "I was trying to genetically manipulate algae so it could absorb oil.  If it worked, it could be used as a no-chemical clean-up method for oil spills."

"Translation," Scott said dryly.  "It all started with pond scum."

"Thank you, Scott," Xavier said, his patience wearing thin.  "I realized that." 

"Anyway," Hank growled, glaring at Scott.  "I miscalculated the cohesive bonding of the algae."

"He turned the algae into a big slime ball."

Hank glared in Scott's direction again.  "Thank you, but I think the Professor could figure that out," Hank said, smiling at the professor.  "Anyway, some unforeseen events occurred down in the lab."

Scott rolled his eyes.  "Bobby and Warren were goofing off around the experiment and knocked it over."

Hank glared at Scott again.  "And unexpected elements were knocked into the experiment," he explained.  "Including some of Scott's DNA."

"It's pure evil, sir," Scott informed him.

"Well, Scott's DNA did produce some strange results," Hank stated matter-of-factly.

"Apparently my bad attitude is genetic, sir," Scott said, raising an eyebrow as Hank glared in his direction.  "Oh, stop looking at me like that," Scott sneered.  "It wasn't my DNA that gave it a taste for manmade materials.  That was the Twinkie that got thrown into the mix."

"Could someone please get to the point?" the Professor demanded, exasperated.

"Yes, sir."  Scott said, cutting Hank off.  "Stir the elements already added, mix over low heat due to a small lab explosion fire and…" Scott paused, taking a deep breath.  "We now have a ball of slime that likes to eat manmade materials, and every time it gets loose, it tries to kill someone.  Last time it got out, it tried to drop the chandelier on me.  Bobby got stuck in the air duct in the wall climbing after it, and it just tried to kill Warren and me by dropping a ceiling on us."

Hank threw his hands in the air in exasperation, and turned to address Scott.  "It did not try to kill you," he said.  "Murder requires intelligence in some form."  Hank took a deep breath, then addressed the professor again.  "Anyway, we refer to experiment number 268 as 'It' because I refuse to address it by the name Scott suggested."

"Satan's Snot," Warren chimed in gleefully.

Xavier took a deep, cleansing breath and called on every one of the meditation techniques he'd learned while traveling in the Far East.  Why didn't anything like this ever happen when he was teaching on a college campus?  "I see," he said finally.  "I hope you have all learned something from this little disaster."

"Never believe your friends when they say you're small enough to fit into somewhere," Bobby grumbled from inside the wall.

"That Bobby cannot argue socialist theory very convincingly," Warren added cheerfully.

"Never eat Twinkies in the lab while doing an experiment?" Hank offered.  Everyone turned to look at him.  "What?" Hank demanded.  "My experiment was brilliant."

"I still hate people and they still annoy me," Scott said, wearing a thoughtful expression.  "Bridesmaid dresses are a subtle form of revenge and torture.  Being polite is just a lesser form of lying.  Society holds higher regard for dishonest niceties than honesty.  Finally, when you manage to corner an evil green snot ball in the microwave after it ate most of the clothes in your closet and tried to drop a chandelier on you, don't let your best friend talk you out of cooking the evil little snot ball on high for ten minutes for 'the good of humanity.'"

Xavier felt a sudden migraine blossom behind his eyes.  "Well, as long as you learned something from this," he said dryly.  "Now get Bobby out of the wall."

"It's going to require a sledge hammer and a hacksaw, sir," Hank butted in.

Xavier took another deep breath.  "Do what ever it takes to get him out.  You will catch whatever It is, then you will explain what happened to the dress to the Greys.  Am I understood?"

"Yes, sir," the four boys responded in unison. 

On his way out, while passing the doorway into the other room, Xavier knew he would never forget the sight that greeted him.  The crumbled ceiling was all over the room, and on top of a heap of rubble sat a ball of green slime that was happily eating a patch of lime green material sticking out of the pile.  It was moments like these that made him wonder why he hadn't accepted that teaching position at Harvard.

"You know this would be a lot easier if you just used your optic beam," Warren said, watching Scott, who was standing on a chair, saw through the air duct with a hacksaw. 

Scott shot him an irritated glance.  "I told you, I don't have fine enough control of my powers yet, even with the visor.  I could very well hurt Bobby, take the wall supports out, or even the room.  This is more time consuming, but it's safer."

"Day is never finished.  Master got me working.  Someday master set me free," Hank sang from his floor-level position as he sawed through the bottom part of the duct.

Scott sneered down at Hank.  "Stuff it," he ordered.  He looked over at Warren, rolling his eyes behind his glasses.  "You know?  When I start considering these situations normal and everyday, I really should stop lying to my therapist and let her put me on lots of happy drugs."

"You do get lousy therapy when you continually lie and play head games with your therapist," an amused Hank informed him.

"She won't let me continue to affirm and embrace my bitter disposition," Scott answered, annoyed.  "Besides, we would get along fine if she could accept the fact that my self-doubts are actually very perceptive insights into my psyche and not the baseless worries that she keeps trying to trick me into believing."

"What happened to my dress?" The angry voice of Sarah Grey easily carried over from the other room.

Hank gave Scott an ill look.  "Speaking of us needing lots of happy drugs."

"I'll take care of it," Warren announced.  "I'll even have my tailor put something together quickly to replace the dress.  Something tasteful." 

Sarah appeared in the doorway, hands on her hips.  "What happened to my dress?" she demanded.  "And what is that green slime all over it?"

Warren walked straight up to her, his most charming smile on his face.  "Ms.  Grey, allow me to explain what happened.  Can I call you Sarah?" he asked, making use of his natural charisma.  "I want you to know that my personal tailor will replace the dress tomorrow."  Warren threw his arm over her shoulder and led her out of the room, continuing to pile on the charm.

Hank shook his head in amazement.  "I wish I could do that," he said admiringly.  "Do you realize that Warren has charmed his way out of five tickets this month?"

"Well, he is the pretty one," Scott said, amused.  "He has to be good for something.  You almost through the bottom part of the duct yet?"

"I'm through," Hank announced, standing up.

"Great.  Catch him when I saw through the last part of the duct above him."  Scott sawed through the last little bit and the duct with Bobby in it fell over forwards like a tin soldier.  "I told you to catch the duct," Scott growled.

"Damn it," Bobby yelled from inside the duct on the floor.  "That hurt."

Hank shrugged at Scott and looked down at the section of air duct.  "Whoops," he replied.

Charles Xavier, sitting at his desk, wrestled with the lid of a Tylenol bottle.  When he'd watched Hank carry a sledgehammer while skipping into the other room, the dull ache between his eyes had exploded into a full-fledged migraine.  He didn't want to know how high his blood pressure was right now.

"Charles?" he heard Elaine Grey's voice call out.

"John, Elaine, I'm in my office," Charles called back.

Elaine and John walked into his office; Elaine had a very amused expression on her face.  "You do realize that Bobby's stuck in a chunk of air duct.  Hank and Scott have it lying on your front lawn as they grease what parts of Bobby they can reach with Crisco.  I guess they are having a hard time getting Bobby unstuck from duct's interior.  It's quite a sight."

Xavier forced himself to smile back at her, and vaguely wondered where he'd put the key to his liquor cabinet.  "I can image it is," he replied dryly.  "I was trying to gather Jean's files together.  That way you can bring them home with you when you leave tonight."

"Don't bother," Elaine said.  "We've talked it over and decided we are going to send Jean to school here."

Right then, Carol stuck her head into his office.  "Where do you keep the dish soap Charles?  It's not under the sink and it's looking like we are going to need it to get Bobby out."

"It's on the second shelf of the pantry," Xavier replied, not even bothering to look in her direction; he was too busy looking at the Greys and was in a state of shock.

"Thanks," was all she replied before she was gone.

John cleared his throat.  "Like we were saying, we have decided to send Jean here.  We, of course, still have our doubts about a lot of things.  But we feel that at this time, this is the best place for Jean to be.  She will be on the other side of the house, far away from the boys -- right?"

Xavier blinked at them, still in shock.  "Of course."

"Professor?" Scott said, sticking his head in the doorway, noticing the Greys.  "Excuse me for interrupting, but you're going to have to inform the cook that she's going to have to pull out all her pickle recipes, sir."

"Pickles, Scott?" Xavier asked, confused for a moment.

Scott shrugged.  "Pickling myself in my own bitterness just wasn't working anymore.  We needed the pickle jar to catch experiment number 268; it can't eat through glass."

Xavier rolled his eyes.  "I'll inform the cook."

Scott nodded.  "Thank you, sir," he replied, then disappeared from sight.

Charles turned his most charming smile on Elaine and John.  "Why don't you have a seat and we'll discuss when Jean will be joining us."

"Well, it was very nice to meet all three of you," Carol said, sporting a wide smile.  "I look forward to getting to know Jean in the coming months.  I hope she enjoys herself up here."

John, Elaine and Sarah smiled back at her.  "I'm sure she will," John replied.  "It was very nice meeting you.  Charles, Jean will be up here next weekend.  We have to be going."

Xavier smiled back at them.  "Have a very safe trip home, John."

"Has anyone seen my wig?" Carol asked.  "I thought I put it next to my hat, but when I went to go collect the rest of my costume, the wig wasn't there."

Right then, Bobby came running out of house wearing the wig, exclaiming, "Look Professor!  I'm Jon Bon Jovi."

Scott suddenly appeared out of nowhere and grumbled under his breath, "I told him he needed to stop putting time aside to humiliate himself in public."  Scott turned and addressed John and Sarah.  "Mr. Grey, Ms.  Grey.  I owe you both an apology for being rude at dinner, there was no excuse for it."

"Better yet!" Bobby shouted, pulling out what looked like a pair of red sunglasses.  "I'm Ann Wilson from Heart and I'm singing Scott's theme song."  Bobby started singing very loudly and very badly.  "If looks could kill, you'd be lying on the floor.  You'd be begging me please, please, baby, don't hurt me no more.  If looks could kill."

"Now he has to die slowly and painfully," Scott announced dryly.

"Bobby!" Warren yelled as he ran towards the younger teen..  "You are going to die!"

Bobby smirked at Warren.  "I told you to wait until I got my hands on your personal planner," he said gleefully.

"You sunk it to the bottom of the pool!" Warren shouted as he dove at Bobby.

"The working class wins the class struggle!" Bobby shouted.  He threw Carol her wig, then ran in the opposite direction, Warren in hot pursuit.

"Are you sure we aren't making a huge mistake?" John asked, turning to Elaine.  His wife's response was a sly, knowing smile.

"So the new student who's coming this weekend is a girl?" Bobby asked as he stuffed down a piece of apple pie.

"It would appear so," Hank muttered between mouthfuls.  "Warren better collect all the dirty magazines he has stashed around the rec room."

"Yeah, yeah," Warren grumbled.  "I'll get on it."

"How should we treat a girl mutant anyway?" Bobby asked thoughtfully.

"Well," Warren started.  "You should be nice to her."  He looked at Hank.  "That means no body parts on her pillow."

"Oh, just take away all my fun," Hank complained.

"And above all," Warren said seriously.  "You should always be polite."  All three of them turned around at once and gave Scott 'the look.'

"What the hell are you three looking at me like that for?" Scott growled, glaring back at them.

"Jean, I told you to pack all your sweaters," Elaine said.  "It's going to get cold fast with the season changing."

Jean rolled her eyes.  "Yes, mother."  Elaine handed a bunch of sweaters to Sarah to put in the suitcase, then turned and walked out of the room.

"Anyway," Sarah said as she started packing the sweaters in the open suitcase lying on the bed.  "Warren Worthington goes there.  Can you believe it?  He's even better looking in person than in pictures."  Jean rolled her eyes and packed some more clothes in her suitcase, ignoring her older sister.  "But I really think you should just avoid that other boy.  He's nothing but trouble."

Jean perked up at that statement.  "Really?  What's his name?"

Sarah rolled her eyes as she stuffed some more clothes in the suitcase.  "Scott Summers," she said.  "I mean it, Jean -- you should avoid him.  He's the one who wears glasses all the time.  He had the nerve to call the dress I picked out for you ugly and accused me of wanting to torture you by making you wear it."

Jean smiled secretly to herself.  "Got it.  Stay away from Summers."  But she knew who she was going to introduce herself to first.  The name Scott Summers had a very nice ring to it. 

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