Disclaimer: Holly is mine, though named after a character in Breakfast at Tiffany's . All others are MARVEL/20th Century Fox's. Sue me and you shall be set upon by Spot, the ruthless attack 8-Ball! . . . What? . . . No, not a magic 8-Ball -- a ruthless, rigorously trained attack 8-Ball! He is scary! Be afraid!!
Something a little more lighthearted than Shelter From the Storm and Wishing For Luck On A Prodigal Star, my other two X-Men one-shots. Starring everyone's favorite Blue Furry Teleporter and a character loosely based on my second-cousin Callie. Also featuring mentions of several characters who are based on my other relatives in Grant, Idaho (Cousin Paula, if you're reading this . . . please don't take offense. I mean it as flattery. Really.)
And, oh yes:
Spoilers for the movie!!
PANCAKES, PARADIGMS, AND THE PRINCESS BRIDE
Upstate New York
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters
Dr. Hank McCoy's Science Class
"Now then, who can define paradigm for me?" Dr. McCoy turns from writing at the blackboard and scans the faces of the class. "Anyone?"
I sneak a glance around. Jubilation Lee, the Asian girl sitting on my left, is blowing an enormous bubble with her gum. She looks like she knows the answer, but she's too busy blowing the bubble to give it. Kitty Pryde, on my right, is raising her eyebrows and thumbing through her class notebook. Most other kids are following suit.
I, being the new kid in class, don't have a notebook. Nor am I really expected to know the answer -- but I do, so I raise my hand anyway.
Dr. McCoy breaks into a grin that showcases all of his teeth and gestures at me with the chalk, which I notice is leaving a white smudge on his blue fur. "Ah, Miss Landon! Define paradigm for me, won't you?"
I straighten up a little in my chair, noticing that I'm suddenly getting varying degrees of The Intrigued Look from the kids who are supposed to know the answer. "Paradigm means a scientific model or a worldview. It's what scientists call the way in which they view the world."
"Excellent!" Dr. McCoy grins impossibly wider. "And a paradigm shift?"
"Is when a scientific breakthrough or discovery causes the worldview to change."
"Fantastic." Nobody should be as excited by science class as this man is. "Now, who can give me an example of a paradigm shift?"
Jubilation Lee finally pops the bubble and joins the discussion. "Um . . . the theory of, like . . . Relativity?"
Dr. McCoy nods. "Einstein's General Theory most definitely qualifies, Jubilee -- well-done. Anyone else?"
Piotr Rasputin, the tall Russian boy that everyone calls Colossus, raises his hand. Dr McCoy gestures at him, and Piotr clears his throat. "The discovery of the X-Gene," He says quietly, "Caused a paradigm shift in the field of Genetics."
"It certainly did, Mr. Rasputin. An excellent and most relevant example."
You want to talk paradigm shift, Doc?
Paradigm shift is going from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Salem Center, New York in one long plane ride that leaves you feeling like it's several hours earlier than it actually is. It's going from being the only openly mutant individual in the tri-county area to sitting in a science class full of mutants taught by a guy with fangs, blue fur, and a PH.D. -- all in one Friday morning.
That, my friend, is a paradigm shift.
There isn't any bell to signal the end-of-period, but the grandfather clock in the hall outside chimes the hour. Dr. McCoy nods, removing his half-rimmed glasses and tucking them in the pocket of his lab coat. "That does it for today. We will continue this discussion on Monday morning, so please keep it in mind over the weekend. Also, please read and annotate chapters nine through eleven in A Brief History of Scientific Thought, and be ready to include the contents in our discussion. Class dismissed." Then he glances at me. "Miss Landon, may I see you for a moment before you go?"
The other kids stuff their notebooks into their backpacks and file out. Kitty -- who's been showing me from class to class all day -- smiles at me. "I'll wait outside." Then she shoulders her book bag and runs out -- through the closed classroom door.
I stand up and make my way to the front of the classroom. Dr McCoy grins. "Ah, Miss Landon. I must say I'm delighted to see you participating in class on your first day here. I do hope you'll continue to do so." Then he shuffles through the papers on the desk in front of him. "I just wanted to check that I've got your information right. Your first name is Holly -- H-O-L-L-Y, correct?"
He makes a note when I nod. "And your middle name is . . . Golightly?"
I grin sheepishly and roll my eyes. "Yeah."
Yes, my name is Holly Golightly Landon -- the unfortunate result of mixing my parents, a drive-in playing Breakfast at Tiffany's, and a gallon of Uncle Darrell's strawberry wine. Up until a few months ago, it was the most embarrassing aspect of my life.
Dr. McCoy makes another note. "Well, Holly, I think I can safely say you'll fit in fine in this class. Naturally you'll be busy moving in and getting the hang of things this weekend, so I won't expect any homework from you until next week." He holds out his -- hand? Paw? Whatever -- and smiles. "I hope you will find Xavier's to your liking."
I return the handshake, trying my best not to do anything embarrassing like stare at his fur, and smile back. "Thank you. So do I."
I didn't actually grow up in Idaho Falls. I grew up in Grant, a wide-spot-in-the-road farming community halfway between Idaho Falls and Rigby. Grant is a town with such a small population you can't even call it a town. "Main Street" is the Lewisville highway, and the only business there is the convenience store nestled up against the side of the Mormon church building. It's farm country, where everyone is a farmer or a farmer's kid. Everyone is Mormon, or at least everyone calls themselves Mormon (my family being a rare exception). Everyone is quiet and everyone is neighborly. Everyone is very much the same.
And nobody but nobody is a mutant.
At least, not until yours truly suddenly manifested her powers in the middle of the cafeteria of Rigby High School.
Overnight I went from "Holly, the girl with the weird middle name" to "Holly, the mutant freak of nature". Of course, from a purely genetic and statistical standpoint I probably wasn't the only mutant in the tri-county area -- in an area with so many huge families, where so many of those huge families are somehow related to each other, the X-Gene is probably a lot more rampant than anyone wants to admit. But I was the only mutant that anyone knew about, the only person who wasn't hiding it. Being the neighborly, quiet people they were, of course, nobody said anything about it.
In fact, nobody said much of anything at all. Even my two older brothers all but stopped talking to me. It was like everyone was afraid they'd catch it if they talked to me-- so instead I got the whispers-behind-the-back and the bug-under-the-microscope stares. I think I had a grand total of four real conversations in the three months after The Cafeteria Incident.
Still and all, though, I didn't really want to leave. I grew up on that farm, knew every inch of it so well that if a rock went missing I'd probably know about it. Grant and Rigby and my farm were the whole world. New York was another planet.
But my family couldn't take it any more. With both my brothers helping run the farm, Dad didn't really need my help. The neighbors were afraid of me, even if they didn't say anything. And frankly, I think Mom was embarrassed about me. Keeping up with the neighbors is a big thing in farm country, and a mutie for a daughter kind of tips that windmill into the ditch.
So here I am, sitting at supper and picking at my food, having very mixed thoughts about this school and myself and Life In General. My paradigm has shifted big-time, and I'm still trying to figure out where I stand.
It's been okay so far -- Kitty has been introducing me to people all day. Four out of five of them even remember my name. Right now I'm sitting with Kitty, Piotr Rasputin and a boy named Jamie Madrox, watching students filter into the dining hall. I'll admit it's nice to sit down at a table and not get the "She's a Mutie, better watch her" look from everyone I'm sitting with.
"So, Holly," Jamie grins at me. "Where ya from?"
I explain briefly about Grant, and Jamie grins wider. Then he waves at a towheaded older boy over by the door. "Hey, Sam! Sam Guthrie! Cannonball, you paying attention or what?"
The boy -- Sam -- finally wanders over, balancing his tray in one hand and holding a Coke in the other. "Yeah, Mad, I'm payin' attention." He drawls in a deep Southern accent. "What's got you so fired up?"
Jamie gestures at me as he scoots over to allow room for Sam to sit down. "We finally got another farm kid! Holly, this's Sam Guthrie -- he's from Kentucky. Sam, Holly Landon -- from Idaho."
Sam smiles and holds out his hand. "Ya'll from potato country, huh?"
I nod. "Spuds and sweet corn."
Sam grins. "My Dad's a corn man, too. Mad's folks," he jerks a thumb at Jamie, "Are in wheat, up Saskatchewan way."
"Quite a change, huh?" Jamie says, "Farm country to New York?"
I nod. "At least there's trees and stuff, and the lake. I thought maybe we'd be near the city."
Sam nods. "Though the same thing myself, when I first came t'school. You'll find a lot of things aren't what you'd expect."
I wonder -- as the two get involved in a conversation about their English homework -- if that's a good thing or not.
Kitty looks up from her conversation with Piotr. "You doing okay, Holly?"
I nod and push my green beans across my plate. I'm not even remotely hungry. I am -- as I mentioned -- so messed up by the time-shift from my trip that I'm not even sure what time it's supposed to be, but my stomach is definitely saying "Not supper time".
"Good thing you came on Friday -- no in-house curfew. A bunch of us are gonna have a movie marathon in the TV lounge downstairs tonight."
"Sounds good." I feel massively self-conscious about being The New Kid, even though everyone's going out of their way to be nice. Part of me's excited about being here -- but the other part is homesick and nervous.
Jubilee and Danielle Moonstar wander over, both balancing trays. Jubilee is still chewing a huge wad of pink bubble gum, and I'm suddenly curious to see if she eats with it in her mouth.
They both greet everyone at the table and sit down. Dani smiles and says, "So, Holly how do you . . . ." Then she stops, gets a weird look on her face, and takes a deep breath.
"Look out . . . ." Jamie cautions, ducking under the edge of the table.
Before I can ask why, Dani sneezes loudly . . . .
And suddenly my Aunt Audie's evil-tempered Siamese cat is crouched in the middle of the table, hissing and taking swipes at me with his claws. I scramble backwards, nearly falling out of my chair . . . .
And then the cat's gone again. Dani is blushing bright red, and everyone else is either catching their breath or looking like they've just been scared half to death.
Jamie hauls himself back up from under the table's edge. "Bless you, Dani." He says calmly. Then he explains -- for my benefit, I guess -- that Dani's powers include the ability to "see" a person's deepest fears and then project them into that person's mind.
This school, I realize as I return to picking at my supper, is going to take a lot of getting used to.
First-Floor TV Lounge
"Okay, solikeIgetthatVaderwasLuke'sFather, right?" Pietro Maximoff -- a thin twelve-year-old with silver hair and a serious case of hyperactivity -- leans over the back of the couch, so his head is level with mine. "ButsoifLeia'shissisterandshe'sstrongintheForce . . ."
"Pietro." Wanda, Pietro's twin sister (although she's got reddish hair and is twenty times as calm) looks up from her position sprawled in front of the TV. "English. Slow English, so everyone can figure out what you're saying."
Pietro speeds around the side of the couch and flops down on the floor by his sister. "If Leia's Luke's twin sister, and she's strong in the Force, too, how come Luke can like levitate stuff, an' she couldn't even tell that Jabba the Hutt was gonna catch her when she was breaking Han Solo outtathecarbonite?" The slow speech is finally too much for Pietro, and he falls back into his normal fast-paced chatter.
Wanda rolls her eyes. "I dunno, Pietro. Probably the same reason I'm quiet and you're a motormouth."
"Amnot, Wanda. Takethatback!" He pokes Wanda in the ribs, grumbling, "S'not myfault anyways. Itsapartofmypowers."
"Hush, you two." Marie commands from the loveseat. She leans her head against Bobby Drake's shoulder. "We'll miss the ending."
I, like almost everyone else in the room, have already seen the ending three or four hundred times -- c'mon, who hasn't seen Star Wars? -- so I'm not as deeply interested as Marie seems to be. Four and a half hours of the Star Wars Trilogy has been a pretty good way to keep my mind off of the fact that I'm a long way from home, I'll admit. But now that it's once again obvious that Luke is going to save the day and Leia and Han are going to live happily ever after with a dozen little nerfherders of their own, I find myself thinking about it again. I take a look around.
There are probably fifteen or seventeen students scattered about the room, paying various stages of attention to the movie. Colossus and some of the other guys moved all of the room's furniture into three semicircles centered on the TV, so everyone has a fairly good view. Students have been wandering in and out all night -- I think I've noticed just about everyone I met today at some point -- talking for a moment, sharing some snack pilfered from the kitchen, or just leaning over the back of a friend's chair to be near them while they watch what's happening.
It all feels so . . . safe. Right. Like everyone in the School belongs to each other. Even the way everyone's sitting -- the taller and older students are sitting in the back rows, letting the shorter kids in where they can see the screen. Nobody said anything to organize it like that, it just -- happened. I wonder if I'm ever going to feel like I belong the way that they do. I hope so.
I glance sideways to where Kitty and Tracy Roarke, her roommate, are bent over the video cupboard. They seem to be discussing what movie we'll be watching next -- since they, and Piotr, organized this little shindig. As the ending theme rolls across the screen, Tracy -- or Siryn, as most everyone calls her -- turns up the lights.
"Okay, guys. Let's vote on the next film." Kitty says. She holds up two DVD's. "We've got Dances With Wolves, on the one hand . . . ."
Someone groans in the back row, "Come on, guys. Not Costner."
"Or," Kitty holds up the other case. "The Princess Bride."
"Rigged drawing." The same someone mumbles. "Chick flick either way."
There's a brief discussion, followed by a show of hands. The Princess Bride, which I've never seen, wins out by a huge margin. Whoever-it-is in the back row rambles off to bed, still grumbling in a good-natured way. Kitty grins, pops the DVD in, and wanders back to sit next to me as Siryn dims the lights again.
"Ever seen this?" She asks, offering me popcorn from one of the industrial-sized bowls we popped at the beginning of the night. It's nearly empty now -- I've got reason to believe that Pietro Maximoff has a metabolism just as fast as his motormouth.
I shake my head, and Kitty grins. "Trust me. You're gonna love this."
And at first I do. I laugh like nobody's business at Fezzik and Inigo's rhyming game, and I can tell I'm not the only one getting into it during Inigo's duel with the Man in Black on top of the Cliffs of Insanity. I have a huge thing for fencing -- Zorro is one of my heroes.
About the time that Westley gets captured by Humperdinck and the Count, my stomach starts to complain violently about the fact that I haven't eaten anything for several hours. I figure maybe I can wait it out until the end of the movie, when Westley and Buttercup live happily ever after. And then . . . .
Then the unthinkable actually happens.
And when the kid (that kid from The Wonder Years, the one who's sick in bed) protests, all his grandfather has to say is "Life isn't fair."
Life isn't fair? Great. Fantastic. I'm starving, I'm still not entirely sure what time it is, and the Hero of the movie just died.
Life isn't fair? You think I need a movie to tell me that? I have the fact that I'll never, ever again fit in in the place I've always called home to tell me that.
I am not sticking around.
I stand up and work my way precariously through the maze of chairs, sofas and sprawling, sleeping students. Then I make my way towards what I think is the kitchen. I need something to eat.
"Who says life is fair? Where is that written?"
Nowhere, and that's the truth.
I enter the kitchen, intent on a pint of ice cream (if I can find it) and a good pity party. But then I stop short.
There's a tailed, blue-furred figure standing at the stove, humming to himself and pouring what smells like pancake batter onto a heated griddle. I recognize him -- though I guess it'd be a little hard not to, now wouldn't it? There are a limited number of German teachers in this world who sport blue fur and a fully-prehensile tail.
"Um . . . Hi, Mr. Wagner."
He turns and smiles, revealing delicately curving fangs. "Ach! Guten Abend, Fraulein . . . " He thinks for a moment. "I'm sorry, I . . . I don't think I remember your name."
"Holly. Holly Landon." I reply, craning my neck. "Are you making pancakes?"
He nods. "Ja. Would you like some?"
"Well . . ." My starving stomach reminds me that I didn't really eat any supper. "Yes, please. But," I glance at the clock. " Why are you making pancakes at 2:15 in the morning?"
He shrugs and flips one of the pancakes with an expert motion. "I've always been . . . Ach, what is the word? Nacht . . . .nacht . . . ."
He nods. "Ja, ja! Nocturnal!" Then he grins. "Why do you think they call me Nightcrawler?"
"Good point." I lean closer. "Those smell really, really good."
He turns back to the stove for a moment, pouring a little more batter onto the griddle. "Old Gypsy recipe. Margali used to say an old woman who traveled with the caravan sold her soul for it." He raises his eyebrows as he glances over his shoulder, doing his best to look devilish. "You are sure you still want to try them?"
I can't help but laugh. "No offense, Mr. Wagner," I say, "But you're kind of weird."
"So they say." He lifts a few more pancakes onto a plate. "Please, call me Kurt --'Mr. Wagner' makes me seem old. I am not so very much older than you are, you know."
"Oh . . . okay." I look around. "Is there something I could . . . do to help?" My farmer's daughter instincts are still very much intact -- when in a kitchen, help with the chores.
Mr. Wagner --Kurt -- glances over his shoulder. "Ach, danke, yes . . . . You could get the milk from the icebox, and the pancake syrup. Also the butter."
I open the refrigerator and scout out the requested items, setting them on the table. There's already a place set for one. Kurt uses his tail to open a drawer and pulls out another set of silverware, while I hunt down a plate and a glass.
He smiles warmly at me as he sets the silverware and a heaping platter of hot pancakes on the table. "Why are you not watching the movie, with the others?"
I shrug as I sit down. "I . . . The hero died. I'm not in the mood for that sort of movie today."
"Ach, I see." He sits down as well, lifts some of the pancakes onto my plate and then helps himself. "This is your first day here, ja?"
I nod. "I just flew in from Idaho this morning."
"I-da-ho." He rolls the word around like an unfamiliar taste. "That is . . . West, ja? Near Wyoming?" He nods sympathetically. "A very long way from here."
"That's the truth." I take a bite of the pancakes. They taste twice as good as they smell.
"I know what it is, to be far from home. But," He adds, pouring syrup on his pancakes, "It will get easier. You'll see." He takes a bite and smiles.
"I hope so." We eat in silence for a while, before I notice a low, thrumming noise coming from somewhere. It takes me a minute to figure it out.
"Um . . ." I clear my throat. "Are you . . . purring?"
"I see." A pause. I raise my eyebrow. "I didn't know people . . . purred."
Kurt thinks about that for a moment, then shrugs. "I purr." He motions to the glass pitcher. "Would you pass the milk, please?"
I do so.
"Danke." Kurt pours himself a glass and sips at it for a moment, then says suddenly, "He doesn't really die, you know."
"Huh?" I look up from my plate.
"Westley." He pronounces it Vestley, which strikes me as unbearably neat. "He doesn't stay dead."
I raise an eyebrow. "Are you serious?"
"Ja." He nods. "You left too soon. They're going to bring him back."
I grin, still skeptical. "When did you watch The Princess Bride?"
"Last week. Rogue told me I would enjoy it." He must catch the look on my face, because he laughs. "The sword fighting."
"Oh." That gets me thinking. "How do you feel about Errol Flynn?"
"You are joking?" His eyes light up. "I didn't know people your age knew about Errol Flynn!"
I grin. "My mom took me to a double-feature at the drive-in movie theater when I was a kid -- Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. I've been hooked ever since."
Now he is positively glowing. "Ja? Which do you prefer?"
I don't even have to think about that one. "Robin Hood. Technicolor was really Flynn's best medium."
"Vas? You prefer Robin Hood to Captain Blood?" Kurt snatches a butter knife with his tail and flourishes it as though it were a fencing rapier. "You speak treason!"
Laughing, I reply "Fluently!"
Kurt grins and uses the butter knife -- still held in his tail -- to cut a bite of pancakes. "We have something else in common, then, besides being far from home."
He pauses, then says, "I know it seems strange. They seem so much like a family -- like they belong together, like they belong here. It seems you will never quite fit in the way they do. But," He adds, putting the pancakes in his mouth, "You will find your place."
I grin and take another bite of pancakes. "Thank you."
"Bitte Schön." Then he grins back. "You are welcome."
Another few moments of quiet -- then Kitty sticks her head in through the doorway. "Holly, are you okay? You skipped some of the best parts of . . ." Then her eyes light up. "Kurt, you made pancakes!"
"Ja, Katzchen." Kurt waves her into the kitchen. "Bring over a plate and join us!"
Kitty grins widely and moves to grab a plate from the cupboard. She sits down, reaching for the syrup and the platter. "You're the best, Fuzzy Elf."
The noise of Wanda and Pietro having what sounds like a pillow fight echoes down the hall. Kitty grins at me over her plate, and Kurt shoots me a knowing glance. I'm still pretty jet-lagged -- but I don't care any more.
Because you wanna know something?
I think I'm gonna like it here just fine.
1) What? I didn't say which movie there was going to be spoilers for! Westley lives, okay? If you couldn't figure out he was going to, you really need help. The Heroes don't die in these movies! At least not permanently . . . .
2) Margali, a Gypsy fortune-teller, was Kurt's foster-mother in the comics.
3) The "You speak treason" line is a bit of an in-joke, since that line -- and the reply -- are quoted from The Adventures of Robin Hood. Here's the original:
Maid Marion (Olivia DeHavillan): Why, you speak treason!
Robin Hood (Flynn)[With an elaborate bow]: Fluently!
And yes, I too prefer Robin Hood to Captain Blood, largely because I'm a Robin Hood junkie. I think it's a shame more people today don't watch old movies like Errol Flynn's work -- they just don't make 'em like that anymore. ( Kurt's Errol Flynn addiction was well-established in the comics -- in fact, he eventually learned how to fence using three rapiers at once [two in the hands and one in the tail -- let it never be said he wasn't ambidextrous!] ).
4) For comment on Kurt's fur, see note # 3 in Shelter From the Storm. For comment on Pietro and Wanda Maximoff's presence at Xavier's, see note # 2 in Wishing For Luck On A Prodigal Star. And since you're going to be opening those stories anyway, why not give 'em a read while you're there? (This note brought to you by the Committee For Gratuitous Self-Promotion and the AD Council).