The planning room of the Xavier Institute...

"So..."  Began Hank McCoy, the blue furry Beast, in a tone laced with annoyance.  Clad in some modified jeans and a large sweater, Beast paced across the room.  "I suppose you're all wondering why I called you here, aren't you?"  Pausing for just a moment, Beast glanced at his assembled audience.

The New Mutants, lined up and standing at attention, glanced at each other nervously.  Eventually, Cannonball spoke up.  "Well, yeah."

Beast snorted and continued pacing.  "In that case, Mister Gunthrie, I shall enlighten you.  I am well aware that all of you are young.  And being young, you are sometimes prone to bouts of immaturity.  Which, will often take assume the form of practical jokes, pranks, and the like."

Berserker and a few others shifted uncomfortably.  Multiple coughed.

"Understand, that is all well and good," the Beast continued.  "I understand that.  Such games are a natural part of growing up.  That is why, for the most part, we administrators have allowed such activities to continue."

Coming to the end of the line, Beast paused, and looked across the room.  Sunspot made the mistake of making eye contact, and quickly shifted his gaze to the far wall.

"But there are some pranks, my young students, that cross the line."

Jubilee quickly stepped forward.  "Look, sir, if this was about the pancakes last Saturday--"

"This isn't about the pancakes," Beast cut off.

Multiple bit his lip.  "Er, the dog food in Kurt's cereal?"

Wolfsbane stifled a giggle, while Beast merely raised his eyebrow.  "What Nightcrawler eats is his own business."

Collectively, the New Mutants remained silent.  Eventually, Berserker spoke up.  "Look sir, then...  What is this about?"

Quickly striding forward, Beast stared Berserker in the eye.  The young mutant quickly stepped back into line, and the Beast cast his gaze along the other students.  Shaking his head, Beast stepped backwards and pulled off his sweater.  "This."

The New Mutants stared for a moment.  On Beast's belly, a large segment of blue fur had been carefully shaved away.  The exposed area was roughly circular, but in the center a heart-shaped patch of fur remained.  As they took in the sight, several students chuckled to themselves.  Iceman, always the least restrained of the crowd, burst out laughing.  His outburst triggered more overt signs amusement from the other students.

The Beast snorted.  "Now, I am reasonably sure that at least one of you is responsible for this, so I am giving you a chance to fess up now, and avoid any harsher punishment."

The laughter quickly died down, and the students once again stared mutely forward.

Annoyed, the Beast began pacing anew.  "I am warning you, this prank has crossed the line.  I am not to be trifled with lightly...  If the guilty party is not found out, you will all share in the consequences."

Always the practical one, Sunspot meekly raised his hand.  "Sir, what exactly are the consequences for, well..."  Sunspot trailed off, gesturing at Beast's chest.  "...That."

"I don't know," quipped Iceman.  "Maybe he'll stare at us."

The assembled students stared at Iceman, who seemed to be on the verge of cracking up once again.  Wolfsbane inched closer to Cannonball, and Iceman exploded with a howl of laughter.  Beast watched the young boy through hooded eyes, and the others looked on apprehensibly.

"Huh."  Berserker scratched his head in wonder.  "That was odd."

With his eyes still hooded, Beast slowly shifted his gaze to Berserker.

Noticing the eye contact, Berserker steeped back in apprehension.  "...What?"


Just outside the main conservatory...

"Scott!" called out Jean as she skipped down the hallway.  "Sorry I took so long, but my hair just wouldn't stay up..."  From his position leaning against the doorframe, Scott glanced at Jean approvingly.  Coming to a stop at his side, she coyly cocked her head.  "So, ready to hit the park?"

"In a moment," Scott causally replied.  "As soon as Hank gets back."

"Oh?"  Curious, Jean glanced through the door Scott was leaning against.  Cannonball, Jubilee and Iceman were sitting on the main couch, Magma lounging in the loveseat with Sunspot perched on the armrest, Berserker was leaning against an end table, and Wolfsbane and Multiple were laying down in front.  All of them seemed mesmerized by the television's hypnotic flicker.  "Should I even ask?"

"Another practical joke," Scott dryly informed.  "While Hank was taking a nap, Bobby shaved a Care Bear emblem into his chest.  So now he has to sit through an eight hour marathon."

Jean looked back at the room and her brow furrowed.  "So why are the others in there with him?"

"Mister Drake is being punished for turning me into a Care Bear."  Approaching with a plateful of sandwiches, the Beast continued the thread.  "Everyone else is being punished for not knowing what a Care Bear is.  Thanks for keeping watch Scott."

Scott gave Beast a mock salute.  "Any time."

Stroking her chin thoughtfully, Jean gazed down at the Beast.  "Those were those stuffed animals that rolled into a ball, right?"

The Beast remained silent, staring forward through hooded eyes.


The conservatory...

"I'm sorry Scott, but--" Jean fumbled as she steadied herself on the loveseat's free armrest.  "Care Bares, Popples, Wuzzles--They were all just stuffed animals to me!"

Remaining silent, Scott sullenly crossed his arms and sunk deeper into the love seat.

"Hey guys," began Sunspot after a pause, "is it just me, or is True Heart Bear kinda hot?"

Berserker whistled appreciatively.  "It's not just you."

"Funshine is cuter," interjected Multiple.

Iceman chuckled  "Yeah, but check out True Heart's rack.  Bet off-screen she's riding Noble Heart Horse alllll niiiiiight looooooong…"


Groaning, Scott sunk even deeper into the love seat...